Robs Meirionnydd round attempt

22nd May
18 miles 5,000 Feet

This was Rob’s second attempt at the Meirionnydd round. Last year he was thwarted by a combination of bad weather and severe fatigue. The round is incredibly tough it is in the very rough hills on the mid west side of Wales. To cover 75 miles and 25,000 feet of this terrain in 24 hours is a real challenge; a serious step up from the big 3 rounds. There is a reason that the only man to complete it in 24 hours is the man that first did the round, and that man is a truly exceptional ultra runner; Yiannis Tridimas.

I helped Rob last year, so whilst running down the side of Llyn Tawsfynydd to meet Rob, I knew that I was in for a tough day. Neil and I ran about 1 ½ miles to the dam to meet Rob with some road shoes. On meeting him he seemed in good spirits. But even at 9am it was apparent that the heat of the cloudless day could be a problem. Rob even said that the night was very hot on the Rhinog section.

Rob had a longer than scheduled break at the main road then Carwyn, Rob and I set off on the section to Arenig Fach. The heat was building and we took every opportunity to dunk Robs hat in any bog water we could find. But on these boggy tusocked hills there was no breeze and at times it was oven like. Carrying enough liquid for Rob was to make for a tough day for support too.

After a long build up on very tough ground eventually we were aiming for a significant hill, rather than the mounds that we had already visited. Arenig Fach proved a tough steep climb on loose scree mixed with heather. We eventually made it up, but it was starting to slow Rob down. We descended well to the next support point. Rob was already suffering with the heat and half heartedly mentioned quitting, but as he said he was going to well to justify it, at this point 20 minutes up I think.

I decided to carry on with a large team over Arenig Fawr and 2 other tops, having agreed a lift with Alan Duncan form a minor road crossing back to my car. The long climb up to Arenig Fawr laden with water started to wear me down. I hadn’t drunk enough and now that I had realised this and started to do something about it, it was too late. Five hours of this heat wore me down and I struggled to keep up, on the last hill I found I had to rest on the nicely angled grassy slope every 2 minutes, I had blown up in a big way. I missed the top out and caught them on the descent. Eventually I met up with Rob and when I asked how he felt, he said he was quitting. The heat had really worn him down and his quads were sore too. At the minor road crossing His support convinced him to finish this section and see if it was just a bad patch. It proved to be more than a bad patch and 3 hours later his attempt was over.

I felt sad for Rob as it was a very antritional day (a high of 29c) for such a tough round. Whilst waiting for Rob at the dam Neil and I mused over how this round would compare to a Bob Graham round, and we agreed that it would be equivalent to moving at a sub 20 hours pace, then doing the 4 plus extra hours at that pace aswell. It has got me thinking of asking Rob if I could have a go at it next year with him. I think it may be possible with him almost as a guide, but I don’t think I could put the time into those hills to be confident at the micro navigation which is needed for most of the route. It would certainly give me a serious challenge, one that would be a true adventure as success would be uncertain at best!

Glyders Recce

1st May
16 miles 8,000 feet

Ian, Will and I made a much delayed trip to the Glydders and Tryfan section of the Paddy Buckley round. The heavy snow had put us off until now. We had a good day out on the hills, perfect weather, not too hot and not too cold, no rain brilliant and even the route up through the quarries was free now that Clash of the Titans has finished filming there.

We followed the PB route over Elidir Fach, Elidir Fawr, Mynnedd Perfed, Foel Goch, Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach to reach our final ascent on the route, Tryfan. We chose a good line up the left hand side to avoid the Far South peak and the knoll prior to the top. The only bad thing about the day was that Ian didn't fee too great on the final part of this ascent. He decided to walk down the valley to the Pinacle Cafe in Cpael Curig. Will and I carried on with the planned route, and ran down off Tryfan and the over the Devils Kitchen down to Gwastadnant then on the road back to the car in Llanberis.

It was a good 6 1/2 hour run in great conditions. We drove back to meet Ian at the Cafe and have a well earned Bacon bun. On the drive home Ian decided to cancel his planned joint attempt at the Paddy Buckley round with Will. It is a shame because he has the ability to do the round, but worries over how he feels on long days has knocked his confidence and made him reassess. It is probably a wise move.

The Montane Highland Fling 2010

24th April
53 miles 8,400 feet

I spot Will at the other side of the bridge that leads to Beinglas Checkpoint, I feel hot, dehydrated and tired I shake my head in disappointment, I am late, I hate being late. Will knows I am shattered mentally and physically my 6 hour 45 minutes to Beinglas was my only time check and I can’t believe I have missed it by 10 minutes. I now know that my sub 9 hours target will not happen.

