Weekly Waffle – 11th August 2019

Again it’s been a fortnight…

Life got in the way and prevented another weekly review so it’s time to catch up…

Rewind a little and memories will return of sand.  Lots of sand.  It was a Wednesday night and another edition of the Bridgend County Running League.  A fixture that’s loved and hated at the same time drew the Phoenix in significant quantity.  Runners, supporters and volunteers.  Another significant result was achieved with all those who ran being rewarded with copious quantities of cake!

While all this took place our new batch of heroes took the next steps on their journey in significant numbers.  A delight to see.  Between training and racing 130 of the club keeping active on one night!

High numbers up the valley in our spiritual home saw out the week of training but two rounded the week off with a trip to the east to tackle a tough climb very aptly named The Murder Mile and were rewarded at the top with beer!  This led us on to parkrunday where a new club record attendance was set.  Phoenix out in their droves at 12 locations in 3 different countries.  Maesteg, a home run for many, celebrated it’s second birthday with a huge Phoenix contingent taking part in one way or another.  The famous duo fancy dress theme temped several into the party spirit for the morning. 

The afternoon was an annual pilgrimage for many as the ever popular Beer mile drew many to don fancy dress once again for an event that continues to appeal every year.  4 beers, one mile.  More of a challenge than it sounds.  A great deal of fun was had by all as the party continued into the night…

The sun rose on a warm Sunday morning.  

A compact and bijou group followed the A470 north to Brecon.  Starting and ending on a track, 10  scenic miles were the order of the day and impressive results were obtained in the process.

The home of Gavin and Stacey drew large numbers onto the Island for the next 10k in a very popular local series.  Great numbers, great results and great fun was enjoyed by all.

And all the while our heroes continued to push their boundaries discovering new potential they never knew existed.

Saying goodbye to the week and saying hello to another.

The forecast changed.  The heatwave was disappearing giving way to more typical conditions.  Rain.

Training in the week saw a trip to Merthyr Mawr and back and a tough track session that always tests those who take part but, suitable for all, it’s these sessions that make us better.  Meanwhile our heroes continued to develop.  A huge group made their way to Ogmore to tackle the popular and tough climb to Bwlch Y Clawdd and back down.

Midweek events still abound and this week was no exception.  A 5k event in the capital saw a few line up on the start line to record some more events in their calendar.  The following night some also took to the seafront in Swansea once again to complete the same distance event in aid of a very worthy charity.

The weather finally turned and storms lashed the area.  Saturday morning saw a plethora of parkrun cancellations in the locale.  Some managed to find locations that were still running while many were already planning tourism that allowed them to get their 5k fix in.

One completed a tough looped course marathon to increase the total on a personal challenge.  A unique medal was the reward for a successful day.

Despite the weather continuing to test we saw large numbers head down to the local half marathon that always attracts us in large numbers.  Despite the conditions and the hilly profile it produced significant results for those who took it on.  

The weather didn’t defeat our heroes continuing their quests as they bravely fought the conditions to battle towards their eventual goal with guts and determination.  True Phoenix spirit already growing within!

What an amazing two weeks!  

Brilliant to see numbers at training on the rise as well as numbers taking part in events of all distances.  Phoenix spirit shining through in every case.

It’s simple – keep doing what you’re doing and if you need any support then just turn one way or another and you can be assured there will be a Phoenix by your side to guide you through.

You lot are simply awesome!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 28th July 2019

Temperatures soar.  

Record levels reached.  

We are so lucky to have the beach within our reach where strength training sessions were held.

Midweek drew a trio to Caerdydd for the last in a series.  Attempts to break records failed battling against the heat and humidity of the evening despite it being a birthday celebration for one.

A recce of an upcoming fixture saw a number tackle a sandy route a week ahead of it’s official running while a huge group continued their running development.

More efforts on the Planka gave way to a rest day as we built up to the weekend and parkrunday.

9am start lines were filled with Phoenix.  Some got there by foot as training for big races on the horizon continued.  Pirates lined the seafront on one of our home locations while our other home enjoyed a centenary celebration.  Two on a mission clocked up a significant number of locations as tourism fever takes hold.  We had Phoenix penning run reports as others ventured further afield with two finding themselves in Canada to complete their 5k ritual.  

It wasn’t parkrunday for all though as a handful headed west down the M4 to a mixture of distances around trails in the Afan Valley.  Great performances all round in the heat with one picking up another accolade for crossing the finish line first!  Another trophy for the mantelpiece!

Our junior members got an opportunity for some track activities down in Swansea ending with fun on the beach in the warm weather.

