The one with the very late Snowdonia race report
Posted on: 08 Mar 2020
I’m not known for writing blogs close to events and this one is no change. I wrote this only 2 weeks after the magic Snowdonia weekend 2019 but somehow never posted it. And now it really is ages ago but when I started to plan my next trip to the UK it felt like a good idea to get this one posted. I suggest you grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, this is a long one. Maybe you need the whole bottle to get through! =D
My weekend started early this year, on Wednesday I started my journey and a long weekend off work and away was just what I needed at this point. Autumn had not been kind on me this year either, last year I suffered from stress and anxiety and it came back this year in double force. So I’ve been fighting my mind a lot the last few weeks and my body have not been feeling all that well either. After the crash and burn at Lidingöloppet 30k I didn’t know at all what to expect from Snowdonia. I had my hopes for a better time than last year, sub 6:30 should be very possible and anything faster than that I would take with great pride. But I also knew the body and mind were exhausted and I knew I would not be able to push it as much as I might want to so tried to keep expectations low.
I spent the first night in London, at a hotel very near Kings Cross station since that made travel easy the next morning. I arrived around 11pm (that’s midnight for me) to my small single, which was still a very nice and recently refurbished room, with a view over the street and small park. It even had a small balcony but I didn’t have time to try that out. Just as I made my way to get to bed I realized I had forgotten toothbrush and toothpaste. ****! And of course the front desk had just closed. Just my luck, and if I forgot something that basic, what else have I forgotten? (Nothing it turned out haha) Kings Cross was close but I didn’t feel like going out and meet the pot smoking dudes outside my window so I just crashed in to bed. I discovered that the refurbishment didn’t include the bed, which was very soft and I ended up sleeping in a small pit. Said dudes also made it a bit hard to fall asleep but they moved to a better smoking spot an hour or so later. I was glad then that we had decided on a slightly later start for our road trip.
The next morning I managed to make a visit to Boots to sort toothbrush, get breakfast AND get on the right tube in time, so no stupid travel mistakes like last time. Made it on time to Max’s station and it was so nice to see her again! Team Mad Cannons were finally reunited! We make a great road trip team! Since we weren’t running as far this time we decided to skip a few of the food stops and try to get on our way up north before starting to eat all the food. Just a quick coffee/tea stop and then lunch somewhere outside Knutsford before arriving in Bangor to do some food shopping. Max had kindly sorted the accommodation and I was in charge of food and alcohol. I took this job very seriously so it was a good thing we shopped at Lidl haha. After we had bought all the food and drinks they had (it felt like it at least) we headed to Cwm-y-Glo which is just outside of Llanberis. The place we stayed in was really nice! Two bedrooms and lots of space to hang around.
We wanted to drive around the course and since the weather was quite nice we decided to go immediately while it was still light outside. The area around Llanberis is so breathtaking. When you come back there you have kind of forgotten just how stunning those mountains are. It really was a joy to be back once again, my third time. Our drive around the course was nice but it started to rain when we were about 10 miles in. Some of the places I remembered but a lot of the course was lost from my mind, and some of it I didn’t want to be reminded of. I was slightly glad we didn’t try driving up that last hill, I wanted to block that out for as long as I could. =P
After some additional shopping at a filling station we headed home to make dinner (Pasta of course!) and sorted through our kits a bit before calling it a night. Since the weather forecast was changing every few hours in the week before I had packed a lot of options. I knew the last decision was to be made on Saturday morning but it was good to talk it through a bit with someone who knew what was coming.
Friday morning greeted us with rain, it had probably rained all night. (We even had some hail and thunder on our drive on Thursday). We didn’t have any plans until meeting the buzzers at registration so a slow chill start was perfect.
Registration was in a tent again and we got there around 2pm. Headed to High Street first to get some cash and bacon and ran in to Jim! And a few minutes later Hobs and Liz turned up, just to be followed by Kathy, Richard and Clair. Brilliant, so nice to see everybody again! Back to the tent to get our bibs and things, it was still raining but inside the tent was nice and warm. I wasn’t planning on buying everything but left with a very heavy bag of course. Although it was very good things I bought, like a super light jacket that I actually wore at the race the next day.
There wasn’t a lot to hang around for at registration so we headed to Pete’s early and drank lots of tea while we waited for dinner time. There might also have been cake. (eat all the food! =D) These buzzer weekends are such joy. You immediately pick up where you left it last time, there is not a silent moment when we meet. Buzzers kept coming all evening, it was so nice to see familiar faces almost every time the door opened. Lots of lasagna was consumed of course, although they seemed smaller than last year, it was no problem to also finish the apple crumble this time!
