Conquering the Welsh 3 Peaks

What a fantastic weekend! We prayed for nice weather (or at least no wind) as we completed the Welsh 3 Peaks. We climbed a combined height of 9,397 feet, drove over 400 miles, walked 15.67 miles, saw all four seasons, but survived pretty much unscathed! We had a group of 6 of us for the day: Sophie and me, Marie, Michael, our grandfather and and Dad. Dad offered to be designated driver, which really was a lifesaver in this case!

Getting to the start line!

We set off from Cardiff at 11pm on Friday night to get up to Snowdon for the early hours of Saturday morning. We had our sights set on completing the challenge within 16 hours, which required a 4.30am start. We drove via Swansea to pick up our Grandfather and Dad (who took on the driving from this point). From Swansea the cross country route took about four and a half hours – preparing us for the fact that most of this challenge is travelling between Peaks!


About 4.30 in the morning at the Pen-Y-Pass Car Park, at the base of Snowdon, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge on Saturday March 29th. The blurriness says it all!

About 4.30 in the morning at the Pen-Y-Pass Car Park, at the base of Snowdon, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge on Saturday March 29th. The blurriness says it all!

A white out as we reached the peak of Snowdon at 6.30 in the morning, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge on Saturday March 29th.

A white out as we reached the peak of Snowdon at 6.30 in the morning, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge on Saturday March 29th.

The four of us and Dad set off at 4.30. Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh)  at 3,560 feet above sea levelis the second tallest peak in the UK. It really was cold, with snow actually falling as we set off! We climbed up in the pitch black (with head torches, of course) walking up the PYG path for about an hour until it was light enough to walk without lights. The top was pretty snowy and almost a white out, but we reached the peak after two hours. Would you believe, there was actually someone else up there before us – a group of three guys from Hull who had taken a bit longer. The descent took just as long, and even with the light we were hardly able to see any of the stunning scenery, and we reached the bottom after four hours and six minutes.

Cadair Idris

After a bit of a drive South we reached Cadair Idris, where the sun was shining (like I said, all four seasons!). Cadair Idris lies between Barmouth and Dolgellau in mid Wales, and it the second most popular peak to climb in Wales, after Snowdon. The four of us, plus grandfather headed up the Pony Path, and we managed to get to the summit in under an hour and a half, with the total walk taking a few minutes over three hours.

At the summit of Cadair Idris around midday, on Saturday March 29th, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge.

At the summit of Cadair Idris around midday, on Saturday March 29th, as part of the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge.


After a quick detour into the stunning Dolgellau for a quick hot bite to eat, we started on the drive to Pen-Y-Fan, taking a bit longer than the others but a good chance for us to nap. The weather was clear and sunny again, although very windy at the top! This time all of us were heading up the hill, and whilst some were faster than others, we were up and back again in 1:15 hours. Sophie and I were chuffed with this, as another one of our challenge is to do Pen-Y-Fan in less than an hour!

The third and final peak of the day, Saturday March 29th.

The third and final peak of the day, Saturday March 29th.

So what was the total time?

So our target was 16 hours, but all in all we are really pleased to say our total time (including travel) was 13 hours 10 mins. What an achievement!

Thank you!

As always, there are a bunch of thank yous after one of our events:

  • Dad, for doing all the driving, and for accompanying us on Snowdon and Pen-Y-Fan. Without a dedicated driver, we really wouldn’t have been able to do this challenge.
  • Grampa, for his company for Cadair Idris and Pen-Y-Fan. It’s inspirational that he is 71 tomorrow, but he walked faster than the rest us!
  • Marie and Michael, for volunteering their Saturday to join us on our mad adventure
  • The many people we encountered on our walk who put a smile on our faces (and reminded how crazy we are by never failing to be impressed with what we were doing).

If you agree with those people we bumped into on the mountains, why not donate? It’s really easy to do – just go to to donate online or text “GWSW98 £5” (or any other amount) to 70070.


Challenge Number 2 Completed!

Sophie and Gemma in the pool, mid way through the day

Finally it’s done!

So, there is another challenge over and done with – and about time too! Let’s start with the background – we have been training hard since the beginning of January for this challenge, but up until the big day we had never swum more than 3 miles in one go. Swimming takes such a long time, and with a three mile swim taking 1 hour 45 – 2 hours, we just couldn’t fit any more in! We had, however, sought out professional nutritional advice, and worked ourselves day after day in preparation (we had started to become immune to the lingering smell of chlorine). This almost went to waste when the 2 days leading up to Saturday were spent trying to fight off some sort of fever! But we had to get on with it! To let you into a little secret, we thought this was going to be the hardest challenge, and feeling under the weather was not part of the plan.