Wonderful stuff!

The sun eventually went down.  

Before it even thought about waking from it’s slumber a group met in the dark to drive to the base of the highest peak in South Wales and made their way to the top on foot to watch the sun rise.  The weather was against them seeing the true glory of the moment but the experience was enjoyed by all with photos at the summit as confirmation.

Back at home our intrepid new runners took the next steps on their journey.  Heroes they are already for taking those first steps last week but this takes them one step closer to reaching their goal.  

More wonderful stuff!

It’s always difficult in the heat.  As temperatures rise we need to stay hydrated and protect our skin from the direct affect of sunlight.  Despite the extremes this week we saw good numbers at training as well as finish lines crossed.

More reasons to be proud.

Well done to all who stepped out of the door.

Spare a thought for those who aren’t able for one reason or another.  There are several amongst us currently unable to put any miles in and to them we send huge positive vibes for a speedy recovery.  The Phoenix family is bound by strong bonds.  We look out for each other.  If you know of someone who is struggling just reach out a hand of support.  Send a message.  Pop round.  Share a cuppa.  Just check they are OK.

Keep doing what you’re doing guys!

You’re all amazing!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

Weekly Waffle – 21st July 2019

The temperatures rise and spirits rise to match it…

Busy times carried me away to distant shores but I observed the antics from afar.  Precious family time drew me away from compiling these words sooner than I would have liked…

Two weeks have passed since I last added to our story and a lot has happened…

Training has continued…

A BCRL fixture defies the norm (being on a Friday night) and huge numbers flock to a local show ground with another commanding performance from all and coupled with high levels of participation resulted in another second place finish overall for the club!  Awesome!

Saturday came round and inevitable ensued.  parkrun.  Not to be undone by waking up with post race fatigue many headed out of the door for 9am to get their regular dose.  

The sun set and rose again with plenty of energy to radiate.  Under clear skies a bunch headed to the capital to cover various distances on a multi-loop course tracking up and down the banks of the River Taff.  Ice pops and water spray on each loop provided some respite from the heat and all met their goals while some surpassed them with true Phoenix spirit.

Others went slightly further afield for a 10k race organised by one of our neighbouring clubs.  Joined by junior members they all battled the high temperatures to get the job done.

The sun set on a very hot weekend with many having stories to tell of their endeavours….

A new week dawned and a new initiative with heavy involvement from the Phoenix loomed…

Honouring the memory of a life sadly lost at the end of the marathon in London a number of years ago The Big Social Run was born in Wales and had finally arrived in Bridgend.  A plethora of leaders and runners made their way to Porthcawl for the inaugural event which proved to be a record breaking success for the whole initiative.  Warm weather added to the enjoyment of the purely social run for fun – something we all love!  A resounding success! 

Despite the high turnout on Tuesday, Wednesday saw good numbers at track and a good crowd including a couple of four legged friends, headed down the valley from our spiritual home to tackle a challenging climb to the mast on top of the valley walls.

One lone runner racked up another in his tally tackling an event with a staggered start – the chase was on!

As the weekend drew close, excitement built…  

More that just excitement for the Saturday morning obligatories, there was an impending first…  

Wedding bells were about to be rung… 

For the very first time we were about to witness two members of the club exchange vows and tie the knot in a relationship that blossomed while the Phoenix rose from the ashes!

With the groom getting parkrun out of the day first thing in the morning to run off some of the pre-ceremony nerves he also celebrated his birthday.  Other members joined in the local event in anticipation of an exciting day to come.  Cloudy skies showed promise with patches of blue poking through the gaps.  

Not to be undone, others got their 5k in at various locations around the country.

Many members descended back on Porthcawl to bear witness to the first Phoenix wedding.  We have said on many occasions that the Phoenix Spirit means so much more than just running and this was testament to that.  Two members finding love of both the sport and each other!  So wonderful that the club and friends made through it played a part in bringing two wonderful people together to make a life-long commitment. #phoenixlove  The clouds parted.  The sun came out to shine down on the remainder of the day of celebrations.

The celebrations resulted in some fuzzy heads as Sunday morning arrived but it didn’t stop leaders and members turning out in force to welcome new starters on their journey from Zero to Hero.  Record numbers at training resulted and our hearts were filled with excitement to see these intrepid souls take their first steps to discovering just what they are capable of.

At the same time one of our midst put her multi-discipline skills to good use with a significant outcome from a sizzling event!

And as we celebrate all of this we see the club grow, with the membership once again increasing to pip over 300!

