The heat is on!
Just four days after taking part in this recce, my wife and I were trudging the hills above Knighton, knee-deep in snow. A cold wind blew and the miles of Glyndwr’s Way crawled by. This is by way of contrasting the weather on the third Lakeland 100 recce – from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside – which was warm and sunny. Both extremes uncommon for the beginning of April but serve to highlight the versatility required of the British trail runner.
The formula for this weekend was the same as those previous – talks by guest speakers on the Saturday evening and a coach journey on Sunday morning to the start of the leg to be recce’d.
We could only stay for the talk by Marc Laithwaite on nutrition, which was clear and detailed without going off into esoteric side themes that many fitness books tend to. I heard from other runners that the other talks were really interesting and I’m particularly sorry I missed the demonstration on how to pack all the required kit into a small bum-bag!
Pooley Bridge was bright and cheery on Sunday morning but my position at the back of the second bus meant I was also at the back of the loo-queue! Most of the hundred or so runners were on their way up the gently rising lane to Barton Fell by the time I set off. Still, with such fine views and easy going my body soon woke-up and settled into a comfortable rhythm, encouraged by the delightful run down into Howtown – a descent of some 200m over 4km. Perfect. (I very much doubt I will feel this way on the main event, after having already traversed 50 miles!)
The journey down Fusedale starts innocently enough but after crossing the stream a second time the gradient steadily increases until the shoulder of Gowk Hill is reached. (I made a small navigational error here and crossed the stream by the two ruined buildings before turning left up to Keasgill Head. RTFI)
After crossing the High Street ridge there’s a short section of hags, but these soon gave way to a wonderful stretch of running over the springy moor of Bampton Common before picking my way down from the small cairn near Low Kop directly to the footbridge in Fortingdale Bottom.
The path alongside Haweswater undulates frequently and has many changes of surface, but it is generally easy going and the Mardale Head checkpoint was soon reached.
A number of runners were basking in the glorious sunshine, fuelling their muscles for the punishing climb ahead, for that is what the long, long 300m pull up to Gatescarth Pass is. It was hot work, sweat streaming down my face, but all things must pass and the descent is on a good surface and easy going.
It’s not far down the valley road to Sadgill and then the next climb, over to Kentmere. A 4×4 was hacking up the track after depositing a trick-motor-cyclist who proceeded to bounce around the fells making a hell of a racket.
The next checkpoint was by the church at Kentmere and chance to chat with Jan and Paul who I’d met on the last recce. The Garburn Pass is a long stony slog and I soon caught up with my wife who was enjoying a far more sensible local walk. The descent to the Troutbeck valley is rough and hard work but the views compensate.
There is a wicked little pull into Troutbeck village before the easy contour round to Skelghyll Wood and the rough descent into Ambleside.
The recces finish is quite low key – just sign off with Marc outside the running shop and, er, that’s it. I found great coffee at Esquires Coffee House before driving back to meet the Whelk at Winderemere, where we were staying at the excellent Broadlands B&B.
Apart from the steep sections this 30-mile leg is straightforward. I can see the need to keep my muscles stretched as the rocky surfaces of the Garburn Pass would soon cause cramping.
Thanks, as always, to Marc, Terry and the team for a well-organised weekend.