I have been looking forward to this race for a long time, literally, looking forward to it. Every time I walk out of Gelli the course is right there infront of me. The race traverses from Moelwyn Mawr to Moelwyn Bach and the ridge can be seen so clearly that I could almost plan my route between the rock formations whilst having breakfast.
There was a great atmosphere at the starting line with music, a bouncy castle (I was not allowed on it) and stalls selling homemade cookies (I was allowed on these). I was feeling nervous and unsure of myself before the race. I had been overcooking my training the past month, and felt so burnt out I had to take 3 days off running completely. Nina’s parents were up for the weekend and I had never won a race infront of them. Also, the course record holder, Welsh international and awesome descender Tim Davies was in the lineup. I raced against him in December (read blog post here) and had to bash myself to bits to keep up! This race would be 10 miles over 3 mountains, and I decided I needed to build a big cushion before we hit the first and biggest of the three, Moelwyn Mawr. I set off with intent through the relatively shallow slopes of the slate mine.
The course went through a valley and then up up up onto the boggy mountains. I was trying to cut corners across the winding beaten track but kept running into deep bogs that completely killed my momentum and sapped my energy. I hoped the guys behind me were making the same mistakes, and that I was too far infront for them to learn from mine.
As I got nearer to the peak of Moelwyn Mawr it got steeper and steeper. Many fell runners will break into a forced march when it gets this steep, and you really have to work hard if you want to keep running, otherwise you won’t be any faster than walking pace. Of all the contests I have been in, track, road, cross country…none have induced as much gut wrenching pain as racing up relentless mountains like this. The burning in the thighs and calves would be unbearable enough, but is overshadowed by the crazy, lung bursting breathing. It was while I was in this state of duress, making a switch back on the steep path, that I saw a glimpse of a yellow vest behind me. I was in so much pain that I hoped I was just hallucinating, but then I heard the pursuer blow his nose and I realised Tim Davies was hot on my heels.
For me, the entire 10 mile race came down to the next 1 second. In the first half-second I found a thousand excuses to quit…
Well I have thrown everything I can into this mountain, I have failed to create the gap I needed, it isn’t my day, I shouldn’t even be racing anyway, I’m never going to be able to beat Tim on the downhill, why carry on hurting like this for nothing? Better to give in now and save myself more suffering
The next half second I thought to myself…
there are still two more mountains to go, anything could happen. If he wants to beat me he’s going to have to hurt as much as I am, I can’t get beaten again infront of Nina’s parents, just get to the top of this hill first
I put my head down, quickened my tempo, and found some more breathing capacity from somewhere. I reached the top infront, and even though I felt like collapsing, was panting like a dog and hurting to my bones, I was gobsmacked by the breathtaking vista. The sea yawning out into the horizon and Snowdon standing above all the other mountains proudly showing off it’s sparkling snow cap. I didn’t have the time to take it all in as I was already heading down the other side towards the dreaded descent. This was Tim’s territory I was in now, and so all I could do was try and take in the advice of Mike Blake (Vet fell runner descending whizz) and concentrate on not falling. At the beginning of this video you can see me heading off the peak with Tim following close behind. His descent speed it something to behold, really an incredible talent…
I made it down, across, and up to Moelwyn Bach, and was relieved to still be in the lead. There were spectators all the way around and they thought they were so funny (and they were, in retrospect) shouting ‘you’re a long way from Kenya now’ (In reference to my Kenya vest).
I realised from the gap between their cheers that I had made abit of breathing room for myself and I thought, if I can just get off this mountain and reach the dam still in the lead, then I can win this race. At the dam there is a half mile stretch of flat road, my territory. I hammered it with all the road speed I could find.
I was very happy to get down and off the mountains to the easier terrain of the quarry. My tired legs were beginning to make mistakes and I had slipped and fallen off the last mountain a few times. I kept concentrating all the way to the line and crossed in first place, although I was in too much pain to act cool about it. At least I didn’t throw up like last time, there would have been nowhere to hide either!
We stayed around for a while to soak up the atmosphere of a gorgeous sunny day. The race started and finished in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is synonymous with slate so it was great of the organisers to give out engraved slates as prizes. A stunning race that I took a lot of positives from, finally winning infront of Nina’s folks, feeling good after a hard week dealing with fatigue, but most of all, being able to gaze across the valley from Gelli every morning, look the Moelwyns face to face, and know that, in that one second, I didn’t give up.
After the prize giving we went for some icecream at Nina’s work, I had the blue bubblegum flavour that Nina said was nasty and only kids ordered. Of course I loved it! We then skipped pebbles by the beach in the last of the evening sun and Nina’s dad joined me for some paddling, to help sooth my calves, it didn’t work.