Weekly Waffle – 30th June 2019

It’s that time again as we look back on the weeks events…

As the temperature rises we enjoy some warm weather training…

Strength training on the beach – what better way to enjoy the change in climate!

Tempo sessions encouraged everyone to push their limits.

The Planka was the destination for those who headed up the valley.

As much as we have weeks where we are inundated with events this week there was an obvious drought.  With many having tested their legs last weekend in Swansea in hot conditions a rest week was always on the cards for a few – and well earned it was.

A period over which to recharge the batteries which was welcomed in the warm weather.

It didn’t stop decent numbers heading for their local parkrun start line.  Many also took to start lines dotted around the country.  Two targeted the last running of one particular Welsh parkrun as the venue closes its doors resulting in a long journey the length of Wales to take part!

Many completing their 5k on the seafront at Porthcawl met by the entrance to the pavilion to be given their instructions for the inaugural Phoenix 5 event… 

6 teams, 5 in a team, started by finding the Welsh Wally.  Carpool Karaoke.  School sports day.  Selfie in a phone box.  Ice creams on high while chasing sheep.  Scaling the infamous Coronation Street to retrieve their duck!


A fun filled morning of entertainment culminated in returning to base camp at Tondu Rugby Club where the annual BBQ was waiting for them.  More milestone t-shirts handed out.  Big prize winners of the Phoenix 100 Club were drawn as the current running of it comes to a close.

Music, dancing and impromptu karaoke followed to round of a fun-packed day!

A special occasion indeed as many got to meet the new addition to the Clark family.  Lovely little Arthur came along to say hi to his Phoenix family and we all fell in love with the little fella!

Sunday arrived and those who could raise their heads from the pillow took on a favourite club trail run while our improvers did a recce of the Porthcawl 10k route ready for their second graduation next week at the actual event!

Training numbers restored after being affected by last weeks plethora of events culminating in a high turnout at a half marathon.

A definite focus on fun this week!  The feel good factor of the sun shining down on us much more than it has in previous weeks.  Less races but still the Phoenix continue to band together to share great times.

Spirits are high once again as we move further into the summer.

Keep it up!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 23rd June 2019

Another week draws to a close…

A week of highs and lows…

During the week the promise of a donkey cwtch drew decent numbers up the valley.

A midweek dash around Bute Park drew a few up to the capital while others got their fix of track training.

Warm and light nights allow more adventurous routes in our spiritual base with views and climbs to take the breath away.

Over the pond members sought out fellow runners with which to share some miles… and drinks after!

As the nursery rhyme goes Jack and Jill went up a hill and so did some of our own on a tough little route for an extra event to their name.

Saturday arrived.  

parkrun.

Milestones, birthdays and club championships resulted in huge numbers in the Llynfi Valley.  The seafront still attracted it’s regular contingent.

Tourism always draws some away from home.  One in particular literally on the shores of the emerald isle was spotted by a local runner who sent back best wishes and pictures of them sharing the beach parkrun experience.  How wonderful our community is.

A lack of parkrun on an island in the Adriatic forced one to seek a similar distance event.  A tough course tested the legs but resulted in another admirable finish position!

A two day event saw one within our midst cover a significant distance helping a family member to reach a goal.  Another step in the build up to something bigger was a tough day as illness took its toll but the goal was achieved in spite of it!

The sun fell on a glorious day and rose but hidden by cloud – for which many were grateful as a bus load joined others for a half marathon by the sea that regularly attracts large numbers.  Volunteers did their bit providing official support for runners taking on the challenge at the turnaround point.  Others donned their hi-viz to ensure the safety of those bringing up the rear.  Brave souls, some with nervous faces, lined up in the warm to tackle the distance.  Some for the first time.  Despite the lack of sun it was warm.  A head wind back through the final miles provided resistance when the legs were getting tired.  All battled through and crossed the finish line with stories to tell of valour along the way.  Almost three score and ten Phoenix took on the challenge and soared high over the sea to the west.  With supporters and volunteers alike over a hundred members were involved in the days proceedings!  Phoenix family day out!

As we said farewell to the day news broke of the loss of a fellow runner at the days event.  Our running community is one bound by strong bonds.  When one has fallen we all feel the pain.  As the sun disappeared below the horizon our hearts were heavy in mourning the very sad loss of one of our own.  Our thoughts go out to those who were very close to them. 

Highs and lows.

