Niandi Carmont reports from the V3K, Skyrunning UK’s inaugural event.
Well what an epic start to the UK Skyrunning series and certainly no better way to introduce skyrunning to the UK ultra-running enthusiasts.
The V3K on June 28th, 2014 was the first in a series of 4 skyrunning events on the UK calendar this year. Organized by Race Director Kirsch Bowkler the 55km ultra-skymarathon with a total ascent of 4,500m takes in the Welsh 3,000’s – the 15 (formerly 14) peaks over 3000ft in Wales. Now in its third year the course has seen entries grow from 30 in 2013 to 100 runners registered in its third year. As opposed to last year the course took the skyrunners across the infamous Crib Goch in Snowdonia certainly one of the most technical parts of any British mountain race. This was thus a new course with a new male and female course records.
A mandatory kit check, race registration and race briefing followed by a vegan pasta party took place on the day preceding the race.
The 100 participants were convened at 4am on June 28th to take a bus transfer from the finish at Rowen to the start of the race at Nant Gwyanant at 5am. By this time day had broken and amidst excited chatter and last-minute kit adjustments the runners were on their way up the first climbup the ridge Bwlch Main to Snowdon, second and third ridges of Carnedd Ugain and the knife edged arête of Crib Goch. The weather was chilly and overcast unlike previous days of clear skies and high temperatures. By the time the first runners had reached the dreaded crête Crib Goch the fog had already descended over the Welsh peaks and visibility was reduced considerably making race conditions harder for even the more experienced runners. According to one runner conditions on Crib Goch were very greasy and slippery but thanks to the reduced visibility we could not see the sheer drops on either side. After completing the first section, 4 summits and the most technical part of the course the route took the runners down via North Ridge and on towards Nant Peris aid station which is accessible by road. From the outset of the race the pace had been set by Jason Cavill in full preparation for the CCC in France later this year followed closely by Michael Clifford. At Nant Perris Jason had a 3-minute lead on his rival and both looked incredibly fresh and strong as they blasted through the aid station barely stopping to pick up some extra kit. First lady through was Liz Barker who literally dominated the small female field of 14 until the end of the race opening up a huge gap between 2nd lady Claire Maxted and Sasha Habgood in 3rd position. After a relatively short section of road the runners followed the route towards Glyderau, starting the second section of the course with a huge climb up Elidir Fawr, and the peaks of Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Tryfan. By this time the fog had thickened so much and the grey weather had given way to a fine drizzle leaving the runners with even less visibility in the mountains. From the next aid station Ogwen accessible by road Jason could be seen descending fast dodging boulders with Michael Clifford hot on his heels. The descent had taken its toll on Jason and combined with the foggy wet conditions fatigue was setting in. The two front runners stopped briefly at the aid station to replenish and set off together. The third and final section of the course took the runners over the final 7 peaks of Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewelyn, Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenellian, and Foel Fras. It was during this final section that the two front runners split as Jason took a wrong turn as he went off course and Michael Clifford took the lead descending to the final road aid station and onto the finish line which he crossed in 8.19m 30s. For Michael who had only run one ultra before the V3K and had spent 3 months in cross-training due to an ITB injury this was an unexpected win.
Jason’s course error had cost him 30min and he finished second in 8.39m 00s. T. According to Jason:
The race was really the challenge I expected it to be. A lot of climbing, a lot of technical descents. It was distance-wise not particularly long but certainly the climbing made up for it so it was tough.
It was very thick fog on top of the course and even though it was well marked out and we’d recc’d it before, I dropped down before Yr Elen and went off course a long way so I got split up with Michael who I was sharing the lead with.
I got back on course, got my head down, saw a marshal who told me Michael had come in 30m earlier. I was amazed I was still in second place.
Third was Chris Baynham in 9.11m 00s. The ladies’ race was won by Liz Barker in 10.29m 48s with a substantial gap between the rest of the female field. Claire Maxted was second in 12.36m 01s and Sasha Habgood and Shelly Hufner joint third in 12.49m 33s.
It was a long day out on the course for most of the runners as they had to negotiate with the tough weather conditions, the fog, poor visibility and the slippery technical terrain. Nevertheless this heightened the challenge and self-satisfaction for those who successfully crossed the finishing line to claim their locally made ceramic medal and be an official finisher of the first skyrunning ultra in the UK.
