Monday, 21 May 2012

A long day at the office

With all the logistics in place, John arrived early evening on Saturday, which gave us plenty of time to eat, begin a recording for the West Highland Way Race podcasts and watch the football. What could make a better evening? Oh yea, I know; don't embarrass yourself doing a podcast. It all sounds so easy, though I found it quite a surreal experience. You are effectively talking to someone, talking to no one and talking to anyone all at the same time. Weird!

Tracey had agreed to take-one-for-the-team and dragged herself out of bed on Sunday morning to take us down to Ambleside for the start of the recce run, continuing on from the point where we finished last time.

Ready for the off.
The weather had finally decided to abandon winter and jumped straight to summer. Those grins on the photo remained there for many hours to come, not all the time but most of it!

One of the things I have really enjoyed about these recces is that I have discovered new trails on my doorstep. The route out of Ambleside is a prime example. There is a nice climb over Loughrigg Fell towards Elter Water and then a wonderful run along the river from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater village and then on to Chapel Stile. We just couldn't resist taking pictures every couple of minutes, skipping along like a couple of Cheshire cats. We did not have the exact location of the checkpoint so took a few photos of the various options and have since bossed it.

The River Brathay
We then continued into Great Langdale, skirting round the foot of Lingmoor Fell. Here the underfoot conditions became rockier and the ankles started to take the pounding they would take for many more hours. This early in our run it was difficult to comprehend how this same route will feel in the race with 90 miles already in our legs; the only thing I can say for sure is that I will be happy if I can muster any kind of run at all at this point.

Little Langdale is far quieter than it's bigger brother, but no less beautiful, with a more intimate feel. At this point, we were trying to work out where the 100 mile point would be, finally selecting a footpath sign as our marker - who knows how accurate we are but who cares? At this point in the race each step is going to be a significant marker.

John in Little Langdale
We arrived at Tibberthwaite, the final checkpoint before the finish, took one look up the hill and started the plod. When looking at the splits from the race, you wonder why runners take so long - now we know. It's a long slog up on to the beautiful Yewdale Fells followed be a knee popping descent into Coniston and the finish. If you are able to run a single step of this descent at the end of 100 miles, you are having a good day.

The drop to Coniston
We talked a lot about how we might feel at this point and ran into the finish as if it was the real thing; I nearly started high-fiving the tourists. Although it was a fun game, imagining what it will feel like, this turned out to be a mistake as we both seemed to think of this point as the end of our run, whereas, we actually had the best part of five hours left.

Looking rather supple in the start/finish area
The initial climb back out of Coniston went well as we continued our podcast interview, but once we got onto the Walna Scar Road which would take us over into the Duddon Valley, the conversation dried up somewhat. This might not sound too significant, however, we have spent about 23 hours running this route together and this was the first time we stopped chatting. I think it was a combination of the mind and body targeting the finish in Coniston and us falling behind our split time expectations for the first time. Lesson to be learnt -  with these events, you run half with your legs and the other half with your mind!!

The climb out of Seathwaite up to Grassguards and on towards Harter Fell was exactly what you don't want when you are having a tough time. It is rough, boggy and long. On the plus side, once we came out of the plantation below Harter Fell, we were both so pleased to be able to run again that our spirits started to lift and we "got it back together" again, running more smoothly down into the Eskdale valley. I even managed a skip just to prove I could!

Born to dance
We met a lady in Eskdale who helps with the checkpoint there during the race and she kindly refilled our water bottles for the final push over into Wasdale. This was generally a more inviting climb, more runnable and less rocky than many of the previous plods. By this point, we were both quite pleased with how we had turned round from the tough section and really started to run more strongly. As soon as we crested the final col, I could see where the car was parked and before too long we were shaking hands and congratulating each other on a grand day out.

At the finish in Wasdale
We covered just over 35 miles in 9 hours but, more importantly, this reminded us just how tough this race is going to be. The previous two recce runs have been fairly straight forward and had perhaps lulled us into thinking we were going to boss this race. This weekend's outing showed just how much respect we need to have for the course and this will be at the forefront of my mind when I start to plan my race strategy.

The Lake District was stunning, the weather was superb, the Hoka's were bouncy and the smiles were BIG! Thanks for the company, John.

1 comment:

John Kynaston said...

Great report and sums up the day.

Love the photo of your dance!