Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Snowdonia Marathon - Race Report

The Snowdonia Marathon 2018

Race Report 

Both of us - Blue 
John - Orange
Kelly -Purple 

Friday 26th October 2018

Since both of us have completed our 'A' races for 2018, we took a rather more relaxed approach to this race than usual. Usually, we won't drink before a race and will think really carefully about our meals in the week leading up to the race. 3 meals this week have consisted of chips...ooops...and we both raced pretty much flat out only 1 day ago. We were feeling pretty relaxed...until we realised that we had a 4 and a half our drive ahead of us. North Wales is apparently a really long was away. 

We didn't arrive until 9:30pm so were pretty tired and fed up of driving - poor hamstrings! We were staying in a little apartment in Beddgelert; a beautiful quaint village. We unpacked and pretty much went straight to bed. 

Saturday 27th October 2018

Race day!

We woke up after about 7 hours sleep - not too shabby. 
I had considerably less! As lovely as our accommodation is, we arrived to find no supplies: No milk or butter and barely enough tea bags (10+ but that's an hours worth for me..) So I had an hour-or-so less than KD as I headed to the shops and bought supplies so we could have breakfast. I got back home with said supplies to find KD just coming out of slumber... very cosy indeed....

I was slightly worried about my calves. After racing (and winning!) the Weston Prom 5 mile race on Thursday, I was feeling a bit achy - not how I usually like to start a marathon. Still, this was going to be a relaxing run. Just for fun. I had to keep telling myself this as it's rather hard to keep my competitive feelings at bay. 
I wasn't concerned about KD's calves... I was concerned about having a cuppa tea. As for relaxing... I'm not sure if a marathon is ever that. Our plan was to try and run within ourselves, making sure throughout to not wreck ourselves on the downs or the ups. (Breakfast for anyone concerned about pre-race nutrition was: a generous bowl of porridge with a spoonful of jam and two pieces of white bread toast - a very small glass of water with a cuppa tea, plenty of hydration on the way to Beddgelert yesterday in the car)

We had to pick up our numbers by 9am so we left our apartment at 8:10 and drove to Llanberis where the race begins. John went to pick up our numbers while I struggled to pay for parking using the app. 
When John arrived with our numbers and T-shirts, I noticed that our numbers had a little hoody symbol. What could this mean? Surely we didn't fork out extra for two hoodies? We walked together to the race village to see. After being distracted by the winners trophy (which I nearly ran off with!), we found the stall and were told that yes in fact we had purchased two matching hoodies! Awesome! 
Getting to and parking up near the race event village was a lot more straight forward than I thought. As long as you get there in good time (1.5-2 hours before the race) there's no chaos whatsoever plenty of space for parking and plenty of shelter at the expo and bag drop. The hoodies we've got are awesome!

After about 5 trips to the toilet (hardly any queues!), we started the long walk (uphill) to the start. It was cold. VERY cold. I did a bit of a jog to try and warm up and then we played 'find the sunbeam and wait in it' until 10:30am when the race began. 
Agreed, 't was/is proper cold. Luckily we timed things quite well so, after the walk to the start, we had a 10 minute wait. 

We had a good spot right pretty close to the start line. We counted down from 10 and then we were off. The first two miles were downhill so we quickly got into a 7mm rhythm. John kept reminding me to look around. Normally, in a race, my eyes are fixed intently on my feet - mainly to ensure I don't trip and fall over but today I was wide-eyed and looking around all over. The sun was shining, the mountains stood majestically around us while the lakes glittered. It was easily the most picturesque race I've ever ran (sorry Towpath!). 
We were storming the first few miles, <7MM on the flats felt good - easy distracted by the beautiful mountain landscape. There was no need to reign it in yet, the upcoming hills would do that for us...

Mile 3 came around pretty quickly and with it, the first of 3 major hilly sections. I knew it was going to last for a couple of miles so we just slowed the pace and trotted up steadily. Every race we run, we seem to bump into people we know. We saw a Weston AC runner and then I spotted Jules who I recognised from the Gwent League and from the Abingdon Marathon last week. We had a bit of a chat and he gave us some advice. 'When the downhill comes, DON'T go super fast - you will pay for it later.' 'Meh - I though to myself, I love downhills, downhills are my thing!' 
The hills have eyes... They saw how much fun we were having and they were waiting patiently to remind us how tough today was gonna be... after plenty of helpful advise from blokes with 30+ Snod attempts between them, we took it VERY easy going up the hills... as soon as we started to feel labored, we slowed down - repeat. 