The big day – full of supporters

We were up at 6 am on Saturday 1st March (Happy St. David’s Day, by the way), in time to have a big bowl of porridge before our epic quest. Still feeling a bit groggy (and with an air of nervousness), we were lucky enough to have “Happy” glaring out of the radio to lift our spirits before we set off. We actually cycled to the pool (glutton for punishment) and arrived for opening at 8am, to see our lane being put out for the day. Sophie was in the pool by 8.20 and Gemma followed 5 minutes later. What followed was 640 of front crawl. We did have numerous breaks, especially as people popped in to show their support. Many thanks to:

  • Jess McFarlane – for being totally awesome at social media, who made it for the first stroke despite initially turning up to the wrong pool, and who brought healthy and not-so healthy treats too! (check out her blog for other ways to be awesome)
  • Geoff Smart – turning up after Park Run and entertaining us with pool side yoga.
  • Our grandparents – Linda and Geordie – for being amazing and supporting us pretty much the whole day.
  • Luke and Alex – for popping in at just the right time for Sophie’s break!
  • Tom, Elliot and Ed – for turning up at just the right time to push Gemma through the hardest part of the day (I really was hitting THE wall at that point) and also for the doughnuts and lucozade.
  • Emma – for travelling up to Cardiff to offer your support 😀
  • Ellie – for joining in, and staying to cheering on our final mile and a half.
  • Wendy and Steve – for helping to push us through the “sprint finish”.
  • Chris – for casually “popping in” to join us and actually doing 5 miles himself!
  • Mum – for supporting us, taking photos, and getting in to do some lengths too.
  • And finally, to Dad who ran 8 miles in the morning, arrived at the pool to do a mile with us, and then returned for the final mile where he really pushed the pace to allow us to get down to about a 34 minute mile again – definitely couldn’t have done that without you leading the way.

Everyone who turned up did so at just the right moment! Apparently we made the swimming look easy (the people who said this definitely couldn’t see the burn going through our arms at the 7 mile point). There were some real crunch points, where the pace definitely slowed, or where we had to get out of the water to rest our arms, but the final mile really was the last push, and a special mention goes to Dad once again for getting in there and picking up the pace, when Sophie had forgotten that she’s meant to kick with her legs rather than just drag them, and when Gemma was down to breathing every two arm strokes rather than four (and you could forget the tumbleturns!). To get back down to under 35 minutes for a mile was amazing.

Preparation (and nutrition) is key.

 We are so chuffed to have swum so far, and for so long, but like we said before, we couldn’t have done it without the nutritional advice. Other than the porridge, we at protein bars, protein shakes, carbo shakes, mars bars, flap jacks and bananas (I for one will be happy not to see any of those things for a little while – Gem).  So a big thanks goes to Chris for giving us all the tips and help we needed in that department. Secondly, a big thanks to the Dave and Olly at Agile therapy – the sports massage 2 weeks before really helped Gemma train so much harder than she would have been able to otherwise – your support is invaluable, and we’re definitely booking ourselves in for another appointment asap.

Another big thank you goes out to the Heath Sports and Social Centre, who let us have a dedicated lane for the entire day, and who also put a sponsorship form on the front desk to collect additional money for us. The support we receive every time we train really does help us push that little bit harder.

The final thank you

Finally, the biggest thank you goes out to everyone who has donated. As of tonight (Sunday night) we are on £331 pounds for the first two events, but this is less than 20 % of our target, if you haven’t donated yet please consider it. Yesterday was by far the toughest sporting event we have ever been through, and donating just a couple of quid will make all the difference to children who parents have been killed whilst serving in the forces. Donating is easy peasy:

  1. Go to the website:
  2. Text: “GWSW98 £10” to 70070 (the 10 can be changed to any amount, and this amount will be added to our total, and taken out of your phone bill – please see the website for full T & Cs).

Sunday “rest day” right?

You’ll be glad to hear we took the whole “rest day” idea and threw it out the window to go paint-balling  (there’s no rest for the wicked). Pretty sure we are going to regret that tomorrow. We will now be working towards our next challenge, a rather more sedate walking challenge as we will be aiming to complete the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge at the end of March!


