Despite picking the worst day of weather for a while, the Inaugural Fabian 4 Dyffryn Conwy Mountain Triathlon, in North Wales, was a great success on Sunday (30th).
A total of 76 competitors entered the unusual race, split into 31 solo and 15 teams of three. The race consisted of a kayak leg on the Conwy River followed by a 13kms fell run and a 19 kms mountain bike. The solo entrants did all three disciplines, whilst the teams required one member, including a female, to do each leg.
The bad weather, especially the high winds, led the organisers to switch the kayak leg from the planned 13kms tide assisted ascent of the Conwy River, from Conwy Castle to a bridge upstream at Dolgarrog, to a shortened 8km leg out and back from Dolgarrog Bridge. Although shorter in distance, the outgoing leg against the tide meant that the time taken was similar to that expected for the original route. Nonetheless the kayak was still described by many as ‘epic’, ‘grueling’ and ‘challenging’.
The leader after the kayak was solo competitor Michael Mason from Durham, who set a blistering time of 46mins 47secs, nearly 4 minutes ahead of the next competitor. Elsewhere several boats capsized, but the safety boats got most upright again, and on their way.
The run went from the transition at Dolgarrog Bridge to the Event Centre at Nant Conwy Rugby Club near the village of Trefriw. It passed through dramatic scenery in eastern Snowdonia to a high point of about 500m. The athletes had to contend with driving rain and forecasted winds of 55mph at 500m, as well as some very muddy descents. Thankfully everyone got round with nothing worse than cramping muscles, sorted out by Jane, the onsite physio.
The fastest overall runner was Adrian Williams from Team 51, in a time of 1h 16' 06", but the overall leader in the solo competition was still Michael Mason, who entered the bike transition first, but second place man, Ian Smith from Monmouth Tri Club had taken over 2 minutes out of his lead on the run.
The bike leg incorporated parts of the Marin Trail in an 18km loop around the Gwydir Forest. The route was a mixture of forest track and single track, and was testing enough, especially for the solo competitors, many of whom had been out for over 3 hours already. Although more sheltered in the trees, the rain meant running water, mud and slippery rocks to deal with.
Despite this, Ian Smith managed to overhaul Michael Mason on the bike ride to win the overall event in a total time of 3: 22: 16. Steve King from Hereford Kayak club, who was second off the water so always in contention, came through to take second in a time of 3:26:35; with Michael Mason finally finishing third in a time of 3:27:31.
The winning team, that went by the glorious name of Captain Underpants and the Wilde Wedgies, also came fourth overall in a time of 3:28:14. It consisted of Steve Jones from Colwyn Bay, Marc Reeves and Amanda Wilde. The second team, consisting of Dan Collister, Dafydd Roberts and Sian Roberts came a close second in the team race, and fifth overall in a time 3:29:21. They may have won if Dan hadn't gone for a swim out of his kayak at the turn buoy! The first female solo competitor was Rebecca Cook in a time of 4:34:53.
Despite the weather there were grins all round and lots of requests to put the event on next year. The success was mainly due to the army of volunteer supporters who braved the rain to marshal, provide radio links and first aid. The organisers would again like to thank everyone who helped, as well as the sponsors and supporters who provided everything from prizes to beer for the marshals.
The main objectives of the event were to encourage participation in such mountain events, but also to raise funds for the Snowdonia Society to help in its aims to conserve and promote Snowdonia. For full results and to register interest for next year's event, go to www.map17events.org.uk.
Photos: Alastair Tye/www.fellrunningpictures.co.uk, Chris Gash