The first weekend of September saw one of my favourite challenges from last year having another visit.
Unfortunately due to inclimate weather last year we were unable to summit Snowden on this mammoth 22-mile trail race. However, this year was a different story.
Man V Mountain entails the following:
I and two friends started off in a later wave which is always disconcerting with the worry of being one of the last over the finish line. However, with confirmation that we would be going to be climbing to the top of Snowden this year, spirits were high!
We started this run lightheartedly for the first mile which was on the flat, chatting and having a laugh. However, once the hills started, we began to recall how difficult this race was. The chat faded and the music buds went in.
The boys were quite happy running up the hills. However, I have always been one for power walking up inclines, running flat and sprinting hell for leather downhill. I waste energy trying to run uphill and to be honest my uphill power walking is far superior to my attempt at uphill running.
We did not waste time at checkpoints. It more resembled three four-year-olds at a sweet buffet, grab, go and stuff face while running away. Personally, my legs were beginning to feel it at the first checkpoint, which was not great as it was only 5 miles or so in. Therefore, stopping was not on the cards for fear of seizing up so soon.
After what seemed like forever of running on roads we eventually had a delightful downhill trail run, yippee! However, it was only after having a jolly down here that you recall you have all that ground to make up again, sigh.
Finally an excuse to walk! On reaching the bottom of the single track up to Snowden Summit it was clear that everyone would finally be walking, the two boys included. Enter, Emmelia overtaking people with epic power walking. Unfortunately one of the guys was struggling, cramp I do believe.
We took it fairly easy up to the top of the mountain pass and once again bombed downhill to the foot of Snowden. A leisurely jog along the valley to the start of the steep incline saw us overtake a number of people from the waves beforehand which is always going to spur you on.
Optimistic about how we were doing, after bossing the road run and valley climb so far, we set off at a quick power walk. We got to the point were last years climb finished. Now, last year we were told this was halfway up Snowden, that was a vicious lie, it was not even a third of the way up. As we continued to climb it was obvious that not only us but everyone around us was beginning to get a little bit peeved by how long this was taking. The terrain was slippery and steep (as you would expect I guess!) but it just kept going, false peak after false peak.
Scott's cramp was getting bad, I was getting hungry and snappy, and Robin was being ace making sure we all kept going. The only redeeming factor about the second half of the climb were the views. Turning around to be met by what could only be described as oil painting scenery. It is the seeing how far you have come that makes you want to keep going.
After a rather long time trudging up Snowden's steep paths we came across the summit photographer. Finally, we could start bombing downhill and make up some time. Photos were taken, food and water consumed, jackets taken off and music out, it was time for our classic downhill sprints.
At this time it was just after midday, so the trails were all exceedingly busy. However, we did not let this stop us. As soon as we turned around at the summit, we tore downhill. I was too busy looking at the stunning views and took a few stumbles; it was after one that landed me on a grass verge on top of an unsuspecting Duke of Edinburgh girl that I decided to look where I was going.
The ground was hard, rocky and in no way level at all. Most competitors jogged or walked down, carefully placing their feet, a lot how I used to when I started OCR trial running. Fortunately, over the years I have learnt that it makes more sense to just go for it, trust your feet, trust your reactions and take off. I can honestly say this is the most fun in any race, it is like a video game, spotting where to place your feet at high speeds. Wind in your hair, dodging all humans that get in your way, mastering the terrain, you feel like a superhero.
A lot of people commented on our speed downhill, most disapprovingly, muttering that we were going to quick and would end up injured. Maybe one day I will become damaged from such running, but for the time being, I plan on enjoying it!
At the base of the downhill was another pit stop for food and drink. This is where it all went a bit wrong…
Based on how well we were doing we decided that we could afford a bit of time at this pit stop eating all the biscuits (7 club bars, two packs of crisps, 10 Jaffa Cakes). This was a huge mistake, HUGE! We set off stuffed, and colic began to set in. I could not run without wanting to throw up, and Robin was also complaining of having eaten too much. We slowly jogged to Llanberris feeling sorry for ourselves, full of chocolate and orange squash. Note: this is NOT a winning combination.
Once in Llanberris you deposit your running bag (at the finish line) and head out for the 'fun' part of the race. At this point we knew what was coming and were dreading it, last year it was anything but fun. The fact the bag drop is within spitting distance of the finish line is a slight mental test. The only thing I wanted to do at this point was to keep running, past the bag drop and up to my medal. We ran along the road, Robin doing a few necessary street scene pull-ups on route, and eventually reached the bottom of the vertical kilometre.
Anyone that has walked up and down Snowden will probably say they were ready for a cup of tea after and rest. They will not say they wanted to hike up a kilometre of steep steps afterwards.
I grumbled, Robin swore, and we began to trek up through the slate mine. Legs by this point were not overly happy, and we had slowed right down. At the top, I could not even run anymore on the flat my legs were shot. Alas, there was a nice downhill coming up! We meandered out way down the hill back towards our bags. The last stint of this downhill was once again rough and rugged terrain leading to a new lease of life. Happy Emmelia was back.
Anyone that has done a Rat Race event in the past will know they like to put a few things at the end to jazz up their runs. This race has a dive board jump into a natural cavern lake, an abseil, a slide into the lakes and some swimming. I always find it amazing how you suddenly have the energy to do the fun things. The slide has to be the best you sit at the top looking at what is a pretty spectacular view and are then plummeted into a fresh lake.
Negative to this is cramp decided to pop its head up. However, when you are so close to the finish and are in a chipper mood, you do not care that your leg is about to fall off.
After a final swim and near suffocation of life jackets (Rat Race insist you wear them at water) we collected our bags. Sprinted to the finish. Took off up to the top of the rope climb. Came down the rope as majestically as a drunk elephant. Ran to our well-deserved medals and food. We also found Scott here would we had to leave at the top of Snowden due to cramp. Top bloke that he is finished despite this setback. We changed, ate all the food and lay in the sun basking in how hard this was compared to last year.
I went into this race thinking it would be the same as the previous year. I did not think that going to the summit would not make much of a difference. It made all the difference. We spent an extra hour plus climbing Snowden. This totally battered our legs, made us exceedingly fatigued and ultimately slowed us right down. It did not help that we did not hang around on the 13-mile road run at the start either. I pushed myself to keep up with the boys, and my legs did not thank me for it at all.
Overall a much tougher challenge from Man V Mountain 2016, but once again an event well worth doing. I learnt a lot about fueling during long hours of exercise which is going to be vital for Iron Man. All in all, not a wasted weekend.