I have decided to look back on that 24 hour run separately in two ways, this is not to over-dramatise but simply as I think it needs separate reflection in order for me to comes to terms with what I have just gone through. These two reports will be added to by a third that will cover the separate Eryri relay runs which at times overlapped with mine more than initially intended. Then in due course a more detailed report on all of the events which took place in or around the cafe, so please be patient there is a lot to cover.
Version 2 will be shorter so feel free simply to wait for that.
Version 1 – Siabod Everest Challenge – the Facts:-
My lead-in really began a week before in of all places a book shop. I had called in to collect an ordered copy of Steve Burkinsaw’s book about his 214 Wainwright run in 2014. Duly collected what do I do now, carry on reading Steve Chilton’s book about Kenny Stuart & John Wild’s head to head dual for the 1983 Fell Running Championship which I’d only started the night before or get straight into Steve’s book for an insight of how to overcome both physical & mental barriers & reach achievement. I chose the former which meant that I only got into Steve’s book the day before the Everest Challenge & was only halfway through it by the time my run started, could this have been the lapse in my preparation?
Saturday 17th June saw me start a very hard Coed y Brenin Marathon with a dodgy knee but despite the fact that I failed to restrict myself to a jog my knee actually felt better after completing it. This being on the back of both the Borrowdale 25K Race & a hard (for me) Welsh 1,000’s over the previous two weekends. Plenty could be said about my experiences in these three excellent events but their time has passed I am afraid. With these three races successfully navigated without injury I was feeling more confident until a certain mountain called Siabod burst my spirits & had me seriously doubting myself.
On Tuesday 20th June I decided to calculate a contingency plan to see how high both I & the Relay team would have to go on our last climbs in order to break through our respective Everest & Rumdoodle challenge. Having done so on a glorious day my niece, Beth, & I set out for the lower slopes to check my map calculations on my GPS. Having found confirmation I uttered ‘Beth would you like to carry on to the summit’ ‘well yes if it’s all right with you Paul’. At the summit ‘Beth would you like to jog down’ ‘yes….’ you get the drift.
One descent later my troublesome knee had returned & my mind would now be dominated with ‘if one descent hurts how can I do 13?’
What to do, firstly Wednesday, wear a knee strap all day to both support it & see if it would rub if I chose to run with it (I have never worn a strapping before). Secondly Wednesday again, e-mail Bodhi in Betws to see if they could slot me in for an ’emergency’ physio, Sam was good enough to slot me in for Friday PM (8 hours before the run was due to start). Thirdly, Wednesday again, clearing a picnic table late afternoon a man approached me & enquired about the strapping on my knee, after my quick explanation he responded I can take your pain away. Moments later he touched my knee for a few seconds then taking his hands away explained that he had said to himself ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I take away his pain’. Now I am not a believer but what are the chances of this happening to me, I cannot say the pain disappeared but there were many pains on Saturday but few had anything to do with the knee. Fourthly, Sam on Friday, great work on some really painful muscles & that gorgeous pink tape (She had no other colour & I was a beggar) left me feeling confident ‘the pain may return but long term damage is un-likely as long as you don’t go at race pace, that is one thing I had no intention of doing.
So to Friday night, as the sun set (theoretically as no one in Capel had seen the sun all day) Becki who was starting the relay & I set off at 9:44 pm with a changed plan to stay together on the way up & mark the most difficult parts of the route. This was to prove a very wise decision, by marking it on the way up we’d be sacrificing time for safety, just as well because even on our twilight descent the markers were very difficult to find.
Leg two saw Steve & I also stay together, I know Siabod summit like the back of my hand & Steve has done a Dragon’s back & much more besides but we were both thankful we’d made this wise call. We couldn’t see the summit with our headtorches until we were within 20 feet of it & on the 3rd descent marker we circled it trying to be confident of our line, the wind blew, the drizzle dazzled, this was no place to be alone.
Leg 3 saw my first ‘support’ runner, Peter, & I set off in pursuit of Brian who was doing the 3rd relay leg. We finally caught him just on the summit before I made the mistake of not saying, Brian I’ve descended this twice tonight we are going the wrong way. Best to stick together & all that led to an avoidable rock tussle & wrong descent line leading to a lengthy correction once we got out of the clag, there were several minutes of thinking is that Plas y Brenin’s lights or the Cafe’s, thankfully the former & we were soon back on course. Jungle Robbins has a ring to it.
Leg 4 was the first leg truly on my own before I was pleased to see Alwyn’s form ahead just below the summit ridgeline, he waited & a final tricky night nav. descent off the summit was over safely. Fears of Siabod’s summit in a nighttime clag had flittered in & out of my head for week’s before, we had been sensible, we had not been alone & by the skin of our teeth had got away unscathed unless you count the 5 tumbles I’d already taken including two on the same bloody rock. I was already a bit battered & bruised but trying to run it off. Alwyn left me on the descent I would now be running mostly alone. Shortly before I got back to the cafe I passed Peter who had stepped into an emergency request to do a relay leg following Phil’s failure to show. This was his second ascent & we were lucky he was there to keep the relay on track.
