So, having failed to actually get up even one Welsh 3000 but still wanting to be part of the Vegan Welsh 3000s adventure, Jane and I were to be found at 7:45am on Saturday the 15th June trying to erect a tent in a very windy car park next to Llyn Ogwen which lives between the Glyderau and the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia. I’d volunteered us as a food stop where the hardy ultra runners could rest and refuel with strictly vegan calories before tackling the last stage of the race.
We had already been staying in a B&B near Llanberis for a couple of days and had enjoyed a bit of wet but pleasant walking plus a visit to Caernarfon. The veggie/vegan B&B, Graianfryn, was brilliant and did us home-made, exciting, nutritious breakfasts and evening meals complete with vegan wine or beer options. I’d had a couple of fair nights sleep for a change but Friday I’d been arm achy and knackered so I wasn’t that fresh.
The grassy area we were trying to pitch in only actually had about an inch of grass under which was stone so we tried to pin the tent down pushing the pegs in sideways. It was gusting really strongly and despite assistance from Rachel who had volunteered to help us I was beginning to despair of getting the thing to stay put even before the first runner arrived. We managed to untangle and attach a few extra guy ropes that had never been needed before and I eventually sussed that by tucking the pegs under the edge of the various boulders sharing the grassy bit I could get them to stay put. The side of the tent still blew in so far it almost pushed the table over but it would have to do.
Meanwhile food supplies and runners bags arrived from the previous food station at Nant Peris and we added vegan pizza and sausage rolls to the supply of sandwiches, cake, bananas, dried fruit, crisps nuts, 9bars, flapjacks, tea, coffee and energy drinks we were offering. It seemed like a lot of food for around 30 starters but while the faster runners just stuffed their faces, downed a coffee, filled their pockets then were off as the day went on the less hurried participants took the chance to unwind, have a decent sit down and have a proper picnic.
Boris Gaspar, our first runner, approached from the Carneddau as he was one of only two attempting the 84k extreme event which amounted to running all the 3000s then turning round and running them again. He had started an hour late after getting a puncture so by the time he arrived around 9:30 we were ready for him. He was looking fresh despite 14 miles already done and after a munch sprung up the rocky path towards Tryfan like he’d only just started.
Charlie Sharpe was with us for his first visit half an hour later also attempting the 84k version but starting at the other end so he’d already covered the Snowdon Massif and the Glyderau. A super fit member of team 9bar Charlie looked in better shape than I usually do after a 5k parkrun and was soon on his way up the Carneddau.
Things were getting busy for us now with Dan Page, who went on to win the 55k in 8hr 45m, followed by a steady flow of faster runners. Vegan Karl Garside had acquired a rather purple looking swollen ankle but the tape applied to support it seemed to work as he went on to finish in 4th place. A minor cock-up meant a couple of the runners drop bags had gone AWOL resulting in a disappointing end to the dream of dry socks. The excitement and feel good vibe was almost visible.
The day had turned out pretty dry and sunny despite a foul forecast and the start of the race having been greeted with a hail storm on the way up Snowdon and poor visibility on the tops. We were told it was really windy on the summits though and the organiser’s switch to an alternative route avoiding the arête of Crib Goch was a good call. Down in the valley we were still struggling to keep the tent up in the strong gusts and any spare minute found me trying to rescue another guy rope from the impossible tangle they’d become. The side of the tent would blow right in and it later turned out a couple of the poles had split. We tucked the camping stove right into a corner behind a wall and it worked well enough to keep a couple of flasks topped up with boiling water for tea and coffee. When things calmed down a bit we got the frying pan out and started a production line for vegan bacon sarnies which found appreciative consumers amongst many of the not- usually-vegan participants.
Several members of Vegan Runners UK were taking part including Simon Dally, John Bateson (above with organiser Kirsch Bowker), Kate Fitzgibbon and Roger Mills. Runners families, volunteers and supporters from Sea Shepherd cheered in participants as well as welcoming various walkers and runners who were nothing to do with our event. A few people dropped out, another 14 miles starting with a 600m climb was just too much, and I forwarded on their race numbers to marshals down the line. Time flew and around 2:40pm we greeted the last 5 who had got lost and missed out Tryfan while adding on a few miles, 3 of these decided to call it a day but 2 decided to carry on after a feed and a rest.
The mountain marshals who had been stationed for many hours on the surrounding peaks in some pretty hairy winds made their way down to us – another Boris, Jake, Jeannie and Joe. A tired Te had arrived with van and we knew Charlie would be with us soon on his return leg, he was refuelled and on his way back up Tryfan about 4:30pm.
Arrival timings were obviously rather vague at this stage 12 hours after the start and we had one of several comedy moments. We set food – cold bacon sarnie, banana, 9bar, water etc etc – aside for Boris so we could leave Te and Rachel to look after him and get ourselves decamped. The hastily arranged support for Charlie’s next Nant Perris stop hadn’t arrived for his drop bag at the unrealistically early time agreed so Te went off to wait for him and when Kirsch did arrive we packed all the remaining food along with the Vegan 3000s flag etc in her car so we didn’t need to take our knackered selves to Rowen. (They were having a fine party there but I was only fit for my bed.) Boris arrived about 6pm and we realised all his supplies had somehow been taken away in Te’s van. Oh no! Jane and Rachel raided their lunch boxes and water bottles and succeeded in feeding him a feast of oatcakes and grapes and stuff which did the job.
Meanwhile I was desperately trying to stem the flow of blood from a small but unstoppable cut on my thumb I’d somehow got from a sharp end on the flagpole. Double plasters were washed off in the red flow, the finger bandage saturated in minutes – I ended up applying the eye bandage from the first aid kit with the eye pad positioned to staunch the flow. Marshal Boris and Rachel headed for Rowen then Jane and I started to take the tent down just as the wind really got going and, tent by now uninhabitable, it started to piss it down – first proper rain we’d had all day and came too quick to get the waterproof trousers on. Think I was back in my bed at the B&B before the last runners had even finished I was so knackered!
Of course we were just a place on the way for these mountain runners – the real event was going on hundreds of metres above us in sunshine and wind and sometimes cloud. This photo by Patrick Lewis gives you a better idea of what it’s all about, click on it to visit Flickr and see many more.