True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra - Race Directors report.
The inaugural True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra happened on the 12th of September, despite the weather throwing everything it could do at the runners who attended.
Friday arrived at the speed of an express train. After months of preparation for the inaugural edition of the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra, it was upon us with amazing speed.
Thursday had been spent picking up race kit from the Ourea Events' storage units, Open Tracking/Adventure & then placing out a Radio Repeater station on Red Screes before Andrew & myself headed out too late in the afternoon to mark up the technical sections of the route. These being Striding Edge, the descent off Nethermost Pike, through Eagle Crag & Pinnacle Ridge. After 3.5 hours of course marking & only being on the descent through Eagle Crag we realised we were now benighted & it would be an early ascent of Pinnacle Ridge on Friday morning to finish off the technical course marking. Our course setting team headed out after being briefed at 09:00 Friday morning.
Late nights & early mornings aren't exactly what you plan for on a race weekend, especially when you're the RD. A tired mind makes mistakes, so sleep is a must pre-event.
The course setting team were at Bell Cottage (Race HQ pre-event) when I arrived back just before 09:00 from Pinnacle Ridge, busily chopping wood lengths in to stakes, sorting & counting course marking flags and generally getting ready to mark the course. The briefings took some time, we need to get the markings right & there is a lot to discuss on paths, routes, ascents & descents. Our team did an amazing job, with countless compliments coming from runners post race.
Registration seemed to run pretty smoothly, with our only major hitch being the Open Tracking gprs tracking devices not working because the Manx mobile network they work on decided it would crash on us, on Friday evening. This was a little disconcerting, but knowing that James Thurlow & his crew were on the case made us feel as relaxed as possible, but we decided to keep the trackers off the runners until we knew the problem was fixed.
The competitor briefing came around all too fast & as I bundled through a half finished briefing, the major messages were communicated. Weather, safety, camaraderie, Open Tracking devices, checkpoints & feed stations, more weather, would we run the full or bad weather course (we deferred that until the morning to make our final decision), SMJ (sound mountain judgement), Nav4Adventure (our safety team on the fell), BioSecurity, Medic's, and the 'Nature of the Challenge'.
Post competitor briefing we had a marshals briefing to run through & then the whole marshals team to brief in pairs, teams or individually. The marshals ended up with a very late night, sorry about that guys, we know you need your beauty sleep!
Marshals headed their respective ways, we were advised by Open Tracking that the 'Trackers' were now back online, provision was made for the morning to strap the trackers onto the runners & the last of the marshals, the Nav4Adventure safety team, myself & Andrew headed to the shelter of the Patterdale School for our own beauty sleep.
The Race Day:
Early start to get back to the events centre & set up the start/finish gantry. This done, the final competitors who missed registration the night before due to the M6 traffic jam, we're registered. Trackers were strapped to the runners & we got ready for the start at 07:00. Nobody really wanted to leave the safety of the events centre, as the rain had started to come down hard. With ten days of perfect weather in the Lakes it was a severe slap in the face for both the race organising team & runners alike. This morning's weather was out of proportion to the previous week & could almost be described as biblical... but it was not quite that bad.
A quick pre-race briefing was issued at the start & Andrew offered some motivational words about drawing strength from the mountains & then off they went! 07:05, just 5 minutes late. Of course this was accounted for in the timing system.
We had conferenced with our safety team the night before & came up with a 3 tiered plan; 1) Run the whole course, 2) Nav4Adventure safety team were to make 'on the fell decisions' if the weather dictated, 3) To move to the 'bad weather course'. Option 2 was our objective for the day. Stuart Smith would possibly shorten the route, before Helvellyn, dropping the runners down Nethermost Pike NE Ridge, or if we ran both the ridges, then Joe Faulkner would be taking a very close look at whether Pinnacle Ridge was still an option for the day. Having a safety team as experienced as Nav4Adventure makes a Race Directors day much less stressful, these guys really know their salt! Both Stuart & Joe made the right decision for the day and kept the 'Edges' live, and pulled 'Pinnacle Ridge' for safety reasons. The runners backed this up as they finished, advising almost all were happy with the 'on the fell' decision. Thanks for the tough call Nav4Adventure.
The weather kept throwing it's best at the runners & marshals alike, until around midday or just after & then finally it started to let up. This of course was a welcome relief to all.
