Dynasties and war

With the wicklow 100 miler fast approaching my prep has been less than perfect. I know I have the base endurance, a few niggles are a wee concern, but judging by previous events, the niggles prior to the race did not materialise during the race. I have been doing plenty of landscaping, good days on my feet, and my core and strengthening have been sporadic. My energy has returned enough for me to push a long run. It’s easy to forget the pain and difficulty of an event, so a couple of long runs will test my body and mind.

So, on Sunday afternoon I set off on a 5-6 hour run. It is a lovely loop that incorporates back lanes, forest track, and a lovely climb to a peak. I wanted to test my strategy of run 5km, walk 1km. As the terrain and elevation will be roughly the same for the Wicklow, it would be a good trial.

Everything was working well until 35km when I started to get a pain in my outside left knee. Damn ITB! I know from the previous experience that this, for me, is not a serious issue. Some rest, rolling and stretching and it will be fine. Famous last words. I persevered and ended up walking a bit more. The pain did not get any worse as long as I didn’t run up hill. Lucky there then eh! I ended up doing 43km in 5 hrs 17. This may seem slow, but that’s roughly a 20 hour 100 miles. My strategy may change to 4 and 2.

There were times on the run that I wondered why we do this to ourselves. Why push to do these extreme distances? We know we are going to experience pain at some point, but if we want to challenge ourselves and reap the rewards, pain and adversity are inevitable.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

That night my wife and I wanted to watch two programs on television, same channel one after the other. The first was ‘Dynasties’ with David Attenborough. The second one was ‘1418 Now’ by the renowned director Peter Jackson.

The first of the Dynasties series was about Chimpanzees. A particular group in Senegal. The leader of the group was a chimpanzee called David. A large middle aged brooding male. There were two younger males that could challenge his authority. These two would constantly test David and themselves, prepping for the future leadership. David would stamp out any unruly behaviour but needed an ally. So he started grooming another strong but older male who was beyond competing for leadership of the group. The grooming consists of picking fleas and bugs off a fellow chimpanzee to gain trust. The older chimpanzee accepted and David had his ally. Soon after the younger chimpanzees put on a show of strength by beating up older female chimps and generally causing mayhem. David and his allie stepped in and there was a standoff between them and now three younger males. It remained a standoff and there was no more violence. That night the three younger males took David by surprise and attacked him.

The camera cuts to a seemingly dead David on the forest floor. Fingers twitch. David is not dead. He has been left for dead, and the group has moved on to find water. David has fingers and toes missing and a huge gash in his right thigh. It is some time before he is able to move to find food and water, and nearly two weeks before he is able to travel to find the group. When he does catch up one of the younger males is already stating his intention for leadership. David is weak and in no state to fight the younger male, so he makes him self look as large as possible and loud as possible and marches to confront the younger male. A risky move because if there is a fight, David is far too weak. The strategy works, the younger males runs away, and David is back in charge, for now.

David spends the next few weeks recovering. He sneaks off into the forest to gorge on food whenever possible. He has to get his strength back before the next female comes into the season. He also expands his alliances and starts grooming other older males that are not a threat to his leadership. When the next female comes into the season he uses his alliance to chase away the younger males so he can mate with the female. David now has more male sons than any other chimpanzee and is by far the longest serving leader of the group.

This story, for me, highlights what David would do to stay at the top. Not only was he prepared to get back what was his after a near death attack, but how he used strategy and mental toughness to keep his position. This, for me, shows how we all, not just animals, have the ability to overcome adversity by just pushing ourselves a little more than we are used to, getting out of our comfort zones, not with brute force and ignorance but with a bit of thought or strategy we can achieve our goals.

The next program was a very well done piece of filming by Peter Jackson. He took old WW1 footage and digitally enhanced it with colour so you felt like you were actually there. He also added sounds and speech that were being said through mouth movements and hand actions etc. Interspersed were actual stories from WW1 soldiers after the war before they died.

I won’t go into the stories, but they were many and tragic. They all highlighted the hardships the soldiers went through. Not just from the fighting, but from everyday life in the trenches, the lice, the toilet facilities (a long log to sit on over a trench, which according to one soldier broke one day with three soldiers falling into the trench). Families torn apart, soldiers as young as 14 signing up. It really was a time when humanity had descended into the hell.

