The Dirty Double: Helvellyn 15K and Ulswater 14K Lakeland Trails, Saturday, November 2, 2013

Phil Owen

I do this weekend of races most years to meet up with some old friends. This year I spent the Friday evening at the Carlisle folk and blues club watching a good mate play while the weather gods started their own music outside. By the time we left and headed to Patterdale youth hostel the forecast high winds had started and the rain was lashing down.

Early Saturday morning, as we walked into Glenridding the weather had got decidedly worse with 70mph winds lashing the rain in our faces and the temperature had also dropped considerable. We bumped into another mate Andy who was Marshalling the early 10K race and informed us the race may not be able to take place as mountain rescue were not in favour. These races are often thought of as an introduction to trail racing and they really are but the courses are far from easy. In fact they are far more technical and demanding than many fell races I’ve done. What makes them a great introduction is the Lakeland trail people marshal them every mile and have mountain rescue on hand in every race making them very safe. It’s also fair to say that while at the front end there are some fine athletes, it doesn’t generally attract the top fell racing guys.

Phil posing for the paparazzi. As the morning wore on the weather if anything closed in more and the hails and sleet stared. We were informed the challenge race and the trail race (the earlier challenge is the same course but for runners who wish to take more time and for Nordic walkers) would go off together at the later start time of 1pm but even this was optimistic and the 14K route was deemed unsuitable in the weather conditions and was abandoned in favour of the 10K route. Normally you’d hear grumbling about a change like this but I think runners were just pleased to get any run in the end. And just a run is all I can say. It was a lovely muddy, rocky route but with far too many people on it. Each gate or turn produced a logjam and any real ideas of racing were pointless. As we descended back into Patterdale the hail and lashing rain hit us with vengeance but still a joyful atmosphere was evident. A fine replacement race and all credit to the Lakeland trail people for getting anything at all to go ahead.

The Sunday 14K race, is one of my favourites. The Ullswater steamer takes you across to Howtown and you simply run back round the lake to Glenridding . The course suits me as its fairly technical and undulating with a couple of good rocky ‘staircases’ thrown in. Fine views of the lake are on offer at various points but you have to be careful when you look as this course is very rocky , tree rooty and muddy. I enjoyed the run, getting into a bit of a race with a tall & beautiful German lass (as you do |). Every climb she would fly up like a mountain goat while I climbed like a rhino but she could never get far enough in front and I would take her on all the down hills. On the last uphill the photographer was coming down the ‘staircase’in the rain , slipped and missed me. He then demanded I stop and he wasn’t missing anyone of the photo’s. Hence one very posed photo!

Pudding at the end of the Trail.

Lucky for me the last downhill is a very slippy grassy winding path followed by another of rocks and scree so I was able to overtake said beauty and get a decent lead. I fully expected her to catch me on the last mile of road and field but I’d just done enough. Though I was still a full 5 minutes over my best time I felt like I’m on the long road back and enjoyed myself immensely. Goody bag of Cartmel chocolate sticky toffee pudding which Anna quickly nabbed when I got back. Great race and I’ll certainly be back.

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