Every mountain top is within reach – you just gota keep climbing!

Believe crop1Wow, what a journey …. here I am trying to find the words to express what it was like having got to the top of the Gstaad Glacier at 3000m!

It was certainly a very proud emotional moment, which I will forever hold on to ….. I was surrounded by strangers in my own little bubble, and had spent the last 5 hours putting one foot in front of the other, I had never once looked back, I walked over to the edge of the cable car station with tears in my eyes …… it was only then I looked back to see how far I’d come ………… I realised I’d done it!

‘Team Gstaad’ Carol, Sandy and myself had arrived in the Swiss Alps 4 days previously to acclimatize and prepare ourselves for this epic race. We all had different goals, and for me it was the 3rd and final race in my 6oth Birthday #Beat Challenge, raising awareness for Eating Disorders, inspired by 3 special friends.

On the Wednesday we had decided to run a small race in the village of Leysan, where we were staying just 11.2 km with about 500m of climbing … a nice little warm up we thought! It was a great atmosphere, clear blue skies, 28 degrees and after the obligatory selfie we were off, I was supposed to be taking it easy but once the blood started pumping around my body I did get into race mode….. and then the first accent started! That certainly slowed me down and I soon found my correct pace and realized just how testing these Swiss mountains were!

It was a tough 7km up, but I just kept ‘tap’in it out’ (Ashley’s words) which echoed in my head many times whilst moving onwards and upwards! The 4km down was a lovely long blue ski run, I felt like I was flying, I had time to look at the stunning views and I could here the music from the finish line getting closer, the last 500m was lined with supporters, smiling faces and ringing cow bells … it had been a great run and a taste of what was to come! I came 11/51 ladies, 5th Vet over 40 and 1st Vet 60 …. so chuffed with my performance, though my Quads weren’t quite so happy!

I had 2 days to recover … and I pleased to say by Saturday ‘Gstaad Glacier Race day’ I was well and truly ready!

Race Day: a few nervous moments  but once we arrived in Gstaad the excitement  kicked in … I wrote the words ‘Believe’ up my arm and I knew there was only one way forwards and that was UP! The first 15km was really hot 30 degrees, no wind a blue skies, and a lovely trail heading up the valley, you could see the glacier way off in the distance, but I soon got side tracked by the supporters, cowbells, and lots of children wanting high fives. I remember smiling as much as I could to thank them, though at times through gritted teeth as it got hotter and hotter!

I was safely through the first cut of point in 1hr 50mins, and the serious up hill was about to start. Fed and watered as I ran towards the first major climb, the run turned to a jog and the jog into a walk … I looked up and soon realised that there probably wouldn’t be much more running, but knew I had to push hard as the cut off times were very tight! The next 2 hours were hot and hard, I only looked up and focused on the athletes in front of me, at first the terrain was rocky/shale tracks and then it changed to narrow mountain rocky paths … I just kept moving forwards ‘tapin it out, and believing my mind and body would get me to the top.

A young girl who I’d been following for ages sat down in front of me tears, so I gave her a drink from my camel back, several of my jelly babies and a pat on the back, she smiled thanked me and gave me a thumbs up. I pushed on and I could see the next check station, when I arrived at the cable car there was a steel band playing. I decided it was time for a slug of flat coke, it went down really well so a grabbed another and danced across in front of the band singing ‘Brown Girl in the Ring! (I did think ‘if my girls Kate & Lucy could see me now?) I felt great and knew by that time I was going to make the cut off time. I’d made it to the next station in 2hrs 4 mins, I’d just got 4km to go … a very steep 4km!

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I tucked in behind another lady and concentrated really hard as we climbed up the zig zags, as it got steeper there was a rope to help us up the big steps, I also noticed plenty of first aiders encouraging us up the last steep bits, it got cooler too … then it suddenly got flatter and yes I’d finally got to the edge of the glacier! I could feel a huge smile and gave an enormous ‘Whoop’ 2km left!

Running across the glacier felt surreal, I got so excited as I could see skiers to my right and athletes ahead. I started to run again and just seemed to bound across the snow and ice ( I can thank my wonderful ‘La Sportiva’ shoes for that!) I could see the last climb ahead, it was full of supporters and athletes that had already finished …. by this time I had what looked like a ‘Cheshire Cat Grin’ but I can assure you it was a grin through gritted teeth, tears started to role down my cheeks as I climbed up the final 26 steps … each one was numbered! I’d made it to the top in 4hrs 54 mins!

