Mountain Talk

Mountain Talk
Paul’s Blog – Bank Holiday Advice – Posted 26/05/17

For once I really will be brief, well briefer at least.

Firstly despite some last minute hiccups I am delighted to be able to announce that our New internal toilets will be Open in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, we all hope they will meet with your approval.

Next a quick thank you to Cader Idris race organiser, Graeme Stringer, for allowing me take part by offering me a place despite missing the initial cut of 300 entries. The weather cleared, friends cheered me on to a pb, these included Kean & Sandra, Maggie & Alwyn & SPJ who’s comment ‘Go on Paul, let’s see you fly down this’ (in reference to a terrifyingly steep short cut) will go down in my Fell Running memory! Megan Hughes chased me hard having descended far better than I had but a final burst just held her off before a warm hug to acknowledge a good effort by us both. For me it was a pb by almost 3 minutes but that hope of a sub 2 Hour time will no doubt call me back for another go next year.

This week has seen two big back to back big mountain runs in prep for next week’s Welsh 1,000 metre Peaks race, two lessons here, one personal & one to pass on.

Personal – Don’t give your Romanian partner such a big head start on an assault on Snowdon, she was born & raised in the Mountains & is younger than you, you plonker. Possibly more on this another day as it was a great afternoon which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

To pass on – Snowdonia is looking wonderful in this glorious weather, you must get out here & see it but make sure you are hydrated before you venture out & are carrying plenty of water to make sure you can really enjoy it. By this I mean think about carrying at least 2 litres of water if you can, a little more weight is worth it. Why am I stressing this: Yesterday was a 4 hour run for me, before, during & after I drank 4 litres of fluid which weighs 4Kgs & yet I still lost 3Kgs in weight, good for slimming but potentially fatal had I not taken on those fluids.

Finally a reminder that our Open MIC Night is this Saturday (see our Events page for more details) & that on Sunday we will keep our doors open until 8:00 pm with last hot food orders until 7:30 pm.

Have a great weekend, hope we see you at some point.

Paul’s Blog – Over 50’s Heaven – Posted 18/05/17

It’s almost all about Kean.

I have Kean’s kindness to thank for what is about to follow, so thank you mate.

On yet another day off (he’s trying to out-do me) Kean called into the cafe 3 weeks ago & offered me a lifeline to get one back on him for three consecutive defeats to the Fading Legend. This was in the form of ‘Paul, I’ve entered the Two Lakes Trail race, it’s a half marathon circling Llyn Brenig & Llyn Alwyn’, the bait was laid, a chance to race him on ‘my’ type of terrain! Well actually I prefer fell races but my poor descending & less competitive fields mean I finish relatively better on the trails.

Within days I had entered & shortly afterwards on the Sunday before last Kean & I were shaking hands on the start line before another familiar face came into view. This was in the form of Bob Hinds whom I first met in the Welsh 1,000 metre Peak race in 2014. In 2013 Bob had won the 5 peak version of the Mountaineers 1,000 metre race & I had won the 4 peak version. In 2014 there was only a 4 peak version & we were pitted together, it turned into a battle royal for the first couple of hours before I finally made the gap tell as Bob made a nav. error & resigned himself to second. A great result for me until you consider that Bob was already in his 60’s whilst I was still in my 40’s. In truth Bob would have known how heavy the trophy was & probably let me win in order to avoid lifting it at the Prize Giving. Back to the here & now, Bob looking tanned & honed strode over & shook my hand.

Soon Joe, the race organiser, called us to the start & we were off, what followed was one of the most rewarding races I can remember. In brilliant blue skies with an occasional & much needed cooling breeze the course was absolutely stunning, I have no hesitation in saying if you want to look for a trail race next year put this one firmly on your list (there is a Canicross too & a 10K if they suit you better).

Having surprisingly dropped Kean early on I tracked Bob for the first 3K or so before his pace slowed slightly & I edged ahead, however any thoughts of complacency were soon smashed away as Bob soon re-closed the gap & hung onto me like a tiger. Try as I might I couldn’t shake him for the first half of the race, this was a race, top 10…, can I catch the first female…., where’s Kean….., for christsakes Bob, your in your mid-sixties, give me a break!

Finally the gap began to grow, we were both passed by two younger bucks but both passed the lead woman as she finally slowed in the final kilometres. One last hill, can’t see Bob, thoughts of I’m safe drifted through my mind as I ran into a final glorious descent to the finish.

Bob was next to come in less than a minute behind after more than 1 Hour 40 Minutes of racing, we shook hands, we both knew this had been an un-official re-match, I was delighted with the result but total respect, he’s giving me at least 12 years & probably one or two more.

