Mountain Talk

Mountain Talk
Moel Siabod Fell Race – Saturday 2nd July & Capel Curig Festival

Just a quick reminder for these co-joined events in early July. The Festival is being organized by a new Events committee so can I wish Nicki, Jenny & all their team all the best as they seek to re-invigorate it to be bigger & better than ever.

Can Fell Runners please park on the Festival Field rather than our Cafe car park, there will be a small fee but that all goes to the village funds to help pay for the village events so you will be helping both the local community & the Cafe by doing so.

Main race registration starts in the Cafe at 12:00pm with race start at 2:00pm.

Junior race registration again starts at 12:00pm with race start at 2:05pm, all runners will receive a chocolate bar & race certificate which can be collected post race from registration.

All senior race runners will be able to get a post race bowl of Gaby’s Goulash from the Festival field.

Prize Giving for the race will be on the Festival Field at circa 4:00/4:30pm.

We hope you can make it to enjoy a great afternoon in Capel Curig.

 

Paul’s Blog – ROFN Charity Run – 14th May 2022

It is too early for me to fully & calmly reflect on last Friday & Saturday but I will aim to do so next week so for now I’ll simply confirm that the rumours that I got the Monkey off my back are actually correct. There will be many others to thank but again for now I must thank all of the support runners without whom there would have been no way in this world I would have been able to keep going. Here goes:-

Leg 1 – Paul Jones (NB. each leg is 10.48 Miles).

Leg 2 – Paul Jones

Leg 3 – Paul Jones (yes again, covering three of the four night legs, again easily surpassing a Marathon merely in support of me).

Leg 4 -Huw Price

Leg5 – Dorina

Leg 6 – Christian Wynne & Rebecca Roberts

Leg 7 – Mike Lees & Huw Price – Special mentions here firstly to Mike who had only just returned from his own charity wild swim, Mike was no doubt cold & hungry but on hearing I had no support runners got on his Mountain Bike & rendezvoused with me 2K in (actually meeting up without missing each other was a big relief for both of us). Secondly to Huw who on hearing of my plight decided to join us for the return leg running in what weren’t much better than slippers.

Leg 8 – Ryan Lang – Again he only came in for a breakfast. & also Jackie Edwards who joined us for the return leg.

Leg 9 – Ellie Salisbury & Carla Lauder. Also to Maggie Oliver who joined us for the last 2K.

Leg 10 – Shortened to 11K but still enough to get me safely past the 100 Mile mark – Barry Edwards, Tom Edwards, Alanah Fenwick, & Carla Lauder. The banter on this leg particularly when I was in a state of severe mental & physical distress was all amazingly surreal.

101 Miles in 22 Hours & 29 Minutes, impossible without you, thank you guys!!!

More on the day & what we raised for ROFN coming soon.

Paul’s Blog – Training for my 2022 ROFN Run

My ROFN Run training update as promised:-

When I last posted (20th April) I was formulating my final training schedule for the remaining three & a bit weeks leading to my third & ‘final’ attempt to run 100 Miles in under 24 Hours as part of this years ROFN Fund raising. This ‘plan’ aimed to increase the reasonable 50 miles of the previous week over the two subsequent weeks before a serious tapering of my runs in the final 11 days leading to the attempt itself.

I set myself an immediate crux over the next 3 days of a 30 miler on Thursday, a longish run on Friday, possibly a Park Run Saturday morning backed up the same afternoon with the Goldrush race albeit sacrificing any real pace within the race itself, so how did that bit go?

Well not bad really, Thursday I hung on for a hard 30.15 Miles with 4,700 feet of ascent, a loan run of nearly 6 hours took a bit of sticking at particularly having got back to the CyB centre (1.5 miles from home) 20 miles in only to turn the other way & head away from home rather than towards it, I stuck at it for a hard, lonely job done well. Next up saw Dorina & I head out late afternoon on the Friday with the aim of doing a complete recce of The Goldrush. We split up halfway through this to protect Dorina’s tiring legs as I carried on to complete the route on a lovely evening, felt strong clocking up a little over 10 miles, part two complete & feeling satisfied.

Saturday saw me kick off with the Dlogellau Park Run admittedly with a mindset a little less focused on full on pace. That said coming home in just over 21 minutes I was only 30 seconds or so down on my latest outing so not bad all things considered. I returned home for a couple of hours rest before I began to walk the 1.5 miles to the CyB centre for the start of The Goldrush race with one Banana in my hand & another one already in my stomach. Having registered I was pleasantly surprised if not a little scared to see our neighbour, Andrea, sat down & waving over to me, we exchanged some words & I walked away thinking ‘shit Paul your plan to jog it is out the window, you can’t get beaten by Andrea’. All due respect & all that, no insult intended Andrea!! This was not going to be a plan going to plan.

I set off with some degree of sense, not full throttle although in truth I probably didn’t have full throttle by this point in the week. Once I’d settled into this mode I began to enjoy myself as I wound myself around the wonderful 8.5 mile Goldrush route. As quite often happens I was in my race place after a couple of miles, this basically means you are running in a stretched out small group of similar paced runners & may only exchange an odd place up & down as you run to the finish. In particular there was a guy clearly a few years older than me (he would win the O.60’s category) who kept taking me on the downs before I’d real him in on the ups. He upset me a bit by cutting a corner on a down by the first bailey bridge thereby extending his lead by a few extra metres but I chose not to complain & used my energy instead to focus on the my ‘up’ opportunities in the second half of the race.

My second half went well, despite my suicidal schedule of the two & bit previous days the stamina they’d given me kicked in & I improved my finish placing by 4 places to come home in 15th place, a distant 2nd in the O.50’s. I had not exactly speeded up simply I didn’t slow down & that felt undeniably good. Not being competitive in the slightest I’d also beaten the O.60 guy by a couple of minutes & had not become the second fastest runner in my village, a genuine relief! Before I move on a great thank you to Matt Ward & all his team for getting us back racing in the CyB & a special thank you to Stephen Edwards on the Tannoy for giving me, the Cafe & Dorina’s Scones such a massive plug as I shuffled to the start line. I walked home rather than my normal jog, well sometimes even I can be sensible.

Sunday was a day of rest on the pots but a 58 mile week was further progress towards D Day.

The next week started well with me planning either 3 or 4 recce’s of my ROFN route on the Monday with each one being 10.45 miles long. Circumstances (renewing acquaintances with long standing Cafe regular, Roger) soon dictated that 3 or 4 would actually be just 3. This would still see me clocking up over 31 miles my second 30+ in 5 days but more importantly they were done at a pace I will hope to match on the day itself, basically slow running with most hills being fast walked. It was a pleasing exercise partly because mentally it began to prepare my mind for the mental battle that awaits it but even more so because of the consistency I achieved. First 10.45 Miles in 1:55:54, second one in 1:56:32, third one 1:55:54, the smile was soon taken off my race when I uploaded the third one onto my Garmin only for it to be rounded up to 1:55:55, only a runner may understand that frustration!

The week continued well, Tuesday 5 miles, Wednesday rest, Thursday 14 miles, Friday 7 miles, Saturday after a long day on the pots (Bank Holiday weekend) 4.3 miles before a late night with our Cafe’s Open MIC Night & not much sleep as a result. I was now up to 62 miles for the week & homing in on 70 but on Sunday the pots got me again & with a repeat almost certain for Bank Holiday Monday I sensibly (twice in one blog, this is progress) cancelled my planned run & replaced it with the core exercise of choice, lifting a glass of wine.

Since all this I have begun to seriously Taper with only 3 runs in the next 9 days & only planning one more run before Friday the 13th arrives.

I can summarise the way I’m feeling as simply scared & really not looking forward to what awaits me. Yes I have prepared better than 2 years ago (my most recent failure), yes I have a route with 10% less ascent, yes I have a route that is a bit less technical making a fall less likely (2 in the first 12 hours two years ago scuppered me then), yes I will avoid the pots on Friday (unlike 2 years ago) & yes I believe (like 2 years ago) I am going to have some great support runners doing one or multiple legs with me, but? 100/105 miles is an awful lot for a runner of my level & 24 Hours is a very long time for those inevitable battles of the mind that await me, I know what’s that is like, it is brutally hard for me to contemplate let alone endure. I’ll need those support runners & all those at the Cafe who make every return to it very special but the lonely despondent moments will inevitably do their best to derail my attempt, you’re helping me where you can to banish these demons will at least be a huge consolation, fail or succeed the memories will halp make it all very worthwhile trying.

I’m doing it for CAN & their work in remote areas of Nepal & yes in truth because I want to proof a point to myself, if you want to run/walk with me please do so you’ll be very welcome. Of course if you can donate or take part in any other aspects of our ROFN Day we will be delighted to see you.

Please visit our Events Page for full details of our ROFN Day 2022.

ROFN Day (14th May) Update

We have just updated our Events Page listing all the activities on this year’s ROFN Day including timings, simply click on our Events Page for full details.

Paul’s Blog – Looking Forward

Having blogged earlier today what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks it’s now time to look at the coming weeks in a bit more detail. One thing I didn’t deal with much in the previous blog was my running (for once). Despite seeming to have been a bit here there and everywhere recently I have managed to maintain a reasonable weekly mileage of circa 35 miles a week although that is a fair bit lower than between November & February where it was averaging 50 or so.

In London I managed 3 early morning runs in the 3 days we were there, in Morzine 5 runs in 4 days including two 8K’s dropping the car in for repair & collecting it the same afternoon. In Sheffield two in two days & last week my five runs including good asks of 16 & 22 mile runs in 3 days which helped me to my first 50 mile week in almost two months. These two runs were the start of my final prep for my Reach Out for Nepal charity run in mid-May. A good start after my travels but I need to up the ante this week & next.

Today (20th April) I had planned to submit my Pakistan VISA application this morning among several other paperwork thingies & then go for a big Mountain run this afternoon. However a couple of hours after arriving at the Cafe I realised that despite remembering to pack my ‘mountain back-up clothing’ I had forgotten to put my running bag & hydration bottles in the car so have decided to delay the run until tomorrow thereby allowing me to catch up with Judy, Maggie & Alwyn who called into the Cafe as well as sit down & write this blog thereby freeing up the rest of the week for running.

A fly in the ointment is that last week I received an email telling me I was in this coming Saturday’s Goldrush race in my local CyB (a result of my having entered the subsequently cancelled 2020 race). I had tried to enter this race in March only to be told it was full, plonker for not realising I was already in it!! So what do I do focus on the Goldrush or ROFN, only one ‘sensible’ option, the ROFN run has to take priority so it’s a long run tomorrow, possibly back it up with a shorter long run on Friday before then possibly doing the Dolgellau Park Run on Saturday at 9:00am & then take an easy jog around the Goldrush at 1:00pm on the basis that if I can do that it’ll stand me in great stead for ROFN, that’s a kind of theory at least. I’ll aim to keep you posted on my training for ROFN & please remember that any support runners on the 13th & 14th May will be gratefully appreciated as ever.

Late May appears to have little let-up with me due to race a 10K in Ashton Court near Bristol (21st May) which my niece, Beth, has also entered. With my hopeful ROFN exploits the week before I’ll probably just run with Beth rather than race it allowing me to enjoy a jog in the park which was the stomping ground of my childhood back in the 70’s.

28th May sees me racing the Welsh 1,000 metre Peaks Race but my body & need to protect it/let it recover for GII may dictate a late withdrawal despite it being a firm favourite in my calendar. Either way good luck to Warren Renkel the new race Organiser we at the Cafe are happy to be supporting you.

That leaves me with a 12 day recovery period before GII which I can use for packing & hopefully some quiet convalescing to fully accept & appreciate what lies install for me in the Karakorum. Kit has almost been fully sourced just leaving me to acquire a fool proof automatic camera, an array of books to keep me going for 50 days (some of which will see me simply acclimatising in Base Camp & Advanced Base Camp i.e. reading a lot). The final item needed is more Factor 50 sun cream, another lesson recently re-learnt in the Alps!!

Some have suggested I do a podcast (is that the term the young’uns use) of the Expedition but I’d rather live the basic experience without this external demand on my thoughts & then maybe bore those of you with my reflections in the Autumn with a possible evening at the Cafe.

GII has (if you include the aborted trip to Cho Oyu in 2018) been almost 4 years in the making & almost 5 years after my test climb on Pik Lenin. It’s been a long wait but finally it’s almost here, just a run or two to negotiate first whilst trying to put on weight for the expedition at the same time, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Still no rest for a Moron:)

Paul’s Blog – Running, Nepal & Pakistan

It’s been a hectic few weeks & I’m now moving into a slight lull before the full storm arrives in mid-May which is set to continue for several months throughout the summer. More of that in a later blog, for now a I’ll cover some of what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

The last full week of March saw Dorina & I head South to London for a 3 night mini break to combine My Birthday & attending CAN’s tribute to the Life of Doug Scott at the RGS. The RGS was a very uplifting evening, a real celebration of the man himself, with warts & all reminiscences from a distinguished panel including some of his closest friends & associates so thank you Tut Braithwaite & everyone involved for your anecdotes & bringing Doug’s exploits back to Life.

The day before saw me celebrate my 56th Birthday, Dorina & I spent a gloriously sunny London Day relaxing in & around some of London’s iconic Landmarks intermingled with refreshments & dining including:- Mid-morning drink on a river boat pub overlooking The London Eye (Diet Coke), Lunch in Covent Garden in a restaurant without a drinks license (really), Eye wateringly expensive Oysters & wine (yes got there in the end) late afternoon in Harrod’s Caviar Bar & rounded off with an excellent Thai evening meal within walking distance of our hotel. Dorina treated me to it all so thank you Angel it was a very special day that had started out with a lovely run together around Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens, all a bit different & none the worse for it.

A busy weekend return to the Cafe ended with a brief visit to the Tyn y Coed in Capel as the new owners & management were holding a get to know the locals evening, we wish Sean, Daniel & co. all the best with their exciting plans for the future & likewise to former owners Georg, Mark, Jane & Helen for their hospitality over the years, may you enjoy a long retirement. Again no Alcohol passed my lips as we made an early exit so that I could focus on my trip to the Alps with Judy the next day.

