Written By Guy Carpenter
Guy is Race Director of Ultra X Sri Lanka, Ultra X Jordan and Ultra X Wales. A former Jordan finisher and army officer, he knows a thing or two about how to create a great event.
Our only 250km race on home soil. It was a tough one! Unlike our other 5 day events, there was no glamorous hotel to relax in prior to kicking of on Monday 8th August, but rather a more traditional camp with our iconic blue tents and firepit setting the tone for the week. Camping alongside our competitors was a crew of 27 comprised of five medics, four massage therapists, eight marking crew and 10 general crew.
20 athletes toed the start line early on Monday morning to take on this epic ultramarathon. This was to be a battle of inner motivations, groaning muscles and the elements
The first stage of the race covered 42km in the beautiful county of Powys largely following the Glyndwr’s Way in a loop back to Machynlleth. Tackling the majority of the elevation in the first 25km, our front runners set the pace and tone for the week early on. Ultra X Wales returnee Lewis Robling, Tim McBain and Grant Grego all finished within 15 mins of each other at the end of Day 1. The race was on. Amongst our female competitors, Isabel (Bella) Norris raced to the front and never looked like she would relinquish her position throughout the week.
Tuesday’s 50km course took our competitors north from Machynlleth over the foothills of south Snowdonia prior to tackling the first of two ascents of Cadair Idris before finishing in Dolgellau. Unfortunately, we had our first withdrawals of the event in Laila Al Adwani and Emily Henderson around Checkpoint 2 and a further two runners at Checkpoint 4 at the base of Cadair Idris in Jack Gooding & Sebastian Wood. The heat and the time necessary to descend the steep slopes of Cadair Idris resulted in one final competitor (John English) being withdrawn due to cut offs at the finish of Day 2 (John English).
With several amber weather warnings for heat being monitored through the week, the start time for Day 3 was brought forward to 6am to allow our runners to cover most of the day’s ascent in the cooler climate. An additional water drop was also added to the course to ensure our runners quenched their thirst in the mounting heat. This 43km looped course took the runners north before looping back down in Barmouth and provided some of the most spectacular views of the week.
Our runners made sure to make the most of the amazing lakes and streams found in Wales to cool off throughout the week. Following Lewis Robling’s Stage 1 victory, Tim McBain powered through on Day 2 & 3 to secure a healthy and likely unassailable lead.
The long stage
Every Ultra X 5-day multistage race includes a “Long Day”. Prior to the start of Stage 4 we had one further withdrawal in Aysha Bhimji. This year’s fourth stage was reversed to allow the runners to cover most of the elevation in the cooler temperatures of the day and not descend in the dark like in the first Ultra X Wales in 2021. Although this amendment suited most runners, for some, the 750m of ascent in the morning twilight was too much.
John Andrews withdrew at Checkpoint 1 having completed the ascent of Cadair Idris for the second time and Ben Corby at Checkpoint 2. The biggest surprise of the week was John’s brother Toby. Having dutifully stayed alongside his brother for the duration of the race so far, Toby promptly turned on the afterburners as if his legs hadn’t already covered 145km and raced through the pack to finish 30 mins behind the stage winner Tim McBain (Toby withdrew following Day 4). The first cut-off of the day was unfortunately applied for Clare Smallwood at Checkpoint 3 at the end of the ridgeline in Bala. All remaining runners made the most of the flat second half of the stage to race in well within the required time. One more day to go!
The Final Stage
With the temperature recorded at 32 degrees celsius for several hours throughout the previous day, our runners started earlier than planned to make the most of the cooler temperatures. Arguably the most runnable day, the 10 remaining participants blazed through the course including our purposefully included river crossing to finish back in Machynlleth at our first camp. Not even a 10km beach leg into Aberdovey could slow their pace.
Following an awards ceremony, including some bespoke awards for certain standout performances and notable contributions to the week, our runners and crew reveled in their accomplishments for the remainder of the evening.
Ultra X Wales 2022 would not have been possible without the help and dedication from an amazing team of volunteers. Thank you all and I hope to see you on the trails again soon!
For 2023 we’ve changed the format of the event, making it 220km over 5 stages and changing the event so that it runs from Wednesday-Sunday. You can find out more about this by clicking on the link below:
- Tim McBain (1st Male)
- Lewis Robling (2nd Male)
- Grant Grego (3rd Male)
- James Day
- Isabel Norris (1st Female)
- Paul Sanderson
- Emma Morton (2nd Female)
- Hannah Davies (3rd Female)
- David Wilson
- Richard Morris (Non-Competitive)
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