Another LDWA event and a route that I’ve run solo in the past. It’s a pretty awesome trek through the Welsh valleys with 5 big climbs of circa 1,000′ each – and then lots of runnable descents. Along with the Rhondda Rollercoaster route this one is an absolute classic and one I couldn’t pass by – especially as it’s cheap as chips and fully supported by the LDWA with more food and enthusiasm than is legal.
I’d pondered about starting a few times – the weather was good and an alternative 35-mile recce of the start of Offas Dyke was a viable alternative but eventually the lure of the LDWA support got to me. I’d decided to use public transport to get to the start again so was up at 05:30 and shambled via train and bus to Machen. While sorting out my pack an old mate Russell sat next to me and asked if I’d done it before, he hadn’t recognised me so I set him right and we had a bit of a catchup.
We set off at 09:00 and the racing snakes including Mark Palmer, Katie Beecher and Dominic Pascoe zoomed off into the distance! I had no plans other than to have a nice, easy run so settled into that pace. Soon enough I found myself in a trio with Russ and Anthony from Bridgend – it was cloudy/foggy so we stuck together and passed fairly easily through the first couple of checkpoints while shooting the breeze.
We were running well, and into CP3 at 17 miles in under 4 hours where I left Russ and Anthony and headed off on my own. I knew the next hill was a killer and wanted to get it done… I’d had a “beetroot and cream cheese” sandwich at the CP which was a gamble but it seemed to get me up that hill. I’d found a lost “tally” card just after CP3 for a “Callissa Cafull” so now my mission was to re-unite that tally with the runner. I headed off up the nightmare hill and started passing people asking if they were the mystery runner. Somehow I felt “Callissa” was a female name – so the first few groups of men were suitable amused when I asked “are you Callissa?”
Time and miles ticked by until eventually I got to the shooting range where, quite unnervingly we had to pass right behind the target area. I caught-up to a couple of walkers and asked if there was a “Callissa” and guess what – there was! She was so grateful that I’d found the tally card – it really was a nice moment.
A bit more focus got me to the final CP and then there’s just one big hill to climb to the finish. Last time I did this route I’d missed a turn on the final climb and messed up big-time so was really concentrating on getting the right line through the forestry section and nailed the line I’d missed previously. By this point I was running pretty low on energy and looking forward to finishing. The final few miles are a bit of a grind which start on a rocky undulating track, then the final descent starts which is grassy at first and then moves onto the road for a leg-busting final descent into Machen. It should be runnable at 5-6 min/mile pace, but after nearly 6,000′ of ascent and 27-28 miles, it hurts!
So, I finished in 6:20 and in 10th place out of around 100 starters, I’m not going to complain about that all things considered. It’s an absolutely awesome route, a pity it was cloudy early on so the views were obscured. The South Wales LDWA group really do have some classic routes – very highly recommended to anyone who loves hills, trails and of course – cream cheese and beetroot sandwiches!