My apologies for my silence on this great race since the day itself, you will be forgiven for assuming I had a disastrous race & have been hiding beneath a stone ever since. The reality is a little different, for one thing my silence was dictated by a crashing of my computer the day after the race & it being out of action until after my return from Italy earlier this week. Thanks to both Michael & Georg for trying to remedy the computer, left to me it would be swimming with the fishes by now. Not fully restored it is at least functioning enough to finally allow me to publish my personal race report. Excuse the detail please just trying to convey some of the thought processes that come & go with the pain & elation.
Dorina did her best to wind up my pre-race anxiety levels, a long story so I won’t go there other than to say she did in the end get me to the start on time. Some un-forecasted rain shortly before the off soon relented to give us some pretty ideal conditions for the race so excuses would be hard to find should I’d need them.
We set off a little later than the planned 11:00 a.m. to follow the same route as the record breaking year of 1992, well if the record is ever going to be broken it is most likely to be when the race is a counter for the British Championships as it was to this year. There were some seriously good athletes in the field as a result.
The climb up Elidir Fawr had me thinking about the 5 further climbs to follow & how on earth was I going to complete them when fatique was already kicking in. That said two pleasant surprises soon followed. Firstly once above the quarry I was still in the company of the likes of Andrea Rowlands & Adrian Williams who are far better Fell runners than me, they would finish well ahead of me as normal but to stick with them for most of this gruelling climb felt like a bit of a step up. Secondly a few minutes into the descent off Elidir Fawr I looked at my watch for the first time & it read 58 minutes, you may think, so what, but to someone who had wanted to achieve the climb in sub 1 Hour to understand that I’d probably done it in circa 54 minutes is the type of detail that makes the pain thresholds suddenly seem worthwhile & spur you on.
A good crossing to Y garn saw me lose a few places as normal particularly on the early tricky sections but once I got into the Y Garn climb things improved as I stuck closer to the footpath line & re-took several places back, don’t think many took my line of attack but to me the slightly longer zig-zag switchbacks are easier than a direct steeper line & it worked well.
In good visibility I followed others on a wider line off Y Garn to take the ‘easier’ left hand path up Glyder Fawr which again seemed to pay dividends. By the summit of Glyder Fawr I was feeling pretty confident that I was ahead of my training partner & rival Kean Rowlands but to my dismay no one in front of me took Kean’s planned route down to the sheepfolds so I aired on the side of caution & descended the red dot path fearing all the time that Kean would be surging ahead of me. With these thoughts floating around my head I was overtaken by a slip of a woman who can only be described as the ‘deamon pink descender’ (forgive me it was a few weeks ago & there is just a chance that she was wearing green). I am sure that those at the head of the field can descend faster but at around my placing I have never seen someone descend so quickly, as you may know I do not have a high opinion of my ability to descend, the ‘deamon pink descender’ made me look like the mule I am!
At Pen y Pass I passed Kean’s wife Sandra marshalling for the second time, I could not bring myself to ask whether Kean had come & gone already. A couple of cups of water were warmly appreciated but a split time of 2 Hours 15 Minutes dictated no rest, it was better than expected from my pre-race training so lets maximise upon it. A slower ascent of the Miners track still had me gaining on a few ahead of me but as I began the final short ascent before leaving the Miners track disaster seemed to strike from nowhere. Cramp & what cramp, never had anything like it before, in a split second it wrapped around all of my hamstrings & circled around to both sides at the front of my knee, right leg first & then slightly less so on the left peg.
Only two options hobble on trying to massage as I go or stop, lose ground in the hope that a proper massage would allow me to continue with a better chance of at least finishing. After two & half hours of effort this was not a good place to be, wisely or not I chose the run on & hope it goes away. The Cramps were to be a constant fear from here-on but thankfully walking fast uphill & running the flats & downhill’s were generally cramp free but every run up a lesser gradient had me literally yelping like a baby. Whatever my problems were those ahead of me began to suffer in their own ways & I passed half a dozen or so on the thankfully mostly walking climb over Y Lliwedd including the Deamon herself, of course she passed this mule on the next descent.
Crossing over to climb the Watkin screes we were cheered on by walkers who on this side of the mountain tend to be more knowledgeable & could clearly understand the enormity of what we were doing, much appreciated by me & several other runners whom I discussed this with afterwards. Again my climb up these screes went well as I overtook a couple early on & the deamon near the top, by now we were becoming familiar with this pattern but I knew with 2 descents & only 1 climb left to go my days as a non-mule were numbered.
The water station on Snowdon summit was running low, hope they re-supplied for those coming up behind me, I didn’t linger long as I genuinely felt I had a chance of beating Kean’s pb & smashing my own. The deamon soon re-took me for the last time as my cautious descent soon put paid to beating Kean’s pb, better safe than sorry, just get back in one piece mode was beginning to take over.
The final climb up Moel Cynghorian again went relatively well & the descent line shown to me by Kean a week earlier was relatively kind on my knackered quads. A good run in keeping close to the chap in front felt O.K., I had no intention of trying to overtake him, even if I had the return of those cramps reminded me that I was lucky just to be finishing. Great to see Dorina, Georg & Simona waiting for me at the finishing line, must have a word with Mike Blake to let us escape the mountain by opening the gate (they make us climb a style just to rub in the pain). Being a little selfish I was glad to see Sandra at the finish alone, I’d won our own little battle, in truth we were all winners pushing ourselves to the limit & then continuing on to the finish. My time of 4:46 beat my previous time by 27 minutes to add some icing to the cake. Most people I walk with think I’m pretty damn fit, let’s put that into some context, the winner came home in 3:12 just 10 minutes outside the record, in other words for every two miles I did he was doing three, mindboggling!
My thanks as always to the organiser, Mike Blake & his team of Marshalls & Support Staff at the Feed stations & of course to Kean for the recce days we shared & light hearted rivalry of a race within a race, I’ll not get over confident as I’ve a sneaky suspicion that revenge will not be too long in coming for him.
The race was rounded off the next day with an enjoyable de-brief when Kean & Sandra called it at the Café soon followed by Martin & Joanne where it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who experienced the cramps of a lifetime. Some days later meeting up with Ian & Andy (I’ll tell you more about them in the future no doubt) in the Alps discussions of dietary preparations & recovery foods as well as documented training programmes often dominated discussions over dinner, my god I’m turning into a full on addict, no wine before a race, where is this going to end!