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The end of Robbie's year of mountain racing

by Robert Britton
Tuesday 14th October 2014
Tags  Robbie Britton   |   inov-8   |   Team Centurion   |   Limone Extreme SkyRace   |   Skyrunning

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team inov-8 and Team Centurion reports from the Limone Extreme Skyrace

The plan was to spend my Friday night "running" a 3 kilometre race and then relax by an Italian lake, whilst my inov-8 teammates ran the Limone Extreme Skyrace, 24.5km of trail, skinny, wee ridges and rock with a just the right amount of up and down to give your quads nightmares. That's 2300m in case you wondered.

As per usual I had forgotten that I often struggle to stick to a plan, especially when it comes to playing in the hills.

Start of the VK, lead from the front © Lee Procter/inov-8

Photo: Start of the VK, lead from the front © Lee Procter/inov-8

The 3km race was the final of the Vertical Kilometre World Series, a set of short, but horrifically steep, races that draw in some of the toughest mountain goats in the world to see who can get to the top of the mountain first. I had seen the VK, as they are commonly known, at TransVulcania earlier in the season and it had whetted my appetite for this new type of masochism.

The reason for only planning to run the VK was that I am merely one week back into training after a pleasant, and glutinous, post UTMB rest. The body, and the mind, need time off from racing and my first Ultra this year was in February. Training will build up again slowly over the next few weeks towards an appearance at the Wipro Chennai marathon in December. That was the plan anyway.

The VK went as expected, with myself leading on the flat road section to the trailhead and then attempting to hold everyone off with some flailing elbows for the win. Quite a lot of people were unperturbed by my elbows and one Italian man even tried to mount me halfway up the mountain side. I responded appropriately.

Just under 52 minutes and 1,100metres later I was VERY sweaty but very happy, kept warm by the inov-8 windproof I had wisely taken up with me. There was then just the issue of a short jog back down to Limone sul Garda after meeting the missus at the top, who I'm pretty sure set off after me...

So this is where the weekend of racing should have stopped but, mainly due to the suggestion of Eirik Haugsnes that he and Kilian would be doubling up, it did not? A long run was set for the Sunday in the plan and this would only be a little bit longer. And steeper. And harder. And competitive. And technical. Hmmm....

Most of the team was out to run the main Skyrace and the enthusiasm was highly contagious so, as there was some confusion over our entries anyway I just chucked my name in the hat. It would save buying lunch anyway as I could feast at the checkpoints.

Start of the Skyrace © SkyRunning.com

Photo: Start of the Skyrace © SkyRunning.com

inov-8 had a strong team, with top performers from 2013 David Schneider, Aritz Egea, Eirik Haugsnes and Alex Nichols being joined by SkyRunning debutants British Fell running champs Vic Wilkinson and Tom Addison, super hunk Gary Priestley, Oli Johnson (who can speak Russian), Spartan OCR World Champion Jonathan Albon, inov-8's own Lee Proctor and Anna Lupton, who, apart from being a very quick runner can do a wonderful butterfly swim.

The pace at the start was electric. With this being the final Sky Race of the season all the big boys had come out to play and, after leading to the top of the hill last year, David Schneider was coming into the race in fine form, as was the Eritrean athlete, Petro Mamo, who led the likes of Kilian Jornet, Zaid Ait Malek, Marco de Gasperi and myself over the top. A three minute lead on Kilian by this point and I believe a 63 minute lead over me.

The climb felt as steep as the VK but this time I was in a natural position for myself and had a good time practicing my overtaking technique as we went up, quite the opposite of the night before.

We were soon up in the clouds and the running was beautiful, up and down over single track no wider than a couple of feet. There were some spectacular drops to behold as you went past, offering breathtaking views, although breath was a little harder to come by at this point.

Oli Johnson, V35 winner on the climb up and Gary Priestley showing you how you should feel when finishing a race © Ian Corless iancorless.com

Photos (l-r): Oli Johnson, V35 winner on the climb up and Gary Priestley showing you how you should feel when finishing a race © Ian Corless iancorless.com

The race took a slight dip in the middle before heading steadily back up amidst a rainy shower with a touch of thunder. Not a huge thunder storm but enough noise to make you run really quickly past the large metal cross atop of of the hills.

The mixture of rock and mud was an interesting proposition for most shoes and the new inov-8s I was trying out were fantastic on both, providing quite a fun moment when I managed to overtake about four chaps who were sliding around on a muddy slope in Salomon shoes and offer some timely shoe purchasing advice. It was like some awfully placed product placement in a Victorian slapstick comedy.

Full of dried fruit and shot Bloks I was about to hit the final descent, sections of which I had recced on the Thursday. This time last year I was quite similar to a 90 year old man when descending technical rock and, although I'm still a long way from the demon downhill speed of the likes of Tom Addison, it is improving. Probably to that of an 72-76 year old man now. A transitionary year into mountain running has highlighted a few things to work on but next year I will be faster, stronger and quicker at falling off mountain tops.

The final descent hits a river side path and I can finally drag a few competitors back to me with great confidence in my descending ability on level ground and road, even catching one chap just before the line. Then I keel over, pretty spent from the two kilometres of sprinting my mind decided was necessary.

Not having read the script Petro Mamo (Mizuno) was first, beating Kilian (Salomon) by only a short way. Kilian, waiting at the finish line for Miss Forsberg, said he was really tired and seemed very unhappy, but sometimes you're just beaten by a better runner on the day. Maite Maiora (La Sportiva) was the first lady home after a great season of running around the hills.

For the team it was a great result, David was third, Alex was top ten, Aritz, Jon and Oli were all top 20 and Vic was fourth lady. Others were dotted around the top 50 and I managed to come over the line in 3hrs 08 minutes, pleased with a great day out after a month off. I'd like to come back next year and go much faster.

What a race, what a course. I would highly recommend it to anyway who wanted an October weekend away, with many of the team bringing their young families too. The best was still to come and the prize ceremony was followed by a live band and DJ. Team inov-8 took it upon themselves to bring some life to the dance floor with noticeable mentions to Natalie White, Gary Priestley, Tom Addison and Alex Nichols. Smooooth movers.

(clockwise, l-r): Race winner Petro Mamu crossing the finish line © Ian Corless iancorless.com. Post race 'recovery' © SkyRunning.com. Robbie at the finish © Ian Campbell at iancampbell.ventures

Photos (clockwise, l-r): Race winner Petro Mamu crossing the finish line © Ian Corless iancorless.com. Post race 'recovery' © SkyRunning.com. Robbie at the finish © Ian Campbell at iancampbell.ventures

That's the end of my year of mountain racing and strangely I find myself yearning for the simplicity of a 24hr loop race in Italy next April. Who would of thought you could miss such a thing?


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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