RACE REPORT: THE TITAN – 4th July 2014

A well done for a good performance and a thanks to Spencer Jones who has given his race report.


With an iron distance triathlon (challenge Weymouth) booked, I searched for a testing local triathlon event to get me out of my early season lethargy. I stumbled across The Titan, a new middle distance race based at Bryn Bach Parc and with a £100 race fee,10 weeks before my A race, seemed it seemed like a perfect test.

So on July 4th, me and 66 others were racking our bikes on a damp Saturday morning whilst trying not to become gnat food. After racking I sought the sanctuary of the café (which was conveniently open at this early hour) and counted the bites over a coffee.
After getting the wetsuit on (for the 1st time this year) we were summoned to the lakes edge for the briefing. The swim was a 2 lap affair with an Australian exit. With relatively few competitors the swim was a gentile affair with sighting the big red bouys easy and the only issue being the reeds that infest Bryn Bach Lake. After the swim I was pleased to see there were some bikes still in transition. I used my TT bike with an easiest gear of 39 x 23 and set off with the drizzle lifting and the sun breaking through.

The bike route took us towards Ebbw Vale, across moorland and down a steep descent of aprox 3.5 miles to Llangyniddr then along country lanes towards Brecon where you could build up some speed. Next up was Heol y Senni where an 18% ramp up hit us. Now a rapid return to Brecon via Libanus and retrace our route back to Bryn Bach. With every pedal stroke I was asking myself whether my bike choice (and more importantly gearing) was correct. As I hit the climb I soon realised that it was not. Out of the saddle just about all the way, the hill was Brutal and at one stage I was as close as I have ever been to pushing!! But the 2nd half of the climb eased and amazingly I overtook 2 others near the top so I reckoned I wasn’t the only one to suffer. With ¾ of a mile to go to get back to Bryn Bach the road inclined so I changed to 1st and the chain slipped off, aarrgghh. After 30 s of faffing about the chain was reengaged and I completed my 61 miles.

The run is a 3 lap affair of once around the lake (flat) and the rest around the pitch and putt golf course (not flat at all). Although the run was pretty testing I really enjoyed it as you could gauge where you were in comparison to others and my plan was to run it at my Ironman Marathon pace and I managed to do this.

I crossed the line in 6hrs 37mins and wasn’t sure to be happy with this as I kept thinking was this really a hard event or was my lack of fitness showing? I spoke to a former Taff Ely member Matthew Haines after the event and to quote him “my legs felt better at the start of Ironman Lanzarote than today” so that assured me that it indeed was a toughie.

The event next year has been pulled forward to June 20th next year and so not to clash with the Long Course Weekend and I hope more people enter this event as the more local events the better and I feel this really could become a classic on the circuit.

My advice to anyone who has Ironman aspirations or is indeed down to do IMW in September is, the Titan at 11-12 weeks out from IMW would be a great event to test your fitness and if you can complete this you are well on your way to Iron Distance glory. The event is local, has free onsite parking, held on a Saturday, no more than a 30 minute drive away and at £100 is a bargain compared to some races of this distance. I really do feel that by doing this event it gave me a great boost, towards my A race of Challenge Weymouth.

Dare Valley Country Park Fell Run.

Well. They call it the Bwllfa Dare for a reason. As Vicky, Gerwyn, Sarah Adams, Jay Goulding and I were soon to find out.

Yet again, Vicky Jones had suckered me into another fell run, now that I had finally thawed out from our previous experience on Craig Yr Allt. Vicky mentioned today that she’s looking for a fresh career challenge: think there might be a few Arabs who could do with some more sand. They just don’t know it yet. 

This one was in my local stamping-ground, the Dare Valley Country Park, March 8th. I’m think I’m right in saying that it was the very last race of the Welsh Fell Runners Association’s Winter Series. It actually felt like more like the start of their Summer Programme. The weather was glorious. The sun truly shone on the righteous: I know, because I was stood next to them. 

The route was just under 10k, with over 300m of climbing. The race category was described as ‘BS’, which I can only assume means ‘Blinking Steep’. Previous victims of my prose may recall my description of the types who enter in these events. They’ll also recall the dog who beat me home last time, despite simultaneously taking part in his own 6-legged race. He was there again: I’m sure the bit when he cleaned himself was an attempt to pysch me out. But this time I was more prepared. I’d actually read the race pack and brought the proper kit, with some shiny new trail shoes, and even a whistle. An ACME Thunderer for the cognoscenti: nothing but the best. The shoes were the cheapest I could find in Sports Direct though.

