Wednesday, 20 July 2022

The 3 Peaks Ultra

I ran the national three peaks on my 40th birthday a few years back. It was a truly magical day, I had clear summits and just about got around them in daylight hours. The worst thing about it was the driving. My wife and I shared it but it was a massive ballache. Roll forward a few years and I saw an advert for a race in 2022, The 3 Peaks Ultra. Run the 3 peaks but run between them. This just totally appealed to me and I said there and then, "I'm going to do that". Sure enough two years later I was on the start line. 

So the format was a bit a weird one. Its a race but not a race. There is one main CP each day where you have to rest but you could set off at any point before 6am the next day. The race had been laid out to give us 10 days to complete and as long as you finished within 9 days you would beat the existing record for covering the 3 peaks on foot. The only grey area is how the record would be decided. Who would hold the record and how would they get it? I'd spoke to one competitor pre race who'd told me he was going to race off, ignore the checkpoints and go for the record. My thought was to just treat it as a holiday, forget the record, stick to the checkpoint times and have fun. Let's face it this was a multi stage race but just not called it for some reason. Another reason for taking it easy was the horrendous plantar fasciitis I had been suffering since the Arc. Just two weeks prior to this I had considered pulling out after a particularly painful 20 miler. I had been holding back tears of frustration and finally folded, conceding the 3 peaks wasn't going to happen. After a bit of coaxing I decided to toe the line and just see how far I could get.  

Day 1 Fort William to Tyndrum 52 miles including Ben Nevis

We met at the visitors centre at the base of Ben Nevis, 4.30am. A short brief from Mark the RD and we were ready for the 5am start. No bells, no whistles just a "go!" and we walked across the bridge which marks the start of the climb. Everyone resisted the urge to run we walked toward the first slope. I pushed on to the front and was walking with purpose with Mike Stevenson who I'd met the day before in my hotel. We chatted about literally everything and was in buoyant mood as the 5 mile climb quickly got eat away at. The climb up Ben Nevis is pretty easy and just a steady plod, the clear skies made the views spectacular. We soon reached the summit, the temperature had dropped and we were in the clouds. Across some snow patches and we summited, a quick photo before turning and starting the decent. After a few hundred yards Adrian Martin(another soon to be friend) came flying past followed by Chin Yong. I pushed a steady run all the way to the bottom. Nothing too much as I was super aware that I didn't want to get doms and have to try and recover from that. At the bottom Karen Webber was waiting with water and cheese pasties. A nice break after the exactly 10 mile mountain section was behind us. We walked on and joined the West Highland Way. 

It was getting hot now. The weather had turned out lovely, hot sun and not a cloud in the sky. The climb back out from the visitors centre was quite hard and went on for a while but was through some glorious forest trail. We hiked up and over the hill and ran some of the most gorgeous trail I've been on. Stony paths running between mountains with streams and clear blue skies. Mike and I were still together and was running with Tim Wiggins and Trish Patterson. We were just about ready for a drink and some food when we started the descent into Kinlochleven. 

We headed straight for the local co-op and filled up with water and food then doubled back through town and rejoined the trail. It was quite a climb back out of town and by this time I was really getting hot. The temperature was soaring, luckily I had my hat and arm sleeves. What I had noticed, Mike was a much stronger walker than me and could easily pull away on the ups whereas we were very even on the running although we were holding back and taking it as easy as possible. After a few miles we dropped off the hill and down the Devils Staircase toward Glencoe. In front of us stood Buachaille Etive Mor an absolutely jaw droppingly beautiful mountain. It literally blew my mind. I could not take my eyes off it. The sun was reflecting off the wet slopes, wow what a view. We ran along side the main road taking it all in and stopped again at the Kingshouse hotel, reloaded with drinks before hiking on up a very steady climb for an hour or more. The route dropped down to the Bridge of Orchy before the final 7 mile push to Tyndrum our destination for the day. 

I arrived at around 7pm. I was feeling slightly like I'd had too much sun. 52miles and 11000ft of climb and I was actually very tired. Time for a shower and some food which consisted of a baked potato with cheese or beans. Mark really felt like he was spoiling us. The room was small and full of furniture, we all squeezed in making makeshift beds where we could. I slept under a table but it was a rough night as there was a lot of noise but I felt quite content as we'd beaten a very hard day . Mike and I had agreed to get up around 2am for a 3am start.

13 hrs running for the day. 

