Date: 7th July
Location: The Brecon Beacons
Steepest climb: ???
Navigation: 100% (map, Compass)
Time Limit: 24hrs
I have been worried about this event ever since I entered it…but you have to challenge yourself !!
I heard about the 3 army officers that died in this area on the same day that I was doing the Ultra tour of the Peak District…and then it hit home how tough this race really could be.
Part of the mandatory kit list was a crepe bandage and sterile dressing…wow this is going to be tough…ok…
The first task was I find out if someone was able to give me a lift from the hostel back to Abergavenny as there was no public transport on Sunday, So I put a post on the 10 Peaks Facebook page and Robert Nelson very kindly offered (THANKS ROBERT)
So quite a few weeks before me and my coach put in a few hill sprints sessions with each sprint lasting 5-10mins long….ouch…but it needed to be done…
Within the weeks building up to this I needed to get some kit..(water & windproof running jacket, GPS satnav and foil blanket…So off the internet shop we go…I’m so last min.com
I asked on a ultra runners page on Facebook what jacket people would recommend and lots of people said the Montane Minimus waterproof jacket…so I ordered one of those..and a foil blanket…
The GPS was a different subject, so I started to do some research…I ended buying a refurb Satmap Active 10 for a really good price on Ebay from Satmap,( a new one is £300+) so all I needed was a Sd card for it of the Brecon Breacons, there were 2 people selling on on Ebay…(a new one is £105)
I managed to get one one of the sellers to cut his time short of selling and sell it to me straight away… (Thanks Mike Turnbull). I also made another stop at Profeet to have them remodel my insole a bit.
I had a few phone calls with Satmap and they were really helpful explaining me how to get the race route map onto my GPS. Thank you !!!!
I also went to Boots and bought some Scholl pressure point foam padding for my right foot to see if that would help the pain.
So with all the kit sorted..I was ready..
I headed to Paddington early on Friday morning to catch my 8:35am train to Newport S Wales, changed there to get another train to Abergavenny and then a bus from there to Talybont-On-Usk..The bus that arrived was not going there but one in 1hr was but a couple who were waiting for the same bus explained to me that some bus drivers drop people off near a bit of road that leads to Talybont-On-Usk and so thats what happened..lucky me…
So after being dropped of I made my way to the Youth Hostel which was where everyone was camping, registration and the race base was.
Ended up being about a 3 1/2 mile walk to get there…nice..with all that kit.
I got there and there were only 3 other tents there but it was nice to be early…lots of time to relax and eat and get to know the other competitors.
Pitched my tent and sorted out all of my kit and nutrition and had little wander around the area getting used to my GPS…
When the time got near 4pm I went to the registration tent to check in and got my race number, event t-shirt and goody bag.
On the way back to the tent I met 2 laddies one of which was the son of one of the organisers and she explained that the event had been set up to raise money for Macmillan cancer in memory of her late husband, that made me feel proud of what I was doing and I had a nice chat to them explaining why I was racing.
I went back to my tent and attached my race number onto my race backpack and sort out all of my race kit and drop bag ready for tomorrow as time seems to go so quick on race morning.
As the afternoon became evening I began to make my way to the hostel to have my evening meal which would be for me as I’m vegan, potato & leek soup with crusty bread followed by pasta with tomato and vegetable sauce..I ended up have 2 soups and was very full when I’d finished, I stayed up a bit longer and had a chat to some of the other competitors and realised some had come from, Norway, Spain and Belgium and here is little old me from London…very very flat London…mmmm.
So after a good night sleep I woke up at 1:45am and just dozed for a bit in the tent before getting up as it was not that warm outside…brrrrrrr. so after getting up and dressed I made my way to the hostel to have breakfast, 2 bowls of porridge with honey and 5 slices of toast with jam and a cup of coffee, I never drink coffee apart from during or before races.
So after that and chatting again to some more competitors it was getting close to 3am, so I made my way back to my tent to get changed into my race kit and to double check I had all my lit and spare batteries for my GPS, so with the time being 3:25am I made my way over to the main marquee for the race briefing..
After that had a toilet break and made my way over to the start area with the other competitors.
5 min countdown, the it was 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 go…
The weather to start with was a bit cold and then within 1 hour of the start it started to rain and….HARD, the course was flat for about 2 miles..then we started going up up up and up some more..the the first dibber station was with about 4 miles from the start and there was one of the volunteers getting completely wet waiting for us all to pass.
My strategy for the race was to power walk the uphill sections (those that are possible to do that), some of the assent must have been over 35%) and then run as soon as I got over the top, this worked really well as there were al lot of people that were really tried when they got to the top of the climbs and that is when I overtook gained a place.
The idea of the race is to summit all of the 10 peaks below in this order.
There are 2 additional mandatory peaks to begin with which were part of the short and long course
Waun Rydd 762 m
Twyn Mwyalchod 642m
Fan Fawr, 734 m
Fan Llia, 632 m
Fan Brycheiniog, 802 m
Bannau Sir Gaer, 749 m
Fan Gyhirych, 725 m
Fan Nedd, 663 m
Fan Frynych, 629 m
Pen y Fan, 886 m
Cribyn, 795 m
Fan y Big, 719 m
You are given a Harveys map and there is a route on there for you to follow of you want but its up to you if you follow it.
I chose to follow the route as I had download it to my Satmap GPS and all so I really didn’t know the area that well either.
I was really happy with my pace and my performance in that I was really worried about this race as I’ve already mentioned, all the checkpoints have cut off time that are in place , I was happy because the cut of time for checkpoint 2 was midday and to beat the 24 hrs time you had to get there by 11am and I ended up getting to checkpoint 3 around 10:30, HAPPY DAYS.
