6 at 60: it’s people who matter

This weekend I completed the Lakeland Trails series – 9 (I think) trail runs, all 14-15km except Cartmel 10km, and ending with the ‘dirty double’ this weekend at Glenridding.

My emotions and physical ‘oomph’ definitely fluctuate through the year, and recently I’d been feeling less enthusiastic about this particular challenge. I haven’t done quite as much training, I’d given blood about 2 weeks ago, and the change to autumn and the dark mornings and dark nights is getting to me a bit. BUT excuses out of the way, this was the weekend for doing 2 trail runs back to back.

Helvellyn on Saturday had also been entered by 4 of my friends, so it felt like a team effort. I’ve done the route and parts of the route before – most recently on my birthday in 2020 when Penny and I had walked up to Grisedale Tarn for a swim, just a couple of weeks after running up there (see https://runningin3time.blog/2020/08/31/grisedale-tarn-and-crummock-water-re-visited/ and https://runningin3time.blog/2020/09/15/birthday-micro-adventures/) – but last time I’d run the trail run route I’d been suffering from a broken heart. All I could remember today as I ascended the first hill towards the YHA was how physically heart-broken I’d felt that day: and in fact it’s not surprising as the physical effort does make your chest almost ache.

The rain was coming down and the wind was against us, taking our breath away, until we turned along a bit of stony, muddy single track. This is the sort of running I love – the wind behind me, my footing relatively secure, and a rocky, muddy path beneath my feet. I should add that it has taken me YEARS of practice to get more confident on this sort of trail, and even so yesterday I slipped about 4 times.

We dropped down between the valleys before rising up again towards Lanty’s Tarn – where it was very muddy and I fell over, fortunately on to grass. Anne was not so lucky later on – when we met her at the finishing line she had a lump on her head which by Sunday had turned into a colourful ‘black’ (blue/purple) eye. From Lanty’s Tarn we were again heading into the wind, with the rain slashing across us from the side: at one point a gust almost blew me sideways. I was already wet through to my underwear.

Wet through to my underwear (but still cheerful).

Rather than continuing on to Grisedale Tarn we then cut across the valley (I felt sorry for the marshals, but particularly for the one up here, exposed to the elements) and there was then a track followed by road all the way back down hill. Towards the end I was feeling tired – I should have stopped to eat a Graze bar, but didn’t want to undo my jacket to get to my bumbag – but I continued along the road and on to the finishing field. As I turned the corner into the home straight I saw Mark behind me – and picked up the pace to make sure he didn’t get past me! Mind you, it was close: and Penny came in about 5 minutes later, followed after a bit by Anne with her black eye but in a buoyant mood, and Tricia – who has done very little running recently but still managed to complete 15km and be smiling at the end (and who was going to be camping over night with her husband!).

Unfortunately it wasn’t a day for hanging around and exchanging stories, as we were all so wet, the rain was still coming down, and we were getting cold. I was staying at Penny’s overnight (it was nearer than going all the way back to Brampton, and my fab. neighbours and friends Mark and Laura had said they’d feed the cat) and I spent a lovely half hour warming up in the bath and watching an Italian show on Netflix – there’s a rather scathing review of it here but for a tired body and brain after a soaking wet run it’s fun (the reviewer is critical of Luna Park too, but I also enjoyed that – sometimes trite predictability is exactly what you want. Who says you have to be thoughtful all the time? And also both are helping me with my Italian).

After risotto and apple crumble (great carbo loading) and watching Strictly Come Dancing and part of Lord of the Rings I, I fell into bed and slept until about 8a.m. A bowl of granola and a coffee and it was time to get going again: this time Penny was coming along to support me (and leaving her husband to play with motorbike parts and watch motorbike racing).

Fortunately the weather was a LOT nicer and despite dire warnings about not being able to park, we parked at the Glenridding ferry car park – the steamers weren’t running which probably meant more spaces for runners. It did however mean that rather than the lovely boat ride over to Howtown to start the run, we were running from the same starting point as yesterday: the mud slides had amazingly drained a bit overnight, so the ground wasn’t too bad to walk on.

The run took us south to start with and past the field that we would have parked on if it hadn’t turned into a mud bath yesterday (this is where my car got stuck last time I did the Helvellyn run: it was bad enough having a broken heart but then to get your car stuck as well…). The stony path undulates through some grassy land before dropping down to come out just near a pub at Patterdale: across and down the road a short way and we then ran down the track towards the farm which advertises wool for sale, and from there turned to go along the lower path which runs parallel to the lake. I’ve only ever run this the other way round – once when I did the Ullswater trail race from Howtown and another time when Penny and I ran all the way round Ullswater (only two and a half years ago! https://runningin3time.blog/2019/03/25/following-the-daffodils-the-ullswater-way-and-memories/) when we were running round lakes for her 50th birthday.

It’s a beautiful route, and flashes of memory came back from running it before: some of the larger stones looked familiar. This time we rounded a corner and there was a climb straight up a hill. As I hadn’t studied my map properly I thought this was the only major hill (it was fairly small) and enjoyed the consequent descent back along a path which ran parallel to but higher up than the one we’d just run along. At one point I fell over but bounced up again: a guy behind me a bit later wasn’t so lucky and I didn’t see him again (I should have stopped to check he was OK but I’m afraid I didn’t).

Then there was a HILL. A steep, long hill. Strava was later to tell me that the total elevation for this run was 454m – about 120m higher than yesterday when we were going up the side of one of the highest hills in the Lake District. I think today we may have been running (ha! nobody was running – everybody but everybody was walking) up the side of Place Fell.