In total 65 completed the V3K ultra, the last in 17.06m 36s and 17 participants did not finish or make the cut-off times.
V3K Skyrace in Wales-Niandi Carmon talks to Race Director Kirsch Bowker
How did you get involved in race directing?
Through V3K Ultra! I’ve had a great deal of support from experienced race organizers and from theFRA (Fell Runners’ Association) and UK/Welsh Athletics all of whom have guided me and from our tight group of volunteers, especially Joe Sawyer our Technical Director.
This is the 3rd edition of the V3K – how did the race start?
It evolved from 3 vegan friends committing to complete the Welsh 3,000s in June every year. Then in 2012 we invited others to join us, changing from a social run to a race, “the first vegan ultra in the world” (we believe), those taking part going vegan for the day. When Chloe, Andrew and I made that commitment we had no idea that our annual pilgrimage would become the first Skyrunning race in the UK with competitors travelling from as far as China to take part!
Can you briefly describe the course profile?
The course is 55km with over 4,000m of ascent. You climb over 1,000m in 6km to the first peak Snowdon (1085m), then across the two most technical ridges of Garnedd Ugain (1065m) and Crib Goch (923m). These are knife -edged arêtes that are very exposed and certainly only suited to those without a fear of heights! From there you have a pleasant descent into Nant Peris and your first aid station.
The next 3.5 km climbs 1,000m of grassy slog/bog to Elidir Fawr (924m). Then enjoy the sweep over Yr Garn (947m), ascent to Glyder Fawr (1001m) and Glyder Fach (994m). Then another technical ascent and descent of Tryfan (918m) which requires full concentration for the huge boulders. From there descend to Ogwen aid station. The final section of Pen-yr-ole-wen (978m), Carnedd Dafydd (1044m), Yr Elen (962m) Carnedd Llewelyn (1064), Foel Grach (977m), Carnedd Gwenllian (926m) and Foel Fras (942m) crosses the Carneddau, which has less technical ground and more grassy sweeps which are ideal for the tiring runner.
The race finishes in the pleasant village of Rowen in the Conwy Valley.
You mentioned that the course is part of a very old hiking trail. Can you tell me more?
The first recorded traverse of the Welsh 3,000s was led by Eustace Thomas for the Rucksack Club in 1919 although the challenge is thought to be older than that. Since then it has risen in popularity with some seeing it as a once in a lifetime achievement and others making annual pilgrimages. Even as a walk it is a tough challenge to complete in under 24 hours.
What type of runner do you hope to attract to your event?
Obviously we hope to attract runners who have the technical ability that our gnarlier sections require and the stamina and speed to complete within the cut off times. We’ve been lucky enough to have very friendly runners who are jolly and smiley even through the toughness, we’d love that to continue. We want folk to enjoy their time in Wales!
What type of training would you recommend for the V3K?
Hills, hills and more hills with as much technical ground as you have access to. We’ll be having two more recce days in May over the most exposed section, Crib Goch (a knife edged arête) to get folk accustomed to the exposure and technical aspect.
The V3K is now officially part of the UK Skyrunning series. What does this mean for the race?
This has been an enormous honour for us, a confirmation that our V3K Ultra route is an equal to some of the very best mountain routes in the world and that our dedication to the route has been rewarded. I’ve watched Skyrunning from afar, to now be a part of it is amazing.
What kind of weather conditions can runners expect on 28 June?
Anything… and everything all in one day! Snowdonia is synonymous with changeable weather thanks to its close proximity to the sea. Last year’s race started with rain, clag and a breeze strong enough to lift an aid station gazebo into a nearby field, but by midafternoon it was baking hot sunshine.
The personal record for the route is 4.20. When was it set and by whom?
This was set by Colin Donnelly in 1988 you can see the video here . The record is set from the first peak, Snowdon to the last Foel Fras, V3K Ultra includes more mileage and ascent/descent but it remains an absolutely remarkable achievement.
The race takes place in Snowdonia, a lovely part of Wales – what are pre and post-race attractions for international runners?
Rowen (the finish) is possibly one of the prettiest villages in Wales, small friendly pub and beer garden next to a babbling stream, pretty cottages with wonderful flowery gardens and best of all friendly locals. Within Snowdonia itself you have easy access to ancient castles, excellent mountains, the longest/fastest zip line in Europe, great places to eat, hundreds of lakes, rivers for kayaking, hundreds of miles of forest trails, mountain bike trails and we’re close to some amazing beaches… all really easily accessible.