Day 2 Tyndrum to Milngavie 52 miles

Trish who we'd run with on and off for the first day had asked us to wake her too so we could all set off together. I woke around 1.30 and even with loading my pack the previous evening I still managed to faff for the full 90 minutes to 3am. Eat four bits of jam on toast, drink two mugs of tea, pack and get out. I woke Trish about 2.30 and she was ready to go in no time. We left at 3. 

I must admit I was feeling rough this morning. I'd had a horrible nights sleep with the endless hours of snoring and random pack sorting at all hours. I'd also been caught out with a bit of heat exhaustion. My quads were sore too from the previous days 11000ft of ascent. 

A few other runners had gone already knowing what lay ahead. We walked out the door into the cool morning but my legs were not playing ball. Trish and Mike were able to walk so much faster than me. We were run walking but everytime we walked I had to push too hard to keep up. I decided pretty quickly I need to walk for a while to let them go so I could go back to running my own race. Back to basics, Walk the hills, run the flats and downs. As daylight arrived I was really suffering, my stomach twisted and my mouth filled with fluid. I started heaving over and over. I was fully going through the vomit motions with no actual vomit. It was very frustrating and equally tiresome. 

This went on for a while but started easing after time, passing the early starters and having a brief chat with them was also quite nice and took my mind off the other issues. After 10k or so I reached a camp site and found a tap. A small reset to rest for a minute and fill my bottles. I unknowingly passed Trish and Mike at this point and pressed on. I was still feeling the slump as I reached Loch Lomond, nausea, my core temperature off the scale and my sore legs were the main problems. The terrain along the Loch was much more technical now and was very reminiscent of the South West Coast Path. It was time to slow down and pick my way through. Trish and Mike passed me again as we reached the Inversnaid hotel but no sooner had they passed Trish took a big fall. She had turned her ankle and it had cracked. She was lying on the floor holding her face half in pain and half in despair knowing this could be a bad one. We got her up and hobbled to the hotel for a re group. There was no food available but we were able to fill our bottles. Trish was just like yea it hurts but lets crack on. 

The trail beyond the hotel remained pretty knarly and was really demanding. Climbing fallen trees, sharp ups, steep downs and roots a plenty. I was still lumbering along and it was annoying me now, I made a decision that as soon as some decent trail came I was going to run, properly. I had been lucky so far as I had been shielded from the sun by the hills. The cool weather had helped me recover a bit from the previous days heat. The nice trail appeared just before Rowardeman and I stepped on the gas. I was 26 miles in for the day and I ran a few good miles. This spurred me on and made me feel a lot more positive. The halfway aidstation van was perfectly timed. No pasties but plenty of water and crisps. I followed the WHW all the way to Balmaha. I'd put in some solid miles but on arrival there I found Trish and Mike were already there. They had followed the road which had been much easier going. I'd just followed the gpx and not thought to follow the map. I carried on following the road until it split off up another hill and on to some nice runnable trail. Again I could have taken the road but just hadn't looked. This way was nice enough though. The trail into Millgavie was straight and flat and about 10k, I ran the whole way to the end. I couldn't find the route to the end of the WHW but eventually worked it out. Through the town and on to the check point. I sat down with a cold can of coke and was mighty relieved the day was over. It had been a big day and I was glad to get my head down. My plantar was behaving too which was a massive bonus. 

12 hrs 25 min running for the day. 

Day 3 Milngavie to Beattock  63 miles

After sorting my kit it had gone 9pm by the time I had laid down the previous night. Mike had come in just after me and we'd had a chat about leaving early for the 100k day that lay ahead. I woke just after 12 so I'd at least got 3 hours of broken sleep. I got my kit together, had my tea and toast and we set off at 1.30am. 

There was no doubt I was walking to start today, we walked for a good hour stopping at a couple of garages for coffee and food. We weren't covering enough ground though and only just moving at 3 mph. I pretty much averaged 4mph the previous two days and that was my target. James Parsons and Cedric Touny passed us and we decided we ought to start running. We were just on the outskirts of Glasgow and due to hit the centre around 3.30am. I thought we may have encountered a few drunken groups and we did but we kept ourselves to ourselves and the only grief we got was someone shouting abuse from a window. I kept my head down and ran on. There was also a guy we passed, he had blood all down the front of him and had his fists firmly clenched. I made no eye contact and nor did Mike. Fifty metres later I said "Did you see that?" "Yea" was the reply. We started running again. 

