Skyrunning is completely new to me but I wanted to do some races that would really test me and put me out of my comfort zone in 2017. I’m much happier racing in the hills and mountains so the UK Skyrunner series was perfect. With four races in the most beautiful parts of the UK and featuring a range of mountain terrain from exposed ridgeline and grade 3 scrambles this would test me to my limits alright.
My first goal was not to die. The second was to try and get a top 10 finish, this one however depended on me accomplishing goal number one.
The V3K, which is the first round of the series takes in all the mountains over 3,000ft in Wales, also known as Welsh 3,000s. It’s been a couple of years since we were last in Snowdonia and I was looking forward to going back.
The summits are:
- Garnedd Ugain
- Crib Goch
- Elidir Fawr
- Y Garn
- Glyder Fawr
- Glyder Fach
- Pen yr Ole Wen
- Carnedd Dafydd
- Carnedd Llewelyn
- Foel Grach
- Carnedd Gwenllian
- Foel Fras
I knew I would be slow on the more technical sections, especially Crib Goch, so my plan was to push hard where I could and just get through the scrambling sections as best I could, soak up the views and gain some valuable experience along the way.
I had been suffering from an ear infection the week before and this was proving to be a bit of a nuisance. You know when it feels like you have water in your ear and everything sounds like you’re underwater, it was like that and it was seriously bugging me.
Soon race day came and after a fairly frantic drive to the start at Nant Gwynant, we arrived about 10 mins before the start at 5 am. We opened the car door to a clouds of midges, i think every midge in Wales was at the party. After walking together to the start it wasn’t long before Victoria did the sensible thing and retreated back to the car to escape the midges leaving me to be eaten alive on the start line with everyone else. What a way to start the day.
Start – Nant Peris Aid Station
Just after 5am we were off. The first little leg warmer is a climb to the summit of Snowdon. I started slowly making my way through the field, mainly to avoid getting my heels clipped by a cheat stick that a number of the field seemed to be using. I have no issues with people using them, i use them myself, but i do think you have to be sensible when 200 people are all bunched together on a narrow path.
I was running nice and relaxed and taking it fairly easily. I settled into fourth place and was just enjoying the scenery. The first few miles are a nice track that climbs steadily to about 1200ft and then turns onto the ridgeline up to Snowdon.
We were in the clouds now and visibility started to close in. I lost sight of the leading groul and was struggling to spot the red course markers in the clag. I was losing time every time I had to stop and search for the flags and it was getting a little bit frustrating. The game of spot the flag would continue until the end of the race.
I started to get stars in the perphipery of my vision which happens now and again. I’m no doctor but I think it’s due to low blood sugar levels so I had some of my vegan sweets and carried on.
It wasn’t long before Crib Goch and full vision would certainly help there. In hindsight as the race was only 35 miles I got a bit complacent with my nutrition and didn’t plan as well as I would normally do for a longer race.
A 25min delay in the start of the
vegan propogander presentation race briefing meant we missed all the restaurants in Bangor where we were staying so had to make do with what we could find in the local Lidl as a pre race meal. Not exactly ideal.
Eventually I reached the Snowdon cafe, bloody hell Crib Goch next I thought. Here we go!
Predictably I started losing a few places as we hit the ridge but I was really enjoying the scrambling. It wasn’t as tough as I expected, the worst bit being the hoards of walkers along the ridge who I’m weren’t expecting 100’s of runners to come past them like a swarm of ants.
It wasn’t long before we hit the scree descent down towards the road and the first aid station or at least it wouldn’t have been if a couple of us didn’t miss it and have to go off-piste until we could rejoin the track.
Annoyed at losing some places on Grib Goch and the minor detour I got my head down on the short road section and made a few places back.
A quick refill of my water bottles and a couple of energy balls and I was away.
Nant Peris Aid Station – Ogwen Aid Station
From the aid station there’s a long climb to the summit of Elidir Fawr. I can normally get my head down and grind out these long ascents so I just out my head down and got on with it determined to regain a few of the places I had lost on Crib Goch.
