Home Sick

Well my dream of staying is slowly fading and in a surprising way I’m kind of glad. It was after all a dream to stay and work but now if I’m honest I’m a little homesick. Sure I miss my family and my best mate and there are a few others who I wouldn’t mind having a pint with not that we’ve really kept in touch.

But the true home sickness and this will be a surprise to many and a few may gasp and exclaim and argue that I’m daft especially with the landscape and scenery but my heart belongs in the hills and mountains of Britain.

Yes I’m homesick for walking Snowdon and Tryfan or taking a cold winter hike across the moors or a drive to a remote part of the peak district and rambling down country lanes and through English woods. Off course the views and landscape in the land of the hobbits is amazing and I know as I look down from Snowdon or view the Cheshire plain from Kinder Scout my brain will flash back to those pictures and images of the southern alps and the quite one horse towns and question which one is better. People said NZ is Wales on a larger scale and they weren’t wrong.

I still have some months left and with my time I’m going to see this country again to make sure I have a full memory of sights, sounds and stories stored in the old memory bank. Sometimes you have to be without something to realise how much it actually means and while I could happily make the move I need to go back to see if my true loves once more and put the world to rights with a good old fashioned drinking session with my bestie.

A friend once posted a song to my wall which I think I have shared with you all before called ‘The Manchester Rambler’ which sums up my affair and passion for the outdoors. While I have now found a way to come back and work over here in the future  I find myself missing the peaks and Snowdonia ever more.

I’ve made some good friends and have had partook in many an adventure and while there have been high and lows how will always treasure my time in NZ and hold it close but the time has come to return to the UK and who knows I may realise that NZ was for me after all. But at the moment Im longing to walk down Market Street and go into Greg’s for a steak bake or chin wag and complain over a warm flat beer with Matt, or redeem my nector points and watch the BBC and take a walk in the British rain and wrap up warm not put on sun screen in Janaury. But at the same time I’m loving my time away and the experiences I’m living.

See you soon UK.

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Before I Go!

There are a lot of things. A long list if you will. I have compiled this list to help me get my affairs in order before I arrive at terminal one and board my plane. There are the simple things like selling DVD’s and CD’s, which now has a big tick by it. Move stuff back to my parents, sell some clothes, pack, transfer money, pay tax bill, cancel phone, cancel internet and so the list goes on.

However the one item on the list that I really want to see ticked off, is the Welsh 3000. For those not in the know, and even some avid walkers don’t know then the 3000’s are 14 or 15 (if you count the extra one) peaks in Snowdonia that are over 3000 feet hence the name.

Now I have done the Snowdon Massif, and only have two more to bag for the Glyders, which I am hoping to do this week and then I just have the Carnedadu to complete. Forget bagging Wainwrights and completing the Southern West Fells, my dream and ambition before I depart the UK is to complete the 3000 mainly due to that fact that it gives me an excuse to go to Snowdonia.

So hopefully as my time draws ever closer to 25th June, I will be able to give a tick to finishing the Welsh 3000.

The Langdale Express – Part One of my weekend in the Lakes

The weekend was not going to be a rest day by any means. I had walking, camping and racing planned and that is exactly what I did.

Come Sunday morning I was waking at 6am ready to drive to Ulverston to meet a friend who would be participating in these activities. But first we had to get there and as my friend volunteered to navigate along the stereotypical roads that crisscross and meander through the valleys and around the foot of the mountains that stand tall and survey the landscape we found ourselves in Langdale.

The main object of the weekend was the Langdale 10K race, an undulating little number of there and back. Last year it was held over two days and had reached its 500 capacity on both days very quickly. This year had a capacity of 750, but for reasons unknown failed to get more than 100 on each of the days. As the rain lashed down and thoughts that I would finally get to wear my rain jacket which was a direct result of being left out in the rain for too long at Manchester Marathon, and the knowledge that Snowdon Marathon was notorious for its wetness I decided that a decent running waterproof was in order. Apart from the odd training run I had never really got to use it. But as the wind buffered the side of the car and the rain carried on falling I thought I would finally be fulfilling it’s purpose.

