At last I can sit here without the weighty thought of my first Trail Marathon fast approaching, it’s over & done with & I can now focus on organising The Moel Siabod Fell Race in 2 weeks time before driving off to the Alps with Fraser a week later.
The Welsh 1,000 metre race was as always a great event, we’d been expecting a heatwave but ended up with cool cloudy summits which were far more suitable for such a strenous event. The week before I’d prepared by setting a new fastest time for our Siabod Half Round & followed it up on the Wednesday before race day with a full requi of the Carneddau section of the race route & a run back into Capel. Just as well as it’s nearly a year since I’d been to the North side of the route & in cloud I had to get the compass out twice as nerves kicked in. This requi gave me confidence for race day just in case I would be leading the early starters of Classes C & D over this section.
Now before I start going on a small apology for the length of this blog but it reflects some of the thought processes that come & go on such an arduous challenge as this, feel free to dis-engage now, you have been warned!
We set off at 08:00 from a field to the North of the A.55 near Abergwyngregyn, I was in Class C for Mountaineers doing the 4 Peak Route & we were accompanied by Class D for teams of 4 mainly consisting of army regiments, I’ll refer to these as Squaddies with the utmost respect from hereon. This year I chose to run the initial road section just to keep up with as many Squaddies as I could, early on 3 teams soon left the field behind with me tucked in a little behind them. By the time we were in The Woods I’d got past 1 team but the leading two were some 200 metres or so ahead. As we climbed above the Falls & began the long slog up onto The Carneddau proper I slowly caught them up & was thankful to follow their lead over an early crossing of the river. This resulted in an early & brutal climb up onto the North Western Ridge of Bera Mawr where the leading Squaddie & I congratulated each other on good ‘route selection’ & ‘climb’ respectively. Un-fortunately for him he then had to wait for his team as I was free to carry on & slowly build a lead. I was a little un-sure of my line around Bera Mawr having previously taken the Northern route & not the Southerly one I was on but after a few nerves I actually got it spot on which helped to increase my lead to 2 minutes at the first check point at Yr Arag. The brave & kind Marshalls were kind to confirm my route line from here was correct as I set off to Llewelyn. On the vague path & in cloud now I got my compass out at one point just to check, all O.K., keep going Paul! Llewelyn came & went but as I began to run the ridge towards Daffyd I heard the Squaddies calls behind, now the cloud was helping me as they couldn’t see me & use me as target practice. Doubling back from Daffyd the leading Squaddies soon came into view, a lead of 3/4 minutes would I hold onto it on the stiff decent to come. My main concern though was finding the Marshall/Check Point at the top of the Decent, I’d hadn’t seen him on my way out to Daffyd but the Daffyd Marshalls had confirmed that he was now in place, indeed he was & again I was pleased with my line to meet him head on, that requi really had been worthwhile & had also prepared me for the full on decent to come. I was pleased with the way I descended still poor by Fell Runner Standards but better than average for me, great to be greeted by my amazed brother Ian who was waiting at Ogwen MR to cheer me on & hand me a Lucozade & a Banana. He later told me he’d never seen someone sweating so much. Appeciated the Army Officer who gave me encouragement & commented on my fitness as I left the check point although I’ve a sneaky feeling he later told his guys to go & get him boys.
The climb up into Cwm Tryfan is far harder when done at pace than it logically would appear to be & you know there is a steep scrambly bit at the end, in truth though the odd need for a handhold makes it one of the easier bits. I felt I had a good lead by now but again with a long decent looming down the Miners Track I wasn’t taking anything for granted. Made a stupid error at the top of the decent by keeping too far left, only a few seconds lost but not a good start, however it went well from there onwards if never flat out on the very tricky ground. Again a couple of pour nav. errors crossing towards Pen y Pass, nothing major but if I do the route again a requi will be called for.
Reaching Pen y Pass I again rendezvoud with Ian who told me I’d had a 15 minute lead at Ogwen, timings later confirmed it had only been 5 minutes, think Ian was getting carried away in all the excitement.
From here Ian accompanied me as planned up the Pyg track, well not really he was usually a minute or two ahead occasionally shouting ‘encouragements’. The reality now was my desire to get to the finish without a stop, something that I’ve been unable to do in my two previous attempts in this race, despite beginning to run on empty I knew no stops & I probably had the win in the bag having seen no one behind me on the crossing to PyP. Halfway up I tried to eat a Mars bar but with no Saliva left had to abandon it, Plan B a Banana somehow went in. It always seems cruel to send us to Crib y Ddysgl before doubling back to Snowdon’s summit but the race is afterall called the 1,000 metres’. Un-knowingly here I was overtaken by the Fell Runner’s leader (Class A) the legendary Colin Donelly who put in a stunning final climb to pass several other runners to claim what I believe to be his 13th win at the age of 53!! Leaving Ddysgl I tried to run, had the energy but feet were so sore I soon conceded back to a walk but at least made the Finish at Snowdon’s summit having not stopped & the first in my Class by 21 minutes in a total time of 5 hours 41 minutes. I’d also beaten all the Squaddies in class D, approx. 70 of them but in truth 3 of them had faster splits on Snowdon than I did once they were un-shackled by the team rules which I believe is stay together until PyP & then everyone for themselves, feel free to correct me here.
Next up bag check to make sure all items specified to be carried were there & then into the cafe (heaving) for a rest. I somehow struck lucky with a seat & then went into a 20 minute recovery trance interspersed with downing food & fluids. As last year loved the descent back down the Pyg at some pace (recovery or elation seems to take over) accompanied by a very nice nutter who’d just completed his 495th ascent of the Pyg this year & would turn around to do the 496th one straight away, there are some great characters on our hills.
My thanks to Roger who helped enormously by ferrying Ian to the meeting points & for taking us back to the cafe at the end, of course big thanks to Ian who I believe found the whole event totally Exhilerating.
It was all rounded off at the Tynny in Capel later the same evening with a hearty Mixed Grill (well I had lost 7lbs during the race, let me off, please) a few beers with Roger, Ian & Dorina & a well attended prize giving. How did I feel? put simply I was elated, I thought I had a chance but to do it & knock off more than 1 & a half hours from my Pb was as good as it gets. Probably will enter the Fell Running category next year so this will almost certainly be my first & last win, but I have one & that will do this latecoming 47 year old absolutely fine. Great race, great event, great sport, if this stirs you in any way, go on you can do it too!
I’ll leave the Marathon to another blog as having read this you’re probably more tired than I was the next day.