I travelled up to Scotland from the lakes for the Skyrunning World championships to race the Vertical Kilometer and the Ring Of Steall Skyrace. I competed in the ROS last year but this time the race would be a lot more competitive with the worlds best Skyrunners descending on the small town of Kinlochleven, Glencoe.
The Vertical Kilometer would kick off the four days of racing. A VK is an uphill race that gains 1000m of elevation usually over a short distance, in this case 5km. The race would start in Kinlochleven and finish at the top of Na Gruagaichean at 1065m. We started at 30second intervals through out the afternoon. My plan was to go off hard and hold on. I opted to wear shorts and my new Keswick Ac vest a decision I would later regret due to the harsh weather conditions at the finish. As usual the Scottish midges descended on us as we waited at the start leaving me itching to get going. My start time came and I sprinted off the line and onto the course. The first few Kilometers were relatively flat and fast leaving the knarly climbs and most of the elevation still to come. The terrain started to become more technical, then I reached the hardest part of the course, this seemingly vertical, grassy, boggy and churned up wall that stood between me and the finish. The atmosphere was electric with supporters and runners that had finished cheering us on as we fought against the gradient. I picked off runner’s, passing them as I climbed. The weather rapidly deteriorated bringing a severe chill to the howling wind. The rain and hail stung my bare arms and face, giving me extra motivation to increase the pace. I reached the last 500m along a rocky ridge and gave it everything to the finish. No time to hang around, waterproofs on and get out of there were my only thoughts. I finished 36th out of 500 runner’s in my first VK. Time to get warm and focus on Saturdays race, the Ring of Steall.
No Limits Photography
Fridays recovery day went very quickly and before I knew it I was in the registration hall. I always feel more nervous collecting my number than on the start line, perhaps it’s the anticipation of what’s to come. Having raced the Ring of Steall last year and blown up half way round, this year I went in with more of a game plan for pacing and fuelling. I planned to hold back until the descent into Glen Nevis where I would increase the pace and hopefully work though the field. Fuelling would be very important, I discussed this with Rupert from Mountain Fuel leading up to the race. I would be using the Raw energy in my drinks, Jellies and also one Longhaul sachet. We resolved that I would need energy early to ensure that it was absorbed into my body ready for when I needed it. This took the form of 2 Jellies an hour and sips of Raw Fuel, and a Lonhaul sachet half way, with the caffeine jellies later in the race to keep me focused.
Trash House Panda
We squeezed into the starting pen and awaited the starting gun. 800 runners toed the line including many of the worlds best sky and fell runner’s. The gun went and we stumbled and pushed our way off the start. The pace was on as we fought for positions heading into the bottleneck, created by the narrow trails leading into the mountains. We faced 29km and 2700m of ascent. Up the first climb I was positioned in the top 20, before rembering my plan. I dialled the pace back a little and let some runners pass me. I negotiated Devils Ridge and was joined by Es Tresidder, a runner that I knew ran at a similar pace to me. We briefly discussed tactics and it turned out we had a similar plan. Descending into Glen Nevis we set about working our way up through the field, picking off runners. We started back in about 45th position. Starting up An Gearanoch Es increased the pace distancing me by about 10m, a gap I’d hold all the way up the climbing. This is what I love about racing, the tactics, running on your limit and taking on the competitors and the terrain. We overtook runner’s, gaining places. Es was incredible to follow down hill and would always distance me a little on the technical parts. But my climbing legs were returning. After the last climb to Am Bodach he distance me again on a rocky section. I could feel cramp setting into my calves and the inside of both quads. I willed them to keep moving and closed the gap again, helped by a sudden rush of energy from a caffeine jelly. Throwing all my effort into the last descent. I distanced Es and caught another five runners. It was like the terrain on Dartmoor, deep mud with bogs, I loved very minute of it pushing the pace to the finish line, finishing 23rd in the World Championships in 3hrs38, over 40mins quicker than last year. What a weekend of racing! I will definitely be back. Thanks to the support from everyone at the race, Scott Running for the awesome kit, Mountainfuel and Longhaul for keeping me fuelled.