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  • Writer's pictureAsh

Looking back and accountability

I've always kept notes about adventures, some are more powerful than others.

On the 1st January 2023 it will be 10 years since I ran 50km for the first time. I've learnt even more since that time, but the feelings that come from the blog I wrote at the time still make my neckhair prickle.

What's changed - well I wouldn't be eating chicken, I wouldn't be taking ibuprofen prior, and I wouldn't be motivated by anything on strava any more. Two of those things are personal preference, but the ibuprofen - never should I have done that! Anyway, enjoy the words.

My first 50 km run

No pictures for this one, just words.

I'm very pleased with myself, I've just finished my first ever 50km run. That means I'm an ultra runner. Get me!

What makes it more important to me is that it has been part of a bigger challenge. On Strava, a sort of virtual leaderboard logging thing, there is a challenge to run 50 miles between Christmas Eve and New Year. Excuse the mixed measurements, Strava is American. (50 miles is about 80km).

So, as of this morning I'd run 89 km in four runs. No tapering, no special preparation, today needed to be a good solid 50km with a 6kg pack.

This all started 361 days ago when Pete passed away. I vowed to do something, that something was run the toughest foot race in the world- Marathon des Sable. This time last year, I was a sporadic runner. I'd done a bit but at 92kg and most of my body strength being upper body, running 250 km in 6 days across the Sahara was/is a massive challenge.

Just to capture how today went, I want to write the key points in words. It feels like a massive achievement and I want to be able to look back on it.

Breakfast, 2 weetabix. Orange juice. Fruit Tea.

Decide to run something long, grab a protein shake.

Look out the window, bright, high, broken cloud. Start packing a rucsac.

Get kitted up, compression socks on. I hate them, but they work so well. Start to think about a 50km run. Leave a note to the effect that I'll be back in 5 ish hours and a rough route. Decide to run out of Dolgellau and see how I feel. Tight calves from the mileage after Christmas-swallow two Ibruprofen. Stretch.

Head out, warm up slowly. Wind through Dolgellau, concentrating on how everything feels. Climb the back road to Tabor.

After about a quarter of the climb my calves are screaming at me. Running isn't an option. Too much discomfort. Try and box up the negative thoughts. Get to the top of the climb. Lengthen my stride, the pain stops a bit.

Start thinking about random stuff as I turn on to Lon Las 8 towards the top of the Tal y Llyn pass. Everything still aches, adductors, glutes, calves. But they're warming up.

Over the top of the pass. Wind buffeting through. Enough to make me lean into the gusts. I want to be at Minffordd around an hour in. 12 km. I cross the stream on the minor road behind the lake. Lots of water. Wonder whether road shoes were the right choice.

Grab a banana and 250ml of water. Keep running, things feeling looser. Running towards the road over the top of Abergynolwyn (literally mouth of the river with a whirlpool). Joined by a Red Kite for a few hundred metres. I'm lost in watching the effortless flight.

Desperate for a wee. Stop briefly. Then run again. Easy running passed the confluence of the Cadair. Towards Craig yr Aderyn (Bird Rock). The arete climbed by Bonnington looking great. Slow for a walk at 2hrs and 20mins, grab some more Ibruprofen, sort out a ruck in my sock, fart around with my top thats rubbing. Eat an energy bar, drink some more water. After 5 mins of faffing, start running on to the base of Ffordd Ddu.

Lots of flooding near the EA gravel extraction yard. Water high enough that the small playwave local paddlers use is washed out. Running is easy, heart rate is relaxed.

Turn onto Ffordd Ddu. I know I've got 400m of ascent here. Head down, slow down, try and grind it out. Remind myself this is about a long run. Set walks from shadow to shadow and then pick a run about 5 times that length. Get to the sheepfold at the top of the tarmac. Run round the "Road Closed" sign. Enjoy the run down to the hairpin losing 50m over about 2km. Cattle grid totally flooded.

Decide that I'm going to run to the high point from here. Legs feeling a bit full of lactic. Know that this will clear at the top.

Cross the high gate overlooking Barmouth. Take a picture, bung it on Instagram. 34.5km. Is it 15.5km home form here? Quick "t'in iawn" to a farmer involved in a hunt as the track descends.

Picking my way through the washout that has closed the road. Onto the flat by the memorial plaque. Catch some walkers by some diggers who have mashed the track. Turn down the steepest bit. Legs feeling awesome, grab my last energy bar and a good slug of water.

Hit the tarmac. Check the distance. Not going to be 50km straight home. Briefly think about accepting less than the target distance.

The run down Cader road is like being on a flying carpet. Everything loose and really easy. Into the 30mph zone, this could be final approach. Turn sharp left towards Barmouth. Stacking for landing.

Finding miles. Nearly enjoying it. Onto the old road in to Dolgellau. Back towards home. Not fast, but comfortable.

I think I've judged the distance right. No finishing line. Just need the watch to click over to 50km. The bottom of my hill. 195m to go. Awesome.

Home. Stretch. Eat. Shower. Whack the Chicken in the oven to roast.

Have a look at Strava. 25th out of 1194 runners in the world on the 50 mile challenge between Christmas and New Year. 1st in the UK, 1st in weight category. 139.5km run with 2950m of ascent.

Day 1 of base mile blast for total miles in January? 1st of 4739. That'll change when I'm back at work. But a good feeling none the less.

Should I blog?

Write the blog. Think of Pete. Thanks mate.

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