Paddy Buckley Record
19th May 2013
Anyone that has known me since 2005 knows that the Paddy Buckley means a lot to me. From that first day in July 2005 when I uttered the words “well the BG wasn’t so bad, I’d like to try something really hard” and so looked to the Paddy. It was a shock to me back then just how hard the Paddy was. I had to up my game considerably and then after a failed wet weather attempt in May 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer which transformed my life and for a while my aspirations. It was the Paddy that brought me back. Throughout the cancer treatment I kept returning to Wales and training for my next attempt. In May 2007 I completed in 23.55. Since then I have got better and faster and achieved many things I wouldn’t have thought possible.
The Paddy record crept into my head a couple of years ago but I pushed it aside and went for the BG record which was not as hard a record to break. This spring after a couple of postponements on the BG record due to snow I lost motivation for it. I believe that to do your best in any challenge you have to be scared of it. That’s what sharpens you up, gets you to put everything in and be 100% prepared. I really wanted the Paddy but it was a huge decision for me to change my plans and go for it. I went to Wales in the snow and did two legs on schedule and just loved being there. That was decision made – it was time to return to Wales.
I told my support and worked out a schedule based on averages of times of people that were legends. The record has stood for 22 years, held by Anne Johnston at 19 hours and 19 minutes. There were a lot of times I questioned what I was doing but kept on planning. My support were great; one minute going to the Lakes; the next to Wales! The weekend approached and the weather was all over the place; basically a huge washing machine on the Rinse Plus cycle was sat over the UK. I delayed from Saturday to Sunday and reorganised support.
Charmian Heaton picked me up on Saturday afternoon; we drove over to Wales and then made a circuit of all the changeover points as she was to be my road support. At 10pm we were at Capel and in bed. I had already decided that I was going to wear a X-bionic bra top that I'm testing for Racekit with Patagonia knickers. Then I went for the reliable combination of Raidlight 3/4's over Raidlight shorts as I could run comfortably wearing both and be ready to take off the 3/4's as soon as I needed. I then teamed the Haglof Active cool baselayer with my old favourite Raidlight T-shirt over that. Socks were of course X-socks and shoes were relatively new Inov-8 Mudclaws – for the unbeatable grip, I know they will trash my feet.
I had two kits bags ready for supporters so that if one got left behind the next supporters could use the 2nd bag which did happen most of the time; the bags did alternate legs ! All my clothes/ food/drinks bags were labelled up and Charmian had lots of instructions about road duties!
At 3am on Sunday morning the weather was good. Cold at 6C, with a light N wind and the clouds had cleared to give a clear night. Leg 1 supporters Rob Woodall, Karl Steinegger and Chris Bayham Hughes were ready and keen! After touching the cafe pillar post we set off along the road and I was glad to get going; this was a very daunting task for me and I needed to assess it; the pace and my eating. We climbed well concentrating on going the right way in the dark. At the summit of Moel Siabod we had already lost a minute on the 1st split which wasn't good but I tried not to panic. I found the nice unrocky route off and we were soon at the next summit having gained a minute so I tried to relax and stay calm. My stomach felt sick and I knew I had to get that sorted; I can’t move fast if I feel sick. I asked for a banana, a bar and then a rice pudding. We all moved very well along the ridge discussing route choices and getting good lines. After a couple of hours my stomach felt good and so did I which is very unusual for me and I tried to slow the pace down a little; worrying I would pay for it later. I had planned to gain about 10 minutes on schedule on the 1st leg then (because I didn’t think there was anything more to make) to stay on schedule for the rest of the round. I was worried about the schedule as it seemed very fast in the last two legs.
We got to the quarries and met Wayne Percival who had made up tomato soup; it tasted so good I had two cups! I was in good spirits as we had done the split to the quarries in 17 minutes; as fast as Mark Hartell!! So the first bit of my plan had worked; now for the rest. Taking on supplies we were quickly off along to Moelwyn Bach along the track I usually hate. It went quickly and I was pleased to be on schedule; that’s what I had to do now for the next 16 hours - stay on schedule..
