Friday, 5 September 2014

UTMB: The Journey

I arrived in Chamonix on the 21st of August and headed for fellow Team Raidlight athlete Ute Baird and husband Andrews apartment. They had very kindly offered to put me up for a few days until I met several other British athletes and we moved into a chateau we had rented for a week. Summer in Chamonix had not been great compared to previous years but I timed my arrival very nicely with a great weather window; a window of running opportunity in the surrounding mountains.
The start and finish arch of the UTMB 2014
Ute knows the area very well and over a coffee showed me some great routes on the Chamonix valley map. To cut a long storey short over the next few days I was like a kid in a sweet shop exploring the beautiful area. I was clocking up 5 hour days with around 1200-1800metres of ascent each day. The mixture of sun, views, mountain air and new trails for me kept me smiling all the time I was out running and exploring. It was on the evening of the third day out that I realised I had a problem, both Achilles where throbbing with pain. Whoops I may have overdone it somewhat. The worrying thing was that I had never had a problem with my right foot until now, 5 days before the start of the UTMB! Doh and double doh! I had previously torn my left Achilles last year and had been battling with it again this year (along with other injuries and illness-see previous blogs) and the one thing I have learnt is that the only thing I can do is rest and ice it; with appropriate calf muscle stretching. So that’s what I did. Ute also recommended a sports therapist in Chamonix; so I booked in with them on the Wednesday before the Friday race start. 
A day out playing up the Brevent prior to the UTMB; and its Seb Chaigneau
and crew doing a shoot for Garmin



I could feel the strain in the Achilles when just simply walking on it. I was getting worried that my UTMB experience would be very short lived. So whilst walking around the UTMB Expo show I called in the Active Patch 4U stand and they put around 8 of their patches on me in various locations and to further back things up I then called in the Raidlight stand where Team Raidlight Japan were present and they fixed me up with some kensio tape on both Achilles. So when I rolled up to the start of the UTMB on Friday, I had Actives patches, Kensio tape and calf compression guards on in the hope that would do the trick along with the physio I had had a couple of days before in keeping the strains at bay.

Raidlight Stand at UTMB expo, with a bountiful supply of kensio tape!
So race day arrived and I arrived at the start to be greeted with a sea of other competitors sitting down taking position to get in line for the mass start of 2300 runners. Just as the Elite runners were coming out to take their places in the reserved patch up front, the rain started. Most people reached for the waterproof tops but I was quite happy with the rain, as it was still quite warm. I decided to leave my waterproof in my Olmo 5 Raidlight backpack and just go with the gillet and arm warmers.

At 5.30 we were off…..well the elites were I think it took me another 6 minutes to get under the starting arch. However, I was not stressed by this as I had already made my mind up my sole objective was to complete the UTMB. Time was irrelevant, I backed this up by not wearing a watch and in fact from that moment on until I finished I hadn't a clue what time of the day it was. The atmosphere in Chamonix when the UTMB starts is just quite simply amazing. The amount of people that line the course out of town is breath taking as is both the noise and applause they give the competitors. It was so much fun just running down and hi five(ing) children and people, who were also so happy to just spectate and join in the carnival atmosphere.
So I jogged on down to Les Houches along the first 10km of the course which is fairly flat and just kept a steady pace and weaved in and out of people on route. The crowds were back out at les Houches so I immediately went into child mode and put both arms out pretending to be a plane diving from one side of the road to another hi five(ing) kids either side. I’m not sure who was laughing more, myself or the kids (and yes I made aeroplane noises as well, ha).

After the village centre it was time to grab the trekking poles off my back and put them into action. The first proper climb of the UTMB started as we divert to our left from the road and head up to Le Delevret. The rain continued to come down as I continued to go up. As long as I maintained a constant forward motion I was warm enough and therefore happy enough with everything. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the night except I had my first experience of runners “stomach issues”. Yep, no need to go into detail but between Saint-Gervais and Les Chapieux I had about 5 unplanned stops. I think had I been time and raced focused this may have had a larger negative impact on my run than it did. I just simply thought to myself that as long as I was going forward then in didn’t really matter. I did however, focus on getting more solid food into me at the check points on route and concentrated on remaining hydrated. 
See told you it was wet to start with!

This all helped pass the time and after Les Chapieux things had pretty much settled down. So I could trot on nicely without the trots (sorry couldn’t resist that one ha). It was also around here that I bumped into a few other Brit runners including Nicky Spinks (whom I had had the pleasure of helping out on her Paddy Buckley Round in her quest to get all 3 ladies records for the 3 big UK rounds). I exchanged a few words with Nicky but then we kept just trotting on in the dark and rain at our own pace and feel. From Arete Mont Favre it’s a nice descent pretty much down to Courmayeur. The last section was quite steep though and I remember having to dive to one side on the single track to let two lady runners come hurtling past me. I remember thinking they must have quads of steel as well as very dextrous reactions as it was still night and the track was full of tree roots exposed at intervals along the steep switch backs.

I must admit I was happy to get to Courmayeur, it had been a wet night and I was doing my best drowned rat impression and it was great to get my drop bag for a change of clothes. After a short while Nicky Spinks came in and sat down with me as we both tucked into plates of race aid station pasta. Nicky was worried that sitting around a lot would make her struggle to get going again. So within 10minutes she was gone and back out onto the course. I was impressed once again by her tenacity. I decided to take my time. I ate as much as I could stomach, went the wash room, had a good wash/scrub and changed my clothes. I also decided it was time for music, so I got my ipod wired up. After 30 minutes I decided to hit the road again and left Courmayeur….5minutes later I was back to grab my cup of tea I had left, wally!

I think the course markings were a little thin on the ground in Courmayeur and although I roughly knew the way (I had stayed there 2 years previously when doing the Tor Des Geants) I did get slightly lost until a local dustbin man pointed me in the right direction. Once I was on the road to the Refuge Bertone path I knew where I was and immediately relaxed singing along to Placebo songs…..much to the amusement of a competitor I passed as I came out with the immortal lines of “A friend with breasts and all the rest, A friend who’s dressed in leather”…..As I hit the chorus of “Days dawning, skins crawling, pure morning” the day was indeed dawning and the head torch was removed. 

