Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Three Shires Route!

Keen to get out in the lakes Chris asked what I fancied doing at the weekend (8th Aug). It was pretty much a given that we would be in the lakes but I fancied doing the Three Shires Race Route as the last time I did it (last year) I only manage to get to the Three Shires Stone. And so we had a plan!

We intended a 6AM getaway but I was a little late, then I'd forgot my wallet and Chris didn't bring any cash but eventually by 6:30 we were on the motorway. The sky was clear it looked like it would be a nice day until we got passed Preston and we could see out towards the lakes. CLOUDS!! It was like a blanket hanging over the lake district. Why can't it just go away. The number of peaks I have been to with Chris that present NO view what so ever outweighs the number I have been to with a view. Anyway, there was no rain planned and despite my apprehension about running in cloud, I don't actually mind if I am with someone else.

We arrived in Langdale around 8AM and headed straight off. At the end of the first road is a ford crossing which during the race get some runners feet wet whilst others cross the wooden bridge. I noticed a sign on it this time stating no more than 2 people on the bridge at a time, so I suspect ALL runners will be told to run through the water on race day.

MarkChrisThe run headed off at a gentle pace as I was keen not to tire myself out too quick, determined to complete all of the route today. We ran along the first gentle gradient before starting the climb up to Wetherlam, this time though staying on the path to the remnants of the mining building at the foot of the climb. Last time we had started to head up sooner and probably should have done this time however Chris wanted to see if he could find the path that headed up from there. It was at this point he said I should be leading, so I did and started following the path/trod/faint mark on the land. We started to climb but Chris decided we had gone too far to the right so lead me back, that was the end of my navigating for the day.

This first slog up Wetherlam is a hard one, even when not racing it's still hard work so I can't imagine how I would feel during the race. We still weren't quite sure if we were heading for the same point the race headed but we weren't far off and cam out right near the peak rather than last years attempt that brought us up somewhere further down the path. Chris and Me on WetherlamThe view down into the Langdale valley was great but turn through 360 degrees and look towards Coniston and all I could see was cloud, some of them were looking quite black too. Anyway, a few photos and off we headed to Swirl How. I don't like the start of this run as it's very rocky and I don't run too well here (although sometimes I just click with it and have a good run, it's normally not that good).

After a quick run down to Swirl Hawse, the climb starts again up 'Prison band' to Swirl How and it's quite rocky but it's a nice one. I tried to pick out bits I remembered from Coniston but it's surprising how it sometimes looks different from what you have in your mind.

Here at the top of Swirl How we had a discussion over which way we had gone wrong last year; The week before the Coniston race last year Chris had took me (An in-experienced runner, let alone fell runner) to recce the route with him. The weather was bad and got worse as we went on. We'd gone the wrong way off Swirl How and had to double back, visibility was very low and as we headed off on the now correct path to the Old Man we saw two people coming up in the other direction asking if they were heading for the Old Man, pointing to Swirl How. My confidence in Chris dropped for a minute and we carried on. We were right and after reaching a point where I just wanted to curl up behind a small cairn, we reach the Old Man and had a good run back down to the car. It was an experience that has turned me into a fair weather runner ever since!

Anyway, the run down off Swirl How skirts around Great Carrs. Running towards Three Shires StoneThere doesn't see to be any trod to follow here that I have seen, you just make your own but eventually should be able to pick up the path coming down the other side towards the Three Shires Stone. We reached here in 2hr 25min but I figured that route choice up Wetherlam, photo stops, general gassing and not running at race pace would probably account for more than 25 mins so reaching here during the race within the 2hr cut-off shouldn't be a problem. Famous last words!!

Onwards and upwards now towards Blisco. Chris seemed quite confident of the route having described it to me from afar whilst stood on Swirl How, pointing out the path and stating which way we should go up around the craggs. However on the way up, he floundered a little, taking us off the path possibly a little too early and then not being sure if it was to the right of the lower craggs and then left of the upper ones. It didn't matter anyway as long as we got to the peak, which we did. We stopped on the top for a quick drink and a photo and tried to look now for the route on to Lingmoor.

Me on the Pike O BliscoFrom the Pike of Blisco we double backed for a short way before heading east to Lingmoor. Chris confused me a little here as we were running at one point in a southerly direction but he assured me we were right and eventually headed east for Bleaberry Knott. I have heard people comment about heading for the right point here, often going down the hill too far and as we skirted around the knott, we somehow managed to hit the stile bang on. Crossing the wall we started the descent through the bracken which was very overgrown. Chris commented here that by the time we would come through here on the race, the bracken would be well trodden and a clearer path is normally seen. I was surprised though at how rough the ground was under the bracken though.

It was on this descent from Blisco though that I started to struggle. My shoes had started to rub and my concentration was going. With my feet hurting I was starting to make bad choices with my footing and turned my ankle a few times in the bracken. I'd already told Chris I wouldn't be able to do the run up Lingmoor now and now after reaching the woods next to Blea tarn I just took a gentle jog back down the road to Little Langdale.

Back at Little Langdale came the difficult part of the day, trying to convince the bartender of the Pub to make me a cup of tea in my own cup rather than taking it in a pot. "But you get more in a pot??", "Are you sure??", "You want me to put milk in it??".. I sat at the car with a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits Chris had brought along and can't wait to get up there again to try the same route, this time completing ALL of it, preferably before race day!

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