Today we tackled the first recce loop from next year's big race, the Epona 100 miler, which started in Llanfoist and went up the three local peaks of Sugar Loaf, Skirrid Fawr and The Blorenge. If interested you can find a collection of recce routes here.
From my perspective I'm looking to understand how challenging the vertical gain is whilst also getting used to different areas of the route before winter sets in and makes scouting the mountains more difficult. Hopefully that will help inform next years training plan.
For context I'm coming at this from a "Complete" not "Compete" perspective, so these recces are focused on getting to the finish, ideally smiling, or failing that at least outside of a casket.
Elevation gain: 1617m
Trig Points: 3
Starting in Llanfoist (not far from where the official race will start next year) we quickly joined the race route up to Sugar Loaf, before cutting across to Skirrid Fawr, back down through Abergavenny then up to The Blorenge. That marks the end of the race recce with a trudge back down to the car park in Llanfoist.
Llanfoist to Sugar Loaf
James joined me for the first two peaks, starting in Llanfoist we had a short stretch through Abergavenny before a steady climb up the side of Sugar Loaf.
On fresh legs it was good going at a power hike pace, it didn't ever get too steep and before we knew it we were summiting the top.
Great morning views of Skirrid Fawr from amongst the bracken.
Trig point bagged whilst coated in the last of the morning mist.
Sugar Loaf to Skirrid Fawr
Joining the two peaks is a valley of moor running and a good chance to stretch out the legs properly after picking our way off the mountain.
Not too hairy getting off Sugar Loaf (I'm just a bit sheepish on rocky descents).
Saw some wild horses
Leaving the moors for some fields & overgrown trails, we hit the longest road section so far with a walking ascent to the base of Skirrid Fawr.
Rhys being Rhys, as race director for the Epona 100, he's picked the most hardcore way up onto Skirrid Fawr: a steep sharp climb straight to the top.
Proper hands and knees crawling in places, glad it was mostly dry underfoot.
Was glad to see the trig point materialize and get away from the risk of tumbling back down.
Second trig photo taken kindly by 3 passing hikers, still catching my breath here.
Definitely a stretch to get familiar with if training for the race.
Skirrid Fawr back to Llanfoist
Didn't take loads of photos here: we had the lush descent along the ridge of the Skirrid leading to the woods and a nicely runnable downhill to the car park.
From here it was cutting through a golf course, a campsite then into Abergavenny and up to the Llanfoist car park
Mostly downhill or flat, very nicely runnable.
Waved goodbye to James who wanted to get back for the World Cup Finals, then off up to the last trig.
Llanfoist to The Blorenge
Not going to lie, this was rough, the climb up from Llanfoist is tough, tricky underfoot and long.
You start with a steep stretch through woodland, all walking only, with plenty of fallen logs and obstacles to climb over.
It flattens out at the base of The Blorenge with a stretch running parallel to the mountain top, here you can run for a bit passed a lovely bowl lake and through some gnarled woodland.
Then it's another bracken lined lung buster of a climb to get up to the ridge.
The views make it worthwhile though.
The trig point sits a bit further back, the top of The Blorenge stretches on up a steadier path, with the trig point surrounded by large rocks.
And that's it for the first recce! Well, had to get back to the car, but that's just back the way we came and a little faster.
Today was a bit of a reality check. I've ran all these mountains before, but never all three in one day. The climbing, exhaustion from getting to the top when the sun is out and technical terrain all within the first 30k is eye opening.
Next year I'll need to focus on a lot of vert and mountain runs to get my legs strong enough for extended periods on the terrain.
Especially lots of power hiking, aint no-one running up those mountains during a 100 miler!
It was great to see how technically proficient James was over rocky ground, I am still quite sheepish (broken ribs from a trail running fall will do that to you!) and need to get more confident if I'm to capitalise on the many, many descents we'll be doing.
Finally: glad I took my Salomon filter bottle; used it multiple times in streams on the last stretch, it helps in the hot weather to be able to get additional water more readily between checkpoints.