24 Feb 2019 – 17.4 miles / 4593 ft
– Jake Lodge
New to the scene, this race was devised and first ran in 2018 yet seems to have already established itself well into the calendar for some.
No, the GPS trace of the route isn’t in any way aesthetic, nor does the outline redeem itself by being even a slightly amusing shape (The 2016 Grin ‘n bear it route should give you a good idea of what I’m talking about), but the views, character, varied terrain – not to mention top notch veggie chilli & coriander afterwards – more than make up for any shortcomings.
Pea soup was to be the order of the day when the alarm first buzzed. I knew the mist would burn off sooner or later, and travelling west I pondered whether it would be soon enough. As I drove past Frodsham visibility was fortunately still poor, but the closer to Wales I got, the more flirtatious were the glimpses – soon to become beams – of sunlight. Suddenly a panoramic view of the Clwydian range was in clear sight.
Ten minutes until start and the more tardy runners (myself included) enjoyed the mandatory warm up from the village to the start line. (At this point I refused to acknowledge this would need reversing after the race).
10 AM and the pack was set free. From the first style runners were already taking various lines. Most cruised along the obvious trod, some took the more direct line crunching through straw-like bracken shoots, others opting for a slightly wider trajectory on a larger path.
I took the first half way too fast (a habit that’s as inescapable as the cliché); the weather was so good it was too much fun not to! Knowingly saving something in the tank almost wasn’t enough; the heat and thirst for water was greater than expected. Flashbacks of Ennerdale weren’t far off during the climb from the penultimate checkpoint (16) – yes there really are that many! – to the undulating ridge and final peak where walkers flocked.
Mental note for next year and top tip for anyone else: Get to the hill fort (Moel Famau) – and KEEP GOING. STRAIGHT.
PERISH any thoughts of “ticking off the true summit” “when in Rome” (pun absolutely intended) so as to avoid exiting a different way – via a SPIRAL STAIRCASE – which will inevitably and unwittingly disorientate you and cause you to descend the hill 90° off course.
And finally, applicable to any race, REFRAIN from chucking a lump of 90% dark chocolate in your kit bag (loose) as emergency rations. Regardless of the weather. Don’t worry though, there’s hope yet if you have PROVIDING, when you do finally realise you’re not where you ought to be, that you do not even THINK about dealing with the situation by eating said chocolate, that is found to be smothered all over your compass, with no water to wash it down. Blurgh.
So although the Clwydians don’t qualify as a mountainous range, don’t be fooled, the high point is short by only 45m. The sheeptracks route is a real tour of the area and plenty of ups and downs are in store.
Packing 17 controls into just as many miles and probably less familiar ground to most it’s perhaps not one for the navigationally challenged. But with plenty of route choice, and lots of runnable terrain (providing you can dodge the gorse), it’s hard not to compare with some of the age-old classics.
It’s a damn good feeling when you stumble upon a good trod; must be quite nice being a sheep.
– Jake Lodge
Full Results Here.
Photos from the Race Organisers; thumbnail pic by Richard Anthony