Since we were staying outside of Llanberis (just about 2 miles but still) we had to get up quite early the next day so we headed back to ours around 8pm. There were still some kit to sort out and vests to be packed. We went to bed at a reasonable time but I had a little trouble sleeping so it was well past midnight before my eyes finally closed.
Early morning wake up call and the last decisions made on kits. I only had a banana since we were heading to Pete’s for breakfast. When we got to Llanberis there were almost no cars in sight, the parking lot was practically empty and we got the perfect spot. Made it to Pete’s even before they opened which felt like a good sign. Last year I got there very late, not at all as planned. The rain kept on flooding down and there were no sign of it easing up yet. There were some mud to be expected at the last bit of the race. At Pete’s we met up with Nick and Gaelle and her friend Sam. Also chatted to some guys at the tables around us, always nice to talk to fellow runners.
It’s funny how time plays tricks with you on race day. It feels like the start is ages away, but just like that it is time to go. Back to the car to get the extra clothes off and rain ponchos on, change to race shoes (sounds very professional!) and then we headed to Coffee Pot to meet the rest of the group and a quick visit to the loo. (no queue when I got there but 20 people in line for the portaloos outside, mad!) Group photo was taken before we started the walk to the start. It couldn’t have been more different from last years clear skies and sunshine. The rain still kept on raining, and I was planning to run with the poncho on for as long as I needed. Another group pic taken just before the start and then things started to move. It was all a bit confused and I lost track of everyone almost immediately so just started plodding in my own pace right from the start.
It felt different this year. I knew what was coming and I had a decent plan on how to tackle it. I felt confident and wasn’t rushed by everybody passing me in the first few miles, I was just glad to be there and to be feeling quite ok. I think I took much more in this time, the lovely supporters that was out despite the weather, the sights, the flooding waterfalls that had appeared on the mountain sides, the sounds from the streams. Just brilliant! The rain stopped as the road started to climb up to Pen-y-Pass and I regretted that I had kept the poncho on. At least I wasn’t freezing so that was good, but I had to take it off halfway up the climb. I remembered there was a great view down the valley when you had reached about two thirds of the climb so I turned around to look at it and take a picture. Just as breathtaking as last year. But hey! What, I mean who is that flying up the hill in bright orange kit!? Blimey it’s Kathy, the speedy walker almost catching me up! I knew they say she walks fast but wow! I tried to keep her behind me but no, just a few hundred yards later she came up by my side and I made her laugh when I said “hey, I knew you would catch me up!” She hadn’t seen it was me so great surprise. We kept together all the way to the top of Pen-y-Pass and ran together laughing when we saw the photographer, just to make a nice picture, and then walked again to the water station.
I waved goodbye as I ran down the hill, but felt a bit chased (in a friendly way of course). The weather was starting to clear up as I made my way down the hill, and there were no freezing wind this time so it made a nice bit of the course. The gravel road wasn’t as bad as I had expected so ran lots of it this year. Last year I had to walk much of it but I felt so much more confident this year, after all my hill training ahead of Peak District Challenge. On this stretch I ran by the army guys, we passed each other now and then for a long while, I think I finally passed them just before Beddgelert. Once back up on the road I started running for longer bits, I had no fixed run/walk decided so just ran by feel and it worked well. Had to remind myself to take gels, it’s easy to forget when the running goes well, but I planned it around the water stations so got it going quite well.
At mile 10 I made a quick visit to the public restroom that I knew was there. I don’t to free weeing outside so thought it best to use the proper one when I got there. Back on the road the marshall on the motorcycle pointed out that there were now snow on the mountain tops! Blimey, I had noticed a slight drop in temperature but snow!?! Well as long as it stayed up there I was happy.
I had settled in and around a group of runner now, we all did run/walk in our own ways so kept passing each other all the time. I also met a goat on the course, he was on the other side of the road but on the wrong side of the wall I guess. Surprising but he stayed on his side so I could run on. Imagine being chased by a goat at 12 miles!?! Not something I wanted. It was very welcoming to see the sign of Beddgelert, I still felt quite good but wasn’t sure how my pace was compared to last year. It was lots of traffic through Beddgellert so had to run on the pavement and around the cars. And to get a hug from Richard I had to squeeze in between the wall and a campervan! But it was totally worth it! He also took care of my rain poncho so I didn’t have to have it flapping around my legs anymore.
