Saturday, July 25, 2015


climbing up to Lingmell summit with a view over towards Mickledore and the Scafells.

Lingmell's elegant cairn
There are worse places to head on a sunny day than the Scafells.  I fancied a proper mountain day and Dean was up for some exploration so I devised a route with plenty of climbing and scenery.

Lingmell's summit cairn
We parked at Wasdale Head.  I didn't realise but the Lingmell Dash fell race was on the same day so Wasdale was busier than ever.  We cut across towards the Brown Tongue path, cutting again directly up the side of the fell steeply onto the nose of Lingmell, joining the main path up Lingmell at the fence where a group told us we had taken the steepest route possible.  Start as you mean to go on!

Shortly after this point, I realised I had my watch set to swim and changed it over, Duh!

After a bit of dorking around on both of Lingmell's cairns, we headed over to join the throng making their way up to Scafell Pike's summit.  As we predicted, it was very busy at the summit.  Still this was Dean's first time up there and so we marked the occasion with some photos and then headed off towards Mickledore.

Lingmell behind on our way up to Scafell Pike summit

the summit comes into view

Dean celebrates being on top
On the way over to Mickledore, I discussed the three options for ascent with Dean.  The climb up Broad Stand wasn't really an option, being a famous blackspot for falls.  We thought we would have a look at it and Dean squeezed into Fat Man's Agony, the gap between the square boulder at the bottom of Broad Stand and the rest of the rock.

I enjoy Lord's Rake and decided to take Dean this way.  I thought about going along the West Wall Traverse but we decided to carry on past the famous dislodged stone and wound our way up to the summit.

There was a decent crowd up here.  The weather was a bit cooler and so we didn't hang around.  Heading off east, we dropped down the difficult path to Foxes Tarn and then on down the gulley to the climb back up to Broad Stand.  I'm always surprised at how much you drop down from Foxes Tarn.

We climbed back up to Mickledore and then back to Scafell Pike summit.  I only took one picture this time around - of my watch which showed exactly the right height at Scafell Pike summit.  It's good to know that it gets it right occasionally.  Unfortunately, it's usually difficult to know on which occasions it is right.

Fat Man's Agony
Lord's Rake
From the summit of Scafell Pike, we picked up the Scafell Pike Marathon course.  We headed over Broad Crag and then, rather than go around as the marathon course does, we went up and down Great End, bagging another Wainwright for Dean.

We then headed back down to pick up the route again at Esk Hause.

With somewhat tired feet, we followed the path down to Sty Head and then along the front of Great Gable and back to Wasdale Head.

Dean on Scafell

My watch gets the elevation right on top of Scafell Pike

Dean on Great End

and me on Great End

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gavel, Blake and Burnbank Fell

looking up the steep descent from Burbank Fell

Paul showed us a nice route around Loweswater.  I had some stomach issues so there were a few impromptu stops and not many pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Souther Fell

Jonathan running off Souther Fell with the mighty Saddleback on the right

fast descent down to the footbridge

First post St Cuthbert's run.  Felt fine in the legs.  Me and Jonathan wanted an easy route so we went back to Souther Fell and attacked it in the opposite direction.  Much better this way, steep climb at the start but then very nice running all the way back.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

St Cuthbert's Way Ultra DNF

setting off from Holy Island

A DNF (did not finish) always takes a bit of time to take in.  I've had a few DNSs (did not starts) this year but, perversely for some reason, starting and not finishing feels worse than not starting at all.  it's worth saying at the outset that I truly believe in the maxim, what does not kill you makes you stronger.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from my own mistakes and reflect on the various aspects of the event that I did not prepare well for.

I've since spent a lot of time thinking about lessons learnt and can summarise as follows:

The Course:
The course was more road based than I had expected.  I had no excuse for this as I had a map which clearly stated which bits were on road and which were off road.  On road running means going faster in general which also has an effect on nutrition, pacing and the type of energy used.  I wasn't prepared for the amount of on road running.  This was my fault.

