The story of my “itinerary for the Snowdon 2012 race” all begins in the late 2010, early 2011 when I considered, reflected and embarked on the Lydiard training program under Rene’s coaching. It was a big decision giving the training volume requirement, so it meant that I really wanted to consider my running more competitively. The beginning of this 24 week training program was a mixed of excitement and some feeling like stepping into the unknown but my motivation and focus were intact. Things actually started quite well as I progressed through the first 7-7.5 weeks surprisingly well and I was really enjoying every session and looking more to the next day session. Suddenly the common ache occurred (“injury”) and it was both my tibias. You all may quickly guess the correct answer: “shin splints”. This meant that I had to resort to the physio; not an encouraging feeling being a student (stretched financially!) and only 30 % through the full program. Luckily after a re-shuffle of the workout volume by Rene and few visits to the physio, I was able to be back to running and even had my first ever half marathon about 2 weeks after. After that injury I become a disciple of the motto “go by feel first” and was able to carry through my first year of the Lydiard program with no major trouble or injury frustrations.
The build up to the Snowdon 2012 race.
By the end of my first full year round in the Lydiard program it was PB’s for every race I had ran and more importantly I could feel at every target race that this Lydiard method works, as not only my race times were improving but also my recovery times were getting shorter.
As the Lydiard program works on peak/target race format, the target race decision-making for 2012 was easy and straightforward for me. The descent is where I make most of my time, so Snowdon was the event where to experience and test my confidence on the descent given the depth of competition. But it was also the race for me to really assess myself as an aspiring mountain runner.
Things started bad, first I forgot my Garmin back home in Mali when returning to Dublin in early January from the Christmas break, so had that to be posted to me. 2 weeks after receiving my Garmin it stopped working! This meant that I had to get a new one but fortunately it was still under warranty so I got a replacement but this meant almost a month of training without pacing referencing. But this was just a small logistical issue that shouldn’t really alter that much in my training.
Only, then in week 3 of my 2012 training schedule a knee injury kicked in, arising from a fartlek session on a wet grassy field during a session with Rene’s organised group training sessions in UCD. Again I had to resort to the physio for 5-6 weeks, but with no possibility for real training. Eventually that niggle was gone and I could ease back into training again but this meant that I had missed a huge part of my aerobic phase. At this stage I had only about 3 weeks to go to the WW trail race which I wanted to use as a progress check race. Even though I didn’t get to do a meaningful aerobic build up ahead of the race, it turned out that I still had some benefit of the base aerobic improvement from 2011 as I had a strong race and a quite rapid recovery. Due to an awful stomach-ache from an energy gel intake during that race I couldn’t really fully enjoy my 3rd placing. The real killer for my 2012 training was however lurking just a week before the WW trail race, I felt a slight soreness in my big toe after waking up one morning. No real alarming sign, “this is certainly something I kicked during a run,” I said. So I did the WW trail race with no real discomfort. The big mistake, however, seemed to come from my decision of running Carrantouhil (which was aggravated by getting lost and having to run through very rough and loose rocks terrain to get our way back) and 31 km on the Kerry way in two consecutive days during the Kerry training weekend. My toe turned very inflamed and bruised at the end of the weekend.
I went to the GP and was prescribed some anti- inflammatory stuffs and a bandage. But things didn’t really radically improve in the next 2 months; I rest it and eased off a bit, I ran on it and it came back a bit. I met Tony Riddle and exposed my problem to him at one of the Championseverywhere organised natural movement workshops. Following Tony’s advice I had some improvement and was able to ease back to a reasonable training volume just 4-5 weeks before the Snowdon race. René designed a specific mixed program in order that I could use the time we had left as effectively as possible. So it was the worst possible niggles nightmare I could ever had had from training point of view towards a race of the standard of Snowdon.
