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Cliff Bar 10 Peaks ultra

A familiar thought came to mind as i drove towards the start line of the Brecon 10 Peaks Ultra… ‘i am getting too old for this’ swiftly followed by lamentations for the warmth of the bed I had left behind.  I promised myself this will be the last endurance running event that I will do before retiring to take up more sedentary pursuits.

It was 5am and as I approached the Race HQ a procession of head torches was moving in the other direction.  These were runners on the Long Course, the understated title given to a 90km journey through the Brecon Beacons to the Black Mountain and back again (it almost sounds like a passage from JRR Tolkein novel).  My challenge for the day was the less onerous task of completing the Short Course, a 58km loop with 3000m of ascent which bags 10 peaks including the iconic Pen-y-Fan (see below).

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The Race HQ set the tone for the rest of the day with a well organised and friendly community of runners and race stewards making sure everyone set off with a spring in their step.

The route starts with a steady trot for a mile before the first climb starts towards the first checkpoint at Carn Pica.  My weapon, or rather shoe, of choice with the Inov8 X-talon 212 which has a tread that ideally suited to the mixture of mud and rock that characterises the going around the Brecon Beacons.  This turned out to be an inspired choice and I felt confident to ‘open up’ on the descents as the trainers offered plenty of stability.  The X-Talons also drain quickly after being plunged in to bogs and rivers, transitioning the feet from being saturated to comfortably damp!  A battle winning bonus when you are on your feet for a number of hours.  To assist with the climbing I wore compression calf socks to help stave off fatigue in the powerhouse climbing muscles.

The other noteworthy piece of apparel was the bright orange t-shirt that was kindly provided by Brocket Gear.  The weather conditions can change from benign to inhospitable in a matter of moments in the Brecon Beacons, so it was comforting for me (and those around) to be wearing what equates to a heli-marking panel throughout the race 😉 (whilst looking awesome the editor notes)

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Two hours in to the race the morning cloud cleared, leaving the runners to take in the most stunning of settings.  The route is well designed to take in the most spectacular parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  My buddy and I made steady progress fueled by a pouch full of Chia Charge flapjacks.  Nutrition is key to success in endurance events, however, I often find the usual offerings of energy bars a little too sickly.  These flap jacks provided a high energy yield and were pretty moorish (I have a guilty confession that I actually ate my spare one on the drive home that evening); perfect those moments when you can’t face the thought of another gel or decapitating another jelly baby!

The Storey Arms car park at the foot of the climb to the Corn Du peak represented the half-way point and a great point to ‘fuel-up’ on a cheeseburger from the local burger van.  Although over halfway in terms of distance, we had still only bagged 5 / 10 Peaks.  The next 5 would follow in swifter succession but only after a good deal more climbing as this section of the route contains 4 out of the  highest peaks on the route.  The route now runs along some of the more popular walking routes and the encouragement of the weekend rambling brigade was much appreciated.  After Pen-y-Fan (peak 6) the route becomes a series of short sharp climbs and descents before the final long descent back down to where it all began over 9 hours before.  As the Race HQ came back in to view, with the sun shining upon ‘God’s country’, I began to reconsider my earlier earlier promise to make this the last ultra; may be there are a few more events in the legs yet…and the Long Course does sound like a good one to get in to the CV…

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