Posts Tagged With: Dirty Double

Lakeland Trails, missed the boat, but grand day out all the same. Ullswater Emergency 10k 2017

Digested read:  well that was hilarious.  The plan was a 10k round Ullswater, starting with a boat.  Alas, no boat and a shorter alternative route, but on the plus side lots more time for Smiley mingling, impulse purchases and then the actual run was gorgeous.  All’s well that ends well eh?  Home to Sheffield with renewed running mojo and consolidated adoration and appreciation for the collective joy and fabulousness that is the Sheffield women’s running club of Smiley Paces.

So this was Day Two, of the Lakeland Trails finale weekend.  Much anticipated by Smiley Lakeland Trails veterans, this particular run involves the added novelty of a boat crossing on a steamer at the start!  I know, how cool is that!  The boat looks like this, it isn’t a scam because there is a picture of it and everything:

ullswater steamer 2012

The steamer was last sighted in 2014 as far as I know, and most definitely does exist as the 2012 picture above stolen from the Lakeland Trails Facebook page demonstrates.  Alas, in subsequent years foul weather prevented sailings.  (Do steamers sail?  Probably not, but you get the gist.  ‘Launchings’ maybe?)  Part of the problem was perhaps the November timing of the event – not the best time of year to be counting on calm waters and clear skies. This year the trail weekend was brought forward to the potentially more clement month of October.  Much excitement bubbled amongst us. This was surely going to be the year.  There was even more of a build up yesterday when the weather was gorgeous and the forecast for today, Sunday, promising too. The back marker had said so.  What could possibly go wrong? What trail running event wouldn’t be improved by a leisure boat ride across the scenic.  We were collectively beside ourselves with excited anticipation.

Oh, you need to know the basics? Yawn.  Well, if you haven’t been hanging on my every blog post since, I don’t know, ‘whenever.’ then you’ll need to know that the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah for the Ullswater 2017 described todays event as follows:

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

Starting from the Ullswater Pier at Glenridding (CA11 OUS), your journey starts with a beautiful half hour cruise aboard the Ullswater Steamer “Raven”, which takes you to the start in the hamlet of Howtown, whilst being serenaded by singer/songwriter Pete Lashley. The 10km Ullswater Trail Run, 14km Ullswater Trail Race and 14km Ullswater Trail Challenge follow well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways along the lake shore, giving panoramic views of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks, finishing in Jenkins Field, next to the Ullswater Pier. Much of the course passes through ancient woodland, which will be at its autumnal best. Underfoot conditions can be tricky at times, especially if wet.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Helvellyn event the day before? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend.

Oh my gawd.  How amazing.  And now the day had finally dawned!

It actually dawned in the small hours.  Blinking as I lay under the duvet, fretting over how to complete morning manoeuvres in the dark without disturbing those dorm buddies who were doing the afternoon run.  Three of us in my dorm had signed up for the 10k and that was a 9.00 a.m. sailing. Registration from 7.45 a.m. Working backwards, we’d need to be up dressed, packed for leaving the youth hostel as we had to strip beds etc pre departure – but also leave food somewhere (not in kitchen) for lunch, and a change of clothes somewhere (not in dorm) for afterwards.  We had negotiated with our obliging dorm sleeping-in buddies that we’d have to set the alarm for 6.30 and we’d have to put the light on at some point, but just because we’d agreed it, didn’t mean that we’d have the absolute nerve to go through with it. I mean it seems too cruel.  Like chucking a bucket of iced water on a rough sleeper or something, to knowingly cause a slumbering Smiley to be wakened.  Cruel and unreasonable treatment at the very least!  I suppose if we did cause provocation at least there would be an added motivation to run fast afterwards…

rude awakening

I went through my preparations in my mind.  Running kit ready all folded neatly stuffed in on top of my bathroom bits, dry running shoes at the ready for grasping, a swift and silent exit should be a shoo in really cometh the hour. I got up at 6.00 as I couldn’t bear just lying there waiting for the alarm, made it into the showers, all was going well, until I realised a fundamental oversight in my kit prep.  No knickers!  How did that happen?  I’m not running commando, I don’t care what anyone else does.  Curses, all my preparations counted for nothing, as it seemed I’d have to rummage noisily through my stuff in the dark after all.  Getting up is soooooooooooooo stressful.

Amazingly, I did discover my lost knickers, eventually espying them abandoned on the floor in the middle of the dorm, right near the door, where they must have fallen from my bag as I tried to creep out of the room.  I retrieved them, remedied my dressing fail, and then decided I couldn’t inflict light on my seemingly still slumbering buddies even though I knew in my heart of hearts I must have already woken them up with all my crashing around trying to locate my M&S five to a pack cotton rich briefs.  Do M&S sell anything else I wonder.  Indeed, can knickers be purchased anywhere else?  There is Runderwear of course – but apart from there, nope, I don’t imagine they can. I decided all further preparations would be more effective post tea and breakfast sustenance.

I made for the kitchen.  Oh joy!  My other two dorm morning running buddies were already there.  Better yet, they too were clearly traumatised by the stress of pre-run preparations, and had also decided better to brave the kitchen early on before the crush. It was very comforting, we were able to share our individual neuroses with one another and then were immediately massively reassured to find we were not alone. We were all disproportionately angst ridden by the enormity of our current first world problems, which required us to get up AND get dressed; AND pack; AND forward plan lunch and later changing options; AND have breakfast; AND decide on short or long sleeved tops; AND remember our compulsory kit – and that’s not even factoring the minefield of deciding what time to leave for registration and what to do about communal food that we’d finished with but our car buddies might want later but still needed to be packed!  At least I didn’t have the added angst of wondering whether or not to run at all due to blister progression over night.  It’s so stressful all this running stuff in a communal non-home context.  Worth it undoubtedly, but stressful all the same.  Also, both of them had spotted my knickers on the floor earlier, and respectfully stepped over them. That’s nice too isn’t it.  Supportive even.

