Two and a half years ago I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. To motivate me I went looking for a big challenge. I hit on the idea of running an ultra marathon. The Likeys Brecon Beacons Ultra 2014 was my first ultra.
My rehabilitation included nearly four months on crutches and nine months before I was allowed to run for just a few minutes on a treadmill. To help get me through recovery, I started trying to find something big to set myself as a challenge. I’d flirted with running over the years. I love being outdoors. So, I started to settle on the idea of an ultra marathon. The results of much pleasurable googling and internet surfing (it’s not called trail porn for nothing), was the Likeys Brecon Beacons Ultra. It had great reviews. It sounded really friendly. It was in a beautiful place and relatively accessible to me. So that was it. It was my goal. A reason to not give up on being properly fit again. The Likeys Brecon Beacons Ultra 2014 would be my first ultra marathon.
Roll forward a few months and by Christmas 2012 I was tentatively trotting on a treadmill for 10 minutes at a time. By February 2013 I’d built up to running for 30 minutes a few times a week and I did my first outdoors run of about 4 miles. And, in many ways, then the training began for this race. My training progressed and I built up to running six days a week and the mileage crept up. February 2014 arrived and I was up at midnight to make sure I registered nice and early for the race when the entries opened.
Being the unremittingly competitive and obsessive type of person that I am, the goals for the ultra gradually morphed from “running an ultra” to “running an ultra and raising a load of money for charity” to “running an ultra, raising a load of money for charity, and finishing in a more-or-less competitive time”. This eventually settled down to a goal of finishing in less than 8 hours and raising money for a fabulous charity called Azafady.
Along the way, I’ve learnt a lot about training, achieved some other personal bests and had a huge amount of fun. But those are all stories for another time. Let’s get to the weekend and the race itself.
I had a day off work the Friday before the race. This gave me plenty of time to faff around with packing kit and food and going over maps and thinking about split times and generally being my normal compulsive self.
I crammed plenty of carbohydrate rich food in my face for breakfast and snacks. Lunch was a big bowl of pasta in tomato sauce.
Before I knew it, it was time to get on the road. I was keen to get to Talybont-on-Usk in good time so that I could pitch my tent in daylight. I got to the Talybont Farm Campsite at just after three o’clock.
Almost as soon as I’d started unpacking I met another runner called James, who was staying in a camper van at the site. In total I reckon there were about 10 runners staying at the site.
We drove up to Brecon in the early evening to register at the Likeys shop and get our race numbers. Then it was time for a little bit more organising of kit and a trip to the pub to get warm.
The Star Inn had a beautiful looking array of real ales on tap. Which made my pint of lemonade (more carbs) seem even more ridiculous. I’d guess at least three quarters of the people in the Star that night were running the race.
I met Stuart, Barden, Tony, Rose and Joy there and heard stories of various levels of ultra experience. The pub also had a roaring wood burning stove on the go. My merino base layer was soaking up plenty of heat and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the campsite and climb into my tent and borrowed sleeping bag.
I might have been crazy to camp the night before the race, but at least I was sensible enough to check my sleeping bag a week before the race and decide that a cheap two season bag probably wouldn’t cut it in the middle of November in middle of the Welsh countryside. I bedded down in a borrowed three season bag.
5:30 am arrived altogether too quickly. Time for a breakfast of bagel with Marmite, a banana, and a shake of whey protein powder and instant oats powder. The breakfast of champions. Or at least optimistic ultra running neophytes.
Time to review the race route on my trusty OS 1:25000 maps and try to remember the tricky-to-spot right turn just after the farm at about 18 miles (and, of course, at about 41 miles on lap two). Contact lenses in, kit on, drinks bottles filled, race bag checked for the umpteenth time, race number pinned on, and finally time to head to the race HQ.
The first thing that struck me was how relaxed that atmosphere was around the HQ. Even some of the lower key local races I’ve had a go at in the past had an air of competitive spirit buzzing around. The mood was different here. There was more joy. Everyone was ready to have fun, with a bit of suffering probably thrown in for good measure. After the race briefing was complete, it was time to take a short walk up towards the canal and get ready for the start. There were more friendly faces around and a generally relaxed mood. The weather looked like it would be kind. It was chilly, but it didn’t feel like rain.
A countdown from 10 and we were off.
