On Sunday, I found myself in a small village in Wales, under instructions to go out and look for some ascents and descents which were ‘awkward’. I sat in the kitchen, cup of tea in hand, and looked out at the pouring rain. Everything in me screamed “ditch the run”, especially as navigation is not my strong point and the top of the ridge was shrouded in cloud, but eventually, I put down my tea, pulled on my big girl pants, pocketed my newly acquired map* and set off to explore. Within minutes, my pants were soaked through as the rain lashed down, and one mile and 800 foot of elevation later they were soaked through with sweat. I paused at the top to catch my breath, pulled out my map to double check where I was, made a mental note of my surroundings** so that I’d be able to find the path back to the village, and kept my eyes peeled for an awkward descent.
I found a doozy. Narrow, steep, criss-crossed with tree roots, and morphing from path into river at an alarming rate, it was perfect. I picked my way down it and distracted myself from the sheer drop to my left by trying to work out what Strava’s Grade Adjusted Pace would make of my efforts***.
I reached a nice, wide track and considered my options. I could go back the way I’d come, carry on down the next steep slope, or run along the track back to the ridgeway to re-orientate myself. Given the weather conditions and the fact that I’d yet to pass another soul, I decided to play it safe, and pootled up the wide track towards the ridgeway.
As luck would have it, my track brought me out at my ginormous puddle. I checked the cloud to make sure that it was the right puddle, and then set off in search of another descent.
Oh. My. Gosh.**** I’d thought the first one was tricky, but with sections that Strava tells me had a gradient of -46%, this one made the first feel like a doddle. I clung onto trees, bum-shuffled down a mini waterfall and told myself that I’d paid good money earlier in the week to feel this pant-wettingly terrified*****, and I should just go with the flow and enjoy the adrenaline. I have never been so glad to reach the bottom of a trail. But where on earth was I? Trees, trees, trees, bramble, nettles and trees. Beautiful, it’s true, but not particularly useful when you’re trying to pinpoint your location on a map. Keeping my fingers crossed that my sense of direction was true, I turned right and hoped for the best. I took the fact that I was running uphill as a good sign, and plodded along looking for identifiable features.
I found one. A three-way junction with a beacon. Sorted! Half a mile of uphill scrambling later, I was back to my puddle and hot-footing it back down the hill, straight up the stairs and right into the best shower ever.
* Two large sheets of map, and my starting point was in the very bottom right corner. North West it would have to be!
** Cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud, humungous puddle, cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud.
*** Pace 16 min/mile. GAP 22 min/mile. Apparently my descending skills are somewhat pathetic.
**** Or words to that effect.
***** Legoland Windsor’s Jolly Rocker. Eek!