Thursday, 30 July 2015

Snowdonia Trail half marathon: 26/7/2015

So far in my short amateur running career I have completed 22 half marathons and the Snowdonia Trail half marathon was probably toughest but most enjoyable half marathon of all of them.  I originally signed up to do the full marathon but due to a busy schedule of races especially competing in NSRRA.  I decided to be sensible and only do the half marathon.

Left to Right: Fred, Me and Sam

I was running this race along with a couple of good friends Fred who also opted to do the half following a recovery from a recent illness and Sam who decided to still the run the full marathon distance.

Wet and windy conditions outside race HQ

In the few days before the race, I stayed at my parent’s caravan on the Llŷn Peninsula which is a 45 minute drive away from the start of the race.   The weather forecast for the race was windy, cold with persistent heavy rain.  On the day of the race the weather forecast was correct, I arrived in Llanberis to absolutely horrendous weather conditions.  I immediately got kitted up (waterproofs were definitely required) applied plenty of vasoline (runners know why) and I caught up with Fred and Sam.   One of the worst parts of race was the 10 – 15 minutes before the race.  All the runners were crammed in the starting pen located in the field next to Electric Mountain to listen to pre-race safety briefing.  There was a small tent to shelter 100’s of runners so most people were already cold and wet before the race had even began.

Fred and Sam had located themselves nearer to the front of the pen whilst I stayed towards the back.  The race had started we left the field crossed over the road then headed along the high street before heading up Capel-Coch road and onto Ceunant street.  The road steepens before passing the YMCA located part of the way.  When the road had steepened loads of people stopped running and started to power walk up the hill.  I found it really difficult to overtake due to the volume of runners at this stage of the race.  Weaving in and out I managed to continue running as the road became telegraph road.   The best way to describe telegraph road is a farmer’s track with lots of loose materials, definitely unsuitable for anything other than a tractor or an off-road 4 x 4.  It was still very cold and wet, I was feeling despite the cold conditions despite wearing water proof layers.   I managed to still overtake a few people who had started to walk.

Telegraph road climb

At top of telegraph road we were greeted with marshals at Cwm Brwynog.  This point marks the first bit of descent in the race after 5 miles of climbing, I stop for a quick toilet break before pegging downhill across boggy terrain with extensive cover of Juncus.  At the bottom of this descent is the Snowdon ranger’s path and the point where marathon runners separate from the half marathon runners.  Marathon veered right to do the additional miles before Snowdon whilst half marathon runners veered left up the Snowdon rangers path to the summit of Snowdon.    At this point, I had warmed up from the quick run-down hill and descent strip off the waterproof jacket.  Also after the split the number of runner were stretched as majority of runners were running the full distance marathon.  I continued running along the rangers track until I reached the steep zigzags.  It was this point I decided to put on my water proofs back on and join the masses that were power walking towards the summit.   The weather was quite bad at this stage with wind and rain not mention very poor visibility.  I glance down at my watch to find it read 25 m/m so it was definitely a slow final ascent towards the summit.  

Once I reached or the finger stone which is technically not quite the summit, I gotten quite cold.  Now that I am starting to descend again I tried to start running again.  A few paces was required for me to get going again.  I briefly spoke to a fellow runner on the top as I gradually built up speed on the descent of the Llanberis path.  The first part of is really steep and I lacked to the confidence to run down at speed and I found myself clambering down periodically using the fence for support.  Once I had gotten pass this section I had the confidence to hammer the quads and run down at speed.   I glance down at my watch to see that on average I was 7:00 m/m downhill and even sneaked under 7 a couple of times basically my pace was 4 times faster down hill than the final stages of the up hill.   Just before the halfway café I had caught up with 4 runners I ran with them for a moment before flying pass them.  Just a bit further on I had a brief chat with another runner from Ireland before shooting off.  At this point many hikers had realised that there was a race going on.  Most of them moved to the side and cheered as I went past.   At the bottom of the Llanberis path is a tarmac section, this was probably the worse bit as running on tarmac in trail shoes is not very comfortable.  Any the tarmac section was shortened as the route was diverted through a forest trail just after the Penceunant Tea Rooms.   This trail was quite boggy corresponding to the volume of rain and numerous exposed roots provided plenty of trip hazards. 

The final 3 miles was a bit of a nasty surprise.  At 10 miles I had arrived back into Llanberis but to make it up to half marathon distance there was a loop of the Dinorwig slate quarries.  The ascent was sharp and steep, once again I was reduced power walking in parts.  Some of the exposed slate was also quite slippy due to the wet weather conditions.  The route zig zag past some of the old historic workings during the ascent 3 or 4 people passed me.   However once I had reached the top I was able to descend again at speed overtaking the runners that had passed on the way up and also passing a couple more people.   At the bottom of the quarries a friend of mine was marshalling and gave me a shout.  I know that I was home and dry (not really that dry), I was able to conjure up a sprint finish overtaking one final runner before crossing the finishing line in a gun time of 2:38:14 and a chip time of 2:37:29.  I finished in 40th place out of 278 runners which was quite satisfying.  Fred had finished in 4th place and a good 30 mins before me.  I went to see the sport therapist and got massage, I also got myself a pizza and cheered the others that crossed the finishing line.

finishing medal

The Snowdonia trail half marathon was the most gruelling half marathon I have ever ran.  The weather was absolutely shocking and I loved every second of it.  Even though as I write this blog post 4 days on I find the stairs to be a painful experience, I really looking forward to running it again next year.

Things that I have learnt:

  • Fell running is more technically challenging than road running
  • Fell running is more fun than road running
  • Fell running is better than road running
  • I want to run more fell and less road in the future

Race split times for each mile

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