I’d got myself up near the front at the start. I wasn’t desperate to go flying along the first few miles. I knew there were plenty of miles to come. But, at the same time, I knew these were some of the flattest miles and a cheap way to bag some extra time. I tried to stay fairly relaxed and run at a nice comfortable pace. I passed a few people. A couple of others passed me. I got chatting to Barden who was also camping, and who was also running his first ultra marathon. The skies were grey, but it was nice and clear. There was a bit of bite in the air, but so there should be at 7:30 am on a mid-November morning in the Beacons.
There were plenty of puddles and a fair amount of mud on the tow path. All too quickly the Llangyndir locks arrived. These are significant in the race because they mean that it’s time to cross the canal and start the climb towards Tor y Foel. This is a climb of about 1380 feet in 2 miles. It’s pretty steep. I ran quite a bit of the lower slopes. I just let my stride shorten and my cadence go up and just kept moving.
I caught up with a really friendly chap called Andy Jordan. He’d recently completed a 100 mile race and said he was feeling tired after a long season of running (he’d eventually finish in 7 hours and 50 minutes, so he can’t have been *that* tired). Sense had finally started to nudge stupid competitiveness aside in my brain and I walked up a bit of the slope with him. When it levelled out a bit we jogged on and then Andy told me to run my own race, so I trotted on a bit.
I was glad of my recce runs earlier in the year, because the false summits on the slopes didn’t phase me. I didn’t count them, but there must be at least five. The last of them was particularly spectacular and imposing on race day. The cloud was still handing quite low in the air and as you crested another false summit, a steep looking slope emerged from the mist. I managed a little grimace at the fact that the mountains wanted to tease us on race day.
A top bloke at the top
The top of Tor y Foel was marked by a bright orange tent and the most welcome sight of two marshals. One of whom turned out to be the top bloke that is Darren Hutchings. He’d torn a calf muscle and had to pull out of the race, so he’d volunteered to marshal on the top of an exposed hill in what could have proven to be some pretty unfriendly weather. What a top guy! And generally indicative of the brilliant nature of everyone involved in the race. I stopped for a brief chat and was told not to look so cheerful the next time I came up the hill. I was certainly able to honour that instruction.
The top of the hill was actually above the clouds, or they’d already started to lift a bit. Either way, you got a bit of a view from the top, before heading back down into a bit of grey for the trip down. Coming down the other side of Tor y Foel would probably be described by many as a technical descent. Personally, I think grassy, slippery, occasionally rocky and pretty steep is a better description. You can get a bit of pace on, but you have to be a touch circumspect. It’s easy for gravity and a misplaced foot plant to convert you into a flailing, out-of-control, crikey-this-is-going-to-hurt, ball of soon-to-be-ex ultra runner. I like that kind of downhill. It just feels right, so I had a bit of a smile on my face by the time I got to the bottom.
There’s about a mile of tarmac / heavily gravelled road to run along until Checkpoint 1. It’s not too taxing and it’s a nice place to stretch the legs a bit (on lap one in any case). I was already basically on my own at this point, so I just settled into a rhythm and cracked on.
At Checkpoint 1, you turn right and head down the first of the really rocky downhills on the route. It’s kind of tricky on foot. It must be downright terrifying / thrilling on a mountain bike. I vaguely recall riding a few sections like this in the Beacons on a hardtail about 10 years ago. I remember realising that I couldn’t touch the brakes or I’d be in real trouble, so I had no choice but to plant my feet on the pedals, try to stay loose and just flow with the bike and the slope. But I digress.
The near continuous rain of the last few weeks meant that the rocky slope was a little stream. I bounced down the hill, scoffing probably my third energy gel of the day already, and trying to pick a path that involved the most stable looking lumps of orange rock and relatively small amounts of water. I wasn’t too desperate to pretend I could keep my feet dry. There were 40 miles still to go and I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to get my feet soaked.
The reward for completing that down hill section safely is a long slog along the fire track in the Talybont forest. There’s around three and a half miles of fire track. It’s wide. It’s fairly straight. It goes on for ages. And it’s deceptively uphill. Because of the landscape, you can’t really tell, but you’re basically going up for all of those miles. There was a group of three runners ahead of me. Normally, this kind of terrain is more of my bread-and-butter, because my training is largely on flatter road routes. I caught up with the group, but I just felt that I was already over-stretching myself a bit. As we left the fire track and took a sharp left onto a short road section, they pulled away from me again. They were in sight as we headed through the various gates in the Taf Fechan forest. Somewhere along the way, they eased away from me and I am proud of myself for being sensible enough to let them go on.
