Not a straight forward road race, but it had about 3.5 hours of running in, so I guess that qualifies for inclusion on the Roundhay Runners blog…
I’ve been keeping my eye on the relatively new Might Contain Nuts races for the last few seasons. Based in South Wales, they seem to put on fairly challenging events, focusing on ultras, trail races and what I entered, a middle distance (12 hour) adventure race. I didn’t have anything else planned that weekend and with Mum and Dad living just 40 minutes away I entered a few days before (luckily there were a few places still going). Despite the last minute decision to enter, my kit packing went smoothly – having a large stash of Montane kit certainly helps.
My careful preparation paid off on the morning of the event, all I had to do was take the bike out the car and drop off my transition box. At registration competitors were handed a pre-marked map, which needed check point values marked on. The event was split into two halves, the morning section started at 8am and centered about Llangors lake, with a bike section linking kayaking and an optional run stage. Then we were to return to transition between 1-2pm before getting maps for the afternoon. I had 20 minutes or so to decide a rough strategy, the main complication being timing arrival at the kayak section just right. There was just a 50 minute window to complete the kayak section in and it was clear that it was well worth clearing the section with 200 points up for grabs. There was no room for faff, as I arrived at the start line just as the pre-race briefing was underway.
I’d not done a 12 hour race before, so I was not sure exactly how to pace myself. As I was racing solo, I opted to push on at a steady pace from the start, not take any unnecessary risks, focus on good nav and keep on top my my nutrition. At the start, the field split in half as the course offered only 2 options to begin with, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Also opting to head left were Team For Goodness Shakes, who set the pace from the outset. They disappeared into the distance, but unfortunately for them I passed them 15 minutes later as they were repairing a damaged rear mech (luckily they were able to repair and get moving again). I continued to grab as many CPs as I dared, including the optional run stage (a 25 min blast up and down a steep hill) before doubling back on myself to get to the kayak section. I had 15 minutes to spare before we were allowed on the water, giving me time to put on my waterproofs, which would stay on for the rest of the event.
Clearing the kayak section (still not a fan of kayaking), left me with about 2 hours to pick up the remaining CPs. Despite one small nav error and a battle through dense woodland (apparently there was a fire track somewhere), I cleared the first half coming in to transition at 1:20pm.
Check point order – B3, B4, B5, B10, B8, R11, K13, K15, K16, K14, K12, B9, B7, B6, B2, B1
Getting the maps for the second half, it was clear that the afternoon was going to be quite a different story to the morning. The main decision was wether to commit to including the infamous Gap route on the bike (a 600m mountain pass in the shadow of Pen y Fan), or stay safe and focus on picking up lower scoring bike CPs in the valley to the South. For me, doing the gap last was not an option as the loop was very committing with no shortcuts back if timing was running short. But I wanted to keep chasing the high scoring CPs, so I opted to take on the gap first. About 90 minutes later I was cursing myself for that decision. I was still on the way up the track in the deteriorating weather, convinced I’d made the wrong decision. (In hindsight, I think it was still better to avoid the pass, but not by as much as I had feared). I had planned to spend 4 hours on the run/trek section, but I’d estimated I should leave 90 minutes to get back to the finish, so I only had 3 hours to run around the wet, windy and snowy mountains.
It soon became clear that none of the 100 pointers were worth heading for, each would take almost an hour to pick up (and there were 3 of them). Despite the poor weather, low visibility and tired legs, I really enjoyed running along the ridge towards Fan y Big. My kit choice was spot on (base layer, Montane Air jacket and Minimus pants, plus spare warm layer in the bag – safety first!) which made the experience slightly more bearable. I returned in exactly 3 hours (and as it turns out, also accumulated the most point on the run, which was a surprise), then a final blast back to base to find out if my timing calculations were right or not! I wimped out of picking up a final 10 points on the Taff trail and retuned with 8 minutes to spare.
Check point order – B12, B11, B10, R23, R22, R19, R26, R17, R25, R24, B3, B2
Speaking to a few people at the finish line, it was clear that I was not the only one who found it hard going, but to my great surprise it turned out that I’d only gone an won!! Just goes to show that it’s important to keep going despite thinking you might have made the wrong tactical decisions. 12 hours is a long time to race solo and there is a lot of time to over think things. I’m already looking forward to the next one in July, even closer to Mum and Dads in the Black Mountains. Perhaps I’ve found my ideal race length, or perhaps luck was finally on my side. Let’s see how the next one goes.
Total distance approx. 90km biking, 20 km running, 2.5km kayaking.