“Soak upyour surroundings as you travel from Caldbeck, on the northern edge of the Lakes, to Cartmel, in the south.”
I’m not sure that the Lakes In A Day race organiser intended this to taken literally when they posted it on the front page of their website but Storm Callum made sure that was exactly what happened. If it wasn’t actually raining then you were probably wading through Lake Windermere or splashing through the many swollen streams along the way.
The weather reports weren’t good, but they weren’t that bad either. There had been a deluge the night before making the trip down challenging but after getting registered and heading to a local hostelry for a last minute bit of carb loading, where I met fellow Westie Graham ‘Beardy’ Kelly down to support not run this year, the rain had eased off.
The bus leaves early for the start line but I managed to get a bit more sleep on the way and as we lined up in Caldbeck for the start at 8am there was no sign of the furious winds and rain that awaited. In fact the wettest part of this leg was the river crossing between High Pike and the run up Blencathra. The potentially precarious descent down Halls Fell Ridge to Threlkeld was wet and slippy but not bad enough to make the easier (but longer) alternative down Blease Fell worth considering.
Threlkeld is the first of three wonderfully welcoming and well-stocked feed stations; you could put on weight in this race. A nice mug of warm tea to wash down a couple of Danish pastries; refill the water bottle with Tailwind; quick change of watch; and away to Clough Head and Helvellyn.
I was making good time but knew the long climb up Clough Head was probably going to be the toughest of the day. The top was covered in cloud and as soon as you got off the steep climb you were hit in the face by a stiff wind that would only get worse as we made our way along the ridge to Helvellyn. Visibility wasn’t brilliant and the rain that came with the wind didn’t help but as long as you knew which paths to follow the navigation wasn’t too difficult.
Coming off Helvellyn and down Dollywagon Pike the wind picked up and the rain got heavier, the surf was up on Grisedale Tarn but the weather took your mind off the last big pull up Fairfield. Across the top the wind whipped the rain into your face and tried to lift you off your feet. The rain stabbing needles through my waterproof coming off Fairfield made it difficult to pick a good line through the rocks down to Ambleside. As you came down lower the weather and visibility improved and the pace picked up.
Once you get into Ambleside there is another feed, pizza and pasta aplenty. This is a race of two halves, half hill and half trail, so you have the option to get a change of shoes at Ambleside. Fresh socks and dry shoes after 27 miles was a welcome delay and I was glad I’d packed a wee dodd of vaseline as there was some unmentionable chafing starting. With the water bottles refilled I headed back out optimistically for Leg 3 to Finsthwaite. The shoes didn’t stay dry for long, the race had to be re-routed after a river burst its banks but a flooded section of road still had to passed through five minutes out of the feed station. The pizza baby I’d acquired in Ambleside also slowed me down for a couple of miles.
This leg winds its way through woods and along trails down the western side of Lake Windermere. The rain persisted but down lower the wind had died away. The route could be hard to follow but was well marked with fluorescent signs as the darkness closed in and the head torches came out. 30 something miles in and I was still going well, keeping a nice steady pace and picking up more places than I was losing. Callum hadn’t finished with us yet, the storm had flooded the paths alongside Lake Windermere so there was a fair bit of wading needed before a sharp climb to the High Dam and down again into Finsthwaite, and another feed station. Soup and cake here.
I’d arrived as the church clock struck ten hoping for a quick turn around before the last seven-and-a-bit miles but the soup was hot and the hospitality warm so it was twenty-past before I left. I was on my own as I crossed the field and into the woods above Finsthwaite but another runner was soon nipping at my heels as we climbed up again, I lost him coming down again. As the trail climbed up onto the fell again I caught the occasional glimpse of head torches ahead and slowly began to close them down. I passed a few runners along the way and caught a group of three at the bottom of the last hill. When I crossed the stile onto the road for the last two miles into Cartmel only one of them was still with me. It was just after midnight and with a last push a finish before last orders in the Royal Oak was possible, I upped the pace and left my new friend behind deciding not to stop for a pint and finished a few seconds after 12:30 in 16 hours 30 minutes and 29 seconds.
At the finish there’s a medal, a warm shower (yes more wetness), a hot meal (yes more food) and a cold beer (to soak up some of the aches). A good way to end a good day. They say you find out a lot about yourself on a race like this, and it might take sometime for it to soakin but I have found out I quite like running in the rain and I also enjoy passing people in the latter stages of a race, which doesn’t happen very often.
- The race had joint winners with Clarens Olsson and Katie Kaars Sijpestejin (breaking her own course record) finishing together in 10:45:01. 378 started, 136 retired and I was 90th
- There’s a nice little video on the open adventure Facebook and if you watch closely you can see a brief flash of a Westies vest as I cross over Grisedale Tarn about one minute in (don’t know if this link will work) https://www.facebook.com/openadventure/videos/1399915816810727/?t=101