Start-time was again a very civilised 14.00 hours, and entry-fee a remarkable £4. These races are amazing value, but with the organisation behind them of far more expensive commercial event. The love the fell racing community has for their sport shines through.

On the hooter, and with absolutely no preamble the race headed north, up the steepest broken terrain. I swore that this time I would run all the way, unless of course scrambling on all fours was required. In which case I’d allow myself to use my teeth as well. I’m proud to say that I met this objective. Admittedly, to the untrained eye it may have appeared a shambling walk at some points, but I never stopped running. Not even when I felt like being sick. 

I’d love to say that the terrain levelled off at the top. Running across the heath felt even harder somehow, and not even the views could distract from the effort. We were heading for a Trig marker at the top. I expected a 20 year-old broomstick, with a 5 year-old brush and 2 year-old handle. Turns out it was a big, concrete navigation aid. Who knew? Jay Goulding, evidently. He flew past me on his way back down the mountain whilst I was still trying to make it out in the distance.

If I thought the way back was going to be easier, I was sadly mistaken, The terrain until now had been uneven, slippery, rock-strewn and sometimes boggy: and that was the main path. Now came a near vertical drop, even including streams and railway sleepers (?) to hurdle. Once again, I can’t stress how awesome the regulars are at descending. They seem to flow down like water. I had all the grace of a tumbling watering can. I’ll confess to being relieved to get back onto the comparatively level. Even then, challenges remained. I’d thought that the organisers had slipped up as I’d not gone through every patch of mud in the Park. But then I realised I’d missed a turning. The kind of ground where you don’t check if you’ve left a trainer behind: you wonder about an entire leg.

I wouldn’t like to say I was glad to see the finish and the rest of the gang. It was exhausting, but great fun, and part of me didn’t want it to end. Admittedly, only a small part. Writing this tonight I can’t believe how much the whole of me aches. 

But I’ve also got the glow from another great experience. I’ll join Vicky in encouraging all club members to enter one of these events. They’re a great workout, and a great adventure. You might even finish ahead of that blinking dog.

Simon Morgan

Craig yr Allt Fell Race – 25th January

Even with the weather being so bad at the moment it is great to see that Taff Ely Triathlon members are getting out there racing. This week saw four members doing some fell running. Simon Morgan provides an entertaining report.


It was all Vicky Jones’s fault. ‘Come do something a bit different’ she said. ‘Ros and I had a go the other week, it was a right laugh. Though we did put the “fell” in “fell running”’, she said.

And so Sara Morgan and I found ourselves celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day up to our knees in mud, covered in scratches, soaked to the skin, and absolutely loving it. In the good company of Ros Edmonds, Vicky, Sarah Adams, 80 plus others, 1 man and his dog.

The race was organised by the Mynydd Du Club ( http://www.mynydd-du.org.uk/home ) as part of a winter series. But apparently there’s events organised throughout the year. There was some initial confusion when we got there, but some of the other runners were keen to help us out. Top Tip 1 – get there early, start might be ages from the sign-up point.

The organisers were slick, gave a good race briefing, had sign-posted the route very well and had marshals at all key points. And all for just £3! Was a bit nervous when we were given a map of the route – my orienteering is right down there with my DIY skills – but it didn’t prove an issue thanks to the quality of the organisation: gave us an incentive to keep up with the field though.

Our thinking was: it’s under 4 miles – how hard can it be? We also turned up with ordinary daps and a technical  T, with some heavy warm-up clothes. Turns out gloves, headgear and a wind-proof top were mandatory; trail or fell shoes highly recommended.  Top Tip 2 – check the website’s terms and conditions. As proud as I am of my TET Hoodie, it’s not the best thing to run in during a monsoon – I’m carrying enough extra weight as it is.

Quick word on our fellow runners. Quite a mix of ages and looks. A few looked like Forrest Gump after he’d run the US a few times. Should’ve known better when I clocked the worn but high-spec kit that was standard – didn’t pay to under-estimate these guys. Even the dog tied to his master’s shorts turned out to be useful. Top Tip 3 – carry stodgy doggy-snacks to every race to slow down your four-legged competitors. (Ok – there may be a limited market for that one).

We started at the back. Race went north straight away, tarmac initially then muddy trail. Sara and Sarah hit a nice tempo, I left them and started picking off those ahead of me, even as things started getting slippy. Including 1 man and his dog. I was feeling good. But the first downhill was a revelation. The regulars (and their pets) start flying past me as I negotiated the mud, streams and greasy hillocks. There truly is an art to this kind of descending. And, well, mine is a bit like my orienteering. And DIY.

