Monday, 17 September 2018

Glencoe Skyline

credit photo : Skyrunner World Series

Seven and a half years it’s been now, since we left the lush-green Scottish central belt for the piercing-blue skies of Provence. And over those seven years I’ve only been back a handful of times and usually to see family, not to run over fells. So it really was great to round out my mini Skyrunning season with a weekend trip up to Glencoe. Shane and all the race organising team have managed to pull together a perfect Skyrunning event in the uk, with a level of technicality that’s spot-on. Hard, steep and rough, but not too silly either! The Glencoe Skyline has joined Tromsø and Kima as the unofficial triple combo of ultimate skyraces. These are the real ones - the ones that get you high, over summits, along ridges, off paths. And all three of which I’ve had the fortune to attend over the last six weeks. Not a bad schedule to “get back into it” after some months off following injury!

credit photo : Tom Owens

Unfortunately for the first time in the event’s history the weather conditions were not suitable for releasing two-hundred runners onto the Aonach Eagach - a sensible decision given the wetness and windiness up on the Munro summits - so the B course was enacted on the Saturday afternoon before the race. That said the B course is still a good one, it still incorporates some proper hills and some gnarly climbs. But it didn’t half feel like a sprint racing over three hours and forty-five minutes compared to the more habitual six or seven hours!
credit photo : Ian Corless

Fully aware that race would not be an “ultra jog”, but rather an intense confrontation between the Spaniards, Scandinavians, Americans, Brits,... attending, I went straight into a relatively high gear and tried to go with the flow at the front end of the field.

credit photo : Tom Owens

It went pretty well all in all, just one tame descent in the middle cost me a few minutes and resulted in me loosing touch with the top three, definitively. I was no doubt more at ease throwing myself down steep slippery slopes when I was based in Scotland and practising such antics on a more regular basis. But hey! - you can’t have it both ways - the sunshine overhead and slippery wetness underfoot! Back to France now and time to get in shape for something more undulating, relatively flat even, some might say...

credit photo : Skyrunner World Series

Full results here :

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Kima 2018

Back to Kima after a 6-year break. Too long!
This race really is one of the best! The course is just amazing.
The start has a big climb and the end a big descent. The in-between middle section involves traversing seven short but steep passes, nearly all of which are equipped with ropes or chains, and often you're better off holding onto them! Between theses passes you navigate your way through a 20km boulder field! The skill is not in being a speedy runner, but more in having the capacity to continue moving forward at a semi decent rate whilst constantly searching out the next red flag and choosing which of the rocks in front might be best to put your next foot on.

The start was a bit of a shambles and very unprofessional from the athletes' point of view: we were called to the start at 6am, at which point an announcement was made confirming the full race route and the scheduled start time of 630. Great. So we all checked in, got our gps equipment and warmed up. At 625 everyone was lined up and raring to go. At 655 we were still there. In our T-shirts, getting cold, with no announcement having been made. At 7am over the tannoy we were told that the race route would still be the original one, but that the start had been delayed until 8am. So having spent more than half an hour standing in the cold, back to bed everyone went!
It turned out that there had been some uncertainty about the maintaining of the full route, and delaying the start until 8am would hopefully allow most of the ice on the sketchy bits to melt. So that was all a good thing. It was just a shame it was so badly organised and the athletes were treated so poorly. This sport still isn't that professional it would seem...

Anyhow, the whistle was blown at 810am (!) and 200 runners finally left the village of Val Masino, starting with a climb of around 2000m. The first 7km are on tarmac and concrete, so that goes quite quickly, but that's only the warm up, right?! The fun starts shortly after.

My right quad has unfortunately been having a bit of a rough time of it recently, feeling more dead-legged and responding less well than it can do at better times. So I wasn't able to get into a good rhythm on the climb, nor on the rocky section that followed higher up, simply because I can't control my right leg like I can my left. This was a bit frustrating as I was feeling pretty fit, but nonetheless I tried to enjoy the scenery, cos you don't get to run or race in such cool places every day of the week!

My 7th place is satisfactory, and it was good to run a couple of minutes faster than I had done back in 2012, but it was a bit annoying to still feel like I had a fair bit of energy in the tank at the end of the 50km loop. Oh well, hopefully I'll be able to put that to use on some other mountain or footpath later in the year...

Race video :

Top 9 (full results here)