Jess’ ways to be awesome:

Chris’ Nutrition

Agile Therapy

Heath Sports and Social Club

Change of dates and a call for donations

We have been training hard for our swimming challenge, and now have changed a couple of dates:

February 7/8th – no longer doing the Pen-y-Fan challenge (as our focus has been on swimming we haven’t had time to test this out yet, but we will be doing a training walk on the Sunday). On the Saturday we are going to a car boot sale to try raise some money to cover some of our expenses such as travel and entry. If you have anything worth selling at a car boot sale and would be willing to donate it then comment below! The plan is to move the Pen-Y-Fan challenge to middle of March.

March 1st – the swimming challenge has been moved to this date. We will be swimming all day at the pool at our gym, CMC Sports and Social Club ( We have been really fortunate and have managed to pick a date where there are no lessons, so fingers crossed the pool should be quiet. We’d really like any support you could give on that day – whether it’s coming down and counting lengths (we need to do 672 lengths each!) or getting in the pool to do a few lengths with us to make sure we aren’t slowing down too much, or even just popping in to give us a morale boost! Just leave us a message or pop in on the day!

Mid March – Pen-Y-Fan Challenge

March 28/29th – Welsh 3 Peaks (in under 12 hours)

Challenge One Part One

Merry Christmas everyone!

Pre-run in our Santa Fancy dress

Pre-run in our Santa Fancy dress

Today we completed part one of challenge one. We dragged our sorry butts out of our PJs and into our running kit – Santa Outfits and beards included! We always said the challenge with this one isn’t the distance, but the fact that it takes place on Boxing Day. And the challenge won’t actually be complete until this time next year when we complete the race again, with the aim of beating the times we achieved today.

The weather was perfect – cool and sunny, and we set off at 11am. This was a whole family affair with Mum, Dad, Auntie and Grandfather all taking part. And a big shout out goes to Run4All running club for the support at the finish line! Sophie excelled and crossed the finish line in 44 mins and 48 secs. Gemma was a little slower, crossing the line in 46 mins and 43 secs.

With the Run4All family

With the Run4All family

The family post run

The family post run

Post run, with Grandfather (Arthur Yarranton)

Post run, with Grandfather (Arthur Yarranton)

The afterparty took place in the Glynneath Social Club where we were even picked up a couple of awards. We were rewarded for our fancy dress dress, and even got to have a shout out for the charity on stage! We also picked up a prize for largest family entry – Sophie and Gemma + Mother + Father + Aunty + Grandfather. The event had a great atmosphere and worth entering next year as it is definitely for fun-runners and competitive runners alike.

Keep following for updates on our other challenges, and come back this time next year to see how we get on. If you would like to donate, head over to our Just Giving page now though, back to the mince pies…

The prize-winning family

The prize-winning family

Dates for the diary

We have finally had chance to sit down today with enough time to finalise dates and details for all of our challenges. We have tried to spread out the challenges as much as possible and hopefully time them so similar challenges are close to each other. We also have a few other things to look out for along the course of the year (for example my dentistry finals are in September 2014). Training is definitely going to be key!

So, here goes….

December 26th 2013: Boxing Day Glynneath 5 mile run (

February 8th/9th 2014: Pen-y-Fan Challenge  (up and down South Wales’ highest peak in less than an hour)

March 8th/9th 2014: Channel Swim (10.5 miles each in the pool)

March 29th/30th 2014: Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge (Summit Snowdon, Cader Idris and Pen-y-Fan in under 24 hours)

April 2014: Open for suggestions

May 31st 2014: Beast a Bryn Challenge (A challenging 6.8 mile run in the Afan Valley,

June 7th 2014: Fan Dance (a 15 mile walking challenge, the SAS use this for selection!

June 22nd 2014: BHF South Wales Bike Ride (46 mile bike round in and around Swansea

June 28th/29th 2014: UK 3 Peaks Challenge (Summit Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike and Snowdon in under 24 hours)

August 3rd 2014: London Triathlon (Olympic distance entered – 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run,

August 16th 2014: Race the Train (10km Quarry Challenge,

September 28th 2014: Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest Challenge, Cardiff (approx. 10km run with obstacles,

October 5th 2014: Cardiff Half Marathon (

November 29th/30th 2014: 24 hour cyclothon (Alternating on a static bike for 24 hours – location to be announced!)

December 2014: Ice Climbing with Cardiff University Mountaineering Club

We will be completing all of the challenges together with the exception of 2. Sophie loves climbing so will be doing an ice climb in December 2014 as her final challenge. Gemma will be going solo for the South Wales Bike Ride in June 2014. We look forward to seeing some of you along the way! Suggestions for April’s challenge are welcome – just leave us a comment!

Merry Christmas,

Gemma and Sophie