Paul’s Blog – Snowdon Run 22nd June 2024 for ROFN -Part 1

A little later than planned to put this blog up but hopefully still of interest to anyone who followed my progress on the day.

To summarise the plan was to go up & down each of the six main walking routes on Snowdon between sunrise (4:49 am) & sunset (9:46 pm). My planned schedule for each leg had been set after I’d done a timing recce of each leg in the weeks leading up to the challenge, my thanks to Dorina, aka Angel, who had accompanied me on three of these recce’s.

The forecast for the day itself was maybe a bit damp early on but then dry & brightening with afternoon sun & only a slight breeze, as good as I could hope & better than the cold & breezy recce’s.

Our alarm went off at 2:20 am allowing me my normal large breakfast before such a challenge of a slice of toast, two poached eggs & a good helping of baked beans, all as normal 2 hours before the activity begins. The previous day had seen me eat Pasta Carbonara at 8:00 am & then fast for the rest of the day, this puts my bowel movements on track for a trouble free challenge. Despite some usual doubts ‘am I clear’ this worked perfectly.

Dorina drove me to PyG where we met up with Carla & Tim & Cathryn (they ‘slept’ there in their van & had been subjected to a wind & rain battering all night, the first sign that the Forecast might have been a tad optimistic). Dorina then drove the four of us to PyP where we were also joined by the two other Paul’s, we had time for photos & I had a chat with the car park warden to let him know what we & my road crew were doing, I must say he couldn’t have been more accommodating. Then it was off to the top of the car park, the countdown by Paul’s watch & the six of us set-off at bang on 4:49 am.

The weather was a little damp giving me a few concerns for wet rock on the first descent but first things first the PyG Track climb. With a challenge like this & for a runner of my age & ability I should clarify here that most of the days activity is more of a fast & constant walk where only flat & non-technical (i.e. few trip hazards) descents are actually at a steady trot. The main thing is to spread the energy consistently throughout the day as best you can maintaining a steady pace, more the Tortoise than the Hare.

As ever support runners are a key to success, two or more per leg are ideal allowing them to enjoy a chat if I turn into Mr. Grumpy as the mental & or physical side of things get on top of me. The first leg I was more than willing to chat & this included discussion & congratulations with Paul Jones for his recent Paddy Buckley round (47 Peaks, 65 Miles & 28,000′ of climb) where on a glorious evening I’d been lucky enough to support him on the 9 peak Snowdon leg, as they say what goes around comes around, thanks for your support once again this year Paul.

So the day began to progress, we hit the summit with little visibility & I touched the bottom of the pyramid rather than climb the steps to the trig, this always being my intention as later in the day with the crowds arriving there would be no safe way of me climbing those final steps.

Next came the descent of The Miner’s path with the mental key to the day kicking in, just what is it going to feel like descending a path which once you reach the bottom you know you’ll simply be turning around to go back up it! Experience does help, one step at a time & slowly time goes by & the distance, climbs & descents to come do gradually reduce.

We hit the bottom of the Miner’s track at 7:13 am (2 Hours & 29 Minutes after setting off up the Pyg), one minute ahead of my schedule.

Here the next critical factor kicked in, the road support crew. Earlier in the week, Thursday to be precise, I’d held a ROFN planning meeting at our new Cafe in Pentrefelin. This also included Andy & Nige who together with Nige’s wife, Sharon, were to be my road support crew for the day. The meeting from their point of view covered basics such as timings, where to meet me, re-fuelling both at the meeting points & additional fluids & fuel to give me to take up for the next leg. Other jobs including getting support runners back to their vehicles & making sure Gonks (supporting leg 3) was given my walking pole as I wanted it for assurance on the short airy traverse on the Rhyd Ddu path etc. etc. Nige, Andy & Sharon were in place as planned, I ate half a Yoghurt, replaced one 500ml bottle of Electrolite & grabbed a Banana, note ‘grabbed’ as I knew the next leg starts with a climb & that I could eat the Banana on the move rather than wasting time eating it stood still. This got my turnaround schedule of 5 minutes down to 3 minutes. Setting off I was now 3 minutes up on schedule, small things matter.

Tim volunteered to come back up with me, that was great news, as we waved the others farewell for now. Somehow Carla & I had ensured my tracker was on so that those in the road crew or later support runners as well as those back at the Cafe could follow my progress more closely.

The ascent of the Miner’s track went well, at the summit for the second time Tim ‘forced’ me up those final steps for a photo op, I jumped the small queue that had by now formed but no one complained, hopefully they got a sense that we were doing something a bit different.