After much reflection, 5 days later I am still as disappointed as I was on arriving at Beinglas CP. Irritated that I went out too fast and ended up in a sorry state again at the end. I was not running strong after Inversnaid, but I ran the hills, downhill and flats well at the beginning. Next year I hope to try and run it more evenly in terms of the effort. This will mean having a walking break on Chonic Hill and not running most of it like the last 2 years. What actually happened to leave me disappointed at missing on my goal and mistiming my effort, but happy with my overall placing of 14th. Well ……

A year has passed and I am in Milngavie car park again preparing to start this tough 53 miler. This time Will was my personal support. He is concentrating on a Paddy Buckley round later in the year so decided not to run it. So I hand over my Inversnaid drop bag to the Race organisers and head for the line. I feel fitter this year and have a simple strategy to run as much as I can and walk when I can’t.

I set off strong and tried to settle into a comfortable pace. I ended up just behind two runners that I would see from time to time all day. We made a good link through the gates, each keeping them open for the next, and made Drymen in a swift 1 hour 35 mins. Will was on hand to take my jacket and give me a fresh bottle of lucozade. By now the sun was poking through the clouds and although it was only 09:40, it was quite warm. I ran most of the next section to Conic hill and even ran parts of that, in fact up to this point I had run almost all the way. I ran most of Chonic Hill and enjoyed the descent to Balmaha overtaking a few of the earlier starters as I entered the car park. A quick switch of an empty for a full bottle and I continued walking through the car park chatting to Willl and stuffing food in my mouth and my bum bag then it was off to Rowardenan.

I felt comfortable all the way to Rowardenan and enjoyed the up and down proper trail running. I reached the car park in good shape and had my first sit down and a chat with Will about, possibly being in 8th place (I was 9th), and a rice pudding then I set off for Inversnaid. The long uphill stretch out of Rowardenan was tough I ran some of it and walked some. Then on the long downhill stretch I had my first bad patch. Feeling cramps in my sides and calves. This worried me; it was too early for this. I did my best to slow enough to not let this get a grip, but it did ruin the fluidity of my movement. I became more rigid for a while and worried that this would continue. Luckily by the time I reached Inversnaid I got into a reasonable rhythm. Will did not meet me here because of the long out and back car journey around the mountains that is required.

I retrieved my drop bag and had a rest for 5 minutes to eat. I even walked 100 yards the wrong way to hand over my litter, it felt like a heroic act. I performed an about turn and headed for Beinglas. This section is very rough and it knocked me out of any rhythm I had and seamed to drain me more than it should have. I reached Will at Bein Glas shaking my head at him as I realised that it was 6 hours 52 minutes in to the run and I had no chance of sub 9 hours, feeling sorry for myself I did not even think about the fact that I was in a race and doing pretty well. I was in 7th at Drymen 9th at Rowardenan and 14th now. After an unnecessarily long 4 minutes on my backside Will told me to get a move on “ as you will on my Paddy” I agreed that I would, and so levered myself up and onwards.

I lacked serious motivation and knew that the 12 miles left to go were going to be painful. The 6 miles of mainly uphill passed with me only running when the trail was virtually flat or downhill, or when a photographer’s camera appeared; strange I know. Will had gone to Tyndum to park up and retrace the trail back to me. As I approached the top of the hill onto the highland plateau I negotiated the cow latrine by snaking passed the rumps of some bloody huge cows (I think I have mentioned on the blog my fear of these creatures) I was too knackered to bother. So I just ploughed my way through the slosh. By now my lucozade had run out and I was getting dehydrated. My 2nd toilet break confirmed my fears, bright green fluid, and I had not eaten any asparagus. Not good. Eventually, after what felt like a long time traversing the rollercoaster path through the woods, Will appeared like a bronzed Adonis descending off a mini summit. Shirt off and proclaiming “I only have water” thank god for that, I was sick of all that energy drink. I ran as much as I could for the last 6 miles with Will.

I felt pathetic, walking any slight incline and jogging the flats slowly. All the time I was imagining myself running up Conic Hill 6 odd hours earlier. Will said he had feared he would struggle to keep up with me. No Chance, more like he was struggling to run slow enough. It felt like he was kidding me about the distance left my glass was half empty and Wills was full. Finally we arrived at the last bit of road. He left me at the start of the last field and semi triumphantly I passed the bagpiper and headed for the finish line. A runner that I had jockeyed position with from Beinglas was 200 yards ahead and for the last 2 miles I could not be bothered to even contest it. He probably deserved it anyway.

14 th in 9 hours 20 mins. I suppose I should be pretty pleased it is a new PB; 9 minutes faster than last year. I know I can do better so it will be interesting to give it a go in a years time, roll on the Highland Fling 2011.