Ultra Tour Snowdonia

100 Mile race with 10,450m of ascent

May 12th 2023

I drove down to Penrith on Thursday and collected Emma Stuart who was also doing the 100 miler race on Thursday. We arrived and headed above Llanberis where we found a lovely place to park the camper albeit 200m above the event centre. We walked down the hill to meet Tori from Inov8 and Halvard in town for a coffee. It was quiet overnight and we both spent time packing before heading to bed. Next morning we were relaxing with plenty of time however about 15 minutes before we were going to leave the van and walk down to Register / Start the race s farmer came by and told us that we had parked in a no parking zone and our vehicle had been photographed and we would be fined/towed etc . He went on to tell us of a free place by some lochans in Llanberis and because there was no way I could leave the van we drove off with Emma googling for other options. With Emma's help I navigated down to the loch side and after a bit of driving up the wrong roads we did find a road that had campers on it and no No Overnight signs so we parked up and headed into Llanberis to register.

Registration went smoothly but I was a bit unnerved by the van episode and just felt like I had forgotten something. I was trying to pack my pack and sort last minute decisions about what to wear/leave in my drop bag etc. I was keen to get going when all pre-race stuff would be over. We met up with Billy Reed and Eoin Keith and passed away 30 minutes before the start chatting. The start was very relaxed and we could head into the Start pen when we liked. There was no loud music or pomp which I was glad about. I don't like all the hype before the UTMB and so I was pleased that we just had a quiet start at 1pm and were off down the road. I saw Matt Neale and ran alongside him on the road and then hiking up the path to Snowdon. I couldn't get into my stride and it all felt very hard work. I stayed with Matt until the top and then I never saw him again.

Running down to Pen y Pass went ok. The legs felt a bit clunky and stiff but I managed to get into a rhythm and after being overtaken by lots of runners I did start to catch a few. I crammed some food in thinking that maybe my lack of oomph was energy related and arrived at Pen y Pass where it was very hot in the sun. I saw coke and filled a flask up with that. Setting off up the path to Glyder Fawr I expected to start overtaking people as climbing is my strength and it just didn't happen. I was working hard to stay with people and I got more and more despondent. I wondered whether I had caught the bug that Steve had, or maybe my sinus infection was affecting me still. It just felt like something was wrong other than legs and breathing. I got to the top of Glyder Fawr where there was a breeze and off we went down to Ogwen and then up and over the col by Tryfan. It had now been about six hours and I was so pissed off that I had been dragging myself round all this time. The thought of 30 odd hours in front of me, possibly all feeling the same was very unappealing and I did consider dropping out. I thought of what I could do instead of finishing and it was quite appealing. I ran into Glandana and saw Eoin Keith so realised that maybe I wasn't doing so bad and that I should just try to carry on a bit. The heat was stiffling in the tents and I tried to sort out what I needed. I took some sandwiches and crisps even though I didn't feel like I was lacking in salt. I set off up Pen Yr Olwen and settled into a bit of a routine. I wasn't climbing like I do usually but I was getting the miles done. I couldn't shake off the feeling of being very grumpy and everyone else seemed to be able to move faster than me with a lot less effort. I was quite disappointed as I love Wales and think the route is great so I was looking forward to it. But something was wrong and I couldn't figure out what. I thoughts I had a bug, or had weirdly over trained but it didn't feel like that, or my sinus infection was affecting more than it had been. I really couldn't understand it. It was cooler on the top of Pen Yr Olwen and running was a bit easier even though it was technical. I was running down Pen du Helgi du towards CP 3 the MCNW hut when I passed David Miller (the photographer) and he asked how is it going?" I shouted back "It's not going great but I'm pulling it round". He just nodded and got his camera out to take that lovely shot of me! I was caught by a runner and I made conversation, trying to make the time pass quicker but he was so happy it was annoying! In the MCNW hut I had some soup and a roll, then left the checkpoint. I had decided that I would finish the race so I wouldn't have to come back. And to see each checkpoint through as it came. Running along the lake loads of runners cruised passed me (or so it seemed) but I was a little pleased that after a few miles I was catching them again. I just kept my breathing regular and found that that helped. The markers were very spread out and through the woods the path was very boggy and it was hard to follow in the dark. I just kept going following my gpx and my nose. Coming into the checkpoint at Capel I was a bit happier as Emma and I had reccied everything from now on so I knew what was in store. Chloe and Michael were outside and shouted across that I was "storming it" which made me smile as that was the last thing I was doing.