We are privileged to be in a position where we can pursue this wonderful hobby of ours.  It brings with it feelings of amazing achievement, whatever the distance and whatever the speed.  We salute all who lace up their shoes and head out of the door.  It’s a chance to escape the world and disappear into ourselves.  Discover what our bodies can achieve and just how powerful our minds are when we push them.  “I’m not a runner” is something I have heard a lot.  I’ve seen lots, and I mean lots, of people say that and then find themselves discovering what they are capable of when they give it a go.  It makes you stronger in so many ways.  Combine that with community and a whole new magic develops.  A magic that is born from the ties that bind us as a club and within the running community at large.

Reflectively on a weekend where we are reminded of our own mortality and contrary to normal weeks I will offer some of my own thoughts.  On a personal level my life has been transformed by running.  It filters through so many aspects of it.  I have lost weight.  I feel fitter.  I feel stronger, both mentally and physically.  I have made an enormous number of amazing life-long friends.  Thankfully I have someone wonderful with me who supports all the crazy plans.  I have shared the experience not only with friends but very close family members and sharing an experience when pushing ourselves creates an incredible understanding of each others strengths cementing those bonds even stronger.  It is a passion that will stay with me for life.  I feel so privileged to be in a position to do so and that is massively down to our Phoenix family.  Thank you all for enriching my life and the lives of each other.

Risen from the ashes and flying higher than ever!

The Phoenix spirit.

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Rack Raid 2019 review

This year saw the club invited to compete in a 13 stage relay covering 100 miles all within 12 hours. Each stage had it’s own start time with cut off times applied and there is a bit of overlap to ensure it’s all finished within a reasonable time. The cut off for each stage requires runners to finish within a 9 minute mile average – so a 5 mile route would have a 45 minute cut off. If runners come in after this time then they are given the cut off time (in this example 45:00), unless they are more than 10 minutes off the cut off in which case they are given the cut off time plus 10 minutes (in this example 55:00). Stages ranged from 5.1 miles to 13.1 miles.

The road to Rack Raid began as an attempt to get into Welsh Castles which requires 20 runners plus a number of reserves across the 2 day event from North Wales down to South Wales. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough runners who would meet the strict cut off times for that event to apply so turned our attentions to Rack Raid. Many of our members had already run the ‘qualifier’ route the captains had set out which involved 2 laps of the Ogmore Valley loop for a 10 mile run in total. This then ended up being used to determine places for Rack Raid instead.

The 13 runners had to made up of a 7/6 gender split with the majority of teams going for 7 male and 6 female runners which is what we went for. 

The final team was (in order of what stages they ran) – Jo Gamba, Dai James, Gareth Jenkins, Chris Truman, Neil Price, Niki Puleio, Sarah Davies, Anneliese Loveluck, Steven James, Liz Davis, Paul Smith, Sian Price and Emma Loyns.

Jo Gamba and I headed off at 530am to get to Grosmont Castle in time for Jo to do the first leg at 730am. T-shirts collected for the team and ‘official vehicle’ sticker acquired which was needed to drive to certain stages and parts of the course that weren’t open to other vehicles.

A race briefing is given at the start of each stage and numbers given out which are the same for each team throughout the day. There are just 28 teams in total and they discourage other runners / supporters from going to the start as there’s a few houses around the castle and they don’t want too much noise at 7-730am on a Sunday morning. It was odd to see such a small field of runners as Jo set off on the first stage.

That first stage was the shortest at 5.1 miles but still included 315 feet of elevation with the majority of that in the first half of the run. The entire route is on quiet country roads and for those of us seeing runners off at the start, it meant carefully driving passed them to get to the end point of that stage. It does mean there’s an opportunity to shout encouragement out of the car window as you drive past though. Quite a lot of the teams had chosen female runners for the first stage with just 1 male out of 28 teams. I passed Jo about a mile or so in and she doing well in the middle of the pack.

Arriving at the second stage I saw Steven, Niki, Dai and Chris who had car shared with Dai who was due to start the second leg. As pointed out at the start of this review, the stages overlap slightly so Dai and the rest of the runners for the second stage set off before most of the first stage runners came in. A few minutes later Jo appeared and finished in a fantastic 41:09 and well inside the cut off of 46 minutes and in 17th place overall. As I was running stage 3, we had to quickly get in the car and drive off, passing Dai who was amongst the top 5 or so runners along the way. His stage was 6.9 miles with 636 feet of elevation and very little downhill making it one of the hilliest if basing it on elevation per mile.

The third stage started at White Castle which was restricted to ‘official vehicles’ only meaning only Jo and I could drive our car to the start. This meant a quick change of plan as Steven couldn’t go and pick Dai up from the end of his stage but it was fine as Jo could take Dai to the next stage after dropping me off where we would all reconvene. Driving to the start of stage 3 we saw that Dai would have a tough half mile long hill to content with at the end but despite this he finished in an excellent time of 50:55 and 8th place overall.