The weather in the Alps did not play ball but despite that the trip achieved it’s target of getting me back on something pretty high with enough difficulty to renew my shaky confidence in such places. We summitted the Aguile di Toule (circa 3,500 metres) as well as having a couple of days on snowshoes & crampons in the Gran Paradiso National Park on the slopes of Punto di Celebre (no map on me to check the spelling). Our return to Judy’s apartment in Morzine was accompanied by a bang from below the car which next day we would realise was the sound of the front left Spring shearing in half. This led to a somewhat fraught end to the trip as my running & Judy’s solo skiing were intertwined with me befriending a Czech (yes we were still in France) Audi specialist who became incredibly helpful & finally got us back on the road only 10 hours later than planned. In the end we got on a Eurotunnel train the next day actually one hour ahead of schedule, picked up Marion from Hertfordshire (Dorina & I had dropped her off there on our trip to London to visit her son Ben & leave our car for a few days) before diverting to pick up Calum’s dog (Judy’s son, yes Calum not the dog), long story so won’t go any further. In the end our car problem paled into insignificance compared to Steve’s return from Scotland, a 12 hour drive from Glasgow to Eglwysbach due to flooding diversions with what turned out to be a bad onset of Covid which Judy duly caught 2 days later. Thankfully they are now through the worse & Negative again albeit still recovering rather than at full strength.

Here I must thank Tim Blakemore for guiding us in The Alps, Judy for accompanying me through my journey on scary ground which has re-built confidence for what lies ahead & of course Dorina & Steve for their continued support. Last but not least Chatsai for getting my Audi back on the road I hope you had a great 39th Birthday & enjoyed more than a pint or two on me, more than fully deserved!

A day of ‘rest’ with Dorina followed albeit with un-packing in the mix before the next day (Friday) saw me re-packing & heading off to a weekend in Sheffield to meet up with Jagged Globe & some of our team for Gasherbrum II. For some reason every city centre hotel had doubled their rates for that particular weekend, am I really that disagreeable? However with Dorina’s help I’d found an Air B & B type room in the country 8 miles away which was an ideal spot for a couple of early morning runs & was a more modest £75 a night (Premier Inn £255, can you believe that?).

Saturday saw me arrive at Jagged Globe’s offices where 3 Expeditions joined together to be briefed on what lay ahead of us. First up was Aconcagua (January 2023) with Ed Chard giving a useful insight to several team members. This was followed by Chris giving a talk about his ‘winter’ ascent of Denali to members of the Denali team (May 2022, only 5 weeks away at that point, good luck guys) which included his comment ‘look at the view from the plane, some of the most spectacular mountain views in the world’, impressive I must say & with Denali on the outer limits of my Radar worthy of note. Next up came my turn & how lucky it would prove to be, thanks again Chatsai as without you I wouldn’t have been there. In truth I had helped my own luck by asking him if his accent was South African at which point he smiled, politely corrected me & turned my problem into his, on such small things……..

The briefing for GII was given by David Hamilton, our team leader, what a game changer for the way I’m now looking forward to what is the scariest trip of my life. David has visited The Karakorum most years of his adult life, he has Summited GII once & GI twice & has had all our logistics in place since 2019. As an aside he’s summitted Everest 10 times most recently in 2019 with one of our team members Rui (Portuguese) who sadly along with Luke our 3rd & final team member at this stage (small team indeed) could not attend Sheffield. This of course gave me full on access to David & his knowledge throughout the day. His briefing contained images of the route which albeit looking at the top end of what I might be able to do (if not beyond) has given me a focus & drive to do my upmost to achieve. However failure will have so many rewards, David’s images of the peaks surrounding the Baltoro Glazier (sorry Chris everyone in the room knew they blew Alaska away) have assured me that failure to summit still gives me the back-up of a trek of a lifetime that lies ahead.

The afternoon was spent by Ed, Chris & David going through a huge array of kit with David in particular in his calm, reassuring, friendly & relaxed style giving numerous little tips of how to maximise their usefulness in extreme situations. I feel I’ll be in the very best hands & am eager to try to step up to the mark if I possibly can.

Of course with JG’s offices also including an Outdoor Shop with a closing down sale I did walk away with a new jacket to compliment my hat that Judy had been secretly coveting for most of our Alpine trip. When she finally came clean she even described it as a tad famine to try & get me to give it up! I also bought a great pair of gloves which will hopefully give me the dexterity I’ll need on the fixed ropes on GII.

With David not hanging around for the Sunday’s get to know you walk/ropework I made the call to head back to the Cafe early Sunday morning where I was to be welcomed by an Angel & a long session on The Pots (long overdue in truth). 

What a difference an Alpine Trip & a day in Sheffield have made to my psyche for GII, 10th of June is no longer ‘looming’ but is being looked forward to with excited trepidation & I feel all the better for it.

First up though is a tough May but more on that in my next blog.

Reach Out for Nepal – Update on 2021 & 2022

I am pleased to announce that this Year’s Reach Out for Nepal Day has been scheduled for 14th May, for more details simply go to the Events page of our web site, I’ll go into more detail into my chosen run for this year in a bit but first it’s time to give an update on previous fund raising & last year in particular so here goes:-

The total raised in 2021 was an unbelievable £23,563.05 more than double of any previous year. This was largely due to Ian Draisey’s Moel Siabod Sportif (MSS) which saw approximately 40 cyclists take on Ian’s fabulous 100 mile route through Snowdonia. The MSS raised £17,434.00 so well done all who took part & everyone who donated to them.

The finalisation of last years fund raising saw me submitting a Gift Aid claim to CAN for those who donated at the Cafe counter towards my 7 Marathons+ in 7 Days. The claim took a couple of hours to produce & gave me a heartfelt appreciation of many people I know personally & how generous they were. I can’t name you all hear but you brought fresh emotion to my eyes, simply thank you very much, it genuinely makes the hardships of the runs all the more worthwhile. Obviously that thank you needs extending to all those who don’t know me personally as well, thank you for appreciating what we are trying to do.

Collectively through ROFN, MSS & Sales of Doug’s Prints, Books & various CAN Artefacts over the last 7 years the total raised for CAN has now reached £86,891.31. This is just hard to fathom but is a fantastic reality so again a massive thank you to all who have contributed to this success in any way at all. In addition to this total through the three presentations Doug held at the Cafe raised in the region of a further 10K & of course many of us were lucky to be in his presence at these.

More specifically the funds raised last year have helped us to complete the £44,000 funding of the new school in Prok which is due to be officially opened by CAN in Autumn 2022. They have asked Dorina & I to attend the opening but I have other things to survive first before I can decide on whether to accept their offer. If we do go out please rest assured that the cost will be borne by us & not CAN/ROFN.

Now onto one of those things I need to survive, my 2022 charity run for ROFN (I’m hopefully being a tad melodramatic about this one but having seen the state I got myself into on my 2020 run then maybe not). This will be my third & FINAL attempt to run 100 miles in 24 Hours in & around Capel Curig.

As ever unless I stick to tarmac which is not good for either my feet or the enjoyment of support runners there are no flat options in Capel Curig to rack up that type of mileage but having chosen a beautiful but wrong route in 2020 I’ve come up with an ‘easier’ one for 2022, in the words of a certain Baldrick ‘I’ve got a Cunning Plan’. I’m calling it ‘The Tryfan 10 x 10 One Hundred’ for want of any better imagination. The route will see me run down to Tryfan & back via the old road, as the name suggests this is a 10 miler (bit more in honesty) which I’ll need to run 10 times. 

Normally it’s a lovely training run through the grandeur of the Ogwen Valley so any runners wanting to come along & support me on a leg you will be treated to glorious scenery at a pace that’ll give you plenty of time to take it all in. For the walkers among you why not stroll the route & cheer us on as we pass you at some points or other. 

The route is actually 10.5 miles giving me the option of cutting the last one short if either time or my body is against me. The total climb for the 10 runs will be 2,730 metres (8,955′), a bit demanding but 20% less than my 2020 attempt & about half that of 2016. Sounds good but I’ll be 56 this time around & despite Judy’s words a couple of years ago ‘never again Paul, please’ I am clearly only learning some ‘minor’ lessons.

Obviously as ever I’m not beating myself up for nothing so please donate if you possibly can. We’ll be taking donations at the Cafe counter from the start of May & will have set up a Just Giving page for those wishing to donate electronically.

Thanks for your time & your support once again, please put the 14th May in your diary & come along & enjoy our ROFN Day.

Paul

Can I thank Strava or should it be Park Runs?

Well no blogs for months & now I plan two in a day. The more important one will follow this one but first I’ll get some of my running trivia out of the way.

Well I’m still on Strava & drinking plenty of coffee from my Xmas present mug emblazoned with ‘If it’s not on Strava it doesn’t count’, thanks for that Becca!

I have to admit that Strava & it’s world of Kudos’, Local Legends & comparisons with others has continued to have an influence on my running. My weekly mileages are averaging more than normal (if you exclude the high mileages of Lock-ups) & I am taking on more hill climbs that I would usually avoid such as the CyB’s infamous ‘Sting in the Tail’ & ‘Plummit’ (in reverse in the latter’s case).

This combined with a renewed commitment to the Dolgellau Park Runs (16 out of the last 17 having only missed Christmas Day when I opted for my usual pre-Goose 17 miler in the CyB) have recently brought some rewards. First up was my first Park Run ‘win’ 5 weeks ago which I was able to replicate a couple of weeks later in decidedly wet conditions. The reality of both is that neither of my times were great so it was more a case of who didn’t turn up but as they say ‘a win is a win’ & both were very satisfying. That said last week I came 5th but in my second fastest time of recent months missing a pb by just 6 seconds (20:17 to be precise).

Sandwiched between the two ‘wins’ was an appearance in The Nick Beer 10K, an excellent race around the Great Orme in Nick Beer’s memory, it being the races 30th Anniversary. I was pleased to beat my pb from 2018 & also to place 3rd in my O. 55 age group (admittedly two O.60’s also beat me). Some days later a rather neat little trophy turned up in the post, a very pleasant surprise, small things can mean so much.

My highlight of the past few weeks though was taking part in the Anglesey Half Marathon last weekend, the reason was threefold:-

Firstly a week before the race I found out that a good friend, Janet, & her daughter Katy were coming over from Yorkshire to take part so we would get the chance to meet up for the first time since Covid. Imagine our pleasant & very co-incidental surprise that as I parked up an hour before race start who should park next to me but Janet & Katy allowing a very pleasant walk to registration.

Next & by now running quite well as we headed through Beaumaris towards the finish I looked up to take in the glorious view on a bright morning across the Menai Straits & into the heart of a resplendent Snowdonia. As another runner drew alongside me all I could say was ‘It doesn’t get any better than this, does it!’, he agreed, we would later shake hands at the finish not caring if that was allowed or not.

Thirdly I crossed the line in 1:30:21, more than 2 minutes faster than my 2017 course pb & my fastest Half Marathon for over 6 years, feeling the beneficial effects of the Park Run a day earlier still flowing through me. Sadly my body’s tendency to turn from very warm to very cold post race meant there would be no hanging around for Katy & Janet but at least Janet had spotted me mid-race as I made may way back to Beaumaris allowing us to wave & cheer each other on. Back at the Cafe I would soon discover I’d finished 51st out of nearly 700 & better still had won my O.55 age category by nearly 5 minutes having also held all those demon O.60’s at bay too.

My Angel & the Cafe girls gave me a very warm reception before putting me firmly back in my place on the Pots for almost the entire afternoon, before Eric, Katie & David (part of the Becca clan) came to my aid by giving me the excuse to join them for a fully caffeinated coffee.

The weekend had one final surprise in store, as Dorina & I arrived home that evening Dorina spotted an envelope by the front door. Unbeknown to me a Dolgellau Park Run associate, Tony Hodgson, who had also been racing earlier (we had also met before the start & Tony then secured 2nd place in the O.70’s in a very impressive 1:48) had stayed on for the Prize Giving & had the good grace to collect my prize & drop it off on the way home. Thank you Tony, which I hope to be able to say to you in person at tomorrow’s Park Run, very kind of you & sums up the very best of the running community.

So should I thank Strava or should it be Park Runs for recent successes albeit they are marginal in the world’s wider context, well of course I should really thank Ashley Charlwood & his team of Park Run volunteers for continuing to stand out in some at times quite appalling weather, their cheers & support simply is exceptional. Also a thank you to all those giving Kudos to me on Strava, these little motivations are much appreciated.

My next blog will give an update on Reach Out for Nepal, so watch this space it should hit the screen later today.

I won’t mention my back but not all is good in my world at the moment(:

Paul’s Blog – Park Run ‘Fun’

Three weeks on from a ‘successful’ running weekend, well it’s all relative in my world, I was back at Dolgellau on Saturday for another Park Run. In the two weeks in between I’d placed 2nd & 4th in stormy conditions, respectful enough but both times at just under 21 minutes were in truth disappointing & I was never in contention to win them.

A small field gathered at the start but excluded all three who’d beaten me the week before, was this at last my chance of a victory? One or two un-familiar racing bodies as ever also gave me cause for doubt. That said I was taking things seriously by scrapping my recent preference for running shorts & donning my compression shorts instead, small things matter?

As normal the race to the front puddle was won by a pint sized kid who loves this short 40 metres of limelight (carries on like that he’s going to be seriously quick when he grows up) but I was hot on his heels hoping he’d get out of my running line before I would be forced to trample him beneath my feet, thankfully he obliged & I was soon out in front.

After two hundred metres there were no sounds of feet behind me ‘is this then, finally my turn?’, an understandable feeling after 4 previous second places. Another 200 metres & then I heard them, footsteps from behind & getting closer. There was still hope as I optimistically reasoned that he might be putting too much into getting onto my heels that he might fail on the stamina test later on.

At the first turnaround Glyn the Marshall smiled & cheered me on but as I rounded the cone my pursuer (not the guy I most feared during my pre-start survey) was just 3 metres behind. I maintained my pace as he did too so as we rounded the 2nd cone at halfway the gap was still 3 metres, he clearly had me on a string all I could do was hope & keep running scared as fast as I could despite feeling pretty sure that he was playing with me.

Then about halfway to the 3rd & final turnaround the footsteps became just a little bit fainter, I surged to try & make a telling move. As I rounded the final cone once again to a smiling & cheering Glyn I saw my nemesis was now a few further metres back, I didn’t stop to measure it but lets say 8 metres to be reasonably precise, ‘this is it Paul, run the last 1,250 metres like your life depends on it, you may not get another chance as good as this one’, which is what I did.

Over the bridge for the last time, 700 metres to go, & I still had the gap ‘push Paul, push, you can do this’. Then it happened, 400 metres to go, the footsteps began to come nearer. For a runner who doesn’t have a killer kick I at least kicked as if I might find one but 100 metres out I thought the game was up, 40 metres ‘I’m holding him’ then came the change, he began grunting, he found his killer kick & stormed past me with 5 metres to go as I responded with a resigned ‘you bastard!’, I’d lost the win by less than a second.

In truth it’d been a real race & my nemesis aka David Brickman (new to the Dolgellau Park Run) had not only pushed me to my best time since resuming Park Runs this Autumn (16 seconds of improvement & 48 seconds faster than the week before). The further better news (upon reflection) was that I’d also beaten my course pb (from pre-covid times) by 3 seconds as I’d crossed the line in 20:11 a time which was faster than the winning time of a couple of weeks before. So hanks David for pushing me to such a great (for me) time.

