Saturday 16th - parkruns, Merthyr Mawr Trail Festival and Race to the Stones
Zero parkrun tourists and Porthcawl the only venue - not sure when the last time that happened. It's not often I write about low numbers but at 23 parkrunners, it's the lowest in a while even though that's still more than most clubs on a good week! Gareth Richards joined the sub 20 club with a 19:57 after several close attempts in recent weeks. He becomes the 15th person to run a sub 20 5K for Cwm Ogwr. Pippa Clark also got a PB with a 44:28 which is her 3rd parkrun PB in as many attempts.
The inaugural Merthyr Mawr Trail Festival offered a 7.2 mile 'Rabbit Run' and an 18 mile 'Witches Run' around Merthyr Mawr estate including pretty much all terrain with grass, mud, gravel, tarmac, sand, farmland, crop fields and a waist deep river crossing. I was first Cwm Ogwr home in the Rabbit Run which included a 'Riverbank Rollick style' muddy section from mile 1 to 2.5 - the 18 milers had to do it twice! The 7.2 miler turned out to be closer to 8 but a great run with a bit of everything included. Peter Harrop, Caerwyn and Dai Power all also completed the Rabbit Run.
In the 18 miler, Neil Jones finished in a fantastic 2nd place overall. He only lost out to Andrew Tuckey who is an international runner who specialises in long distance and off road events of anything up to 100K! Neil encouraged his mate Tim Phillips to join the club and he was our next finisher followed by Chris Pratt, David Sheard, Brian Cotton, Christie Coleman and Kris Denholm who ran most of the race with no shoes on! Chris, Christie and Kris clocked up over 20 miles for the day as they also ran parkrun.
The Race to the Stones is a 100K Ultra that can be done over 1 day as a 'non-stop' event or split into two 50K days. Maria Lalic was back for her second attempt having had to drop out on doctors orders at 50K last year whilst Nicola Symmonds was making her Ultra distance debut, also attempting the two day option. Unfortunately the dreaded blisters struck again for Maria and again she was made to call it a day after the first 50K. Nicola and Maria actually finished within just a few minutes of each other on day one. Nicola went on the complete day 2 in a substantially faster time than day one and finished the total 100K in a little over 17 hours. Amazing achievement.
Sunday 17th - Pontypridd Loop 10K(ish)
Interestingly despite this one being a popular choice when asking for votes on club championship races, there were only 3 of us who did it making it by far the smallest club championship event this year. This was a rare local event I hadn't done before and I signed up last minute along with Jenna Horn. Fiona Drysdale was doing the for 3rd year in a row. Apart from knowing the race was multi terrain and somewhere around 6 miles / 10K, I was entering the unknown, unable to find any elevation profiles. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Fiona told me that the first 4 miles are all uphill! This was confirmed in the race briefing and then in the race itself. Admittedly it was a steady incline and had the odd short flat recovery on the way, but still pretty tough going - especially after two events the previous day for me. I was looking forward to the descent but when it finally came it turned out to be quite technical and not quite the fast couple of miles I was hoping for. A great race - only £6 if signing up in advance or £8 on the day. You don't really expect anything for that entry fee but there was still a Ponty Roadents buff, water and a selection of chocolate / sweets to dig into. I finished the race in 53 minutes whilst Fiona was just over the hour mark with Jenna back in 1:24.
Wednesday 20th - Kenfig 5K
New record attendance with 74 of the Blue Wave running one of the toughest 5K's around. Hills are friends, sand is not! Particularly 2 miles of it. Neil finished 2nd overall for the second time in 5 days with Niki Puleio our next runner in. This fixture was the third in the Bridgend League and team scoring is based on the top 15 runners positions of each team being added together, then a point deducted for each additional runner over 15. The aim is to get the lowest score so everyone makes a different whether first or last runner in. So with that in mind we were delighted to find when the final results were published that we finished 1st in the team scoring!! A massive well done to all involved and particularly to a few Zero to Hero runners who were running it as their first official event. A great event organised by Cornelly Striders and dare I say it, I think they may actually have had even more cakes than we did in our events.
Saturday 23rd - parkruns
40 runners at 7 different parkruns in 3 different countries. 26 at Porthcawl where Dave Evans equalled his seasons best on his 200th parkrun with a 19:58. Dave becomes the first Cwm Ogwr member to reach that milestone of 200 parkruns. Chris Pratt and I ran at Penrhyn parkrun, Chris Stanlake was at Penrose, and most impressively Denise Bradley ran Clement Waterfront parkrun in Florida whilst out there on holiday. She's actually our second runner there after Kelly ran her 50th parkrun there last year.
Elsewhere there were 5 runners at Swansea parkrun including Aled and Brian who were going on from there do recce the first third of the Gower 50 course. There were also 4 runners at the Gnoll parkrun including parkrun tourists Shawn Cullen and Julie Ransom.
