Sunday, 13 December 2015

#HBTTWAT #wheresYP

Cae Coch cottage was HBT Base camp for the weekend

T.W.A.T  = Trottettes Weekend Away Together. What did you think I meant? So it was a great honour for YP to be invited to this ladies only event, a weekend in North Wales taking in the Penmaenmawr Hill Race, and a great honour for us that he agreed to attend not, of course, without incident along the way.
It didn’t look promising by the time we had gone past Manchester. The sleet was battering off the windscreen and the waves of water created by lorries was making the driving conditions interesting. The snow promised by the weatherman seemed to be well on its way resulting in the snow socks going on the car to tackle the steep hill to Cae Coch cottage perched high up on the hillside overlooking the Conwy valley and our base for the weekend. The nearest habitation was the village of Rowen a couple of miles away – habitation of course being defined by whether there is a pub there.
Snow socks on the car
We eventually reached the cottage at about 11pm and after a quick nightcap it was time to retreat into sleeping bags listening to the rain and sleet battering down outside. It was noted at this point that YP had not appeared although I was sure that I had spotted a light moving some way off in the distance when I had looked down the hill.  Unusually for me sleep was not forthcoming, I don’t know why, perhaps a little anxiety over my level of fitness and the prospect of being out for a long time in very poor weather conditions.
Dawn breaks
It was a bitterly cold night and the cottage proved to be a little economic in terms of its heating provision and it was a chilly, shivery group of people who gathered for breakfast that morning and some looked as though they hadn’t slept much either with murmurs about cold feet. Happily though we were greeted by a beautifully clear morning although it was a very cold wind that was sweeping the hillside. Still no sign of YP though. Should we be worried? We guessed he would either make his way to the race start or the cottage as the race route practically went through the front garden. I was busily hoping that I would be able to overcome the temptation to stop at the cottage mid-race.
Morning light

Studying the race map
The fit folk, Megan, Sarah and Lucy, had run over to the start of the race, some 4 miles from the cottage for a warm up while we walked down from the little car park over looking the village and we went to register in the village hall. Race maps were nowhere to be found on the race website so we copied the route on to our maps from the large maps provided by the organiser. The organiser made much of the last descent and how tricky it was so that was not something I was looking forward to as descending is not my forte.
Penmaenmawr is a little town on the coat of North Wales

After the team photo shoot on the start line (minus YP who still hadn’t appeared) we set off. Instantly I began to struggle having to walk on the initial climb. There was no being gently broken in on this race as you hit the first climb immediately. I decided to make my aim to just relax and get round the race and so it was to be a slow plod. Sadly the steady climbs and nice grassy runnable tracks would really have suited me too but I had to just watch as most of the field trotted past me making it my target to try and stay with them for as long as possible. The fact that I had come all the way from Aberdeen to do this race and that I was now running like a donkey was mildly irritating to say the least. The section of the course shown marked on the map as “big bog” did exactly what it said on the tin, and was cold and smelly to add to my woes. Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining or snowing. Yet. And the views were stunning.

Team photo
Next the race route passed along the front of the cottage and I briefly glanced around to see if YP had made it, but no sign of him or his trademark “HBT” marked in flour on the course. Then we followed a selection of paths before heading back to the finish. Even within half a mile of the finish a runner came past me and asked if I had done the race before to which I answered “no”. He then proceeded to warn me about how steep and treacherous the final descent was. By now I was petrified, looking for the sheer precipitous cliffs that we would have to launch ourselves down. In fact I crossed the finish line still looking for this final descent… In reality the final descent was pretty mild for a hill race and looking back at it I was giggling at how scared of it I had been. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there.
Thawing out...
with the help of hot soup...
and beer....
Next it was back to the hall to get changed before quickly heading back to the pub for beer and hot soup which was much needed. It was still a very chilly day.  Worryingly though there was still no YP, very unlike him to miss the chance for a “panic pint”. Next we somewhat reluctantly left the pub to go back to the hall for the prize giving and found that there was a stall serving hotdogs for free (result!) although they did ask for a small charity donation.  At that point a hotdog was just what I was required as I was beginning to chill down quickly and despite wearing a heavy waterproof for the duration of the race I never really got warmed up while running. The trottettes did very well in the prize giving and scooped up quite a few prizes including some gorgeous pottery cups which I later found out were not made at a welsh pottery coming instead from the Potteries in Staffordshire.
Briony won the race
Sarah was 3rd
and Megan was 1st O/40
I wished they were selling these
But all finishers got one of these
After the prize giving we trailed back up the hill to the cars and made our way back to the cottage for hot tea and snacks but not before stopping at the pub in Rowen to hand in our food pre-order for the evening. It was here that we discovered that someone by the name of Robin, and fitting the description of YP, had been at the pub for lunch and was apparently away for a wee training run. At least there had now been a confirmed sighting of YP. When we got back to the cottage we found a beer mat with a message written on it posted through the door and YPs bag lying outside.
That'll be the snow on
Its getting heavier...
Once we had all braved the shower (shower itself hot, room less so) we started to gather in the wee kitchen area where by now the fire had started to make the cottage feel a little more snug….and low and behold YP appeared. Apparently he hadn’t made it to the cottage the previous night and instead had tried to get into the youth hostel. When the hostel had said that there was no room he had gone back to the pub and managed to wangle a bed for the night from a friendly local by the name of Bob…who charged him £30 for the privilege (minus breakfast).
#wheresYP #foundYP

Breaking out the bubbly
After challenging YP to drink Prosecco (horror of horrors) it was time to set off to the pub. Now there are two options for getting to the pub, the longer (and drier) road option and the shorter (wetter) cross country option. Head torches were donned and off we went. I’m not sure what the waitress made of all the socks and shoes drying on the radiator in the little function room of the pub where we were seated but it’s lucky that we had the room to ourselves and couldn’t offend any other diners. For the return journey after dinner and beer we decided to stick to the road.