We had a good run through the centre and caught James back up. No Cedric though, he had dropped with a leg injury as quick as that. Of the 32 starters about a dozen had dropped but most knew if they got through today they would probably be ok. James stuck with us and we ran walked our way right through Glasgow and its suburbs. It was probably about 20 miles or so to Hamilton and the built up areas became less and less. We were soon running down the side of a dual carriageway with a cycle path to one side. The route was undulating with quite substantial climbs but over a long distance. There were parts we were together and parts we were apart, it was as much as we could do to keep moving forward. If you had a good spell you ran, I put my foot down for a few miles but I soon felt crap again and the others caught me up. The heat of the day was really kicking in and there was no shade, the heat just radiated off the tarmac draining us more and more. At one point all three of us bonked at the same time. We were weaving all over, not speaking and moving very slowly. Endless miles of this torment passed by with the occasional wind turbine, pile of fly tipped rubbish or sun baked road kill to break the monotony. 

Around 50 miles in Karen and Carl made an appearance and I raided the van for water, melted Jaffa Cakes and crisps but it was enough to keep me going. We walked for about 6 miles up the side of the road. There was no path and it was all uphill. After reaching the top, James had decided he was running and took off down the other side. Mike and I ran walked but Mike was flagging and had no running left in him. He looked like shit and hadn't been wearing a hat. I think the sun had took its toll. I decided to run on, I just need this day to be over. It hurt to run but I ran all the way to Beattock. I walked in the checkpoint a bit broken, there were no shops just a village hall. I ate a cheese sandwich but I felt sick. It had taken us nearly 16hrs. Time to rest. 

15 hrs 20 min running for the day. 

Day 4 Beattock to Rosley 50 miles

We were all hurting now. Blisters, swollen feet, shin splints and the like. I'd never seen so much K tape being used! Luckily for me my feet were fine. No blisters and my plantar was behaving and dare I say it, improving. My doms from day 1 was feeling ok too. My main issue was a swollen knee, it was completely full of fluid and impossible to bend. Strangely it didn't hurt though, just a bit unnerving. I think the previous days road running had caused it, I stuck a tube bandage on it and hoped for the best. 

Today was another long hard day but I figured if I got today done my chances of finishing were pretty good. It was another 3 hour sleep night and I was up at 12.30 for a 1.30 start. For a while now I haven't run races with other people and I tend not to buddy up. I find a sure fire way of messing up your race is running someone else's race. So if it happens it happens but I always have it firmly in my mind to stick to my plan. Mike and I had run on and off for the three previous days and would start this day together. I had no idea whether we would stay together or split up but Mike is good company so I was happy to roll with it for now. 

It was dark as we left the village and no sooner had we started than we found ourselves walking up a main road again. We walked for about half hour and I was keen to get the legs moving and start running. Mike wasn't feeling it today, his blister hurt and he had a tendon issue in his ankle. After an hour of trying to get us running I decided I needed to trot on and get in my own head space to tick off some miles. A few short minutes later and I had lost Mike. 

The next town was Lockerbie and it had really motivated me that I would find a garage and get some coffee. As I got closer I realised the town was off route. I either had to go into town or just push on. I had planned to be self sufficient every day so apart from water and had enough food for the day. I decided to bypass Lockerbie and hope I could find some water pretty soon. The main road dragged on and on. I checked the tracker and James was ahead and Trish behind. Both too far to catch up or be caught for some company. I was running out of water fast and there was nothing on this section, in fact I had to run all the way to the half way point at Ecclefechan. Just the name Ecclefechan had tickled me and its all I could think about as I ran into town laughing. Karen was at the far end of the village so I dived in the shop for a Red Bull then pushed on to meet the checkpoint van. I suddenly realised whilst eating my squashed Chia Bar that I hadn't seen Mike on the tracker. Karen confirmed he had dropped. I felt sad wondering that if I had stayed with him, would he have dropped? I came to the conclusion that he may not have, but it was a decision he made and probably would have made it if I had been there or not. 

