Reporting by Rob Howard / www.SleepMonsters.com
Early on day 2 a line of racers in their bright Berghaus waterproof jackets made their way slowly up into the hills, heading for the summit of Cnicht, the first checkpoint of the day, before moving on the Moelwyn hills. It wasn’t long before the early cloud and mist cleared off and another fine day followed, with clear skies and a gentle, cooling breeze. It was still warm, but not as hot as yesterday, and the weather was as good as the competitors could have hoped for.
Those who have been struggling with their navigation will have been glad of the clear visibility on a day of potentially complex route finding. After crossing the Ffestiniog valley the next stage took the racers across country to the support point at the remote Cwm Bychan and there was a clear route choice here. Either to go round Moel Ysgyfarnogod, where all the starters had been told the going was difficult and slow, or by taking a long way around on tracks.
The two leaders (who had started the day together) made different choices here with Rob Baker opting for the longer route, and Steve Birkinshaw going directly over the tops. Baker was hoping to eat into Birkinshaw’s day one lead, but it didn’t work and he lost a few minutes. “I’m a hopeless road runner,” said Birkinshaw, “so I’d have lost a lot of time if I’d gone the longer way around.” Some of his route was across boulder fields covered in heather and I asked him if he was able to run across it. “Not really, but I can move faster than most,” was his reply.
At Cwm Bychan the kit bags were laid out on a grassy car park beside a small lake and the support point was a welcome sight for the runners coming down off the summit of Clip. They found various ways down the rock covered slope, picking a route carefully. The checkpoint was set beside a small waterfall, with cold and hot drinks available and a grassy bank to sit and rest on for a while.
The cut-off here was at 4pm and there were still 13 runners to arrive at 4.30, with several already having decided to retire. Those who had not made it in time included the large group of Spanish runners and Max Howard and Steve Wathall who were racing together. Both their wives are helping the race and were waiting for them to arrive, feeling a little worried and despondent that they had failed to make the cut-off. (They did arrive OK and were transported around to the mid-camp with the other retirees.)
There is a team of readers from Trail Running magazine competing as a relay and today’s runner had missed a checkpoint somewhere as he said he’d only visited one on the way to Cwm Bychan. Other reactions of runners passing through were a combination of weary comments on the length of the day, and enjoyment of the fantastic scenery they were passing through. Chris Baynham-Hugh said, “I saw the lake below and thought there was nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Beyond the checkpoint the going was easier on the next ascent on a path called the Roman Steps, which is almost like a paved way laid out through the heather slopes. Beyond this the going became very difficult again as runners climbed up onto Rhinog Fawr and then made their way across Diffwys before descending to camp at Cymer Abbey at the head of the Mawddach estuary.
This overnight camp was in a commercial camp site, so there was the luxury of a shower and for those who arrived early enough there was the chance to relax in the sun and enjoy the snacks and soup from the kitchen, while comparing notes on routes with other competitors.
Once again it was Steve Birkinshaw who won the day (08.3.12), pulling out a lead of over 25 minutes on Rob Baker (09.01.25) and putting him in a commanding position overall with a lead of around 50 minutes.
In the ladies race Helen Whitaker finished in 6th overall, with day one winner Nicky Spinks 1 hour 37 minutes behind in 15th place. Whitaker was asked if it was easier this time compared to 20 years ago and she replied ‘yes’, then changed it ‘maybe not’! Easier or not she is once again showing the determination, skill and endurance which she did on the original race. Spinks said, “I was feeling better today, but I think we took some eccentric route choices!”
More news and results on day 2 will follow tomorrow.
photos of day two are at; http://www.sleepmonsters.com/racereport.php?page_action=gal&race_id=9939