MDC NEWS Spring 2000 Edition
OLD GREYBEARD’S SPRINGTIME BIT AT THE FRONT
‘Spring in the air, Mrs. Greybeard!” Is that a command?”
Newsletter time again, eh? So it seems we all survived the millennium and the associated total
breakdown of society (not that you’d notice much difference outside my office in the wasteland
that is Barry Docks), and as you have received this copy it means you must have paid your subs for 2000 and are therefore
definition keen to get out running over the hills before they are
eroded by rising sea levels or we are all asphyxiated by global warming. So what news is there
from the world of sweaty bodies and heavy breathing that is otherwise known as MDC?
Annual General Meeting
Been and gone I’m afraid, but don’t say you weren’t told. There were some important changes to the club officers, who are now:
EI Presidente: Martin Lucas (01656 880009) aka Old Greybeard. Articles and items for the newsletter should be sent to him at Chestnut View, St. Brides Major, Vale of Glamorgan, CF32
OSY. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Secretary and Child Protection Officer (oh yes, AAW insist!): Adrian ‘Agent 006’ Orringe
(01633 873577), 6 Edinburgh Close, Maes y Rhiw, Cwmbran NP44 SHR.
Club Treasure: Jenny Stratton (01873 810605), Llanbauffrhwd, Llangenny, nr. Crickhowel,
Powys NP18 1HE.
Membership Secretary (to whom subs and changes of address should be sent): John Sweeting,
Lower Lodge, Cynghordy, nr. Llandovery, Carmarthenshire SA20 OLD (01550 721086) Email
Club Captain (sounds important!) and in charge of the dreaded MDC midnight phone calls: Pete
‘you re racing in Beddgelert tomorrow’ Maggs (01291 627867), Hill House, Pwllmeyric, nr.
Old Greybeard will attempt to retain his editorial independence but if anyone would like to
produce a newsletter four times a year on a budget of nil he won’t stand in their way!
The meeting passed a vote of thanks to outgoing Presidente Fred Parry, who (with John Sweeting)
was brave enough to take on the club when it was within five minutes of folding after the
Reservoir Relay tragedy of 1991. Those who were members at the time will be aware that taking
on the job was quite a commitment when writs had been served and court appearances were
pending. The subsequent revival of the club to its present healthy state is in no small part due to
Fred’s voice of reason when it would have been only too easy for the club to close. Many thanks.
It was decided that Committee meetings will be held after the Tuesday night runs on 16th May
(probably in the Nant Ddu), 11th July at the Fox & Hounds, Blackmill (N.B. presidential
prerogative- brought forward from the original date of 18th July at the Gwyn Arms ‘cos it’s a long
way to go) and 19th September somewhere near Cwmcarm Forest Drive. The quorum will be 5, to
include at least two officers. Please let Adrian or Martin know as soon as possible of matters that
you may wish to discuss: the July meeting will discuss and hopefully decide on dates/venues for
the Winter League, so any suggestions welcome.
A limited number of club vests are to be ordered by Benjy, so if you want one – and I know all
you new members can’t wait – ring him on 01495-756806. Depending on demand we may order
further items e.g. tracksters, shorts, so let him know what you want and your size, whether
SixPack or PartySeven.
AAW News (look, it’s important. Honest.)
John Sweeting and Ade Orringe, as Mountain Running Secretary and Representative on the AAW
Endurance Committee, announce that this year’s Welsh Championships are open to all with a
birth, parentage or residential qualification (or, if I heard John correctly, first claim membership
for mountain nunning of a Welsh club) and -wait for it- that you do not have to pay the AAW
Registration Fee to take part. What the AAW Management Board will make of this small act of
rebellion remains to be seen, but there are some fine and testing races which deserve our support.
Everybody else will be able to take part in a separate Welsh Open Championship (same races)
which is open to all. If you are not sure if you are sufficiently Welsh, check with John Sweeting.
