Sale Harriers tackle the Scottish Highlands
To the border in the North and beyond!
Following on from the Lakeland adventure, where a select few had tackled the 50mile ultra, the next event in the challenging calendar was mouthwatering Salomon Skyline weekend in Kilnlochleven, just south of Fort William.
Thursday morning and six Sale Harriers went to represent the club and test themselves on the best mountain running that the United Kingdom had to offer. The kit was packed, the training done (for some), the weather forecast checked (again) and the long drive was on.
The team, which consisted of the following; Paul Barrett, Chris 'Donners' Donelly, Mike ‘faffer’ Ashby, Aiden Raftery, Richard 'the Butty Baron' Brown and Olivier Gaillemin, arrived at Kinlochleven, in time for a pint of the local ale, a bit of chat and bravado and then a restless night's sleep in Danny and Marion's cosy B&B.
Full English followed by a swim in the sea loch. "What's that? Debris?". "No seals" confirmed our resident vet. And so Aidan, Richard Mike and Paul zipped up the fetching attire and had a paddle with the wildlife. The land-lubbers stood back to watch and take bets on who would be the last one in the water.
Quick head back to base in order for Olly, Richard and Chris to gather kit, get registered and then make the start line for the UKs only VK (Vertical Kilometer) which happens to be the deciding race on the World VK championships. This explained why a who's who of the international mountain / sky running community were milling around. The rules for the VK are that a total of 1000m must be ascended inside 5km total distance. Think of the Mamores VK as the slowest Parkrun in the country! We were set off at 30 second intervals, initially jogging out of town and into the woods "this is not so bad stylee" when the real climbing began. Phew! Hands on knees? Hands in grass more like. And on and on and on it went. The longest lunge / squat session I had done all year. False summit after false summit - and then the ridge to the finish. Pretty mega to arrive at the top just in time for the piper (who had arrived moments earlier looking as if he had escaped a heart attack by the smallest of margins) got his breath together for that Scottish sound. And Chris, who was narrowly beaten to first to the top (the elite athletes set off later ho hum), had time to get his camera out and prove his photographic skills. Thanks mate.
And then the long trek back to the start as whilst the race was over at the top, there was no way back bar retracing your steps, desperately trying to protect your legs for the following day.
A moment of extreme excitement on the way down: Olly came face to face with his all time hero (wife maintains man-crush), Kilian Jornet. A desperate "Kiki!" later and the photo was had - one beaming face next to that of a somewhat worried looking elite athlete's.
The other three had been busy at the local via ferrata and on our return, there was time for a quick bit of scran followed by a Salomon film night. Some fantastic film footage, a couple of premieres of Salomon elite athlete films (Max King's Route 66 and Kilian and Emily's Choy Oyo expedition) followed by Q&As with the stars (Paul challenged the athletes to try and set a course record at the Gravy Pud) with some G&Ts courtesy of the sponsors at the interval and an educating night was had by all.
The main event. The Ring of Steall. 17.5 miles and 2,500m of climb. Some ridge running. Some scrambling. A 1000m descent inside 2.5km. We were excited as the piper set us off.
Chris was off with the main field, straight up to the top of the first of 4 Munroes. The rest of us duly followed at a more modest pace. On arrival at the ridge, Aidan the mountain goat came into his own and forged ahead. On the first descent, Mike came flying past Olly, determined to put some distance into Paul. Richard was chasing only a couple of minutes behind. And so it continued.
Big climbs, stunning ridges, waterfalls and rivers to ford, ledges to cling on to, mud and bog to make you slip and fall and curse. Dark greens and purples. Grey rock. Rolling skies pierced by shafts of light. Lochs in the distance. This was the Lake District on EPO. Monstrous and beautiful.
Eventually, everyone made it safely down from the mountain, thighs burning and faces pale having been out for over five hours. Chilli, rice and cake followed at race HQ whilst memories were shared with the use of some stark adjectives.
What a day. What a run. What a shattering team effort.
The day was concluded with food, beer and whisky.
Early rise to see the headline race: The Glencoe skyline set off with the Elite field including Kilian Jornet, sure to set a course record. And after a final "full English", off past Glencoe to find a spot to admire the Elite field come off the mountain and head down the valley. Then home to nurse the tired limbs and look forward to the fell relays, the cross country: Woodbank Park and Boggart Hole Clough, we are no longer intimidated by you!
Below are a few photos to whet your appetite and tempt you out to the Highlands next year....
Posted 22/09/2017 09:25