I joked that once we started the rain would ease off, and sure enough seconds after the gun the rain ceased to be. This must have been the strangest of races I have lined up for. I think in total there were 39 other people positioned ready to start and as I ran and ran fast it felt very much like a training run. The pack broke up quickly and within the first 30 seconds the distance between the runners were spread out along the valley road.

After a strong race, where I kept my position and managed to over take a guy in the last two miles my legs didn’t quite have the energy to pass the woman 500 meters in front of me but I still crossed the line in just over 43 minutes, that considering the course was a good time.

After the race we set up camp in the National Trust campsite which was empty apart from some rabbits and several flooded pitches. We found an area that we thought would remain dry and set up camp. After the comical chasing of tent bags due to a large gust of wind in which the blog takes its title we were set up. Now it was time for a walk.

The weather was still unsettled and a little apprehensive in what it wanted to do, but we began the climb to Pavey Ark. The river that runs down from the tarn was in full flow as it rushed down the valley, leaping off rocks kicking spray into the air. The usual route across seemed a little dangerous as the stepping-stones across the river were covered with white foaming water rushing along. After seeking an alternative we made it to the snow topped tarn and looked for a way to climb Pavey Ark. Again the river and streams were full to bursting and current was faster than a penderlino from London. We concluded no safe way and as the cloud cover and storm clouds began to circle we thought it wise to turn back for food and ales.

After a good many drinks and a very typical English tradition of paying Draughts, which I lost, we turned in for the night. This was when the fun began.

As I tossed and turned to get to sleep, I heard the rumble and howling of the wind coming off the mountains as she sped up running toward the valley and the campsite I heard it rush past the tent. Then there was silence, and like the after shock of a quake the full effect of the wind took hold. With no noise the tent blew, and shook trying to be lifted from its moorings, and then nothing. Then five minutes later the same effect. The noise of the wind followed by silence followed by the effect. This went off throughout the night and into the morning which made the packing of tents a very enjoyable experience as we battled with the gales to un-pin our shelters from the ground while still trying to keep said tents firmly in our grasp.

I later find out they call this the Langdale Express and sometimes the wind come from both directions and crashes in the centre of the valley.

After packing away and checking the forecast we moved on to climb Wetherlam. But that is a different story all together. As I when I say climb, I mean climb.

The first part of this weekend break was a fantastic adventure with good company. I had ran a good race, walked in one of the few places that I hold dear to my heart next to Snowdon and had a lot of good ale and fantastic food.

Leaving Party

I have already touched on this briefly, but as I look at pictures on Pinterest I find myself thinking that I need to go to Wales again.

We all know I love the place. But how cool would a weekend away in a cottage with just the couple of best mates that I have. Drinking, walking and talking. Exploring all the North West Castles for one last time.

At the moment it is a dream and will stay as such as they will all have excuses as to why they couldn’t possibly attend. Some with good reason others because they can’t take time out.

While I’m missing people now (not seen some for months)… I think it is good practice for when I do leave. After all I won’t be seeing these people for a year and who knows I might not even chat or talk to them again. For me this trip is a big deal… bigger than getting married, having a child. I want my friends to be there for me. This is only going to happen the once and while I am doing this for myself, I still need the comfort of my mates.

But it would be nice to have one last good bye…just in case I didn’t see them again. But maybe that’s just me… Maybe I know I won’t be seeing these people again. They may well be under the impression that in a years time we will be drinking again in the local (not that we have local). However anything can happen in a year.

It would be good to do a proper leaving party… and maybe my friends have it under control but I do fear that I may end up exiting quietly only to log on to Facebook in NZ to find messages of ‘Have you gone? We didn’t get to say goodbye’

The real question is should I bother to organise my own party. I suggested this to a friend, who said ‘You can’t do that!’ a couple of weeks later he sent a text asking what I wanted to do? To me that was as good as organising it…

If I am honest, then I don’t want a fuss. I want those who are close to me, and spend as much time as possible with them… Doing the things we have done together like drinking, walking, camping, cycling all just for one last time. If we really get to it, then there is only a handful of people I would like to attend, and I can count them off on one hand.

Off course I wouldn’t object to a big piss up as well, in a bar with everyone who I know.

