Snowdonia / UMUK Ultraman Triathlon

In September 2018, I headed up to beautiful Snowdonia in North Wales to support one of my best mates Adam Pritchard "Trigger" who was taking part in the UMUK Ultraman Triathlon. The event was held over three days in the beautiful but brutal mountains of Snowdonia. I've known both Adam and his brother Mathew (Dirty Sanchez, SWYD - Sleep When Your Dead, Dirty Vegan) for several years and to watch them both go from doing just a little exercise to what they have both achieved over the past fast few years is just awe-inspiring.

Both brothers have completed various endurance events including iron man, double and even triple iron man competitons in the past few years as well as several other ultra marathons, cycling / swimming events which are just too ridiculous to even comprehend.

Having supported both the lads a few times now at these races, you can only begin to imagine the physical strength and fitness needed to take part in this type of event. But, I think it's the amount of mental strength and discipline which is required that is the most inspiring, if your mind can think it your body can do it. I can't describe in words how much I respect both Adam and Mathew having seen them take part in these races, their physical and mental strengths are super-human and somehow they both manage to do it with a big grin on their faces!.

So, UMUK. In short this is the equivalent to a double iron man competition. A 10km Swim, 420.2km Cycle and an 84.3km run. If you add to this the brutal and unforgiving nature of the terrain in Snowdonia as well as weather patterns which can change at the drop of a hat then you can begin to imagine the task that was ahead for Adam.

Temitwr (Tempter)

I'd arrived a few days before the event to hang out around Snowdonia my aim was to finally surf Surf Snowdonia and ride some trails on my mountain bike at Coed - y - Brenin. On the first day, after a long drive upto North Wales I took it easy, and took one of the shorter trails "Temtiwr" (Tempter). Having not been on my bike for a while this was perfect to blow out the cob webs. Temitwr is a short 8.7km, red grade trail with a steep technical climb follwed by fast, flowing curves all the way through forest back down to the bottom. The trail took around 40 mins to complete and left me absolutely buzzing with excitement and adrenaline at the end.

Feeling great after such a good ride I decided to take the hour or so drive from Coed - y - Brenin upto Surf Snowdonia with the plan of staying there over night and go for a surf in the morning.

On arrival it looked suspiciously like a ghost town, with just a few cars in the car park. Now, ask any surfer in the world how they feel when they rock up at a spot and there are very few cars already there. It can go two ways, either you are going to get great waves with just you and a hand full of guys out or it's going to be rubbish.

At this point that I would love to say that the following morning I had surfed Surf Snowdonia on my own in pumping 4-5ft waves. But, the dream was soon shattered when I spoke to the nice ladies at reception who informed me that the wave was shut for the weekend due to 'maintainence issue'. To coin a famous surfing phrase: 'you should've been here yesterday!'. Like a child who'd burst their new football, I headed off with a face like thunder 'maintainence','f@*king maintainence'...

Dan's van loaded up with surfboards and mountain bike

Locked and loaded, next stop North Wales.

Waking up in LlanberisMorning coffee at beautiful Llanberis.

Dragon's Back - "999, Mountain Rescue please"

After a small strop but still with a bit of lead in my pencil after the cycle I decided to head down to the beautiful town of Llanberis. Having visited here on previous trips here, I knew I could get a couple of nice beers and spend the night in front of the lake and wake up to a beautiful view in the morning.

The following morning, waking up in Llanberis I had a day to kill before the squad arrived for UMUK. I had what seemed like a cracking idea. Head back to Coed - y - Brenin and spend the day hitting the trails again. The day before I'd seen a sign for 'Dragon's Back'. Being a proud welsh man just the name drew me to it, 'Dragon's Back'..

Making the hours drive back to Coed-y- Brenin, "Dragon's Back" I kept saying to myself. It will be fun. The weather had changed from quite a misty morning to lovely, warm sunshine. Things were going well. On arrival to the bike park I fuelled up with some porridge, had a quick look at the description of 'Dragon's Back', 31.1km, 3-5 hours. I'm not shy of a challenge so I filled up my camelbak, stuffed a snack bar and a bag of almonds in there and set upon my way. The trail started off beautifully, sun shining down on me, wind blowing through my helmet, it felt good to be alive.

I began making my way through some fun, technical sections and some reasonable climbs through beautiful forestry. As time went on the climbs were getting tough. But in mountain biking you always tell yourself if the climb is brutal the downhill is going to be awesome, so I sucked it up and kept pedalling, and pedalling and pedalling.

After what seemed like forever and a day I was greeted by a spectacular view out into the valley below. I stoppped, took some photos and breathed it in, just stunning, beautiful Wales, Dragon's Back. Super stoked I jumped back on the bike and continued, onwards!

After what seemed like forever I'd finally reached what I could only assume was 'the top'. I sat down and started to rummidge through my bag for some snacks, poured a coffee and felt pretty damn shattered!. I took my phone out of the bag to check how far I'd ridden, for the second time on this trip I was about to be seriously disappointed. Just under 13km, of a 31.1km ride and I was in the middle of a forest, ravenous from burning over 1000kcal so far and hit with the realisation that I only had a bag of almonds and a snack bar to see me through the remaining 18 or so km! Oh shit, I'd seriously underestimated this one. I hadn't seen another person for a long time so I had to have an executive meeting with myself to decide WTF to do.