So next time I am on a run and feeling pain and fatigue, with the voices of doubt whispering in my ear, I will remember David and the soldiers of WW1, I will remember what they went through to keep what they had, in the case of David, his position as leader of the group, and in the case of the soldiers, their free world and way of life. I will remember that any pain and suffering I may be going through will be nothing compared to David or the soldiers of WW1. I will push harder, I will smash through the wall instead of crumbling in a heap at the base of it. I will remember that by pushing through any obstacles I will prevail.

Thank you David and thank you soldiers of WW1. Thank you for showing me that I have life far too easy, and that the real rewards come when we push through the obstructions and adversity.

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Energy Returns

It has been over a month since the Snowdon 100. I keep talking about it like it is the basis of my blog, it’s not, though it did get my blog started. In that month I have covered less than 150km of running, and any run has generally been less than 15km.

Not long after Snowdon I felt my energy returning so I got back into training. With having done 100 miles, any distance less than that would be a sinch. No. I struggled with anything over 10km. My hips would stiffen, then my legs would stiffen until it felt like I was running through water. I backed off and concentrated on my core and leg strengthening. Then I became so exhausted I had to back off that too. I then went over a week without running and any form of training.

For the last week I have been rebuilding a dry stone wall, good cross training in itself, and I have felt my energy returning again. I have been doing this job in the wilds of Donegal. Quiet, peaceful, and remote. Dry stone walling is very therepeautic! That is until the weather comes in off the Atlantic ocean and I am battered with sideways rain! Anyway. There is a lovely loop of about 15km around the area I am working in which starts with a steep technical ascent before changing to track, then forest Road and then rough Irish back roads for the final 9km. I finished early one day and decided to get a run in. It is a beautiful run and I felt strong. I had done a a couple of easy runs at the start of the week so decided to push this one. I felt good. My hips still felt a bit stiff, but nothing like the pain from earlier in the the month. I finished the run feeling like I had pushed it, which is what I wanted. The next day I felt tired, but not the exhaustion I had been feeling of late.

This is a good sign because… I have the Wicklow Way 100 miles in just over a month! Yes you read right. I am doing another 100 miler. At the danger of under estimating the Wicklow Way, this should be a little easier. There is no where near the elevation and it is not as technical, i.e there will be no mountain climbing or scrambling! There will be mainly trail with long ascents and descents, and some road. This will mean I will be able to go for the longer periods actually running, something I didn’t do much of on the Snowdon 100. In fact when I worked out my average speed for the Snowdon 100, it came to 3.9km/hour, slower than normal walking pace!

Another plus side is that I will get a higher energy return with every step. If you run on grass or soft trail every step gets absorbed slightly so you will be working harder with every stride. This improves slightly on forest track which has a slightly harder surface, until running on tarmac or road there is virtually no absorption and energy return is highest. All this is regardless of running style (type of footwear will make a slight difference). For example, when I am road running my average pace will be between 5-5.30mins/km. As soon as I get on to the fields of the coastal route my average pace changes to 6-6.30mins/km. I am still going at the same work rate i.e my HR does not change, I have have slowed down as going at the same pace I would be working a lot harder and tapping into precious glucose reserves. As an endurance runner I want to keep my HR low and burn fat as fuel, of which even the skinniest person has in abundance for running.

But as all of us know, every race is different. Our run up to the event, nutrition, training, sleep etc, and how we feel on the day will all impact the outcome.

So I will continue to train as I feel, knowing that my base endurance will be there. I just got to get these old hips right!

From Skyline to Surf

This weekend coming was supposed to be my third Mourne Skyline. A 36km jaunt over the Mourne mountains of Northern Ireland with 3300m of ascent. Absent mindedness must be a side affect of ultra running (or so I tell myself), because I had already been invited to provide the catering for the Inter counties surf contest in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal. Three days of competition and partying. How Could I miss that! You see, my other job, other than landscaping is that I run a Gourmet burger trailer called Big Beard Burgers. My summer was spent at Tullan Strand, Bundoran, a great surfing beach when conditions are right.

I was serving great burgers and meeting awesome people. The other upside is that there is some lovely scenic running in Donegal. Most of the running is on the back roads but they are quiet and deserted. There is a lovely coastal run which can get a bit muddy in wet weather, but that’s half the fun isn’t it?

