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UMUK - Day 3 - 56 Mile Run

So, we'd made it to Day 3 of this quite unbelievable endurance event. We'd seen Trig completely dominate the first day in the swim and get a good lead on the first stage of the cycle. Then the second day we saw Matt D put in a stirling effort on the bike to take the lead on Day 2. As a team we had a bit of a crazy second day with ups and downs but Trig powered through it all with a smile on his face.

On this final day, with just Trig and Matt D in realistic contention for the top places, just a double marathon stood in their way. The night before, over a few San Miguel's we set out the plan to support Trig on the run. I would run the first stage for 10 - 15 miles followed by coach Whittle in the middle section. Then Matt would join his brother in the final stage to complete the race.

At this point I'd been doing a bit of training for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October but hadn't run for two weeks leading upto this day. But, I had a bit of wind in my sail, felt pretty good and was well up for a challenge.

Team Trig, Day 3 (Mark Whittle, Matt Pritchard, Adam Pritchard (Trigger), Dan Nicholas).

I would soon be eating a bit of humble pie and realise that I wasn't ready to hang with the big boys and to this day the lads still take the piss out of that run, more which will be revealed later on. Up at 6am with the race due to start at 8, I sat in the van eating my go to run breakfast, porridge with banana, peanut butter and honey.

I'd run a few half marathons in recent years and in my mind thought 10-15 miles would be easy. Being a double marathon I knew that Trig wouldn't be hitting any significant pace. This was a long game not a sprint. The race started bang on 8am and we headed down the road towards the town of Betws y Coed.

After around 500m the race wardens were pointing us towards a thin bridge which would lead us straight into a forest. Immediately, the course went from a nice gentle road to uphill in typical North Walian 'uphill' fashion. The incline itself was just ridiculous in places, impossible to run we would have to half walk / hike through this uphill forest of doom for a good half a mile before reaching a dirt track where we could pick up the pace and start semi-running.

It was in these first three miles that I realised that I'm most definitely not an ultra athlete and my few half marathons on the flat roads of Cardiff were a complete joke compared to what was ahead of me.

Coming out of the Forest of Doom, scratching my head thinking WTF am I doing!

After what felt like forever we exited the forest but were still faced with a hefty incline before finally coming out onto the road. Never feeling so happy to see a tarmac in my life I knew I had to keep it together and think of Trig who still had 50+ miles of this to go!. In comparison to the previous days where we had had decent weather with long periods of sunshine, today it was overcast and drizzling which soon turned into rain. This said, it was pretty much perfect weather for a run of this magnitude a bit of rain can be nice when you're holding on for dear life.

As we got out onto the open roads we were heading back out from Betwys y Coed towards Capel Curig. After getting over the brutal first part of the course we got into a good rhythm and were making it surely but steadily through the long, steep, winding roads of the Snowdonia National Park. As Trig's support guy it was my job when we caught up with Mark and Matt on the road to shoot off to get what food or drinks Trig needed as he carried on and then I'd catch him up.

The first few stops went ok and I'd managed to catch him up and give him what he needed, as time went on these catch ups were getting harder and harder. At around the 10 mile mark I stopped off to the lads to get Trig an energy bar. Coach Whittle asked me how I was feeling and gently reminded me that we would shortly be greeted with Pen y Pass. Pen y Pass is a mountain pass and one of the most popular entrances used by climbers and visitors to Mount Snowdon. The hill has an altitude of 359 metres and is pretty steep to say the least.

Being a 'bloke' and not wanting to look like the complete amateur I am I said "Yes, i'm fine", grabbed the energy bar and kept on trucking. I caught Trig up shortly before we were about to ascend Pen y Pass. By now the rain was strong and the catch ups had started to take their toll but I felt I could get up Pen y Pass where the Matt and Mark would be waiting.

As Trig and I approached Pen y Pass we joked that it would be a walk in the park and all the usual "lads, lads, lads" banter that could possibly make this hill as 'fun' as possible. Reaching the top of Pen y Pass would lead us down into Llanberis and would pretty much be the first milestone of run. Typically, as we got to the base of Pen y Pass the welsh weather gave us a nice blast of rain to help us on our way. We slowly made it up the hill in pouring rain with a hefty headwind. Reaching the top we both smiled and I jogged over to Matt and Mark to grab a drink for Trig. Trig headed off down the steep valley towards Llanberis with gusto and I thought with it being downhill I'd catch him up with no dramas and continue on.

