The start of the fell weekend in Wales started out perfectly, hassle free drive to the campsite (less than 3 hours), quick and easy setup and a nice cool evening which meant we all had a good night’s sleep ready for the fell races to come. The morning of the Fan y Big Horseshoe started well, although it was extremely hot, even early in the morning. A quick shopping trip to Brecon to visit the local running shop, where even this far from the Island Les Cupis is a known legend with his picture pride of place above the stores steps leading to the lower floor. I was feeling quietly confident going into this longer 10 mile fell race, this confidence was soon dampened when Les and Nigel kindly pointed out in the distance the mountain we had to climb……as well as run 10 miles. Oh well I thought, it’s just a hill get over it!! During the race the first thing that hit me was the heat, this was the first time I have run with a hat and it was certainly needed as the sun was beating down on all us runners with little to no breeze to try and cool down. I was running quite well and had already decided that I would start walking once the big hills start to try and conserve a little energy for the descent. The ascent to the summit, 2200 feet was a long and arduous journey, not unlike what Frodo had to undertake to take the ring to Mount Doom and just like Frodo who had his friends to help in on the way I had my own little guardian angel looking after me. After ascending the 2200 feet and starting the decent, I heard a little voice behind me saying “slow down, you still have 3 miles to go”. Thinking that clearly the heat has got to me as I’m hearing voices, I turned around to see Trevor just behind me. Considering his experience in fell runs and how evenly matched we seem to be we quickly decided to complete the final 3 miles together, helping push each other along. Eventually the end was in sight and all I could remember at this point, besides really needing a drink was the river that the runners use to cool down at the end. Looking down at the river was just a sea of exhausted runners all sitting, chatting away discussing their adventures down the mountain.
The following day brought another, much larger challenge…. finding the start. With Les (driving), myself, Trevor and Elaine in the car you would thinking finding the start of the next race would have been simple, especially with 3 of them having done the race before but no, we got lost. With some directions from some locals, and some excellent rally driving by Les we made the start line 5 minutes overdue but luckily were still able to register for the race. This was the one race I was not looking forward too, you could say it was making me a tad scared. Having only done 2 fell races prior to this weekend, this was the one race that Nigel Eldridge said would introduce me to proper fell racing. Being a shorter 3.7 mile run the ascent would be much sharper, around 2800 feet I think, but that was not the bit that worried me. The stories I was being told by Andy, Rosie, Les, Trevor, Nigel and Elaine about the descent from the top had me worried the most, knowing it was not marked and you are free to find your own way down had me worried as my sense of direction is not the best as my wife will attest too. Anyway, we were all lined up at the start and speaking to many of the other fell runners around me they all seemed really surprised that us Ryde Harriers were doing both fell races this weekend and that many of them choose to do either one or the other. I did not let this affect me as I already knew that Ryde Harriers are a hardcore group of elite runners that do far more than normal humans should do. As we made our war from the start one of our youngest stars of Ryde harriers, Jimi Eldridge ran alongside me looking strong, saying to me that this was the section of the run he dislikes, then soon ran ahead as if he had a bungie attached between him and the summit. The route to the top was long and hard but at this point I had decided to walk to the top and treat it a little like a hiker on holiday. This allowed me time to take some pictures and videos of me ascending to the summit, which will hopefully be available on our Facebook page by the time you read this. Once at the summit the view was spectacular and even that word does not do it justice and makes all the effort, pain, exhaustion worth it. Then it was the descent to the finish line, knowing what everyone had said to me, I had two options, take it slowly and easy sitting on my bottom and casually make my way down the mountain. Then there was the second option and
really the only one open to a Ryde Harrier, go down as fast as you can without giving much thought to your health and safety. As I descended the mountain I spotted both Elain and Trevor making their descent, at this time probably a bit more sensibly than myself but hey it was working so far. I passed both Elaine and Trevor just before the descent started to level out, then it suddenly hit me…. OH NO JELLY LEGS! Running down the mountain had took a lot out of my quads, using muscles I never thought I had only for when I thought it would get easier my legs turned to jelly and thought they would just give up. Again, my guardian angel came to my rescue, as Trevor came up beside me we again made the decision to run to the finish together. Although we were running in together, we had another fell runner just behind us which had us both sprinting pushing each other on the last half mile not wanting to let him past. Then that was it. Two fell races in two days with some amazing Ryde Harriers it was time to head back to the sunny Isle of Wight, but I will not forget this experience for a long time. I would encourage as many of you as possible to come away on these weekends and have these experiences, regardless of how fast or slow you think you are there are always others like you. I have done so much in such a short time and had many great times running with my friends in Ryde Harriers but this weekend was special, not just because of the races themselves but also the stunning countryside of Wales and of course the simply amazing people I get to run with.