Monday, 2 April 2012

UTLD Recce - Pooley Bridge to Ambleside

This is a section of the course that I know very well, having reccied and then raced the 50 last year, but what better training than this tough 28 miles through the fells.
Breathtaking views of the fells across Ullswater
on the run down to Howtown
As I travelled up with Andy Ashton we both nervously talked about our plans for the day. Andy was worried he would not be able to keep up a good pace because he was recovering from a cold and for me this would be the longest run by far since damaging my achillies in October. Once we knew we were both up for an easy day in the hills we relaxed and started to look forward to the run.

It was freezing when we arrived at the car park in Ambleside at 7:30am and we both ended up putting on too many layers before hopping on the coach. By the time we'd reached Pooley Bridge at 9am the sun was out and I had to figure out how to fit them all in my sack.

Descending to Howtown

Once we climbed out of the village the views across the fells were just stunning. The trail down to Howtown is one of the best sections of the entire run: perfect gently descending trail. Once we got to Howtown we turned to head up the first pass of the day. Last year in the heat the climb up Fusedale knocked the stuffing out of me but today it all felt pretty enjoyable as we chatted away with a bunch of different runners.
On Fusedale after the first false summit
I was trying out trekking poles for the first time and they were just brilliant on the climbs. I didn't really know what to do with them on the descents but I found it very easy to get them out and put them away when I needed to. I'll definitely be using them on race day.

The run over the top was lovely and Hawswater looked stunning.
Andy going over Low Kop towards Hawswater
The descent was obvious and we began our yo-yo race with Sally Howarth (she trounced us in the end). The technical run along the lake shore was great fun. The day was getting hot and Andy and I stopped in a few becks to cool down.

At the head of the lake at last

Terry was doing a sterling job at the Mardale Head checkpoint and we relieved him of some of his mountain of biscuits before the climb up Gatesgarth Pass. Again, with the poles this climb felt pretty comfortable. Once over the top the descent on the other side was steep and aggressive. It might be worth keeping the poles out for that. 

The Longsleddale valley was as dull as ever. I don't know what it is about this stretch but there is just nothing enjoyable about it. Maybe it's just because you've spent the last few hours looking at jaw dropping views and you suddenly find yourself in a relatively dull valley. The climb at Sadgill and the following run down to Ketmere were all great though.

Fantastic reception at the checkpoint by the wonderful Kentmere ladies and up over Garburn. This climb does deserve respect: it's rocky, steep and it goes on a bit but it it's not as bad as the other two passes we'd climbed already.
Descending the rocky Garburn Pass
After the short, steep climb out of troutbeck there is a really nice walk across to the woods above Ambleside. Something to look forward to! There is only one junction in the woods...left is correct but it seems like the right fork may join up anyway.
Go left!
So, 28 miles in 6:20 (20 mins better than on the recce last year) and I felt pretty good at the end. Another massive confidence boost and a fantastic day out in the hills. For the first time this year I genuinely feel like I will make it to the start line of the Lakeland 100.

Great running in the Brecon Beacons

We were staying with family for a week in the Brecon Beacons and I managed to get in two really good runs.

The Pan-y-Fan skyline was visible from the house and just called out to be run. I looked at the 1:50k map and guessed to to be about a 13 mile round trip.
The Pan y Fan skyline (ascent was out of shot on the left)

The run started off with a nice jog along the Mormouthshire & Brecon Canal before switching to nice country lanes through the idyllic village of Llanfrynach an up into the hills. The Ascent up Gist Wen was just the right angle to be able to run the majority of it.
Looking back down the ridge I had just climbed.
Brecon is in the distance, to the left of the shot

The view across the skyline with Pan y Fan in the distance

Once on the top it was a beautiful, undulating run over to Pan y Big and on to the main peak of Pan y Fan. It was a couple of hours before I saw another soul but once near the summit there were plenty of folks hanging around enjoying the views, eating lunch and supping coffee. The steep, technical descent was good fun and then it was back onto lanes to take me back into Brecon.

The run turned out to be 19 miles. I went out with no food at all and started to bonk around 13.5 miles. By the time I arrived back I was in a bad way, standing in the kitchen making a cuppa I was shaking and felt like I was about to pass out. Food and sugary tea had me feeling human again. Aside from the lack of fuel my body felt great though.
The beautiful Mormouthshire & Brecon Canal
The second run was and out and back along the canal on another stunning day. The plan was to take it easy but, as pretty as it was, running along a canal is pretty boring. I found myself running at a reasonable pace to the 5.5 mile point, where I thought I should probably turn around. As soon as I headed back I thought I would spice things up by trying to do the return leg faster than the outward leg. I pushed the pace harder and harder until I did the last mile (mile 11) in sub 7min/mile. It was one of those magical runs where everything just felt effortless.

What a confidence boost these runs where. I've been telling myself that I have lost my fitness. These runs told me that my everything is fine.