John and I were away in South Wales last week. The weather was amazing and, following a great gig by the Manics and Super Furry Animals in Swansea, we managed to do lots of walking and running in the Brecon Beacons, as well as relaxing. The 3 long routes we’d planned were stunning and progressively more challenging, culminating in a run over the big 4 mountains of the Beacons, often in gale force winds.
The first route was a 12 mile walk through 2 valleys with 12 awesome waterfalls. The weather was hot and sunny and we had to wear our running shorts because we hadn’t brought walking shorts, expecting the usual cloud and rain for May bank holiday! I particularly enjoyed going behind 1 of the waterfalls!
We ran the next route, which was about 7 miles over 3 peaks of the Black Mountain, including Fan Brycheiniog at 802 metres… Well, the uphill was really more of a fast walk, but the running along the ridge was some of the most beautiful running I’ve done, and the overall time wasn’t too bad considering there were 600 metres of ascent over a relatively short distance. Awesome scenery and glorious weather followed by beer/G&T and ice cream on the campsite, and I managed to avoid dehydration and sun stroke. Result!
We had planned to have a rest day next before attempting to run our hardest route, a half marathon (13 miles) with more than 1000 metres of ascent over the 4 big peaks in the Brecon Beacons: Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan (the highest at 886 metres) and Corn Du. However, the weather forecast predicted that the cloud would be low on the following day so we decided to go for it, even though our legs were probably tired.
This proved to be the right decision, even though it was a really tough day, which took us over 3 and a half hours. The wind was incessant and felt gale force at times, threatening to blow us off our feet onto rocks, preventing us from running and coating us in a layer of red dust. Also, to reduce erosion, some of the paths had been built of angled rocks which were difficult to run over.
My legs were protesting towards the end and I really struggled to run the last few kilometres, often taking breaks to walk, but it was all worth it for the amazing views and the sense of achievement. It was also excellent training for the Snowdon trail half marathon, although I’m still wondering how I’ll manage that! I walked a lot of the uphill sections of this route, but I suppose fell runners often do the same on steep hills.
The rest of the week was more restful. We had a couple of shorter walks in the Beacons, which were very enjoyable, and when we arrived back home, a day sea kayaking on Anglesey, a meal with my parents to celebrate my dad’s birthday and lunch with John’s dad. We were blessed to have such a beautiful week, full of adventures, good company, fun and relaxation.
Back to reality now… work, structured run and strength training, and a healthier diet, focussing on the Snowdon race on 24th July, followed by a holiday in the Alps. Bring it on!