On the same topic, progress is being made towards the resurrection of the Welsh Mountain
Running Committee as either a sub committee of the Endurance Committee or an independent
body (not quite sure which) to feed the views of the great unwashed through to the Endurance
Committee. It’s still early days and nothing formal has been set up, but the matters to be addressed
will inevitably include Registration and its relevance/application to mountain running. In the
meantime it seems that we’re being left alone and that there is no immediate risk of the AAW
trying to impose an ‘unregistered levy’ on our races. Rumours that their course measurer was last
seen breaking the sound barrier on his bicycle through the Llanfoist canal tunnel whilst attempting
to measure the Blorenge race descent for its ‘permit are exaggerated!
Meanwhile, those who really, really want to pay the Registration Fee should fill in a form which is
available from John Sweeting and send him the £10 fee. I’m told that part of the benefit of paying
up will be a Welsh Mountain Running Newsletter: speak to John for details.
This year’s Llanbedr-Blaenavon race marked MDC’s Official 21st Birthday, and the AGM
decided that there should be a commemorative T-shirt to mark the occasion. This is being actively
pursued and hopefully they will already be available at cost price. Speak to Martin or Kay Lucas
for details (01656 880009).
Envious eyes have often turned to the rather fine Welsh Mountain Runners sweatshirts (the green
ones with the red dragon) which were available as a limited edition a couple of years ago. We
have had a lot of inquiries recently about having some more made, and have decided to get a
dozen large size to start with. Cost will probably be about £13-£15. If you want one, get in touch
Talking of T shirts reminds me of an incident in the Muddy Dap after a club run late last year. I
was at the bar proudly wearing the 1999 Transfan shirt (the one with the list of summits and their
heights on the back) and the conversation went thus:
Fat Chap with pint: “Scuse me mate…about that T-shirt…
OGB (thinking the chap’s impressed): ‘Mmm?’
Fat Chap: “S godderbe a joke, like, innit?’
OGB (annoyed): ‘Wotchermean?’
Fat Chap: ‘Well, it’s got to be a joke- no-one in their right mind would run over that lot
in one go.’
OGB: ‘Er… well..mmm…crisps, anyone?’
This year’s Transfan is on July 9″.
By now you will have received your **free** Welsh calendar and list of club Tuesday night runs,
and as the nights are fair drawing out there’s no excuse not to get out and pound up a few hills. No
need to wait, I’ll catch you up at the burnt-out car!
Bye for now Old Greybeard
CYNGHRAIR GAEAF DE CYMRU/SOUTH WALES WINTER HILL SERIES
The eighth season of Winter League races reached its high point (literally) at Pen Cerrig
Calch on 25h March. The series seems to be broadening its appeal, with runners from all
sorts of far-flung clubs competing and a record total of 122 runners taking part in at least
one race. The record for an individual race was also broken with 71 taking part on the
super-fast course at Goodrich- which was also the first league race organised by Forest of
Dean AC and of course the first league race to be held outside Wales! The final league
tables are given in very small print below, but a few statistics may be of interest:
Total competitors: 122 of which
Veteran Men 33
Note that Men under 40 were outnumbered by Men over 40 by 57 to 48!
Senior Ladies 9
Supervet Men : 23
Senior Men :43
S/dupervet Men: 2.
Veteran Ladies : 6
18 runners (again a record we think) completed all six races in the series-although only
the best 5 results count in the league-and each received an engraved glass (empty
unfortunately) as a memento.
Total clubs represented: an astonishing 36 of which
37 runners : MDC (of course! But where were the rest of you?)
13 : Forest of Dean AC
6 : Mercia FR
5 : Halesowen
4 : Brycheiniog (100% turnout!)
3 : Birchfield Harriers
2 :Griffithstown, Fairwater, the Casino, Hereford Couriers, Ambleside, Cheltenham and Stroud
1 : Aberdare Valley, Horwich RMI Harriers, Dark Peak, Eryri, Dursley, Westbury, Chepstow, Blaenafon Joggers, Cardiff Harlequins, Bridgend
AC, Islwyn, Cardiff AAC, BOK, Exmouth, Wye Valley, Hull Springfield, Harriers, Denby Dale, Gloucester, Bedford Harriers, FRA, Town and
Country Harriers, Angels AC and the Road Runners Club (must have been lost!).
