Another Friday and another family outing to the Lake District. 50 minutes after we set off from home we were parking up in Ambleside. We were going to walk another one of Helen Mort’s excellent trail running routes, this one up and over Loughrigg Fell.
We’ve been to Loughrigg Tarn a few times this summer and had walked from there into Ambleside a couple of times, so we knew the first part of the route. We set off through Rothay Park and up the steep track onto the lower parts of the Fell. However, instead of then dropping down to the Tarn, we turned and went up and over the top of the Fell.
Mostly we had the place to ourselves, overtaking a group of people early on, and then watching a couple of low flying jets on maneuver’s. As we neared the top we spotted a runner with her dog. The dog wanted to say hello to Nelly, but was called away as the runner was going in a different direction. The views at the top were stunning. We were really lucky with the September sun.
And then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Grasmere came into view. As you can see, Nelly was also suitably impressed.
The steep descent was a little taxing on our old knees, but at the bottom we turned back towards Ambleside, first passing Rydal Cave. We didn’t stop to have a look as there were loads of people.
We don’t like to let Nelly off her lead on the Fells, as she could easily get lost. There are always stories about lost dogs. But, along the path overlooking Rydal Water, we freed the old girl and she pottered about in front of us. She’s getting old so we’re very mindful about doing too much, although it does seem that going out with us for a walk is preferable to going out for a run. Even a short slow run is a little bit too much for her.
Soon the footpath became road, with the last mile a little less exciting. We made up for that by stopping in Ambleside for a coffees, scone and cake at the excellent Giggle Goose, before heading home. A well needed mini-adventure to improve our mental well-being.
Last day of our holiday in the northern Lakes, and once again we dipped into Helen Mort’s excellent trail running book. This time for a run alongside Crummock water.
We started at the Kirkstile Inn, which to ensure that they didn’t object to us using their carpark, we booked a table for lunch. We set off down a lane with signposts saying that it doesn’t lead to the lake. It does, if you’re on foot. We ran through a very nice couple of old farm houses, before we could see the lake, with Grasmoor Fell in the distance, towering over the area at 852m high.
We stopped for the obligatory selfie, although as usual Nelly wasn’t interested.
Our route took us alongside the lake. However, there were sheep all the way, so Nelly had to stay on her lead, which was hard work as she doesn’t run very well on narrow paths, always getting in the way. Wouldn’t change her for the world.
We continued most of the way along the lake before turning west and heading up. The route would take us along the other side of Mellbreak, although there was still plenty of climbing.
The route that I had plotted on my Garmin then took us off the path, only to rejoin it a hundred metres later, after traversing a very muddy and wet and section. From there the path headed down, but gently so we could run like Gazelles. Or I should say that Helen ran like a Gazelle, while I thundered along behind her.
The footpath then became a track, which ultimately joined the road near to the Kirkstile Inn. We headed inside and had fish finger sandwiches, which were very good, while Nelly once again spread herself out across the floor. Fortunately we were out of the way in a corner.
Another brilliant day and another stunning run. We’ve had a really good time in the northern and western Lakes, an area that is too far to visit for a day from Lancaster. We’ll definitely be back, possibly in a campervan next year.
Monday morning and all is quiet in the northern Lakes. Up early, as always, with a 20 minute drive to Ennerdale Bridge and then the the free carpark at Bleach Green.
From the car it was only a couple of minutes running before we were at Ennerdale Water lakeside.
We were following a route from Helen Mort’s excellent trail running book. 7 and a bit miles for a full loop of the lake.
The weather was perfect. Warm but not sunny, and with a path that was mostly easy on the legs and free of sheep, allowing Nelly to be off the lead. Only one small difficult section about halfway along one side of the lake, where Nelly needed a push up the steep rock.
We overtook a group of walkers, the only people we saw until we reached the other end of the lake.
The way back started off on a wide track, with a few other walkers, mostly with dogs.
