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!