The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – The back is broken

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‘So what a week, what a journey, impossible to explain how tough, how mentally and physically challenging it was but also how spiritual it has been. Cut off from the world, no social media, no showers, just living in the wild with a group of equal enthusiasts.’ – Mike Evans

It’s over! The Berghaus Dragons Back has been broken. Mike Evans sums it up above, how do you compress the highs and lows of an incredible hard 5 days. For the tough and tireless 66 who completed the full race, the emotion (or lack of) was poignant in Carreg Cennen Castle. For some, it was just too much. I can understand it, 5 days of exhaustion, fatigue and stress and finally it’s over. The simple crossing of a line and a final ‘dib in’ and it was job done.

Some smiled, some laughed, some looked bemused at the assembled group who clapped and cheered; it was all too much and a lack of words summed up the the journey undertaken more than loud chants of yee-ha!

This select and hardy few may well have broken the back of the Dragon but it had been a a touch and go affair for all. Even race winner, Jim Mann said on the final finish line:

‘Dense cloud, rain, cold, difficult navigation, I could have done without that today!’

But slay the Dragon they did and at the evening awards ceremony, race director Shane Ohly summed it up very well:

‘It seems wrong that I have to countdown the finishers from 66 – 1 as it emphasises the top of the field and places a priority on them when in reality, everyone here is a hero.’

The racing and the finish line was full of stories. As you would expect, every single finisher (and non-finisher) had a very unique story to tell. Old to young, these stories will be discussed in time to come and as time passes, more will be revealed. For now, the journey is too raw, too sensitive, the enormity too big to understand. I said during the race that lives would be changed as the race progressed through Wales. I witnessed at first hand how the weak became strong and the strong became weak. It’s the nature of the event. It’s meant to be tough and those who didn’t complete this time, for whatever reason, will learn and I am sure will be back in 2017 for the next edition.

The final day was not without drama. A wet day, conditions proved to be very tough and post race many commented on how difficult the navigation had been in the white out conditions, driving rain and strong winds. It’s somewhat ironic that as Pavel Paloncy crossed the line first, the sun and dry weather followed him and all assembled were treated to a warm and sunny afternoon with incredible views. Paloncy would almost certainly have been a contender for a podium place had he not taken a bad fall on day 1 resulting in hospital treatment.

Mann will of course be remembered as the Dragon Slayer of 2015 but notably it was the year of the ladies with Paris, Pascall and Wraith featuring in the top 10 throughout the race and all 3 of them placing in the top 6 – Paris 2nd, Pascall 4th and Wraith 6th. Just like in the original race when Helene Whitaker showed the men a thing or two, 2015 had all the potential for a repeat performance and this was something Ohly touched on at the awards:

‘Despite the so called ‘advantages’ men have, ladies once again triumphed at the Dragons Back Race and I think that it is brilliant. All 3 ladies raced incredibly well and Paris had all the potential to win the race outright.’

Father and son team Glenn and Huw Davies in many ways provided me with a raw insight into the race. Having lost my father way too young I watched this duo battle the terrain as one. Joined together from beginning to end they witnessed each others highs and lows in a way that is beyond comprehension. Ever day I looked at them, envious of the time they were having together. What they shared is beyond special and I can only wish that I had had that opportunity in my life. When they finished in the castle it was a whirl of emotion for the duo; it all proved too much for young Huw (just 22), ‘I am real proud of my dad!’

It’s funny, all assembled, big to small, old to young suddenly got something in their eyes… maybe it was the wind or the midgies?

Joe Faulkner, legend that he is completed the very first Dragons Back Race and in 2012 he came back for more. Completing the 2015 event makes him quite the unique individual. He is the only person ever to complete all 3 Dragon Back Races. Wow! As a just reward, Ohly offered a tribute to Faulkner at the awards ceremony and acknowledged how instrumental he had been in Ohly’s own rise and development in the sport. As a nod of recognition, Ohly asked Faulkner to offer the awards to male and female winners; Jasmine Paris and Jim Mann.

Beer was flowing, spirits were high and as Paris and Mann sat down with awards in hand, the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back race came to a close.

I can’t help but think there a great deal of runners (and marshals) today sitting, looking around and thinking, ‘What next?’ Races are like that, they make you, they break you, they inspire you and they take you to the lowest of the low and highest of the high. Plans are being made. What’s next?

It may very well be a new adventure, a new challenge, another race, maybe even recovery  but I know one thing,  all those who toed the line in the north of Wales a week a go will now be thinking of 2017 and contemplating coming back for more.