What type of accommodation is there for runners?
We have exclusive use of a campsite next to the finish and race headquarters where the briefing session takes place. There are also a number of B&Bs, hotels and a YHA in the village. More information here
Is the race easily accessible by train/plane?
Yes, flights to Liverpool or Manchester then trains to Llandudno Junction, there are regular buses from Llandudno Junction railway station to Rowen, the last bus is at 11.15pm. Taxis are also available outside the train station.
V in V3K is for Vegan – can you tell us a little about the Vegan running community?
Vegansim is a way of life for many of us; we don’t use any animal products, that means no meat, eggs and dairy but also no wool, leather or silk. For some it’s because they feel a vegan diet is healthier, others because evidence shows veganism is less harmful for the environment and for people like me because we want to cause the least amount of harm to our fellow beings regardless of their species. Being a vegan, whether a runner or not opens up a global community, in many corners of the world there are vegans who organize social events, meals and of course runs!
3 words to sell your race!
Rugged mountain awesomeness!
Interview with Interview with Kirsch Bowker, Race Director of the V3K Skyrace in Wales, by Niandi Carmont.
V3K joins the Skyrunner® Series UK.
It’s no easy task… 15-peaks all over 900m (3000ft) in 55-km’s. This is the challenge that awaits those who are brave enough to join the journey of the Welsh 3000’s in the V3K Ultra; the new addition to the Skyrunning UK calendar and the Skyrunner® Series UK.
Skyrunning UK embraces tough and technical challenges; the V3K with over 4000m’s of vertical gain is exactly what a Skyrunning race in the UK should be. Where earth meets sky is our ethos and the Welsh 3000’s will provide this in abundance.
Kirsch Bowker, RD for the V3K explains, “It’s an incredible and exciting opportunity. I have followed Skyrunning for the last couple of years. The launch of the Skyrunner® Series UK is a significant moment and to be involved right from the start is quite incredible for us.”
This range of mountains, this route, it is an absolute classic point-to-point route, starting with Snowdon and finishing with Foel Fras, arguably the toughest section will be Crib Goch. The route will involve scrambling, hand-on-knees climbing and it certainly isn’t a route for those who may be scared of heights.
“The route has been my life, I have covered this route time and time again. I adore it,” said Bowker “The idea for the race has been a long-term project and since the beginning has sought to raise awareness of the health benefits of plant-based diets for endurance sports. I undertook this with two friends; unfortunately one of those friends has passed away unexpectedly, so this race is a tribute. I know the mountains personally.”
Iain Ridgeway, an experienced International mountain fell and ultra runner had this to say, “Superb, it’s about time the Welsh 3000’s received some serious attention, this will generate more interest in a challenge to Colin Donnelly’s record (set in 1998), which is up there with the Bob Graham as one of the all time great UK mountain records. The route has it all from fast running to really technical rough terrain. It must rank as some of the most technical terrain covered by a UK mountain race.”
“The hardest section is down Crib y Ddysgl and then the ascent of Crib Goch and traverse of its pinnacles. That’s followed by almost 2500ft descent to Nant Peris and soon after a 3000ft ascent of Elidir which is a long drag,” Iain says with an obvious excitement about the route “later on you have a steep unrelenting 2000ft descent of Tryfan followed by an immediate re-ascent of 2000ft Pen Yr Ole Wen and then fast running over the Carneddau, so those who cope with those and have good legs from then on will do well.”
The V3K is unique as a UK route because of its successive 2-3000ft ascents and descents (plus many smaller ones). It is going to test each and every participant.
Are you up to the challenge?
Join us on the start line of the V3K Ultra, June 28th, 2014.
• Race date: 28th June 2014
• Distance: 55km
• Elevation: 4000m +/-
• Race venue: Nant Gwynant
Fellrunner Write Up
Registration for new English 3,000s races now open
We're really excited about our new race starting at Borrowdale YHA then over the 4 highest mountains in England and some of the Lake District's most beautiful fells around Derwent water and beyond. It's 75km and worth 2 UTMB points
Registration for the Welsh 3,000S RACES now open!