Afterwards David & I congratulated & thanked each other as we waited for another David (also new to Dolgellau, the guy I feared before the off) to cross the line nearly one & a half minutes later having been in his own ding-dong with two regular over 65’s in the form of David Wright & Clive Edgington.

I have to be happy with the way I ran, my kilometre splits told me I was running well & came in at 3:55, 4:05, 4:05, 4:05 & 4:01 respectively, the last showing me that my loser’s 4 second kick needs some serious attention. Track evenings in Bangor in the New Year beckon for sure unless someone decides that that would be bad for my health.

Strava update.

Since signing up I’ve only missed two days running, am enjoying my running a great deal despite some seriously inclement weather at times, put in a fast 10K from home earlier today & am now well on track to go through the 2,000 mile barrier for the year as a whole. For December I signed up to 8 Challenges & had achieved 4 of these within the first two days, namely 24K in 24 Days, Half Marathon (both achieved on the 1st), 5K & 10K (both achieved on the 2nd). Since then 3 more challenges met so only the 300K for the month remains out there for me to chase, barring injury that’s looking in the bag in the days ahead.

All very positive for my turn the clock back dreams for 2022 so lets hope that the trials of the last couple of years are soon behind us for good & that we can all set ‘realistic’ goals for the year ahead.

A final thought, excluding the small Whippit, I’d led the field for 4,995 metres but must now focus on how to find another 5 metres from somewhere, motivation may well be the key to un-lock that door.

 

Paul’s Blog – A Good Weekend at the ‘Office’

Well into my second week of Stravadom & the plan may indeed be working albeit early days in reality. My recent running streak continues with me having only missed one day in the last 23 & none in the last 16 & I am enjoying them even when I’m a tad tired like yesterday a day after my latest race.

Before I come to my ‘Good’ Weekend I’ll briefly cover a chance in a million that I experienced last Tuesday when I was out for a ten miler in the Coed y Brenin as ever starting & finishing at home. Approximately 7 miles in & high up on a section of The Goldrush Trail I was clipping along at a steady pace (faster than my tired ‘recovery’ run of the day before) when I heard some footsteps storming up behind me (possibly un-heard off you may be surprised to learn). A quick turn of the head saw a very slim fair/ginger (am I aloud to describe a human as such) figure closing in on me at speed. My first thoughts were ‘surely Andrea (our neighbour) can’t go that fast (albeit she is a fit & respected Triathlete), as ‘she’ drew alongside we glanced at each other again, this time I noticed a beard too (which Andrea definitely does not have), then the penny dropped simultaneously to both runners (if I may compare us as similar), ‘hi Paul’, ‘hi Marcus’ & probably other words such as ‘what the hell are you doing here’. The’Marcus’ in question was Marcus Scotney, yes he off the Cape Wrath Trail win (8 day race) & Dragon’s Back win (at the time of it being a mere 5 day’er over most of Wales’ iconic mountains). Dorina & I had gotten to know Marcus back in 2019 when we ran the Everest Marathon, he’d even asked if I’d bunk with him the night before the race something I had to turn down having already agreed to bunk with Tomas, a very nice Pole who just happened to have a snoring habit to kill for!

Now Marcus is not a local, was the only person I’d seen all morning so what the hell was the chance of seeing him here? Anyway the shock soon turned into talk (well first we both stopped our watches as any runner would). It turns out that Marcus had honeymooned here with Jen & now they were back to celebrate their anniversary. He was out running the Goldrush & I just happened to be on a part of it as he came upon me.

Now I don’t consider myself slim (as a runner) but I’m not fat either however as Marcus commented ‘it’s hot’ he removed his windproof & I was reminded how slim he is, an inch taller than me with no waist he must be at least 10 Kilo’s lighter than me, the sign of a truly competitive runner.

Soon we said farewell, Marcus ran on at speed with me calling after him ‘don’t worry I’m not going to try & keep up’, one of those lovely moments that sometimes turn a good run into a fabulous experience.

Now to that weekend. It started as usual at the Dolgellau Park Run where soon after my arrival two cars pulled up spewing out 7 Athletes, ‘oh shit’, I thought. This was followed by other Athletes at every turn of my eye. Immediate thoughts were ‘Paul, forget top 3, you won’t even be top 10!’ Thankfully a few minutes later I pulled myself together whilst urinating in the toilet block (maybe better for the soul than a church?) as I regained some composure by thinking ‘you are not here to race them, you are here to race yourself so just think about that’.

It worked, in the end I finished 7th in a marginal pb for the year of 20:27, age category win for 4th consecutive week & just beating an over 60 who had earlier yelled to me & another guy ‘come on lads run faster I’m old enough to be your Father’ with me making a mental note to ask him how old he was at the finish. This I duly did, he was 61 & my riposte was ‘well you must have started early then’. He then went onto confess that he regularly uses the chant to make young bucks accelerate only to blow-up allowing him to pass them later on. Next he admitted that today it backfired as both the Under 35 year old & yours truly never came back to him!

The main event however was Sunday’s Conwy Half Marathon which I had only run once before back in 2016. This was to be my first significant test of ‘where am I on my road to Half Marathon/Marathon pb’s for 2022?’

On a beautiful but cold & blustery day the climb around the Orme with an initial head wind was as tough as ever but the reward of a two kilometre descent followed by the 7K run to the finish were a wonderful reward. I could feel the strength/stamina/speed of my recent Park Runs & the Dyfi 8 race in my legs as I steadily improved my position, possibly my strongest finish in a race for years. I crossed the line in 1:32:49, possibly a pb which I’d check out when back at the Café.

In fact I pb’d on the course by a massive four & a half minutes how good did that feel (bearing in mind I am 5 years older too), clearly a sub 1:30 & possible pb of sub 1:28:10 on a flatter course now has a tinge of realism about it for 2022. O.K. I admit I had my Nike’s on but that is a ‘runner’s irrelevance’ in motivational speak.

Next day the results were posted, I’d come 145th out of 1,750, 4th in age category out of 130 (missing a win by less than 2 minutes), all just icing on a very nice cake.

I’ll sign off there until I have something else to either feel good or sad about, there will be downs I’m sure but they just make the Ups that much more sweeter.

Don’t forget with have live music at the Café this coming Saturday, details on our Events page.

Paul’s Blog – Has it really come to this? Strava, a late life crisis!

Yes I’ve succumbed to Strava, I’ll say that again ‘yes I (Paul) have succumbed to Strava’

Having lost some speed largely to do with Covid & no races but sadly almost definitely also due to inevitability facing a now 55 year old even I, a confirmed Luddite, have now resorted to Strava in a desperate final bid to turn back the clock & seek at least one final pb (or at least something close to one) in either the Marathon or Half Marathon distances. Since these were both set when I was 49 & 48 respectively that’s a bit of an ask if I’m honest but hey-ho if you don’t try you don’t get.

The spark for this was my London Marathon in October where I ran ‘well’ mostly but was still 15 minutes off my pb of 3:10 & even further adrift of my 2020 target had the race taken place then.

My thinking regarding Strava is that if I know a few people might follow me then I might up the anti in my training & thereby reverse the declining trend, desperate ‘times’ need desperate measures. That said I’ve given myself a promise that if the data & contacts that this panic driven act leads to gets all too much for me my trial period will expire at the end of the year & I’ll go back to my luddite obscurity or should that be ‘security’.

But I’m not just hitting a single panic button, a month ago I returned to the Dolgellau Park Run to get some speed back. My first effort was just testing the waters so I didn’t even take my super duper Nike’s, net result 21:58, 2 seconds faster than my target but nearly two minutes off my pre-covid 20:14 (Nike induced though). My next three Park runs saw me don my Nike’s recording a best of 20:28, only 14 seconds off that pb, maybe there is hope not a bad tail off given almost two years more age & no races.

Next up on the panic button list is races & plenty of them with a fair share being on tarmac to more accurately gauge any improvements particularly of the Half Marathon distance. So on Sunday I ran in the restored Dyfi 8 race which would fulfill two goals, a hard race on forest roads as well as supporting a local club. The 8 stands for 8 Miles or 8K as two races were taking place, I chose the 8 miles & was soon ‘regretting’ it as you climb from the start for almost 4K before a full on descent before another 2K climb leads to a final 3K full on descent. Basically I was either trying not to walk uphill (narrowly succeeded, good tick) or flat out descending knowing that the quads were taking a pasting that I’d pay for after the race. Despite coming only 7th, out of a small field of 20 or so, by the end I had ticked a lot of boxes including sub 6 minute mile’ing on the final descent which at my level/age was pretty pleasing. Despite this hard workout I was still able to get out for a light 10K the next day giving me 14 runs in 15 days whilst clocking up over 120 miles with plenty of climb to boot. Can you tell I’m getting serious here?

Next race up is the Conwy Half Marathon on Sunday (well if you don’t count Dolgellau Park Run the day before). This is a race I did a few years back so will be the first proper test since London of where I am at. Here a note of good luck to all the Fell Runners taking part in the Pen race this Saturday, great race & good luck to the new race organisor Russel Owen & his team. Due to my own goals I’ll ‘miss’ the bog & Judy’s heckling but hopefully only for this year as it’s a great send off to the Snowdonia Fell Running Year.

The Manchester Marathon (scene of my 2015 pb) is booked for April & I’m searching for plenty of races prior to then such as Oulton Park Half Marathon & Wrexham Half Marathon (also scene of my 2015 pb)

In truth all this may not lead to my dreamed off ‘success’ but without dreams we can float through the aging process without a fight all too quickly (just how did my 50th get followed so quickly by my 55th) & you know what to be at the sharp end of the Dolgellau Park Run coming 6th, 3rd & 4th in recent weeks (the latter was almost 2nd until two young Whippets more tan 20 years my junior came past in the final 300 metres) does feel pretty good if I can be un-modestly honest.

Of course not everything will go to plan as after yesterday’s race when back at the Cafe my helping 3 women illegally leave through the ENTRANCE door I dropped the moved traffic cone on my bare left big toe. This being the same toe that lost it’s nail a week earlier led to an awful lot of blood, swearing & tears. Suppose that’s what you get when you try to help the deaf of ‘Exit is over there’ specimen’s of our Human Race, still we did share a chuckle before the cone hit it’s mark!

So watch this space or the new one that is ‘Strava Paul’ as I dream & work on through the coming weeks & months.

Final thoughts one week down 1-0 to Strava albeit with a degree of hair loss & raised blood pressure.

ROFN/CAN Update on the Prok School

With this years fund raising for Reach Out for Nepal now nearly at an end & recent updates from CAN regarding the Prok School being received it’s time to update all those who have helped us raise nearly £24,000 this year alone.

Firstly we can confirm that we have now raised enough to fund the entire Build budget for the school (£34,000) with additional surplus money also going towards CAN’s general fund which is just excellent news so thanks to all involved. A particular mention must go to Ian Draisey & his band of cyclists who raised over £17,000 through their Moel Siabod Sportif.

As for the school itself many of you will know that the Monsoon this year was a particularly bad one reeking devastation to many areas, cutting villages off, all at a time when Nepal was severely hit by Covid. However it is not all bad news, prior to the Monsoon some initial works including excavation & material sourcing from the local area got well underway. With post Monsoon communications now re-established CAN have received their first official construction report for several months so here goes of where they are at:-

Wood has been collected & is being seasoned throughout October & November. Further Stones are being collected from the local area & these collections are due to be completed by early December. With excavations already completed this will allow Build works to commence late December. CAN’s engineer, Keshab Adhikari is now working closely with ward officials in Prok to monitor progress & forward updates on progress to CAN at regular intervals over the coming months.

Subject to winter weather the planned completion date will either be late Spring 2022 or October/November if the Monsoon puts a stop to work for another summer. With this in mind CAN are proposing to hold an Official Opening of the School for this time next year & have asked if we would like members of Reach Out for Nepal to be at the ceremony & hand it over. Myself, Dorina, Ian & John are all considering this & we will definitely have some presence there on our behalf, it goes without saying that any costs related to this will come from their own pockets & not from funds donated to ROFN. 

If you are interested in tagging along with the probability of tying it in with a trek to Manaslu simply tap me on the shoulder next time you are in the Café.

Hopefully you will agree that this is very positive news, the villagers of Prok who are part funding the works themselves are very appreciative of our efforts & support, so once again a massive thank you to all involved.

We will put a few photo’s up on our Facebook site showing some of these preliminary works in the coming days.

Paul

 

 

Paul’s Blog – The London Marathon 2021

I’m going to restrict this blog mainly to race day itself because my car parking issues either side of the weekend are a story in themselves as was my experiences with Fraser on Saturday both re-learning how to use the Tube & joining the longest queue of my life for bag drop & race registration.

That said a huge thanks to Fraser for his support (a blog on this may indeed follow once I can find more time) & also to all the helpers working at the Excel on Saturday despite some slightly confused moments at our (meaning fellow runners & I) initial arrival.

Now race day itself:-

It was not a great nights sleep but at least I got more than 3 hours giving me plenty of time for Bathroom visits waiting to hear from my troublesome bowels before I set off on my hour or so journey from Covent Garden to the Grenwich start line.

A little earlier than planned I walked out of the hotel into a gloomily dark London at 6:50 & made my way to the Covent Garden tube station where after some consultation on the radio by the attendant my cheek of ‘us runners get a free ride today’ I was duly let through to a lonely lift. This little delay caused me to miss the train which closed it’s doors as  I strolled onto the platform, next train 12 minutes ‘relax Paul, plenty of time’. Three stations later I entered the Jubilee platform, train waiting, doors open, jump on or check East or West, I checked, the doors closed, I’d missed the correct train, 8 minutes to wait but I had played it better to be safe than sorry.

A second change at the Canary Wharf station went as hoped, I was now among many other runners & feeling less alone, this said Fraser’s teachings from the day before had calmed my Tube nerves & it had gone almost like clockwork. Jumping off at Grenwich I decided to take a long walk to the start at Blackheath rather than trust my bus/train options, this worked well so shortly after 8:00 am I arrived at my Blue starting paddock bang on time munching on the first of two banana’s & slurping on my half litre of Electrolyte. Earlier back at the hotel I had eaten a round of Chicken & stuffing sandwiches bought from a nearby Tesco Express the night before, not my normal pre-race routine but the hotel didn’t do breakfast until 7:00 am which was too late for me.

