Whilst volunteering during the St Illtyd’s Ultra, I heard from a fellow helper that the ‘Beast’ race was the week after. All I knew was there were a few steep hills involved and I didn’t give it another thought. On the following Wednesday it appeared on my radar again and was only £13 to enter the 24 mile race – what a bargain! Whilst tempted at the time I didn’t give it another thought. The following day I was signed up!
As I had missed out on my three-day ultra due to injury I think inside I was itching for another challenge and quickly convinced myself I would have no problems doing it. I shared the news in the usual places and soon realised that Beast wasn’t a name that was given to the race lightly – it was going to be a tough race.
A Race of Two Halves
Setting out from Maenclochog on the south edge of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the race could easily be split into two halves. The first half of the race the sun was shining down, the terrain was varied and stunning and the hills manageable. I was hovering in the rear third of the field with just an aim of finishing, enjoying the downs that followed the ups through the national park and taking lots of photographs
Winding towards a far more scenic Newport to the one I hail from, the terrain varied between woodland boardwalk to open hills and stone tracks to fast, fell-like descents. Each mile was inching closer towards a view that I had experienced many years before whilst driving around the area. It was a view that was going to be breathtaking on such a sunny day like today. And it didn’t disappoint.
The view down towards Newport Bay was breathtaking. It was all downhill through fields and lanes to the halfway point at Newport and I was well ahead of the cut-off point.
Leaving the checkpoint at Newport it was a long steep climb up to the peak of Mynydd Carningli. Some sections allowed you to pick up a trot but for the most part it was a climb that at parts required you to use your hands to grip onto rocks. The reward for your efforts was a another stunning view of Newport Bay with the sun still shining.
The Path to The Beast
Just as forecast, the clouds arrived which was a welcome reprieve from the surprisingly warm temperatures. I was told by another runner that the second half could get difficult and involve more walking and he was bang on the money. There were some long climbs interspersed with runnable sections but the legs were tiring so running was becoming difficult. And I still had to tackle The Beast!
By the time I reached The Beast, I had already some significant climbs including the one out of Newport but approaching the back of The Beast this was quite fittingly going to be a different beast. I’m unsure of the steepness of the gradient but I’m sure even the most hardcore of fell runners wouldn’t even attempt to run it.
It was at this point that I started to see some of the last runners on the Beast Bach (half marathon) and confusingly encountered two children that couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9-years-old. They were each running with a parent and had a bib number but I can’t imagine they would have run the entire half marathon.
Reaching the final peak and passing the Yeehaaa! sign (one of the many ‘motivational’ signs out on the run), you could make out Maenclochog in the distance and it probably around 3 miles away which at this point felt like it would take an age.
It was all downhill from here and you think that would make it easier but with tired legs and some pretty bad dehydration setting in, I was struggling, but I kept moving. At one of the last checkpoints I think it was noticeable that I wasn’t looking in a good shape but I just had the woodland boardwalk and the road into the village left to tackle.
As with most races, you somehow find a little bit of energy to run the last stretch and the support of the villagers sure helped. The cutoff was 6 hours and I managed to finish in 04:56:22.
When Will I Learn?
I started off the race and was fuelling well and taking on water at the many water stations. I was also eating Clif Shot Bloks and a jam sandwich but after the halfway mark I was finding it harder to keep regularly refuelled and fell into the trap of putting off constantly putting off refuelling for a bit longer.
I was falling into the trap of focusing on the mental games of getting through the race and not forcing myself to refuel (I never learn). The heat at the beginning probably contributed and in the latter stages of the race I could feel tingling in my fingers (a warning sign of dehydration) and by the end I was feeling light-headed.
Despite being 23.5 miles, it felt as tough as running an ultra! It was definitely a beast of a race!
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