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In this blog post we interview one of our Girls on Hills running guides from North Wales, Lou Beetlestone, as as she prepares to race the Dragon's Back Race (DBR) next week! We find out what it takes to become a 'dragon' and how changes to the event for 2023 mean that more of us can get involved than ever before...

Race photgraphy - Credit: No Limits Photography

Who is Lou?

Lou Beetlestone and is a runner and climber. She holds the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (WMCI) qualification and has a string of running achievements to her name – including mountain marathon female solo wins in ROC/RAB, OMM and Marmot dark mountains, a Paddy Buckley in 2018 and a Welsh 3000s round in just 8hr15. She was also Welsh mountain running champion in 2016! Lou has worked event support/mountain safety for the Dragon's Back Race for several years, alongside other multi-day events in the mountains - so she knows what she is getting herfelf into! Lou works on our trail running and skyrunning courses in Snowdonia, as well as our winter courses in Scotland. Our winter dates will be out soon, so watch this space, then come and say 'hi' in person this 2022-23 winter season!

Lou training in the Carneddau (credit Karl Midlane)

We asked Lou the following questions about the Dragon's Back and her training this year:

What is so special about the DBR? Wales is my home and I've lived in various parts over the years. I have a passion for climbing and mountaineering and ten years ago I took up running to get myself fitter and faster for the mountains. I was soon combining the two and competing in mountain marathons, fell races and other challenges. A journey along the mountainous spine of Wales has inspired me for a long time and the Dragons back race fits the bill perfectly. With the amazing support and facilities that you get from the ever cheery and helpful Ourea event team I know I will be well looked after. Everything from safety and medical cover, check points, tracking, GPS routes, tents, food, water, kit transportation and much more will all be there when we need it. The army of people it takes to provide all the logistics is immense and it's all meticulously planned and executed. The camaraderie between runners is really special and builds life-long friendships - and is the cherry on top of the cake for the DBR.

Race photgraphy - Credit: No Limits Photography How is training going and how do you train for a race like this? I'm not sure you can really train for an event like this, it's just so long! Train too much and you risk injury or burn out, don't train enough and you might not get around. I can safely say that I've not overtrained! My work as a climbing and mountaineering instructor and running guide means that I'm physically active a lot, so I always have a good base fitness. I think a good base aerobic fitness is key for the DBR, as well as a proficiency for moving efficiently in the mountains, over rough and technical terrain, navigating and general looking after yourself. The struggle for me is fitting in more specific training, but I've managed to do some strength and conditioning and some of my own running, which has been more focused on flatter forest tracks and tarmac, which is what I lack. I call it an event rather than a race, as for me my aim will be to pace myself to finish, so whatever is happening around me I will be focused on the many small steps it takes to get me closer to Cardiff Castle.

Lou training in the Glyderau (credit Kate Worthington)

You work closely with the event team. Tell us about the changes for DBR 2023… New for 2023 is the Hatchling, the younger sibling to the Dragon. Each person who completes the full DBR course gets a Dragon trophy. But from next year, everyone who gets to Cardiff on the shorter course will be awarded an official Hatchling trophy, recognising their immense effort and achievement over a shorter course. Six days of fabulous mountain running with a comparativley lower daily average of ~30km and ~1200m of ascent (which is still HUGE!). Find out more here. Do you think these changes will make the event more accessible? Yes, I think the new changes will make the event more accessible and attract more people. It would be great to see more women at events like these, with only 19% of this year's entrants being female. I think the changes will will create a more welcoming atmosphere for people who might worry about the time pressures, distances and ascent of the full course and will celebrate the Hatchling course as fantastic achievement in itself; an opportunity to build-up learning, experience and confidence for anyone considering moving onto the full course in the future.

What would be your advice be to anyone tempted to enter but who worries they might not be good enough? I know that many people entering worry about whether they're good enough or not, but none of us will ever know what we can do unless we try! I think we should focus less on uncertain outcomes and instead try to immerse ourselves in a journey of discovery. The outcome is still uncertain for me and I'm excited to see what happens as I stand in Conwy Castle next week, nervous and excited about what will follow in the coming hours and days.

If you enjoy spending time out walking or running on the trails and hills then this could be a fantastic event for you. You already have a good base fitness and enjoy the trails, so add in some determination and slowly build up the training and this could be within your reach. And if you're still not sure, why not have a weekend out with Girls on Hills or try the Great Lakeland Three Day event. This is a great way to see where you're at with back to back days in the hills. It's ideal for working out a camp routine and has a fantastic, relaxed and fun atmosphere.

Good luck Lou!

The 2022 event kicks-off on Monday 5th September, so please join-us in dot-watching and supporting Lou in her massive journey along the spine of Wales!

Entries for the 2023 are already open. What are you waiting for!

Race photgraphy - Credit: No Limits Photography

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