Tuesday, 27 June 2017

SW100 by Run WalkCrawl

This would be race 6 in the Runfurther series. I was doing the 100 and Bob the 50. We had recceed various bits and I hoped that not knowing some of the first 30 miles on my route wouldn't matter much if other runners were still around. I wasn't overly stressed about the race and had even worked out a time schedule based on an optimistic 4mph and then my Hardmoors200 pace of around 3.5mph. Surely I could do better than that pace! In the weeks before the race the distance did seem to be increasing slightly and it looked like 105 miles was likely. so 4mph would be 25hrs and a finish at 8pm on Saturday. Even 3.5mph would see me back before midnight and so not really two nights of running. How naive was I?

We arrived early as always and put up flags, banners and display boards. David Chetta helped, Thanks, and we got chatting to Chris from Up and under as well as Joe the RO.

I tried to go for a lie down later in the afternoon but there was too much going on and I wasn't tired enough to sleep.

 The forecast was for some drizzle over night but not heavy rain and not cold.
6 walkers started early in the afternoon
At registration we collected trackers, road books with descriptions and maps plus some larger overview maps.

By the briefing at 5.30pm people were in a state of nervous anticipation. It was not a big entry although double the numbers from the inaugural 2016 race.

 At 7pm we were off. The start is fairly fast on the relatively flat Taff Trail and then up into Castel Coch

 before dropping to more Taff Trail and paths across to the first self clip at Garth Hill. I knew the way to here and so was happy to let a few faster runners get ahead.

 As I climbed onto the common I could see runners up ahead and  soon caught Hugh. We ran together for some distance and this helped with a couple of fiddly bits of nav. Somewhere on this section we met up with Leigh who seemed local and to know the way- bonus. We arrived at Llantrisant CP1 in good spirits despite the damp and had a good scoff of crisps etc. It was still light and our pace was good at under 2 hours for almost 10 miles. In the next forest I took a crunching tumble. I had things in both hands so my knee and shoulder cushioned the fall and both wrists hit the ground palm up? I was winded and a bit shocked but OK. As we left the woods it was soon dark enough for head torches and the three of us stuck together using Leigh's knowledge. We found the self clip on Mynydd Gaer OK but then in the wet, mist and bounce back on our lights we lost the path and were soon in deep bracken heading too steeply down. We climbed and contoured back up, found the path and headed for CP2 in Glynogwr. The rain was now quite heavy and Hugh stopped to put on full waterproofs. He was also feeling miserable and talking of giving up. I got cold waiting but knew I would warm up on the next climb. Jerome, Alwyn and a few others caught us here after our stumbling in the bracken. I had opted for comfort not grip on my feet and after sploshing through calf deep water on the next paths in Ogmore Forest I was getting worried. If I do the race again I will recee the next section because we got it terribly wrong and then had a bit of tussock bashing to get back on track. Perhaps I should have gone more slowly and trusted my own nav, or stuck with Alwyn who ended up ahead of me yet again.
Better weather on my recee
The dark, wet and nav had taken it's toll and I was relieved to arrive in Treorchy and find CP3 in a warm church hall.  Soup, cake, custard and tea restored some positivity and I set off up hill again.At least I knew this section and I knew Alwyn was only a minute or so ahead. I soon caught him and we ran together to Castel Nos where we joined up with Giles and Jon. The rain had lessened now and we made it through the moors and turbines with no further nav issues.

Dropping down the gravel road to Hirwaun we lost Alwyn  for a while but he eventually found the CP.

 The four of us ran fairly closely all the way to the next CP. I was happy to lead this section  but Jon also knew the way. The cycle track should have been easy running but it seemed hard to pick up the pace and almost a relief to reach the undulating paths and woods after Penderyn.
From my recee- it was dark in the race
A rocky path behind the waterfall at Sgwd yr Elra was the highlight of this section and it was not as slippery as I had feared. Giles and Jon pulled ahead a little and Alwyn dropped back but we did all see each other at CP5 Ystradfellte. I had been running for less than 11 hours so despite the time lost in the dark it wasn't too bad. The drizzle had almost stopped and it was light again. Our drop bags were waiting and I tried to eat instant noodles but struggled. I debated changing socks or shoes but by now they were drier than they had been for hours so there seemed little point (possibly a mistake). Giles and Jon were ready before me and I thought it would be the last I saw of them. I power walked up the lanes to Blaen Llia pleased that I knew the way and that the weather was improving with every step. The self clip was on the summit cairn and by then I had rejoined the lads. They couldn't believe I had only walked and yet made such good time. 

We headed over the tops to the self clip south of Fan Fry and then on to the Storey Arms. This was half way but we had already clocked at least 54 miles! I was ahead of my 3.5mph my schedule of 9.20am but only just.

