Paddy Buckley - reflection
24 of the best hours – The Paddy Buckley Round
Saturday the 17th of May was brilliant. I am truly fortunate to have the friends willing to support me and also, to be physically able to even try something like the Paddy Buckley.
7 days ago at this exact moment I was clambering over the Nantlle Ridge and it was bloomin’ awesome. I’ve been asked a fair amount “How was it?” The first time I was asked my response was
“Amazing, I had such a good day, I think it might even have been one of the best days of my life”.
Those words left my mouth before I had had chance to think about it and on reflection, I really do think the entire experience is up there with some of the best of my life. The less said about what this implies about my life!
There was a lot of lunging
An overview of the day:
We had an alpine style start, departing just north of Capel Curig at 02:43. I’d spent the week prior to the Round waking up at around 3am and going for a 40 minute run around Sheffield before heading back to bed for some kip. I’m all for specificity and figured I needed to prepare my body to feel like it wanted to start running at 3am. Come 02:43am on Saturday my legs felt like they wanted to run, probably more than can be said for my brother (John), who kindly pack-horsed food and water up Moel Siabod and along the Moelwyns for me.
John isn’t a shabby runner by any stretch of the imagination, having run the 87 miles along Hadrian’s Wall in 14 hours and run a 2h28m marathon. However, he currently lives in London and hasn’t run up a hill for some time. Needless to say Siabod was a nice wake up call.
The honest truth is - I’m a bit of a loner runner and tend to run on my tod a lot. However, I really do enjoy running with my brother and this morning was no exception, as I’ve done 95% of my recceing solo it was nice to share the experience with him, we saw sunrise, moonset and a spectacular cloud movement pouring out from Llyn Conglog between Moel Druman and Allt-Fawr.
Summit of Allt-fawr. The fog was pouring like Yorkshire's best from a tea pot
We made good time over the Moelwyns despite me not actually knowing the best route and exact peaks to take in between Moel Meirch and Moel Druman, so I bashed up and down every bump and lump we saw – definitely not an advised tactic for someone looking to do a speedy round!
The only leg I ran solo was the loop around Moelwyn Bach & Mawr, I was strangely glad to pick my brother back up in the slate quarries to trot over Cnict. We picked a good line up the SE face and were on the summit before we knew it. I think it is fair to say that John found the decent off Cnict a little more technical than his usual Saturday morning Battersea Park Run.
There were some friendly faces in Nantmor carpark, in fact the full team was there (Rae, Paul, Tom, Jim and John). They’d put on a great spread and we dined on rice pudding, coffee, date slices and jaffas. Marvellous!
Encouraged by Paul to shovel another rice pudding in it was pretty tough holding my guts down as Jim shot up Bryn Banog and Hebog. We ‘cruised’ over the next leg, the sun was shining, there was a light wind and we were both feeling pretty good, the only downside to having good visibility being you can see how far you have to go… a very long way!
I love the run from Trum y Ddysgl over to Y Garn, it is beautiful, the track flows nicely and it has a little bit of exposure too, nothing like a little bit of spice. Funninly, I don’t like the run down Y Garn so much. My quads hurt, if you had asked me “What are your chances then, Steve?” I’d have said “Not a hope”. Jim insisted the Beddgelert fire road would be like running on moon dust and I’d be able to stride out and open my legs up again, thankfully Jim’s an honest fellow and we hit those roads spinning.
Jim Carrey doing a great impression of myself coming down off Y Garn
It became apparent the support points were to become social stations, obviously the most important thing when running a long way is to look cool. We decided a change of wardrobe was in order but I didn’t have anything quite retro/euro enough packed. John being the fashionista he is took a pair of scissors and went all Gok Wan. His creation was, well, outstanding (ly bad).
Our mum would be proud!
After faffing for far to long I cracked on up Craig Wen to meet Paul who was waiting on the summit like some kind of Guardian Angel, he was disgusted with my attire and proceeded to stay 5 metres ahead of me the whole way up Snowdon, he then decided to hide from me as I came down off Crib y Ddysgyl, he was actually sheltering from the blasting wind that had picked up during the afternoon. I quizzed a walker coming up from Clogwyn Du’r Arddu whether he’d seen some old bloke in small shorts.
“Yep, I’ve seen him. He’s down there eating peanuts” – Only Paul!
Paul taking 10 on top of Moel Eilio - This man was the inspiration behind even trying to PBR. Fingers crossed he has a successful Ramsay this year
Reaching Moel Eilio was a relief, I had said to myself if I reached Beris I’d be happy and here I was. Paul shot down the south side and I stumbled down the north side.
Moel Eilio with Snowdon & Crib y Ddysgyl in the distance
16:38pm at Llanberis - 10 hours to get over the Glyders and Carneddau. I'm actually capable of doing this and in under 24 hours.
There was a lovely group in the car park in Beris, thanks to the Slateman triathlon being on the same weekend there were some faces I hadn't expected to see.
Llanberis support - salty potatoes, pizza, dark chocolate bounty and coffee, oh yeah!
The Glyders were tough, the wind had picked up and I had a bit of a low. It was inevitable, sooner a later I was going to feel boxed. Tom came to my rescue and boshed out a PowerBar! I've never had a PowerBar before but this thing was like nectar. He drip feeded me the bar and as we crested Glyder Fach I was feeling pretty chirpy again. The descent down Bristly Ridge is crap, excuse my language but it is just not pleasant. I grunted my way down.
Topping out the Dinorwig quarries - didn't take the best line here.
