This Blog is a tribute to Lloyd Newell, my wonderful little brother, to document our trials and tribulations as we embark on numerous events in the build up to The 100 Peaks Challenge in 2017. We have two aims; keeping his memory alive and trying to raise as much money as possible for some wonderful causes.
Lloydy was KIA June 2011 and we hope in time that our endeavours will enable us to create a foundation as a permanent tribute to the man he was, and the legacy he created.
........"third time lucky", however, I'm not so sure! This post may be beset with excuses, for which I can only apologise, however nearly a week after the event, if I'm blatantly and frankly honest, I'm still very much disappointed with my body and it's limitations! The body's limitations should always be tested, and to be fair Saturday, I think I tested my body limitations for suffering at a level I'd never experienced before.
With all my London Marathon training and the event itself in the bag and a decent effort at the last Paras'10 to fall back on, I was feeling pretty happy with my fitness levels. My ability to get things done, can never be questioned, because I know I have the heart and mind to endure, but with all the illness and infection issues I've had since the Marathon, there were nagging doubts about whether I should even be attempting my third Fan Dance. Monday Pre-event I woke feeling sh*t again, but put it down to the stress of a manic few weeks with sorting out the house move and then the actual move that weekend. With the infections and with the move, training had become hit and miss and more miss than I cared for, however I hoped my 'improved' fitness levels would be enough to see me through, and all week in the build up to the event on the Saturday, I managed to convince myself as much.
With no internet and a non-existent signal I missed all the banter and the build up to the event, so didn't really get a chance to make contact with any of the guys until we arrived in Nant Ddu on Friday afternoon. On the way down we stopped off as normal in Hereford to sit with Lloydy and have a 'chat', being there and on the Fan keeps him close, so irrespective of how I'm feeling I know I have to get myself up and down that route as best I can.
Doing the event and being around the guys has been an amazing experience for me and I have always maintained that it's not about the time, but paying tribute to Lloydy and being with amazing friends and enduring in tough conditions is what it's all about. Friday and Saturday proved to be exactly that without exception. Friday was the usual pre-event get together, Nant Ddu awash with excitement and expectation and good friends enjoying the banter and the company. With every get together the friendships get stronger and the circle widens further, it's a wonderful thing to be part of.
Friday evening, after some dinner with Clans Donachie and Hutchings, Kramar and I made our way up to Storey Arms to register, we were greeted warmly by Ken and Linda and received a gift for Charlie and Logan, which again only heightens how special this event is.
Charlie sporting his new T from Ken....."Future Fan Dancer"
On returning to Nant Ddu we headed for the bar where the guys were beginning to gather and again the laughs ebb and flowed like tabbers up the Roman Road! About 2130 I bid all goodnight and returned to the room, a fitful night was met with a panicked awakening as I realised I'd set the wrong alarm, but luckily Charlie, like clockwork, was awake properly at 0620. Hurriedly I packed kit, hydrated and swallowed two pots of porridge, before joining Barry and Kramar in the Car Park.
At the Storey Arms friends gathered and large smiles cheered up the Welsh grey sky and laughter echoed around the base of the A470 climb! I knew when standing there among my friends had I missed this, had I listened to my head, I would have been gutted, on the face of it, I was well enough and fit enough to get this done, and nothing would stop me enjoying the event.
But for me, that's as good as it got until I received my patch alongside my mucker Gerald, and was greeted by my wife, boy and friends, when we eventually made it back.
The climb up from the A470 started ok, I felt decent, I was tabbing alongside Baldy and Jimifer and was unaware of the issues to come, however half way up the climb towards Corn Du, fatigue hit me like a train. I knew from that point on, it would be a battle of wills and a war of attrition. My heels had by that point already begun to blister, something I've never suffered with in the past, my routine was the same as always, talc, base socks, another dusting of talc, boot socks. By the time I'd reached the turn around the base of Corn Du, my feet were screaming, by the time I reached the climb on to Pen Y Fan, my abductors and quads had begun to cramp severely. I'd felt a few twinges as we turned around the base of Corn Du and by that point, I'd been passed by all of my muckers bar Gerald. It was going to be a long hard day!
At 2 miles in, I was worried that I was having to have a chat with myself already and get my head right for the battle ahead, we all know that at some points of the Dance, you're gonna need a stiff word with yourself. However, as I made my way on to the Fan, I knew I'd be talking to myself for the remainder of the day. Greeted with a smile at RV1 by Ian Ford and race number given to Jason I set off towards the descent of Jacobs, and was happy to hear Olly come up behind me. We descended Jacobs and chatted and tabbed together around to Windy Gap until the first real bout of cramp hit me, it was that severe, I had to stop for fear of throwing up, Olly was gone and another friend was off to RV2 and I was alone with my demons once more.
