Considering the time of year, one could be forgiven for thinking the title of this post has something to do with the conclusion of a long running season. Which it does, in part. But the wrap in question is actually the ice pack currently strapped alongside my left ankle, doing its duty to bring said ankle back to the land of the living.
I last left you mighty blogging Buzzers with a set of soaking feet and hopes I could toddle through the Snowdonia Marathon on a dodgy left leg, having given it an almighty tweaking in the gym following September's ND50-something. A sufficiently vicious physio-throttling of my ankle proved to identify the root cause as an injured ligament, the atfl to be precise, that usually happens when you roll over on it. I still don't recall having rolled it but I sure have tweaked it. In fact, now a couple weeks post Snowdonia, you could essentially replace 'tweak' with 'spank' and there you have it.
Again I'm on a tangent but I tend to start backwards and work my way in...so nothing new here, then.
That ankle, well and truly spanked by yon Marathon Eryri, is out of action. And I mean completely. I've not run since. What I have done though, quite stupidly, was trot up and down one hilly Legoland for two days shunting a pushchair containing a small person whose weight somewhat resembles a sack of bricks these days. Two days later, I nonchalantly remained stood on that angry ankle until 4 am clearing out a single closet and a quarter of the box room (would you believe how much crap we have!?) Topped this remarkably poor decision-making off with swathes of further stupidity by trotting around Ye Olde London Towne all day yesterday in the world's flattest shoes, without having taped up said ankle.
I may be mad but I'm not cra-- ok, I am a bit crazy.
So here I sit, post another wrappe d'ice, thinking about that final race of the year and the salt soak I've been craving all this time yet have failed to secure. Small stuff just ain't having me in the house and not hanging out with him. You may call me Mummy.
I had in my sights one more bout of crazy before this year concluded, which may now be out of reach with all the rest. Having begun the year eliminating run/walk and running right the way through a half I thought - hey now, hey there, why not finish with a FULL?!
It's not looking like a 2019 accomplishment, but never say never. I will still be flying solo on Boxing Day which means anything can happen...
Now back to the point of this post. What a finish! What a conclusion! What a Snowdonia!
It's been described so beautifully already and I don't think I could give it much more justice but will say my piece, as we are all part of that great collective puzzle. And what another typically magical meet up it was, that far away gathering with friends I only have because of this website, because of this passion for pushing myself to my limits. We know each other because we 'get' each other. That there for me is bliss.
I travelled up with my partner in crime Emelie, and we eagerly met up with the gang on the Friday at a far more subdued Pete's Eats than we'd seen last year. Subdued in part down to there being fewer people around - the bucketing rain out the window being a pretty strong indicator as to why - but I'm sure it was more likely a healthy dose of melancholy in the air. In that the 2020 race is going to ballot, we knew it'd likely be the last we'd all be able to run it together. And selfishly me thinking 'but wait, I've only just begun!! It can't be!' Selfish because of what joy this race and this weekend have given me the past three years.
And it was impossible to fail to notice the gaping hole in the absence of our head coach HD. Yes, an air of melancholy hung over us to be sure. Still we didn't stay down for long, (and what Buzzer does, indeed?) And we didn't stay out for long either, having headed back to get the kit ready for Saturday's early start. When race day dawned, we thought best to drive into town early to get the car parked up and beat the tailback I'd stopped in last time. Car positioned, we finished sorting out our kit and headed to Pete's arriving even before they opened. We chatted and broke bread with Nick, Gaelle and friend, plus a few random strangers to kick off the day (and would you believe we ended up spotting both the guys we spoke to afterwards to compare notes? Odds?!)
Food in, ponchos on, we made our way to the gathering in the Coffee Pot and before you knew it the start. Passed the poncho over for safe keeping with gratitude to RD who said they'd be positioned near the finish and the shuffle forward began. Em and I had chatted about goals and I said I wanted to push my limit and see what I could pull out of the bag this year, having put all those miles on legs preceding it. We'd agreed to go separate ways and wished each other a good race, so I expected to charge on alone for the bulk of the day.
Suddenly to my left I spotted Rob, and with the significance of the moment and the occasion, it was a real pleasure to cross the line side by side. Of course he dashed straight off, leaving me to the target I'd worked out. If I could run 11 minute miles on the flats and downhills, and pace the three climbs at 16 minute miles, I'd finish 5:32. My Chicago and all time PB is 5:29:08, so it would seem this was one hell of a reach! But you know what? It didn't feel like it. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't in doubt, I wasn't afraid that having that injury and resting it so much in the immediate lead up would have a massive impact (and it did as it happens, but I'm skipping ahead). I just called on the year I'd had, the successes I'd had, the dream I held from back to 2018 Marcothon that if I kept running strong all year, I would absolutely smash Snowdonia.
