Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Great Lakes Run 2011 - 13 miles 7000ft.

Father's day weekend provided me with a slim excuse for a brief trip back home and funnily enough there was a race on that weekend. I also managed to keep up my new tradition of turning up at the last minute, this time thanks to Mark since he was driving. The weather didn't look too bad on the drive up, the forecast hadn't been too promising and it was spitting with rain when we arrived in Langdale plus all the tops were in thick cloud.

This race is becoming one of my favourites, this is its fourth year and apart from last year I have done them all. Today looked like it would be similar to the first year in terms of navigation at least, thankfully it was nothing like as cold and windy though. You park in the farmer's field; register in one of his sheds and start by the gate leading onto the fell. I was fretting about what to wear, it looked like it could be cold on the tops so I put my leggings on but as you can see from the photo I was a little overdressed, I'm becoming Mark!

As usual I started too close to the front but by the time we were in the cloud I had managed to find my pace. It seemed to take an age to get to the top of Bowfell, I have only ever been up this way as part of the race and so early on it's usually just follow the leader but there was one point where I saw a single runner off to the right and remember thinking I should have been going that way. I think we took the tourist route all the way up apart from right near the summit where the guy in front strayed too far right over the rocks and took me with him. After the summit it was helpful hearing a bloke shouting out: "Lindsy where are you?" further on.

Runners heading up the band that leads onto Bowfell.

We were still in the clouds all the way past Esk Pike then they lifted briefly for the climb onto Great End. Of all the tops in the lakes I have visited, the section from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike is my least favourite by far so I was glad to get a tour of some short cuts around there (not that there are many) from the girl in front. I was slipping all over the place on the rocks in my walshes and as I complained about this the bloke next to me suggested I stick to the pink rocks! Strangely enough they did actually feel less slippy, never heard that one before.

Over Scafell Pike and past the hordes I was careful not to head down into Wasdale by mistake then I noticed a couple of runners heading off to the left so decided to follow them. This was a decent short cut missing out Mickledore and brought us out just above the marshal stood at the bottom of the Gully leading up to Foxes Tarn. I was getting fed up with my new water bottle at this point, not being one for drinking from streams I bought a Travel Tap. The flow through the filter is very poor and I had resorted to taking the filter top off to drink the tap water I had brought with me, I filled it up on the way up the gully.

It's very steep here, there's a flagged section that heads right out of the gully and I was struggling with the gradient while trying to stuff salt and vinegar crisps into my mouth. It was at this point two years ago that I began to suffer with it being so humid, this time I was concentrating more on making sure I was going the right way it was so misty. As I passed the summit checkpoint I noticed a runner looking a bit confused, he didn't look like he knew where he should be going so I got my compass out and told him we should be heading generally south. There is some grassy running slightly off the ridge but you need to be careful not to head too far west or you could miss the next checkpoint. Running down here I began to get a sharp pain across my right big toenail which was a bit disconcerting.

Just at the point where I was becoming concerned I hadn't seen any other runners for a while slight side appeared darkly through the thick mist and there was the marshall waiting patiently for us. Over the top and continuing south I tried to give some tips to the other runner who had followed me since Scafell but I don't think he was taking much in - he seemed to have decided to stick behind me for a while.

Heading down off Slight Side we saw a small group heading back up from the west(!) then thankfully we dropped below the clouds and could see across Great Moss to the next climb. Heading round below Horn Crag on the last of the scree I slipped and used my right hand to break my fall. I noticed a bit later on that I had cut my hand right in the crease at the base of my little finger, nothing serious but it got a bit bloody.

I washed the blood off crossing the river then while climbing out the other side my left quad started cramping up, not something I usually struggle with that much and for me it's usually a sign that I haven't been drinking and eating enough so I slowed to a walk and tried to get some more food and water in. We had seen a group on a lower path from Slight Side so I suggested the guy in front catch them up.

I always seem to struggle at this point, the group in front headed up Swinsty Gill but I think it's better to head up Stonesty gill which seems less climb. It's still a struggle though, I caught my 'shadow' up again as we headed into the mist and a couple of other runners passed us on the way up. I was trying my best to get more water in but the bottle was so slow it was frustrating, I am beginning to think it would be better to just start drinking from streams!

Reaching the top of the climb I had to have a sit down and eat the remains of my food plus finally get the scree out of my shoes, the guy following me headed off as another runner passed but after 5 minutes or so sorting myself out as I headed off I found him sat on a rock not far off having a bite to eat. I had a feeling he didn't possess a compass but I didn't broach the subject.

Anyway things were perking up for me, plus the cloud base was lifting and heading north of Cold Pike towards the path past Red Tarn you could finally see Blisco in the distance. I was expecting to see Mark at Red Tarn but he wasn't there; he had planned on heading up Bowfell then over the Crinkles and handing out some jelly babies before the last climb so I was puzzled there was no sign of him - I was looking forward to some jelly babies too!

The last of my food was working and I took the climb up Blisco steadily, the summit was clear and you could see a few runners heading down the descent. I have never managed to find a nice, quick route down here. A bloke I had caught said he had been down this way a couple of weeks ago and there isn't another way down unless you go the long way round; still I was a bit wary having to down climb scary crags more than twice. It wasn't long though before we hit the last steep grassy section where my poor studs couldn't handle the gradient and I fell on my arse at the same time as a bloke behind me. There were three of us and we ended up sliding down a short way on our backsides, as if we were sledging like kids it was great fun though you needed to keep an eye out for any rocks!

Heading through the bracken I fell again this time on my left wrist which hurt and left me with a bruise but I was happy to be at the finish. I didn't carry a watch and had a feeling my time would be disappointing, I was 5 mins under 5 hours; about 15 mins slower than my usual time and was a bit surprised how much I suffered especially across Great Moss. Still, I was glad to get round and I think the main reason for me struggling was again not enough water same as Ennerdale I really need to sort out my water strategy before Wasdale; plus I had only run twice and biked once since Ennerdale having caught a cold... excuses excuses. Taking my shoes off I noticed my big toenail had split across the middle but I don't remember banging it on anything.

Thanks as usual must go to all involved with putting this event on, it really typifies what fell running is all about.

Drinks after the finish, impressive how sticky the mud was.


  1. Hi Chris,

    Believe it or not I did have a compass and a decent OS map cut-out too... I'm just not very good at using them and have been getting by for years keeping my fingers crossed for good weather, keeping up with the mid-pack or following people like you who are kind enough to let me tag along. I really ought to pull my finger out. Thanks for the guidance and I hope Wasdale is a good run out.

    Alex Hi Chris,

    Believe it or not I did have a compass and a decent OS map cut-out too... I'm just not very good at using them and have been getting by for years keeping my fingers crossed for good weather, keeping up with the mid-pack or following people like you who are kind enough to let me tag along. I really ought to pull my finger out. Thanks for the guidance and I hope Wasdale is a good run out.


  2. Hello Alex!

    I enjoyed showing you round, it was good to have some company. My apologies for assuming the worst!

    Shame you will miss Wasdale, hopefully see you at another race soon.

  3. Cheers Chris - Borrowdale will probably be my next race - I got cut off last year, so I have unfinished business!