My initial plan was to do the Grand Tour of Skiddaw race, but due to illness I had to give myself more recovery time, and enter what is a fantastic race anyway. The only reason I didn't plan on doing it in the first place, was that I wanted to give myself a bit of down time, then a good amount of time to properly prepare for the Trans Gran Canaria race in February 2018. However I should have time for this anyway.
My only strategy for the Lakes in a Day race was to set off a bit easier than last year, in the hope that this would allow me to avoid the awful cramp ridden race I had last time.
The 6.15 am coach trip north from Cartmel (finish) to Caldbeck, set off a bit late in the black of night. A mistake by a new to the area driver, meant a long reverse out of a tight lane. This in turn made us late to the start line. I say late, what I really mean is late if you needed a "morning comfort break". The usual long queues meant that after performing the necessary, I only had time to quickly repack me running sack then move through to near the front and it was time to go.
Caldbeck to Threlkeld (via High cop, Blencathra and Halls Fell) 10.4 miles : 3,400 feet
I set off at an easy pace. The day was overcast and windy, but the forecast for the day seamed more of a promising one than the ones earlier in the week. With this in mind I wore a Gillet and a long sleeve top in the hope that it would be enough so as not to have to have to faff with putting my jacket on. On the way up High Cop I felt a bIt warm. By the top it was windier and had started to lightly rain. I felt a bit cold but not too bad. A now thinned out line was snaking down over high Cop trying to avoid the worst of the bogs. Following someone closely is always a good move, to gauge how far your likely to sink, or if its best to take a risk on some other ground. It really was as boggy and tricky as I've seen it. We were in the cloud as we started the descent to the Caldew and the metal bridge that the organisers had in place. We soon came out of the cloud allowing us to aim at the bridge. Over the bridge then the long slog up Blencathra begins. About 3/4 of the way up the rain became heavier and it got much colder, so the jacket had to be donned, and yes I did faff with it blowing in the wind and rain. I never feel good running in a jacket and that means theres a high likelihood of having to faff taking it off an putting it on many times. However on the upper parts of Blencathra it was definitely needed. Strong wind and rain made it feel extremely cold for the type of kit I had. I did have a lightweight thermal layer that I could have put on, but that would only compound the faffing. So over a claggy Blencathra then gingerly down a slippy Halls Fell ridge and I was soon at CP 1 in Threlkeld in probably about 18th place.
Descending Halls Fell ridge
Threlkeld to Ambleside (via Clough Head, Raise, Helvellyn and Fairfield) 18.4 miles : 6,200 feet
Quickly in and out of CP I, I continued to run along the valley towards Clough head. I felt a bit warm with the jacket still on, but as the summit was covered in fast moving cloud, I made the good decision to leave it on. Last year this climb changed my race into a trudge to the end. I still found it tough this year and it was probably as hard as I worked in the entire race. But I really enjoyed the run off the other side and the rest of the ridge to helvellyn. Mainly in the cloud and a very strong, part side, part head wind made it very cold indeed. I should really have put my gloves on, but the race blinkers were on. After already having made a small mistake on the contour of Great Dodd, whilst blowing into my cupped hands I accidentally started going down the track (near Nethermost Pike) to Swirls car park. Looking at the little line on my watch I thought it had gone wrong again. Luckily the error registered with me in time to not have to regain too much height to rejoin the track around Dollywgon Pike. I kept blowing into my hands though as I knew that I needed to use them to sort some water out at the Grizedale Tarn outflow. Luckily by the time I had descended the numbness had eased. I had started to pass the odd runner and on the climb of Fairfield I was closed back in by one, which kept me pushing at a decent pace. On the descent I caught a runner and we preceeded to descend the last 1,200 feet together into Ambleside CP.
Hands warmed, nearing Grizedale Tarn outflow
I spent far too much time in Ambleside CP. A combination of repacking my rucksack taking my jacket off, and the great food, meant I think I was there for about 15 minutes. Way too long. It took me a while to get back into my running. But after a couple of miles I started to feel good again. I was now a bit ahead of David Johnson, who I had run into Ambleside with. This section down the west side of Windermere, and at times in Windermere, was very boggy and sections were very tough to run on. On the 2nd and final wade through Windermere I was a bit surprised to see David again. But the company was good and the odd cheering on here and there form his enthusiastic family was uplifting, and so we ended up running together to Finsthwaite CP.
Finsthwaite to Cartmel 8.2 miles : 1,100 feet
Probably a bit too much time feeding in this CP too. Then we set off together in the slight gloom of the fading daylight. We navigated the extreme bogs and at times towards the end of this section under the trees felt a bit too dark given the bogginess of the ground. But we made it through and onto the final long section of road in very gloomy light. Neither of us wanting to stop to put a head torch on. Then on a slight climb Dave made his move. I kept it easy, thinking that on the long road descent I would catch him up. However the 50 meter gap just remained. When we closed in on the finish it was still the same and we could barely see in the full darkness of night. His family joined him for the run in, but there was nothing I could do to catch him, and kind of gave up and crossed the line 17 secs after him. I never really knew what position I was in, so it was a nice surprise to find out that I was 7th in a time of 11 hours 27. 12. I figure that the conditions were a good 1/2 an hour tougher than last year too. It was pleasing to run strong all the way, especially after last years weak effort.
Thanks to Ian Corliss for the great photos on a tough day!