Friday 16 December 2011

Lakeland 100 recce 2, Coniston - Keswick (dec)

Despite the awful but dry forecast aka, -20 windchill a possibility and incredibly strong gales, I parked the car at Windermere station just in time for the bus to Coniston... only I found out I had to change in Ambleside which would delay my start a wee bit. After I got off the bus was remaining at the stop for 5 mins and I waited on it out of the wind and asked about tickets for the return journey (Keswick to Windermere) later in the day. After a moment the driver asked how I planned to get from Con to Kes as the last bus was 19.25 (It was going to be almost noon when i reached Coniston)... 'What do you mean running!?' she replied. After telling her the places I would pass through she still seemed somewhat confused so I pointed at the map and gave up, hopped off the bus ready for bus 2!

Moving on I set off out of Coniston up the road towards the YHA crossing the bridge to find a group of walkers huddled behind a wall eating their lunch out of the wind. I pushed on straight into the wind to reach the top of the small hill then ran down to the car park at Walna Scar road. I stopped to put on a jumper and an extra t shirt beneath my jacket (first time I have needed so many layers on whilst running, maybe the steady stop start look at map stop start nature of the run and the relaxed pace contributed along with the wind?)  Before I passed over the highest point I had past bits of snow on the ground and been blown over once! The wind was incredibly strong going over the top, which was covered with a hard packed area of snow and I picked up the pace to get a bit lower out of the wind. The run down involved a good bit of boulder hopping to keep things interesting before hitting a road and a nice easy section all the way into Seathwaite where I got a bit enthusiastic and ran about 1km past the checkpoint, a quick backtrack and down into a flooded wood for some wet feet and I carried on towards Eskdale.

A bit of scenary, a nice bridge and a little more sheltered it seemed. A few kms later I came to a real boggy section! The ground had been wet before here so I ploughed through not really caring about the feet getting any wetter. Shortly after running through the tree plantation I was blown over a 2nd time bashing my ankle quite well luckily my elbow took most of the force and prevented the rest of my body from getting hurt. (ripped through jacket, jumper a long sleeve top and the skin!)  A bit of descending before reaching another farm and making friends with some cows, I followed the path around then was promptly rounded up by 3 dogs which were kind enough just to bark lots and not actually do any harm (I probably didn't look very tasty!) From there it was relatively easy going along the river and then following a road into Boot and then heading onto Wasdale Head.

This is one of the easier sections in the race, short and pretty flat (only 300m of climb). I followed the stream (bridleway) over the open ground to pass around Burnmoor Tarn which looked like the North Sea with all that wind! There was a bit of wading to do before I could get to the path again with occasional bits that weren't flooded. I've been to Wasdale before so that bit was quite simple. I had a good climb to look forward too around Kirk Fell, light was dropping so I dug out the headtorch. Although I was blown over once more shortly after then, the wind actually aided me up here near the top as it was blowing hard from behind me. At the top it was a bit snowy but I found my way down fairly easily under headtorch and came across Black Sail hostel.

I didn't enjoy the climb up to Scarth Gap the wind was howling through the fence and I was constantly being pushed sideways. After reaching the top I promptly began to get down into Buttermere on the other side where it was slightly more sheltered. It seemed a  very rocky path quite technical in the dark down to a nice easy path along Buttermere. The water was being blown off the lake and until I realised how close the lake was I thought it was raining!

At this point having taken just over 6hours at steady recce pace I decided to cut onto the road back to Keswick to ensure I didn't miss the bus in 90mins which required the 15km to be done at a reasonable pace. I followed the road and got into Keswick just under 1hour 20 later to see the bus pull in! I'd made it ok and  a good job as the bus was early. I had the bus to myself and was glad to chill out for a little while before arriving back at the car for the drive home. The bus door was flapping in the wind and I was quite glad it wasn't a double decker!

Another good section recce'd with some more awful weather. Surely it wont be so bad in the race?!

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