Sugarloaf Fell Race April 9th 2011

Having changed jobs at the end of March I found myself at last able to get myself to a fell race - most of them fall on Saturdays in Wales so for the last few years I had only made it to a handful (mostly evening races and the odd Sunday event). It had been 11 months since my last outing on the hills and I had no idea how my body would take to the rigours of descending - ascending I was quite condident with, as I'm quite light at the moment and fitness levels are OK.

The day presented no dilemmas when it came to choice of kit - it was still, warm (21 degrees) and with brilliant sunshine forecast all day. Abichal came with me, unable to resist a race that started and finished at his old school. We went for a warm up jog together and he was reminiscing about the views of the hills that he remembered from staring out of the window in geography lessons. A few minutes later we were getting ourselves lined up for the start, all set to get a somewhat closer look at those hills! Because of the benign conditions there was no need to carry kit, so travelling much more lightly than usual I was happy to set off across the football field and start climbing the road towards the Sugarloaf. There were 108 runners in all.

The leaders were away like hares and I settled in to a rhythm, climbing steadily in the pack of silent runners - climbing mountains leaves most runners too short of breath for even a single word. Fine - just how I like it. The energy of all those runners to help you push yourself harder, but no distractions. I realised how much I had missed this experience as the climb went on - coming out of the trees on the Deri and on to the ridge, as the vast views opened up and I could see Pen Y Gadair in the distance, it was a really amazing feeling. Running can give you such a sense of freedom, likewise being on the mountains, so when you put the two together it's really something (forgetting the pain for a moment). Especially on an indescribably beautiful spring day like this. A skylark started singing somewhere above me and I glanced up to see if I could see it hovering, but fortunately it was only a fraction of a second before I remembered that's not a good idea - in a race, no matter how great the views or the surroundings, you need your eyes on the ground in front of you.

After the first climb came an undulating section across the high ground towards the unmistakable cone of the Sugarloaf summit - the last ascent is on stone steps that wind up the hillside to the trig, and these seemed to take a long time - once at the top I touched the trig and set off for the hard part - the way down. I took it easy at first on the steppy section off the top, then opened my stride up a bit as the steepness lessened. As usual, I got overtaken by some fast descenders. As usual, my feet hurt like hell on the way down. As usual I blew up just a bit in the final mile. None of that mattered though - I came in at around 1.01, a great time to try and beat next year. More important I'd enjoyed the race even more than I expected. I should just manage to get to 4 races in the series to get a place in the league - just hope other life stuff doesn't get in the way.

Results: 32nd of 98: garga chamberlain sri chinmoy ac m 40 01:01:30

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