Lakes in a (Long) Day…

Blog courtesy of Ponyboy

Registration on the Friday evening provided the first decision of the week-end – which bag to take into the race??  As there was only one in the car, it proved easier than I thought, and with the tracker duly attached and dibber fixed onto my wrist, I went home to sort gear for the next day…

Following my (relative!) success at the Wasdale tri, where I carried a small ‘running bottle’ filled with gels, nine High-6 gels were emptied in an two-fold attempt to keep energy going in, and also to hopefully avoid the normal gel gunk which seems to get, and stick, everywhere!  With a mixed forecast, but generally good, an extra thermal top was taken, along with a mixture of various energy bars, flap-jack, a Camel-bak filled with energy drink, torch, compass, and a few other bits and bobs.  Having done long days in the fells, and knowing most of the route, it didn’t seem too much until I had to lift the ruck-sac!!  At least we could put a few extras in with a spare pair of shoes which we would collect at Ambleside…

Whilst not the ‘stupid-O’clock’ time needed for IMUK and Wasdale, I was awake at 5am for a bowl of cereal before driving to the event finish in Cartmel.  Buses had been organised for the trip to the start where the organisers gave us this warning…  The coach will leave Cartmel at 6.10am prompt.  Faffers and the constipated will not be waited for!

8.00 am was start time – and following a very brief briefing, we all set off on our Lakes adventure.  At the first turn left out of the village, a quick glance behind showed about 15 runners!  Oh well, at least things could only get better…

Settling into a steady plod up the road, and then the track, got me to the start of the fell and the climb up on to High Pike.  Rainbows and dramatic clouds were replaced with thick clag just before the top, and then heavy rain but luckily this only lasted for half an hour or so.  The route from High Pike to Blencathra was ‘open’, and apparently gave many differing options – some deliberate, others not quite!!  I must of made better time than anticipated from the top, and ended up going too far before dropping down to the River Caldew where the temporary bridge had been erected (I was hoping to end up about 1km downstream!)  At this point my race very nearly ended with the left shoe parting company with its sole…  I managed to get to the river, luckily manned, and after a quick explanation to one of the race marshals I know as to what had happened, was lent a left shoe to get me through to Ambleside!  Lucky or what!!  I always find the long climb up the back of Blencathra a drag, and this time was no different.  Despite this, I always love the top, even in thick cloud as it was today.  Back onto the defined route now, and a slippery descent of Blease Fell found me gaining lots of places as others minced down towards Threlkeld.

Checkpoint 1 – Threlkeld – 11:05 (time taken 3:05)

A great spread of food laid out in the village hall greeted us as promised, and after a quick feed, it was back on our way first towards Keswick, then under the A66 back along the old railway past the quarries and rejoining the Bob Graham route up Clough Head.  Whilst it was a change to go up in daylight (I don’t think I have done it any other time of day than the middle of the night!), it is still a big, steep hill…  The only consolation is that once over the top there is quite a lot of good going until Helvellyn.  The weather was generally improving, and we were treated to some stunning views either side of the main ridge – a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do…  With good weather, and knowing where to go, all I had to do was keep eating, drinking, and moving forwards.  The big drop off Dollywagon towards Grisedale Tarn was a big marker on this leg – only one more climb, and then the long run down to Ambleside.  Unfortunately, the one climb was Fairfield!  Having studied the BGR schedule I knew this was only 35 minutes, but it seemed to take much longer.  The run down  over Dove Crag and High and Low Pikes is generally good, with plenty of easy gradient grass and only occasional rocky ‘steps’ to negotiate.  Somewhere along this ridge we passed the half-way point – a great feeling knowing the ‘biggest half’ was now behind us.

Checkpoint 2 – Ambleside – 16:15 (time taken 8:15)

Shoe-change time!!  I had forgotten how difficult it is to change shoes when your body is refusing to cooperate with the basics such as standing up, or even sitting down…  Once into new socks and shoes it was into the next room for the food.  Pasta, biscuits, cakes, pizza, fruit, hot and cold drinks – so much choice…  I settled on some hula-hoops, pizza, cookies, mini caramel shortbreads and coke.

Leaving CP2 was tough, and my legs were feeling decidedly shot through.  Still, only 21 miles to go.  The first mile was very difficult – I think I had probably over-indulged at the checkpoint – but as I wasn’t running much anyway by now it wasn’t too much of an issue.  The terrain from here to the end was going to be much kinder than the first half, but still contained enough hills and off-road running to stop any rhythm developing.  Everyone’s running pace had now settled down, and small groups seemed to be forming with slower runners being caught, and then managing to stay together for a few miles before the groups would change again.  I managed to stick in a group of six (including Marathon Man UK – look him up!!) for a few miles until the climb up the road just beyond Cunsey.  After watching a stunning sunset, we were now at about 7.00pm so head-torches were donned for the final miles to the end.  This also broke our little group up, with one going ahead, and then (surprisingly) me dropping the other four.  I still can’t work how this happened – I don’t think my pace changed, but I seemed to be going better on the up-hills than they were…  This was to be my last running company of the day, as I would be on my own to the finish.  A long climb through the woods to High Dam was made more enjoyable listening to owls hooting to each other.  At least it took my mind of how sore everything was feeling…

Checkpoint 3 – Finsthwaite – 20:05 (time taken 12:05)

Another huge spread of food, with the highlight being rice pudding (hot or cold!)  Coke and biscuits were also consumed, and a couple of mini pain-au-chocolate, before venturing out for the last 14 km and the finish.  This was very much ‘my turf’ – being local I knew exactly where I needed to go, and also where the hills were…  I kept my mind occupied with working out how ‘fast’ (sic) I was going – keep it at 10 minutes per kilometer as long as I could, then try and run some of the road in the last couple of miles.  Newby Bridge came and went, and then the path over to Brow Edge, and the path round Bigland Tarn – all in a stunning evening moon-light.  I was almost in danger of enjoying myself!!  A tricky small section on the path to Speel Bank was negotiated, left a simple ‘Turn left on the road’  followed by a ‘Turn right at the junction’ and it was back to Cartmel.  It was great to be able to turn off the head-torch down the road – there is always something special about running with just the moon-light – before jogging through the village and out to the finish at the school.  One of the toughest days I have done, but a great feeling of achievement too…

Finish – Cartmel – 22:25 (time taken 14:25)

A quick change, then into the school for post-race food and hot chocolate.  Then home and bed…….

Looking at the website for results on Sunday, it transpired the last finisher arrived at Cartmel at 7:40 am!!  There were also numerous retirees at various stages, and quite a lot a reports of runners having ‘navigational issues’.  It always amazes me how people can enter events like this with either little or no experience of being on the high fells.  Saying that, if you want a great race route, and a really well run event, you could do a lot worse…


Following initial reports of only losing one toe-nail, it has since increased to three, plus a couple of extra blisters….  hey, ho…


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