Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ras yr Aran

Race: Ras yr Aran (16k+/3100ft)
Time/Position: 1.47.22 (16th from 81)
I was amazed to find that it has been six years since I last did this race. With fairly strong winds forecast, it seemed possible that it would be shortened to Aran Benllyn, as I remember happening in the past, but in the event the full race (quite rightly) went ahead with just the final scree cone to the summit of Fawddwy removed. The weather was not great, but nothing particularly unusual: gusts to 60mph, heavy rain and a notable windchill as might be expected at this time of year. As ever, it is the combination of rain and wind that causes the problems! I had expected to struggle on the long five mile climb, given my usual winter on the roads, and I did indeed. I fell way behind on the initial gradual climb over Moel Ffenigl and only began to make up some ground as the slopes steepen up to Aran Benllyn. This gave some welcome shelter from the worst of the windchill too. Excellent running along the ridge, past the little lakes and the rocky bluffs: low temperatures, poor visibility and strong crosswinds throughout. Navigation is easy on this race though, and I made up some ground and places on the wet and slippery descent, which went a little better than I'd expected it to and was very enjoyable. Buckley won the male team prize, with me counting in third place but only seconds ahead of Steve.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Northern Carneddau run

Peak: Tal y Fan
Area: Carneddau, Eryri
One of those rare early spring days when the mountain air is like champagne: the clarity of light, birdsong and blue skies all combine to make for perfect conditions on the hill. The Northern Carneddau would always be my choice of running terrain in this kind of March weather, so after a night in Conwy John and I headed up to Sychnant in the early morning and set off to the south along the ancient track towards the stone circle. We set a decent pace throughout and reached the top of Tal y Fan in less than 45 minutes. Great views over to the central Carneddau, with a reasonable amount of snow in the gullies of Ffynnon Llyfnant and deep blue skies above. After a lengthy stay on the summit, we pelted down for an equally brisk descent to begin the working day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Castle Inn climbing

Crag: Castle Inn Quarry
Routes: Nain (f4:led), Cariad (f5:led), Hidden Gem (f4a:led), Wilderness Wall (f5a:led), Butterfly Blue (f4:led)
Although this very short session was squeezed into the last 90 minutes of daylight, surprisingly warm sunshine lit the crag and it was very nice to reacquaint myself with real rock after the usual months of winter inactivity. John was making a short trip to the UK, and as I had introduced him to climbing a few years ago, I thought it would be nice to take him again. After a refresher tutorial, we did a couple of easy routes, finding the mantelshelf on Cariad surprisingly tricky, although a pleasant sun-drenched arete lies above. John enjoyed the longer easy 'ridge' taken by Hidden Gem, and the slightly more technical routes on the slab to the right: delightfully lit by the setting sun. The plan had then been to run to the Cwm Dulyn bothy, but we'd run out of time so opted instead for a five mile blast along the estuary, using the Parkrun route to Deganwy with an extension around the bird reserve.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Conwy mountain race

Race: Conwy fell race (5.5m/2000ft)
Time/Position: 50.09 (7th from 46 [2nd V40])
Knowing Conwy as intimately as I do, I have often pondered the feasibility of a notional mountain race along the three peaks that rise above the town. This inaugural race (the first over Conwy Mountain) was originally scheduled to take in the neat ridge that I have always known as Penmaen Ridge or Pen Pyra, a short 150m grade 2 scramble that is visible from the A55. As such, it was a novel and exciting race prospect, but having done the ridge before I wasn't particularly surprised to find that it had been ditched for safety reasons. That seemed a shame, but the alternative route still gave a challenging race. Quite mild and mainly dry as we set off up the long bridleway which climbs the shoulder over to Allt Wen above the Sychnant Pass. The first three runners went clear during this section and continued to pull away throughout. From Allt Wen, we descended steeply towards the coast, right down to the edge of the caravan site before starting the long reascent. Steve and myself were together for this section, and ploughed foolishly through a mixture of thick gorse and boulders to fashion a direct route up to the middle peak. From here, the main ridge gives superb running along to Conwy Mountain, a very familiar route indeed! I lost two places here, and couldn't make them up as a final section of arbitrary punishment saw us head back down to the road near the Old White House then very steeply back over the ridge near the little slabby crag. A short but intense start to the hill running season.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Manley Mere border league

Race: Manley Mere 5.15m (Border League race 5)
Time/Position: 29.43 (27th from 318 [4th V45])
Unpleasant conditions at the start, with heavy rain, plenty of standing water and chilly temperatures. A new course for the league, although it took in some familiar lanes from various training runs and the Helsby half marathon. I set off at a decent pace, perhaps a tad too quick, and made my way up the field as the route embarked on a long but gentle climb. Lots of runners were nearby, however, even more than the usual intense league competition. My lack of finishing kick means this has an inevitable conclusion: and I finished at the back of a very big group of runners, at least 10 of whom passed me in the final half mile back to the lakeside.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Lakes run

An extended training version of the Two Lakes half marathon which I had enjoyed last May. Over the years, I've done various routes and races here: from the complete 20 mile figure of eight round both lakes, to the various shorter races that loop the Brenig and Alwen. A group of four of us started from the Brenig car park, along the dam to pick up the race route. A lovely tailwind eased progress along the far shore of Brenig, waves so high you could almost surf in the lake! As we turned west along the muddy paths and steep tracks that lead to the far side of the lake, the run became gruelling as we battled the fierce headwind. A sheltered bridleway then leads over the road to the superb long track that makes directly for the bridge at the far end of Llyn Alwen. This was tough underfoot and into a headwind the whole way: some rain too. The steep climb beyond the lake is always tough, but we kept a reasonable pace going and stuck to the half marathon route throughout. Almost 15 miles in total, including the extension.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Conwy Parkrun

"Race": Conwy Parkrun (5k)
Time/Position: 18.10 (1st from 180)
A windy week, and today was no exception: my second foray into the world of the Park Run along tracks I know very well. After celebrating our anniversary last night, Kate and I jogged to the start from Rose Hill Street in heavy rain and strong winds. So easy and convenient. These events are not races, but as 'timed runs' they do feel a bit competitive! I was in second place for a while, then took the lead after about 500m, and managed to stay there. My time was slow, but quicker than on the very hilly Wepre course. This Conwy course is excellent and scenic: along the riverbank then towards the castle, before heading up to Deganwy. Strong winds made the return leg tricky and hard going for a while.