Running with the hippies | V3K
Grand Trail des Lacs et Chateaux
I planned on running Grand Trail des Lacs et Chateaux a few weeks ago, but hay-fever and infected sinuses decided otherwise. I spent that weekend sulking around the house, so when Matthijs texted me to ask if I knew the V3K and would be interested in joining, it didn't take long before I was registered.
I first heard of V3K from Chloe, one of the founders, who I met at Bello Gallico in December last year. The race in Snowdonia covers all 15 Welsh summits over 3000ft (roughly 1000m), combining for 55k and 4000m elevation. It also includes fun scrambles like Crib Goch and Tryfan, several scree descents and other goodies you won't find in Belgium.
There are three sections in the route, Snowdon, the Glyders and the Carneddau, with 2 aid-stations in between. Thankfully, the first part is the most technical, and the final part actually included some runable stretches.
The HQ for the weekend is located in Hendre Hall, Bangor, a beautiful old farm with attached buildings and a field for camping next to it.
On my way over to London, the Eurostar stopped in Calais. Around are green fields, with a small village at the horizon, surviving two world wars and probably countless other conflicts. The railway station and the tracks have barbed wire around them and military is clearly present. Times have changed. Or not. I guess there's just a whole lot of stuff which is going wrong, throughout history and today, although we have the ability to choose otherwise. One of the people who chooses to have a positive impact is Kirsch, by organizing a vegan race. During the briefing Saturday evening, she doesn't say much about ethical veganism, just shows a few self-explaining pictures. The message is so simple no arguments are needed. And this weekend shows to all participants you do not need animals, and the efficient-hence-cruel meat-processing industry for nutrition.
Next morning, the race starts at 5am. When the race starts at dawn on one of the longest days of the year, yet a headlight is on the mandatory gear list for "only" 55k, you know you might be in for a though day. The combination of elevation, technicality and condition of the paths make Snowdonia a lot harder then you might expect when looking at the numbers or at the map.
So, after a short night we were off to Snowdon. Obviously a long climb, along one of the nicer routes up. As all the other times, I went up to the orientation table to take a foggy picture.
After Snowdon, the descent followed Crib Goch. The views are probably spectacular, but the fog had the advantage I couldn't see the drop on either side. The last part of the descent was over scree, on which I did my best to avoid falling and keeping in control, but failed miserably. Good fun though!
After the first aid station with all necessities, there was a long, seemingly never-ending grassy climb to the Glyders. Once on the plateau, the fog was so dense that eventhough there were waymarkings every 10-20 m, it was difficult to keep on course. After another scree descent, we went up Tryfan, took a look at Adam&Eve (one day!) and descended yet another scree.
The aid station at Ogwen was everything I could hope for and more. Sandwiches, soup, pastries, apple-juice... the list goes on.
Next up where the Carneddau, which have a different character than the previous parts. Less spectacular, more featureless, less elevation and easy to get lost.
After more then 11h I was quite happy to hear the last volunteer (who saw me struggling to close the gate) say I was almost at the finish.
The finish, with... pizza!
The V3K organization knows what's important for runners. The showers were perfect, there was plenty of great food, and there was a guy baking fresh pizza's. I'm a strong believer that everyone should take up running, if only to know the taste of a freshly made pizza afterwards.
Thanks to all those volunteers (hard as nails), fellow-runners, people at home, Matthijs, Chloe and Kirsch for a weekend I'll never forget. Hope to see you next year!