The clag at the top was pretty bad and so began a game of hunt the flag which continued for the rest of the day. ov
Over the next few summits of Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, and Glyder Fach the route is quite runnable so I was able to stretch my legs and make some positions back but I still wasn’t feeling 100%.
I made a small navigation error as we skirted around Castell-Y-Gwynt and missed the flags. Thankfully one of the runners behind me shouted me back otherwise I would have been way off course and down in the valley before I had realised.
Next up was Tryfan and another section I wasn’t looking forward to very much as someone had fallen the week before and lost their life so I was nervous to say the least.
I caught, or maybe got caught, I can’t remember which by Tommaso Migliuolo on the scramble up to the summit. We struck up a conversation and ended up running the majority of the rest of the race together.
The descent off Tryfan was real fun and it was good to be able to see some of the views as we descended out of the clouds. It starts with some steep and lose scree switchbacks and then the path changes into a series of steps. I was feeling pretty beaten at this point but Tommaso was flying so I did my best to keep up.
Eventually we were spat out onto the road and it was a short dash to the checkpoint where we were greeted by swarms of midges again. A quick bottle refill and some pretty delicious roast potatoes and I was off again. I took a little more time in the checkpoint so Tommaso got a few minutes head start on me.
Ogwen Aid Station – Finish
The climb up to Carnedd Dafydd was the last big climb of the day and it was relentless. I caught and passed Tommaso about half way up. I just needed to get my head down and push on. It wasn’t long before he caught me again on the scrambling section. I really need to work on my scrambling for future races as I lost a fair bit of time on these sections.
I was suffering now through a combination of poor nutrition and not feeling 100% pre race but I pushed as much as I could to keep up with Tommaso who seemed to be getting a second wind.
I told him to get moving and just leave me as I was worried I would end up losing us places if I slowed him down but I think given the poor visibility and the difficulty in seeing the flags it was good to stay together.
A couple of out and backs Y Elann and Foel Fras meant we kept seeing the runners behind us but we had a good 10 – 15 minute lead so we were fairly safe.
Foel Fras was the final summit and it wasn’t long before we started the descent to the finish line. Not soon enough for me but the thought of seeing Victoria again spurred me on and I started moving at a decent pace.
The last few miles are a nice long flowing downhill and I managed to put a few quick miles in. Tommaso was off and pulling away, there was nothing I could do about it so I had a quick look behind and seeing I wasn’t in immediate danger of losing a place just let myself go and enjoyed the descent. After so many slow miles it felt good to put some faster miles in.
Onto the road and around the registration building and I was through the blue finishers arch. I was elated, knackered but elated to have finished and to have done the course in a decent time as well. 6th place on my first Skyrunning race when I din’t have the best race I could have was fantastic.
The Skyrunning bug has hit me hard and it’s the type of running I enjoy the most. Long days in the mountains on challenging terrain is so much fun. I’m not good with heights and it gives me chance to face my fears and put me out of my comfort zone. After mundane days working in an office in a city it really makes you feel alive and appreciate things more.
If you are considering Skyrunning then go do it. You won’t regret it.
Victoria for just being amazing and coming with me. I’m just sorry that you had to sit through the rather graphic pro-veagnism presentation at the race briefing.
My coach Jayson Cavill for getting me fit enough to tackle these events and for all the help and advice. Looking forward to getting me ready for Ben Nevis.
Tommaso Migliuolo for getting me through the last 15 miles when I was struggling.
- Scott Kinabalu RC shoes
- Scott Trail RC TR 4 Race Vest
- Injinji toe socks
- The North Face Flight Series Vent Shorts
- The North Face Flight Series T-shirt
- The North Face Flight Series Cap
- Jack Wolfskin Exolight Jacket
- The North Face Storm Stow Trousers
- The North Face Harpster Base Layer
- Petzl Nao Headtorch