If you are a regular follower of this blog, you'll know that yesterday the Spa2Summit team set out on their second training walk. Following on from our walk in February, this would start in Mitcheldean and finish 35 miles and ?? hours later in Crickhowell. This would be a real test of our training, kit, nutrition, hydration and mental stamina. "How did it go, how did it go?" I hear you cry! Read on!
After a week of glorious weather it was fantastic to wake up to thick grey clouds and rain. Fortunately, after convening at Pete's and driving out to Mitcheldean, the rain gradually eased off to very light drizzle. We set off, after no small amount of faffing about, to climb out of town. As we turned off the road and in to the woods we could see the sky brightening and within minutes were walking in sunshine. Awesome. Once we climbed to the high point here, we were treated to stunning views north which gave us a real lift. A slight navigational faux-pas lost us a few minutes in the woods above Hope Mansell but we were soon back on track. Before long we were descending to the Wye Valley, which looked particularly lovely, and then striding towards Kerne Bridge, Goodrich and our first meeting with Jonty, who was piloting our support vehicle. A brief stop and scoff, and we were back on our way.
Our second leg took us out through Marstow, Llangrove and towards Welsh Newton before swinging north to cross the River Monnow at Skenfrith. Again we were treated to quiet lanes and stunning views. In fact just after what will be kilometre 55 in June we could look west and see, between Skirrid and Sugarloaf, our ultimate destination, Pen Y Fan. It was a long way away! Just after this we descended to the Monnow, having had to make a rapid dash across someone's drive to pick up the footpath (sorry!). What a beautiful little river the Monnow is. A few steps further on and we catch sight of Jonty, relaxing in the sun by Skenfrith Castle. We decided to join him!
At this point, about 26km in, we were all starting to feel it, but nowhere near as bad as our February 20 miler. More scoff, change of socks, blister plastering of feet, topping up of Camelbaks and we were off again.
This next leg was the longest of the day, getting on for 10 miles, and unfortunately the weather took a little turn for the worse. The wind picked up and ridiculously dark clouds loomed ahead of us. At this point the banter stopped, ipods went in, heads went down and we just got on with it. Out past Bont we picked up the Offa's Dyke Path, which did see a brief spurt of running up a very steep hill (what is it with us and running up hills..?) More stunning views followed as we descended towards Llanvihangel Crucorney. Seriously, walking down seems to be way worse than walking up...
Jonty had set up base in the carpark of the Skirrid Inn where our final stop took place. Just 9 miles seperated the team from it's goal. Deep breath and onwards.
At this point I would like to make observations about the kit we were using. Having the right gear makes such a massive difference. Thanks to Nicki at Cotswold Brecon and her contacts at SIS we were well stocked with energy gels, go bars and PSP22 drink, and this had a really big effect. Keeping properly hydrated, and replacing lost electrolytes, has an immeasurable impact! No shakiness or cramps, brilliant. Our S2S Berghaus base layers were excellent and I thoroughly recommend Helly Hansen boxers, comfy, oh yeah! Following discussion with one of Nicki's colleagues I used a Lowe Alpine bumbag as an auxillary carrying device, filled with flapjacks, Jamaica Ginger Cake, wine gums, jelly babies, dried fruit and mini Cheddars. It's so easy to keep eating when everything is so conveniently to hand. However, here comes the less good bit. After our walk in February we all decided that lighter footwear would be a wise purchase. We needed something that could handle off-road walking but that wouldn't weigh us down on the road. Most of us then bought TNF Hedgehogs. Whilst I felt really comfortable in these in the shop and on shorter walks, they have wrought terrible things on my poor feet. Having put on a couple of pre-emptive blister pads on the back of my heels, I had to put a couple on the balls of my feet at Skenfrith. Even then I could feel all was not well. When I peeled my socks off at the Skirrid Inn I was greeted with the sight of a burst blister on the outside of my left heel and what appeared to be an orange wine gum stuck to the outside of my right big toe. And blisters under my blister pads... I hasten to add that this in no way is meant to detract from these shoes, as I say most of the team were using them and getting on very well with them. They're obviously just not for me! I sat feeling very despondent, just trying to slip my shoes back on caused me much pain, and I could see no way that I would make the last 9 miles. So, sadly, I had to drop out at this point. Gutted...
So I'll have to leave one of the other guys to describe the final leg. Jonty and I went and sat in the pub for an hour then set out to overtake them. Fair play, hanging as they may have been, the guys had really put some distance on. With a quick enquiry as to any requirements they had, we pressed on to Crickhowell. Another killer descent in to the town, but maybe an hour and half after we'd left them, they arrived. 35 miles in 13.5 hours! Brilliant! That pace would see us on the top on PyF in 27 hours which means we can wind the speed back and have some longer rests.
Big thanks to Jonty for ferrying all our gear around for the day, it makes such a difference being able to go light but still know that you have plenty of food, drink and gear available.
Bev for driving to Crickhowell at 10pm to pick up weary walkers.
Nicki at Cotswold for sorting us out with quality kit and feed.
All our supporters and sponsors.