I decided it was time to test myself at a more traditional mountain marathon and do one solo. There were mixed results.

Rab Mountain Marathon 2015

Written by Haydn Williams

Spurred on by relative success at the Marmot24, I decided it was time to test myself at a more traditional mountain marathon and do one solo. There were mixed results.

My excitement levels peaked when it was revelaed that the location was… Snowdonia! I’d never done a mountain marathon there before, so figured my local(ish) knowledge would come in useful. The Rab is score format, so at the start I was given a map showing lots of control points, and a separate sheet which described which ones were active that day, and how many points there were worth. The only thing remaining was to plan the most efficient and points-heavy route for myself in the six-hour time limit. This was always going to be the hard part, but after fretting for a bit I settled upon something half-decent and started running.

List of controls, and sunshine. Woohoo. © Haydn Williams 2015
List of controls, and sunshine. Woohoo. © Haydn Williams 2015

Unfortunately there wasn’t much running beyond the first mile on the road, and after four and a half hours of following strings of other people walking between checkpoints, I was getting a bit tetchy. After dibbing a control in Cwm Pen-llafar I was rueing the fact that I’d spent all week in work running around and surrounded by other equally manic people, and now I was doing the same on my day off. I got down to the river in the bottom of the valley, a really lovely spot, and thought “sod it, I’m going to have a lie down“. That quickly turned into dozing on the riverbank as the water burbled by, and I eventually spent a wonderful 45 minutes just letting the world pass me by.

Approaching Bwlch Tryfan from Llyn Bochlwyd on day two. © Ian Corless 2015
Approaching Bwlch Tryfan from Llyn Bochlwyd on day two. © Ian Corless 2015

In the end I did have to wake up and continue making my way to mid-camp, where I arrived chilled-out and late enough to incur a seven-point penalty. I spent a pleasant evening alternately cooking big pans of food and catching up with an old uni friend. There were comparisons of tactics and route choice, but I didn’t regret the “halfway snooze” plan – at least, not until the evening’s results went up and showed that I was still in 36th place out of 172 starters despite the napping. What would have happened if I’d really put the effort in? I’d probably still be grumpy and stressed!

Guess where I had a lie down! © Haydn Williams 2015
Guess where I had a lie down! © Haydn Williams 2015

After listening to Wales win the rugby I settled down with a hot water bottle and immediately overheated. My super-light strategy (the least I’ve ever carried on a mountain marathon) backfired about 4am, however, when I woke up cold. I was still a bit chilly at 4:30am, by which point I was wearing all of my layers.

On Sunday morning I decided that I should definitely try to get a reasonable score, since a leisurely bimble the day before had obviously gone quite well. I set off shortly after 07:00, and proceeded to make two appalling route choices. The first was to climb over Y Garn instead of contouring around from further down the Nant Ffrancon valley. The second was to attempt to bag an extra control when I didn’t have sufficient time at the end of the day. This resulted not only in me having to do a 5km dash down the gravel path from Tryfan Bach to Capel Curig, but also in missing three other controls because I couldn’t take my planned route. As a result I obtained a decidedly average score, and thus finished 38th out of 163 overall, and 18th solo competitor. Interestingly, I was 36th on day one, and 41st on day two, so there wasn’t a huge discrepancy in results from the two days despite entirely contrasting approaches!

The Race Director’s report reveals a few behind-the-scenes issues which I must say weren’t noticeable to me as a competitor. Overall I clocked up around 44km and 3750m of ascent for the weekend. Saturday was a passable performance and I ran very well on Sunday, so was pleased with that but made silly route choices. I think it proved I don’t like score courses anywhere near as much as linear. Which is fortunate, as it’s a linear course on OMM in a few weeks…

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