There now followed a long cold wait until my start time of 9:40 in ‘wave 3’. There were 17 waves in our blue start & presumably the same number in the red start so many had a longer wait than that even if they had stuck to their designated arrival times. This all related to the dreaded Covid (as did the queue’s of the day before), tell me is it just me but….. still if this nonsense allowed us to race then it was a small sacrifice to pay for allowing things to be almost normal (I like all runners needed negative Lateral Flow Tests to be here).

The race start was slightly anti-climatic with me not even realising at what point I’d crossed the start line. I awoke from my stupor, started the watch & began running freely. Running at a decent lick for the first K (4:32) I then overheard a conversation between two other runners, one said ‘I studied the course a lot last night, first 3 miles (5K to me) is all downhill’. This well earned knowledge gathered by legal eavesdropping allowed me to speed up a bit ‘knowing that my target early splits of 4:45 per K were a tad conservative ‘go on Paul, go for it & see what you can hang onto when you inevitably tire in the second half’. My form felt good & with Tim Watson having procured a North Wales Cancer Appeal vest with ‘Paul’ emblazoned across the front I was getting an awful lot of shouts of encouragement from a fabulous crowd, ‘this is what I’d signed up for!’ As a 14 year old I’d watched the first ever London from a sofa cheering the likes of Bernie Clifton & that Saville f….. on, 41 years later here I was doing my own thing, hard to believe really.

The Cutty Sark came & went as a bit of a disappointment (TV makes for better viewing here), the K’s ticked by regularly (lowest a 4:19, highest a 4:52) before I knew it I was running onto Tower Bridge & searching in vain for Fraser as he searched in vain for me. I was now at halfway in a little over 1 Hour 37 Minutes on for 3:15 but knowing that to try & hold for a 3:20 would be tough but maybe possible? My pre-race goals of sub 3:30 a must, sub 3:20 a glory were looking thankfully realistic.

Even turning East after Tower Bridge towards Canary Wharf & away from the finish failed to dampen my spirits this was feeling good. The ‘come on Paul’s’ & the like continued & I even heard a few ‘he’s looking really good’ confident that these were directed at me (well the way my legs were moving at least). Along this stretch I saw a proper runner, possible race leader I wrongly presumed, coming back the other way, here was true grace & strength I clapped & shouted support, it is simply amazing how fast the elites go & it’s only in recent years that I have truly understood this. At this point I was still overtaking many & being passed by the few.

Soon after my downfall began, my watch & Canary Wharf’s high risers ganged up against my mind & gave me a 4:01 split, you kidding me! Now I knew I was slowing so my logic ‘Sat Nav signal being messed up’ was soon proven right by the next K split coming in at 1:19, even Usain Bolt couldn’t do that & if believed, I had just smashed Seb Coe’s long since gone but incredible 1,000 metre world record. I now had two problems, I knew I was slowing but had no idea how much but worse still I didn’t know how many K were left between me & the finish. ‘Come on Paul, you’ve got this’ came the shouts, ‘no I don’t think I have’ came my thoughts.

There was some light relief 10 minutes or so later by which time I was at least running back towards the finish ahead of me I saw a 32K marker, that meant 10K to go, I added to my watch, It’d need to read 44.8K for me to relax almost 3K more than I would have actually run but at least I was back under ‘control’ of sorts.

Those 10K were cruel ranging from 5:02 to 5:20 type of splits not exactly complete wheels coming off but the mental strain to keep running seemed interminable to comprehend. High fives from a few kids & one bloke who almost took my arm off were used to disrupt my pain but in truth it was the T shirt that did it, there was simply no way I was going to accept a cheer of ‘Come on Paul stop walking, you can run the rest’, pride came to a Paul & I ran forlornly but doggedly on.

At some time during all this I heard a loud shout from among the runners who were now heading to Canary Wharf only later that evening would I learn that it had indeed been Tim Watson, the Gazelle of the fells now shepherding his Cathryn towards their own finish.

I was now being passed by as many as I was passing, to see some clearly fit runners in significant walking distress released sympathy at how much more their pain must be than that of my own, barely imaginable. One thing that did stand out here was that the majority of those overtaking me were women not men. This is no major surprise as Men have a habit of over confidence in the first half of a Marathon whilst women go off at a more sustainable pace. Of course the argument is out on which facet leads to whom of the sexes achieves their optimum finishing time but I’m guessing that the girls enjoy the latter stages a lot more than many of the boys, I was a case in point.

‘Come on Paul, you’re nearly there’ finally I really was I turned onto the Mall, ‘is that it?’ 100 metres further & I had finished my first London Marathon having run every step of the way.

My time was 3:25:36 almost bang in the middle of my ‘reality’ & ‘hope’, yes I had slowed but had felt that my running form at least had stood up to the test. At the line this form exploded away, immediately I could hardly walk & wobbled my way tortuously to my kit bag pick up point. This just happened to be at the furthest collection point away from the Finish line, probably a good thing as it kept me moving rather than collapsing in a pathetic human heap.

From here after a far from quick removal of shoes & socks, replaced with open sandals I slowly hobbled away to my hotel some 2 kilometres away. Once there Dorina took my call, they had been tracking my progress forlornly hoping that I could claw back my decline & still hit sub 3:20. For me it wasn’t an issue, despite a poor training regime I had turned up, put up & could hold my head high (well at least when I wasn’t looking down at my cramping feet). Within the hour I had showered, was sat down at a favored Italian restaurant with a bottle of red & a ‘ohh, could you please bring me some salt with the tap water, it’s my feet you see’. Back at the hotel bar, another glass of red as I took up a table between two small groups where a male in each had clearly also been doing a little run, conversation sprang, I proffered ‘it was all going so well’ laughter erupted, clearly not only I had to renew a date with Canary Wharf.

We can all learn from such hardships by Wednesday night Tim, Cathryn, Me & Dorina had all entered the ballot for 2022, says it all about The London Marathon & the incredible support we’d been given although I may not have stressed the downside enough to my Angel?

The next day I escaped London early & drove down to Bournemouth to meet up with my Niece, Beth whom I’d not seen for 2 years, yes that C word again. On arrival I went for an 8K ‘recovery’ run along a blustery seafront before a meal with Beth in the evening, without my ‘guiding’ influence she is clearly developing into a very fine young woman.

After a 280 mile drive home the next day I refilled my anxious tank with diesel before doing the weekly shop. Today almost a week after I headed off to London another week has flown but I have yet another plan ‘Paul, if you are ever to threaten your Marathon pb of 3:10 you need to enter more Half Marathon’s as a basis for your training towards it’.

Finally, Tim, Cathryn & I were also running in aid of the North Wales Cancer Appeal which comes under the Umbrella of Awyr Las Betsi Cadewaller, if you would like to donate simply go to our Virgin Money Just Giving pages, all donations will be gratefully received.

 

Paul’s Blog – An Alpine Sojourn for London – Part 3

So in the context of a long physically hard week what was so ‘trying’ about Friday, it could be only one thing, the dreaded ‘Covid’.

The previous day I had booked my Covid test for 11:00 am on Friday at a pharmacy in Bourg St. Martin. Unlike the Cyclists who had committed to the trip earlier than me & had thus had time to procure their own flow test kits in the U.K. I knew that a local pharmacy test was my only option. These tests if negative would allow us to get back into the U.K., if positive we really didn’t know what would happen.

Before breakfast Dev & Ian had put on ‘Good Morning Britain’ & the news was that an imminent change to the testing rules was to be announced, ‘would we need the test, could I avoid walking into the Pharmacy (they only had my name after all) running the risk of a positive test & ending up in Bourg’s version of the Bastille or whatever fate that would give?’ The announcement came far too late for any change of plans so I drove to Bourg, took a deep breath (unlike the Cyclists, I felt alone in my potential fate because I was walking head first into the French ‘system’), got out the car & walked in (have I mentioned my vocal chords had been playing up for 2 weeks, thought not). The test was quick & simple, the lady pharmacist pleasant but raised both eyebrows when I said this was my first ever test before she informed me to come back in 30 minutes for the result. Time to fill up with Diesel for the hoped for return journey & to stock up on Pear juice & Wine from the Supermarket. Back at the Pharmacy, negative, the tension drained away, back at the car a phone call to Angel, back at the Chalet a new stress arrived.

A the start of our week Iain had added me (or rather my phone/e-mail) to his Garmin, this meant I could follow their routes if I wanted to. What I didn’t realise until I looked at my phone a little after midday was that if he was involved in an accident it could send me a signal. My Inbox read ‘Iain Lea has been involved in an Incident you should try to contact him’, oh shit!!

I tried to phone Iain, answer phone, I tried to phone Andy, answer phone, I What’s Appd Andy, no reply, I waited. My run had to be delayed, I needed to be by my car in case they needed me. I looked at Iain’s Garmin route it seemed to say they had been cycling long after the 9 minute incident warning after the start of their route so this gave me some reassurance. I read & tried to stay calm, after more than an hour my phone pinged, it was Andy on What’s App saying all was O.K. but later I would learn that that wasn’t the best of it. Long before they got my What’s App message they had seen that I had been trying to call them but they couldn’t access their messages so didn’t know why I was trying to phone them so they automatically presumed only one thing ‘he’s tested positive & so we will too!’ Rough justice for Iain’s Garmin thinking a rough laydown of his bike whilst he figured out which direction to go (no doubt on his phone mapping app) was an incident. Technology 1 Iain Lea 0.

The trying day didn’t end there though that evening it would be the Cyclists turn to test themselves. 

When I returned from my run I saw that John had left us a crate of vegetables from his allotment, what a lovely gesture. I discussed our options with Andy & agreed that whilst they did their Covid test I would cobble a recipe out of my grey matter using John’s veg & any suitable leftovers in the fridge, basically my first vegetarian cooking ever. You could cut the Cyclists anxiety in half with even our blunted knife as they huddled around the table reading their instructions. As I prepped & cooked away they tested & settled into a 15 minute wait to see if they were negative or positive, the seconds ticked slowly by, after 5 minutes or so I proffered look guys in Justina’s case it came up positive by now so think positively that you are negative (well not my exact words but you get my pep talk drift). Finally it was good news all round until Andy’s negative test got lost in an IT world of crap for a while, indeed it wasn’t until the following morning that their negative results were properly available on their ‘smart’ phones, what a world we are making for ourselves.

Anyway things ended well & my makeshift veggie meal was toasted with some very well deserved & relaxing wine, phew!

Saturday dawned bright & sunny with a good forecast so for my 7th & final day of running we came up with the plan that the Cyclists would descend to the valley, cycle down to Aime-la-Plagne & then do the Tour de France climb up to Aime la Plagne 2,000 (as in height in metres). In the meantime I would go up to Les Bois & then traverse round the hillside to get onto their climb & we’d meet at any Cafe between Plagne 1,800 & 2,000 that we’d come across, what could go wrong? Well not a lot really except that there were no Cafes open & some didn’t listen to plan A. Before setting off & with the Cyclists clearly tiring of Iain’s version of Porridge Andy had cooked us a good portion of Scrambled Eggs whilst I fried of the last of the Mushrooms. Ian & Dev took note & Andy & I were to give them the same the next day, even Iain seem to relish the change of menu.

After the initial steep climb to Les Bois my traverse route was a gem simply lovely & runnable getting better still as it narrowed into a single track descent to the Cyclists road at about 1,650 metres. Ahead of me lay a 5 mile tarmac climb slightly more gentle than my nemesis from earlier in the week but there was no way I was running it all so mixed it up with a walk here & a trot there. About a third of the way up I looked down at an earlier switch back & saw Iain coming up in his latest fashion of a brighter shade of orange, it was good to know that I’d got onto the climb ahead of them so thoughts naturally turned to ‘make sure you are running when he comes past’ mode. Which indeed I was as he gave me a very strange & loud ‘manly’ grunt as he came past me just after Plagne 1,800. We would rendezvous at Plagne 2,000 some time later where we had a very long wait for the others who had failed to stick to Plan A & explored various other roads nearby.

Soon I was off back down looking for a higher level traverse back to avoid any unnecessary climbing, once again map in hand phone firmly in my bag. Thankfully the cyclists didn’t follow my advice of a short cut as the forest track was no place for their road bikes but it was a lovely route for the La Sportiva’s & their running owner. Things got better still after les Frasses (I’d passed through here earlier in he day) when a short bit of tarmac led to a delightful single track descent passing a waterfall, wild flowers & of course those Alpine views. This in turn led to another short section of tarmac before I re-acquainted myself with my single track return to Les Coches of day one, this time running the incline despite there being no one to show off to. This final run, at 3 Hours 18 minutes & a little under 26K was the best of the week, the icing on the cake, a big gain with absolutely no pain (from a leg point of view at least).

That evening we rounded it off with a return visit to the fabulous restaurant in Landry & as I drove & was in charge of the CD’s I introduced those with open minds to Powderfinger whilst Iain sulked on his Germanic phobia, shocking!

Sunday I drove 600 plus miles up to Boulogne for an overnight stop it was reasonably uneventful except for a navigation error to Bourg en Brasse on my part which coincided with some very heavy rain & a touch of aqua-planing. Apart from that the most memorable thing was filling up in North France (no media led histrionics about fuel shortages over there) when a British owned Ferrari parked up with it’s specialised number plate of ‘YIPPIE’, come on I ask you…….

Managed to get on to an earlier train than planned the next day, mostly a good drive but a stop at the M6 Toll Service station reminded me of what I hadn’t missed, well that & the 4 sets of roadworks on the A5. By 3:00ish I was back at the Café in my Angels arms, time un-like my running had flown.

In all I had run 107 miles in 7 days & enjoyed the relaxing company of Iain, Andy, Ian & Dev, thank you all.

Of course the runners among you will know that increasing mileage from 10 miles in 3 weeks to over a hundred in one week is not quite what the text books & experts recommend but rules are there to be broken aren’t they? & I do have a history of occasionally being stupid, however having just read Dean Karnazes excellent latest book ‘A Runners High’ (on top of Damian Hall’s & Lowri Morgan’s recent books) I am clearly far from being alone.

Since then I ran four days back to back from Thursday to Sunday including a 10K at sub 3:20 marathon pace & a 2 minute pb for an 8K route from the Café. Am I on course for sub 3:20 on Sunday, probably not but if you don’t try you don’t get & I have belated tried a bit at least.

As ever thank you Angel for taking a wise decision for me, or was it for you??xxx

Paul’s Blog – An Alpine Sojourn for London – Part 2

Sunday dawned bright & warm, the Cyclists breakfasted on Iain’s porridge, to say that I dislike porridge at the best of times is an understatement so you can only guess at my reluctance to taste Iain’s ‘version’, I stuck to two croissants & raided some of Andy’s pear juice. Ian & Dev began their roles of coffee & tea makers adding these to their previous evening roles of Pot Washers in chief (& no I didn’t offer any advice).

