I know I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t resist.. I’d got the running bug and was high on the atmosphere of trail races. However, three mountain half marathons and one hell of a lot of travelling does take it’s toll…
I hit the ground. Hard. It was one of those comedy falls where you literally sail down the hill and only stop when the pile of dirt that amasses in front of you grinds you to a halt. I already knew by this point that I had taken too much on but the fall was what really brought it home to me. Lost in a daze, I’d caught my foot and gone head first down the slope.
This was the SCOTT Snowdonia Trail half marathon and it was wild. Snowdonia, as many know, is one of my favourite places to be. That made this race a pretty high contender on my list of things that I ‘need to do’.
For the third weekend in a row I was out running in the mountains trying to cover thirteen miles as fast as I could. It was tough. I knew on the start line that I shouldn’t have been racing. I felt drained. My legs were painfully tight – I couldn’t even sit on the foam roller they hurt so much – and had a pain shooting up the top of my foot with every step. Yes, this race was not a good idea. But I was determined to do it.
What made me think that I would be fine to keep pushing myself like this? The small voice in the back on my mind always insists that I won’t get any better if I don’t push myself. People go out and do this kind of thing on a regular basis so I should be able to, too. As I struggled to get up the hill, though, I was fully aware that there is such a thing as pushing too hard too soon. Hills are not usually an issue for me. In fact, it’s where I am most likely to over take a lot of people but Sunday it just was not happening. My legs were screaming with every step and I felt sick. The wind was smothering; it was so strong in my face it was hard to breathe. By the time I reached the top I felt weak and mentally shaken that I was putting in such a poor performance.
The first part of the downward journey did nothing to improve my spirits, or my knees. As scree turned into a stone-lined path I picked up and fast footwork stopped me slipping on the wet rock. It felt like I was floating along, barely touching the ground. That’s an awfully clichéd thing to say but it truly does feel like that. I caught up with and overtook many who were more cautious and I felt good. Surprisingly so after how lethargic I’d been not ten minutes before. My mistake lay in not keeping my wits sharp as we got off the technical ground and I fell into a daze, thinking only of putting one foot in front of the other. Next thing I knew I was sliding on my front downhill. Unbelievably, no body saw but the mud that covered me was tell enough. I continued but it had thoroughly shaken me. Half a mile on I couldn’t ignore the burning in my hip and stopped for a breather. I’d attached my race number to my leggings and as I adjusted it I noticed blood and thus realised part of my problem. One of the safety pins holding it in place had come undone and was buried in my leg. And so, that is the certainly the last time I ever secure it there.
I had three miles to go and was flagging badly, each step reverberating through my body, when a wonderfully happy lady came charging by. She had a bright orange top on and patterned leggings and shouted over ‘don’t stop now girl – you’ve come too far. Keep going’. Or it was something along those lines. Thank-you to whoever you are because your brilliant attitude cheered me up and gave me the will power to continue. The last two miles involved a bitter climb and then flowing single track back down into Llanberis. It was beautiful and despite feeling bruised and exhausted it was hard not to appreciate where we were. The last 400m were a battle. I swear when you see the finish line in front of you your body starts to shut down – you know it’s almost over. It took every ounce of energy I had to keep my legs moving, to keep my speed up. As I entered the barrier lined finish I pushed as hard as I could to reach the guy in front and came point one of a second behind him.
I admit that I am giving a pretty grim picture here but let me clarify: I do this kind of thing for fun. I love it. Completely and utterly love it and despite all of the problems and injury I always find myself going back for more. The SCOTT Snowdonia Trail race is one that I would, without a doubt, do again. It was so well organised and the volunteers were motivating and supportive, along the route as well as at the finish line. I think I’ll have a rest for a while though now and be a bit more methodical in my preparation for racing from now on.
Oh, and I came 38th lady out of 126 – and so considering, I am pretty pleased with that. Next year, I’ll be on fresh legs.
*I forgot my GoPro so sorry for no pictures of the race 🙁