The road showed no signs of improvement as I headed toward Gretna, it was a dull carriageway, if pretty sketchy in parts. I turned a corner and all I could see in the distance was straight road. I was battling sleepiness at this point so decided to call home. I put my ear buds in and chatted to my wife for over an hour. It really perked me up, and certainly sorted the tiredness.  I ran into Gretna Green and crossed the border into England, another milestone. Such small things can really change your day. I started running pretty well again and my next target was Carlisle. This next section of road was pretty dangerous, 60mph, busy, no path and lots of bends in the road. There was 10 miles to cover on this road and I was really cautious, constantly crossing sides or jumping on the verge. I had my hi-vis braces on and really felt I needed them. Carlisle came soon enough and I kind of mentally switched off  thinking I was close to the CP. I actually had no clue where the CP was as the GPX often didn't go to them so I got Jacque to text me the address. I found a Greggs and bought a cheese pasty, it was actually worse than one of Karen's van temperature budget pasties. The cold Coke was nice though. 

A quick Google check showed me the CP was another 7 miles. 7 bloody miles! The route left Carlisle and I was back on country lanes. It felt wrong though, I took a right then another right which meant I was heading back the way I had been coming from. The road signs backed this up and on closer inspection the GPX had taken me the long way. As I navigated the lanes my Etrex switched off and on before resetting my location to somewhere in Africa. I tried a reset and but it wasn't having it. I got a bit of signal on my phone, got google maps up and took a mental image of the route. It was enough to get me back to the finish and the end for the day. I sat and rested a while, surely we'd be in for some easier days now? 

Rosley was a good base. Plenty of room and plenty of toast. We hadn't worked out what was happening the next day, all we knew was there would be two walking groups for Scafell. One going over at 12 noon and one at 3pm. I really wanted to get in that first group to maximise my rest on the other side. Then it was announced it would be first come first served. The first 10 runners to reach Borrowdale would go over at midday. 

11 hrs 49 min running for the day. 

Day 5 part 1 Rosley to Borrowdale 25.5 miles

I was up at 12.30, mine being the first alarm to go off. I got straight in the kitchen and had my food before everyone got up. The kitchen was a picture, mess everywhere, spilt drinks, dirty cutlery and bin bag over spilling on to the floor. Our cleanliness skills had certainly gone out the window. 

I was out the door and into the darkness at 1.15am. I felt pretty refreshed even after just 4 hours kip. Knowing the hardest running was behind me was enough to give me a lift today. I was running straight away but also trying to reacquaint myself with the nav on my watch, I'd ditched my Etrex after the malfunction but I just couldn't seem to understand what I was looking at. I was obviously very tired because this basic task was baffling me. I followed a distance headtorch for a while until I had sussed the watch out. The headtorch had been James'. I soon caught him as he was carrying a bit of an ankle issue but him being super competitive he was having none of it and just started running. I really liked James he was funny and good conversation, the miles started ticking by. We were running well when Adrian Martin caught us. I hadn't really known how to take Adrian. We hadn't got to know each other as he'd been running off so fast every day and was miles ahead of everyone. This time though he slowed up and ran with us. Turns out he is a cracking bloke too and we all hit it off. Plenty of banter made for a really enjoyable run. 

The sun was was rising on another beautiful day, as we ran down the lanes the mountains of the Lake District were getting ever closer. Even with the undulating road we were running well, even managing to run a few hills. Coming into Keswick from the north is not a way I know and it was kind of fun trying to pick out the peaks from that angle. It was still very early as we got into Keswick and I knew nothing would be open so we just pushed through. We just had to follow the road down the side of Derwent water and the checkpoint was in Borrowdale at the other end. The views down the waters edge were spectacular. The early morning light made for some amazing pictures. We ran all the way to the institute and arrived around 7am. We had managed to run the marathon distance in just over 5 hours and no one was even there. Within 20 minutes Mark arrived and our names went to the top of the list to go over the mountain. We had till midday to chill out and get some food. 

5 hours 23 minutes for this section

Day 5 part 2 Borrowdale to Langdale 14 miles

At midday we were chaperoned down the lane, it was quite comical as I felt a bit like a school kid being told when to cross the road and when to wait. We were led to the end of the lane to meet our guide, Joe Faulkner. I must admit this was a strange part of the race for me as someone who is pretty experienced in the mountains to be led up and over Scafell Pike. Nothing we could do and we just had to roll with it. It had been a nervy time pre mountain as we had been warned if we looked tired or injured we wouldn't be allowed over. Well here's the shocker, we were all tired and a bit injured. We were literally hiding our ailments just in case. The only positive to that is we knew if we got over this no one could stop us climbing Snowdon. 