Heartened and bonded through shared adversity, we three went back to the dorm and switched on the lights with abandon, then vacated the area to sit it out until it was time for a mass exodus to the event HQ.  I was thirsty though.  I needed a glass of water.  I went up to the kitchen area but it was absolutely heaving, I stood outside the door blinking for a while as Smilies busily circled back and forth somehow avoiding collision like in that amazing video animation of extraordinarily juxtaposed happenings that I think was a Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’ one, but might have been Sledgehammer – nope can’t find it.  If you know it, you’ll know it, it has one person walk across a room, then a ball bounces in through the window, new things keep being added until every inch of space is full but somehow nothing intersects with anything else.  If that image is too hard, then think about what it was like when you are a kid and two people swirl a skipping rope, and you have to run in and join several  others who are already jumping in there.  You are waiting for the right moment to run in, but you get one chance only, and if you misjudge it, everything ends.  You could ruin it for everyone. Don’t mess up! It was like that.  Only more terrifying.  Talk about a jump into the unknown…

skipping games

I stood wide – eyed and hesitating outside the kitchen door, it’s was like I was looking through a window into a parallel world.  I literally made several abortive attempts to plunge through the shifting gateway and into this alternative universe, but kept losing my nerve.  Eventually, I realised I there was a good Samaritan Smiley alert to my dilemma and looking out for me – albeit in a pointing and laughing at my ineptitude sort of way, but supportively pointing and laughing and that is a good thing.  It broke the tension and made me laugh too as I saw the ludicrousness of the situation. We talked through options, and, to cut a long story short, acknowledging the extreme pressure on facilities at just that moment of time, and the mass of people milling around I agreed that the sensible thing to do was just to take refuge under a nearby table, and emerge some time later when hopefully this crisis had passed.  Good plan.  Felt safe there.

hiding under table

Even so, I had to emerge after a bit. I got water from a downstairs bathroom, and then sat very, very still on the sofa in the foyer whilst Smilies darted back and forth and all around me like a spawning of whirling dervishes (whatever they are). They were all making the trek to the drying room and each emerged in turn exclaiming the lament that their shoes were still soaked from yesterdays paddle along the Helvellyn paths.  I was quite pleased I’d brought my Irocks as a back up plan. They aren’t massively cushioned, but they are grippy, and I’d rather start the day’s run with dry feet.  As I sat, trying to be invisible and not in the way and just blinking. Magic Making Smiley Samaritan actually came over to see if I was alright.  I must have been manifesting physical signs of shock, with which magic making smiley was very familiar after with the broken wrist incident and the woman looking grey only yesterday. I was alright, I was fine.  Lesser mortals might have accused me of attention seeking quite frankly, but I was so touched at her concern. It just shows all over again that Smilies are delightful, individually as well as collectively.   For this I thank you all.


At last, and thankfully, it was time to leave.  Food bags were stashed in cars, single bags of stuff heaped up in the foyer and off we went once again in a loose smiley convoy, down the road towards the start.  It seemed a bit cooler than yesterday, but calm.  Still beautiful.  Still well hung sheep about and curious locals looking on…

Got to the event HQ and it was all reassuringly familiar.  Numbers collected; tags on; baggage dumped; T-shirt of the day admired. Good oh.

It was all very efficient.  I saw a group of runners making their way across the field to the boarding point for the steamer.  I joined a Smiley crowd and together we chatted joyfully about the forthcoming boat ride.  Only, then it emerged one of our number either had taken, or was about to take an anti-seasickness tab. What?  Why hadn’t I thought of that? This was another whole area of angst I’d not previously considered.  I’m terrible on boats, but I’m also knocked out by anti nausea meds.  Better to dehydrate from throwing up than pass out comatose perhaps?   Aaargh, I don’t know.   I had not even considered this, and now I was thrown into panic. Doh.

Just as my mind was racing through the pros and cons of knocking back a pack of puke-u-not seasick pills, word got out.  No boats!

What no boats?  Really?  I’d missed the announcement, so went to ask inside.  Yep, no boats, only in fact more accurately it was possibly no boats.  They were going to wait another 15 minutes and see how it went. Fifteen minutes later the announcement came.  An announcer read out the words from the Captain verbatim from a scrap of paper – like it was a royal decree of something, which in a way I suppose it was in that it was non negotiable.  The wind picks up on the open water and it just wasn’t safe, there would be no boats today.   The emergency race plan would come into operation.  An alternative route would be offered with a mass start, a bit shorter.  Marshals would need time to get into their new positions. Sorry and all, but there you go.

To be honest, although people were disappointed, there wasn’t any massive unrest at this revelation, more a collective shrug and sigh of ‘oh well’.  To be fair, what can you do?  I’m sure the organisers were more disappointed than anyone given that whether or not the steamer tripped happened they’d still had to do all the lists of sailings and logistics of sorting runners out and everything.

In fact, the event director put it this way at the later prize giving:

We can’t change the weather. But what can we change? Our ATTITUDE to the weather.

It’s our 10th anniversary of the Ullswater Trail, and 3rd time unlucky, yet we still have an overall 70% sailing record. That’s pretty good.

After last year’s feedback from you, we decided to do four things, in case poor weather forced the Ullswater Steamers to be cancelled again :

1. Move the event three weeks earlier into October. Fat lot of good that did us!
2. Look at the Steamer Cruise in a different light, as a bonus, and not include any additional contribution towards hire of the Steamer in your entry fees. IF we sailed, we would foot the bill as a way to celebrate our Season’s Finale
3. If we had to, implement a FREE park and ride option for those wanting to use it
4. To add an additional, longer emergency route in the afternoon, so that the 10K runners didn’t have to hang around in the cold all day, and the 14K runners could run a longer course 

We’ll always listen to constructive criticism and change our plans accordingly.

So there you are.  Not sure what else they could have done.

Besides, I was quite taken with the idea of an emergency 10k eh?  I love the notion of that, being made to run 10k in a collective panic with sirens blasting and blue lights flashing overheard.  To call it a wet-weather contingency 10k may have been marginally more truthful but face it, it would also have been a lot less exciting as an abstract concept.  Post the event I noticed some Smilies had referenced the route on Strava as the ‘no boat run’ I know what they mean but that is surely tautology of sorts, well, maybe not stating the same thing twice exactly, but certainly stating the seemingly obvious.  Running races don’t generally require boats after all, so why say that.  Unless you have accidentally signed up for the Three Peaks Yacht Race of course, in which case lord help you. Does this boat ride look fun?  Would you feel like a trot up to the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis after a stint in that? Quite.

2011 three peaks yacht race

You might as well say it was the ‘no balloon’ race, though to be fair only the other week I began with a balloon and ended without one, so perhaps that would be OK. Try again ‘no bike route’ I suppose Triathletes might use that for time to time.  Oh, for goodness sake, stop going on about it, it doesn’t matter!  The point I’m trying to make is that we didn’t run the intended 10k route on account of the fact there was too much weather for us to get on the boat safely.  The organisers therefore set us off on a shorter, alternative route, implementing their ’emergency plan’ (like you have for nuclear accidents or terrorist incidents) and hence we were running the Ullswater Emergency 10k.  Hope that’s all clear.

