Nov 2011

Lakeland 100 recce 1

Another (hopefully more successful) shot at UTMB is my dream plan for 2012. But it seems to be getting more popular (the internet's full of people with the 'start running ultras, bag the qualifying points and run UTMB' plans/delusions I had 4 years ago), so I might not be lucky enough to get a place. Therefore, for now at least, I'm focusing on my B plan: the Lakeland 100. Which might be even harder (for me at least) given the less groomed terrain.

I spent hours with the route book and map breaking the route down into optimal stages for recces (with the time cuts close behind me I'll need to minimise the time spent on route finding on the day). My original plan for the weekend was Coniston to Buttermere on day 1 and back again the next day, staying in youth hostels at either end. With limited daylight and energy I discarded the masterplan and scaled this back to Coniston to Boot and back, followed by Elterwater to Coniston and back.

The first climb up to Scarth gap went OK, until I struggled to keep pace with some elderly walkers near the top (humiliating, but a useful reminder of how much I need to work on my climbing). Down the other side I made it to Seathwaite comfortably up on the slowest speed quoted in the road book. On paper the next stage looked significantly easier, with far less climbing, so I set off for Boot feeling fairly perky. Ha ha! The initial climb and subsequent track were fine, but then came (what felt like) miles of calf deep bog which ground me more or less to a halt. Followed by sodden grass, where every attempt at running led to a butt slide. Eventually (after having to dig my heels in to avoid accelerating into a stone wall) I turned round just before Boot and decided to call it a day, or half way at least. The return journey went OK, the bog was no less frustrating and going back over the pass in almost zero visibility was 'fun'.

I covered the 2nd half of the course during the first Lakeland 50 back in 2008. But back then my navigation skills were pants and I paired up with a bloke who knew the route, so my memory of the route (in particular from Kentmere on where it was dark) was very sketchy. In fact on the ground it mostly felt familiar, but the recce was still useful for getting to grips with a couple of sections where the path fades out. In the 50 the climb up Tilberthwaite Gill had seemed a bit hairy in places. In the meantime I'd convinced myself that my memory was exaggerating things. But no, there really are a couple of places where hands are needed. On the day, some caffeine tablets at the final checkpoint might be a good idea.

All in all a good weekend. However I need new shoes, with better grip on wet grass, and better climbing legs. Having trawled race reports on the internet the Salomon speed cross seems to be the shoe of choice, so I've ordered a cheap pair. The climbing legs will take a bit more work...