When I arrived at Refuge Bertone I had to take a few minutes to take in the views, they were simply breath taking. The last time I was here was when I was competing in the Tor Des Geants, it was night time with snow all around, no great amazing views of the mountains but the sky was completely clear and the night sky blazed for one and all, with and unfathomable amount of stars beaming down to our little planet. I then thought of the sepsis that had been steadily blazing up my leg also 2 years ago on that event (see previous blog); quick shudder and it brought me back to the present.
Doing my Caveman/Werewolf impression on route to Bonatti

 I realised it was now time to run. I knew it was good path to Refuge Bonatti so I made the most of the cool morning conditions and got into a nice running stride whilst also taking in the views. This was my favourite section of the UTMB course with a very impressive looking Mont Blanc to my left dazzling in the morning sun. It was somewhere along this section I passed Nicky again. A quick exchange of words but I kept going with the flow this time and plodded onto Bonatti. On the descent from there to Arnuva I then caught up with another Brit and fell running friend Lee Knight. “Aye up” I said and then we waffled on to each other for a while and into Arnuva. Lee said his drive had gone. He had got stressed out about keeping up with a planned schedule he had and due to the slow mass start had been constantly on the back foot chasing his split times. “I’m still flipping finishing” or words to that affect he said. “I want that finisher’s gilet”. We left the aid station together and Lee produced his profile sheet so we could see what was coming up next….whoops Grand Col Ferret, the highest point of the course. I told Lee I was just running to feel and at that moment in time I felt Ok, so I continued to ascend at my chosen pace, as at the back of my mind I must admit I was then beginning to think that I would like to be back in Chamonix before it was daft O’clock at night. 
Arnuva to Grand Col Ferret

I really enjoyed the descent from the Grand Col Ferret to La Fouly, once again great running with some great views. However, the section from La Fouly to Champex lac was not as enjoyable for me. It must have been getting around mid-day or later as the sun was getting hot and I was beginning to cook. I’m not a runner who does well in hot conditions. I did quite a bit of walking in this section, particularly in the exposed areas. By the time I got to Champex Lac I felt blah! I had been going through a lull for about an hour or more. Help was at hand though. Ute and Andrew had volunteered to crew for me at the later aid stations. This was brilliant, as I rolled into the aid tent Ute had already got my stuff laid out, and just simply asked what food and drink I would like. I let her know and the next minute it appeared. Brilliant I could just keep my backside on the bench and moan about how rubbish I felt! Ute reminded me that there was only a marathon to do now and everyone feels rubbish after 70 something miles…….as I've never raced a 100 mile race before I couldn't argue with that one so just accepted my fate. I had also been talking to Dakota Jones who was sat opposite me. Things hadn't been working out for him and he was regrouping himself for a continuation. He suggested that we both leave together, well I didn't need to be asked twice. As far as I was concerned it was a great privilege to be able to travel a while with such a talented runner. That’s the one thing I totally adore about this sport; when we race we all line up on the same start line and run the same course no matter if we are elites, good club runners mid packers or back packers. How many amateur footballers can play with the pro’s, how many amateur golf players can play with the pro’s etc etc, yet in the world of ultra-running we can all be lined up together to run the same course at the same event. We all share the same passion and the same love for a sport and then subsequently also share it in our racing. 
Descent to Vallorcine, with La tete aux vents in the background
Photo Simon Ellis
After a few miles of further descent from Champex Lac aid station Dakota concluded that his legs were not as ready to commence the pounding as he initially thought they were. He decided it would be best if he turned back, so we shook hands and parted company. Ute and Andrew managed to intercept him at the top of the road climb we had descended. I then saw all 3 of them next at Trient. I can’t remember much about the then ensuing section apart from thinking “blimey this is taking some time,….huff, puff” and “look out rock, look out tree root and ooooo stream…..chuck water over head”. But eventually Trient aid station did appaear and once again Ute sorted me out. I thought I was going a bit delirious when I arrived as I thought I had entered a disco, but no when I looked to my left there was a dj mixing tunes and getting down with the groove….although it was tempting to bust a move or two I decided to leave my dancing till later and headed out onto the course still feeling rather grim. The saving factor of this next section was that the course goes straight into an ascent up to Catogne. J’adore ascents! The ascents I could manage and they gave time for me to digest food and get back into a rhythm. It was the descents that were taking the toll on my feet and quad, despite me taking it “easy”.  By the time I got to Vallorcine I had perked up though as I could smell home; Chamonix was not far away and only the ascent to La tete aux vents stood in my way.


video

Leaving Vallorcine with cup of tea in hand..happy
Photo Andrew Baird.
I left Vallorcine aid station (where once again Ute and Andrew Baird had crewed for me) with a cup of tea in my hand feeling quite happy that Chamonix was in striking distance. Barring a major disaster I knew I could finish the race and that if I got a wiggle on I may just make it before nightfall. After I had finished my tea I started to speed up and much to my amusement I was greeted with a cowbell and lots of applause from Ute, Andrew and other brit competitors from the CCC and OCC, Simon & James Ellis, plus Jayson Cavill and Kim England at Col des Montets. Haha that made me laugh and gave me an extra burst to get up La tete aux vents as quickly as possible. It worked well and I was passing a number of other competitors on the way up. Between La tete aux vents and Flegere it became apparent that although I was moving quick I was not going to beat the dark to Chamonix. Darkness descended quickly on that leg but I could just make enough of the trail out to get to the Flegere check point without stopping for my head torch. I came into the check point and asked for a coke in English. There were two other competitors in there as well and they looked at each other and said “I think it was time we left now”. I turned and looked to see one had a union jack on his number before they left. I had a little to eat and then dug my head torch out and dropped all the batteries on the floor. One of the aid station ladies was great, she took the torch of me so I could finish my tea and collected the batteries up and put them in the torch for me. Time to go. I left that last aid station thinking wouldn’t be able to catch anyone and indeed initially I could see no head torch lights. That final section is a great woodland switchback run with lots of rocks and roots; in the dark quite technical, but great fun. I just started smiling to myself because I could see the lights of Chamonix below and then suddenly I caught a glimpse of a head torch. This spurred me on and quickly I overtook someone and then within a couple of more minutes I was running behind someone else. I went past them but this time they gave chase. Not today I thought to myself. I started to accelerate and for the next few minutes I could see a head torch light still following me! Faster we both went (it certainly felt as though I was at 5:30 mile pace or quicker) and suddenly 2 more competitors were overtaken. “Bravo, allez, allez!” shouts one. When I reached Chamonix I decided to not let up even though I could not sense the other runner know. I finished in 28hours and 6mins to a great reception from a fantastic crowd plus all the brits I was staying with in Chamonix along with Ute and Andrew. What an atmosphere, awesome! It was just as well I kept moving at a good pace as the next person to finish was Brit Dan Lawson (winner of Ultra Trail South West 100mile and the Ridgeway Challenge 85mile) and he was only 1min 40seconds behind me. So it looks like that for the last section of the UTMB my goal of completing went out of the window and I was definitely competing at the end; once a track runner always a track runner ha.
video

