GOWER COASTAL RACES – Race reviews 2019
We did the 23 mile and turned it into a 25 mile 🙂 the Vale Trail in April lulled us into a false sense of security on the navigation front – will be memorising the maps for the next one! After experiencing every kind of terrain possible we were very happy that it ended at a bar so that we could recuperate” Gemma Coles
“I did the 34 mile option. It was amazing. I knew conditions were going to be bad – the first mile left me covered in mud. I downgraded all expectations to ‘finishing in one piece’. Walked most of it and crawled a few of the tough bits. Did the last 6 miles in the dark and pouring rain. My bottom lip trembled going around Pwll Ddu Head through the mud. Happiest I have been in months!” Vicky Mead
“Much has changed since I run the Gower 50 of 2018. Back then it was my first “away” trail ultra and first 50 miler. I spent my “ultra childhood” on the Green Man trail around Bristol, completing it’s 45-46 miles twice before deciding on doing the Gower 50 next. That 2018 race did not go ideally, I believed that I lost about an hour as consequence of a wrong food choice and thus surveying the facilities quite thoroughly 😊 I loved the course however and now I had an added reason to come back and take my revenge. Again if you know and love the Green Man you understand why the Gower’s long tarmac section and the always muddy bits are not an issue for me, as same applies on the round Bristol ultra (by now I’ve done it four times). So I had my 3rd runners anniversary this April and the results were awesome. Ran more the ever before, had virtually no injury worth talking of and was smashing my PB’s everywhere (Green Man 8;39, marathon 3:34, Race to the Stones 100k: 11:54). I was immensely looking forward to Gower 19, training went well, started dreaming of the course a good two weeks before the event.
I thought that a 10:30 finish should be easy, which may also place me in the top 10, but really dreamt of a just under 10 hour finish. Slight issue, changing work and relocating in the same period, thus very little focus on studying the map again, and quite a bit of complacency thinking that I knew the course already. Wettest two weeks of the autumn of course before the event so a lot of thinking about waterproof gear. OK so driven to the Mumbles car park by a mate, drenched on the short walk to the club, but all sorted in time and got to the front of the start area, where I’ve done a quick strip last minute as the rain’s jut stopped. Short n’ shirt should be sufficient, we’ll just need to run to stay warm 😊
Start went well by the time I reached the Mumbles coast there was none next to me and I was slowly catching up the one runner in sight ahead of me. I caught the lady by the lido had very enjoyable conversation, she’s eventually finished as first female in the race! The cycle path however was very much to my liking so powered ahead with a sub 2 half marathon. Navigating now became an issue I turned right into a dead end street in Pencaerfenni, Crofty only to see a few chasers catching up as I run out of the street again. This sort of silly error then was repeated a few times during the race, adding 4-5 k to the distance and costing me the sub 10 hour finish. I do think that a few more signs in Crofty and before Overton, and also around Port Eynon would have been useful, I certainly wasn’t the only one scratching my head at those sections. Otherwise very lucky day indeed. It did not rain, there was no extreme wind, very little sunshine, really ideal atmospheric conditions for running. Changed into trail shoes at CP2 saw the 34 milers at CP3, trundled through the marshy, boggy bit, wasted some time on the WCP instead of making a beeline to the beach at first opportunity, but felt great reaching Rhossili beach. Finished the first marathon in 4:20, great day. Things started grinding with the ups and downs of the cliffs of next section and started feeling a bit hungry though I was having SIS gels from time to time. I was looking forward to lunch at Port Eynon Village Hall where last year a coffee did wonders for me. Found the signs leading there from the monument and eventually got coffee from the the nice lady in the kitchen window. (Food and drink seem to have been “streamlined” since 2018, I did not see coke at any CP, zero bananas, no hot drinks either. I had all these last year, would say that lovely oranges are not the same as bananas for peeps with stomach issues, hot drinks can be a lifesaver in crap weather, not sure I like cost cutting on those items). Walked with my large latte for a while, then took the turn to the beach again, still no rain. Enjoyed the forest path before Oxwich had another runner to chat to for a while. Through the river/pill on the beach, up the sand dune on towards the sadistic hilltop checkpoint before Three Cliffs. Some more cursing climbing the next dunes and racing past some more 34 and 20 mile runners. And this was the bit again when the course became to really feel endless. A bit more climbing cliffs, slight quagmire beyond Pwlldu Head, steps down the forest. through rocks, dodging waves at Caswell and the feeling of running on no reserves, no boost left in the bag just clinging on to my hopeful top 10. I had no chance to relax as I saw a competitor at the end of Caswell, so started running the slightly rising paths once again. Langland bay another final landmark and that feeling that this cannot last too long now but progress just feels agonising still 😊 Adored the sign diverting us from the coast trail, managed to run to the finish line, nr2 in the bag. So yes I would do it again aiming closer to 9 hours and will do recce runs too. I like it because it’s very varied and has really runnable sections, and spectacular coastal views. I like the HQ very much, hope it’ll stay there for many years to come.” Karloy Konecsny
“Within the Gower Series there are 3 races, these being the Gower Ultra 50, Ultra Bach 34 and the Trail 23 all starting in different locations to conclude in Mumbles Cricket Club, I chose the Gower Ultra 50 and this is my adventure.
Registration opens the evening before the race at 18:00hrs to 21:00hrs and the morning of the race for 30 minutes, I decided to head down early to sign in and volunteer to help register people in for all three races, I think it’s great to volunteer for these events, it gives you an idea of the scale of operation and organisation that goes on behind the scenes to make for great events like these.
Race briefing was delayed by 10 minutes due to allot of people leaving it until the last minute to sign in, I imagine there would have been a few that didn’t turn up due to the recent biblical weather we have had.