I kept trying to Airborne Shuffle along the route but had nothing, every time I went to pick up the pace, my legs couldn't or wouldn't respond. Again, my prep in the build up to the event had been the same as it always was, I was well hydrated and had eaten well. I was constantly sipping my water, was taking on gels every 30 mins and popping Jelly Babies like there was about to be a shortage, but still nothing, no energy, just fatigue, cramp and screaming feet. Along the Roman Road, friends came and went in the opposite direction, and as is always the case, seeing them and their smiles lifts the morale, but despite my earlier comment about it not being about the time, I knew I should have been alongside some of them. Saturday wasn't that day though and I plodded on.
I reached RV2 and for the first time there was a reluctance in me to turn around and crack on, I knew that every step along the Roman Road would be tough, that the climb back up Jacobs could potentially break my spirit. So I clung to thinking of Lloydy, and remembering that my wife and boy would be waiting for me at the Red Phone Box and friendship and my mucker Gerald. He'd made it to half way whilst I was resting and emptying the tank, I think we were both having one of those days, so with packs loaded back on, we set off together again, as we had last summer.
The trek back along the Roman Road was one painful step after another, by the turnaround the cramp was pretty much permanent, however every cloud and all that, because the pain from the cramp meant I couldn't feel how bad a state my feet were in! It had begun to get quite warm too and Gerald often had to lift my spirits from the torture of the Roman Road, because for the first time ever, I had really begun to doubt my ability to endure. If truth be told, a few times up to Windy Gap, had I been offered the Jack Wagon, I might well have taken it. The cramp was coming in waves, and with every wave came the feeling of nausea and a need to sit and let the legs relax. The stiffening of the muscles through the quads and the abductors was a pain I've never experienced before, and not a pain I cared for. At Windy Gap I really did err and almost VW'ed myself, but I knew I had to get myself up to RV3 and receive the token from Ken, that had been waiting since Winter. I also decided that jacking was a hat thing to do, my lil bro would be very disappointed and besides, if I jacked, I still had to get back anyway, so I'd better grit my teeth and crack on. We sat with the guys from the Danish Army for a little while and let the legs relax properly, Gerald, as he had last summer readjusted his kit. I'd told him off again as we were heading back for his kit packing skills, to which he responded with a reluctant admission. I knew all the weight had slipped to the bottom of his pack and by the time he'd readjusted at Windy Gap, he'd realised I was right! The Danes were great guys to sit and chat with and it gave me renewed vigour as we set off for Jacobs.
We attacked Jacobs pretty well, but by half way up, I think my cramp had begun to rub off on my mucker, we micro-managed the climb, resting when the cramp became to severe again and sat there and joked that 'at least we were able to enjoy the views' and of course Gerald's customary yearly crack about a Stannah Stairlift being installed! A nice little chat with Steve Hughson along the way was timely and gave us both chance to relax the legs, it really was a battle, but a battle we were beginning to win, and by the time we climbed up on the Fan Summit, we knew it was just a question of getting back as quick as the legs would let us. Greeted by Ian again at RV3, he informed me the token that was waiting couldn't be given because Jas had had to deal with an emergency, I guess it's just Kens way of making sure I keep coming back! For the first time, that day, I begin to think I will be back again, but up to that point, the thoughts had been dark and there were thoughts knocking around in my head, that I was done with the events.
Just after Munday Gorge we caught up with the Danish boys again and made our way back to the Red Phone Box with them, as we made our way over the last rise I spotted Caz in the distance and began to hear friends throwing 'encouragement' in to the air. Not once yet have I managed to make it back in time for me to be presented with my patch by Ken, so I know I'll be back and I guess I need to go harder.
I don't know what caused my capitulation on the day, I've agonised over it since. It may have been as simple as taking the Fan on with limited training in recent weeks, it may have been the lingering infections I've suffered since completing the marathon, it may have been that I wasn't as fit as I thought I was, it may just have been a bad day. But ones things for certain, completing it is still special, getting it done with friendship by your side even more so, seeing your friends waiting for you to come in and my wife's worried expression give way to her proud smile, makes it worth while. There is no better feeling than getting that bergen off your back and relaxing in the company of those that have just endured what you have and being able to pick up my son and know that this isn't just an event, it's a family.
The Fan Dance is special, the people that make it what it is are special and the reason I do it and put myself through it, is very special. I may have suffered all the way round, but that's what the Fan Dance is, it's not for feint of heart. I would run this event a hundred times feeling as bad as I did for the feeling of being involved in this event and around this group of people. For that I am eternally grateful and I salute and thank you all xx
I know I may not have produced my finest day in the hills, but I got it done, I made my tribute to Lloydy, so until I'm lining up alongside my friends once more in the Winter, I shall remember that's what is important. I will dust myself down, train hard and I will be back to take my place alongside them and to earn another patch and continue to try and do my brother, my wife and Charliebear proud.
Caz I couldn't do this without you both, thank you for all that you are and all that you do, to the depths of forever Mrs R xxxx