Grand Tour of Skiddaw 2018

The preamble

Apologies for the delay in posting these results.  While you were running the Grand Tour of Skiddaw I was walking the Across Wales Walk, which is about the same distance, 45 miles from the Welsh/English border near Clun in Shropshire to the coast near Aberystwyth.  The next day I drove up to Scotland to do the final route revisions for the new edition of The End To End Trail (available in all good outdoor shops at some future date).  Yesterday I drove the 450 miles back home from Wick.

Before I give the Skiddaw race details, I’d like to give a quick plug for the Across Wales Walk.  This is one of the oldest ultra events in the UK, 2018 being the 55th.  I’ve run it many times.  It’s traditionally been an event for walkers, but runners have always been welcome too.  It’s a volunteer-run event, and the price includes an overnight stay at Aberystwyth University after the event, and a coach back to England.  This was the first time for many years that the event didn’t fill up, and it needs to fill to remain viable.  It’s very much an event with its own community, and a lot of socialising both during and after the event.  The recommended route makes for a brilliant day out, visiting places you’ll never see otherwise.  Note that it’s not a race in any respect, as you can take road options that are quicker in many places, but you’re missing out a lot of the best of the day if you do.  You need navigation skills, which is one of the reasons numbers have fallen off, I think.  It’s one of the best-organised events I know, and in fact I borrowed quite a lot of ideas from it when I set an ultra up myself a few years ago.  Anyway, assuming it doesn’t clash with a Runfurther race in 2019, please consider entering the AWW – they could do with a few more runners.  You’ll have a great weekend – I always have.  Entries will be on SIEntries from 1 May.

The Grand Tour of Skiddaw

Judging from Alwyn Nixon’s race report and Nick’s photos, it looks like it was a great day round and up Skiddaw again this year.  This was the sixth running of this race, and the second time for Runfurther.  Andy Swift (CVFR) smashed Jacob Snochowski’s 2016 race record by nearly half an hour, winning in an astonishing 6:35:40.  Second was Lee Muir in 7:17:54, third Michael Irving (DH Runners) in 7:35:57, and fourth was Sabrina Verjee in 8:07:00, breaking her own women’s course record by 7 minutes.  Second woman (11th overall) was Philippa Wakefield (DH Runners) in 8:30:48, and third (15th overall) was Fiona Lynch (Radcliffe AC) in 8:49:51.  Until this year Sabrina was the only woman to have run this race in under 9 hours.  Age categories don’t come into the race results, but I’d be surprised if any other MV60 beat Alwyn Nixon’s great time of 9:21:30, so well done to all of them, and to the rest of the 142 finishers.  There’s a link to the full race results on the race website.

Thanks very much to Alwyn Nixon for his race report (see below).  Nick Ham’s photos of the day are on his Flickr pages as usual, and as ever I’ve pinched a few for here.

The Runfurther leaderboard

I’ve updated the leaderboard, and with just two Long races to go, it’s about time I made my predictions for who’s likely to win what.  First to the men.  David Chetta is currently leading, and can’t be caught by anyone who’s already run four counters.  If either Ken Sutor or Rory Harris runs the Hardmoors 60 or Rotherham, then one of them will win.  If they both run one of the remaining races, Ken’s favourite as he’s currently ahead, but not by much.  David Chetta is probably going to be in the top three, but not necessarily, as there are a couple of other runners who could pull a good race out of the bag and beat him.  First MV50 at the moment is Nick Ham, with Steve Jones very close behind him.  Either could win, bu they probably won’t.  That’s because Martin Terry, Albert Sunter, Mike Burke and Kevin Smith all have better points per race averages, and surely at last one of them will run a good Long and take the MV50 title.  My money’s on Martin Terry, mostly because he’s got the best average and he wins it every year anyway!  First MV60 will be Alwyn Nixon, and first MV70 will be either Dick Scroop or Bob Nash, depending on Bob running one of the remaining races.  He’ll have to run it though, walking probably won’t overhaul Dick!  Bob’s got the better race average, but Dick’s already got 4 counters.

