Its always a nervous week in the run up to an event and things are always present to test you as a race orgainiser and director.
The Scafell Sky Race 2019 was no different.
This years trials and tribulations started as a double booked events centre many months ago. This hurdle was overcome pretty swiftly and all was going really well.
Fast forward to the week prior to the event and boom... THE WEATHER.
The weather can throw any race organiser and as an RD I have to keep an eye on it, but experience tells me never to look too soon. Even the start of the week is a little too soon, especially for the Lake District.
We are governed by the Atlantic Seaboard and it can and will change at the drop of a hat and it can and will throw everything at you if a South Westerly blows in...
A south westerly was due to blow in and this means lots of thought.
As an event we look at all the dangers present in the mountains, then we splice that in with the competitors and their projected skill level. We have to make sure the event is as safe and well managed as it can be and sometimes this means we have to eliminate certain sections of the course.
We have a designed 'Bad Weather Course'. This is because we know runners travel from all over the world and the last thing they want is a cancelled race. The Bad Weather Course can be hosted in all but the most extreme weather conditions, which is likely to be severe flooding, thunder and lightening storms and extreme's of wind. This was a slight consideration for 2019, but with the weather forecast improving 36 to 24 hours before the event this year, we took all our attention to focusing on how we could run the 'Full Course' and remove as little as possible.
With temps of just above freezing and wind-chill factors that would have been sub-zero on the summits, Scafell Pike was the obvious one to remove. Heavy rain and slippy rocks, combined with sub-zero wind-chill made this an easier decision than removing other sections. The wind direction, the time of exposure on high and very technical ground meant it was just not sensible to put 201 skyrunners over the summit of Englands highest peak, Scafell Pike at 984m.
Great Slab however, was much more difficult to decide about and we left that decision right until the last minute. We operate a 8 strong safety team in the mountains, headed up by Joe Faulkner, who runs Nav4 Adventure in the Lake District. Under Joe, there are 7 'mountain professionals' all highly experienced in dealing with race safety in the UK. We do this because we can not see or feel the weather conditions in the mountains and to make decisions from a valley base is just not correct.
The safety team moved into Bowfell Great Slab with the intention of running the Slab in the event, but on arrival they made well considered 'on the spot' decisions and decided to not 'run' this section. We would run the course down to 3 Tarn's instead and then down The Band, making it safer but not much easier.
For me as an RD, this is the only way to operate and we trust our Technical Events Safety teams decision 100%. That is what they are there for.
With everything in place, the event was started from the new events centre in Great Langdale, out of the awesome National Trust owned Stickle Barn. We love this new events centre, but it wasn't without its problems.
We feel it wasn't large enough for the event and in hindsight, we would like to have done more about this, but it just wasn't possible for 2019. We will however be working on this for 2020.
What we do hope is you enjoyed both nights music, both of the bands/artists are local to the area and fitted well with the surroundings of the mountains and Lakeland tavern of the Stickle Barn.
The internet connection was also very weak and easily overloaded by the volume if usage, again this is something we will be looking to improve for 2020.
Both our race gantry, which we had lovely new banners made for and the Skyrunning Race arch both failed. The delivery of the gantry didn't happen... too long a story for here and the Skyrunning UK race arch failed to inflate on the morning of the event. Its not the end of the world, but we'll make sure that its right for the LSU 2019.
From our side the event was smoothly run and we are very pleased that we only had minor injuries, which makes us believe we made all the right decisions with our course shortening. Its a real shame about the weather, but then we can't choose that side of everything and it is just 'normal' weather in the Lakes.
As always, it is so so important that we mention the marshals, landowners, local farmers and our sponsors and supporters, so with all this in mind;
The event would not be possible, cliched but true, without the extremely selfless support of our excellent volunteer marshals team, who were 20 strong in the mountains and 10 strong in the events centre. Many of the marshals also fill other roles, like course marking, course sweeping, course stripping amongst other things.
