With a quick registration I treated myself to a beer and curry down the road then headed back to sort my gear out at the Outdoor centre. The room had an international feel to it, Peter from Denmark and Mark and Kevin, brothers from Ireland. We were all eager for the race start. Peter was doing his first Ultra after competing in some IronMans and amazingly Mark and Kevin were competing in their 11th Ultra this year. Their goal is to complete the 12th just before Christmas in their hometown. Good luck guys and great achievement.
The start was down by the canal at Talybont. Excitement was in the air, the full moon was showing and the day-light was creeping in as we all began The Ultra Brecon 42 Winter Edition by The Might Contain Nuts team up the gentle slope to Talybont reservoir.
It wouldn't all go my way though. After a glorious muddy descent where one unfortunate had gone over on his ankle and was being helped down by a couple of gracious guys. We took on another hill and I decided to try and start offloading some of my food, in doing this I chipped another one of my teeth. I had broken one of my smaller front teeth only the day before and 'luckily' had booked a dentist appointment for monday (only 200quid to fix hmm that's a couple of races). This played on my mind for a while as I couldn't help thinking that all my teeth were about to fall out! I ate more tentatively from then on in and tried to stay away from all my sugary sweets. As misfortune would have it my mind was taken away from my teeth to my feet as a hot spot was being felt on my left heel. Something I am pleased to say is that I have hardly ever suffered from blisters so this was a little disconcerting. In hindsight wearing old crappy shoes that I'm sure were rubbing all week at work and old socks on the day were to blame. I stopped and applied a compeed whilst watching numerous runners overtake me.
Coming into CP3 by Pontsticill Resevoir (all amazing CPs btw and wonderful marshals) I felt another hot spot on my right heel but choose to ignore it as I kept saying I'd change my socks soon (I had brought 4 pairs along with me). Soon after leaving though I decided to plaster up my heel but left my wet socks on for one more CP. With body and mind fixed we climbed up into the wastelands where the wind picked up interspersed with a few light showers. But enough to put my waterproof and gloves on. The wind was bitter but the cold had its benefits in that the moorland was mostly frozen and not horrendously boggy as is the norm. My only incident here was mistaking a piece of ice for a rock and subsequently going knee deep into the bog.
At the next CP I knew the next section from the MCN adventure race and so knew it to be very boggy and decided to keep the wet socks on and could run the paths straight rather than scamper around the countless puddles and bogs. I was getting tired by this point and after finally changing my socks at the next CP it was all uphill to Pen Y Fan. A long tedious ascent where I started to doubt myself finishing. I felt that I had enough and didn't have the energy to cope with more hills. These I need to train on as I was slow and always felt like I was losing time as I trudged my way up these steep endless slopes. A nasty short steep up and down brought us near the top of Corn Du and veered off NW down what can only be described as one of the most exhilarating descents I have done. It not only cured my misery but is motivating me to head up here when I can, to do the hill training that's needed and to get the cherry on top descents.
Still buzzing from the last section I topped up my water at the CP and was told less than a half marathon and the easiest part to go. Here there was plenty of tracks and roads but still a fair amount of tough hills to challange any comments of this being the easy bit. Heading down a steep embankment I managed to tumble head over arse and my knee actually plugged into the mud. Managing to unplug myself I noticed a river, which had no natural crossing and so the only thing was to wade right through it, but, forgetting to wash the mud off whilst there. Heading back out the valley a hill, sorry mountain, starred down at me and my only thought was 'shit, not sure I can do this'. As luck and the kind gods would have it a little way up a marker traversed us around and on the steady contour to the final CP where I changed socks again for the final 6 mile leg.
Easier ground from here although the Irish brothers missed a marker and added 4miles to their ultra. As dusk was approaching we were treated to a stunning sunset and I was making good time and from not seeing another person for ages I managed to pass a few on a tricky slanting footpath which went for ages which I'm sure has aggravated my ankle due to the angle and running hard on a tired body. We approached the canal and followed this down for a short section. It was hard to believe that we were running on this canal all those hours ago and had now circumnavigated the Brecons. The finish was also known to me from the adventure race and so with darkness falling fast I at least knew where the finish was and duly kicked on to finish in around 9hrs covering 42miles with circa 8000ft of ups and downs (came in 30th).
The finish felt good and after a clean up had some food and watched some other runners finishing. Then we headed to the pub for a few too many beers and good conversation about a great race and what next.