The cancellation changed the morning’s running dynamic certainly. A few injured runners who’d been tempted to run because of not wanting to miss out on the boat ride (which to be fair is taking on increasingly mystical status) were now feeling maybe what with having only one functional leg/foot whatever perhaps they shouldn’t.  One or two decided they needed to get home more than they needed to hang on to do a shorter route.  It was all pretty philosophical, no tantrums. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a Smiley tantrum about anything to be honest.  It’s not how we roll.  We are more likely to fall out because everyone wants to do the washing up, rather than because no-one will.  Even then there would be no falling out, only a graceful withdrawal, that’s as high as the stakes go in my experience anyway.   Well it was at this point in the day anyway, how things change…


In fact, at least one Smiley was positively euphoric at the prospect of a shorter run.  I encouraged her to practise sounding disappointed at the news.  Or at the very least, if she was unable to suppress her joyful guffawing she should at least try and save the situation by turning it into a disappointed ‘hah! how could they?’ sort of exclamation. We got there in the end.

I didn’t have strong feelings about the distance, but I was delighted that the delay to the start meant a cup of coffee was now a possibility.  I didn’t have cash on me, but no worries, I had a woodrun buddy on hand who paid for me.   I was a bit sad I didn’t have cash for a Lakeland buff, but maybe at ten pounds they were on the pricey side anyway.   Better yet, whilst I was in the queue I explained about the new shorter route to someone who hadn’t heard and who genuinely had a look like thunder at the news and then turned away and punched the air with an audible  ‘yay’!  She’d been on some sort of masterclass on pretend disappointment.  Very impressive delivery.

I supped coffee feeling cold and admiring my shoes.  I’ve not worn them much, but they are extraordinary.  I call them my Tardis shoes, because they look really small on the outside but are bizarrely bit from within.  They are definitely wide enough, I can’t really claim they are massively comfy, because they lack cushioning, but they are roomy enough and don’t have pressure points which is usually a massive problem for me (though not with my new innov8s either to be fair).  Miscellaneous Smiley bonding and milling and chilling continued. Non-running smilies turned up to check out what was going on.  It was fine and dandy.


Coffee drunk, I went for an amble and I’m delighted to report the organisers had laid on some impromptu entertainment. There was a bride and groom who’d got married earlier at the lakeside, and were now going to take on the 10k with their bridal party in tow.    Impressive. There’s a whole blog post elsewhere about how they built their nuptials around the Ullswater trail. That’s commitment for you!   They were there in their wedding regalia, and we were encouraged to form a circle to congratulate the newly weds whilst the MC put on their ‘first dance’ music so they could swirl around in front of us to roars of congratulation and approval. A drone camera flew over head and a multitude of photos were taken. It was lovely actually… if a little prolonged. The ‘happy couple’ did look happy, but it was hard even for them to sustain eye-contact, and feel so lurved up that there was not a smattering of self-consciousness  as it became apparent they were being subjected to the full long play 12 minute version of the song when they’d been expecting the 3 minute dance one. Hilarious.  The tension was mercifully broken by an invitation to go in for a communal hug.  It was all delightful.  They had another impromptu communal wedding dance session at the finish apparently, but I missed that.  My usual cynicism aside there was something joyful about all that hope and optimism laid before you, and going for a run together is a great way to celebrate any occasion. Though I did feel for the bridesmaid, her outfit didn’t look altogether compatible with being expected to run atop those exposed mountains later on.  Definitely on the flimsy side, and no cagoule stashing pockets anywhere!

So watching that was a welcome distraction and a nice bit of habitat enrichment to keep us entertained whilst we waited for off.   Once that was over, I roamed around a bit more and eyed up my fellow participants for the adventures still to come, seemingly I was eyed up in return.

In the absence of alternative entertainment, and as there was still time to browse – I found myself increasingly drawn to the sports clothing stand.  I am easily seduced by running socks.  I had no cash on me yesterday either, or card, so it was easy to reject them. Today I’d brought my card with me in perhaps a subconscious acknowledgement of the inevitable failing of willpower.  I circled round a few times trying not to cave in, but really, me and running socks!  It was like Dougal on the magic roundabout encountering a pile of sugar lumps and being expected not to succumb.  I believe the records wills how that was the undoing of him in Dougal and the Blue Cat.  Like him, it was inevitable I could only hold out so long.  Socks were bought. I had a card.  My woodrun buddy who stood me a coffee earlier was complicit in the offence.  She spotted a rather gorgeous innov8 top.  We had to wrestle a little with our inner consciences, as it always feels wrong buying from anywhere other than from our local running shots, but these were such bargains. We were made dizzy by the opportunity and not thinking either ahead or straight. What would it matter that we’ll never be able to wear them in Sheffield, for fear of being outed for our consumer disloyalty, we were living in the here and now.  What can you do… Technically, it was only I who was guilty, as I made both purchases on my card so we’d be quits after coffee sub earlier on. My woodrun friend was blameless.  Good luck wearing the top on a Thursday woodrun though – at your own risk and all that.


To be honest, this hour and a half of milling around was rather fine.  It was like being at some sort of Smiley social.  The run was almost incidental to proceedings after a bit.  However, inevitably, eventually the call went up to assemble. There was a brief anxious moment for me when I joined the start funnel facing the wrong way and was nearly expected to take off at the head of the throng!  That would have ended badly.  I nipped round to the back of the queue and then edged towards a little gaggle of smilies for reassurance.  I’ve managed to capture accurately their expressions of delight at seeing me as I joined them.  This was it, any moment now, we’d be off!

We headed out the field in the opposite direction to yesterday… and immediately hit a bottle neck as runners queued to go through a narrow gate.  Fortunately, a quick-witted marshal stepped up and waved a load of us round to a bigger gate so for the first  time in my whole life I overtook some super speedy runners still queuing by looping round ahead of them. REsult.  Then it was onwards and upwards.  A bit much road for me to be honest, but this was made more palatable by pathologically lovely cheerful marshals – also at this point I was just slightly behind the bridal party and could hear rousing cheers chorus up ahead as they passed by-standers.  This was fine!

I wonder if this is what they mean by a runaway bride?

We turned off the road onto more gravelly track, as I trotted along, a guy running alongside commented companionably – ‘so there’s a lot of you Smiley Places out and about – what sort of a club are you?‘  It wasn’t meant to be rude I’m sure, more an reflection on my less than apparent running physique – someone asked me yesterday if the Smiley Paces tops were in aid of a charity, so it seems that we aren’t immediately identifiable as a running group even when participating en masse at a running event.  ‘Erm, a running club?’ I said.  He looked mortified ‘erm, I just thought maybe… like cycling‘ he said with growing desperation, discomfort and trailing off a bit.  ‘Well we are very inclusive‘ I said, acknowledging that based on me alone it might not have been as obvious I was part of a running group as I’d have liked.  He looked relieved at this rescue ‘excellent, as it should be‘ he responded, and then dropped away.  I really wish I’d said ‘roller blading’ though or even ‘voodoo’, next time eh?

