Training for: Mont Blanc Marathon / Lakeland 50 / TDS
Runs: 2, Total Distance: 23.9km, Total Time: 2:20
I am writing this post sitting in a cafe in my old university town. It is strange being back here after such a long time away – I graduated my undergraduate degree back in 2008 and I haven’t been to Lancaster since 2012. I went to visit my old campus earlier for the first time since 2009! As a friend said to me earlier it is kind of like a sci-fi movie where I’ve travelled back in time but nobody knows who I am and I am an older version of my original self…Anyway, I digress!
Importantly, to orientate this blog, I am in the Lake District spending time between Lancaster (Lancashire) and Penrith (Cumbria). I arrived on Friday 29th January and on the morning of Saturday 30th I headed out to Ambleside for an official Lakeland 50 recce day and navigation for trail runners seminar. The talk was well attended, informal, instructive and really well received by all present (from what I could sense). After the talk the majority of runners who were present were to head off to undertake a night recce on the part of the LL50 course – it was to be 16 miles and I didn’t feel up to it. I really wanted to get out there and experience the mountains for myself though! This being the case I spoke to Mark Laithwaite who headed up the seminar (and also won Lakeland 100 last year) and asked for some advice on a decent route I could run that would take around an hour. I have no idea how he managed to pick the route he did, knowing nothing about me as a runner, he sent me off to Kentmere which is a checkpoint on the LL50 course. The run I did took me up the valley and into a cwm containing the Kentmere Reservoir. The plan was to do a lap of the reservoir and then head back to my car. Unfortunately nature had other ideas and I couldn’t find a suitable crossing point at the top end of the reservoir – the water was cold, deep and fast flowing so I didn’t really feel fjording was appropriate. As such I turned around and retraced my steps onto firmer ground and headed back the way I came – I got back to my after 1:02!! Mr. Laithwaite is clearly good at reading a runner’s ability!
It was great to be out and about with map and compass in hand, heading into the unknown and I felt far more confident using the tools I had than I ever would have had I not attended the seminar. Any runner who is undertaking a long distance mountain race, and who cannot navigate at all, really should find a course and take it. Personally I now feel much safer and much more confident to follow tracks, contours and to read the lie of the land which makes route planning for training runs that much easier, expansive and fun!
Sunday came and I headed out to the fells once more. I had planned to run the first section of the Lakeland 50 course from Dalemain, through Pooley Bridge and down to Howtown. Once again, nature had other ideas! A bridge had been washed out at Pooley Bridge during a storm a couple of weeks ago so I couldn’t get any vehicular access. This being the case I carried on towards Kentmere Pass along Ullswater until I came to a parking area near Aira Force waterfalls. I knew part of the trails around Aira Force were on the Lakeland course so I decided to stop and to run that small section. I had my map, I had a good idea of where I was going and I really wanted to see the falls! The falls did not disappoint and were beautiful. It was so peaceful up around there. My eye, however, was drawn to the upper reaches and summit of Gowbarrow Fell (481m)! I quickly built up summit fever on the trail leading away from Aira Force and contouring around the lower part of the fell itself. I checked my map and located a track that would take me to the top for a view straight down Ullswater stretching out in front of me and of Kentmere Pass shrouded in fog and covered in snow!
I started running up and then as it got steeper I attempted to keep up my pace with a scramble but eventually I had to adopt the good old hands on thighs approach and get my head down! This did mean that I missed the fact the summit just above me had started to cloud over and fog over. I stopped once or twice and turned to take a photo of the water to my back and then continued on. Just shy of the summit a cold rain started to fall quite heavily which certainly made me pay more attention to what was in front of me! I stopped for a while to check my map and assess my situation – I figured that as I am new to the fells and that my navigation skills are very much in their infancy it would probably be best for my safety if I turned around and head back down the track I had just followed up! I think I made the correct decision because the rain followed me right the way down and was on my heels until I finished running at my car some 40 minutes after getting off the fell. It was a brilliant couple of hours out on my own again and exciting too with the weather and the need for me to actually use map and compass fairly regularly.
Next week I will be heading out for some more adventures around the Lake District, culminating in the Grizedale Trail Marathon on Sunday February 7th. I’m looking forward to the race and to the week ahead immensely!
Until next time dear reader,
Peace & Blessings