Trail head marker
Trail head marker

It was a simple idea, run all the waymarked trails in Coed y Brenin in one go. I felt quite rested, though in retrospect, a couple of quick hard runs earlier in the week and heading up Snowdon the day before wasn’t the smartest idea!

The trail head marker doesn’t yet have the demo loop, which is an extra mile or so.

To make the mental side a bit easier I started with longest and worked backwards. I knew it was always going to be touch looping back through the visitor centre.

I haven’t done a “long” run in a while, so knew that the last 20km or so were going to be hard, but I figured the first day of spring would be a great day to start early and put the segment down on Strava.

I kicked off from the Car Park at about 08:30, carrying everything that I needed, with the hope that I would only need to top water up on the way round.

The very start of the first lap on half marathon
The very start of the first lap on half marathon

For the first time I was running with my recently acquired Salomon Hydro Vest. Which also meant that I would add in a phone to take some pics on the way around.

Food wise I was going for the old faithfuls, a pack of fig rolls, an emergency pack of Jelly Babies and some TORQ fuel mixed into the flexi bottles in the vest.

I also had a thermal layer, my normal trail first aid kit, bivvy bag and a head torch that I hoped I wouldn’t need starting so early.

The air temperature was pretty chilly so I was buffed up and had a pertex jacket on. I thought I’d be needing to shed this early on, ish.

The sky was cloudless and after a few dry and bright days, the trail was starting to firm up, a bit.

Half Marathon route high point
Half Marathon route high point

I set off at a very leisurely pace, I really didn’t know how I’d get on later, so I figured that going easy at the outset was a good plan. I could always go back and push the pace another time.

I’d decided I’d stick to the waymarked route. The race route varies in places, but the idea was to put the “Grand Slam” together for the waymarked trails.

It wasn’t long before the route wound it’s way up and over one river, and then up to a lovely descent down to the Afon Wen.  Judging by the selfie at the top, my  leisurely might have been a bit pushy. I’d taken the Buff off, but in the shade the air temp was still pretty low, so kept my jacket on.

I was getting the use of the vest dialled in, I found I could get everything in and out without taking it off, making it so much better than a rucksack. The middle zipped storage wouldn’t be accessible but I had organised everything I needed around my waist, so all that was good to go, and the flexi bottle are easy to drink from without taking the bottle out of the pouches.

I wasn’t pushing the descents either, but just enjoying bimbling along the trails. It looks like the storm damage at Ceunant Hyll is being cleared – I can’t wait for this to re-open, I love it over there!

Into T’yn y Groes I needed to make use of the toilets there, and everything felt, well, better for it. I topped off one 500ml bottle, I guess I’d drunk about 350ml in the first 15km. The next section has the infamous “sting in the tail” and I chose to not fight the hills, and walked the steepest bits.

GoldRush, single track goodness
GoldRush, single track goodness

A really gentle run into the visitor centre and across the half marathon line in 2:12:20. I just turned left and headed out onto the GoldRush. I’d run this earlier in the week in a PB of 67 mins, and things felt good still. I’d planned to eat a figroll on a short tarmac section about halfway and just got on with running at a really comfortable,  not hard rate. I was thinking 1:30 would be about right for today.

The GoldRush has just beautiful single track running and is probably my favourite waymarked trail in Coed y Brenin, it just has the right amount of everything.

I started drinking more consistently on the descent to the Mawddach as I was starting to feel the start of having sweated hard on the way round the half.

It still hadn’t warmed up in the shade enough for me to take my jacket off, but that meant I was losing a lot of fluid.

Snaking up Sarn Helen Hir
Snaking up Sarn Helen Hir

There is a steep little climb after crossing the bridge on the Mawddach. here I chose to walk a little and have a fig roll early. I could feel my legs tiring and wanted to keep a bit of food going in. Otherwise all was good, I was moving easily, though not quickly and enjoying the blue skies. On the run back into the Visitor Centre I could definitely feel my legs getting uncomfortable and took on a bit more water to see if I could rescue them a bit. I had planned to top my bottles off in the Visitors Centre anyway so got the rest on board. That made just over a litre of water, which for 35ish km was about right.  1:33:27 for the GoldRush, not too bad with the picking up more water.

A quick trip into the centre, and out again on to Sarn Helen Hir (Long). The “run” out along the switchback slope was a definite shuffle this time. But, I kept moving. On the climb up alongside Cefndeudwr, I felt the lactic smash into my quads, and so eased right back. This was going to be a really hard end to the run.


Bridge over the Gain.
Bridge over the Gain.

The weather and view of the Rhinog kept me moving, albeit slowly, on the section that climbs round towards the Afon Gain. Crossing the main stone bridge, I just felt the wheels come off. This climb is quite gentle, and normally I’d be happy to run it at a good pace. This was not happening today, at all!

I ran passed a couple sat on some tree stumps, topping off their soup, tucking into some fruit cake and Wensleydale. In comparison, I was in a world of pain.

Whether it was too much earlier in the week, not enough miles in my legs, or something else wasn’t really a comfort. This was hurting.

The climb up to Sarn Helen, was not pretty. I broke out the emergency Jelly Babies, grabbed three, had some water and waited for the sugar rush.

On Sarn Helen the run back to the Visitor Centre wasn’t terrible, just a little sore and shuffly. Quite nice to see some walkers, it made me stand up, get my hips under me and run. Before then returning to shuffling pretty soon after!

Sarn Helen Byr (short) waymark
Sarn Helen Byr (short) waymark

A quick chat with a chap who was lost on his Cyclocross bike, and re-orientated him, and then it was back onto the centre. An hour and 12 minutes for the Sarn Helen, this is where I can take some serious time off the overall time!

It was definitely head down, bum up for this lap. It wasn’t quick, all the climbs were really painful. The flats were shufflable, but this was now really unpleasant. 

Over the high point on the trail and shuffling back to the visitor centre. I spend most of this km thinking about whether the overall run would be 50km if it included the Demo Loop.

I decided it was going to be really close. Good enough.

I finished the 5km trail in 45 minutes, a far cry from a 20 minute park run a fortnight ago!

The Demo Loop is a small loop that heads up the switch back slope, turns right on Sarn Helen and then loops back down an orienteering path back to the visitor centre.

It’s just over a 1.7km. 15 minutes, it took me, but it put me over the final loop and a finish. This loop will be waymarked soon!

Into Run. Coed y Brenin just in time to watch the last few minutes of the Welsh Six Nations match, have a natter with Sandra, and generally feel pretty broken.

I really enjoyed it, on reflection, I know I’m not too good on my long distance stamina at the moment, so it gives me something to aim for. There is now a Strava segment (#CyBGrandSlam) so someone else will no doubt take the KOM, but being able to see progress on this will be really good for me building towards Ring O’ Fire later in the year.

It’s a great route, and if you like a bit of Ultra distance, I fully recommend having a go.


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