It was getting dusky and I knew if we wanted to get the good line off Tryfan down the west face we'd need to find it in daylight, I think Tom would vouch for the speed I went up Tryfan, I took the more technical right hand side of the ridge so I could get my arms invovled and we flew, I don't know how but Tom couldn't keep up... The POWER BAR was doing it's thing!
I lost some (a fair amount) of time on the Glyders, we fell into Ogwen Cottage at 22:30pm. This was the only checkpoint that was not relaxing, I scoffed some scram, inhaled a coffee and we were on Pen yr Ole Wen in a flash.
Thank you so much to Jim and Paul who I hadn't asked to run this section with me for staying on and to Mark who had blasted over from the shop in Sheffield (legally, obviously) to join me. I would not have succeeded without the 3 of you on this leg.
The wind was howling over the Carneddau, we were getting shunted, barged and run ragged (at least that was how I felt).
My perception of our pace off Pen Llithrig yr Wrach was that it was nothing less than astonishing. I felt like a track hero, like Mo or Prefontaine - striding out, a perky cadence, and flawless posture, light footed - like a gazelle crossed with a ballerina. The bog monster put an abrupt end to that, like a rag doll the Monster dump tackled me, face met mud. I wrestled free from the Monster's grubby grasp and we paced on.
The 4 strong Carneddau team
Reaching the A55's unforgiving tarmac felt strangely good. We'd cut it fine but we knew that we had made it sub 24 hours.
Looking a little worse for wear but grinning like a Cheshire Cat on the inside
What a good day!
Glyders and Carneddau yonder
Thank you so much to everyone that helped me on this little adventure, you have all contributed to some of the best months. Whether you put a roof over my head, cooked me dinner, ran with me or helped kick me up the arse you're all champions :-)
For anyone that is interested/cares and for my own future reference I thought I'd log the goods, bads and indifferent aspects of my day and training:
- Recceing: I reccied each section of the Paddy twice over a 4 month period. However, I did a fair amount in January and February therefore the conditions weren't good. I ran a lot in poor visibility and snow therefore from a navigational perspective I didn't reap the benefits but from from a physiological and psychological one I got the time on the mountains in, knew I could get around in adverse weather and should I need to navigate was capable.
- Time in the mountains: my quads were shot. Should I run the PBR again or a similar jaunt I'd build my downhill endurance, you gain time on the downhills, therefore in my eyes being capable of pounding down hill for 12 hours is vital. More sqauts and plyometrics next time.
- I used walking poles - I'm sure some purists might scorn at this and I can understand why, they make a huge difference, in particular on the up hills. I carried my poles for 99% of the day and only gave them to someone else coming down Bristley Ridge. I found them very useful and would certainly use them in the future on similar ground.
- Sleep pattern:
- As mentioned above I tried to change my sleep pattern on the run up to the day. The dangerous side of this is obviously not getting enough sleep and fatiguing yourself pre run. However, should you have little trouble waking up and going to sleep (I don't have too much trouble with this as I tend to sleep fairly poorly) getting up to run at 3am and going back to sleep seemed to work well. I felt ready on Saturday morning, I didn't wake up feeling lethargic but as though I wanted to run. I guess I had started to engrain a habit.
- Hydration: I had fairly good idea of the volume of water I needed to consume per hour to remain hydrated. It's fairly easy to work this out - weigh yourself nude - run for 1 hour in warm weather - if you drink, calculate the mass of the fluid - weigh yourself post run - the weight difference (plus the fluid consumed on your 1 hour run) = your sweat rate per hour. I knew 600ml was roughly what I had to try and consume, inevitably this would be tricky but I tried.
- I also decided to have a single hydration salt sachet 9 hours and 14 hours in, it had been ~22'c for most of the day and windy. At the time of drinking them I didn't feel the need but was erring on the side of caution.
- I like coffee. In total I drank 1.5 cups of coffee and about 1litre of watered down CocaCola, in the grand scheme of things not a large amount of caffeine but drip feeding through the day meant I didn't suffer from energy spikes. Many would say coffee isn't a good idea, you pee more therefore become dehydrated but as I said, I like coffee.
- I consumed a lot. Salted new potatoes, bulgar wheat salad, rice pudding, homemade oat, coconut and dried fruit bars, welsh cakes, eccles cakes, dark chocolate bountys, flaxseed bars, banana chia bars, ginger/fruit'n'spice oat cakes, liqourice allsorts mixed with salted peanuts, pizza and pizza garlic bread were all items I would take again.
- I refrained from gels for the first 14 hours, again to try and avoid massive energy peaks and troughs. I had a combination of Clif and SIS gels.
- Clothing and footwear:
- Very suprised here. I took several pairs of shoes and even more socks. However, I ended up just wearing one pair - my La Sportiva Anakondas - They were fantastic, I had not anticipated wanting to keep the same pair on but I just felt good in them. I rotated 3 pairs of SmartWool Ultra Lite cushion socks. Again I had anticipated wearing more pairs but these just felt great so I carried on with them. From a general kit perspective Paul and myself both ran in the La Sportiva Anakondas, Jim ran in the Adidas XTs, John ran in the Adidas XTs and Kanadias, Mark ran in Brooks Cascadia and Tom ran in the Inov-8 Roclite 315s.
- Whether my attitude towards the PBR will work on future runs I am not sure. I had a no expectations and was out to enjoy the day, this is not to say I wasn't prepared to suffer and try hard but I took time to have a laugh with my friends, absorb the beauty of North Wales and enjoy the day. Should I ever wish to try a quick PBR there would have to be no stops, more slick route choices, less of the chitter chatter and a bit more grizzle.