When I was introduced to trail running in New Zealand I had access to hundreds of kilometres of technical and remote mountain trails. I would literally step out of the house and in less than a kilometre I could be on a trail with options of 5km to 200km. There was even a 15km run up a 1700m mountain right behind the house. Ahhh Ben Lomond, where I cut my mountain running teeth. My running percentages are completely different now. Instead of 95% trail in New Zealand, I now do 95% road in Ireland.

We came back to Ireland for a reason. To be near family. Mine in Bristol and my wife’s in Omagh. It was hard to find any trails in Ireland. There literally are hardly any. Most off road running is boggy. But I discovered the local forest park that has some good hills and trails, and the Mourne mountains, still boggy, but enough trails to keep me happy for quite a while. Returning from New Zealand also gave me access to hundreds of events in the UK and Europe, which I am now starting to take advantage of!

I believe things in life happen for a reason. That reason may take years to become apparent but if you follow something with a purpose, whether it’s a dream, or a passion, and you focus and put your energies into that desire, you will reach your goals. I had been wanting to do the Northburn 100 miles in New Zealand for years, but it took returning to Ireland and 3 years later, I completed the Snowdon 100 miler.

There is one event that happened in primary school. It was the school sports day and my favourite event was the sprint. I was the best. I was the fastest. The previous two years I had won. There were only two who could beat me, Matthew and Richard. We lined up in the middle, which was very crowded, but we all know it’s the best place to be. How many 100 metre sprinters win on the outside? To my horror a teacher (I can’t remember which one) pulled me out and put me on the outside. Noooooooo! Ready, steady, GO! I came third. I can’t remember who won. So what was the reason for that? Am I still waiting? Or should I finally just let it go and put it down to one of those failures on my way to success. Maybe if I had won I wouldn’t have got into ultra running, maybe it subconsciously gave me the drive to push and succeed in my own running goals. Perhaps we’ll never know, and do I want to know, because I am perfectly happy where I am.

The Snowdon hangover

For the week after the Snowdon 100 miles I indulged. I had already bought myself a salted caramel cake as a reward for finishing Snowdon, although I would have ate it if I hadn’t finished Snowdon (it wouldn’t have tasted the same). This was pure heaven and pure sugar, something which I had pretty much given up. I didn’t eat the whole cake myself, I let my wife and son have some, just a bit.

I gave myself the week off from all exercise and didn’t get back into landscaping until later in the week. My body was tired, as you would expect, but I also broke out in spots on my face and forehead! I can only assume that this is either my body dealing with the stress I had put it through, or the downside of all that sugar in the cake!

My legs were recovering well, but my right ankle and foot resembled the elephant man. This is quite normal for ultras. My treatment for the ankle was RICE, not eating it, but Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Whenever possible I raised my ankle. I also used biofreeze and compression socks, and used plenty of Arnica gel.

After a week my body seemed to be recovering well so I decided to get back into my core and strengthening work. With only three weeks to the Mourne Skyline, I wanted to start preparing my body. The Mourne Skyline is a 36km run through the Mourne mountains of Northern Ireland with 3300m of ascent. I have done it twice before so I I know what to expect. The event is similar to Snowdon with not much terrain to run on and lots and lots of steep ascent and descent, but A LOT shorter. If the weather turns wet, which it probably will, it can be very muddy and slippery with a good set of lugs on your shoes needed. I have my Salomon Speedcross for this event.

Anyway back to my core and strengthening work. Three or four times a week I will do specific exercises for my core and legs. I believe the core is a much neglected are by a lot of runners. It is what it says, its your core, where all you strength comes from. A strong core means good form for longer, good running form means more efficient running and air intake which all means you can go for a longer. I do 10-15 minutes with 30 seconds on each exercise with a 30 seconds rest every 5 exercises. For the legs, I concentrate on free standing exercises too help my balance and strengthen my ankles. Everything from squats, hurdles and lunges, to calf raises and side lunges. Another wee trick is to balance on one leg with a wobble board while brushing your teeth. One minute each leg. This is difficult and frustrating at the start, and particularly amusing to anyone watching, but you get better and stronger with practice. Concrete core and bullet proof legs are essentiall for trail running due to the uneven nature of the surfaces that are run on.