The 3 Vegan races that take in the Welsh 3,000s have opened, numbers are strictly limited to 20 for the gruelling V3K Ultra Extreme. All 3 races take place on 28th June 2014
2013 Race a resounding success
Saturday 15th June saw a hardy band of ultra fell runners registering for this year’s Vegan 3,000s race. The race takes in all 15 of Snowdonia’s mountains over 3,000ft starting at Nant Gwynant and ending in the beer garden at Ty Gwyn in Rowen.
Runners had to battle Wales’ highest mountains, 40mph winds and even hail stone triggering organisers to use the bad weather route missing Crib Goch’s knife edge arête.
Going was tough for the first section of the race, with high winds and bad visibility until the descent into Nant Peris. From there conditions improved with most finishing to a warm sunny Rowen.
The 55k men’s was won by Dan Page who took up running 8 months ago and has been making phenomenal progress since, no doubt he will be a force to reckon with in the future.
We are looking for marshals and sweepers!!
Do you know Snowdonia? Are you hill fit and mountain savvy? If so and you'd like to marshal at this wonderful race please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
Or if you'd like to help out in the valleys serving food and cheering the runners on, please let us know.
9Bar's Charlie Sharp enters V3K Ultra!!
We are really proud that Team 9Bar athlete Charlie Sharp has entered V3K.
ULTRA-RUNNER.COM donate vouchers for V3K winners
Not only has this great ultra running website donated prizes they're also offering a 10% discount to all our followers on their already discounted gear! Just add code V3K10 at the checkpout to qualify.
New finish line - The beer garden of Ty Gwyn Hotel, Rowen!!
Will this be not only the first vegan ultra marathon but the first to finish in a pub? We're not sure but we do know that changing the finish line from the logistically difficult Llancelenin to the pretty riverside gardens at Ty Gwyn Rowen, means that friends and family can wait for you to cross the finish line, you can sit and have some free food or buy yourself a nice cold vegan beer. Later in the evening there will be a band on too! Sounds like a plan!!
9bar sponsor V3K
The good news is that local (to us) 9bar have launched two vegan bars to their range. The even better news is they've given us loads to fuel our ultra :)
Registration Now Open for V3K 2013
The new route has been checked out and we’re pleased to begin registrattion of our new 55km course.
The race begins from Nant Gwynantat 5 am. The first peak is Snowdon then Garnedd Ugain followed by Crib Goch, descend Bwllch Goch the first checkpoint is located at Nant Peris main car park more information
V3K 2013 Gets 2 UTMB points
We're really excited our race gets 2013 race has 2 qualifying UTMB points, giving points for every race of The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®, not just for the UTMB® more information
V3K Gets a mention in Trail Running Magazine UK!!
Trail running Magazine is the UKs leading off road running magazine, earlier this year they approached us to help them write an article about veganism and running, more information :)
And the winners of V3K 2012...
Congratulations to Roger Mills and Kate Fitzgibbon who won the inaugral Vegan 3,000s 2012 race :)
Vegan 3000s Ultra...
2012 V3K route was 4,000m of ascent and 48km over Wales’ toughest terrain. That’s thin ridges, scrambles, bog, rock, scree, steep grass
added to the fact that paths aren’t marked so you need to navigate as you run which isn’t easy in hill fog or rain... don’t be fooled by the distance Vegan 3,000s is an extreme undertaking.
We had a sizeable band of crazy runners all wanting to take part, the only stipulation being competitors have to eat plant based for the duration of the race. We contacted Salomon and were lucky to get 12 pairs of their wonderful Speedcross trainers. We had sponsorship from Redwood, Fry’s, Lush, GoMango and Provamel. I had a new big place where everyone could doss down for the night, we had a minibus, amazingly cool flags and some folk could read maps... what could possibly go wrong?
More info and pics
We Smashed the Target!!!
We made it!!! Thanks to everybody’s amazing support for helping us reach and hugely exceed our initial target of £1000. We have actually raised over £5,500 so far and are still recieving donations. Thank you to everybody who has donated and shared this event, especially to Peter for his very generous donation of £2,000 and to www.veggies.co.uk for their wonderful donation of £500. to donate please visit our Justgiving page :-)
Wales for Whales
An incredibly kind supporter has offered to donate £2,000 to Sea Shepherd if we reach our £1,000 target!! We are delighted and now more than ever are asking for everyone’s support to reach our goal. You can sponsor us by going to www.justgiving.com/run-vegan-welsh-3000s or by texting ELWH67 to 70070 plus the amount Read More