Buff Winter Trail Half Marathon, Coed Y Brenin (Snowdonia)
Seven days after the Swedish mud bath and it’s back to the ‘sun'-blessed countryside that is North Wales. Joined by Michelle, Ashley and Paul for a nice relaxing weekend and for the fourth year in a row, 13.2 miles / 608 m height gain in the hills and woodlands of Coed Y Brenin (about an hour south of Snowdon) of the Buff Winter Trail Half Marathon.
Having carb-loaded with Welsh Rarebit on Friday evening, we awoke with spring in our step; well, Paul and I did. Michelle and Ashley taking a rest day, having seen the liquid sunshine outside.
As the start approached, Paul and I found ourselves a little too close to the elite, near the front of the 680 strong field; not because we fancied our luck, more that we couldn’t get back to our preferred position having taken shelter indoors from the constant drizzle that had settled in.
A short while after and we are off… As is apparently traditional for all Welsh trail races, we head off uphill; it is slow and long climb winding through the pine trees at a pace controlled by the congested pack, running two-by-two, before opening out on to the first logging road. From this point, the course takes an undulating - well 60m up here, 40m down there - approach across a mix of gravel trails, muddy paths, logging roads, muddy woodland trails, and mud pools - fun!
About 2 miles in, the mountain gazelle that is Paul B raced past me as the uphill continued disappearing in to the distance, obscured by the sleet that has now replaced the drizzle. The tracks continued occasionally heading on to narrow mud tracks through the forest, before coming out in to a clearing exposing a view of the Rhinog mountains on the other side of the valley, which are slowly turning white as the snow settled in the freezing temperatures. As we reached the highest point of the course, the sleet changed to the largest snow flakes I’ve seen in years creating the ultimate 'Winter Trail' feel.
Feed stations at 6.2 and 10 miles made for short rest bites, each one preceding another uphill trek, but neither of these were as bad as the infamous ‘Sting in the tail’ - a 100m climb up a mud and rock trail over a horizontal distance of 0.6 miles just after the 11 mile marker. The fastest runner covered this ‘feature’ in 4 minutes 43 seconds, whilst Paul and I took it more sedately in 9:07 and 8:56 respectively.
The pain from the Sting subsides as we close in on the last mile, which is a euphoric run down mud and water logged trail past the 13 mile marker, to the final 200m which (of course) is uphill, to the finish line. Crossing the line, damp, mud encrusted and slightly chilly, I find Paul had pipped me to the post, beating my new PB of 2:41:47, with his 2:40:58. No medal but a travel mug of vegetable soup was definitely welcome!
Then it was back for showers, lemon drizzle cake, snacks, a trip to the pub and then slow-cooked roast lamb followed by sticky toffee pudding in great company. Another weekend which vindicated the Buff motto #flatisboring ;-)
Links to some photos:
Paul @ 4 miles
Paul @ 10.8 miles
Andy @ 4 miles
Andy @10.8 miles
In case it is of interest:
Info on trail running at Coed Y Brenin
Info on trail running events at Coed Y Brenin this year
Well done Andy and Paul. The conditions must have been horrendous but sounds like a great run! 🙂
Good write up Andy.
Sue, you will see the route in the summer. Its a super event, once hooked you'll end up returning every winter and summer.
Those pics of me how so much pain. I should have worn my contacts.