The Marshal team:
We were very lucky to gain such an experienced marshal team for our first race. Some of these guys I know through the Keswick Mountain Festival marshal team, some though working on Ourea Events, some through the general mountain race scene & some were new faces who I was to get to know. These guys and gals are invaluable & between them they carried a wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for mountain running & mountain running events. It is really the most honest statement to say, that without a solid and very experienced marshals team, this type of event would be impossible to put on & an absolute nightmare to carry off. Our marshals team endured the weather in valley & on mountain top, they made sure they were there all day, or at least until the last runner had gone past and our course sweepers came through to relieve them of their checkpoint duties. I really can't thank these stalwarts enough for giving up their time & energy to get battered by an Atlantic Storm of major proportions in order to allow a race like this to take place. Thanks crew, you know who you are, we hope you'd still like to join us next year, when we've booked the weather for sunshine and a gentle breeze.
Our 'Feed Stations': Both of these were supported by our sponsors, who put in an amazing amount of effort & time to make sure everything was as good as it possibly could be.
Team Nutrition, a local Lancashire company headed by Robin Higgens and crew took the reins at Patterdale School to offer a superb selection of wholesome snacks from their product range, plus electrolytes to keep the runners moving well & on top of their blood sugar counts. Stript Snacks came on board to supply us with dried Irish beef jerky, crisps were on offer, real Coca Cola, proper coffee supplied from Butterworth & Son's in Bury St. Edmunds and of course Andrew Burton's vegetable stew stretched into a hearty soup!
True Mountain, our fantastic main sponsors headed up the Kirkstone Pass Feed Station in an Ourea Events admin tent, erected in serious weather by Andrew & a crew of marshals earlier in the day. This CP was at the start of the first 'Super Stage' so was an important snack stop for those who still had the energy to push hard & try to win the uphill and downhill segments of the race. A race with-in a race, possibly a cruel game created by the planners for the runners, but the runners seemed to rise to the occasion with Jim Mann taking the prize for both stages for the men, whilst trying to chase Gareth Hughes down, and Sarah Ridgeway taking the ladies uphill prize, with Beth Pascal coming through very strongly for the ladies downhill prize! The same food & snacks were on offer here and it seems the runners were very pleased with the selection, but please tell us if you want anything different for next year!
The Prize Giving:
After a pretty full on day, making sure the race organisation stuck to the plan, we moved into the prize giving ceremony. Slightly spun out & somewhat tired, both Andrew and I completely forgot our main sponsors prizes! True Mountain we're really sorry about this, but I'd also like to add... True Mountain did also forget to bring the vouchers, so we guess its touche!
True Mountain have some fantastic prizes for the 1st, 2nd & 3rd places for both Open Male/Female and Male/Female Vet's 45 categories, there are also prizes to go to the winners of the 'uphill & downhill' super stages on Red Screes. We'll be sending these out to those of you who were strong enough to win!
Results can be viewed HERE
Thanks go to.....:
As ever, races like this would not be possible if it weren't for the support of the many sponsors, marshals, land owners' permissions, race organisers & runners alike. Its the pulling together of these resources and organisations that allows us to enjoy the mountains as we like to, even if the weather gods try to stop us. This list is long, but its well deserved and due.
True Mountain: Massive thanks to our main sponsor for all their overall support, funds, social media support & prizes. True Mountain are a Lancashire based company, producing extremely well made & designed clothing for mountain sports such as Sky and Fell Running. Without True Mountain's open vision, this project called the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra would not have got off the ground! Amazing to have these guy's on board.
Check out True Mountains mountain running clothing range here: https://www.truemountain.com
SupraBeam: True Mountain also brought Suprabeam to the lime light (pun completely intended!) to offer support based on lighting solutions, considering the last runners do descend Red Screes in the impending gloom & darkness. Suprabeam are Danish designed & made, excellent in design & quality.
Checkout the Suprabeam product range here: http://www.suprabeam.com/uk/index.html
Team Nutrition: A huge thanks to Team Nutrition for all the support pre, during and post event for feed station supplies, electrolytes & snacks, nutritional advice and actual support in person at the stations. Thanks also guys for the social media support you offered on the day, top notch to say the least. Team Nutrition are another Lancashire based brand, who walk the walk in terms of product & knowledge. These guys develop & produce some of the best hydration & nutritional products out there.
