aving ran the official recce of the first section from Coniston to Buttermere back in November last year and having already ran the second half of the route (sections three and four) when I completed the Lakeland 50 in 2011, it was time for the Lakeland 100 Recce Two. I was looking forward to completing this section so I would be able to link everything together. The problem with doing these recce’s is not just the travelling down to the Lake District but getting back to your car once you have completed a section. Fortunately, Scott was up for a big run so we were able to dump a car at the end then afterwards drive back to the beginning to pick up the other car.
I was not sure if you could park at Dalemain so we decided to the best place to end the run would be in Dacre which is on the outskirts of Dalemain. I met Scott in Dacre on the Saturday evening where we parked a car in a small parking area near Dacre Bridge then headed over to his house in Maryport to get an early night for a start first thing in the morning. By 7.15am it was all systems go and we were heading down the winding country lanes to Buttermere.
We parked the car, quickly kitted up and set off. Although it was cold, the forecast was good, so I chanced a pair of shorts. We ran past the front of Bridge Hotel and headed up through Ghyll Wood. The path was decent and we were able to make good progress to Addecombe Beck. It was here that we made our first mistake of the day. The roadmap says you continue for 300 metres then take a narrow path up a steep scree slope. At the time we were busy gabbing away and we just ran past the path and continued along the path that heads towards Birkrigg Brow. Fortunately we realised our mistake after 300metres and was able to turn back and pick up the correct path. I will be running this section in the dark come the race in July so it is important to be ‘switched on’. The good news is that as well as a getting a good training session under your belt, a recee is perfect to learn the tricky sections so come race day you can focus on running rather than getting stressed about navigation. The rest of this leg was uneventful. We headed up the path to Sail Pass and then blasted 4km down into Braithwaite and to the checkpoint at St Herbert’s Church Hall.
The next leg would take us from Buttermere to the Blencathra. When I had consulted the roadbook, I was least looking forward to this section. Not sure why really. Maybe it was the thought of running along the A66 or something. After a quick refuel, we set off. It was ‘actually’ quite good to be running on the tarmac and we made decent progress initially along the side of the A66 then onto the old railway track. At Spooney Green Lane, the route heads across the A66 then up through Latrigg Woods to the car park.
Now this section should have been straightforward. Just follow the Cumbria Way, really easy. After our earlier mistake we had been following the route book meticulously but we somehow managed to drift off the Cumbria Way onto to some indistinct path. We reached Whit Beck and then the path ended. We had gone to far up – another schoolboy error. Fortunately, after we crossed the beck and headed uphill we could see the correct path and after a quick contour around the hillside we were able to drop down and pick the correct path which looked the size of the M6 compared to the path we had just been on!
The next section is basically a big upside ‘U’ that ventures up the left hand side of the Glenderaterra Beck for a couple of kilometres, traverses the beck then heads back down the other side. The organisers place an unmanned checkpoint at the highest point to remove the temptation to cut this section out. The good news is that the path is really runnable and we were making good progress. The bad news was that I was feeling a little sluggish. I realised that I had not been paying attention to nutrition and had eaten just one rice cake since Buttermere. Time for drastic measures. I had a packet of Jelly Beans in my rucksack. I nailed about a dozen and by the time we had crossed the bridge and were heading down the other side I was feeling great again.
The path skirted along the side of Blease Fell where at the car park we picked a minor road then dropped down to the Blencathra Centre. We stopped for a sandwich then continues down towards Brundholme and picked up the old railway track towards Newsham. We had visited this area before on a miserable wet New Years Eve when Scott was training for his Bob Graham Round. The Bob Graham route takes a slightly different line up to the Old Coach Road where it continues up to Clough Head. I was hoping the Lakeland 100 path would be better quality but it was just as wet and boggy. Maybe it may be better in the summer?
Once we hit the Old Coach Road we were able to make good progress and ran non-stop to the car park at Dockray. On race day I may be tempted to walk some of the minor climbs but there is no doubt that this section affords great running and gives the opportunity to push on. We did not hang about in Dockray and with the end in sight we pushed on.
At this point the route passes Aira Force and skirts around the edge of Gowbarrow Park. With everything looking straightforward we pushed on and cranked up the pace. Now you would have thought we would have realised something was adrift when the path narrowed and we were jumping over fallen trees and heading down towards Ullswater. It was only when we stopped for a nature break and consulted the map, that we realised we had failed to ascend upwards towards Hind Crag. A quick check on the GPS confirmed our worst thoughts. We were about 150 metres lower than where we should be. Frustratingly, we turned back and headed back along the narrow path and back to the junction and picked up the path uphill.
What followed next was some amazing running high around Gowbarrow Fell and into Swinburn’s Park. It was the highlight of the day and even though we were closing in on 50 km the path was so good, all fatigue was forgotten. The final section involved 3km along the road to our car and with Scott pushing the pace we were running sub 5 minute kilometres. The good news was that it was still light when we arrived back in Dacre so the early start had paid dividends. The drive back home to Scotland gave me plenty of time to think about the route now that I could picture it all in my mind. There is no doubt the first half of the race to Dalemain is the toughest. If I can protect my quads and manage my nutrition, I should be in a good position to push on through to the finish.