Strathearn Harriers - New Year's Day Run 2014

Will at the Glen Coe Skyline race

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Glen Coe Skyline race is a new race on the Scottish running calendar, and one of the most spectacular. Starting at the Glen Coe ski centre, it takes in the mountains on the south and north sides of the glen and includes an ascent of Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor and a fast traverse of on the Aonach Eagach ridge. Entrants were scrutinised to ensure their ability to cope with the terrain, and a hight quality field was assembled, including the likes of Joe Symonds, Emelie Forsberg, Jasmin Parris and Es Tresidder, former holder of the record for the fastest Cuillin Ridge traverse. Will Manners was the Harriers representative and did himself proud, with a terrific 22nd position, and 3rd MV45 placing, completing the course in 9.07.01. 

Here's Will's own account of the day:

Just a few thoughts on the Glencoe Skyline last Saturday. I think it is always difficult before a race to know how I will cope. So many historic tweaks and injuries and a desire not to overestimate my prospects. My plan was to 'see how it goes' and take opportunities where I saw them. Had I done enough training? I think we so often think we could have done more and generally that is true, but we have to live as well and not resent training.
So, I was fortunate enough to get a lift to Glencoe from a friend in Inverness who was also competing. We were met in Glencoe by midges and rain and a soggy camp site. Sadly the rain was not heavy enough to knock the midges out of the sky - is this indeed possible?

With the waiting and the nerves over we started at 7.00am in pretty good conditions. It was a bit of a canter to the start and with bunching already at the bottom of Curved Ridge there was only one thing for it but to go 'off piste' into the steep heather and scramble quicker than others. Once on the clean rock again I picked a different line to others, a few feet to the right and this worked; I had no delays. With the Buachaille done it was down and over the Beag saddle and then a very long plod up the glen up to Bidean Nam Bian. The 1,000 metre descent to the River Coe and A82 was brutal and unrelenting. At this stage I was still feeling comfortable enough.

At the A82 checkpoint 10 I met Ali, some top quality encouragement and a great feed station. What a joy to get such support. I had at this stage been working on my usual 40 (ish) grams of snack every 30 minutes. I also had a 1 litre drink bladder in a 6 litre pack containing isotonic and a 500ml bottle I tactically refilled from natural sources when I could.

I restocked quickly, taking a few scalps and headed up the 900 metre climb to the Aonach Eagach ridge. Frankly this was brutal! It was a uniform gradient all the way and proper tough. There then follows a spectacular scrambling ridge which whilst technically not difficult was slimy and leaves little room for error. It is long, so there is time to be lost by dithering, so I didn't!

The eastern end of the ridge was technically easy and generally downhill, but despite realising it and concentrating a lot I found myself making mistakes, clipping rocks and landing badly - wasting more time and effort. Once on the Devil's Staircase I took the brakes off to try and distance a few of those behind me.
The next stop (albeit brief) was checkpoint 15, water and a gel and go, not even time for pleasantries! I was being hunted! So it was the last 'easy' bit of the trail (WHW) to the Glencoe Ski Centre and finish. This was much like the end of many longer races; run 90% on head controlling body and squeezing out the last few drops of energy and positivity! Uphill and on tarmac, not funny, but the end came and a huge relief.

It was great to have Ali at the end of the race and to see some familiar faces. What a great spirit these races have, perhaps because of the effort needed to organise them, what we put ourselves through and indeed what our families understand about us and our need to do this sort of thing.

Anyway, I still need to do this sort of thing - when I am no longer walking like a man with no knee joints that is! I recommend this race to anyone who can navigate in the rocky mountains, scramble confidently and manage the head game. There are quite a few of you out there. See you on the start line!