Sunday 24th - Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon
After seeing this advertised last year, this was high on the must do race list for me in 2016. A half marathon that climbs to the top of Snowdon with 4000 feet of elevation. To put that into context, Snowdon Marathon is 2800 feet and doing the Beast run twice would only be 2500 feet. Myself and Chris started way to far back in the starting pen and as a consequence got held up a lot in the first few miles on the narrow paths up Snowdon. Chris headed off into the distance after a mile and I didn't see him again until the end when I discovered he'd fallen on a steep descent after 3 miles and had hurt his ankle in the process but fortunately was able to continue. Mile 5-6 was incredibly steep rising 1200 feet in a mile. I reached the top of Snowdon in around 1:40 (after 6.5 miles)... my half marathon PB is 1:34 so it took me longer just to reach half ways.
The descent was down the Llanberis path which despite being one of the more well maintained paths on Snowdon, you soon discover how uneven it is when trying to run down it. I actually loved it and passed around 20 people on the descent and on review after the race, closed the gap considerably to Chris who had got to the summit a good 10 minute ahead. Reaching the bottom we were told to turn right and through a gate onto a flat section through some trees. After the fast descent I was determined to keep the pace up so after going through the gate I sprinted off knowing the toughest bit was over... however, after less than 50 meters my foot kicked what I think was a tree root sticking out of the ground and I fell flat on my face. The combination of trying to keep the pace up and force of the fall meant I literally bounced forward and it was only after the race I discovered my knee was dropping with blood and two 4 inch cuts down my right calf which must have scraped along some branches / stones as I continued forward on the ground. I got up quickly from the fall and carried on deciding that if the damage was that bad I'd soon know about it. A bit painful but no reason to stop. 3 miles to go.
As if climbing the highest mountain in Wales isn't enough, the route then includes climbing a Slate Quarry from mile 11-12 with a zig-zag path up and lots of steps! Just to add to the torture, mile 10.5-13 skirts the edges of the playing fields where the start / finish is so you can hear the commentator and supporters at the finish but still have up to 2.5 miles to go.. including another huge climb of 600 feet (equivalent of the Beast). The finish was a welcomed sight and after 250+ events it's not often I throw my arms in the air in celebration but completing that one felt like an achievement worth celebrating. The bloodied legs were soon pointed out when I seen Chris who had come in just 2 minutes ahead and was still in the finish funnel where his partner Jo and my wife Amanda and my 2 year old twin boys were waiting to cheer us in. A visit to the first aid tent for the first time in my running career was required. It was a popular venue with so many taking a tumble at some point in wet and therefore slipping conditions on tough terrain. The next guy in after me had actually cut both knees, elbows and had blood running down his face from hitting his head. Incredibly he seemed very calm about it all like it's the sort of thing that happens all the time. In fact, he only came in because his wife who was a first aider herself insisted. A race not for the faint hearted. Loved it and hated it in equal measurers. A personal worst half marathon time of 2:52 but it was never about the time. A great experience. Oh, and I haven't mentioned, we did the easy option.. there's a marathon as well!
Saturday 30th - parkruns
42 of the Blue Wave across 6 different parkruns in 3 different countries! 36 of which were at Porthcawl were Neil Jones was first finishers overall with a time of 17:29 - just 8 seconds outside his PB and comfortably in front of the second placed runner. New member Jamie Vanstone who has run multiple marathons and an ultra finally did his first parkrun with a cracking first time of 20:38. Several members ran down to parkrun as part of training for half and full or ultra marathons. Pippa Clark made it 4 PB's in 4 attempts with a 44:24 with Bev Sheard in support.
Fiona Drysdale ran the Inverness parkrun where her son Jamie ran an incredible 18:45. Sarah Littlewood ran at Wolverhampton and clocked a big PB with 26:00. Dai Power and Julie Ransom ran at Bryn Bach and Saul Harris ran at Southampton. Down at the Gnoll, Richard Lowcock James ran the three lap off road course and fell on the final lap. He finished despite later needing stitches in his knee. There's certainly a lot of competition for 'best fall' award this year!
Sunday 31st - Tenby 10K and Magor Marsh 10K
Emma Loyns was first finisher at Tenby with an excellent time of 57 minutes considering the injuries over the past few months. Dawn Hopkins also came in under the hour mark whilst Ann Davies finished in 1:03 and Kirstie Edwards clocked 1:08.
At Magor 10K, Niki Puleio ran an incredible 40:02 despite having run down to parkrun the day before and after a few weeks off regular running whilst out in France supporting Wales in the Euro's. Kirsty Evans ran a PB of 52:06 whilst Panda teammate (you'll have to ask them), Bethan Cross also got a PB with 1:07:25.
Chairman's Male Runner of the Month - Gareth Richards
Two parkrun PB's including finally breaking the 20 minute barrier after several close calls. Gareth was also first Cwm Ogwr runner back in the Drovers 10K and put in brilliant performances in Cosmeston Relays and Kenfig 5K.
Chairman's Female Runner of the Month - Pippa Clark
Three parkrun PB's during July and a great effort at both the Cosmeston Relays and Kenfig Sands 5K. Amazing progress.