Ricky Lightfoot wins 60th 3 Peaks Race

 ©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

After a number of attempts at glory and a second place finish in 2009, Salomon International runner Ricky Lightfoot eventually added one of fell running ‘monuments’ to his growing list of big wins, as he stormed to victory at the 60th 3 Peaks Race.

Matt Ward, PR for the Salomon Trail Team provides an insight into a classic race.

Understated as ever the Salomon International runner stated:

“I wasn’t expecting much at the 3 Peaks, I thought it would be a good hard training run in preparation for the Maxi Race in Annecy which is in May, I felt I was in good enough shape to get a top 10 finish and I’d have been happy to run somewhere between 3.00-3.10.”

As it turned out his winning time of 2:53:16 was the third fastest time in the last 15 years, and this effort was underlined by second-placer Tom Owens who said:

“Ricky had a very strong run and I was impressed with his finishing time – given the running conditions were not fast with the recent rain which made the course very muddy and then there were the strong winds.”
A compliment indeed from the 2011 winner. Ricky explains how the race unravelled:
“After a troublesome start to 2014 with injuries I hardly imagined that I’d get a chance to have a crack at the 3 Peaks Race this year, but after a late entry I’m happy to say I took the chance and ran it. I was always doubtful that I’d get an entry so late so trained as normal up until Wednesday when I found out I had been given an one, that gave me Thursday and Friday to recover for the race the following day.
“We arrived in Horton on the morning of the race and the weather was pretty horrid, the clag was down and there was shower after shower. I was told that the course would be pretty wet and muddy today and as there was a few other events on the same day the paths would be well trodden. We picked our numbers up and changed, I managed to get a little run up the road to warm up in-between showers and it was almost time to gather on the start. I don’t know where time goes before the race!”
“Another quality field had assembled for the 60th 3 Peaks Race with only 1 or 2 Internationals this year. We toed the start line and the race got under way, I decided to push the pace from the start and led out of the field and onto the road, Salomon GB Team mate Tom Owens followed and we worked together on our way up to Pen Y Ghent, as we approached the summit I began to feel the effects of the fast start and lack of running fast in general, Tom pulled away and I was passed by Thor Ludvigson with Rob Jebb just on my heels as we dibbed the first summit.”
“The run off was wet and the clag was down, I managed to catch Thor and kept Tom in my sights as we reached the path where other runners were coming up (thanks for the shouts). I managed to catch Tom and again we pushed on over to High Birkwith, I felt as though I was hanging on at this point which was a bit worrying but I thought I’d start to fade from the pace around the hour mark.”
“I stuck to Tom along the road and we reached Ribblehead together, Tom stopped to grab his bottle and lost a few seconds while I moved on and picked a Kinetica Gel up off friend Jackie Winn further along the track where Tom caught me again. We could see that we had a gap to 3rd place which was good as we knew Jebby would claw some time back climbing up to Whernside. We reached the top in 1.42 which from previous peaks races I’d ran knew that we were running quick given the underfoot conditions.”
“Tom pulled a few seconds on the Whernside descent but I managed to catch him on the run over to Hill Inn, I took another Kinetica Gel from Jackie at this point as we only had one more summit to climb, Ingleborough. This section seemed to fly by, we reached the bottom of the steep climb with Tom only slightly ahead. Half way up I felt as though a had a little something left so pushed a little harder to the summit, I was surprised to move away from Tom and reach Ingleborough with an advantage. Could I really win the 3 Peaks?”
“I was always conscious of Tom as he’s one of the best descenders around, off the summit I pushed to see whether I could grab a few more seconds, at this point I found myself moving away. There was a strong head wind which made the going feel really slow. I reached Sulber Nick and the finger post which I’d remembered from previous years and took one last glance to see if anyone was catching. At this point I knew there wasn’t far to the finish, looking at my Suunto I knew today it was going to be a PB so pushed a little harder on the run in, I crossed the line in 2.53.16.”
“I’m over the moon at winning my first 3 Peaks Race as it has come so unexpected! Once again the 3 Peaks Race put on an excellent event and is up there with some of the best races around. Thanks to the Jackie Winn, the marshalls and spectators, the shouts of encouragement really do help!”
 ©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

Former winner Owens was also satisfied with his day, especially given his injury issues of 2013, he commented:

“I missed the 3 peaks in 2013 through injury so was delighted to be back at this classic race & knew that I was in pretty good shape. Ricky and myself worked together for much of the race and it was relaxing to be running with a team mate, the pace felt good and we were pulling away from the other runners.
“I was always conscious of the quality of the chasing runners and their ability to make up time- especially Jebby with his climbing ability & pedigree at this race.
“Ricky and I were together through Hill Inn and this is where the race really kicks in -especially this year as the 2nd half of the race was into head winds. On the lower slopes of Ingleborough I still felt okay and started to get away from Ricky on the step sections over the boggy ground but Ricky kept pulling me back! we were also together up the steep section on Ingleborough.
“I had a bad energy blip and Ricky pushed on getting some time on me to the top of Ingleborough. I tried to stay calm and recover as it’s a long slog of a descent to the finish & it is possible to real folk in. I started to descend hard. It was a particularly strong head wind and muddy conditions and try as I might I wasn’t closing the gap! in the end Ricky was pulling away! I took a small tumble which made me cramp and slowed further, so second place it was.”
“Ricky was telling me he’s had injury issues this year but this result shows he’s still in great shape & his ultra running in 2013 has certainly made him resilient. I hope he has a cracking 2014 season.”
“I thought I had a pretty good run and was pleased with the way I was feeling for most of the race – it was certainly exciting to be at the sharp end. Although having won this race once before it’s hard to be happy with second place now! Perhaps I should have started off more conservatively? I also faffed around at the drinking stops finding my water bottles which seemed to zap momentum & I had to work hard to get back…..regardless it’s still very early in the season so onwards and upwards!”
Behind Ricky and Tom, Rob Jebb finished a very strong third, just under 3 hours.
In his first trip the UK for the 3 Peaks race Salomon International’s Thor Ludvigsen finished a highly creditable 6th, and has vowed to return to the event after thoroughly enjoying his day ‘fell running’ and his weekend in Yorkshire!
For further information on any aspect of the Salomon Trail Team and Salomon Avenir athletes, products and racing activity, please contact team PR manager Matt Ward on +44(0)7515558670 or email matt@runcomm.co.uk