Then soon we were on an ‘undulating’ path that offered extremes of up and down.  It seemed to go on and on. The views were absolutely amazing, and the narrow paths for the main part made over-taking impossible, so it felt even more legitimate than usual to take some shots along the way.   I just felt really lucky to be out in such fantastic scenery on a blustery autumnal day, uninjured and in the company of Smilies.  What more could anyone ask for?

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The narrow paths my have limited overtaking but were great for buddying up.  Fortuitously I ended up in a gang of four Smilies caught up at the same stage.  Excellent mutual photographing action shots followed.  Team work you see. Very important, we were our very own Smiley Paparazzi Unit:

Running must be so hard if you don’t stop every five minutes to take a picture.  My way is loads better.

We inevitably reached the steep, steep steps others had warned us off.  Walking was the only option, with hands firmly planted on knees to help.   Finding myself at the end of a queue of people plodding onward and upwards I said jokingly ‘oh dear I was going to sprint ahead but my way is blocked‘ only to have horror of unnecessarily obliging runners in front offering to part like the red sea and let me through. ‘no, no‘ I insisted in a slightly too panicked toned, that was my bluff well and truly called!

After a seemingly endless climb, we were ‘suddenly’ at the top of the ascent.  Right at the highest point of the run,  a hardy (or more accurately cold) marshal was being buffeted about by the wind but still smiling and pointing us on. Marshals are always awesome at running events, but I do think at this Lakeland Trails event they really excelled themselves.  Everyone I passed was keeping up clapping and cheering throughout, many had quips in addition and some offered up visual aid (reference hi-viz sheep) or other props (reference cow bells) as well as encouragement and directional pointing on the way round.  Much kudos to all you hi-viz heroes on the day.

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Much of the terrain was technical, though nothing like as wet as yesterday, but rocky and steep.  Oh my god I lurve my irocks though.  Today was our first proper bonding outing.  I’ve only worn them out and about a few times before, this was their first race route. They make me feel invincible, they  seem tiny on the outside but astonishingly can accommodate my plate like feet.  They grip on anything, I felt safe skipping along. They lack cushioning but a necessary compromise on this route, plus they have little padding or soft stuff to get water-logged so I barely got my feet wet. Result.  No blisters either, despite fact I’ve not really worn them much at all.  I may start to sleep in them.  Then again I may not.  I have limits.


From here it flattened out a bit.  Then soon enough, there was once again the helpful warning sign to ‘smile’ in advance of encountering the photographer ahead.  Just as well we were warned as he was crouching in a ditch this time, looking a bit sodden to be honest, but still with professional focus.  We were a veritable train of Smilies at this point, creating the teasing prospect of a Smiley group shot.  One declaimed ‘no jumping’ as we bore down on our photographer friend.  I didn’t jump (never do, in fact the photos of me apparently levitating were achieved by undertaking the whole of yesterday’s trail by zip wire, and paying the photographer to photoshop out the wires at the end.  That way, no concerns about concussion, just don’t tell anyone).  As I was in company today, and there was the unexpected route change, the zip wire option wasn’t available, so I had to resort to running on my actual legs.  Hence a lot less bounce in today’s photo. I’m relying on you my reader not to let on though.  People like mystery in their dull little lives.  They must not have cause to doubt my ability to launch myself vertically into space once in the frame of a camera lens.  Let them keep that little spark of joy….

Anyways, we didn’t co-ordinate all that well to be honest, apart from in the sense of our fine matching Smiley tops –  but the photos are nevertheless a pleasing reflection of our smiley quartet. See if you can spot the one Smiley with manifest leadership qualities from within the montage below.  You can see that I respected the ‘no jumping’ directive, opting for the slightly over-excited and maniacal stare pose instead.  Totally nailed it if I say so myself.

The photographer took some pretty amazing shots of the great and the good and the glorious and the gifted storming round.  Here are just a few of my faves of the day, from viking warrior to team jumping shots, all of running fauna was there to behold against the stunning Lakeland backdrop.  Nice out innit?

There were plenty of other Smilies snapped on them there hills too you know. Here are just a few.  We were like cockroaches swarming across a kitchen floor when the light goes on, only more immediately likeable.  Maybe more like golden fallen autumn leaves, blowing about in the sunshine and bringing joy to the world. Yes?  See for yourself:

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We pushed onwards, it was flat, and then teasingly starting to go down hill. Whilst it was tempting to take advantage of the gradient and yomp on, I found it was essential to stop to admire the scenery when we came across a wondrous waterfall.  This beauteous site had potential to get us on cover of National Geographic magazine for sure, or at the very least Life magazine (though I concede that might be a challenge given it’s no longer published) … Women’s Running at a push.  In any event, the posing was essential, even if it alas it meant we became separated from one of our number who was too focused to notice and so sped on ahead.  She mistook our amazing find for but a hobbit hole (which to be fair would have been pretty amazing too) her loss.  Besides, we really had to stop at the waterfall to cool off because we were on fire running round!  Honestly. We are hot stuff.

As we continued down hill, there were three of us now, bonding, staying together.  We had noted the absence of one, and whilst we regretted her loss, we respected her decision. Besides, we decided that regrettably, ultimately it would be her loss as we’d be having soaring stats on our Facebook pics in recognition of our en route selfies, she’d pay a high price missing out on all of that frenetic social media recognition for sure.  Life is cruel like that.  I’m not saying it’s fair or right, that’s just how it is sometimes.  Validity of one’s existence through the Facebook ‘like’ button exacerbated by the tyranny of the emoticon.  It was so much easier before all of this, when you only communicated what you did when away by a solitary uninspired postcard that reached your intended recipient many weeks after your sojourn away was long forgotten.

We went onwards, down the steep path, rock jumping, and waving overhead at the drone that mysteriously appeared above us at one point.  I did wonder briefly if this was just the logical extension of woodrun leaders ongoing surveillance operations, but tried to dismiss that from my mind.  We bounded on, waving at the householder who was leaning out to watch us go past.  Considering how exposed it is out there, there was a lot of support out and about. We continued, skipping by the friendly marshals that we’d passed on the way out who had perfected the art of perpetual motion in their synchronised support.

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Eventually, we were back on to tarmac road, and by a cattle grid we espied another photographer. The more gobby assertive member of our party berated the poor guy for apparently wasting time busying himself wiping down his camera lens when he should be photographing us.  He gestured beside him.   There was another camera set up on tripod and a drone beside him ‘they’ve been filming all the time’ he countered. Uh oh. Captured on film whether we were ready or not!


