Henriette was always entered for the Scafell Skyrace…I was always siting on the fence. It was going to be a long summer of racing and I was debating if yet another marathon in the mountains was a good idea. In the end I figured you only live once, and I can never pass up an opportunity to race in the Lakes.
The course would be around 40km with around 3000m of climb split into two halves by one aid station. The first half was rocky and technical with the majority of the climb. The second half was grassier and more forgiving on the legs with a big climb to begin with but then slowly descending to Ambleside and the finish.
I was told there were a few good runners but only one that I truly knew. Tom Evans was the top finisher from Team GB in the Trail World Championships earlier this year. He came third, with me in fourth.
We spent much of the race together. He led up the first climb but apart from this if felt like he was hanging back a little. We were joined by another runner who I didn’t know. This guy seemed to not be breathing much on the uphills but the long descent to the aid station would prove that his legs couldn’t handle the battering. I later found out that he was a talented mountain biker which made a lot of sense.
After the first climb we started coming down some scree, this was pretty fun but as we hit a grassy section I managed to go over on my ankle. Many expletives went through my mind and one came out of my mouth. 34km to go in England’s toughest terrain and I had just screwed my foot up. The next footfalls proved it was just hurting a bit and would probably loosen…
The foot didn’t bother me too much and we were soon on a long descent to a somewhat warmer valley floor.
With the tougher half complete it was now down to me and Tom. I wanted to break the link between us but didn’t especially like how it happened.
At the briefing it was stated that friends and family could give us food and drink at the aid station. Hearing this I planned to give two 500ml bottles to a friend so I could get them at this critical time in the race.
A couple of km down the valley Tom and I reached a pub which seemed perfect for an aid station, Vicky was dutifully there (only by a minute apparently) and I got my bottles. Running on there was no sign of an aid station. Knowing Tom needed supplies I said we could go back and look or, if we had missed it, he could have one of my bottles. A kilometre later we came across the aid station and later found out that the pub was where last year’s aid station was.
Having the litre of water I needed I just ran off when we reached the actual aid station thinking Tom would catch me up. Going through some gates I could see him 30m back and even jokingly called out ‘come on dude’. Turns out he didn’t come on and the gap between us started to grow. I didn’t feel like I was climbing any faster than in the beginning of the race but still the distance between us seemed to widen.
Reaching the top I couldn’t see Tom behind me. I now figured I had a gap so I might as well try to keep it. From the trail world champs I knew Tom was maybe a better runner than me on the runnable sections and the remaining 12km was certainly runnable.
Checking back after some time I still couldn’t see him but started to think about my own water situation. Descending out of the clouds and into the heat I was cooking and soon out of water. The sun beat down on my neck and I started to be glad this race wasn’t as long as in Madeira or Tromso. Thankfully I reached the top of the last climb just as I finished my water, before I knew it I was down in Ambleside receiving my finishers’ cider trophy.
Tom ran strongly through to the finish but was over 10 minutes back making me feel better about cutting our tie at the aid station. Taking part in a skyrace in the Lakes was a great experience, and I am glad I decided last minute to toe the start line despite it not being an ‘A’ race in my calendar.