Next up was the descent of the Watkin path, this always feels like a long & arduous one but the main point of note is just how busy it was, I have never seen so many people on it, this was between 9 & 10 O’clock.

We reached the bottom of the Watkin at 9:55 am, one minute behind schedule having lost 4 minutes on the leg, a first sign of me tiring or just I’d taken the technical bits very safely, either way not too concerned. Andy, Nige & Sharon were again in support, more Yoghurt, Crisps & a Banana into my bag & a Banana for the walking start. I set off at 9:57, 2 minutes ahead of schedule, again an important detail.

For leg 3 I knew I’d have no one with me to begin with but that was due to change with Gonks aiming to catch me on the way up & Ellie planning to meet me at or near the summit. Felt O.K. knowing that but felt far better when Tim, a gazelle of a runner with an apparently dodgy knee over recent weeks, announced ‘Paul, I’m coming up again’, what a guy! I think I proffered an insincere ‘are you sure Tim’.

The ascent went well albeit Tim probably feeling I was a bit nuts not to take the early shortcut to the Pools, my logic/integrity, ‘I’m doing the paths & almost nothing but the paths’. We overtook many who’d we passed on the way down some of whom enquired what we were up to. We weren’t the only runners around as there were several races of various demanding routes criss-crossing Snowdon all day, indeed one race Marshall in particular took an interest in us non-racers, I would pass him 5 times before the day was out.

At the summit for the third time the queue was now 50 metres long but I bypassed it to the left touched the pyramid & began my descent to probably a few thoughts of ‘well he didn’t take time to take it all in, did he’.

I think I’d forgotten that Gonks was chasing me down but as we got back down to the junction of the Watkin & Rhyd Ddu there he was in the mist checking my whereabouts on the tracker. Gonks had set-off 25 minutes behind us & was clearly impressed that our pace had been too strong for him to catch us before the summit, his words of praise meant a lot I can tell you!

Leaving the South ridge for that airy traverse I asked Gonks for the pole which I then handed back to him a few minutes later with him probably thinking ‘what was that all about, I’ve carried that thing up just for that?’ If that wasn’t enough for him he soon saw his ‘cut straight across here Paul’ (we were on the zigzags now) was responded to by my ‘I’ll stick to the paths for the integrity of the challenge’, impressed & nuts probably his collective thoughts!

Soon after we were met by Ellie & again she was also full of enthusiasm saying you’re over 15 minutes ahead of schedule I’d thought I see you at the summit, ‘really, are you sure Ellie’ I thought. We descended at a steady pace, mostly on the run & as I neared the bottom I took my schedule card out of my bag to realise Ellie was right I was now seriously ahead of schedule. This felt good but also led to thoughts ‘will the road crew be in place, well if not at least I can eat the Crisps, Banana & drink what I’ve got left on me whilst I wait for them to arrive’. At the penultimate gate a familiar face was yelling ‘slow down Paul, I want to get a photo’, thanks for being there Maggie.

As the meeting point, railway gate, came into view there was no one to be seen, I muttered my concern to Gonks who had been very encouraging throughout the descent. Here I should say that Gonks is probably the most frequent support runner on many people’s Paddy Buckley, he’s also done it himself, so he knows a thing or three about helping runners through hard times & today it showed.

My concerns were soon ended as in the car park the road crew were soon shuffling towards me having been waylaid by chatting to Cathryn who was there to collect Tim.

We reached the bottom of the Rhyd Ddu at 12:24 pm, I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule, how did that happen? Well I’ll cover that at the end of the second blog. More Yoghurt, not much else if anything other than replenishing my half litre of Electrolite & half litre of Water, by now I was drinking more & conscious that I’d only had one pee in over 7 hours. 

It was soon time to say goodbye to Tim & the others, this time I’d used my full 5 minutes, well time was on my side wasn’t it, at 12:29 I set off up the Rhyd Ddu feeling I wasn’t in a bad place or state, I even didn’t ask for the pole. That in truth was out of forgetfulness but my confidence was rising so it felt O.K. when I belatedly remembered it.

Here I should apologise to Andy as before leaving I said to him ‘make sure you re-calibrate the schedule for my arrival at the Snowdon Ranger’. He could well have taken that as a reprimand for not being ‘there’ at the Rhyd Ddu but the point I was making very poorly was ‘if I can pull 18 minutes on the last leg, I might pull another chunk ahead on the next leg, get there very early’.

End of part one, apologies for going on but if you took time to follow on the day I feel I owe a thorough reflection to you about how it actually felt & went.

Three down, three to go.


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