Nelly was being a very good girl, while my amazing and beautiful Helen was powering along, having to wait for me. Watching her run along some of the technical sections is a joy, as she daintilly dances like an elf, while I stumble and crash along like a hairy old mammoth.
The last couple of miles were along a flat path, where we bumped into a couple with two German Pointers, who remarked how well Nelly looked for her age.
And then, before we knew it, we were back at the car. Nelly is fast asleep at my feet at the moment, but we have been out for another walk this afternoon. She’s one fit old girl.
An absolutely fantastic little run. Easy to navigate and mostly flat. A big thank you to my lovely wife for making it such fun. Loves you ❤
Another Sunday and another little run. With time against us, and having spent the previous day in Stoke-on-Trent, we opted for the closest run in Helen Mort’s excellent trail running book. As the title suggests, this was at Scout Scar.
The start for this run is a couple of miles west of Kendal, and it is also the change over point for legs 2 and 3 of the Bay Limestone Round. Anyway, the start is only half an hour from home. The route is also fairly different from the others in the book, as the start is almost at the highest point of the run, instead of starting in a town and running up a big hill. Saying that, the first few hundred metres are straight up along a good trail, and then you have the stunning views from the photo above.
The route headed south for a mile and then cut east down the hill to a small road. We followed the road for a couple of minutes before cutting back up the hill to join our original path. As the day was sunny, although cold, there were plenty of other people about of all ages as well as plenty of other dogs. Nelly was being very good and not running off too far.
At the top of Scout Scar there is the Mushroom four way shelter. Originally built in 1912 it was refurbished in June 2002, when names of all of the hills was added under the shelter.
From there it was a gentle jog back to the car and back home. Full run was 4 miles which took us about 50 minutes, but we’d taken it nice and easy.
We’ve now done three of the runs in Helen Mort’s books and we have a weeks holiday booked out near Cockermouth in June when we’re hoping to do a few more. Hopefully they will all be as good as the ones we’ve done so far.
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a little run that we’d done up Easedale Tarn (read about it here), using a brilliant trail running book by Helen Mort. My lovely wife decided that we should do another of her runs, this one starting and finishing at Mardale Head, the furthest point of Haweswater reservoir.
This would be a tougher route than Easedale as the only way out of Mardale Head is up. It was also a little cloudy on the tops as we slowly made our way.
The route steeply climbed, taking us between the summits of Harter Fell and Branstree as we followed Gatescarth Pass up and over towards Sadgill.
Once at the top we could see that the cloud was going to lift, with views down the valley.
At the bottom there was a stream we had to cross. I had been there last summer and hadn’t even noticed that there was a stream. Today we spent a few minutes looking for a dry way across. We needed have bothered as the next section was full on bogs, although the path was easy to follow as we headed towards Mosedale Cottage.
The cottage hasn’t been lived in for many years and is now a Bothy. Helen was very intrigued by the history of the cottage, especially when we found out that a farmer and his family used to live there. It must have been a very hard life. Anyway, we continued on past the frogspawn along a very wet path.
We almost got lost here as the obvious track heads towards Wet Sleddale, while we wanted the less travelled path towards the farm at Swindale Head. From here we headed up and up, following the Old Corpse Road, until Haweswater came into view once again. And what views they were.
Nelly was obviously impressed.
From here the route wound it’s way steeply back to the road.
One last mile along the road before we were back at our car.
The route was just under 15km with 750m of climbing (Strava link here). The weather at the start had looked a little ominous, but fortunately it cleared up nicely, although if you do this route make sure you have extra layers, just in case.
Another excellent route from Helen Mort, and another brilliant little day out with the lovely Helen and unruly Nelly.
My lovely wife stumbled across a brilliant trail running book with 20 routes around the Lake District, by Helen Mort. The runs start at 5km and go all the way up to 17km, so nothing too serious. The routes are all on good trails as well, minimising the chance of getting lost. Today we did route #8, an 8km route from Grasmere to Easedale Tarn and back.
