Buff Winter Trail 2020

5:45 and my alarm sharply awakens me. Often I have the knack of beating my alarm and waking up 5 minutes before it goes off, but not today!

My running kit is carefully laid out and my bag is already packed to go, today the Buff Coed-y-Brenin Winter Trail Half Marathon calls!

After a slight altercation with Steph (how can she ask me to cook her bacon and eggs 15 minutes before I leave when I’m just having porridge???) I depart the warm house to find a frozen van. Now, I hadn’t factored this into my schedule (just like the bacon and eggs) but after looking in all the possible places (and there’s quite a few) I eventually find an old CD case to use as an ice scraper. It’s not the best tool, but ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 2019’ has just been worth the 99p that I paid for it from the bargain bucket bin!

Ten minutes later and I’m at the Royal Vale Abbey Arms with Jan and Paul waiting for Debbie, come on Debbie, it bloody freezing out here…. Debbie arrives and the world is suddenly much warmer!

Despite the satnav taking us on a bit of an unknown route every bend gave us a breathtaking view to behold (or an icy patch to hold/grab the seat!) 1 hour 45 minutes and one pee stop later, we safely arrive at Coed-y-Brenin.

Registration was quick and painless and we soon met up with more Spartans (Tom, Sara, Chris, Sarah, Dave and Tracey).

One slight schoolboy error I’d made was that I’d forgotten to take any fluids with me. Not so much for the race but I always like to chug a chocolate milk before and after the race. It’s not the end of the world but those cups of tea look so good…

I decide that a warm up may be beneficial so I jog down the hill while throwing my arms about in no particular rhythm. A couple run around a sharp corner towards me to what must look like someone beating a thousand bees off!

Eventually we get called for the race briefing and shortly after we make our way to the start. Now I won’t lie, these shorter races aren’t really my forte, but in saying that I don’t want be be at the back when starting. I carefully jostle my way past a few runners and a few more so I’m about 20 metres from the start line, there’s probably 100 people penned in before me. I strike up a conversation with a bloke beside me who proudly informs me he’s done this race every year it’s been on. I tell him I’m a virgin (at this race) and quickly, he gives me the full blow by blow course description but not after telling me it’s all flat as a pancake with zero hills!

The race starts and after a sharp turn we’re on a path wide enough for three going uphill. Obviously everyone wants to go at there own pace but it’s quickly clear that those wanting to go a bit faster are struggling to get past the 3 abreast casual chit-chat runners. With lots of ‘excuse mes and sorries’ I weave my way up the path to the eventual fire road. At last, I can breath and open my elbows out.

I pass Tracey, but it’s early on so there’s not much chat, just a quick knowing nod and a word of encouragement from each other.

I’m enjoying the running and the views are great. The winter sun is so striking, fields are slashed into vibrant greens on one side and hazy white frost on the other. Small patches of ice are dotted around on the paths but not enough to cause concern or slow progress.

The miles and hills pass quickly enough but I’m trying not to look at my watch as this seems to slow things down as I expect to be further than I am. Fire track and single track are the order of the day with mud at a minimum apart from one particular section.

The only part of the route that I could remember being told about was the final hill at 11 miles, ‘The Sting’! Sure enough we’re diverted off the road and onto this onerous section. Just before the timing pads I jostle with another bloke about who should go first, you go first, no you go first, no I insist, you go first…. Eventually one of us went first and the other person immediately overtook and pushed on.

The ‘Sting’ was certainly a sting as it was short lived but enough to get the calf’s crying. The top pads were passed and a gentler hill beckoned and we were happily on our way to the imminent finish.

After a few bends I could hear the boom booming noise at the finish line, it’s always a joy to hear as you know the pain and suffering that we all love is soon to be over.

I’m on the final piece of single track and someone’s breathing down my neck, normally I’d politely step aside and let them crack on but not this close to the finish! If they want to pass me they’ll have to look ahead and choose a spot to do the deed but I’m not going to give my place away that easy! The race is almost over but another race has begun, my shadow is on my shoulder and I reckon he’s going to bound passed me as soon as we hit the open fire road. With this in mind I slow down ever so slightly and gather my final reservoirs of strength. I muster up my mental determination and hit the fire road like a rocket. If he wants to beat me he’s going to have to have a couple of aces in his boots because the finish is in sight and I’m off…. After 20 meters or so I’m by myself, I never look back in these situations but just push on using everything I’ve got left in the bank.

I pass over the finishing line as the crowd goes wild (well, they enthusiastically cheered me in as they did with everyone!).

1hr 55mins 22secs in 74th place and that was me happy.

Dave Betts had romped home in a blistering 1hr 47mins (3rd vet) Tom Eagle appeared not long after me and soon everyone else followed.

Rob (Dave, Tracey and myself’s friend) came in a very respectful 23rd place!

Tracey, Jan and Debbie all came 3rd in their respective age categories🤗

Finally a big shout out to our newest Spartan member, Sara who smashed out her first ever half marathon in great style with a smile on her face throughout (I made the last bit up but I reckon it’s true!)

After a warming soup/tea/coffee (not all together) in our new trail mugs we all made our way to The Royal Ship Hotel in Dolgellau for a finishers feast (apart from the Baseys, who retired back to their BnB for scotch eggs, pork pies, beer and ???).

I didn’t originally sign up for this race as it looked like I had a lot coming up but when Becky posted up she couldn’t make it I had a serous bout of FOMO after seeing last years banter. I’m so glad I faced my fears (shorter races seem more daunting than longer ones for me) and entered this race.

An awesome day out with crackin’ company.

Thanks guys👌🏻


ps- 10 minutes before Steph left the house this morning (Sunday) fir her run I asked her to cook me bacon and eggs😬

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