Meeting Wayne again on our return to Cnict I couldn’t believe how I was actually looking forward to Cnict! I have been back to Wales quite often since my rounds in 2006 and 2007 but in preparation for this round I had only been on Legs 4 and 5 in the snow at Easter. People said “Have you been reccying lots” and I had to reply “No”. But I have spent so much time reccying and supporting that I didn’t want to re-recce really. I planned to run on auto pilot but I was a bit worried that when tired I would forget bits. I wanted this attempt to be a “Paddy revisitation” and to welcome each hill as it came along. There were some hills I was dreading though – Snowdon, Elidir Fach and Pen Yr Ole Wen especially as I’m not good climbing the 1st hill after eating. But I kept pushing negative thoughts out of the way and flew up Cnict. My support were flagging but caught us on the descent and along the road we chatted which made it pass quickly. At the Aberglasyn and I was pleased to see all the food laid out. I wanted soup but ate pasta instead. I had made it spicy and it was good. Talking off my ¾’s and Haglof top I grabbed a full schedule instead of a map and we were off.
Leg 2 support were new to me as they had offered their services on recommendation! They were Anthony Bethell, John Whilock and Simon Reed along with Glen Borrill; a fellow Dark Peak runner. We set off me listening to them chatting while I digested food. Bryn Banog can be a pig but I followed them on a new line I was pleased to reach the top 1 minute up on schedule. I was still eating well; it was to be the key to my success – banana and rice pud on Moel Hebog then a Tunnock bar on the descent. I was drinking like a fish; the support had 4 bottles per leg (water, energy drink (High 5 Extreme), coke and lucozade sport) and I must have drunk 3 per leg. I was pleased that my legs were climbing well still and I wasn’t out of breath. We passed along the route smoothly with Anthony leading the way. He knew some cracking lines and we were soon climbing Mynedd Elor and then up onto Trum. The rocks were so dry we moved fast across the ridge to Y Garn taking a high level line that would have been scary in the wet or wind! Descending down to Pont Caer Gors we had made more time up but moreover I was beginning to realise that the record could be possible. There was still a long way to go though! More pasta was eaten and rice pudding “to go” was ordered.
Leg 3 support; Mary Gillie (a new friend) and Tom Westgate, Mark Harvey and Simon Rippon were old regulars but they started off a little enthusiastically with the “food pushing” and I snapped at them eventually. I was thinking about what to have next and didn’t need to have potatoes pushed under my nose! Putting in an order of banana and rice pud kept them busy (and quiet). I think I surprised them by eating so well; not like the usual Nicky they support. Mary found the good line up Craig Wen that I once knew but had partially forgotten so I was very grateful to her. Once on the ridge I asked for energy drink but as I drank I thought “I don’t like that flavour and so won’t have anymore”. Then ate half a tub of past but as soon as it hit the drink in my stomach whoosh the whole lot came back up. I tried eating some more desperate to get something down but also that came back up. Standing there thoughts of my 2007 round shot into my head when I was sick on Snowdon and my stomach was horrendous from then on. I was trying to push that memory away when Mark Harvey said “Come on, at least walk”. I glared at him and walked. I said “Water please” then took a few steps, “pasta please” and I took a tiny spoon and gave it back straight away. A few more steps “pasta please” “water please”. And on we went with Mark walking beside me handing me stuff until my stomach was ok. A banana and another rice pud by Snowdon and all was well. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and cheered up!
A train had just arrived and Snowdon was packed. Mary was funny running ahead calling “Make way please; this lady is trying to break a record. You can cheer her on if you like. Her name is Nicky”. And the walkers / tourists were all very good – it was very surreal especially the calls of “Well done Nicky, you’re nearly there!”. Up the steps I ran passed the queue to touch the trig. I came back off the same way to avoid going against the flow and down the main path leaping round the masses of coats, bags and flailing sticks. All the time Mary calling out “Make way please, this lady is breaking a record” out in front. It was nice to get out of the ‘shopping mall throng’ and be running up to Crib y Ddysgyl with the dreaded Snowdon behind me. Then on we ran over to Moel Cynghhorien and onto Moel Eileo. Running down the ridge towards Llanberis I consciously looked across to the quarries at Elidir Fach, “I’m ready for you” I thought and it was good to know.
At the changeover I decided on fruit salad as it was getting hot and as also I know from experience that once you've been sick on something somehow your stomach or head isn't that keen on it again for a while! The fruit salad was refreshing. More rice puds ‘to go’ and off up the quarries I went.
