A chased day of work on Friday followed by a two hour journey east to Builth Wells, just a little north of the Brecon Beacons National Park had me arriving at the start line of the EDDUM. A 50 mile ultra marathon along the Epynt Way, hosted by Pegasus Ultra Running.
The EDDUM is 49.7 miles and has you climbing a good 7742 feet (2359 meters) over the distance. The route is at least 95% trail and gravel, with much of the grassy trail being uneven, rutted terrain that keeps you razor focused on foot placement. The challenges (aside from the distance) were definitely the uneven trail and constant up and down hills which have your heart rate spiking all over the place.
The extrapolated goal
I had a rough goal of finishing somewhere in the range of 10 to 12 hours. I extrapolated this time based on my performance in the Blacks to Beacons 50 mile ultra earlier this year. The Blacks to Beacons 50 had about 3347 meters of elevation gain. With this in mind, and the belief that I could have pushed harder in the B2B 50, I took off 2-3 hours for my hopeful goal at the EDDUM.
I have been on a bit of an ultra marathon streak this year, and as such have been incorporating races into my training. Each month I try to get somewhere in the region of 200-300 km of running done, with at least 75% of that being trail. This includes race distances too.
The past month was no exception either. The beginning of July saw me completing the North CANUM 2022 ultra. After resting up for a couple of days, I was back to my usual weekly run training routine which is roughly:
- 2 or 3 easy runs – usually about an hour long. I tend to head up the trails to the volcanic plug rocks/hills where I live in Treffgarne, or along the road to nearby Plumstone mountain. Either way I get a fair bit of hill work done on these.
- 1 or 2 faster runs where I try to get some tempo or threshold running done.
- 1 long run from home to the West Wales Coastal Path and back.
The Epynt Way is near the Brecon Beacons National Park, which is about 2 hours east for me. In terms of getting there, I had two options:
- Wake up super early and drive the 2 hours to arrive by 6am for pre-race registration
- Hire a Airbnb nearby and get a little bit more sleep with only a 20 minute drive on the morning.
Electing option 2, I found a cheap Airbnb private room in a cottage just outside of Builth Wells. It cost £45 for the night.
I drove up on Friday evening with all my gear and kit packed up and mostly ready to go. Dinner was prepared at home, and simply a load of pasta with some red pesto mixed in. I added a bit of fruit and a slab of chocolate.
On arrival, I drove to the Epynt Way to make sure I knew where the registration starting point would be the next morning.
After checking out the registration area the evening before, I got back and re-packed my kit to check everything over.
I was taking my Salomon Adv Skin 12 running pack, and loaded up the essential requirements, plus my expandable cup, and a few snacks for the run.
Water was pre-mixed with Tailwind (blackberry flavour). I use about 2 scoops per 500ml of water, and fill my Salomon 2L hydration pack with 1.5 liters to start with.
The snack bars are ‘Graze’ branded, and for variety I added some dark chocolate coated almonds.
I munched on my pasta, hydrated and called it a night, (not before trying out my newly acquired Steam Deck I brought along for entertainment!)
The Airbnb room was basic, and being in a shared house, I did not have restful night’s sleep. I got to sleep at roughly 1am and was up again at 5am to pack up and head to the start. 4 hours of sleep is not ideal, but it seems to be a trend with me and Airbnb stays pre-race.
My lovely wife kindly (and reluctantly) agreed to be my backup alarm clock, calling me at 5:15am to make sure I was up. Luckily I had no trouble waking up in an unfamiliar environment. I changed into my kit and got a large bowl of bran and fruit flakes down the hatch.
Knowing exactly where I needed to be had me more relaxed on the morning as I headed out to the Epynt Way for the pre-race registration. The drive was 20 minutes away and the downside to my casual morning routine got me in a little later than I would have liked to.
I found a parking spot and slathered on some SPF 50 as I shivered away in the parking lot. The air was still very cold as the sun was only just breaching the nearby hills. It was clear we were in for a bright and sunny day.
At registration I spotted Luke Merrett, whom I met at the VOGUM ultra a couple of months back. We didn’t have a lot of time to chat before heading to start the race, but we got to chat about personal goals and chat with someone nearby who had run the race before. All good insights and information sharing going in blind on this route!
