17 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Event Review – The Vegan Carneddau Half

July 27, 2015
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Clarissa Goodwin took part in the Vegan Carneddau Half, which is a mountain half marathon in Snowdonia National Park as part of a new wave of Skyrunning events. This was Clarissa’s second event of her #takeonNATURE campaign, and also her first ever mountain trail event. The Carneddau Half is the little sister of the main event, the V3K Ultra, otherwise known as the Welsh 3,000s.

Now in its fourth year, the V3K Ultra crosses all the mountains over 3,000ft in Wales, which includes 15 peaks. It is a classic and unique event on the mountain running circuit because of its successive 2-3000ft ascents and descents. If you love being up in the mountain air, touching the sky, then this really is a must do for any mountain lover. Many a seasoned fell runner returns to this event year on year. For the Ultra you do need to be confident on knife-edged arêtes, and have the stamina to keep going up and down the peaks for 55k with over 4,000m of ascent in total. The other unique element to this event is that you must complete the race on a vegan only diet for the day.

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Photo credit: Andy Milton

The Course

I’m not a seasoned fell runner and have only recently discovered the delights of the trail, so this was a mountain race very much from a beginner’s perspective. I therefore opted for the little sister event, the Carneddau Half. This is the third and final section of the Ultra taking in 7 peaks across 13 miles climbing a total of 1,100m. It misses the gnarly exposure of the first two sections of the Ultra and just concentrates on the slightly less technical terrain of the Carneddau range.

The word “slightly” is key, as early on in the event there is some scrambling required, and in sections later on, boulder fields and bogs to navigate your way through. Therefore, it is important that if you decide to take this race on you need to be confident with your balance, especially if the visibility becomes poor, which can often happen.

It is also not wise to do this event if you suffer from vertigo, because even though there are no knife edged arêtes, there are still some steep scrambling climbs and wider arêtes to run along that do have drops either side. However, these technical demands do not dominate the whole race and are balanced by some stunning, spongey grassy sweeps that your legs are incredibly grateful for! It is completely worth it for the sense of achievement of negotiating your way through these challenging terrains, as well as being rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the neighbouring majestic peaks of the mighty Snowdon and Tryfan. Then if you turn to the other side you have even more views out to the Irish sea, the coastline and the Isle of Anglesey.

The sense of serenity and profound feeling of pushing yourself against the unapologetic and silent adversary of the mountains in these inspiring settings is one hard to match elsewhere.

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We were very lucky with the conditions early on in the race. It is not worth thinking of this as a normal half marathon as it really does not feel that way when you run it. The most demanding part is the first section where you start the race down in the Ogwen Valley and then make a demanding 800m climb up to the peak of Pen yr Ole Wen with streams and waterfalls as calming background noise.

With your head up in the clouds (literally) you then summit the next 7 peaks including Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn, Foe Grach, Carnedd Gwenellian (formerly known as Carnedd Uchaf), Foel Fras and finally Drum. It is then only at this point that you reach half way in terms of distance, but the bulk of hard work and climbing is behind you. The rest of the race is a well-earned descent back down into the valleys with a small section leaving the trails to join a road into the picturesque and quaint village of Rowen.

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Navigation is a key element to this race, regardless of whether you do the ultra or half marathon. A compass and OS map are essential as the weather is unpredictable in the mountains and can very quickly change. We had clear skies for the first two peaks, then in sections very poor visibility. This is something I feared before taking on this race, however, when the clouds come in it really adds to the feel and experience of mountain running and actually made me focus on the terrain right in front of me rather than being intimidated by any drops either side! It was also a fairly warm day so when you ran through a cloud you could feel the change in air pressure and the temperature dropped to a refreshingly cool and welcomed one. There were some small red markers placed along the course to guide you, but you could easily lose these at points (which we did) and you must be confident in using navigational and map reading skills, which all adds to the fun and challenge of this event.

Organisation

The pre-race communication and organisation was spot on, which simplified everything on the day. Two weeks before the event I received an incredibly thorough information pack that covered everything, including kit list, registration times and emergency procedures. This made arriving at my first mountain running event less daunting. Registration was incredibly efficient and quick. We were able to park at the finish line and the event organisers provided a shuttle bus to the start. There was a mandatory kit list check to ensure you have everything as you were expected to be as self-sufficient as possible in the mountains with no food stations like other events.

Along the course there were well (and exceptionally friendly) staffed check points that were located on two of the peaks (Carnedd Llewelyn and Foel Fras). They were purely safety check points so the organisers knew your whereabouts, there was no food or water as the aim of the event is self-sufficiency.

The finish point acted as the event headquarters and was one of the most friendly and welcoming finishes I have ever experienced. As soon as you come into view there were huge cheers and everyone clapped us in. Many of the participants hang around and clap one another in through mutual respect. There was a lovely community feel. The vegan theme ran most apparent at the end where you are issued a lovely slate medal and goodie bag full of vegan treats. There were hot showers available and then some tasty hot vegan dishes to try including pasta bakes, salads and squash and pumpkin curries, along with brownies and cupcakes galore for dessert!

The event organisers also run several recce weekends earlier in the year, where you can meet fellow participants before the race and familiarise yourself with the terrain and course. This is great preparation if you are taking this race seriously wanting to compete. It is equally reassuring for those new to the sport/this course to know what to expect for the actual event. It also adds to the welcoming community element of the event. You can also use this opportunity to ask for recipe and nutrition guidance for taking on the event using a vegan only diet.

Would I do it again?

I can honestly say this was one of the most enjoyable events I have ever taken part in and has completely made me fall in love with skyrunning. It is both well established and well organised, and one which fell runners come back to year on year and are able to continue to challenge themselves. I will definitely be coming back to try the Ultra in the future. The Carneddau half acts as a great means to build confidence and provide a stepping stone to your first mountain marathon or ultra. The community feel of the event was evident within minutes of arriving and the scenery was simply breathtaking.

Good Points

–        Excellent organisation both before and during the race.

–        Awe-inspiring views and stunning setting

–        Bus shuttle service from the finish line to the start so you could leave your car.

–        Event HQ and facilities at the end were fantastic. Hot vegan food was most welcome after long endurance race.

–        The event finish was well located and had a fairly large crowd around it. There was a great vibe with everyone being cheered and clapped in.

Bad Points

–        Could have been smaller gaps between the markers as many participants got lost in tricky sections.

Want to give it a go?

If you want to #takeonaCHALLENGE in Snowdonia’s mountains and discover the upcoming sport of skyrunning, you can find details on the Vegan V3k and Cardenddau Half by clicking here. You can also find out more details on other events included in the Sky Runner Series here.

Clarissa Goodwin, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Event course on Strava:

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