What an amazing experience the UTMB was. I certainly had some low points but overall it was a joyful journey full of beautiful sights and beautiful people. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to partake in the race and experience all 104miles and 9600metres of ascent of it! If you are thinking about doing the UTMB, OCC, TDS, or CCC then stop thinking and get applying. You won’t regret it.
Speaking to James Ellis (2nd Junior man CCC) after finishing
Beer in hand! Photo Simon Ellis

Kit used:
Head: Buff peak cap and Buff bandana
Backpack: Raidlight Olmo 5
Waterproofs: Raidlight Ultra light top and bottoms
Longsleeve top: Raidlight Wind stop top
T-shirt: Raidlight Ultra light top x2 (change Courmayeur)
Gilet: Raidlight
Arm warmers: Raidlight (used until Courmayeur)
Gloves: Raidlight
Shorts: Raidlight Ultra light till Courmayeur then Changed to Team Buff ones
Leggings: Raidlight ¾
Calf Guards: Team Buff compression
Socks: Injinji
Shoes: Hoka rapa nui
Poles: Black diamond Ultra z poles


Race day Nutrition:
Food from aid stations plus the following;
3 torq gels
2 sis gels
3 shot blocks
8 chocolate Bounty bars!

7 things that worked for me on the UTMB
1. Eat as much as possible; especially items that are salty
2. Use coke or pepsi to settle my stomach.
3. Always exit an aid station walking, I try to allow a few minutes for my stomach to settle. This works well when ascending out of an aid station but a little more difficult when descending. 
4. Use sticks on descents as well as ascents.
5. Always take the descents easy for the first 75% of the race; overtake mainly on ascents.
6. Always look for a positive out-look, (even when I had the trots I just thought great it means my pace will be slower and I can have a breather for a bit) and take time to smile/laugh.
7. Bounty chocolate bars! They work better for me for delivering energy than gels.....but then again I love chocolate and coconut ha!

Special thanks to Ute and Andrew Baird for crewing for me at the final 3 aid stations and all their other help prior to the race. Dakota Jones for inspiring me to get off my arse at Champex-Lac. Simon Ellis for photos and videos at Vallorcine and Chamonix. James, Jayson and Kim for cowbells & cheering on at Vallorcine. J

PS. As for the Achilles, I had a few niggles on route but overall they held up, so massive thanks to Chamonix Sports Therapists, Active Patch 4U, Team Raidlight Japan and Team Buff UK for the calf guards. 

PPS Lee did get his finishers Gilet 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LSD, Ozzy & the UTMB


“Cuckoo, Cuckoo, it’s great to be crazy” or words to that effect said Ozzy Osbourne to me and around 100,000 other folk watching Black Sabbath at Hellfest 2014, in Clisson, France. I’d been talking to some other festival folk earlier in the day who concluded I was crazy, because I participated in Ultra Trail running. So I suppose it depends on your perspective what crazy is, I thought after Ozzy said his piece. I certainly don’t think ultra-trail running is crazy and I didn't think I was for participating in it. Quite the opposite in fact, I think it’s a natural extension of being human. So having one of my nerdy moments I checked the definition of crazy; the online dictionary states this;

cra·zy  (kr z )
adj. cra·zi·ercra·zi·est
1. Affected with madness; insane.
2. Informal Departing from proportion or moderation, especially:
a. Possessed by enthusiasm or excitement: The crowd at the game went crazy.
b. Immoderately fond; infatuated: was crazy about boys.
c. Intensely involved or preoccupied: is crazy about cars and racing.
d. Foolish or impractical; senseless: a crazy scheme for making quick money.
n. pl. cra·zies
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Mmmm, interesting reading. It would appear then that using the word on an informal basis I can actually concur (from a trail running perspective) that I would have to tick the box for 2 a, b, & c! I would hazard a guess that most of my trail running friends would also tick these boxes in relation to their view of trail running. It would therefore appear that these people were right, I am crazy and most of my running friends are as well. Well at least when someone now says that I am crazy I can give an affirmative answer of “Yes, yes I am”. Just as a side note though, I think Ozzy definitely fits definition 1.
Nothing to see here, just an everyday occurrence in my Ultra Runners life...
So armed with my new knowledge that I am crazy a wave of relief swept over me. My trail running for 2014 has been a bit of a non-starter so far. As reported in an earlier blog, I spent the early part of 2014 on crutches and limping about due to a sub-luxed hip from the Spine Race. Once I started running though I then sustained an Achilles strain. I was trying to make up for lost training time, so when I started in April I did too much too soon, typical schoolboy error. No 10% per week increase for me it was 30%+ for me….ouch….fool.
Testing hip & achilles out at the V3K...I survived....Just! Photo Chris A Shoebridge
 I then succumbed to mononucleosis in mid-June (although not confirmed until July). As the weeks have been turning into months I have often thought why am I trying to carry on running, am I crazy or something? The only training I have effectively been able to do has been Long Slow Distance (LSD) runs,all speed work and fartlek or hill speed sessions have disappeared as the achilles and hip could not take them without moaning their bags of to my brain! "Oi! Brain, what are you making us do, we are falling apart here, are you crazy or something?" And finally, yep there was the answer all along in the online dictionary. You see, even though I couldn't run and train as I wanted, I was still ticking the boxes of 2a, 2b, & 2c. I was still following all of my running friends on FB, I was still buying trail running magazines, I was still reading trail running blogs, I was still watching YouTube clips and most importantly of all I was still trying to rebuild and refocus my training schedule and race schedule. I think I am on version 4 of the later now! Reading the definition of crazy from the online dictionary was quite amusing and made me chuckle but most importantly it reaffirmed to me the love I have for this demanding but fun sport and the beauty it gives me not only in the locations it takes me to but also the people I have met through it. At this moment I cannot envisage not being involved in this sport in some shape or form in the future. This then gave rise to a great feeling that there was no need to rush and fret about things then. It was, I suppose, about being in the moment via a route of acceptance.
Yeehaww, road trip!!
So by embracing this stance it looks like I will therefore run the UTMB in 3 weeks’ time. I use the word run rather than race as I am viewing it as a journey rather than a race. The reality is I am in no shape physically or mentally to race at the level of exertion I would feel happy with. I recently read Stuart Mills blog on his excellent run at the Montane Lakeland 50 at the end of July (another of my DNS’s!) (http://ultrastu.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/montane-lakeland-50-race-report-being.html) . In it he talks about his race focus being on maintaining a positive mind set throughout his run. I found his take and outlook quite inspiring and if I am honest it was while reading his blog that I confirmed to myself I would run the UTMB. Every year hundreds or even thousands of ultra-runners are disappointed that they are not selected to run in this race. I have therefore been extremely lucky to be selected for this event and to miss this opportunity would therefore be a great shame. It may take me another 2 to 3 years to achieve the required points and get selected again, so carpe diem it is. It will be my first 100 mile event, and what an event and journey it shall be no doubt. As part of Start Mills pre-race training he asks himself 3 questions, "What do I want?", "Why do I want it?", and "How much do I want it?" So my answers would be; What I want….I want to complete the UTMB; , no DNS, no DNF; Why? To me to complete the whole of the UTMB would be a major turning point for me in 2014, it would show that my season and training can start and I can get the fitness and focus I want for my next race (Les Templiers http://thetempliersgreatrun.blogspot.co.uk/ ); How much do it want it?....I want this one really bad; when following the Hardrock 100 recently I was blown away by the total commitment that Timmy Olson showed in getting to the finish line despite the wheels coming off, epic! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chTYAsYdDZQ) And also not forgetting that friend Stuart Air (http://stuieair.blogspot.co.uk/) in the Hardrock 100 as well, went on to finish the race, despite being a great pain for the last 40miles and 17hours due to an ankle injury. Inspiring. So it’s quite simple, unless I'm pulled, I'm dragging my arse to that line in Chamonix for beers and baguettes no matter what. That’s how bad I want it.  Roll on the 29th August, I have an Ultra beard and I'm not afraid to use it! 