The idea of sticking together for the finish was mooted, but I wasn’t sure.  Road was coming up.  Whilst my younger smiley compatriots would pick up speed on the more predictable terrain it stops me in my tracks as my poor feet start to shatter and I don’t have the stamina to maintain a constant running pace.  ‘You go on without me‘ I cried out, almost pleading them to do so.  They would not hear of it.  They even paused and walked for a bit to let me get my breath back.  We headed off again just as some fellow Smilies appeared at the sidelines to cheer us on.

Finally, we were back into the field, round the blooming keyhole again and then, well, we just  couldn’t help ourselves. Shout went up for a sprint finish, elbows and all. Friendly buffeting rivalry that’s all.  I can’t possibly have been in the wrong as I am middle-aged and she is but a young stripling, so let’s get that cleared up.  I have a bruise too.  It was quite a fight to the line though, and pleasingly we ended up with the same finish time exactly, and no doubt the same fear of throwing up on the marshals collecting in the ankle tags.  Fun though.  I was surprised I had that in me.

Another T-shirt, yellow this time, but not a horrible one, I haven’t tried it on yet, but it is a technical one and female fit, which is something of an innovation in running events, a pleasing one too.  All friends again for the photo anyway, that’s the main thing, keeping up appearances… 🙂


We gathered up our bags and fellow smilies, before heading off on the migration home to the hostel.  Alarmingly, I discovered my Cheetah buddy had had to pull out early on in the 10k due to a knee niggle. That’s harsh.  Quite a few missed out on the Sunday run for diverse reasons, I suppose that’s the frustrating nature of it.

My sprint finish smiley stopped off at the medical tent for advice on her knee – well I thought it was her knee, I’m told it was actually her ankle, but hard to know with Manchuasen’s.  It’s technically true she has had an injury for ages, but personally I think she was seeking an explanation as to why she’d failed to pass me in the sprint.  The medic seemed very thorough, and the advise seemed to be every runner’s worst nightmare ‘rest and monitor’.  Noooooooooooooooo!


Medical attention concluded, we started walking back. We thanked and said farewell to the still smiling marshals who remained at their posts.

Then, with a terrifying familiarity the woodrun surveillance team materialised in front of us.  They had some pretext of running the afternoon challenge, but well, you know.  What with the drone earlier, I’m not sure. They seem perfectly lovely, but they would, wouldn’t they, otherwise how could they move amongst us so silently and undetected?

woodrun spies

It was like being in Sheffield by the Lakes as walking onwards we picked up more and more Smilies heading back and met more and more walking out for their afternoon romp.  For our part we Smilies shared our race experiences and reassured one another there were no hard feelings left over from our hard finish.  We are all Smilies, we are bigger than that!  Probably.

It was nice to see Smilies gathering en masse.  I was a bit taken aback by the rather blatant transfusion of haemoglobin en route to give competitive advantage re oxygen levels during the race, by one of our number, but then again, it does explain her awesome finish times.  I think it was that, someone else said it was red wine in her hydration pack.  Well, whatever works for you I suppose…. you couldn’t accuse her of being underhand anyway.  Shameless rather.


It was lovely to wave the afternoon runners on their merry way.   At this stage they were exuding hope and joy, entirely innocent of the knowledge of the mighty hill to climb ahead.  Bless.  It seemed only humane to let her carry on ignorant of what lay ahead for as long as possible.  Disillusion arrives soon enough for all of us.

happy innocence

Back to the hostel.  It was somewhat chaotic, with the YHA staff frantically hoovering around our bags in the lobby they clearly didn’t want us to hang around, that cup of tea and change of clothes I’d be hoping for wasn’t going to happen.  No worries, I changed my socks and shoes, and ate most of the contents of a crisp multi-pack which was great actually, as I was craving salt.

Then, reunited with my car-pool buddies we piled back in and off we went.  A straight and scenic run back to Sheffield by happy chance of avoiding the M6 in favour of the A66 (I think) stunning scenery and Autumn sunshine accompanied us home.

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

It was like a mini-bereavement being dropped off home.  The weekend is over, we are left with nothing but memories.  Fortunately they are all fine ones.  Wonder if we really will do it all again next year?

If we do, any more for any more?  Here are the filthy foursome – once again, in case you missed them earlier. It’s definitely doable, and some of the Smilies out there have unfinished business I know!

Filthy Foursome

They only look slightly manic in the circumstances, and not really grubby at all. I’m a little disappointed they haven’t double bagged their T-shirts – you know green from Saturday, Yellow from Sunday and Smiley Vest because – well that’s only right and proper. But hey, great pioneering work their team.  Same again next year I take it?  Or are you seeking a Fetid Five by somehow weaving in the 5k sports trail that seems to have slipped in as a Saturday special?

Oh you want to know the route?  I knew I’d forgotten something.  Hang on…

Here it is, stolen again from my woodrun buddy.  It was the wet weather route, again a bit short at 5.3 miles and just 884ft elevation, though that was pretty much up a straight rock stair case to be fair.

Ullswater non sailing route

And you want the results too?  There should be a link somewhere to all the results for the Lakeland Trails Ullswater day, enjoy, or not, as you wish.

So that’s it for now.  A happy Lakeland Adventure and Epic Smiley Tour to boot.  Thanks to the Lakeland Trails folk for organising an amazing weekend of running and providing some brilliant over the two days too.   You can browse through all the Lakeland Trails photo albums here, but it might take a while.

Here are some more of the non-professional ones I can’t bear to leave out.  It’s making decisions you see.  Hopeless quest for me.

If you just want visual snapshot of the day(s), and you don’t suffer from migraines, this video fly by is quite cool. Cheers innov8.  The longer inno8 video of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend (which is officially brilliant because I say so by the way) is here.

For the organisers summary of the event and results see the newsletter here

Just remains to say thanks most of all to my lovely Smiley co-conspirators, running buddies and friends.  I feel so lucky to have found you all, and so very proud to be part of such a supportive, funny, smart and talented lot of wonder women.  Together, we can achieve anything. Go us.

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That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.


For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Well that was one hellofarun up Helvellyn! Lakeland Trails Dirty Double Helvellyn 10k 2017

Digested read:  my the Lakes are lovely.  My TomTom didn’t work which means no Strava so technically I suppose this entire weekend of running never happened, starting with the Saturday.  Oh well, worse things happen at the seaside.  The run was lovely but quite rocky. Smilies are lovely and they rock too.  We get to do it all again tomorrow.  Hurrah!