Jon had an amazing support crew and their encouragement helped lots. The CP staff were great and after a hot drink and food we were off up onto the Brecon Beacons - Corn Du, Pen y Fan and then the clip on Cribyn.
what we should have seen
Sadly although the rain had stopped there was still enough low cloud this early in the morning to obscure the views. We carried on round the rim to Fan y Big and then the new path over the previously boggy section to Carn Pica. My GPS died here  after 61 miles and pace of 3.6 mph- including the wet night, two nav blunders, a fall and time in CPs eating.It was warm and sunny as we dropped to Talybont reservoir dam and CP7. As I stood eating baby bel cheese and strawberries the first runner on the 50 mile route came past (less than 2 hours over the tops and he was flying). Tor y Foel loomed huge and seemed to take for ever to climb. Some fiddly nav took us down to the river and up the other side. We were all taking it in turns to struggle but still smiling. Again Jon's support crew came out to meet us and pointed the way to the Trefil CP.
Martin at his last CP
Martin Terry on the 50 had passed me coming off Tor y Foel and now Daryl and Debbie appeared too. The next CP was heaven- dry socks, hot dogs and bakewell tarts. Yum. Some energy restored.It was warm crossing to Rhymney Hill  and our pace was slowing a little.
Down and then up the other side
The path down to New Tredegar was chest high in bracken but nothing compared to the overgrown path up the other side.I was now feeling the strongest of our group and I think knowing the way does make a big difference. I arrived at Bargoed Common with a big smile on my face and claimed the last piece of pizza.
Jon and supporter Shaun at Bargoed
My new GPS watch that should have lasted for 30 hours had now died but I knew we were losing time. We also seemed to be doing more than the official miles. I had been beating myself up in my head about the lack of pace. On the day I blamed the dark and wet of the first night but in fact it was on the second evening and night that we lost marginally more I think. Being in a group was taking time at CPs and Jon was needing increasing amounts of time to deal with his feet. Mine were sore but I didn't dare look. I had not receed the next section and Giles' GPS was superb. The huge climb after Penalta Country Park took ages and sadly the track at the top had a huge new layer of very rough hard core which made it very difficult to run. On and on it went until we reached the edge of Llanbradach forest. Bob had receed this bit and told me to be careful. I am still not entirely sure what we did wrong but having failed to find the correct path the majority vote was for a direct assault on the slope through bracken and brambles. It cost us an hour and was dispiriting. More food and chocolate milk at the CP helped and Jon pampered his feet some more.
Jon and Darren - his support crew
Our nav troubles weren't over until we found our way across the metal bridge and reached the lane. It was now dark again and we had done somewhere over 84 miles. Jon was starting to suffer and his feet were sore. After a loop northwards we started the drop to Ty Canol. My tracker did something odd and so Darren and Shaun came out to find us. Jon told Giles and I to go without him which in the end we reluctantly did.  Only 20 odd miles to go; how hard can it be.
Bob on our recee of the cycle track

The cycle track seemed mercifully short  in the dark and we were soon through Waterloo and climbing onto Rudry Common and the self clip. It took a bit of time but we found the path into the woods and were soon climbing up over the Warren. I was describing the next sections to Giles as we went and he was checking the magic arrow on his GPS. Suddenly there were fairly lights and voices up ahead. Caerphilly Mountain.
Nick Ham on SW50

 We almost caught Gary here but he saw us, shot off and then used his excellent local knowledge to run without his head torch and keep ahead. We were now struggling but knew there was just one self clip on Craig y Alt. We reached the Taff Trail and I speed power walked while Giles jogged to keep up. Our feet were bashed and my knee was sore and stiff from the fall miles ago. The climb to Castel Coch felt like and Escher painting with a never ending upwards track but then we were running through the village, onto the river path and back onto the last section of Taff Trail. It was after 3.20am and there are no results out yet. We had ceased to care about the time and how we had failed to meet our hoped for deadlines of pre-midnight or even 2am. We couldn't believe that we were 5th equal. I ran almost 110 miles so perhaps a pace of 3.4mph. I still don't really understand what made it so much harder than the H200 but it was. Perhaps starting into a night and so not getting good running early on when the mind and body were both willing made a difference. Plus dense vegetation and fewer runnable tracks until I was too tired to run much anyway. We sat upstairs in the rugby club too tired to move. Chris brought us soup and then eventually we wandered off to bed. I couldn't sleep as my knee was so sore and swollen. Bob arrived back around breakfast time and seemed in a better state than me.
Winner on SW100 at last CP
A very slow morning of eating, drinking and chatting led to the prize-giving and then it was time to take down all the banners and head home.

 It is a tough race and should continue to grow and gain a reputation as hard. Big thanks to a great race organiser and team, cheerful and efficient CP staff, to all those I ran with but especially Jon and Giles and lastly to their support crew of Darren and Shaun. Will I go back? yes probably but I will want to recee the few bits that I did not know and hope to improve on my time.