That’s 3 YEEESSSSSSS’s

FeaturedThat’s 3 YEEESSSSSSS’s

If we 100% KNEW we would succeed, well, it wouldn’t be a challenge…..

Prior to this weekend just gone, my proudest ‘Team Bonfield’ moment had been when we crossed the finish line of the Dartmoor Discovery 50k Ultra just inside the time limit.

 

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Nicky eating up the early climbs

The Snowdonia Trail Marathon topped that, in so many ways. WOW. Too many breathtaking views to take in. WOWs  by the sack full.

 

AND 3, count ’em, THREE ‘YEEESSSSSS!’ moments.

Ahhh, the dreaded cut-offs. Only one here, after the climb up to Pen Y Pass. About 19 miles in. From there it’s up the mountain proper on the Pyg Track.

As we left the starting pen in Llanberris, nothing was certain. Nearly 700 runners, some strutting, some staring, some nervously pacing or muttering (‘madness’ whispered one guy as he fidgeted and fussed), listened to the race briefing.

Yes we can hear you at the back. Yes we can clearly hear that it is VERY important not to veer from the route and DEFINITELY not climb any gates or fences. More on that later…..

 

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Everybody listening??

We had dined with my brother and his wife, who live in Kimnel Bay, a feast on the eve of this epic adventure. Regular Snowdonia hikers, they were eager to share their local knowledge and we pored over the route to get ‘beat the cut off’ tactics in place.

 

9am. A brief road section through the crowds of spectators and Half and 10k runners awaiting their turn. Then up.

And up.

 

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Top of the first climb. WOW the views!

Nicky pushed hard here, brisk hiking the steepest bits, easy paced running where possible. When we reached the top of this climb, the 3.5 miles had taken us about 15 minutes less than my loose plan. Result.

 

Some moor like terrain, downhill and flat and we were feerrrlying…… oh hang on….

A queue. When I say a queue, probably about 200 people waiting to negotiate a stile. Hhhmmmm.

Some, whose race was obviously more important than ours, decided climbing a padlocked gate followed by a wire fence would mean they didn’t have to wait like everyone else.

Mildly annoying after 5 minutes.

Annoying after 10 minutes.

Absolutely infuriating when, after 15 minutes, the marshall charged with the unfortunate task of policing this area shouted to the approaching runners at the back of the field to take this alternative route…….

Nicky had worked so hard to get this far in this time, yet, now I was contemplating the cut off again whilst participants who had taken considerably longer on the climb didn’t even pause as they disappeared off ahead of us.

Potentially, a scenario where some of those runners who hadn’t had to wait at all, but took 15+ minutes longer than us over the first 4 miles, narrowly made the cut off whilst we narrowly missed it, was starting to play out in my head.

We were cross.

2017-07-23 09.32.08Once we were over the stile, and then through the next couple of miles and occasional further stiles, we made great progress on the rough terrain. Unfortunately the field of runners was out of sync now and we were constantly trying to weave through those who had been behind us until the stile incident. Or stilegate, as it shall be known.

Once we’d reached mile 6 we had found some space to run in and easier terrain for a while. A familiar face, Kevin (a regular face at events we have enjoyed in Dorset), greeted us at this point which was a real boost as well. We settled in to rattling off some miles as we ran through forests, around lakes, alongside miniature railways. All to the spectacular backdrop of the mountains around us.

Progress was good. I started to fear the cut off less and less and more and more enjoy absolute joy of running in this incredible place with this incredible woman.

I made a pact with myself to take no pictures until we reached that cut off. After negotiating a runner-jam in a single track section through the woods at the bottom of Pen Y Pass, we freed ourselves from the pack and marched the 2 mile climb to reach the cut off with about 40 minutes to spare.

 

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Cut off smashed??? We’ll drink to that….

YEEESSSS!!!

 

 

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Up

Now the hard climbing started. Please forgive us a smug moment here! We are rather proud to be running grandparents knowing our grandchildren can point at a map of Snowdon and say ‘Nanny and Grandad’ did that!

 

It’s a great leveller, a mountain and we were amongst runners of all ages as an unspoken comradery developed.

Nicky, strong as an ox. The climb is about 5km long from that point and is pretty relentless. It scrambles and winds and teases then punishes and it does go on and on. All to the incredible backdrop of the peaks and ridges all around.

