It was going to happen at some point this year. Jasmin had already smashed the records for the Bob Graham – which I had the pleasure of supporting – back in April. She went on to take the overall record for the Ramsay Round, won a couple of Extreme Skyraces, came 6th in the UTMB (Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc) and generally did more long, gnarly running than a lot of Fell runners do in a life time.
The obvious hole in her 2016 Palmares was the Paddy Buckley Round, and when the email came asking if I’d help support, the reply was “of course”.
Originally mooted for the 1st October, I was on track to do Leg 1 and 4, which was fine- Chris Near was also on Leg 1, and as a previous record holder, he’d be pretty sorted with the route. However, the weather had other plans. Wales looked like being awash on the Saturday, so the schedule was put back by 24 hours – 2nd October – massive clash with the Hodgeson Brothers Mountain Relay. I had already written myself out of the Glossopdale team, so no problem for me, though there were apparently a number of last minute changes to teams in the relays, and subsequently runners on different legs. I ended up on Leg 3. Capel Curig to Aberglaslyn – one of the legs I supported Al on last year, and the one I swore I’d never do again.
Its for Jasmin though. Game on.
She was starting from Llanberis at 5am, so I figured I needed to be down early for Leg 3. It wasn’t like she was going to be hours up on schedule like on the BG – the year of racing will have taken its toll on long distance speed, but it would be good to get down early.
I got to Ogwen about 20 mins before Jasmin was due to go through, and walked down to see her through with Jon Ascroft and John Ryan – who were also supporting on Leg 3. Like a numpty, I left my camera in the car, so although we saw her through, I didn’t get a photo. Jasmin was through and off pretty fast, heading off around the East side of the Llyn up to Pen yr Ole Wyn (yup, not the west – we were surprised by that – but Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom who looked pretty fresh after their Leg 1 pacing said it was the best line. She was bang on schedule, and moving relatively well).
A couple of cups of coffee later, a quick recce of the start of Leg 3 and we were ready to go at Capel Curig. The sun was out, the mist had lifted and it was a spectacular day on the hills. Fresh, but glorious.
The Leg 3 runners gathered and tried not to eat too many of the cakes provided by Jasmin’s Mum, while Konrad was inundated by people wanting to stroke Moss the Puppy.
The scheduled time got closer, and Alex McVey pounded around the corner with requests for various food and drink, and not long after, Jasmin came around the corner with the other 2 pacers. A short stop, I grabbed her clothes bag from one of the guys, Jon got the food and we hared off after Jasmin and Jim Mann – who also knew the leg pretty well.
Round Plas y Brenin and up onto the slog to Moel Siabod. The walking started, and so did the chatting – anything to distract Jasmin from the long long way up to the Summit. She was moving well, but looked less spritely than normal. Unsurprising really – having won the Glencoe Skyline 2 weeks previously, and 6th at the UTMB about 6 weeks before. Anyone else would be in bed!
At the top of Moel Siabod we were joined by John Ryan, who had gone up a little earlier to be ready for the run off. As we dropped off the summit of Siabod I went over on my right ankle. Crunch! – a proper nasty “Crunch”.
I hobbled a bit and put my foot in as many puddles as I could for about 100metres. Can’t stop now, that’d be ridiculous. Concentrating on the lovely day I put my best foot forward and got on with the job of catching up with the other 4 who were rapidly disappearing into the distance. Hmmm… not the greatest start for me, but I reckoned I’d be ok.
From there we ran along the boundary line, moving steadily south, ticking off various named and un-named summits, being guided through the ridiculously soggy ground and onto the right tops by Jim. It was hard going underfoot – when it was flat there was a mass of bog to wade through and when it was an ascent or descent it was either bog or tussocks. Just like Bleaklow. Marvellous.
We kept Jasmin eating and drinking and all was going well until we hit the final summit before the Moelwyns. It’s a short out and back and John would take Jims bag and and meet us on the way back.
We went out, we came back. John wasn’t where we thought he was going to be. Ah. Minor issue.
No time to waste, Jim carried on, knowing that this was his last hill on this leg – he was to run down to Croseor and then pick up on Leg 4, Jasmin followed him down into the quarries where Liz was waiting to assist where Jim left off. Jon and I rapidly came up with a plan – I’d take all the food and drink and keep Jasmin going on the Moelwyns and he would find Jon and they’d make their way down to the Quarry below Cnicht where we’d all eventually meet up.
Laden with water, coke, lucozade, food, clothing and my gear as well I hammered off down to catch up with Jasmin and Jim and we made great time down into the quarries. Liz was waiting for us with a small stash of food and a big smile. She got a headstart on us going up Foel Ddu as Jasmin started eating and walking and Jim and I sorted out more food into my pack before he ran off to ready himself for leg 4.
More stuff in my pack, I turned around to see Jasmin stomping up an increasingly steepening hill. Bugger. Into race mode, and off up the hill as fast as possible, only managing to catch up to her half way up. More encouragement, and I got handed half a sweet potato that hadn’t got eaten… great. Hooning up a hill behind perhaps the greatest fellrunner of the generation with my hands full of sweet potato… I couldn’t even use my hands to help me up… dig in!
We topped out over the ridge to Foel Ddu, and then up more tussocks toward Moel yr Hydd – Liz directed me over to the route off the hill as Jasmin hit the top, so I was spared 100m of walk… gathered my thoughts, re-organised the gear in my bag, got out the camera again – Liz came flying past, swiftly followed by Jasmin, and we made our way across the levels to the bottom of Moelwyn Bach, the final out and back. I dropped the bag at the bottom and blasted to the top with Jasmin getting some lovely video on the way back down, but ended up with a stone in my shoe.
Jasmin followed Liz up Craigysgafn as I tended to my shoe and re-gained my rucksack, and by the time I got going again, they were a long way up. Race mode again – hard and fast until I caught up with them.
Hard, hard work and a lot of breathing enabled me to catch them as they topped out before heading up Moelwyn Mawr. I was knackered, but figured that was my job- I was there to support, so no stopping now! I was just hoping that Jon and John were down in the quarries for the climb up Cnicht because if I got dropped now, there was going to be no coming back.
Jasmin hit Moelwyn Mawr and we took off back down to the quarries. A pleasant run down, and finally into a bog at the bottom, just before which, Crunch – there goes the ankle again. Dammit. However, standing at the bottom were 2 familiar figures, Jon and John. Thank goodness.
I limped through the bog and handed over the food to Jon, not being quick witted enough to offload Jasmins clothing to John in the meantime… they shot off and were soon a good minute ahead of me.
If anytime is a good time for a caffeine gel, now is the time. I sucked down an espresso gel and set off after them, limping through the bog, legs screaming. Down across the dam and up the steepening side of Cnicht. Luckily John stopped off to fill water bottles and I managed to catch him and pass on Jasmins gear, which he carried for the rest of the leg. Even with less stuff in my bag I was slowly but surely left behind and hit the top about 2 mins behind them. At Cnicht summit Digby Harris and his son were providing static support with a load of Lucozade and food which hadn’t been consumed by the guys in front. Brilliant!
My pacing done for the day, I stood and chatted with Digby and then made the choice to walk off with them rather than risk injury by clattering off the hill in pursuit of Jasmin, Jon, Liz and John.
We walked off in the late afternoon sunlight and I made plans to get to the next crossover point, and decided I’d stay to the end to watch Jasmin finish.
And finish she did, in a superb new womens record time of 18:33.
Considering everything she has done this year, astonishing.
Simply astonishing. – Here’s a video of the footage I took throughout Leg 3 and beyond.