Mind the Gap
To be honest, I don’t really remember much about the climb up to the Gap on lap one. I really love the change of scenery at this part of the route. Just before the Gap Road starts, you’re in a forest trail, then a few fields on your left down to a stream. There are plenty of sheep and it feels like a bit of open countryside. Then you cross a road and the rocky path begins. You turn a corner and you’re in a fairly open hill landscape. Pen y Fan looms in the distance, but you can’t look too long, because you need to really concentrate on where you are putting your feet.
I really enjoy this part of the route. It’s what I imagine mountain trails should be like. I’m a big fan of gnarly, rooty woodland trails, because you get a feeling of flow when things are going well. Rocky paths have a different kind of joy. They just feel implacable. You have to skip around them or over them. You can’t really be one with them. You have to respect them. I ran all the way up to the Gap, as far as I remember. I got to the top and then bounced down the other side. I felt like I could get a good pace on and charge along a bit. I could see a few of the other runners again. I tried not to chase, but just see how my pace would carry me along. Checkpoint 2 was at the bottom of the descent.
How long does it take to fill a water bottle?
My race fuelling plan had been to stop at Checkpoints 2 and 4 to refill my bottles and reorganise my gels / bars. I knew this would mean stopping for a few minutes. I figured out of 8 hours, this would not be a major issue. And it would give me chance to take a mini rest.
The two marshals were incredibly friendly. We had a bit of a chat. I couldn’t open the sachet for one of my energy drinks, so one of the guys lent me a knife. Perfect. I carried on fiddling with my fuel and asked how many runners were through. It was genuinely a bit of an after thought to ask. I thought they’d say something like 20. When they said “six or seven” I was surprised and a little bit scared. I think I managed to utter “Holy crap. I’m going to die.” I fretted that at 16 miles I’d already booked an afternoon of pain. Well, even more pain than I was signed up for already. I was clearly going far too quickly. So I didn’t rush to finish re-stocking. About three or four runners came through and I set off again, presumably in about 11th place.
Into the Gully of Death ran the 180
A bit of the banter at the checkpoint had been about the next section of the race. Most runners I spoke to settled for naming it the “Gully of Death”. It’s not really much fun. Unless you really are a masochist. It’s a narrow path between two high hedges. The ground is littered with big lumps of rocks, unexpected drops, things sticking out at odd angles, and, because of the recent rain, plenty of mud, puddles, and a little stream.
When I’d recce’d the route earlier in the year, the whole thing was overgrown with bracken and brambles. It was miserable. You were being smacked in the face by leaves and branches, snagged on the shorts by brambles, and tripped up by almost everything else. At least on race day, the farmer had cut back most of the vegetation. This meant you had a fairly clear view of how difficult the ground would be to navigate. OK, so you’re going downhill still. It’s just hard to get any form of rhythm or pace. This is definitely a section for gritting teeth and surviving.
At the end of the gully, you take a sharp right and pick up a wider path following a tree line between fields. It’s more of a woodland surface, which on race day meant muddy. Very muddy. With a few roots apparently grown strategically as maximum trip hazards, in those conditions it wasn’t a section of the course on which you could really stretch your legs, but you could start to pick up a bit of pace. The footpath kind of turns into a road and you really are heading towards the final stretch of the lap.
You’ve done about 17 miles at this point. From a navigational point of view, there’s only one tricky bit left, which is to spot the right stile off the road and into a couple of fields at about 18 miles. This was well marked and my mental rehearsal of the section clearly helped too. By this point I’d caught up with the second placed lady in the race, Bonnie. We had a bit of a chat as we negotiated ankle deep slurry around a cattle feed trough and then picked our way through a boggy turnip field. You’re definitely into farming countryside at this point. Although the ground was still pretty soggy, it was flatter and easier. You could jog along quite nicely.
The Golden Rule of Racing
Never try anything new on race day.
I thought I had tried out most things in some form of training run. But perhaps I hadn’t tried drinking my caffeinated energy drink and then running / power walking up a stupidly steep hill right at the start of a 46 mile run. OK, I definitely hadn’t tried that. I was only 19 miles into the run, but I could already feel ominous warning signs of leg cramps. My quads were most noticeable, but there were little tickles of possible cramp in my calves as well. Hmmmm.