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I’d made it …. I remember at first feeling lonely … no Dave, Kate or Lucy …. I didn’t know anybody, I looked around then walked to the edge of the station … the view was amazing, had I really come all that way? I stared to get all emotional and then suddenly someone came over and gave me a huge hug …. I turned around and it was the girl I’d given the Jelly Babies we both laughed and she thanked me again, I was so pleased she’d made it too.

I came 8th/16 in my Age group, which I was pleased about … as most of the ladies looked like mountain goats, very lean and long legged! 20 GB athletes did the race, 10 men and 10 women, with only 8 finishing … 7 men and me!! (I did the 4th fastest time (of the Brits) so was really chuffed with that, all my trips into Snowdonia and up my favorite mountain ‘Cadair Idris’ had certainly made a difference!

The cut offs were so tight and many didn’t make it. My buddies Carol and Sandy fought hard all the way and sadly got stopped at 23km just 3km short of the top, I was gutted for them but it was still a tremendous achievement considering the height of the mountain! I certainly had to dig deep many times, and I’d thought about all those inspirational quotes my friends had sent me. I had a smile and a quiet moment  for ‘Katie’ who was the reason I had chosen this race, I knew it would be tough, but nothing compared to the challenges she had overcome, along with other other friends suffering with eating disorders #Beat

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So that’s the last of my 3 challenges …. I’m not sure what to say …. ? Its certainly been an Epic journey, I feel a bit numb and quite sad they are all over – well at least for a little while.

I have so may thank-yous to give, but this blog is long enough, give me a day or two to take it all in and for my emotions to calm down! I have still got to reach my #Beat target of £2000, so my mission isn’t accomplished just yet.

Don’t Cry because its over … smile because its happened. 

Its time to embrace the journey and seek for new horizons! 

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jean-ashley

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Final Countdown to Glacier 3000 Run!

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Well that’s certainly been a last big week of training, a big thanks to my training buddies, mountain biking with Julie Antony and Ellie, running up the Arans with Carol and then a weekend of ‘Ashley’ family birthday challenges! The biggest one being up and down Cadair several times, different paths, lots of vertical miles 4500ft of climbing with my ever supportive Dave, daughter Lucy and Mollydog!

After a big week my legs feel good …. tired but strong, I’m sure they have enough strength in them to get me up those 6000ft. I have no doubt it will hurt, but Ive certainly got plenty of support from all those who have sponsored me. Your donations will keep me pushing hard up that Glacier, the pain in my body will soon go after the challenge … for many more with Eating disorders it will last so much longer. #beat

It has been an exciting journey since I started training last October for Challenge no 1. Three types of races, all with very different training regimes, so at times its certainly been tough. When I think back to the wet winter training in the kayak, the frozen fingers, icicles on our paddles and rivers in full flood it seams so long ago. Its amazing how our body adapts to different conditions, I must say the last 8 weeks of mountains, hills and trails has been lovely despite the hot weather, the blue skies stunning views and soaking in mountain lakes has been bliss!

So there we have it  … in one weeks time, I’ll be on that start line ready to face the Glacier Run diablerets-gstaad. (profile below)  I’ll be feeling nervous on that start line though timewise it will be the shortest challenge (maybe 5 hours). As the race progresses it will get tougher and tougher, running on forest trails to start with, then hiking up meadows and rocky tracks to finally crawling up ice and snow to the Glacier summit at 3000m. I keep visualizing that last ascent, how will it feel? I have no doubt it will be very emotional, but there is one thing for sure I will connect with Katie’s passion for the mountains and draw from her strength to get me to the top.

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Katie’s story moved me so much it was the reason this whole 60th Birthday #beat Challenge started, she’s had a bigger challenge than I’ve ever had to deal with, she has used those mountains to help her move on … so proud of her, she has a big run challenge next year and a ‘Dragon to Slay’ …. I’ll be so looking forward to following her blog!

