Thursday, 14 June 2012

Welsh 1000 Fell race

The only way to get any good at fell running is to get in the mountains. But once in the mountains I always want to go climbing and so I signed up to do a mountain race. Actually, one of the amateur classics The Welsh 1000s. This starts near the sea at Aber and runs up into the Carnedds down to Ogwen and up the Glyders, then down to llanberis pass and finally up to the top of Snowdon. One tough race and arriving on the friday the rain kept falling as it had all week and a cheeky climb to warm up those muscles was replaced into a drive around the valleys and watching the thousands waterfalls coming down from all nooks and crannies. In fact some of the falls were going vertically up due to the power of the wind. We then sat in the bunkhouse switching between watching the Euros on TV and the weather outside in a full on gale as the river below burst its banks and flooded the farmlands as the animals took shelter on any high ground.
In short time the river had burst its banks  
This didn't bode well and so it proved at the race meeting in the evening. 5 peaks turned to 4 as Glyder Fawr was taken of route due to safety issues and also the probability that the route would change again by morning depending on what we would awake to.
We left Capel curig in the morning in good spirits as the weather was Ok but the further up the valley we went the rain came and the dark menacing clouds seemed glued to the higher ground. At the race start it was confirmed the route had changed. Infact the entire Carnedds were off limits and a straight forward route up the Glyders where more possible changes would be made later on the decent option. This weather was sure giving a lot of people headaches. But, and big respect to all the organisers the race was going ahead as I would of accepted it being cancelled.
The fell runners started at 9am (other race categories had started earlier) approx 100 of us, some covered head to foot in waterproofs and thermals while others, the more competitive I expect, had little more than tee shirt,  shorts and a small bum bag no doubt carrying all there mandatory kit. Hmmm. As we all made our way to the first hill things were a little congested although the hill sorted out the fell runners to the wannabees  and people were stretched and grouped out nicely within a few miles. I settled in a comfy pace with a group of runners and we by passed the Carnedds and decended via a road into Bethesda then onto a cycle track up the valley to Ogwen. At this point I was pretty drenched but had kept my feet relatively dry but the endless waterfalls coming off the mountains took there toll on the tracks and soon they were not just large puddles to jump around but actual rivers flowing down the roads which were unavoidable in getting your feet soaked. I had good company at this time (Mike a friendly Manc) and we managed to enjoy some conversation and keep a good pace on to the first CheckPoint at Ogwen.
(Stage 1 stats - 18km, 600metres in 1hr25mins).
From here you just go up. I know this area well and so was confident where to go and after climbing up the first steep ground to Llyn Bochlwyd we made a mini river crossing and ascended to the saddle between Tryfan and Fach. I had left Mike near the lake presuming he would catch me at some point and overtook a fair few people getting to the saddle and only saw one person in front of me as the clouds enveloped us. Foolishly I followed this person and although I had doubts on the route it wasnt until it started going up very steeply that i knew I was going wrong and checking the map confirmed this. So down we went back to the saddle a fustrating 15+mins lost plus some energy levels in a wasteful ascent. Back on track I caught up with Mike who was surprised to see me at the top. We were redirected here to stay on the miners track to the road instead of taking a cross country route due to the river being to high to cross. Again I was disappointed that this wasn't happening as this would of added spice to the race. The descent though was far from dull. 500metres over rough terrain overflowing with water, rocks and bogs. This was fast and treachorous but what fell running is all about where falling isn't an option. Although one man did manage to fall but fortunately it was in the bog section and so looked a cheerful sight. After such a fun descent had to come a slog, which was the road back up to Pen y Pass.
Stage 2 stats - 8km 650m in 1hr55.
From Pen y Pass its the Pyg track to the top. The only part of the race which had remained unchanged. I have never taken this way up to Snowdon and boy is it a slog. To be honest most ways up are. After soon taking the track I lost sight of Mike and unfortunately we never bumped into each other again , but it was great running with him. By now the legs were getting very tired the rest of me felt ok. I could of done with a little more food and water but things were closing in and it was getting much colder and being soaked to the bone for the last x amount of hours I just wanted to finish now. My worst feeling came at the top of the saddle. I had just slogged it up to near the top of snowdon but instead of heading for the finish line you have to go in the opposite direction to surmount our first 1000m peak of the race, Garnedd Ugain. Conditions were more akin to winter here and great appreciation has to go out to this marshal especially but to all those who helped put the race on. Once dibbed it was just a matter of getting to the finish which was completely shrouded in clouds and hoards of tourists. Once finished it was just a matter of getting into the cafe and finding Stu who was walking up to met me. In the cafe huddled hundreds of people all not wanting to leave but all inevitable must. I got myself some food and drink but still there was no sign of Stu and there was no mobile signal. Just when my mind was starting to decide what the hell to do, Stu appeared and best of all had my spare dry cloths for me to change into my shivering body.
Stage 3 stats - 6.5km 900m 1hr20min
Race stats 32.5km 2150m in 4hrs40. Placed 42'nd (Could of been 30th if i didnt lose that 15+mins going up Glyder Fach, d'oh, but shows that the race was close. Winner won it in 3hrs30, hats off).
A great first fell race and with what the weather had to throw at us and the race actually taking place then I am eager to do more fell running and to complete in the full race next year.
After a celebratory beer we headed down the Watkins path. Only another 6km and 1000m of descent and I could go and grab a shower, beer and steak.

As a bonus the weather cleared enough the next day for Stu and me to do a little climbing and did the ultra classic Direct route on Milestone Buttress. Fantastic route and great leading from Stu on his first multi pitch route. Here's to many more. So you can go to wales and have a superb weekend of both running and climbing.

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