About Me

Harpenden, England, United Kingdom

Friday, May 25, 2012

Brecon Beacons 40M, 2012

Fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five … relax and run efficiently … fifty-six, fifty-seven … don’t blow this excellent run like you’ve done so many times before… fifty-eight … keep this up and it would be pretty tough for people behind to catch you… fifty-nine, sixty … get to a hundred and maybe you could walk for a while and enjoy the view.

Those of you born and bred east of the Iron Curtain might be reminded of Anatoly Kashpirovsky, but this is actually not one of his sessions. It is me talking to myself on the ascent of Cribyn, the last major climb of the Brecon Beacons summer 40-mile race (see my race report from 2011 for an elevation profile). I am having a very good race indeed, and it has been a long time coming. At least about a year, to be more precise.

The talking-to-myself part is something I do in long races, when things get tough. I start making little deals with myself, such as “run 200 steps, then walk for two minutes.” I am not sure if this helps with anything, except for distracting me from the pain and breaking the overwhelming distance left to be covered into small, manageable pieces. If you don’t think this works, you have to see “Touching the void,” one of the best movies ever.

The start of the race, after a social first mile, was just about as quick as last year. But unlike last year, by the top of the first climb, about an hour in, I knew I would be running well that day. Only, there were others, who were running just as well, or even better. Jim Mann and I set the pace for the first couple of hours, and I quite enjoyed how we pushed each other (he even put me back on course at one point – thanks Jim!). But then the long, boggy second climb came, and it quickly became clear that nobody had done their hill homework as well as Piers Stockwell. He passed by us as if we were standing still, without even looking like he was working hard, and he was out of sight within minutes. Impressive stuff!

Well, running for second it is then. I pulled away from Jim slightly at the halfway point, and by the top of Cribyn I had a cushion of maybe 7-8 minutes and was feeling reasonably good. I knew that it was possible that someone else had run the first half of the race more conservatively and would come flying past both of us in the last few miles. But I decided not to worry about this because there was nothing I could do to prevent it at that point. Except for continuing to run as smoothly as possible with 30+ miles and 8000+ ft of vertical in my legs, drinking as much as possible (it was a warm day), and trying to somehow swallow and digest another gel. 

Finally, the seemingly endless section of ridge running is over, I drop down to the reservoir, run the last few flat miles fairly well, but somehow get lost for a few minutes (AGAIN!!!), before getting my act together and finishing a pretty satisfying race in 6h39. People at the finish line seem a bit startled when I show up (Piers is already taking a nap, I think), and I ask where the first guy is, so that I could congratulate him. “What first guy?” they respond “YOU are the first guy” …

It turns out Piers got off the ridge too early and lost almost an hour to finish fourth. To say this is ironic would be an understatement. Navigation errors had ruined pretty much my entire racing season last year, including my previous attempt of this race, and now I was benefiting from one. Uh well, a win is a win, and I will take it, even if it didn’t come quite in the way I would have liked (I don’t have that many, so I can’t be too picky about style). 

In any case, a great race, and I am very happy with my progress on running both up and down hills. One focus race down, three more to go.

Cader Idris tomorrow, with no particular expectations. 

And here are the race results and a few pictures from the beautiful day out in the Brecon Beacons:
 Proudly sporting my WVMTR shirt, which was given to me by
the Morgantown S&T folks.
Photo by Jon Philips (Meun Photography).
The early miles, not as fast as last year, but that changed soon enough.
Photo by Darren Ross.
Feeling good and in the lead at the top of the first climb.
Photo by Darren Ross.
Jim Mann, right behind me at the top of the first climb. 
He soon caught me and opened a small gap. 
This guy can run in the mud, let me tell you!
Photo by Darren Ross.
Piers Stockwell: “You call these hills?”
Photo by Jon Philips (Meun Photography).
 Ready to call it a day, but there are 10+ miles and a major climb left.
Time for a Kashpirovsky moment?
Photo by Jon Philips (Meun Photography).


  1. Congrats on a well-deserved win Gancho. Good stuff man!

  2. Thanks Adam! I am not so sure about the "well-deserved" part, but I do think I ran the race about as well as I could.

  3. Wonderful to hear this, Gancho. I am thrilled for you!