Vegan Welsh 3000's

It's the first in the UK's Skyrunning series and it's a brutally tough race. The Vegan Welsh 3000's is a route of approximately 33 miles with 3660m (12008ft) of total ascent.

This was the second of the three races that I've entered in order to improve race fitness in readiness for the wider goal later in the season. The first race was the Salomon 50km Trail Race on 11th June (website Here). I'd no expectations from the V3K with racing two weeks earlier at the Keswick Mountain Festival.

It's 3.55 am, Saturday 24th June and I've had little sleep because four hours earlier I was desperately still trying to download the GPX files for the V3K race which started at 5am. After lots of head scratching and the help of Team Raidlight's Ant Bethell, it was successfully loaded and it was head down for the few hours sleep!

The course is well marked however, the weather was forecast for drizzle and clag. We were lucky to escape the rain all day, yet not so fortunate with the clag resulting in poor visibility throughout the day.  There was no way runners could rely on the course markings. Certainly for the first 6 hours I relied on a combination of the GPS and red flags. However, after the battery went on my GPS device I became reliant on the flags alone. I had a map (it's compulsory) and yet figured it would take me longer to navigate in clag than to search for flags. So the last four hours of the race were spent running to a marker and either hunting around for the next one or waiting until another runner appeared. This was time consuming and frustrating and the moments when the clag lifted were very much welcomed. I managed to navigate myself off the course only once before realising. That, coupled with a slightly wide descent off Tryfan were the only nav issues really, it could have been so much worse. 

I knew that Sarah (Ridgeway) would be confident on this course, she's no stranger to the race, it's her home turf and she is back running so strong. She bounded through at the race start, confidently placing herself at the front. That energy stayed with her throughout the race to give her a remarkable performance with a solid and impressive 1st place finish. Race round up by the Skyrunning team Here.
My race goals were not to position so much. I knew I was not race fit and wanted to work on building the hill strength and fitness, that I  have been so obviously missing. I am using these three races to help focus my training. Importantly, I was concentrating on my mental state during this race and my focus was to learn to employ some alternative strategies to help my performances. My race goals were to: 

1. Complete the race unless I don't achieve number 5
2. Perform to the best of my capacity incorporating my goals, unless I don't achieve number 5
3. Employ strategies that I am working on in order to achieve number 2
4. Run my own race until Crib Goch and then latch on to.... no, cling onto the person in front for dear life and keep my eyes open.
5. Move swiftly and smoothly over Crib Goch without falling off...pah hahaha

So, to focus on my goals and not be distracted by what others were doing or what position I was in was a challenge. By the foot of Tryfan 2nd placed lady, Janne Geurts had appeared, and steadily pulled away for the remainder of the race. It was hard going to keep focused and work on the performance strategies that I had planned. It was a case of replacing the negative self talk that naturally wanted to creep in when losing places and having little inclination, strength or fitness to fight it out over the next few hours, demoralising in fact. Janne was moving smoothly, had a well executed regime at the 2nd checkpoint and was encouraged on her way by her support without stopping, before I had even rummaged through for my drop bag and clumsily shuffled indoors to replenish. The subsequent slog up Pen Yr Ol Wen's East ridge took whatever freshness I had left and the remainder of the race was a case of attrition. Janne finished with a consistently paced race in 2nd place, 43 mins behind Sarah.

 It shouldn't be overlooked just how beautiful this route is. These are some of the UK's finest mountains. This is not a trail race, this sits very comfortably in a mountain race category and it is not for the faint hearted. The V3K is quirky in that it is a race that is staged by vegans and the expectation is that all racers are vegan for the day. I've been a vegetarian for years and mostly vegan for a considerable time now. However, the concept is remarkable in that it introduces those who may not have considered what it is to be vegan and shows just how exciting the food (these are the best stocked checkpoints with natural foods that will blow your mind) is. Couple that with the creativity and flare of the race Organiser Kirsch Bowker makes this a race to return to time and again. 

Race registration and pre race briefing.
I guess the most mindful and insightful moment for me during this race, came with the final descent and run to the finish. Alex Hinchcliffe was a chap who had been in front, behind and with me for moments during the day. I'd not seen him for a while, other than in passing during the out and back on Foel Fras. He came flying past with remarkable speed shouting 'we have 3 miles and I want a sub 10hr'. Then he was gone. The ground he covered and the speed he was running was a revelation. I had slipped back into a defeatist, almost default state for probably, about two hours and had let it run away amok without realising. Alex was the wake up call, (thank you Alex). 'It's in your head Deano' I voiced aloud. Instantly I stepped it up a gear, I fired up the glutes albeit anticipating the tiredness, within minutes, to slow me down again. It didn't, that moment never came, I was using strategies to keep me going, the ones I had been using throughout the day and had set out to strengthen during this race, and they were working, they had worked all race. Yes I was tired, my legs were sore and my mood was sombre, and yet, I replaced thoughts about all of this, with the reality that in spite of it, I can still run, and I can run at a swift pace and I can draw on my strengths to eliminate the negative talk about my weakness's and it was working, you can only have one thought at  a time and I was choosing ones that worked well for me. For 30 mins my tired body forgot about how tired I had been telling it it was, and it performed like I knew it could I enjoyed every minute of that descent and I finished strong. This was one of my best performances mentally as a runner on a personal level. I am learning so much still about long distance running and performance and I look forward to my next experience in a few weeks time at the Peak Skyline race ( website here).

The mens and womens results are available on Open tracking Here however he's an overview of the first three men and women:

1.    Oli Johnson 7:45:45
2.    Tim Campion-Smith 8:00:07
3.    Joe Mann 8:02:12

1.    Sarah Ridgway 9:00:52
2.    Janne Geurts 9:43:05
3.    Tracy Dean 10:03:22

The Vegan3K post race event was remarkable, The chefs were amazing and the venue sets it apart.
Thanks  for complimentary beers for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Men and Ladies

A huge thank you to the race and my sponsors @RaidlightUK and the great prizes for the winners and my fuel sponsors @RealMountain_Fuel_UK for your continued support.

Kit list
Raidlight Responsiv Vest Here
Performer XP ladies top Here
Cuissard Trail Raider short Here
LCF running socks Here
Inov8 Mudclaw's

Extreme Energy Fuel, Blackcurrent Here
x3 Gels
x2 hand fulls of real homemade vegan food from the checkpoints includingl;
x2 vegan balls (oats, cinnamon, dried fruit), x2 vegan pastry/filling rolls, x2 potatoes, vegan fruit cake.