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How not to race Snowdon Trail Half Marathon

 

Peter Down is the Physiotherapist at Accelerate Performance Centre (APC).

A regular cyclist, who also swims and runs, so naturally participates in the odd Triathlon.

This year (2017), he took part in the Scott Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon for the first time.

This is his account.

 

 

My training was great.

I did my long runs up to or around 10 miles, nice and steady and flat, I kept it flat because I don’t like hills. I did one speed session per week which was running fast for 4-ish miles with a friend. I would also do one hill session per week, this was generally hill reps (this, however, doesn’t replicate the hills you need to run up Snowdon).

I was told by a couple of friends who have previously run this is race that the route is runnable for the first 5 miles, then it went uphill and I could walk the mile or so to the turning point on Snowdon ridge. Then it’s a run down to Llanberis before the slate quarry for the last 2 miles which was the hardest bit. All I can say to those friends is, they must have done a different race.

My weekend started well, Chris, a friend and very good runner had agreed to run with me. He won this race last year, however, this year he wanted to see the scenery, so my pace was suitable for him, it may have been a little slow as it turned out.

We travelled to Llanberis on the Saturday and after collecting our race numbers we decided it would be a good idea for me to recce the quarry section. During the walk, I started with cramp in my right quad, this was soon made worse by my left quad joining the cramp party. I hobbled back to the car where I started consuming electrolytes and stretching like it was going out of fashion. I’m glad to say by the time we got to the YHA the pain had subsided but my worries about Sunday had increased.

The evening was nice and the food in a local pub was okay, but the other people staying at the YHA didn’t know how to use door handles, they just slammed the doors to ensure they had shut them, therefore sleep was sporadic. The problem with sharing a room with a postman is he was awake at 5:30 am, so by 6am I had stretched again had more electrolytes and breakfast. There were no concerns about being late to the start and we meet up with Stuart who was doing the marathon.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

 

 

Flying solo, as Chris ‘recces the summit’. (!)

 

‘Tiger Style Kung Fu’ hands?

 

Smiles all round (close anyway).

 

The weather was very nice with wispy clouds which hung over the summit of Snowdon. The marathon started at 9am so we watched them all run past knowing we would be following them shortly and glad we only had half the distance but nearly the same amount of height as them.

9:30, I must remember not to set off too fast, I must remember not to set off too fast. Okay, for once in my life I may have set off too slow. But after the first half mile the road started to climb, and apart from a couple of undulating parts it climbed then climbed a bit more.

Chris was having fun and ran ahead for a bit then returned to run with me.

It soon came to a point where the inclines outweighed my hill training so walking was the only option, I was still passing people who had a running style but walking proved to be quicker. When the angle of the path levelled out again I returned to running. At the top of the first long climb there was a short flat/downhill section which was marsh, (how does water stay on the hillside and not run off?). My first fall was going through the marsh, nothing too bad, just my feet slipping out from under me, I made a high pitch noise and looked around to see if anyone noticed, but everyone was busy with their own race. The path improved and I only nearly fell again a couple of times.

As we approached the base of the ranger path up Snowdon my right foot landed at a strange angle on a rock and then I hit the floor, not too hard, but my ankle and pride hurt a bit. I sat there for a couple of seconds and everyone who came past stopped to make sure I was okay. To stop people asking me, I got up and started walking, the ankle would hold my weight so I started to run. All was well. I was on target, 5 miles completed in 1hr.

The ranger path goes up with a zig, then up with a zag and repeated until you reached the top, will this hill never end?? Chris kept popping back to see how I was, he had been to the top, had a chat to the marshalls and come back. The other runners around me had noticed him running up and down and had decided he was insane.

We crossed the train line just before the descending train passed, we’d reached the turning point. I had a couple of energy blocks and to started to head down, 1 hour 30 mins into the race, a little slower than planned but there was no sign of cramp and I was feeling good. I had passed everyone who passed me when I was assessing my ankle at the bottom of the path, so just the run down Snowdon then the hard bit of the quarry left. Only 400 metres later, cramp, trip, fall.  There may have been use of a swear word.  As I sat there with both my quads protesting at the fact I was descending, everyone I passed on the ascent streamed past me. All checking I was okay. Another self assessment of any injuries, things hurt, a bit of blood but everything worked apart from the quads. So with help from Chris I stood and started to walk, then I tried to run. That was a bad idea. Walking was the only option, the cramp was getting worse. Stretching was agony so I gave up trying to do that, walking backwards didn’t hurt but was dangerous so I couldn’t do that, so again – walking was the only option.

Chris helped with route selection to ensure no big step downs but not all could be avoided.  At the next aid station I had a couple of gels and carried on walking, but as the slope angle decreased I found I could sort of run in a strange style but I was moving faster than walking.

Due to a charity event the following weekend where I’m riding 100 miles for cancer research I didn’t want to damage myself too much, I spoke to Chris about not finishing, but at this point all I could do was to keep moving and heading towards Llanberis.  We then hit the road section, which is so steep I have no idea how they laid the tarmac. I was moving okay-ish. Chris was running up and down the road like it was flat, I think he was bored.

On the flat road through the town it started to feel like running again, and I looked at my

watch, 7:30 min per mile, things can’t be that bad, Chris passed me another gel. I passed the last aid station at the bottom of the quarry, leaving Chris to collect more gels, he then ran back up to me as I had returned to a high paced walk uphill and I was passing people again. This was going to be okay.

 

Reaching the top I still had some running left in me then we started to descend, our progress was impeded by slower runners but with some expert route selection by my guide we managed to manoeuvre in front of them and it was downhill all the way. But then my right calf wanted to remind me it was there so it started to cramp, by this point I didn’t care, I altered my gait to a limp, run, thing and carried on.

The finish line was a blessing and it would (by now) have been easier to list the body parts which didn’t hurt. Chris continued to provide food and drinks as I lay on the floor. It wasn’t long before the full marathon finished and Stu came in looking better than I felt.

 

Peter (left) and Chris (right) displaying ‘type 2’ and ‘type 1’ fun*, respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was it worth the pain, blood and sweat (there were a lot of all 3)? – yes

Did I say I will never do it again several times during the race? – yes.

Will I be back next year? – yes

A big thanks to Chris (Shelton) who guided me around the race and kept us both laughing all weekend.

*Type 1 Fun is when you’re enjoying what you’re doing.  With Type 2 Fun, being something you enjoy looking back on.  Eventually.  Type 3 Fun is not really fun.  Ever.

 

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