Leg 4 support consisted of Willy Kitchen( who I was confident would know some good lines as he had achieved the Paddy in 2012), Tim Rippon and Rob Cole; both good Dark Peak runners. I knew the record was possible now. All I had to do was stay on schedule for another 6 hours. I pushed quite hard up Elidir Fach and was surprised we lost a minute. On we went up Elidir Fawr and gained a minute. Then lost a minute when I stopped to eat a rice pud. Willy said "Whenever you want to up the pace, just tell us" and I knew something was wrong. I fiddled with my watch as it kept telling me I was using “0 Cals” which was highly annoying and not useful (or even true) when I needed it to show my "Current Split Time". Eventually I got it sorted however lost another minute to Foel Goch in the process. “Right, I need to up the pace” I thought and up it I did. That worked; we stayed on schedule to Y Garn and then on through the Glyders and onto Tryfan.
Mary popped out the clag off Glyder Fawr to shout us in the right direction down Bristly Ridge but Willy had it nailed. I was making the supporters work now with the increased speed and while Willy was trying to find good lines up Tryfan I was breathing down his neck but I wasn’t going to let the record go now. He thankfully got out of my way on the descent off Tryfan and I ran down to Glandana after Tim Rippon.
I thought back to when I first saw Tryfan in 2005 and it scared the life out of me! Huge, black and domineering. The descent used to bring me out in a cold sweat; I dreaded it most of all the round. I decided that I had to get over this fear. Practise was needed and practise I did. It worked; I can now relax and switch off and even though I didn't think I was coming down very fast my supporters have since said "I was flying down it".
The last road stop - Glandana. There was the van all set out for me. More fruit salad, rice pud and gels 'to go'. And a fresh set of support in Keith Holmes, Nick Cable, Brent Lindsey and Martyn Goodwin. Through the stop and off along the road I went.
I looked up at the clag with trepidation. I wanted to keep pushing the pace but I also know I have to ease off while the food digests otherwise it tends to make a reappearance. Plodding up Pen Yr Ole Wen I had a stubborn moment and went off on some spurious line I thought I remembered only to have to track back to the top where the others were waiting. I was furious with myself “Chuffing hell, frame yourself and get this job done” I thought. On we ran in the clag; the supporters now making an error by telling me I was on Carnedd Ddafydd (and so were 30 minutes up) however we hadn’t got to it yet. But now I was on the ball and knew we needed to continue but didn't want to waste time arguing so touched it and carried on. Then touched the real top as well!
The clag slowed us down and I was glad I had re-reccied this section. Losing more minutes was worrying but then without notice the clag started to disappear and the mountain tops opened up all around us poking their heads out above the cloud. I listened to the supporters reeling them off but was too busy to look. Brent said “Look back Nicky” and I did. It was perfect; the sun was setting over Snowdon, a total cloud inversion all the way round.
Then the brockenspectors started and they were so much fun that we were all waving and cheering, making shadows in them. Nick took a photo and whooped as he said “It’s come out brilliantly”.
I really wanted to finish now and so looked across to the last two hills “Bloody hell; they’re miles away”. Quickly checking my watch I was off, upping the pace once more. Scrambling up Pen Yr Helgi Du and then across to the last hill; Pen Llithrig y Wrach. I couldn’t believe I was touching it and then running down, down and more down.
Finding the good trods and leaping bogs the legs felt great "What’s happening to me?" I was pushing and pushing, expecting to cramp up or fall in a huge bog at any moment as the light failed. Onto the road with supporters cheering. "Arms up, knees up, keep it going" I thought. I rounded the corner and aimed for the exact cafe post I left that morning.
What a moment !! I had done the Paddy Buckley in 19 hours and 2 minutes. “It’s a pity about 2 minutes” someone said. I couldn’t care less. I, Nicky Spinks had broken the Ladies Paddy Buckley record.
On reflection it was one of those days we all dream about when everything falls into place and makes all the hard work so worthwhile. I knew that the day needed to go smoothly for me to break this formidable record but it really surpassed all my hopes. Many thanks to all my hill and road support. It was a great team effort; I know I hold the record but it was you that made it possible.
This is a spreadsheet of my Schedule and Actuals.xls and I have uploaded all the photos to the Gallery .