The sun shone through the second day of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race as the runners made their way from Nant Gwynant to Dolgellau via the Moelwyn and Rhinog hills. The day was a little longer then day one, with a bit less climbing, but the big difference was that the runners were feeling the effects of the previous day, and of the heat.
They also had significantly more route choice today and those watching the race trackers will have seen a wide selection of routes, particularly between CP’s 4 and 5. Almost every runner I spoke to said they’d lost time with navigational mistakes in the day, some more serious than others. A few also commented they had taken longer but ‘safer’ routes, meaning they’d chosen routes where they could be more sure of their navigation.
One thing which didn’t change was the leader as Jim Mann again set the fastest time and increased his overall lead. He still had his difficulties though. “At one point I lost the path and took a bearing but found cliffs blocking the way. In the end I threw my bag and jumped down!” His time for the day was 8 hours and 46 seconds, and I asked him if his experience of the race from 3 years ago was significant.
“Yes, it helps and I think I’ve paced it well so far,” he said. “I don’t enjoy running in the heat so much and suffered a bit at the end of the day, but am told the forecast is more overcast for tomorrow, which would suit me.”
I also asked about his training and the reply showed how much he has put into preparing for this race. “I do an hour of circuits and weights morning and evening alongside my regular training,” he said. “It’s aimed at specific muscle groups, primarily the quads and calves for climbing, and also the core. After two big days my climbing muscles feel fine and that was the idea, to be sure I can out-climb anyone else and do it for 5 days. On my recovery day I also did 1000m uphill on the treadmill at maximum pace as there are no big enough hills near where I live.”
He ran in today with Jasmine Paris. She had started earlier and when Mann caught her she stayed with him. “He helped lead me over the Rhinogs,” she said, “and at the end when he was struggling more I encouraged and waited for him, helping him through to the finish.”
Her time for the day was 08.41.15, and was enough to push her into second place overall, just over an hour behind Mann. She is currently leading the British Fell Running champs but said with 2 races still to go that may change, depending on how long it takes her to recover from the Dragon’s Back!
There were 3 women in the top 10 today, with Beth Pascal 6th and Lizzie Wraith 9th, and 6 of the top 20 after 2 days are female racers.
Other strong performances came from Jez Bragg, who finished 3rd today, improving on his first day position, and Pavel Paloncy who finished 11th on the day. This was despite his gashed leg which needed 6 stitches in hospital yesterday. When he passed me on the Roman Steps today he said, “I feel OK, not 100%, but good enough!”
Another of the top racers suffered a similar injury today. Ed Catmur fell on the Rhinogs and had to call for help as he too had a bad cut and couldn’t go on. He was picked up by 4X4 on a nearby track and taken for medical attention.
Others too failed to complete the day by missing the 16.00 cut off point at Cwm Bychan in the middle of the Rhinogs. This is an idyllic spot, a grassy parking area, flanked by a stream and surrounded by woodland, set in the middle of the hills and overlooking a small lake. It was a welcome sight for the runners today and there were some long pits stops in the shade, with rehydration a priority.
For the slower competitors their target was to get there before the cut-off and at the final count 16 found this too tough a challenge due to a combination of injuries, fatigue and concern about the length of the remainder of the day. Several competitors who just made it through the cut-off stopped nearby, and decided it made no sense to push on and exhaust themselves with 3 days still to go, thinking it was better to be cautious and enjoy the remainder of the race. Having made their choice they went back to the support point and were transported back to the overnight camp.
This was at the Vanner campsite just outside Dolgellau, with the tents set up beside the ruins of Cymer Abbey. The runners will set off from here tomorrow morning to run along the Cadair Idris ridge at the start of day 3, with the slower racers once again starting at 06.00 and the faster ones as late as 09.00.