Monday, 14 April 2014

The 3 R’s: Recap, racing and races.


Well 2014 did not have the start that I planned for. I had a few hiccups in 2013, but it ended well with a reasonable result at Tour du Helvellyn. I was in fighting form and looking forward to the next challenge; the Montane Spine Race (http://thespinerace.com/) in early January. My fighting form lasted until around 4.5 hours into the race. I was on my way down Torside Clough, tripped, hyper extended, sub-luxed my hip, hit the deck and sprawled about for a minute or so in a lot of pain. Luckily I was only about a mile from a road crossing and managed to drag and hobble my way down to it. A race Doctor was also amongst the marshals at the road crossing along with my support crew for this section (George Bate and David Bethell). I was told by the Doctor that if I was given any pain killers stronger than Ibuprofen I would be pulled from the race. I was still convinced that I would be able to walk it off after a mile or two. So I dosed up on Ibuprofen and carried on with the aid of sticks. To cut a long story short the next 6 miles were very grim for me, it took me around 4 hours to get them completed to the next road crossing. My race was done, as was I. Handing my tracker back to the race marshals was difficult for me. Still it had to be and was done; then after a hot brew and some commiserations from passing runners and a big hug of fellow competitor Jen Gaskill, my support crew bundled me in the car for the journey to the A&E.

The next few weeks went like this;

Week 1: In bed on rather heavy duty pain killers. A minimum time of at least 30minutes to get out of bed and make the toilet and return to bed! And yes the toilet was in the same house!

Week 2: More movement but only on crutches. Loo trip down to about 10 minutes.

Weeks 3-4: Managed to get rid of the crutches and move to a walking stick. Managed to start getting my sock on my left foot! Physiotherapy at NHS starts.

Weeks 5-6: Managed to ditch the walking stick (although my walking style was similar to the hunch back of Notre Dame) and got stuck into rehab exercises. Started to see Mike Perry Physiotherapist as well as NHS.

Weeks:7-8: As weeks 5-6. Walking style improved to that of Huggy Bear of the original Starsky & Hutch TV show….. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc6rbEt7Xwc

Weeks 9-10: I decided I was strong enough to try running again……..bad idea. I was told the soft tissue and tendon damage would take 12 weeks to heal properly. I thought for some reason I would be different….nope, I am the same as everyone else. I tried to run twice, but it was too early, there was too much pain. So I heeded the experts and stopped, switched to turbo training.

Weeks 11-12: Turbo training mixed with core training. At the end of week 12 I went to Annecy with the Fell Fairy (aka Tracy Dean). It was a do or die trip for me. It ended up being a ‘do’ result. I managed to put 3 days of running together. It was the result I hoped for.

Week 13: In the words of Fat Boy Slim…Right about now…. I’ve started training again with gentle runs and a view to at least a month’s build-up of this before I progress to harder sessions.

So the overall results of the 12 weeks were a weight gain of around 9lbs, a loss of muscle mass in the legs (a very visible difference between my left-injured- leg to right leg), a general loss of fitness and a general runners low, but on the plus side plenty of time to look at my race plans for the season. I had drafted one at the beginning of January on my Spine taper, but with my hip injury and lack of fitness I had to scrap all my races planned for the first 6 months of the year. So my proposed slimmed down 2014 calendar looks something like this;

May: At some point run the Pennine Way(aka Spine route). My DNF at the Spine was a double disappointment as I was also running it to raise money for the Charity Mind. I therefore still want to complete this as a challenge to myself and honour my sponsorships. It will also be a great training session.

June 28th: World Skyrunning 80Km Championship, Chamonix, France (http://www.skyrunning.com). I will not be up to speed for this race but I have an entry. If I feel I may not have the fitness to complete I may substitute this with the first UK Skyrunning race; the V3K http://www.vegan-welsh-3000s.co.uk/

July 26th: the Montane Lakeland 50 http://www.lakeland100.com/the-lakeland-50 .This race has now become the British Ultra Trail Championships for 2014. It will be super competitive for sure. Once again it will be too soon for me to be in tip top condition but I will certainly be planning to run as best as I can on the day. It’s also going to be a great social weekend, so looking forward to this no matter what.

August 29th: UTMB, Chamonix, France, http://www.ultratrailmb.com  Blinking ‘eck, I was not expecting to be doing this race! This is the first time I have put an entry into the UTMB (I was actually going to do the CCC, but the entry system showed I had 7 points, so a spur of the moment decision saw me press the UTMB button!). So much to my surprise I was drawn from the hat as it were. I should be getting somewhat fitter by about the time this race occurs, so I am looking forward to it, albeit with also rather a lot of nervousness as it will be my first 100mile race.

September 27th: Mmmm not sure maybe the RAB http://www.rabmountainmarathon.com/ but it is a week before the 3x3Ultra.

October 4th: 3x3 Ultra Skyrace, http://www.highterrainevents.co.uk as above not sure if it will be this or the RAB.

October 26th: Choice time Snowdon Marathon or Grand Trail Les Templiers 47mile Trail race (20th Anniversary Edition) http://thetempliersgreatrun.blogspot.co.uk/ . Templiers is more my thing, but I’ve never done a road marathon……

So as can be seen a bit wishy washy at the end of the year but I will make my judgment calls on the races closer to the time when I can gauge how I am running better. I will also be getting involved with a few friends challenge rounds offering support on Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley Rounds plus very excitingly the Hardrock 100. So although it is a slimmed down season, it's still going to be a busy one for sure.

