Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Lakes 3x3000 80km Ultra

We arrived at the race start at 4.30am on Saturday. The weather was horrendous. It had been pouring with rain all night long and there was no sign of it letting up just yet. The race briefing was kept short and sweet. The organisers had taken the decision to cut out the summit of Scafell Pike due to the weather. We would go some of the way up but then cut off early taking about 3kms and 350m off of the race totals. So around 77km and 3650m of climbing. Still pretty reasonable. I was a bit gutted about this however later on I heard the section was cut out not because of the summit conditions but because we couldn't actually get to it due to the river crossings on the way up. There was so much rain it was impossible to pass these sections so a pretty good call from the organisers. I think there were 300 registered. Over 250 picked up their numbers the night before at registration but I think less than 200 actually started the race. Some not even getting out of their beds due to the weather. Poor show if you want my opinion. It's the UK it's going to be wet. So my last race of the summer and Woodys first Ultra.......

Race prep the day before. No cocktails were ordered!
Off we went at 5am. We must have ran about 1km until we hit the first big puddle that some people were still trying to avoid. God knows why because we all knew it was going to get a hell of a lot worse. It must have been about 5k in when it started getting proper interesting. The entire trail was just a river. Most of the time well over shoe depth and at one section both myself and Lauren thought we were in the actual river. It had burst it banks and everything was submerged. I looked to our left and could see the race maker sign floating in the river and at this point we all ended up waist deep in the water and wading through and this was us up on side above where the actual trail should have been. This went on for quite some time and to be honest I didn't really mind it. It did get a bit annoying that we couldn't just get a proper run on but we had to laugh about it as it was ridiculous just how bad it was and at the end of the day nobody was making us do this. We were there because we wanted to be. This all went on for the first hour and then it started to ease off and the trails became kind of runnable.

Last one of the year
Once clear of the rivers it was time to climb up towards Scafell Pike from Seathwaite. This went fine for both of us and I was feeling strong on the climbing. We hit the Styhead checkpoint Km 18 in 2hrs 28mins. I am pretty sure we could have taken easily 30 mins off of that if we could have actually properly ran any of the first 10km. Anyway neither of us were looking for a time on this race. I was just hoping to get round feeling good and it was Laurens first Ultra so she just wanted to get round the thing. From this checkpoint we cut off towards Esk Hause on a lovely bit of trail. We continued along here for a while before making a little descent where I stacked it big time slap bang onto a rock with my hip. From here we again followed an awesome muddy , techy ridge line and started our climb up to High Raise. This section was completely off trail. Straight up the side of the Mountain we went. Excellent! Lauren started to slow a little on this climb but she was still moving fine. Just over halfway up a problem arose. Most of the sole from Laurens right shoe had come clean off! Panic time! We were still a good 15km from the next checkpoint where she had a spare pair but we had to get there and the next 15km's was all off trail through bogs , marsh......pretty much horrendous underfoot. Once on top of High Raise I found us some pathetic shelter from the wind and began to work on the shoe. I got out my bandage and started to wrap it around the sole that was hanging off and attached it to her leg using some tape. It wasn't great but it had to do. It was mighty cold up here at this point and we both needed to get warm fast so off we went for the long descent. Our pace obviously dropped here as we couldn't risk the whole sole coming off or it was race over so we gently made our way down. Again I slipped and fell another two times and both absolute belters. The terrain was just awful. Knee deep marsh and bogs. Again we had to just laugh about it any time one of us sunk to our hips in whatever dirt or animal waste we came across.

Slight problem
We made it to Wythburn car park at Km 37 in 5hrs 03mins. Here we got Woody some new shoes and we both changed into some dry socks and tops. We must have spent a good 10-15mins here just getting warm and fuelling up but it was worth it. I was still feeling great here with no problems at all. I was pretty amazed just how strong I felt and if I had wanted a time on this race I would have set off here but I just really wanted to run this with Woody so I decided to wait. Next was the steep climb up to Helvellyn. I was plodding up here fine however Woody was starting to slow a little and I could tell her legs were not enjoying the climbs. We got to the incredibly windy summit at 41km into the race in a time of 6hrs 17mins. From here on the ridge is amazing. It was pretty damn windy but the long winding ridge line as far as we could see was amazing. We started to get the odd view here through breaks in the clouds. It was 9km along here on rolling terrain to Clough Head where we would descend. This took us a bit longer than we expected. Woody started to experience what a proper downer is like on a race. Again though she never stopped moving but was finding it hard work to keep her legs going. I think she had a bit of a word with herself and she seemed to pop out of it when we hit Clough Head at Km 50 , 7hrs 37min in.