I told him me and Kathy had been together at Pen-y-Pass and then got on my way again. I knew there would be lots of walking up the next hill so wanted to keep going as soon as possible. I passed half way just over 3 hours so a very close to last years time. I knew then that it wouldn’t be a massive PB day but I should be able to take some time of from last year if I did a better climb up the last hill.
The hill up from Beddgelert was tougher than I expected. I didn’t run much, just shorter flat-ish bits to make a change for my legs. I started to get pain in my right leg, the one I know is weaker, and the walk didn’t make it better. I also looked out for the timing mat, last year it was just after 13 miles but not this time. It felt a bit too early to take it away already, I was way ahead of the cut off. Finally found it around mile 14 and at that point everything hurt in my right leg, hip, thigh, calf, ankle, foot, you name it. Since I was on my own this year I had no one to complain to (good for them haha) so I sent a message to the tracking group. I just had to tell someone about my misery and when I had done that it felt a bit better. At the end of the bloody hill, by the water station around mile 15 I surprisingly met Richard again! He told me Kathy was just behind me so he was there to support. I started to feel chased again (still in a friendly way) and it gave me a kick in the butt to keep running. Richard also reminded me that the next few miles were easier and that helped my tired mind a lot. I knew the cutoff were half an hour slower this year but it still felt great to see the place where the sweeper car caught us up last year and know it was nowhere near this time. I also passed the Youth hostel at 18 miles with about 15 mins to spare, winning! I was starting to flag though, and I couldn’t get the energy in that I needed since my tummy was cramping a little. Also my right foot was still hurting, I had adjusted the laces at mile 15, and had to adjust the gaiter at mile 18 to try and ease the pressure on the foot. I kept the run/walk going, nicely pushed along by Marjorie, a lady I kept passing from mile 8 and onwards. When I ran I got ahead, when I walked she caught me up and I could hear her behind me, “I’m catching you now, you better get running again!”. And I did.
Pain was coming and going and staying for longer. I tried to find energy in the surroundings, I was glad I wasn’t on the bridge when the steam train passed under it (good thing I planned a walking break when I heard the train), I saw the wall by mile 21 that I hung over for an epic picture last year. I managed to get a few crisps down but the flat coke just tasted disgusting. Oh well, less than a mile until I can walk without feeling the slightest guilt! I also found energy in seeing quite a few runners around me. Last year it felt like we were dead last and alone, but this year there were lots (well, sort of) of people around me. Finally passed the brewery and knew there were a downhill coming, short but still downhill.
I have never had such mixed feelings as when I reached mile 21,5 and the road started to go up again. Only 4,5 miles left, I got to walk, but that hill was coming. I knew it was long but was it really 3 miles? It couldn’t possibly be as bad as I remembered it, right? In the first bit before the right turn Marjorie passed me and left my sight quite soon. She walked just as fast as Kathy up that hill! I did pass a few people though and it felt like my walking pace was decent. Certainly much better than last year when I just complained and wanted to quit, only dragged up by Max’s support. When I saw a girl stop to catch her breath I remembered my self doing just that last year, but this year I could keep going. Of course it was bloody hard, you all know what that hill does to your legs and your breath, but I kept moving. A quick sip of water and a photo at the station halfway up, then a determined step on the timing mat as a message to our supporters, “I’m coming, don’t worry”.
I passed the turn where that guy had laid down for a nap last year, no one there this time and I had started making calculations in my head. sub-6:30 was in my reach if I could jog a bit and keep up the pace. And if that last downhill wasn’t too bad. Huge puddles on the road, I tried to avoid them as much as I could. I started catching people up again, when I could jog, and it gave me a good boost. I had said beforehand that this year I will take a cup of tea at that last station, last year I was so cold but didn’t take any, big mistake! Once I got there I felt warm though, and determined to keep going so just grabbed a bit of chocolate cake and ran away.
On the last small hill towards the gate I chatted with a guy who ran for his relative who was battling cancer, nice fellow who said “this is nothing compared to what she is going through”. Just the reminder I needed, I thanked him and started running again at the very top.
The first bit of road-ish wasn’t too bad, it was wet and a little muddy but mostly runable. I could even lift my head a little and look out over the landscape around us. Breathtaking once again, the snowy, white mountain tops, the Snowdon summit clearly visible now, the lakes and the sea on the horizon. Amazing!
