Monday, 2 July 2012

Might Contain Nuts Adventure Race Brecon Beacons

With the focus this year being on running I had made one token effort a couple of weeks back to get on the bike. Mainly to see that it was all in working order. Check. So just had the saddle sore to look forward too.
I had signed up to do this AR early in the year as part of the training planned in doing a 5 day AR in Scotland. I am no longer doing that event but that's no reason for not taking part in this one. It had the makings of a classic. Glorious location, multi staged multi disciplined and a long distance/time to contemplate.
Arriving in Talybont on the friday I set up the tent in the rain. Nice starting off wet and cold so I made my way to the pub for a beer(s) and curry. With the rain ever present I made a 'team' decision of just completing the non navigational point to point option. This would still be an undertaking, 50 miles over rough mountainess  terrain.
The morning didn't start of too well. Not only did I forget my bike helmet, I had realised on my long journey up and luckily picked one up in Abergavenny. On the way to the start I remembered I had left my wallet in the tent. Back I went. Then again, on my way I remembered I had forgotten my camera and ipod. Back I went. It must be down to pre race nerves or a complete lack of preparation and readiness. Finally I got to the race start and registration was quick and simple, the briefing clear and straightforward. We were all ready. A surprisingly small field for what promised to be a testing AR. Most ARs are 5hours or multi day so this was a great inbetweener.
Stage '1' was a short 3 mile run to a local hill but in this short run the day was set. Sunshine, showers and stunning scenery. With the field spread out we were on the bikes for stage '2' (12miles). I first got muddy, then wet, then knackered as I pushed my bike up a steep boulder field which strangely had motorcycle riders tearing downhill and telling us to get on our bikes and ride. They would know the lazy slobs! After a few 'river' crossings to completely soak us for the day it was onto a fast road section. A little to fast for the couple of guys ahead of me who veered down the steep road. Glancing at the map it didn't feel right so I stopped and took check of my location. The non nav course was to be fully marked but at the junction there were no markers (found out later that some scumbags had removed it and thrown it in the hedgerow). Still, I trusted my judgement and followed the track up a steep incline soon wishing I had followed the others down the road. Not really, as the next part was some of the most enjoyable downhill all day. Once at the valley bottom though only meant one thing, you have to go back up and a hard slog uphill brought up the next transition. Taking in a ham and cheese roll I was back on my feet for Stage '3' (9m) and going through some beautiful woodland. A highlight of the day in descending a steep ravine then having to approach a large waterfall and pass behind it. A memorable experience and I must of been taken aback that much as the marshal had to remind me to go back in and stamp my card. The second half of the run was interspersed with between bog 'running' and hill 'running'.
The start of stage '4' (5m) was a gruelling bike ride up a long steady incline that seemingly went forever but, in reality was fairly short. Then a fast descent into the woods and to the next transition for another short running stage '5' (4m). I definitely started to get tired through these sections as some of the trails seemed to drag and hitting the wetlands I certainly cursed a few times as my feet plugged into the unavoidable bogs.
The next stage '6' was just a short sharp kayak (1m). I was looking forward to this as I do enjoy this discipline and was happy to rest my legs and work my arms. Once on the lake the wind blew across and did its best to point the kayak in the wrong direction with each stroke. After an endless paddle I reached the island, stamped and turned around. Thinking the wind would be working for me I was completely wrong and it now hit me full force and had a funny way of kicking up the waves and lifting the front end and continually battering it down. Testing conditions but head down and by keeping those arms going it was soon all over.
Back on the tired legs for Stage '7' (9m) and nearly there but the hardest section awaits. More wetlands followed by the long and arduous ascent up to Pen y Fan. I would like to say that this was an enjoyable hike up but, condition's turned for the worst, gale force winds and rain that hurt and into the clouds I went. Luckily navigation is easy up here and a quick photo at the top heeded a quicker descent. On heavy legs this wet, rocky track was stressful going. But, down on the flatter parts I picked up the pace and towards the end finally meet up with another competitor, Chris, who I had briefly chatted to on the first bike stage, all those hours and hours ago. We got on our bikes and headed off on the final stage '8' (8m). The track all to soon turned into a narrow sludge pool. Chris eased away as I made hard work of getting through the mud pools, my front tyre being a magnet for any large rocks. Again testing my resolve as I fought hard to stay on the bike. This was another neverending test piece, finally getting on the reservoir track and picking up speed and thinking of dry warm cloths and beer. The final path down into Talybont was like a badly made cobblestone street I honestly thought that my bike would literally shake apart at any moment. Making it into town and cycling past the pub it dawned on me that there was still a little ways to go. I honestly thought the finish was the pub. Rats. But, I had another mile or so to go. The last CP I found hard to spot. The description confused me as I searched longingly for it at the front of this house only to give up and go around the corner to see it blazingly there. Blaming my tiredness now as I high tailed it out of there onto the road and to the finish line where it was spookily quiet. The organisers were there to greet our triumph with Chris who had just finished, with Ben and Richard who unluckily both had been unable to continue racing due to illness and injury.
So a top 3 finish in around 8 hours covering alot of ascent, over 2000m and 50miles. Exhaustingly satisfying. A hot shower and drink and it was down to the pub to celebrate with the usual beer(s) and curry. 

A superb event run by The Might Contain Nuts team of Matt and Barry and their splendid team of marshalls. It was enjoyable and demanding, it pushed you hard but was visually and mentally rewarding.

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