Running (wo)Man vs Mountain again is like giving birth to your second child. You know it’s going to be tough, you will do lots of heavy breathing, your body will hurt all over but when you’ve finished, the result will be amazing! Ok ok, so running is nowhere near as painful as giving birth, both my labours with my boys were hard, if I mention forceps I’m sure a few of you will wince in sympathy and understanding. BUT, despite the pain of running up a mountain, the reward of reaching Snowdon’s summit and completing the 20(or so)miles of stunningness is well worth it! Trust me, I’ve done this 3 times now – crazy lady!
I hadn’t planned to race (wo)Man vs Mountain on Saturday, in fact just last Monday I was sunning myself by a Portuguese pool with my family.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that I was offered the chance to do the race. Maybe that helped, as I didn’t have time to worry about whether I was fit enough, strong enough, nourished enough – blah blah blah, all those worries that go through your mind for at least a month pre-race. I was thrown in at the deep end and that was exciting.
My pre-race carb loading took place the day before (usually I would spend a couple of days munching extra carbs – any excuse) and this is what I ate (everyone loves a good food diary!):-
Breakfast – porridge, greek yoghurt and fruit – oh and my boy’s left over toast (its not stealing, its carb loading – fact!)
Snack – apple and rice cakes
Lunch – egg and chicken sandwich on yummy seeded bread, banana and greek yoghurt
Snack – nuts and seeds
Dinner – chicken and jacket potato with coleslaw and salad
Midnightish feast – 3 slices of malt (yum) loaf and some jelly babies may have sneaked in while I was sorting my bag.
I stayed in Tadwyrst, don’t ask me how you say that but it was 10miles from the start in Caernarfon and aside from the overfamiliarity of staying in a b&b it was good. I registered in Llanberis at 7:30pm on Friday night along with lots of others, like me who had dragged out a bladder pack, dusty first aid kit and survival blanket from under the bed. I held my breath hoping my kit was ok, ain’t no 24hour Tesco in rural Llanberis to top up your supplies! Luckily the nice man smiled and waved me through after I had shown him the contents of my bag – phew – 1st Rat Race obstacle conquered. If you’re planning on doing the race, don’t assume they won’t check and actually if you don’t take the mandatory kit, more fool you – you’re climbing a mountain!
I slept really well after my malt loaf in bed treat –carb loading is fun! I woke at 5:30am so that I could fuel properly – aka stuff my face with cereal, toast and enough coffee to rocket me up Snowdon. I parked and got into the castle around 7:10am ready for the 8am start. It wasn’t until then that I felt nervous but it’s both awe inspiring and daunting to stand inside the grounds of a fabulous castle waiting to run up a mountain – not an everyday experience!
The atmosphere at the races is fantastic, it is by far my favourite favourite race. I love the scenery, the mixture of terrain from tarmac to marshland to rocky path, not mention the huge variation in elevation from ‘ooh this is flat like a little 10k race’ to ‘flippin’ eck I can only run 10 steps before walking’ to ‘if I push down on my knees with my hands that will help me scale the mountain like a goat’ and then ‘whoahhhh legs, stop me going too quick down this mountain‘.
I started the race in my usual spirit, at the front where I aimed to stay. Rat Race don’t necessarily promote competitiveness, and I like the fact they don’t, but for me if I’m running with lots of people I want to do well and that means as close to 1st lady as poss. If you cut me in half you would read ‘competitive and mainly fuelled by jelly babies’. I don’t worry about anything pre- race other than having jelly babies as close to my mouth as possible and having plenty of fluid. Gels don’t do it for me. I only take them in races where I can’t eat solids, otherwise its cereal bars and jelly babies.
The route started round Caernarfon castle where I fell in line behind the first few men and established a good running speed for me – 7min/mile. After around 3miles we started to climb a little but nothing dramatic. I eased myself into the race and relaxed into the experience rather than worrying about the fact I would need to run 20miles. Taking the race in chunks seems to suit me, I think of it as a little 10k at first, easy enough to run (which is my forte), then a bit of running up some hills until mile 10. After that it’s a run/walk until mile 12 when you are mainly walking – unless you are in fact a mountain goat – highly handy if you are. I plan my fuelling as I go, in the case of (wo)MvsM that is fluid at 5miles, jelly babies at 10miles and a cereal bar at 12miles . This is tried and tested for me (I couldn’t recommend it to everyone as we’re all different) I don’t like to eat too much when I run but I am also aware that I need fuel for the last few miles to avoid bonking.
