The Welsh 3000’ers is amongst my favourite mountain routes in the UK. The V3K summits all 15 of the Welsh 3000ft peaks in a linear race encompassing the Snowdon massive, Glyderau and the Carneddau. I knew most of the route well through races such as The Dragons Back and Welsh 1000s and through Paddy Buckley Round recces so I had no excuses to get lost. The race has now become quite mainstream as it is part of the UK Skyrunning series so it is easy to forget the philosophy behind the event. The organisers are ‘ethical vegans’, meaning they adhere to a vegan diet because they do not want cause animals any pain, fear or cruelty. They believe everyone is equal regardless of their race, gender or species. At the race briefing the race director, Kirsch, stated ‘we want to show you that you can run over all these mountains without hurting anyone’. They were not trying to impose veganism upon us (well, they were for race day), but show us how it could be done. The night before the race we were treated with a pasta dish followed by the most incredible vegan chocolate cake. The organisers were certainly doing well so far!
I heard the news the night before the race that the course record holder and my main competition, Sarah Ridgeway, was ill and would not be racing. I had mixed feeling about this; part of me was disappointed and I was feeling strong and looking forward to a good race, but it also meant that I might not have to put in maximal effort therefore could recover quicker and go straight back into normal training after the race.
We had about 3hrs sleep in the back of the car the night before the race and were ready to take the bus to the race start at 4am. It wasn’t ideal race prep but the atmosphere amongst fellow competitors on the bus was buzzing and I soon forgot about being tired. At 5am we couldn’t have been happier to get going as we were being eaten alive by midges at the start.
The race begins with a long ascent into the clag to the summit of Snowdon. This climb seemed to go on forever. I was surrounded by sweaty men, huffing and puffing, and I had to try hard to keep at my own comfortable pace rather than ‘race’ to the first summit. We then proceeded along the Crib Goch ridge, the most technical section of the route. I have done Crib Goch several times before and seem to take a slightly different route every time. It was difficult to go at my own pace as there were so may runners about and overtaking wasn’t particularly safe. I still really enjoyed it. We then descended the north ridge of Crib Goch to Nant Peris and the first aid station. I only learnt about this run off recently and do believe it is by far the best way up Snowdon to avoid the crowds. By Nant Peris the field had started to spread out and I could relax into a comfortable rhythm for the next monster climb up Elidir Fawr. The clag with thick about 500m and it was a shame not to be able to take in the views.
As it was a Skyrunning race the course had to be flagged. In some areas where the visibility was ok we were just about able to follow the marked route, however up high the flags were just too far apart and it was impossible to use them as your only navigational aid. My route choice certainly wasn’t optimal as if you are in ‘flag following’ mode then lose all the flags you don’t know where you are and its harder to get back on track. If I had run on my own bearings, then I’d be more confident I wouldn’t go off course but you are in theory breaking the event rules by not following the marked course. As a consequence, I did a combination of the two and probably lost a few minutes here and there.
The sun did break through intermittently whilst I was going over Y Garn but when I reached the Glyders visibility was extremely poor again (as it almost always is up there!). The next frustration was that we couldn’t find the checkpoint on Glyder Fach. There was a few of us grouped together at this point scrambling all over the rocky summit searching for the dibber. Eventually we gave up and ran on. Descending towards Tryfan I feeling quite downhearted and assumed we’d be disqualified. We then came across some marshals and the checkpoint about 1km from the summit. I was relieved but slightly annoyed this had not been communicated to us! The final summit on this leg was Tryfan. I love this mountain and the interesting rocky scramble up, but my knees really complain about the descent. This was the third time in 3 weeks I had run off Tryfan and my knees have enjoyed it less every time!
At the second aid station at Ogwen I heard that I was well clear of the second women so I was able to relax for the last leg. It was great to have support at the checkpoints from the Raidlight crew – Ant & Dave Bethell. I climbed Pen yr Ole Wen with Ant then continued on with Oli Mitchell. It was nice to have some company – thanks Oli! The Carneddau came and went fairly uneventfully (aside from another navigational mishap on the traverse to Yr Elen). I finished in 9hrs 24mins, with Katie Boden coming in 42 mins later to take 2nd place.
It was a great day out in the mountains, despite the poor visibility. On the whole I felt really good throughout, although the hills did start to take their toll on the final leg over the Carneddau. On the veganism front I didn’t try anything new or drastic. Luckily most gels are vegan so I stuck to them in addition to enjoying the wonderful cake at checkpoints. However, the best food was yet to come. We were treated to an incredible post-race vegan feast. I couldn’t quite put a name to many of the foodstuffs that were produced but it all tasted amazing. Especially the pakora. This was followed by yet more cake, a bar and live music. It was a great way to finish a hard day out even though I didn’t manage to stay awake after 10pm. Despite some route finding frustrations, I thought Kirsch and her team put on a great event and I hope to be back next year.