Switch off now if you don’t you only have yourselves to blame.
I can’t cover in one blog what I experienced from early Friday until more measured reflection at the time of writing this on Monday morning. So the plan is 4 blogs, the first to cover the lead-in to this years run in aid of Reach Out for Nepal & C.A.N., the second to cover my near disintegration during the second half of the run. The third a postscript of stats & thanks & the fourth (by the end of the week) an update on funds raised & our position with C.A.N. & Doug Scott. We are still accepting donations to support C.A.N.’s excellent plans for the Prok School, if you wish to stop reading & simply donate simply e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quite why I decided that getting up with Dorina at 5:30 on Friday morning so that we could drive to the Cafe together thereby making it possible for our planned rendezvous with George at the Tynny on Sunday evening whilst ensuring we’d have both cars at home by the end of the weekend seemed like good prep for a 100 mile run is anyone’s guess.
Friday at the Cafe became busy, I had no choice but to step into potwasher mode, the hours passed, the concerns increased as my thoughts turned to ‘no sleep for at least 40 Hours, I’ve got to get off the pots, this is a recipe for disaster!’
But I wasn’t alone at making mistakes, shortly before 9:00 am Mike Lees who had agreed to help out throughout the run/solo race, appeared at the entrance door, I looked at my watch, surely not, ‘Mike, good to see you, it starts at 9:00 PM’, there was a flicker in his eyes before a more clearer understanding of ‘shit, you’re not joking are you Paul’, it would be a long 40 Hours for him too.
In the end I managed a 20 minute lie-down at about 8:00 pm, fully rested? I knew not.
The ground support team was by now in place, John, Marion, Mike & of course Dorina who like me & Mike were facing a dauntingly long ‘day’.
Next the Running support began to arrive, Paul & Yvonne Jones, Steve Jones, Tim Watson & Cathryn, this was a Graveyard shift to die-for. Fraser & Johnny also arrived with Fraser aiming to walk the loop 12 times to clock up an impressive 50 miles. Here Fraser I must apologise as the continuing prose will focus on my Journey but I will of course be happy to publish your own story if someone teaches me how to copy & paste an e-mail to a blog.
At sunset, 9:00 PM on the dot, with photographs taken I set off with Paul & Steve on the start of the run. The loop of Capel has great variety of terrain, stunning views & covers 4.35 miles. It has the advantages of frequent rests/refuels at the Cafe after each loop (23 was the target), great plan Paul, recced to perfection. Of course those recce’s were in daylight, with headtorches on before Loop 1 ended my 48 minutes target for the early loops proved optimistic, Loop 1 took 51 minutes. Still I reasoned keep the rests short you’ll stay on schedule or close enough to it to make no difference. Loops followed one after the other in varying degrees of blur so I apologise for any in-accurate recollections about who joined me for which loop & of course to any supporters I do not name specifically, rest assured all those who did support me did me a massive favour & it is very emotional for me to reflect on your efforts throughout the run.
I do know that Tim joined Paul & I for loop 2 & that by the end of Loop 4 my quads were already feeling pretty sore ’19 more of these, that’s a lot to count down’. Looking back on this surprise means that it should have been anything but a surprise. Yes during Lockdown I had run for 123 straight days covering over 1,000 miles but my longest run was a mere 19 miles, at this point I was 18 miles in, ‘of course you are going to be feeling it!’ Also un-like previous years this charity run had not been proceeded in the month before by the likes of the Welsh 1,000 Metre Peaks Race or the Coed y Brenin Marathon, clearly my body was under prepared for such a task (not a great time to realise this). On the plus side the ankle that I had been setting up as my get out of run free card & had started to play up at the end of Loop 2 & during the early stages of Loop 3 was no longer causing me concern. This could have been simply the brain switching to other pain priorities (feet, quads, mental) but in truth 2 days on the ankle is fine, explain that Doc?).
Loop 6 & things took a turn for the worse, running with Paul on my left (putting in an amazing shift) my headtorch picked out one of the main trip hazards on the return to the Cafe, I moved left, clipped my toe on an adjacent rock & fell to the floor. Moments like this are more than simply assessing the damage, left knee sore (Paul’s comment ‘can’t see any blood’, my thoughts ‘there will be’) jolted left arm, elbow probably won’t bleed but just as importantly they knock the stuffing out of your confidence. They are invariably caused by tiredness & a poor foot lift or simply distraction. I knew it was the former, with barely a marathon covered my concerns for the remaining 74 miles & further falls increased massively.