In the end I missed a top 10 coming in 11th out of 69 but when the results were posted two days later my hunch was correct, I’d won my O.50 category & I was in heaven.

So what of Kean I hear you ask (well Kean at least might be asking that), well let’s be kind, this was ‘my’ terrain, he came 3rd in the O.50’s & will be an O.60 very soon, so a bloody good effort all in all & you could see genuine delight as we shook hands once again.

A few days later, another day off for Kean saw us chewing the cud, Kean’s words ‘less than a minute between you & Bob? that’s racing!!’

Two final reflections:-

1. You have to take part in events like these to truly understand how good it feels to give something your all & come out smiling irrespective of where you finish, I am sure everyone who took part must have felt the same elation when they got their tired bodies to the finish. Thanks Joe & your team.

2. Had Kean been in the O.60’s he wouldn’t have won that category either!! Just kidding mate, look at it as motivation for the 1,000’s next month, it’s still 3 – 1 in your favour, did I really just reflect on that, again!

Open MIC Night – Saturday 29th April

Just a quick reminder our next Open MIC Night is almost upon us. A relaxed way to spend a Saturday evening either playing or simply listening to music. Last hot food orders are at 7:30 pm with extended Drinks License until 11:00 pm. Further details on our Events page.

Paul’s Blog – What are the chances of that? – Posted 26/04/17

For a single race commentary this one does go on a bit, you have been warned.

Saturday morning dawned beautifully as I pulled back the curtains to gaze over the sunlit Coed y Brenin. I had laid in with permission from Dorina who was already long gone in the direction of a cafe, she had agreed that I was not worth a fleeting place on the pots before U-turning to the CyB for the Goldrush Trail race.

With a start time of 1:00 pm I lased around, unusually watched the box to learn just how complicated you can make cooking & then rushed around, which shoes, banana’s, isotonic, pins…, the usual mental memory game before setting off down the drive at 12:00 for the start line. Walking the hills to the start I wanted to show passing mountain bikers that I could run them if I wanted to but didn’t, could be a vague sign of maturity as I conserved the energy for later.

After registering I bumped into Arwel Lewis & a few other familiar faces including the guy who called out from behind me last year after I’d missed a turning, the atmosphere was relaxed in the Spring sunshine as we waited to be called to the start.

I set off hard on the first climb closing in on the lead woman & Arwel but wisely decided not to attempt to pass as it would be pushing too hard too early. About 4K in the lead woman was now 50 metres ahead & Arwel had disappeared from view when the second placed woman drew alongside me. Quick comments were exchanged ‘I think you’re in 2nd & will catch her’ ‘I’m not sure about that but might if you pace me’. Lucy then decided not to be paced by me & moved ahead by a few yards. I then surprised myself re-took her before we both overtook the lead woman on a steady climb.

The long descent to the first Bailey bridge had my ears ringing with female feet as they both pursued in my wake & then it happened. On the zigzags to the bridge I used the opportunity they presented to look at my pursuers only to see to my disgust the second woman cut out the zigzags & descend to the bridge in a straight line & in the process passed both Lucy & me! Lucy held out her hands in a ‘did you see that gesture’, I replicated, was it deliberate cheating or just a Fell Runner not understanding that on Trails you don’t cut corners? Let’s be graceful & say it was the latter. Despite this I felt we would both get her on the climbs to come & duly did, justice would be done.

The second half of my race would see me duel with a guy who ‘couldn’t’ climb but was a good descender. After I initially overtook him as he walked the top of a steep climb we must then have passed each other half a dozen times but I knew I would get him on the final climb to the finish. Whilst this was going on I was also conscious of keeping Lucy following my pace rather than me following hers (this could be seen by some as a tad competitive of me). The descender (Tom) came past me once again just before the final climb but I knew his goose was soon to be cooked.

The climb began, ‘what, he’s running hard’, the climb steepened, ‘he’s still running hard, I’m not closing’, you can guess the rest. Tom, or to be more precise ‘I’ had lulled myself into a false sense of security, it was MY goose that was over-cooked by Tom & 6 seconds.