This is Katie’s Story

‘When you catch a glimpse of your potential
that’s when passion is born’ .. celebrating my 60th Birthday                                   Justgiving.com-jean-ashley

Thank-you for visiting my blog  see you on the other side of the Glacier                           Love Jean XX

 

Box End Quadrathlon World Cup … Believe You Can!

This weekend 15th July, I was racing in A World Cup Quadrathlon at Box End, Bedford a fast sprint race where I was expecting great racing and top class competition in the event! I was feeling strong and excited about pushing hard and knowing I’d got to be fast, slick and on form to make the podium!

The race was 750m open water swim – 5km kayak – 15km off-road bike – 5km trail run. It was a beautiful morning, no wind, blue skies and the lake temperature was over 28ºC so it was definitely a non-wetsuit swim! Not good news for me, as a wet suit helped my buoyancy, but put my positive head on and as I walked over to the start I visualised gliding through the water feeling ‘long and strong’, a quote I use when coaching my Divas!  Must say it felt good, so warm too, and much to my surprise I was 4th Lady out of the water.

 

Helen the leader has won all 3 British Races this year, and it would need a miracle to happen for me to catch her. My other 2 team mates were catch able, I love these 2 girls like sisters we have such a lot of friendly banter, we all love to win but we always support each other along the way – True Camaraderie! Kayaking being my strongest went really well I soon overtook Gill, and had my eyes set on Jac, she was paddling well so I didn’t quite catch her, but I flew into the bike transition just 30 seconds behind.

Our biking is a very similar speed, so I knew we’d both be pushing hard, Jac to hold me off, and me to catch …. the bike course was hard, flat bumpy, and certainly lung busting I knew it was going to hurt. Knowing your friends are going through the same pain, somehow makes your own pain less painful …. you know it wont last forever and after the hugs and smiles on the finish line it soon melts from your mind.

However things didn’t go quite to plan, just 1 km into the bike I hit the first bump, my seat slipped so I jumped off and pulled it back, I was a bit cross but just dug a bit deeper and peddled harder this plagued me for the rest of the first lap, on the 2nd lap it jammed completely backwards! I must say I could feel a few tears welling up in my eyes as I saw the time slipping away, my legs were screaming from not having a seat to sit on and at one point a ‘little demon’ in my head almost decided it may be easier to give up! WHAT … ‘Give up’ I asked myself, when have I ever done that? On the 3rd lap I stopped in transition and thought I’d sort of fixed it  … I could here my friends cheering me on the adrenaline kicked in, and my positive head took over and my only option was to chase those girls down .. the demon was gone, but not the problem!

 

Photos above: Jac in 2nd place, smiling coming into the finish 3rd

My head didn’t think it was going to be such a big ask, only 4 minuets down … over 5km! Well that was a lot of making up to do … the body wasn’t quite fast enough to make up the time, in my dreams it was ‘I was flying’ ….. I certainly worked hard trying! As ever I kept moving forwards and finished with a smile! #nevergiveup #strongmind

Jac stayed focused and strong to hold me off and came 2nd behind Helen, I managed to hold of the strong girls behind to finish 3rd, and made my overall podium finish, and a 1st place in Vet 60 catagory. Helen 1.54.32 – Jac 2.03.17 – Jean 2.04.43

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Photos above: Jac in 2nd, Helen 1st, Jean 3rd, with Ettiene Stott, the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medalist in C2 Slalom presenting the medals (he to did his first Quad and finished a creditable 5th Overall … smiling and embracing his journey all the way)

Looking back it may of been easier to pull out and certainly less stressful,  but winners push on no mater what ….  that ‘grit and determination’ is in our blood you just gota keep it flowing! ❤

Whether your on the podium or not, you made it over that finish line, your friends and family are there to congratulate you and to share your victory, it could be 1st, it could be last but whatever it is they are Proud of you, and you never know just how many people you inspire along the way …. Your finish could be the start of their Journey!

Sport has given me so much ….. Purpose, Passion, Excitement, Motivation and most important FRIENDS! This is for 3 good Friends suffering, one from each of the 3 sports I have chosen to race. They are all trying really hard to nourish their bodies so they too can play in the great outdoors. Sport offers so much support friendship and camaraderie just like #Beat. That support network is so crucial to help make a change.💜https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jean-ashley

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Quadrathletes in the Making!