We set off in lovely weather, sunny but still cold, through the quiet streets of Grasmere, and onto the first trail, with great views of a waterfall, known as Sourmilk Gill.
We continued to climb, walking the steep sections and running when it was easier or flatter. There were a few other walkers and runners about, but it wasn’t busy by a long way, although there were a few people enjoying the views once we reached the tarn.
I’d recently been to a strategic day with work, and had been asked if I would record a quick video of what I thought of the day, so I did this while standing half way up the fells. I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out, especially as this is the first time that I’d ever done something like that.
Anyway, we crossed over the stepping stones and started the gentle descent back down to Grasmere. Once back in the town we obviously stopped for cake, scone and coffee, and we even let old Nelly lick out the clotted cream container.
I know that 5 miles is a very short little adventure, but after the last couple of years any day out is a good day. I also have to add that if all of the routes in Helen Mort’s book are as good as this one then we’ll be a very happy little team.
A few days a go I blogged about the Backyard Ultra that I had taken part in (read about it here). I’ve now had time to mull over the race as well as going for a couple of short slow runs. The upshot is that I am very keen to do another one, although not in the same place. I have only good things to say about Trail Events Co who organised the race, but with so many Backyard Ultras all of the world it would be a shame not to experience it somewhere new. Trail Events have also published all of the photos that were taken by a professional onto their website, which can be downloaded for free. This is a very nice touch, similar to Epic Events in the North West. The ones with me can be seen below.
What have I learned? On the whole I think my pacing was just about right, as I finished most laps in about 50 minutes. I should have changed my t-shirt a couple of laps earlier and I need to buy myself a cheap mp3 player so that I can listen to music or podcasts. As I said in the earlier report, lap 6 with Matt Pritchard blasting away top tunes was my best lap.
I’ve also read a few other race reports and most people look at cutting out caffeine for a few weeks before the race so that it has more effect when they really need it. No coffee for three weeks might be a struggle for me. Apart from music, laying down with your feet elevated was done by a few people, as well as using rollers to ease their tired muscles.
My long tern goal is definitely to complete 12 laps, or 50 miles, but it does appear that once I hit 50km the wheels come off very quickly. I probably need to run longer more often, instead of my longest runs being half marathon or slightly longer.
Finally, with everything gradually getting back to normal, I want to enter more races, hopefully at least one a month. I have entered the Wilmslow sprint triathlon in a couple of weeks and I’m keeping my eyes out for something interesting to enter in October.
The first time I heard about the Backyard ultra race format I knew that I would love to have a go. It would appear that I’m not the only person as they have proliferated across the world. For those of you who don’t know what a Backyard Ultra is, it is a 4.167 mile loop that has to be completed in under an hour, and then you do it again, and again, until there is only one person left standing. There are hundreds of these races around the world with some of them taking days before there is only one winner, everyone else is a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Last October I took part in a similar event which was partly endurance and partly elimination (read about it here). However I was worried about being eliminated so ran quicker than I needed to, which ended up with too much rest and my legs seizing up. From what I read for the Backyard races, most people aim to complete each lap in 50 mins which leaves enough time to fuel and hydrate before starting the next lap.
Anyway, Backyard Ultra Wales was a couple of days ago, very well organised by Trail Events Co. The race was set in the grounds of the incredible Y Faenol Estate, which included camping with views across the mountains. The race started at 11am on the Friday, so me, my amazing wife Helen and our silly pointer headed off on the Thursday. We set up camp, chatted to a few other competitors, had sausage and beans followed by a beer and then an early night.
At 9am on the morning of the race I registered, picking up my race number and then placed a camping chair and my provisions near to the start/finish line under one of the provided gazeebos. Most people were using their own tents or camper vans, but we had pitched our tent at the other end of the field where it would be a bit more peaceful, especially as I doubted that I would run through the night.
After the race briefing we lined up for the first lap. I don’t know how many entered but it looked like there were at least 50 of us. The race ‘gong’ was banged and we set off, and what was weird was how slow we all went.
