Thursday, 26 July 2012

Snowdon International Race win

From the gallery on the Daily Post site
I had high expectations of the Snowdon Race and it didn't disappoint. I'd seen the excellent TV coverage from previous years and heard about the atmosphere in Llanberis on race day and so was very excited to be on the start line this year running for Arc'teryx. I had lower expectations of myself. The list of names entered for the international race was strong and I just hoped to be mixing it in amongst them. Other than that, I had no real aims.

In theory, the course is fairly simple - start in a field, get up to the highest point around, get back down, fastest one wins. However, I was warned that running the race well required a little more tactics than just nailing it from start.

The race kicked off with a short flat stretch through the town lined with spectators before the gradient ramped up to something quite extreme. I didn't start well as I seemed to lose all the top girls in the muddle of it all. The pace slowed as the incline increased and I managed to pull past some fast starting men and see the group of girls that had a small gap on me. I was annoyed at myself for being out of the action so early on in the race.

Maybe that gave me a little extra drive up that climb as by the time we went through the gate and onto the mountain path I had drawn level with them. Only Sarah O'Neil was out ahead. I had expected this - fellow HBT club mate Sarah has been in amazing form on the hills but she has also schooled me in flat intervals sessions this year. The gradient had flattened out a lot and I consciously picked up the tempo. I pulled away from the other girls and closed the gap in on Sarah. I thought this was probably just the advantage of chasing someone down, so I as I drew up on her shoulder I expected a painful battle up the next bit of the climb. Sadly for her she had been struggling with stomach problems for most of the day and she wasn't in her usual climbing form. I pulled a bit ahead and got a gap but was careful not to go too crazy as we were barely half way through the 1000m of climb.

Nice to know that's how it looked!
Link to see the S4C program here.
The next stretch was the Allt Moses, the steepest section of the climb. I hadn't realised that this was going to be timed as a section and there would be prizes for this and I just kept plodding away. I prefer to keep running, even if very slow, rather than power walking. It turns out that Sarah and I ran the fastest sections here, with her pipping me by a second to this prize.

The climb didn't end there. I looked at my watch which had the altimeter setting on and about on 800m I decided to up the tempo a bit. I was feeling very good and it was the first time in the race where I had to think about doing the best tactics to try and win this. I knew my descending would be bad and I would need as big a gap at the top as possible. I think I got to the summit in a bit over 52 minutes, about 1 minute ahead of Sarah.

As I ran down, I saw the other girls coming up so I knew the gaps were quite big, but even at this point I didn't believe I would win. It was a question of when and where they would catch me. If I got past the steepest bit could I stay with them? Would I win a sprint through the town on totally ruined quads? Thankfully the descent took a bit too much concentration for me to entertain any more hypothetical thoughts and I was soon crashing down the railway line, hopping over the rocks and desperately trying to find some soft grass to run on to give my feet a break.

And then it started to dawn on me that I was basically down. I could see the gate in the distance, I hadn't dared to look back but I was told there were no girls in sight. Maybe this might be mine?! Crazy. As I high-fived a group of kids by the gate to the mountain, I set off on the last bit of real pain - that tarmac steep path. My feet slapped down painfully and I was met with an unwelcome sight - the TV motorbike waiting to follow me through the town. With both lower limbs wishing they were detached from my body, the last run through seemed to go on for ever. Looking back at it, it was amazing to run through the town like that with so many people cheering, but at the time I was desperate for the finish line!

The painful last few steps.
From the Salomon photos on Facebook.

I crossed the line to a hug from Murray. He had been fairly surprised to see me in the lead when he passed me on his descent and shouted something to that effect. But, like me, he'd thought someone would get me as I tiptoed down the hill. Then I had found out he had won too - a moment that the TV cameras caught quite well.

The next hour or so was quite a rush. I still couldn't quite believe that I had won, and it was only after finishing that I understood quite what a cool thing that was. Probably just as well. It was very hard to drag ourselves away so soon from Llanberis with the party only just starting. There were not many other places I wanted to be at that time but the Tullie wedding was one of them and ceilidh dancing the night away (or watching) was a perfect end to a pretty good day.

Some links
- Race report here (same report as featured on Mud, Sweat and Tears, Salomon site etc).

- Watch the TV coverage from S4C here (enable subtitles by pressing the 'S' button)

- Some pictures on the Fell Running Pictures website here 

- BBC Wales local news saying something I don't understand here

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