Coed y Brenin Enduro 2013 – Race Report

I’ve called this a ‘race report’ but for me and probably most of people taking part it wasn’t a race, just an event. It isn’t classed as a race by the organisers either and is really just an excuse to ride around the hills and woods of North Wales with 600 like-minded people.

I’d taken part in the Coed y Brenin Enduro event in 2011 as did my brother Jay and friend Pete. This year my brothers Jay and Brad were participating, so they arrived with us on Saturday afternoon. We caught up, had a nice big banana korma curry dinner, along with apple raita, rice and some huge naan breads that I baked. This was follwed by home made chocolate celebration cake and apple crumble made by Morgan. We then chilled for the evening and got ready for Sunday’s activities.

We didn’t have to start too early on Sunday as the Enduro didn’t actually start until 10:30. We still left the house at around 7:45 though. I’d already registered whilst at the kids enduro the day before but Jay and Brad needed to register and then we needed to prep our bikes etc.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

There were two option as far as the Enduro goes, a short, 30km loop that Brad was planning to do and the 60km version that Jay and I were planning to do – assuming that was that my knee held up following my crash last weekend. The course is a convoluted trip around the hills and forests of Coed y Brenin, taking in some of the trail centre sections but also lots of ‘off piste’ sections too.

I’m not quite sure how the 30km and 60km route fit together, but there does also seem to be a way of accidentally doing a 43km route. If you miss the first turn off for the 30km route but then take the second one you end up doing 43km. It seems to me as though the organisers could therefore easily offer 3 different route lengths, a 30km version, a 45km version and a 60km version. The fact that this was possible on Sunday means that all marshall points for each distance are already covered so other than a couple of extra signs and some timing issues there probably wouldn’t be much extra involved from an organisation point of view. It would however give those who didn’t want to do the full event (such as Brad) an extra option. 30km is quite short after all, so 45km would have been a good option for him.

Once we were ready we headed towards the start line and gathered there along with 650 other people, most of whom seemed to be fiddling either with GPS devices or GoPro cameras! We ended up fairly close to the front, not right at the front and we couldn’t see what was happening at the front but we were certainly closer to the front than the back. After a very brief race briefing that went something along the lines of.

“If you fall off and need medical assistance we can get to you pretty quickly, if it’s just some cuts and bruises man-up and keep going and have fun out there.”

There were then a couple of shots from a shotgun, a siren and we were off. As usual there was a slow start as people got going and then we settled into a nice gentle climb away from the visitor centre. Jay and Brad soon dropped back from me as we made our way up through the forests, onto a rocky little climb and then out onto the open hillsides. My knee felt fine but I was taking things easy and enjoying a day out in the hills, even if it was a bit grey and overcast.

At the first cut off point for the 30 or 60km routes I saw Dave who was marshalling there so stopped for a quick chat before heading off for the longer of the two routes. Last time I did this event there was a huge climb that went on for miles and miles. I was actually quite looking forward to this. I was keeping plenty in the tank to attack it a little and much prefer the climbing to the descending. I stopped at the first feed station and stocked up on water, flapjacks, cake, a banana and sausage rolls, said a quick hello to Fraz who asked how my knee was holding up and continued on my way looking forward to the big climb. It never came though and before I knew it I was back at the feed station again for some more sustenance before heading back towards the Centre at Coed y Brenin. It didn’t look as though the big hill was going to feature this year, but instead we were routed to the other side of the road and onto the Tarw Trail.

I knew the finish was over this side of the road near the old visitor centre so I assumed we were just going to cross the road and end, but we were then taken up quite a nice climb and onto some sections of the Tarw trail, adding another 10km or so once we crossed the road. This section was quite tough and most people were suffering by now, but I seemed to be getting stronger and stronger. I decided to put in a little more effort and went flying past people all the way up the hill. I just kept asking more and more from my legs, pushing ever harder and somehow to my surprise they just kept giving and giving. The harder I pushed the better I felt, despite having been on the bike for around 4 hours.

Coed Y Brenin Enduro Mug

Coed Y Brenin Enduro Mug

We took in a few sections of the Tarw Trail including ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘Als Loop’ before starting the descent back to the finish via ‘Rocky Horror Show’ and some off piste sections through the woods. I crossed the line feeling fairly fresh after 4hrs 35 minutes and then headed back to the Visitors Centre on the other side of the road to collect my finishers mug.

When I got back to the car I was surprised to see both Jay and Brad there. I’d expected Brad to be there having only done the short route, but Jay had fallen over whilst pushing his bike up a steep section and had hurt his ankle and knee so was hobbling around. He hadn’t been able to ride properly after this so was directed back via the Minotaur Trail and didn’t finish. Not the best of ways to go out, but he seems OK and will be back on his bike in no time.

I may have completed the 60km loop and I may have done it with relative ease but I don’t think I’d call myself a mountain-biker again quite yet. With only a few rides on the MTB under my belt in the past couple of years and a big crash last weekend I’ve certainly lost my Mojo. I’ve never had much ‘Mojo’ at the best of times but it’s certainly gone. If it weren’t for the mud, the rocks, the roots and the downhill bits I would have been fine. At least no one overtook me going uphill!! I did have a good day out though and will hopefully get riding my mountain-bike a little more over the coming months. I’ll never be good downhill or over the rough stuff but I’ll have fun anyway.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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