Snowdon Half Marathon Report 24th July 2016
Snowdon Half Marathon!
In theory this was a ‘warm up’ run for the horror that is Man Vs Mountain in 6 weeks, which is a 22 mile version of the race over Snowdon. Plus the little detail of doing 4 laps of the Nuts Challenge obstacle race the very next day, another 28km or so of grueling crawling and scrambling, means that a half-marathon, just 13.1 miles, not even going all the way to the top of Snowdon, should be a jolly jaunt, a piece of cake, etc.
Because the race started at 9am in Wales, we all headed down the day before to stay in a hostel, organised by amazing organisor Leah-Anne Miller. There was 16 of us on this jolly trip, 2 from PTS (me and Leanne Clifford, and also Chris Smith would join us at the start line), and the rest from the Milton Keynes Rumble crew.
So the car journey down was an obvious long one, but once hitting Wales full tourist DNA kicked in to point and stare at the amazing landscape and country, and poo bricks at the thought of attempting to ‘run’ up one the bigger lumps in the country.
We first went to the office at the start line as we could register the day before to get our numbers and what not, so that we could then have a more relaxed start to the race on the day, (Somehow Leanne had registered as a 98 year old, which had caused the organisors to check that it was either A) a mistake, or B) SuperGran) and also spy the terrain we would be running through. We could see the ‘vertical kilometer’, which we would be finishing with, and it looked like a rather beautiful and angry dark grey slate scar in the middle of the land, something Frodo and company would think twice about going near.
Once we got our bits (and had some toffee apple ice cream! There is such a thing!) we all got in the cars to head to our hostel, which was a bit of trek away. Into the land of no phone signal…
On the way there was more beautiful country, just absolutely jaw dropping in it’s stunning majesty. For some reason some idiot had erected an enormous sign that said ‘EPIC’ on the side of one of the hills. Why? Everyone can see it’s epic, no-one needs to be told, but in particular no-one needs the view ruined by this artificial interruption of the landscape. I wanted to get out and tear that awful thing down, or at least modify it so it said ‘ERIC’, then we’d have someone to blame.
So we get to the hostel. There is a main building, and Leanne whispers (not speaks, oh no) “It’s a haunted house…”, and by golly, the label fitted. It was as if Amityville had been raped in Deliverance and had the devil-baby-house dropped off in Wales. It even had a crazy, very cool, large wooden throne in the garden, next to a chopping block and loads of chopped wood, but no axe… (Where was the axe?!).
Unfortunately for the atmosphere, the guy behind the counter was really normal and helpful, seemed to have nothing wrong with him whatsoever, so that deflated the horror balloon somewhat. But I decided that there was fun to had, so I attempted to milk every opportunity possible to point out all the ways we would die, who might be dead right now, and so on. Good harmless banter.
There was a separate building that most of the guys were staying in, officially named the ‘coach-house’, but of course Leanne once more sprung to the rescue of well rested nights and re-named it the ‘killing shed’. Once again, the name fitted perfectly, complete with stable like rooms like a scene out of Hostel, and a combination locked door that didn’t close properly. I made it very public my strategic selection of which bunk bed I was having, maximizing my chances of escape and survival in the upcoming massacre in the night ahead.
With that all sorted we headed to town to grab a bite to eat, and possibly get some phone signal to communicate to loved ones how much we loved them, how life must go on without us, that sort of stuff.
It took us several attempts to find a place that was willing to have us, this is a local shop, etc, but the place we did eventually get to accept us was awesome. I managed to find a home baked bakewell slice, and also get a portion of salted caramel cheesecake, which took the edge off a recent craving I’ve had for sweet salty little things, and I was happy in the knowledge that if I faced the serial killer tonight, it would be with a happy belly!
So we headed back to murder central, all phones ceasing any functional use, the darkness came rolling in like a wave of certain death, extinguishing the light of hope and street lamps, and signalling the beginning of the end for this group of travelers in a beautiful but foreign land, with strange signs made from random letters. Before we went to sleep we all gathered in the living room for some pre-sleep nonsense, which clearly upset some of the other guests because when the conversation naturally turned to porn movies they fled the room as fast as they could. Soon it was time to take the test, and see who would still be breathing come sunrise…
As I had somehow by fluke got control of the male dorm room key, I plotted fiendishly to sneak out and do really stupid stuff like scratch windows and make scary sounds, but everyone was a bit keyed up and I might have died as an extreme reaction, or I might have actually been the first victim, and I was tired so I decided to sleep like a baby instead.