We both seem to be likeminded in both careers, hobbies, and our passion for ultra running, and I really enjoyed the brief chat.
There were a few other familiar faces I saw at registration, including Andrew – (awesome support crew, and fellow ultra runner), as well as Anita and Nicky – faces I recognized from Instagram socials.
EDDUM Start to CP 1
Shivering away on the start line as we listened to Rhys’ briefing, I put my gloves on and instantly felt better. They wouldn’t be used for long, but it really was a cold start.
As the golden sun lit up the hills ahead, the race started and we were all off. The grass was wet, lining the narrow and uneven rutted trail. The initial route went up and down a series of 4 x hills, meandering along the countryside and dividing swathes of ferns and other long grasses.
In this phase (and indeed the first half of the race) my plan was to try to keep my heart rate under threshold zone. This was not easy due to the hills and pressure of the runners behind me. A secondary goal was to keep my socks as dry as possible. I can’t stand wet socks, and my next pair were in my drop bag near the half way point.
A short stop at CP1
I passed quickly through CP1, which was at the top of a sharp little hill, now covered in glorius sunshine, picking up a quick top-up of fluids in my expandable cup.
I had started chatting with Steff Harries (whom I had seen at other Pegasus events, and interacted with on social media). We had a lot to chat about, and the miles ticked over really quickly chatting with him. We enjoyed blasting down the only tarred road section of the race together, just after exiting CP1.
There were some great early morning views to be had on the way to the next checkpoint. Morning fog was rolling through the valleys below us, illuminated by the low angles of the sun.
CP2 – another quick stop
Arriving at CP2 after about 18 miles of running, I took a guess at positioning. It felt like I was somewhere in the region of the first 25 runners through. A rough estimate based on who I saw ahead of me from the start and those who had overtaken me.
Andrew was the familiar face I knew manning CP2. He always has something motivational to say, and this time around was no different. (Have I ever mentioned how awesome all the Pegasus support crew are?) I drank some cola, ate my graze snack bar, and headed on out, up the hill. I elected to not refill my 2L Salomon water pack at this stage as it still felt heavy enough.
Running EDDUM CP2 to CP3
Checkpoint 2 to 3 entailed more up and down hills (of course!) Despite this, I managed to keep a good pace going, albeit at the expense of elevated heart rate.
I had started running with Charlie whom I had noted had been running strong. She provided a good target pace for me and kept me on my toes. Naturally the body and mind wants to slow down when temperatures are increasing and things are not as comfortable as they first were. Setting my pace with hers seemed like a good idea as it would help prevent me from subconsciously relaxing pace.
We had a good chat along the way, running most of this section and power hiking the gravel uphill trails. We clawed back numerous positions as some folk were slowing (possibly having set off too quickly at the start).
1km before the checkpoint arrived, I realised a mistake from the previous CP – not refilling my fluids. My Salomon pack ran dry as we climbed out of the valley on a sharp bit of trail. Thankfully I could refill soon.
Checkpoint 3 soon arrived and the guys there were great – fueling everyone up like a well oiled production line as we approached some of the toughest elevation to come. I drank 2x cups of cola here, and Bob kindly refilled my Salomon pack for me. Incidently, Bob was the winner of the EDDUM 2021.
This was the bag drop, and I had indeed packed a bag with some supplies. I took the opportunity to put a dry shirt on and add more sunscreen. The sun was beating down now and I did not want sunburn on top of exhaustion later on. I didn’t feel the need to change my shoes or socks, but I did empty out the collection of pebbles and stones my shoes had gathered.
The first killer hills
The EDDUM is known for it’s brutal hills and elevation profile. From here on, the real pain was only just beginning. We covered two significant sections of elevation. The first time I had to slow right down. I had brought my Black Diamond trekking poles and the extra weight of carrying them started to pay off a little here.
The hills were tough going, especially with the heat. I was constantly dropping sweat from my face and it was difficult to remember to keep sipping on my tailwind + water mix. My focus shifted to just getting this part done.
I hiked the hill with an older chap I met along this section. He was a strong runner and would go on ahead of me later. At this point I think Charlie powered on a little way ahead, though I would soon catch up with her again.
