Pentyrch Hill Race 2008

Mmm, busy week this has been, and as a result this cracking race has all but faded from memory now that I finally have time to write it up.

I found myself sporting one compression sock for this one, as I had given my calf quite a workout on Snowdon a few days before, and it must have looked quite amusing. Still, I was glad to be out there doing a hill race for the first time in ages. The weather looked ominous, continuous rain seemingly set for the day had just cleared before the start, but clouds were rolling in from all points of the compass and it was a case of "when" would it rain rather than "if".

The Garth seen in the fading light from the finish, post-race - you can see the tumulus midway along the ridge.

From the start, I was trying to hang up there with the strung-out pack, and managing to keep in touch with the back of it. Previously I had managed about 57 minutes and a top 20 finish, so I was hoping to at least maintain that if not improve - that meant working hard from the off. Ouch.

I remembered the nasty downhill on road near the beginning, and wondered how my knee would take it. I also remembered the long climb, first time up the Garth from the Ty'n Y Coed end, and I wondered how my calf would take that. Luckily for me, neither niggle bothered me and it was just the fact that my lungs were bursting and my muscles dying all over that held me back. Despite all that I was loving it - a blustery evening on a welsh mountain - what could be more exhilarating?

I had the usual experience of passing a few guys on the climb only to be repassed on the downhill and flat (my weaker suits), but throughout the ebb and flow I felt good and gulped in gallons of the precious mountain air. When a stitch threatened I had to ease off and puff my belly out (try it, it works) but all in all I stayed happy enough right through the climb, over the ridge and through the slippy field-and-lanes descent and muddy footpath around the base of the Garth. The second climb is the crux of this race, and I was reduced to mostly a walk, but again it went OK and when the marshal at the top (the real top of the ridge, not the lovely false top that presents itself to you on the climb) invited me to enjoy the view I really took her at her word - it was awesome. Taking in a great view always cheers me up, and cheerfulness always speeds me up, so I made reasonable progress along the ridge and over the tumulus before the long way down began. I always seem to lose a place or two coming down, and this was no exception, but when I finally dragged myself over the line I had knocked a minute or so off my time of two years ago. Happy camper.

Out of anorak-ish interested I had worn my new garmin, which clocked this race at close to seven miles and my max HR at 182 (I had wanted to confirm this max so I could work out all my zones, and a hill race seemed the ideal way). I averaged 172 bpm - over 90% HR for 56 mins - happy with that too. Great race as ever, and marshalled well as ever too. Shortly after I finished the heavens opened and later finishers got a good soaking.


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