There was just one moment during this event where I wondered if I was going to finish. Over halfway up Snowdon for the second time and I was suddenly feeling nauseous. It was hot and still, and a few people had stopped to wretch, some on all fours. This was about five hours and 24km into the 56km event. A lot of people hadn’t adjusted their pace to warm conditions and were not taking on enough liquids. I stopped, sat on a boulder, turned to look at the clear view across the range, and took some deep breaths. I chewed up some bar in my mouth, added some drink and pushed down a swallow. After a few minutes the feeling of sickness passed. It was frustrating to watch people pass me as I took this time out. But I had sorted myself and could carry on.
I’d say I took a very practical approach to the whole race. I didn’t attack the first ascent of Snowdon despite all the music, drums and PA hype in the starting pen at the slate mine museum. I didn’t rush through aid stations. I stopped at streams to soak my clothes. I didn’t run fast down mountains. I struck up conversations (it’s nice to talk to people as it distracts you from discomfort and can be quite energising). I changed my bog-wet socks before blisters became too bad. And I stopped and rested on the climbs to bring my heart rate down when I was running out of steam. I used my poles properly (I like to use them on steep rocky scrambles too where others use their hands). I ate at least every hour. And I had a good idea of a realistic pace to get in well before cut-off times. This was based on mountain reps I had been doing in the Lake district (Blencathra, Hellvelyn, and Scafell) for terrain specific training. These first-time visits to the big Lakeland mountains were a real highlight of my spring.
So basically, I was captain sensible. And this is what I was proud about given I started running in 2019. I don’t often feel proud. But I’d actively taken lots of decisions to be able to sufficiently progress and complete a hard mountain race where 250 of 1126 did not finish. Being sensible isn’t being boring when it allows you to do extreme things.
In terms of the experience, I had a great weekend. The Snowdon massif was showing everything it had to offer with the clear blue sky, which is the sort of thing I love. There were plenty of proper craggy mountain views with waterfalls and plunge pools, some with tourists having a swim. There were long stony sections of the mountains that were very steep where progress, either up or down, was slow for all but the elite runners (winner was 5:27!!)
There was good camaraderie amongst the competitors which turned into good gallows humour as the event took its toll. At times things were a bit chaotic given it’s a big event and there were throngs of tourists as well as a mountain triathlon happening at the same time, but it all added to the adventure really. There were quite a few injuries and sadly one hiker died and was airlifted away. A reminder to take these things seriously and be careful, as well as have fun.
A good friend had been training for the event too and I met up with him and friends from his running club. They were all much better runners than me and all good fun to be around. Being part of a group adds to the excitement, especially with the war stories afterwards.
The event was not cheap and is pretty commercial as part of the UTMB world series. But that meant there was a real sense of occasion. The noise and merch stalls in the race village would send some running for the hills but I quite like it. I love a good gantry and car window sticker 😀
I haven’t got any other big events planned this year as my family have been patient enough with me training for UTS. But I do have two UTMB stones now, which means I could head over to Chamonix next year, I think. I need to decide whether I enjoyed the cheapness and solitude of the training runs more than the big commercial race culture… I think I like both.
Thanks to Stuart, Graeme, Elaine and all the others at the club for leading the way and inspiring others to have a go at these ridiculous events.
A final thought. I noticed a non-related quote on FB along the lines of “You only fully appreciate a moment when it becomes a memory”. Some truth in that I think.
|Pos||Name||Club||Time||Gen Pos||Cat||Cat Pos|
|1||Thomas Evans||Adidas Terrex / Red Bull||05:27:11||1||M20-34||1|
|10||Johanna Gelfgren||Hoka One One||06:46:51||1||F20-24||1|
|709||Michael Dale||Elvet Striders||12:36:27||558||M40-44||93|
There were 1126 competitors, of whom 876 finished the course.
Full results can be found at UTMB Live.
Information about all the UTMB Snowdonia races is here.