The first part of the lap was either flat or downhill, but at the first sign of uphill everyone started to walk, which did feel strange after less than 2 miles of running. It was also very friendly with people chatting and laughing. I caught up with an old friend from a Triple Ironman as we reminisced about how crazy that weekend had been (read about it here).
Part of the lap was along the Welsh Coast Path before heading up through a field, over a ladder stile and through some more woods, around a duck pond, past the estate mansion before finishing the loop. First lap completed in about 48 minutes, giving me time for a drink, some food and to fill up my small handheld 250ml water bottle. It was hot and the first lap was the only lap I ran without carrying (and finishing) the water in this bottle.
Three minutes to go and race director blows a whistle three times. Two minutes to go and it is twice, and the one minute with just the one blow. If you’re not in the starting pen on the hour you are DQ’d, no exceptions.
Lap 2 and we’re already into the routine. What was also pleasant was that unlike most races where the field completely spreads out, here we would all start at the same time again, so there was always someone different to chat to. With different sections of the route and 100m of climbing the laps weren’t boring. The route can be seen below.
Once I was off running my lovely wife and our pooch went for a long walk along the coastal path and across the Menai Straight Suspension Bridge before returning. They managed to miss the turning back to the start area and ended up walking along some of the race route, cleverly timing it so as to miss all of the runners. It gave me a much needed boost as I rounded the lake and could see Helen standing outside our tent.
Generally I would walk the last 100-200m of the loop, resting the legs and giving me chance to chat with Helen. Nelly wasn’t impressed that I was off running without her.
At the start of lap 5 there had only been one person to stop, and that was because of an old injury. To complete the marathon distance you had to do 7 laps, as 6 laps was just over a mile short. Lap 6 and Matt Pritchard, my old friend from the triple brought out a speaker to run with, blasting out Fatboy Slim at the start of the lap and Queen classics at the end of the lap. Best lap all day.
As expected there were a number of DNF’s after lap 7, although I tried to convince a couple of guys who had been sitting next to me in the gazeebo to start the next lap. Another five or six people dropped out at the end of lap 8. By this point I was feeling tired and set off lap 9 very slowly and soon found myself a long way adrift of the main pack. I chatted to one guy who wasn’t happy with himself as he had hoped to complete 24 hours and he knew he wasn’t going to finish this lap within the hour. Towards the end of the lap I pushed on and managed to finish with four minutes to spare. I was done. That was it for me. I watched as the remaining athletes lined up and witnessed the agony as one runner was less than 50m from the finish line when they set off.
I chatted with some amazing athletes during the race, often about how far they wanted to run. For many people it was just to run further than they had run before, while others had set more ambitious targets. My targets were a little more modest. Firstly I didn’t want to be the first person out, and then I wanted to log my longest run on Garmin Connect (before the race at 36km), then my longest run on Strava (before the race at 52km), then go further than my longest run only run (currently 62km) and then ultimately try to complete 12 hours or 50 miles. In the end my 9 laps came to 61.6km (Strava activity can be found here), not quite my run only longest run, but I was happy. Nice piece of bling and my race number almost survived being washed.
The start of lap 10 was the first where head torches were required and back at our tent, sipping a beer, we watched most of them return, before we headed for an early night. During the night we would sometimes hear the runners, but as we were making an early morning coffee I chatted to one of the organisers would told me that the winner was just about to complete her solo lap. That’s right, to be declared the winner, you have to do a full lap on your own. Sarah from York completed 20 laps, but had been expecting to go much longer. We all applauded her as she finished, and I marveled at how she had completed her 20th lap in 48 minutes, managing over 80 miles in total.
A couple of days later and as my legs begin to return to normal my thoughts on the race are how well organised it was and how spectacular the venue was. I also liked the camaraderie involved. It is also a great type of race for someone’s first ultra. Would I do it again? I probably will, but not in Wales. Not because there was anything wrong with the race, but because I like to race different places, and with races all over the world Helen has already mentioned that she likes the look of us going to Frankfurt.
