Sunday, 29 June 2014

Gollen 200 Audax & Midnight Mountain Marathon

It's been a busy few days off work. Spending a lot of time in central London makes me appreciate anywhere that isn't there to be honest. Don't get me wrong - London is a fabulous city stuffed with amusements and entertainments that could keep anybody happy. But at this time of year it's also overrun with tourists, and sitting in a hotel room in the evenings whilst it's sunny and warm outside is just a bit depressing. Which is why I decided to try to make the most of an impromptu 3 days off. I described in my post on Wednesday night what I wanted to do, and I'm pleased to day I did it.

So Thursday saw me do the 'permanent' version of the World's End audax, so called because the route takes in a remote area of north Wales that goes by that name. By the time I'd ridden to the start and finish, and deviated twice from the route (both, ironically, in areas that I know well; once near my old work in Chester, and once near where my father lived - shows the dangers of complacency) I covered 145 miles. I started at 6am, and finished at 5.30pm. It was a hard day - cooler than I was expecting, lots of offroad path which slowed me down, and I used my old, heavy bike, which made going up hills heavy weather. I think it might be time to restrict the use of that bike to the winter when the roads are covered in salt, and use one of the other two decent bikes that I've got for these longer summer runs.

There's not much to report from the day really. The only laugh I got was at one of the many filling stations I had to call at to pick up a receipt to prove my route. There I stood, cycling helmet on and lycra-clad, red-faced and a bit sweaty from a recent hill, buying chocolate and an isotonic drink, and the cashier looked me square in the face and said "are you paying for any fuel dear?" Er, no. Unless you count the isotonic drink. I would say 'twerp' at this point, but there's something not quite right about calling a woman a 'twerp', and I don't know what the female equivalent is. So I'll move on.

I spent quite a lot of Thursday across the border in Welsh Wales, and the same was true of yesterday too. I'd entered Brutal Events Midnight Mountain Marathon after failing to finish the Lakes 42 race in April, as a way of proving to myself I could actually complete a hilly marathon. And yesterday was the day of redemption...

My regular readers know, I hope, that I'm not shy of writing about my failures, bad decisions and poor planning on here. So I also hope that when I have a day where everything just seems to work out perfectly, you'll not think me too immodest. Yesterday was one of those days. Whilst the official results are yet to be published, the printout I was given at the end of the race says that I finished 7th (out of approximately 120 starters), in a time of 4 hours 31 minutes. That's not very quick for a marathon, but it is quite quick for a marathon that includes 4300 feet of climbing (and coming back down, which frankly hurts more), and goes to the peak of the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons, Pen-y-Fan. We also skirted Fan-y-Big on our way up. And who hasn't done that at some point.

We set off at 5.30pm, the 'Midnight' bit of the event's name coming from the fact that if you weren't home by then you wouldn't count as a finisher. It was a massed start, and I went off pretty slowly, towards the back of the group, which is where I stayed for the first mile or two. Then I realised that whenever the track turned upwards, I was going past people, slowly but surely. From being about 60th after a few miles, I was genuinely amazed to be told at the top of Pen-y-Fan that I was 6th. Well after that the adrenalin kicked in - it's a long, long time since I last a Top 10 finish in anything, and I took some pretty big risks on the initial descent try to keep that position. It would have been so easy to have turned an ankle. But I didn't, and when we got on to the more gradual descent my head drove my body to do more than it thought it wanted to do. Fair to say the body's getting its own back today.

Anyway, I did lose a place in the last couple of miles (to someone who'd got lost earlier on the course, so it was right he went past me), but I finished 7th overall, and probably 2nd or 3rd of the over-40s. I actually think (and there's no false modesty here) that I managed to get my pacing, fuelling and attitude just right on the day, either by luck or design, and on another day could easily have finished 47th rather than 7th. Though I do think the adrenalin-thing was important - I was expecting the drive home (between 11pm and 2am) to be a real struggle, and had made a flask of strong, sweet coffee to keep me going; it wasn't needed - I was as high as a kite.

So, there we are. It was a really good event for me personally, but a really good event generally. The scenery was stunning, and I thought Brutal Events did a really good job in the organisation of the race - the pre-event briefing was useful, the manning of and stuff available at the checkpoints was excellent, safety was sound but not smothering, and route signage was clear and well-positioned.

But now it's back to work in London. And the gym, instead of fresh country air. Days like the last few make that all worthwhile though.

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