I set off for stage 3 which was a 7.5 mile route to Abergavenny with 394 feet of elevation. It was a nice start as I went down the hill Dai had just had to come up before turning back onto the main road. The route then gradually climbed for agonising 4 miles albeit at a mostly gentle gradient. It also started raining but fortunately for me it wasn’t too heavy and quite refreshing. The final 2.5 miles of my stage were almost entirely downhill so I was able to make up for some lost time on the incline and ended with a sprint finish against a female runner from Les Croupiers which definitely helped me find another gear than if I’d been running in alone. Very pleased with a time of 55:07 and 11th place overall.

Meanwhile, Chris Truman had set of on stage 4. A 6.7 mile hilly route with 633 feet of elevation. Like many of the stages it involved a lot of climbing for the first half before a downhill second half. Chris finished in 46:53 equalling our best position of the day so far with 8th overall.

By this point, Jo and I had already been up for 5 hours and we were barely a third of the way through the day so we went off to Monmouth to sneak in a quick second breakfast before seeing Neil come in from stage 5. Stage 5 was an 8.1 mile route with 443 feet of elevation which Neil finished in 55:15 and 9th overall. Most of the stages started or finished near castles but Neil’s finish was just as good with it finishing on an old bridge heading into Monmouth town.

Niki was up next with the second longest stage of the day. A 12.6 route from Monmouth to Raglan taking in 801 feet of elevation and hilly throughout. He smashed it in 1:21:59. To put it in perspective, had it been half marathon distance then he’d have finished a reasonably hilly half marathon in around 1 hour 25/26 minutes. It was also the third time we’d finished 8th overall.

Whilst waiting for Niki, the rest of us arrived in Raglan where we our final group of runners joined us – Sarah, Emma and Liz. Sarah was lined up with the others about to set off just as Niki was finishing. Sarah’s route was 5.5 miles from Raglan to Usk taking in 236 feet of elevation and undulating throughout. Sarah put in a great effort finishing well inside the cut off of 51 minutes with in 45:34 and 16th position.

By this point we’d already seen Anneliese Loveluck set off on the longest stage of the event – a 13.1 mile route from Usk to Tintern Abbey which not only had the highest amount of elevation at 1200 feet of climbing, but was also one of the only stages that included some off road running as well. Anneliese had actually offered to run this stage in case you’re wondering why the captains would be so mean. She was one of only two female runners for that stage as a number of teams put out their fastest guys for the stage. Anneliese held her own though and finished in an astonishing 1:36:45 on the hilly half marathon distance course and 16th position. Her time was 21 minutes inside the cut off.

The finish at Tintern Abbey was one of the highlights although as stated earlier, most of the start / finish locations were pretty special in terms of scenery. As we waited for Anneliese to come in, Steven James headed off for Stage 9 – a 10 mile route from the abbey to Chepstow Castle taking in 945 feet of elevation making it the second hilliest in terms of climbing elevation. Again, a number of teams appeared to put their best runners out on this stage and Steven ran a great time of 1:17:14 and 20th place.

Liz Davis was next up taking on a 5.6 mile route to Caldicot Castle with around 300 feet of elevation. Liz missed the cut off by just a few seconds and was therefore awarded a time of 51 minutes and 24th place. It should be noted that 8 runners out the 28 also didn’t make the cut off on what was a deceivingly tough route. Our team spirit and camaraderie really shone through as every one of the team was proud of Liz who absolutely gave it her all and still recorded a great time.

Most of us missed Paul heading off for stage 11 as the tight timings to get from the previous stage didn’t quite work out. His route was 8.3 miles with 551 feet of elevation and was a rare one that didn’t finish at a castle or on a bridge, however, there was a pub which was packed with runners and supporters. Many of you reading this may not have met Paul yet who is relatively new to the club and is amongst our fastest runners. He smashed the route in 55:43 and recorded our joint highest finish of the day with 6th overall.

All of us made it to see him finish whilst across the road, Sian was heading off on the penultimate stage. Stage 12 was 6.6 miles with 266 feet of elevation. We’d be told Sian would get one of the best finishes of all the stages and as we arrived we could see why. The finish was at Caerleon Amphitheatre which dates back to 90 AD and was a venue for gladiatorial combat. Sian finished by running into the middle of the amphitheatre with the rest of us watching from 20-30 feet above. She did get a little confused with exactly where the finish line was and carried on running for a few more metres though. Her time was 51:37 which was well inside the cut off of 60 minutes and she was 18th overall.