I ate some more soup and sorted my bag out a bit to get some more food out. I was carrying quite a lot and I was determined to eat it. I was looking forward to Moel Siabod and we went up into clag really early on - about 500m. I was glad I knew the way and also had my handheld gps. On the top it was thick clag and really cold. I put another layer on and headed down the rocky ridgeline. I think there were a few shocked runners as it was really steep and we couldn't see the markers. Further down I couldn't remember the route and the markers were few and far between. We formed a group of about five runners all scanning for markers and watching our gps's. It was good to get to the bottom and onto the tracks where the others ran off and I ran in steadily. The next section would take us to Blaenau Ffestinog and then onto Creosor - the halfway point! I seemed to be around the same runners now in / out of checkpoints and on the hill. We always crossed paths, with me being steady but consistent and them running off faster at times than me. I was feeling a lot better and concentrating on the eating and route. I realised that it must have been the heat that was getting to me during the day and so I decided that when it was hot on Saturday (which it was forecast to be again) I would slow down and just try to manage myself. When it's hot my legs feel so heavy and I get out of breath really quickly. At Creosor I had a big bowl of chilli and rice which was delicious. It had got light and now I knew I could finish. I could tell that there were a lot of drop outs as at every checkpoint there seemed to be 3 people dropping out. It was a brutal route, what with the climbs, the heat, the bogs, the harsh rocks and the messy navigation. One guy said that the markers should be called Kilometre markers as that's how often they were!

Cnict came and went, as did the pointless boggy hill after it that we had to climb. And then the six miles of Paddy Buckley in reverse boundary ridge. The most unpleasant "path" you could ever hope to be on. It winds it's way through knarly rocks and across deep bogs with the end never getting any nearer. I caught a couple of runners there and one of them, a Frenchman stayed with me. On the descent to the road he said he had learnt a new word that day "Boggy! We don't have boggy in France". The road was hot and I knew that the Nantle Ridge was going to be baking. It was now 8.30am and I had the long valley section to Beddgelert and then up Moel Hebog at midday I estimated. Oh well - I was counting the checkpoints down. Food wasn't great but it was going down. Soup and a cheese roll at the checkpoints then bars, sweets and gels in between. I had drank too much coke so I didn't want any of that. Tea was nice too. I set off along the valley trying to run as I knew Emma would have been - and it's "free running" as she calls it. A man came passed and he was running well so I tried to up my pace a bit. I filled up at the streams to keep cool and drink some more.

Coming into Beddgelert I caught a French lady who looked strong. I tried to be quick in the checkpoint but I wasn't looking forward to Moel Hebog. I left before her and started off up the long, long, steep climb in the heat. It was just relentless. I was dreading the whole section as it's exposed and dry with a couple more steep climbs. Everyone was finding the heat hard work and some runners stopped and gasped for air. At last I got to on Hebog and I could have sat for a rest but no we had to keep going. I had been with one runner for a while and although he was faster on the downs I was stronger on the ups. The field was quite spread out now and I tried to keep with him to make myself push my pace. At least we don't do Moel Ogof (as on the Paddy Buckley) but we contour round to a nice quarry where there were some support marshalls with water there. Off up Trum Ddysagi we went - at least after this we were nearly done as Y Garn was an easy climb and I like the rocks. The flags were inconsistent and I went on the Paddy line then we crossed to the flags in the open moor and dropped into the valley. Halfway down I slipped and cracked my elbow on some rocks. It made me feel sick and I sat down immediately on the ground. A couple of walkers stopped and the runner I was running with stopped too. I really felt ill and I quickly took the top off my water and poured it over my head. Oh that was better so I got up and we continued down. The man was faster on the flat than me so went off ahead. I didn't want to feel sick again so took it steady into the checkpoint. But only three more sections to go and it was nearly 5pm so it would be getting colder soon. They had the lovely chilli and rice and so I had a big bowlful but was nearly sick. I wasn't though as I was determined to keep the food down.

