Back to where it all began. A year previously this had been my first official ultra. I’d run the Sandstone trail before but I’d never actually raced officially beyond the Marathon distance. The Brecon Ultra had gone extremely well for me and I’d come home in 5th position which had astounded me. I’d also beaten Adair (my running club Nemesis :)) whom I’d only really been close to overtaking once previously. I’d just been firing on all cylinders that day and it had been a true adventure.
Fast forward to 2012 and I planned to finish off the year where I had started. I’d completed so much in the year, more than I ever really thought I would and the Dragon had been slayed. The Dragon had taken a bite out of me though and had left me out of action for over 2 months. I’d been back running for about 1.5 weeks when I toed the line again for another 45 miles. I wasn’t sure if I would complete it – I knew I could if I wanted to, that’s a confidence born from the final days of the DBR; but I didn’t want to head around and complete it but be out of action again.
It was the same ‘three man army’ (our team name) that took to the tow paths, fire roads and trails around Tal-y-bont on Usk and up through the Gap (the dip between the Cribyn and Fan-y-big) on the Taff Trail. This time we split from the start, Adair was coming back from injury and wasn’t sure how he would go, but has been on incredible form this year – he set off with the leaders. Martin and I ran at a brisk but sustainable pace in no mans land; letting the fast boys go at it out of sight.
Visibility was certainly better than the previous year. The surrounding area is just beautiful; especially with the autumnal colours. As we cracked on around Martin kept me going at a faster pace than I would have done on my own. Since returning from the DBR I’d noticed I was just over 1 minute per mile slower than previous (a huge amount). The further we ran without seeing Adair the more my confidence grew that he was really in with a shout this year. Mark Palmer was there, but I just had a really good feeling about Adair.
Slowly but surely we reeled in runners. Martin and I were content at our pace and just kept the pressure on. Once we’d got around the first lap I felt like I was gaining in confidence and wanted to put in a decent performance. For me that meant running every bit I possibly could.
I’m pretty selfish in a race, even when I’m not really racing. I always want to put in a performance I’m happy/ proud of and that can mean different things on different days. As we neared the end of the canal section at the start of the second lap I spotted another person; “We’ve got him” I said as Martin and I focused in on the hunt. Moments later; “Is that Adair?” I was gutted as I realised Martin was right. There in front of us was Adair, moving reasonably well, but not quickly. We slowly ate up the distance between us.
I knew immediately that he must have inflamed his injury and really thought he should stop; there was no possibility of that. Adair refused to call it a day which I still believe would have been the sensible thing, especially as Adair does not really run these sorts of distances as he loves his racing too much. Unles you are Richie Webster, there are only so many ultras you can race in a year. Adair races week in week out with stunning results so wisely he’s stay away from the Ultras whilst he still has his speed. Continuing meant he’d probably put himself out for weeks. That said, I totally respected Adair’s reasons as he had never DNFed before in a race and wasn’t going to start here.
Selfishly I carried on. We split near the top of the first bank of hills (I’m sure they were twice as long as the first time around mind). Martin tried to keep us all together and finish as a team, but it would have meant walking the rest of the way and I needed to see where I was; also I was about ready for some time on my own to reflect on things. I jogged down the hill and jogged to the first feed station then decided to crack on. They weren’t catching, I could no longer see them and I could still run. It’s quite a personal thing running these distances and whilst I’d love to be more like Martin and see them as crazy adventures, I do love to just see what I can do.
The remained of the run was beautiful. The weather cleared further and the view of Pen-y-fan on the way up was superb. I rued the fact that the Cribyn or Pen-y-fan weren’t included in the loop; but I guess it is a beginner friendly ultra and that might push a number of people over the edge. Maybe it should be the first 20 people only or have a slightly separate course as an option to all runners with different prizes and a cut off for going up there… maybe that’s just too much of a headache to manage. Anyway, I got around and loved the section after the gap as I tried not to get my eyes poked out from the overgrown gully – pretending I was in the scene at the start of the epic Last of the Mohicans where they are hunting deer.
I ran all the way in and posted a time which was an hour slower than the previous year. I was chuffed to bits to be fair and it was great to catch up with all the boys, many of whom are coming to La Palma for Transvulcania. One more person has also joined our party for that trip – Duncan Harris will be seeing where he is against the really big boys – it’ll be a star studded line up as it’s the first Sky runner Ultra series race again this year!
The video below is the reason we signed up for Transvulcania… after seeing this we just needed to get out there and check it out!
Back to the Brecon 45 – Fantastic organisation and marshaling by the Likeys and their crew. Lovely, lovely people!