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The Fell Guy...

September 18, 2018

The weekend just gone I had the pleasure of taking the Take Time Project Seiko with me up to Kinlochleven where I took part part in the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra. 

 

 


I've really enjoyed reading and seeing the adventures and travels the watch has already been on, and although I'd never heard of Matthew before reading Dave's post something about the notion of appreciating what you have struck a chord for me.

The Ben Nevis ultra is the official ultra distance race for this year's World Skyrunning Series which comprised of four different races from Thurs - Sun. The stats for the ultra, with it's run along the CMD arete onto Ben Nevis, were 52km distance and 4,000m height gain over the duration of the course. Being a championship race I was pretty excited there was a properly world-class field taking part, even though I had no chance of being at the very sharp end.

 

 



At race registration on Thurs eve there was a lot of speculation about the weather forecast for the following day which was predicting very high winds on the summits and exposed ridges. A contingency lower-level bad weather course is always planned for, but I'd yet to do a race where this was actually invoked, and at the time I went through registration the organisers were still saying the full course would be run. Around 9.30 that eve though there was an urgent message put out saying the forecast had worsened and the bad weather course would now be used. Never a decision taken lightly by the organisers, but I later found out that in the VK (vertical kilometer) race earlier on the Thurs several runners were treated for hypothermia with one runner being lifted off the hill by mountain rescue, so this no doubt informed the decision for the following day's race. 

The distance was still very similar (now 49k distance) but the height gain reduced dramatically from 4,000m to just 1,600m, reducing the expected race completion time by several hours (and also missing out all of the 'good' summits). 

It might sound a bit sadistic to have wished for more climb but this is where I tend to fare better, and the prospect of a long trail race rather than a proper mountain race really didn't play to my strengths. 

Still, we got a lie-in the next morning, starting at 10am rarther than 7am.

The start took us north east from Kinlochleven out into the Mamores, weaving between Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag; then west to the Steall Falls. In the full race we would then have headed off north over several km of rough, trail-less ground towards Carn Mor Dearg; but instead we continued along the tourist trails down the length of the Glen Nevis valley, to the race support point at the Glen Nevis visitor's centre. Here we had the opportunity to re-fill bottles, grab some fruit, a brownie or flapjack, etc. 

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself by this point having been overtaken by at least half a dozen people on the long run in. I was cursing the amount of tarmac and hard-packed trail we were unexpectedly having to deal with as the shoes I was racing in are great for gripping on mud and scrambly rock but don't have so much cushioning, and my hips were becoming a bit sore. I'd already decided I wasn't going to hang around at the support point to see if I could re-gain a place or two, and as I was leaving I saw Gary Thompsett the race planner for this race and a lot of the mountain marathons I do. I must have had a bit of a grumble when he asked me how it was going, because he told me to stop being a baby and just get on with it, or words to that effect!

Suitably scolded I took a couple of ibuprofen and continued on, climbing south up the opposite side of the Glen Nevis valley and into the Nevis forest. I had about 20km left to go at this point, so just got my head down and ran-walked it until the ground levelled off and we broke from the forest, then continued plodding along the West Highland Way. I was moving a bit better again by this point and overtook a few broken-looking runners who'd slowed down to a trot. 


A few pics:

10 minutes to go:

 

 


Around 1hr 30mins into the race skirting round Binnein Beig, dropping down to the first checkpoint. 

 

 


I finally made it back into Kinlockleven in a time of 6hrs 15mins (the winner ran sub-4hrs!!).

So not quite as epic an adventure as I'd hoped to take the watch on, but an adventure non the less; and I can't wait to see where it ends up next.

 

Graham

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