Time as seems the norm. is flying, can it really be 12 days ago that I took part in the Petzl night race on a gloomy & damp Saturday evening in the Coed y Brenin. The mizzle couldn’t put a dampener on a great venue & atmosphere which saw some 75 team entries (3 per team) & 46 solo runners, of which I was one, line up at the start at 6:00 pm with mandatory headtorches already strapped on. Having come second in my O.40 category two years ago there were hopes (as usual false ones) I’d go better this year in the O.50’s. This hope was based on undeniable logic that: I haven’t been running well, My pre-race dietry prep was among the worst even I’ve ever done & the fact that Dylan Evans was also in the field & he’d given me a bit of a spanking in a training run a month or two ago.
As the race developed Dylan & I traded places until on the third lap when leading Dylan by a couple of metres I had a lightning quick plan ‘if I can dart ahead of the woman I’ve been following before the climb narrows he’ll be trapped behind & I can pull away up the hill’. This plan did at least go to plan & I was relieved not to hear his breath in my ear-hole for the rest of the race.
Then on the climb on the 5th lap my dietary & recent running record caught up with me & I began walking part of the hill for the first time. Soon the woman I’d passed came bombing past on the following descent, clearly un-like me she was pacing things very well.
Now running a 3 kilometre lap (this includes a 1K hill rising 120 metres) as many times as you can in 3 hours may sound like anything but fun & to be honest at least 5 laps for me were somewhat brutal, however to keep going when you are hurting has some kind of sadistic pleasure to it. I was helped by a gang of glamorous cheerleaders, Dorina, Luca & 3 young nieces & of course a host of other runners who no doubt were hurting too.
The 3 hours goes surprisingly quickly despite the pain & as the minutes ticked away my mathematical brain calculated how many laps I could do. This I at least did get right with 2 Hours 59 Minutes gone I ran through the line to complete Lap 9 & was able to set out on a final 10th lap. Small things matter, 10 laps matched my total 2 years ago all-be-it in a finishing time of 3 Hours 24 Minutes which was 20 minutes slower. A wake up call, not really, I knew I wasn’t in shape & this was simply a start back in the right direction.
Dylan & I shared a smile & thoughts as we sipped our free beer & he & I both thought I might have won the O.50’s, again falsely, I was third but that was put even more into perspective by the overall solo race winner also being O.50 & he’d completed 12 laps, a great achievement. I consoled myself with 12th in the solo & the fact that’d I’d beaten 50 of the 74 teams, not so bad but need to reverse my decline nonetheless.
Apart from the overall winner the other stand out achievement was the 2nd placed team being Coed y Brenin’s very own academy, why you may ask, they obviously know the terrain better than most & only came 2nd, well yes I’ll respond, but they were all under 16! They completed 12 laps, ooh to be young with prospects!
As ever Matt, Sian, Dyfi, Steve, Hannah & many others did a great job in hosting a truly special night on my own doorstep, the CyB. Thanks guys we all appreciated it.
Spurred on by this & without eating anything either post race or for breakfast the next morning I set out from the cafe for a recovery 5 miler at 7:30 am. Great plan Paul, just when will you learn?
Well actually for once soon was the answer. Three days rest (except some industrialised style of gardening) saw me jogging up to the Coed y Brenin centre on a damp Thursday evening to join Matt & 23 other runners for the weekly training run. We soon split into 3 groups, I of course opted for the one doing the longer route led by another Matt with the promise we wouldn’t go too fast. Seconds later we left the track & were climbing seemingly vertically up a never ending hill in the dark, was this madness, then splashing through gushing streams, was this madness, & descending muddy & slippery paths leading to more of the same, is this madness? Back at home in a warm shower after some 2 hours running covering 18K time for reflection, that’s not madness that’s a good step into a better running future, ‘this looks like the start Paul’. If you haven’t partaken in one of Matt Ward’s training runs yet I urge you to do so, there is a pace & route for all-comers, simply turn up at the centre at just before 6:30 pm on a Thursday with a headtorch & appropriate clothing & a smile will come sooner or later.
Friday saw a deluge all day, with Dorina having the day off we didn’t do much but at about 4:00 pm with the rain not easing I set off into the CyB hoping for a second 10 miler in less than 24 hours. What followed was one of the wettest but most enjoyable training runs I’ve ever had. Standing water in places I’ve not seen, the Waterfalls were in absolute speight & despite some initial tiredness I put in three steep hills that I could have easily avoided. 2 Hours & 10.5 miles later a drowned rat with a high spirit was back in a warm shower, simply wonderful.
Saturday, as hoped Kean & Sandra came to my aid, with us all being Marshalls the next day for the British Fell Relays (more of that in another blog), they called into the cafe en-route to a Marshall briefing in Llanberis. With me doing my best not to allow the conversation being all about Kean I butted in, ‘when are you off to Llanberis?’ any chance of giving me a lift so that after the briefing I can run back to the Cafe. This would give me both a third back to back run but almost achieve my annual ritual of running up the Llanberis pass in the lead up to the Snowdon Marathon (only 2 weeks away).
At 5:30 with briefing over I set off on tired legs for the cafe, as I approached Nant Peris with a headwind which at times was almost stopping me in my tracks I wondered ‘a run too far’. Thankfully climbing the Llanberis pass this wind became an odd gust rather than a full on gale, slowly & with determination I hauled in the top of the pass to be rewarded with a running nirvana. The descent to PyG was good but then the 4 miles to Plas y Brenin felt like I was floating, in truth by now I had a strong tail wind & was being pushed to lower & lower splits. My last split was almost sub 8 minute miling, not fast but very pleasing nonetheless. I reached the cafe after 12.5 miles feeling just a little bit smug & in a much better place than a week before.
Running is it the answer? Well as many times over recent years, for me at least, it definitely is a major part in my all round wellbeing, clearly I am not alone, there is a running community, if all else has failed, try it.
One final thought, thank you Kean, you helped me get my weekly total up to 58 miles, really appreciated!