Crossing the line in 1:12:17 I at least had the pleasure of believing I’d done a pb by 32 seconds over the year before. This sense of achievement was added to by my beating the 1st placed woman (don’t think I’ve done that in a race before), as I turned to see who that would be I was delighted to see that it was rightly Lucy who claimed the Woman’s title some 42 seconds later & more than 2 minutes ahead of her rival. A congratulatory arm around Lucy ‘You deserved that & won fair & square’, ‘thank you but I couldn’t keep up with you’ came her pleasant reply. A few minutes later in the company of her husband Greg (he’d finished two places behind Lucy, think we both overtook him on the long run in) a final comment to Lucy ‘if it had been neck & neck I would have had to say something to the organisers’ but thankfully Lucy’s effort was good enough for me to keep quiet & allow her to hug her rival & smile.

Jogging home I could cheer other runners on as I passed them heading to the finish as well as several Canni-cross competitors. At home I then checked my computer for the result, Gun time said 1:12:18, my watch 1:12:16, I was a respectable 25th out of 177 finishers. Call to cafe, ‘I did a pb’ ‘did you darling, well done, we’re busy’, quick shower & I’m off to belatedly help.

Once the cafe went quiet I checked last year’s time, ‘what, 1:12:17! Have I done a pb or not?’

Only my computer at home could answer that, the wait was agonising thoughts in my head ‘what’s my chip time? what’s my bloody chip time?’ (runners will know what I’m thinking about). Home at last I sprinted from the car to my office went onto TDL’s excellent result service, my chip time read 1:12:17. Running for nearly an hour & a quarter over 8.5 hilly miles I had run exactly the same time as one year before, just what are the chances of that?? I was temporarily gutted!

Of course I am over that now & can reflect with pride on my best run of the year so far but if one more person says ‘well look on the bright side you are one year older & not slowing down’ they should note that they are asking for it & will get it!

In truth it was another great day on a wonderful trail so my thanks to Matt Ward, Dyfy & Sian Roberts & all their team for hosting us once again & congratulations to Tom Roberts who blasted round to win the Men’s race in 56:42 beating last years winner Ifan Richards into second place by almost two minutes.

Paul’s Blog – A racing update – Posted 20/04/17

As I spoke to Nick Bradley before the start of the Moelwyn race the Saturday before last it was clear he was ruing his luck as he commented ‘someone’s ordered this’ in response to my ‘bit different to the weather 2 weeks ago’. Nick of course is the race organiser for the Arran race which two weeks earlier had seen us lashed with rain & a biting wind. What a difference, the Moelwyn was blessed & would take place under clear skies with only a light breeze higher up. Not all good news as we sweltered in the becalmed cauldron on our way up to the Cwmorthrin mines, it was seriously hot but all in all what a wonderful afternoon to be running this fantastic circuit of Blaenau’s mountains.

So how did I get on amongst all that sweat & grimacing, well it’s becoming a familiar tale as once again Mr. Rowlands got trotted past me on the final descent, as indeed did other serial good descenders such as Emlyn Roberts & Gary Porter-Jones. To add insult to injury running across the Rugby field to the finish Liz Barker flew past me ‘rewarding’ me for supporting one leg of her Paddy round two years ago, in truth I could see the stamina of a seriously good long distance mountain runner as she went by.

My time was slower than hoped & only partly justified by the extra distance of the race this year, is this sounding like gloom & doom? Well there are bright sides to clutch at, generally other runners like for like times were down on last year, maybe the heat had gotten to us all, my placing of 39th was the first time I’ve ever achieved a top half finish in the Moelwyn field. However the main highlight was Kean who slowed as he approached the finish turned to wait for me to close the 10 metre gap & shook my hand as we crossed the line together. All thoughts of his cheating by using me as a Hare & bringing along a bus load of his supporters were well & truly forgotten.

Conclusion, more mountain work required in training or else it could soon be Kean 4 Paul 0 for 2017, have I really just written that?

This Saturday sees the Goldrush Trail Race take place in the Coed y Brenin, as I said before this for me is the finest of the marked Trail routes at CyB so the Cafe can expect me to go AWOL once again. I recced it 2 days ago which ended in me helping two women who’d got their car stuck on the course! What were they doing there? Still what could I do other than help push them onto terra firma & receive their warm thanks as I then led them in the right direction. My recce time (1:18) was 6 minutes down on race time last year, will I lose those when in racing mode, bring on Saturday for me to find out. Good luck to Matt Ward & his fantastic team for the event, to all the runners taking part I am sure you will enjoy their hospitality & route enormously.

Thank you to all our customers over a very busy Bank Holiday weekend & apologies to anyone who struggled to get into our car park or find a table. I sneaked out late Saturday for a short loop of Capel & then again for Siabod’s summit on Monday afternoon. there is a rumour that this latter run might be connected to an aborted call out for the Ogwen team but as I have prattled on enough for now perhaps more of that another day but rest assured that, for now at least, I remain a Non-UK Mountain Rescue statistic.

