Saturday, 1 April 2017

Vale of Glamorgan Ultra - everything is awsome

After the problems I encountered during the Imber ultra I approached Vale of Glamorgan (VoG) ultra differently.  Physically I kept up the long runs between the two races and also worked hard on 10k tempo runs, unofficially beating my own 10k PB twice within a week.  I spent time ensuring the kit I used for the race had been tried and tested - I was missing some kit but needed to run without it.  Mentally I retrained my brain, tried to clear the prop occupying my mind, and aimed to run with the ethos of letting go - just touch the earth.

I started planning early.  On paper the course does not look hard, few big hills and lots of footpaths, but having read many reviews it appears the everything depends on the weather.  The course follows the coastline from Penarth (south of Cardiff) around to Ogmore-By-Sea near Bridgend, a total of 51km, but is totally open to the elements with little or no cover.

The safety instructions include the following:
Deteriorating and/or adverse weather conditions
Keep low to the ground, head inland immediately to a safe distance from the coast path, and if possible continue parallel to the coast but maintaining a safe distance from it.  If this is not possible; make your way inland (Northerly) until you reach a road.


Working in Bristol on the Friday before the race meant the journey across the bridge should be shorter.  Then the usual panic of "have I packed everything?" "have I got the address of the hotel?" "why is my left foot aching?"....

I got sorted and in bed early.  The boiler somewhere near my room kicked into life about 3am, I finally got back to sleep about 4.50 for the 5.15 alarm. Cool! Everything is awesome.

I got to the car park and the meters were locked, wrote a pleading letter for the window screen knowing full well we'll all have tickets at the end of the race! Then onto the coach for the journey to the start where I met up with Gareth Squire from Chippenham Harriers, running his first ultra.

Lambs to the slaughter
The race starts on the pier at Penarth, but due to the heavy overnight rain the boards were extremely slippery and we were advised to walk off the pier!

The race is very much a race of 2 halves, other than a few early, and extremely muddy fields, a lot of the route is on roads and compacted paths.  The route follows the cliff paths until the outskirts of Barry, where you head inland and loop around the steel works, a light rain soaked us as we headed along the docks.  The route then looped right around Barry Island, with two compulsory checkpoints to ensure the route was "shortened" by the competitors.

Climbing into Barry
We caught up with the back runners of the Barry Park Run and were cheered through the finish by their staff and runners.  The route then follows the beach, onto the road around the bay to The Knap.
At this point we were contacted by Lorraine and Gillian, both Chippenham Harriers, who were due to start the 18-mile race.  We aimed to hit their race start as we passed, but due to a very steep hill at 14 miles we just missed them.  Crossing a stony beach we then headed up the first of many hills with thick mud making the climb slow and cumbersome.  At the top, we met with the ladies and started off across the fields and right through the middle of a caravan site, across a few fields and on into another caravan site near Font-y-Gary.  The fresh legs and company helped push us on.

Team photo
At 16 miles, while trying to deftly manouver around a large puddle Gareth was hit by a sniper and went down.  After washing off the injury and walking a short distance he decided he was brave enough to head on.

At about 19 miles we hit fields and mud, extremely slippery narrow paths, slowing the pace down to 18 & 19 min miles!!!  The mud abated and we were able to lift the pace again for a few miles until at 20 miles we stopped for a short while to deal with Gareth's war wound.

"that's where the bullet hit"
At 24 miles we were met by Sarah & Gary, who should have been running the ultra but their camper got stuck in a field and couldn't get it out in time to meet the coach or reach the start before 8 am. Again, the fresh legs helped and the company was enough to lift the spirits and we were able to keep up a "better" pace over the steep rolling hills and very high stone stiles.

From 24 to 32 miles the route kept close to the cliffs, cutting back occasionally where the cliffs cut in. Occasionally we dropped steeply down into valleys to cross rivers or stony beaches before climbing a fresh set of mud covered steps.

Eventually, 32 miles was nearly upon us, and there was a checkpoint - not the finish!  A quick refill and we set off yet again with Ogmor-By-Sea now in sight.  We kept rounding hills hoping to see the flags for the finish line and eventually it appeared.  Gareth and I passed through the finish together, both with tired legs but still in great spirits.

The final distance of 33.8 miles.  The views were stunning, the hills acceptable, the weather was kind - but the mud was painful.  Some of the beaches we crossed had stones the size of a child's football, making it impossible to run across without the real risk of injury.  No shoe was right for this course today!!!

No parking ticket - bonus!  Freeing my mind and spitting the pill out worked.

More pictures and results to come.

Would I do it again?  Yea.  Well organised and outstanding views.  Could have been some fruit on the aid stations though.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Mick, great achievement, I'm not envious ; ) x