.. .and the remainder were unattached although I understand that the silver tongue of John
Sweeting has already persuaded a few of them of the benefits of club membership (MDC,
Finally, there have now been a total of 47 Winter League races (7 seasons of 6 and one of
5), and leading appearances are:
Martin Lucas (MDC) 47 (only ending up in hospital once!)
Rob Benjamin (MDC) 46
Eric Meredith (MDC) 45 (the last 44 consecutively)
Pete Maggs (MDC) 42
Julian Bass (FoDAC) 40
John Battersby (MDC) 34
Cledwyn Jones (MDC) 30
Not that they take it seriously! See you next season when it will be best 5 from 7. Ouch my legs!
- Ras Pen Cerrig-calch Race 24 Mawrth/March 2000: Derek Thornley
1998, rain and mist; 1999 glorious heat wave; 2000, snow! The last weekend in March was this
year quite bright but bitterly cold and the runners had to brave a raging blizzard on the summit,
although those of us organising and watching on the lower slopes hada more pleasant time. The
snow and Northerly wind contributed to some slower than usual times from a larger than usual
Andrew Davies couldn’t get close to his brother’s course record, but still won in style, one minute
ahead of the field at the summit and almost two minutes ahead at the finish. Pete Maggs caused
consternation to the South Wales Winter League statistician with a storming run for first vet and
fifth overall. Dave Ormerod was the expected over fifties winner whilst the unrelated Owain and
Cledwyn Jones delivered their usual excellent performances at different ends of the age scale. It’s
a few years yet though before Cled will move up a category and have to compete with the ever
improving John Battersby, who is starting to look like he might develop into a useful runner in a
It was good to see more than the usual number of female runners, with Jane Rousseau beating
Sharon Woods into second place. (Apologies to Sharon, because I didn’t realise that she is now a
veteran and so she didn’t get her prize until a week late!). Perdy Blease (fortunately considerably
more attractive than her increasingly bedraggled father) took home the prize for first junior lady on
her first fell race with a fine performance, beating some very experienced runners.
Thanks to Cliff Jones of Ty-Mawr farm for the use of his fields and excellent facilities and to his
sons for their help with the car park. Thanks to lan at the Red Lion for smiling bravely as fifty-four
muddy fell runners packed into his excellent pub. Most of all, particular thanks to K and Bridget for
braving the summit in mid-Winter conditions and to Fred, Angie and Jenny for taking care of the
gates. This race is getting a bit too popular (I even gave the club secretary some profit for the first
time in years) and ever harder to manage. Nonetheless, anyone for 2:00 p.m. on the last Saturday
in March, 2001?
And now the voting of the Llanbedr Jury (winners and MDC positions: 54 ran)..
ADVENTURE RACING SPECIAL SECTION part 1
Patagonian Paddling: Tom Gibbs
I lay there waiting until it became light enough for us to continue. I had spent the last four
hours lying on a rocky shore wearing all my clothing and with only a space blanket and a tiny
piece of foam for warmth. I had felt more rested before I tried to sleep and now just wanted
to get going. The worst was yet to come. Waiting for me was a frozen wetsuit. I now know
how Fish Fingers feel in the freezer. I was missing the hot spa and bar of the event hotel !
If you like adventure, the ECO Challenge has it by the bucket-load. Last year’s race was in
Patagonia and promised to be a real test of endurance, ingenuity and sheer bloody minded-
ness. Teams of four would compete over a course comprising Lake Paddling, White-water
Kayaking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Ascending and descending fixed ropes, and Horse
Riding. Thankfully not all at the same time.
