Ben Nephew's 2014 Blue Hills Skyline Trail Race Report
I haven’t been racing many races under 3 hrs in quite a while other than a few snowshoe races, and when I got invited to run the most competitive mountain race in the UK, the Snowdon International Mountain Race, I thought it might be a good idea to get some sort races in, or a short race. The weekend before Snowdon seemed like perfect timing! I had actually been doing some shorter workouts this spring and summer, so the 12km Tarc Blue Hills Skyline run thats just south of Boston, was not the only training I did before heading across the pond.
The Skyline trail is one of my favorite trails, and is a surprisingly technical route considering you are barely outside of Boston. While the hills are not big by any measure, they are steep, and the route is incessantly rocky, rooty, twisty, and undulating. The Skyline race is about 8 miles long with 2k of climb, but there are a couple miles on carriage roads in the middle of the race to give you a break from technical singletrack.
My workouts had been going well prior to the race, including two FKT runs on the full 18 miles of the Skyline trail, so I thought a new PR of under 63 minutes for the race was possible. Although the forecast was for reasonably cool weather, it was definitely warming up prior to the start. After a short speech by the RD, we were off, and I took the lead to get a clear path on the singletrack leading up to the first climb.
Andy Scott, who won last year, and Sam Jurek were right on top of me as we made the climb. Andy went around me on the next climb, but then missed a couple turns and I ended up back in the lead. The pace felt quick, but apparently not quick enough as Andy and Sam both passed me as we transitioned to the carriage road section.
While my legs were not feeling great, I was able to keep in contact with them as we made our way over the hilly roads to the turn around. I was hoping to reel them back in during the climbs in the second half, but as we started uphill, I felt hot and tired, and they were pulling away. Our halfway split was fast at around 32 minutes, so I still was hopeful of a fast time and the possibility that Andy and Sam might come back to me.
I kept trying to get some momentum going, but I couldn’t hold a faster pace for very long. I felt a little better on the final climb up Blue Hill and the insanely fast ski run descent to the finish, but I ended up over a minute behind Sam and Andy, running a 64:31. With my typical luck, this was one of the fastest top 3 runs in the history of the race. It was just fun to get back to the shorter trail races, and it was certainly a great workout. I dipped under 4:30 pace a few times, which was something I was going to need at Snowdon!
I wore my Inov-8 Oroc 340’s, which allowed me to run aggressive on the downhills and partially offset my weak climbing.