I drove through some dreadful weather on the way to Abergavenny but when I got there the cupboard was bare - oops, wrong story. On arrival the rain had stopped and it began to clear. Steadily the car park filled as a large field (of runners, not some mysterious gathering of farmers fields - think of the logistics of doing that, it wouldn't be practical) gathered for the Summer Sugar Loaf race.
For this years race I decided to make sure of getting there for the start and consequently arrived a little early but better that than pull a '2008' where I turned up 30 minutes late (but still didn't finish last). The only other time I've run the summer 'Loaf' was 2007 during my faster years when I just crept inside the hour for the 7 mile course with 1,800 feet of ascent. This year I was hoping to maybe edge close to the hour but settle for 61 or even 62 minutes.
I set off steady. My aim was to save something for the fast descent - you'd think you could be knackered and run downhill fast but to run well you need some reserves of strength-endurance - back at you 100m boys - to allow for rapid footwork required to really run quick over the rough terrain. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ooh can you feel the excitement? Me neither.
For my race recap I'm going to compare splits with my 2007 run - not that I knew them during the race. In fact I don't think I even looked at the watch during the race. Anyway, I summitted - I think I made that word up - to the Deri (first climb) in exactly the same time as 2007, 15:18. From there the route is fast and flat - only I wasn't losing 28 seconds on 2007 to hit the end of the flat in 30:42. That fits well with my recent slow 10k's - I have no flat speed.
To Sugar Loaf I had pulled back a massive 3 seconds on 2007, 41:10. The old climbing legs must be returning - but it didn't feel like it during the race. It felt like a right pedestrian climb but the watch don't lie.
The descent, however, did feel good as I piled past a few runners. I had good leg strength and was able to really push on. That part of the run, on the rocky steep section and the flatter grassy bits did feel like the old me.
I finished in 59:27 which is a) inside the hour and a complete surprise and b) 6 seconds quicker than 2007 which is a hell of a big surprise and means my descent was 31 seconds quicker than in 2007. All of which bodes well for my upcoming fell races. Not sure how good I'm going to be in the Standish Woodland Chase tomorrow though.
Summer Sugar Loaf Route;