On Saturday 24th June 2017 an intrepid team from MSA Focus participated in this year’s Race the Sun in support of the children’s charity Action Medical Research, dedicated to improving the health of babies and children.
The day of the event had finally arrived, with Team MSA Focus (Tony Rees, Martin Long, Mathew Dymond and Phil George), emerging from their digs at some unearthly hour of the morning to be greeted by overcast skies and a bit of a chill in the air – not necessarily the weather you might expect from a mid-summers day, but given the physical exertion of what was to come conditions the team were grateful for.
Kit checked, final preparations completed and suitably padded “bottom protecting” garments adorned, the team set off from the historic town of Brecon at their relatively civilised allocated start time of 6:16am!
The day started well; with the team gently rolling through the still quiet countryside, on what must be said were varying qualities of bicycle. As the sun rose and began to burn off some of the cloud, the route offered some lovely views across the beacons – it was all rather pleasant.
The first 23mile leg took the team south from Brecon, past the Storey Arms and around the beacons to the base of Pen-y-Fan: South Wales highest mountain, and the beginning of the classic horseshoe walk.
Arriving at the transition point and with their arrival registered, there was a short break while bikes were set aside, walking boots were donned, packs located and bottoms brought back to life after the last few hours in the saddle!
In pretty short order and with fluids replenished, they began the 8 mile hike following the horseshoe route. Over the next 3hrs 50min they would summit Corn Du at 873m, Pen-y-Fan itself at 886m and Cribyn at 795m with a total vertical height gain of over 2,400ft and route that took them back around and down to transition.
Due to the low cloud cover, visibility steadily decreased as they ascended and was down to just 10 metres at the top of Pen-y-Fan meaning that the views were not quite as epic as they might have been.
But the team remained in good spirits and photo-opportunities were taken none-the-less with the conditions still providing some pretty dramatic images.
Having survived the at times gruelling hike, it was once again time to hop back on the bikes for a short 5-mile blast down to Pontsticill Reservoir where two open Canadian canoes awaited them.
However, of all the stages it was this short hop down to the reservoir that ended up causing Team MSA Focus the most problems: Mathew suffered a puncture on terrain that was somewhat more rough and rocky than advertised or anticipated and, as was discovered the following week, Tony actually managed to break his hand after jarring it on the handlebars courtesy of a particularly vicious and sneaky rock!
Anyway, with punctures fixed and the team mostly in one piece, they arrived at the Pontsticill Reservoir for another transition – a much quicker affair this time as bikes were again put to one side and they jumped straight into their canoe-based raft for a 30min jaunt around the reservoir.
The canoes were bound together to form a raft so all team members would remain together for the full circuit of the reservoir. This part of the challenge proved to be much harder than expected, largely due to a lack of time together on the water in the run up to the event. Well if we’re honest, this was the first time they’d all actually been in any kind of boat together, but under Phil’s expert guidance they made it all the way around, only being overtaken by one other boat and without anyone going for an unscheduled swim – quite an achievement!
With water obstacles now navigated it was back on the bikes for the final stage and with thoughts of a pint when they reached the finish line firmly in the forefront of their minds, they struck out on the 23mile ride back north to Brecon.
The team rolled into Brecon with a total time of 9hrs 59mins and an overall position of 13th out of the 32 teams that took part – they had raced the sun and beaten it – naturally their success was duly toasted with that well-earned pint! But most importantly they had raised a good amount for a worthy charity, had a great day in the process!
Action Medical Research help children and babies across the UK with severely debilitating and life limiting illnesses, but it is underfunded. For every project Action Medical Research can fund there’s another one it has to turn away – simply due to a lack of funds. New treatments and cures for sick babies and children are urgently needed. Can you help us reach the target and join the fight for little lives, for sick babies and children?
You can still sponsor/donate to the team from MSA Focus via the link below and help them to help this wonderful charity by contributing whatever you can.
Sponsor Team MSA Focus: MSA Focus sponsorship page
For more information on the Race the Sun event, click here:
For more information on Action Medical Research, click here: