Niandi Carmont reports from the V3K, Skyrunning UK’s inaugural event.
All images ©mickkenyon
Well what an epic start to the UK Skyrunning series and certainly no better way to introduce skyrunning to the UK ultra-running enthusiasts.
The V3K on June 28th, 2014 was the first in a series of 4 skyrunning events on the UK calendar this year. Organized by Race Director Kirsch Bowkler the 55km ultra-skymarathon with a total ascent of 4,500m takes in the Welsh 3,000’s – the 15 (formerly 14) peaks over 3000ft in Wales. Now in its third year the course has seen entries grow from 30 in 2013 to 100 runners registered in its third year. As opposed to last year the course took the skyrunners across the infamous Crib Goch in Snowdonia certainly one of the most technical parts of any British mountain race. This was thus a new course with a new male and female course records.
A mandatory kit check, race registration and race briefing followed by a vegan pasta party took place on the day preceding the race.
The 100 participants were convened at 4am on June 28th to take a bus transfer from the finish at Rowen to the start of the race at Nant Gwyanant at 5am. By this time day had broken and amidst excited chatter and last-minute kit adjustments the runners were on their way up the first climbup the ridge Bwlch Main to Snowdon, second and third ridges of Carnedd Ugain and the knife edged arête of Crib Goch. The weather was chilly and overcast unlike previous days of clear skies and high temperatures. By the time the first runners had reached the dreaded crête Crib Goch the fog had already descended over the Welsh peaks and visibility was reduced considerably making race conditions harder for even the more experienced runners. According to one runner conditions on Crib Goch were very greasy and slippery but thanks to the reduced visibility we could not see the sheer drops on either side. After completing the first section, 4 summits and the most technical part of the course the route took the runners down via North Ridge and on towards Nant Peris aid station which is accessible by road. From the outset of the race the pace had been set by Jason Cavill in full preparation for the CCC in France later this year followed closely by Michael Clifford. At Nant Perris Jason had a 3-minute lead on his rival and both looked incredibly fresh and strong as they blasted through the aid station barely stopping to pick up some extra kit. First lady through was Liz Barker who literally dominated the small female field of 14 until the end of the race opening up a huge gap between 2nd lady Claire Maxted and Sasha Habgood in 3rd position. After a relatively short section of road the runners followed the route towards Glyderau, starting the second section of the course with a huge climb up Elidir Fawr, and the peaks of Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Tryfan. By this time the fog had thickened so much and the grey weather had given way to a fine drizzle leaving the runners with even less visibility in the mountains. From the next aid station Ogwen accessible by road Jason could be seen descending fast dodging boulders with Michael Clifford hot on his heels. The descent had taken its toll on Jason and combined with the foggy wet conditions fatigue was setting in. The two front runners stopped briefly at the aid station to replenish and set off together. The third and final section of the course took the runners over the final 7 peaks of Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewelyn, Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenellian, and Foel Fras. It was during this final section that the two front runners split as Jason took a wrong turn as he went off course and Michael Clifford took the lead descending to the final road aid station and onto the finish line which he crossed in 8.19m 30s. For Michael who had only run one ultra before the V3K and had spent 3 months in cross-training due to an ITB injury this was an unexpected win.
Jason’s course error had cost him 30min and he finished second in 8.39m 00s. T. According to Jason:
The race was really the challenge I expected it to be. A lot of climbing, a lot of technical descents. It was distance-wise not particularly long but certainly the climbing made up for it so it was tough.
It was very thick fog on top of the course and even though it was well marked out and we’d recc’d it before, I dropped down before Yr Elen and went off course a long way so I got split up with Michael who I was sharing the lead with.
I got back on course, got my head down, saw a marshal who told me Michael had come in 30m earlier. I was amazed I was still in second place.
Third was Chris Baynham in 9.11m 00s. The ladies’ race was won by Liz Barker in 10.29m 48s with a substantial gap between the rest of the female field. Claire Maxted was second in 12.36m 01s and Sasha Habgood and Shelly Hufner joint third in 12.49m 33s.
It was a long day out on the course for most of the runners as they had to negotiate with the tough weather conditions, the fog, poor visibility and the slippery technical terrain. Nevertheless this heightened the challenge and self-satisfaction for those who successfully crossed the finishing line to claim their locally made ceramic medal and be an official finisher of the first skyrunning ultra in the UK.
In total 65 completed the V3K ultra, the last in 17.06m 36s and 17 participants did not finish or make the cut-off times.
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RACE RESULTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE