Ras Guto Nyth Bran 2008

After a hard week of training mostly in the pool and on the bike I found myself bunking off work a little early on Saturday to get to Bedwas for a 6pm start. The weather was looking very dubious, but the rain was coming in heavy pulses so there was always a chance it would clear for the race. Fifty or so competitors turned up, numbers having been on the increase in the last few years - I ran this once before in 49.32, coming in the top 10 in 2005, but the standard seems to have got a bit higher since then.

Rainy Bedwas Main Street with the hills in the gloom beyond...

We huddled in the doorway of the OAP centre while a heavy downpour worked it's way through, then moved to the registration tent by the start line to huddle some more while the rain slackened off but didn't exactly stop. After the initial climb up the road to Bedwas church, it started pouring again and it was pretty much sub-aqua for the whole race (though of course it dried up afterwards!).

I was wearing trail shoes because there are some hard descents on road and my calf was a bit sore from cycling, but with the conditions I really should have had studs on. To start with I felt like I was going well, hanging in there on the long, surprisingly steep climb up the lane from the old Bedwas Colliery onto the mountain. Once the course opened out on the sodden moorland at the top, I was losing ground and feeling it in my legs, but the rewards came on the second half when the clouds lifted just enough to give amazing views southwards over the valley to the ridge dividing Caerphilly from Cardiff. The vista of rolling hills and forest through the swirling rain was compensation for being soaked through and exhausted. The course was not as I remembered it - perhaps the weather made it seem different. There were more climbs in the later stages, and much more difficult terrain, especially some hard, singletrack downhills where my shoes were a real liability but I managed by sticking to the thin strip of grass to the side of the path which offered more purchase.

The marshals were really helpful, shouting directions at the junctions, and the signs pretty good too (though there were one or two places where I only saw them at the last moment and almost took a wrong turn). the hardest part came when I had to jump the brook but only had the energy to flop both feet down into the water then climb up - hands and feet required - the impossibly muddy slope the other side. I think most of us must have walked that bit. It took a while to get myself going again after the water, but from that point it's a relatively easy run-in over the fields then the finish, which is downhill on a road, which makes everyone look really strong at the end.

Great race again - not sure of my time, but I think it's comparable to last time round even though I'm a few years older and the weather was much more challenging. Next year I'll have to taper for this one and try for a PB (weather permitting).

Great race - a great introduction to fell running as it's marshalled and the climbing is spread out. Great goody bag at the end with a tee shirt to everyone - not bad for a fiver.

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