Luckily, John heeded the advice. The hill finished and the downhill began - 'woooohooooo' I started to pick it up but then I looked behind me and John was taking it pretty steady. I dropped back and ran with him - we'd planned to run together. Secretly, I really wanted to zoom down the hill but I love John so I stuck with him. Plus - he is usually right. Annoyingly, the more we stuck to our race strategy, the more people stormed passed us. Literally, a hundred people must have passed. Including loads of women who I know I'm quicker than. Resisting the temptation to race was pretty hard at this point. Instead, I focused my energy in looking around and continuing to admire the spectacular scenery. It felt like everyone was going past us... but not one of them looked like the beaded, hardy, mountain-goat types who had warned us - "...don't wreck your quads too early..." I was VERY disciplined and kept reigning KD in.. (So together we were both very sensible.. ) I knew, after years of watching the hours of S4C coverage, and, regardless of not understanding a word of the Welsh commentary, we had 3 very long, tough hills. This first major decent was very fair; 4+ miles of low gradient, slow, lazy downhill - plenty of time to take it steady and recover in-time for the next major accent.

The downhill pretty much went from mile 6 to mile 13. Halfway came round super quickly. We were still plodding and still being overtaken but I was over it now. Just really enjoying chatting to John and really enjoying myself. Never had a marathon felt so easy and been so fun. I'd been looking forward to mile 13 because we'd go past our apartment. I reminded John that we had a huge Toblerone waiting for us there and that thought filled our minds for quite some time. 
Through half way in Sub1:40 - it became apparent that with a Sub1:50 second half, we'd break 3:30 - awesome considering I was going out for Sub4 hours.. Halfway was lovely - we ran down into Beddgelert where we are staying to masses of people cheering and it was nice to reflect whilst running past our home for the weekend. We were both feeling very fresh and very strong. The added incentive of being reminded of the Toblerone was just what I needed as the isotonic refreshments were't quite hitting the spot!

After 13 miles, I was feeling mega fresh still. Legs felt great, my heart rate was pretty low and I just focused on running lightly and keeping good form. For miles 14 and 15 we had hill number 2 to contend with. Again, we took it really steady but for the first time, managed to overtake a few people who had chosen to walk up the hill. Even the sudden pelting of hail stones couldn't dampen our spirits! This was a tough one... after going through half way after tonnes of downhill, I(we?) had forgotten about any discomfort from the previous climb... this one was VERY exposed so not only were we fighting against gravity but also against tornado type winds (slight exaggeration - the weather throughout the race was actually very kind!) We hid behind a strong group and protected ourselves as best we could, whilst taking it easy and still enjoying the scenery.

I had to pinch myself. I'm running up hill. In Snowdonia and it feels easy! We bounded up the hill, ignoring the wind which had picked up a bit. When we reached mile 16, my favourite mile, I was in a great place. We had another 6 miles of gentle undulation with a considerable amount of downhill. I decided not to think about the infamous 'massive hill' at mile 22. I wouldn't say it was easy... KD was still full of energy and needed to reminded of the impending doom of the last major hill ahead... to be fair, she remained controlled and sensible-ish.

The miles kept on ticking by and I was still feeling amazing. We were keeping the pace to around 7:30 mm which still felt really comfortable. By this point, my bounding along chatting away merrily was starting to get comments from nearby runners - hopefully I wasn't too annoying and they could see that I was just enjoying myself! KD was very annoying.. when you're 18 something miles into a marathon, the last thing you want is a bouncy-Duracell-bunny like character reminding you just how great the views this point I'm sure most are very aware and wanting more of a television like view... I balanced our dynamic duo by mainly grunting and moaning... all was good...

For me, (and probably most people) reaching 20 miles into a marathon and feeling great just doesn't happen. Today changed all of that. Hmmm...maybe my usual strategy of going all out and hanging on for the last 6 miles isn't actually the best plan after all! I knew I only had 2 more 'nice' miles before the hill began. I had heard that it was proper hard and most people walk it. Well, I was still feeling good so I told John that I really wanted to try and run the whole way up it...
KD was full of beans and I was feeling OK. The miles had ticked over nicely and a quick review on the time piece re-asured me that with some work, 3:30 was in the bag. As KD suggests, this is a great feeling and actually unusual for bother of us... 

