Trail Marathon Wales – Full & Half – 17.6.17

Reading my race reports is very much like a guide to marathon running…  Reading back over them you could glean a lot of information on silly errors and mistakes and if you avoid them how much better your marathon running experience could be.

Maybe I too could learn from my mistakes and have the perfect marathon experience? Would Trail Marathon Wales (TMW) be the one?

After seeing a top (Mary loves a hoody) saying Troll Marathon Mary was desperate to run it…  After getting her to put her glasses on and explaining the logo and rereading the 2016 top a number of times, she understood it was actually Trail rather than Troll.  The confusion over the name made TMW entry a great Christmas present for Mary.

Learning from my mistakes from Beachy Head I did some research and actually knew that the race was on a Saturday – we would miss parkrun 🙁  – and that it was a very hilly race!  I even went as far as entering the ½ marathon in January which formed part of the course for the full and found a suitable hotel at a reasonable price so we could have a leisurely start.  This is true preparation.

However it was not to be… Beth was on a foreign residential trip all week and wasn’t due to return until 11pm on the Friday night! I suggested that we let my father-in-law collect her so we could go early – but either she was worried about her dad driving late or making sure that Beth returned from Spain safely,  that meant that we would collect, drop off, and return home the evening before the marathon and start with a very early drive to the race!  A 4:30 alarm call…  We needed to arrive in Wales by 8am.

Using the time waiting to collect Beth I used my comprehensive marathon check list to pack.  After my slight error at the Indy run I even put three pairs of running shoes (trail and non trail) in the car the night before.  Had my kit laid out with HRM, race and post run bag all ready to go and my Garmin was on charge.  I had even made up my hydration bottles and electrolyte drink for the journey the night before. This would be a smooth affair.

At 5:15 we were on our way – Belvitta Biscuits and a baby food style porridge driving breakfast was the order of the day.  After her snack Mary dozed in the passenger seat as I drove the 140miles to Coed-Y-Brenin.

We arrived in plenty of time to register, attach numbers and wipe down any exposed skin with bug wipes…  We were warned that the midges were dreadful and that we needed to take precautions running in the forest.

Even though it was warm, the sky was blue and I had sun cream in my pack I thought running through the woods I would be fine without it.

It was only when I went to put on my HRM that I realised what I had forgotten this time…  My Garmin!  Left on charge at home.  After a little wobble, I realised that people have run without GPS for years, it helps pace you but really isn’t necessary and it would still count even if it wasn’t on Garmin Connect.  Or at least I told myself that.

So making our way to the start for the safety briefing we met up with Natalie (Full) and had a quick group picture (sorry Joanne we didn’t see you) taken by Cathy (sensibly doing the half) before the off.

For the last month Mary has been out on a mission to set PBs and has managed to set 4 on the roads at different distances (5km, 5mile, 10km and Marathon) but under coach advise (me) and realising she had done no trail training for the race her ‘Go out hard’ attitude had been set aside and replaced with a ‘Enjoy the run and notch up another marathon’ approach.

With the shot of a rifle the race started, hoards of runners streamed off uphill.  The wide path quickly turned into a narrow woodland pass – just wide enough for two,  the pace slowed to a walk – perfect for preserving energy.

No sooner had the first mile passed than we left the woods to run on woodland roads used for logging.  Around these the fall trees had been felled into piles – the woodland canopy gone.  Flesh now exposed to the searing heat of the sun.  Very quickly I regretted not applying sun cream – what a rookie mistake.

As the heat rose I knew that unless I wanted to use the mountain rescue team our race strategy would be to go out sensibly and to use all the cut off times to make sure that we made it round safely –   3:35 for ½ way, 5:30 for 20miles.

The path didn’t undulate around the route it plummeted and sored, in and out of the woods.  At the heights beautiful views of Snowdon National park were seen, from the depth of the valley rushing water of rivers and waterfalls could be heard and seen form the bridges.  In fact at one selfie stop Natalie caught up with us and joined in the picture.

For a while the three of us ran as a tight Massey pack.  Passing a GOFAL sign – not Go Fall but welsh for care – at 7miles I informed Mary that at the half I had fallen here and twisted my ankle so to take care.

As with any woman she ignored the advice of a wiser man.  And promptly took a dive over a tree root or rock in the beautiful dappled sunlight.  With all the grace of an Arsenal football player she tumbled over.  Impressively she was up back on her feet and into her stride in seconds, blooded and bruised and a little shaken!

After checking she was okay (as we ran) Natalie pushed on ahead and Mary and I slowed our pace.

At the halfway point just over the 3hrs into the race we had a choice…  Turn in and take a ½ marathon time and be out of the sun or to continue on our way around a 2nd 13mile ish loop.  We went on.

Mile after beautiful mile passed in the glorious summer sun.  Later this weather would be cursed as Mary caught the sun and needed basting in aftersun.

The heat slowly got to me…  by mile 22 despite having liberally drunk water I was feeling slightly fuzzy – However the amazing Torq Energy drink and gel from the feed station really hit the mark and I was back to my usual ebullient self.  The last 4 miles were a joy, although hearing the winner’s time and announcements for deep in the woodland was slightly dispiriting.

Rounding a couner we glimpsed a van that we had seen on the way out on a lap signalling the end was nigh.  We had passed the winner here roughly 3hrs ago!

To my utter disappointment the young marshal had stowed her cow bells away (maybe she though there was no one left that the remaining few runners had melted!)  Despite it being a downhill I stopped running to ask for the bells.  With a great turn of speed that I could now only dream of, encouraged by her father and sister she got out the bells and rang them with glee (Maybe her father had hidden them earlier!)

The finish line came quickly enough, unsurprisingly up a hill!  We were greeted by Cathy (drinking a much needed and well deserved pint!) and Natalie.

This was a really tough marathon, however it is definitely on our list of races to do again.  June 16th 2018 anyone?


Irrelevant – just to have done the race and made the cut off is enough!