Marathon No. 20 - Am I Hitting The Wall?

Posted on: 05 Nov 2017

Well it’s taken longer than I thought it would to be able to put into words that which I experienced on THAT weekend.

The weekend I have looked forward to this year as the year before and the year before that and the year before that….

The weekend I am thinking about when everybody else is thinking about Christmas.

The weekend I’m so “into” that the absolute first thing I do these days at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is sit myself down at a PC and book myself onto THAT weekend.

I speak of course, of the Snowdonia Marathon weekend.

If only I hadn’t entered the marathon, I might have really really really looked forward to this weekend.

As it was, having pretty much totalled my ankle in those Fell Relay Championships a fortnight before, I found myself filled with nothing but trepidation really. Trepidation and nerves.

2 things pulled me along:

  1. I’ve paid the entry fee! If the entry fee is paid, then I will stand there on that start line and I will see what I can do.
  2. The draw of being in amongst the people I most admire, most respect, most enjoy being in amongst – the good people of Realbuzz. The runners and bloggers I have been very privileged to meet and even more privileged to now count amongst my friends.

I had an intention that only a select few people knew. Knowing it to have the significance it did for the one and only Hollywood Dave, I intended all along to run / walk / crawl / whatever it was going to take, right by this man’s side.

I’m going off on one of my diversions again – but I have to say, every account of this weekend I’ve read so far I have thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t posted comments yet, but only because I absolutely want the pleasure of reading all those blogs again. Yes, I am reading again :-).

I had the Friday booked off work, so we could get over to Llanberis nice and early, have a lovely chilled out day, refresh the body, refresh the mind, refuel the soul, ready to take on that beautiful, but I admit, intimidating in the circumstances, 26.2 mile run.

Naturally things didn’t actually pan out like that. Life loves to throw a few curve balls at me and Clair. We finally arrived in Llanberis at I think about 9:30pm. I was far from chilled out and refreshed, but relieved to pick up my number from Electric Mountain.

In all honesty, even when I got that number in my hand, I did not feel like doing this race – at all. Even the pull of being in amongst this wonderful, inspiring, warm, incredible group was struggling to get me in the right gear.

Saturday morning came, we met Angus and Dave A at breakfast, headed over to Vicki’s cottage after that. I know Clair was nervous about meeting everybody, but I’m pleased to say that she got to meet exactly the people I knew would be there. Warm, welcoming, inclusive, beautiful people. She looked like she fitted in. Through my eyes, she definitely belongs. Whether she knows it or not, whether she blogs or not, she is every ounce a Realbuzzer, she has that special something, and I’ve never seen it more clearly than in that cottage that morning.

It definitely helped me knowing that I would see her in Beddgelert as well as at the end, and I thank everybody involved in facilitating that, and of course I thank her for doing that.

She knew the kind of mess I was in. She’d seen me struggling with the stairs in the morning. She’d seen the pains and struggles of the last 2 weeks. As she was at Cadair back in May, she was my rock here now. I can’t pinpoint what it was she did on that start area, and I can’t say whether she knew she was doing it or not, but with every passing minute her presence was breathing strength into me.

By the time we got underway, my mindset had been changed from one of fear to one of “lets just get it done”. I knew it was going to hurt, but did eventually make peace with that. I’m sorry Clair you had to tell me so many times to get stripped down to my shorts and get myself ready to run. It helped a lot too seeing so many inspiring folks around me, and I was really pleased to be able to get Hollywood Dave and Charles together in a photograph with me.

HD and I chatted quite a lot as we ran up Pen-y-Pass. Red Dave was never far away, and we saw a good bit of Libby too. Towards the top I was already suffering, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Painkillers were a feature of this run, but I won’t take them for running. If I’m going to mess myself up I want to feel every second of me messing myself up. Partly that’s so I can decide exactly when to stop, and partly it’s because I have to take enough painkillers as it is for the headaches that I get. Only since I’ve seen the photo of me wiggle walking have I truly realised how much I was already hurting.

Wiggle walking was going good though, I was passing some people who were running, and got slightly ahead of the 2 Daves. Took a swig of water at the top, and decided to wait for Dave and Dave, not by standing still, but by jogging backwards down towards Pen-y-Gwryd.

“Blimey…” I mused, “… I’ve got further ahead of them than I thought”. Remembered there’d been mention of a wee stop, so guessed that’s what was going on. Carried on backwards down the pass. Libby came past. Lots of questioning from others about whether I was doing the whole race in reverse. Absolutely not!! It’s not the race for shenanigans like that. Jane caught me up. I faced forward and ran with her for a minute or two, and there we spotted Hollywood and Red Dave – almost at the gate ready to head down the farm track after Pen-y-Gwryd. They’d never been behind me at all :-D

Off went the brakes and I floated down the hill, catching up with HD far quicker than I thought I would. I knew then that he was suffering with his hips. If anything is going to find you out, it is always the extra impact that comes with running down a hill.

Once we were back on the road, it was pretty much a case of increasing struggle towards seeing loved ones at Beddgelert. My only crumb of comfort was that this year, I would not be forced into pulling out half way. My smashed up knee wouldn’t carry me beyond that village last year. This year, yeah the ankle was hurting, but not enough to make me stop.