And so to the women.  Karen Nash cannot be caught, with three 1000 point maximums and 851 for Haworth.  Debbie Cooper is currently second, but would probably be beaten by Carol Morgan, Fiona Lynch or Sarah Challans if they ran one of the remaining races.  Carol’s been  the fastest of the three this year (due mainly to her Fellsman run), with Sarah’s pretty close behind Fiona in terms of Runfurther points.  Karen’s going to be first FV50 by a mile, and Janet Hill first FV60.

In the team competition, Team Krypton is ahead with 7929 points so far, from 11 counters.  That’s Karen & Bob Nash, and Nick Ham.  Second are Mercia Fell Runners on 6425, from 9 counters, and third Horwich RMI Harriers with 6290 from 8 counters.  It may well stay that way, but I wouldn’t bank on it.  Remember, we use your running club as your team, unless you let me know you want to form an ad hoc team for the Runfurther competition (eg Team Krypton).  Just let me know who’s in your team early enough in the season (it’s too late for this year!)

There are no contenders for the Grand Slam this year, but there’s still the maximum points award up for grabs.  Karen’s well ahead on the women’s side and unlikely to be caught, but it’s a lot closer for the men.  Here, Nick Ham and Steve Jones are neck and neck, with Nick currently only three points ahead.  If they both run both remaining races one of them should win the points prize, but there’s no telling who it will be.  If they don’t run the races, they could be caught.

Good luck to everyone running in the Hardmoors 60 on the 15th!

Alwyn Nixon’s race report

Grand Tour of Skiddaw – 1st September 2018

This was a “must do” for me – with one thing and another I hadn’t managed to do a medium category race in the series and so needed a medium counter. It was also my first Lakeland event since last year’s Lakes 42 and I was looking forward to revisiting the northern fells.
I arrived from South Wales at dark on Friday evening after the usual slow slog up the M5/M6, but it didn’t take long to pitch my tent, register and make something to eat. After a comfortable night I awoke to the strains of the La Sportiva sound system – “It’s gonna be a beautiful day” followed by “I will survive”. I chatted with Nick, who had got up a 3 am to drive up that morning, before the start and then we were off. I decided to ease into it rather than dash to beat the queue at the first kissing gate, and enjoy the first few easy miles. I was wary of going too quickly early on and not having enough left for the runnable return from the Caldbeck checkpoint. Even so, my legs felt a bit jaded after my previous weekend in Snowdonia.
The steady climb up High Pike passed ok, although as usual my uphill walking pace was slightly slower than those around me and I lost a bit of ground, but pulled some of this back on the rougher descent down Grainsgill. The next 3.5 miles to Skiddaw House is gradual uphill and felt a slog – I was relieved to get this over and start on the downhill section round the slopes of Lonscale Fell to the Latrigg checkpoint. Some great views down St John’s in the Dale from the high path and then across Derwent Water to the fells beyond were a bonus – although there was a cloud base at about 2500 ft, sunlight was penetrating the cloud layer and bathing the background hills, giving a spectacular contrast of light and shadow.

