It’s 6 days until the start of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back – a 315km (195 mile) 5 day stage race down the spine of Wales with an intimidating 15,500m ascent. If you’ve been following the website you’ll know that Bog Beauties Bo and Lisa both have entries and have been training hard. We put some questions to them to find out how they are feeling ahead of the race;
What made you choose to enter the Dragon’s Back? There’s lots of long distance stage races on offer now so why this event rather than any other?
Bo: For me, the seed was planted 5 years ago when I saw a film about the Dragon’s Back at SHAFF (Sheffield Adventure Film Festival). I had only just started running at that point. I loved running out in the Peak District but back then I thought that 6 miles was a long run! I was so thoroughly impressed with the people doing the race in the film, and really thought “I could never do that” – which just means I need to prove myself wrong!
Lisa: I first heard of this race when my friend Matt completed it in 2015. Obviously at the time I thought it was totally nuts and way beyond what I would be capable of, but I guess this planted the seed. In 2017 I followed the progress of the race and decided to sign up to volunteer with Ourea at the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018. By this time I was much more into long distance running so it seemed more of a possibility. By May 2018 I had done a few multi day adventures (Running Hadrian’s Wall and setting a fastest known female time for a self-propelled continuous Munro round) , although not competitively, and with added knowledge of the event from volunteering and a few friends also signing up it seemed like the perfect time to give it a go. I absolutely love ‘run-touring’ and adventuring close to home on the amazing landscapes that the UK has to offer so this just seems like the perfect challenge.
Which stage are you most looking forward to?
Bo: I am most looking forward to Crib Goch! But only if the weather is nice. It will most likely be early evening when I get there, and I love the scrambling.
Lisa: I’m incredibly excited to just get started, I think the whole route is fantastic. I love Snowdonia and the race starts through going over some amazing mountains but I think I’m most looking forward to is Stage 2, I was quite nervous about this stage so I’ve practised it a lot and in doing so I’ve fallen in love with the Rhinogydd and their brutal rocky beauty. You aren’t far from the main part of Snowdonia here, yet it already feels a million miles from anywhere. After that I can’t wait to be on the Black Mountain on Stage 5, there are stunning views and the end will be (nearly) in sight!
Which part of the race do you think will be toughest?
Bo: The section I am dreading most is the 10k road section at the end of day 4. That is a looooong way on a hard surface, and my joints will definitely be sore by then!
Lisa: As long as you pick some good lines on day 2 (the descent of Rhinog Fawr can be awful if you get it wrong) then I think Stage 3 will be the toughest, it is a long way and while it is mostly on good trails and relatively run-able you need to feel physically able to run! Conversely to Bo, I am dreading Crib Goch, I am a total wimp and hate scrambling, my main aim is to take it slow and steady here and try not to embarrass myself. Fingers crossed the weather will be better then on our recce.
The organisers transport an overnight bag for you. Are you packing any luxury items?
Bo: I’m not sure if I will have any time in camp to enjoy these luxury items! Do clean clothes count as a luxury?! I am packing my own coffee. They supply instant at breakfast and I am well known for being a bit of a coffee snob.
Lisa: It depends how well everything fits in. I’m hoping to be able to stash a huge tub of Nutella (and a spoon).
What running snacks are you packing?
Bo: The list is pretty long! I’ll take some fresh stuff for days 1 and2, and will have to eat dried stuff such as muesli bars the rest of the time. I am planning on taking (in random order) shotblocks, babybells, cheesy bread rolls, hot cross buns, tuna salad packs, fruit puree, avocados, mozzerella balls, mars bars, malt loaf, haribo and pepperoni sticks!
Lisa: Oh I have a lot of food. As everything needs to last for 5 days in my drop bag this is a little tough but at the moment I have packed:
a large variety of cereal bars – a different selection for each day
a couple of baby bells and cheese strings
homemade date and cashew balls
Savoury sandwichs (e.g a wrap with Primula)
I also have some rehydration tabs for my water
In the midway support bag I have also packed
Jamie Oliver sachet meals (e.g. lentils/quinoa)
oh, and I’ll probably throw in some choc covered coffee beans in too for any moments where I need a pick-me-up.
Lisa, the race organisers have named you as a potential “dark horse” with a chance of a podium finish . How do you feel about that?
Lisa: I’m really flattered that the organisers have so much confidence in me. I volunteered with them last year and it was lovely to spend so much time with the team, it really feels like one big family, it’s great that they are being so supportive. My training has gone well and I have had a few great races this year, but I have never tried anything as challenging as the Dragon’s Back. My aim is to do the best I can do while still enjoying myself, I am wary of letting my competitive spirit take over early on at the expense of finishing or even enjoying the race (The film “Riding the Dragon” with Huw Jack Brassington about the 2017, shows well what can happen if you do this!). So, I think my plan is to take it steady early on and see what I have left in the tank on the later stages. Obviously, if I manage to do well I would be incredibly happy but I would be content with a solid finish. It is such a long event that anything could happen, let’s see how it plays out.
Bo, you’ve recently been told you have an exceptionally low blood iron count, do you think this will effect your race?
Bo: It definitely will affect my race, I simply can’t get the oxygen round my body very well! So I will be slower on the uphills and more easily tired. However, I have done most of my training with this condition so I’m hoping it just feels normal to me! And it’s not like I was going to sprint along this 200-mile Dragon spine anyhow…
In 2 weeks the race will be over. Can you imagine life after Dragon’s Back? Do you have any other races booked in?
Bo: I’m not sure if I can! Though I am pretty busy after the race, since I have put so much of my normal life on hold and postponed seeing friends and family to after Dragon’s Back. I hope to keep enjoying running and am keen to explore the Lake District more – I moved here six months ago, but have spend more time in Wales than in my new home-hills!
Lisa: That’s a hard question. I really can’t imagine what that will be like! Like Bo though I’m going to make sure I take time to recover and catch up with everyone/everything I’ve neglected while I’ve been training! I’m definitely keen on fitting in some fell races but I’m going to see how it goes. I’m also hoping to go away for another running holiday in Europe later in the year depending on how I feel (and whether I still like running!) knowing me i’ll start dreaming up another big challenge for next year.
What would your perfect weather conditions be for the race?
Bo: My perfect race conditions would be 10 degrees C, little to no wind, high hanging cloud (to avoid sunburn). Not that I’m picky or anything! I like running in cool weather!
Lisa: I mean cool, clear and dry would make it really enjoyable. But if I put my competitive head on I do tend to place better when it’s foggy and wet as I’ve done lots of training in those sort of conditions (such as recce’ing day 4 in March in the middle of Storm Hannah) , my navigation is OK and I’m happy to get on with it. I would definitely prefer the views to competitive advantage. Also 5 days of wet tents and wet kit would be gross.
Bo: Yeah, no wishing for rain and fog please!
Good luck to Bo and Lisa. We’ll be keeping our Instagram and Twitter pages updated with their progress but if you want to follow along in real time they will both be carrying trackers (provided by the race organisers) so if you want to follow their progress you will be able to do so here http://www.berghausdragonsbackrace.com/