What is the SILVA Great Lakeland 3Day?
The SILVA Great Lakeland 3Day is a three-day mountain marathon with a twist… Now before you jump to conclusions having read some of my other blogs – it’s a good twist! The key focus of the event is MAXIMUM enjoyment. How great is that!?
I think it’s worth pointing out, I definitely ‘enjoy’ normal mountain marathons like the OMM, and even managed to crack a smile at the end of Marmot Dark Mountains (the complete polar opposite of this event). However, both of these are examples of Type 2 fun. Great Lakeland 3Day (GL3D) is far more Type 1 fun, interspersed with a bit of Type 2, dependant on what course you pick. For those of you who’ve not heard of Types of Fun read this.
How do they make a mountain marathon (aka running up hills for multiple days) fun?
They remove the sadistic bits… There’s no lengthy trek to the start line. Instead, you start directly from the events centre. You don’t have to wade through miles of inhospitable bog – the focus is on stunning scenery and enjoyable mountain journeys. Day to day you don’t have to carry all your equipment on your back, instead you have a 13kg drybag transported between the camps and just carry what you need to run.
Finally and potentially best of all, when you get to the evening camp you’re greeted with tea, cake, optional beer and hot water. In summary, for those of you looking for the micro version of this blog post – the whole event is utterly pleasant!
Why did I enter?
Laura and I were looking for a challenge – ideally, something that would push us but that we could also enjoy. So when my friend Libby (another mad runner – check out her exploits here) mentioned the event and that we would get cake, it just sounded perfect.
Truth be told, the cake was
a big the main incentive!
What did I take?
As I’ve said in previous race reports, I’m not very good at the whole fast and light thing, I prefer to opt for ‘comfortable’. What this means is I prioritise two key things – being warm and not being hungry. No one wants to see me hungry!
For those of you looking for detail, I’ve written up the full list of what I took here. The only thing I would’ve added to this in hindsight was a pair of warmer trousers for the evening camp.
What course did I run?
GL3D offered three courses this year – Expert (similar to Elite in typical mountain marathons), Wainwright (A/B course) and Cafe (C course). One of the nice aspects of this event is that you can change which course you do each day, deciding at any point which one you are running.
On submitting our entry the original plan had been to run the Wainwrights course, however, a few niggles and injuries later, things was still not 100%, and we decided we would be best to walk, not run. Arriving at registration, we got a copy of the map for the weekend – it had the checkpoints for all three courses, for all three days on it, so we set about making a plan trying to work out what was feasible.
Looking at the map, we both agreed while the Cafe course looked nice, it would be fun (and more of a challenge) to see if we could fast walk/hike the Wainwrights course. The only issue was we weren’t sure if this was possible. However, race director Shane Ohly was on hand to answer any course questions. So after a good chat and some sound and practical advice, we decided to go for it, knowing if we were behind on time we could cut the course short and head straight to camp.
What was the Wainwright’s course like?
We knew from the start we were in for three big days out and felt slightly unsure as to whether we would be able to walk round the course in the time limit – but we made it! To try and give ourselves the best chance, each day we set off as close to 7 am as we could. As I am sure you can imagine, this meant a pretty early alarm to get all the faffing, packing and re-packing out of the way! Timewise we were comfortably within the cut-offs. That being said we tried to be efficient and were moving quickly the whole day, focusing on our route choice and not getting lost.
Throughout the weekend the majority of our checkpoints were on summits. As a result, each day started by heading straight off up a hill, however as promised the views were incredible. So much so that if I had to pick only one aspect of GL3D to highlight, it would be the route. Over the course of the weekend, we covered some stunning areas of the Lakes balancing interesting trails with technical terrain and a nice amount of easy (optional) scrambling thrown in for good measure.
Although the route was challenging with plenty of tough sections, not to mention steep ascent, I didn’t feel like I was in the suffer zone too much. Each time I’d get to the point of maybe having a little less fun, the summit would appear, or the view would open up. Having not done GL3D before this was a new and slightly odd feeling… I was definitely waiting for the ‘bad bits’ where the course turns into hour wading through knee high bogs or locating checkpoints on ring contours, but they just didn’t materialise!
What were the camps like?
Having heard a lot about the camps, I was interested to see if they lived up to their reputation. Dropping off the top of Gimmer Crag, I could see our camp for the first night at the base of the Langdale valley. From a distance, it already looked promising, and amongst the sea of tiny tents I could make out a large marquee for cooking and Joey’s Cafe (more on Joey’s later).
Motivated by the thought of tea and cake Laura and I made a beeline for the camp and ran (the last 10 metres) across the finish line. Priorities straight it was cake first and pitching the tents second! This was a wise decision as they had everything from chocolate to toffee and fruit cake – all of which looked pretty incredible*.
*I’ve had a special request from Laura to highlight how much she liked the chocolate cake – so here it is:
Future runners of GL3D Laura recommends the chocolate cake!
Overall I think it was the camps that added most to the enjoyment of the weekend. Having little luxuries like a dropbag, hot water and space to cook made such a difference. When attached to the ground (!), the large marquee was great giving us all the perfect chance to chat and catch up on the day’s adventure. I say this as on the second night we dined ‘al fresco’ as the strong winds had taken the marquee for a trip down Eskdale Valley!
However, truth be told this didn’t matter too much as we still had Joey’s Cafe – a lovely little pop-up coffee shop/van. Joey’s was the ultimate luxury – sheltering from the rain with a cappuccino in hand at 6.30am at the start of day two, I did wonder how easy I would find it to return to normal mountain marathons!
What was the highlight of my weekend?
Cake not included, it’s fairly hard to pick a particular highlight as I genuinely enjoyed all of it..! But if I had to choose it would probably be the morning of day two. Setting off from the beautiful Langdale Valley we were quickly on top of Crinkle Crags heading to Bow Fell then on to Scafell Pike and Scafell. Aside from loving the terrain and scrambling around on the rocks, the visibility was perfect and standing on the top of Scafell I could actually see the view for the first time – previously I’ve just seen a wall of white fog and rain!
Were there any low points?
On day three I made a very classic mistake – forgetting to eat! Tired and a bit groggy I ate breakfast around 6 am before setting off along a pretty flat but interesting single track following the river.
Distracted by the scenery, I didn’t notice the time until the gradient kicked up towards Caw around 10 am – hands on knees and legs burning it was hard. After quickly bagging the checkpoint it suddenly hit me how terrible I felt – I had bonked. It had been 4 hours and far too long since I had eaten and now, feeling as sick as a dog, I knew I needed to get some food down me. Luckily a combination of jelly babies, flapjack and encouraging words from Laura (thanks mate!) soon had me back on track!
Any final words?!
Arriving at registration in Coniston I could already tell we were in for a good weekend. Everything was well organised, and the staff seemed to be as excited as I was to be there. Sociable and light hearted the whole event had a relaxed atmosphere which completely made the weekend.
If you’re tempted by the GL3D and debating if this is for you – the answer is, it probably is! The structure of the event is such that there really is something for everyone, and it’s the ideal opportunity to give mountain marathons a try or up your current course level. Don’t expect it to be easy – you’ll certainly be pushed, and there will be challenging moments, but there’s enough luxury and support in between to make it an exceptionally fun event!
Big thanks to everyone that worked so hard to put this year’s course on – I had a fantastic time and will certainly be entering another Great Lakeland 3Day!