Our weekly routine was now set, daily ‘The Cyclists’ would beast themselves on Iain’s pre-planned routes taking in many classic Tour de France climbs, anyone who remotely knows Iain will understand that a week of hell lay ahead for his friends Ian & Dev, at least Andy knows the ‘game’ an old cyclist plays. Meanwhile I would go for a long run because as we all know the slightly hilly Alps are very similar to the Streets of London. We would then rendezvous at the Chalet mid/late afternoon albeit me always arriving earlier than them, a chance to re-fuel & read in peace on the terrace. Sorry if I’m making you envious but I am trying to.

My first run saw me head back down to the valley, the Chalet was at 4,700′, the valley at 2,350′ so this was a long descent of 9.7K on tarmac (good for London you know). 5K in my legs began to feel it, by the bottom they were trashed but with map in hand there was no plan B simply carry on as planned. This was a further 2K descent (thankfully more gradual) before a 3K gradual ascent up to Mascot la Plagne. Next up was a long steep tarmac ascent on numerous switch-backs but all taken at a stiff walk rather than run. Finally I reached my traverse single track path that would leave the tarmac behind & lead me back to the Chalet. Before doing so I stopped for an energy bar & soon heard the footsteps of another runner, clearly a local lady in her 60’s who had descended from above my route & proceeded along my pathway home after we had exchanged ‘Bonjours’. I admit it, what else could I do, I swallowed the last of the bar, set off in pursuit & soon passed her not knowing whether local custom called for another ‘Bonjour Madam’. Of course I also ran the next incline just in case I was still within her sight, I’m a runner for Christ’s sake.

The path led me to a road immediately above the Chalet, I stopped my watch, 21K, under 3 hours, not enough so I consulted my map (no not my phone Iain), now there was a plan B.

I followed the road on up mostly walking but an occasional trot here & there to reach Les Bois at 5,900′, took a break & a Gel before facing the inevitable, a 3K tarmac descent back to the start of the single track to complete this extra loop. It became as painful as I’d feared with the insides of my thighs screaming at me ’10 miles in 3 weeks & now you give us this shit’, ‘sorry guys but do you really want to be seen in running shorts walking down hill?’. It was a long argument but we eventually reached the single track where with no local to fear I walked the incline bit.

Back at the chalet I had run/walked over 33K (nearly 21 miles) & climbed4,000′ not a bad 35,000 steps to begin with, time to eat, shower & read before the Cyclists returned & Dev congratulated himself for surviving Day 1 with Iain by jumping in the hot tub.

Monday with another good forecast (sunny & mid-twenties) I found a new steep single track to Les Bois & continued up on a glorious Alpine path to the summit of Mont St-Jacques at 2,407 metres (just under 7,900′) where great views led to me clicking away at the views with my phone (yes for the first time, my two camera’s remained packed in my luggage the whole week, what am I becoming?). Next up a traverse to the slightly lower summit of Tete des Arpettes, more clicks before an initially tricky descent to Lac du Carroley, having only passed two fit walkers so far it became crowded here as I had a lone fisherman for company. A shortcut descent was then halted by a herd of cows so I stopped, clicked, took on an energy bar before deciding to skirt to the cows right. They had my number & moved to head me off, we shuffled, I chickened & turned round to find my original path which was a feint trod at best. With paper map in hand I navigated (remember I can do this) my way around & down safely to finally hit an un-tarmac road which descended 2K to more ‘London in mind’ tarmac descending. Soon I was back at the Chalet after some three & a half hours of movement, almost 19K (it’d be my shortest ‘run’ of the week) with another 4,000′ of ascent.

This time Dev was too tired to jump into the tub so Iain, Andy & Ian took their turn. We ate out at a fabulous little restaurant in the valley with a very professional young waitress & vowed to return later in the week.

Tuesday, time for a change, I drove down to the valley & headed West to Aime-la-Plagne where I parked up with a plan of running back up the valley floor on a cycle track to Bourg St-Martin & then turn around & run back to the car, this would be more like London. However after 3K or so the Cycle path was closed for construction work, stop the watch, what now? ‘Do the Maths, 4 reps of this will give you more than a Half Marathon, turn it into a speed session, this is exactly what’s good for you!’ I ran back to Aime-la-Plagne at sub 5 minutes a K, turned around & kept up the pace. Admittedly my last rep tailed off a bit but it was hot, my food & water had remained in the car & I had done more than a bit in the previous couple of days. 2 Hours & 4 Minutes for 25.61K that’s sub 3 Hours 25 Minutes Marathon pace not a bad effort perhaps sub 3:20 for London could be on. Well that would still be 20 minutes slower than my 2020 plan but back then I was racing, Park running & doing track sessions & by my level ‘flying’.

Back at the car my Nike Vaporfly’s were stained with blood from my left foot toenail issues & my legs you guessed it were trashed. However as was the case in my charity running week back in June this was a mid-week low point, despite more of the same they would improve from here-on (well mostly) & by the end of the week the pains were gone.

Back at the Chalet the Cyclists would join me, Dev’s humor at his fate lit up the evening, thank god I’m doing this to myself rather than be part of Iain’s gang!

Wednesday, today I really beat myself up. I drove down to the valley, parked at Landry & ran the section of cycle track that I couldn’t get to yesterday, again London in mind, an up & down the valley floor alongside the pleasant aqua blue l’lsere river. A little over 15K later I was back at the car where I stopped to take on fuel that I was this time carrying. Then rather than get in the car I did the smart thing & set off to run that 9.7K hill back up to the chalet. Now back in Snowdonia we have plenty of forest tracks many of which are a bit steeper than the 6% average of this hill but rarely can I find one more than 2K long, you can see where this is heading on already tired legs. It was brutal (the Cyclists faced this every day bar one), the switch-backs were massive (the first one almost 2K on it’s own), 10 of them before four ‘minor’ ones at the top. It was grit your teeth, head down, bloody determination & absolutely f…… awful! A delivery driver passed me going up & came back down half an hour later failing to swerve & put me out of my misery. Unusually me I managed my effort via the heartbeat tool on my Garmin rather than running pace trying to keep my heart rate between 158 & 164 however on the 10th switchback it did balloon towards 180 with no apparent increase in effort so either I was heading for imminent death or my Garmin was having a wobble bigger tan my own. The climb took me 1 Hour 15 Minutes, never abated & took my total run to 2 Hours 47 Minutes but I had stuck at it & never stopped, some achievement at some cost.

Back at the chalet the Cyclists arrived soon after, I had only managed Pear juice & fizzy water, even Iain looked a bit concerned, I headed for the shower before facing the others. Back in the Kitchen Andy & I prepped a late lunch for us all, Cheese, Meats, Bread etc. At the table I slowly forced small morsels down whilst Andy looked on with motherly concern. Later we went shopping for more supplies for England & this could have been followed by a very poor pizza stop but I can’t be sure I’ve linked the nightmare hill to this nightmare dish correctly.

Thursday, again drive back to the Cycle track at Landry but this time no sting in the tail. Dev would have a day-off from the Iain regime & simply cycle up & down ‘our’ hill as well as follow my route which would take me up to & through the streets of Bourg St-Martin. He saw me in Bourg but I didn’t see him. After yesterday I kept the pace down but it felt tough nonetheless but it kept the miles ticking over, another Half Marathon in the bag.

That evening Andy & I resumed our roles in the Kitchen cooking a seafood paella, this was proper food for gods, runners & even cyclists & just what our bodies needed.

Friday, more ‘London’ cycle paths but convoluting a bit of new road & cycle path just to give a bit of variety. Picked up the pace a bit but still nothing to write home about so apologies for writing about it, still another Half Marathon under my belt. The days main events were more trying & to cover them correctly I feel (sorry for this) I’ll need a part 3.

Paul’s Blog – An Alpine Sojourn for London -Part 1

The London in question is this coming weekend’s delayed 40th London Marathon 2020, well lets forget that a few ‘slightly’ faster runners were allowed to run it last Autumn, this is the 40th race for the ‘also rans’! It would be my First.

I began my specific prep in early August putting in a few ‘fast’ tarmac runs between a mixture of the Crimea, Betws, Swallow Falls & the Café before the wheels fell off my training as the Cafe’s daily demands took priority. A total of 10 miles in 3 weeks soon followed, not good at all, things needed to change but would the Café allow it? Dorina said yes so I took up a long standing invite by Iain & Andy to join them & their friends for a week in a luxurious chalet in Les Coches in the French Rhone Alps. After a pleasant Sunday evening with Iain & Andy we awoke on Monday morning where Iain duly became my new IT Deputy & proceeded to do all the Covid paraphernalia on-line before (back at home) I booked the Eurotunnel & Ashford hotel, departure date was just 4 days away on Friday 10th September.

I packed on Thursday & then headed off to the Café for a late afternoon shift & to spend the night there with Dorina to cross the i’s & dot the t’s. Friday itself was another busy day so I delayed my departure for a final shift on the pots before saying goodbye to Angel at 4:35 pm. The initial journey along the A5 was very slow & laborious but thankfully things picked up past Oswestry & I arrived at the Ashford Travelodge for my overnight stop a little after 10:00 pm. Sleep I did not (well I did for 2 to 3 hours but not great with a 9 hour journey ahead of me) before the dual alarms of my watch & new phone ‘woke’ me at 3:45 to spur me onto my Eurotunnel train which would depart at 5:52. The banked on caffeinated coffee at the terminal failed to materialize as all outlets were closed, quite simply NOT GOOD ENOUGTH!! Otherwise things went O.K. & my Covid docs were accepted (thanks Iain), I was in France by 7:25 their time. Iain & Andy (together with their friends Ian & Dev) had set off a day earlier & had spent their second night just south of Troyes (pronounced Trois) some 200 or so miles ahead of me we planned to rendezvous at the chalet late afternoon all going well, which indeed it did. Despite me failing to drink (busy service station….) until I too was South of Troyes I managed to keep the feared yawns at bay (well mostly) & was alive enough to see the flash of a camera with no fear as I’d set my cruise control on the speed limit or as close to it to make no difference safe in the knowledge that it had flashed at either the Belgian or French cars that were going past me at the time.

The final couple of hours were a bit of a concern with my Sat Nav taking me on what logically (to me at least) seemed to be a circuitous route (a later map consultation proved this idiots concern to be unjustified) before its soothing female voice went stum, can you believe that? Road works & diversions then meant the driver had to self navigate & thankfully his ability at this is one thing that hasn’t waned with age although it was a bit touch & go at one point. At shortly after 5:00 pm I arrived at the Chalet just minutes after Iain & Andy’s gang (Andy by the way is female & also known as Iain’s better half, well not hard to be fair) whom were being shown around by the owner, a very pleasant John (also a client of Iain & Andy’s ‘North Wales Spine Clinic’). John had given us a sizeable discount of approximately 70% per head, the 5 of us in a Chalet that could easily sleep 14 on proper beds were about to be spoiled.

John advised that the Supermarket in nearby Bourg St. Martin would close at 7:00 pm sharp & not be open on Sunday so we quickly piled into Iain’s VW van to provision up for the night & day ahead. At the supermarket we re-split into our journey teams, my job was to seek all the ingredients for an evening meal of Pasta & Tuna (more ingredients than you may think but surprisingly I found them all). Their job (here I’ll start to refer to them as ‘the Cyclists’) was to procure basics like water, cheese, cured meats, eggs & fruit etc. etc. The cyclists did this with relish allowing us to take a reasonable quantity back to the UK more than a week later.

Soon we were relaxing in the supermarket’s Café feeling rather smug although Andy had had to help me display my Double jab Passport on my new phone (which is another story altogether) for the waitress to photograph, a French stipulation if you want to lead a normal life. I had also managed to procure a couple of paper maps of our surroundings from an adjacent Outdoor store in an attempt to convince Iain ‘whatever you do don’t think I’m going to let you update your ‘boy’ map app onto my phone, ‘what’s app’ I’ll grant you but your IT role stops just there!

Back at the ranch we un-packed before Andy & I took up our other persona’s her sous-chef to my Head Chef (later in the week we would reverse these roles for breakfast). Coming to terms with a new Kitchen, it’s tools & only two very blunt knives is never easy but although I say it myself I was just a tad proud with the Pasta & Tuna we dished up to the boys whom I guess had been playing with each other on their phones as all ‘grown’ men do. Wine was on the menu too as indeed it would be all week.

Apologies I’m going on but in my defense I haven’t blogged for a while, Covid has seen my Karokoram trip postponed twice & mine & Judy’s consolation prize of a week with Tim in The Alps in early August had been cancelled due to the at the time ’10 Day return Quarantine’ requirement. Ironically that requirement was later done away with & Judy & I could have stuck to trip, I seem to remember a few expletive’s accompanied that bit of crap!!

So I’ll leave it there for now other than to state the whole point of my signing up for the trip was to switch my mind off, switch my running legs on & put some prep in for he London Marathon where I’m also hoping to raise £2,500 for Tim Watson’s charity which raises money for the North Wales Cancer Fund.

The second & final part will follow shortly.

Paul’s Blog – The Welsh 1,000 Metre Peaks Race

This is one runners story of the lead in to, race day itself & the aftermath/recovery. Obviously all the other runners will have their own version of their own memories & experiences, what follows is simply my own mix of emotions, trials, tribulation & reflections 3 days on from race day.

At last after more than a year’s wait the 50th Welsh 1,000 Metre Peaks Race approached as I went for probably my penultimate training run last Tuesday  (23rd July). The training run didn’t go entirely to plan as I lazily missed an obvious turn. This led me both to bump into our Gardiner & former postman, Rhian & Roger respectively, as well as take on a seriously steep hill (part of the Volcano circuit in the CyB for those in the know). Net result a very positive 11 miler ‘I’m recovered from the Charity runs & my engine feels great due to them!’

This was further tested at a very busy Cafe over the next three days (leading me to once again miss the CyB’s Thursday’s training session, apologies Matt just so difficult to get to at the moment) as Core exercises (aka Pots) came to the fore. Add to this that the Cafe also hosted a pre-race evening Pasta meal for the race Marshalls, thanks to Judith Holt for helping us organise this, on the Friday evening my race lead-in was as un-relaxing as it all too often seems to be. Still got home at 9:00 pm for a quick read & a glass or two of sleeping tablets & I was raring to go the morning of the race.

At the Cafe before 7:00 am Dorina served my ‘super’ breakfast of 3 Poached Eggs on two pieces of toast smothered with 139 Baked Beans. The forecast had been gaining heat as the days had gone by & I think it fair to say that ‘heat & hydration’ were the topic of conversation at the start line. I had actually reached the start line with the help of a lift from Rebecca Roberts who would also support me with a military styled re-fuel plan at Ogwen & possibly a fag packet add on plan at PyP.