The first section comprised a 105 km lake paddle, 50 km horse ride and a 45 km trek. The
lake paddle would be completed in two sea kayaks. The main lake was 50 miles long and up
to 15 miles wide In bad conditions it can represent ocean going conditions. Luckily, that
day it was perfect with a clear sky and a slight breeze. After 20 km we felt the breeze was
Sufficient to launch our “secret weapon'”.. the umbrella. We had rigged a golf umbrella on
to the rear of each kayak, thus allowing both people to paddle and the umbrella to catch any
available wind. With the light breeze they worked a treat: at times it was like having an
invisible hand pushing us along. Unlike the sails that most teams used we could all paddle
and so we were soon catching other teams. By the 70 km mark we had caught 14 teams. AS
we started to head towards the end of the paddle the wind increased and soon a l metre swell
By 9pm we had to stop and put glow sticks on our helmets. Whilst doing so one of our team
became near hypothermic and we had to seek shelter with a local family. Unfortunately this
decision was to cost us any chance of being competitive. Eventually we decided to rest for
the evening, and accepted some excellent Argentinean hospitality in the shape of a large
pasta meal. A bizarre turn of events saw us watching the first day highlights of the very race
we were competing in on local television.
We started at 4 am and continued the short distance to the end of the paddle. I was hugely
relieved, as I had never paddled as far in one go. My arms felt like they would drop off.
After a short swim across a river we were changed and ready for the horse ride. Our four
trusty steeds awaited us. As we were Team Scotland, we decided to name our horses after
whiskies. There was Talisker, Glenfiddich, Dalwhinnie and my favourite Royal Lochnagar.
These horses were Argentinian Army Horses and needed little encouragement to get going.
Though nothing like the stallions from the previous year, we had heard that a girl from one
of the leading teams had been thrown from her horse and broken her heel. We hoped for
We started the ride in 47″ (out of 54) place and had some catching up to do. Nobody likes
being at the back of the field and our spirits were down. The day was spent riding across the
famous Argentinean pampa. A fantastic landscape, a cross between scrubland and a
moonscape. We had two stops for vet checks on the horse and took turns sleeping at these.
After the previous day’s efforts I was fatigued and my shoulders ached. I began to doubt
whether I could finish the course, but the fantastic landscape and great riding really lifted my
spirits. The last part was the best with the sun setting across the plains and dramatic rock
formations. After 12 hours we finally arrived at the end of the horse ride and I was glad to
get on to my feet and back to something I know. We pressed on whilst the going was easy
and at midnight stopped for a few hours of rest.
The final part of this stage was a trek up and over a col to the resupply point. We made good
progress up the long forested valley and were soon at the col. We were above the trees and
the scenery was fantastic and very much like New Zealand. Next we had to descend down a
valley to the camp. Simple stuff, or it would have been if we hadn’t been using 1947
Argentinean Army maps (not updated) with 50m contours and no vegetation boundaries.
The track was supposed to run straight down the valley, but was non-existent from the top of
the trees. The forest was virgin woodland with bilberry and was extremely dense: we had
been warned not to follow the river and so decided to contour above the trees and look for a
good line down. We managed to find an opening in the dense forest and made excellent
time down to a track. We got into the resupply at 7 pm and found that we had moved up to
28 place. Most teams had followed the river and paid the price. In some places teams had
to crawl through bushes several feet off the ground as it was too dense to even reach the
ground. Some had even had to camp out overnight because it was too bad to continue.. At
each resupply teams were reunited with their kit boxes, basically a big plastic chest which
contained all your gear and food for the duration of the race. There is an artform to the
packing of the rucksack for each section and to help lists of what to take are usually written
on the chest by competitors.
We decided to get a good rest and leave at 4 am. However, the weather had other plans and a
storm raged all night. As we were about to leave the course was closed, and with it our
chance of gaining on those ahead. After another eight hours an alternative course was
organised and we were off again. Here was our first encounter with the dreaded Bamboo.
still have nightmares about this stuff. It’s up to 15 feet tall, 2 inches in diameter and
unbreakable. After staggering around for an hour or so we found a trail and started the climb
up to the Frey Hut. Here is an amazing landscape of rock spires and wild mountain lakes,
akin to the Dolomite Region of Italy. After traversing two valleys we arrived at the second
hut where we grabbed some sleep and food.