Snowdon Marathon Review

In the heart of Snowdonia National Park there was about to take place a disturbance to this tranquil peaceful area of the UK. Normal trips to the shops or the neighbouring town were about to be turned into awkward journeys for just on the outskirts of the National Park the local car parks of Llanberis were slowly filling up and lycra clad men and women were pouring into the visitor centre of Electric Mountain. Cafes were pouring coffee and tea for the friends and family of these runners as at 10.30 in the presence of Dolbarden Castle a starting pistol would echo around the valley signalling the start of the 30th Marathon Eryri or to us English speaking folk ‘The Snowdon Marathon’

Now I wanted to run this last year as a 30th birthday present to myself and you only have to browse the blog to see why that could be. I love running and I love Snowdonia more so if there was a chance to join the two then I would be there. However the issue with the plan was the race had been sold out and I also had done no marathon training so I made a promise that I would enter the race in time for my 31st Birthday and this is where we arrive.

Now I had already done a marathon and crashed and burnt as I smacked into the wall on that cold bitter Manchester day around mile 14. Not to be done I picked myself up from that event and carried on running and the minute the entries opened for Snowdon I had signed up. The training for Snowdon had been lax to say the least but while the amount of miles I was churning out increased the idea of hill sprints, tempo runs and all the rest failed to materialise and I only really ended up getting in two long runs. I had managed a couple of hilly half marathons for training including ‘The Langdale Half’ but I carried on deluding myself that I had a marathon in the legs all be it a painful experience and I was a keen hiker and could walk up hills at quite a pace all be it I had been told that running and hiking hills were very different and in some respect they are but I have found that my hiking has helped my running. So that’s the training dairy over with, now it was just a case of getting to Snowdon.

I always thought  I would travel to my usual hotel and stay the weekend but for one reason or other it just failed to happen. It could well have been due to my best mate offering the use of himself as chauffeur and so it was my friend very kindly drove me to the town of Llanberis famous for it’s slate works and the Snowdon Mountain Railway and one of the more gentle tourist routes up to the summit of what still remains my favourite mountain. I registered and collected my race number and so began the waiting game. My friend wanted to get to the start nice and early to make sure he had somewhere to park, as he didn’t want to drop me off and then spend the race looking for a parking space only to find one as I eventually crossed the line. You may laugh but when he dropped me off for the Great North a couple of years back I crossed the line just as he pulled into Southsheilds. I tried to assume him that there would be enough space as there had been no warnings of ‘get there soon as parking is limited’ but never the less here we were sat in the car park at 7.30. As I slowly nibbled my last minute carb loading we spoke about his daughter and work.

At 10am after several trips to empty my bladder and bowls we started on the rather long walk to the start and the rest of masses seemed to have the same idea. Now for people who are unsure of the race route then this is how another blogger describes the route.

Starting in Llanberis, through Nant Peris then up Pen-y-Pass. Following this it is a downhill and both on road and a brief stint on trail, then undulating road past until reaching the second of the climbs at Beddgelert. After this climb it is more undulating road until hitting the biggest climb of the race at mile 22 just past Waunfawr. This climb continues until about mile 25 before a steep descent back into Llanberis and the finish line.

So as I stood in the warm sun with a slight chill in the air I said goodbye to my mate and began the gruelling 26.2 miles. Now as we know from my last post I did not find this as hard as aI thought and this is due to me not racing, I was out for a gentle light jog and took the course at a good pace. After Manchester I did not want to burn out at mile 14.

As we started the first climb after a rather good flat start the gaze of Crib Goch caught my eye, the thought of the day when I climbed her and hung to her strong ridge propelled me up the pass to the Youth hostel and the main car park for many who choose to climb Snowdon via the pgy track. This was the hill I had been dreading but after Langdale it felt rather relaxed and I was making good time, hitting 4 miles on target. Next would be a decent and onto the trail path to take us to the long flat section of the course, I went through 10K in just under an hour  and was still making good time and felt very relaxed. The biggest thing I noticed on this race was how quick it was going we seemed to be ticking off the miles very quickly. I felt like I had only been on the road for ten minutes but according to my watch I had been running for a good hour: time seemed to be going quickly. This could only be a good thing as towards the end I didn’t want the last six miles to drag on longer than they needed.