Toilets Upgrade – Posted 20/04/17

We are pleased to announce that on Monday 24th April works will begin to expand our Internal Toilet facilities, we hope you will see the benefits of this investment before the summer season commences. Can it really be 5 years since we took over the cafe, closed it for 5 weeks for refurbishment & converted the existing staff toilet to a Customer toilet. Clearly this single toilet has become less & less adequate as we have become busier over the years so we have bitten the bullet to sacrifice our office for the greater good. Well that’s the good news, the bad news is it is not an easy option, there will be some disruption as phone lines, electrical services are moved as well as the inevitable banging & refurbishment noises which will emanate from the works area. Despite this we will be open for business as usual & hope this temporary distraction does not spoil your experience when visiting us.

All going well the additional toilets should be open by late May, bringing an end to those peak time queues.

Early Closing Saturday 8th April

Please note that due to an evening event at the Cafe this Saturday we will be closing our doors an hour early at 7:00pm with last hot food orders at 6:30pm. Hope that still gives you plenty of time to enjoy the hills in the expected good weather & re-fuel with us if you want to.

Paul’s Blog – Posted 05/04/17

First things first, this Saturday sees the Moelwyn Race taking place from Blaenau Ffestiniog, despite those slippery descents (not my forte) it is one of my favourites although I frequently have to remind myself of that as my lungs gasp for Oxygen on the run out towards Moelwyn Mawr & my mind thinks of the further climbs thereafter. Despite this oxymoron it has been ever present in my calender since 2011. This year I feel under-prepared but at least I’m not making the mistake of tackling it 6 days after the Manchester marathon like I did last year. Well done to Gonks & his team for taking over the running of it this year, the weather looks like it will be kind, hope to see some of you there whether you run or simply want to cheer us on.

Based on that I’m hoping for a calmer start to this Saturday than last Saturday, have you heard?

Well in truth things started to go wrong around midday on Friday when my local roofer responded very quickly to a request to solve a leak. An hour after putting in the call the leak was fixed, the roofer paid, all was well. An hour or so later Dorina asked where’s the cat? I calmly responded, she’ll be fine just having a wander, these soothing words failed to calm the Angel.

Moving on, arriving at the cafe early Saturday the lights in the Gallery failed to come on, not being an Electrician I decided to fix it. I have survived 51 years partly because I have always respected electricity so quite why I decided to listen to some Romanian advice ‘Paul don’t re-secure the plug cover until you’ve tested the new fuse’, the plug went in, the unsecured cover slipped, I danced to an Electric tune & was soon in a shaken heap on the floor.

By now I was not feeling well so decided to bite the bullet, look for more trouble & picked up the phone to the roofer (Angel had already connected that a missing cat & the roofer might go together). Yes his wife said, he did see a cat jumping out of his truck, my heart rose (O.K. so he lives in the country, the cat will be close to his house, we have a chance) then she added he was in the middle of Tywyn 25 miles away at the time! My heart sank, the cat was lost, I put down the phone in an increased state of SHOCK.

An Angel was heard shouting ‘I told you we should have got her (aka Isabella) tagged!’

Think Paul, forget those electrocuted neurons, think!

Phoning the roofer’s mobile I soon knew the location of last seen, vets were called, social media notified, photo’s printed & an hour later I was setting of from Capel to Tywyn some 60 miles away, ooh what a lovely morning.

The search began just after 1:00pm, of course it was a needle in a Haystack but my thanks to a second hand bookshop keeper in Tywyn’s old Market Hall as well as an anonymous woman in a shop nearby, as well as a cafe & hairdresser’s opposite for their warm sympathy & help. Isabella is not a bad name to be continually shouting around a graveyard & other Tywyn hotspots but after half an hour my initial hopes of finding a cowering cat were ebbing away.

The anonymous woman again enquired & suggested I try the house leading North, not the first one (I’d already eyed it’s fierce dog). At the gate to the second a lady appeared at the window ‘are you looking for a cat’ (guess she’d heart my graveyard calls) ‘I saw a grey one on my lawn an hour ago’. I showed the photo, she had doubts, but we searched the garden, no cat but cat hairs on her fence, ‘try Sheila’s next door’.

Sheila, bless her, in her 70’s let a demented man walk through her house to her back garden without a care before a shout from her neighbour relieved the tension, ‘I’ve found her’. Two minutes later Isabella gave up her cowering between a fence & a shed & walked into my arms, could you write this stuff….