I picked myself up ran the thankfully few hundred metres back to the Cafe. Here Dorina administered ice to a throbbing & by now bleeding knee, the pain relief was incredible, shaken but not stirred I got up for Loop 7 to be joined by Steve & Paul. I think it was on this loop when I confided to Steve something like ‘I’ve only done 6, 17 more seems impossible’. Steve ever the calm professional & as he had indeed coaxed me some years before on my 12th Siabod summit gave me a smaller aim ‘lets get to dawn & see how you are then?’ Wise words, get my thinking onto a more achievable goal by which time 17 would have become 14. Later on the loop Paul & I pointed at the rock that had caused my fall, a knobbly little beast concealed by dark & greasy lichen, an excusable trip in the dark I pleaded to myself & all who could here me.
I think it was on Loop 9 when the headtorches went off & that this was the Loop when I was joined by an Angel aka Dorina.
Loop 10 was the sunrise shift, Paul, Steve & I being joined by Tim, Cathryn & Yvonne as well as Peter Dirkin as supportive as ever. In truth not the best sunrise ever but good enough for the odd photo & to lift the spirits. These spirits were also lifted by a drop in my Loop splits to sub 50 minutes. Nearing the end of the Loop I said to Steve ‘this is the first time I’m going to walk this hill’ I didn’t.
It was now time to say goodbye to Paul who had accompanied me on 8 out of my first 10 Loops, that’s 35 miles mostly in the dark, not just support but un-believable!
On Loop 11 I did walk that last hill, back at the Cafe my pleasant surprise of my fastest Loop yet of 48:01 was soon greeted with Steve’s words, if you’d run that hill it would have been sub 48, you can go off some people but I could see the humour in it nonetheless.
By now Steve’s shifts were at an end for now at least, like Paul he too had put in great support covering 6 Loops (or a Marathon to you & me).
Tim had now taken up the reigns of chief Shepard, ‘the hills are alive with the fragrance of Bog Myrtle’ as he bounced into the undergrowth like the Gazelle he resembles, stopping here & there to take photo’s of runners who stick to the safety of a path (one very good photo of a tired runner smiling to camera with the Snowdon Horeshoe behind).
By now I had been joined by other support runners, Stephanie & her husband (apologies I really should be able to remember your name but that’s the problem with being in early old age & having a Cafe but you were a great support & seeing you at the end of the day when you’d clearly come back to see how I’d got on sums up your support, thank you). Sion & Menna Owain joined on the next loop on which there were at least seven of us including Ellie & Gwil (a four legged friend who darted around me with intent to get me if the trip hazards didn’t).
When things are going badly they have a habit of spiralling out of control & it was on this Loop (12 or 13) that the temporary suspension of my decline since sunrise was blown apart, cramp came calling & dealt a heavy blow. I had support, Ellie administered salt drops, a minor miracle until half a mile on ‘Ellie I need more drops’, ‘I’ve only got a few Paul’, I knew with half the Loop still to go it was going to be a long haul back to the Cafe.
Despite my fears I managed to run the lovely forest descent to the road & indeed the road itself before crossing Pont Cefyn & a longed for return to the Cafe. Then it happened, I even feel I sensed it was going to happen, I saw the hazard, no energy to react sensibly I tumbled, a small pool of blood, filth, shock, I knew it was a bad one, the support team who had been happily chatting went silent as they comprehended the mess at their feet. Tim thinks that the fourth finger of my right hand got split when it hit a diagonal slate drainage channel & then rested to create the pool of blood a few inches away. It hurt but I had been lucky because my left arm ended up in the channel & although badly bruised no veins or arteries or even skin got split like the finger had. My knee, left same as before, took a big impact & this time coagulated blood of a de-hydrated nature was clear to see. Before I could get up cramps set into my legs, excuse my French but I was beaten up well & truly f….., it was over.
The run back to the Cafe was tense the humour in the team was now replaced by a concerned respectful silence, I don’t know what you were thinking guys but I was without question in a very dark place so thanks for getting me back there.
Well that’s part 1, just a little over halfway, an eventful night & early morning to say the least.