So I mucked this up a little – ideally, this post was meant to go out last week, so people could have a chance to read it in plenty of time – not the day before the race! But as it happens sometimes, life and training got in the way, and I am of the thinking, better late than never. As a result, though this is going to focus more on what I learnt out exploring the Lakes Sky Ultra course and things, I am going to be focusing on tomorrow.
Having had a pretty tough, but fun time in Wales (read more about that here) starting off my legs were not fresh, to say the least. I was also quite tired and low on food having not eaten quite enough over the past few days – all in all, I was not in the best shape to be running anything particularly fast.
The aim of day 1 was to look at the first half of the course from Ambleside to Patterdale and work out rough timings, in particular, the start and the climb to Fairfield. We got up in relatively good time and soon were off. I’d already agreed with Tom it worked far better if we ran each section at our own pace and just waited (or he waited) at certain points. The first section was Ambleside to Fairfield. Starting off I felt tired – it was a bit like driving a car with the handbrake on! It was, however, exciting to see signs for the race already up, hopefully encouraging passing walkers and runners to support on the day.
For me, this climb was not a fun one. Mentally I felt really strong. However, nothing was left in the tank. I quickly realised this was not going to be my best day and there was not much benefit in pushing myself too far. The last think I wanted to do was totally exhaust myself just over a week before the race. So frustrated, I settled on a fast(ish) walk. The only thing consoling me as I trudged up the hill was the fact I was fairly sure I would not be doing this any slower on race day!
Overall things I learned on this section were to keep getting the food in and not push the pace too much. I find it’s easy to forget to eat at the beginning as I don’t feel hungry, but reaching the top of Fairfield having not had anything I did feel a bit empty. I also found it to be one of the harder hills, mainly as I am not warmed up yet so I’ve made a mental note not to give myself too hard a time on maybe not being as fast as I would like here.
We arrived on the top of Helvellyn just as the weather started to turn – rumbles of thunder and the occasional glimpse of lightening told us staying up high (with metal poles) was maybe not the best idea. And having scrambled both Swirral and Striding Edge on the training weekend I was pretty happy with both those sections so comfortable to head down Eagle Crag.
This section of the course was a really cool descent – technical terrain, and it’s a steep and fun scrumble down. On route I spotted a yellow thing in the grass, stopping to pick it up it turned out to be a GPS device. So if you know of anyone that dropped on, please get in touch, I’d really like to return it if I can as I know they are worth a fair bit of money. (You would have to prove it was yours!)
Having descended to the bottom of the valley we looked up at Pinnacle Ridge, and I have to say, on this day, I was beaten. I can’t tell you how tired I was. A few days not quite eating enough had me running on empty. It frustrated me so much – not completing the route I had planned, seemed like failing, but I think sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. Again I had been up to St Sunday Crag along the route and scrambled Pinnacle Ridge, and with the race not far away it seemed like a bad idea to totally knacker myself. So slightly disappointed in myself we ended the day and headed the much flatter way to Patterdale.
After a great nights sleep and two good meals, thankfully I felt so much better on Wednesday. Again the plan today was to run most of the second half of the route and look at timings from Patterdale to High Street. I set off slightly nervous after hard I had found yesterday but was pleased to discover, for me the Patterdale to High Street climb was slightly friendlier than the Ambleside Fairfield ascent. The climb is tough, but I found it has more runable sections and flattens out every now and again providing the opportunity for a brief breather or to up the pace a little (dependent on how I am feeling).
With much fresher legs I relaxed and started to actually enjoy the route a bit more. The only annoyance was I caught my ankle again around Angle Tarn. Still weak from hurting it in Wales, I didn’t go over it badly, but it was enough to remind me it was not fully mended.
The next section of High Street to Kirkstone Pass seemed much longer than I expected and I was really glad I checked it out. It doesn’t feature any of the massive hills, but there are certainly a few steeper bits I am glad I know about as it just makes it easier when working out nutrition.
Being careful of the ankle and still conscious I didn’t want to overdo it I made the decision to leave Red Scree Summit as a little surprise for the day itself! It was a tough decision as I was torn between wanting to know what it is like but also at the same time not wanting to know. I have left it to the fact on the day the adrenalin and motivation from the fact it is my last hill will carry me through (please only tell me after the race is over if this was a foolish mistake!).
All in all, it was not quite the recce I had wanted, and I can’t say it particularly boosted my confidence. But writing this the day before the race, I guess I really do feel as ready as I can be. I know it’s going to be tough, and there will certainly be some suffering involved, but I am up for it! Looking at the line-up I certainly don’t expect to be anywhere near the front (or the middle), but I am just so chuffed to be running alongside (or more like behind) some awesome athletes. So good luck to everyone running. Any spectators, if you want to cheer us all on check out the link below. Or if you can’t make it to the Lake District you can follow me on the online tracking – I suspect I will be the little dot at the back!! I will also make sure I update Twitter/Facebook as soon as I can, but I may have limited signal.
Now time to pack!