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The Salewa Lakes Sky Ultra

Saturday 23rd July 2016.

What a mega race! After marshalling the Lakes Sky Ultra last year I knew I’d be back to run it. The race is 56km with 4500m ascent, with some fun scrambling on Striding Edge, Eagle Crag and Pinnacle Ridge too!



The race profile!

I felt really ready to run when race day eventually came – I was worried I was maybe a bit too ready. I’d reccied most of the route twice and some bits 3 times and I was feeling pretty strong.

At the race briefing race director Charlie showed the competitors the video of last year’s race – this made me really excited! I was even more excited the next morning. Nervous, excited, nervous, excited  – I just needed to start running!


Race briefing

I hung out near the back of the starting crowd, expecting there to be quite a stampede for the first few miles. Running all the way up Fairfield is quite possible – but it is also a good way to destroy yourself an hour into what what I expected to be an 11+ hour race!  Starting really slow in my previous Skyrace, the V3K, had worked well and I’d felt strong all the way so this was my plan. Finding myself running along beside Carol (my pacing idle!) about a mile in I thought was probably a good place to be.

The ascent of Fairfield was really claggy but the summit came soon enough and I got to enjoy the super fast scree decent into Grizedale Tarn – looking rather more pleasant than it did when I was marshalling here last year! After the big effort up to Dollywagon Pike the undulating run up to Helvellyn was lovely, as I chatted away to other runners.

It was great to be greeted by LittleDave and his beating drum on top of Catstycam. Striding Edge was really dry so the ascent was great and I was soon greeted by Bob and Karen Nash at their checkpoint. It felt like a bit of a sociable gathering up on the hills!


Reaching the first summit – Dove Crag

I hadn’t reccied the decent off Eagle Crag. Most of the way it was a nice grassy descent, with a small section of scrabbling and a horrid scree slope at the end. Then came the fun part; the grassy ascent to the start of St Sunday Crag was a crawl – literally on all fours for about 20 minutes! I couldn’t wait to start the scrambling. Pinnacle Ridge had a daisy chain rope on it so it was pretty quick getting up – I was kind of disappointed when it was over.


The best part  – Pinnacle Ridge!

After a really slow few miles it was great to stretch my legs out on the long decent into Patterdale. It was lovely to see a cow bell ringing Casper here and I moved into 3rd place just before the check point. I spotted the vegan energy balls – I munched on one as I left and had another one straight after on the climb out of Patterdale. With Mountain Fuel Extreme, together with Pura Beetroot Bites taking on calories was super easy  – it was awesome!

The second part of race after Patterdale is pretty tame in comparison  – for those who had saved the energy to run! I saw very few people along here and the time just flew by. At the top of Mardale Ill Bell  I couldn’t believe I was only just over 7 hours in. If I kept at this pace I’ll be back in under 10 hours – which was faster than the sum of my reccied parts!

I got to the top of the hill just before the decent to Kirkstone pass in about 8 hours 20 minutes where Casper was there with his cow bell again. I felt pretty emotional as I saw Casper, I just couldn’t believe I’d made such good time – but managed not to cry!


Pushing hard on the final ascent up Red Screes.

The final ascent up Red Screes (straight up the face!) was tough but I knowing it was the last ascent I just kept pushing. Then for the wonderful 3 mile descent to the finish – I really did feel like I was flying!

I couldn’t believe I had finished in 9 hours 20 minutes  – about 2 hours faster than I had predicted! I managed to keep hold of 3rd lady too! What an awesome day!

Thank you so much to race director Charlie from Mountain Run for creating such a mega route and race. The organisation was fantastic! Thanks also to the guys at Nav4 Adventure for keeping us all safe and all course all the lovely marshals and helpers!

Thanks also to Mountain Fuel for keeping me full of energy all the way round!

MOViE iT have made a create video of the day too here!

The offical UK Skynning race report are images are here and the Race Director’s report is here.


Marshalling at the inaugural Lakes Sky Ultra

It’s all too easy to run the same races year after year. I’d become a bit of a stickler for this – so in my quest for new races I stumbled across the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra, part of the UK Skyrunning series. I’d heard about Skyrunning – another branded trail race series right? Wrong. Skyrunning is not trail running – it’s mountain running.