The walk up the corridor route is lovely and it was actually a great chance to catch up with Joe. We soon summited and another peak done. As we got over the other side it was hard to keep us all together with everyone itching to push on. A couple of the group were slower over the terrain and eventually we got to the point where the front group could push on and Joe held back to make sure the back runners were ok. 

We headed down Rossett Gyll towards Langdale, time to open the legs a bit. Adrian shot off, I followed and James brought up the rear. We regrouped at the bottom before James shot ahead. I tried to keep with him but I was knackered, time to just jog it in and straight into the pub. 

The hall tonight was roomy and I'd had a decent meal in the pub. With rain forecast and a short day ahead we could even plan a lie in but I knew that wouldn't happen. Once I'm up, I'm up. All in all I felt content and sleep came pretty easy. 

4 hours 41 minutes for the mountain section. 

Day 6 Langdale to Carnforth 34 mile

I woke around 2.30 am with the intention of leaving around 4 in the daylight. I could hear water and quickly realised it was pissing down outside, not only that but the roof of the hall was leaking, flooding the hall. 

James left really early as did a few others. I left with Trish around 3.30. Her ankle was still busted up and it had changed her gait causing her more pain. She was powering on though, absolutely no quit in her! Even being injured I knew she was a dead cert finisher. We went to step outside but the rain stepped it up a gear and was lashing down. I slipped on my £1 poncho and stepped out into it. I find the cheap ponchos are fantastic at keeping you bone dry including all my kit. We walked up the lane and I was just trying to keep my feet dry in the flooded lane. After a mile or so of chatting I was feeling good so decided to act upon it and start running. I said farewell to Trish and jogged on. I was feeling good this morning and was soon banging out a decent pace. I stopped and chatted with everyone I passed. Although I wasn't going to let this good spell pass unused so I was quick to keep on running. 

I arrived in Ambleside around 5 and was devastated to find there was no where to get a coffee. A car pulled up and out jumped John Knapp, a good friend of mine who I'd first met whilst running the Northern Traverse. We walked up the road and had a good chat for 10 minutes until he was well and truly soaked through. This simple act actually made my day, the fact someone got out of bed to see me at 5am kept me smiling and motivated for the next few hours. Next up was Windemere, again no chance for a coffee but it is a lovely place. Beautiful houses and even more beautiful scenery. I was trying to choose which house I'd buy if I was mega rich, each one trumped by the next. As I started leaving the Lakes the sky started to break. 

Adrian caught me and slowed to run with me. We pretty much ran the rest of the day together, all the way to Carnforth and beyond to a pub just short of the checkpoint. It was midday and we were done, we had a meal and slowly the others joined us. Cameron Humpries was there but had sadly been brought by car. His race was over due to some horrendous blisters. He would actually be the last person to drop. 

Mark arrived in the pub and informed us the CP wasn't great. Well for him to say that it must be bad! We headed up there and he wasn't wrong, it was awful. It was actually just a changing room used by the local football teams. We claimed what space we could and mine was a bench just outside the showers. Others were in the corridor but James actually ended up on the toilet floor. I'd been having problems sleeping, luckily the tiredness of each day had been enough to knock me out each night but the hard floors were killing my back and I was regularly waking in a lot of pain. 

It had been a funny day and we could sense Mark being unsettled as we were smashing the days out so quick. Before we started no one thought this race would have more than a couple of finishers, some even said there would be no finishers. So Mark had definitely been expecting us to be down to a handful, not to still have 17 of us! 

8hrs 22minutes running today

Day 7 Carnforth to Preston 29 miles

Today was to be our easy day for sure. Mark made it clear we didn't need to go too early as the CP definitely would not be open until 2pm. It just so happens I had the worst nights sleep yet. Half the night on the bench and half on the floor, my back was in real pain. 

In the build up to this event I'd done a 10 marathons in 10 days event to give me a feel for what the 3 peaks might be like. During it I had bad days on 2, 3 and 7. Well this morning I had woken and just felt terrible. Tired, hurting and moody. I just couldn't get mentally motivated. James had gone early again so Adrian and I swanned around letting time slip by. Around 5.30am we left, but half a mile up the road Adrian realised he had forgotten something and had to go back. I just ran on, I needed to get my head down today I was pretty tired and very grumpy. 

