Thursday, 5 August 2010

The BIG ONE - Ultra Tour Lake District (part 2)

Buttermere to Braithwaite - 8.6m, 2440ft asc, 2539 desc, 2h17m

This CP gave me the required pickup, it was suprisingly busy for the middle of the night in an event for about 150 people that lasted over 100m. There seemed to be at least 20 here - Buttermere's first rush hour. The warm mushroom soup and roll went down well as well as a few sweeter snacks. I thought for a moment Mark was having and adverse "gut" reaction to the event as he rushed outside following a hot drink. He was ok moments later, probably just drank a couple of hot drinks too fast and overloaded the stomach.

We rolled out of the village hall with a few others to be almost immeadiately called back as we missed the turn off into Ghyll Wood. We followed a small group on the single path forest track, just once having to climb after taking a low path we shouldn't have and getting to a dead-end near the beck. We emerged from the wood and ran along the bottom of a bracken clad hill right and a gill left. The group in front had pulled away a bit and once again missed the turning. Sensing it wouldn't be obvious I had GPS in hand to confirm the narrow left fork through foliage up the hill as I approached. The guys ahead were out of site and earshot but eventually realised their error and tracked back up a steep part of this hill. My navigation strategy was working out better than most, bouying me again.

I was moving well on the countouring narrow paths around Whiteless Breast (titter) and Bleak Rigg. I had a chat with another runner who had been following close. It turned out he knew this section of course well so I figured I'd try and keep close on the next few miles into the unknown. We were run-walking on a gradually upwards path on a mostly slight gradient with peaks to left and drop down bank into beck on right. Other groups joined us as we dropped down to cross several becks and gills. A bit of sub-contious safety in numbers bringing there pace along maybe. Up ahead when not blocked by the hill flank we could see a string of headtorch lights along the valley, climbing gradually higher on this great contouring path that I must revisit in day.

The path was very narrow and I think there were a few stumbles. I think Mark had more than average, he wasn't sure why as we were both moving along at good pace and not too much effort. I chatted to another guy who'd done all sorts of challenges and who seemed to have deemed this his last one... for a while, until a build-up of aches and issues could be sorted. I sure hope he completed it, a fitting peak after many years of adventuring.

The continuous accent eventually ran dry as we climbed out of the valley via Sail Pass (deja vu?) and then started to descend contouring around the other side. Initially steeply with a terrifying drop to the right to warn off any overexuberence. We down-dulated along awhile, but the stage highlights were mostly done now. The group we were in didn't believe me when I speculated that the settlement of lights ahead was probably Braithwaite. In truth, it did seem too soon after the slow progress I'd adjusted to on the previous stage. But then we descended onto road, a footpath and then the silent, centre of Braithwaite and our first major food stop - early breakfast. 33.9m - 9h41m

Braithwaite to Blencathra centre - 8.2m, 1548ft asc, 905 desc, 2h39m

Pasta with tomato sauce, rice pudding, coca-cola, hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches and pringles were all on offer here in the comfortable and well lit Church hall. After a good fill Mark and I were off into the warm night again. I'd felt pretty rough when I'd recce'd the route starting here on one of the hottest days of the summer not so long ago. I already felt better today, the smooth tarmac outa town a nice change and some "money in the (pace) bank". I could even turn my headtorch off along the well lit A66.

We then skirted Keswick before heading north-east up Spoony Green Lane, following good paths uphill through small woods on the "highway" up towards Skiddaw. The headtorches came off here as the sunlight appeared beyond Blencathra. We jinked right of the path up and rounded rough paths contouring Lonscale Fell. The next 3m or so horseshoed around between high peaks on a mid-level path high above a beck. It was quite novel to look across the valley andsee other runners several miles, initially ahead, then behind. We eventually rounded Blease Fell. 

We didn't run that much on this section, losing pace on other groups. I think I was now having a bad patch as my feet were already paining me on footfall. As we descended to  the Blencathra centre it was time my first loo-nnn-gg stop.

Blencathra centre to Dockray - 7.7m, 1440ft asc, 1027 desc, 2h24m

I filled my water bottle, topped up my energy drink and grabbed some food as was customary and necessary at these CPs. Then I began the slow process of removing my shoes and socks. It already didn't look good, sore and cracked soles and some blistering. During the week after the Wasdale race I'd noticed how my feet had dried and cracked up. Not sure why, I'd began attempts to soften and heal the skin in the week that followed. They seemed near ok before the event, but here at just over 40m in I suspected anything less than my less than 100% intact feet beforehand might exagerate and quicken any wear and tear and might be my downfall. I was going to have to earn this completion the hard way.

Plastered, padded and mummified in zinc oxide tape, my feet took me out of the door nearly 40 mins after arriving. I felt a bit guilty for delaying Mark and we'd been passed by several others including Britnick. Still better to take the time and play the long game. At least I wasn't like the poor, shivering withdrawal we left behind at the Centre. On paper a money in the bank section lay ahead, downhill and then lost of flat and very subtly undulating stuff pretty much to the end. In reality I'd learned from recceing that the long section of Moor road was the bleakest part of the entire route and may well be an ordeal for the suffering.