When I left I was actually quite cheerful - usually I don't like crowds but I thought it would be interesting to watch all the walkers coming down Snowdon. I remembered my recce when I was so tired and wondered whether I was faster or slower now. There weren't many people coming down the path and it was a nice temperature now that the sun was going down. As we got higher the wind picked up and I so enjoyed the feeling of being cold - before I put my top on because I was cold enough. For once in the race I was enjoying a climb however I got annoyed at the flags being inconsistent and leading up onto the ridge before Snowdon when we had reccied the lower path. I realised as I went along that there were flags on the lower path too and I must be on one of the other UTS race routes. Never mind - soon be over!

There were no marshalls and I wasn't sure whether we had to touch the trig as the gpx said to head straight down. I started down and ran round tourists but there weren't many. The sun had dropped as it was 5.30pm and there was a cold wind. I knew that the descent was really long and it was actually nice again to descend. I was really appreciating the legs wanting to run at last. I was careful but it was such a lovely change. I saw a couple of runners who missed the turnoff and called them back. They came flying passed me, saying thanks and I wondered how they could look so fresh. Then I realised that they were on the 100k route which finishes the same as the 160km. Running into the checkpoint it was a bit like a bombsight and afterwards I learnt that it was here that the 50k runners had queues for all the water and that's why I was offered water from coke bottles. I did collect some sandwiches and walked on. Now it was nice when faster runners came passed as I could congratulate them. Somehow everything seemed much nicer now because the end was in sight. I also knew how steep and long the ascent was and in the cooling evening it didn't seem so bad. I hiked strongly up talking to some 100km runners and using them as pacers for me. They could run faster than I could of course! Running down the other side of Mynydd Mawr I opened up my legs a had a pleasant run down. I didn't meant to leave the guy I was with but he was struggling with his quads and I was a bit ahead now.

 I ran into the last (yippee!!) checkpoint and was as quick as I could be. There was no pasta but I had soup and dipped a roll into it. Now I had found what I could eat easily and it was good to know this was the last checkpoint. As I left Chloe and Michael came alongside and we walked down the road a little. They were so lovely and gave me such a boost. I tried really hard on the climbs now but Moel Ellio went on and on forever. It was dark and I thought I would never get to the top. But I did and then running off I could see lights everywhere - people coming down Snowdon, strings of lights on every mountain. My legs were tired and the steep descents were painful. I didn't want to trash my legs completely but I tried hard on the climbs. Off the last peak and then the long run into Llanberis. It went ok but runners were catching me again - mostly on the 100km but a couple on the 100 mile race too. I was just so glad it was all over that I honestly wanted to just finish without completely trashing my legs. I ran in with a couple of runners and was met by Emma at the finish! I had finished 28th overall, 5th Lady in 35.01 hours. We had tried to run faster down the last 2km to get under 35 hours but it didn't matter really. Michael Jones was there and congratulated me too.  Full set of Photos on Gallery  Results on LiveTrail

Emma had an amazing run and was 1st Lady! It was lovely listening to her talking about her run but we both needed to go to bed so we moved the van back to the layby and went for sleep. The next morning we spent eating everything that we could - full breakfast for me and  pancakes with bacon and syrup for her. Prizegiving was quite smooth and it was great to see Michael looking happy. I know these races mean a lot to him. It's a shame that the UTMB have got involved as I think the races would be much better without them onboard. There is too much emphasis on advertisement and making money rather than value for money and runner enjoyment with the UTMB.