A frosty farm awaits runners… like a film set, just magical.
Park on old A66 just east of Keswick, wander through a sleepy village of Braithwaite. Breath in the icy air, and know the hot/cold relationship will soon be upon you, needing gloves and buff as your body starts to steam on the ascents awaiting you - what a great feeling, it’s excitement we all feel inside as we arrive at the farm chatting about who saw what cloud inversion on the journey here.
A warm welcome from the KONG RUNNING team in the barn as always for kit check, bundle kit back together, next to Martin and his efficient SI Entries team for registration… no queues, in and out, all super speedy. Now is the time to faff… race number fixed to Ambleside Race vest - but this time no kit faffing for me, it was a super warm morning back at home above Ullswater, so chose short sleeve vest and didnt bring a wind top. The icy fellside only showed itself along the A66 towards Keswick. Ambleside vest over my short sleeved tee, i’d just have to run faster, i didn't bring anything else… i chuckled to myself. I had the emergency kit, including the magic VOOM Pocket Rocket for the ascents, so all good.
Back down the road we went, as I sneaked 2 VOOM Pocket Rocket pieces - the pink one with the Caffeine!… Gathering for our lovely Race Director’s pointers from Paul, “tread carefully, icy rocks everywhere, crunchy bogs between hills, a little river crossing, and most of all have fun folks…” Off we go, juggling our positions, as a rather small person that I am, it was hard to see where you were starting on the narrow road. Soon onto the open fell and the cat and mouse game began.
Traversing under Barrow, a slight ascent to warm up in the icy air and in shadow, across the beck and the first ascent of Slight Side looks at you and the sun would soon be upon us… jog gently as far up as you can (VOOM will work its magic, it will be kicking in now), i managed to run a good way up and surprised myself at how many runners i managed to pass, just dont stop, look at the next boggy patch, run to there, no run to the next one, then to that clearing in the bracken, then to that heather patch, and so on… keep back straight, hands behind back, open the chest, allow steady breathing, i kept saying to myself… I hope I didn't say it outloud, fellow runners would have thought me mad! I loved that ascent, steep, tricky, loose muddy bits and slightly icy rocks. A cheeky false summit, and the ascent eases up to the ‘real’ summit and smiley faces of the marshal team.
I found the short boggy descent extremely slippy, couldn't believe I was losing quite a few places as runners overtook me, why, I love descending… never mind, i’ll catch them on the next up… which i did.
Outer-side next… a very narrow path, difficult to overtake, but managed twice to sneakily direct line instead of zigzags, through the knee high scratchy heather, but it worked and I'd regained a couple or more places. On the top, to a great team of smiley marshals - Thank you guys!
Now the fun begins… steady down the slippy stuff to join the main Sail Pass under Causey Pike. I love paths like this, wide enough to overtake, concentration at its utmost, rocks slide under your feet, left, right, jump, pick up your feet, let the rocks move under you, land lightly, no cushioning, feel the ground, let the body adjust for balance on top, let go… and it worked, passing a good few runners on this section. Not the first path junction, but the second… shown on a recce with Julie Carter the week before… “take care Nic, not the first, but the second” Julie’s words called out in my head! (Grab another piece of VOOM from the vest for last ‘up’).
Now to keep it up, steady, steady, don't stop running, it's not that steep… Barrow, the final fell. I managed to keep running (little Dave’s words rang in my ears from a run up Catstycam in early December… just dont stop, tiny steps, and just keep running Nic, however slow) til literally the last few meters, and had to walk! Reached Barrow summit, now for more fun…
Down all the way, watch out seriously slippy rock, lots covered in sneaky bits of icy moss, absolute switch on now, cant loose all those places gained. My sensible head took over, and once again i lost my nerve, just like the descent off Cough Head on the previous race. It was the solid slippy rocks, i couldn't trust myself, i know where and what i need to practice now.
Changed my talking in my head, I kept glancing at the Cloud Inversion, kept realising what a magical race i was part of, and how lucky, beyond lucky, I was to be running this beautiful place with such friendly jolly folk all around me, it's no worries to be taking that little bit of care to descend… when the grass comes under my feet i could let go again,” its ok Nic, remember, it's supposed to be fun!” kept going round in my head.
The finishing straight, bog, grass, bog, grass and load of smiley folk with encouraging words and a sprint to the Frosty Farm for the finish. And loads of chat, what a wonderful friendly feeling you get from the Fell Runners banter before and after a race, everyone talks to you, lots know each other, but lots dont… we all chat and wander and stretch and check out who got mudiest, with steaming coffees and well earned bicis provided for runners.
What a backdrop for the prize giving, the beautiful Lakeland Barn at the Frosty Farm with our descent off Barrow in the background, lots of VOOM goodies for the winners, and yes, i did get a little mention as part of the Ambleside Ladies Team.
Moving up race by race
4th V40 Ladies
Thanks to Zone2 Running for fab guidance, encouragement and coaching along the way.
Amazing morning in the fells - thank you KONG RUNNING team!