The next half hour was a succession of scrambles up, slides down and stumbles through streams. Think desperate cons escaping the Deep South Penitentiary with the prison guards on their trail. Excepting the fact that the bloke with the dog was actually ahead of us. At one point I was holding the sides of my hoodie out as a sail to push me up yet another hill. Quite how many hills were squeezed into 4 miles is still something of a mystery. Traction was sometimes all but impossible, as more of the field came past. I’d love to say it was all down to Top Tip 4 -wear trail or fell shoes. But, let’s face it, the dog wasn’t wearing them.

And so, after the muddiest, narrowest descent yet, we all got to the finish. Cheered on by the soaked-but-supportive marshals. And a cheerful yip from the dog, by now busily tagging a gatepost. The squelch back to the cars – and Ros’s bike: the woman lives Rule #5 – was enlivened by talk of our (mis)adventure.

But my mind kept going back to the knowing look one of the marshals gave us at the finish. He knew we’d caught the bug and would be coming back.

Tor-y-Foel Fell Race – 11th January

It’s good to see that Taff Ely Tri members are racing early in the New Year. Vicky Jones gives an account of the Tor y Foel fell running race.

7Fell.3 km with 370m of climbing – it seemed like a good idea in December – excellent training for the climbs of the Slateman triathlon I’ll be doing in May.  99 of us gathered on the Taff Trail near Talybont Dam in beautiful weather for the 2pm start with Ros and I representing Taff Ely Tri. From the start it was clear that most of the gathered crowd were experienced fell runners but we didn’t let this put us off.

The run began with a steady incline made difficult by uneven ground with the sun in our eyes and by the time I reached the point where I could see the summit far in the distance the first runners were already ¾ of the way up – and looked to still be running! Along with most of the competitors the slog to the top was done slowly, with no hint of running, in fact at one point I was moving so slowly that the auto-pause on my Garmin kicked in and didn’t resume for four minutes!! If you’d have asked me at this point if I was enjoying it the answer would have been an emphatic NO. But then, the summit, there were four enthusiastic and supportive marshals, amazing panoramic views and a lovely downhill stretch.

Once I persuaded my legs to move again I was off and amazingly I was smiling. From there it was a mix of running, slipping and sliding to the end. The support throughout from marshals and other competitors was amazing. The results aren’t out yet  but the timing guy told me I was sub 60 minutes so I’m pretty pleased with that and am already looking forward to my next fell race. If you haven’t tried fell running then I heartily recommend it – there’s another event in a couple of weeks and at only £3-5 an event there isn’t really an excuse not to 🙂

For more information and fixtures have a look on the Welsh Fell Runners Association website http://www.wfra.me.uk/index.htm

Glynneath 5 Mile Boxing Day 2013

This race report was kindly provided by Chris Armstrong who had a fantastic run on the say as you will soon find out.

Over to Chris.

Travelling down to Glynneath with Lee, Louise and Donna, I was a little apprehensive with what I was about to do. Deciding only the night before to run and after a good few months of taking it easy and indulging in beer and whiskey, I did not really know how I would get on. I checked out the route on the internet the day before to see it was a fast flat course, which made me feel a little easier. Arriving to register and relax early I started to feel better and was confident on a sub 50 minute run. I got my number and pinned it to my club top and started to relax a little more. We again got in the car to get to the start and I announced I would be happy to run 10 minute miles. At the start it was freezing and getting quite busy, meeting Simon and Sara and some of the Dragons we moved into a position closer to the front of the pack. Without warning a whistle sounded and we were off. Starting fast to catch Louise who had gone like a rocket, I was running faster than I thought I could. Myself and Lee looked at the pace and decided it needed to slow. Instead of slowing I ran faster and faster, fearing that I could not hold the pace and my body screaming to slow I pushed on and on. Soon I realised that it was not flat and on the way back would have to tackle the inclines I enjoyed running down like a lunatic. Hitting the turn I started back for the 2.5 mile return leg and was soon met with a shout from the other side of the course of “ten minute miles my bottom” or words to those effect. The sound of laughter spurred me on a little more and soon I came to the inclines and slowed slightly. Sara and Simon came past with words of encouragement as they started to put a gap between them and me. Finally seeing the 4 mile sign I managed to go a little quicker then came the signs I had been waiting for, 800 meters, 400 meters and then 200 meters. A little push and I managed to put a final sprint in at the finish to achieve not only the sub 50 minutes I had been looking for but something I never though possible, a sub 40 minute run!!

Merthyr Mawr Christmas Pudding Race 2013

Jay Goulding has kindly written a race report for the  Merthyr Mawr Christmas Pudding Race 2013. The race was also attended by Taff Ely Tri members Vicky Jones and Ros Edmonds.