Looking back at Snowdon, I believe I was virtually completely prepared, apart from being better balanced, hence why my right ankle bore the brunt of the pain. My mental training definitely carried me through and my endurance was spot on. More time on my feet in training would have meant a slightly quicker time, but I am really happy with how it went. I’m more happy now than directly after the event. Crossing the finish line I expected to be more emotional and happy, but it isn’t until now that it has hit me. I’m now feel like superman, like every run from now on will be a sinch. But beware, my previous experiences with the Skyline should tell me that every race is different. Even though the Skyline is a blink of an eye to Snowdon, it is a very tough race, and I underestimate it at my peril!

The beginning…

The devil whispered, ‘you cannot withstand the storm’ to which the warrior replied ‘I am the storm’

The ultra is my battle ground. It’s where I go to challenge myself and do battle with the voices that tell me ‘you can’t do this’ , to battle the expectations and self doubts that try to persuade me to tow the line of life. Above all, I enjoy the more extreme form of running. I love the adventure it brings, from the planning (I start planning the moment I have clicked the ‘enter’ button), the packing (I start this weeks before my event), and the participation (the best part). Ultra running is where I can wield my metaphorical sword (I do wield a real viking sword to rock music/metal the night before an event 😁🗡️) and slay my enemies called doubt and fear. Once the finish line is crossed the voices in my head telling me ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘your in pain, quit and get yourself some well earned beers’, can no longer have any power, I have silenced them, for now.

Welcome. I have been running a long time. From primary schools fastest sprinter to undefeated 800m and 1500m runs in secondary school. I have have run County cross country, but it wasn’t until I went to the New Zealand to live that I got into the longer distances. Through this blog I will tell stories of all my running experiences and adventures from primary school to present day. I will offer tips and advice from training to nutrition that I have have picked up from professionals, books, and through trial and error. So prepare for rocky, muddy and hilly runs full of adventures!

GB Ultras Snowdon 100 miles

September 22nd 2018

I have been waiting my whole life for an ultra like this. Brutal, tough, unforgiving. This is my perfect battleground. After a DNF in the Jurassic Coast 100, I knew I would have to do some serious training for this one. Long days on my feet, core work and leg strengthening, and the much neglected by a lot of ultra runners, mental toughness training. Bar a few niggles and tiredness towards my three week tail off, I was in great shape. 4kg lighter and a lot of emphasis on mental training. Meditation, positive affirmations, and visualisation were all techniques I used to prepare my mind for the unknown. The longest I have been on my feet prior to Snowdon was 24 hours, this could potentially take 38-48 hours (on my race plan I calculated 38.5 hours). Aerobically I was spot on, but my legs, more specifically painful hips and ankles, and a recently developed pain in my right knee could come back to haunt me. It was my ankles that stopped my Jurassic Coast 100 quest (although with hindsight I could have pushed the last 30 miles if I had been mentally stronger). Apart from a couple of tough landscaping jobs, I did no exercise for the week prior to the event. I still felt shattered. Most niggles had gone apart from my right knee.

I was travelling alone to Snowdon. The overnight ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. A brief chance to sleep. Not the best but it was a rest. The next day I had a chance to drive to Betws y coed and around the area to view some of the course before I checked into my accommodation. Seeing some of the course and the climbs close up brought a smile to my face. This was going to be tough. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you fear something, then the battle is already half lost. I had run the course in my head, following it on my OL17 Snowdonia map, a hundred times. Every time I visualised strong flowing running, effort, but not fatigue. I was gunna kill that climb up to Carnedd Dafyd! COME ON!!

An early rise on the morning of the event. I followed my usual plan and made my way to Betws y coed for registration and gear check. I’m always quiet before the start, a million thoughts going round in my head. We were starting in the dark so head torches would be needed. I never got to see the start/finish line in the daylight. I did not feel nervous, there was nothing I could do now but stick to my plan. Yeah right! My plan was to walk the first bit but everyone was off! Running!

It was an easy and comfortable pace. The route to the first checkpoint was relatively flat and not that technical bar rocks, mud and tree roots. After CP1 is where the terrain got interesting. Heather Terrace on Tryfan was a long scramble/climb, a lot of fun but slower than I had anticipated.

The route to CP2 was rocky to start, then became increasingly wet and boggy. Not much running on that leg then. I took an hour longer than planned. Snowdon, I thought, would be fun, but it seems half the population of Great Britain had decided to climb it that day. Reaching the CP3 and the summit of Snowdon was mentally relieving as it is the highest point on the course. My right knee gave me a bit of jip on the way down, but nothing major. CP4. Still feeling energised, I just needed to replenish water, eat, drink a black coffee before climbing back towards Tryfan turning left to Glyder Fach and Glyder Faw and the infamous Devils Kitchen.