Concerned exchanges of conversation with the likes of Paul Jones & Russel Owen were soon displaced by last minute runs to the ablution facilities as pre-start nerves exploded to new levels but at 9:22 it was time to man up, face reality & make my way to the start line. I was now literally on my own (staggered start) & had both failed to clarify ‘which way do I go’ & to tune my watch satellite navigation facility (not for navigation purposes simply for race stats to be recorded). Thankfully my sense of direction is better than many of my other senses (the common one being notoriously awry at times) & I relaxed into the knowledge of knowing where I was going whilst wondering why? Well ‘why’ is a no-brainer with hindsight, this is an iconic race, I have raced in either the long mountaineering class or long fell race in 8 out of it’s last 9 running’s (2018 I missed it having signed up for a very enjoyable Stockholm marathon (also in sweltering heat)) & had pb’d in all 8 to boot, it also being the 50th anniversary of the race quite simply ‘why’ would I be anywhere else. For those of you knew to the race route it basically starts near the North Wales coast crosses the vast Carneddau taking in Wales’ 3rd & 4th highest mountains then drops into the Ogwen Valley before climbing the Glyderrau to knock off Wales’ 5th highest mounatin before dropping down to Pen y Pass. The finale sees the pour victims remaining climb Snowdon’s PyG track (glorious in normal circumstances, a tad trying in these) before taking a ‘wrong’ turn to bag Wales’ 2nd highest peak where you then turn around to make your way over to the finish, Snowdon’s main summit, Yr Wyddfa.

The sweat made a very early appearance & was soon added to as I traversed across the slippery stream crossing above Aber Falls. As ever this scared the s… out of me, raised my heartbeat some 20 notches or so & no doubt had the two guys behind me whom I’d had earlier passed thinking ‘oh we’ve got one of ‘those’ in the field have we!

The stream crossing soon after this also left quite a few style marks in the judges bags as did the steep climb up onto the flanks of the Bera’s in what can only now be called ‘The Hodges’ line’. Thankfully as the slope eased so did my pounding heart & thinks began to improve despite the fluid sapping heat continuing to build.

With the first check point behind me I took a good line out of the rocks onto the more runnable traverse towards Foel Grach & beyond. It was here that a younger runner first came into my peruviol vision, he initially had followed my line from the check point before taking a lower & better one to my right whilst others took a higher & worse one to my left. Despite losing ground to him & another O.60’s guy I was able to catch them on the next climb & as we were all caught by two faster guys various conversations sprung up, ‘how many times have you done it’ the fast guys asked looking for someone to follow, I incorrectly retorted 9 (couldn’t even get that right) so they ran on trusting their own luck. By now the younger guy had introduced himself to me as Nick & I had correctly introduced myself to him as Paul although I think he’d already known that because he’d mentioned the charity runs. Nick & I would spend the rest of the Carneddau & Glyderrau sections swapping places in what can only be described as a very courteous my turn now type of thing. We had equally judged that we were on for nothing fast, circa 6 hours was our mis-placed thinking. It was early on in Nick & mine’s partnership that a chorus of singing sprang up from two or three other runners around us, we were exerting ourselves uphill in blistering heat (admittedly with fabulous views, an earlier view to our Snowdon destiny was simply staggering in it’s vastness & clarity) & yet people were singing ‘this could only happen in fell running I exclaimed’, my new friend agreed without hesitation.

The descent into Ogwen was the running into the furnace prediction I’d warned Nick it would be (old timer knowledge of one previous hot year albeit several degrees cooler than this one), cramps were already calling behind my right knee as I sucked the last of the electrolyte from my bottle ‘don’t leave any fluid in them when you swap them with Rebecca’s re-fuels’ was my mantra.

At last I reached Rebecca at Oggie base in a very poor time of 2 hours 58 minutes, I felt absolutely wasted, looked worse & as the long re-fuel continued I muttered a very loud WHY, Rebecca’s look said nothing other than WHY? At this re-fuel with Rebecca apologising that she wouldn’t be able to meet me at PyP (well I had been pushing my luck) I took on more than I planned as a result of this news. I drank 0.75 litres of water, ate a banana & half a bag of salted crisps then replaced my two half litre bottles (one with electrolyte & one with water) & stashed one extra energy bar, an extra gel, a bag of salted crisps into my bag & a half litre of full fat coke which would be my survival bottle to get me back down Snowdon to the streams at least. A final long swig on another bottle of coke before I passed it back to Rebecca was my final ‘do this re-fuel properly Paul’ act before I thanked & said my farewell to Rebecca, she had paid an important blinder but at the time I think neither of us had the confidence of knowing it.

Eric cheered me on as I hit the A.5, a slog of a run through 30 degree heat run on the road into on-coming traffic because of cars double parking on the entire straight, oh the joys of ‘fell’ running. Thankfully I avoided breaking into a walk until the relief of the kissing gate, where I could have kissed the two marshall’s (well they were of the female kind), led me to the relief of more mountainous & walking terrain.

The long climb up to & over the Gribin ridge went as well as it could, I soon passed the 0.60 who had left me & Nick for dead on the earlier traverse to Carnedd Dafydd & several others (mostly in the mountaineer’s class) & even got Nick back into my sights. We hit the ridge more or less together with me leading the early stages before Nick took over higher up. Just before the cricket pitch I caught & passed Alwyn Oliver, this sprightly 76 year old was in truth not sounding too sprightly, well who was, & would later make a very good call to bail out early on the PyG, experience, experience! Crossing the flat cricket pitch I walked (yes I admit it) as Joel Gomas who two weeks earlier had won the Siabod race trotted past me in style. High on the Gribin I took an easier & more right line than normal (avoiding a trickier more exposed line) but Nick took an even better one & got away from me reaching Glyder Fawr our third summit a good minute or so ahead of me. Here I thanked the Marshall’s & a Cafe regular (good runner) cheered me on (sorry should know your name), he & I exchanged laughs at my predicament. I hobbled over to the descent with thoughts of ‘how am I not going to cramp on this’, experience, experience, I soon cramped.

Despite this a clear trail soon branched to the left of my usual line, I took it, in for a penny, in for a pound (of cramps), Nick was sometimes in sight & amazingly coming back to me, no doubt he was having some ‘issues’ too. Nearing PyP three faster guys came pass before making an unusual B line for the road, they might be right but there was no way I was descending an inch more than I had to. I then passed a lady who with Nick would now follow me into PyP where several Marshalls, Geoff Fielding & Mike Blake among others proffered encouragement & water. With Covid restrictions I don’t think I was meant to actually handle a water jug but this felt like life or death so I broke the Covid code, grabbed one & filled & drank 3 cups before then re-filling both half litre bottles in my bag. One final cup & then an exchanged glance to ‘Nick’ (someone else who had his eyes on me, clearly the sun was affecting me) before I headed off across the road with Geoff stopping me committing suicide in the stream of cars coming up the pass. Safely across ‘Nick’ was soon on my heels but had gone quiet. He tracked me for a while before coming pass me without saying a word, were we really now just fighting for a place?

I repassed this version of ‘Nick’ somewhere around the double styles (either a pee or a water break I guess) only to be re-taken easily soon afterwards. I then used ‘Nick’ for all he was worth to take my mind off the brutal reality of the climb. I would close him down on the steeper bits & he would waltz away on the flatter bits. Slowly we chipped away at the climb but even by the zigzags, which usually give me a feeling of I’m almost there, failed to lift my spirits the summit & it’s hordes looked far too far away & of course the annoying right at the finger stone would as ever be taking me farther away from them.

‘Nick’ finally left me for dead from here on but at least I kept moving forward without a stop. On the climb to Garnedd Ugain I passed the ever cheerful Jenny Hemmings (later confirmed as the o.50 female winner) who was trying to help a guy in the Mountaineering class who was sprawled on the floor with severe cramp as well as Russel Owen descending the other way. Russel called out ‘passed you here two years ago’, I had to think about it but he was absolutely right, clearly an O.60 less fuddled than a 55 year old!

The 4th summit finally came & went, a jog back down to the finger stone & the final trudge began. After 6 Hours 38 Minutes & 18 Seconds, some 1 Hour & 10 Minutes slower than my pb of two years ago, my dibber was taken off me & dibbed by the ‘ruthless’ Marshall (did I really look like a dibber thief?) & my race was run, what a glorious relief.

I sat down, tried to lie down (not a good option), sat back up & contemplated how I was going to get back down. The race had been a disaster from start to finish, I’d been thinking that more or less throughout but at least I had not given up, the thought of Rebecca’s support, having never previously DNF (Did Not Finish) in any race & the 50th anniversary meddle together with just a bit of stubbornness had somehow given me an ending with a little pride.

It was then that things began to get gradually better but it would take nearly 48 hours to get things fully into perspective. I had spent much of the race thinking ‘is it a lack of recovery from the Marathons 3 weeks ago, is it the heat or is it a combination of both’. I should have also been considering ‘is it a lack of race fitness having not raced for 17 months’ but in truth this only came into my thinking the next day. However then came Andrea Rowlands into my world of self-devastation & my eyes began to open.

I had actually over-taken Andrea on the PyG without at the time realising it, she’d just looked like a fit woman suffering a bit (here I should add that she beat my race time by over 45 minutes, staggered starts & all that). But when Andrea sat down next to me she said she was an hour & a half down on her pb, light bulb went on ‘so it’s not just me then’. We continued to chat whilst I fumbled for the salted crisps that were my cramp savers & coke (life saver) until Emlyn Roberts came over to join us. His watch gave him a falsely good time (one of those annoying features that some have of stopping the clock if you are not moving fast enough), however when he mentioned his start time (over an hour earlier than mine) I did the maths & realised I’d beaten him by a margin that was a very pleasant surprise. Of course there had been that earlier sign of passing Russel in the same place as my 2019 pb run (Russel having started a minute or two ahead of me so year to year comparisons were counting) but at that point I was still focusing on the labours ahead. However it would not be until I studded the full results on Monday morning that I actually got everything into perspective.

Finally I got back to my feet made my way over to ‘Nick’, odd, eye contact again but no recognition, so I turned away & began my slow & steady descent. Early on the zigzags my phone at last got a signal & I phoned Dorina to ask either her or Anne to come up to PyP (I couldn’t contemplate the extra 20 minute descent to Pen-y-Gwryd) to pick me up at 5:30 pm (in 70 minutes time). Normally I enjoy this descent but this time I had to take it easy sipping the coke now & again draining the last just before reaching the car park, I had managed the fluids as best I could so at least had that to be proud off. I reached PyP at 5:29, Anne did so at 5:30, the warden could see my race number & state, smiled & allowed, against current protocol, Anne to drive in & pick me up, thank you kind sir. Dorina had given Anne two full fat cans of coke as she now knows it’s my go to when in distress, they were ice cold & just what this patient had been hoping for.

Back at the Cafe there were smiles & exchanges with many of the Gorphwysfa’s club members (the club that has organised the race for over 40 years) as well as many runners. At the prize giving which was attended by two legends in the form of Joss Naylor (5 times race winner & probably most iconic fell runner of them all) & Colin Donnelly (12 times winner including one at the age of 53). Several friends had won their categories, including Russel winning the O.60, Maggie the O.50’s in the short race (despite being in her 70’s) & Martin Cliffe winning the Short Race in 2:02:21 (also being another O.50’s win to boot although of course he’s not allowed to win two prizes). The overall long race was won by Matthew Atkinson in a mind-blowingly quick 4:21:48 given the conditions. I also renewed my acquaintance with the real Nick Jones, a totally different animal to ‘Nick’. We exchanged route notes & times where it transpired that he had left PyP a little after me leading my battle with ‘Nick’ to get me to the finish 10 minutes ahead of Nick who if I recall correctly had tucked in behind but not been driven to pass Andrea.

The Recovery Story:-

Sunday – Large breakfast (by my standards), 4 solid hours on the pots followed by 3 more out of 4 in the afternoon before first Twiggy & Peter & then the Roberts family came to my rescue where Richard Roberts & I compared race notes & Rebecca issued the classically hurtful line of ‘I’m not trying to insult you Paul but Richard came into PyP only 5 minutes ahead of you so I knew he was having a bad one’ or words to that effect, how kind…… At 5:20 the cafe emptied, I walked into the Cafe Kitchen, looked at the vast haul of neglected & un-washed trays of pots, pans & did what I had to do. Back at home I watched the Cav. get blocked in the Tours final sprint, disappointment but is that what keeps us coming back for more?

Monday – A day of rest or so I thought, with quads still aching but feeling a bit more lively in myself. A few e-mails, then the race results pinged into my Inbox & my mental recovery (started by Andrea at the summit) became complete. I’d come 66th out of 140 finishers (or 171 starters), not great but not bad for such an iconic race & the quality of field it attracts. I was 12th out of 43 in the Male O.50’s again not great but not bad. However always being someone looking for a silver lining I dug deeper into the results & found it. At Ogwen where I had had very genuine thoughts of ‘how the hell am I going to drag myself over the Glyders & then up Snowdon in this heat & the state I’m already in’ at this point I was in 96th place at this very low (in all senses) point. The reality of the next 3 hours 40 minutes or so of pain is that one female runner overtook me (in real race times) & I had overtaken 31 runners in return moving 30 places up the field. I simply cannot put into words how good that realisation made me feel, having felt I had got almost everything wrong I had actually got quite a lot right.

I then put a call into the Cafe, Angel said ‘we are a bit busy’ I said ‘I’ll be up there by lunchtime’, moved some logs, drove to the Cafe, pushed Luca back into cooking duties & went on the ever multiplying pots for four & a half hours, as ever pride had come before a fall.

In particular I must thank Nick for his good company, our 6 hour ‘plans’ & many memorable moments including a few seconds of a cool breeze that I felt & let him know was coming his way on the GribIn before the heat returned. And of course Rebecca for her lift & that all important proper re-fuel at Ogwen.

Also thanks to Alison Pyatt for putting in an extra shift at the Cafe to help cover my absence, to Anne for the lift back & team Siabod for be happy & not angry at my absence & fatigued return.

Then there’s a big thanks to Harvey, Judith, Jean & their entire team, what a race, great organisation & a sad & fond farewell to you all from a race organising point of view although I’m sure many of you will be in the all important background in the years ahead.

Finally thank you to Dorina for putting up with my trials & tribulations, don’t think I warned you sufficiently about my fell running side over our first date back in November 2010 but there again in my defence my running was in the infancy of it’s first year, it & we have come a long way since then haven’t we!

PS. One final anecdote. Earlier in the week I’d had an e-mail exchange with Paul Jones that I was going to target Russel who’d beaten me by 5 minutes over 5 & a half hours in the 2019 race. This year he beat me by 6 minutes over 6 & a half hours, consistency of sorts, how had we ‘managed’ that?

