The Road to Mont Blanc

Matt Pen Y Fan

Since the last post Gary and I have been working hard to get in shape for the Mont Blanc Marathon in July. We’re both blessed with local hills at the start of the North & South Downs Ways so have been putting in the miles up and down those.

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of doing a 10k trail run straight out from Rohan Winchester every other day from work. It helps that I get to wear my Ultra Silver Tee, Rohan Buff and Micro-grid in the shop, it all saves time getting out of the shop and onto the Downs as I know the gear can keep me comfortable both in town and on the move. It’s not much but the miles soon add up in the legs with a liberal helping of long distance routes on my days off.

Gary and I have already completed several organised races in preparation. The first challenge was the Portsmouth Coastal Half in February. Thirteen miles along the Portsmouth Coastline through streets, promenade and beach; the joining instructions weren’t lying when they said ‘wear trainers which you don’t mind getting wet as the route is run regardless of whether the tide is out or in. As a first half this just made the run all the more challenging as the soft sand weigh down your shoes.

gary and matt portsmouth

Another worth mentioning was the Pewsey Terminator, although only eleven miles this time the shorter distance was more than made up for with four ascents of the White Horse hill (which some of you may know from the Rideway long distance path). Pewsey startAt about six miles in I couldn’t see what the fuss was about, with the exception of a small bog (although lacking crocodiles as promised) which made hard going the route was rather pleasant crossing rolling fields and the canal…then we hit the hills! Starting with roped ascent onto the hill the majority of runners were pushing off on their knees on the first slope. Although the real test was the fourth ascent… the ‘sting in the tail’, there was no running up that and we had to resort to grabbing at clumps of grass to reach the top. After the sting there was still another three miles to the finish line and a river to cross! It was so warm I was glad of having my Rohan Buff to mop my brow and dunk in the river to cool down as I staggered towards the finish.
All this was topped off with finally cutting our teeth on some mountains over the Easter weekend with a trip to the Brecons. Camping out at the base of Mynydd Llangorse we made the most of the first afternoons break in the weather to ascend to the ridgeline where we found …snow! Yes it was still gripping to the peaks which made our walks rather interesting. We were blessed with a clear view from the top of the surrounding peaks and treated to the sight of an owl, a circling glider and a couple out on mounted trek! The big run we’d planned for the next day was going to be the legendary ‘Fan Dance’, a 23.5km route running up over the Pen Y Fan range used by the SAS as part of their selection process. Starting from the phone box on the A470 we started the run up to Corn Du which severally taxed the legs as we steadily ascended into the mist clinging to the peaks. The drifts of snow made grip tricky with a fierce wind almost blowing us off our feet. By the time we reached Corn Du the visibility had deteriorated so much that combined with a ridiculously strong wind made running treacherous so we decided to run back down and call it early. A disappointment but up in the mountains we couldn’t compromise our safety. We made up for it in the afternoon however with a swift ascent and scramble up the Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf descent
Matt Sugarloaf - Gary Pen y Fan

So here is my top five gear choices for trail running, each piece firmly tested :
1- Rohan Windshadow – Light, windproof, packs small and with a greater water resistance than you’d expect. A must have when the weather is changeable.
2- Inov-8 Roclite 285 – Light, hardy and with a brilliant grip whether it be gravel, mud or rock.
3- Rohan Buff– It’s a hat, a scarf, a towel, a sweatband…the list goes on as far as your imagination will take it.
4- Camelback Delaney Plus Hydration Belt- With just enough space for the bits you need and with an easy to drink from bottle on the run.
5- Rohan Ultra-Silver Tee – Light, high wicking and really comfortable on a long run with added anti-microbial silver.
The next challenge will be our first marathon at Milton Keynes in two weeks

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Matt – Assistant Manager & Stride Fit Instructor Rohan Winchester, 24 The Square

Many thanks to Ian Burnett for the Portsmouth Half pictures.

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