Monday, 19 November 2012

Penmaenmawr Fell Race - 17/11/2012

At the top of the initial climb, Irish Sea behind, off to CP1 in the sunshine!
Today's training was a little different for me - I've been wanting to run in a race and really concentrate on enjoying it for a while now (probably since the Hike if not before) and, as I knew I'd be over in North Wales to support Zoe at the Conwy Half this weekend I thought I'd enter a nearby race on the Saturday. Fortunately I checked the calendar in advance, because Pen is a pre-entry only race (seems to work for them).

The route really suited what I wanted to do which was an easy to steady effort of around 10 miles - it's hard to believe I haven't run this far since the Vrynwy Half Marathon in early September!

It was pretty cold in the valley at Capelulo before the start, but very warm indeed in the community centre where I changed and annotated an map extract with the route (this was precautionary just in case of a deterioration in the lovely cold sunny weather). Zoe and Bailey saw me off with the rest of the field of just under 200 runners at 10:30.

Chris Near runs the race is run in alternate directions: this year it was anti-clockwise, so we started with a steep climb up a zig-zagging landrover track for the first half mile, before heading off towards Cefn Coch across beautifully soft grassy tracks. Al Tye was stood just past the top of the first climb taking pictures and we shared a friendly "hello". There were great views right to the sea and half left to Foel Fras (still topped with cloud) on this section. Having started at a steady but comfortable pace I let a fair number of runners pass me in this section - as I said the objective was a long easy to steady run, not a racing pace effort, and I was really enjoying the nice going and the view.

A bit of a traversing climb from Cefn Coch brought us into sight of the first checkpoint at the south edge of Penmaenmawr Quarry. At this point the route almost doubles back to drop down to the Afon Maes-y-bryn. This is great running to start with, but quickly became very boggy. I concentrated on keeping my cadence relatively high and doing nice short choppy strides to counteract the bog, and caught and passed a few folk here. The climb from the bog to the Pylon line which crosses Bwlch y Ddeufaen was good too, grass with those scattered protruding boulders which require a lot of concentration. At the top I took a gel and a few sips of water as we crossed the stile onto the Roman Road. This place is better known to a lot of runners as the start or finish of the Welsh 3000ers.

I didn't mind the road, being passed by runners on the flat bits and repassing them on a couple of short downhill sections. Keith and Pauline were out to support, and again we shared greetings and some encouragement. This and the gel geed me up a bit and I climbed well as we started up yet another lovely springy grassy track from CP2 at Cae Coch, gradually catching and overhauling a couple of runners. I kept it steady though and didn't respond when passed by another couple.

The route then traversed north for a mile and a bit with great views of the Conwy estuary and still the wonderful grassy tracks to reach the first flagging on the route which led in to CP4 (Fords) where Al was once more taking pictures, this time of runners fording a stream and climbing a short sharp climb which led to the final descent.

At the Fords, not far from the finish, happy and comfortable!
The race instructions said "The last descent of the race is steep and extremely muddy - We have cleared the vegetation from the lower section of the track but overtaking will not be easy ( or indeed advised ! ) – please get your overtaking out of your system before this last descent." Oops! I was way faster than three guys in front of me down this and in fairness they just stepped aside to let me pass as soon as it was safe to do so. If you can descend well it's a great run in and the finish is 20 yards beyond the bottom of the muddy path. So I finished with a great big smile on my face, even though I could probably have gone 5-10 minutes faster overall IF I'd wanted to race.

I'm reading Boff Whalley's book "Run Wild" at the moment and whilst Boff races (and in the past has raced at a pretty good level), it's the quality of the running that excites him, not so much the racing. If it's a nice route and good company you get the impression he's happy to turn up to a race, but he obviously is uncomfortable with the idea of running round city streets with 40,000 other people. This race was a good experiment, I like the company and I'm happy to go on attending and running in races for training as opposed to having to race full-on in every race I go to. It's for me to know which my target races are and to marshall everything I'm capable of on those days, and I just need to have the discipline to not be upset / excited / whatever about results on days like this when I'm running with the attitude that results don't matter but enjoyment does.

We've just had a discussion on the Shropshire Fell Running Facebook page about this - I think I might be in the minority with most folks saying they go flat out every time they do a race, yet there is a recognition there that if folks raced flat out a bit less often they'd be able to get better results when they did. Whatever.

On Sunday, Zoe did a very creditable 1:42 (29th lady of 650) at Conwy on relatively little training, and we both had a really nice relazing weekend. Good times.

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