Not a huge amount in this week’s Halloween Blog – keep letting us know what you’ve been up to. Not everyone sees the facebook posts so its great to get your race reports sent through for everyone to see. Send them to Helsby-Racefirstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, remember the 1st November…
Thanks very much to Jake Holmes for sending this report (it didn’t come in time for the week it took place but here it is a week or so late – well worth a read!) Well done Jake amazing job.. 100 miles!!!
People who’ve read my reports before will know they can go on… so for those in a hurry… “I completed Snowdon 100 Ultra on the weekend… it was great… a lot went on!”
There you go, no complaints please. Now to return to form… and for those with some time.
There’s a 50 and a 100 mile race. Starting at 6am Saturday in Betws heads out to the hills and goes up Tryfan, Snowdon, the Glydwrs and Pen yr Olwen before heading back to Betws (finish for the 50 and half way for the 100) via a big divert to get some final ‘less hilly’ miles in.
There were 40 or so of us on the 100 start line and when we set off I found it comfortable being up in the front group. I knew I wouldn’t be there all day but it was flat for a few miles so wanted to get those under my belt nice and quickly. The following few hours gave good climbs and pretty strong winds and rain. I’m gonna skip ahead to the last climb of the 50, Pen yr Olwen. It’s a tough one but the weather was fine and so when we (I was chatting to a couple of runners on the way up) got to the top to be told the route was being altered a bit to avoid a ridge because of the weather (it was still fine) I was pretty disappointed.
Jump to about 45 miles and I’m running on my own back to Betws. It’s about 9pm and has been by head torch for a couple of hours. This was the hardest bit mentally… the altered course was bothering me…
‘So if we’ve just been diverted off Pen yr Olwen now, what are they going to do with the 100 route? I’ve seen the course before so what’s the point in heading out again to do what might end up only being 80miles or something? The kids are at home, you could just knock it on the head and have Sunday with them’. ‘Is this really how you want to spend your time?’
Yeh you see, bad times. 4 miles from the Betws though, a group of 5 or so head torches come bobbing along catching me. Just what was needed – a bit of chat and a good pace with some guys chuffed to be coming to the end of their race. I jumped on and picked up the pace to stay with them. Almost as soon as I did I knew I was carrying on regardless of the final distance. In Betws they crossed the line and I caught up with Wayne (Race Director) who said the weather hadn’t come in and it all looked good to do the full course. The change hadn’t reduced miles, just avoided a ridge. Great. 20 min sit down and faff and a cup of noodles and off back onto the course.
Arrived at the next CP at around 1am Sunday to a sleeping marshal and to hear I was in 4th! Really?! That’s what he said so maybe but whatever I was happy I was going well and picturing maybe finishing in daylight!
3am and the first proper mistake: I’m on a moor and can’t find the footpath I need. It’s tiny, the bracken is big and my head torch gives me about 5metres of visibility. I give up and decide to take a bearing and just go for it. The next 40 mins is a battle of stomping through bracken scratching the hell out of my legs and making v slow progress down to the reservoir. I got there but it was not the smartest thing to do. I saw a head torch on the hill behind me. I’d lost a good half hour I reckon.
6:30am: through the next checkpoint, where they were reviewing incoming weather, and I was half way up Pen yr Olwen again before they decided.. I saw the head torch behind me again and so when I got to the face of bouldery rocky type terrain near the top, I just took up it scrambling without much planning. This was the second mistake. I did well and got high then looked up to think… well I can’t go up that bit… then turned to see.. well I can’t go back down the way I’ve just come. Oh bugger.
I then spent what felt like an hour of traversing, going up a bit, down a bit, kept coming to dead ends. Cloud came in, visibility dropped and the rock and moss got soaking wet. I’d spend 10minutes getting to a spot to then think… ‘woh…. can I do that… but there’s nothing to hold and that’s too far down. Dammit..’ and I’d have to turn around. I genuinely felt stuck there for a minute. Had a word with myself and managed to get back down. Took a closer look at the gpx and found the path which was further round, still steep, but all doable. When I got to the top the relief was pretty big but I knew I’d just lost an hour and that head torch guy must have passed me. Still, it was done. 33 to go.
A couple hours of running through the weather the marshals had been expecting (70mph wind and rain had arrived on the Carneddau and they’d stopped other runners coming up) and I see someone running towards me!? It’s Paul Cunningham! Came along at just the right time… it had been pretty hard since about 2am and I reckon it was on its way to 11am now so a smiley face (I don’t think he has any other type) was just the ticket.
The other thing that happened about now was I started getting pains up my right ankle. I don’t remember a specific moment but it quickly had me walking. I thought it’d be something to run off but for now it was fairly slow progress – Paul kept the pace up, pointing the way… and mostly in the right direction 🙂 .
