Event #1 done. This is actually a thing.

I think enough time has passed for us all to thaw out and warm up after what turned out to a surprisingly (shouldn't have been surprising. It was all forecast. Apparently.) snowy and freezing Sunday at the Fearless MTB Duathlon at One Planet Adventure @ Llandegla.

Early Start (for a Sunday)
The day started with a 7am wake call, followed by an emotional Facebook post racking up the 'likes' reminding us exactly why we were about to don our running gear and head out into the harshest cold weather that North Wales has to offer. By 11, we were in the top car park at Llandegla, our bikes poised in the transition area as a gaggle of shaking competitors (not sure if it was nerves or shivering) gathered around where we collectively assumed the start line would be.

As the announcer welcomed us all to the event, what had started as two 5km runs either side of an 18km mountain bike leg, was now an 8km run, 20km bike and a 5.5km run. With snow drifting in over the forest and some good luck fist bumps between the four of us, the race started and off we went.

Gaz feeling fresh after run 1
Run 1
There was four of us from Fifteen for 15 doing the duathlon, myself, my two older brothers, Gareth and Stephen and my friend James. Each of us with different expectations and hopes (tactics) for the day, we set off together but soon became strung out as the first run took us on a long, punishing climb out of the car park and up to the most exposed area of the forest. Stephen went out quickly from the start, James followed suit whilst me and Gareth both settled into our own pace and enjoyed comfort breaks after overloading with liquids.

As we hit the highest point of the run, the weather was absolutely brutal. With the trees disappearing from the left hand side, the snow was battering runners. We turned right through the forest, and bounded down through the trees, dodging roots and bogs until we were briefly back on fire road. Another run through the forest, and running along the perimeter of the reservoir. The boggy conditions and streams to run through made for exceptionally cold feet which became interesting on the bike.

James forcing a smile on the bike
(un)Familiar Territory
After run number one, a quick changeover and speed eating energy gels, we were off, on the mountainbike leg. Me, Stephen and James knew we'd be comfortable with this leg as we ride the route regularly. Gareth wasn't as comfortable on the bike but due to a possible error by the timing team, posted the quickest time on the bike out of everyone on the day.

Despite being used to the route, it didn't come without challenges, after already running 8km and the adverse weather conditions, it was a cold slog on the bikes. Icy splashes from puddles meant I could literally not feel my feet or fingers. This made things interesting as I stopped to help a gentleman with a puncture, despite wanting to crack on and post a good time on the bike, the good samaritan in me, got off the bike and wrestled my bag open to hand over my pump and used the break catch breath and get the blood flowing back into my fingers.

Ste 'Paula Radcliffe'
getting his head down
After packing the pump away and getting back on the bike, I powered through to the end, getting back into the transition are, ditching the bike, getting my headband back on, the final leg of the race begun. My feet felt like heavy blocks of ice so it was hard to settle into a comfortable pace. It was the same for all of us and was definitely the hardest part of the day.

Following the same start to the run, we climbed up the long hill out of the car park, snaked through the woods, splashed around through the bogs and stream we were faced with the final challenge, scrambling up an absolute wall of a hill. After about 30km cycling and running, this was probably the last thing each of us wanted. Once up and over though, it was all about the glorious "sprint" finish down the hill to the finish line and smashing bacon butties to pieces in the cafe.

It was an incredibly tough event to get the year started but we all thoroughly enjoyed it, even if through gritted teeth. It's really spurred me on for the rest of the year and I can't wait to crack on with the other events.

Well done to James for doing it under 2 hours and to the rest of for definitely posting very respectable times, despite some of us helping the stranded.

I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to the other three for doing the event with me, to our wonderful supporters on the day, Mum, Anna, Dave, Steph, Kendal and Zoe. You must all be madder than we are, coming out in the snow to spur us on, but it was very much appreciated.

Thanks as well to One Planet Adventure and Uberfit Events for putting on a great day.

It also brought home the reality that this year is actually happening. People have been so generous with their support and their sponsorship so far. I cannot thank you enough for that already, but we need to keep this going!!

Onto the next one....