We first did this run a year ago after an attempt at overriding the effects of jet lag failed miserably. Twice we’ve returned home from Australia on New Year’s Eve, with the intention of being sociable and going out to celebrate the New Year. Twice we’ve failed, the comfort of our own bed has been far too appealing.
This year we were home for the festive season and actually did get out to celebrate the New Year. We joined a few friends at Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda to see ‘Electric Swing Circus’. An incredibly lively band from Birmingham, the whole crowd took to the dance floor and so did we, it was a lot of fun. As the band played out their final tunes, our weary feet prompted us to leave and celebrate the New Year at home. We didn’t quite make it as we heard the radio DJ countdown the New Year, playing some of the best songs from the year gone by.
The following morning emerged sooner than I would have liked. I felt rough and may have underestimated the amount of perspiration generated from all the dancing the night before. Glugging glass after glass of water in an effort to rehydrate, followed by a big bowl of porridge and strong coffee, suddenly I was revived and psyched to run the Tour de Llyn Llydaw.
The run starts outside the YHA at Pen y Pass, a 5.6 mile course initially taking the Miner’s track, as if you were going up Snowdon. Upon arrival at Llyn Llydaw, you take a left fork in the track, heading at first towards Y Lliwedd until you cross a wooden bridge. At which point you start to circumnavigate the lake clockwise, there isn’t a track, not even a faint one. It’s rocky and tussocky under foot for the next mile until you re-emerge onto the Miner’s track, now heading the opposite direction, back towards Pen y Pass. A good track for another half mile until you reach the causeway, forking left once more onto rough terrain, handrailing the most Eastern edges of the lake, arriving back at the Miner’s track but taking a shortcut to the old green hut, touch and go, a marshal takes your number. The last mile and a half is quick, mostly downhill with a short, sharp climb near Llyn Teyrn, here you must dig deep one last time until you crest the hill, hereby feeling vindicated and deserving of the last descent back to Pen y Pass.
The heavy downpour the night before would make the boggy sections difficult and the rock slippery. It would be wise to take care on these sections, I had very little aspirations of breaking the impressive record of 38.05 mins, held since 1992.
I asked the race organisers if they could allow me an early start, I explained that I was working and the sooner I finished the better. They were very amenable and gave me the thumbs up. I grudgingly stripped off my rain jacket, confident that the effort of running would maintain enough body heat to be mildly comfortable in short's and t-shirt, then last but not least important, the ritual of tightening the shoelaces. I was ready, the watch was activated and I embarked on the run, first out and soon catching up with a few unsuspecting marshals as they headed out to their respective posts.
A tailwind was appreciated on the first climb out of the car park, the drawback would be on the way back of course. I settled into a nice stride and kept a good pace all the way to the lake, being vigilant not to depart the track too early, the next mile of rough ground was taxing, both on the body and mind, for there is more than one route that you can take, finding the best one is key to mastering this section. My fears were soon realised as I emerged onto the Miner's track higher than anticipated, taking a sub-optimal line meant I had gained more height than required, adding an extra section of awkward steps to negotiate. However, in the grand scheme of things, very little time was lost and I made the most of the next section of trail, opening up my gait once more. I thought back to how I felt when I woke up and how close I was to bailing out on the run, feeling fortunate to get motivated as at this very moment I felt so alive and happy. I was having a great run and thoroughly enjoying every moment. The last few miles flew by and I started seeing other people starting their run, their shouts of encouragement helped me dig deep on the last section. I suddenly thought; this isn’t meant to be taken this seriously, it's a fun run after all, but another part of me thought; I’m having a lot of fun going as quick as my legs allow me.
On Reflection, it would be great to one day experience this race in a snowfall, freshly laid and slightly consolidated by the feet of walkers, each footing would land as perfectly as the last, any mishaps would be cushioned by the snowy deck. That's my idea of a fun run, perhaps next year!