I’ve just had a rather enjoyable morning sat in the Cafe talking to Kean & reminiscing like only two old blokes can about our antics in the Welsh 1,000’s last Saturday. Kean seemed particularly pleased with the way I introduced him to Rob Johnson ‘Rob, this is Kean, a former Fell runner!’
Now back to the race, I won’t give a foot by foot account but no doubt will go on a bit so switch of now, you have been warned.
My plan to taper down the wine & the running in the week leading up to it more or less worked with just two short 5 milers on Tuesday & Thursday but with the weather being glorious the garden beckoned & I overdid it by ferrying logs from the driveway to the wood stores on back to back afternoons. I should have known better, some were far too big to manhandle on my own, what an idiot. Rising on Friday morning I felt tired and the muscles in my back were hurting.
Friday afternoon came & I drove to the Cafe to meet Steve Brace & Arwel Lewis to discuss a planned Siabod summit race as part of the attractions surrounding the World Mountain Running Championships which are being held in Betws in September, seating position did me no favours & before I knew it my back was seriously hurting. Great, no back pain for almost 7 years (thanks to running) & I go & damage it with less than a day to go before the Welsh 1,000’s, arguably my biggest race goal of the year. It was so bad that when I went to register at 18:00 I had to ask Ady to carry back the slate trophy I’d won last year.
Safely registered but believing I might not be able to take part I then did something unusually sensible & went to have a lie down. What a difference an hour made as I was then able to ‘help’ the girls serve Chris Lloyd & his guests for his 60th Birthday party. The inevitable late night meant only 4 hours sleep before I was up & kit checking ready for the 08:00 start. I was in the ‘Mountaineers’ class for the 5th consecutive & last year hoping to make it 3 consecutive wins before finally (stop heckling me Kean) progressing to the Long Fell Running class next year.
As Dorina dropped me off the Armed Forces teams passed us as they headed off (their start being 07:30).
I won’t say much about the Carneddau other than I broke away from 3 guys in the village, slowly picked off some of the armed forces & got the battering of my life from the correctly forecasted 50 mph wind. It was quite simply brutal & borderline dangerous. I reached the A.5 in 2 hours 49 minutes some 19 minutes down on last year but with a clear lead & only 3 Army guys still ahead of me. Thanks to Georg for cheering me on as ‘his’ runner to the slight disbelief of an army support officer.
Now on more sheltered terrain I passed the army guys in Cwm Tryfan before having the luck to catch a guy (Peter Potter, I think) who was on the ‘short’ course (well still bloody long actually). He showed me an even better line to Caseg Fraith than my own ‘perfect’ line, I am glad I decided to trust his better judgement. On the descent towards Pen y Pass I passed Matthew & David Hall (14 year old Grandson & 70+ Grandad) who were also doing the ‘short’, sums up the camaraderie of this great race!
At Pen y Pass, in 4 Hours 14 Minutes, Dorina was there to cheer me on (with Georg’s help), I had made up the deficit on last year but still had a mental battle to convince myself that I wanted to climb the Pyg track. Obviously I couldn’t give up now but if I’m truthful a large part of me wanted to.
For the first time ever the Pyg did not quite remove all my remaining reserves, exchanged words with Maggie Oliver (Short Fell) as I slowly passed her & Chris Near as he passed me (Long Fell) just before the finger stone. I tried to latch onto him as we made our way towards Crib y Drygwl but as the wind hit us & the mist swirled he disappeared into it. I was very pleased to see him running back towards me from the summit, it meant I was almost there & would soon be turning back Myself towards Snowdon’s summit & the finish.
Ten minutes or so later Snowdon’s own summit came out of the mist, thankfully my senses were sufficient to see the finish down by the relative shelter of the cafe & avoided the unnecessary final steps to the Trig point, it was over, relief, elation, the nerves could finally relax, I’d won my class & could ‘retire’ gracefully.
Then the kit check, obviously a lot has been said about this particularly in how it affected the results of the Short Fell Race, I have no complaint that correct kit should be carried but to carry out such a detailed check at the end of a race & not the start in those weather conditions was in my view a mistake. A pre-check surely would have made more sense & stopped people from being penalised after such a great effort. My kit check didn’t just involve a full inspection of my rucksack & it’s contents but also involved me being informed to remove a boot so that they could weigh it! Come on guys after 5 Hours 40 Minutes that at best is going to give me cramp & at worst lead to the onset of hypothermia (different had the Cafe been open & we could have done it in there, but it was closed!). Won’t say anymore, I passed the check as I knew I would, it was time to not hang around & head off back to the relative shelter & warmth of the Pyg track.
It was good to pass Roy Silver who was to come second as we acknowledged each others achievements, indeed the retreat down the Pyg is one of the most enjoyable parts of the day for me as you cheer & get cheered on.
Back at Pen y Pass a short couple of minute wait before Georg appeared once again to take me back to the Cafe to the warm embrace of Dorina & Gaby.
It had been a good day for Eryri with other club members winning a number of classes in all 4 races. At the prize giving it was good to get my hands back on that slate to the usual comments of ‘next year we are going to make you carry that in your rucksack’ sorry guys, you can have it back, it’s the Fell race for me from now on! I’ll be quite happy to be mid-pack, I know my true place!
Failing to stop my stopwatch I was left not knowing whether I’d done a pb for two days, when the results were published I finally realised I’d pb’d by 8 seconds, yes 8 seconds, how narrow is that over almost 6 hours!
Thanks to everyone who made the day what it was, the competitors, armed forces, marshalls & of course those who supported me or simply showed an interest in what I was doing, I’m getting emotional just typing this so will stop there.
The next day after a reasonably hard day in the cafe I was able to get out for a recovery run, sun shone, the Ogwen valley beckoned, run Paul run…., 10 miles, how good did that feel!
Next up is going to be a very different experience, the Liverpool Marathon this coming Sunday, my feet arn’t talking to me, anyone know what I’ve done to hurt them?
Watch this space for news of our ‘Reach out for Nepal’ day on 27th June, other breaking news is that the Tour of Britain will be passing the Cafe on Sunday 6th September, Dorina & I missed it, this year we won’t.