The weekend before last I travelled to Wales for my first race of the year, and boy it was a big one! The Brecon to Cardiff 70km ultra. To say it was a challenge would be a little bit of an understatement!
Starting in Brecon is the Taff Trail. A well marked cycling and walking route that takes you to Cardiff, following a peaceful canal, climbing up and through the picturesque Brecon beacons, going past three stunning reservoirs, one which you cross a road bridge over, and taking in different small towns along the way.
The weather in the morning was clear skies, although for a few days before it had rained heavily and often, which left the first 7 miles along the canal sludgy enough to sap the energy from my calf muscles.
The next 6 miles was a gentle climb with views that got better and better, as you gradually gained feet on the way to the top. Halfway up the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. I wanted to take more pictures but, taking my gloves off didn’t seem like something I wanted to do to often.
At the top before I turned the corner into the mountain range, I got a great picture looking back over Talybont. After 3 more miles of rolling hills, we crossed Pentwyn and were at checkpoint 2.
The journey to checkpoint 3 was hard. My body didn’t want to do much more. It had started to stall and I struggled to get going although, I got a bit of a cheer from one of our crew for the day at the third reservoir, Pontysticill. I stopped and took another photo. It’s main feature is absolutely stunning. There wasn’t a long way left until the halfway point at Merthyr, where we would get to change our mud and water soaked shoes.
22 miles in and checkpoint 3. It was road shoes time. Time to tear up the second half of the course and finish strong. Time to…
Run and jog and walk and do anything to keep my body from giving up. The race had become almost impossible as my body felt like it was hitting the wall. I met a man who was in a similar situation and we agreed to travel together, keep each other going until checkpoint 4.
We ran as much as we could, exchanging stories in-between, to take our minds off the pain that we were experiencing. Checkpoint 4 came and we still had over 15 miles to go.
8 miles to the next checkpoint, which at this stage, was getting more and more unlikely. We agreed that even if we had to walk, we would make it to checkpoint 5, where we had heard tales of a pub that gave runners sausages and chips!
We continued to tell stories and take in the sights. Just before we got to mile 35 there was a flooded section of the path, that was fence to fence wide. It was the depth of my knees as we waded through it, around 100m of soaking wet steps but, the cold water was welcomed between my toes. We scurried up a hill which was no bigger than your average, yet it was a huge task for the legs to force your body up. We had reached checkpoint 5.
Outside was a sign. 5.7 miles to go. Less than 10km. The end was in sight. A woman greeted us at the door, along with the warmth that we felt on our cheeks. We were invited in by her voice, and the warm, and the smell of food. I politely declined, and I left my new friend behind. We shook hands and thanked each other, I know that if it wasn’t for him, I doubt I could have made it this far.
5.7 miles to go and I was going to run, or walk, or crawl to get there. I re-joined the path and pushed on. I could see through the trees that daylight was fading, and time was no longer on my side. I wanted to get in before dark, which was looking less likely by the step, as the sun semi set behind the backdrop of mountains beside Cardiff.
A short phone call with my wife was enough support to get me moving quicker, and a wrong turn which could have been the final straw, only gave me nothing more to lose. It was dark but, I had found street lights. No need for my head torch, because I knew that within minutes I would turn a corner onto a main road, which would lead to the finish line.
And it did. My legs felt awful but, my head forced them to go. And they went, all be it for only 800m but, they went. I reached the finish line more than a little worse for wear. What a race, what a journey, what an adventure!
Catch up with you soon