My second time doing runwalkcrawls excellent Celtic Trail Races on a “sunny” December Wales morning. After not an amazing year of racing, I wanted to get something in the calendar to prevent or at least partially mitigate the standard winter rut but was umming and aaahing.. So.. one evening in October, after one or two beers I bit the bullet and signed up.

I last did this race in 2021, frankly a lot fitter, a lot healthier and a couple of years (feels like more) younger.. At the time it was a linear race, starting just outside Port Talbot and finishing in Abadare, it was a glorious sunny day and whilst it was tough, I never felt that any of the terrain was not runnable (at least if your legs were working). So I was actually quite looking forward to it.

About 8 or 9 weeks out, I developed a real niggle in my calf. To the point that I was really struggling to walk, let alone run. Cue a couple of months of some fairly boring very easy sessions on the treadmill and more calf raises than I care to think about. I plodded round Sodbury Slog in November, with no real issues with the calf but continued to take it easy (perhaps I’ve actually started listening to advice?) in the lead up to the Celtic Trail Races. If nothing else it was decent base training which is what is needed for next year anyway.

The day of the race came round, and after deciding to do a solo trip due to the “new” circular route from Abadare, I left the house wide eyed and awake at 0515 on a drizzly Saturday morning for the 8am start. Helpfully the final stretch of road was closed so I had to take an interesting diversion, due to the various road closures it took a couple of hours vs the hour 30 it “should” have taken. Ah well, nothing like rushing for the start of a race!

Registration was simple as expected, mandatory kit check and actually received a map this time to go with my shiny, used once compass just in case of getting lost.

So to the start!

After the race briefing and being told about the “Dawn French puddles” (if you know you know), and after an excellent 2.5km of 10% gradient to warm the legs up we got properly started.

The weather was just the right side of awful, very wet with lots of moisture in the air, quite hazy. I’m sure the route would have been beautiful (having ran bits of it previously) there were no views to be had today.

Most of the first 30km or so was runnable, albeit hilly. The first few checkpoints went by nicely, taking it super easy with a few little niggles but nothing to be worried about.

By the first time limited checkpoint (CP4 30k / 860m) I was well within timing which was the main aim of the day. Checkpoints were well stocked with pretty much everything needed. I’m not sure how I feel about the lack of cups, it makes sense for the environment but it does make checkpoints more difficult (eg I poured cold water all over my hands at CP2).

After CP4 it was a different ball game. The terrain took a turn for the worse a particular example was about 40mins of scrambling up a slate/boulder field. The picture doesn’t really do it justice..

This section in particular took a massive toll on my ankles (especially my right) which spent the next 25k feeling like it was about to snap which is sub-optimal given I was driving home! It made the rest of the run much more challenging and terrain that I might have ran earlier in the day was just not sensible to do anything other than walk. The section between 30k and 45k took almost two hours, post 45k I was finally able to start “running” again, fortunately the course gods decided that it should be all downhill from there. The last stretch into Abadare is “a bit ropey” to say the least, I’m glad I hit this before dark as it would have been a real ankle breaker.

I crossed the line in 8 hours and 23 minutes, about 30mins slower than last time (albeit 1km longer). Overall, I feel like my race execution, pacing etc was a lot better than previously and the additional time is 100% down to the tougher course/difficult conditions underfoot. Ironically, the only thing not hurting at the end was my calf so I guess I can’t continue to use that as an excuse!

The main takeaway, great event. I regret not doing more conditioning work, my hip, knee and ankle had all given up by the end of the day and I think this could have been avoided with the right conditioning work in the lead up to the event. Ah well, lessons learnt but probably forgotten by the time the next one comes around. Seven Sins next with a short break for Christmas!