Like a Phoenix, the Dragon will rise from the ashes of 2015 and return in 2017.

Just one last question:

Can you tame the Dragon?

http://www.dragonsbackrace.com

Full results HERE

It’s extremely important to acknowledge the tireless help and devotion of all the volunteer marshals, kitchen staff and crew that made this race happen. They had their own ultra to undertake and events like this could not happen without them. In addition, sponsors provide an aid that facilitates the day-to-day functioning and feasibility of a race like this. Ohly pointed out his appreciation for Berghaus as a main sponsor, ‘Without them this event could not happen!’

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The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – Meet the Runners

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“Remember this day, for it will be yours for all time!” – King Leonidas

Today, 80 runners departed the final Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015 start line. Battle scarred, they once again face another gruelling day; 56.5km and 2300m of vertical gain.

But who are these brave souls?

Take a look, 4 days of pain engrained on each face. It takes a special person to enter the Berghaus Dragons Back Race but it takes an extra special person to finish.

This race has thrown everything at the runners and in general, weather conditions have been good. Yes they have had rain, mist, clag and occasional strong winds but there has been no disaster days of torrential rain or storms.

It has been an inspiration to share the journey of so many and to document it. We look on in awe at the front of the race and how Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris (and others) can run so fast and effortlessly over such tough and challenging terrain. But Jezz Bragg summed it up for me at the end of day 3 when runners finished well into the night only to get a few hours sleep and then get up and do it all again:

‘These guys are the heroes. They are out all day from 6am, marching on and then they finish at 11pm. They have no rest, no recuperation, no time to eat properly, hydrate and just manage themselves; I couldn’t do it!’

Just last night, the last official runner completed the course in just a few minutes under 11 hours. He was told:

‘You need to start at 6am in the morning so that you have a fighting chance to make the afternoon cut off and complete the race.’

Without hesitation or grumble, they say ‘OK!’ and off they go.

It was never meant to be easy

I can confirm 100% that this race has not been easy, I would actually go as far as saying that this has been one of the toughest races I have worked on. It has been special.

As today draws to a close, the faces below will arrive at Carreg Cennen Castle having run the Dragons Back of Wales. I am looking forward to welcoming each and everyone of them at what will have been a life changing journey.

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 4 2015 – Race Images

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Day 3 took its toll on the runners in the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back Race and on the morning of day 4; over 50% of the field had withdrawn. It’s fair to say that the Dragons Back Race is one of the toughest multiday races in the world. The relentless terrain, continuous climbing and descending, navigation, sleep deprivation and long days really do make this a toughie!

However, the terrain changed today for day 4. Green fields and rolling hills replaced the dramatic and rugged landscape of the 3 previous days.

Rolling terrain and less vertical ascent does in principal equate to more runnable terrain. However, no matter how runnable the terrain may be, you still need the legs to run! As you can imagine, the runners left in the race do have somewhat sore legs!

After a cloudy start and slight drizzle, the sun slowly broke through the grey but it did take a while; the final hours of the day were baked in glorious sunshine.

Although beautiful, the day 4 course did not have the challenging terrain of the previous days and it was another long day at 64km with 2273m of vertical gain.

It was a routine day at the front of the race with the main protagonists from the previous 3 days confirming their status as the strongest runners in a quality and determined field. Unfortunately, the front of the race did loose a top contender!

 

Jez Bragg had had a tough day during day 3 with stomach issues and then during the night he had chills, sickness and little or no sleep. He did force some breakfast down and start the day but it soon became clear he was depleted. He reluctantly pulled out of the race.

Jim Mann obviously decided that his 1hour 30min lead over the rest of the field was enough and decided to run day 4 with 2nd overall and 1st lady, Jasmin Paris. Paris was a favourite coming into the Berghaus Dragons Back Race and she has excelled showing everyone a clean pair of heals everyday and in the process she has looked fresh and confident.

Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith both looked strong all day, Pascall said post race said, ‘I felt as though I couldn’t go any faster but then I hit the last section. All road! I decided I had to get that over with as soon as possible so I speeded up. Just goes to show, it’s all in the head!’

Wraith came into the race with a bug and had said that she was unsure how her week would go. Obviously it has gone well and just this morning, before the race started she said, ‘If I can finish top 10, I will be over the moon.’

Equally consistent at the front end of the action has been Konrad Rawlik and Damian Hall. Rawlik is 3hour 30min ahead of Hall so we have no fears of a last minute surge on the final day. That would take some serious navigation error!