Chris Steele (inov-8) wins Santa Cruz Extreme

photo European Mountain Marathons Series

photo European Mountain Marathons Series

Chris Steele, inov-8, headed out to Tenerife to tackle the gruelling 42km Santa Cruz Extreme in preparation for the UK’s Three Peaks and the first Skyrunner World series event, Zegama-Aizkorri. Returning to the UK with a big international win under his belt, Chris will be one-to-watch when the elite toe the start line in North Yorkshire on Saturday.

Blog post by Chris Steele, courtesy of inov-8 and Chris Steele.

‘Oh man…. I’ve blown it!’

Those were my thoughts as I passed the 40km mark whilst leading a field of 250 runners at the Santa Cruz Extreme race (part of the European Mountain Marathons Series) in Tenerife.

I hadn’t seen one of the by-now familiar pieces of blue and white tape marking the course for at least 500m. They had been far more frequent before this.

Panic set in. I had only 2km (or at least I thought I did) to go but no idea which direction to run in!

I stopped. With nobody in sight, my only option was to stick to the main path and hope for the best.

Another few hundred metres later I saw somebody in the distance. Fired-up and full of anger, I put in a massive effort up a big climb to try and catch the man in front.

Pushing my body to the limit, I gained quickly on the new ‘leader’ only to be told, upon catching him, that I was last and he was in charge of taking down the course markers.

What? How the hell did this happen? Did he think the last race of the day was the 21km event? Had he forgotten about us out on the longer course? My anger heightened and a barrage of expletives spewed out of my mouth.

European Mountain Marathons Series

European Mountain Marathons Series

I decided just to carry on – at least I was now able to follow the pieces of tape he hadn’t so far taken down.

Another five minutes of tough ascent later I reached a summit checkpoint, at which point a hardy gang of Spaniards began to roar ‘champion’. By now I had absolutely no idea what was happening and, with my watch having passed 42km, how far I still had to run!

A super-technical descent followed before 4km of torrid asphalt. Eventually the finish line came into view. I was still unsure as to whether I was in the lead or not, but the cheers from the huge crowd suggested I may well be.

Arms aloft, I crossed the line. Yes, I had indeed won. Phew! Oh, and I’d run 48km too, with 2600m of ascent thrown in for good measure.

European Mountain Marathons Series

European Mountain Marathons Series

Set in the Santa Cruz region of Tenerife, the race certainly lived up to its billing as extreme. The landscape was tropical but very rough underfoot.

Bussed out from Santa Cruz early in the morning, the race started on the beach at La Terisitas at 9am.

Once underway, I was pleased that the early pace was steady. I had been informed of ‘who was who’ at the start and whom I should keep an eye on. I stayed to the fore, alert to any breaks.

The course profile was brutal and involved 700m of ascent inside the first 6km. As it turned out only 100m of that ascent was in the first 4km. Then, at that point, we hit what can only be described as a 2km wall rising 600m in elevation.

At the foot of the climb, Andres Fernandez made a break for it. It was a move I knew I had to cover, so I went with him. It was tough, but at the same time I felt comfortable with the pace.

As we topped out the first climb and went through the first feed station the weather began to worsen. This made the next descent even trickier. Wet and slimy underfoot, my inov-8 roclite 243 shoes gripped superbly and definitely gave me an advantage.

By the time we hit the bottom of the descent I afforded myself a glance over my shoulder and was happy to see nobody in sight. I had the gap, now I just had to keep pushing hard.

This wasn’t too difficult as the trail was amazing; every twist and turn brought something new. The climbs were steep but often runnable, while the trails were flowing along the coast and the descents technical. It was, to be fair, my dream course.

I kept pushing at the front, unaware of how big the gap actually was. The big panic over route-choice followed before I eventually completed the course in a time of 4hrs 51mins, over 15 minutes in front of second-placed Andres.

I raced for the first time in the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest. I was amazed its effectiveness. Long European races often require athletes to carry water as part of their mandatory equipment list. This race was no exception with organisers insisting everyone carried a mobile phone, emergency blanket, waterproof jacket and 1.5 litres of fluid.

Having such ease of access to the water bottles meant I was able to keep drinking regularly and grab gels from the pockets without having to slow my pace. The vest didn’t move or bounce throughout, there was no sloshing of water and it was super-comfortable, leaving no rub marks.

It was most definitely the best win I’ve ever taken, over one of the most amazing courses too. My focus is now on this Saturday’s high-profile Three Peaks race, which this year celebrates its 60th running. The 37km race, which has 1608m of ascent over the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, always attracts a top-quality field and this year will be no different. After that I will ramp up my preparations for the opening race in the 2014 Skyrunner World Series, to be held at Zegama, Spain, in May.

Photos: ©European Mountain Marathons Series