Leg 5, Again I passed Peter as I ascended & he descended, the weather was improving & on my return to the Cafe I passed Tim who was looking good at the start of Relay leg 6. Back in the cafe with 5 down my mind switched firmly to the 8 to go, no matter how I looked at it it was not a nice sight. My body was tiring & my mind was buckling, I refuelled long & hard, temporarily it paid off.
Leg 6 & 7 went comparatively well as I passed Tim again descending like a Demon, Emily & Gethin but Leg 8 caught me straight in the face, my quads felt like they had been punched by Tyson & my feet were even worse. During leg 8 I was passed by Phil twice (no longer AWOL & James a chap I’d only met in the cafe days before, it would be the first of two relay legs for him, well done James for tagging along, hope to see you again soon.
After leg 8 I was in the cafe for a serious pit-stop, Phil & Dorina nursed my feet whilst Hazel refuelled me, change to dry socks & dry shoes definitely helped (Kean’s wise words had hinted this after leg 7).
Leg 9 Phil came with me offering encouraging words & sincere belief that I was tough enough & had it in the bag, here at least time was agreeing with him, despite those necessary slow early legs I had always been roughly on track & was now moving several minutes ahead of schedule. Because of the serious pit-stop leg 9 went well as indeed did leg 10 where I was accompanied by Brian, we were pased by a flying fill twice as we descended (clearly making up for his lie-in before lower down we were passed by Judy & Sheree early on their relay leg. By now the weather had closed in once again & Siabod’s summit was not a nice place to be from here-on.
On leg 11, again on my own I thought I might reel in Judy & Sheree but they passed me as they were coming down below the summit ridge, reaching the summit 10 minutes later I knew problems were arriving, 1:05 to the summit was easily my slowest so far, my descending legs had gone long ago but now I couldn’t even ascend properly. Shortly before reaching the haven of the Cafe Ali came running past me as she set out for Eryri’s next leg. Back at the cafe, I had the time, did I have the energy, I needed a pacer & so with Steve asking what I wanted I simply said Steve I need you to pace me for Leg 12, without a hesitation he changed on the spot & we were off some 10 legs after our first together. I gave Steve my pacing notes, he re-calculated & we were able to stay on schedule on the lower slopes. Despite Steve’s best efforts though I knew I was blown, I simply could not face a 13th summit, my mind switched to the contingency plan previously reccied with Beth & at the last style going up I broke the news to Steve. He responded positively didn’t try to dissuade me & wonderfully pointed out ‘O.K. then Paul so now understand the next bit is the last time you have to do it as next time you’ll be turning back here’. Siabod’s summit seemed to acknowledge the sense of this as it gave us another blasting in the wind & clag, Ali had clearly gone off line as we’d not seen her pass the other way, thankfully she had returned to the cafe un-scathed but a little late leaving Megan to take up the reigns whom we passed on our descent.
Returning to the cafe for the 12th time I received an enormous cheer which could not be left without a response ‘thank you everyone, but I feel a bit of a fraud as I’m not going to be doing the 13th but I am going back up to the last style with Dorina & Rebecca & that’ll get me past the height of Everest’, even that got a loud round of applause & was very warmly received!
Leg 13, making sure that Dorina & Rebecca had warm clothes on before we set off this lesser climb was still daunting in itself. Dorina & Rebecca were like un-leashed tigers whilst I gasped & grunted ‘don’t worry go on, I’ll follow’. At last we reached the style, the climb was over, one final very painful descent soon began. Here we passed Ellie doing her leg supported by Maggie & Alwyn (once again Siabod summit was no place to be alone). They were clearly concerned for their daughter Megan who we’d not seen descending. With Rebecca scooting ahead, Dorina held back to keep an eye on my hobbling gate we finally reached the safety of the forest track. Here at least I was able to run the final 1.5K back to the cafe in reasonable form albeit with a lot of pain.
The welcoming reception back at the cafe was wonderful, like the guy on Wednesday they took away my pain, it was now time to sit & reflect. Thankfully these reflections were interrupted by the safe return of Megan who seemed to have followed the new Jungle Robbins route & in due course Ellie, Maggie & Alwyn.
I’d reached the cafe for the last time at 9:20 pm on Saturday evening some 23 Hours & 36 minutes after I’d set off the evening before with Becki. I’d covered some 73 miles & ascended (& more importantly descended) over 29,300′ having achieved more than the height of Everest, not quite the 13 summits but good enough on reflection to say to everyone involved, I could not have had better support, you kept me going to a place that at times felt truly beyond me, thank you.
The final bonus, the next day looking at my own individual sponsor form & just how many customers & friends added their names to the list whilst I was on the hill.
I think that is the correct sequence of events but in reality Siabod is a Hill & I am Yet to get over It!