Whilst I have been training hard for my 3 challenges, I have been sharing my ‘Quadrathlon Passion’ with a group of Ladies training for the ‘Deva Divas Quadrathlon’. An amazing group of ladies who have taken on this Quad Challenge having never kayaked before, until they joined my kayak training group 12 weeks ago to prepare for the race this weekend 8th July!

Deva Divas Triathlon Race Organizer ‘Sally Napthan’ agreed to let me add the Quadrathlon to the ‘Infamous Deva Divas (Ladies Only) Sprint Triathlon, its the only ‘Ladies Only Quadrathlon’ in the World. As deputy to Sally, we have worked really hard along with the  organizing team at Chester Tri Club and coaches at the Canoe Club to make this event possible!

I know many of the Quadrathletes that entered the race, but have had great pleasure in getting to know 12 of you who joined our Deva Divas Canoe Course at Chester Canoe Club 12 weeks ago! Myself and club coaches have been inspired to how hard they have all worked and we were so pleased they all progressed to K1 race kayaks … showing true commitment!

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RACE DAY – I was very excited about Race Day … its was a 1st for many of you, and I was so excited to see how far you have all come. The weather was hot, still and calm, the excitement was building as the girls started to rack bikes and move their kayaks to the transition areas. There were nerves, but as I always reiterate ‘once you are surrounded by friends everything becomes achievable! Being all Girls together this quote certainly says it all ‘Friends are like Bras, Close to your Heart and there for your Support’ and that’s what make this race so special, the camaraderie throughout the 4 disciplines was crystal clear,  they cheered and encouraged each other on, and certainly shared ‘The Quad Passion’ they all just loved it, and finished with the biggest smiles ever!

It means so much to see those Big Smiles throughout the race! It was such a memorable day, but just as important its been a great pleasure and an honour to be part of their Quadrathlon journey, I am so proud of you all. Enjoy your celebrations and wear your t’shirts with pride!

I know how hard you all had to dig deep in achieving your goal … this will inspire me when I’m facing my last challenge Glacier3000run I watched you all throughout the race as you pushed yourselves to your limits … I’ve got no excuse now …. just like you Divas I’ll take these words with me!

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Trying Hard to Emulate A Mountain Goat!

 

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My last post ended with ‘Only ever as good as your last race Hannover Quad done & dusted …. so its time to top up those vertical miles and get back up those mountains for Challenge No 3 ….. Well that’s been a great focus for me and has kept me pushing those legs up some steep climbs! I am so lucky to have the Welsh mountains on my doorstep, and the weather to go with it at the moment. But more than ever its always great to have amazing friends, who love to come along and share the training sessions!  ‘UpHill Julie’ dragged us up at a cracking pace, and ‘Downhill Dala’ flew us down even though, I was outside my comfort zone, and hanging in!

There is pain in the legs, your lungs are busting, sweat is stinging your eyes and its so hot your camel back is getting low …. so why I sometimes ask? The elation When your stood on the top of the mountain, the sense of elation is one of the best feelings of achievement you could ever wish for. Being on top of the World and sharing it with friends, makes us feel strong and positive, a favorite quote of mine by ‘Edmund Hillary’ says it all…. ‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’

 

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Ive had 2 days back to back up those welsh mountains… 21miles 4500ft and I’m still short of vertical miles for the Glacier3000. But certainly getting stronger, day 2 was going to be a long day, big miles and I was on my own, but met some wonderful like minded friends, fellow triathlete the lovely ‘Cara Fishburn’ and then the motivational personal trainer from my gym ‘Gareth Heap  both ‘taping it out’ up and down Moel Famau. As ever they send you on your way filled with positive vibes and energy, which always lifts your head and heart!  After 13 miles and feeling hot and jaded I then met 3 young at heart girls all celebrating their 75th birthdays by hiking the Offa’s Dyke path, all 177 miles of it! They had about 25 miles left and had been treaking for 2 weeks, so downhill to the finish still smiling and looking strong …. and I thought I was doing well, but wow these girls were real Divas!

There is always someone to aspire too, to keep us motivated, and whatever our ages new challenges are always waiting! #keeppushingtheboundaries #keepmovingupwards #moremountainswaiting

Always find the time for the things that make you feel Happy to be Alive!

