“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
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
|The Paddy Buckley Route|
I had spent a lot of time doing reccie runs over the Paddy route with my friend Tracy (Aka The
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.
|Tracy Dean aka The Fell Fairy|
So that Friday morning I loaded everything in the car and Tracy and I
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
|Outside Petes Eats|
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
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
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.
|Tracy Carb loading|
|Tracy & Ukele|
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
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
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.
|Cnicht Spring recce, George begging Chocolate of Tracy!|
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
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
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.
|Tracy dress for the |
Typical weather on a n Y Garn Recce!
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|
|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!|
|Up in the Glyders at sunrise. Photo Sarah Ridgeway|
|Summiting Glyder Fach with my rave shirt still on|
photo Sarah Ridgeway
|View of Tryfan from Ogwen that morning.|
|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
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
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!
|Albert congratulates his Dad at the finish!|
|Happy me at the end :)|
|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