With only a week since my last ultra (and possibly a little too soon), I entered my next event known as the Black Mountains, just outside Aberystwyth. I was keen to get some experience of running hills as most of the courses I’d run to date had been too demanding in terms of hills.
As with the Round Rotherham event, I travelled up the night before and stayed in a B&B. This was pretty much a self-sufficient event, with water points but no food. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the course as we needed full kit, such as a space blanket and whistle, which the organisers checked on registration.
By 7.25am I was on the start line along with the other 99 competitors behind the Castle Inn pub. We got our briefing and then set off just before first light, already sidestepping the mud. The horn went off and the guy next to me sped off with his husky in tow (or was it the other way round?).
I distinctly remember, as promised, a lot of time spent going up and down hills – mainly walking up the hills as they were eye-poppingly steep. At one point we were above the cloud base and there were a few birds of prey, possibly buzzards, overhead. For reasons probably best known to mother nature alone, the sun always appeared to be shining on some other hill and I was relatively cold most of the way round. And then I hit “the Ridge”.
The Ridge, as you’d expect, was at the top of a hill range , very exposed and was pretty flat going on for a total of 8 neverending miles. By now, the competitors were already quite spread out across the course. The heavens opened. First drizzle, then heavy rain, then hail and, naturally, lots of wind. All this meant that my left ear got a relentless wet lashing for those 8 memorable miles. The waterproof gloves proved not to be waterproof. I put on my extra layers, but I was still very cold. By now I had stopped running as my body seemed to want to concentrate more on keeping my vital organs warm and had diverted blood from my extremities to do so. I swore a lot to get myself moving again and snivelled a bit. Thankfully there was nobody else around to witness either and, if you ask me about it, I’ll deny both. In short, I was not happy.
I wasn’t sure if I was on the right path as the arrow sign had fallen down and was pinned in one direction underneath a stone. Shortly after, a fellow competitor and local dentist called Michael caught up with me and we walked quite a bit of the way talking about life.
And then, as if by magic, once we’d cleared the Ridge, the sun came out. Gradually I defrosted and all those “Ridge woes” were forgotten. I regained the spring in my step and carried on to the end, picking up the pace again.
I must have been a bit giddy when I crossed the finish line as I crossed it the wrong way, so I went back again to touch it (just in case). I was elated to get round.
I finished with a time of 7 hours 15 mins and 48 secs. 65th overall and 8th female. Job done.