Check out Team Nutrition's product range on their website: http://www.teamnutrition.co.uk
Cowmire Hall Cider: Locally picked apples, hand pressed into juice, left to mature in vats in a farm building in the Winster Valley by my brother-in-law, Simon Paterson. This is the only 'true' Cumbrian cider, with apples picked from ancient orchards around Cumbria.
Cowmire Hall Cider facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Cowmire-Hall-Ancient-Orch...
We hope you all enjoyed the cider & we're sorry to those who missed it. Let us know if you didn't get a bottle and we'll see what we can do to get one to you.
Stript Snacks: Irish air dried beef jerky. We know some are vegetarian, but we know others eat meat. We figured that this beef jerky would be gobbled up by the racers & it was, every last Stript! Thanks guys for supporting the feed stations last minute, you fuelled 56 runners through hellish weather!
Checkout Stript's range here: http://www.striptsnacks.com
View Ranger: These guy's supported the marshals team, by allowing us to use the fantastic software so our course setters knew exactly the line to take when marking out the course.
We recommend the view ranger app and mapping software, it really works a treat!
See view rangers website here: http://www.viewranger.com/en-GB
Real Coffee: Butterworth & Son's provided us with the best coffee on the planet! Imported by Freeman Trading (and roasted only three days before the race) (last Wednesday), Butterworth & Son's made sure you guy's didn't have to drink dried junk. We're really passionate about our coffee at Pura Powr Events, we never ever want to serve you freeze dried granules. So a massive thanks to Butterworth & Son's for supplying the freshest & best coffee you can find in the UK!
Check out Butterworth & Son's coffee and tea selection here: https://butterworthandson.co.uk/product-category/r...
Sky-Lines Race Tattoos: An excellent addition to the race, giving you quick access to important information. Yes we know it doesn't include all the summits, but its designed as an overview of the ascents, descents, feed stations and important safety numbers.
We hope you liked them. We know the weather rubbed it off some of your arms, for others it stayed intact all day. It was very tough conditions for the tattoos to stay put. We're impressed, let us know your thoughts!
Checkout Sky-lines website here: http://www.sky-lines.eu
General thanks: We have to thank all the land owners & national bodies who allowed us to hold the race/course across the area we did. Without the cooperation of these guys the race would not happen either. We'd also like to thank all the supporters who came out to see the runners through the various checkpoints & feed stations, you braved the weather to make the event spectacular, especially considering the small, but hardcore field of runners we had.
Thanks also go to the extremely hard working and extremely well organised timing solutions company, SI Entries & Timing Solutions, and the same goes to our other safety cover from Open Tracking. These guys are true professionals. Problems may well arise, but they work all hours at any time of the day to make sure they get the problem fixed as swiftly and professionally as possible.
And finally, thanks to Ourea Events for loaning us event kit like the race gantry, event tent at Kirkstone Pass, course marking flags, water boilers etc. You really helped us out guys!
All attention now turns to the other events to come in the UK Skyrunning Series. The next to be held is:
High Terrain's 3 x 3000, this ultra trail event will not disappoint committed trail runners, tackling all 3 of the highest 3000' mountains in the Lakes via classic single track routes, with a good amount open fell thrown in for good measure. Course planned by Ricky Lightfoot.
Check out the website HERE
Entries still available.
Date: 4th October 2015
The last race in the UK Skyrunning Series is the Mourne Skyline MTR.
The Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race is a 35k race, incorporating 3,370m (11,057ft) of accumulative ascent, set in the heart of the scenic Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland.
Entires are now closed unfortunately, but there are still entires for the 300m uphill race which they call the Granite Trail Race (GTR).
Look out for this deservedly popular race in next years calendar.
I guess that wraps the whole event up for this year. We feel, as this is the first time we have run this event and the first event we have run under the bracket of Pura Powr Events, that it went amazingly well and we stoked it ran as smoothly as it did. This is down to the support we received from all around, plus some pretty damn good organisational skills from Andrew Burton.
We're looking forward to 2016 already, not least because 'GOD' has promised us sunshine for next year, but because we had a real ball putting this event on.
Keep running and keep training hard, thanks for entering and even more thanks for turning up on the day, for what was most certainly a rather large storm lashing the *beep* out of the Lakes!
We look forward to seeing you all again in 2016!
Charles Sproson, Race Director 2015