I am also lucky enough to be involved in organising a Skyrace this year in the UK, The Peakskyrace  http://www.peakskyrace.co.uk/  It’s an interesting transition from being a competitor to race organisor but one I am enjoying along with my co Race Directors Richard Weremiuk and Billy Craig. We hope to put on a race to remember; for all the right reasons. I’ve also been out on the course and tweaking a few parts of it to increase the elevation. At present my Garmin has a reading of around 2350metres over 29miles. So just on the cusp of an AL fell race, but with the benefit of it being a fully marked and marshalled course. More details will be posted on the web site soon.


I will end with saying thanks to all at the NHS physio department and A&E who looked after me first class, to Mike Perry for then continued physio support http://1stcontactphysiotherapy.co.uk/stokeontrent/ , my Spine Support crew-George Bate, David Bethell, & Janson Heath who were all giving up their time and resources to help me out over the days that the race would have taken…sorry the adventure didn’t happen lads, Tracy Dean for sports massage and phsio support to keep me running whilst in France. And last but by no means least all the messages of support from everyone out there I have received about getting myself back out into the running mix, including all at Buff UK and Raidlight. Cheers to you all J

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Fancy Paddy

“It’s your Dad, I think he’s dead!”
Dad & I
 I had been expecting a call like this from my mother at some point during the Spring of 2009, but regardless, the phone call that night still came as a shock. An ambulance was on its way to the family home and I told my mother I would come across straight away. I grabbed my lad out of the bath, dressed him and we headed out the door. I arrived after dropping the lad off on route to find the paramedics in the front room trying to resuscitate my father who was lying on the floor. They had arrived quickly and had being trying for around 20minutes, but to no avail. Lots of things crossed my mind at that point but I do remember two vividly. Firstly my father had stated he did not won’t to be revived (he had pulmonary fibrosis from years of working on building sites), he had come home from hospital to die and had accepted his fate with grace. Secondly, was the love of life that my father had always had. Even in his last few days at home he spent hours watching birds out of his window visiting the garden; which he classed as far more interesting than anything on television (well apart from Coronation Street!). Also one of the last conversations I had had with him he just looked at me and said “Son, you should start to run again. Running always made you smile.” At that point I hadn’t ran for around 13 years. I had been an amateur club track athlete and given it all up with the excuse of that “life is just getting in the way”. A few weeks later after my father’s funeral I started to run again.
Those initial running steps I took in the summer of 2009 were the first on what has become an incredible
The Paddy Buckley Route
journey for myself and 2 years later on Friday 3rd June 2011 I found myself going through a check list. Mmmm 5 pairs of Innov-8’s, check, 5pairs of socks, check, Hagloff waterproof, check, selection of Buffs, check, various vests and shorts, check, ridiculously tight skins, check, Nuun tablets, check, daft amount of food, check, beach wear & surf board, check, 80’s disco shirt, check, Rave t shirt, check, bikers jacket, check and last but not least bow tie and dinner jacket, check. All this can only mean one thing…it was time for my Paddy Buckley Round…with themed fancy dress road support points
J

I had spent a lot of time doing reccie runs over the Paddy route with my friend Tracy (Aka The
Tracy Dean aka The Fell Fairy
Fell Fairy http://tracymdean.blogspot.co.uk/) over much of the spring of 2011 and in between eating, moaning about my latest ankle twist and just going oooooohhhhh and aaaaaahhhhh at the scenery we had talked a little bit about my Paddy attempt scheduled for the 4th June that year. One of our random conversations brought up the subject of adding a little bit of fun to the attempt for those involved as well as myself and before you could say “I’ll have another Cornish pastie please” the idea of having themed road stops was born. So a  plan began to formulate in the empty space between my ears and it went something like this; Nantmoor was going to be a beach Party, Pont Caer Gors was to be a 70’s/80’s disco, Llanberis was Rave, Ogwen was a Biker Party theme and Capel was a black tie finish. Brilliant! Although this sounds a little bit odd, for me it was perfect planning as it took away the enormity of what I was planning to do; run a sub 24hour Paddy after only being running for a couple of years.

So that Friday morning I loaded everything in the car and Tracy and I
Outside Petes Eats
were heading to North Wales pretty much on schedule (which for those who know me is a remarkable achievement in its own right!). The weather forecast had been viewed diligently all week and most excellent conditions had been forecast for the weekend, and by the looks of things they were spot on. My attempt at the Paddy had been scheduled for an 11am start on Saturday the 4th from Capel Curig, so the plan was to travel down the day before and relax. I had arranged to meet Gaynor Prior (Lakeland L100 Winner & Cesaers Camp Winner Record Holder http://shoeaholicsguidetorunning.blogspot.co.uk/) and her husband Dave in Llanberis on the Friday afternoon for a preplanning meet.
 They had very generously offered to do all my road support for me! Which just emphasised to me what a fantastic couple they are and also that they are just ever so slightly bonkers. So in Pete’s Eats the maps were laid out and all the road stop points were marked whilst eating large platefuls of spag bol with chips and garlic bread, all washed down with a local beer, mmmmm. After about an hour (Poor Dave; during this time he was sat out in their van looking after their “lad” Albert…..Albert being the infamous fell running English bulldog, often spotted at the top of “Skidpaw” in the Lakes!) we said our good byes and arranged to meet at Capel Curig in the morning.
Gaynor and just some of the supplies!

It was onto Lyn Gwynant campsite for Tracy and I, as I had chosen this as base camp for my attempt, as from my perspective it looked reasonably central for people to camp and be ferried to and from for the various legs. So in no time I duly started to erect the tent ready for tomorrow whilst Tracy carried on with the important task of playing her Ukele and drinking cider (ermmm I mean carb loading!).
I had just completed the task when Jon Whilock (Paddy, Bob & Ramsey Completer) came across and said “O you’ve camped here have you, we are over there” said he pointing to
Tracy Carb loading
150 yards away. Ha, so much for the one big base camp. Never mind though, as I was not staying in the tent tonight anyway. I had booked a room in the Royal Goat in Beddgelert. Well I thought I may as well have a bit of luxury the night before as I could get an early night in the comfort of a posh hotel and emerge all rested and raring to go the next day. So we arranged to meet Jon at the Hotel for a “half” later that night. After I had booked in I noticed that Tracy’s “carb loading” was going well; so not one to be left behind I thought I’d better crack on and start my “carb loading” routine.  I must admit I think we both did a truly excellent job of it. Even when Jon turned up later I could tell he was impressed and secretly worried that with all my carb loading he would not be able to keep up with me over the Moelwyns. This was clearly emphasised by him telling me to
Tracy & Ukele
not drink anymore and not to let anyone else buy me any more beer. However, upon quick consultation with another support runner Bryan Carr (Paddy, Bob & Ramsey Round Completer), and Doctor of Medicine of some repute I was assured that my Guinness was most excellent at “Carb” loading.  Mmmmmm Jon’s gone…..to the bar then
J. The evening was rounded off by Tracy serenading the 3rd floor of the hotel with her Ukele. However, all good things must come to an end and I was tucked up in bed by a respectable 1am.

