So the inaugural UTS or Ultra Trail Snowdonia took place in May this year and now that the season, well year, is coming to a close, it felt right to catch up again with Michael Jones, Race Director, to find out how the race went, what was learnt and above all, what can you expect in 2019. Entries are now open and with many rapid ultra runners in the UK scene hinting at 2019 when the race was originally launched last year, it has the potential to be a fierce line up leading the charge.
It’s been a few months since the inaugural UTS took place in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia, North Wales. Plenty of content and stories have been shared via your social feeds and competitors. How does it feel now you’ve worked through your post event tick list?
Hi James! This year’s event went pretty well for a first event, but a lot was learnt, particularly how much is involved post-event! Next year things will run more smoothly, giving me more time to train and less stressing I hope!
What was the greatest challenge of the weekend?
Probably responding to about 12 WhastApp group chats non-stop, as well as general event co-ordination! Hopefully next year I’ll have a team of 10 or so who I can delegate more work and responsibility to.
Most memorable tale from the trail?
Speaking to every 100 runner who finished, some of whom I greeted at the finish line. It just really touched me to see how emotional and completely drained they were. I could really feel they had been through a special journey and it was humbling to know my little event had given them that experience.
You billed the UTS to be one of the most challenge races in the UK and the first alpine style Ultra to grace these shores. Do you feel you achieved what you set out to?
Definitely. While the 50 experienced a very low DNF rate, thanks mainly due to the generous 36 hour cut-off, in the 100 only 13 finished, of 46 starters. Some of those who did finish have also completed other notoriously difficult races such as Ronda del Cims (known as possibly the toughest single-stage ultra in the world) and reassured me UTS is well up there with their experiences at those events, both in terms of the severity of the challenge but also the beauty of the scenery and event atmosphere. My initial concept with the 100 was to put on something like UTMB in the UK, but it’s actually a lot harder and next year will be a bit spicier still…
Could you share with us a brief run down of how the 50 and 100 mile events went?
Leaving race HQ on the Friday night, 100 runners faced initially testing, wet conditions, that soon gave way to a clear, starry night. As a trail of headlights made their way across the Carneddau, freezing temperatures added to the challenge and once back to the Llanberis half way point, the temptation of warm food and cold beer was too much to overcome for many. Of 47 race starters, only 18 left to start the UTS-50 course to complete their duty. First runner home was Latvian, Ambleside-based runner and inov8 athlete Marcis Gubats, in a time of over 34 hours. First and only female finisher was American, Glasgow-based Jamie Aarons.
Starting at 5am the next morning, UTS-50 runners were greeted with near perfect conditions throughout the event. With a course that explores the quieter valleys of northern Snowdonia, featuring several technical sections to heighten the senses!
The women’s race was won by fellrunning legend and inov8 athlete Nicky Spinks in 13:49:30, before swiftly leaving to tend to lambing duties! She was followed by Anna Troup and Kirsty Hewitson, all making it home in daylight. Ultrarunning newcomer Oliver Thorogood blasted around the route in a staggering 11:30:25, followed by international runner Christophe Le Saux and Sheffield-based Lee Kemp.
2019 entries are now open, are there any major changes for 2019?
The overall concept remains the same, though there are a few tweaks to the course planned, to bring the distances closer to 50/100 miles and cut some slightly contrived sections out. I’m also currently looking at a larger hosting venue to cope with the increase in participants. Next year there will also be GPS tracking for everyone!
What’s next for you?
My own racing this year has been a bit dismal for various reasons including ending up with anemia after UTS. At the moment I’m just happy getting back to regular running and enjoying some mountain biking, while making a start on making UTS even better for next year as well as starting up with some new online coaching clients. I’m also sitting on the fence with putting on a second event next year: a pure Skyrunning weekend in Northern Snowdonia, a race I’ve dreamed about for a long time. I’ve found the perfect venue and after a summer of recceing, have some mind-bending provisional routes designed. Watch this space…
Where can we follow you?
Please keep an eye on www.apexrunning.co/blog this winter where I’ll be adding a lot of training and nutrition advice content as well as old race reports. On Instagram and Strava search @apexrunning.co and please give the UTS Facebook page a like!