This was my second attempt at Trident which I completed with the company of 2 friends Simon Harris and Juergen Heeg. Simon I met at work and is a former RAF squaddie and he is familiar with the military ways.
Juergen and I struck up a conversation in a services car park after he noticed my hobbling walk and severely mashed toenails due to boots which were too small doing the 2016 summer back to back aka Double Tap. I did notice him at the start on the Sunday resplendent in German fatigues and a military backpack. I admired him for that. It showed confidence and character and I respected that.
Fan Dance, its like an itch, its brutal and I always walk away thinking what am I doing but return feeling I have not given my all. Even though January 2017 was a Double Tap, i felt unhappy with my performance. Saturday was a poor performance with 5:30, but I made up a fair amount of time on the downhill runs but the uphills were my nemesis and I struggled greatly. The Sunday was a better result with that being 5 hours but still I struggled a lot, I ran down the hills and new boots kept my feet in tip top conditions.
Simon and I were staying at Storey Arms to make the attempt easier but withdrew before the race as I felt I would put myself and the MST at risk if I went up. Knowing what I know now it was a wise decision as I did not realise how brutal the High Moon event was on top of a Saturday Fan Dance.
The Summer 2017 Trident event was going to be a challenge and having Simon there fitter than ever. I was sporting a new bag after the previous one broke during the winter event, i felt reasonably good about my preparation. Juergen had a throat infection but was up for it so the 3 musketeers were ready to have a stab at this.
Our event started with some cloud cover but no rain. We all knew this would be hard work and now the challenge began. Once again I struggled with the uphills regardless of my prep. Both Simon and Juergen got going with strong performances and good pace on the hills. After about 50 mins i got to Pen Y Fan which was shrouded in cloud and we had to follow the markers to the MST1 and report to the DS with our race number, your event and name. Green tent for Double Tap and Trident and single Fan Dnacers the white tent.
We started the descent down Jacobs Ladder which is slow going due to the stone path and the cloud cleared away with a stunning view of the mountainside and cloud coming up over the ridge on the left. I got my head down and concentrated on the descent. I made my way onto the grassy slopes to be able to run down the last section which I find makes descent easier.
Skirting around the mountain I made good time and turned onto the Roman road briefly exchanging greetings with the DS stationed there. I started the long descent down Roman road keeping a steady good pace going and making sure I dont make footing mistakes which caused me so much toe damage last year. Where the road was more even I got a steady even jog going to make up more time and this helped dramatically as my ascent was difficult and slow.
I reached RV 2 and checked in with the DS stating number, event and name. Once checked in I grabbed something to eat, had a drink and filled up my water bottles for the return journey. These are all processes which you need to master and make them as smooth as possible to reduce time and get going again. For the poorly prepared who didn’t stay ahead of the sweeper got a shock when they get pulled from the event,
Roman road Ascent
The long return up the Roman road is deceptively hard work. Its not a steep incline like Jacobs Ladder but it is a constant 10% incline for a good 5km at least. The weather conditions were good and this made hydration something to manage carefully. Drink enough to stay hydrated. This means taking small sips every now and then. Don’t over hydrate and drink masses of water as this causes cramps just as bad as dehydration.
Once you check in at the DS the mountain section starts and this is where you need to be careful with the uneven stone path. Rushing this and mis-steps can ruin your ankles or feet or you can have a face encounter of the stoney kind.
Jacobs Ladder & The Return
This is a brutal beast. It can take a good chunk of your time and eats up your energy stores and saps your legs. You need to keep moving and stay mobile. As soon as you sit you make the restart 10 times more difficult mentally and physically. If need be take a breather gather some energy and forge ahead.. Its all about regular small steps. Concentrate on the next step, ignore where you want to be as it can overwhelm a you. The worst part is you spend a huge amount of effort getting to the top and then the little surprise awaits. It goes steeper and higher all the way up to the summit. The last section is a test of endurance and metal fortitude to carry on to the top.
Once at the top its a massive relief to have a even surface to catch a breath, report into RV3 and checking in with the MST with your details. Once you have done that you start the descent skirting Corn Du and starting down the trail turning right along the mountain to get to the long downward path all the way to the red phone box.
Even though this is a reasonably even path its a steep decline which is just as brutal on the legs as the uphill struggle of Jacob’s Ladder. You are torn between the “easier” downhill section but this requires just as much braking effort as what continuous climbing does. Fan Dance is designed to brutally challenge your legs there is no letup between the up or the down section and anyone that thinks so is a fool.
This is where recently I have been making up my time which I have been losing on the uphills. I have become better with each event at downhill running which means more comfort levels for me and it makes the return easier than trying to walk it back as I find it harder on my legs. My only challenge is balancing the weight distribution between right and left leg and utilising my left leg without putting weight on the outside of my legs due to injury. I have to ensure I have even weight distribution in my left leg and feet to prevent injury.
For those who don’t know I have damaged glute and hamstring muscles in my left leg and the muscles damage is on the inside of my glute which means constant awareness of loading those muscles to make them work and to ensure even load distribution within one leg. I have to consciously run and monitor it all the time to ensure correct utilisation.
The first downhill section went well and I made a good pace. I reached the stream at the bottom and made my way up the short hill to the gate which means the last section to get to the red phone box is reality. You have a flat section with a slight incline which is all a stony path until you get to the top which becomes even pathway and once crested is the last 1km or so to the end. This bit is a mix of stony path and more even sections. Sometimes I end up on the grassy slopes for a softer run. These don’t last long and you soon end up back on the path. The last section is where the relief kicks in that its over – for now in my case as I would be back in 8 hours to start High Moon.
trident high moon continued