Brecon to Cardiff 70km ultra

Race Reports

Report by Eric Apperley

So here I was at my sister’s house, checking my kit for the third time making sure I knew where everything was and that I hadn’t forgotten anything the nerves where getting to me. After all this was the second time I had signed up for this race and the first time didn’t go too well with a dnf only 7 miles from the finish, I wasn’t going to let that happen again. After a 4th check I was happy I had everything so I did a stretch session to get the long drive out and relax a little before some food and an early night.

5am the alarm went off to wake me although I hadn’t got much sleep with the wind and the rain banging on the window through out the night. Got changed in to race kit and had my marmite on toast and a tea. Had a look at the weather while having breakfast and realized the weather forecast was worst than expected so I took the decision to not take any risks and just have to goal of finishing the number one priority. I got my bottles mixed up ready put two in my drop bag, two in my running vest and made the short ten minute drive to the finish for the bus pick up at 6.15. I had a nap on the bus on the way to Brecon, once there made my way to the start to drop off drop bag and find any shelter that wasn’t taken waiting the 30 minutes for the start of the race.
After a quick race briefing, which included the good news of sausage and chips at checkpoint 5 and a change to the course just after checkpoint 2 due to weather we were off. A lot of runners going though a small funnel at the start meant it took a minute before we actually started running, but from here the flat 11km along the canal path to checkpoint 1 was ahead. Once settled I started to overtake alot of runners that probably started too quick, this gave me a lot of confidence in the beginning and with it being sheltered the wind and rain wasn’t much of a factor but that was about the change once we passed checkpoint 1 in 57 minutes.
From checkpoint 1 we started the long 12km climb up to the highest point of the race along mostly fire track. This is where the weather started to show its ferocity as we lost the cover that the canal path afforded us the wind became a heavy mostly head wind. So I dropped my pace a little for this so not to use too much energy. With this I lost a few places here and there. Once nearing the top I got chatting to a runner wanting to know where the top was – we were about 500m off the top and we then had a good conversation for a good 10 minutes before he pushed on. This is where my race started to have problems, my stomach started to feel sick and the drink and food I was using was making me feel more sick so I had to go without for food for the majority off the rest of the race. I decided to keep going and see what would happen but managed to get to checkpoint 2 without much trouble in 1 hour and 14 minutes buy 10:21.
Quickly after checkpoint 2 we started to come across the many deep flooded roads. These were very cold on the feet but were just more hard conditions to deal with over the day. Onward to checkpoint 3 with trail shoes on over road for the next 12km was not ideal but with conditions like they are it’s a minor problem as with the trail part being cut off. From checkpoint 2 I got in to a little battle with a couple of people being over taken and re taken for most the run in to Merthyr Tydfil. After getting in to Merthyr Tydfil I got talking with another couple of runners, we were all wondering where checkpoint 3 was I was really looking forward to dry socks road shoes and dry gloves. Once in to the checkpoint I had a good talk with the runner I met at the top of the climb and he asked if I had raced this before and I said that I had but had to drop out at 35 miles but he said I’ve got this and after a quick look at my phone with a couple of messages one form Gareth Leek saying “keep your head in the game” so as I left checkpoint 3 at 11.36 I had a little spring in my step.
From checkpoint 3 to 4 went by very quickly and runners started to thin out as I only saw a couple in the 1 hour in took to get from 3 to 4. From checkpoint 4 is when I started to feel the efforts of not being able to eat, with my stomach starting to feel alot of pain but I just kept thinking about how far was left to go and it took my mind off the pain I was feeling. Form here on out the race got very lonely only seeing one or two and from mile 30 to checkpoint 5 I didn’t see anyone but I knew where I was going from the recce I had done the week before so I didn’t get worried. Once at checkpoint 5 I managed a couple of bites of a sausage sandwich and a few sips of a sweet tea, this calmed my stomach down. After a lovely chat with the marshalls inside saying how this has been the worse weather wise I left know there wasn’t very far left to go checkpoint 5 left at 14.04.
With all that was left was to finish I picked up my pace a little and felt in a great place knowing that the finish line was in reach. I only got passed by one runner on the outskirts of Pontypridd before getting on the the final 3 miles of the taff trail. On this final stretch there was so many trees down and climbing over and under them was not an easy task with fatigue setting in but everyone would have the same trouble. After climbing the final tree and rounding a 180 corner I saw a runner starting to kick down and without hesitation my ever faithful kick set in and I didn’t stop untill the finish. During this hard effort we passed another runner who was on the wrong side of the road and she started to put down effort so this was very exciting end to a difficult race. Once I crossed the road and not got hit by any cars there was spectators clapping us in and I just looked up knowing I was done in 7 hours 23 minutes and 17 seconds.
When I got inside and had my tracker cut off I got congratulated by Joseph Williams but I had to ask who he was as my head stared going thought all the emotions at once and I didn’t know much that was going on at that point. I then proceeded to head back outside to the car and picked up my dry clothes to get changed in to. Once in the changing rooms I took a couple of pictures and then started looking at the few messages coming in, though of course Gareth was first with a “yes mate !!!!!!!!!” Which brought me to tears as it started to sink in what just happened. After getting changed and realising some of the pain I put my body, though I had a talk to Joseph who was dealing with hypothermia – his race was also a roller coaster but we all know what it was like to compete it horrendous conditions.
Just as I was leaving, the guy who I met earlier on came across the line and said how was your redemption and it is something I’ve been thinking about over the last few days because if I didn’t fail on my first attempt I wouldn’t have come back to finish, I wouldn’t have changed my training or dedicated so much time to it. I also don’t think I would have pushed through the mental barrier of finishing in terrible conditions as the fear of failing again was very real but something I made sure wouldn’t happen. Once back at my sister’s I got warm and ate my fill of pizza and waited for results expecting to be down in the high 100s but it wasn’t untill Tuesday that we got the results and I was shocked that I managed 34th out off 327 that started I didn’t expect that. Will I do this race again? Maybe. But in that weather? Absolutely not.

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