Even with the weather being so bad at the moment it is great to see that Taff Ely Triathlon members are getting out there racing. This week saw four members doing some fell running. Simon Morgan provides an entertaining report.
It was all Vicky Jones’s fault. ‘Come do something a bit different’ she said. ‘Ros and I had a go the other week, it was a right laugh. Though we did put the “fell” in “fell running”’, she said.
And so Sara Morgan and I found ourselves celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day up to our knees in mud, covered in scratches, soaked to the skin, and absolutely loving it. In the good company of Ros Edmonds, Vicky, Sarah Adams, 80 plus others, 1 man and his dog.
The race was organised by the Mynydd Du Club ( http://www.mynydd-du.org.uk/home ) as part of a winter series. But apparently there’s events organised throughout the year. There was some initial confusion when we got there, but some of the other runners were keen to help us out. Top Tip 1 – get there early, start might be ages from the sign-up point.
The organisers were slick, gave a good race briefing, had sign-posted the route very well and had marshals at all key points. And all for just £3! Was a bit nervous when we were given a map of the route – my orienteering is right down there with my DIY skills – but it didn’t prove an issue thanks to the quality of the organisation: gave us an incentive to keep up with the field though.
Our thinking was: it’s under 4 miles – how hard can it be? We also turned up with ordinary daps and a technical T, with some heavy warm-up clothes. Turns out gloves, headgear and a wind-proof top were mandatory; trail or fell shoes highly recommended. Top Tip 2 – check the website’s terms and conditions. As proud as I am of my TET Hoodie, it’s not the best thing to run in during a monsoon – I’m carrying enough extra weight as it is.
Quick word on our fellow runners. Quite a mix of ages and looks. A few looked like Forrest Gump after he’d run the US a few times. Should’ve known better when I clocked the worn but high-spec kit that was standard – didn’t pay to under-estimate these guys. Even the dog tied to his master’s shorts turned out to be useful. Top Tip 3 – carry stodgy doggy-snacks to every race to slow down your four-legged competitors. (Ok – there may be a limited market for that one).
We started at the back. Race went north straight away, tarmac initially then muddy trail. Sara and Sarah hit a nice tempo, I left them and started picking off those ahead of me, even as things started getting slippy. Including 1 man and his dog. I was feeling good. But the first downhill was a revelation. The regulars (and their pets) start flying past me as I negotiated the mud, streams and greasy hillocks. There truly is an art to this kind of descending. And, well, mine is a bit like my orienteering. And DIY.
The next half hour was a succession of scrambles up, slides down and stumbles through streams. Think desperate cons escaping the Deep South Penitentiary with the prison guards on their trail. Excepting the fact that the bloke with the dog was actually ahead of us. At one point I was holding the sides of my hoodie out as a sail to push me up yet another hill. Quite how many hills were squeezed into 4 miles is still something of a mystery. Traction was sometimes all but impossible, as more of the field came past. I’d love to say it was all down to Top Tip 4 -wear trail or fell shoes. But, let’s face it, the dog wasn’t wearing them.
And so, after the muddiest, narrowest descent yet, we all got to the finish. Cheered on by the soaked-but-supportive marshals. And a cheerful yip from the dog, by now busily tagging a gatepost. The squelch back to the cars – and Ros’s bike: the woman lives Rule #5 – was enlivened by talk of our (mis)adventure.
But my mind kept going back to the knowing look one of the marshals gave us at the finish. He knew we’d caught the bug and would be coming back.