We both found ourselves in some navigation difficulty going down a valley toward a river. The GPX route indicated to go down, but the trail was covered in 8ft high ferns. Battering through the ferns, we located a yellow arrow marker for the trail, but it was totally covered. Clearly something from a previous year.
Backtracking our path back up the hill we had come down, we entered the valley again, crossing the river and thankfully spotting the next Epynt Way wooden post marker. We soldiered on, running and hiking solo, but within sight of eachother, and both ended up entering CP4 together once again.
The CP4 crew were motivational and reassuring of the next section of elevation. Stu Obree was helping out at this station, and it was good to see him at this point. He was part of the team that helped organise the Blacks to Beacons 50 mile I ran earlier this year. First on the agenda was topping up my hydration with the expandable cup. My Salomon pack still had plenty of tailwind mixed water, and the next checkpoint was much closer than the previous gap.
I had not eaten much by this point, having so far only consumed one Graze snack bar and the bag of chocolate almond nuts. Not feeling ill or anything I did notice my body’s ‘want’ for solid food was certainly deteriorated. I focused instead on sipping tailwind as often as possible. I guarantee I was not ingesting fluids at the same rate I was sweating them out though.
Focusing down on a top 10 position
Having passed a number of runners, my chances of eeking out a top 10 position were looking plausible. My personal goal was anything under 12 hours. However, I also like to challenge myself with secondary goals like this if the opportunity presents itself.
Having guessed that Charlie and I were running close to 10th position, and knowing that the distance to finish was slowly approaching, I decided to try my best to keep up the pace.
It was difficult though, the remaining checkpoint to come was close, but a series of ragged and rutted trails, with some sharp, unforgiving hills stood in the way.
Checkpoint 5 did finally arrive. It was a tedious and arduous trek though. This checkpoint also teased us as it first appeared as we were running downhill, and then subsequently disappeared behind another.
CP5’s crew were extremely energetic and there was a bit of a crowd of spectators gathered. The energy levels were a godsend – they were needed for the last 6 or 7 miles.
I sat down for a few minutes, refuelling with some coke and gathering up my strength for the final section. Charlie and I had come in together in 10th and 11th position. My goal was to at least maintain this positioning.
To the finish
The trails were brutal once again, and there were still two significant climbs to come. I put on a brave face and kept going as best as I could.
An unpleasant surprise hit me on this final 6 miles. My left hamstring started cramping up, impeding my ability to get my foot down nicely when running. This was the first cramp I have experienced in a long time, and it was worrying.
After pushing through the cramp, they seemed to ease off and I was able to keep going. I opened up a little bit of distance between Charlie who was now a little further back.
My pace did suffer a little bit through this final stretch. Looking at Strava I can see the two km segments where cramp was attacking my left leg.
Finally, the trails led up to an old guard checkpoint I recognised on the road. A sure sign I was close. Reaching the road for the final stretch really lifted my spirits. The final road section was shorter than I remember. I broke open an invigorated running pace to get down to the finish as quick as I could.
Final placing was 10th out of 63 finishers.
It was an amazing moment to cross the finish line. Lots of support, cheering, and of course the medal and handshake from Rhys. There was also the thought of refreshments and a well deserved sit down and rest!
I rested, re-hydrated, and sat around to cheer in runners coming in. It was a lot of fun watching the others come in – seeing everyone’s faces showing all kinds of emotion from relief, elation, to exhaustion and everything in-between.
It was also interesting to watch the results board fill up.
Here is my completed Strava activity link for the curious.
Thanks as always go to the brilliant Pegasus ultra running team, and all the supporting crew for putting on the EDDUM 2022. They’re a great bunch of people and put on a series of excellent ultra running events across Wales. I’ll definitely be signing up to run more events, as well as to volunteer at some of next year’s events too.
I’m probably missing a bunch of people, but here is a list of social media handles of some of the crew on Instagram:
@bobthomasultra, @berni_farnotfast, @clare_mcarter, @southwales_running_andrew, @stu_likes_to_run, @nick.lyons84 and of course the talented photography / media team @antelope.media (@claudecompere and @lucykshoots).