Back to Back

With a decent forecast, and temps expected to be in the 20s, I had a few objectives for the weekend:

- Back to back days of around 5 hours on the feet each day
- As much elevation gain and loss as possible within as short a distance as possible
- All with my full race pack
- Run flats and gentle gradients, hike and maintain movement on climbs, run descents.

With a deluge of rain Thursday, it was a toss up between the Lakes and Wales, though both areas had experienced some flooding. After a week of reading Richard Askwiths 'Feet In The Clouds', I sadly gave Bob Graham leg recces a miss and opted to head back to Snowdon for a few reasons:

- Slightly better forecast
- I knew I could get in vertical Ks on climbs
- Well established stone paths (Race shoes better on wet rock than grass or bog)
- Easy navigation since as I'd had little time to prepare routes

Day 1:
I arrived at the bottom of the Watkin path into deep fog. The cloud was low and visibility poor. It's a quiet route to the summit, and easy to park at the bottom, so perfect for me as I'd been getting organised all morning, ready to spend a night camping in my car! The paths were streaming with water, and as I kept climbing the visibility worsened. The last 200m of the climb becomes quite tricky with a steep scramble on loose scree. Although I'd only been up once before, I ended up guiding 7 people to the summit. With visibility around maybe 5 - 10m at this point, I had met 2 groups who were struggling and had lost confidence navigating the loose surface as the wind whipped up. From the summit, I avoided the crowds headed straight down the Snowdon Ranger Path which was flooded, and back up Rhyd Ddu. I'm sure the views along the ridge would of been great.. Sadly all I could see was cloud whipping up from the abyss. I was hoping to sneak in one more descent & climb, but reaching the summit  I realised I was probably the last person on the mountain and It would be getting dark by the time I got back to the  car. Nice to get the summit to myself though!

30km, 4100 +/-,  5hrs 41min

I managed to get dry and tucked into my can of Aldi Ravioli and box of chicken bites (luxury) before heading to Llanberis in search of a cup of tea and phone signal. I drove back to Nant Gwynant and my favorite parking spot complete with toilets. By 10pm, I was stretched out in the back of my car with my head under the parcel shelf of the boot, perfect to dull the early morning sun. I woke up at 3am when I had to get into my sleeping bag, but then slept through, being rudely awakened by the first ramblers arriving into the car park at 8am. A quick can of rice pudding and a lukewarm hit of coffee from the flask and it was time to meet Rob to start all over again.

Day 2
I arranged to meet Rob Fletcher who was keen to join me for a second day on the trails. I had marked out the Welsh 3000 route on an OS, but with the ground sodden, visibility poor for navigation and major sections of the route being off-trail, we opted for another day of ups and downs on Snowdon. The visibility was much better up to 600m, but the wind was now blowing in strong. So the legs... after all... day 2 would be the real test. Well.. they weren't bad! No aches, no pains, but they certainly took a while to get going. After running most of the bottom section I soon found my legs struggling to keep up with Robs stride as the path steepened. Rob himself with last week Chester Marathon in his legs made light of work of the terrain, and as my legs came back to me, we were at the summit in 1hr 6mins, 2mins faster than i'd been the previous day. I felt much better on the descents of the Pyg Track and could still place my feet with confidence, and had no soreness through the knees or quads. A quick turnaround and we headed straight back up the Miners path. Once again, visibility was poor, and we were not the only ones to completely lose the path, navigating an extremely wet, steep, loose scree slope, scrambling up to re-join the Pyg track. One final descent of the Watkin path made it:

25km, 3650m +/-, approx 4hrs moving.

Weekend Total:
55km, 7750m +/-

So... what does this all mean?
If you took the 6 day total, the daily average for the Everest Trail Race would be 27km a day with 5000m +/- (at altitude)

So as training weekends go, it was specific. Only 1125m+/- off the daily average! But this does start to paint a clear picture of the stage profiles. The routes must be super steep to cram the additional elevation change into the stage the distances! Two days on the bounces was okay... again... not at altitude, eeesh! ... Day 3 is 37km with 6700m +/-..... Yikes!!!

A big thanks to Rob for making the early start and driving over to join me on the second day. 2 weekends of training to go!... 


Paul Martin