We think they are amazing and because if this, they are all mentioned below and their positions are mentioned, so you can see how they operate (in no particular order):
|Andrew Berry - Course Marker and Mountain Marshal (CP7)|
|Ciara Downes - Course Marker, Mountain Marshal and Course Sweep (CP6)|
|Rufus Curnow - Mountain Marshal and Photographer (CP7)|
|Jo Shelmerdine - Course Marker, Mid Way Feed Station Marshal (CP5) and Course Sweep|
|Craig Barker - Car-parking and Mountain Marshal (CP1)|
|Bobbie Stainthorp - Mid Way Feed Station Marshal (CP5)|
|Michael Cooper - Course Marker and Mountain Marshal (CP2)|
|Jacqueline Cooper - Course Marker and Mountain Marshal (CP2)|
|Laura Mazzara - Mountain Marshal (CP6)|
|Jill Ritson - Events centre marshal, Registration Team and Mountain Marshal (CP3)|
|Harry Berger - Mountain Marshal (CP3)|
|Darren Jennings - Events Centre Marshal, Registration Team and Mid Way Feed Station Marshal (CP5)|
|Susan Graham - Events centre marshal, Registration Team and Soup|
|Bram Appleton - Valley based marshal (CP4)|
|Charlotte Lyddon - Valley based marshal (CP4)|
|Charlie Mitchell - Events centre marshal, Registration Team and Finish Cakes|
|Howard Seal - Course Prover and Course Stripper, Final post event sweep.|
|Clare Houlihan - Events centre marshal, Registration Team|
|Scott Evans-Brahim - Mountain Marshal (Bowfell Summit)|
|Aaron Thompson - Mountain Marshal (Styhead Pass)|
|David Elsender - Events centre marshal, Registration Team|
|David Wood - Events centre marshal, Registration Team, Mid Way Feed Station Marshal (CP5)|
|Paul Todd - Events centre marshal (Finish Team)|
|Martin Barrett - Course Marker and 1st half Sweep|
|Les Smith - Events centre marshal, Registration Team and Finish Team (Stickle Barn)|
|Sharon West - Events centre marshal, Registration Team and Finish Team (Stickle Barn)|
|Vickie Cook - Finish Team (Stickle Barn) and Final Course Clearance (Great Gable/Climbers Traverse)|
Not forgetting Gaynor Prior, the 2nd in command on all our LDST races and events, who in her own right is in a top class race director for Pure Outdoor Running Events amongst other stuff and Mark Blackburn for picking up on CP5 in Seathwaite, when we lost a couple of marshals (Mark B is the RD and creator of the brilliant Tri X Events based out of Ambleside) and of course Nicola Sproson who does lots of 'behind the scene's' organising for the LDST and was out of action this year after breaking her arm 4 weeks ago in the GL3D - she might not have been there on race day, but she was sorely missed.
I'd like to also thank Nav4 Adventure for the highly skilled Technical Events Safety team, all listed below. These guys and girls are mountain professionals, some are Mountain Rescue, some are top flight fell runners, all our qualified to a minimum of Summer Mountain Leader, some up to Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (MIC) level, all are hardy mountain folk with a vast and high range of skill sets.
Technical Events Safety Team:
Joe Faulker - Head of Safety Team
Joe Mann - Great Gable, Climbers Traverse
John Allen - Styhead Pass
Sharon Kennedy - Styhead Pass
Dale Colclough - Esk Hause
Paul Aitken - Bowfell - ( Hill Team Leader )
Dez Walker - Bowfell
Matt Renshaw - Bowfell
Thanks also go to our awesome sponsors and supporters:
Leki UK - Event Sponsor and main prizes
Cowmire Hall Cider - Event Partner
Mountain Fuel UK - Hydration and Nutrition support
Longhaul Endurance - Nutrition support
Prime Bars - Nutrition support
Dynafit UK - Vet's 45 Category Prizes
We'd also like to thank: Wildman Media; Events photography and film, David Coxon; Lakes Loos, the Stickle Barn crew (National Trust), Lowther Estates and National Trust for land usage, Peter Edmonson for the use of Seathwaite Farm for CP5, Stone Craft Design for our awesome trophies and Castle Embroidery for our awesome tee-shirts. **
** Sorry if we have missed anyone
Until next year:
So that's another Scafell Sky Race done and dusted, but all is not over yet. We have the Lakes Sky Ultra and Pinnacle Ridge Extreme to deliver yet on the 13th of July, with the LSU being the 2nd race in the Skyrunner UK . Ireland Series for 2019.
Then of course there is the all new Seven Sisters Sky Race 2 weeks after the LSU 2019, moving onto the Snowdon Skyline in mid-September and the final race in the series for 2019 concludes with the Mourne Skyline in mid-October.
The weather came, 201 runners set off in tough conditions, the events team had tough decisions to be made and everybody...