Might Contain Nuts Brecon Beacons Ultra 40 Miler 2013

No photos from this one I’m afraid as it was pretty grim.

Training

Went better than it did last year.  Managed to do a lot more general running.  Didn’t do as much hill work.  Was also a bit lighter weightwise.

Food and kit

Took 9 torq gels and 2 clif shots.  And a piece of flap jack.  Went through 7 of the gels and 1 of the clif shots.  And the flapjack obviously.  Also got 4 gels from the race, which I ate.  So 11 in total.  So probably need to take more next time round.

I don’t need to take the big headtorch, so need to get a Petzl e-lite as a backup.  Would have been nice to have spare socks, but I would have spent a while putting them on, which would have lost me a bit of time.  But on a longer race, they’ll be essential.

Base layer leggings and ronhills were good on the feet.  Merino baselayer, Patagonia R1 and Montane Minimus were great in the cold, wet and very windy conditions.  I know that the Beacons can be very cold and windy over the tops, so took all the extra gear.  The Inov8 Orocs were great on the descents.  However on the flat rocky paths that make up a lot of the route, they weren’t great.  Need to see if I can find a grippy but well padded fell shoe.  Also warmer gloves would be good.

The Race

Generally it went very well.  Results haven’t been published yet but I came in around 11 hours and 49 minutes.  The mental side of things went great.  I was very sure that I’d suffer some kind of ITB related injury, so would have to pull out.  As a result I wasn’t expecting to finish.  So I went into the race with very low expectations.  Which meant I was really relaxed and quite chilled out.

I started slowly, but not as slow as last year.  Didn’t want to end up at the end from the off.  I’d planned on running the start up to CP 2.  I did manage to run quite a lot of that.  Took a wrong turn (with a lot of others) before getting into the quarry.  I walked most of that, even tho I had planned to run it.  With hindsight, I should have run it.  It’s flat and you can pick up a lot of time there for little energy expenditure.  Met up with another runner and we stuck together till CP4.  Slogged up the ridge and the boggy hell up to CP 3.  This is by far the worst part of the course.  The wind and rain meant I got very cold up here.  My legs were fine, but I had thought the base layer and fleece would be ok.  The R1 isn’t a softshell, but it’s incredibly wind resistant for a fleece.  However my fingers and feet (thanks to the bogs) got very cold and numb.  Thankfully, I had a lot of energy still and was able to bomb down the descent from Corn Du.  I managed to run most of the descents.  Local knowledge and inov8 fell shoes helped here.  Wamed up nicely.  A CP 4 I wasn’t surprised to find that there had been lots of DNFs.  I got my waterproof top and buff on (already had a cap and the R1 has a excellent hood) to keep warm as I knew that it would be cold and windy over the Corn Du and Pen y Fan.  Also I’d be slow up the climb.

From here on in, I was steadily overtaking folk, which felt pretty excellent to be honest.  One on the climb up PyF.  One on the descent off PyF.  One on Cribyn.  Three over the back of Cribyn and finally one last scalp on the canal.  It was cold and windy over Corn Du/Pen Y Fan, but generally ok.  Ran quite a bit of it.  Used to running between the summits, so I just automatically ran along there.  Got up to Cribyn, when things got grim.  It was much windier, so was getting blown around a lot.  Along with the hail that pelted me on that climb, made things pretty awful.  The last few meters seemed to be the worst, an exceptionally strong gust and big blast of hail hit in.  The other runner near me, just stopped and sheltered, back to the wind.  I just kept on going, knowing that if I kept on going it would be over quicker.  It was better running of the back of Cribyn, which is a good descent.  Especially if you go wide off the path, it’s a steepish but smooth slope.

The final climb next, up Fan-y-Big and onto the ridge.  Still more patches of hail, but it’s alot flatter.  Hard to run in places as it’s quite rocky and awkward.  Then onto the bog which leaves over to Carn Pica.  It was over the bog that there was a big flash of lightning and clap of thunder.  There was no one to see me scarper, but I’m sure it must have been funny.  I went like someone had shoved a firework up my arse.  For about 5 minutes, then realised that I didn’t have the energy to keep up that pace.  But it was bloody scary.  I couldn’t run the descent of Carn Pica (the big beehive stone cairn) as I just didn’t have the energy to control things when going down.  So kept up a fast walk downhill.