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Challenge No 2. Hannover Ironman Quadrathlon

DSCF3390Finally Iv’e had time to reflect on what has been an Epic 2 weeks, The long course Quadrathlon has been a goal on my list for a while … and the 2nd challenge I have chosen to celebrate my 60th Year! #beat like I said previously its been a tough old cold wet winter for training, and after of the disappointment of the 126 mile DW kayak race being cut short due to extreme weather conditions, (it was stopped at 60 miles), I was determined to put everything into this long race!

My preparation had gone well, lots of good solid miles on the bike kayak, and plenty of running, maybe I could of done more swimming and a little bit more open water practice, but having spent a lot of time in the river paddling I knew how cold open water has been this year!

This race had been a dream for a few years, it was my first attempt at this long distance race and I was so looking forward to this challenge! Arriving 3 days before the race the venue was buzzing and getting prepared for over 2000 athletes.  As well as the Long Quad on the Sunday, there was a full Ironman and a Half Ironman triathlon running alongside. On the Saturday a Sprint Quad, and a Sprint & Olympic distance Triathlon so it was a busy weekend with literally thousands of competitors and spectators buzzing with excitement, and of course we all have those pre race nerves ….. it made for a great atmosphere!

I was excited for race day, until it was rumored to be a not wet suit swim as it had been so hot! Swimming isn’t my strongest of the four, and it would be much tougher without a wetsuit, I gave myself a quiet talking to and reassured my inner self that all would be fine and I was more than capable to cope without my lovely black neoprene suit which enhanced my swim stroke and kept me streamline! Fortunately for me, the weather Gods were on my side, and it clouded up the day before the water temperature dropped so wetsuits were declared … Phew I was so happy!

So, into the water for a 7:15 start in the 4km swim, which took place in a ship canal. It’s a bit weird swimming under industrial cranes, but the water was clean and clear, I did see the obligatory shopping trolley but there were plenty of large healthy looking fish. The swim was 2 laps, 1km up, 1 km down x 2, I knew it would feel like a long way so I broke it down into bite size chunks using the bridges we swam under as markers. Also the Ironman Race had started 15 mins earlier, so despite being down the field in the Quadrathlon (blue swim caps), I started to catch up the red caps, which was the back end of the triathlon … this certainly motivated me to push harder I knew once I was out of the swim I could began to relish the fact of the great day ahead!

There was then a 300m run up hill to the bike transition, so by the time I got to transition my wetsuit was off and I was ready for a three lap 90km bike through pleasant countryside, and small villages. It was completely closed roads, a fast slightly undulating course with the Police officers at absolutely every junction doing an amazing job keeping the roads very safe and quiet. I loved the bike and enjoyed all 3 laps .. as ever I had a big beaming smile and thanked the marshals as I flew past, so by the time I got on the 3rd lap they were all waving back and giving me plenty of encouragement in German, so not quite sure what it translated too!  There were plenty of crowds as we came into run transition, I lept of my bike, leaving my shoes clipped into my pedals and ran barefoot into transition, my legs felt good and I was so looking forward to cooling off back in the river in my awesome pink kayak!

We had an 800m run back down to the canal, the weather was beautiful and it had warmed up to 26 degrees, 20km of kayaking lay ahead 9 laps up and down a stretch of canal just over a kilometer long, so 18 lengths in total! You could see everyone on the course the standard of kayak racing was certainly ‘Top of the Quad World’ the paddlers were on fire. I must say this being my best discipline I was so excited being out there in such good company, I did push my boundaries and worked really hard, trying to make up some of the lost time from my mediocre swim!

A word on that scenery…the backdrop, right by the canal, is a derelict Contintenal tyre factory which was a concentration camp in WW2, where many (slave) laborers perished, it felt a little bit eary but I was concentrating hard as I’d still got along way to go!  On my last few laps I ran out of hydration so I had to get Dave (my support crew)  to squirt water in my mouth from the bank … I was quite surprised at what a good aim he had, enough to keep me going until the end of the kayak section!