The spectacular finish was also the spectacular start venue for our final runner, our club coach, Emma Loyns. Emma had been dreading her stage which although the second shortest at 5.4 miles, it included almost 500 feet of elevation climbing for much of the route and including the a section at the end that a local club use for long hill sessions. The rest of us headed off to the finishing point and caused a little bit of chaos when we accidently ended up driving up the narrow road close to finish where the runners were heading. We had to stop to let the runners go through and wait until they’d finished so frustratingly the final stage was the only one we didn’t make it to see our runner finish. Lesson learnt for next year if we are invited back. Emma smashed it in 47:30 coming in under the cut off and finishing in 20th place.

When we all eventually parked up at the finishing venue at the Castell y Bwch pub we got in the queue for some much needed food and drinks. We’d been given food vouchers at the start of the day which entitled us to curry and chips which went down a treat as we watched the presentations for the stage winners and overall team winners.

The organisers had been posting results from each stage throughout the day along with current team standings so we excitingly awaited to see our final position. Eventually we saw that we’d finished in 14th place out of 28 teams. A fantastic effort and beyond what many of us had expected in our first year. We also finished almost an hour ahead of friendly local rivals, Brackla, who have been competing in Rack Raid for many years (lets ignore that they were probably saving themselves for Welsh Castles the weekend after).

101.5 miles completed in 12 hours 36 minutes and 44 seconds.

So how would I sum it up? Well firstly I would say that elevation profiles don’t always tell the whole story as every single one of our runners found the stages harder than expected. The entire day was very well organised and I can’t imagine the planning and logistics required by Fairwater Runners Cwmbran who run the event. Amazing commitment and support by every single member of our team who were out for 12 hours or more which for a few of us included 100+ miles of driving, running one of the stages and supporting at as many stages as possible.  An absolutely fantastic day was had by all and I think if you ask any of the 13 of us that ran it, we would absolutely recommend the club does it again next year. The support and effort put in by every team member was amazing.

Rack Raid 2020 anyone?

Weekly Waffle – 16th June 2019

A busy week ahead…

Once again, training is affected by other responsibilities.  

The impending fielding of a fixture in the local league that brings all the clubs in the Bridgend area together was the focus.  Preparations build in the final days up to the midweek event.  A huge commitment for those devoting a great deal of time to organise.  A huge commitment for those giving their time during the day and on the night to make sure things run smoothly.  A huge commitment from the captains to organise a team from those who remain.  A huge commitment from the runners to perform for the club and gain crucial points after an admiral performance in the first fixture.

Mother natures was on our side despite the forecast.  The old adage “Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance” was observed to great effect.  261 runners started and 261 runners finished.  Despite our commitments to organising and volunteering, the runners did us proud with incredible individual performances for a fantastic team score!

A very worthy hashtag for a job well done.

#proudPhoenix

Training resumes as a calmness descends.  Smaller numbers attend as The Beast of Blackmill takes a toll on legs.

This doesn’t stop some attending other races as a couple travel to the capital to complete the next event in an increasingly popular series.

The pride from an incredible week is heightened by one of our number receiving another Welsh Athletics medal through the post for an admiral performance.  Phoenix flying very high, again!

Friday night. 

Lights out.

Saturday morning. 

Wakey, wakey.  

Alarms not required as body clocks detect the impending trip to a parkrun.

Home or away?  That is the question…

Home for many.  On the seafront and up the valley we get to start lines in numbers.  Milestones were clocked up in number with celebrations all round.

Away locations attract others.  Within our borders and “across the pond”.  

All getting their 5k completed.

Clouds part and the sun pokes through to appropriately reflect the season.

Phoenix in numbers head down to the local country estate to chase Rabbits.  Bunnies and toddlers took to the stage before their parents joined others on the start line to tackle a trail event with a multitude of different terrain.  Many Phoenix flew the flag on the tough course with many fantastic performances and club cameraderie worthy of note.  Sand dune descents that led many to “release the inner 8 year old” as they “helter skeltered” to the bottom.  Mud, grass, tarmac and sand in varying quantities challenged all, culminating in a river crossing that saw some fall foul of an uneven river bed producing spectacular photos as a result!  Smiling faces from all told the story of a job well done!

As the light fades and a new day dawns a few head down the coast to the west to complete a number of distances.  Wether 10k, marathon or more, all completed their target with admirable endeavour.  Medals earned.

And while all this happens our heroes still turn up to continue their journey!

It’s been a busy one.

It’s been a tiring one.

But The Phoenix endured.

