Sunday, 20 July 2014

Fairlands Valley Challenge marathon 2014

Another great event from FV Spartans.  Today was my sixth attempt at the Fairlands Valley marathon.

I had a great start, enjoying an improved first couple of miles, then back into the old route.  It was hot from the off, under direct sun for much of the day and shortly after half way I could feel my calves starting to cramp, then they both suddenly locked up, tipping me onto the dirt.  A quick stretch and I was moving again, but the second half of the race was a process of attrition and dehydration.  The Gu tablets didn't seem to be working but the gels worked OK.

By the last checkpoint at Watton at Stone I had given up on my target time (my last three attempts were all between 4:12 and 4:13) and was walking on most of the uphills.

Fairlands Valley Challenge 2014 medal
As always, lovely Hertfordshire countryside, and a great finish with medals, ice cream, burgers, music, massage, showers and a bar!  But today wasn't my day.  Definitely the sun took its toll and not just on me, there was an ambulance at the finish, but maybe I'm not fully recovered from the Welsh 3000s just three weeks ago.

Post-run refreshment
Here is the route on Strava. 4:32:19 for my 64th marathon.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Vegan Welsh 3000s - all of them this time

After last year's two completions of the Welsh 3000s on consecutive weekends, I was feeling relaxed about being able to complete the route this year, despite a recent virus knocking out my last few weeks of training.

We rolled up to the Ty Gwyn pub a little early on Friday afternoon, so I wandered round to the race headquarters at the village hall where I got involved in helping to erect a marquee and chatting to some of the other runners and volunteers.  A nice start to the weekend.

Once Martin arrived we checked in and got our kit prepared then had an early dinner.  Unlike most of my marathons, we had to register the night before the race.  This included a mandatory kit check, and there was a lot of kit (and weight) to carry.  Then followed free food, a decent goodybag, full of Clif bar, 9 bar, energy drink and a t-shirt, followed by detailed course briefing.  Lots of photos of the route, although I don't think I'd have remembered much of it the next day if I hadn't run the route before.

Saturday morning didn't get off to a great start, with Martin locking himself out his room at 3:30am, waking up the pub manager who told us he didn't have a spare key, followed by Martin climbing up a stack of tables and chairs outside his first floor window.  Problem solved and we made the bus at 4am to take us from Rowen to Nant Gwynat for the start of the Vegan Welsh 3000s 2014.  There was an atmosphere of quiet excitement on the bus.

At 5:15am we set off on the Watkin Path, for an all-uphill ninety minutes to the top of Snowdon.  Martin and I are well matched for pace and mostly walked, with a few jogs.  This was the highest climb of the day, although perhaps not the hardest as it had plenty of variety, unlike the brutal march in a straight line up to Elidr Fawr that would later wear us down.

Snowdon accomplished, we quickly jogged across to Garnedd Ugain, barely a climb this one.  Crib Goch next, and different every time I'm up there.  We couldn't see much in the fog, but slowly made our way along the knife edge.  The descent was one of the toughest sections of the entire day for me, down the north ridge for the first time.  Tricky rocks, then steep scree followed by very steep downhill on wet grass.  This was the only time my new Inov-8 X-Talons slipped about on my feet.  The rest of the day they were comfortable, apart from a couple of knocks to the ankle or toe from loose rocks, which no lightweight shoe is going to protect against.

First checkpoint for a quick change of socks, t-shirt and refuel and we were on our way to Elidr Fawr.  I dislike this climb - an easy tarmac start, followed by a steeper track, then a straight line on grass where you can see the top ahead all the way, finishing on a pile of rocks at the top.  Now we got a chance to run the flattish section to the foot of Y Garn, then a short climb.  Chatting to a few other runners on and off as we were passed or, rarely, passed others.  Another short descent, past the lake and the rocky climb up to Glyder Fawr, not one of my favourites.  Then another foggy flat section across to Glyder Fach, which felt harder than it should have been.

I always enjoy the descent down Bristly Scree, followed by the short scramble over the big rocks to reach the top of Tryfan.  We seemed to find a good route up Tryfan this year, the combination of ViewRanger and OS maps on my phone, with the route from last year overlaid, proving invaluable.

Down the gully and a long flight of stone steps to checkpoint 2 in a car park by Llyn Ogwen for another change of socks and t-shirt and picking up more food and water.  I hadn't finished my Camelbak at either checkpoint, disappointed to have carried excess water, although I should probably have drunk more.

Pen yr Ole Wen was hard, but no surprise there.  The third and last of the big climbs, it is steep and I was hot and tired.  But I knew that once we reached the summit there was no turning back as it was then "flat" until the final descent.

It isn't flat at all, of course, but from now on the climbs are all quite small.  I was expecting to run a lot from now on, from what I remembered of last year, but a combination of fatigue and driving rain that started somewhere near the summit and got worse for the rest of the race, left me without much motivation to run.  I could see we would finish at a pace slower than last year, even accounting for adding in Crib Goch.


Route Card
Carnedd Dafydd didn't present much of a challenge and a few other runners were now picking up on us navigating by GPS and tagging along.  The detour out to Yr Elen following a contour line on wet, rocky grass, without much of a path to follow was as horrible as the last two times, but we got there eventually.  On the way back the ascent of Carnedd Llewelyn destroyed me as it had done last year.  Once at the top we caught up with the group that had been navigating off us, then stuck together for the next section, before they dropped us.

From here Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian and Foes Fras are all relatively easy.  The marshal from Foel Fras wasn't to be found.  We passed him later on the descent - he was heading down early to avoid hypothermia.  The weather was grim now but we had to push on for another five miles, skirting Drum and then dropping down to the car park, for the final checkpoint.  We just wanted to get home now and didn't even stop for water, jogging what we could, but I didn't have much motivation left.

Vegan Welsh 3000s number and medal
Martin and I ran and walked all the way together and finished in 14:39:44, joint 47th out of 65 finishers.  I was pleased to have finished, but it was a tough one this year.  I think I'll take a break from the Welsh 3000s next year, to focus on marathons but I want to come back and complete it again.

Race momento

A huge thank you to everyone at Vegan Welsh 3000s, especially the volunteers who were out on the mountains in bad weather to help keep us safe and support us.

Here's the link to Strava.