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!