 

ROFN – 7 Marathon’s + in 7 Days – Part 3, the end.

If you are still with by now I have to applaud you & hope you can get to the end.

Saturday 26th June: Again breakfast was at home cooked by Dorina & taken a little before 6:00am. Once at the Café we were soon joined by John & Marion, Twiggy & Peter (to set up Twiggy’s stall, which would be manned by Liz too). Next came my support runners, Rebecca Roberts who was hoping to stick with me on all 5 Up & Downs of Siabod as well as Tim Watson & Catherine all of whom had given great support over the years.

It was an overcast morning but yesterday’s rain had cleared & the forecast was for things to improve further. Despite ‘knowing’ it’s in the bag the thought of going up the same mountain five times in less than 10 hours is still a bit daunting, having ‘form’ at such things doesn’t simply make it feel easy & of course it was at the fag end of a long week. That said my thoughts were positive if a bit pensive despite the good company I had on leg 1.

We set off at 08:00am to good lucks & cheers ‘go & enjoy it I said to myself’ before we were immediately brought to a halt by traffic. The road safely crossed our slow & steady progress began. There was a 5th member to our merry band, Tim & Catherine’s loopy young collie, where does it get that from? From memory we reached the summit in 1:04 probably my slowest of the week but times did not matter at this stage of the day we needed a pace that suited Becca as much as me & to me that felt about right for both of us. The descent was negotiated safely, still no fall, only 4 more to negotiate.

With a little under 15 minutes turnaround I probably once again visited my inner sanctum & Becca probably thought ‘4 more of those’.

The second Up & Down was particularly well attended, again Tim, Catherine, Loopy, Becca & I headed off together whilst a couple whom Dorina had made me aware off had headed off just in front of us. We caught up with Rich & Jo Moore on the first climb & introduced ourselves to each other. Meanwhile Maggie & Alwyn were on hill attendance as were Andy & Alison Pyatt for photo shoots & Barry from yesterday would be seen making a fast attempt as we passed him going up as we began our descent. Earlier on our ascent Becca had told Catherine to go on as the pace was a bit too hot for her to handle. This I’m guessing is where Becca’s lonely day would really begin, of course our paths crossed numerous times as hers would have done with others too but the reality was she was pushing herself throughout the day to new limits I can only hope that like me reflecting on such achievements brings the rewards it deserves. Once again on our descent Gazelle Watson frequently leaped ahead for photo opps, I really wish I could run like that! Hitting the forest track Barry caught up with me & we ran the final descent together, I picked up my pace as best I could but not enough to allow Barry a sub 1:20 which he narrowly sacrificed on my behalf, says it all really. Leg two was completed 6 minutes faster than leg 1 but still slower than some of my mid-week efforts & slower than all of Sunday’s but hey it’s not about times is it?

Tim, Catherine & Loopy (sorry should recall the correct name) now made their exit to open their bar ‘Elimentary’ in Rhos, Becca & I would be on our own for Leg 3. During our recovery I was delighted that it coincided with some of the Moel Siabod Cycling Sportif riders arriving at the Café for their own pit-stop in the middle of their 100 mile bike ride, this included Ellie Salisbury who had also been on the hill on the previous Sunday supporting me. It was great to exchange mutual respect with these riders who collectively this year have raised over 15K for ROFN/CAN, to all 40 or so riders & Ian Draisey, the founder of MSS, seriously great work guys!

Becca & I set off together at 12:00 for the third time only to soon split & focus on our individual goals but I for one never felt alone. I’m not sure whether it was Fraser, who now also was on the Mountain supporting me or someone else, possibly Tim in one of his leaping ahead moments but two women on their own ascent had cheered me on as I’d descended the second time. I was next to see them when I reached the summit on leg 3 receive another very enthusiastic cheer. Other people too (as on Sunday) were beginning to realise their were weirdo’s on the mountain doing something odd & gave increasing looks of encouragement & sympathy. NM. Going up on Leg 4 I was to pass these two women for a third time, again came great cheery support, I later saw a donation on our Just Giving site from a Rhiana B whom I’m guessing was the louder of the two, if you are reading this Rhiana thank you both for your enthusiastic support & very generous donation.

I reached the Café in a time which was four & a half minutes faster than leg 2, things were going from O.K. to good & even the clag had now disappeared. My ‘faster’ time. also had the benefit of more recovery time & more Yoghurt.

Katie Wilby (with form from Sunday) joined Becca & I for the start of our leg 4 as did an un-expected young man called Ben De-Sykes who’d travelled a couple of hours just to show support, thank you Ben. With me slowly going it alone on the lower slopes as Ben & Katie chatted Ben soon picked it up to shadow me to the summit. I repaid the compliment by showing him my ‘perfect’ navigational line back across the summit plateau after also pointing out the fantastic form of Siabod’s Draer Dhu Ridge. Now my plateau line may not be a real ‘racer’s route but it is the safest way for anyone on either weary feet or in 20’ clag which the racer’s would have had at least one of in the Siabod fell race which took place a week later. I would joke to friends ‘why didn’t they recce it like me’, to which the obvious retort would be ‘because they’re not total idiots!’ Barry was again on the hill this time showing Jackie the ropes & I believe she clocked sub 1:40! Leg 4 was completed nearly a minute faster than Leg 3, satisfaction I’m speeding up still as the day goes on, I remember Twiggy in particular commenting on how well I was looking, I even think she meant it.

It had arrived the 5th & final Up & Down Siabod (15th of the week & a new personal record). I was in good company as Ben wanted number two, Barry number 4 (not bad for a late starter) & Becca on her 5th & final stage too. We set off together at 4:00pm the weather by now perfect, an early spurt by me to the forest Barrier had Barry feeling a little concerned for his lungs but despite slight thoughts of really pushing it I fell back into default mode & broke into a walk to ‘enjoy’ it for one last time. I was a bit quiet on this leg a mixture of focusing on the effort despite the tiredness & reflection of what I was achieving despite the many downs amongst the ups of the entire week, apologies Barry & Ben & thanks for giving me my mental space even though you were stuck to my tail on the way up like glue. The summit came in an hour once again, quick photo re-start watch & off back down. Once over the plateau Barry & Ben led on whilst I followed at my fastest pace since Sunday however when we got to the rockier lower paths I deliberate slowed my pace. I had been worried of taking a fall on this all week, such a fall could end my week there & then as well of course causing disfiguring injuries, my 15th time over this ground was not going to end in disaster. I think Barry & Ben were thinking ‘poor lad he’s shattered’ & slowed to shepherd me at a closer distance. Once down onto the forest track things changed, a sly glance at the watch, a days pb up for grabs, I had the relief of knowing I was safe, I was off like a Hare. I’m guessing Barry & Ben thought what the f… gotten into him & began the chase.

Now I know I wasn’t flying but I was moving faster than at any point all week, probably circa 4 minute per K or close to it. I attacked the final hill hard as if my life depended upon it & Barry was close enough to my tail to hear me shout ‘come on you bastard’ (to myself not him) to soon be followed by the three of us charging into the Cafe’s car park to cheering friends & on-lookers. I bent over put my hands on my knees, took a few deep recovery breaths & shook socially distance hands with Barry & Ben ‘thanks guys’, ‘thought you were going to drop’ us came their kind replies, what an end. I’d pb’d by over 3 minutes for the day & had beaten all but one of Sunday’s times.

It was then time to thank as many as I could for the support I’d received & then something my mind had fixated on during my final ascent, a mint magnum, whilst chatting to Becca, Katie & Eric. For someone who has & is going through so much, Becca to keep going for the best part of 10 hours (time on mountain over 8 hours) covering over 21 hilly miles that was some achievement in my book, well done Becca!

Things weren’t quite over though. For some days now I had calculated that if I got through the week my total mileage would be 197.4 miles, are you there yet? I had even discussed the possibility with Mike of using him to whip up the crowd ‘who’s going to dig deeper into their pockets if he’ll go back out to make it 200?’ but the crowd was now small (Wales v Denmark, who knows?) & I didn’t feel like waiting it was time to go now or not at all. I had even thought, sleep on it, go out early on Sunday & knock them off before the clock strikes 8:00am but I knew that would fail. So at just after 6:00 pm without the restrictions of a bag I rose to my feet & walked outside to little fanfare & began my jog around Capel on my own.

It was a beautiful evening, not a cloud in the sky, I encountered no one, I walked the first hill & the one behind Joe Brown’s, I didn’t care, it was simply a wonderful 5K in 37 & a bit minutes, it was one of the most special runs & experiences of my life. What a way to end.

PS. That final hill to ‘Jim’s bridge opposite the Cafe. Many people loath it & I understand as it can sap any remaining energy at the end of whatever run/race you’ve been doing but I love it. That week I ran it (& I mean ran) 21 times & loved it more each time I did so, I know it well, it signals the end is near, when I uttered ‘Bastard’ on the 20th ascent was I talking to it or myself, in truth it must have been both but that won’t come between us.

I’ll end as ever with those stats:-

1:45:09,  1:39:04,  1:34:37,  133:41,  1:30:19 clearly tiredness makes the legs go faster to get to the end. Total time 8:02:50 (21 minutes or so slower than Sunday but then I ran the first hill every time whereas this time I walked it).

Total mileage 200.5, height gain just over 45,500 feet, total time moving 43:04:35, total steps 195,000 give or take a few.

Thanks to all & everyone involved, they’ll be one shorter & final blog covering the full ROFN fund raising this year, as ever I couldn’t contemplate any of this without the love & support of an Angel aka Dorina xxx

PPS. That night after an Auction & Mike Lees quiz I was ‘catless’ & drank wine with a few friends whom shall remain nameless despite keeping me up but I do believe that at circa 12:00 am I was heard to say ‘sorry but it’s midnight, I need to go to bed’, for once I believe I was listened to. The following day I had a really hard morning on the pot washer & then bonked in the early afternoon where even several caffeinated cups of coffee (I’m usually only on Decaf) failed to make a recovery but we did manage to enjoy a final evening with Barry & Jackie down the Tynny. Monday I rested up in the morning before going for an ‘easy’ 10K run up to the Waterfalls, my legs were feeling good but my energy wasn’t so I curtailed it to 6.4K (very unusual that I do less than I plan to). A week later I led Dorina, Iain & Andy over that 20 mile traverse of Cadair feeling properly recovered, what a difference a year makes, dare I say older & wiser, probably not worth tempting fate on that one.

Please give to ROFN if you can either at the Café counter or on the link on our Facebook page to our Just Giving site.

PPPS. The cat is called Isabella, a Norwegian Forest Cat, she seems to understand that life is for relaxing.

 

ROFN – 7 Marathon’s + in 7 Days – Part 2

Long one this, apologies but need to do each day a justice.

I think I woke at the Café before 5:00 am with aching Quads (as feared) not allowing me to get back to sleep so I went downstairs & read at a window table. Prior to the run I’d read an excellent short book called ‘Broken’ which basically covers many of the really long distance UK running records which were broken last year. My idea was simply ‘if they could do that then I can do little old this’, I’m learning the power of mind over body or at least trying to. This particular reading session had moved onto Selwyn Wright’s also excellent book about his fell running years called ‘Just for Fun! Me and Fellrunning. It really does sum up what makes our sport so special if not occasionally a bit mad.

I digress, Dorina served me breakfast at 6:00 (you see the 2 hour before Armageddon pattern developing, a man of habits if not sense) & my mind began to battle my legs but with very little success. Despite all the reading the conclusion it reached was how can I possibly even run a few steps on these let alone run a 22 miler to Bethesda & back. Here again I had done my prep having a couple of Saturday’s before after a very busy & hard day on the pots I’d gone out early evening & recced the entire Bethesda run. During this recce Paul from Joe Brown’s had pulled alongside me on his Mountain bike (he was cycling home after a busy day also) & we had a pleasant chat in the glorious evening sun as he cycled at my pace for half a K or so. The conversation seemed to come to an end after I responded to Paul’s question ‘are you getting a lift back from Bethesda’ with a ‘no, I’m running back’. Clearly thinking ‘the guys an idiot, I’m not talking to him any longer’, Paul cycled on & left me to it.

John & Marion arrived to record things & offer encouragement to a bear with a sore head & very sore legs. At 8:00 am I was off (on my own) on Day 2, within a few hundred metres a lesson was learned, ‘you were being silly & pathetic Paul, you can not only run but the pain is nothing like you feared, now go ahead & enjoy yourself’. This is exactly what I did, I put my plan into place, ran slow & steady, walked the steeper hills on the return from Bethesda. Other parts of the plan were also executed with an un-like Paul sense of precision: Electrolyte soon after Ogwen cottage, first Gel at a walk on a short hill just before emerging on the A.5, pee stop & Electrolyte at gate before re-joining the back road (after the quarries), second Gel at a walk on ‘Buc’s’ hill (steepest of the route) & half an energy bar on the only ‘walk’ hill between the campsites & Capel. For the run I was carrying half a litre of Electrolyte & half a litre of water & managed them to near perfection to see me through it.

I reached the Café feeling tired but in far better overall shape than when I’d left, this was manageable, this was doable, tick one box at a time & don’t bloody well fall!

After an hour’s rest which probably included more Yoghurt (failed to mention my fuel of preference in previous blog) & other such stuff I was off on my own again (well not really because John had been popping up here & there earlier for some photo shots) for my 6th Up & Down Siabod. It was a slow one but I played it safe, no falls & legs preserved for the next 5 days.

Back at the Café Gaby & I reached an understanding, 30 grams of Pasta, two serving spoons of Bolognese were consumed easily enough, Dorina would need to fend for herself from the Kitchen at home whilst I stroked a cat, read & wined myself to sleep. Of note on the way home I called in at Bodhi in Betws for the first of 3 pre-arranged & donated massage sessions by Sam. I’d been reassured that because I would be doing long runs on subsequent days that she would not go as ‘deep’ as normal. Well Sam is either a good liar or my legs were trashed, quite why nobody queuing outside the stables (Covid striking again) decided to call the police in response to my howling god only knows? All that said in reality Sam, thanks being another person putting themselves out in my support.

Tuesday dawned early, Dorina cooked breakfast at home a little before six & we arrived at the Café a little before 7:00am. Today I had a support runner for the Bethesda bit in the familiar form of Richard Roberts. Think the weather was a bit misty & inclement in a quite pleasant way but brightened in the Nant Francon to become warm & sunny (a bit too much on the way back). I stuck to my re-fuelling regime & before I knew it we were back at the Café in a time a pleasingly 11 minutes faster than the day before. I had felt the increase in pace early on the run but was able to chat with Richard at will & so had just gone with the flow, this & the heat had got to me a bit on the long run back but I’m quibbling really, it was all going quite well. John & Andy Pyatt had recorded us at various points & Maggie Oliver had come out to support us on her bike at Bethesda (Maggie had also supported me at various points on the Sunday too & would repeat this again on the Saturday).