Rang home as I knew I was near the end and asked for a pick up and to have the post race curry ordered.  Managed to run in fits and spurts along the taff trail.  Got down on to the canal, ran a bit more, before walking again.  Finally managed to run along the last bit of road, which hurt my feet as those shones just aren’t comfy on the road.  At all.  Then a decent sprint finish.  If I could just manage a more measured slow run, instead of alternating between a fast walk (which is pretty fast tbh) and a run, I’d be a lot faster.  Oh well.  I’m incredibly happy to have finished an hour faster than last year in such horrible conditions.

Might Contain Nuts Brecon Beacons 40 Mile Ultra – 12th May 2012

 

Well I managed to grind out a finish at the Might Contain Nuts Summer 40.  Despite spending most of the race dead last I eventually finished second to last after catching up to the chap ahead of me after the last checkpoint.  I took around 12 hours and 58 minutes to finish, starting at 0800 and finishing just before 2100.

Preparation

I had been quite nervous before the race as to whether or not I’d finish, so I spent quite a lot of time being obsessive with my prep.  Reading lots of blogs, reading the book on feet care – Fix your Feet.  I’d figured out all the distances between checkpoints, worked out the climbs.  While I’d not done anywhere enough training, I had tested out all my gear, food and the shoes are well worn ones which are nice and comfy.  Ah, yes training.  Well my training consisted of a few 5k runs, an 8 miler, 13 miler and 14 miler.  Not exactly optimal really.  However I’d already paid my money and really wanted to get the race done, so I decided that doing a fast walk around most of the course would get me round in about 12 hours.  I have entered races that I then chuck in cause I’ve got a little twinge or not done enough training, I’ve got to actually start doing stuff and not just wimping out.

Race

I spent the night before at the in-laws in Brecon, so was able to sleep in till 0630.  Didn’t sleep that well to be honest but shovelled down a few bananas first thing.  However got to the race HQ at Talybont in plenty of time.  i was feeling a bit jittery, but nothing too awful.  The night before I’d put my number (94) on my top, but on the morning decided that I’d go with all the cool kids who had their numbers on their packs.  So sorted that out.  I remembered to check if waterproof trousers were needed, they weren’t so I took them out of my already rammed pack and dumped them in my post-race bag.  We all trudged out for the race brief and before I knew it we were off.  As a note if the organizer hadn’t mentioned that people swapped numbers around, i.e. saying 49 instead of 94, I wouldn’t have done it on Pen-y-Fan.  I’d always planned to take the race very easy so started really slowly as it usually takes me a while to get going properly.  I’d assumed that this being an ultra, everyone else would be just as slow.  I was very wrong on that point, as most of the field swept past me really quite rapidly.  I stuck to my plan and switched to a fast walk really early along the canal.  I was expecting my knee to be dodgy so didn’t want to cause any injuries that would cause me to drop out.

My climbing buddy Darren was unexpectedly in the UK on a break from his year of touring Europe, so he was on one of the canal bridges taking photos.  It was nice to see him early on.  By this point I think I was already last, but my fast walk was keeping up with the ‘running’ that the other tail enders were doing.  As the climb started I over took a couple of ladies (who ended up finishing joint last with 14:00 hours on the clock), that was to be my only overtake for a long time.  I made good time up the first climb and felt very good when I reached the top.  There were still a few people in front of me here, but they all ran the descent so quickly disappeared.  Darren was on the descent taking photos again.  We shouted some quick greetings and he followed me down the hill back to my car and we had a quick chat.  He wished me luck and I kept on going.  The first checkpoint came a lot sooner than I had been expecting, I must have got the distances wrong at this point, as I was over an hour and fifteen minutes up on my schedule.  The marshall was very cheery and we had a little chat while I filled my water bladder fully.  I had only put 500ml in it so I didn’t have to carry a full pack from the off.  However I couldn’t wait so once the water was in, I got off.  The course was very well marked so no problems here.  The path was pretty decent in most places apart from the section that was less a path and more a river.  I got very wet feet here, which was annoying and I fretted about this for a while worrying about blisters.  I knew that the bogs on the ridge would be wet, so didn’t want to change socks yet as it would be really awful if I changed socks only to get them soaking a couple of miles later.   I finally caught up to another runner here, he was limping badly and said he’d sprained his ankle.  However at this point there were some marshalls to make sure we took the right turning, so I hope they sorted him out.  The route went through the quarry here, which made an interesting change.  I will admit, I spent some time looking at the rock wondering if there are any routes up there.  There was another marshall shortly, again to make sure we made a turn correctly.