So I started out with total belief. And I can assure you, there is one HELL of a lot to be said for starting out with total belief.
The incessant rain turned to drizzle as the climb up Pen Y Pass began, and the hat came off. Still so chilly so I decided to keep the rain gear on for the duration, and not once felt too hot or too cold, so all good. Up, up I went, jogging a bit, power walking a bit, pacing was on track and I felt fantastic. As it started to get steeper the walking pace wasn't cutting it (I'm no Kat, mind! Ha!) so I started counting for a run/walk plan. 100 running steps, 100 walking. There, there. Coming down to 14s / 15s. Happy with that. We're on track and up up up, there I hit the top and catch up to a guy who is nursing a minor ankle injury as well while preparing for the Winter Spine so cause for lovely chat, and with whom I trot down the hill and round that magic corner with its amazing supporters.
Onward to the trail segment and holy cow, I. Was. Flying. Albeit I was concerned and being more careful than I'd have liked to ensure I didn't actually roll that left ankle. It was making itself felt so I made a silent agreement with it that I'd go easy and it'd get plenty of rest after the race.
(Note to ankle: I'm sorry man, I lied a bit...)
But whoa, that downhill was epic. Got to the climb up to the road and back to the target pacing, still going pretty well. But approaching mile 9, the body decided to play its first card. Hot spot on the ball of my right foot. 'But you're TAPED' I growled at it. Of course it didn't listen and by the time I hit about 11 miles, I had favoured it enough to niggle left hip, slightly weakened by the injury time off pre-race. Damn it. Went to a 3:1 run/walk to try and manage it and there I'd stay on some form of run/walk for the duration.
Now I hadn't had the sense to pack a spare pair of socks but I did have tape, so once I had enough, down I sat on the wall, off comes the right shoe and sock, all the people I'd passed are starting to get by me, I feel the 'awww poor thing' pity looks coming over and marked in my head those I'd have to pass again. Not today. Not this time. See you later.
I inspect the foot to find the tape across the ball was completely sodden. Not unstuck, so I left it there. Mistake #2. Taped over it to secure it (DON'T DO THIS, EVER EVER EVER) sock and shoe back on and off I trotted. Run a bit walk a bit. Passed a couple twentysomething guys stood on the roadside cheering and hear 'Hey hey Mad Max! Fury Road right there...' Grins exchanged, and in went the mantra of the day. Fury road. Go take it.
Into Beddgelert and the magnificent crewing of the Richard Miller Official Buzzer Feed Station. He topped up bottles in a jiffy, helped retrieve the Voltarol from my pack and after I slathered a goodly swodge across my left hip and wrapped a foil blanket around my hips to keep them warm, onward to the next climb I trotted - only to hear 'Max! Max!' and here comes Richard pelting after me to zip my vest back up. I've no recollection what I had even put in the back of my pack but I'm awfully glad he caught me up or I'd have left a trail of kit down the road like Rukai going through the lounge flinging off bits of his uniform after school.
On the way down Pen Y Pass in 2018 a gal who'd run 26 times suggested the easiest way to climb out of Beddgelert was to run / walk between lamp posts. Too much pain last year made it impossible but it worked like a charm this time. I started it up not knowing how it would play out and it was absolutely perfect, great pacing all the way up and I even had a few others following on. Crested that hill and about halfway down the next, out came the Voltarol again. I feel sorry for the guy behind me observing the second hip treatment, but hey ho, there is no sense of modesty remaining in the mind once you've given birth by caesarean. True story, that.
I searched for more lamp posts to get me through the long stretch ahead but there wasn't any sort of visible rhythm. Yet there was a rhythm. Into my heart I went and out came my Pops and his magic number. 'If I run 509 steps and walk 100, I can get down this road at a pretty good clip,' thought I. And my goodness, once I started it I was going gangbusters despite the pain. I still can't quite believe how I got down that road as well as I did in retrospect. The hip now masking the pain in the ball of my foot which was starting to squish around telling me the tape failed miserably and we'd have a big blister pain party at some point. My foil blanket skirt is rustling as I whisper my count, accenting every ONE for emphasis...