This theory was soon to be completely thrown out of the window. Trig being a 'real deal' endurance athlete was just getting warmed up and as he made his way down Pen y Pass hill I could see him drifting further and further away from me. In my mind I was thinking he will slow down soon and I'll catch him up, it didn't happen. I was running down that hill as fast as my little legs could take me trying to catch him but when I thought I was getting close, I didn't quite have enough in the tank to catch him.

As I reached the bottom section of Pen y Pass I was about to have my first experience of extreme muscle cramping. In all my limited experiences of running I'd had a good few injuries but never had any cramps when running. All of a sudden my right leg started to cramp and spasm out of control, shortly followed by my left. This was the kiss of death for me. I was left with no choice but to pull over and stop. Aware that I was still carrying Trig's drink, I stopped for a minute and could see him plodding off even further. The cramps quickly eased and I decided that I would give it my all to catch Trig, give him the drink but that would be me done. I was a small fish in a big pond, waiting to be eaten!

On the descent of Pen y Pass, and just a general descent in my life.

14.66, not the magic number...

Eyes locked on Trig, I gave it some welly and was determined to get this drink to him and make it to the next stop where the lads would be waiting and I could retire back to my average but comfortable running career. I eventually caught Trig up and tried to explain what had happened and that it was time for me to leave it to the real athlete's. I made it to the next stop where Mark would take me back to the hotel to get my van, get changed and I'd drive him back to rejoin Trig on this brutal run.

This is the point where I reveal the ongoing torture for myself and my 'mates' who still take the piss about that run to this day. I stopped my watch when I got to Mark and Matt waiting for us at the bottom of Pen y Pass. My watch had recorded 14.66 miles. On the drive back to the hotel I was having a moan to Whittle about how disappointed I was not making it to 15 miles. After all that effort you tend to focus on the small little things and this had pissed me off, 14.66 miles just didn't have the same ring to it as 15.

Little was I to know that this would be a running joke for the next year between myself, Mark, Matt and Trig. If I'd just ran 15 miles on that day, the world, especially my world would've been a better place. Mark Whittle being one of the boys and after only knowing me for one day knew exactly our type of humour and had told Trig how pissed off I was about not reaching 15 miles.

When I caught Trig up later on in the run I asked him how he was feeling. His answer with an evil grin on his face was: "Well, the thing is Dan if you'd ran 15 miles you'd probably know" that was it, we all just burst into laughter, I called them all the names under the sun and it's has haunted me ever since (wankers). In fact, I'd just like to add that since that day I have run over 15 miles on a few occasions, hahaha.

Glad to be back in my van with fatigue kicking in it was nice to be back in a supporting capacity after dipping my little toe into the world of ultra endurance racing. This little taster session has constantly made me wonder just how these guys do it. I think it takes a special type of person and mindset to take on these types of events and whilst I'm trying to give the best account of it as I can here, you really do have to see it to believe it. These guys are very good friends of mine and they consistently blow me away with the things they do.

Back in the race, the professionals were back in charge with Trig and coach Whittle ploughing through the miles as we made it out of Llanberis back towards Beddgelert. The rain had become heavier but the lads were in good spirits and hacking away at the hills. Matt and Lemmy were in one van and myself and my broken ego in another. Trig was over halfway by now with just over twenty miles left.

Trig and coach Whittle were hit with some pretty heavy rain on the last part of the course and both were soaking wet by the time they'd made it to Beddgelert. By this point Mark had put in a great performance and decided to retire at 20 miles. Not 14.66, but 20, my hero. When the rain stopped Trig took a break to eat some go faster pasta and we got him a change of clothes.

This would lead to another top class comedy moment from Matt Pritchard. I mentioned earlier on the special brotherly relationship Mathew and Trig have got, they couldn't be any closer and their whole family have exceptional family values and a closeness which is just lovely and rare to see these days.

Thanks Lem, I knew you had my back.

The Freesoul Project 2019 - Made in Wales