When I started running cross country for Parc Bryn Bach I was warned that the Gwent Leisure Centre League was going to get tough. I think I’ve discovered tough!
After a Grand National style start the going was tough. An uphill start quickly became wet and muddy and there was little point in trying to avoid either. This was going to be one very wet, very muddy, very cold race so best get used it.
Unsure of what to expect in terms of terrain and the ascents and descents I was cautious of going too fast too soon so hung back to allow my body to assess the conditions. Even though the race was going to be just 5 miles, 5 tough miles can feel like an age.
After a wet and muddy loop, we started a long, multi-hill ascent with some sections being particulalry steep. With sections like this, unless you are an experienced fell runner that feeds off the hills, you are better off power hiking than trying to run.
I love the hills and being an ultra runner in training I do spend quite a bit of time training by hiking up hills so I loved the challenge of working up the field. I was surprised to see some people still jogging rather than walking. There’s certainly no shame in walking and I was keeping up with those jogging but I was using much less energy and with my heart rate lowering was able to recover so that when I reached the top of the hill I was good to run again.
Ascending up the hills the conditions were gradually becoming frostier with the snow on the ground increasing. At the top the conditions were the worst with a long, long slog through mud, deep puddles and snow to a turning point (one for the ladies and another further along for the gents).
The combination of mud, water and snow meant my feet were feeling numb at this stage. I was wishing that I had put more thought into the socks that I was wearing rather than the minimal pair that I had chosen. Either doubling up or wearing the thicker DryMax socks next time.
After completing the tough section through the mud and snow, it was time for the fun part of the race which was the downhill blast. Based on the conditions the chance of slipping on the wet grass or tripping on rocky sections was there but I didn’t care, I just let myself go and raced as fast I could. I knew every place counted so seized the opportunity to pass the more cautious runners. That said, whilst I felt adventurous, there were still some that thought I was being cautious and flew past me!
At the bottom of the descent we had to do another lap of the initial muddy section which did prove to be a long slog and by this stage I was done and looking forward to the finish line which I was hoping wasn’t too far away (thankfully it wasn’t).
It’s strange running a tough race like this, there are parts of it where your mind is hating you for subjecting it to such an ordeal and immediately after finishing you are questioning why you put yourself through it but so soon after you are evaluating how you performed and starting to plan for how you will attack the next tough race. I found the same with the Gower Ultra. The latter stages were so tough and during the race I never wanted to do another again but so soon after you find yourself looking forward to punishing yourself again!
So, I guess I’ll be running another cross country race!
Race Route & Profile