My feet felt slightly comfier in their new padding so we pushed on down the hill towards the old railway track. then along here we started catching people up with a sustained run. by the time of the the sections only hard climb up the boggy moor things were looking up with serveral overtakes inflating my confidence bubble again. The moor road turned out not to be hell as on the hot recce day, when I was running quite dehyrdrated. We pushed along, challenging ourselves to run most of the flat, all of the downhill and picking spots partially up the short ascents to run to before a walk break.

This worked and we soon came off the road, passed the wood and arrived at the CP in the Car Park. Allowing for nearly 40mins of time lost static at the start of the stage I was pretty pleased with knocking out nearly 8m in considerably less than 2 hours. Was the worst passed?

Dockray to Dalemain - 9.8m, 1168ft asc, 2040 desc, 2h56m

The longest section lay ahead and the fare on offer to the runners at the CP vehicle wasn't as tempting as the smell of the marshalls fry up, so we didn't hang around. There was quite a substantial downhill to start off with. Near 1m to Dockway village on road - ching, ching - then a steadier descent on woodland trail down to Aira Force and nearly Ullswater. But we turned west to contour around Gowbarrow Fell.

It was a bit of a trudge up, feeling like we'd gained the stages claimed 1168ft of climb in about 2m. But this was another highlight. The green and wooded banks Ullswater curling around beneath us to the right, Gowbarrow fell towering to our left, classic trail running! However, it couldn't quite take my mind off my feet, mostly forgotten during the previous, fast stage. Now reawakened to pain following the big descent. We came off the round-fell path and headed into the woods. A brief stop to nibble on some trail mix - how appropriate - perked me up for the final pull to Dalemain. I replied postively to a text from Claire which asked how our night had gone. There was now another descent through fields, then more ascent (how?) and we eventually had a rather long road section to progress along.

We were nearly run down by an inconsiderate farm worker who plowed past us in tractor at full speed on a very narrow road. He stopped up ahead and there was a slightly ugly scene that I will not dwell upon. Long story short I think the guy had got out of the wrong side of his bed. Through Dacre village and past the seemingly out of place Dacre Castle, it was now just a 2km road to our stop. I seemed to be working overly hard to run on these flat sections and was glad to get to the marquee at Dalemain. I needed a pick-me-up BAD. 59.7m - 17h39m - real time: 11:09

Dalemain to Howtown -  6.8m, 935ft asc, 827 desc, 2h43m

It was great to be greeted by Claire at this CP. With less than an hour until the start of the 50 mile event she selflessy looked after Mark and I and chatted for as long as possible before she went to line up. Pasta and tomato sauce was the order of the day, along with a few cups of cola and numerous other snacks I can't recall. the CP staff we great as ever, doing as much for us as they could. I even visited the medical team. the doc took a look at my feet and ordered I should be put down..... no not really! He did a proper job of wrapping my feet in a sticky padded bandaging that felt great combined with clean socks from my drop bag.

I also made an impromptu apperarence in a documentary about the event. Voicing my thoughts and experiances and showing off my battered feet (pre bandaging). In fact the film crew seemed most interested in peoples feet. Many feet on show had the pale, swollen look of feet that had spent a lot of time in damp and wet conditions. Back to the documentary, wonder if I'll make the final cut?

It was a long stop, nearly 50mins as we made tracks just before the 50 kicked off. Soon to join us following its 4m loop of the grounds. I munched on a ginsters steak slice from my drop bag as I walked away from the CP, culinary treat of the day I think.

After a few flat fields and a riverside path in a flat and most un-lake district area physically, we passed through Pooley Bridge. That was the last major civilisation for now, up the tarmac road and then a path up onto the moor. The long stop, foot aid and company of all the 50'ers had really picked me up - I think Mark too. We had a game of guess how long after the start the lead 50'ers will pass us? My guess of 70minutes was somewhat out even with the extra 4m they covered. The lead group of three bounded past us at real pace well within an hour.

This made for quite a fun and refreshing stage of the run. With fast 50'ers passing us regularly, often very supportive, even praiseworthy in their comments of the 100'ers despite the probable gulf in "class" between their pace and ours. I tried to be supportive back, but they didn't really need it at this stage. We were soon off the moor and turned off the path into Howtown. 66.4m - 20h23m * considering I was at 33.9m in 9hr41m the pace is still pretty good for a finish between 30 and 35 hours ;¬)



  1. your write up is such a tease!! I'm dying to get to the end and find out what happened! great stuff Danny. Keep up the good work :-)

  2. A night in and a couple of strong ciders and I'm got it done. I was starting to think it may takes as long to write as to run.

    I'm looking forward to hearing about your next big challenge!

  3. hope you twatted the rude farm worker danny..though its not your style