You can see how lovely we are here.  The shot is courtesy of the fine photographer man James who took heaps of amazing shots throughout the weekend. This is quite brilliant, as it means we can browse the photos and relive fond memories of the runs at will.  So, as I was saying, here we are:

gaggle of smileys

And that photo isn’t even half of us.  About 70 of us made it up to the Lakes for this epic running weekend put on by the Lakeland Trails team – in fact it is the weekend finale for a whole season of trail running adventures.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a choice of four events over two days.  You can choose just to run one, or two – hence dirty double, or if you are a Smiley on a mission you can get really filthy and do all four. Smilies have been patronising this event for a while now, so the event organisers though perplexed, will indulge outliers by letting them enter whatever they want, after all a fool and their money are easily parted are happy to cater for bespoke arrangements given sufficient notice.   I’d like to be able to make the point that this privilege was restricted to Smiley Paces participants only as a sort of VIP service in recognition of our unique awesomeness.  Alas, I can’t really. It’s true the offer wasn’t disseminated more widely, but I strongly suspect that is a reflection on lack of other takers rather than Smiley exclusivity. Who cares. Smilies are a rare breed all the same! Go us.  Or go them, the fabulous filthy four people, not me obviously. I mean why would I?  Here they are though, for ease of reference.  Maybe a somewhat manic look in their eyes, but I don’t think the lay person could necessarily tell by looking just how suggestible they all are.  Maybe a hypnotherapist would know?  I must ask my carpet cleaner.  He did a weight-loss hypnotherapy group session and it was really good apparently, well worth the minor inconvenience of having to bring your own duvet.   Lost loads of weight with no effort since.  His insight on how it works is that hypnotherapists can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do anyway, but they can sort of help trigger the will power to do so.  Even so, it seems to me strange how this quartet was running but the person whose bright idea it was to demand such an offering was mysteriously ‘otherwise engaged’.  Definitely dark arts at work there somewhere.   Oh well, ours is not to reason why….

Filthy Foursome

I was going along for two times 10k, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday, involving a boat, a steamer to be precise.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As far as Saturday goes, the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah about this event says:

Lakeland Trails in Helvellyn, Saturday 14th October 2017

Starting and finishing at Jenkins Field (CA11 OUS), on the shores of Ullswater in Glenridding, the NEW! 5km Helvellyn Sport Trail, 10km Helvellyn Trail Run, 15km Helvellyn Trail Race and 15km Helvellyn Trail Challenge follow circuits along well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways that take you into the foothills of Helvellyn, with elevated panoramic views of Ullswater, and dramatic vistas of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks. Underfoot conditions are generally good for those used to off road running, but can be tricky in places.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Ullswater event the day after? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend here.

Doesn’t that all sound lovely. But first things first.  Got to get to the start line from the dorm first of all.

sleep well

To be fair. The accommodation was good, even though there were eight of us to a dorm it is spacious, but I just don’t sleep well with other people in the room.  It’s not so much that I’m disturbed by then. Quite the opposite, I seem to spend the whole night in that half-awake half-asleep twilight zone fearing dropping off too deeply in case I snore like a train and wake everyone else up. I have been told on different occasions that I’m ‘completely silent’ and ‘oops, yep, bit noisy there to be honest’, so I suppose the truth is somewhere in between.  Even so, I’d hate to be driven out of the Smilies by secret ballot for anti social nocturnal habits not of my choosing.   Or worse yet, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, manifested in averted eyes, spotting groups whispering in corners that fall silent as I pass. The shaking of heads, the pitying looks.  Smilies are too nice to be horrible to me because of any such failing, but I’d feel the burden of shame for having let everyone down. PBs missed because of collective sleep deprivation that was all my fault.  No wonder I can’t sleep in a dorm.  It’s a nightmare.  Ironically, because even with a nightmare you’d get some kip.

Then there’s the ‘I’m bound to need to get up for  a pee‘ angst, the horror of which was massively exacerbated by being a dorm with the squeakiest and bangiest door known to human kind. FACT.  Once I’ve had that thought, speaking personally, it is just a question of how long I can reasonably hold out before giving in to the inevitable.  I did have to get up in the night twice, and yes, it was just me.  I am clearly inadequate as a human being.  And even then there is the question of are you better off fumbling in the dark and risking even more banging about or falling over and on top of a slumbering running mate or do you risk sending a shaft of torch-light onto your dorm buddies even though the beam might cause them to recoil and vaporise into dust.  I decided not to take the risk.  I was quite near the door anyway, so that was OK.

Morning came, ready or not.  I gathered up my gear and forlornly looked at my TomTom which had chosen this day of all days to go blank.  It’s never done that before, and I stupidly hadn’t brought my charger with me as it only works through my laptop – which I also hadn’t bought) and I’d fully charged it before coming.  A hard lesson to learn.  Lovely smilies various did offer up tomtom chargers, but they seem to have new models, it was to no avail.  Tragedy. La la la la, it’s a tragedy. Etc.  Naked running for me this weekend then.


Amazingly, even though there was only two showers for a squillion people I managed to get one.  It was hot, but only a trickle, still, at least I turned up fresh at the start, I don’t know that everyone else did. It’s not good when you have to do a DIY sniff test in the event HQ field at the start.  Fortunately, we are all too polite and comradely to draw attention to any such miscreant behaviour at the time.  Much better to passive aggressively mention it in a blog post later on say, and make out that no-one else within the Smiley tribe has ever been guilty of such an act pre or post chosing of kit for a run.  I think so anyway, and I’m sure you have no reason to doubt me.  You can see I was particularly poker faced about the whole thing at the time.  Why would I lie after the event?

RW sniff test

The shower bit was a win, but the general trauma of having to navigate a multitude of micro human interaction on waking,  including breakfast was positively terrifying.  After a number of false starts and being thwarted by the enormous pillar which takes up about 50% of the floor space in the communal kitchen and yet lacks a sign to indicate which is the correct way to go round it (I begin to understand why roundabouts in the UK are so confusing to those who are not previously acquainted with them). Eventually I found a corner on a table near another shell-shocked looking Smiley who appeared to be manifesting a similar stress response to situation. We ‘no speaking or even eye contact pre my first cup of tea’ people intuitively can recognise and find each other.  We exchanged brief knowing looks and then sat in comfortable silence at opposite ends of the table ignoring one another. That true camaraderie when you need it.

Post tea and porridge, which was OK, but not as nice as at home in my own microwave in my own bowl, back to the dorm and communal decision making procedures regarding ‘what to wear’. Long sleever or short sleeve?  Will there be a water station (nope).  Shoes, which shoes?  An extra layer of interest was the inspection of a room buddy’s blister. It’s not so much a blister in the traditional sense, in that it exceeds the surface area of a conventional compeed plaster, the large ones.  It was such a significant expanse that a veritable collage of compeeds were required to cover the area. Think decoupage, or is it décolletage, I can never remember.  It was very impressive though. But that too threw up more potential for concern. What if the extent of the plastering makes the shoes too tight?  Nightmare. I may have been without my TomTom but at least my feet were currently unblistered.  Count what blessings you can people.  Take nothing for granted. Nothing I tell you.