With more than an hour to rest & recuperate I had also the benefit of a pleasant surprise which my fogged mind of Sunday maybe should have already known, Richard wasn’t just doing Bethesda, he was doing Siabod with me too, this ‘new’ knowledge felt good.

Siabod was soon behind us more than 6 minutes faster than my alone effort of the day before & a minute faster than mine & Richard’s Sunday run, ‘this feels O.K. Paul’. My mind even came up with ‘you are halfway to getting to Saturday & if you get to Saturday it’ll be in the bag’.

Gaby & I came up with plan C, 50 grams pasta & 3 spoons of Bolognese, Dorina & I stayed at the Café with me having also endured another pummelling from the take no prisoners Sam, there was no cat but the consistency of the book & wine saw me sleeping at a decent time once again.

Wednesday, breakfast as usual, no John & Marion today, I set off alone at 8:00am cheered on by Dorina & Mike Lees who had arrived at the Café the day before. Aware there was still a long way to go I set a slightly slower pace wary of the slog of yesterday’s return. Things were going steadily well before I received an un-expected tonic as I began to approach the last two cottages in the Nant Francon, a van came the other way followed by a car. This sudden traffic jam was soon to turn into something more pleasant as from the drivers seat of the car came a wave & the familiar smiling face of Gethin Armstrong, what a pleasant surprise. Apparently Gethin had earlier phoned the Cafe to check with Dorina that I’d set off on schedule. I ran on, Gethin u-turned, passed me again, parked up & began to put on his bag etc. I returned the compliment by running on again knowing that he’d soon catch me up which he duly did as I Gelled up at my ‘usual’ hill. Despite this tonic of company & sticking to my routine my unusually well behaved stomach also now decided to put in an appearance seeing me stop at Idwal on the way back to use the well sited toilet block, relief was then rewarded with some more of Gethin’s orange segments, very refreshing. No matter how I pace this run the long way back from Bethesda does take it out on you (well me at least) & proved to be the most consistently tough battle of the week, I apologise for any sullenness I portrayed to both Richard & Gethin respectively.

We recorded a decent time smack in the middle of Monday’s & Tuesday’s time & again I had more than an hour before we headed out for Siabod number 8. This was done amazingly in a time just one second variant from yesterday’s & to make things even better it was on the right side of it too, that felt great. Gethin’s positive friendliness had been great company & an un-expected surprise that not only had he joined me in the Nant Francon but had stayed with me for Siabod as well as promising to do more come Friday.

Think Gaby & plan C were re-enacted before Dorina & I headed home for a cat, some wine & of all things football (feeling a tad too tired to read).

Thursday: Breakfast at home, Café before 7:00am, today Mike Lees would be my companion on his e-bike with him getting relief at the numerous gates which allowed me to run on ahead. Early on Mike asked me a series of questions about comparisons between this & last year runs, what do I think off as you trudge onwards etc. etc. I tried to be as insightful as possible but in truth how do you put into words all the mental & physical aspects that get you through another 4 hour run (in the case of 2021) or a 24 hour run (in the case of 2020). I suppose it’s a real mix of concentration on the terrain, fuelling, breaking down the run into smaller parts, the company, thoughts of where I have been, where am I going, why am I & who am I doing it for, the support I’m receiving, the memories & anecdotes. In truth the list goes on & on & reflecting on it all gives pleasure & pride in the whole experience.

Mike & I were cheered on by Eric Roberts as we emerged onto the A.5, Mike justly decided he’d like some alternative company for a bit so chatted to Eric as I continued on before we were re-united just before Bethesda. In the quarries the ire chills of cold air that seep out of the slate heaps gave another talking point before Mike’s e-bike legs left me to walk those backward hills once again, surprisingly I felt no envy. We’d set a ‘blistering’ pb for the week so far some minute & a half faster than my Tuesday time with Richard, this is going well!

Of course Mike couldn’t accompany me up Siabod but I had Dorina to come with me on her day-off! Now Dorina despite not getting as much time on the mountains as I do was born a mountain goat in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. Raised in a remote village at over 1,000 metres (yes that would be higher than Snowdon) with surrounding peaks rising to 2,500 metres her upbringing was moving around hills to find food to live & not just for fun. This led to my inevitable call to her early on ‘slow down Dorina, you are going too fast’ (of course I should have added ‘for me’ but strangely I didn’t). We thereafter climbed at my pace giving Dorina a more relaxed outing for the first time since lock-up No. 2. Despite this I set a weekday pb for the afternoon run a still pleasingly consistent 38 seconds lower than yesterday’s. Two pb’s in a day, confidence sky high, I should have known better, pride as ever before a fall (not a literal fall thankfully). Dorina was beaming from ear to ear despite knowing she still had to drive home, do a changeover on our Air B & B apartment & then drive back to the Café for a more relaxing evening with friends whilst treating my feet to a footbath massage with Epsom Salts, all in a girls day-off.

Our friends Jackie & Barry Edwards had by now arrived at the Café & would be overnighting in their van in our car park for a few nights, we had met them on the Everest Marathon expedition where Barry had the audacity to beat me & set the record in the Over 60’s category, despite this I like him immensely & he planned to support me at some point over the next couple of days.

Think with the Bolognese now running low Plan D came into play, there’s not enough for two servings, I’m feeling good, lets go for 70 grams pasta & all the Bolognese even though there’s no back up Chilli for tomorrow (unusually Gaby’s cupboard was bare).

Once again I had a session in Betws with Sam, amazingly I whimpered less than usual, another pleasant surprise.

We had a very chilled out evening with Jackie & Barry & Mike but no cat. Mike who is nowadays that unusual animal aka as a tea-totalling Marxist (not quite as bad as it sounds) later reported that the conversation turned increasingly  hilarious as the night went on & the wine continued to flow.

Friday, I awoke with a hangover, had breakfast as usual at 6:00 whilst Mike & I dissected the evenings hilarity. With a full support crew to see us off I was once again joined by Gethin as we headed out into cool refreshing drizzle, I was only in a short sleeve top. In truth my over-confidence of the evening before was now replaced with the reality of another 22 mile run to Bethesda & back. Gethin though was as up-beat as ever & we soon reached the Nant Francon where we caught up with Alwyn Oliver who had given himself a bit of a head start on us. This is fair enough for a very spritely 76 year old who had already given substantial support earlier in the week. By now two sets of conditions were rapidly going down hill, the weather (wind & rain picking up) & my stomach (rumblings picking up), would I make it back to the relief of the Idwal toilet block? I had a contingency hope, if Eric is there cheering us on again I can ask to use his toilet (his house only being a 50 metre detour off route). Contingency hope became contingency reality, I could ‘relax’ once again. Upon leaving Eric’s I had the foresight to put on my windproof layer thinking I might get cold after the stop, preventive action & all that. It was a good decision that didn’t work! Returning through the Nant Francon had been difficult all week but despite the extra layer the wind & rain drove into my skin I soon became cold, tired & very forlorn. Fortunately I had Gethin beside me deploying a fine blend of saying nothing & then just a little as well as the occasional segment of Orange. Once alongside Ogwen Lake he felt confident enough to utter a line that had he done so earlier I would have thrown it back in his face, it was along the lines of ‘you should be feeling great, you are almost there’, I think I managed a half smiled acknowledgement of his sentiment. In truth the worse of the morning was behind me, the Ogwen valley was noticeably warmer than the Nant Francon had been. Despite failing to have put an energy bar in the bag for that final walked climb my adrenalin was beginning to burn properly again. By the time we caught up with Alwyn (he had missed out part of the Bethesda/Quarry loop but still clocked up 19 miles) for the final run-in I felt really strong hit the pedal hard (I realised despite it all that a pb was possible) & at last made Gethin work a bit to reel me back in, it was a great end to an at times horrible morning, the mind, the mind, it must be a matter of the mind! I had pb’d in over a minute faster than the day before, Gethin and I exchanged very knowing winks at the end, the understanding was a magical experience in itself.

Barry would join me for the afternoon Siabod thing we would set off at 1:00pm. Not long before this deadline the heavens really opened up (thundery showers were forecasted), I thought about delaying our start but in truth the thought of putting it off & sitting around thinking about it soon cancelled out any stupidity. Barry & I posed for the usual pre-start photo shoot in poring rain whilst our support entourage huddled under the side canopy tittering away at the whole ‘joke’, we left them to it, this was a mountain afternoon for ‘men of a certain age’. The weather didn’t let up but I was focused, knew what completion would mean for my overall goal & just got stuck into it. Within an hour we were at the summit, not hanging around we headed back down. The descent (which had been perfectly dry all week) was now very wet & slippery, fearing a fall I was running with the brakes firmly on leading to very painful quads by the end. Once on the forest track my feet & ankles became the issue (a worsening of the trend that had started on Wednesday’s descent & always at this change of terrain), despite this knowing I was safe I picked things up to a more lively pace but still recorded my second slowest time of the week some 5 minutes down on the previous 3 days. Who cared my weekdays were over, I had avoided a fall, just the final day to go, only my feet, my ankles or a fall can stop me now.

Dorina ‘treated’ my feet & ankles to a cold bucket whilst everyone looked on in glee as she enthusiastically added the ice ‘THAT’S enough ANGEL’ & Gaby gave me plan E which was a portion of a fresh batch of her Chilli with rice, noted & appreciated. We went home to a cat, think it was football, no it was wine & then sleep.

I’ll draw a line at that, a 5 day week of runs to be book ended & signed off the next day.

Oh very well you runners lets get to the stats:-

Monday – 3:52:36 & 1:41:21, total 5:33:57

Tuesday – 3:41:28 & 1:34:50, total 5:16:18

Wednesday – 3:46:08 & 1:34:49, total 5:20:57

Thursday – 3:39:50 & 1:34:11. total 5:14:11

Friday – 3:38:23 & 1:39:24, total 5:17:47

 

ROFN – 7 Marathon’s + in 7 Days

These are my memories of what my mind & body went through in the last full week of June 2021. I will try my best to acknowledge & thank all those who were part of my journey & apologise to anyone I fail to mention (there were quite a few of you to remember).

The lead in to the runs became increasingly stressful the closer they came. I had devised a plan that I’d hoped would avoid the worst of my horrors both during & in the months after my 2020 charity run, underprepared for 100 miles in a day, those falls & subsequent months of injuries & pain. Of course there had been some incredible highs from it too but 2021 needed to be ‘easier’ on a now 55 year old! The plan was to still do something worthy of donations for ROFN, to create a journey that people could both follow & take part in, a journey that hopefully would create momentum as the week progressed, lets face it I was doing it to raise money for the Napalese people not for fun. So before I prattle on any further I must thank all those who have donated to date, the running total to date sits at £3,209 which I believe is the highest total for my ‘running’ part of all our ROFN Days, a massive thanks to you all.

My plan was simply: Sunday 20th & Saturday 26th to go Up & Down Siabod 5 times each day (28.5 miles) with the 5 days in between consisting of a 22 Mile run to Bethesda & back followed by once Up & Down Siabod daily (28 Miles). This would give a better chance of support runners at the weekend as well as more customers seeing me come back & forth more weary each time & hopefully lead to some pocket digging whilst avoiding a repetitive drudgery throughout the entire week (he thought).

In the lead-in month I’d run half a dozen ‘long’ runs (13 to 22 miles) including a wonderful 20 mile traverse circuit of Cadair Idris. I’d also helped support Emlyn Owen on a leg of his excellent Paddy. This preparation seemed more fitting to my goal but only time would tell. My main concern was how would my quads feel on the morning of Day 2 after 5 descents of a mountain, would it be over before it had barely begun?

Dorina & I agreed not to sleep over at the Café the night before deciding on a cat friendly strategy of one night at home, next night at the Café  & so on.

Arriving at the Café a little before 6:00 am allowed for a hearty breakfast of 3 Poached Eggs, 2 Slices of Toast & a large portion of Baked Beans, this would be my staple for the week ahead. Over the next 2 hours we would be joined as ever by John & Marion (camera & facebook story support crew) as well as my first support running crew, Paul Jones, Peter Durkin, Gethin Armstrong & Huw Price. I cannot remember specific weather conditions through much of the week but it was basically kind (except Friday), dry, mostly clear & cool but not cold (except for Friday, more of that later). Another part of the plan was to leave the Café for Siabod at 2 hourly intervals giving both support runners a clear start time as well as an extended ‘recovery’ for me.

At 8:00 am to cheers of good luck from Dorina, Marion & John we were off, game on, no turning back & all that, my fears of what was looking like a very long week needed to be put at the back of any brain I have.

Paul Jones accompanied me again for my second Up & Down before handing on the Batten to Alwyn Oliver, Martin Cliffe & Katie Wilby (of the ever supportive Roberts family) for the third. My fourth was supported by Jo Cliffe who’s pre-run fear of not keeping up proved to be totally without foundation as I noticeably slowed as fatigue began to set in. Back at the Café with Alwyn kicking himself (absolutely no need to) for not staying high on the mountain to support me it became clear that I had no supporters on the days final leg, not great but what will be will be so I went & had a chat with the Roberts family who made some transparently false comments about how well I was looking & all that. I then disappeared to my inner sanctum aka ‘the staff toilet’ & multi-tasked using my bowels & brain in equal measure to make things a little better. As ever it was Dorina who then played a blinder by uttering as I emerged ‘Richard Roberts is going up with you!’ Richard had only just received his Panini when he decided to scoff it down, leave the salad & crisps on his plate & run off to his van to change into his running kit at a speed that can only be likened to Clark Kent’s telephone booth Superman changes of my youth, what a star (Richard that is). We had a pleasant late afternoon Up & Down which saw me still running the initial forest track hill for the 5th & last time of the week. 5 Siabods Down, 10 to go plus a few extras, no falls, it was a start at least.

Twiggy & Peter & many offers had also helped with their cheers of encouragement, for the runners among you screeming but what about the stats! here goes:-

1:30:38:  1:30:47:  1:29:11:  1:35:04 (sorry Jo):  1:35:45 (sorry Richard but at least I had warned you).

I had pre-cooked a large saucepan of Bolognese the Friday before as my planned recovery food so next up I asked Gaby to heat up a portion & boil some spaghetti, Of course this led to a mountainous pile (120 grams of spaghetti hidden easily by the Bolognese) my eyes defeated me before the first forced mouthful, Dorina ate well that night whilst I slept on the wine.

I’m going to pause there to give you & my one fingered typing a bit of relief, hope you can stay with me for another couple of blogs to come.