As I ran down the trail route I was surprised on how many people like me were non trail runners but unlike myself they seemed to be showing their inexperience at running such terrain. Now the shadow on Snowdon could be felt and soon it would fade away as we entered the village and hopefully one day the place I would call my home.

You could start to hear the crowds of Beddgelert before we even turned the corner it seemed like the entire village and all the tourists were out to cheer you on. This was half way and as I looked at my watch, I had crossed it just after 2 hours. I was still on target and felt fresh. Crowds called your names and even the car drivers who had been forced to pull over or stop were also shouting encouraging messages. It was just as well as now came the head wind and the slow steady climb for the next couple of miles. The scenery also dried up a little, but Snowdon was always hovering in the side of your eye. I heard the sound of a steam train at one point as we ran past the Welsh Highland Railway I suddenly forgot I was running and tried to spy the engine that was making the noise but alas  only saw smoke through the trees.

Coming up to mile 18, which at four hours was the cut off, I did a quick watch check to see that I would be hitting in at 3 hours. I was on course and knew that if I stayed at the pace I would be home before five hours. The goal was just to finish and I was well under way to achieving this. As I ran into the 17th mile I turned to my right to see the wonderful beauty that she is standing tall surveying her kingdom and as I looked at her glimmering in the winter sun you could see the smoke funnelling up from the Snowdon Mountain railway as she shunted away from the summit.

Mile 18 was reached and a quick loo break in the car park was in order as the ginger bread man wanted to make an appearance. After using the car park toilet I was under way once again. This felt like the home straight now and all I could think off was the dreaded hill at mile 22. The banter on the course had been great with people talking and laughing all the way and as we came to mile 20, this did not change. I spoke to a club runner who had raced it before and asked about the dreaded hill. ‘Walk it’ he said ‘You’ll be quicker than those who run it’ and without fail he was correct. As I reached the brow of a smaller hill the road turned to be greeted by another village who decided they would turn out and support the race. Energy gels, water, pop, cake, tea you name it they were handing it out. After this slight distraction the true task could now be seen, 3 miles of hill and everyone seemed of have been given the same advice as they slowly put on the brakes and turned their jog into more of a walk.

It’s true what the runner had said I over took more people running on that section than I think I had the entire race and by the time it turned to flat I was up and running gearing up for the last bit of down hill. As the track turned to trail you could see the lakes and slate walls that made up the landscape of Llanberris and the sharpe descent started into the place where it had all began four hours ago.

Checking the watch I was on course to come in before 4.30 and as I stormed down the hill at a slower pace than I would have liked due to every step sending sheer pain through my quads I arrived on the tarmac and the last couple of bends into the home straight. At mile 26 you could see the final corner and hear the town folk cheering and as I turned into the final section I found some more energy and sprinted to the line clocking in at 4.17 to the roar of the crowd recording a new PB.

This race has to be up there along with the Manchester 10K. Manchester as it was my first race, but Snowdon because it was a good run, the support, course, aid, scenery  the banter between runners. Everything about this race scores highly and I would recommend every runner who is serious about running gives it a go. Forget Berlin, Madrid or London the marathon who have to run as a badge of honour is Snowdon.

A big thank you to all those who came and supported the organisers and volunteers those special people with whom none of it would be possible.

The lucky Horseshoe

Well let’s get the day-to-day business out-of-the-way. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been cycling to work followed by training runs once I got home. That is a lot of work for my legs and they were starting to give up on me but I carried on forcing them to work long and hard knowing that they needed the practice if they were ever going to carry me over the line on the Snowdon Marathon. It’s with all the training runs I thought I would try something new, a little tool that has been talked about for years that helps with training… Too spilt up your long runs. Half in the morning and the rest of the distance in the evening. What a wonderful idea and how great it allows you to fit in those other wise long boring runs. You’re still getting the miles in the legs but having a little rest in-between and I can fully recommend running to work and from work it fills you with so much energy and thinking time and its a great work out plus it adds a whole new meaning to running late for work.

