Brecon Beacons Ultra – race report

This race is a 46 mile trail, mountain, canal tow path and road race around the Brecon Beacons. The biggest challenge is the climbs: first up Tor y Foel and then up to The Gap. While the Gap is the highest point and the trail up and down is quite technical,  the climb to Tor y Foel is far steeper and longer. Up until this race the toughest sloop I’d ever run was the start of the Beachy Head marathon. This was 4 times as long! It’s also a two lap race, so on the second lap you have the joy of knowing exactly what is coming.

The race started at 7:30, and though it was cloudy and chilly, the forecast was for a mild day and some sunshine. It had rained non stop all week so we knew the ground would be sodden, but it was near perfect running weather. I started slowly in the middle of the pack, as I knew that my lack of hill training and only 3 weeks recovery time since Dublin Marathon meant I would not be able to challenge at the front. My goal was to have fun and finish before it got dark. The first lap took 4 hours. Like most of the runners I walked up Tor Y Foel, but I managed to run most of the mountain path to the Gap. This was tough as the path was strewn with loose rocks, and looked more like a stream in some places as there was so much water running down. I saw two runners trip and fall, and although I tripped on rocks a couple of times I managed to keep upright. While the climb up was hard the route down was probably even worse as it was just as technical, and gravity kept pulling me down too fast. However once that section was over it was a far more runnable seven miles of road, fields and tow path back to the start for the second lap.

Lap 2 started well. I stopped for a couple of minutes to top up my flasks with water, and ran along by the canal trying not to think of the second climb up Tor y Foel. I was helped in this by a kindly mountain biker who made my day by riding straight into the canal. It always pays to look where you are going! The second climb was as bad as I feared. My calves were cramping and I had to stop and rest several times, and a few people managed to pass me even though they were only walking. However after the summit I was able to start running again and soon caught up. The ascent to the Gap was more walk than run, but I was really looking forward to the final stage as I knew I had paced myself well and my marathon training would pay off on the road a tow path. Sure enough as soon as the path changed from rock and mud into grass and gravel I was off and running at what seemed like a blistering pace (although I think everyone who ran the Brighton 10k would have overtaken me!).

I finished in 8:36:23 in 27th place. It was just after 4pm when I finished so goal achieved.

This was a great event and although I didn’t respect it by giving my all I really enjoyed it, and hope to come back one day and really have a go at the hills.

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