What is the Arch to Arc?

The Arch to Arc is a mega-triathlon from Marble Arch in London to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It involves an 87 mile ultra-marathon run from London to Dover, a 21mile swim across the English Channel and then a 181mile bike ride from Calais to Paris. When it is raced in a relay format it is classically done by 6 individuals doing an hour of exercise and then 5 hours off. Vickie and I will be the first 2 person team to attempt the Arch to Arc and we intend to break the 40hour barrier which will challenge some of the fastest 6-person relay teams. To make it even more unique Vickie will do the entire 87mile run, I will do the Channel swim and we will relay the bike ride (got to play to our strengths, plus I don't like running).

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Might Contain Nuts Brecon Beacons 40m Ultra

I love hiking in the Welsh mountains and horseshoe shaped ridge walk encompassing the peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big is my favourite hike in Wales.  The views are spectacular, the terrain is challenging and the whole experience of being in the extreme outdoors is brilliant!  When I discovered that there was a Welsh trail running series organised by Might Contain Nuts (appropriate name!) that took place in this area of the Brecons I entered straight away.  I had initially planned to take part in the first race of the series in the Black Mountains in March but, after my injury setback, I was not back up to running 40miles at that time.  Therefore the second mountain marathon race of the series was the one for me.

I had a great support crew for the race (thank goodness) as Ollie, mum and dad had all come down to Waun Cottage for the weekend to cheer me on.  The day dawned bright and sunny which was great as I was expecting this to be about a 10 hour day out in the mountains.  We could see the peaks of the mountains looming in the distance as we left Waun.  This was also my first unsupported race, and I was running with a fully loaded kit pack for the first time. 

We had a nice gentle start running south from Talybont-on-Usk towards the reservoir.  The first climb up and over Tor y Foel was supposed to be just a little mountain(!?!) at 550ish meters to warm us up for the big ones – however, it was still pretty tough and I found the rocky descent probably harder on my legs than the climb up.  The route then went on south to Pentwyn Reservior before starting the long, gradual climb up to Corn Du at 820 meters.  This climb was much less demanding in terms of gradient than I expected as I’d not climbed up the route to the west of Taf Fechan Forest before.  However, the terrain was really tough.  There were no proper paths and for about 3 miles we had to run through seriously wet marshland.  I was getting really fed up as my feet kept disappearing in to the soggy ground and it was exhausting having to keep clambering out from knee deep marshy puddles!  However, the summit of Corn Du was soon reached and I was looking forward to the descent.  Unfortunately, again I found the descent tougher than the ascent and I took a tumble over some rocks falling heavily onto my right shoulder.  I winded myself and there were a few tears but I gave myself a bit of a talking too and after a short rest to get my breath back I was off again, feeling ok but just a bit unbalanced as I couldn’t really swing my right arm. 

Arriving at checkpoint 4 - the Storey Arms car park was great because there was Ollie, mum and dad and the dogs to cheer me on.  Ollie had a tub of long awaited for Vaseline (I think I shocked dad with my less than subtle application of said product!) and I got lots of much needed sympathy over my bruised and cut shoulder.  What I thought would be a quick loop out to Fan Frynych (629 meters) was sadly not quite so quick and I eventually returned to my support crew at the Storey Arms where I was presented with a big handful of jelly babies by dad!
Water and Jelly Babies top up!

Ollie then joined me for the yomp up to Corn Du for the second time and across to Pen y Fan (886 meters) which was brilliant, and the dogs were in their element to also be allowed to join in.

Kisses on Pen y Fan!

In fact, after Ollie left me at the end of the descent from Pen y Fan the dogs ran with me for most of the rest of the race.  By the time I had literally rock climbed the 750 odd meters up to Cribyn at 30ish miles I was exhausted and it felt great to get across to Fan y Big before beginning the long descent back down towards Talybont Reservoir.  That was a killer on the quads and it was a hobble down rather than a run!

 The final descent from the ridge!

I was joined by Ollie again who helped to cheer me along, which was fantastic, and we saw mum and dad again at the reservoir.  It was bliss to be back on the flat forest trail and towpath that took me back to Talybont Outdoor Pursuit Centre and I was chuffed to feel like I was able to run this section properly in under 10min/mile pace.  A cartwheel of happiness took me over the finish line in a time of 10hours 14minutes; 7th place out of 17 females in and another event ticked off.

Finally - the finish line!

Lots of lessons were learnt with the main one being that I can still run at my target pace after 10 hours on my feel over grueling terrain, so will that relate to 60miles on A2A day?  Who knows but maybe I’ll have a better idea about this after Race to the Stones in July.  I am as proud of this MCN finishers medals as I am of any of my Ironman medals as it was a really tough day out and, after falling and hurting my shoulder, I don’t think I could have done it on my own and without the support from mum, dad, Ollie Tassie and Bart!  Thanks everyone, including MCN for putting on a brilliant event.

Below are some photos from a winter mountain hike along the ridge:

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