Friday, 30 March 2012

UTLD Recce - Around Buttermere

This is a belated post from the recce weekend back in January. I was booked on to the official recce from Coniston to Buttermere: 25-ish miles over the toughest terrain on the course. I was very apprehensive because my achillies was still constantly aching and I had yet to get the results from the consultant so I didn't know if this run had the potential to cause serious damage.

After a 4am start I arrived at the top of Newlands Hawse, about a mile from the pick up point, only to be met by two runner-shaped lads waving me down. A car had been abandoned on sheet ice on the other side of the pass and one of the lads had slid into it. Rather than heading off to Coniston to run the first section of the route I would be spending the morning helping out at the scene. I actually felt pretty lucky...if I hadn't stopped for breakfast on the journey up it could have been my car down there.

A few other runners turned up, including Flip. It was great to see him again...the last time we spoke was the day after last year's Lakeland 50 when he and Anna were inspiring me to do the Lakeland 100 this year. It took a few hours for the police to arrive then the four remaining runners (Flip, Peter, TheSteadyGroove and me) decided that we would run down to Buttermere and do an out and back on part of the course we were set to run on.

Morning light on Fleetwith Pike
We kept to an easy pace, enjoying the conversation as we headed around Buttermere and up Scarth Gap Pass. Once we fell over the other side the temperature dropped and there was a bitter wind. We weren't sure how far we would go but we ended up dropping all the way past Black Sail Youth Hostel so we could take a look at the descent from Black Sail Pass.
Running along the valley floor (in the opposite way to the route)
The descent from Black Sail Pass. Picture taken
from the small wooden bridge over the beck.
In daylight and on fresh legs the descent from Black Sail did not look too bad at all. This entire section will be run at night on race day so I'm sure it will all feel very different. After admiring the view for a few minutes we started to get cold so we turned around and headed back.

The route up to Scarth Gap Pass seemed to be straight forward. The only place where it seemed you could go wrong would be at the top, where the main footpath from Fleetwith Pike to Pillar crossed. You need to pass straight over this, staying in the saddle. The path was quite faint (trampled grass rather than solid path) which could be difficult to spot in the dark.

The Saddle on Scarth Gap Pass
From here there is some nice rocky running down to Buttermere. Go steady and don't mash those quads!
The Descent from Scarth Gap Pass to Buttermere
The path around Buttermere
 From the Buttermere checkpoint the route follows a nice woodland trail up onto the fellside. All very easy to follow.
Flip on the trail after the Buttermere Checkpoint
There are lots of paths going up to the left but you stay on the lower path, by the wall, until the wall drops away on your right then start looking for the fork to the left. At the point where the path splits there is a sheep fold on the valley floor to the right but this may not be visible in the dark

SteadyGroove at the junction
This will look very different in the dark and with chest high bracken!

The junction, as seen from the opposite side of the valley

So, not the day we had planned but we made the most of it and had a good run. I did get to recce the section of the route that I most wanted to see, so all was not lost.

A week after this run I got the results from my MRI scan back. There is still damage to the achillies but it is healing nicely. I got the green light to run so long as I go steadily. Most importantly there is no underlying issue, which means there is no reason to expect this to happen again. Great news!

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