we had our game faces on
As well as the road aspects, a lot of the off road, particularly early on was through fields which were rutted underfoot, some had brambles and nettles, there were muddy (as in cowshit muddy gate junctions) all not too pleasant to run on.  This got better after a while and, although immediately after the race, Jonathan and I blamed this significantly for our non-enjoyment of the course, I now don't believe it was that significant a factor.
Some of my nutrition mistakes are linked to me not preparing properly in terms of being fully aware of the course.  I read all sorts of stuff on nutrition but have quite a basic approach.  When I'm going slow, I take Nakd bars or other flapjacks.  To me, these are ideal as they are nutty (fat based), natural and should provide an ideal slow burn energy.  I usually try to have one per hour and then top up with flapjack, coke, sweets etc at aid stations depending on how they are spread out.  The disadvantage to Nakd bars is that I think you need to be going quite slow to digest them.  I usually plan to eat them as I am hiking up a climb so that, at the top, ready for the fast run down, it is in my stomach and settled and won't come back up as I jostle my body on the run down.  For faster stuff, I carry gels.  Gels give a faster boost and are easier to digest.  They seem much better to take in on the move and can provide a much needed boost when you know you have a big climb coming up.  The problem with gels is that they provide a relatively short burst of energy so they have to be timed correctly.  I have also had occasional stomach problems with them.  If my stomach is feeling slightly off, as it was on this day, I will stay away from gels.

I had worked out that it would take anything from 13 hours upwards to complete the whole course.  I made a decision to rely on the flapjack at aid stations rather than to carry lots of Nakd bars.  When it came to it, and I know this sounds ridiculous, the flapjack they had just didn't look appealing.  Aid station food is a significant psychological factor in ultra running and I had pictured (for several miles) moist, succulent, handmade flapjack peppered with fruit.  What was on offer was the cheap supermarket traybake.  I just didn't fancy it and so didn't have any.  Instead I grabbed a few biscuits and sweets and carried on.  This wasn't good nutritional planning and I knew it was likely to come back to, forgive me, bite me!

There was a very small field, maybe about 40 or so starters for the 100k.  This meant that the field soon spread out.  Jonathan started throwing up at about 18 miles and we walked the next few miles to the aid station where he dropped out.  I think it was probably a combination of the heat and the speedy flat course and him trying to digest lucozade and biscuits.  He was really very sick and I don't blame him at all for pulling out.  This meant me carrying on alone.  I thought I was fine with this but you can't beat having a mate with you egging you on, or confirming that, actually, the climb you are on is really difficult.  The other big advantage of some company is the two minds are better than one approach to navigation it can give.  I tried to run with some others.  I met a bloke who told me he had finished over 100 ultras and he could clearly navigate, but couldn't keep up with him for longer than a few miles.  I dropped back to run with another guy.  My main concern at this point was some navigational support.  We came to a point where the track clearly went through a wood.  I pointed this out to him on the map.  He looked vague and said something about the other track looking 'more like' it was the right track (despite going in the opposite direction on the map).  I decided this fellow wasn't going to be a lot of help.

When it came down to it, it was this lack of company and so lack of navigational support that swayed my decision to call it.  I was a few miles out from the checkpoint at 39 miles and I sat on a ladder style and had a long think.  I acknowledged that I was tired and in a slump energy wise (something I had the experience to know that if I just kept going and ate properly, I would pull out of).  From the next checkpoint, the distance was roughly 25 miles.  I knew I could slog through 25 miles if I needed to and that, at some point I would feel better and be able to run a bit more.  I considered the cut off times.  I could easily make the 47 mile one but thought it would get tighter for the next two.  I now think I was wrong in this and, time wise, I would have been fine.  What was clear is that I was going to be running in the dark.  I had already made a few navigational errors in daylight and with the lack of company, I really didn't fancy doing the last ten miles in the dark, tired and on my own.  I could have prepared better for this by recceing the course and by taking a gps unit that I could have downloaded the course to as a back up.  I made the decision sat on the ladder style to drop out at the next aid station.  It's true to say that my miscalculation on cut off points influenced this decision but the main reason was fear of getting lost in the dark.

Other factors:
I was tired but I wasn't hurting.  I had a run a few days later and felt fine.  I wasn't hobbling around Melrose afterwards.  I think if I had carried on, I would have probably picked up a hobble or worse.  I wasn't enjoying myself and did think that I could finish now at a reasonable time and still go for a pizza rather than finishing in the middle of the night.

It's important to say that I was happy with the decision and I enjoyed the experience.  It would obviously have been good to finish but I learnt a lot and will be back one day to bag a 100k.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Souther Fell

from the start of the track looking up towards The Tongue, Souther Fell is on the left
summit dork
summit dork

A bit of a change and a run I had been checking out for a while, always thinking about stopping off on the way back from Penrith.

This was a warm after work run. From Mungrisdale we ran up the road and took the track along the side of the River Glenderamackin crossing the river at the big path junction and turning back to run over Souther Fell.

After some dorking around, we carried on over, taking the steep track back down to the pub.  The last field is private ground so we were good and ran along the wall until the path joined the road then we ran the mile or so back along the road before having a nice cold pint at the pub.