Before it went Pete Tong.
Executive meeting with myself.

The meeting didn't last too long, I decided that if I can just make it to the 'real top', it's all downhill from there!. This is the point where I could feel my belly rumbling, pedallling and pedalling and pedalling the terrain had gone from steep to steeper then a little bit steeper again. I'm not going lie, at this point I was thinking to myself I'm f*@ked! Each minute felt like an hour and a strange mix of fear and adrenaline took over. I eventually made it to the top, I knew it was the top because that's when it really dawned on me how far from civilisation I really was and all I could see was other mountains and valleys for miles. It was probably a wonderous site but at this point I was seriously fatigued, hungry to the point of shaking and just wanted to get to the bottom ASAP. I went to check my phone to see how far I'd ridden, battery dead.

Now, we've all heard of these types of situations where the perfect day turns into complete disaster.

Waking up in LlanberisThe stunning views out into the North Wales countryside.

I spend alot of time on my own but at this point I felt lonely, very lonely. My thoughts were that ok I'd posted that I was out on my bike on Facebook earlier but I'm in North Wales no one is going to know I'm not ok, I'm almost 10 miles up a f*%£ing mountain seriously fatigued, hungry and not another person in sight.

Time for the second team meeting of the day, I needed to have a word with myself because I needed to get to the bottom safely and as soon as possible. I set off, the first part of the descent was just a big open trail so I hit a decent speed and just free wheeled until I got back to the single-track trail. Although I was travelling very fast, it seemed like forever just to get back to the forest and onto the trail again. On my arrival I seemed to get a second wind and after a quick break started on to the long, windy trails through the forestry.

As I said earlier, in mountain biking if the climb is a killer the downhill is usually the pay-off. It certainly was, the descent was fast, winding, steep and technical. All the fears of either dying on the mountain or the embarassment of being rescued started to wittle away. Spinning and winding down through the forestry the fear had disappered and I was loving it.

I'd smashed my shins a few times where the pedals had hit them but adrenaline just kept me going. In what seemed like no time, i'd made it back down to ground level or at least thats what I thought. I was buzzing with adrenaline at this point and there were two signs. One was to continue on the last piece of the Dragon's Back which it became evident would involve at least one more heavy duty climb, the other pointing back to the bike centre. It didn't take me long to realise that I'd already bitten off more than I could chew for one day and that I needed to go back to the centre. I was still a good 5 miles away from the centre at this point and decided just to cruise the rest of it. Thankful to be alive (drama queen), shaking with hunger, and an experience to never forget I made it back to the van. The Dragon had beaten me, well and truly. The full course was 19.2 miles and I managed just over 15 miles.

I guess the moral of this story is always prepare correctly. In my head I felt good, I felt fit and thought 31km on a bike would be a doddle. When at least half of that is uphill at 2,500ft its no joke. I'd only eaten a bowl of porridge and felt full but after climbing for two hours the porridge had become a distant memory. Anyway, I did it and I learned from it. I'd love to go back and do the whole course sometime but I'd like to take some friends and make sure I've got enough fuel for the job.

Well and truly beaten by the dragon..

The calm after the storm...

Happy to be alive and not being eaten by a wolf on the side of a mountain, I needed to make my way towards Betws y Coed, where the following day I'd be meeting up with the Pritchard's. In desperate need of a hot shower and a decent rest I intended to find a campsite to stay for the night to crawl into my cave and lick my wounds.

After an hour's drive to Betws y Coed, on my last legs, caked in mud and smelling like a bin man's cuff I got lucky and stumbled upon a sign for a campsite just before you enter the town itself. At this point, I didn't much care if the site was top notch I just needed a shower, some food and to collapse. I made my way up through a winding lane, up a hill towards a lovely farm and campsite perched upon the hill. After a quick chat with the owner and an exchange of 8 pounds I'd managed to land myself on a beautiful pitch, with stunning views for miles. I hit the shower quick time and got settled down for the night still thinking of how much of a dumbass I'd been just hours earlier. That night it wasn't very long before I was in bed, the saga of the day had left me completly drained but I felt happy and excited to see the squad the next day for Adam's epic race.

Beautiful campsite in North Wales If Carlsberg made campsites...

Lads, lads, lads!

The next morning I woke up to the most beautiful view. Aching in places I didnt know imagined I got the coffee on and was getting amped up to see the lads on what was the eve of the UMUK race. Adam, Mathew and Lemmy P would be arriving early afternoon followed shortly after by Adam's wife Annie-mal and daughter Mia. After breakfast I packed up camp and headed down to Betws y Coed to check out the area and take some photos. The town itself is built over a river and is just peaceful and relaxing (more pictures on the images pages). I then headed upto swallow falls which coincedently was where the race would start the next day, I played the tourist card well with my backpack and camera at the ready.

Beautiful campsite in North WalesThe stunning view from my pitch the following morning.

The Freesoul Project 2019 - Made in Wales