Over to Jay:

By the end of this review, you will have learned that I won the race up the hill and that I hold the course record. Neither of these are entirely true, The Merthyr Mawr Christmas pudding race is the race of legends, or as I found out leg- ends! The race which has been running since 1990 is a Brackla – Buy one get one free! The overall race is a 10k cross country race, the free bit is the not so easy sprint to the top of the “big dipper”, the winner of which gets a Turkey ( more on that in a bit).

As I headed down the M4, glad that I didn’t stay out for the extra beer, I began to question my own judgement as the sat nav sent me passed the normal junction for Bridgend and southern down. Had I looked at the postcode the night before or even followed my own sense of direction, I would have noticed that the postcode provided, by the otherwise well organised race team, had sent me 6 miles from the actual race. Luckily a bloke with running kit on, directed me and the 6 other cars following me (these cars had clearly not consulted any of TET about my sense of direction) in the right direction and the sight of Ewenny Pottery told me I was back on track.

Just enough time to get my kit on and run to the start line where I was greeted by the smiling faces of Vicky Jones and Ros Edmonds two other Taff Ely triathletes .

The race starts with the “Big Dipper” which is one big sand dune. Once you get there, if you’re legs still work, you have the prospect of another 9.8km of a proper cross country course which has everything. It takes you over hills, through mud, sand, water and gravel.

The start line was busy with athletes of all abilities most looking fearfully at the hill ahead, and many dressed in fancy dress. Until this point I hadn’t really thought much about the race. My normal strategy is to start slowly a few rows back and feel my way into a race. But today, for some unknown reason, I found myself at the front, thinking “I’m alright at hills”. This thought was about to be my undoing.

When the race official started us off, it felt more like a 5k park run on a beach up a hill, we all just went for it. 50 metres in and the thoughts were turning to high knees and good form, which would have  been drilled into me if I attended more Monday night sessions with Ed.  Another 50 metres in and I can see a few people on the grass cheating their arses off, but in the middle, on the sand, I was going alright.

Soon, a small number of us congregated just before the top, just in front of the tv camera. Two people were ahead of me (both had been on the grass, so should be disqualified and banned from racing for ever) and they are both struggling big time, using their hands to make their legs work. I can taste victory, if I can just get around them.

And then…my legs just stopped working and I too resorted to pushing my knees with my hands just to get them to move. One of the lads in front fell over and I found myself in second place. Could  I get the victory? Where was the line? Could this have been the greatest success of my career so far? No. Just as i thought I was about taste the poultry smell of moist Turkey I realised,  I was till about 100 metres from the very top and my legs didn’t work. It was the worst form of Jelly legs ever experienced in the history of the world. I wondered if I would even finish the next 1k, never mind the whole race.  And then… the humiliation began… “you went off too fast didn’t you lads” is the only thing I remember hearing as the wiser runners, slowly but surely overtake me and the other carcasses lying decimated on the floor.

The next few kms were a test of whether I could recover and still get some speed back in my legs. Although not planned, it was a good exercise in recovery which will hopefully hold me in good stead for the next Triathlon season.

The rest of the course was amazing, more sand, but this time downhill, streams, plenty of marshalls who stopped the traffic, and offered friendly encouragement. By the 7th Km, my legs were working again and I started to overtake people again. By the time I hit the river, my feet were wet, but I was home and dry. The goody bag at the end contained Christmas puddings which I ate for my supper after some great Chinese food, with the TET lot. Great day! Next stop Nos Galon.


Oh yes, when I checked my watch after, I could see that I reached the first peak in 1min and 16 seconds. I didn’t run on the grass. the course record is 1.22. I am claiming a moral victory, even if i didn’t get the Turkey!!

Bog and Bryn – 13.7 mile multi terrain race with 1640ft of climbing.

Ros Edmonds has provided a race report from this tough race which took place on the 3rd November and is organised by the Fairwater and Cwmbran runners.

Over to Ros:

I hadn’t done a standalone running event for a few years as my running has gone downhill steadily due to a long term knee problem (and getting older) .  However I was hugely encouraged by a good run at the Gower Triathlon in September so feeling positive decided to enter the Bog and Bryn. I then forgot all about it, had a very social long weekend away and before I knew it, it was a couple of days before the event and I realised I had done no preparation and almost no running for a month!