Saturday morning I was woken with the sun pouring its bright rays into the hotel room, this is it, this is the day, I thought. Well I’d better get a move on then. So it was down stairs for cereal, more cereal, juice, lots off, toast, a full English breakfast, more toast, croissant and a pot full of tea. Tracy had a more Lady like breakfast of healthy fruit whilst eyeing up a nice Mulberry bag across the table. Brilliant I could face the day. Gaynor had sent me an email with lots of useful ultra running tips on, so it was time to put some of these into action. A large pot of Vaseline was produced and I went to work......

So it was 30 minutes before the start time and I turn up at Capel Curig greased up and wearing my skins with a big floppy hat….my, I’m so fashionable. We met in the National Trust car park behind the Pinnacle Café and Joe Browns climbing shop. It was fantastic to see so many people who had turned up to support me on
Fashionable me!
the forth coming leg or to just watch me start. Jon Whilock and family, George Bate, Simon Reed (Bob, Paddy & Ramsey Round completer) and family, Dave Harrison, Bryan Carr and family (including Holly the fell Collie), Den & Dale Colclough, Mike Perry, Shane Godrich , Dickie, and  Gaynor & Dave equipped with an air horn!
At 11am myself, Jon, George, Dave, Bryan and Hollie were off. It was down the road in glorious sunshine, through Plas y Brenin car park and then up through the wood to start the ascent of Moel Siabod. In the woods much to the dismay of George, I started to use my poles. Four weeks previously I had badly torn my ankle resulting in an afternoon in hospital, with x rays and lots of prodding…ouch. Nothing was broken but there was extensive tears and bruising on both side of my right ankle so to help take the strain off it I had decided to use poles and had purchased a pair of Black Diamond Ultra Poles from Racekit (www.racekit.co.uk). I had never used poles before but they really did help with the ankle so I was going to take them with me on all the legs….besides I’d got George to carry them when I wasn’t using them ;) By the top of Moel Siabod it really was evident it was going to be a hot sweaty run across the Moelwyns. I was reminded on the way up to keep drinking at least every 20 to 30 minutes, I had decided on this leg to drink nothing but nuuns as I am a hairy monkey and due to the heat I knew I would sweat a lot. The leg was going by fantastic. Chief navigator Dave Harrison was doing a brilliant job and Jon was keeping a beady eye on pace (I had decided on a 23:30 schedule). By the time we were at Cerrig Cochion we were 5minutes up on schedule which I was pleased about as I had “tweeked” my ankle on the run to it and was muttering some anglo-saxon terminology under my breath. The run from Allt fawr to Moel Ddu was breath taking. I love the remoteness of that part of the run with the stillness of the small lakes.
In the Moelwyns on a Spring Recce
 It was at this point that all of my support crew bar 1 also swerved off to fill their water bottles. I had not realised at the time but due to the 26-27 degree temperature everyone was drinking far more than they had calculated on and even at this early stage the risk of dehydration was becoming a problem.
They had kept this worry hidden from me though and assured me they would catch up very quickly. In the quarries we were met by Dale, Simon and Mike who had decided to join us for this last part of the leg before continuing on with the next to get a few extra miles in (at the time Dale was training for the Lakeland 100 and Simon for his Ramsey Round). It was good to see them all along with fresh faces and fresh smiles we were soon heading up Moel Ddu. We got to the top 14minutes up on schedule. It was then into the Moelwyns proper all went well except for the run Craigysgafn to Moelwyn Mawr where I had another ankle moment and lost 6 minutes on the schedule. Right it’s just Cnicht then an easy run in I thought to myself and some ice cold drinks J With that in mind another 4 minutes was clawed
Cnicht Spring recce, George begging Chocolate of Tracy!
in going up Cnicht. Then the run in began. My road stop was at the National Trust car park so there was the 1.5mile or thereabouts road section to run at the end of the track. I was met at the bottom of the track by Gaynor wearing a bikini over her running kit and some flower necklaces with Orange juice in hand for me. Brilliant it was beach party time at Nantmoor. I walked with Gaynor for a while whilst drinking my orange juice before her Sensei voice kicked in and told me to start running again. I got to Nantmoor 11minutes up on schedule but more importantly I was greeted with a fantastic sight of a make shift beach set up. Deck chairs with water wings, mini surf board, wind break, bikini clad women (albeit over running kit). Haha it was just brilliant, all thoughts of tiredness or possible dehydration vanished from my mind. I finished the first leg feeling great. Although later Gaynor confessed when everyone saw me initially they thought “O hell, he looks awful” haha, sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Beach Stop!

Dave Prior served me up some of his home made spag bol, it was gorgeous and a whole bowl soon disappeared. I’ll state at this point Dave is a most excellent cook and over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to munch down on a few of his creations. I was also handed some cold flat coke which was fantastic at washing the spag bol down with. And whilst that was going on they had made me a cup of tea (funny how you always crave tea after long runs…well I do), I tried it, mmm perfect and just the right amount of sugar I said. Dave and Gaynor looked at each other a bit wide eyed but said nothing. It was not until later they told me they had put 8 sugars in it!!!! Haha. Suddenly the beach boys music stopped playing and my 10minute warning came on. Gaynor had also done a themed music playlist for each stop but at 10 minutes warnings came on to get my backside up and
The Pain!!!!!!
running otherwise I would be subject to Noddy Holder and Slade! Bryn Banog had my name on it, so without further a due, Simon, Dale, and George were joined now by Tracy and we all set of at a trot.