Again, virtually zero chance to run because of the rocky terrain. When it’s like this you will expend more energy trying to run over terrain like this. I hooked up with an American living in Cambridge doing his first ultra, the 50 mile option. Then it hit me, I had not seen a 100 miler for some time. Hmmm. Anyway, good company for the next few hours took my mind off the slow pace and the quad bashing technical descent of Devils Kitchen.

At the bottom I could run! Woo hoo! Next was CP5 then the beast of a climb up to Carnedd Dafyd. Below is a photo looking to the climb from Devils Kitchen.

It was a beast. Energy sapping climbing, but I loved it. This is what I funning live for! Getting up the ridge before dark was a priority. Done.

Now across the top before descending to CP6.

Darkness came, the cloud lowered, it got cold. A few of us got mildly lost. Our head torches could not pick up the course marker reflections through the low cloud. I had done this part of the course last year so I knew roughly where we were going. Darkness and cloud can confuse and disorientate. I led a pack of runners off the top and down to CP6 for a much needed black coffee and food. Now it was the relatively easy route back to the start/finish and halfway. We still had to go via the Llyn Crafnant loop. The night and lack of sleep can play tricks on your mind and body. Strange creatures reveal themselves out of the corner of your eye and the lack of light around you means that sometimes your balance can feel a bit off. A rough technical path to the lake and an easy forest road to CP7. By now it was gone midnight but I still felt awake and alive. The first part of the second half of the loop was very technical with rocky river paths covered by ferns and bracken, and sections of Lake shore completely covered in tree roots. There are no trail shoes that grip tree roots. This was slow and slippery going, and incredibly frustrating, even more so because I would have to do it again before the finish. One of the affirmations I repeat to myself is;

My heart is strong, my mind is strong, my body is strong.

While positive affirmations can help immensely, so can concentration. On a roll, I was not concentrating on the route. I saw a course marker and turned down a path. I came to a forest road and vaguely recognised it. Not listening to my gut feeling I ran on for another couple of miles and ended up at the bridge at the start of the lake loop. Oh dear, this isn’t right, I thought to myself. I took 5 minutes to check the map on my phone. It turned out that I shouldn’t have taken the turning when I saw the course markers, that was the track from the start of the day! I had just added 4 miles and lost an hour. I didn’t get angry, that was pointless. So back I went. On route I met two runners who had done the same thing. One of them was in a bad way and moving very slowly. I explained where we had gone wrong, the one who was in a bad way was still doubtful of my explanation so I stayed with them until we were all back on track, and then I went ahead. The path along the river was long and lonely but Betws y coed and halfway loomed.

The halfway point was a chance for hot food. Baked beans and bread never tasted so good. A boiled egg, half an avocado, and some pork scratchings all went down well. I have trained my body to burn fat as fuel, plus the nutrients from the egg and avocado are great for ultras, but more on that in later posts. I changed my base layer to a long sleeve thermal compression layer, changed my socks to skins compression and my shoes to the Hoka Speedgoat 2. They still have good grip but more cushion for the the less technical second half. I spent about 30 minutes there, then off again.

An easy going forest road was welcome, but running was virtually off the cards. The pain that halted my JC100 had come back to my right ankle. Ever since I broke my left ankle trail running in New Zealand back in 2005, I have favoured my right leg. This means I put more weight and pressure on my right leg. I have realised for the a while that I need to balance my body if I want to finish longer events. Anyway, I was OK, for now, but a realisation that I still had a very long way to go and some tough sections brought the first hints of self doubt. Those voices in my head were getting louder. CP9 at Trefiw came soon enough. The checkpoint crew commented how fresh I looked. Inside I was having doubts. I was chatting away to them when they revealed that I was currently in 17th place for the 100 mile. Well, that was a shot of wolverines green syrum right there. That was just the boost I needed. All the self doubt had gone. I was going to funning do this!

The next leg to CP10 was both exhilarating and down right frustrating.