Morning came and it seemed everyone was alive, much to everyone else’s surprise. There was actually a couple of people talking about the scream they heard in the night, and not even joking, which is a bit messed up. But there was plenty of other guests, so it must have been one of them that got slaughtered in the night. After a spot of breakfast it was time to hit get to the start line!
So part of this mountain run was the compulsory kit. You needed to have hat, gloves, waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, food, water and a mobile phone. Blimey! Now I fully charged my phone just before I left for Wales, so imagine my annoyance that it ran it’s battery flat in the night looking for a signal. I could understand if I’d been feverishly texting a hot girl all night long, but no signal meant not only no contact with the outside world, but no mountain rescue, or the ability to take hideous selfies and send them to victims! Luckily I have a back up camera…
So it’s July, and yes up mountains the weather can be very unpredictable, but on the ground it should be fine. Which is why it was cold, windy and raining. I changed my clothes multiple times trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing, and in the end just went like normal.
On the go at 9am me, Leanne and Chris started off and the race immediately took a turn for the hilly. I lost those two really early on in the crowd so just decided to get on with it. The initial part of the race was roads into a farm type area, all uphill. After about two miles the track narrowed to close to single file, with a nice steep but not that lethal looking slope to the left. Looks like we’re getting into mountainous country!
It was a bit of a grind, but I felt ok. I had to walk some bits early on, more to do with not being able to see the ground ahead due to others rather than effort. Now I’m a rubbish up hill runner, so quite a few bits I was walking at the speed I would run these bits anyway! After about 4 miles or so of pure uphill grind, the actual mountain climb showed it’s face…
You could see the very small weaving line of multi-coloured dots that represented runners slowly going up the side of this thing. So the grindy hill I’d just been enduring was just a polite warm up. Once hitting the side of the mountain things really slowed down. The ground was just big rocky steps the whole way. Going was so slow that one of the miles took me 28 minutes to cover! Plus add to that the biting wind and the sideways mist of water (it wasn’t quite rain, more like someone had the biggest bottle of Fabreeze and was squirting the smelly mountain and all the annoying little fleas on it) and you had a bit of a bleak experience. Every now and then I would look up, down and around, but it was a bit pointless because the cloud meant you couldn’t see anything in any direction. This was a really lonely feeling part of trek, even with other people being near by, because no-one really felt like talking. Could have really done with a hug at this point, but not from another miserable tired soaked-to-the-skin ‘runner’, because that wouldn’t have provided the escape needed from this drudgery. This probably sounds like I didn’t like this bit, but weirdly it was satisfying in a grim way to keep marching up and not stop.
So once at the top part of the race, about 6 and a half miles in, it was time for trout pout selfie picture taking with the camera… Damn. The camera got wet thanks to the relentless spraying and didn’t want to play. The Gods are laughing at my attempt to capture memories in digital form! I was annoyed as I promised to someone I’d also get a selfie of me rolling downhill, and I don’t like to break promises… I’ll have to save these for September!
So feeling pretty good at the top, apart from technology being broken, and my hands being numb to the point of useless, it was time to descend… And here the real test began.
If the climb was hard but rewarding, the way back down was torture, but with no let up. Very soon after starting the way down I felt my right IT band strain. Now this isn’t a particularly bad injury, but my Gods, the pain… It shut my right leg down when going downhill, especially on the uneven parts, which was nearly all of it. Uuurrggh.
People were streaming past me the whole time, and I was gasping and whimpering like I’d been knifed in the leg. The pain towards the end was so bad at points I was actually leaking water out of my eyes (I believe you humans call them ‘tears’). I did get some respite when the terrain evened out, and the joy in my running in these short-lived bits was euphoric as there was no pain when I could open up my stride. The final half kilometer or so of the race was just a flat run, and my Gods it felt so good to open up and peg it to the finish!
So I crossed the line with a finish time of 3 hours and 5 minutes. I had a little goal of sub 3 hours, but with the strain I picked up I was actually quite pleased with the time, and I know if I can avoid that happening again I can get a much faster time, the next time I do this race… (What am I thinking?! I actually do really want another go! And not just the one in 6 weeks…). And the finish line was awesome because it had bananas, oranges, chocolate biscuits, pick and mix sweets… Om nom nom nom nom!
So all in all a really quite amazing weekend, full of memories, and quite a few of them revolving around pain and death.
I had an awesome time! I think there might be something wrong with me hahahaaaaa……