Yesterday was Preseli Ultrabeast day. 2 years ago I ran the Beast Bach 11 mile race linky and last year I ran the Preseli Beast 24 miler linky and yesterday I completed the hat trick with the Ultrabeast. I was to be honest a little concerned about it as although training has gone well and I feel in good form, breaking a toe on a baby gate 2 weeks ago was going to make it a different proposition plus I know what the course is like – as Carwyn the organiser puts it “As if the original wasn’t hard enough for you! And if the 32mile route doesn’t grab you enough, then what about the 6,000ft of ascent it now has! Be warned this is no easy walk in the park. This is proper hardcore fell running terrain. This route really does take it to the extreme and those thinking of running this one really must be physically and mentally prepared.”
32 miles, 6000 feet of ascent (and the quad shredding descents which by the end are worse) through fell country, not much of this is run on any sort of trail and most is barely a sheep track. It had pissed down constantly during the day before and there was a lot of mud, the evil black sucky mud you only seem to get on the beacons (Preseli is the westernmost end of the Brecon beacons). There were moments when you went up to your knees in it, at one point up to the groin. You just could tell until you hit it. All part of the fun but it just sucks and sucks at your legs.
For the sake of the marshalls (who were superb as ever here – especially the one dressed as a lobster) the ultra started the same time as the 24 miler. This made pacing tricky as everyone set off around the same lick and it was hard to judge what the extra 8 miles would be like.
The option was also there around 20 miles to skip the 8 mile extra loop out into the wilds and still get a qualifying finish in the 24 miler. You make this decision at the top of the longest steepest hillside there is and apparently quite a few took it and I cant blame them. By then things were really hurting and the thought crossed my mind but not for long. Those extra 8 miles were beautiful singletrack and took us out to parts i’d not seen before including a monolithic hillfort. There were more climbs, more descents and more pain than I care to think about now but by then I had grouped with 3 other lads who were in a similar boat and were happy for me to tag along and for once I was happy for the company. Sometimes its ok to suffer in silence and sometimes misery loves company. When its not just you stepping into knee deep freezing mud for the hundredth time it makes it easier to bear.
The last peak was finally done and all that was left was a 3 or 4 mile descent on busted up everything – Sometimes its that last drop that kills. But finish I did in 7 hours which I’m well pleased with considering the toe and the terrain.
Dunno where to go next …. who cares
Anyway if you read all that you get the photos – Beauty of ultras with fuckoff big mountains is you feel better about stopping occassionally for a photo op.
Went up the Brecon beacons yesterday. Out into the bits people don’t tend to go and just hiked around a bit with the dog. It was pretty cold, then hot, then windy then not. Hey im a poet! We didn’t follow the paths mainly as there weren’t any. Its quite liberating and definitely fun to just go where you please. This did mean we spent a few hours or so falling in bogs, marshes and swamps (we havnt worked out which is which yet) but wet feet is a given these days. Plus Tilly the dog loved every minute of it even if she couldnt see over the grass much of the time I guess.
Did 11 on sunday and got back into running with a pack. Its not particulary necessary but the extra water and bananas are nice and I’d better get used to it as Preseli is signed up for (32 ultrabeast) and thats about 10 weeks.
Went along the beach and as the tide was dropping went out past Southerndown on rocks rather than cliffs. The terrain there is a little tricker.
On wednesday it was extremely windy but not so wet and I wanted to go and see what the storms had done to the beach overnight. Not all the news was good. There was debris and plastics everywhere, I don’t know if they were brought in on just this tide which seems unlikely or uncovered by the massive tides that night. Whatever it meant that the plastic pollution was everywhere – I’ll keep you posted on this as there more to come.
The tides did so some cool stuff like dragging all this scree down onto the next level of beach
And it exposed some more bones from the chalky cliff burial site
I covered around seven miles. half of which into a bitch of a headwind. Still its all training at the end of the day, no-one said it was easy even if its always fun
As im two days behind this was on xmas eve, another run with the tide in so along the cliffs through the mud. It’s getting very slidy out there and I can now say in slippery mud the Inov8 Xtalons beat the Dynafit and La Sportiva for pure grip. I wont run another ultra (unless its all slippery mud) in them but theyre prefect for days like this.
By the time I’d run around and up and over Witches I noticed the tide had dropped a metre of so giving me an opportunity to return as far as the ladders via the beach
Glad I did as it turned out kinda nice down there. Knocking out miles for fun at the moment and everything holding together.
Sort of … it was meant to be a recovery run after saturdays 14 miles but the legs felt really good and the tide was out and I felt like running quickly … so I did. Sod common sense I wanted to run for the joy of running and if that meant fast then fast it was!
Met some new friends
And went out of my way to warn these people that walking right under the cliffs at this time of year is suicide – You can hear the rockfalls all the time. I had to laugh as the older lady (who wasnt under the cliffs) replied with “well yes but he is a geologist” …. Like ok well at least he will know what kind of rock staved his head in then I guess. To be fair I was more worried about the dog with them, splattered people I could cope with but not a dog. With a cheery cry of “Natural selection will out!” I sped on my way
Saturday morning was cold but bright and so I decided it was time to tackle a longer run again. I chose to head left towards Llantwit via Atlantic College along the cliffs so I got to see the sandbank.
At Atlantic College I kept up on the cliffs through the playing fields. Not sure why they are named after King George but they are …
I turned at Llantwit and headed back along the beach, I don’t normally do this as theres precious little sand and around 4 miles of non-stop wavecut platforms but I fancied something different and for those 4 miles my legs got a great workout due to the constant stepping up and down on the rocks.
I did find some rocks with numbers painted on – I’m guessing someones doing an experiment in tidal movement – And now I have to come back to check out the results myself
After that it was plain sailing as I worked my way back around towards Witches Point creating a 14 mile loop. Considering the terrain I was happy to get it done in under 3 hours though my glutes took a bit of a battering.
Some days it’s just great to spend time outside to clear the mind.
Time to semi-retire my Inov8 xtalon 200’s I think. They can go in the back of the van for impromptu runs. I think probably the best recommendation for running shoes is that I bought exactly the same pair to replace them. I find them that comfortable (for a stripped down shoe) and wouldnt run in anything else if I know I’m doing technical stuff. The grip is utterly fantastic and I love that I can really feel the rocks under my feet. I feel confident in my foot placement so much more in the 200’s.
But after around 3-400 miles I can see materials starting to tear and I want to run Cornwall in them – or the same model at least so I’ve got a new pair to break in ready.
To be honest the new ones don’t even take any breaking in, I did 7 miles in them yesterday and felt perfect from the off.
Welcome to the world new shoes – I’m gonna wreck you!