My sister, Karen, who regular readers will know, was taken from us just so tragically early, would have loved to see us doing this. She would have revelled in the happiness I have found with Nicky and would have been championing us in all our adventures. I wore my ‘Karen Ribbon’ for this run, and definitely felt a gentle extra push as we reached for the top of the climb.

Talking of which, it turned out my brother, mother and uncle were all glued to the tracker and shared in our ‘YEEESSS!’ moments ‘live’!

Suddenly, through the descending mist (which was quite welcome as the heat was starting to build), a high-viz vest in the distance, still way up above us, but a welcome sight.

 

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Top of the Pyg Track – glad we didn’t go DOWN that way!

YEEESSSS!!

 

2017-07-23 15.18.32Exiting the other worldly atmosphere of the Pyg Track as the tourist trail becomes the Miner’s Track, with the train passing too, was completely bizarre and quite magical.

Knowing it was quite literally all down hill from here, we high-fived and then set about the descent…….

 

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DOWN!

Unfortunately, almost immediately, Nicky had a sharp and immobilising pain in the back of her knee. This stopped us in our steep and gravelly tracks, on this, er, steep gravelly track.

 

A fistful of vitamin I (Ibruprofen), gently and gingerly building up speed, we soon got up to ‘Ahhhweeeeeee’ velocity as we tumbled down and down and down.

2017-07-23 15.29.52Llanberris was soon coming into view, as we went further down and down and down. The very bottom of the descent was sooooo steep as it turned to tarmac before a naughty loop through a park and we could clearly hear the announcer calling the runners in.

“….. and coming in now, holding hands, in a cracking time of 7 hours and 24 minutes, it’s KEVIN BONFIELD and AMY SOMETHING…………..

…….. oh No it’s not it’s Kevin and NICKY BONFIELD!!!”

YEEEESSSSS!!!

 

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Sooooo proud…. I think there may be something in my eye…..

We truly felt (still feel) we had achieved something extraordinary.

 

 

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Down in one, down in one….

A fabulous, brutal, beautiful event. It’s big, probably 2000 runners across the 3 distances, yet it was so welcoming, brilliantly marked and marshalled (I think stilegate is a glitch, it needs addressing, but certainly the only real blip) and the event base in Lanberris has the cosy feel of a much smaller event.

 

 

2017-07-23 17.59.01-1It wasn’t necessarily on our bucket list, but it has given us a wonderful glow……..

 

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Howard and Hilda enjoyed Pen y Pass so much, they went back the following day!

 

Next up, the Cornish coast beckons in the R.A.T. ……..

Three Little Birds

Three Little Birds

2015-12-08 12.42.03We were sat on the beach in Negril, Jamaica in December 2015, having completed the Reggae Marathon, when a couple of unlikely looking buskers sauntered along the beach looking for somebody to entertain. “I’m going to get them to play my favourite Marley tune…” I announced. “Baby don’t worry, ’bout a thing…”. A dollar well spent me thinks. Well, it’s been mine and Nicky’s song ever since, the beautiful innocent optimism of the lyrics a refreshing contrast to the tensions that life can create.

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Many thanks to this chap for providing the soundtrack to a magical moment

After completing the awesome Coniston Trail Marathon on Sunday, the lakeside venue was richly entertained by an engaging chap with an acoustic guitar and an ear for a tune. Whilst we were guzzling our post race Ribena and 7UP, chomping on venison burgers, the guy played “Don’t look back in anger”, an unannounced yet beautifully poignant tribute. He then donned a harmonica and rolled into, you guessed it….”Three Little Birds”. I was in the immediate post race glow of pride, of loving the atmosphere as runners and walkers from the 5 events across the day soaked up the rays and the views in the late afternoon sun. We were chuffed with our achievements. I don’t mind admitting to feeling a little emotional and falling a little bit deeper in love with the astonishing lady in my arms!

 

We’d arrived (as those prone to regular perusal of this ramshackle chronical will know) in the lakes pretty exhausted. We thought we could add to this less-than-perfect preparation by getting up at 5 in this utopia of quiet to prepare our marathon weaponry and drive the hour to Windermere to drop Charlie off at the dog sitter. We found Lakes Pet Services via the internet, and what a great service Petra provides. Charlie will be back, he was pooped by the time we picked him up!