The stretch from the next CP was along the valley on a good path. John (head torch guy) and I were there at the same time but he set off running 5mins before me and I knew I had a walk ahead so let him go. Lots going on in my head now, mostly along the lines of ’30 miles is a long way to walk… so you’re not going to do that’. After a few miles of hiking at a decent pace, with the poles being invaluable, I gave myself targets of hobble/running to the next tree… and then I’d get there and change the tree I was aiming for. Quite soon I was running again (with a bit of pain) and when I caught John before the next CP I was mentally back in a great place.
85mile CP marshal: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “Yeh great thanks”
Marshal: “Good, ok so we’ve changed the route because of the weather and everyone’s going down the valley”
There was only one mountain left! And the weather wasn’t bad. I was ready to have a moment after going through all this to get this close and potentially not do the full course. The CP manager was switched on though and when she realised me and John were two of 6 who’d so far done the full course, she let us go up. John had been suffering on the last leg though and he didn’t want to so off I headed while the rest of the field stayed low toward Betws.
It was great to know there were no more chances of route alterations and I had the full course in the bag. It was windy again up top but dry and after what took longer than expected, I followed a ridge down back to the valley at Capel Curig as it turned dark.
Ok now it started to get a bit weird. 90 miles done I’d been going for about 38 hours so was pretty tired. Hadn’t seen anyone for 3 hours and now all I can see is the bit of trail lit by the head torch surrounded by dark. Running water had been the constant sound for a lot of the race and even more here where most of the paths were streams. I suppose your mind just starts to create things for you to think about other than the cycle of ‘where’s your next step’, ‘is this the right way’, ‘is your ankle still ok’. That’s when in the corner of my eye I saw a guy in a white hoody standing about 10metres away. It didn’t immediately freak me out. I knew there was no-one there. I’d heard about lack of sleep and extended running causing hallucinations so thought maybe this is where we are then… though I definitely wasn’t looking for one! I stopped and turned to look straight at it, and at that point he turned away so I could see his back. I mean what the f*@k. I looked back at the trail and he turned back to face me again. Ok now I was freaked out. I looked back at it and it turned again. It was obviously a tree, or a rock or something, but no matter how much I knew that… I could not stop it looking like a guy standing there.
I ran on. I was ok with it at the time… partly because I knew it wasn’t there… and partly I think cause I was knackered and didn’t have the energy to let it bother me. Thinking about it freaks me out more now than it did at the time. Soon after this though I started seeing things in everything. It was a bit like when a cloud looks like something, but I didn’t need to think about it… it just was something the second I looked at it. A bush would be a deer… over here something would look two rabbits playing chess… leaves on the floor would have smiley faces on them, there’s be a doll lying in the path up ahead etc. I’d have to get on top of them before they turned back to the leaves or rocks or whatever they were. I knew it was just something to do to break up the hours so again I was kind of ok with it but it was a bit much at times. The only times it did make my hairs stand on end were the couple of other times I saw a person. Always just a dark shape in the trees or down by the river or something, but again, once I thought I’d seen it, I couldn’t make it look like anything else. Lack of things to think about for so long… mixed in with the tiredness and the dim light from the head torch. Whatever – very weird!
Into the last 2 or 3 miles… ‘thank god’ I hear you say… I was saying something similar. It went on for longer than I thought it would. Misty so you still couldn’t see much but it was a decent path just following the river in. I started to question whether I’d passed Betws. Now for anyone who hasn’t been, Betws y Coed is a town with shops, hotels, pubs, a train station… you can’t miss it. Check of the phone and the watch and I could see I was on track, but I still wasn’t convinced. There was a footpath about 5m down to the right… “maybe I should be on that?” It would make no difference at all but this is what I was what was going through my head. I looked back at the path I was on and there was an inflatable penguin lying on its side.
OH FOR GOD SAKE!…. I JUST WANNA FINISH.
There was no penguin. A second after and it had turned back to the boulder it always was.
10 mins later and I’m running across the green and under the finish line banners (to take 6th place!) 41 hours after I started. My wife and a mate had come down to pick me up. It was great to see people I knew, but also I might have still been asleep in my car now if they hadn’t! I’d been hobbling quite a bit for the last few hours but straightened up for the finish of course. Soon after I couldn’t put any weight on my ankle. Next day it was worse. Sprain. Ice and crutches for a bit then.
Finished it though… and overall… loved it. This time last year a 15 miles was the furthest I’d run off road… now there’s a 100 miler ticked off
Clwydian Hills Fell Race
I am attaching a couple of photos of Sundays Clwydian Hills Fell Race that Andy Smith posted on Facebook – I was due to do it too but was struck down with a horrible bug. It looked absolutely beautiful. Well done everyone! Very jealous.
That’s all folks.. keep em coming in please..