But I was not there for the views and I was going for a time. Now I was the chaser for a change! It started to go downhill and as it did it got muddier. I caught up Marjorie for one last time, I said I didn’t think I would but she was not enjoying the mud so took it very careful down. I wished her luck and kept going. It was no use trying to avoid the water anymore so I took Hobs advice and ran in the small streams on the path, they were not as slippery as the rest. Some parts was not runable though, muddy grass that was slippery as ice. I started to slip once and could feel my legs cramping as I tried to avoid falling, so decided to be safe rather than sorry and walked around the worst bits, even though it was much longer. Through the gate at mile 25, you have all seen the picture of the path there (if not, have a look in any other Snowdon blog on here), and there were a guy telling us that the mud was coming to an end just some hundred yards down. Best news I’d had all day!
Once back on tarmac I started running again, as much as I could. Everything hurt, especially my right foot, but running hurt less than walking so pushed on. I knew 6:30 probably was gone now but course PB was still possible. Down, down, down, how far is it to go?? A car came in to view, if cars can drive here there can’t be much left! Around a corner and over the bridge, and there was Richard again! Left turn, don’t fall on the speed bumps, stay on your feet, and keep running! A girl shouting “well done, you’re nearly there”, I wanted to say “you are in the only place where that’s allowed to be said” because now there were only one turn left. At the corner was Rob, cheering, and then a massive roar from further down High Street when I came in to view that made me fly down the street! I had forgotten how long that street is though so when I was close to the finish I was starting to feel sick. My body was not prepared for that last push haha. Hands in the air and finish!! 6:35, new course PB by 10 minutes! I’ll take that, thank you very much!
A space blanket was wrapped around my shoulders, I got my coaster and my waterbottle and I started my hobble to the buzzers. Max came to meet me, with warm hugs. I was so tired, I really gave it all I had. More hugs as I made it to the rest of the group and put on some clothes to keep warm while we waited for Kathy. She was not too far behind me so I wanted to see her finish before we went for a shower. I started to get cold so went and got me a nice cup of warm tea, now it tasted sooo good and it warmed up my freezing fingers.
Before we knew it, Kathy came flying down High Street, what a race she did! So glad I could be there and cheer her in! Unforgettable picture also, Kathy flying towards the finish with Rob running by her side with a pint in his hand. Only Swiss Dave left to count back in, but I regret to say we were so cold at this point, so we had to go search for the showers. A long walk that first took us in to someone's yard, then back around Coffee Pot, along the road with all our bags, we found the shower sign but the gate to the football field was locked. Not a lot to do, I was certainly not climbing any walls in this state, we were very close to the car so decided to go back to the house for showers instead.
I was feeling very tired and a bit dizzy but the warmth in the car helped, as did my constant snacking and sipping of water on the way back. Put my feet up while Max showered and started to feel better.
Once refreshed we headed for Royal Victoria and the celebration feast. So much joy but also that nagging feeling of something good coming to an end. I know we can always go back to this race but it’s no longer a fixed point in the year. It was great hearing everybody's stories and memories from this race, and I still chuckle when I think of Richard and his RUBBISH-story. =D Food was consumed, celebratory drinks were had, stories told, future plans made. And much sooner than I wanted it was time to break the party up and leave. We had maturely decided not to try and climb Snowdon the next day, I think we both wanted to but knew it would not be pleasant with our painful legs. So we said our goodbyes, and went back to our place. It was no problem falling asleep this evening, I’ll tell you that.
Sunday morning came with lovely sunshine, still cold but nice outside. We packed our things but didn’t want to leave just yet so headed into Llanberis for a little walk before the long journey back south. I don’t know if it qualifies as a walk when you move half a mile in 30 mins, but at least we moved forward. A cup of tea in the sunshine, probably the last one outside this year, but then we couldn’t really find reasons to stay any longer.
Journey back to London was long. Traffic was slow, legs were painful, we were both tired. But I did get to see an Airbus Beluga, that plane that looks like a whale, somewhere outside Manchester. After 7 hours on the road we were back where the journey started, a train station in northern London. I don’t like saying goodbye when I don’t know when I’ll be back. =(
Once back in central London I tried to find my hotel, missed a turn and walked half a mile more than I had too with all my bags. Stupid! Finally found the place, what a relief. Only regretted that I hadn’t sorted dinner on the way so had to go out again. Got me a large pizza that I had in bed while watching the race highlights. Dinner in bed is my special treat when I travel on my own.
Walking around London the next day was a slow story, but still better than expected. Only that right foot that gave me trouble, but it was happy when I sat down eating so I did that quite a few times. A little shopping also made me happy but sooner than I wanted it was time to go to Heathrow again.
Thank you all for another amazing time! These buzzers weekends, I can’t really put words on how much they mean to me and how happy they make me. They give me such a boost of energy, although I always suffer from traveling blues for a few weeks after them. If not sooner, I hope to see you again in April, at the London marathon cheering party!
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