Monday, 23 March 2015

Ras yr Aran - 2015

Third race in the North Wales Fellrunning Championship, and the competition is hotting up quite a lot. This is the first race that is not a Short this year, and so we go onto the Medium length.
Ras yr Aran is a lovely race up what looks like quite a forgiving hill - a bit of a ramp, you might say, from the southern end of Llyn Tegid. It then follows the ridge line to the trig point, which has a lovely bit of scrambly type stuff on the "summit cone" as it were, before reversing the whole lot back to the start. An out an back with fabulous views (if you get the year with the sun, as we did this year), about 900+metres of ascent and descent over about 10 miles of mud, bog, grass and generic fell terrain.
Sounds like good fun.

Al, pinning up
Glossopdale were better represented this time around, with 4 of us making the journey to Wales. The 1pm starting time meant that we had to be a bit careful about when we ate prior to the run. Lunch too early, and the run would really take it out of us, but lunch too late, and risk a bit of a bad stomach episode during the race.
We got there pretty early (ok, ridiculously early, despite stopping off for a leisurely coffee on the way), and Al, Zoe and I went out to recce the end of the course - which turned out to be a good idea. Although it was well marked out, there were a number of stiles (and a double stile) which had to be negotiated in the closing stages of the race, so it was good to see where they were.
Al and I also jogged a bit further up the hill. The sun was out, but there was a decent wind blowing, so we
Zoe reccying the double stile
weren't quite sure if it was a base layer day, but by the time we started up the ascent, the wind died down, the temperature rose, and it was pretty certain that today was going to be a vest only day.

We registered in the Eagle Inn, a lovely establishment, if you ever end up in that bit of the world, and hung around waiting for the race to start. Lindsay from GDH had also got to the race, coming down from a hen do last night, so it was a pretty good effort on her part.
A good crowd of us had gathered at the start, and the usual briefing was given, ensuring that everyone knew not to head east from the top- its a long drop.
There was an echo of Pipedream with a slight false start, which slightly screwed up my recording of the race, a minor issue, but has a good learning point in that I should just start the watch before the start and let it run, rather than attempt to start it as the gun goes.

The start goes along quite a fast road and path, and the guys at the head of the race went off like a box of springs. I kept up for a short time, but Felipe- who came a narrow second in Pipedream was heading off up the hill at quite a pace, so I continued on the same pace that I was going, and see what happened. The key to this race, was probably to keep a speed that I was pretty sure that I could keep up for the vast majority of the climb.
As we headed up the first part of the ramp Dave from Merionydd was just on my shoulder, and a couple of Amblesiders were just behind him. The sun shone down, and I wondered a bit about getting sunburnt in Wales in March. Just about there I realised that my watch hadn't actually restarted at the beginning of the race, so I flicked it on, and locked it. At least I was now recording....
Selections were taking place all around as we went over the crest of the first top, and down to a slight bog before the next ascent. Thinking about it, a descent now means that right near the end of the downhill at the end, there was going to be quite a bit of a climb. Good to keep in mind, but right now, back to the up.
Up to the skyline. Then carry on. 
Continual, grinding. Dave went past me, his marathon training is obviously paying off, at least for the long hard pulls up hill... the short sharp reps that I have been doing are not quite what was needed today, and my legs and lungs were really telling me - the last couple of weeks of exam prep and moving prep, coupled with a reduced training volume seem to have taken its toll on me.

Dave continued on at a superb pace, and caught up with a couple of guys ahead of us. To keep a pace up like that... well done.
By now, the guys that run up hill were pulling away from the guys that were walking, but I was attempting to keep running, and there were more and more times when I just wanted to walk. Jez from Buckley was right on my shoulder, but behind us there was no-one. We could see people in front of us, but as the sun beat down, the wind started to increase, and the going underfoot became more rocky, we became very much a pair of runners in our own world.

Although there was bog on the ground, we passed a number of small snow patches, which had to be run across. (even if they weren't directly in our way, I think I still would have run across to them...) 

The world spread out across to our left and right, and the run became a walk, and then a run again. The gradient got worse, got better, and all the while, we went up and along. At one point I remember going around a hump in the ground, as Jez went over the top. Which was fastest? Neither. We got to the other side at exactly the same time, exchanged a couple of words, and continued.
At some point I realised that I was going to need some kind of sustainance, or else the rest of the ascent, and the rest of the descent was going to be really gnarly... It took a while to get the gel down, but it was a welcome gulp of sugar and water on what was turning out to be quite a warm day.

At the bottom of the rocky, scrambly summit bit, the guy winning the race - no longer Felipe, came over the stile just as we went up. We scrambled, we ran, we walked, and more guys came past us - Dave fighting hard for 3rd place.... (I really need to get my uphill sorted!). Across rock, and past a couple of walkers, and we came upon the summit - the trig point.
Jez got there first, touched and started down, and I swiftly followed.

Downhill has always been a bit of a strength, but the way down the rock was slippy and treacherous, so we pretty much level pegged off the top, passing the runners that were on their way to the summit. It was quite good to see that they weren't too close behind. As long as I could keep the pace up on the way down - not something that I managed on the way up, but maybe I can keep it on the way back down. For about a mile across the tops, we ran together, still. One ahead, then the other. We were catching on the guy in front, and all of a sudden, it was 2 guys in front, and one of them was wearing a waterproof, and moving very slowly. Felipe had perhaps gone too hard on the way up, and was paying for it on the way down.

Now THAT is a beautiful view to descent into 
As a 4 we crossed bog and turf, and came to a slight downhill section, where all of a sudden Felipe sprang away - which surprised the guys behind me. But after about 500m he pulled up, and slowed down a lot. Considering the terrain, I just ploughed on down and onto a rocky horrible bit. I fleetingly saw a fabulous line off to the left, and hoped that the guys directly behind me were just following me blindly rather than making intelligent decisions about the way down... and that I was a better runner on horrible rocky terrain.

3 minutes and a bloody leg later, it seemed that the others had not spotted the nice line to our left, and that I
Bloody leg
was indeed a slightly better descender than those behind me. I was all on my own, running down a fabulous hill, with glorious visibility with not a soul in sight.
I just ran, and ran and ran. The guys in front were a long long time gone, and the ones behind, no idea. As for the route - yes it was an out and back, but there were places where I really didn't recognise where we had come up. Nothing for it but to run on down the hill, following the best line I could see in front of me at the time.
The descent went on for a long time, and I was being careful not to over stretch myself. The worst thing to do here would be to get a stitch from excessive over striding, and there were certainly no places to be gained, only places to be lost.
Down to the final few kilometres that we had recced earlier,
Double stile
 and still, just spectators to see. I jumped across the double stile, down the hill, and round the crazy double back, and the final few hundred metres on the road. I eased down to the line, it must be the first race in quite a while that I haven't had to turn on a full on sprint at the end. I don't know that I even could have done, but there you go.
Once again. 6th.

I am nothing if not consistent at the moment. 
Dave had come in pretty much at a dead heat in 3rd, a fantastic job. Al was top 20, Zoe was second Lady home, and Linds was 3rd V40 home.
2nd Lady!
All in all, a decent day out, with fantastic weather, and a great atmosphere.


  1. Gary Porter-Jones25 March 2015 at 21:10

    Excellent blog again, thanks. Love these.
    Gary PJ

  2. great report, tough race, see you at the moelwyns

  3. Yes indeed Jez- I'm looking forward to it, though am intrigued to see how they arrange it for upwards of 300 people!