We started out at 5am. The storm had gone, but the temperatures were still near zero. A lot
of fresh snow lay on the ground and I spent the next 5 hours with frozen feet. Our route took
us down a river valley through some more Bamboo and out to the next resupply where the
inflatable white-water boats waited. These craft were called Sotars and are basically two
inflatable tubes stuck together, a sort of large banana split, with the team as the ice cream.
We had to paddle about 25 km down a beautiful lake to the start of the white-water, then run
the rapids before paddling up a river to a point were the boats would be left. The river was a
pool and drop type with a few grade 3’s and one grade 4, “El Toboggan'”. This was spilt into
two sections with a very short section of flat in-between. The second part was basically a
long chute with a hefty stopper at the bottom. Somehow I ended up in the back of the kayak,
(especially as my team mate had 20 years more experience than me), and true to form we
flipped on the upper portion of “El Toboggan”. I had a brief second to get set for the swim
through the second part and managed to hit the stopper straight on. I got the full washing
machine treatment. However, most teams had chosen to portage and we had actually gained
four places by swimming!! In fact only a couple of teams actually successfully ran the rapid.
Buoyed by picking some more places we continued through the rest of the rapids and were
soon heading up the river. It was here that we spent the night on the rocky shore.
Once it started getting light we moved on. Firstly I had to get my frozen wetsuit on! The
day developed into one of the best so far. At the end of the paddle we had to trek up a
volcano and down to some rappels. We arrived at the volcano to find out that the next 5
kilometres involved 2 kms of virgin bamboo forest. One of the lead teams had taken 12
The Bamboo was fearsome and we were soon battling through it. With good use of game
trails and a slice of luck we arrived at the rappels, having taken a mere 2.5 hours for the 2km
of Bamboo. This was actually a good time! Next lay 500 feet of rappels with the last being a
fantastic 300 footer right by a waterfall.
We made the next resupply at 9pm, only to be greeted by a bag-piper, a local man with
Scottish ancestry who had waited to play us into the resupply. It was a fantastic moment, and
really picked up our spirits. We had to be out of the resupply by 2 am for the big leg up thee
3500m peak of Monte Tronador. We had a full 2700m to climb to the top and by midday we
had reached the snowline and roped up to start the final push up the glacier to the summit.
we made the summit by 4 pm and were stunned by the fantastic view. Mountains lay in all
directions, south towards the main Patagonian icecaps, west into Chile, north up the Andes
and east towards the Pampas. We stopped at the hut for a well-earned rest and hot food. The
hut was packed with other teams. A luxurious 5 hours sleep was had and we felt ready for
the final day of the race. After some more bamboo and abseils we reached the shores
main lake again for the final 20 km paddle to the finish. Here we again used the umbrellas.
Afterwards we found that we were the 3d fastest on this section, only a few minutes down on
the Australian teams, one of which had two ex-world kayak champions. Umbrellas rule!!
AS we turned the final corner and approached the finish we were greeted by the music of the
pipes as again we were piped in. Then suddenly the race was over, and taking a cue from
Formula One, I sprayed champagne over the spectators. We were soon whisked away in a
bus to the hotel. These quiet few moments gave us time to reflect on what had been a truly
excellent adventure. …
Not Patagonia, just a gratuitous shot of OGB looking particularly O and G on Transfan 99.
ADVENTURE RACING SPECIAL SECTION part 2
On Long Days Out: Roy Ruddle
I have a theory. Something that can be achieved within 24 hours is a challenge, but anything
that takes longer represents insanity. An advantage of my rule is that it takes account of
individuals’ abilities. For example, Bob Smith’s Traverse represented a challenge for Martin,
and the Lakeland 24 Hour record was one for Mark Hartell but it would have been quite
insane for any of us to try (I know, I supported him on Helvellyn).
