Whatever phrase you choose, if applied to running they all imply that it's good to include different things in your life to avoid getting stuck in a rut. Although my training is mainly road-based, sometimes it's good to take a step back and do something different to keep it exciting and let your body absorb the effort that you have put in.
With this in mind, I got away from the tarmac last weekend and headed for the hills....more specifically the Welsh hills....and even more specifically Snowdonia.
Jim setting off at midnight
I described the Paddy Buckley Round briefly back in October ("If Carlsberg did weekends....") when I went down to Wales and supported my friend Jasmin on her record-breaking run, and so was eager to support another friend (Jim Mann) as he tried to break the "winter Paddy record". A winter round can be defined in various ways, but is generally taken to mean that it is completed before the end of February in winter conditions (ie reduced daylight, snow, wind and whatever else the Welsh weather has to offer).
Jasmin, Konrad (and their dog Moss) picked me up at Gretna on Friday after work and we headed down to Capel, which is where Jim had decided to start/finish and use as a base for the weekend. Arriving after 10pm, we managed to catch up with a couple of the other support runners before they headed to bed and then the three of us (sorry Moss...the 4 of us), went up to the crossroads to see Jim off at midnight. It seemed relatively warm (a balmy 3 degrees) and the air was still so Jim and Andy (his Leg 1 support crew) set off in good spirits, while we returned to seek out a few hours of sleep.
When Andy got back he reported that Jim had finished Leg 1 20mins ahead of his schedule so we decided to get to the Leg2/3 changeover almost an hour early in case he made up further time. Unluckily for us he didn't...as by this time it had become considerably colder and was snowing on and off. Still, when he ran in (13mins ahead of schedule) he seemed in good spirits, ate some pasta, drank some coffee and set off up the next hill. Konrad, Moss and I had turfed Jasmin out to support Jim on Leg 3, and picked up those that had finished Leg 2 with him.
The view from Llanberis castle
Back at base, I only just made some more pasta and coffee (and cooked a pizza as Jim's eyes had lit up when it had been mentioned at the 2/3 changeover) when we got a text through to say that he might finish that leg an hour up on schedule. Konrad and I scrambled to get ready and headed back out to Llanberis to be prepared 90mins prior to the planned meeting time. This meant we had time to visit the castle with Moss before spying the Leg 3 team running down the road. Jasmin carried on with us, so we just handed the car keys (and control of Moss) onto those finishing their support at this point.
Leg 4 started at Llanberis and finished at Ogwen taking in several summits en route including the Glyderau and Tryffan. The weather is often bad on this leg, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Jim was climbing well but managing to take on food too (more pasta...while Jasmin enjoyed some pizza) which is really important when you consider the length of the day out and the effort that needs to be put in. Within minutes we had lost all of the views and were ploughing upwards through snow. Jim knew the route well so was leading us up, which meant that we could all go the pace he wanted, while we tried to find the least treacherous route through the slate quarries and up onto the hillside.
Not the best visibility...
Not knowing the area that well, I left the navigation to the others and just made sure I was regularly offering Jim food and drink (whether he wished malt loaf, pizza or apple juice). My fears of being a hindrance rather than a help were unfounded as I seemed to keep up with the rest of the "Dream Team" on both the climbs and the descents - Jim was probably "slightly" tired by now as I found I was even having to slow my descending down (unheard of I know!!).
With the wind whipping the snow around
The wind was vicious but as we dropped out of it and down to the Devil's Kitchen, we were treated to a beautiful vista of a mountain lake surrounded by snow with rocky hillsides ascending away into the clouds - it was stunning! However, the respite was brief as the wind seemed to double in strength as we climbed up onto the Glyders. I wondered if I was ever going to get the feeling back into my chin, nose and cheeks. We had to make sure not to spread out too far as the visibility was rather limited to say the least. I had been trying to warm a gel up inside my gloves (and mitts) for a couple of miles, but all I seemed to have managed to do was cool my hand down to the temperature of the gel, so I have to say that I was rather glad when Jim decided he wanted to consume it!
Yeay - a summit on the Glyderau!
The rocky summit of Glyder Fach was a good 3-dimensional puzzle - as we wanted to get as close to the very top as possible while making sure no one fell and injured themselves on all the snowy, icy rocks. Coming off the top we made a slight error of direction and nearly headed off just the wrong side of the spur. This was soon corrected, but trying to help Jim with his clothing (taking a jacket off, adding a down layer in, turning the first jacket the right way out and putting it back on him) meant I had to take my hands out of my gloves, and it took me a long time to get a decent amount of warmth back into them.
Climbing up again....
A sharp descent to the col and we were soon climbing up Tryffan (the last summit on our leg). As opposed to when I was last there (New Year's Eve), we didn't hang around to take photos, but headed straight off down the gully towards the lower slopes, though Jasmin somehow managed to record some video footage on her camera. We'd lost quite a lot of time (relatively) on this leg, but it was only to be expected with the appalling weather. I was heading the group as we got to the bottom of the valley and hit the main road so, with Jim's permission, I sprinted off to warn the next leg changeover of his imminent arrival.
Having smashed the record!
Konrad carried on for the final leg (with several others joining in), but Jasmin and I headed back to base for a shower, change, snack and then walked out with Moss to cheer him in as he finally finished 21 hours and 37minutes after he started (over an hour quicker than the previous winter round record). What an epic day.... I confess that there were a few occasions when I was rather chilly and wondered if I'd ever warm up...but overall I loved the whole thing from start to finish and was honoured to have been asked to be apart of it!!
"Dinner" at 11pm. but all smiles :-)
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went along for a cheeky Leg 4 support run (ie with Jasmin and Konrad...but also with Moss) up another hill early the next morning, though I did realise just how tired my legs where when I was still only halfway up.....however, it just made going out for a big breakfast seem even better!!!