Race report for UpHillDownDale Beacons 100 (and 50)
What a difference a day or two makes.
|Black Mountain, love it|
Wednesday 18 mile was a recee of CP5-7 in gorgeous weather. The views along the edges were superb and from midday the sun came out. I saw very few people on this western edge of the Beacons area – The Black Mountain.
|Bad hair but what a view|
The paths were good and despite a massive descent and re-ascent at CP6 I really enjoyed my day out. It was varied terrain with some relatively pathless sheep trod moorland, the big edges and then the limestone of Dan yr Ogof.
I ran slowly to conserve my energy and thought it would be a section of the race to look forward to.
Thursday I did CP7-8 plus a bit more before deciding it was too hot to run.
Again the route seemed fairly straight forward but I was happy to know what was coming up. It was a section I had run a few years ago but in reverse and in the company of others so taking less notice.
|Blue sky, shame it didn't last|
There seemed little point going down to the river crossing and then up the impossibly steep slope. There were no paths and I could see what had to be done. Instead I lay in the sun.
|Straight down from where I was sat , cross the river and up the other side. Ouch.|
It was going to be a tough route. I had recently looked at the results for the previous two years and been alarmed at the number of DNFs and the slow times for 100 miles (31 hours plus).
Race day. Ah well. Wind and rain for much of the day but it was on off and certainly wouldn’t be much of an issue for the race. After hours of reading in the van and reminiscing about Might Contain Nuts races from the Outdoor Ed Centre we moved to Crickhowell and got all the Runfurther gear sorted- flags and banners up, display boards and spot prizes out in the hall, a few prizes for the RO and then time to chat. I didn’t know many of the other runners but Steve Jones was there with plenty of time to spare too. I was dressed to run, my drop bag handed in and I just wanted to get going. It was going to be a tough course with the night coming early with all the low cloud. Perhaps I should have done a recee of this first 20 mile loop but I guessed that near the start there would be other runners around me.
MR believed the weather forecast ie.that the worst of the rain had passed and we would just have strong winds. Not true. At 8pm on our start line the rain started. I opted to put on my big heavy weight cag there and then. Correct decision. An hour later it was torrential bringing early dark and very very low vis. At this stage the wind was on our backs. I made my first mistake of allowing others to use their GPS and rely on them, first error. We were off line and lost some time to the amusement of those I later ran past. The last section to CP1 went well and even though I was on my own and no real idea of where I was heading the GPS seemed to say all was OK. Soon a couple of glow sticks confirmed I was close to the CP. The volunteers there made me feel good about myself and after a bite to eat I set off after Fiona who was about 20 minutes ahead they said. Despite the wind and rain I enjoyed CP1-2 and was making good time. It was a shame not to get the views but at least the nav here seemed easy as I ran along the ridge, picked up the Beacons Way and was on a nice wide grassy path with deep bracken on each side. I made a silly error entering the village at CP2 but soon put it right and found the guys waiting on the canal tow path. More food and the realisation that in 20 miles I had not had a drink. The tow path was easy; flat, no nav and just a bit overgrown and puddle. Bob and the van were waiting at the tunnel where he knew I would leave the tow path and meet the road. A swift cup of tea and I was off. The rain seemed to get worse but low down I was sheltered from the wind. I knew to leave the CP at the White Hart in Tal y bont but think I made a slight error on a parallel path next to the Taff Trail. I arrived at the dam OK and sort of knew where I was going on the next bit. I saw two torches behind me and now wished I had waited and grouped with them. The hillside was running with water and obscuring paths. By Waun Rydd I was getting blown all over and a bit scared. The path kept vanishing and I couldn’t stand up properly. Making forward progress was difficult. From then on the rain just got worse, torrential and non-stop. The wind became gales. I lost the path on the way down having taken my eye of the garmin to try to keep my balance. Even that failed and a strong gust blew me face first into a huge pond or puddle. More swearing and now I was soaked. I lost the path but decided to just keep heading down. It meant some bracken bashing and the two torches over took me during all this. I have only had my eTrex a short while and not used it much. It