For me, this weekend was huge and an opportunity not to miss. I did, with great pride,represent my home county of Suffolk at the 2015 Inter Counties Fell Championships in Betwys-y-Coed.
Being relatively new to running and coming from a county which is very much flat, I had never heard of fell running until we moved to Yorkshire.
My first fell race, Withens Skyline, was in the Autum of 2013 and I immediately fell in love with the sport even if it was a shock to the system.
This year I became a member of the FRA and while reading the 2015 handbook i discovered there were inter county fell championships each year. I looked through some of the old results and realised my home county Suffolk was not represented in fell running.
Seeing an opportunity, I sent the Suffolk County Athletics Association an email and was given the agreement for me to represent Suffolk in the coming inter counties fell champs race and with that I obtained my Suffolk vest.
In the following months I knuckled down and I focused on hill training with a little speed training thrown in under the watchful eye of coach Jamil Parapia and the Duma Running Team.
With my final training session completed (flat out hill pyramids followed by a tempo mile) it was time to pack and travel to Wales. We had booked a cottage for three nights, just 3 miles from Betwys-y-Coed, and traveled down on Thursday afternoon.
The journey down was uneventful and with just under 3 hrs of driving we had arrived. We soon settled into the lovely quite and cosy cottage (http://mobile.ownersdirect.co.uk/Property.aspx?token=aWQ9MTA2MDYz&h=TozCsUuNTs9Nbp3v4oJZJA%3d%3d)
I can really recommend the cottage, just perfect and in a fantastic location. Oh and reasonably priced.
After a hearty family breakfast we traveled to Betwys-y-Coed so I could recce part of the course. I wanted to see what under foot conditions were like to aid in shoe choose. Early track indications hinted towards trail shoes. However, The route ventures off the hard track to more technical conditions.
Having seen the more rugged conditions I decided to opt for my fell shoes. Retracing my steps I met up with Elaine and Niamh again and we had a look around the small beautiful village.
Niamh was on about to mountains so we decided to travel to Llanberis in order to get the train to the summit of Snowdon. Howeve we found there was a three hour wait until the next available train, so like true English people we had lunch and waited patiently.
Finally it was our time, we boarded the train only to be told that the wind speeds were too high inorder for the train to go to the summit. We were told the train would only go as far as Rocky Valley, great!!! Waited three hours and we can’t get to the top, but we would get £6 back per ticket!!
Having waited we decided to take the train ride up and back down. The views were amazing although the train seats were not very comfortable. Niamh made friend with a retired couple and we enjoyed our time in Llanberis.
Traveled back to the cottage for tea and a relaxing evening of film watching.
It was finally here!! Race day. Following a good energy rich breakfast and half a pot of coffee we headed off to Betwys-y-Coed nice and early. Knowing parking could be a challenge and not wanting to rush we allowed plenty of time.
The senior men’s race was at 1300 and as we arrived just before 1130 we had plenty of time to look around. I went up to the finish area to collect my race number and discovered no kit was needed, not even checked !!
Time managed to go quickly and soon there was only 30mins to the off. I made sure I did a good warm up and stretch and with a kiss to Elaine and Niamh I went to the start line where I chatted to fellow runners including Tom Adams from Ilkley Harriers.
The course took runners from the start and finish areas in the picturesque village of Betws-Y-Coed around nearby Forestry in the Snowdonia National Park. The route used a course similar to the ones that will be used for the World Mountain Running Championships that take place at the same venue in September 2015.
I think there were about 90 of us on the start line, although this was also an open race, there were not many non county vests. I soon realised I was very likely to finish last, but I was here and I was going to enjoy it as much as possible.
Straight from the off the route climbs and climbs and climbs for the first mile. The men’s start was further down the hill towards the river and we had to run past the finish line.
With lots clapping and cheering we zig zag our way up the hill. Once off the track and onto the rough steep hill I soon lost sight of the other runners and settled into my own race.
There were three brutal climbs in the race totalling a total elevation gain of 1700 feet.
After the first mile the course moves into an undulating section (in comparison to the rest of the route) which leads to the Marian mountain bike trail. This was one of the highlights of the route, the section was undulating, technical in places and twisty which made for perfect trail running.
Following the Marian trail the route headed downwards and some relief for the calf muscles and time for the quads to burn. There were plenty of rocks and tree roots to negotiate with patches mud thrown in for good measure but fast descending was possible.
Just when the legs were recovering from the first climb, we were sent on the extension to the first lap. This extension was tough and took us on the steepest part of the race. With hands on knees and the occasional scramble the course looped back up to the top of the Marian trail and back onto the normal loop. From here it was mainly all down hill to the finish area.
Just before the final section leading to the finish area I was greeted with claps and cheers from Elaine and Niamh and a team manager from Devon gave me a bottle or water which was welcomed.
From here I ran past Eileen Woodhead who offered words of encouragement while taking photos.
By the time I had reached the finish area I had been lapped and the leaders had already finished. The finish area was off to the left but I headed right to start my second lap.
My legs and lungs asking what the hell I was doing, I could see the finished runners rehydrating and enjoying a chat. But I ploughed on and started my second lap. This lap was the same at the first, without the extension, but with tired legs seemed harder than the first.
The final descent was more enjoyable than first time round as I knew it lead to the finish line. Onto the final session I could hear the PA system getting louder and before I know it the finish was in sight. Running past a cheering Elaine and Niamh I pushed on to the finish line just in time to see the presentations.
Upon crossing the line I was handed a welcomed bottle of water and received handshakes of congratulations from the lead guys, it was especially nice when Tom Adams came over to congratulate me also.
Yes I came last, but in reality I was never going to finish anywhere else. The class of runner on display today was awesome and I was proud to be part of it representing my home county. I finished in a time of 1:44:02.
The winner of the senior men’s race was Andrew Douglas from Scotlend West in a time of 45:26. The winner of the senior ladies race (slightly shorter route with no extended session) was Emma Clayton from Yorkshire in 40:29.
The winning senior men’s team was Yorkshire while the winning senior ladies team was Cumbria.
I met up with Elaine and Niamh and the three of us went and enjoyed an ice cream before heading back to the cottage.
After a freshen up we visited the local supermarked for a few supplies before returning back to the cottage for sausage, egg and chips.
The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and enjoying the quiet cottage before bed.
Post race day
Following an excellent nights sleep I woke around 0700hrs. It was time to pack up and head for home (needed to be out for 1000). Visited Pistyll Rhaeadr on route home which was a nice way to finish off the weekend.
What a weekend!! I could not have asked for any more. We had found a little gem of a cottage to stay in, gorgeous part of Wales, spot on weather and a fantastic fell race. I will certinally remember this weekend for a few years to come.
Back to training on Tuesday and next race will be the wharfedale half marathon (off road).