Looking at the quadrathletes running along the bank after being in a kayak for around 2 hours it was clear that getting out of the boat and going onto the run was going to be painful! 21km Run 2 laps again closed roads and paths around the river and the Kings Palace Gardens in Hannover. It did take a while to get into my running stride, but after about 2km and a good feed at the water station I began to get into my rhythm, I really enjoyed the first lap, and saw the winning Ironmen going past (very sprightly), I even got a high five from the lead Ironman which really perked me up! My second lap seemed to go really fast, though looking at my watch my splits were almost the same. Im my mind the last 2km felt so good, not sure if my legs agreed, my good friend ‘Lisa Teichert’ who had long finished cheered me on up the last hill, her enthusiasm motivated to push hard to the finish line! I did have tears of joy in my eyes, I was so proud to be finishing what had been my ultimate Quadrathlon Goal  … it had been such an amazing  day, I will cherish these memories always!

Being in the race with my friend Lisa Teichert made it even more special, Lisa is an inspirational quadrathlete who gives 110% she is such a fighter, I know how hard pushes …..  she was crowned World Champion and was a whole hour ahead of her nearest rival!

I was 5th Lady overall and the World Long Distance Quad Vet 60 Champion (mind you I was the oldest chick in the race!) 9hrs 23mins. I was very proud in what was a top class field of strong Quadrathletes!

I enjoyed every moment of this day, as always there are nerves, but once the race starts and you focus on the journey ahead, you go through all sorts of emotions, joy, determination, feisty, anticipation, and even the odd moment of darkness, but the feeling that lives with you forever is that amazing feeling when you cross that finish line … Elation, Proud and Complete ❤

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The goal is now ticked, 60th Birthday Challenge No 2 done #beat charity. www.justgiving.com #Beat jean-ashley Thank-you to all my training buddies, friends … and my amazing (long suffering) DAVE who supports me along the way … he polished my kayak, my bike and cheered me on for 9hrs 23mins on a very hot day … he’s a star! Would I do it again ….. Never say Never … and probably YES, my mind will be willing lets just hope the body can cope!


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              Only ever as good as your last race Hannover Quad done & dusted .                             So its time to top up those vertical miles and get back up those mountains!                  Bring on Challenge No 3 …..

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Just tap it out ……

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If everyone is moving together, then success takes care of itself.

‘Just tap it out’ ….. those were the words that carried me through an amazing training run with no-madrunning at the weekend. Such a beautiful day for a stunning run over the  Welsh mountains with a lovely bunch of people. The Route was leg 1 of Ultra Trail Wales – which will be 50 miles of untamed beauty and awesomeness on 25th August. www.ultratrailwales.com

Katie and Ashley (no-madrunning) guided us, supported us, and kept us motivated throughout the training day …. we ran – we hiked – we climbed – we bimbled – we flew and we took in the atmosphere on this, what was a character building day! For me it was a great way to build up those ‘vertical miles’ for challenge number 3. Glacier 3000 RUN Diablerets – Gstaad, in Austria 26km up to the glacier at 3000m. This race will certainly be outside my comfort zone, so connecting with these athletes and sharing their passion for the mountains certainly helped.

We started of in Dolgellau climbing up along the country lanes and onto grassy then rocky tracks up to Mynydd Moel, along to Cadair Idris , and continued along a beautiful undulating ridge, Tyrran Mawr, Craig-Y-Llyn, Bryngwyn, and down to Fegla Fawr, before finally running over the dramatic Mawddach estury bridge to Barmouth. It is a fantastic route my garmin clocked 26km with 1300m of climbing in 4 hours 37mins, and for me exhilarating, at times challenging but those 4 words ‘just tap it out’ kept me moving forwards and strong to the finish.

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Ultra Trail Wales Leg 1

To be part of a team enables you to draw from their strength, your comraides will get you to the top of all the peaks, they gave me the confidence to improve my down hill speed, to keep those steps nimble and quick, though at times I felt like a ‘fairy elephant’ and my legs like lead weights …. but not once did I feel I was letting anyone down, by being slower or not as able. The constant support, working together, sharing positive vibes and those ‘4 magic words’, just when you thought your legs were done, Ashley would call  ‘Just tap it out’ and without even giving it a second thought we continued moving forwards!

I am really looking forward to doing the 2nd and 3rd leg of the route, as part of my training for Glacier 3000 RUN, and who knows I might just be adding challenge 4 to the list?

Never say Never …….

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