There were very few people around that parts that we were running, I guess mainly because a lot of the course doesn’t follow a path…or a least the course I did didn’t.
The scenery in the Brecon Beacon is absolutely stunning…I was making a deal with myself on all the assents and it was not to look behind at the view until I got to the highest part of the climb, Now there are a few issues with this, 1st being so of the assent kept going up up up and by the time you got there you just ran when you got to the top and then looked when you were running, 2nd sometimes the views were somewhat hard to see through the mist or fog.
My coach Mimi Anderson (who started training coaching me for the middle of march) as always given me good advice before going into races and one of the best bits of advice is to “ race your own race, don’t get caught up in someone else’s” which really helped me as I’m very very chatty and before I used to talk a lot to other runners and get side tracked.
I aim before that race was to try and complete the course within the 24hr time limit which I though was a big ask considering when I competing in the Ultra Tour Of The Peak District which was 60 miles with 2722m of assent in 20h, 3m 57sec and this being 2078m more in assent I was dreaming a bit, but I did have my Satmap and in the Peak District I just had a map and compass and was just following people..(stupid I know, but I finished)
I also decided before the race just to wear a watch and not my Garmin which told me the distance I had run, but also only had a battery that lasted 13hrs so theres no point In knowing all your running details for some of the race, the Satmap apparently tells you a lot about your distance and speed and elevation but I’m yet to figure that out.
On most of the assents I changed my technique a few times so I didn’t get a pain in the same place because of the posture I was in, The descents were really fun at times and the speed you went down them was fast, it was quite strange though not knowing what was under your feet at times, as I said before the route didn’t always follow a public path.
All the feed stations were really well stock and with friendly and lively volunteers the only issue was that the bananas were really hard to get into and quite firm, but in some way that was nice because they had more texture to them which after having lots of gels it nice for the mouth.
When I got the checkpoint 3 I decided to have a look at my feet as they had been in some pain for the last 10 miles as I had my drop bag there, (this was a bag that contained anything that you thing you my need at this stage in the race and didn’t want to carry with you) So I replaced my Scholl foam padding and both part of my right foot, had some food and drink and went on my way.
As I mentioned earlier the descending was fun but some of them were quite steep and eventually a pain that I hadn’t had before started on my knees but luckily it went away quickly.
There were a few sections of the course that were really challenging, 1st would have to be between checkpoint 3 & 4 which was ascending Fan Brycheiniog were that assent just kept going and going and going, as as you thought it would level out at the next part..nope up again. 2nd would have to be just as I left checkpoint and ascending Fan Gyhirych and was told by all that were at that checkpoint that this was the hardest assent of them all, On this assent I just got my head down and dug deep, I notice that when I got to about half that way up there was a section that was very steep not to sure how steep though but I was scrambling up there on my hands and knees and with a nice steady motion as to not wear myself out by the time I got to the top and when I did I was running…
I got to checkpoint 5 (still with 3 peaks to summit) at about just before dusk and the next summit was that of Corn du which was not a mandatory peak but was part of the route, as I left the checkpoint as It was going to get dark soon I decided to put on my race windproof jacket so with that done I headed up there, as I was on the path I noticed that the top of the mountain was getting covered in cloud and that I had would be interesting as it was going to be getting dark soon, so I also decided to put on my head torch. As I approached the top I could see very little apart from about 20 feet around me, so I kept going and and it was quite exciting actually and I was getting quite warm so I took off my jacket and was ok without it, I got to the top and then up and on the Pen Y Fan and then My GPS decided not to play and tell me in which direction to go (great timing), by this time I had worked out what all the markings were on the GPS and was able to get to the next peak (9) and then the GPS decided to work again and got me on the the 10th and final peak, but with still about 10 miles to go I hooked onto 2 other runners (Steve Capey & Nigel Jackson) who knew the route.
So i stuck with them Until we meet another group of about 6-7 so we all stuck together for the remainder of the course.
I dibbed in at the finish and went straight to my tent to phone my mum who was really worried about me doing this, I woke her up but she was very happy I was ok and had finished, I got changed and had a shower and made my way to the hostel to see if I could managed any food.
I met up with Robert Nelson and Tracy Edwards and I also order some soup and pasta of which I could only mange to eat the soup and the bears that came with it, I couldn’t even manage a Guinness…HOW BAD IS THAT !!!, So off I went to bed as I was falling asleep.
I woke up at about 8:30 and headed to the hostel only to find that breakfast had stopped serving at 9,
the staff there very kindly made me some porridge and toast which I ate quicker that what I ate the night before.
After that I head back to the tent and started to sort out my things ready to put them in Roberts Jeep.
I put all my things in Robert jeep and we headed to Talybont-On-Usk for a big breakfast and then head to Abergavenny where Robert drop me, I stopped up at a biker cafe and had 3 mushroom butty’s and 2 potions of chip with a coke of which a never normally drink.
as the time drew closer to get my train I headed to the station to take me to Newport and then Paddington.
What a great race
my time was
49th out of 102 (I think there were more though)
I think 22 people drop out thought the course or drop to the shorter distance
My kit was
Shoe: Inov 8 roclite 295
Tights: 2XU Elite compression tights
Shorts: 2XU compression shorts
Socks: Kalenji run-intensive
Top:2XU Elite compression long sleeve top
Race vest: Ultimate Direction SJ ultra vest
Gaiters: Salomon trail gaiters
I big thank you to all of the volunteers and all that organised it.
As you may or may not know I do these events to raise awareness for this website and funds for CTRT. if you would like to donated to them please follow this LINK and all the details are there
For the course map click here
FOR MORE PICTURES CLICK HERE