Friday, 30 January 2015

Trail Marathon Wales, Winter Trail Wales Half Marathon

Winter Trail Wales was the new addition for 2015 to the Trail Marathon Wales events in Coed Y Brenin. A great forest park with heaps of trails and a few little hills to play on! Matt and his team put on a great event and organisation is top notch! 

If you're into your goody bags there was plenty in this, a coaster, buff, gel, dvd, 9bars and for finishers there were some travel mugs all branded up! I've been using mine a lot and there was soup and tea at the finish to try them out on! 

Having done the Trail Marathon Wales in summer I was familiar with the course as the half was the first half of the marathon route, only a bit muddier. In the summer I passed through half way in 1.39 and some change so I was expecting something around about 1,30 for the half on the day.

I'd been in Snowdonia for the Thursday night and Friday so obviously I couldn't resist going out for a few hours in the mountains beforehand ;) With a view like this on Thursday night though, can you blame me?

Anyway back to the race. It was a great social atmosphere before and after the event around the visitor center and I must have seen at least 50 people I've met before. Also great to catch up with a couple of clients running the event too! Well done guys! 

Briefly the route is a gradual uphill to start for a mile or 2 followed by some descending on good trail until around about 5 miles. There's the odd bit of single track and the route gradually climbs back up over the next mile and a half passing a check point with water and even food I think (didn't really stop to look) 

From there on it's largely descending to about 11 miles where the 'sting in the tail' awaits, it's a short sharp climb up through the woods which I think caught a few people out. Unless you're pretty strong on hills or have held back a lot then it probably will involve a quick walk in there (or rock climb depending who you ask) it's over before  you know it though and a quick downhill finish follows over the last mile or so.

I was just outside the top 10 during the first couple of minutes (someone shouted I was in 15th after about 5 or 6 miles) in hindsight I probably held back a bit too much off the start as we climbed, it was nice to get some fast miles on the descents.

I loved the odd bit of single track thrown in and gradually moved up the field during the second half , perhaps a combination of a few people started hard and me holding back a bit. The good thing is that I felt strong all the way to the end although with recent training I shouldn't really be getting tired on 13 miles to be fair. Knowing the route also helps as you can pace yourself accordingly. So essentially I caught a few more people moving through the second half and a couple more up the sting in the tail followed by one final overtake at the start of the last descent to take 7th place.

It was great to catch up with everyone around the finish, the weather was pretty much as good as could be for January! Fantastic prize hauls for the winners and a little presentation to round off the afternoon. I managed a sneaky ascent of Snowdon during the evening to finish off a great days training. Look out for the summer event if you can, I doubt I'll be there as I've got the Dragons Back race starting that weekend (probably don't need to add an extra marathon to that?) 

Next weekend off to Grizedale for the Trail 26 marathon in the Lake District before I head off to Spain for the Trail Coaching Week. If you've been thinking about it and want an awesome week of trail running and coaching late in February I could squeeze one more male and one more female runner in but you'll have to let me know asap as I'm finalizing the finer details already! 

See you out on the trails guys! 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Endurance Life CTS Anglesey Ultra 2015

Anglesey has some great sections of coastal path and the Endurance Life Coastal Trail series stops by in January to take in some of the trails Holyhead has to offer. There are 4 different distances to suit all the family (or just a bunch of your running mates?) The ultra is 33 miles, basically you do the marathon course then the 10k course at the end, some said it was tough running past the finish and having to go out again for the last bit but we were told in the briefing and was there on the course map so it wasn't such a surprise.

Organisation and course marking was all great! Signs everywhere it would have been difficult to get lost if you were paying attention, the only issue I had was towards the last couple of miles. All 4 events share the same final few miles so there was a fair bit of traffic on the narrow single track up over Holyhead 'Mountain' (it's only 220m high but it is called the mountain!)

I was lucky enough to get a transferred place as someone I knew had dropped out, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a long run in although I was not planning on wrecking my legs for a few more weeks yet. I had a look at the route profile and then compared it to a couple of similar races I've done before (Gritstone Grind 35 mile 1800m ascent in 5hr 1 min, Hardmoors 30mile 800m ascent a bit muddy, in 4 hr 5 min) This gave me a rough estimate of 4 hour 30 for the ultra depending on the conditions as it was 33 mile with just over 1000m ascent at a comfortable pace.

The race started out at 8.30 which meant a reasonably early start for those travelling in, I had been in Snowdonia the day before so it was only 30 mins in the car on the day. Usual pre race routine 2 breakfast 9bars as I got in the car and about a litre of water before the race since waking up. 

On the start I set out at the front and there was a group of 4 of us running pretty much together which split into 2 guys off at the front and myself and another guy a minute or so behind. We chatted away for a few miles and we got to the 2nd CP and suddenly were all together again. Soon the 3 guys then moved ahead a little bit over the next couple of miles and I was sat behind but still within sight of them, by the 3rd CP around 15ish miles, we'd split back into two pairs again and there was about 4 minutes between us and the front 2. The chap I was running with seemed to start slowing so I moved on ahead and gradually began to reel in the front two towards the 4th CP around 21 miles. 

A couple of minutes after the CP there was a few wet fields to get through and I felt great so just moved into the lead and led us on towards the mountain again. As we ascended 3rd place dropped back further. The descent down to the finish area was great fun, rocky trail, I loved it, passing through the start line and marathon finish just over 3 hours 25 min again and onto the last 10k lap. 