After weeks of continuous rain it was encouraging to arrive at Cwmbran Stadium in the sunshine.  Approximately 200 of us started with a lap around the field before going off along a few hundred metres of road and pavement, along a canal tow path then, standstill as a queue formed to get over one of the many stiles on the route. We were then onto muddy fields and the ascent started.  The route took us up and up over fields, tracks through forests, across streams and almost scrabbling over rocks.  The scenery was amazing although a bit difficult to appreciate as it was a constant battle to stay upright  given  the conditions underfoot and the need to constantly watch where  your feet were going.   I came across an old running mate from a few years ago and we chatted a little and then leap frogged each other throughout most of the race.  The sun continued to shine and we continued to go up, occasionally getting stuck in mud and trying to yank feet out without losing shoes!  I walked some of the steeper bits as did many others around me.  The atmosphere was friendly and encouraging amongst all the other competitors.

Eventually we started to descend; this was great fun although I was starting to feel tired at this point.  Bouncing down through the mud, through a field of cows I managed to overtake a woman with a strapped up ankle, which apparently she had broken just a couple of months earlier!  Down onto the canal towpath with only a mile or two to go, I was starting to feel my lack of preparation.  I also realised that I should have prepared more by bringing some gels or chocolate bars.  Three cups of cold water were nowhere near enough to sustain me over this event.  Completely drained I managed to slowly jog along the canal tow path where the lady with the broken ankle overtook me!  It wasn’t much further to go and I was back on the field we had run around at the start.  My finish time was 2 hours 46 minutes.  I was exhausted but had really enjoyed it.  I will be back next year, but with a bag of food to keep me going!

There were 183 finishers, the 1st place time was 1 hour 33 and the last place was 3 hours 55.  So this is certainly an event for all abilities.  Fairwater and Cwmbran runners did a fantastic job with over 50 smiling and encouraging marshals on the well marked course.  They must be congratulated on planning a route with so little tarmac.

In summary a fantastic event I would recommend to all.

Pembrey MT10 – Welsh Middle Distance Trail Running Championships

Aled Smith has kindly written a report of the Pembrey MT10 Trail Run race. This was attended by four members of Taff Ely Tri (Aled Smith, Adrian and Helen Colley and Gerwyn Malpas). It sounds like a great event. Well done all.

So onto Aled:

It was set to be a great race, the weather was perfect, overcast not too cold with a few sunny spots now and again and not a breeze! It was an 11am race start, which definitely beats getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to travel to other races, it was heaven!

Helen and Adrian Colley, Gerwyn Malpas and myself all signed up on the day, which I regret doing now but more on that later! We had all heard a great deal about the race, but none of us had actually done it before so the excitement of doing something new was definitely there.

It was a well-attended event and from what I’ve heard it keeps on growing each year, just 4 people shy of 400 on the start line. It was hard to judge what time to aim for in this event as I had never done it before and didn’t know what the course was like. When we were under starters orders they gave a brief description of the course and said it was ‘undulating’ with sections that look as though a battalion of tanks had driven through it, they were definitely not lying!

The hooter went off and as usual I went off like a bat out of hell, doing sub 6 minute miles for the first mile and a bit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep that up! Having never run on this type of terrain before I found it very difficult on the small narrow trails, and ended up with a few cuts from branches and wondered how I didn’t go over on my ankles! Around the halfway point there comes the undulations, by that they mean a few 20% muddy sandy hills with a bloke at the top shouting encouragement which didn’t make things better when your calf muscles are screaming for oxygen!

Just after the half way mark I was doing around 6:30 minute’s miles, hitting 10k in just over 40 minutes, and then came the flat part which should mean the fastest section, right? Not for me, I had no power on the flat and kept dropping places and time, minute miles hitting the 7:30’s, not a happy bunny! The next section of the course was bliss, the nice stretch along Cefn Sidan beach. I got onto to the beach and felt my legs burst into life and got my head down and into a rhythm, I made up 10 places from the start to the end of the beach section, getting back into the low 6 minute miles again, but the damage had already been done! The last 2 miles was across the section where it looked as though a battalion of tanks had been through, it was an absolute bomb site, up and down on ankle breaking track, but it was great fun. Coming out of the forest in sight of the finishing banner it would have been rude not to have a sprint finish with the guy who was in front of me the whole way!

Finishing times;

Winning time – 58:29

Myself; 1:12:19 – Gerwyn; 1:16:08 – Adrian; 1:27:23 – Helen; 1:41:07

This event was also coupled with the Welsh Middle Distance Trail Running Championships, however, in order to qualify to compete in the championships you had to register a week before! Turns out that if I had signed up a week previously instead of doing it on the day I would have been Welsh u20 Trail Running Champion, never mind hey!

Great day out with great company and definitely the best running event I’ve done, would highly recommend it, a tough and thoroughly enjoyable course.

Aled Smith