Thursday, September 11, 2014

St Bega's Ultra 2014

at the finish with my girls

Up until recently, The St Bega Ultra (SBU35), a 35, actually 37, mile run from Dodd Wood to St Bees along the St Bega Way was going to be my longest run this year.  However, a little while ago, I won an entry to The Cumbria Way Ultra, a 73 mile run along The Cumbria Way.  The Cumbria Way was two weeks after the SBU35 which meant that the SBU35 would fit in well as my last long run.

Through the regular Hardly AC runs, I had managed to persuade a few of the regulars to sign up and we agreed to run as a group with an aim of finishing rather than racing.  This suited my needs well.  All was looking good.

The race HQ is at St Bees School, a pretty famous private school.  Once we were signed up and had our kit checked we were put on coaches and taken to the start in Dodd Wood on the side of Bassenthwaite Lake.  The start of races, or the time just before the start of races, is usually a nervous time but I was quite relaxed, looking forward to a good day out with friends.

Lucy, Rachel and I pre-race

Stephen (There's no I in TEAM) Brown

There was a bit of nervous chatter on the bus and it's quite a long bus journey which did make you realise the distance we were about to cover.  Immediately off the bus there was a queue for the toilets and then we walked up to the start point.

The race starts with a gentle climb up along the forest track before dropping off to the right and then steeply down through the woods to the road.  There is a short road section before crossing the flat farmland at the south of Bassenthwaite Lake to get to Portinscale.  As you cross these fields, you can see the Lakeland fells in front.  Beautiful.

crossing towards the fells

The route then goes along the side of Derwentwater to Rosthwaite.  This is familiar ground, having been on similar routes on recent runs including the Scafel Pike Marathon.  So far, we had been taking it pretty easy, sticking together as a group, waiting for people who wanted to go a bit slower.  The route around Derwentwater and along to Rosthwaite is nice running ground.  I knew it would get harder after the checkpoint at Rosthwaite so was happy to chat away.

trail selfies - me and Lucy heading along the edge of Derwentwater

the rest of the gang

We continued on, but as we were going into the woods where Dalton's Cave is, one of the gang ran off ahead.  I am not going to dwell on his actions, suffice to say that he broke the golden bond of running friendship, something deeper than blood and that bond can never be repaired.  There were a few terse words among the rest of the Hardly clan.  As we got to the checkpoint at Rosthwaite, we saw the traitor on his way out  "See ya later" he shouted sheepishly over his shoulder as he nicked off.

Shortly after Rosthwaite, the course gets much more difficult.  There is a steep grassy climb which also marks the start of the long climb over Honister to the steep descent down Loft Beck.

steep climb up at the start of the climb to Honister Slate Mine

continuing over the Slate Mine and then over the fells to Ennerdale

fake happiness for the camera

looking back to the rest of the gang, crossing the open fell

Rachel manages to get across the river

It also started to rain as we headed over Honister.  This is the highest and most exposed part of the run.  The descent down Loft Beck was also going to be more difficult in wet conditions.  Jackets on and we forged ahead.  We met Hardly AC member Phil on top of Honister and posed for a few pics before carrying on to that descent down Loft Beck.  I had chosen to wear Hokas.  I was to find out that this was not the best choice but they were surprisingly good for grip and I got down to Ennerdale without difficulty.  I waited at the bottom for the others and then we pushed on to Black Sail Hut.  After this, the terrain becomes very different.  It's a forest track, undulating but runnable.  The track is actually really hard on the feet though with large stones which can be felt through your shoes as you run along.  The cushioning of my Hokas really worked here.  On the recce, I had wore Speedcross 3 which hurt quite a bit.

We pushed the pace on here.  Lucy is a racer and I could tell she was finding it hard to hold back.  We did some fast miles but we were still stopping to wait for the whole team, well almost the whole team - one had already nicked off, if you remember...

Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre, about 22 miles in, was the location of the second aid station.  I took my shoes off here to try to apply some plasters over hotspots on my feet.  My feet were far too wet for the plasters to stick and I didn't want to hang around too long so I put my shoes back on and we set off.

The rest of the run along Ennerdale went in quite quickly despite me remembering it as one of the long sections of the course.  Before long we were running around the bottom end of the lake, peeling off onto the track to Dent.

Hardly Train rolls on

After a bit of road, which involved walking up the hills, we dropped down to the track to Dent.  The top of Dent is a nice marker, you can see over to the coast and St Bees and you know you are on the last stretch.

Jonathan dropping down to the track towards Dent.

Before you get up Dent though, you have the steep climb known as "bummers".  It's a steep climb with switchbacks, tough at the best of times but when it comes at 30 miles into a run, it's not fun.  This is the point that Lucy surged ahead to try to catch up with you know who.

Dent towards the sea

There is a nice descent off Dent, leading down to forest tracks and into the village of Cleator and the last aid station.  We stocked up on food and drink and waited for the rest of the party.  The people at the aid station told us that Lucy and the person who nicked off, who I am not going to go on about, were at the aid station at the same time, they had only been there a few minutes before us apparently.

From the aid station, the course goes along the cycle track and then over a few fields to the finish back at the school.  We took it easy on this stretch, running but going slowly.

As we got to the edge of the school fields, we heard an air horn, then ran down the grass bank and along to the end.  Very happy to have finished.  My family were waiting for me and I got some pictures with them, then I had a pint, then a smoothie, then I went home for a bath.

"we've done it mate!"

"Fx@k Yeah!"

"Cheers"  If you look at the top right, you can see Hannah and Fiona in this picture.

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