A guy named Gordon Green decided that Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales’ smallest town, is severely lacking in attention from the world. And so he chatted up a few regulars at his favourite pub and the idea of creating the very first World Bog Snorkelling Championship was born in 1985. And then, 20 years later in 2005, he decided that things still aren’t entertaining enough and threw a mountain bike into the mix, establishing a Frankenstein-y creation – The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championship.
If you, perchance, don’t know what a bog is – it’s a huge pit filled with pieces of dead plants, mostly moss, floating in murky bodies of water. It’s cold, uninviting, and probably smelly. And truly only a Welshman could look at it and think “how brilliant would it be if somebody raced through this?”. As Monty Python’s show The Flying Circus illustrates, the Brits are the masters of twisted dark humour and self-mockery.
In this event, competitors with mask, snorkel, and scuba fins ride a bike along a 60-meter trench cut through a peat bog going by the name of Waen Rhydd. And it’s not your ordinary mountain bike either. The frame has been filled with lead shots, the tires filled with water to get a better grip on the bog bed, and lead weights are attached to the frame bag. As for the riders, they’re further equipped with a wetsuit to keep them warm, and kept from floating off by scuba diving weight belts. The general idea is that your eyes should be just above water level but the snorkel allows you to breathe while you struggle to ride a bike through a heavy layer of bog mud in a two-metre deep trench. Now, typed out it sounds even more ridiculous.
The challenge consists of riding the 60-meter length of the trench twice – go in at one end, reach the other and circle a pole there and then go back. While the snorkel, mask, and diving fins are a mandatory equipment, the wetsuit is optional but most competitors opt for it, because duh. The current record holder is 36-year-old Oliver McKenna, a mountain biker from Brighton, who managed to defeat this peculiar discipline in 1 minute 04.94 seconds during a second attempt. Yes, he went twice.
Organisers say the triathlon was set up to accommodate overwhelming demand for “more dirty fun around our famous Waen Rhydd Bog”. “The event is one of the most unusual in the triathlon calendar and starts with a 12-mile run,” a spokesman for the event said. “It is followed by two lengths of the 60-yard (55 m) peat bog trench and then a 25-mile (40,2 km) mountain cycle. The event is open to individuals and relay teams,” said the event’s organizer Sheila Tomkins.
What the hell indeed.