I kept the pace just quick enough so that I stayed in the lead but 2nd place was close by, I was feeling great and after keeping a comfortable pace for the majority of the race up to now I was confident I could hold off any finishing kicks as we made the way up and over the mountain one final time. This time there were quite a few runners from the shorter distances on the track so it made it a little slower but most were in good spirits and seemed to be enjoying themselves, great that so many different runners can get out and enjoy the day! I had opened a small gap by the top and said a goodbye to the marshal at the 'summit' before going hard on the last descent to the finish. 

The front 3 of each race were kit checked. 2nd place and myself were kit checked together and we were both OK'd, though for some reason on the actual medal presentation there was some sort of mix up and 2nd place was marked as missing his phone (which he had) hopefully that gets sorted out.

In all I enjoyed the course, a few miles on the road in the middle, a bit of rocky trail and some fields thrown in too. I'd definitely think about doing one of the other CTS events in the future if it worked in to my plans! Coming from the roads you might find a few tricky spots but if you're out on the trails more it should be just up your street.
Yes there was actually some blue sky too! 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hardmoors 30 1st Jan 2015

My first Hardmoors event and also first run of 2015 on the 1st Jan. I actually entered the race without looking at the course and assumed it would be pretty hilly and quite a tough course... Couple of days before the event I got the map out and had a look at the route and realised I must have chosen the flattest HM event there is!

Next main race I'm doing is the Trans Gran Canaria in March after the Trail running coaching week I'm holding in Spain. That's 123km with 8500 meters of elevation :) :) :) so recent training has been all about the hills (mountains). Back to the run though, I hadn't done any recce beforehand but was looking forward to a steady long run around somewhere new.

The event was organised really well, efficient kit check and registration on the morning and a short briefing before heading outside and getting going, Weather was a nice temperature, dry overhead aside from a few spots of rain literally, the odd breeze in a few exposed spots but generally the route was sheltered from that. Underfoot the route was about half on rail track paths which were flat and easy running then a few sections of coastal path running along the sea with a few steps on, this was a bit muddy (I wore Mizuno Ascends which aren't that grippy in mud) but generally feet stayed dry.

I started out probably around 25- 30th position, stuck to a comfy 7 min mile pace, along the Cinder track and gradually passed a few enthusiastic starters over the next 5 miles towards Whitby. Had a good chat to a guy who'd done a few HM events before and the miles flew by. we hit the first cp around 10k in about 42 mins and ran through Whitby, passed the Abbey and onto the coast which was a bit more interesting than the rail track with some mud. Reached the Sports Sunday guys Laura and David who snapped some fantastic pics of us all.

The route carried on back to the start at around 21km and after a bit of mud and a few steps I'd moved up the field to 4/5th. As I was going pretty steady I didn't slow down as much as others on the coast I guess. I'd been concentrating on trying to pick the least slippery lines through the mud too. At the halfway I had a cup of water and set off out along with another runner. We'd continue on in 4th and 5th for the rest of the race not seeing any sight of those in front or behind.

We headed out on more Cinder track and I moved ahead towards Ravenscar. At the end of the track my route was suggesting I go right towards the village hall so off I went. Shortly after a family was walking towards me and asked if I was in the race and the guy said he thought the route had changed so didn't come up that way this time... I didn't know any better than the route I had (I now know that i had last years route, oops, the route was mostly the same but this year started in a different place and so I was effectively heading to last years start finish.) I turned around to head to the previous junction and wait for the chap behind who'd said he knew the way and saw him heading off in the distance the opposite way.

I headed off to follow him and then turning the corner was a checkpoint, I was back on course and was slowly catching him up again following old rail track. I reached the next cp ahead of him without seeing him (think he'd ducked into the gents somewhere and I'd passed) I stopped to tip some gravely bits out of my shoe and he caught me up. We chatted as we set off back along the coastal path (around 10km left to go) this was a bit more interesting as there were a few steps here and there mixed in with the coast path as we weaved along the top of the cliffs on the path. I moved ahead again and all was good until I glanced left and saw another runner wearing a red top and I thought it was my friend behind me and  that I must have gone off route. I stopped and was shouting to ask where he was going but no reply, then a small group behind him were following too, one guy shouted back they were out at 18 miles so I realised they were on the start of the loop and I must be going ok, I waited up for 5th place and he was happy with our route so we continued together to the checkpoint. We ran together a couple of miles on easy trail back to the coast path then again I ended up moving ahead again and eventually finishing a few minutes ahead. It was relatively straightforwards following the coast path but I had no idea where to go at the end, as I reached the town I asked people who were walking around and they pointed me up to the left and with a few other spectators help I was up the hill and jogging across the carpark to the finish in just over 4 hours and a 4th place. Only a few minutes behind 3rd although I never saw anyone in front that I didn't overtake.

If you're looking for a good value race on New Years next year definitely give this one a look. It's pretty fast going depending on the mud. Not very hilly overall for the area, ie no big hills, highest point being about 200m any ascent comes from the short sections of steps along the coast path, nothing more than a couple of minutes up or down at once. If you're looking to go pretty quick then it'd be worth checking you've got the correct route ;) Well done to all the runners who got out there and had a bash, also well done Tony from The Ultra Runner Store coming in 3rd on the 15 miler!