The misfortune continued, after arriving in Llanberis and a bit of confusion with accommodation we were sorted out with rooms, had 30-45 minutes of rest and headed off for a quick look and feel of the tarmac and the early stage of the open mountain parts of the route. After that quick feel of the route, I nearly badly injured myself on the way back to the hotel; after stepping on a wet cattle metallic barrier grid. Thankfully God, it wasn’t too bad but left me with a bruised and sore inner foot, ironically on the foot of my weak toe again. At this stage it was a point of no return. “No matter whatever the soreness is tomorrow,” I am going to race this, I said to myself. By dinner time in the evening the soreness had increased and I really start to get worried a moment but kept my composure.
Race day and race
We woke up race day and soreness is still there but not unmanageable. After a set of quick drills exercises, we went for breakfast around 8.30 am which consisted of porridge, some fruit and bread slices. Then around 10 am, Karen (ed: O’Hanlon of the Irish team), Rene and myself went to the registration area to collect race packages and some visiting around the sales stands areas. At about 11 am we met for the race meeting where Rene, the Irish team manager, went through the race instructions and race key decision making aspects. We were then off for a last bout of relaxation before meeting at 13.15 pm for a warm up before race-start at 2 pm.
Nº1 race rule for me was no gel intake, giving my awful experience during the WW trail that I mentioned earlier. But René suggested and happily offered me a gel, “just in case you feel low”, which I actually forgot to take with me in the end!
I minimised running as much as possible during warm up as the climb was going to be long anyway and focused more on drills At 2 pm the race was kicked off as scheduled. I religiously disciplined myself to stick to two points on the climb: run at my own pace, not worrying about being passed and make sure to make it to the top before the 55 minutes cut off time for the faster descent route. Also I had a target to run all the way up with less than 5% walking. With my plan I felt strong until the mid way. From there I begin to experience a higher demand on my calves due to my VivoBarefoot Breatho trail shoes. With these shoes one has to rely on the sole strength of their feet. I worried a moment of not being able to cope with the cramps from this at such an early stage of the action. From there I decided to walk the steep sections and by the second water stop point I was reduced to barely walking. At this stage lot of runners started passing me but I found that they could not really completely pull away from me. This was a good sign indicating that walking will benefit my calves for the descent ahead while still not losing too much contact with the climbing group I was with. Reaching the more runnable section leading to the turn point I had my breathing back and was able to run past most runners who were in 20-30 m reach by the turn point. I did have to fight a bit that section to make it in 54.47 minutes just in the neck of time for the 55 minutes cut off time.
At the turning point, it took me a bit of time to get back into full speed due to the large number of gathered crowds and the very technical steps section there. I eventually got back to speed when I hit the gravel path following the railway trail. From this point I don’t have much a recollection of what was going around as my only focus was how fast I could turn my legs and working out the best landing point. I was however surprised by the comfort I had with my Breatho trail shoes on the rocky sections of the course giving their lower underfoot cushioning compared to normal runners. They turn out to be more delicate on the tarmac though leading to the finish as they start to rub a bit against my foot skin. For clearing the final bit flat up hill to the finish I really fought hard on that section but managed to keep away the two runners I had just overtaken before on the last bit of the descent. I was even more delighted to catch the runner immediately ahead of me just before the grassy path toward the finish.
Even though I didn’t take any gel I still had some stomach trouble for a few minutes after crossing the finish line, so I was glad that I had actually forgotten to bring it. After the race we met with the others lads for some post race cooling down in the Padarn Lake before heading to the hotel for some rest. Then we went for the after race meal, prize-giving and party for a good chill out. But well before that Rene had already gotten hold of the provisional results where I learned that I was 37th overall and 13th in the open race. But I didn’t manage to break the 25 minutes target I had set myself for the descent, so there was a feeling of good job and also “could be have been better.” (ed: Amidou ran 25:02 as the 12th fastest descender and fastest IMRA runner on the descent).
Overall impressions: great atmosphere, great supporters, nice town, on “to repeat list” for next year again!
And big thanks to Rene Borg my coach and also team manager of the Irish team who had put all his experience of the Snowdon race over the past few years to our advantage in all aspects of the trip. Also thanks go to the lads of the Irish team for the trip and all the chatting and good times.