Race Report: Malcolm Dunkeld – Skyrun 2018

#Hellofarun

Anyone who has done the SkyRun will know the infamous status “The Wall” has. It is a 500m ascent and descent linking the Balloch valley to the Wartrail valley, and it is BRUTAL. Due to service delivery strikes in Lady Grey the race start venue needed to be moved to Wartrail which meant SkyRun 2018 had a “Double Wall Climb” in its already painful route profile.

This along with the heatwave (temperature peaked at an unheard of 40°C) mean that the K-way SkyRun was a brutal run and rated as the toughest SkyRun ever.

 

Saturday morning at 04:00 the race started and runners were lead out through a tunnel of flairs on route to the first ascent of “The Wall” from Wartrail country club.  After an easy 2km warm up the almost vertical climb started, fortunately being fresh, the climb was manageable and we headed down into the Balloch valley and up the river. Water was scarce on the route and runners were advised to take over three litres of carrying capacity. After filling up at the final stream in the Balloch valley we headed up the “Mother-in-Law” climb (aptly named by race organiser Adrian Saffey: “you don’t want to visit it, but you know you have to”). 

I was careful to take it easy as the SkyRun is a very long race but was in good position and felt relatively strong. We passed the second checkpoint, Skidaw and onto the narrow ridgeline leading to Avoca (highest point on the route at 2761m). After summiting Avoca the route carried on down toward the spring below Snowdon, this was the turnaround point. I began to struggle on this long arduous section but after filling up some beautifully cold mountain water and the sense of accomplishment coming with reaching the turnaround point I had renewed energy and managed the climb back up Avoca relatively well. On past Skidaw and back down into the Balloch valley. I took this section relatively easily as I knew “The Wall” was coming again. The heat was almost unbearable resulting in 50% of the 100km field withdrawing from the race. Balloch is the only seconding point on the route, so had the compulsory medical check, took in some fluids and headed out for the second ascent of “The Wall”.

SkyRunners know that although you have run 60km by Balloch it is only the halfway point as the last 40km are brutally long. Over the Wall, I went now pushing for a top 15 position and a sub 20 hours. The heat was punishing but fortunately, my race tactics to this point paid off as I managed to get up and over the Wall without too much difficulty. After a refreshing head dunk in a plaasdam I headed up the road to the Edghill checkpoint and onto the final big climb, Bridal pass. Unfortunately, this is where I pushed myself into the red a bit to try to get on top as quick as possible and that resulted in me becoming very nauseous. It meant a long slow trek to the Turn checkpoint. There was a rest point after the turn where the infamous chicken soup was served, this was a game changer. Feeling much better after the soup I headed out for the last 16km section. I was still aiming for sub 20 hours although it was looking less and less likely.

The final ascent and absolutely crazy and brutal descent off Halstones peak came and went, unfortunately passing the 20-hour mark on the decent.  Linking up with some legendary trail runners, we completed the final 5.5km leg and entered Wartrail in 12th position after 20h46min of amazing trail running. Thank you to Pure Adventures for the epic race, especially considering the circumstances. Thank you always to KeyHealth for the sponsorship and First Ascent for the awesome gear.  Thank you also to all the other sponsors of the Nevarest team.