Mile 22 came and we had caught up with our friend and ex-running coach Faye. She is mega good at trail running so we don't often see her on the road. After a little chat, we pushed upwards and onwards. The final hill had began. I knew it would last about 2 miles but I hadn't realised quite how steep. For the first time today, my legs hurt. My back was also starting to hurt and the gradient became so steep that I was hardly moving. Luckily, John had taken on the Duracell bunny role and was bounding ahead of me shouting encouragement. A couple of times I was pretty close to stopping and walking but he knew exactly what to say and I managed to keep running. 2 miles of steep uphill is really really hard. I was offered a jelly baby which I took gratefully and gradually ate during the uphill - trying to take my mind off the intense pain in my quads and hamstrings. During the whole uphill section, we were overtaking person after person. I recoginse these people as everyone who had left us for dust in mile 6 on the first downhill section. 'Mwhahaha!' my...I mean... John's strategy was working! This hill was a killer... But... we were in strange territory... we'd been holding back for hours and were feeling strong and excited about getting over the hill and finishing.. This coincided with catching up with 3+ women and KD's competitive side kicking in... Warning for anyone doing this evening in the future: This hill is a killer! It is 2 miles of very VERY tough climb... imagine Ashton Court, twice...(it felt like Ashton Court x5!)

Finally, we reached the top of the hill. My legs felt like jelly for a few steps but I quickly spotted 3 or 4 women ahead of me. John was jumping around and sprinting to the next woman and pointing manically at her - indicating that I had to pick up the pace and overtake. We only had 2 miles to go and -amazingly- I still felt pretty good. Yes my legs hurt now but I put that out of my mind and focused on mission overtake women! Sub3:30 was slipping away... luckily there was candy in the window... KD couldn't resist the finger pointing/goading and kept picking up the pace and overtaking woman after woman - awesome/some of the best racing I have seen from KD!

The last two miles were suuuuper steep downhill. Mostly, I was storming down although there were some sections that I had to slow down because they were slightly scary. John was storming ahead - mountain goat style but looking back every few paces to check that I was close and still going strong. 'We can get sub 3:30!' came the call! At this point it was all guns blazing... hold nothing pack... we'd been protecting our calves, hamstrings and quads all day - no point now! The field at this point in the race was pretty spread out and everyone we flew past looked like they were struggling. This downhill section was precarious - very dangerous (J5 on the scale...) but I was feeling dangerous! We implemented top downhill technique; leaning forward, high cadence and took about 10 years of the lifespan of our quads - worth it!

With just 0.2 miles to go, I could hear the cheers of the crowds. We managed to overtake another two men (just for fun!) in the last sprint for the line. Just a few paces ahead of me, John held out his hand. I took it and we crossed the line together! It was a really special moment. (It wasn't for fun - it was to secure <3:30) Running in together was awesome - we'd had a great day and executed the race plan almost perfectly. A over the top soppy hand holding finish awaited...

When we finished, we were given slate coasters and water bottles. Then, the film crew spotted us and asked for an interview - I imagine they've read our blogs! Hmmm...

If you want to see us (possibly) on TV and watch our interview (unless they cut us!) it's on .....
S4C - Sunday at 8PM... will be in Welsh but there should be subtitles... Please watch (not for us!) to get a perspective on this awesome event! Yes it's tough - it's a road marathon in Snowdonia! - but the course is perfect - beautiful views throughout, fantastically marshaled and very well organised - I'd love to come back. Running with KD was great - I think it's the first time we've raced together in a long time? It was so nice feeling strong throughout and being able to help each other out - it goes in my top 5 fave races - awesome!

Finishing time for both of us, 3.28.43

PS - JC's Top 5 Races...
  1. Snod 18 - Running and executing a controlled marathon with my best friend and coming away from an event with loads of kit and being able to wear it all confidently without having to repeat the boring Boston story... An EPIC adventure at one of THE best marathon races (a little OTT...)
  2. Berlin 16 - Running at the fastest and most prestigious road marathon in the world toe-to-toe with the Maestro throughout - missing Sub3 by 5 seconds (3:00:04) gave us plenty to talk about for the next 12 months but I enjoyed the race, weekend and company so much it will always be one of my favourite races.
  3. Bath 17 - My first ever Sub80 half marathon.. 77:44.
  4. GMU30 - Sharing the podium with the Maestro and Doctor Dave - my first ever piece of proper silveware and finally some inches on the shelf for me in the Cox-Dicks household!
  5. Pensford 10K 17 - My one and only win! Yes it was the weekend after London Marathon and OK it was the slowest winning time in the history of the event - but you gotta be in it to win it and lunch that day on the winnings was one of the tastiest ever!
(SUB3 (2:58:10) AT Abingdon 2016 has it's own list....)

1 comment:

  1. Great work team. Thanks for the mention Kelly. Should've heeded my own advice! I was faster through the first half than my 2015 course PB but Abingdon came back to haunt me in the 2nd half & by the time you passed me on the final climb I was done for whereas I can testify that you were indeed grinning & chatty!