The Glen Coe Skyline race was the third and final in the Skyrace Extreme race extreme series and set here in Bonny Scotland.
Having already ran the first in the series over at Tromso, Norway I was looking forward to revisiting many of the mountain summits and ridge that I have spent the last 30 odd years exploring and playing in. Like Tromso, the Coe also hosted a Vertical Kilometre and shorter event on the Saturday with the Ring of Steall race which is still a tasty 29km with 2500m of vertical ascent taking in some stunning ridges and mountain summits.
The fully skyline was a scary 55.06km / 4,746m with two technical sections. Entrants were vetted to ensure they had sufficient mountain running and technical climbing experience before being allowed to toe the start line.
Based on my Tromso race performance, making the mid route cut off times was going to be challenging …very challenging indeed. I started the race running with my club mate James which helped ensure my pace was quicker than I’d normally start with (James is usually at the pointy end of the race) and was happy to make the first cut with almost 90 minutes to spare. The next section was an ascent of the mighty Buachaille Etive Mor via Curved Ridge. With the route being flagged, it was simply ascend as quick as you could and in unison with other folks around you. Previous ascent times for this during training had been around the 1 hour 28 minute mark …race day gave a time of 38 minutes !
Over the summit and it was time to settle back into run mode heading over Stob na Doire before the sharp descent into the Lairg Gartain, over the bealach on Buachaille Etive Beag before another descent to the second timing point. It was good to confirm I had made up additional time and now had a good buffer for the final cut at the road crossing. However, I paid the price for the early pace during the traverse of the Bidean mam Bian section feeling light headed and generally grim (food and drink sorted that). Lost count of how many tumbles on the way down from Stob Coire nam Beith thanks to wet rock but arrive at the road crossing to cheers from my girlfriend and her family (better than any gel) – they even wore beards to help raise spirits.
Safely through the critical cut off, I began the long ascent to the second technical stage going over the Aonach Eagach Ridge. I knew this section well but only from the opposite direction – it was amazing how different some of the short scrambling problems change. Simple when climbing “up” less simple when climbing “down” and vice versa. Unfortunately the weather had crapped out by this time and in addition to the terrain had to deal with low visibility, rain and an increasing wind. Being truthful, I was scared out ma buff on a few occasions and glad to reach the end of the technical ground at Am Bodach.
Once on the grassy ground, it was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the last bit of running down onto the West Highland Way track.
My initial plan had simply been to stay ahead of the cuts and finish between 13 hours and 14 hours so was super happy to actually cross the line in 11 hours, 53 minutes and 27 seconds.
What had made me race hard, a few things – Katie had probably the best run of her life the day before on the Ring of Steall and I didn’t want her to feel bad if I DNFd, I also know some of the race organising team and having been given the opportunity to race, I didn’t want to let them down. A few more reasons …but maybe share them fireside over tea late one evening ...
Huge shout out to all who organised, ran and supported the three events ..nae doubts, it’s braw tae run.
Special note must be made for ma girl Katie ~ in just shy of a year, she turned her focus onto mountain running from her already successful ultra trail events. Watching her develop her skills and confidence in the mountains has been humbling and impressive. Look forward to sharing many mair summits of our lives.