Ras Moel Tryfan, Fell Race
So I must start by saying that I come from a track & field background, where the only directions you need are ‘left, straight on, left again, and repeat’. I am not good at bearings at all, Nina and I have literally spent HOURS trying to find our car in carparks, I am not at all proud about it!
I went up to the organisers and told them I’m a city boy who is not very used to finding his way on mountains, and to ask if there is anywhere I might get lost. They assured me the course was completely fool-proof (ha! I’d soon see about that)…
At the race briefing all the directions are in Welsh, we are underway and the guy I’m running next to, John, starts up a conversation! This never happens on the track and scares the hell out of me to be honest. So I take off. I am straining my eyes to see the red and white tape which leads the way, but a thick mist has descended on the hillside and I’m having difficulty concentrating, whilst also running pretty much flat out up a big hill. I see two cars parked and there are three potential paths. I can’t see any tape anywhere so I ‘hit the one in the middle’ (Rocky IV style). It leads straight through a slate quarry and I think to myself, what a great idea for a race. The small track had sheer faces left and right, making for an exhilarating ride.
I start getting worried that I can’t see any tape, but think to myself there will be one round the next corner, there isn’t, and then there isn’t again. So I stop and wait for 2nd place to catch me up. He doesn’t. He still doesn’t… I’m not that fast. I start heading back but am now lost in a dark maze, a confusing quarry, and I’m surrounded by heaps of slate that all look exactly the same.
I finally get back onto the race course where a nice gentleman, who was not involved with the race in any way, shows me the correct route. I should have gone left at the two cars. He tells me that last place passed 10 minutes ago. My legs turn into the heavy stone they’ve been running through. I had started the race hoping to win, now I had to finish knowing I was going to be flat last.
I make it to the guy clearing up the flags and tape. He is friendly and chatty and assures me cheerfully that the course is straight forward from here, and I wouldn’t get lost again. I run on and am lost again within about 50 meters. After calling me back the guy doesn’t talk to me again, convinced that I am obviously just an idiot.
I was having trouble staying motivated to run fast, but then it occurs to me that I am so far behind, my friends might actually call out mountain rescue. I could just imagine Prince William landing his helicopter and me having to explain to his Highness that, no, I didn’t fall into a crevasse and break my leg, I just took a wrong turn cos I’m from the city…I speed up.
The organisers were all very sweet afterwards, and John was a deserved winner. My friends had been distracted from having to stand in the rain by the kind offerings of free cupcakes and flapjacks! I also managed to run an extra 4 kilometers in this incredible scenery so everyone wins really.
A great race course that I highly recommend. Big thanks to all the friendly organisers and people at WFRA. Will definitely be back next year, hopefully I can bring some sense with me.
And from further up the track…
There is always a point near the start of a fell race, that I think seriously about pulling out. This probably has something to do with the fact that they all seem to start with an ascent onslaught. And I think that it might be the passing of this thought that gives me the good feeling at the end.
I saw Russell head off into the low cloud, by now about 300m ahead. I had thought that his race tactic was going to be to stay with the leader/leading pack, and make a move when he was sure of the way. Having got lost in couple of trail races in the past, I was surprised to see him working a 40m break from the guy behind him (who was wearing the unmistakable green and red of the Eryri Harriers). I figured he was gambling on the snatched advice at registration that the route was clearly marked, marshalled and worn in. But there is no way it was a sure bet. He disappeared into the fog, and as usual, I didn’t see him again till the finish.
I suspect I am fit enough to have run up the hills today, but when all around me break into a fast hill walk, bent double and powering arms into thighs, I find myself joining in too, despite what Russell says (something like ‘runners should always run’). By the time the summit is in view, all thoughts of pulling out have vanished and I’m looking forward to getting back into my run again.
1st of two peaks summited and I got on with the short downhill and maintaining a run up the 2nd. Then a long grassy, rocky, boggy descent which hit a track and then a wicked uphill road section to finish the race. I think I crumbled a bit towards the end, maintaining a steady pace, but with no-one coming to take my place from behind, and the nearest competitor to me over 100m away, I trotted through no-man’s land to a finish I wasn’t even sure was there at all, but for the loose crowd of wet runners hanging around in a car park.
The excitement started when some friends of ours informed me that Russell hadn’t come through yet, and added, for the sake of my slow receptors, that I had infact beaten him today! I realised that he hadn’t come to pick me up and shout, cajole and force me to a strong finish (as his way of warming down). When he appeared 10mins later, I was worried that he would be more upset than he professed to be. But I guess the general atmosphere and friendly fellow competitors meant that he had to join me in the ‘it’s all about the taking part’ arena, for this race anyway.
Some photographs are courtesy of Math Roberts – thank you!