I reached the Latrigg checkpoint in a little under 4 hrs. I had found the second leg quite tough, and was feeling slightly grumpy. Probably suffering a bit from energy depletion – I didn’t carry my usual banana at the start as the checkpoint detail had promised some at Caldbeck, but they either weren’t there or I somehow missed them. Checkpoint food is an issue for me because I’m coeliac and so all the usual flapjack/cake/pasties/sandwiches/pasta on offer is no good to me. However, the checkpoint lady was very tolerant and I accepted a gluten free energy bar, along with a few crisps, salted nuts and some cheese chunks which she kindly put in a bag for me to take with me. Excellent service! The real bonus here though was the water melon – just the job as it was quite a warm day.
Suitably fortified, I left for the long grind up Skiddaw. Not a lot to be said for this way up – I find it pretty tedious and it just seems to go on and on. The top 600 feet or so was in the clag, but it wasn’t cold or wet (at least not when I was there), so no need for extra clothing. Rang the bell as ordered at the summit and then off down the first steep section, watching my foot placement and avoiding the rocks and the lurking event photographer. The rest of the descent over Ullock Pike was a delight, nice views of the lower ridge with Bassenthwaite Lake on one side and Southerndale on the other. By the bottom I was back with various runners who had got away from me earlier and was feeling ok again. After the Peter House Farm checkpoint the 17 miles or so to the finish are fairly quick, with sections of road and track and no severe uphill sections. Some of those around were starting to walk more frequently and I decided to push on and keep moving as best I could. I reached the Caldbeck checkpoint in good shape and paused only to fill my bottle before heading through the village to the final return miles along the river. I knew I would be well inside 10 hrs if I kept moving, but the last 3 or 4 miles were still an effort and I could feel my pace dropping. Andy is right, the return is longer than it seems on the way out, but every step at slow run pace is one less step at walking pace! The last bit from Rose Bridge was actually less than I expected – and no queue at the kissing gate this time. Job done, time for a nice sit, then something eat and drink, hot shower and see how the day had gone for others. I was too tired to contemplate driving home immediately, so rested off and on in my tent until about midnight and then decided to head home in the small hours. Good decision – I was in bed by 5.30am and had my kit sorted and was out picking blackberries by midday on Sunday.

There were 144 finishers (14 were running as pairs). First home was Andy Swift of Calder Valley Fell Runners in a very fast time of 6h 35m, over 40 minutes quicker than second placed Lee Muir. First lady was Sabrina Verjee, 4th overall in 8h 7m. They don’t do age category placings so I’m not sure about the best age group times. Runfurther members seemed a bit thin on the ground. However, besides me (9h 21m), I’m aware of Fiona Lynch (8h 49m), Steve Jones (10h 57m), Debbie Cooper and Daryl Bentley (11h 2m), Nick Ham (11h 43m), Janet Hill (13h 31). Apologies to those I have missed.
Overall verdict – a really good scenic day out, a well organised event and the course marking was a bonus and very reliable. Many thanks to all concerned.

Skiddaw results up Friday 7th I hope!

Just a quick post to apologise in advance as there’ll be a delay before I can post anything about the Grand Tour of Skiddaw  (Saturday 1 September).  I’ll be walking 45 miles across Wales on Saturday then heading straight up to the Highlands to do some walking guidebook work & won’t be home until Thursday night.  That means I won’t be able to post anything about Skiddaw until Friday 7 September.  I’ll sort it out as soon as I can once I’m back, anyway.  If you’re running on Saturday, have a good time, & remember the first bit along the river feels three times as far on the way back!

inov-8 Grand Tour of Skiddaw 2014 – updated

I’ve been a bit busy, but the updated leaderboard is here, now in a pdf as usual.  The race results are here, and there’s also a link to Sport Sunday photos there.  We didn’t take any of our own, as Nick wasn’t fit to run, & Karen wasn’t there either.  I’ve given up trying to take photos & run at the same time – I just can’t do it.  Luckily professional photographer James Kirby was also there and he took a really great set of photos.  He’s sent us a few to put on here, but you should also go to his Facebook page to see the rest of them, and to see them in higher resolution.  Nigel Aston’s written a race report, and you can find that here.

First James’s photos, then my race report, then a bit on the Runfurther Champs standings…

What about the race though?  Well it was a great event.  First, the venue is a really good one.  The start and finish are at Lime House School, in the middle of countryside by the River Caldew about 5 miles south of Carlisle.  There was plenty of space to camp on the school playing fields.  There was a big school sport hall for a race HQ.  There were showers.  There was a mobile café that cooked really good pizzas.  It really was worth turning up the day before the race, and leaving the day after the race: I’d have been happy to stay longer.

Secondly, we had the weather.  All weekend it was pretty good, without being too hot.  Plenty of sunshine, cool at night, and very little wind, which made a big difference on top of Skiddaw.