Over two weeks…
Record numbers at training.
Record club numbers.
A record breaking Big Social Run.  
Significant league performances.  
parkruns.  
Races from 5k to ultra marathons…

… and a wedding!

Love is in the air, but when is it not?
It has to be said…

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub
#phoenixlove

Weekly Waffle – 7th July 2019

The week started, as it always does, with training.  

Numbers still maintained despite a distinct increase in events week on week.  A recce of an upcoming race fixture drew many curious souls to a warm Tuesday evening session.

Midweek saw the end of a popular series down west with a huge turnout on a different seafront once again.  As we drew towards the weekend two went on a mission to complete the final race in a series in the capital.

As they did our multi-disciplined contingent started a journey, some towards a coveted fourth medal.  Miles in the sea were the order of the day and battling jellyfish all returned to terra firma victorious.

The hot sun set and rose.  Tired bodies set off early on two wheels to complete a second stage.  Supported by fellow Phoenix they all completed their quest, but before they were done the obligatories of a Saturday morning were completed in a multi-tude of locations.  The weekly equation was repeated.  Home x 2 + away = many.  At home on the seafront, an impending race resulted in closed roads and a unique opportunity to return the course to a familiar and enjoyable finish.  

Not long after this regular start one lone soldier set off on a historic journey from the English capital to battle.  Over 100 miles to the finish line, this quest was always going to be a long one…

Tired bodies from most of the days activities slept well.  While they did one carried on his journey through the night.  Others closed their eyes with a nervous disposition for a first…

Running is our passion.

It’s what brought us together and it’s the glue that keeps us together.

But, at the risk of sounding repetitive, it’s so much more than that.

Weeks come and weeks go. 

Tales of valour. 

Stories of endeavour.  

Words I use a lot – but they’re so apt.  Many of these stories are deep rooted.  They built from somewhere.  Every story was created from a seed.  All the seeds were different but they grew.  Bodies were transformed.  Minds were transformed.  Every story takes time to build.  Every story has with it tales of woe.  There’s heartache.  There’s pain.  There’s joy and optimism.  There’s often disappointment and misery – I won’t sugar coat it.  But when there is – and through sensible choices, hard work, focus and dedication these are put to bed and the mind and body get stronger – the outcome is so much sweeter!  

Imagine, if you will, a love story.  Not for another person.  For a routine.  For something that takes hold.  For something that, at first may be a chore, but it becomes a necessity.  An obsession.  Not “do I have to go out for a run” but “when can I get my next run in”.  When you’re sneaking out of the door in a morning with a bag packed with running gear in case you can squeeze a couple of miles in at lunchtime to clock up on Strava or lift your mood.  We see it happen.  We know it happens because it’s happened to us!

Then a local event comes along.  It coincides with a graduation.  Our Zero to Hero programme developed.  It became something more as we took them further.  The culmination of this played out, as it often does, on the seafront at Porthcawl…

10 kilometres.  The first race of this distance for several.  Joined by the seasoned athletes in their quest for better times they made their way to the start line.  Simultaneously, way down west, others grouped to start the final leg of their three day journey joined by others for just the one stage on foot.  5k, 10k, half and full marathons were on the cards.

The sun streamed down and made the conditions testing for all distances in all locations. 

The Phoenix was born in the flames.  Sure enough, as the sun beat down, everyone rose from the heat to meet the challenge.

With two across the border to the north tackling another event and our soloist still moving forward far to the east, almost a half of the club were out on their feet to complete their goals.

Banding together we all battled on.  The Phoenix spirit was strong and all who felt it flow through their veins showed valiant effort to reach the end.

All distances completed, short and long – all of equal merit in our eyes!

Their stories are all different, but they are intertwined.  

They run in parallel, but they converge.  

Working together or on their own they found their way home.  The mutual support never tired.  Willing each other on.  Those who couldn’t run sent strength.  Many supported.  Many volunteered.  The Phoenix spirit flowed from the heart with many giving their time to ensure safe completion of the events.

Not only that but numbers taking part broke records.  A sheer volume of members never seen before stood on a start line and made their way along the route to the end.  A record number of finish lines crossed in one day was recorded with a three figure sum that was approaching half the current membersip!

All finished triumphant, but all stories are not finished.

They will continue.

Good times are shared.

Memories are made that will last.

Bonds are being strengthened.

New dreams are forming. 

Future adventures are being planned.

Boundaries are being broken.

Lives are being changed.

What’s next?

On a weekend where I didn’t achieve much but I followed a whole host of stories I am inspired…

Tonight I will dream big… because of you all!

You should do the same!

#lovethisclub
#loveourclub

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