Should I start with a failure? At least I should acknowledge it. I’d blocked it out of my head for days, weeks even, but now I had to take stock. I wasn’t disappointed with my DNF at Pen Llyn, my overriding emotion was sadness. I was sad that I couldn’t complete this beautiful route and I probably really should, at last, acknowledge the reasons why. Runners shy from accepting the truth, but I didn’t want this feeling again;
Winging it. A fair number of my races have varying degrees of winging it embedded in them. Fresh from a successful 100 miler, I felt my training plan was sufficient to carry me through, however, to quote von Moltke the Elder, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” Barely a mile into the event and I was tired and struggling to find any bounce in my steps. It was clear from very early on that this would be an exercise in attrition.
Resting up. It’s fair to say that this was my biggest downfall. I’d spent the previous weekend guiding clients up Snowdon on three consecutive nights ready for the summer solstice sunrises. I managed about 6 hours kip over those three days. Here I was on Pen Llyn Ultra 6 days later and I was yawning and hallucinating at 4pm in the afternoon. That and the metaphorical wheels coming off the physical side of things meant I couldn’t climb anymore, at least at a pace that I needed to maintain to stay within the time limit cut-offs.
Mind games. The previous year saw the ultra taking place at the start of the glorious summer. The sea was mirror calm and the views extensive. On this occasion there was a weighty air, humidity and mist brought a suffocating cloak down on us. Normally I could handle this kind of adversity but on this occasion I kept slipping back recalling the reveries of the previous year before comparing to my current predicament. I couldn’t change it, but I allowed it to affect me.
Chastened by my failures I felt I had to call it a day at Port Colmon (40 miles in). I just couldn’t enjoy it anymore and that kind of attitude is not going to do the course any justice. I was fortunate to be offered a lift back to the finish by a family who, through their friendly conversation, kept me distracted and ensured I didn’t dwell on my predicament. Indeed, it got me out of that self indulgent moping and by the time I reached the finish I was happy to tuck into some food and cheer on the finishers in the 50 miler and the leaders of the 75 miler.
Pen Llyn will always be there, the event will still take place next year. Let’s learn from the issues and go back with new intent. Maybe even plan a little!