Thirdly, the organisation was great.  Gaynor, Dave and their team know how to organise a good event, with plenty of attention to detail.  And very friendly too.  The checkpoints were well-stocked, and again very welcoming.  Everyone was applauded in at the end, even those tailenders turning up at 3am!  And Billy Bland presented the prizes the next day.

Fourthly, the race route is a really good one, most of it following the Cumbria Way.  We started off following the river south, through the fields and meadows and woods to Sedbergham and on to Caldbeck and the first checkpoint.  All easy and a pleasant start to a race.  From Caldbeck it needed a bit more effort, climbing steadily up a minor road then open fell to the top of High Pike (658m).  All of it on good surfaces, with a little path all the way to the top, and the climb gradual.  It was a good way to gain the height, with nothing desperate.  Down the other side we dropped down Grainsgill Beck then turned right on a good track up a side valley that eventually took us to Skiddaw House.  A left turn here, and we were on an old track I’d always wanted to take but never had, that contours round Lonscale Fell before dropping down to the car park by Latrigg, well-known to anyone who’s run the Bob Graham Round, or the Skiddaw Fell Race.  Here was checkpoint 2, and a chance for a drink and some sympathy before the big trudge up the tourist track to Skiddaw summit.  No need to say much about this as the route’s well-known: eventually we got to the top, but it never feels easy.  I rang the handbell on the trig point with some relief and headed down the steep drop to Carlside Tarn, and on along the delightful ridge of Longside Edge and Ullock Pike.  This is a ridge not to be missed, although we’d have felt a bit different about it had it been windy I’m sure.  I dropped off the end of the ridge, feeling a bit knackered by this time.  Across a few fields and along a short stretch of tarmac and I was at checkpoint 3.

The next few miles follow the edge of the mountains northeast then eastwards, with no big climbs but a lot of gentle slopes to climb and descend.  They’d stopped feeling gentle to me though.  It was with relief I rejoined the outward route and ran down the road back to Caldbeck, and checkpoint 4.  From here we had to retrace our route down the River Caldew to the finish.  All pretty much flat on easy paths.  What could go wrong?  Well I thought I was going OK until about 4 miles from the finish, and suddenly I’d had it.  My legs had no more running in them, even on the flat.  Still, I walked and tottered my way across the fields, fighting with a strong urge to lie down, and I got there, in 35th place, in 10 hours 12 minutes 1 second.  I collapsed onto a chair and started retching.  Then Gaynor spotted me – I was in exactly the same state I’d been in the first time I met her, at the Three Rings of Shap!

There were some great performances on the day.  Charlie Sharpe overtook Ian Symington between checkpoints 3 and 4, finishing in a very fast time of 7:09:04.  Ian finished in 7:17:40.  Best run of the day as far as I’m concerned was from Sabrina Verjee, who came in 5th overall in an astonishing time of 8:15:07.  This was the first time Sabrina had run a race anything like this one, making that time even more impressive.  We’re hoping both Charlie and Sabrina will have a go for the Runfurther title next year.  Second woman home was Sally Fawcett, in 8:28:39, another very fast time.

Quite a few Runfurther regulars were running.  Ian Symington’s 2nd place didn’t make much difference: he needs to run the Round Rotherham to get a Long counter.  He says he’s going to, so he’ll probably win the overall men’s title.  Chris Davies returned to racing after a long layoff, but he seems to be as fast as ever, so my chances of the V60 title next year look pretty remote.  No idea why I didn’t spot him at the race – sorry Chris!  I’m still in with a chance this year though, so look out Steve Dixon.  Emma David and Nigel Aston are still in line for completing their Grand Slams, although Emma’s overall woman’s lead could easily be lost to Kate Whitfield at either of the last two races.  Helen Price won’t catch them, but she’s running very well at the moment, and if she keeps it up she should be there in the mix next year.  Nigel’s V50 lead could go too, with Martin Terry running very well now.

Asking around, a lot of other people were impressed with this race.  We’d been thinking of only including it in the Championship as a one-off, but we’re starting to think we should have it in next year too if we can.  Watch this space!