Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Scafell Pike Trail Marathon 2014

about 12 miles in looking back along the Corridor Route as we climb to Scafell Pike

Marathons are no small feat.  Throw in the tallest mountain in England, heat, humidity and low cloud and you're getting serious.  Luckily, our strategy for the Scafell Pike Trail Marathon was not to take it too seriously.  Granted, we respected the mountain and took precautions (map, compass, gps) to prevent getting lost, but we didn't really care about how long it took.  Our aim was to get around well fuelled and hydrated, feeling comfortable energy wise and not "hitting the wall" at any point.  My strategy for doing this (I think it's fair to say that I am the strategic lead on these endeavours) was to keep eating and drinking.

at the start
We took a mixture of different flavour Nakd bars and Trek bars.  I also had some gels which I didn't end up using.  The aid stations had flapjack, jelly babies, bananas and nuts.  We filled up, mainly on the flapjack but took it with us, nibbling slowly rather than stuffing down and feeling stomach heavy as we set off.  We ate from about 30 minutes in and just kept topping up every 20-30 minutes, splitting Nakd bars and slowly chewing them down.  It seemed to work.  The only slight error was thinking that one of the checkpoints was an aid station which wasn't the case so we ran out of water for a mile or so coming back down from Scafell Pike.

The start of the race is Nichol End Marina in Portinscale.  It's about a 20 minute walk from the registration and finish in Crowe Park.  So after registering, and the first of many pre-race toilet stops, we set off around to the start, stopping in Keswick town centre to use the toilet and then using the toilet again at the cafe at the marina.

passing to the right of Castle Crag
The first part of the course goes along the Cumbria Way and the nice trails along the side of Derwent Water.  We had been here a few weeks ago on the SBU35 Recce Weekend so were familiar with this part.  We purposely held our pace back, although I couldn't resist bombing down the hill where it turns off the path to pick up the shoreline.  On we went, crossing to the road with the Cumbria Way.  As we got out onto the road we saw and heard people shouting "WATCH OUT" and other less pleasant warnings as they shot along the road on their bikes as part of the triathlon happening on the same day.

We went along the road and then through Grange, taking the path up and to the right of Castle Crag.  This was the first significant climb and the first point that we walked, following our plan to keep the energy output low.  As we topped out, there was a nice trail for the next mile or so before dropping down onto the road at the bottom of the Honister Pass and heading along the turn off to Seathwaite.  We should have topped up on water here but mistakenly believing that there was water at Sty Head, we just had a drink and picked up some flapjack before continuing on up to Stockley Bridge and up to Styhead.

heading to Stockley Bridge in low cloud

At Styhead, there was a navigational conundrum, people were going to the left and the right.  I had in my mind that I should go left from the stretcher box and then right onto the corridor route but it appears that straight ahead/right was a short cut.  We followed the crowd (it was very cloudy at this point) and I soon realised that I was on the right track.

Styhead Tarn just coming into view among the clag

at the stretcher box

Jonathan about to descend the bad bit on the corridor route

looking down into Wasdale as we are about to round the top of Piers Gill

looking back along the corridor route, cloud clearing a bit now

looking down Piers Gill

the summit shelter finally in sight
As the course turns left towards Scafell Pike summit, it gets steeper climbing up over the top of Pikes Crag.  The path winds up steeply through boulder fields until eventually, the summit is in sight.  Here we dib in and are pointed left towards Broad Crag and Great End.  This terrain is very rocky and difficult to pass but at least it is downhill.  

We continue in roughly the same direction for approximately a mile and a half, over Broad Crag and around Great End until we get on better path as we start dropping towards Esk Hause.  Here there is another marshal pointing us down the track passing Sprinkling Tarn, going back to the stretcher box where we dib in again.  I ran out of water at the stretcher box but was not too bothered as I knew the path to the next aid station at Seathwaite was mostly downhill.

looking back at Jonathan heading towards Esk Hause, the paths getting a little better

looking back up from the Ruddy Gill area as Jonathan catches up

back down to the checkpoint before heading back to Seathwaite

Styhead Tarn with our route to the left of it

waiting at the bottom of the downhill, looking over
towards Watendlath Tarn
quick running photo as we pass Surprise View about 
24 miles in
We took the descent slowly and then ran slowly along the track from Stockley Bridge to Seathwaite where we topped up on water, flapjack and jelly babies.  Jonathan asked how far there was to go.  The answer was, "you've done 30k"  This was an interesting response.  You see, a normal marathon is 26.2 miles which is pretty much 42k.  This marathon clocked in on my watch as being 27 and a bit miles.  We left the checkpoint, thinking we had about eight miles to run.  It was a bit more than that.  The track goes along the Langstrath path, the one that has the chains in the rock along the side of the river and goes past the youth hostel and then through Rosthwaite.  It then climbs up and over to Watendlath.  I think it's fair to say we were pretty knackered at this point and really took our time climbing up.  I managed a faster descent on the rough track but Jonathan was wisely taking his time.  

From the tarn, we took the track along the side of the river which comes out at Surprise View.  The road section downhill was taken tenderly with tired feet before embarking on the final climb along Falcon/Wall Crag area.

I took a fall here, tired feet refusing to lift up over a rock.  I tumbled a short way down the bank before getting a hand back up from Jonathan.  

almost there, looking towards Skiddaw at about 26 miles in
The path continued to wind before finally dropping down to Great Wood car park, at which point it crossed the Borrowdale Road to pick up the path past Friars Crag and back to Crow Park.  

As we ran along the prom, I felt the bit of strength you feel at the end of a race and we sped up, passing a few runners.  

There were loads of people cheering us on as we came in.  

We handed in our timing chips and went for a quick pint in the Theatre by the Lake before hobbling back to the car.

the stats