Resilience.  
Endeavour.  
Commitment.  
Grit.  
Determination.  
Pride.  
Phoenix pride.

Continue to fly!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 9th June 2019

With the furore of last weekends preparation for our race on Wednesday night this review didn’t get completed.  Not one to forget our amazing runners if I can help it – the story will be told…

Sunday, Sunday…

The end of the week.

Again we contemplate what has been…

Midweek races battled with track session for numbers.  High numbers at both.  Local and distant 5k events drew many away.  Seafront miles produced many smiles.  Pleasant conditions led to decent times amongst the large numbers.  Away from home one didn’t want to miss out and booked in a race to complete the same distance.

Thursday saw a number head up the Bwlch for a testing session that always results in praise from those who dare to tackle the inclines!

Give me a ‘p’, give me an ‘a’, give me an ‘r’… you know where I’m going with this.  It’s Saturday morning and it wouldn’t be the same without it.  Home and away the Phoenix collected their tokens and were scanned.  Some came back with inspirational stories, not uncommon with the wide range of ages and abilities taking part.

One took on the challenge of racing equine opponents and whilst not victorious recorded impressive results on a notoriously tough course.

Goodbye Saturday, hello Sunday.

The traverse from North Wales to South Wales broken into stages drew a couple of our midst away from home to represent a local squad with admirable results.

One headed north to run, ride and row around a multi-discipline course with incredible results worthy of accolade.

Several teams headed to the golf course, working together to represent the Phoenix on a tough little course.  Bunker Hill failed to claim any victims with admirable results from all, yet again!

One cycled long distance locally coming back with the rewards for their efforts.

With high numbers on the trails and epic performances from our Zero to Hero improvers completing their full 10k, training sessions enjoyed large numbers once again!

What a week!

Everyone keeping busy with their running…

Everyone sharing experiences as we continue to turn up to events in significant numbers!
Well done guys – stick with it!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 2nd June 2019

What a week – yet again!

Training numbers were affected this week by a huge Phoenix contingent heading down the lanes through Merthyr Mawr for a local 5k that always attracts big numbers.  Impressive times and gutsy performances were in plentiful supply on the night in this regional championship event!

A trio headed to the capital once again to record swift times over 2 miles at the next in a series of events.  Events completed on the rise!

parkrunday or as it’s alternatively known, Saturday.

A new month.  

High numbers spread all around the country.  

One of our home runs saw a takeover where members give up their runs to provide the core roles required for the event to take place while those do it week in, week out get to run.  Huge numbers headed up the Llynfi Valley to volunteer and run!  An excellent morning was had by all with a few enjoying the hospitality of Wetherspoons after for some much needed recovery! 

Still high numbers at our other home while many got their fix wherever they found themselves for the weekend.

Missing their parkrun constitutional were a brave few taking on the might of Carten.  100 miles of cycling from Cardiff to Tenby – amazing stuff!

One lone runner started early to navigate the Wales Coastal Path between Porthcawl and Penarth.  The 40 mile journey was completed in style and finish line photos with a happy smiling face tell us it was a great day out!  Inspirational stuff!

The sun set and rose on a historic day for the club…

Rack Raid.
Participation by invitation only.
Captains and Vice Captains past and present worked hard to deliver a plan for qualification.
13 members set impressive qualifying times to gain selection.
100 miles.  
13 stages.
A very early start took them east to tackle each stage in turn.
Nerves abound as each section carried cut-off times.
Mutual support within the team strengthened the determination to succeed.
Every runner put in incredible performances.
News filtered back through the wonder of social media and we all revelled in the excitement of the day.
A great day for the Phoenix with an impressive finishing position cementing our future in the event.
We asked them to fly high and they rose with valour!  

Immensely proud.

At home we had numbers heading back up the Llynfi Valley to take on the Keeper of the Colliery and despite the rain they all completed in style.

Others wore pink to show their support for Cancer Research UK on a 5k route around familiar surroundings.

We saw newbie triathletes smash their first events as they challenge themselves to new things.

What an incredible weekend yet again…

A weekend that yet again demonstrates that being a Phoenix is all about being together – sharing experiences.  If you run super quick or super long, we salute you.  If you’ve just completed your first Zero to Hero session, we salute you.  If you’ve just run 5k for the first time, we salute you.  It doesn’t even matter if you run.  To walk, run, support or volunteer, we salute you.  What we do, we do together.  

Team photos from all over the country appear with any number from one to over a hundred.  

It’s that team spirit that pulls us together.

One big team.
One big family.
Family Phoenix.
We salute you all.

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub