Wacky Races meets confused.com
I took part in the Bog-snorkelling Triathlon on Saturday 23rd August. It was a part of a weekend when Llanwrtyd Wells hosted the World Alternative Games, which included things like mountain bike chariot races & riding lead-weighted bikes under water.
The race HQ was a mile or so out-of-town on windswept moorland. The size of the field was disappointing, only 16 competitors, a couple of which were doing a shorter route than the main race. The pre-race briefing was delayed while stragglers were rounded up & a few minutes later we were off.
The first stage consisted of an 8 mile run, crossing a bog dotted with huge grassy tussocks to reach the road leading back into town. Crossing the main road in Llanwrtyd was no problem, traffic was at a standstill as a huge convoy of Hells Angels passed through. We headed out of town on a small road going north, climbing steadily before branching right on a stone track ascending to sheep pasture, crossing a stream before a short wet overgrown forest track section. Another stone track led to a lengthy tarmac stretch that joined the A483 just east of Llanwrtyd. Back into town, a little deviation across a footbridge, then we retraced our steps to the start.
Off came the running shoes & T-shirt, on went flippers, masks & snorkel. I slipped into a trench waist-high with brown water & swum 60 m to the far end before crawling on hands and knees to a parallel trench to swim back to the start. The rules say that you must keep your face down apart from the occasional glance up to see where you’re going, & forbade any swimming stroke with the arms apart from doggy paddle. The first trench was a bit of a learning curve but I got into a comfortable rhythm in the second one.
Off came the snorkelling equipment & on went cycling gear for a 12 mile mountain bike stage. There were a couple of grassy field sections which were quite difficult because of the length of the grass, linked by short road sections. This was followed by long stretches of stony forestry road with lots of hillclimbing & quite rough loose stone in places. There were several lengthy deep puddles where the water came above the pedals, followed by a challenging downhill section over bare rock. In the middle of all this lot we found ourselves weaving through a bunch of off-road Land Rovers.
I got lost in the forest (there were many after-race complaints about the poor signposting), stopping to ask the way at an isolated cottage where a farmer was chain-sawing bones for his three gigantic noisy dogs. After a few road miles I found yellow signs again & followed them to a marshal who directed me across a field through waist high grass, which ended in a barbed wire fence. I could see the finish area in the distance, so I slung my bike across the fence, climbed over & rode between the sheep to another fence where I repeated the manoeuvre & found signs again leading to the finish.
I came in 3rd in approximately 2 hours 48 min. It was a tough race. Would I do it again? Probably not. People were nice, a relaxed atmosphere was complemented by, good-humoured encouragement & praise from local spectators, a cider & food tents & a bunch of boy scouts sitting in a circle on the grass having a picnic.
The down side was the organisation. The terrain covered was far too extensive for what turned out to be quite a small event. Too many places had poor or no signs or marshals. The signs themselves were little cardboard pennants that had curled up in the damp atmosphere & were difficult to see, especially on a bike. In one place there were three signs pointing in different directions.
They forgot about the finishers’ medals until a few had finished, leading to one of the organisers wandering round the site to hand them out. A week later, results have still not been published. At registration they didn’t realise competitors needed two duplicate numbers, one for the run & one for the bike stage. This led to us each having two different numbers. At the pre-race briefing I asked how much road there was & was told no more than 40%. In fact it was probably more like 80% & most of the off-road across the bogs was virtually impossible to run.
I think the key fact could be that none of the organisers seemed to have taken part in competitive sport, so haven’t had the necessary experience.