The sun was still beating down and temperatures were still high even though it was now going into early evening. We left Aberglaslyn woods and came out to make our way across to the lower slopes of Bryn Banog. I was at the back of the team as they merrily chatted away up front. At one of the field boundary’s the team started to circumnavigate a small incline but I didn’t follow them. I was just in my auto pilot stage from doing my reccie runs. I normally swung to the East of this mound and not the West so off I went to the East. When we hit the lower slopes of Bryn Banog I had emerged some 2-300metres ahead of the team. Theoretically great for reducing my effort over distance, but practically and actually not so great. I had removed myself from my water sources as I wasn’t carrying any myself, not very clever of me given that I was sweating heavily and was starting to feel quite thirsty. I was annoyed with myself and barked back at the team about getting some water. As soon as I done it I felt awful. These people are my friends who have willingly given up their time and travelled to Wales to help me get around these mountains and achieve my goal. What a complete immature selfish diva I had been for that moment barking orders. I sat down on the slope thinking to myself what a plonker I was whilst Dale trotted up the slope to me with some water. Dale handed me the water as I immediately apologised to him for my outburst. Dale is a very experienced UK fell runner and has helped out on countless Bob Graham Rounds (an excellent navigator on any of the BG legs) and with all this experience and knowledge he knew straight away that my outburst had just been an anxious panic moment. As soon as he said this I knew he was right, on some level I was worrying about the end result of the journey rather than just enjoying the point where I was, the right here right now moment.  So with just a couple of sentences from the wise man of the hills I had come back down to earth and felt grounded although still quite sheepish. I apologised to the rest of the team for being a plonker as we all made our way together to get up to the summit point. It was an incredibly beautiful evening with a clear blue sky
Tracy dress for the
Typical weather on a n Y Garn Recce!
and fantastic views. I had done this leg a few times with Tracy on training runs in Wales. I used to rave on to her how beautiful this leg of the Paddy was and on every occasion the weather had been claggy/foggy with no great views at all.
I remember saying to her it will most likely be perfect on the day of my attempt just when you can’t stop and take 5minutes to take everything in. And low and behold it was. By the time we had run across to Y Garn the last mountain on this legs hit list the sun was setting and the evening was drawing in. We descended at a steady pace and entered into Beddgelert Forest and I steadily plodded along the forest tracks to the next road crossing. A few of the crew trotted on ahead to let the road support know we were on our way. As I rounded the last bend I nearly doubled in laughter on top of a grass mound were 2 of my next two support runners Shane and Richard they were gyrating to some 70’s music whilst dressed in afro wigs, big sparkling sunglasses and completed by dodgy shirts and ties! Brilliant.
Albert resting before the 70's Disco!
Gaynor & Dave had got the pit stop sorted for me like a super-efficient formula 1 racing crew. Some 70’s Disco was blaring out, Dave was being Matre D and asking what I’d like to eat and drink. “Any more Spag Bol & Coke?” I enquired. “Certainly Sir” came the reply ha. Gaynor had got my new sock and shoes ready, whilst disco Shane and Dickie were sorting my gear out. First class service all around. We were expecting another support runner at this point to help us Nav over the Snowdon leg. But alas no sign of him yet, “not too worry though” I thought as I knew I knew the leg well enough to nav myself. I just needed to engage the brain. Just as we were about to set off a car came driving into the Pont Caer-gors car park in a cloud of dust and out jumped Iain Ridgeway. I had forgot that we were up on the schedule by around 22 minutes so no wonder we had nearly missed Iain. It’s a good job that he WAS actually arriving early. Ever the efficient mountain runner though, Iain had in no time got his shoes on and grabbed his rucksack and was alongside us in the blink of an eye.
 Once again it wasn’t long before we were all nattering about bits and bobs and within no time we had ascended Craig Wen in 18minutes quicker than had been on the schedule! I was 44 minutes up at this point.
Iain Ridgeway & Clive ascending Elidir Fawr
I was a little worried that perhaps I was travelling a bit too quick, but I felt ok so decided that I’d just go with the flow and see what happens. The ascents up Yr Aran and Cribau Tregalan went well and once again we just pipped under the scheduled times. It was about here though that the weather started to change and the clear sky that had been with us gave way to a low cloud base coming in, along with an increase in the wind a little. I remember cooling down quite rapid with the change to night time.  So it was time to get the trusty Hagloff on and march up to Snowdon’s summit. At the summit visibility had dropped down to around 20 metres but the paths are well defined so it presented no problem. We descended from the peak with Iain leading the way to Carnedd Ugain (Crib y Ddysgl). At the trig the visibility hadn’t improved so Iain took a compass bearing as we were travelling “off piste” from here to pick up the Snowdon Ranger Path. A few minutes later and boom, Iain had led us on the path and down we trotted to then ascend Moel Cynghorion. From there on in it was easy running over the last few peaks to Moel Eilio. As we started the descent from this final peak of the Snowdon leg the twinkling lights of Llanberis at 1.30am could be seen. Which was fitting as the next stop was also about twinkling lights; it was the Rave themeJ.