After communal faffing had run its course, we started to head off for the morning. Well, those of us doing the 10k did, the others who’d opted for the 15km in the afternoon, well I’m not sure what they did, just didn’t I suppose.  Not until later.  They were probably still drinking gin, or maybe foam rollering, I have no idea.

It was ridiculously exciting walking down to the start.  It was unexpectedly warm, light drizzle made rainbows over head and it was just gorgeous.  This is an obscenely beautiful part of the world, it really, really is.  There was a lot of water, flooding threatening to lap across the road in place, picturesque scenes and distinctive characters along the way.  Also, some very well hung young rams.  You couldn’t really not notice to be fair.  Rather unusual colour too I thought.  The wool that is, not the sheep’s tackle, I wasn’t going in for that close an inspection. Fixing the ‘caution runners’ sign on a bus stop struck me as a cruel irony, but there you go.

We got to registration a bit after 9.45 I think (our race started at 11.00 a.m.).  The event HQ was all a bustle and very jolly in my view.  The location is absolutely stunning, with boats in the water, fantastic mountain views all around and shafts of light coming through dramatic clouds to light autumnal trees in vivid golds and oranges was like a wonderland.

There were boards with lists of runners, and a course outline, you had to find your number and then join the relevant queue.  We picked up numbers and were issued with ankle tags.  I wasn’t clever enough to work out how to put this on unaided.  To be fair, I think it did require training to become adept at this. Once you know it’s easy enough but it wasn’t obvious immediately.  Maybe it would be to those used to being electronically tagged but that didn’t apply to me. Also I have tiny ankles.  No I really do.  I just looked needy until someone offered assistance, by which I mean they did it for me. Thanks Cheetah buddy. Then minutes later I brazenly helped someone else with what I hoped was the sort of confident and authoritative approach that suggested I’d known all the time and was massively competent at this whole race prep malarkey.  Pretty sure I pulled that off.  She had to help  me pin my number on straight though, so I it seems I am still ‘work in progress’ regarding my safety-pin use NVQ.  One day I’ll get there maybe, if I really try to apply myself…

Numbers on, baggage dropped, there was plenty of time to go for an explore. There were lots of loos, but alas they were not quite like the luxury portaloos in attendance at the Sheffield TenTenTen last weekend.  At least one Smiley, who shall be nameless was horrified by them.  It is true, it was something of an act of faith to take a pew over the open-pit below, there was no discrete barrier between yourself and the effluent of a thousand previous runners.  You do have a somewhat irrational fear of falling in, but given I can hardly climb into a hoop these days it’s fairly low risk I’ll plummet down a toilet bowl.  Brilliant for the comedic value of hearing about the outrage of an exiting Smiley declaiming at inappropriate volume ‘never have I seen so much shit!  I have had to perform on someone elses shit! Can you believe the shit in there!’ and so on. Bit of a theme there.  I’m more of a half full person myself. At least we had the loos, and to be fair they were most definitely at least half full.  Still, it’s good that Smilies speak their mind, you know where you stand then don’t you? …  Or nervously squat depending on the context.

obligatory loo shot


It was pretty much idyllic if you stopped looking down the loos and instead took the time to look up at the sky.  A rainbow, absent Smiley smiling down on us we like to think 🙂

Absent friends

Naturally, the setting required lots of photos and the taking of a great many selfies, as well as asking for outside assistance for group shots.  Handily, the jauntily legged photographer was obligingly taking loads of awesome photos and happy to help us too.  He took this one of me.

smiley view point

At the time I was taking this picture I think:


He wins with his shot.  Not only because it has the captivating image of a Smiley within it.  He got my best side too.  I have a feeling he may have taken photos before.  We got him to take one of me and Cheetah Buddy, contemplating the muddy road ahead, but that is still to come, meantime here is one my Dig Deep buddy took of us instead.

get a grip eh

Nice photography man James Jumpy Kirby also had the best leggings ever.  A bespoke item of couture that is genuinely unique. I had running kit envy I will admit. Still, it’s not a look everyone can carry off, so maybe the world has been spared the sight of me flaunting them in public.

Anyways, after our private photo shoot, he said he was seeking a smiley group shot, so I undertook to try to corral as many as I could.  It’s not an easy task, but I achieved moderate success.  Unbelievably, this picture is only half of us who went for the weekend.  It is quite extraordinary when you think about it, that 75 individuals would make the collective trip from Sheffield to Glen Ridding for this weekend away.  It makes my heart swell with pride to be part of this amazing group of women. Smiley Paces solidarity and support is remarkable, infectious and life-affirming.  Go Smilies indeed.  We can be a force for good in this world collectively, we really can. Or at least have a lot of laughs along the way, which amounts to the same thing.

VP milling

It is a rare thing indeed for me to be in a Smiley group shot, as usually I haven’t got back in time from the run to join the after snaps, so this picture makes me especially happy.

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Then there was lots more chilling and milling and chatting and selfie taking as we made our own entertainment before the off.

As the starting time drew nearer the atmosphere built. There were drummers!

drummers drumming

Instant party, I’d have been up for strutting some funky stuff, but alas, didn’t realise the party was happening elsewhere until later. Still, there’s always next year I suppose….  I’ll know who to hang out with for the ‘dance like no one is watching‘ detail.   Happy to embrace being a part of that.   I really liked the drummers, I think they would be a boon at any event.  Note to self, must tell Round Sheffield Run people.  They can’t rest on their organisational laurels for ever.  A small army of drummers is clearly the way forward for future event village entertainment innovations.

party on

I’m not sure they should have been displaying this disinhibition quite so close to the baggage sign however. Bit of feedback for you for next time perhaps?


You’re welcome.

Eventually, the shout went us to get us to the start funnel, and there was a cheery count down to awf!

starting line up

It was fun yomping off across the grass. Music was playing, there were some supporters lining the route.  It was all very good-natured.  We yomped back on ourselves round the field, and then quick bolt across the road past waving marshals, and soon we were heading up hill. I don’t know why it is that I continue to be caught out ever single time I do an event by two particular things which are annoyingly commonplace, ubiquitous even. Firstly, you are expected to run! Right from the start.  No really you are.  And secondly, that it often necessitates running up hill.  Despite the alluring vision of the gorgeous mountains all around us, I still felt the element of surprise as the realisation dawned that we were being required to run up one of them.

