This is my favourite time of year to run. My biggest problem when running is over heating. Took me a while when I went through my first winter to realise that just because a lot of people will be cold, you may not be. I tried wearing thermal base layers etc as they seemed to be what you should wear. However you soon realise less is more and always dress for a mile down the road. I only use a light base layer under a vest for exceptionally bad race conditions, but that’s it. More for protection than need to be warm. Dont want to stop you running.
Training takes a change for the winter schedule, club sessions are about strength and endurance. Longer faster reps. 6/7 times 1K, 1200 or even a lovely 2×1200 down. Focus is to improve endurance ready to speed up in the summer. Also means less focus about PB’s and the introduction of more off road and XC. I really enjoy XC although with most other people I find it challenging.
I’m conscious that I’m not the strongest of runners so try hard to improve this anyway possible. The ultra is going to be the hardest thing I have done to date, so I need to be stronger than I ever have. I’ve started to get some regular loops of a route down near margam. Friendly known in the club as the cobra. Gorgeous route out of the way starting at Craig Yr Aber. 500m of elevation gain over about 11 miles. Mostly trail track so forgiving on the legs too. A few recent visits have seen the times slowly dropping and a good measure of progress. Here I’ve started to really enjoy the downhill too. I’ve always enjoyed uphill, always felt like I was decent at it. Not fast, but able to keep going without a stop for a long time. With this in mind a was looking for races and spotted a fell series. I’d heard a little about these but thought they were for people with no fear, not me and my usual getting passed by snails downhill approach. A few looks at the crazy elevation and short distance and I was convinced.
The next race in the South Wales Hill Running Series was to be Blorenge. I’d heard of this but never seen it or been they’re. Having spoken to a work mate who is a master of these type of events I couldn’t see a reason not to. 1400ft of climbing in first mile to come straight back down sounded fun but tough. I decided that I would still aim to run twice this weekend to help work on my strength and increase famalirity of running on tired legs, well atleast not fresh in this case. The day started with volunteer pacing at Porthcawl parkrun. This is my regular and favourite parkrun. I have numerous a lot closer, but enjoy the route here, relatively lower numbers and running with people I know. I’d picked 25 minutes, as this should be quite easy for me to achieve even if I felt off once started. Last thing I’d want is for someone to miss a PB because I wasn’t hitting my times. My race approach is always even splits and this is a perfect strategy for pacing. No fluctuations too push someone over the edge who is already at the limit. A few came and went but the wind seemed to push people a little hard. Crossed the line 24:59 on the watch and 25:00 official.
After wolfing down my now usual soup and bread I zipped of to Llanfoist to find the race HQ. On parking in a muddy overflow field I spotted another BAC runner Andrew Tuckey. Luckily he advised that a hat was on the kit list and leant me a spare. Kit in bag I headed in. First mandatory kit check and then sign up. Easily sorted. Weather wasn’t the best, but looked to be brightening at the start. A quick on/off dance with my waterproof top and finally decided to put it i my bag. After a short briefing we were off, slow climb up concrete paths and through a dark tunnel. Unusual, but can’t say I’m a fan of not seeing where I’m going. As we started to climb up steep rocky paths I managed to pass one or two. It was very narrow and slippy. The further we went I could see the leaders pulling further away. I’ve never seen a path claim so steep. As it rose I needed to use my hands to stabilise. All the way up wondering how it was possible to run back down this path as it was too steep. Legs feeling fine, but lower back in agony. It’s that steep your slumped forward to balance yourself. When I reached the top I was hit by a furocious wind that took me off my feet. Having gathered myself I rounded the marker and head across the plains. At first it was a little downhill and slightly slippy, but as incline got worse so was footing. I started to loose places but could go any faster. After 4/5 falls I felt like I was getting the hang of the descent. To be honest a lot was more luck than judgement but great fun too. As the descent started to flatten I started to catch those in front of me. I tried to run as fast as possible to the line, knowing that would be strength. My new fell shoes not giving much grip on the slippy concrete.
That was both the most scariest and fun thing I have ever done. Bring on Skirrid for the next. I’m hoping that I don’t have DOM’s for another 4 days after the next. This winter trainings not all bad. Plenty of mud and hills. What’s not to like?