Tomorrow is the final day! It’s fair to say that anyone who has now finished the first 4 days will finish day 5. Of course, there are no guarantees – a fall, an accident or a serious navigation error could stop all that but lets cross our fingers; believe me, everyone is going to deserve the finish line.

Results day 4

1 – Jim Mann 7:58:50

2 – Jasmin Paris 7:58:54

3 – Beth Pascall 8:27:31

4 – Konrad Rawlik 8:28:25

5 – Damian Hall 8:47:52

6 – Lizzie Wraith 9:11:03

7 – Owen Rees 9:42:01

8 – Jonas Mollare 9:45:26

9 – Lawrence Eccles 10:30:20

10 – Charlie Sharpe 10:38:38

 

Marmot Dark Mountains 2015 – Provisional results and Images

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The heavens opened the day before the Marmot Dark Mountains and the promise of a snowy course disappeared with each rain drop.

In many respects it was a shame. Many, including me, was excited by the prospect of a night time race with cold chilly temperatures, a clear sky and a layer of the white stuff. However, it was not to be!

More importantly, the 2015 Marmot Dark Mountains took place with no rain… yes, no rain! Conditions were less than perfect though. The ground was sodden with the previous days torrential rain and melted snow and although the evening started relatively calm the wind increased hour-by-hour and by the early hours of the morning, the wind and wind chill was having an impact on everyone.

Taking place in the Howgills, runners started to race at 1900-hours with elite duo Alex Pilkington and Tim Higginbottom first off! Kim Collison and Adam Perry departed at1940-hours and it was immediately apparent that they were on a mission!. Completing the top trio, Steve Birkinshaw partnered with Jim Mann and they departed at 2000-hours chasing the other runners down.

What followed was a masterclass of navigation and speedy running from Collison and Perry. They blazed a trail around the Howgills and the ‘projected’ best case scenario finish time of 11-hours was blown out the fells when the finish line dibber confirmed a time of 8-hours and 34-minutes. Quite incredible.

Higginbottom and Pilkington had had some problems early on finding a control. Equally, Birkinshaw and Mann had also had a  problem. However, Birkinshaw said after the race that his form was just not up to running at the required pace. Hardly surprising after his Wainwrights record.

There were four linear courses that follow the standard Elite, A, B and C format of ordinary mountain marathons and two score format courses. Feedback post race was excellent and a dry night on the fells was extremely welcome.

Results below are provisional and will be confirmed by Ourea Events asap.

Elite

1st Kim Collison / Adam Perry 08:34:54

2nd Steve Birkinshaw / Jim Mann 10:41:46

A

1st and 1st Mix Catherine Litherland / Ross Litherland 09:49:54

2nd Andy Thompson / Rob Brown 10:10:35

3rd Chris Baynham-Hughes / Max Wainwright 10:51:05

1st Women and 4th Steph Jones / Sally Ozanne 11:26:51

1st and 1st Vet Bryan Stadden / Andy Creber 09:15:33

2nd and 2nd Vet Tim Martland / Jim Allen 09:51.35

3rd Jamie Rennie / David Rennie 10:02:02

C

1st Greg Weatherhead / Kevin Drew 07:55:21

2nd James Parratt / Neil Garrido 09:21:14

3rd and 1st Mix Emma Van Der Gucht / James Pawson 09:34:30

Long Score

1st David Adcock / Ben Turner 404 in 10:00:33

2nd and 1st Mix Digby Harris / Kirsty Hewitson 295 in 09:55:28

3rd and 1st Female Jo Gillyon / Catherine Evans

4th and 1st Vet Simon Caldwell / Carmen Elphick

Short Score

1st, 1st Mix, 1st Vet Jonathan Aylward / Kate Boobyer 235 in 07:38:37

2nd and 2nd Mix Scott Collier / Anne Edwards 235 in 07:42:15

3rd Darryl Watton and Andy Bell

The Howgill Fells are hills in Northern England between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. The fells are bounded by the River Lune to the north by upper reaches of the River Lune and to the east by the River Rawthey. The Howgill Fells include two Marilyns: The Calf – 2,218 ft (676 m) and Yarlside – 2,096 ft (639 m) and a number of smaller peaks, including five Hewitts. Parts of the southern Howgill Fells lie within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, though they have been within the modern county of Cumbria since the county boundary changes in 1974. They were originally shared by the West Riding of Yorkshire and WestmorlandThe name Howgill derives from the Old Norse word haugr meaning a hill or barrow, plus gil meaning a narrow valley. – wikepedia

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