Well that was tough ! One of the toughest races I have ever done. Melanie and I had wondered whether this might be hard and it certainly was.
The event was a bit like the Lakeland 50m/100m where the 50k starts halfway round the 100k route and we had a coach to take us to the start of the 50k in Patterdale. The start and finish of the 100k was at Brockhole, between Ambleside and Windermere. We were not impressed by Brockhole, it is advertised as a venue which has lots of free activities, but if you are travelling by car, the car parking charges are steep. The charges operate 24 hours a day. Those people who were camping there were building up some hefty charges.
We were told to arrive on Friday evening for registration and a compulsory briefing for all runners. We met up with Jane who was going to be doing her first Ultra and the plan was for the three of us to run it together. The briefing included nothing that wasn’t in the race day instructions and that we weren’t told on the coach to Patterdale. We should have arrived on the morning of the race and registered then as Anna did. We were also told that the coaches left at 9, but it seemed the organisers were working for a 9.30 departure. We arrived in Patterdale at about 10.15 for a 12.00 race start. There was a marquee most of which was a feed station for the 100k runners. There was a small part we could have gathered in if had been wet. Luckily, it was a lovely day, sunny, a gentle breeze and you could see for miles. The four of us opted to walk to Glenridding to find a coffee shop.
The race started exactly on time and we ran up Grisedale. This first section is the final quarter of the Lakeland Trails Helvellyn route, but in reverse. That was fine and then we started the climb up to Grisedale Tarn. I noticed that I was a bit tired and started to wonder whether the Hardmoors Princess 30 event two weeks ago and walking 10m last Tuesday had been wise. Still we got to the Tarn and had fantastic views. The descent to Dunmail Raise was something else, very technical and we were making slow progress, but well within the cutoffs.
After grabbing some water and food we ran round part of Thirlmere and started the second big ascent, up to Harrop Tarn and Watendlath Fell. This ascent felt a bit better, but still hard. Crossing Watendlath Fell, we were using the flags (this was a marked course) as there was no for discernible path. It got a bit boggy in places. At this point Melanie started to get a migraine, but she caught it early with some painkillers. A steep descent to Watendlath and the second checkpoint. Here I had soup and the other two had porridge, very nice. Then another short climb and, for once, a reasonable descent to Rosthwaite and we headed towards Stonethwaite. This bit was runnable, but it got a bit rougher underfoot as we turned into Langstrath. Then we could see Stake Pass in the distance. This was to be the final big climb and the aim was to get up and over before dark. Anna had been running with us for a bit of the way, but at this point she was pulling away and we didn’t see her again until the finish.
The climb did not look bad in the distance, but it was much harder than it looked. A seemingly never ending series of hairpins. Very smooth underfoot and we were hoping the descent would be similar. No such luck, it was rocky and we walked most of it. Finally down into Langdale and we knew the worst was behind us. We ran slowly to the next checkpoint at Stickle Barn where we had chips ! Bliss !
Then via Elterwater and up to Loughrigg Tarn and up to Loughrigg Fell. By now we were using head torches, but the weather was still excellent with little wind and a clear sky. To the final checkpoint at Ambleside and then off to Skelghyll Woods. Up till this point the signs had been pretty good, but into the woods we came to a junction with no signs. I looked at my Garmin with the GPS route on it and it appeared to say go right. I was a bit doubtful as it seemed to be going down. I haven’t quite figured out what went wrong, I have a feeling that the GPS route provided wasn’t too accurate. At this point we were over 31m and we finally decided to cut our losses and run down to the Ambleside to Windermere road and run in from there. Many others in front and behind us did the same.
Made it back in 9hrs 30min. Anna had also struggled to find the route in Skelghyll Woods and finished about 5min ahead of us. It was a lovely well lit finish on the lawn next to the lake
Jane did great on her first Ultra !