Last summer my lovely wife, Helen, and four of her friends completed the BLR as a relay team. This year they’re doing it again, but with each of them taking a different leg. Last year Helen did the last leg, which is technically the hardest leg. This year she is doing leg 2, which is the longest leg at almost 14 miles.
Yesterday one of Helen’s oldest friends very kindly drove to the finish of leg 2 so that we could leave our car, and then drove us to the start of leg 2, and on top of that didn’t complain about all the hair that Nelly left in her new car.
The start of leg 2 is near the village of High Newton, alongside the High Newton Lower Reservoir, which is an incredibly tough climb for the end of leg 1.
Anyway, we waved to Lisa as she started her drive back to Lancaster and we started our run back to the car. The first bit of leg 2 was along a road and mainly downhill, which was nice, especially as we knew there would be plenty of climbing later. Off the road and we wound our way through some woods and fields and past Witherslack Hall. After almost 4 miles of very easy running we came to the side of a cliff, which marked the first of the two summits on leg 2, Lord’s Seat at 215m high. As expected the views were amazing, and you can easily see how strong the wind sometimes blows.
Off the top of Lord’s Seat was once again very pleasant running with easy to follow paths, the complete opposite of leg 5. We dropped down to cross the main Lythe Valley road at the very posh looking Lythe Valley Country House Hotel.
Over half way and we were both still feeling good, although the hills started to get a little more frequent and the terrain more uneven. With the sun out we weren’t in any hurry and we more than happy to walk when we felt like it. However, at Middle Blakebank we had our first navigation problem. The route appeared to go straight through someone’s front garden. We backtracked and found the footpath arrow was correct so we looked left and right before deciding just to go for it. Half way through the immaculate garden we spotted another yellow footpath sign, so it was the correct route. A bit later we came to another house where the footpath also went through the garden, but this time the owners had put up signs and arrows so that people knew exactly where the path went. I’m sure the owners of the first house don’t like having a footpath going through their garden, but if you make it obvious where the path goes, people won’t be standing outside your front door for five minutes looking at maps and scratching their heads.
The next few fields were full of sheep and lambs, some very young with concerned Ewes. Across another small road and we were onto Gamblesmire Lane, which was easy running again as we neared our second summit, Cunswick Scar. We followed the official route through Scar Wood, although we think it might be quicker to continue along Gamblesmire Lane rather than the rough field. Anyway, once through Scar Wood there was only a short out and back to the summit before the last mile to the finish.
I hadn’t thought to bring a hat so Helen had lent me her buff to protect my shiny bald head. This was the only time of the day where we had seen more than two people, with families and dogs galore.
The last mile would have been great for running, but my legs were completely broken by this point. In hindsight a hilly 60+ mile bike ride the day before probably wasn’t such a good idea. However, with the wide open spaces it was great to let Nelly off her lead.
A few minutes later and we were back at the car. Full distance was a little over 14 miles with over 2000 feet of climbing. A tough leg which took us just over four hours, but as I said, we weren’t in any hurry. Helen will be much quicker on the day. It was also far easier navigation wise than leg 5. We might head back for another quick recce but I doubt if we’ll do the full leg again.
My go to trail running shoes for the last few years has been the Saucony Peregrine. They fit my feet well, have good tread in the wet and mud, and they aren’t too bad on harder trails or small sections of road. Unfortunately the uppers don’t last very well. My last pair managed 410km, but my current pair have fallen apart at only 350km. I do only use them when I know my route will be tough. If I’m going to be running on a good trail I often just use road shoes, so any trail shoe that I use will take a hammering.
I know that the trails around Lancashire are tough going and therefore will be very hard on any trail or fell shoe. However, at £100+ a pair I think I’m going to have a look at something else.
I read some very good reviews about North Face Vectiv Trail shoes, although I’m not keen on white. I also heard some very good things from Inov-8, possibly the Terraultra G 270. We’ll see what my local running shop can manage, and maybe 350-400km for a trail shoe in Lancashire is about right.
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