It started with sun and easy terrain, over the top to Llyn Cowlyd reservoir. Looking to the dam I saw black clouds. It wasn’t long before it started raining. I then had two hours of driving wind, rain, and the occasional hail shower. The temperature had dropped and I was feckin freezing! The trail down the lake didn’t help. Technical, rocky, slippery, in fact most of the trail was river! At the end of the lake I met a mountain biker and the sun appeared briefly. We exchanged positive banter about how we could be sat at home by a fire drinking hot coffee, but we chose to be out living at the edge of our comfort zones in an environment such as this. At that moment sitting in a pub by a fire with a large glass of whisky would have been perfect, but while I don’t invite life’s challenges, I won’t back away from them either. Life is not meant to be easy. Pushing through the adversity, the obstruction, and the pain, is when you get the greatest rewards. That sun was brief, as was my encounter with the only person since the last checkpoint. The rain returned and the terrain became ankle deep bog. Come on CP10! I need you! On an event like this, checkpoints are like mini pods of heaven. Encouraging words from the crew/angels, food, hot drinks, and a chance to sit down, but not for too long! I was shivering and cold, but did not feel too tired. One competitor had sat in one of the crew’s car with the heater on to the warm up. I put on another layer, drank TWO coffees and marched on. We no longer had to ascend the last climbs of Foel Grach and Heather Terrace on Tryfan because of the high winds. We still had the same distance but it was an out and back to CP11 and then the normal lake loop and river path to the finish. This was motivating, but at the same time I was gutted. Its actually like the incline, it takes the pain away from my now very painful right ankle.

Most of the next 30 odd miles would be flowing and relatively flat. Sun and hail storms were the weather to CP11, but it came soon enough. The checkpoint crew were amazing. My spirits were good. I was still very much awake (probably due to the guarana in my homemade gels. More about those in later posts). I was fed mini pasties, sausage rolls, and pork pie. I just could not stomach the sweet stuff at the checkpoints. I drank black coffee and warmed my hands on a kettle and was generally pampered. I swear these checkpoint crews are guardian angels!

I left in high spirits hobbling a bit until I got back into the groove.

No stopping at CP12, I had plenty of food and water and I just wanted to get that lake loop out of the way. It was at this point I knew for certain that I was going to be finish. A partial rainbow appeared directly ahead in the direction of Betws y coed. I believe that the universe gave me a sign. The Last I heard I was in 17th place, this would mean I would get a gold belt buckle. The top 50 get gold, the next 50 silver, and the next 50 bronze. Now, legend has it there is gold at the end of a rainbow, this rainbow ended in Betws y coed, the finish line! Hey, don’t we all have moments like this from time to time? Little signs, profound moments only recognised by the person they are directed at. As you have probably guessed, I am a little spiritual.

On the way up to the the lake I met a couple of walkers coming down. I had put my head torch on my head in anticipation of the impending dark. They told me that I wouldn’t need it, but I knew differently.

I didn’t come this far, only to come this far.

I was now in real pain in my right ankle and I just wanted that psychological boost of the last checkpoint. The tent had gone when I got there but a coffee, a homemade pumpkin, chia seed, turmeric, and himalayan pink salt smoothie, and encouragement from the crew gave me the boost for the tough section to come. The rocky wet paths had not changed, the tree roots on the lake shore had not changed. This time a bit more tired, I fell into a Gorse bush thinking it was a rock that would stabilise me. And I jumped out of my skin when a man launched out of the lake at me, which turned out to be a wave crashing on the shore, the wind, and a lake side shrub. I was seeing many strange things, or were strange things seeing me? Without getting too deep, when we are extremely tired, does our life conditioning and everything we have been taught about reality start to blur? We always look for the rational explanation because we have an innate fear of the unknown. So when we are seeing things maybe we ARE seeing them but in an instant our mind rationalises what we saw as something we know and don’t fear. Just a thought.

Anyway, the lake loop ended and I took the correct route this time! The last few miles along the river were the longest but every step was a step closer to the finish. The march to the the finish line was emotional. A few cheers from the remaining crew and other finishers. My head torch died (another one of those moments) and I crossed the finish line with an amazing feeling of accomplishment and relief.

All the training and preparation had paid off. My first belt buckle and what beauty and a tough one to get. It turns out that I did get the gold buckle because I was only one of 12 people that finished the first GB Ultras Snowdon 100 miler! 65 started. More had entered but pulled out after doing recce weekends on the course. My final time was 41h 17m. I can describe the course as ‘wonderfully brutal’.

There is one thing very clear to me. I would not have finished without the checkpoint crews and marshals. They are the ultra runners guardian angels. Thank you.