Doing a race route recce is a brand new concept to me. It’s a sensible thing to do when a route might be challenging and can make sure you know a little more of what to expect on race day. For me, it also adds a little extra pressure for race day and gives me less place to hide…bad admitting this I know but it makes it feel more real.
Anyway, here’s the story of my weekend recce in Snowdon…
The start is in Llanberis, exactly the same as the Maverick race Snowdon start which was nice for the familiarity but in the gentle rain and gusty winds I headed off on a whole new path out of town. Living somewhere very flat I get over excited as soon as I hit hills so the climb out of town I burned too quickly and I was blowing quickly but this is what a recce is for right? As I trotted along I tried to work out what I should be thinking about on this recce – what could be different on race day, whether I had the right kit on, when the rain would perhaps stop…whether it would be raining this much on race day….would I want to do it if it were to rain on race day…you know, the brain unravels from there.
Anyway, once my 4 mile uphill headwind had come to an end and it was time to descend I was having a blast…”yeah I can do this” monkey brain said as I tootled down hill, starting to actually see some hikers and the rain dying down. Thing is, Snowdonia is always beautiful rain or shine but the difficulty of any activity triples in bad weather and this recce was playing on my mind. The rest of day one saw me running around through forests, a route a little familiar to me and finally in true Julia fashion I managed a few miles of being lost right at the end where I ran every road in the village of Beddgelert – lucky every resident clocked me and recognised me when we returned 15 minutes later for coffee. I will say, “dashing about like a mad hare” pays off because I got an extra biscuit. In my eyes, extra mileage and a treat win.
“It only looks like it’s raining a lot because we’re driving” were Dan’s words as we drove to the Copper Mine for me to get day two done. I run in the rain a lot and this was not going to placate me. Skin is waterproof and I had my rain jacket on so what the hell, can’t escape it on race day *ahem*…
On the flat around the lake I was handling it well, smiling through the downpour and with the route on my Garmin I didn’t even have to think about it all too much yet as soon as it went a little off trail I got lost. Multiple times. I ran sections back & forth, scrambling around in boggy forest or through thigh-high grass but this is what recces are for I suppose. I was over it all, soaked through and I hadn’t even started climbing Snowdon. How on earth was I going to manage on race day? Mantra kicks in – “it’ll be different on race day”….better had be!! As I crossed Pen-y-Pas the side wind and rain was killer. I was transfixed on the stepping stones and not being blown over when a very cheery man greeted me to give me the wonderful news that I’d probably have a tail wind to climb Snowdon. Thank you friendly man, I needed that. Onwards. I made it to the Pyg track, GU stroop waffles in hand and started to climb. Mid way through this climb, I realised I was probably going to be a little cold as I neared the top but if I moved fast enough, hey, it wouldn’t be a problem. Issue was, I was now SO wet that I was freezing up and the path was getting harder. More climbing, wading through rivers coming off the mountain and indefinable tracks in the cloud. As I scrambled to a corner to pull my tights on the wind blew me onto my bum and the leggings were instantly soaked. My poor frozen fingers couldn’t tie my shoes properly and getting back going was certainly not easy. I was starting to get scared and those gremlins of self-disbelief were making themselves heard. I kept the brain framed, reminding myself to just keep moving forwards. Take your time in this bad weather and make it to the top because the path down you know well and its easy. JUST KEEP GOING. Ad maybe try and eat the Soreen you’ve had sat in your mouth for the past 40 minutes.
The 300m left to climb took an eternity and I desperately asked some chaps (the only group I saw descending) whether I was nearly there…hmm sort of…was the impression I got. Hot chocolate. That’s what I needed. I fooled the gremlin into thinking we’d get hot chocolate in the summit café and get the train back….
I reached the top and with absolute desperation to get down I ran like a headless chicken chasing the arrow on my Garmin to find the right path down. In my head I was flying down the path. In reality it was slow because my feet were frozen solid. Maybe I should have actually got that hot chocolate. Anyway, keep moving! With 4 miles left to go and actual sunlight now in view I knew I wasn’t far. The last 2 miles I finally hit some sunshine and started to defrost so by the time I got to Dan back in the car park it was like I’d been running on a Spring day. Total relief.
So, I achieved the full route over two days and I’m alive. I think people assume I have a lot more prowess on mountains than I really do but to conquer Snowdon solo on a bit of a difficult track, in the rain so I was soaking wet with not enough clothes on and freezing cold felt like I made a giant leap mentally. The self belief that you can achieve something you are finding so hard is difficult to capture but the past few years have taught me to relentlessly back myself. I am lucky to have Dan waiting for me at the end and to make it back to him felt huge. It’s small to some but a big step for Jules. I’m not sure how much I actually want to run the race now but hey, if I do it can’t be that much harder than this weekend, can it?!