Yes… I had fun doing a fell race. Well, perhaps not at all times. It was tough… very tough. The hills started immediately and were so steep that many people, including me, were walking and the scree moving beneath our feet made it difficult to make up time on the equally steep descents, particularly for inexperienced fell runners and wimps like me!
We decided to enter Moel y Gamelin fell race for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we’ve driven through the horseshoe pass quite a lot in the last year (on our way to kayak on the River Dee from Llangollen) and have said that it’d be good to walk in the surrounding hills. Secondly, the distance and ascent (16k [10 miles] and 878m [2879 feet]) made the race a good training run for the Snowdonia trail half marathon next month. Also, fell races are cheap to enter!
When we arrived, I was rather nervous. Fell races tend to be quite small events in relation to some of the big trail races we’ve done. Last year around 50 people entered and most of the times were fast. These fell runners are fit! I knew I’d be at the back but was hopeful I’d be reasonably competitive and wouldn’t come in after everyone else had packed up and gone home. We didn’t feel well prepared for the race. John had had an upset stomach on Friday, neither of us had slept well for a couple of nights and we were in the pub supporting Wales the evening before… not drinking much alcohol, but still not ideal preparation. We decided to take it easy, enjoy the views and treat it as a training run. After filling in the forms, checking our kit and having a couple of trips to the café toilet each (partly because of nerves and partly because of our attempts to make sure we were well hydrated), we were off.
We started at the back to avoid being under pressure from faster runners, or being dragged along at pace that was too fast, too soon. John left me behind and I kept my head down and found a pace I was comfortable with, soon overtaking quite a few people myself. I was walking more than running, head down, my breathing fast but steady.
After about 10 minutes, I reached the top of the first peak, Moel y Faen (546m, 150m ascent) and, after a steep drop, climbed to the highest peak on the route Moel y Gamelin (577m). Another steep drop followed and two more peaks, Moel y Gaer (504m) and Moel Morfydd (549m) then I could finally stretch my legs and run properly as the path dropped down from the mountains.
After reaching the furthest point from the start and turning back, the path contoured the mountains, rising and falling steadily and I was pleased I was managing to keep a constant pace. Only 2 runners passed me, both of whom were male and had longer legs than me. They were also older than me though! I left them behind at the drinks station although I did see one again at various stages, including when he passed me just before the finish! Fair play!
Before too long it was time to climb again, back up over Moel y Gamelin and Moel y Faen. As I ran-walked along the track, I could see John in his bright red top at the bottom of the steepest climb, making slow progress up to the summit. He’d usually be much further ahead of me and I was worried he was struggling after being ill on Friday. As I reached the bottom of the hill, he disappeared over the top and I started picking my way up the rocky path… big strides, resting a couple of times as my calves were screaming at me, before I got into a slow rhythm. A few minutes from the top, a lady kept shouting ‘keep going, you’re doing well’ non-stop. What great encouragement… how could I take another break?! The top finally arrived and she told me my husband had pointed me out and told her to tell me I was doing great 🙂
I now knew I only had one more peak to get over. However, my legs now felt tired, I had cramp in my feet and a stitch, and it looked a long way away. Thinking I must be getting dehydrated, I had something to drink as I walked, then got my head down and started running. Looking at my watch, I wondered if I could finish in 2 hours. So much for taking my time, I really was racing! I was also listening to my body though, and making sure that I was comfortable (as comfortable as could be expected for a fell race with steep hills!) and likely to get to the end without feeling terrible, as has happened so often before.
As it happened, getting up the next hill didn’t take too long and I was soon running down the long grassy path to the finish with a huge smile on my face as John shouted me over the line. I thanked everyone and plonked myself down on the grass, smiling even more as I was handed a cup of water and a box of Maltesers as a spot prize! I was towards the back of the field, as I’d expected but I was really pleased with my time. I took 2 hours and 1 minute and came 62nd out of 70 runners. The race was well organised, and the route was lovely. I’d really recommend it to anyone considering a fell face.
John was pleased to hear I’d enjoyed it. He found it the hardest race he’s ever done and was worried I’d be struggling too. I don’t think he’d registered how much ascent there would be, and was probably inadequately fuelled and hydrated after being ill on Friday. Also, he hadn’t run for 2 weeks and his legs, unusually, were aching more than mine. I’m sure he’ll bounce back for our next run though.
The race was quite a contrast for me compared with my run last Monday. That was longer at 21k but I’d expected it to be easy because it was pretty flat, with the second half being along the sea front from Prestatyn to Rhyl and back along the river to Rhuddlan. The first half was good, but I had to keep walking during the second half because my legs were hurting so much and my heart rate was high. Maybe it was because I’m not used to running on tarmac for so long, or running on the flat using the same muscles constantly. Anyway, it’s good to have a enjoyable race under my belt 🙂
If anyone else would like to sponsor me for running the Snowdon trail half marathon to support these great causes and give me motivation to complete the race, I’d really appreciate it. As you can see in the picture, which compares it with the Excalibur race that I completed recently, the ascent is huge and pretty much all in one go, making it much harder than anything I’ve done so far. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me already. So far I have raised £195 for Claire House and £110 for Mountain Rescue.