At about 11 or 12 miles, we’d really started to flag, just then Libby popped up, and breathed fresh life into us just as we were needing it the most.

Beddgelert came and the awesome cheering squad, and I felt so happy to be there. I was so happy to see my Clair, so happy to see that smile, to feel her hugs, I don’t think anything could improve upon that moment – although I was really fancying a beer, which I wasn’t allowed to have. Thank heavens for Kathy and Richard and their glorious cake.

Red Dave and Hollywood hadn’t eaten any, so I made sure I picked up a piece each for them – and ate them – to help them on their way. I didn’t get my Chinese the night before, so I was ravenously hungry by now. Ate my piece of cake. Got my cuddles, lovely little chat and hugs with everyone, cuddle with Clair, ate some cake – then as I still wasn’t allowed any beer I thought I’d grab a piece of cake to help me on my way. Nice cake. Felt quite sprightly after that little rest.

It’s a tough stretch after Beddgelert, starts kicking uphill. All of a sudden, perfectly positioned and completely unexpected, a 2nd cheerpoint. Thank you Tony and Bev, that was a stroke of genius standing there.

Caught up again with Dave and Dave, and the dark miles came. We muddled through. Conversation more sparse than it had been. Red Dave stretched out the backs of his legs in a gateway. Hollywood Dave leaned more and more to the right, clearly suffering in that left hip. I tried my best to land soft as I could on my ankle, really struggled with transitioning between walking and running, and we were doing a fair bit of both.

A woman from Manchester seemed to be having self doubt. Not feeling very well. She was a welcome distraction from my own pains, trying to pep her up. When she said she’d never seen anyone manage to run up Bwlch-y-Groes, I told her to forget about the rest of the run, save some energy, get to that whopper of a hill, and then give it everything up there – be the one who actually runs up it!

I knew by now I was getting into bother. I knew by now that I have pushed my broken body beyond what is reasonable to ask of it too many times. I knew by now that I need to let my body heal. Let my ankle in particular repair. More and more and more, this was beginning to feel like this was going to be my last marathon – at least for quite some time.

Beyond Rhyd-Ddu, Llyn Cwellyn was absolutely still. Slatey grey, reflecting the skies above, but absolutely still. I stepped out of the battle for a minute or two, just to drink in the view over the lake. HD laboured on past – so engrossed in his own battle just then he didn’t notice at all as he ran right past me. Pain clearly etched on both our faces in the photos along this stretch.

Jane caught us again somewhere along this section. As much as she has said we gave a boost to her, it worked equally the other way round. These were hard miles. Gaelle was here to refuel us along this section. Thank you Gaelle, that was a great place to be.

We came to Waunfaur, and the start of the long drag up to the high point of the race. My mind at this point was set. There will be no more running for me. Not for a long while. It was time for a last hurrah.

2 weeks ago I was disappointed in myself for how much I struggled going up the hills. Ok it was a fell race, so the hills were pretty darn steep. Ok it was the week after a marathon, so the legs were run down and weak. I always look for small wins I can take out of a race, you know, ‘cause the big one ain’t ever going to work out. My small win was laid out infront of me.

I told Red Dave and HD that I was going to run up Bwlch-y-Groes, and I would see them at the top. The road kicks up a bit into Waunfaur, and kicks up just enough to make me regret that I’d said that thing out loud. But said out loud it was. I took a swig of water off the drink station exactly as I said I would, and set off to beat that hill.

I was doing what I’d told that woman she should do. I was being the one to run up that hill. Passed Jane again. There was much encouragement and respect from others that were walking up the hill. Well, mostly that. Whether it was jealousy or some seriously misguided banter, I didn’t take kindly to it when someone said “look at this idiot running up the hill”. I got called that twice.

Before that, I was going to wait for the 2 Daves at the top. After that, there was no way I was going to surrender a race place to someone like that. No way on this earth. Imagine how much it would re-inforce their ill-informed point of view if they were to see me loitering at the top. I’m a fell runner, and I can run up this bugger. The hill doesn’t get to win today.

The descent is treacherously slippy. Not as confident sliding about in road shoes on this wet grass as I am with the lugs of a good pair of fell shoes beneath my feet, but nevertheless I can run it, where almost everybody else is reduced to a nervy walk.

The drop into Llanberis is painful, but I won’t be doing this again for some time. I was relieved to see that high street. More relieved to feel flat road beneath my feet. Anyone that knows me will not have been expecting me to ever say that.

I spied Clair standing on the wall by the Padarn, and the rest of the Realbuzz cheer squad. It was a moment of sheer bliss, sheer relief. One of those perfect moments that for all of us are so rare. I was happy as can be. Turned to blow a kiss to Clair, and just got hit by a bit of cramp in those final few yards to the finish.

It was done.

There’s so much more I could say about the weekend, the evening meal, the honorary Hawkesbury Runners membership so generously bestowed upon me, the fine walk up Snowdon the next day, but there will be plenty said elsewhere.

Thank you all of you once again, for such a magical weekend.

I will see you there next year.

And yes, I will probably run. 

Thank you all for a wonderful weekend :-)

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