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  • Writer's pictureEmmelia Potts

Man V Mountain Race. 22 miles up Snowden

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

thumbs up at Snowden Wales

Man V Mountain, The Challenge

The first weekend of September saw one of my favourite challenges from last year having another visit. Unfortunately due to in-climate 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:
  • Start line a Caernarfon Castle, North Wales.

  • A 13-mile steady uphill road run inland towards Snowden mountain range.

  • Trail run/hike to the Summit of Snowden.

  • Trail run down Snowden.

  • Road run to Llanberris.

  • A vertical kilometre uphill climb through the slate mines in Llanberris.

  • A steep downhill trail run back to Llanberris town centre.

  • Water obstacles and swimming. Including, a 20ft water jump, abseiling, water slide into a lake and rope climb.

  • Finish in Llamberris town centre.

Man V Mountain start line
At the start line

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!

The Ascent.

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 actually 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.

Thumb up Snowden

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.

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, cramping 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.

Snowden accent
Nearly at the top

Optimistic about how we were doing, after bossing the road run and valley climb so far, we set off for a quick power walk. We got to the point where 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.

I was getting hungry and snappy and one of the lads cramps was growing increasingly worse. The only redeeming factor about the second half of the climb was the views. Turning around to be met by what could only be described as oil painting scenery. It is seeing how far you have come that makes you want to keep going.

Top of Snowden
Top of Snowden

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 taken, food and water consumed, jackets taken off and music out, it was time for our classic downhill sprints.

Headstands on Snowden summit

The Descent.

At this time it was just after mid-day 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 personally 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.

Snowden running descent

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. With wind in your hair, dodging all humans that get in your way, and mastering the terrain, you feel like a superhero.

A lot of people commented on our speed downhill, most disapprovingly, muttering that we were going too 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...

The Slog to the Finish

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, 2 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. 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 the route, and eventually reached the bottom of the vertical kilometre.

The Vertical Kilometer.

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.

Landberris vertical mile

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 run anymore, my legs were shot. Alas, there was a nice downhill coming up! We meandered our 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 on life. Happy Emmelia was back.

Lanberris jump

A Few Obstacles.

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 fun things. The slide has to be the best you sit at the top looking over what is a pretty spectacular view and are then plummeted into a fresh lake.

The negative to these activities is cramp decides to show up. However, when you are so close to the finish, you are chipper and you do not care that your legs are about to fall off.

The Finish.

After a final swim and near suffocation of life jackets (Rat Race insist you wear them near water) we collected our bags, sprinted to the finish and took off up to the top of the rope climb. We then came down the rope as majestically as a drunk elephant and ran (waddled) to our well-deserved medals and food. We changed, ate all the food and lay in the sun basking in how hard this was compared to last year.

Man V Mountain finish line

Lessons Learnt

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 make much of a difference. It made all the difference. We spent an extra hour climbing Snowden. This totally battered our legs made us exceedingly fatigued and ultimately slowed us right down. It did not help that we pushed ourselves 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.

Lessons learnt. DO NOT:

  • Try to keep up with two great uphill runners

  • Underestimate how tough climbing a mountain to the top is after a 13-mile run

  • Think a race will be as easy as it was the year before, a lot can change in a year

  • Keep sprinting down mountains if you are appreciating the view, you will take someone out.

  • Act like an unsupervised 4-year-old in a sweet shop at a pit stop. You may feel starved but take it on little and often, do not inhale as many club bars as you can in one go.

  • Whinge about the fact you have destroyed your stomach with chocolate, you will hack your running buddy off.

  • Think all life jackets are the same size, this will result in strangulation.

  • Think you are immune to cramp just because it doesn't hit you when it hits everyone else.

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.

Organisation 8/10

Fun 7/10

Difficulty 7/10


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