This looked like a true adventure and I wanted to see what it was all about. So I signed up as a marshal.

I arrived in Ambleside the night before the race – five hours after plan, but with just enough light to pitch my tent before a starlit dinner for one with a beautiful mountain view.

Race HQ was the University of Cumbria campus in Ambleside, where the marshals convened for their briefing. I met race directors Andrew and Charlie for the first time and team of Marshalls.

There was a sense of concern at Race HQ. Not panic, there was never panic, just concern. The weather forecast was dire. Usually you can find one forecast with a little optimism. Not this evening. They all said wind and rain and lots of it.

After the safety briefing I was paired with another Katie (who I’ll call Katie 2). We were allocated Grisedale Tarn/CP1. I was given a radio, a dipper box and sent on my way to get some sleep. It was 11.30pm, meaning 5 hours until my 4.30am alarm. 

Like Christmas morning I woke before my alarm with the very familiar gushing of Lakeland rain fighting to get inside my tent. After the 5.30am marshal breakfast at Patterdale (with fresh coffee!) Katie 2 and I headed up the hill for the few mile walk to CP1.

It was wet. Really wet. This really made me realise the importance of decent kit. My Arc’teryx waterproof trousers and Halglofs waterproof trousers performed so well. They had never properly been put through the wet test. They passed.

Grisedale Hause was wet AND windy. Just as we arrived so did a guy from sponsors True Mountain with his flag and camera.

Taking charge at CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

Taking charge at CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

We didn’t have long to wait before out of the clag on the top of Fairfield came a distant flash of red. That flash of red dropped off Fairfield like a whippet into our checkpoint. It was Jim Mann in shorts and T-shirt, which just made me feel cold.

Next came Erik (the ultimate winner) and Gareth (2nd) – neither of whom I knew of at the time.

Erik and Gareth speeding through CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

Erik and Gareth speeding through CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

Sarah Ridgeway got an extra loud ring of my cowbell – just because she was the leading lady and was looking so happy!

A happy Sarah Ridgeway bouncing through CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

A happy Sarah Ridgeway bouncing through CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

Katie 2 and her dog headed back down to Patterdale – a very sensible idea given the amount they were both shaking. I even hugged the dog. I have a ridiculous and irrational fear of dogs. Hugging a dog is a big deal (for me).

All the runners were though within about an hour. I waited and waited for the sweeper, Howard. I took shelter in a perfectly placed sheep fold for what seemed like an age. Turns out it was only 30 minutes, until Howard, with a LOT of flags appeared out the clag.

I was so happy to get moving. I collected the flags and signage from Grisedale Tarn, up “the wall” to Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn and Nethermost. This was probably my favourite part of the day. The perfectly placed flags guided me so I could just enjoy having what seemed like (visibility was less than 10 meters) the hills all to myself.

Before descending Swirral Edge I tagged Colin, who would finish the sweeping to CP2. Swirral Edge was so slippery. I wondered how treacherous the ascent up Striding Edge would be.

Arriving back down into Patterdale felt a bit like an oasis in a dessert. The lovely cooking ladies greeted me with suspiciously looking pale green yet deliciously tasting soup.

Many of the runners looked a little bewildered. They stocked up on Trek Bars and Striptsnacks before heading back out to the unknown.

RD Andrew was control central command here. I eagerly awaited my next assignment. This was to be at the finish – to dip the runners in as they completed this mammoth run.

The winner, Erik came through the finish just after 2.15pm to the great echo of Cowbells and cheers!

One by one each of the runners were greeted by the finishing cowbells. With the exception of a 10 minute re-fuelling break I stood on the finish line for nearly 7 hours – each minute of which I loved. As a runner to have the opportunity to see the emotion of each finisher was just so wonderful.

The sponsors were all great too. They were ever present all weekend. On the hills, at the check points and at the finish – an element of sponsorship that is often missing.

The event organisation and spirit was spot on. When I run the Lakes Sky Ultra I will be reassured in the knowledge that I am in very safe hands.