When my Garmin beeped for mile 5 I was actually going uphill and therefore not wanting to drink but as soon as I hit the flat I took a few sips. I then consistently had 2-3 sips at around half mile intervals. Mile 6 was tough, our first steep part up a road, but by the time we got to mile 8 I was feeling good and started to chatting to a Dan – a friendly fellow competitor. I was in 6th position overall at that point, not that I realised as the first few men had disappeared ahead. By mile 12 I was walking more than running as we climbed the stunning Snowdon, I knew the summit was around 14miles and I clung to the fact that the race would become much easier once I had climbed the tough bit. I looked down several times to see the most beautiful scenery below – the weather was clear and sunny which made my way to the top easier. Once I reached the top a quick look over the summit was enough for me and my competitive spirit and so I made my way down.
Descending is my favourite part. In fact its almost the entire reason for going to the top – so that I can run down! Its not quite as easy as letting yourself go, it takes a great deal of focus to stay on your feet and I am not as brave as others at letting myself go. At this point my legs felt much better than in previous years but around half way down I lost my footing for a second and this resulted in a dramatic fall and commando sideward roll down the mountain path. I landed at the feet of a group of 5 male walkers who shouted out in shock. They helped me up and asked me if I was ok – my knees hurt and I was shaking like a leaf but I was fine, so after mentioning the fact that they should have got it on camera so that we could send it to You’ve Been Framed I started running again – hoping my knees would be ok. And they were. The descent didn’t disappoint, walkers cheered me on by telling me I was first lady and I rewarded them with high 5’s – I made it my mission to high 5 as many people as I could during the 4 mile decent.
At the bottom I dropped my bag and knew that my worst bit was coming up – the 1km yeouch vertical bone aching ascent. When you have already climbed Snowdon and are 18 miles into a race, climbing up a mountain for 1km is frankly bonkers. But that’s why I love Rat Race – they’re bonkers and fun and don’t take themselves seriously! I walked up the climb using screaming legs and lungs and as I did I counted to 50 repeatedly to focus my mind on something – and eventually I got to the top. Running back down was a relief and I knew then that the hardest bit was over and I was going to have some fun. Soon enough I got to the abseil where a crowd of angel marshalls sorted me out with a harness and helmet. LOVED the abseil, it was daunting at first to move from running to suddenly manipulating my body down a bridge but a great feeling to be weightless on a rope.
Next came the jump into the quarry. I ran up to the obstacle to the amazing cheers from a group of spectators shouting ‘first lady’. The jump and subsequent landing in chilly water was exhilarating and I ended up running out of the water shouting ‘wow that was amazing’ repeatedly like a crazy wet lady!! 3 more water obstacles followed but none as good as the jump into the quarry. At the last water obstacle I was cheered out of the water and then faced the final challenge to get over 3 high walls. Luckily a kind spectator gave me a leg up as I would never have managed to haul myself up. On the second wall I helped a fellow competitor get over, hoping someone would help me too, which they did – I then landed on my backside – so glam!
Coming over the line as first lady and 20th overall was fantastic – it felt like an amazing achievement and one I will repeat year after year if my body allows! Oh and the soup….simply delicious!
Once I had warmed up a bit I spoke to my amazing, supportive husband and boys who has stayed at home in case I rang. Love them J
What did I wear?
- Merrell All Out Rush trainers – they are fairly lightweight, very comfy and sturdy enough across all terrains. During the race I never felt unsteady in them.
- Rat Race t-shirt and thin long sleeve top – although by the second mile I was v hot. I had a jacket in my bag, that remained in my bag.
- Full length running leggings, although ¾ lengths would have been better on that day.
My tips for a successful race are:-
- Take the race seriously in terms of kit but have fun and help others. Even a quick chat can help other competitors during the tough bits. Having a laugh while doing these crazy races makes it all worthwhile – after all we do this for fun don’t we!
- Don’t worry about the whole thing. What I mean is, relax and don’t think about running for 20miles, take it in chunks ie another 2 miles to a checkpoint where you can eat and drink, or 1 mile to the summit before you can start running down. Belittling distances is how speedy athletes keep mentally strong throughout a race.
- Be positive, even if its artificial. Sometimes I feel rubbish but I tell myself I’m feeling good and doing well, mental positivity makes you physically stronger, after all your body will only do what your mind allows.
- Enjoy the crowd. If people are cheering for you, say thank-you/put your thumbs up/smile – not only are you thanking them but you’re helping the competitors behind as the spectators will be more likely to cheer for them too.
- Don’t be daunted and do it again!