I reminded myself that I’d read plenty of blogs about ultra running and a consistent theme was that on a long run you are going to have some problems. The trick is to learn how to deal with them. This little bit of knowledge helped a lot. I couldn’t panic. I just had to decide how to deal with it. I decided to stop taking on anything with added caffeine until either the cramping sensation went away or I finished. Fortunately I had enough spare food to do this and still have plenty to keep me going.
The race route carries on through some lovely farmland for a couple of miles. It’s very scenic and there’s a lovely stretch running alongside a little babbling river. It’s quite the idyllic country scene. Somewhere along this stretch, I eased away from Bonnie. It’s kind of my natural running terrain, so I just settled into my own pace.
The route picks up a road and you have a few miles of tarmac ahead until you get Pencelli, cross over a bridge and pick up the canal tow path. There were jelly babies and more encouragement on offer here, but I didn’t really fancy the sweets. The encouragement I could accept wholeheartedly.
Who’s a cocky fella then?
A lot of runners say they don’t like the tow path. Especially towards the end of the race. I suspect that this may have something to do with it being pitch black and unlit. It must be awful in the dark. It was definitely an incentive for me to crack on to stand a chance of doing that stretch without a head torch.
I don’t really mind running along tow paths. At least they are flat. I’ve done some fairly long runs along tow paths, so a few miles here didn’t feel like much of a stretch. It’s broken up by crossing the halfway point and Checkpoint 3.
There were plenty of the Likeys crew out at CP3. There were big smiles, cheers of encouragement and offers of fresh water and gels. I thought about chucking out a bottle full of caffeinated electrolyte drink that I’d filled at CP2 before my cramp concerns. I decided I probably had enough drink in my other bottle to risk a few sips of the caffeinated stuff and still get to CP4 OK. So I didn’t stop, but I did offer the comment “I don’t think I quite got the hang of that. I’ll have another go.” On reflection the polite laughter may well have contained a hint of “Let’s see if you’re feeling that cocky in a few hours,” with, perhaps, base notes of “Ah bless. It must be his first time.”
I had a quick look at my watch and clocked about a 3:25 first lap. That was quite a bit quicker than I’d really planned. But, it did fit with my strategy of trying to get some time in the bank on the first lap. Had I gone off too fast? Probably a bit, but only time would tell exactly how much.
Second time round the block
In a funny kind of way, there’s less to say about the second lap. My quads were already hurting as a I jogged along the tow path towards the second ascent of Tor y Foel. This didn’t seem to be a good sign. I could see a runner a bit ahead of me and along the tow path he stayed just on the edge of my view. At this point I was trying very hard not to race, because I could already feel my legs were sore. I felt I had plenty of energy and aerobically I felt fine. It was almost as if lack of muscular strength might be the weak point.
I can’t remember if I could see the runner on the second climb of Tor y Foel. Not that it really matters. I wasn’t going to be catching anyone for the rest of the race.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly memories fade?
Climbing up Tor y Foel the second time already doesn’t feel quite as bad in my mind as I’m sure it did at the time. I remember thinking that my quads were hurting with almost every step. But I also remember jogging a few flatter sections and generally feeling aerobically fine as I walked up the hill. I certainly don’t remember thinking that I couldn’t do it, nor do I remember feeling particularly down. It was just one of those tasks. Get one foot in front of the other and get up the hill.
I reached the top and had another chat with Darren and Pete. You can’t underestimate how motivating it is to be greeted by friendly faces at the top of a difficult climb. I had about 28 miles in the bag and had got past technically the toughest bit of the course. I could do this now. [Incidentally, writing this now, I just thought to have a quick look at my splits and I reckon I’d done about 3:55 for marathon distance. No wonder my legs were hurting.]
Anyway, down the slippery slope of Tor y Foel, onto the gravel track and keep on plodding to CP4. Time for another extended break and faff session. Energy drinks in bottles, food into waist pouch, chat with more phenomenally friendly marshals. How do you stay so cheerful standing around in the cold(ish) and cloudy(ish) weather? They are all miracles. I picked up a spot prize. Bonus! Bonnie ran past me and that would be the last time I’d see another runner until the finish.
Faffing completed, it was once more onto the rocky slopes down towards the fire track. My legs were hurting pretty badly now, but going down didn’t hurt as much as I’d feared. The weather was still friendly and I thought that the fire track would be a good mental break. My kind of terrain. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Is this a wall I see before me?
