Saturday, 4 July 2015

Day 2......Feeling the Heat of the Dragon......

Chasing them down off the start!
We had been given "suggested start windows" when we finished Day 1, and as we had enjoyed the chat on the previous leg, Sabrina, Jonny and I decided to start Day 2 together......well, when I say start together, it took me 50m to catch the others up as they sprinted off the line!The day started with some nice easy running along an unmarked mandatory route, before we headed off higher to climb Cnicht and then the Moelwyns. This gave us a chance to loosen off muscles that might have stiffened up overnight, but also gave us a clue that it was going to be a rather hot day, as the sun was already high in the sky despite the early start.

It was nice to get CP 1 ticked off again on the summit of Cnicht, and we could then settle into our day as we headed up to the Moelwyns. I was trying to take on board the conversation with Littledave from the previous day about fear being all in our heads, as I know this is a lot of what limits my descending. It must have worked to some extent as I actually passed a few guys as I ran down off Moelwyn Bach. I had a very blonde moment as we searched for the next checkpoint as, when I glanced at my map briefly, I didn't realise that I had rotated it by 90degrees. That would explain why I ran halfway across the dam to the far side before realising and coming back to find the right "corner of the dam" and hence the dibber!

There was an interesting route decision to make after coming off the Moelwyns - it was a real dilemma for me, more than most people I expect. The suggested optimum route to the support point involved some navigation choices to find various tracks and paths but heading mainly south across rough ground. There appeared to be a considerably longer route that avoided all of this area and instead skirted around to the east by road. 

I knew that everybody expected me to go round by road, and I could see why, as I would cover the ground much quicker that way. It would also be a chance to just get on and run with a decent rhythm, but be able to refuel myself with food and drink. Very tempting.....very very tempting....but I was there for the whole off-road experience rather than just trying to get to the end as quickly as possible. It seemed more in keeping with the ethos of the event not to take what, for me, would be the easier option. 

Jonny and Sabrina fully understood why I made that choice and so we headed into the unknown together - well, we picked up and lost a few others along the way as we climbed, descended, ran on trails, bushwhacked, stumbled and generally fought our way through to the support point. The beauty of the scenery more than made up for my choice, though I would have preferred it on a slightly cooler day. Interestingly, somebody later told me that he'd picked a great route through and found lots of runnable trails without having to fight through grass tussocks, heather and bracken. 

When we got to the support point, I learned that Lizzie had chosen to go round by road (which actually surprised me as I hadn't thought of her as liking the tarmac) and in doing so had made up over half an hour!! Oh well, I'd made my decision and I was happy with it - it's not like I was going to be competing for a podium position or anything! 

It was so hot that I downed my bottle of Powerade as soon as we got there, and then sat down in the shade to eat my scones and cake....I would definitely have loved a nice cup of tea to wash them down!! Bottles refilled but all too soon Sabrina and Jonny were raring to go.
Running for the picture - credit Ian Corless

We started off on a nice trail/rocky path, making sure that we were running rather than walking as we passed Ian and his camera!! It was a bit of a blow to come to a dead end in front of a rocky outcrop, but it wasn't far to backtrack to another trail the skirted round it. A couple out walking in the hills told us that everybody ahead of us had made the same mistake, but they had thought it would have been "breaking the rules" to tell us before we went down the dead end path! 

It was a relief to get up on top of Rhinog Fawr as the breeze was nice and cooling - and although there was no obvious track marked on the map, we thought that as it seemed a popular area for walkers, we should be able to pick up a path to descend down to the coll and back up Rhinog Fach. Unfortunately that was not the case, and although we managed to descend OK, the climb up the other side was not so simple as we did not find any hint of a trail. To say that the way was almost blocked by heather would be rather an understatement. It felt like we were trying to ascend a near vertical slope pulling ourselves up by using the tough heather bushes and hanging on for dear life. I felt that if one bush gave way or my feet slipped then I would tumble a significant distance back down to the valley below....and they were rather "scratchy" on my battered legs from the previous day!! 

Just before gaining the summit, we did join a better path that appeared to have climbed up from the bottom - oh well, it's all about the journey........and we got there in the end, though it made the lake we skirted around later seem even more tempting for a quick dip. There had been a distinct lack of fast flowing water on the hills, so I was glad of the "emergency" purifying tablets which meant less stress about filling up from more dubious sources as the sun wasn't abating. 

I have to confess that I did start to feel rather grumpy as I felt that we weren't really working as a team - Sabrina and Jonny seemed to be bouncing the navigation off each other and not really including me in the discussions. I rationalised this by realising that I had said at the start that I wasn't overly confident in my skills, whereas they both appeared to be. My "reputation" as a road runner probably also made people doubt my map-reading and navigation. 

Nowhere was this more obvious than after leaving the last checkpoint. I thought we should double back on ourselves slightly to pick up a track heading down into the valley, but Sabrina confidently headed off running in a different direction. Being hot and tired, I presumed that my route was probably completely wrong and was happy to be advised by the others. Unfortunately on this occasion, it meant that we ended up almost off the map, making a massive detour and taking some considerable time trying to cross areas of both bogs and grass tussocks at waist height - not ideal, but at least we kept on moving forwards. 

Queuing for life-saving showers
Not only did Day 2 turn into an (almost) 12 hour day, but Shane had put in a sneaky sting in the tail. The last few kilometres were along a marked mandatory route which, from the map, looked like a pleasant road then forest track. Not even slightly.....there was a steep quad-busting descent on road and then the forest track wound up and down what seemed like interminable ascent and descents. Still, all was forgiven when we crossed the finish line and Shane greeted us with the twin surprises of an ice lolly and showers in the campsite!! 

After all that, I was actually 20th on Day 2 - and that's without going round by road, and taking the "more scenic" route at the end!!

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