kept turning off when I wanted it. I climbed gates and headed down to the lane and the village. I had given no thought to eating or drinking yet again. I was scared getting off the hill down to CP3 but then proud to have done so and so continued. The CP was a van and I sheltered inside with a brew and stuffed down a huge pile of sweet potato I had been carrying. I was shivering but knew Bob and the van would be down in Brecon; not far and on lanes and tow path. Initially I struggled to get going on the lane as my cold muscles had seized up but by the tow path I was moving better and dawn was cheering me up. I found Bob and had yet another brew plus a marmite sandwich. Time to crack on and make use of the day light. The Usk was looking impressive as I crossed the bridge and started the climb towards the hills. I wasn’t moving very fast but I was at least moving forward. I had seen no runners close enough to speak to for hours and hours. The lanes seemed cruel as they headed down to streams when I knew really we needed to be going up and up onto the Beacons. The rain had washed out the hedges and the road was littered with debris from the water and huge branches brought down by the gales. As I left the relative shelter of the lanes the real force of the storm struck me. I did think about turning back on the first big wide low ridge but thought it would be soft. Higher up it just got worse and worse. I could barely stand up, moving forward was exhausting and I was worried about the tops. I nearly turned round and perhaps should have done. On the way up face into the wind I was drenched, blown all over the place and getting chilled due to my slow progress. By the top I was scared. Contouring away from Pen y Fan helped but not enough. I was blown over into the grass well over 100 times, I stopped counting.. After 45 mins on the top I knew I just had to get off and I didn’t really car which way. I put GPS and maps away and headed downhill on the least bouldery land I could find. I was blown over onto a rock which kindly gave me a dead thigh for a while. Should I have stopped, concentrated and tried to make it down the correct way? I will never know but I did know I wanted to avoid the rock path at all costs at least until I dropped out the worst of the wind. I soon realised I was heading down towards CP8 instead. I didn’t care. I was safer and the wind was less fierce. I hit the road at CP8 just as Jonny the RO drove by. This gave me a short ride up the road to CP4. If I had run up the road could I have continued? Probably but I am not sure it would have been sensible. I piled into Otto’s van and found Fiona who had been 1st lady changing into dry clothes. She like me had been blown all over, got scared and was too cold to continue. As the gas heater roared we were shivering badly. We agreed that it was SMJ and tried to make each other feel better. I never reached the part I had receed and never got to make the most of the day light and decent paths that I knew. Bob had been waiting in the van over the hill at CP5. In fact he had been trying to get some much needed sleep when he spotted the tracker and asked the CP staff what was going on. He came to my rescue and we drove a short way to a quiet layby and fell into bed. Thank god for the van.
By the time we woke the rain had eased to the extent there were some gaps in the heavy showers but the wind seemed just as bad. All the rain had of course swollen the streams and rivers. David had made it over to CP6 but it had taken him a long time and he had been confused by the diversion. He was at CP7 when he was stopped. Almost a dozen left CP4 and made it to CP5 before they were stopped. The Mountain Rescue pulled the plug. It is likely if the weather forecast had actually been accurate that we may never have started, certainly not on our planned route.
|Not much path and a river to cross. memories of the OMM|
The 50 miler set off on Saturday morning and so with more knowledge of the conditions they were serious rerouted away from the tops and any river crossings. I believe they went through the col to the east of Cribyn and the down the valley to the south rather than along the ridge south. They missed out Tor y Foel hill and went down the Taff trail to Tal-y-bont and back along the canal. They still got a long race but not those tops. Many finished at it must still have been a tough day out.
So another DNF. 2019 is proving to be a tough year despite some good runs as well. It seems whenever I take on a race that makes us change our holiday plans it goes a bit wrong. In NZ my race meant a big detour back across the South Island. This time it meant we stayed in the UK instead of heading off to the sun in the van. I just hope diverting from France and the Pyrenees to go to the Tor des Geants goes better. (Yes, feeling a bit low and fragile).