The first bit of a recce for the Lakeland 100 came about very, very last minute. It would be my longest run in a month since UF160 I had taken it easy running wise. Just as I was shovelling down one last feed for the day the phone buzzed with a text from a friend late one evening;
'Guess who has an interview in Scotland tomorrow!?' and a reply from me
'Great stuff can I hitch upto Penrith motorway junction? What time shall I get to yours?...Oh, and well done on the interview!' and it was sorted!
Next morning I popped out of bed at a time I tried not to notice involving the number '4' and packed up some gear in my 'Golite' pack, went into work for a couple of hours then escaped ready for action!
Anyhow just under 2 hours in the car and I was deployed just off the M6 at Penrith a couple of minutes before noon!
The plan for the day was to recce the section between Dalemain (halfway point) and Ambleside, mainly steady jogging and walking to try and remember the route as much as possible rather than race past all the turnings and not remember any of the course! A short jog down the road and I came across Dalemain estate. Jumped over a style and set off following what I figured to be the course. At the time the weather was pretty average, a bit of wind and dull and cloudy. I enjoyed a relaxed jog along the fairly wet ground for a few kms before arriving with wet feet in Pooley Bridge, weather temporarily looking a bit brighter! Apparently my trusty Saucony Triumph road shoes aren't very waterproof when you cross a boggy field, who would have known!?
There is a road section from PB up a small road that turns into a good track after a couple of k's on a slight gradient (so that's why I came in road shoes?). It was pretty straightforward at the time and all going well. I imagine it will look a bit different around here during summer probably covered in ferns etc! I descended steadily down the stream (bridleway) all the way to Howtown, it had begun raining quite enthusiastically! Grip wasn't really an issue on the stoney path. On arriving I had a little wander around trying to guess where the checkpoint might be before heading off to being a good bit of a climb, which looking at the profiles was to be one of the biggest on the course and certainly the biggest for my afternoon plod!
As I progressed down the valley I could see something in the distance resembling a huge, illuminous orange, sausage! When I got close there were a couple of well wrapped outdoor pursuits instructors tucking into their sandwiches with a stack of about 20 backpacks. It was some sort of survival bivvy the nippers were testing out, hiding from the rain and ever increasing 'stiff breeze'. Carrying on up the climb it lasted a bit longer than I expected but found my way upto the top without any issues. The wind was pretty intense slowing progress but I wasn't in a particular rush so didn't get upset about it.
Next up was generally a good open section down towards Haweswater with a few spongy patches and only one instance of leg disappearing into the ground. Things got a bit more slippery on a wet grassy slope just before joining the lakeside path, resulting in a spectacular display of my gymnastic abilities although my extension and style in the air might have lacked any technical skill, required for a high score! As I got to the lakeside path which is mainly stoney and at the time wet, light began to fade. As I was approximately straight over from the Haweswater hotel I contemplated swimming across the lake, hoping my credit card was as waterproof as my phone. I resisted although it might have been drier in the lake than running around it! Again no major trouble as I reached where the Mardale head CP would be, in total darkness. I couldn't really see the climb out so I trudged up hill and onwards for Kentmere over Gatesgarth pass. I was really battling into the wind and even walking up the hill I was finding the gusts almost stopping me. It became a bit of a miserable section as before the top of the hill I reached clouds sending my visibility from 'limited' down to 'pretty bad' and then later, just 'bad'.
It was not much good really as I couldn't see anything apart from blackness, no sign of lights in the distance even until I reached Sadgill with a little bit more of a climb before Kentmere. Progress was pretty slow around here as I tried to look out for as many landmarks as possible to help remember the route, luckily I should be passing here in daylight! There is a bit of a climb up Garburn pass, short and sweet followed by a nice easy descent into Troutbeck. At this point I decided there was little point recceing when I couldn't see anything more than the ground infront of my feet and ran at a good pace along the road back into Windermere ready to get the train back to Warrington.Plenty of confused looks from the other handful of passengers waiting at the station as I stand there covered in mud changing my top for a slightly drier one and doing my best to wash the mud off with said wet t shirt from earlier. Due to a slight error in timing I ended up with a bit of a wait in.... errrm...... Oxenholme (well known for having the coldest waiting room in the world!) for the connecting train.
I didn't manage any photos on this trip but to be honest the majority of the time I couldn't see anthing and relied heavily on the map and compass to confirm I was on the right lines. I deliberately didn't use the pre marked gps file as I would rather practice not relying on it, just incase. Come race day this section will be so much easier despite the previous 50miles I will have run as I will know the route, hopefully have some visibility and surely the weather wont be so bad, right?!