So you can imagine that over the course of these three weeks, the only rest that my legs got were on Sundays so by the end they were feeling slightly tired. After all they had cycled or ran and many a time completed both of those tasks so when I got an unexpected Thursday off rather than putting my feet up and relaxing I took my legs and headed to the best place on the planet. I had been playing away with the Lakes too much and spent a long time trying to bag myself many of the south and west Wainwrights, I had also been doing the dirty in the Peaks but my beloved Snowdon was once again calling for some attention.

The sun was out and the drive was clear, as I drove closer to the border I could see her dominating the landscape and any questions about my love for this place soon faded. Off course I was still in love with her how could I ever have doubted the bond we had. Sure Langdale Pikes are nice and Bowfell is impressive but not as much as the beauty that is Snowdon and all the towns that sit around her, in her wake.  Driving through Capel Curig I was once again transported back to when I first remember setting my eyes on her range longing to be walking her terrain and within a matter of minutes I was parking up and putting on the boots.

This was going to be a new route, not Pyg or Miners, not even the Llanberis path. No I was going to take in the Horseshoe, over Crib Goch a grade one scramble to the summit followed by a walk along a knife edge for about 2 miles. As I climbed the face of Crib Goch my heart was beating like the clappers. One false move one wrong positioning of the foot and I could fall. I could drop, injury myself. It was more like bouldering than scrambling but the fear fueled the excitement the anticipation to achieve this long-awaited goal and as I placed my hand on the top of the rock to pull myself up the view of the real daunting task lay ahead. What was now laid before me was a ridge, a sheer drop to the right with a mere steep rocky slope to the left. The back of the sleeping dragon seemed to go on for miles with Snowdon waiting at the end. If I thought of turning back now, I would have to carefully navigate myself backwards down the rocks which was no easy task. Onwards it was.

If my heart had pumped with fear on the climb up then the walk across was about to make it pop from the rib cage and beat before my very eyes. Within a couple of minutes I had found my footing and eased into the pattern of balancing along the knife edge. The wind started to blow which added another level of danger that wasn’t needed. I got to the end and looked backed. How could I have ever doubted that Snowdonia offer the best for walkers. Sure the Peaks are good if you have family, it’s fairly flat, the lakes are good if you want to amble from peak to peak without coming down a mountain to climb another but Snowdonia, Snowdon offers the world and does not disappoint. The easy part of the walk was now to climb to the summit that was now wrapped in cloud once agin I decided to give the gang of tourist a miss and head straight for the cafe to get a cuppa. I’ve climbed the summit so many times now I tend to just walk past it. I find the real views are experienced on the walk up and down.

After I had rested and had advised a family on the best way down to the car park I set off. I needed to join the Watkins path for a while and then turn off to climb yet more peaks before heading back to the flat terrain of the Miners route. Watkins turned out not to be Watkins. I somehow think I had turned of the Rangers path a little early but within five minutes I had got back on course with the first section being a lot of scree. Leaving two fellow walkers and their GPS device I was ready to climb my last peak of the day Y Lliwedd while still a slight knife-edge and energetic climb to the ridge walk after the Crib this seemed like a walk in the park but still an exhilarating experience and a far better way to come down from the summit. As I scrambled and played on mother nature’s playground I knew at some point I would have to leave the rock for the dull well-worn and trodden path of the Miners route that escorts you back towards the car park. It was as I was climbing down I saw two fellow walkers. Together we kept company to the car park talking off fell running, climbing and mountains as the day before they had tackled Tryfan for the first time scaling the North face. In my mind I said that the route was good and views were fantastic but Snowdon has, is and will remain my favourite mountain.

Pinterest

Has anyone come across this. Do you know what it is. As far as I can make out it is just an excuse for people to collect the pictures they like online and store them in one place instead of clicking ‘Save Image as’

Well I have joined up and have started mounting many a boards of my inspirations of photos and images of objects I desire or have and even places that I love. If anyone is a member than please do check out my boards and maybe re-pin what you see. I can’t really go into any detail as I have no clue what the site does myself but I did say that about twitter and look at me now with 17,000 plus tweets two years on.

Oh well take a gander if you like Snowdon, Wales, Hiking, New Zealand, Running, History, Castles and Bridges which I guess should be all of you as that is all I write about in this blog with a little bias on the running element like why else do you read this dribble?? 🙂

See you all soon, and I hope you like what you see.