At 32 miles I really hit a wall. The fire track is just so deceptive. Looking at Garmin, I think the amount of elevation gain is actually very similar to going up the Gap Road. It just doesn’t look that way and that’s fairly demotivating. My legs were really hurting. For the first time in the race I felt like my energy reserves were really sapped. There was just nothing there. The doubting voices in my head started to whisper, “32 miles? That’s the longest you’ve ever run. Perhaps you’re not ready.”
I had a walk. A long walk. I walked for about a mile. I kept telling myself that there are difficult patches in any long run. This would be no different. Time to drink energy drink and eat food. I had some real food, not just energy gels. When the fire track ends, it turns left, there’s a short climb on road and then a decent downhill section. I started jogging again. My quads did not thank me. It didn’t feel my smoothest ever run, but I was moving. Really, that’s all that I needed to keep doing.
The footpath alongside the Taf Fechan forest has three or four gates in it. Each time I had to convince my legs to start trotting again. And each time I won that battle I felt a little braver and stronger.
The Gap Road was coming and I let myself run-walk most of it. Well, it was probably more walk-run. I must have done reasonably OK, because as I climbed up to the Gap for the second time I caught up with a mountain biker and had a chat with him for a bit (don’t worry, he pulled away from me again when his friends caught up on their bikes).
The sun was out now and it was actually kind of warm. On another day this would have felt like perfection. Today it just took the edge off the stabbing pain in my quads with every step. I walked up to the top of the Gap climb and the marshal there told me I was in 11th. I said thank you and commented that I didn’t expect to finish there. My quads were shot and I just wanted to finish inside 8 hours. He said I would definitely finish inside 8 and just keep going. It’s what I needed to hear.
I turned the corner and was almost looking forward to the rocky descent, as long as I didn’t pay too much attention to my legs. They definitely weren’t looking forward to bouncing along what was essentially a rocky stream bed. There were four walkers milling around just as the descent started, so I picked a slightly different line to give them some space. Naturally, I immediately slipped and landed smack bang on my side. No damage done. Feeling a little bit lucky, I picked myself up, brushed the worst of the mud off my gloves and bounced (in my imagination) off again.
The view off the Gap is phenomenal and I could start to enjoy it a little bit. I was on the homeward stretch now. There was no doubt I’d finish. But could I do it in under 8 hours? There would be only one way to find out. That way was forwards.
Once more into the Gully, dear friends
CP 5 arrived. I grabbed a bit of extra water. I had a brief chat with the marshals, who told me I’d done the lap in just over 4 hours and I was in 11th. I assured them I wouldn’t finish there. And then I was off into the Gully of Death again.
It felt worse this time. It seemed to go on longer. I was sure there was a section that was basically a stream first time round. Maybe it had dried out in the intervening four hours? Oh no, here it is. It was just longer than I remembered somehow. Watch out for rocks. Dodge brambles. Wonder why I’m doing this. Drink. Wait for it to end.
But when it did end, I felt safe. It’s countryside ahead, there is tarmac, there aren’t really any big climbs. When I get to the canal tow path, it’s only a couple of miles. The distance is in the bag. What about the time?
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Staying motivated over the last few miles was an interesting exercise in mental displacement. I tried to stay focused on running. I wanted be strategic with walking. I thought I’d try to give myself a walking break for a few minutes every mile if I needed it. Maybe I’d walk any slopey bits, even though often jogging felt more comfortable.
I started calculating the point at which I could walk the rest of the way home and still finish in under 8 hours. I kept looking at my Garmin watch. The miles seemed to tick by agonisingly slowly. Was that really only 0.1 mile? Oh for goodness sakes.
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig
Somewhere around 40 miles, running through the countryside gave me another reason to stop as a farmer herded his sheep along the path and through a gate. It was definitely one of those moments where I didn’t really want to stop. I walked past the farmer’s quad bike and heaved my legs back into a running motion.
Every step was pretty painful now. There were a few more tickles of cramp sensations, but fortunately these didn’t develop into anything worse. Was it my decision to avoid any further caffeine intake? I’ll probably never know. Let’s just be thankful that whatever the reason, the pain didn’t hit harder.
I thought the road section through Llanfrynach and back to Pencelli would be tedious second time round. It wasn’t really. I was too busy not thinking too much about how much my legs hurt and calculating how close I was to the “walk it in” milestone. Eventually, I reached about 43 miles and had 45 minutes to go. If I wanted to, I could basically walk from here and I’d still crack 8 hours. Of course, you know what’s coming don’t you? The relief of reaching that point meant I didn’t really need to walk again. I got onto the tow path and kept on jogging. I had a small walking break just to be sensible and carried on ticking along. Garmin reckons my 45 mile split was 8:55 min/mi. It felt a lot slower!