I was mainly following the A6 today, long, straight, busy roads. Most of it was pretty safe although I had to have my wits about me. However just after Lancaster the road split and the path disappeared, this was a really fast bit of dual carriageway. I picked up the pace down the road and ahead was a bridge where the two lanes went to one before going to two again. This was really sketchy and as a gap in the traffic appeared I legged it as fast as I could to get under the bridge and out the other side. I made it before the next wave of traffic came hammering through. This was definitely the most dangerous part of the whole event, worse than any mountain!

Adrian caught me and we soon caught James who was struggling with his foot. We didn't have an aidstation today so dipped into Garstang for some food. We stopped at a sandwich bar and no veggie option. I ended up with a coffee and a can of Coke. The coffee was awful and the Coke was warm. As the others tucked into to their food a little red mist descended over me and I stormed back in the shop, pushed to the front of the queue and demanded a cold can. It was at that moment I realised I was being a grumpy asshole. Those poor girls must have thought who is this dickhead. I'm not good when I'm tired. 

We carried on along the A6 with me just wanting the day to end and before I knew it we were at the pub marking the end of the day. I had a massive all day breakfast and felt a lot happier. The checkpoint was loads better today and almost comfortable with cushioned seats to lay on. 

There was a little uncertainty on how the event would end. The original plan had been a guided walk up and down Snowdon but that wasn't going to work because at some point someone would sprint off to claim the record. Then it was proposed that there would be a race from the foot of Snowdon on the final day at 4am. So the basic idea was to carry on in stages but make sure you were at the foot of Snowdon at 4am on the last day for a 10 mile shoot out. Well I must admit this didn't impress me. I'm ok in the hills but I'm not the fastest and although the record wasn't on my radar it would be nice to have a shot at it. 

I was almost comfy on the cushioned seat and lay back pondering how this would end before dropping off pretty quickly

6 hours 23 minutes running today. 

Day 8 Preston to Runcorn 35 mile  

I felt a bit better this morning, I woke at 3am and even the band that had kicked off about 9pm the previous night hadn't disturbed me too much. I left at 4am and was running straight away. I was running through a lot more built up areas today which provided a bit of a change. It was still main roads but the sun was shining, I'd slept ok and my back felt ok. I was able to run for a good 10 miles before I started to flag. Luckily I was running bits with Adrian and it was good to chat and put the world to rights. The miles were ticking by and we passed through the Rugby towns of St Helens and Widness. I decided to have a walk as I was having a energy dip. I used this time to ring my wife, my brother and my buddy Scott. We had a long chat about nothing in particular  but it really perked me up. Scott thought it was hilarious that I kept taking wrong turns. I was trying to run, navigate and talk. No sooner I hung up on Scott my son rang me. Today was a good day. 

When I finally managed to get off the phone I was back running with Adrian as we crossed the rather magnificent Runcorn bridge and on to our next stop for the night Frodsham. We found a pub and sat in the sun having dinner and drinks. We moved on to our hall for the night, it was small but ok. There had been a lot of chatter between Mark and Lindley and it was obvious they were hatching a plan for the final push. Sure enough when the last runner was in Mark got us together to let us in on it. 

The original plan had been a 35 mile day 9 and a 45 mile final day followed by the guided walk over Snowdon. The checkpoint at the end of day was to be in someone's garden and the sleeping area was to be a couple of tents. Nobody had factored in the chance that there would still be 19 runners left and we would all need to fit into the tents. So the new plan was that the last two days would now become one. A 3am start, an 80 mile day with a single aidstation at the house in Denbeigh. The race was finally on, this was more to my liking as I now stood a chance. 

7 hours running today

Day 9 Frodsham to the Finish in LLanberis 80 miles and 10000ft of climb

Today was different, we were actually going to race and I was up and about at 1.30am. We lined up at the door of the hall at 5 to 3, Karen done a head count to make sure no one had snuck off and at 3am swung the doors open. Considering we'd done so much mileage the front pack shot off pretty fast. Me, James, Adrian, Chin and Andy were that pack. We headed out on some flat uninspiring trails around Ellesmere port. After a few miles I realized I couldn't carry on like this or I'd blow up for sure. Andy and Chin carried on while James, Adrian and I eased back slightly and as soon as we hit the main road I stopped at the first garage I saw to grab a Red Bull and that split us up. I could see Chin in the distance running down the middle white line of the 60mph road, there were cars on the road and I was unsure on his thought process but it looked pretty dangerous. 