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We had a large helping of campervan envy to go with our coffee

Back to Coniston, and the special atmosphere at Old Coniston Hall was apparent from the moment we parked up  by the lake, a buzz of excitement, so many cheery ‘hello’s, and some rather splendid coffee.

 

We somehow ended up talking to the lovely people at the Inov8 stand. Now, it’s easy to be cynical about corporate sponsorship (and I am!) but these guys were on hand in force to offer guidance and, something I’ve never seen before, a chance to try out some part-worn shoes.

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Trail Shoe Porn!

To cut a long story short, we both ended up running the marathon in borrowed shoes. A resounding success for me and Nicky’s were incredibly comfortable, if a little less cushioned than she’s used to.

 

As we lined up for the start, some of the talk inevitably turned to the dreaded cut offs and time limit. As we can now confirm, this

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On your marks….

is a genuinely tough trail race, with some proper climbs and sections of really rugged terrain and technical sections. Therefore, just like last week’s Pure Trail event, it is made plain that participants need to be fit and strong enough for several hours of tough running. BUT, you’re not expected to be Joss Naylor.

 

Talking of which, the spirit of such running greats is almost tangible on this route, especially in the second half as the route climbs a couple of fells

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This

and circumnavigates some gorgeous tarns. What a privilege it was to be running here.

 

The first half of the race is a series of ups and downs, but on the whole climbing. Overall pace is reduced by the need to stop every 5 minutes to say ‘WOW’ at the views, but kept brisk by the runability of the terrain. Short road sections are all accompanied by more stunning views and so barely noticed. The route is one great big loop, a wide rounding of

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This

the whole of the lake. Nicky was braving some quite considerable calf pain, her powerful calves are prone to tightness and we suspect wearing some more ‘racey’ profiled shoes may have contributed to this, combined with a less than ideal preparation, but we still made great progress and the cut offs soon became far from our minds. A long, and rocky, decent in miles 17, 18 and 19 had her exclaiming “I am running like a wooden top!” (younger readers may need to click the link!).

 

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You don’t get THAT in the VLMMLVMLM!

I think the phrase is ‘technical terrain’, this decent and, in fact, the climb up into the fells that followed and the fall back towards the lake AND most of the flat section along the shore edge towards the finish could all be classed as ‘technical’. What a fabulous course, what a treat the whole event is. Visually jaw dropping and it gets right inside you, you can FEEL the beauty here. There is no better way than to spend Sunday than running in such humbling

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This

surroundings in the company of my perfect soul mate.

 

 

“Don’t you ever get bored running with me?” Nicky asked as we both tried and failed, despite our finest efforts, to fall flat on our faces as we tripped over the massed network of roots along the lake side. Bored!!?? This really is EVERYTHING I could ever want.

 

2017-06-04 14.49.45So, we reached the finish, both now 30something in terms of marathons completed and both struggling to imagine any we’ve done which top this one. I truly feel blessed.

We’re lucky enough to have another 5 days here in this beautiful place, and whatever the weather (it’s not looking good!) we’re going to indulge in not setting the alarm and plenty of the 2 ‘R’s and 2 ‘W’s (reading, running, writing, walking), oh and watch out, Nicky might just have a surprise lined up for later in the week…….

 

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Slightly bleaker in the fells today!

Anyway, briefly as I’ve taken enough of your time, having been relieved of several £10 notes yesterday, I thought I’d better take the new trail shoes out in the P!55ing rain today. Nicky, wisely, is resting her rather tight calves.

 

So I went out and did 7 or so miles, finishing going up to the tarn on the fell opposite where we’re staying and enjoying the grip these new shoes offer on the wet, rocky decent. You can check out this run here, and yesterdays marathon here.

I write this blog because I truly enjoy writing, it is relaxing, I enjoy sharing how running is so much part of mine and Nicky’s lives and how I am never quite able to fully believe that I get to live this life with Nicky. Our day to day world is great, with a particular set of challenges which is the same for everybody and I’m sure our adventures (and my writing about them) is very much part of how we contrast that whirly-gig of life with our down time.

That and 3 Little Birds.

So, thank you as ever for reading and engaging with the blog (over 5000 of you now!), I look forward to sharing the next instalment of this amazing adventure of life……