After riding some new routes around the area 18months ago, I was keen to get back and ride them in better weather. When Pete took me out ‘prospecting’ the weather was never a consideration, but good conditions make such a difference to riding off the beaten path.
Andy Braund, the mountain bike ranger in the Coed y Brenin area joined me for what I was sure would be a route I could remember.
We both left home in good conditions before meeting in Aberangell to faff our way on to the first climb. Unfortunately for Andy getting changed was a bit of a busmans holiday as we were asked by a bunch of off road motocyclists about where the “park” was. Illegal off road riding is a major issue in the area, partly due to the history of the forest being involved with lots of motorsport events, and partly because it is an uninhabited, attractive place to ride.
Dark clouds built as we got ready to leave, and after a few hundred metres the rain started to fall. There isn’t much chance to warm up before climbing off the valley floor and up a tarmac road that becomes a farm track that becomes open farmland. We were chatting away about heaps of stuff, so much that Andy forgot to turn his Garmin on.
At the top of the climb we joined a track that Andy recognised from the Dyfi Enduro and we went onto the first descent of the day. I picked up my first ‘off’ here as I was trying to remember the route not noticing some off camber strata that in the wet was happy to tuck my front wheel. The next section started to steepen with some riding, that in the dry would be quick and airy. A quick navovation stop to check where the bridleway went, before following a fire trail to a dead end and a puncture (mine). A quick tube change, chat about public sector mergers and the fact it stopped raining before a good half hour hunt the bridleway session. As with a lot of Rights of Way in remote areas, what is on the map isn’t what is on the ground. Eventually we decided to chase fire roads and climbed up and out of the forest on a lovely track across high moorland.
Before heading down the contours we had a quick chat about previous lives over a muesli bar. This next descent is a hidden gem, and is exactly my kind of riding. By the end of this track Andy and I were level pegging on the falling off stakes. Cross the Dulas before a short climb on tar to get back in the forest. Climbing up on fire road, I threw Pete’s gauntlet down, a technical singletrack climb that Pete hadn’t “cleaned”. Andy took a run up, but changing cross cambers and steep gradient soon claimed a bit of walking. The top of this climb resulted in another missing bridleway, but we were wise to this and span round, to meet the other end, on a fire road.
A piece of single track, no more than two tyre widths leads steeply downhill from here. This section, if you have the right head on, is the most giggles per metre of the route. Lots of offs, lots of slides, lots of axle deep ruts. After some bushwhacking and a seriously steep (unrideable for us) rock drop off at the end we regained a fire road. As we started to freewheel we started talking about the cut shins we were sporting, and how that used to be the mark of a biker in the 90’s. A bit different to todays groomed trails.
I got two recommendations-do the Dyfi Enduro, and join Strava. I’ve done one we’ll see about thenother!
A great day out, not quality mountain biking in terms of speed, but it is exactly the sort of adventurous biking that lead to the development of trail centres. We both enjoyed doing something different, getting back into to groove of navigating rather than following posts and just enjoying a ride in a stunning area.
Really, really looking forward to seeing Pete’s guidebook in print, routes like these are special, and should be shared!
Today was Trail Marathon Wales, held in Coed y Brenin. I was a little apprehensive about the race, my injury has meant I haven’t put in the miles I really wanted to.
The last few days have been really wet in South Snowdonia. The rivers have been up and kayaking has been really appealing.
Coed y Brenin is great for events, loads of parking, good facilities and a great setting. The guys and girls have obviously worked hard to get loads into the event and done lots of planning. It shows. Foresty Commission Wales did a great job of parking people, and despite registration and the safety briefing being a bit delayed, the gamekeeper loosed off a shell from his 12 bore to start the race almost exactly on time.
There had been a late route change, mainly due to the exposed slopes outside of CyB being soggy (under water). It meant a small repetition of the route for the full Marathon, but the course was so good that it made no difference. I was expecting the second lap to be pretty cut up where it had been shared with the half marathon course but, all in all, it was in good shape.
All the race numbers had first names on them; this meant that South Snowdonia Mountain Rescue and the marshalls would give a welcoming shout to people. Can’t fault the volunteers involved in providing support. The feed stations were well spaced, stocked with a variety of Electrolyte, Carbo gel, Banana’s, Jelly babies (my favourite) and water.
If there is any doubt that this isn’t a road race check out my elevation profile from today, just over 1200m of ascent meant pacing was important.
Whilst I can’t fault the feed stations, I can fault my use of them. Lack of conditioning meant that I didn’t take on enough electrolyte early on and that, with the up and down meant a brutal onset of leg cramp around mile 20. I never got my rhythm back from that but did have a nice chat with a few runners from Eryri, Cerist Tri and other clubs all struggling with the same problem.
Crossing the line was a great experience, the technology meant that nearly every runner was encouraged over the line by full name over the radio mike- iPad and data tags on the back of the numbers, great stuff.
I picked up my bottle, wooden medal and flapjack-lots of goodies at registration (T shirt, socks, energy gel, etc..) Had a natter with a few friends and then made a move to get home.
Admittedly, my drive home isn’t too far, but getting a text as soon as there was reception with my placing and time was great and I’m sure those with a longer journey would have really appreciated it.
Impressions of this as a first time running the event? Brilliant.
A massive thank you to Matt Ward and all the people involved from Forestry Commission Wales and Meirionnydd Running Club. The volunteers, the sponsors the SSMR team all did a great job and it was great to run in the inaugral event. I hope it will build and build. It should get a reputation as a very special, if tough, trail race.
Well done all, organisers, supporters and runners.
Given what could have gone wrong for me today, I’m pretty pleased with my finish. It was supposed to be a training run, and to be fair, it probably was. In amongst a field of racing whippets, as a 90kg recently injured runner, I was pretty pleased with the result.
Bring on next year!
Work has been cycling up with a good bit on recently, the World Cup in Cardiff that starts tomorrow is taking everyone’s time up, but it is an amazing event to have in Wales. I had a break from my normal job, last week with the Mawddach Paddlefest. It’s really good to see so many happy faces on the water. And the weather came good, with the wind dying out on Sunday for some stand up paddleboard action.
The chart above shows the big dip in hours spent training since tearing my calf muscle. I’ve taken my eye off the challenge of 2012 miles in 2012. So I thought that as the end of a month has passed, I should have a quick check of how far behind I am. Whilst I’ve been doing my rehab, I haven’t been logging my miles too diligently, but I’m at 493miles so far. That means I need to fire some miles out over the next few months, while the weather is good to stand any chance of getting there.
Silly things like minor injuries are a real annoyance, but the don’t stop me getting out.