Back in the car tears came as I put the call into Angel & a cheer resonated through the Cafe’s kitchen. The drive home was the first time Isabella has ever purred whilst in a cat box in a car, if only this could be repeated when we take her to the vet to be tagged!

My reward for all this has been a tad clingy Isabella & better still Angel!

Of course I apportion no blame to Kean, where does he come in you may ask, well the week before I’d said ‘kean I’ve got a leak’ to which he replied ‘sod your leak I’m off to Cornwall’, may our paths meet on the Moelwyn’s….

Open MIC Night – Saturday 1st April

Just a quick reminder that our last Saturday in the month Open MIC Night was moved back to the 1st of April this month, full details on our events page. Hope you can make it for a relaxed evening at the Cafe.

Paul’s Blog – I was once 50! – Posted 29/03/17

Well I had planned to post this a week or so ago, but as always with age you blink & yet more days have flown by, now 6 days into being 51 it is time to make amends & update (for those who may have thought I’ve passed away) with how I got on with my 5 challenges for my year of being 50.

Firstly the facts:-

1. Run the West Highland Way (95 miles) in two days – achieved.
2. Run a sub 3 Hour Marathon – not achieved, pb lowered to 3:10.
3. Climb two out of 3 targeted Oberland 4,000 metre peaks – not achieved.
4. Traverse Skye’s Cullin Ridge – achieved.
5. Complete the 214 Wainwright summits in The Lake District – achieved.

I think I have covered the three I achieved pretty comprehensively in previous blogs so won’t bore you with their highs & lows again so what of the two ‘failures’? Well it wasn’t for the want of trying & I’m certainly not losing any sleep over them, after all if we got everything we wanted it would be a boring life where everything is taken for granted.

With the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau as those who regularly subject themselves to my blogs will know a certain rock got in the way. The only seriously important thing to report is that Tim has made an excellent recovery. He is not simply up & about, he has been seen in Antartica, Patagonia & being very patient with a wanabee Ski Tourer in the French Haut Alps. Refusing Tim’s offer of finding an alternative guide to help me pursue this goal I had replaced this challenge with a winter ascent of The Monch but a storm stepped in between us helping it allude me for the third time in less than 2 years. The mountain will still be there for a future attempt as indeed I am to talk about it.

The 3 hour marathon simply was a miscalculation of my energy & motivational levels. I gave it a good shot in Manchester but in truth it was too early in the year for me to seriously threaten it. Summer would always prove out of the question due to various factors including the WHW, a charity run, alpine goals, busy cafe & a certain ridge on Skye (are you hearing excuses) but in my mind I always had the Autumn to play with, WRONG! A certain Mr. Wainwright got in my way, I simply hadn’t factored in how much time, planning & energy I would have to devote to the Lakeland Fells (ooh & in between I did escort a certain Angel over the WHW & up The Ben). So whilst this was going on I simply didn’t do any Marathon training, to then run two Marathons within October was a good ask but only the first (Chester) offered any hope, I ran hard, the wheels fell off but in truth 3:16 was still pretty pleasing all things considered. All was not lost though as Wrexham in early March was a last ditched pitch at the goal.

Always intelligent to go Skiing/Ski Touring for a week (slotted in a couple of runs for good measure), run a Half Marathon the first day back (in pouring cold rain) & then expect to run a Marathon pb just a week later. My mind said yes, my calves & blistered feet said no, wisely (for once) I didn’t even make the start line.

So do I look back at failure or success, well actually I look back with pride & joy, my lack of understanding the enormity of the physical demands I was placing on my abused body certainly led to me missing the Marathon challenge, bad luck twice thwarted me on the Oberland (or was that good luck?) but what a year it was & how lucky I am to have had plenty of support throughout from many & especially Dorina.

The body has been seriously sore in recent months but as I write this there is light, exercises to strengthen it start today & June will see me subjecting it to arguably it’s toughest month yet, more of that another time.

In essence my 50th year started on a tremendous high with a wonderful Birthday run & ended with a mad but incredibly rewarding Aran Fell race in appalling conditions in which Kean not only beat me to the finish but also out fell me falling 5 times to my 3, we were both put to shame by the guy who went into a bog up to his waist & came out smiling.

Now it’s time to be 51 & grow young & reckless, what’s a number, simply not important unless it’s a race placing below Kean’s. That Aran result almost hurt as much as my back, shoulder, left knee, blistered feet, but no excuses……, you understand!

Spring has been seen, hope you have great plans for an Outdoor year ahead, if not stop reading & make one would be my advice for what it’s worth. Thank you for listening.