Still no other runners to be seen. I wasn’t planning on trying to catch anyone now. I just wanted to finish and start to organise myself towards scoffing a venison burger and a pint of real ale at the Star Inn.
Then the road bridge into Talybont appeared and I was glad of having read a couple of race reports. I knew that I’d drop down towards Henderson Hall and have to run along a field and back again. Those hundred extra yards aren’t too depressing when you’re expecting them.
The Likeys crew were there at the finish and gave a fantastically warm welcome. It makes it so worthwhile. And then my race was over. I’d finished in 7 hours, 41 minutes and 23 seconds. And I’d finished 11th. I’d achieved my goal and them some. I get more proud each time I think about it.
Holding out for the real heroes
I staggered my way into the hall to find a cup of coke, grab my race shirt and search out the promised Welsh Cakes. There was a recovery shake in my kit bag if I could bend down to get it. My legs ached like hell, but no sign of cramp. Barden was there. He’d finished in 9th and about 10 minutes ahead of me. It was his first ultra marathon too. What an amazing guy! He laughed at me for running up Tor y Foel the first time. Maybe if I hadn’t been so suicidally intent on banking time on the first lap, I’d have had a bit more in the tank to push along on the second lap. Ah well, there’s always next year (if I get permission).
Barden and I wanted to wait for James to come home. We knew he’d be at least 10 hours. Time for more Welsh Cakes and drinks. I even managed a horribly tepid shower in the hall after about an hour. I tried to see as many finishers as possible and a few familiar faces started to come in.
I took a quick trip back to the campsite (well, I say quick, but the legs weren’t really up for a jolly jaunty walk). I grabbed a flapjack and milkshake from the local shop. Then I headed back to site. The venison burger and beer could wait until we’d seen the other finishers. The Star would serve food until 9 pm. There was still be plenty of time.
The sun set at about 4:30 pm and it got dark quickly. For me, this is where the real heroics of the race start. Finishing fast is partly a wussy tactic to avoid the scary dark.
We kept cheering in the runners. The Likeys crew greeted every single one with total joy. And, in a huge number of cases, first name recognition. This is one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve ever met. Even if Sue did seem to enjoy telling people to go all the way to the end of the field and back a bit too much!
The hall was full of broken and proud runners. The big screen was already looping through a slide show of photos from the day. The atmosphere was great. It was sociable, there was pride, relief and pain.
We watched the prize giving and cheered the first female overall winner, Clare Prosser. Clare beat Mark Palmer by 9 seconds. Incredible!
James and his friend Chris came in at around 7 pm in a time of 11:31:36. I’m absolutely full of admiration for the effort. Chris had really struggled through the second half of the race and James had supported him through it. That is true heroism.
Barden, James and some others headed off to the pub. I said I’d see them there shortly. There was one more hero I wanted to cheer home.
Emma Chetwynd Jarvis is running 500 km of multi-terrain and obstacle course races in a year for the Maggs Day Centre in Worcester (www.facebook.com/run500). She is incredible.
Emma came through with another runner, Amanda, at about 8 pm. A phenomenal time of 12 hours, 14 minutes and 34 seconds. She’d been running the dark for over three and a half hours. That meant doing the Gully of Death with head torches. That would scare the hell out of me. We had a chat and I posed slightly guiltily for a photo with Emma. Then it was time to bid farewell for now and head to the pub for my own rewards.
Golf and Pink Floyd
The Star was packed with runners. The log fire was on. I got a pint, a bag of pork scratchings (sodium replacement obviously) and got my burger ordered. I joined up with Barden, James, Simon, Sarah, Les, Stuart and a few other runners. Much chatting about times. Several comments about the insanity of running up Tor y Foel and about the remarkable achievement of getting though in under 8 hours in a first ultra. I do feel a little guilty at not cheering home the last runner, but I really needed that burger.
Soon it was time for the pub quiz. More banter, more beers, a burger demolished. The Welsh team won (again). Before you knew, it bedtime had arrived. I didn’t take long to fall asleep in my tent, even if the cows on the farm seemed to be cheering us runners all night.
An incredible experience, packed with phenomenal people. The memory of the pain quickly fades, but the memory of the pleasure and pride will be with me for much longer.