We came out near the top on a plateau which isn’t far from Angle Tarn, and ran down a steep track which I had previously been down after ‘running’ up to Hayeswater and along to Angle Tarn (https://runningin3time.blog/2019/06/23/an-almost-bonus-lake/). At the bottom instead of running into Hartsop – which is what we’d done before – the route turned back towards Patterdale, before retracing our footsteps back to the pub. This time we went a different way across the grassy bit before running downhill to the main road. I was struggling by now and walking bits and only crossed the finishing line after 1hr 53 mins (yesterday it was 1hr 39 mins). Even so it looks as if I did OK for my age group.

This is is something which really upsets me and disappoints me about the overall series, as they’ve told me that they’ll be measuring my overall performance on the FV50 age group not the FV60 age group – in triathlon it’s how old you are on 31st December in the relevant year, which would put me in the FV60 age group. I also didn’t get a t-shirt for this final race, which I’m quite, quite sure was the only one I HAD ordered a t-shirt for. So all in all despite some fantastic routes, I finished the series in tears – probably partly just due to tiredness: the t-shirt for today was black, so it didn’t look that great and isn’t that much of a miss and certainly not worth getting upset about. It’s just a pity that I’ll have nothing to celebrate having completed the entire series other than these blogposts (maybe they’ll have to do).

Fortunately Penny was there with a small bottle of fizz and we celebrated me finishing another challenge, before going to have lunch in one of the Glenridding cafes. I then picked up my car from her house and she gave me another bottle of fizz to take home, picked up two of my children from their Dad’s (the other one is self-isolating for 2 more days) and drove back to Brampton, to home and another warm bath.

Thank goodness for the moral support of friends.

Birthday micro-adventures

A year ago some friends and I celebrated my birthday by swimming in Wastwater: and what came to be known affectionately as WastFest was born (https://runningin3time.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/ladies-of-the-lakes-4-and-wast-fest/).

The swimming has got a bit more energetic this year – going further, trying the water without wetsuits – but people who hadn’t swum in Wastwater before were keen to know why we were so enthusiastic about this lake. So 12th September was set as the date, and despite the rainy days preceding and the rather gloomy forecast, we set out – beating ‘The Rule of 6’ by just a couple of days.

Not surprisingly it was busier this year than previous years, with frequent cars passing us – though they were leaving the lake rather than heading towards it. Fortunately we had Tricia and Tim with us this year, who are used to camping – they brought a gazebo and that (well-tethered), along with an awning fixed to the back to stop the rain driving straight in, worked well. Two fires down on the beach area warmed us up after swimming, as well as cooking sausages, and Penny and Tim brought their smoker and produced a delicious smoked salmon.

We all agreed that it was just as good as last year, in a wetter, colder, more challenging way. I had been worried that it wouldn’t be as good this year as it had been so great last year – but the smiles on our faces say it all. I think it could well become an annual occurrence.

On Sunday I thought I’d allow myself a lazy day, and I decided to go up to Housesteads to recce Broomlee Lough. It was a beautiful sunny day – such a contrast to the day before! – and Housesteads and the Hadrian’s Wall path were busy. I followed the Hadrian’s Wall path to start with, and then crossed over an undulating area of rough grass to get to the lake. I passed the ruins of the north gate to Housesteads, and the ruins of Knag Burn gate, and could feel how imposing these gates would once have been to people approaching from the north.

The lough was stunning. It’s not terribly accessible – it probably took me 45 minutes to walk there, over mostly uneven ground – but once standing in the water in my wellies under Dove Crag, I could well imagine Roman soldiers on their time off, laughing and splashing in the water.

Part of me wished I had my wetsuit with me (which was still hanging up to dry from the previous evening), but it was incredibly windy and swimming would have been hard work. Also, part of the enjoyment of wild swimming is sharing that excitement and wonder with friends. One day I shall swim solo though.

I walked all the way round the lough, which wasn’t that easy – there was no path and it was quite marshy in places. An old corrugated metal boat house stood forlornly alone, rusting into oblivion.

I walked back towards the crags of the Whin Sill and once again was intimidated by the defensiveness of the Wall. The crags loomed above me and on top of that the wall, which would once have been 2 or 3 times the height, painted a blinding white, and bristling with soldiers. It gave out a clear message. But I could look back and see the playground of Broomlee Lough behind me.

Monday also dawned sunny and warm, without the wind, and as it was my birthday I had taken the day off. After yoga and a short run, Clare and Colin came round to make me lunch, which we sat outside to eat. I then went down to Penrith, where I met Penny, and we drove to Glenridding.

I previously wrote about running up to Grisedale Tarn and back; today we walked up, rucksacks on our backs laden with our wetsuits and related clobber. Penny had had the sense to bring water and sandwiches, which had completely escaped my mind.

The tarn was another one which was incredibly clean and clear; like Crummock Water there was a gently sloping stony shelf which suddenly dropped down into darkness. It was cold but all right so long as you kept swimming: Penny mentioned face freeze. Even so we swam about halfway up one side, across the Tarn and then back. As we swam lots of walkers came past or could be seen coming down from Hevellyn. Two groups started putting up tents: I’m not sure wild camping is actually allowed, especially at the moment, but you could see the appeal. I hope they took their rubbish home with them.

Walking down took almost as long as walking up, and with no signal (mobile or internet) I couldn’t phone my daughter until we reached the houses at the foot of the hills, to tell her I’d be home about 9p.m. (there was the usual request for something from the Co-op). In the typical way of teenage daughters she had complained that I was going out on my birthday – presumably instead of cooking her tea – and told me that there was no way she was going to say Happy Birthday to me. Having not gone out for a post-walk-and-swim drink with Penny (who also needed to get home to her husband anyway), it was disappointing to get home and find I had to start clearing up mess.

However it didn’t take long to smile about it: Clare and I had recently written a light-hearted poem jointly about children being vile. And the photos below are partly by me and partly by Penny.

What a brilliant way to spend a birthday.