Ponderosa fell race

After I mucked my preparation up for Trail Marathon Wales, I really wanted to get some speed back into my legs. And so, shorter faster races are something I wanted to get my teeth into.

I’ve still got an Ultra in September, so I’m trying to keep the miles up and do speed work.

Ponderosa Fell race fitted with the plan of short and fast, without it being a road race, which I don’t really enjoy those at all. It’s organised by Wrexham Road Runners and draws runners from quite a wide area.

At 6.4km and 289m of ascent, it is a category BS fell race, and really is more of a hilly trail race. It’s a great place to start on fell running, or as I wanted something to go and really push myself on to get some focus on pace.

It starts at 7pm, and this year on a Wednesday, from the top of the Horseshoe Pass near Llangollen. The Ponderosa cafe car park is the starting point, so it’s easy to find and plenty of parking. Sadly the cafe wasn’t open, so there were no facilities to support the 100 or so people that this event attracts.

Aerial at the top of the climb - photo credit Charles Ashley
Aerial at the top of the climb – photo credit Charles Ashley

Registration done, the start is only a few hundred metres away on the vehicle access track to the aerials on top of the hill. 

As with most fell races, the startline was informal and friendly, and the briefing quick and concise. With a quick “off you go” we were away, pretty much dead on 7pm.

The wide open track gave everyone a chance to settle into their stride, and find a place in the pack. This year, due to a bee hive or two, there was a short diversion off into the heather about two thirds of the way up the climb. This was all runnable, but very slow. Back out on to the track, for the final and steepest part of the climb to the aerial.

At this point I was breathing pretty hard, but felt ok. The marshalls ushered us right, round onto the single track path that descends slowly off to the right of the aerial. This section is very difficult to overtake on, with heather and small bushes keeping most runners fairly central. I was pushing my descent here, and normally where I’d try and recover downhill, I was keeping my breathing working hard.

After about 1.5km the track turns back alongside a barbed wire fence, on to initially, an even harder piece of trail to overtake on. This section is fast running, it slowly widens and heather gives way to bracken, the narrow rut gives way to a grass path and the running is technically easier. There are a few soft pieces of trail, no more than 10 metres in length, where some commitment can give a chance to overtake. I’d imagine if this was run after heavy rain, this section would be incredibly boggy! There is one very narrow section where I sheep has eroded a sleeping place, definitely need to stay right here! This soft section ends at a small stream crossing. 

A very short climb puts you onto some slightly broader trail, without the cross slope. This winds and undulates over to where the race joins the Clwydian way. This is a very firm track, and really enjoyable running. That has a couple of lovely descents that are lots of fun, and justify the climb at the beginning.

This ends where the path passes a house, with a small bridge, and the route briefly joins tarmac before the final climb to the finish. This section is the wettest, and most deceptive part of the race. It is 500m long with about 90m of climb. I was blowing hard and trying to stay running, but failed at two points. One chap stopped for a messy vomit, and I managed to keep working hard to run in to the finish.

The results take a while to come out, so I will update when they’re released, but I was definitely over 30 minutes.

The finish line was friendly, with water and category wins getting bottles of wine. There had been a few bee stings, and some quite epic stories around that, especially Lucie, for which this was the first club run. The newest member of Meirionnydd, Rachael) managed to land first senior lady.

Meirionny #Runfie - photo credit Elly Dee!
Meirionny #Runfie – photo credit Elly Dee!

Back to the car park for a Meirionnydd Running Club #runfie and iced bun (Thanks Sandra!) before the drive home.

A massive thanks to the organiser and all the marshalls who put the race on, it’s terrific.

If you’re thinking about a first time mid week fell race in North Wales for next year, Ponderosa should be on your list.