I try to attempt at least one big challenge every year and last year it was the Black Country
Ironman, the rather inappropriately named Longest Day (it takes place in August and was
only half as long as my longest days on the hill). Now most people build up to that type of
event by doing many shorter triathlons but I like to be different, In February I was suffering
from plantifacitis and able to do nothing but swim. By April my feet had improved
sufficiently for me to cycle, so I bought a bike. This introduced me to the most dangerous
sport I have ever played and almost every time I went out I seemed to have some kind of
Scare. First it was the combination of a truck, a sharp bend, and the narrow road l’d been
diverted onto by roadworks. Life continued courtesy of the infinitesimally small gap that
remained. Then it was the continual threat from four-legged foes. Sheep seemed remarkably
sensible. Most dogs could be stopped by a loud shout, provided I saw them coming, but one
rotweiler wasn’t and nearly took a chunk out of my leg. Cats were a problem to0, because
felt silly shouting to get them out of the way. The biggest threat of all, however, was myself.
Speeding down the hill into Llantwit Major one day, and simultaneously having a drink, I
encountered a bus. Okay I controlled the skid quite beautifully, one-handed, but I still had to
squeeze through another tiny gap or get flattened. MUST SLOW DOWN..
Training progressed well on a diet of 2 mile swims, 50 mile rides and, from May, 8 mile
runs. On the occasions that I was accompanied by John Culling (a colleague from work) the
Tides were punctuated by a cream tea in Southerndown. Unfortunately that all came to an end
June when I injured my knee, the result of poor posture on tribars, and I spent most of
the 10 weeks leading up to the event resting and drinking beer. My sum total of long days out
during the whole of my preparation was one 100-mile cycle ride, the Transfan, and Alwyn’s
South Wales Traverse.
On race day there seemed little chance l’d survive. Shortly before dawn on 15 August, I and
250 other competitors stood in wetsuits at the start line. I was contemplating my first ever
triathlon and my first ever open-water swim. Under the surface of the reservoir the water was
black and the glare from the rising sun made it dificult to see the marker buoys for half the
course. Weeds draped over my face in the shallows and cold gradually numbed my fingers
and toes, but the 2.4 miles passed quicker than expected and after 1 hour 30 mins I was out of
the water, changed, and ready for the bike ride.
That 112 miles (1/8 of my total mileage since buying the bike!) was going to be the crux.I
“span my wheels” (kept in a low gear, Keri’s advice) to reduce the risk of aggravating my
knee and concentrated on consuming all 750g of Jelly Babies that were stuffed in my
pockets. They worked! I overtook loads of riders, especially towards the end, and ended up
fresh” for the run.
The final stage was my first marathon. Three times up and down a wooded track with feeding
stations every 2 km (an excuse to walk; another good piece of advice from Keri). The
repetition worked in my favour and helped me to break the route down into manageable
chunks. With no one close behind me, I enjoyed my celebratory sprint round the stadium
track to the finish line. I was pleased with my overall time (11 hrs 38 mins; 4:00 for the
marathon), position (in the top half) and, especially, the way I broke the route down into bite-
sized chunks rather than getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the event as a whole. The
trouble with success, though, is that it breeds further ambition. I’d always wanted to do an
Ironman but now I’m wondering how fast I could go. Hawaii beckons.
I wrote this in Japan and its people of that nation who should have the final say on
endurance. Near Kyoto live monks of the Buddhist Tendi sect who believe that the route to
enlightenment lies through “chanting, esoteric ritual and extreme physical endurance”. Their
ultimate is a “1000-day aesthetic mountain pilgrimage” in which these marathon monks are
required to walk 40,000 km. To give them a chance they are allowed to spread it over 7
years, but it still works out as a marathon every 2.5 days. In the old days those who gave up
were expected to commit ritual suicide (I wouldn’t have lasted long!). Those who succeed
(currently about one person every 5 years) become living Buddhas. Interestingly, the monks
are vegetarians. Now John Darby might say this challenge is similar to mowing his golt
greens three times a week, but are there any other takers? Alwyn???
And here’s Alwyn with a determined glint in his eye at the Gospel Pass at the 72 mile point on the South Wales Traverse