Km 37
Clough Head to the next checkpoint at Latrigg was 9km. It was a rather interesting descent from Clough Head. Incredibly steep grass. No trail and it was soaking. After coming close to some more major stacks I decided the best way down this was to get on my arse and go and it really was a quick way down. We then had a a mix of trails , river paths and a tiny bit of tarmac. My legs somehow were still feeling bloody great. Woody was pushing along the flats brilliantly but I knew she was hurting....everywhere! Along here we met another runner. Giles. He pretty much stuck with us from here to the finish line and it was nice to have another person to chat with. I jogged along in front of him and Woody a few times to give them a rest from my constant jibbering which I was sure by then Woody was sick of hearing it. The sun was starting to come out and we got to Latrigg at Km 59 in 8hrs 53mins. All that was left now was 20kms. 10kms round the back side and up to the summit of Skiddaw and then 10kms down the front passing back through this checkpoint again then down to Keswick.

The next 9km up the trail before the climb up Skiddaw was again great. Great views , the sun was out and we were all just chatting. We were mixing between speed walking and jogging. I was trying to get Giles and Woody running as much as I could and most of the time they agreed. I was way too happy about how good I was feeling. Along this section I did get a few little bites from Woody as she was not into doing what I told her to. She was obviously hurting but she was well on her way to finishing so I was just pushing her on as much as possible. There was no way she was going to DNF now. At Dash Fall checkpoint at 68km we were hit by a rather freak hail storm which didn't last very long but it was pretty intense.

Heading to Dash Falls 
Now it was time to climb up Skiddaw. It's actually only a 2km hike up but it was mighty steep and again completely off trail. Woody started to venture into that dark Ultra place yet again here. I was impressed here to see her proper grinding it out on this climb. It was also rather funny as 3 weeks previous she was feeding me energy bars during RRR when I was having a major downer and climbing up here I was now the one feeding her. It was hard work but she kept smiling. Sometimes. The summit was proper gale force winds but it was clearing and the views were amazing. I jogged up a bit ahead of Woody here to get some pics and turning back to see her summit(70km) I could see the relief on her face that she had made it up the last climb and it was just 10km downhill to the finish. I got some more pics here and down we went.

Summit of Skiddaw
The descent went great. Never stopping(except to get jackets off and stash poles) and just looking out at the epic view down to Keswick and over the Lakes. It was such a difference from the mornings wash out. Descending the last peak with the sun out was pretty special. Our good friend Josh appeared as we were descending. He was planning on meeting us at the summit but we were almost back at the checkpoint by the time we seen him. An awesome and unexpected surprise. We got back to Latrigg 75km in 11hrs 52mins. We never stopped here and I was shouting at Woody that it was time to up the pace.

Great views on the way down
Oh how we love our descents. Mile 47.
Off we went for the last 5km to town and there was no hanging around. Woody was hurting but she was sticking with me all the way. After a few confusing sections on the road near Keswick we found our way back to Crow Park and the finish. Running in together we crossed the line in a time of 12hrs 15mins. 70th overall and Woody getting 5th placed female.

12hrs 15mins
This course is amazing. I think there is probably about 1.5 miles maximum on road and the rest trails or open hill side. The conditions in the morning really couldn't have been any worse but it was great how it improved as the day went on. I still cannot believe just how strong I felt over the entire day. Obviously my legs were a little heavy here and there but I still had so much power in them. To feel like that only 3 weeks after a pretty decent 100 mile time I am still a bit speechless. I am sure if I decided to go it on my own I would have got around 10hrs 30mins but that was not the plan at all here. We had planned all along to run it together and that's what we did. I had an awesome time and even though Woody experienced some major lows I know for a fact she will be back for more. She smashed a cracking time on her first Ultra on a very very tough course. I am so happy for her. Big shout out to James for the pics and the help all day long also to High terrain Events for putting on a great race and to every runner that finished on what was an epic days running.

So that's the end of my summer of running and what a summer it's been. I still need to do a full report on my trip to Colorado but I will do that some time soon. For now it's time for a little rest and the odd little run. Next up is winter and many months away(May) my first race of the 2015 summer season. Transvulcania!

Some of the runners the morning after. Photo High Terrain Events

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