The second checkpoint arrived soon enough at the bottom of the reservoir.  I decided not to change socks here, after having fretted about it.  I steamed through this point, figuring I had enough water in the pack, just to take a quick swig and keep going.  I got onto the ridge before I needed my first comfort break.  My hydration wasn’t that great here, so I tried to take on a bit more water.  The going was awful on the first section of the ridge.  I ended up in boggy hell, trying to find a decent path through it all.  I sank up to my knees twice.  To make things worse my ITBS kicked in up here.  At one point I really thought I wouldn’t be able to walk any more.  I took a couple of ibuprofen and pushed on through the pain.    I seriously thought about returning back to the checkpoint and quitting.  However I decided to go onto checkpoint 4, the Storey Arms carpark and see how I felt.  As I kept moving things started loosening up and the knee pain faded.  I kept a good pace up the ridge finally getting on to the part of the ridge which is on the Brecon Beacon Horseshoe route, so there were plenty of walkers enjoying the weather.  I had to help a couple with directions.  This was the first point where I started to feel hungry so had my flapjack and started eating clif shot bloks a bit more often.  I went through CP 3 very quickly, yelling my number at the marshall and not stopping.  After getting a bit down the ridge I worried that the marshall hadn’t caught my name and number so fretted about that on the way down.  It was here that I saw the first other person in the race that I’d seen for ages.  They were coming back up Pen-y-fan.   I wouldn’t see another racer till Cribyn.  I made good time down the path, eating my scotch egg on the way down.  My knee was fine at this point, so no major problems.  I took the time to change my socks, refill my energy drink bottle and water bladder before heading out. I did take some more ibuprofen in the car park, just to be sure.

As there are loos here I took advantage of them, coming out of the loos I bumped into another climbing buddy who was out on a walk.  I badgered him to walk down the car park, take a photo and have a quick chat.  I told him how the race was going and he told me I looked ok and that he was sure I’d finish and to keep up the good work.  Joe is an experienced runner and walker having done 100s of half marathons and numerous marathons, so this was a massive and totally unexpected boost.  I headed up the third major climb of the day, back up the path to Corn Du.  This was definitely harder however the path is nice and even.  The stream in the middle was deeper than usual, but I made it across with dry feet.  By the time I got back to CP 5, I was tired, but otherwise ok and had plenty of energy still.  However my food was disappearing quicker than I had hoped.  At CP 5 I made sure that the marshall had got my number first time round and fortunately they had, so no worries there.  I got over to the Pen-y-Fan summit, where there was another marshall who warned me about the descent off Pen-y-fan, again this is where local knowledge comes in handy, I’ve ice climbed on Pen-y-Fan, so the small rocky step there wasn’t a big worry.  This descent was fine and my knee was still ok here.  By this point I knew I was going to make CP 6 by about 1630, so would be well with in the CP 6 by 6pm cutoff.  I knew that barring major issues I was going to finish now, so was quite happy.  Also it was quite nice to be on my own, it seemed like all the marshalls were out on the hill just for me, which made me feel oddly special.  Weird I know, but there we go.

I got to CP 6 and it was here that the marshall confirmed I was last.  This must have been a mistake as I’ve since found out that there were two others behind me at this point.  Also I got a flapjack as I said I was low on food, this was ace, I just inhaled it.  As I was walking across to the start of the final climb up Cribyn, I slowed down long enough to ring Mum as I knew I wasn’t going to finish on time, so wanted her to know that incase she worried and to also take a shot of the upcoming pain that would be the Cribyn climb.  It’s like lots of Brecon Beacons climbs, very steep.  They’re either nice and gradual or short and super steep.  It was here that I saw a couple of other runners on the Cribyn climb.  As I was going very steadily, knowing what was coming, I managed to reel them in a bit.  I was very tired by this point and I couldn’t look around at all, I had to focus on each step.  It was brutal, but at least I was expecting that, it must have been horrible if you didn’t know what you were expecting.  However on the descent off Cribyn to the top of the Gap pass, my knee pain really kicked in.  The last of the painkillers went down my neck just before Cribyn, so there was no more solace there.  I just had to grit my teeth and get on with it.

