Sunday, March 03, 2013

Greatest Race?

In foggy conditions on the tops it was definitely a day for the navigators. I set off in the middle order. My legs hurt a little and I wanted to ease them into it and not get carried away. The first climb from the upper Blaen y Glyn car park to Craig y Fan Ddu is annoying at the best of times. Today I was puffing a little but eventually hit the top path.

As I ran along the path on the east side I kept taking a glance right to see where it was going to be best to drop off on the return. It all looked bloody steep and I wasn't looking forward to that descent on tired legs.

Anyway, I continued along steadily if somewhat slowly before cutting across no mans land to what I shall call the Brecon Beacons race ridge - you know the one I mean. I got lucky with my line and picked my way along a small trod. The route from there to Fan y Big was pretty simple even in the fog and being so far down in the field I was able start picking up a few places. It felt good to be overtaking people and somehow my legs began to feel a little more responsive.

I managed to descend Fan y Big pretty well over taking a few more before a steady ascent to Cribyn. It wasn't the fastest but I still managed to gain a few more places. At the summit, the marshal reported that I was 20th - hey, where had all the rest of the runners gone! I shouldn't have been twentieth. I know I'd picked up a few spots but not that many.

The descent from Cribyn was good for me. Staying out wide, sticking to the grassy, more runnable areas I gained another five places - 15th, I couldn't believe it! Now, even if I were to lose a few of those on way back I'd still be top twenty. Could I do it? In a Welsh Champs race, on tired legs, claim a top twenty spot....

The climb past Fan y Big went well. I was starting to feel the buzz. I ran as much as I could but admitted defeat a few times. Still, no one came past. Finally to the ridge I cut off too soon - ahhh, school boy. Realising my mistake quickly I bore back to the east to pick up the proper Beacons Way path. It didn't really cost me much. Once on the Beacons Way I hatched a plan. A plan of cunning. A plan so subtle... I decided to break from the BW where it turns the corner to the east and keep going straight and slightly east...

I couldn't be arsed to get out my compass and relied on the 'force' to guide me through the fog. If my plan was to succeed I needed to make sure I didn't drop down too much too soon or I'd be in the valley. As things went I got it just about spot on. Contouring around the west side of Craig y Fan Ddu picking up the odd trod here and there I made it to the end pretty much where I wanted to be. Then I crossed the path, continued the contour before I decided it was time to cut down to the fence corner and then a few hundred metres more to the final check point. From there it was just a trot back down through the forest to the finish.

As I rounded the last corner I was astonished to hear the cry by some weird looking bloke on crutches, 'Fifth!'. Fifth! Where the bloody hell had all the others gone? By my reckoning I was fifteenth - which I would still have taken, mind. Across the line in 1 hour and 22 minutes I really was fifth. Un... wait for it, wait for it.... believable. And to think this was just a recovery race after my main event yesterday. That's my greatest fell result ever. Heck I love the mist.

The Tor of Torpantau is a cranking race. Initially it looks fairly bog standard but because there is a surprising amount of route choice it's actually a bit of class - and all the better for the fog. At 12km and 600m it isn't the longest or the steepest but, for me, it's one of the best. Thanks to race organiser Andy Blackmore and the marshals. I'll be back for more next year.

Oh, and one last thing, this is to that chap from Chepstow Harriers with his own special route. (Secretly, I think he quite likes creating his own special routes - shh, say no more). I think the WFRA organise navigation courses every few months.....