Hit 509, throw a heavenward kiss to Pops, walk for 100 and start over. And repeat, repeat, repeat.
I passed a lot of people. I must have winced as I passed a man in a car asking me if I needed a nurofen. I'd already eaten about 6 meltlets. No thanks, I'm good.
By now it became apparent that I was definitely going to need to keep run/walking at pace if I wanted that sub 6. Last year's 6:44 came with so much pain post-Chicago, and far fewer miles on the legs. Everything I'd done this year was in search of a great Snowdonia. Everything like a bass ackwards see saw. Ran the half, then a 16 mile muddy trail run, 20 miles in the Peak District, topped out at 100k, then 50 and here I was
And on and on. Now passing 21, smiling, wondering how Emelie is getting on and what a laugh we had larking around down this road last year. Now the road is going up and up and up and the jogging is becoming impossible. I hit the corner to turn right and there goes the blister with a flood into the sole of my shoe. Fssshhhhhhhh. Ugh.
Up up and up. You came here for sub six, go take it. The timing is still well under. I'm tromping through the puddles and desperate for a bit of flat to get jogging again. I don't ever want it to end and I just want it to end.
Pass the Mad Hatter's Tea Party up top, I don't stop. No cake, no tea, just a clock ticking away. There's an SUV coming up the path towards three of us. We all make them slow and get out of our way. Maybe all of us just want it to end.
Now down, the mud and puddles become muddles and into them I trod. And the cold water is feeling amazing on the blistered foot, despite thoughts of what kind of muck is getting into it I keep going straight through. Approaching the gate a woman in front stops and turns around to chide her running mates. "...come on! This is the best bit!"
She goes charging on, I chase as best I can. Now it's nagging the knees. This is Snowdonia. I start growling to get my mind off the pain. Now I hit the pavement. (ARRRRRGGGGGGGHHH) Thwakthwakthwak down I go. Behind me I hear 'Max!!' I turn and spot RD and Jenny on the side of the hill, and not knowing that Jenny is hurt I shout 'I'm gonna keep going!' and give a wave. And I go. (And I'm still sorry!!! xxx)
Down down, total strangers on the corner give a massive whoop as the guy in front of me turns right, then same again as I follow him, down the last bit of hill, through that magical final turn at the corner of the high road.
It's heaving. My god, it's still heaving!
Barricades are still up. Spectators all along. This is how it ends. This is the party and just like last year in Chicago I've bloody made it. I can scarcely believe it. That was so hard.
My heart is in my throat and I'm looking, looking for Buzzers. I don't see any. They may be in the bar, in the shower, the loo, not visibly present but they are beyond a doubt entirely in my heart which has now gone even higher in my throat. (Go on Mad Max!!) I'm grinning at the strangers shouting my name, that six on the clock still plenty far away.
I put everything I have into my legs and my finishing 'sprint' is a 10 minute mile which at this point is quite surreal. I cross the line in 5:44 and change. I've just finished the Snowdonia Marathon an hour faster than last year.
I take the smiles, my heat sheet, my coaster, my water bottle. I look up to the sky and whisper 'thank you'. I don't know where to go, what to do, so I go through the crowd to the back of the Coffee Pot. I put my hands on the wall, lean over and cry. I'm so proud. I'm so tired. I need a wee.
A bit of faffing around on the phone and I found my way back to the group. No one had seen me pass, and what with all that hi vis clothing on and all! I tell them about the magic hour. We celebrate around grins.
We all cheer in Emelie who finishes in a flourish, more faffing until we spot Kat and her million watt grin, and rarely witnessed emotions. It was an honour to witness all of this. I'm sad to have not seen Swiss Dave come through but so proud to know that all who were counted out were counted back in...in daylight!
We crushed it, one and all. We really ARE great, we are.
So here's me and my dodgy ankle on enforced rest, which is all well and good enough because I'd find some way to keep going and for once, for the very first time this year, I have decided that a rest at this point is perfectly ok. I've earned it. I'll take it. Wrap on my ankle, wrap on the 2019 season, wrapped up in the warm friendship of an amazing group of people who have all been there for me more than you know over a trying but still glorious year.
Into the holiday season we go. A marcothon on the cards, if the ankle says it's ok. If not, that's ok too.
We are Buzzers. We Buzz loudly, we Buzz quietly, we fight until the very bitter end and even when we have to quit, we don't ever give up.
Cos we're Buzzers, that's why.
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