Race briefing was very informative hitting all the key points you would expect. So we set off a little after 7am down a single mud track to the Mumbles Pier, it took a while to get going after the concertina of the single track at the start, but when we reached the tarmac section the field quickly spread out.
Ohhh yeah I did say tarmac, that horrible knee and shin busting stuff that I simply love to hate, this particular tarmac section went on for around 17.5 miles until just after CP2 the bag drop where you can change your socks and trainers if you wish, I am so glad I did change into my Trail shoes at this point, because the path turned into a mud bath so the dry shoes and socks were short lived, anyway lets go back a bit, I’m jumping the gun. The tarmac took us along the see front for about 3-4 miles before turning us up Route 4 cycle path to CP1 which was well stocked with the usual junk food you need to fill your fat face during an Ultra.
Around mile 13 around crofty I think, a member of public thought it would be in our best interest to direct us through a carpark and down onto the beach to keep us from the road, little did she know that the beach ended and we could not go any further, we therefore found a garden wall to drag ourselves up and onto before scale through someone’s lovely garden (We are really sorry if this was your garden, it looked lovely though so good job), at this point I twinged something in my left glute and therefore spent the next mile or two trying to stretch it out while swearing at the tarmac for being a bastard.
Finally we had some elevation that took us to the hall at CP2 where we changed shoes and socks, now the real part of the race could get underway, where we quickly headed down a single track and directly into mud and puddles (lovely stuff, this was more like it), it carried on like this for another few miles until we hit CP3, after this CP there was a downhill bit before hitting the sand path that climbed quite abruptly, here I met a lady (Sara) with the contents of her race vest all over the sand path, frantically looking for her mobile phone, so I stopped to ask if she was OK when she told me her phone was missing and she thinks it at the last checkpoint where she changed out of her wet weather gear, the thing she was worried about was that her husband and son wouldn’t be able to contact her to check that she was OK and not in trouble, I gave Sara my phone to call the organisers to track down her phone, which thankfully they did, but she didn’t see it for many hours later.
CP4 Rhossilli seemed to come and go very quickly in a bit of a blur, it was at this point that I couldn’t take the pain in my knees anymore and reached for my painkillers, thankfully they kicked in quite quickly and for the first time in that race at mile 26 I felt as if I was enjoying it, we had a long section of beach to cover which is where I managed to make up a fair bit of time before hitting the aid station.
To get to the next CP which was in Port Eynon which was 7 miles away was up and down the sand paths, coastal path etc this was quite enjoyable at times, when we got to Port Eynon my support crew were there with Donuts (Thanks Becky and Cam) which tasted AMAZING!!! Then there was a short uphill bit to the village hall where they had the most skankiest looking hot dogs you have ever seen, but hey don’t judge a book by its cover I say, they were the tastiest most delicious thing I had put in my mouth for what seemed like forever hmmmm that massively gave me a boost.
Oxwich bay CP6 was next, I cant really remember much between CP5&6 other than that I had now paired up with Sara because navigation was getting a little more difficult, so onto CP7 Three Cliffs Bay, Sara`s Husband and Son Sam were there to great her and my crew were there to meet me, a very welcome sight indeed. Tronkster (Club Mate) was marshalling at this CP with a lovely lady called Margaret who bought me the nicest latte I have ever had, if I could put a price on it, I would have paid a million pounds for it 😊 My brother Ryan met us at this point and ran the last 8 miles to keep us motivated, which was really appreciated.
So this is where things got interesting, the night quickly came in and so did the weather, the paths turned to huge sandy banks of steepness mehhh, luckily I had the route on my GPS watch, otherwise I fear we would have got lost due to the poor light, weather and lack of signage or marker flags, some parts of the route were very well marked but I found many of the crucial areas where you could easily get lost, there were no markers. Anyway we were all thankful for my GPS, between me and you I was worried that I didn’t have enough battery life in the watch to get us back.
So it was an adventure for sure when the lights went out, and the driving rain came in, we arrived at the CP got scanned in, but didn’t stop we just wanted to finish this bloody race now. The route took us parallel with the road to caswell for a while before dropping us down the coastal path again which was an absolute nightmare because of all the rain, the slopes were steep and muddy with nowhere to get traction, this is where I hit the deck like a sack of very heavy spuds onto my knee and then flipped onto my back and side to slide about 3m in about 6inches of mud, yes there was mud and sand everywhere, in areas not even your mother would look mehh, it was at this point that all my enthusiasm left my body, I moaned, whinged, cursed (Not as much as Sara though haha) but we knew it was only a few mile until this ordeal was over.
The rest of the race was pretty uneventful to be fair, we didn’t even talk that much other than to say come on we got this muttered quietly from time to time, ahead of us we could see a flurry of head torches – the end was in sight, there was no sprit finish in any of us but we were so glad to get back alive and relatively unscathed to see friends and family cheer us over the line to collect our medals and cuddles.
There was questions asked to whether the race should have been postponed because of the conditions? Hmmm possibly I think, but I guess when you organise things like this its difficult to know what to do when so many people have travelled, spent money on the race, hotels etc etc, did anybody die? No so all in all it was a success
I do it again? Hmmmmmmm the jury is still out, I had allot to contend with leading up and during this race, which didn’t lead to a race performance that I was happy with, those that have followed my youtube channel will know that I have been struggling with injury and illness preventing me from training like I would have liked, but us Ultra runners are stubborn buggers, tell us we cant do something and its like a red rag to a bull.
I must say though the Guys that organise it are second to none and go out of their way to check your OK, also the volunteers are simply cool in my eyes, they give up an awful lot to ensure nutcases like me have a memorable experience.
Thank you everyone, that has helped support me, helped the event organisers and everyone I have met along the way, especially Sara for digging in when navigation became untenable, stay amazing!” Ginger Al