We were treated to some beautiful views off the bridge at Shotten just as the sun was rising but beyond that it all got very samey again. Just long straight undulating back lanes. I checked the tracker and saw the other three were quite a way ahead. Adrian and I passed the marathon distance in around 4 hrs 30 but he really wasn't feeling it today so I started to push on. I soon pulled away but for the first time a couple of niggles reared their ugly heads. A blister by the ball of my foot and some mad ankle pain right at the front. I had to take some some pain relief, energy wise I was good, good enough to run anyway. After a few more miles I eventually caught Andy 5 miles short of Denbeigh. We chatted briefly before I moved on, hoping to catch the other two. I ran solid all the way to the aidstaion. 

The aidstation was actually Vic Owens house and as I arrived Chin was just leaving and James was gone. I didn't hang around. There was an amazing spread she had laid on but I just had Coke and a donut, I loaded my mountain kit, filled with water and left. As I left Andy arrived. I could now make out the mountains of Snowdonia and they seemed so close, I kind of forgot it was still 35 miles to Llanberis and kept kidding myself I was nearly there. The lanes had now become really hilly, big ascents followed by big descents. This was killing my ankle and the pain was absolutely searing, the downs were so painful. I checked the tracker and James had made about 6 miles on me. This would be unsurmountable unless he had a disaster. Chin was about 4 miles and Adrian 2 miles back. I was still going to run hard in case the two ahead blew up but I was running out of water fast and I hadn't seen anything since Denbeigh. Eventually I came across a tiny village shop and even they had no water, I had to make do with Coke and energy drink. That didn't help my thirst for long and I soon had to message Karen to find out where I could get some water. A message came back that Byron would be at the next village with water. I was 50 mile in now and roughly 9hrs 15 for the day. Llanwst was more of a town but I disregarded all the shops hoping I could pick up some time, I raided Byrons motor of food and water and carried on. 

I had finally reached the foothills around Snowdonia and took the chance to walk for a while up through the beautiful Gwydyr forest. The climb actually went on for ages before reaching a small pass and a long descent which I ran hard for well over a mile. It made my ankle scream with pain, how could some much pain come on in such a short space of time! To quote a MMA phrase it was time to bite down on my mouth piece and just run. I got on the A5 and I knew where I was, bloody miles from Llanberis! Moel Siabod was towering high up to my left shrouded in cloud and as I made the turn toward Llanberis the wind just hit me. It was hammering along the valley floor. It's almost straight along to Pen y Pass and straight from there to Llanberis so there would be no escaping the wind. I couldn't see anyone ahead or anyone behind which was a good job because running was near impossible in the wind. Snowdon summit looked very angry and I could only imagine the wind up there. After what seemed like ages I reached Pen y Pass. Again as soon as I was over the pass I was flat out down the other side. My memory told me I wasn't far but I can tell you it's a long hill. In the end the pain in my ankle was so severe I had to walk the last mile into town. I had totally run out of water again so had to pass the start of the tourist path and run to the finish to fill up. 

I was definitely going to be third now as the other two were so far ahead. I jogged to the start of the climb and started the hike up. About half a mile up I saw James coming down, I congratulated him on a race well run.  I saw Chin about half way up and again congratulated him. I could see the summit was raging so stopped to put my coat on and my buff round my head. It really was blowing a hooley at the top so I quickly summited, grabbed a pic and headed back down. I jogged back down and bumped into Adrian. We greeted each other but I couldn't believe how close he was so from that point I sprinted down the mountain like it was a fell race. I saw Andy, Ricardo and Robert on the way down and we all congratulated each other. Finally I was at the bottom and touched the station wall. It was over, my 3 peaks had taken 8 days 14 hours 35 minutes and unofficially the 3rd fastest time ever. Also 16 hours for the 80 mile day. I just sat down with my medal and a stupid grin, what a cool adventure and a life goal ticked off. 

I loved the adventure and this is what it was for me. Just a fun adventure with some great individuals. It was tough in parts but not overly hard. James did fantastic but he would be the first to admit its a pretty soft record and easy pickings for the right person. We did have a lot of rest after all! I also think if Mark put it on again it would be a whole lot harder. 

Massive congrats to all the other finishers and everyone who toed the line especially James and Trish the male and female FKT holders. Also thanks to Karen, Byron, Pete and Carl who gave up their spare time to help us achieve this. Biggest hats off goes to Mark, without him putting on this sort stuff ultra running would definitely be worse off.  

No comments:

Post a Comment