It’s fair to say that over the past few months, my training for the Snowdonia Marathon had been somewhat sub-optimal. Some weeks I’d run four or five times, clocking up a decent number of miles, but some weeks, the long, hard 13 hour shifts would be back on the table, and running would be out of the question. The week running up to Snowdonia featured 8 days in a row at work, and a total of 86 hours- the alarm bells should have been sounding loudly, but I am nothing if not an optimist, after all.
Friday evening, James and I drove down to Wales after work, arriving at 10pm at our little B&B in Bala, after grabbing pizza for dinner before we left Leeds. We quickly settled in for the night and after loading up on toast for me and bacon for him on Saturday morning, we set off to Llanberis to register. After a minor misreading of registration instructions and panic we’d miss it, we went smoothly through registration and collected a really nice, quite sensibly-sized race shirt.
One thing concerned me though: the weather. During the last fifteen minutes of the drive to Llanberis, the heavens absolutely opened and it was really cold. I layered up a Buff to keep my ears warm, a baselayer under my Team Bear vest and full length tights, and donned my stylish plastic poncho for the walk to the start line. After a bit of a wait, and getting very soggy, we were off!
After a flat mile or so, there’s a long climb up Pen-Y-Pass to start the race, affording us some brilliant views of the valleys around us. During the climb I happened upon Jayne from Team Bear and we ran together for a while, before my incessant chattering got on her nerves and she politely sent me on my way 😉 During the climb, I was warm, wondering if I’d overdressed, but as we started the long descent off Pen-Y-Pass, down a muddy trail, I began to get cold. Really cold. And my right knee started to play up.
By 8 miles or so, my knee was really quite painful but, aware that niggles come and go during a marathon, I distracted myself and ran on, hoping it would pass. It didn’t. By the water station just after 12 miles, my knee was really starting to bother me, and after a quick chat with Jayne (she caught me up, looking super strong!), I stopped at the water station for a drink and to ponder whether or not to continue.
Big mistake. Within a couple of minutes, my body temperature dropped fairly spectacularly, and I was shivering uncontrollably. The marshal told me my lips were blue, and I was only mumbling in response. Adding it all up now, it seems fairly obvious I had mild hypothermia, but at the time I was telling myself I should carry on; in the end it was the kind marshal who helped me decide not to. She lent me her coat, and let me sit in her warm car (Netty, you are a hero) until a kind family drove along the route to support their relative and gave me a lift most of the way back to Llanberis. I then bumped into James on his bike, waited with some lovely Army cadets who were marshalling and had a warm car, and then was given a lift in a minibus full of other blue-lipped shivering souls back to Llanberis.
With hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have lined up on that start line, but I’m glad I did in some ways; the parts of the race I did do were spectacularly beautiful and only made me want to come back and settle my score with it. I met Stacey, Marc and Cathy, Twitter pals I’ve chatted to for ages, and as I reflected on the day over a bucket full of hot chocolate at the famous Pete’s Eats with James, I realised it hadn’t been a wasted experience. It had taught me I need to re-align what is possible within my life at the moment. That perhaps the people working ‘full time’ aren’t working quite as full time as me. That maybe 60 to 70 hour weeks on this job at the moment aren’t conducive to being able to just casually knock out marathons. That cumulative fatigue doesn’t just come from the miles in your legs but the stress in your life.
All fairly obvious stuff that should have been staring me in the face, but sometimes it takes a harsh wake-up call to bring it home, and last weekend was certainly one of those. Not all was lost though; as we went for a stroll around the serenely beautiful lake at Bala, we hatched plans for where I go from here.
To go easy on myself, but try to get myself running a bit more consistently over the next month whilst I see out the end of this surgical job rotation. To go back to basics a little, and work on my strength and my running form. To hit Christmas time more rested on my nicer next job, and ready to hit proper training for the London Marathon next spring, and nail that sub 3:30 time I’ve always wanted.
Sometimes a bad experience can become a good one. And not just because you’re in a place with Welsh cakes AND bara brith! 😉