Dragons in Training

Lisa and Bodil have signed up for the 2019 Dragon’s Back event. This 5-day race will average 40 miles and close to 10,000 ft of ascent per day. On top of that, the event is self-navigated, often over pathless moorland and rocky mountain ridges.

In the upcoming months we will keep you updated on this page whilst we train for this next big challenge. We will be recceing the route, strengthening our bodies and increasing our mileage. With a finishing rate ranging between 39% and 56% over the last three events, we will have to be at our very best to earn our Dragon title!


First recce weekend: Day2 (Nant Gwynant to Llanelltyd)

With the rest of the UK enjoying the soaring heat on the beach, in a lake or with a beer, Lisa and Bo had decided that last weekend (7-8th of July) was our first outing on the official Dragon’s Back race route. The 2017 route map arrived just in time for us to plan our first recce, which combined public transport, hitchhiking/getting lifts to make our point-to-point route possible!

dragons back map

The most intimidating map there ever was!

With 55 km (34 miles) the second day of the race is comparatively short, but the large ascent and pathless moors more than make up for its length! We decided to split the race day in two, and run the longer section from Maentwrog to Llanelltyd on Saturday and the shorter section from Nant Gwynant back to Maentwrog on Sunday. We started off strong on Saturday by getting lost in some farmers fields. We knew the navigation would get much harder than a couple of fields with cows, and focused to read the map properly and use a compass. The lack of clouds had one advantage: perfect visibility. Once on the moors and in the mountains we could relatively easily identify our next checkpoint and pick our route towards it. For the rest of the day we found the navigation fairly straightforward and found lots of useful trods, one exception was finding a good route down Rhinog Fawr. We didn’t traverse far enough east so had an exciting scramble boulder strewn heathery slopes while we were trying to get back to the path we could see below us – something to practice again.

navigating on the go

Bo navigating on the go

The absence of the clouds did come with a very hot, sun-soaked day for us. The temperature kept rising during the day and by the time we got to the big hills we were running low on water. The lack of rain meant that most streams have dried up or have been reduced to a tiny trickle! Some dodgy water with purifying tablets later, we pushed on and finished our run with the most amazing – SHADY – downhill forest trail. Our swim in the sea afterwards did leave us wondering if our skin just got less, or more, salty?!

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Sunday somehow was even hotter. At 8am having breakfast we were already too hot and we had only moved from the tent to a picnic bench. Thankfully today was a relatively short day for us so we decided just to take it easy and enjoy the views and maybe swim in a tarn or two along the way. On the way up Cnicht we met some very friendly locals out who helped us route find the best way down the mountain, they also helped us with some Welsh pronunciation – something we definitely need to work on to avoid embarrasment! On the next mountain, Moelwyn Fawr, we bumped in to Caz and Lawrie, friends from volunteering at Cape Wrath, who gave us yet more route tips. We couldn’t keep up with them hurtling along to Moelwyn Fach but we enjoyed the rest of the route at our easy pace (whilst compulsively checking twitter for news of Kilian’s progress on his record-breaking Bob Graham round).

A great weekend, and really useful recce. Looking forward to the next one!

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Volunteering at the Cape Wrath Ultra

Lisa has just returned after spending a week in Scotland volunteering at the Dragon’s Back sister event the Cape Wrath Ultra. As well as being a great way of giving back to the ultra-running community by being a small cog in running of this event (a mammoth task!), it was great fun make many new ultra-running friends and to become part of Ourea Events family.

Cape Wrath Ultra 2018 DAY 8 -8852

The Ourea event team and Cape Wrath Ultra Participants in Durness on the final day of the event. ©Credit: Jimmy Hyland/JHPvisuals.co.uk

I was part of the camp team and my main duties were to kit check participants before setting off, followed by dismantling the camp and packing it into the vans so it could be transported to the next site. Once we arrived at the next camp spot the first job was to set it all back up again so the participants could return from a long days running to a fully functioning event village complete with catering, medical tents, a mess tent and the big blue tents (their home for the week). In the afternoon and evening shifts were rotered so there was normally time to get out for a quick run before or after our evening duty. I was posted on the finish, where I collected the trackers back in off the runners and welcomed them home – a really nice job! Others on the camp team helped by showing the participants to their tents and carrying their overnight bags.

I was also lucky enough to spend a couple of shifts helping in Race Control as a professional dot-watcher. Using the tracking information allows Race Control to anticipate incidents before they occur, i.e. if someone has started to go off route or has slowed down considerably and is unlikely to make a cut-off time. This allows race control to coordinate the remote checkpoint, medical and first response teams appropriately. The trackers which were used for the event also allow messages to be sent to participants, i.e. to reassure them that help is on its way if they have had to stop due to injury.

To make this event a success everyone (particularly the event organisers and catering team) worked hard for long days but it was so rewarding to be part of this amazing event and to spend time in North-West Scotland. Although I spent last summer here during my Munro round the weather at the time was miserable so to re-visit the area in such beautiful weather was a treat! I also really valued the opportunity to understand the inner workings of an event like this, and I now know what to expect when Bo and I tackle the Dragon’s back next year. Above all, getting to know such a fantastic group of people, both participants and other event team members, was amazing and I’m really looking forward to being part of future Ourea events, whether that’s volunteering or participating!

If you want to find out more about the Cape Wrath Ultra (including some stunning daily highlight videos of the race) or find out about entering or volunteering at other Ourea events – check out the websites linked above.

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