Glo hoops abound at the Llanberis pit stop!
As I scuttled into Llanberis at around 2am I was once again chuckling to myself. I was greeted by a load of hooped glow sticks around the support van with Rave music blasting out and Gaynor, Clive and Tracy wearing day-glo leg warmers and skirts (although I think Clive opted out of the Skirt wearing) ha. Jon Whilock was also ready and waiting but wasn’t as keen on the day-glo look. Tracy had convinced him to at least wear a glow stick which he did and duly covered up with his sleeve. Once again the pit stop crew were amazing. Iain had run on ahead to let them know I was coming so everything was ready, food, drink and my own rave T-shirt. Just before Noddy Holder started to blare out of the music system I was off on my way to ascend the Glyders leg. My support runners for this leg were Jon, Clive, Iain for the first few ascents, and also joining us was Sarah Ridgeway and Brian Carr. We were missing Bryan though, no one seemed to know where he was (I later found out he was in the car park around the corner from us and wondering where we were!). I remember chatting to Sarah saying that we had another collie coming along to join her and Iain’s 2 dogs for this leg. But alas Hollie the Collie was going to miss the nightlife on the Glyders.
The Glyders leg of the Paddy route was really my make or break leg. I knew that if I could get through this leg fine I would complete the round. It’s never been my quickest of the legs when I was doing the
Glyders recce and those rocks!
recce’s. I don’t think even when I was fresh I ever made it from Glyder Fawr to Glyder Fach in the scheduled 16 minutes. Obviously the dodgy ankle going into a night section over probably the most rock infested of the Paddy legs didn’t help; I knew I wasn’t going to be fast and I was glad to have the extra time I had gained earlier on in the bag. About half way up the first ascent to Elidir Fach tiredness also started to
Blah!
affect me. I think the combination of the exertions so far plus the changes from my usual sleep pattern zone were beginning to build up. It was also around this time that my ability to eat was beginning to reduce. I have a vivid memory of trying to eat a cheese and onion sandwich on the way up Elidir Fach and not being able to. In the end I managed to discard the filling and just eat the bread and butter. It was a bit of a task so I decided to switch to gels for the rest of the leg. Clive then became my right hand Gel man. At the base of each summit ascent he would hand me a gel already open and ready to consume. John was back into time keeping duties whilst Sarah and Iain were undertaking the navigation. There was still quite a bit of swirling night cloud around as we ascended Elidir Fawr. But there was no hesitation with the navigation and we were on the descending path from Elidir Fawr with no problem heading towards Mynedd Perfedd. Despite my looming tiredness and my impression of Tom Hanks in “Big” when he tastes Cavier (except in my case it was the onion), I had only lost 2 minutes on the first two peaks of this leg over a 72minute period. However, looking at my schedule afterwards I then went onto lose 10 minutes over a period which should have taken me 27minutes! Looking back now I would say that the short ascents to Mynedd Perfect and Foel Goch were my lowest energy points. I was also being very cautious about my ankle. I knew I was tired and that is normally when my concentration levels drop and accidents happen. In no uncertain terms Jon told me at the summit of Foel Goch I was losing time and that I
Up in the Glyders at sunrise. Photo Sarah Ridgeway
needed to get my act back together again. He was right, so I decided it was time for my ipod. I probably lost a couple of more minutes with faffing about trying to unwind my ear plugs and getting it set up but pretty soon I was skipping along at a reasonable click dancing around rocks to the sound of “Korns Greatest Hits”. I ascended Y Garn only being a minute of my schedule time. I was now feeling more energised and raring to go for the rest of the leg. So Jon, Clive Sarah and myself pressed onto Glyder Fawr (Iain had dropped back done to Nant Peris at this point to get some well-deserved sleep). Sarah took us up to the summit of Glyder Fawr with a perfect line. Dawn was also upon us at this point. I made my way to the summit as some spectacular views of the Glyders unfolded before me. I felt my spirit lift as the early morning sun shone upon us.
Summiting Glyder Fach with my rave shirt still on
 photo Sarah Ridgeway
The summit was bagged with a 2minute gain on the schedule. 20 minutes later we had also summated Glyder Fach. It was 4 minutes slower than the schedule I was using but I was not going to worry about that as during my earlier recce runs I normally took at least 18minutes. Just one more summit to go; Tryfan. I grabbed an extra gel from Clive at the top of Glyder Fach scree slope descent in anticipation of the Tryfan ascent. I was not descending fast due to being over cautious about my ankle and although I found using sticks beneficial from a support perspective I found that they did hamper my descending speed. Looking back though it may have been a good thing and reduced the amount of impact damage my quads were receiving. I liked the ascent up Tryfan.  The combination of a cool temperature and a scrambling ascent, allowing me to use my upper body strength, meant that I only lost 2 minutes on the scheduled time. I think all of that was lost on my cautious scree slope descent from the previous summit of Glyder Fach. The descent
View of Tryfan from Ogwen that morning.
from Tryfan however was fuelled with a little excitement of reaching my “Rock” roadside stop. I trotted down to the Ogwen layby to see Dave and Gaynors trusty Bongo van with a massive skull and crossbones flag flying and once again some rock music blaring out. It may have been 6.30am but it was time to rock!
Bongo & skull & Bones Rock stop!
I think I had ate all of Daves spag bol by then so it was a more traditional breakfast of porridge and a nice cup of tea. Within what seemed like a very short time Noddy Holder was heared on the music system….eeek time to get a move on. The Carneddau leg had my name written on it and it was time to get the job finished. So I set off with Tracy, Dale, Dave, & Mike. First up was Pen yr Ole Wen, one of my favourite little scrambles in Snowdonia. I can’t say I was up it at a fast pace as I could feel the tiredness beginning to bite into the muscles. I remember get a little shove from Tracy at one of the climbing points as if to give me a little nudge to get a shuffle on. It worked I put my head down and concentrated on getting to the summit. I knew once I was up I had completed most of the ascent for that leg then and it would be reasonable running after that. About three quarter of the way up the ascent the weather changed and a small low system moved in. Within about 5 minutes our view had been cut to about 25 yards due to low level cloud base. The associated drizzle and plummet in temperature meant that we all got our jackets on, but despite this we still managed to reach the summit in 57minutes, only 1 minute off schedule. We grouped at
Albert congratulates his Dad at the finish!
the summit and headed off to the next peaks. The lack of visibility did not present any problems over this section. I had ran it that often I was beginning to recognize certain rocks on the trod’s. There are only a couple of key turns to get right and as long as you get them right it’s a fairly straightforward leg.  However, the coldness and rain made the going slow on a few of the descents due to the rocks being extremely greasy and slippy. We lost about 15minutes in the middle of this leg due to the conditions, but this was fine as the end was in sight. Approaching the last ascent my acknowledgement of completing the round was sinking in the weather started to brighten. The cloud was starting to lift and it was warming up as the sun gained height in the sky.  I felt energised (easy to do when you aren’t carrying anything!) and pushed on towards Pen
Happy me at the end :)
Llithrig y Wrach. I got to the summit and turned to start the descent but realized a combination of my energy burst and the team getting waterproofs off we had spread out. Dale’s experience once again shown through as he halted us all till we had regrouped. The descent from this point is one of those funny lines that is only on a minor trod and if missed you can end up getting way laid. So it was important for us all to do the descent together. The descent is great fun and we all really enjoyed the run down to the main road into Capel Curig. The cloud lifted and the sun shone down on us on the last few glorious miles. We all got to the road with big grins on our faces. Tracy then shouted out, “Right Ant, lead us home”, so of we set along the final kilometre on the road traveling at a fair pace (Tracy’s Garmin registering 6min mile pace!). We came into Capel to be greeted by a large banner across the traffic Island saying “Finish” it across it and everyone cheering myself and support home. It was a fantastic and welcome sight. Within a minute Gaynor had produced champagne and beers. The final black tie road stop began, but this time with no threat of Noddy Holder interruptions!
Champagne & Black tie finish!


The completion of my Paddy Round is without a doubt one of my proudest moments of life. There is also no doubt in my mind I could not have undertaken it with the help of all my friends that were there to help me. So thank you George Bate, Bryan Carr, Dale Colclough, Shane Goodrich (& Dickie), David Harrison, Clive Hevey, Mike Perry, Gaynor Prior, David
Prior, Simon Reed, Iain Ridgeway, Sarah Ridgeway, and Jonathon Whilock. Last but no means least a very special thank you for Tracy Dean for accompanying me on many, many, many runs over the route, and for her support not only over the weekend but on the months of buildup beforehand. I raise my glass and say
George, Simon & Dale.

“Cheers!” to you all and my father for putting me back on the trod again. 

That one was for you Dad J