25 Mar 2009

Grizzly 09 race report

For those who have not heard of it The Grizzly is a multi-terrain race of about 20 miles (the route and distance vary a bit each year), it runs between Seaton, Beer and Branscombe in East Devon. When they say multi-terrain it means stretches of road and muddy country lane, woods, pebble beach, rivers, cliff path and the infamous bog.

I set off towards the back of a field of about 1500 runners. The first mile was along the sea front at Seaton, which is a nice ankle turning slope of pebbles, about half way along I started to walk, not a good sign. My aim was to get round between 4 ½ and 5 hours, so I set my self a schedule of 12 minutes per mile for the first half and 15 minutes for the second half.

The first section after the beach loop heads up the hill out of Seaton and then down into Beer. We now reached the first bit of off road as the route follows the coastal path onto the cliff path. Down a steep track (ahh my knees) to Branscombe. We now reach the first interesting section as the route follows the course of the river, (yes in the river) across the beach to the Mason Arms. Lots of support outside the pub, no you cannot stop for a pint.

After about 10 miles I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule, but by then I had only walked up a couple of steep hills and more was to come.

At about 12 miles we reached the bog, if you did not know it was coming you can tell by the screams of disgust and delight from the runners who were already in it. People general took 2 approaches; negotiate your way around the edge trying to keep out of the deepest bits or go straight through. The second option, which I went for, guarantees mud up to thigh level and the chance of getting stuck, but people are very friendly and stop to help pull each other out. Photo on the right is courtesy of James Pyne Event Photography.

After the bog you make your way out to the coast path again and down to Brancsombe. What followed was the worst bit for me, along the beach and then up what seemed like an endless series of steps. At the top one of the many motivational signs informs you that you have just been up the “Stairway to Heaven”. I did pass a couple of people sitting on the steps looking out to sea wondering why they even stated this game.

All the way along the route there is great support from very vocal spectators, 2 pipers (both in kilts), steel band, jazz band, and folk music.

In the end I finished in 4 hours 36 minutes, happy, muddy and tired.

Would I do it again? Well I definitely would but my calves need convincing … give them time.

Thanks to Axe Valley Runners for organising a great race.

17 Mar 2009

Black Mountains

We left Dorset early Saturday morning and arrived in Abergavenny at 8:30. I was delighted to see the Grecos Italian cafe was still there, the last time I visited was about 17 years ago. However Grecos was closed so we went on to the market and had a great breakfast roll and tea to set us up for the day.

We drove on to Cwmyoy, and after a bit of tour of this steep hillside village found a spot to park. Setting off up the Cwm Iau we soon reached the slopes of Hatterrall Hill and the chatting stopped. Once on the top we joined the wide path north along the ridge. This part of our walk followed Offa's Dyke path for a long way so the track was well worn and even in February we saw a few people out.

We sat down for lunch looking over into Wales and the other ridges of the Black Mountains. The day was slightly overcast and misty but we could see across to Rhos Dirion. We continued along the ridge with great views into Mercia (if we are talking in Offa terms) over Black Hill.

At Hay Bluff, the end of the ridge, we turned east and dropped to Gospel Pass. After the climb to Twmpa we started to make our way down through some rough boggy ground to Grwyne Fawr. We reached the bothy as it was getting dark and quickly made ourselves comfortable. Well as comfortable as 3 men can be in a large shed, very.

The next morning, starting in the mist, we headed down the valley. As we got past the dam patches of sunlight hit the hills around us. After the car park in the Mynydd Du Forest we climbed back over the ridge into a beautiful sky. The path down to road zigzagged through the woods and took a wrong turn ending up fighting down a disused path to get to the road below Cwmyoy.

In terms of kit I used both of my stoves; the Pocket Rocket and my new White Box stove. It was great to have two stoves in the bothy as there were 3 of us it meant we could make drinks and food at the same time However I think I need to be a bit more careful with the White box as it did not appreciate having a pan with a wet base plonked on top of it. Definitely a success but some practise needed.