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Scorchin' at the Rab Scafell Skyrace

Guide Keri describes her race experience at the Rab Scafell Skyrace last weekend, the first race in the UK/Ireland Skyrunning Series.

On arriving in Langdale on Friday night, it was clear I was going to need a few essentials items in my race vest that were not on the usual mandatory kit list - namely suncream and a sunhat! It was a beautiful evening; so warm, with a buzz in the air. On my drive to registration I was struck by how much the valley meant to me; I had spent my first few climbing trips with my husband here many years ago, several camping holidays and evenings spent drinking Old Rosie at the Old Dungeon Ghyll. My husband and I had even run the Langdale Skyline together as our 'mini-moon', the day after our wedding in Scotland. The valley felt like a special place and in the fine weather it was really showing off!

Registration was quick and easy and I wished I was sticking around to enjoy the vibe over a pint, rather than dashing back to last-minute accommodation in nearby Grasmere.

The next morning was surprisingly midgey (though nothing by Scottish standards obviously!) and competitors awaiting the starting countdown were eager to get going. I have to say that having some female-only portaloos meant that (probably for the first time at a race) I was able to get to the toilet shortly before the start without a panic over the huge queue - much appreciated. The great coffee, italian accordian music and jovial start-line helped distract from the impending suffering!

The New Dungeon Ghyll was the perfect spot for pre-race hydration (L) The Langdale Skyline was glowing with nostaliga! (M) A sunny evening at the registration on the Friday evening.

Having raced this event once before, back in 2018, I was interested to see how the different course would compare (much of it is the same but in a different order).

The race started with a steep climb up Harrison Stickle, which was ideal in my opinion - we got stuck into the real deal straight away. Before long we were gaining height over technical ground with lots of little scrambles thrown in. It was also quite cool and not too hot in the morning sunshine.

I was initially a little concerned about how much water I would find on the course but in practice there was plenty and I filled up from many little becks, as well as dousing myself (and filling my hat) in every water source I passed. The result was that I actually felt quite hydrated and pretty cool, despite the soaring temperatures as the day progressed.

The course was absolutely brilliant in my opinion. Runnable and technical throughout with great variety in terrain. It was consisentely a fun, rocky course! I thought it was great to have the biggest climbs, most exposed singletrack and most technical ground in the second half because it meant that pacing became a really important element. It would have been so easy to go out too fast and burn up in the hot afternoon sun over the highest fells, where water was at its most scarce.

First to third ladies (from L to R). Looking strong!

Overall I was pleased with my race (and happy not to have had any real lows or dips) but was frustrated at my food choices. It turns out that Percy Pigs are really no subsitute for Tangfastics! The Mountain Fuel jellies were magic as usual. I had a shortage of savoury items in my vest through poor planning, so it was a delight to turn up at the support point to discover an amazing spread of cheese and meats (genius!) The aid station was really well-stocked and I would have liked to have stayed longer and enjoyed it a bit more!

My favourite sections on this course are the traverse around the waist of Great Gable and also the boulder-hopping around Broad Crag (having said that, the Climber's Traverse and Great Slab are also brilliant). I suppose my least favourite bit was the overlap with the main route up Scafell Pike, which was extremely busy, but I guess weaving through tourists was kind of a novelty in itself - I felt a bit like a crazy zombie, staggering past so many hillwalkers!

Towards the end of the race I was further up the field than I was expecting and surprised to find myself arriving at Bowfell in 3rd F position - only for Karolina Wolozczyk to suddenly pass me on the summit and fly off down the descent! I thought that maybe I could catch her down the Band but rapidly revised that assessemnt when I saw Karolina literally floating over the tough ground ahead. She continued to open up her lead on me and I finished a full 3 minutes behind her in 4th place (25th overall).

Congratulations to all winners and finishers!

The female podium was:

1st: Alicia Schawzenbach: 06:05:11 2nd: Holly Clifford: 06:34:07 3rd: Karolina Wolozczyk: 06:42:20

The hardest bit of the day for me was definitely the last 3kms between the bottom of the Band and the finish-line. It was absolutely roasting in the valley bottom and the trail section is very rough on tired legs. Water was on offer on reaching the road but I was in 'finish mode' and didnt want to wait for my flask to trickle full. I could feel the heat starting to get to me in the last mile and knew that I didn't have much left. It was awesome to get sprayed down with water on crossing the line and to have a pint of water and shade immediately available. I felt like everything had been thought of and the whole experience was just what i'd hoped it would be.

< Me on the waist of Great Gable; an exposed singletrack section which keeps you on your toes! Credit Al Topping/Xtreme Exposures

Lake District Sky Trails put on a great event for the first race in the UK/Ireland Skyrunning Series. Next up is the Snowdon Skyrace on 25th June....

If you want to try skyrunning, in Scotland or in the Lake District, we have two Introduction to Skyrunning courses happening this summer (July 1st in Glencoe and July 29th in the N Lake District). We are also delighted to be offering new dates for Ben Nevis Skyrun (residential) and Arran Mountain Running with Nicky Spinks - both happening on the 2nd & 3rd September. To find out more or to book your space click HERE.

Photo credits; (various) official race photography Rab Scafell Skyrace

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