Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Cumbria Way Ultra, 73 miles 10,000ft of ascent

The Cumbria Way starts in Ulverston and finishes in Carlisle passing through the valleys of the Lake District National Park.  I became interested in this event as it seemed a low key and friendly day out on the trails through the glorious Cumbrian Mountains.  It was an event to enjoy and have a good day out doing what I love.

The weather was pretty much perfect with a southerly tailwind.  It was wet underfoot from the previous week’s downpours but it didn’t rain during the race.  I felt pretty relaxed leading up to it as I tried to remove all stress from it by having the sole priority of finishing, no matter how long it took or what state I’d be in at the end.  I made that clear to friends and family, I usually stress out before a race as I’m sure lots of others do.  The cut-off times were generous so I was quite confident that if I paced it right then I would complete it. 
I scribbled the distances between checkpoints on my hand to mentally help to break down the overall distance.  The race started at 6am and I began at a nice and easy pace through the first section to Coniston (16 miles).  This is a really runnable part of the route, so very easy to overcook it and get carried away.

It was a beautiful morning with a great sunrise.

I reached the checkpoint in good spirits, refilled my soft flasks and grabbed a few snacks to eat on the go.  The sun was quite warm during the next section from Coniston to Sticklebarn (11 miles) in the beautiful Langdales.  I made sure I kept drinking and cooling down at the streams which were abundant after the amount of rain during the week.

The next section to Keswick (16.7miles) took us over Stakes Pass, a nice steady climb and technical descent towards Borrowdale.  Then along the shoreline of Derwentwater which is again, really runnable.  I met up with my support crew (Emma and Tony Holt) who were a welcome sight. I wasn’t sure where I was position-wise at this point but I was feeling good.  A quick change of top and socks and I was off on the next section to Caldbeck(15 miles) up a familiar route to Latrrigg (Bob Graham Round :o))  Another runner had latched onto me at this stage and I didn’t really want to run with anyone else nor chat to them so I was pleased when he ran ahead.

There was a really boggy section heading to High Pike which was a bit of a chore, or death march!  There were four of us together on this climb, once we summited I gained an advantage on the descent and I was on my own again to the Caldbeck checkpoint.  The volunteers filled my bottles and I was off again after a short rest.  From Caldbeck onwards the route was flat going through farmers fields all the way to Carlisle (15 miles).  By this point I was run/walking, constantly drinking and trying to eat what I could.  The sun had set so I got my headtorch out for the last 5 miles or so.  I passed a few 30 mile racers with 3-4 miles to go and they told me I was third male.  This gave me quite a boost so cracked on (after switching my headtorch off – tactics!) and pretty much ran the rest of the way to Carlisle Castle.  I was glad to see the finish line!  Overall, a fantastic event with amazing support and volunteers.  The course is really well marked and it would be very hard to go wrong.  If you want to give an ultra a try, I would definitely recommend this one!

Thanks again to everyone who supported and the organisers. Particularly Emma and Tony, Gaynor and Amanda who gave me a lift to my car on the Sunday morning 😄