I didn’t bother with filling up at CP 7 either, I just drank a decent amount of water and kept on going.  Not wanting to waste any time.  I could see the other runner at this point so started to chase him down, as while he was running still, my walking pace was much faster.   I caught him up on the ridge round from Fan-y-Big.  We exchanged greetings and I confirmed to him where the route was going.  Jamie (the other runner) was I think relieved that I knew where I was going.  However the course was well marked at this point so my local knowledge wasn’t that useful.  Still we walked/jogged together having a good natter.  However I knew the final descent from Carn Pica was coming and I was dreading that.  It was as awful as I’d thought it would be.  My knee pain was utterly horrible here, however I had to go down and that was that.  I got down and eventually Jamie managed to coax me into a run downhill, at least it would finish things quicker.  We got down to the Talybont resi and kept on trudging onto the Taff trail.  Here I rang Rhi and arranged the post race curry and asked her to head down to pick me up.  While we were on the Taff Trail, one of Jamie’s mates came out to meet us as Jamie’s wife was getting worried.  Also one of the organisers came out on his bike to check up on us, which was lovely.  As we got close to the canal I eased into a jog and Jamie followed me so I thought.  However after a while I looked round and he’d disappeared.  I wanted to get finished at this point, so just kept up the pace and the organiser whizzed past on his bike encouraging me on.  As I came into the grounds of the race HQ the marshalls rang bells and everyone came out and cheered me on.  I managed to break into a fast run here and got over the finish line.  As it was flat, my knee was ok.  I was happy to have finished.  I recieved my finishers medal and mug and nabbed some flapjack that was floating around.  I was surprised Rhi wasn’t there, but it turns out she didn’t know that she could come inside so was patiently waiting for me in the car.  I waited around for Jamie to come in and while I was doing that I changed tops and started drinking my recovery drink.  I thanked as many marshalls as I could and went outside to find Rhi.  She then took me home via the curry house.  I again inhaled the curry and a pint and crashed out in short order.

Recovery and Post-Race

It’s nearly a week after the race now and my knee pain (ITBS) in my right knee is slowly going away.  The left knee has been affected but not as badly.  The muscle soreness is pretty much gone.  I would imagine that people who do this sort of thing on a regular basis would recover much quicker when compared to someone like me who’s relatively fit and just forced themselves round.  Especially as I knew from about halfway round that I was just doing myself damage.  I spent the Sunday after the race watching John Wayne westerns (Train Robbers, El Dorado, Cahill (US Marshall) and Chisum) and just sitting around at the in-laws while the wife and the in-laws went to the Malvern flower show.

While the race was well organised

Gear

Race Photos

This year in running so far

I have to say it’s been a stunningly poor year for my running so far. I got plenty of miles done in January, training for Scotland. I slackened the pace off in February as I was doing a fair bit of climbing. Then I injured the tendons along the top of my foot, so no running for a while. I was beginning to get back into the swing of things when I bruised my heel climbing which has taken two months to heal. Now that’s done I’ve managed to sprain my ankle. Gaah.

1.5 mile run – 18th June

I really ran all of the whole 1.5 miles this time. Very little walking this time. I’d walked home from work and went out straight after that, so I didn’t need to do my usual 400m walking warm up. I just started running from my front door pretty much. It was a really good run as well. I paced myself well and just got on with it. I didn’t need to stop at all really. Much better than usual. Why can’t all runs be like this? A few more good runs like this and I can start upping my mileage. As I’ve not really been running more than once a week for ages and I’d like to be able to run a bit further and a bit faster. I’d not run since the previous one cause I got a nasty head cold, so I wimped out a bit on that front.

Run 1.5 mile

Quick 1.5 mile run. My shins are still pretty painful. But that’s nothing new. About the normal really.

Run 1st June

Went for a run. Normal route, normal time. I have been doing a fair bit of mtbing and walking so haven’t lost out in the fitness stakes.

Wednesday 9th april 1.5 mile run

Had to take this pretty smoothly and slowly as my shin splints are playing up again.  Otherwise a good run.

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1.5 mile run/walk – 2nd April

Nothing special.  Got round quickly enough.

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1.5 mile run/walk – 5th April

This wasn’t a good run really. I walked to fast through my warm up and henceforth pulled my shin muscles again. So I’ve got to lay off anything for a few days, maybe till Tues/Weds, when I’ll try a gentler 1.5 miler again. I’m working next weekend so I won’t be able to do much that weekend either. I really need to increase my mileage atm. I’m hovering around 5 miles per week, but not really increasing it. Also I’m looking into getting some new shoes for next month as well.

1.5 mile run/walk – 27th Mar

I was able to run for most of the distance which I was quite happy with. I think concentrating on this short distance for a while has been good. Now I can pretty much run the whole thing I’m going to concentrate on speeding up a bit. Then I’ll try and add a longer distance run in once a week.