Note the trainers drying on radiators in the background!

Various options were touted for the next days’ running plans and eventually two groups set off, one with the intention of doing a short hill run up to the trig point on the hill behind the cottage and the second group heading off to the reservoirs some distance away. The snow and rain that we had been spared during the race the previous day came back with vengeance and looking over the hills I was quite glad I had opted for the shorter hill run. We came back to the cottage to be welcomed by a huge plate of sandwiches which were very considerately prepared by those who had for various reasons opted out of the run to be accompanied by lots of mugs of hot tea before making preparations for the journey back up the road.
Megan, Sarah and Lucy went for a long run
We set off for a short run

Thanks to Megan for the use of the cottage and thanks to Carrie for organising a fantastic weekend. I can’t wait for the next one.

The role of honour –
23/1  Briony Curtis                        1.26.30
26/2  Megan Mowbray                  1.27.07 (1F40)
30/4  Sarah O’Neill                        1.29.06
57/8  Mo McLelland                      1.36.05
62/9  Carrie Craig                         1.36.53
70/12  Miranda Grant                    1.39.08
98/22  Eilidh Anthony                    1.44.06
102/24  Sandra Rathjen                 1.45.15 (7F40)
106/26  Chloe Haines                    1.45.44
111/27  Louise  Provan                  1.46.48
120/31  Lucy Taylor                      1.49.27
139/41  Zoe Strong                       1.54.14
143/42  Amy Jennings                    1.55.37
157/45  Anna Weston                    1.58.41

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Skulking Away

It’s a tricky one. Race on the Saturday morning, work Xmas night out on the Friday night. (Un)fortunately the work night out ended up in a karoke bar so the internal dialogue about whether I should stay and have a few more drinks like any normal person would do or whether I should GTF out of there as quickly as possible was easily resolved. I had spent a wee while skulking in the background so I was hoping my skulking skills would allow me to depart unobserved. In fact I if I could replicate the speed at which I departed the pub in the race the following day then my team might well have won. I hate Karoke. With a passion. But, as Simon frequently points out, I am probably not normal.

The early departure from the pub was followed by a fairly early start the following morning. In fact you’d have thought it was before dawn judging by all of the complaining that Simon was doing but I’m sure he was looking forward to the event really. He just hides it rather well. Personally I was a wee bit apprehensive. I had said I’d run any leg for any team but the prospect of doing the 1st leg, the long stage was actually a bit scary. Simon had requested the third leg which was the short stage and I had emailed Bob with this information to which I received the reply “Simon has always had short legs” and we arrived to find that Simon was listed as running the long stage. That was a traumatic experience for him. A few reshuffles of teams later and I was still doing a short leg and Simon was doing a medium leg and we were both in the same team, having kidnapped a fast runner to run the long stage for us.
Simon exudes enthusiasm for the race
Thats his "i'm going to murder you" smile
It rained a bit during the morning but while the rest of the country seemed to be suffering from horrendous gales and flooding it was a relatively mild, pleasant day in Glen Tanar. Not at all as wintery as you’d expect in December. The fast runners were set off on the first leg and I went to recce the third leg. Unbeknown to me the route had been changed from last year as the previous riverside route had been deemed to be “too flat” for a hill race. Fair enough. 
Glen Tanar church

Glen Tanar bridge

Warming up
Race instructions - pay attention Colin!
Old leg 3 route

New leg 3 route
Leg 3 elevation

Recce of the wrong route...doh!
The runners started to appear after about three quarters of an hour but didn’t look quite as muddy as I expected them to be. I really was expecting it to be a mud bath. Our newly recruited leg 1 runner, Miles soon re-appeared having done the team proud and then it was Simon’s turn to set off. He didn’t seem to have been away for long (though he would say differently) before it was my turn to set off and he had managed to overtake a couple of teams. Having recced last years’ leg 3 route and not this years’ I was going to be in for a mystery run (what sort of idiot recces the wrong route?) but the first section up the steady incline followed the leg 1 and 2 route which I remembered from doing leg 2 last year and the course was well marked so no there was no real chance of going wrong. Simon wasn’t exactly smiling when he crossed the finish line so it was probably just as well for my own safety that I was away running. After recovering for half an hour there was a chance he might come to the conclusion that he enjoyed the run. Or maybe at least bits of the run.
Race start

and they are off...
Simon off to a flying start on leg 2

and he disappears into the distance
It felt like a bit of a slog going up the hill but I managed to overhaul 2 teams just as I reached the highest point in the race and nobody overtook me which counts as a success in my book. Gary had set off behind me and so I have to confess to taking some worried glances over my shoulder every so often…
From the highest point it is all downhill to the cattle grid, follow the long straight track past the church again and then into the finish. I felt like I was going well although video evidence of me running to the finish would suggest otherwise. The new leg 3 gets the thumbs up from me. A nice testing climb followed by a runnable non-technical downhill blast over forest tracks, and it wasn’t too muddy.
Waiting for next leg runners
Anxious glances..
Pauline and Gary finishing
Finish line smiles
Tea & soup...and cakes, and mince pies and baked potatoes and flapjacks and xmas cake and mountains of cheese...
Then it was back to the hall for tea, soup and cakes and a very unofficial prize giving and apparently the course records for the first and second leg were broken and an inaugural course record set for the third leg.

I have another works Xmas do to go to next Friday. And Deeside runners have organised a night race that night….hmmm. How much skulking can a girl get away with?