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Snowdonia 7 Race Report

Ironjediby IronjediAug 3rd 2015
Snowdonia 7 Fell / Mountain Race! "What is this?" I hear you ask....

Well, it is a race in The Snowdonia National Park, whereby teams of four complete a 22 mile course over 7 of Snowdonia’s mountain peaks with over 8000ft of ascent with a strict time cut off of 10 hours. There are also various time cuts (very tight timewise) along the way. In order to finish with a placing, teams need to finish as a complete team of four. Due to the fact that the race involves going over mountains there is the normal safety equipment and kit that has to be carried. Planning for this race began months ago and two teams were formed.

I became part of the team 'Running 4 Cake'. We entered the mixed category with our strong team consisting of Helen, Grant, Joanne and I. During the build up to the race, the ladies in the team went up to Snowdonia on a couple of occasions to scope the route. This would prove vital on race day. Everyone had trained hard for the race and we were praying to the weather gods for decent weather. Our other team were called “Team 46” due to the fact that they were were an all-male team of experienced ultra-runners. The testosterone in this team was strong!

The praying to the weather gods clearly didn’t work as the weather forecast was not good for the race. We all got up there on the Friday night and made it to the briefing in good time. There were a number of teams in the mixed category and my goal of coming in the top 3 looked out of reach. I kept telling the others that we were there to have a good time and it didn’t matter as long as we finished. In essence that was true but my competitive nature meant that I wanted to be placed as a team and get round in under 8 hours. So the only thing left to do was eat. I smashed a Fish and Chip supper and we had an early night.
On Saturday morning the weather looked fairly miserable. We made our way to the start ready for the 8am off. The race started at the cattle grids at the beginning of the LLanberis Path and by now it had started to drizzle. I kept thinking it would pass and didn’t bother to put a waterproof on. We started at a walk due to the steepness of the path, Team 46 sped off, led by “Mike the mountain goat”. I didn't think we would be seeing them again until the end! As we progressed along the path, the terrain became easier to run on. At this point the weather closed in, the mist came down and the rain and wind became heavier. After about 1 hour 30 minutes we made it to the summit of Snowdon 1085M (CP1). By now visibility was almost non-existent. Joanne and I hadn’t put our coats on until almost at the top and in hindsight that was a mistake, which Joanne would pay for later. After dibbing in to the checkpoint, we had to get over to Garnedd Ugain 1065M (CP2) and then down to Pen-Y-Pass (CP3) YHA within the 3 hour cut off. As we headed down the Miner’s track, footings were really treacherous. I went over on my ankle a couple of times but fortunately nothing too serious. As we hit the flatter section by the two lakes we were up against the time but our pace increased and we made good progress. It felt nice to actually be running. I flew down ahead so as to get some video footage of the team coming down. There is a real sense of excitement when you dance over the rocks and your brain is working ten to the dozen to process what your eyes are seeing. One wrong foot step and it could be Goodnight Vienna! It was an amazing feeling.
We made it Pen-Y-Pass with only 10 minutes to spare. The time cut-off was very tight, particulary with the poor weather conditions. We weren’t aware how many teams were in front but had a good idea that there were quite a few behind. They were going to struggle to make the cut. We filled our water bottles and headed up the route behind the YHA Hostel towards Llyn Caseg-Fraith. This section traversed some damp boggy moorland which was very wet underfoot with loads of grass tussocks, again making running hazardous for the ankles. I managed to go over on my ankle once more and being in an already weakened state, I lagged behind the rest of the team. The mist eventually cleared a little and I simply admired the views as I slowly plodded along. At (CP4) we caught up with about five other teams who were struggling in the mist which had again closed in. The wind was still howling into our faces. Visibility was almost zero again at the top. We seemed to be the lead team amongst this group, helped by the fact that the ladies had previously scoped the route. Helen had to get the compass out to follow a bearing and we seemed to be just running into the abyss but I had total faith in her as she lead us to Glyder Fach 994M (CP5).

The rain had now stopped, however the air was still damp and the mist blocking our vision as we headed over the Glyders range. I was really looking forward to this section having not been over this part of Snowdon since I was a teenager. I was however not going to get the chance to see the views in all their glory today.
At CP6 Castell-Y-Gwynt 972M I could see that Joanne was starting to lag behind a little, she had stopped talking and was starting to turn an ashen grey colour. I chatted to the Marshal just to get an idea of how many teams were in front. I was shocked to find that we were the 17th team through meaning there were at least another 40 teams behind us. He also told me that due to the inclement weather, the time cut offs had been extended by an hour to give people a chance to make it through. So we were now well up on time and in fact were increasing our buffer for the time cuts at every CP. I told the rest of the team how well we were doing which I think gave us all a little boost. I immediately thought about catching the teams in front to better our chances of a prize however Joanne was now on complete shut down mode. She was encountering problems for two reasons; she had let herself get too wet and was burning calories just trying to keep warm plus she had not eaten much on route, in addition to the fact that she ate almost the square root of nothing the night before. We had all noticed her decline and started getting food and drink into her. Our pace slowed whilst this was done and we watched for an improvement. There was no way we were not finishing this race as a four. On the climb up towards Glyder Fawr 1000M (CP) I pushed Joanne almost all the way whilst various bits of food were forced into her mouth by the rest of the team!

At the top of the (CP) I could see the Marshals eying Joanne up as a potential race casualty. Whilst Helen force fed her some lucozade, kindly donated by one of the marshals, myself and Grant rammed jelly babies into her mouth. She looked like a bird being fed. You could physically see the colour coming back into her face, Joanne was on her way back to us. As we set off Joanne had to eat all manner of food provided by the team. Most memorable I’m sure will be Grant's cheese and pickle sandwiches. With every step she was coming back to life. The mist by now had also cleared and despite the wind, the sun was out. We were treated to some amazing views as we headed down the two last peaks - Y-Garn 947M and Foel Goch 800M and then up and straight to the base of Elidir Fawr 923M. We were constantly chasing the teams ahead and by the base of the mountain we were in 15th place. Joanne and Helen were ploughing on and Grant and I were lagging behind, me in particular as I was having a bit of grief from my right knee. At the bottom we came across two horses who were very inquisitive and could clearly smell Grant's cheese and pickle sarnies. It was very funny to watch, Grant being chased by a horse over the stile. With Grant out of their reach, they turned their attention on me and I had to push my way through as they were blocking the path and the stile.

We reached the base of the mountain, ran along the power station road and headed to the finish. As we approached the line I could see that 'Team 46' had also finished. They had completed the course in 7 hours, were 7th overall and 3rd male team.

We crossed the line in 7 hours 39 minutes as 15th team overall and had to be in with a shout of a placing. We quickly found out that we were 2nd mixed team and would win a prize. Happy days! Both teams would take to the podium for two separate categories. We had our photos taken and then celebrated with a nice cup of tea (I had been craving this since the first drop of rain hit my head earlier that morning) and a cup of jelly beans.

What a spectacular race with an amazing team. Teamwork had been key as we had all struggled at various times. It was superb to all finish together and to achieve a podium place was an added bonus. In hindsight this was maybe a risky race for me to take part in, with loads of potential for injury in the lead up to my Triple Ironman in September, however I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, even with the shocking weather. Just over a week to go !!!!

Running 4 Cake hope to return next year!!!

Running 4 Cake short film :)

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