I tried my best I really did. The surface under foot was quite hard for me.  I love my innov8 parkclaws but their cushioning is limited. The path was stones, and fractured rocks.   Often running with water.  Very little mud actually, and the first part was really a grit path.

One boon about a mass Smiley presence at an event, is that rather like rats in a city, you are never far from a Smiley on a run.  This is mostly fine, but it does mean you get caught out slacking rather quickly.  Quite a few overtook me early on, but I think I blagged it OK, but explaining I was just waiting for them to catch up with me so I knew they were ok and then I’d  let them get ahead a bit so I’d have something to chase. They are bound to have believed that line aren’t they?  A trusting lot Smilies, not infected with the bitter cynicism that generally infuses me.  I can use their good naturedness as cover for my dark inner soul, so that’s good.

The hill went up and up. One car cautiously pushed through down the road –  I think it was probably full of other runners going down to register for the afternoon race. They waved at us cheerily as they crept by.  I was naked running without my Tomtom so had no idea what was going on.  I don’t really think I look at my watch when I run, but I like to have it so I can see retrospectively the route and elevation.  However, I’d forgotten that my TomTom vibrates every mile, and that’s really good for knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you’ve still to go. It was weird having absolutely no idea of time or distance that had passed, especially on a completely unknown route.  Still, Smiley buddies in abundance helped rally the weak:

en route somewhere

There was lots to look at to distract me though. There was the cowbell ringing marshal, some random guests at a cottage en route, laughing in disbelief but cheering with enthusiasm as we sped (ahem) by.

One passer-by saw me slurping from my water bottle and thought I was having a drag on an e-cigarette mid race.  Not an easy mistake to make.  I think from his tone he was more impressed than judgemental to be fair!

Onward I went, trying not to be discouraged by sight of runners other side of gushing torrent of a stream, high up on the hill, snaking across the mountain side like a trail of soldier ants.

They looked amazing though, like a stretch of colourful bunting flags draped across the mountain side:

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We carried on alongside a bulging stream that raged past in a positive torrent. Then over a little bridge and turning back, but along the steep and rocky mountain path.  It was very beautiful, but extremely wet.  Running water basically.  As I pushed onwards, cautiously, I met a fellow Smiley turning back as vertigo had got the better of her.  A DNF is always a sad, sad thing, but we had plenty of photos early on so that’s a run really is it not?  And a DNF is way better than a ‘fell off the cliff edge’ or ‘remains frozen to the spot on a mountain ledge three days later’ which are the alternative options as I understand it.

The really narrow steep bit had to be picked through at a walk.  This was companionable, as you could chit-chat a bit with other runners as you were practically stationary anyway.  I met again the nice lady I’d been talking to in the loo queue earlier.

Then there was the super friendly marshal with his hi-vis wearing sheep who was a personal favourite of mine going round. That’s really making an effort marshaling wise isn’t it?

high vis sheep


It was pretty steep to be fair. Some runners ahead were holding bits of bracken for reassurance as they crept along.  Not sure that having your fingertips gripping the end of a frond of bracken would offer much in the way of brakes in the event of a fall, but it seemed to bring psychological comfort, so that’s grand!  This runner looks like he was managing without hanging onto foliage as he ran, but you can see some of the lovely colours of the burnt orange autumnal bracken, and that’s the main thing.  Obvs.

burnt orange bracken

As I yomped onwards, alas I came upon a sorry sight.  Two of the fearsome filthy foursome smilies had abandoned their run and were with an injured participant. They were walking her down, trying to cheerily chat with her having got her nicely wrapped up in a foil blanket. She’d had a bad fall and rather spectacularly broken her wrist.  I offered help but was assured there wasn’t much I could do beyond making sure the marshals ahead were aware of what had happened, which they should have been already.  It did feel wrong leaving them, but logic dictated there was no point in me staying too.  It was a harsh reminder of the need to respect the environment, and how quickly you can get cold if you  do have to slow or stop.  I decided to concentrate a bit more and left off taking so many pictures until the terrain was a bit more predictable.

Marshals came and went, views were consistently spectacular and the wind picked up and dropped. Water continued to gush from everywhere, like running across the deck of a sinking ship maybe… bolts flying out of the wood as the water pressure builds and the boards awash with white water.

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Ahead of me other running buddies were also pausing for selfies and nearly stepping backwards off the edge – how I laughed!  I shouldn’t really can end badly like that poor student at the Seven Sisters cliff edge the other week…  I did offer to take a photo for them too, before skipping onward myself, past the teasingly positioned bench placed at a handy view-point, daring any runner to stop and soak up the scene in favour or running onwards….

selfie buddies

Finally we started to descend. There was a brief interlude along a nice bit of woodland track before ae tell-tale but appreciated ‘Smile’ sign so you know what’s coming.

Quick pause to hoik my knickers and put my camera away so I could look ‘natural’ running round the corner and into frame …  I think I cracked it.  It’s all too easy for the shallow, ignorant and ill-informed to ridicule the running style of others.  I find levitating the more challenging sections of terrain reduces the chance of concussion related running injuries.  I do concede looking around seven years old as a consequence is an unfortunate side effect, but we runners are prepared to make sacrifices to achieve results.  Just so you know:

LT me levitating again

Whilst I went for the nonchalant and unaffected running look, others with more exhibitionist tendencies shamelessly played to the camera. There were a few contenders for the ‘seen a photographer’ award but these are my personal favourites.  I particularly like the departure from convention with the jumping with poles shot, the artistic challenge to conventional boundaries in personal space where the guy leans in to the photographer daring him to hold his nerve and the team shot. Glorious. Bravo all of you, and thanks to everyone who made the effort on the day.  Was great fun choosing my favourites, a fact which I’m sure will please you one day, if you ever get to give it even a moment’s thought in passing.

Obviously, Smiley Club members were all hard-core runners speeding by with awesome running form. Look at them go. It is a fact doing jazz hands makes you go faster, so does smiling and waving, that’s why we are all so awesome in our running performances:

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Run shots secured, the end of the run came quickly.  More cheery marshals and we were onto a section of road.

Up until this point I’d been running with two other women who I’d assumed to be friends what with their raucous laughter and joint selfie taking on the way round (women after my own heart).  However, as soon as we got onto the rough tarmac, one runner shot ahead abandoning her running buddy entirely calling out by way of explanation  ‘she’s a pain in the neck‘ as she did so.  I was shocked, and looked it. I mean only minutes earlier we were all looking out for each other – she even alerted me to the fact I’d got a bit of mud on my legs going round at one point.  That was sporting.


She repeated ‘she’s a pin in her leg’ it means I stay with her when the ground’s uneven but she’ll be Ok now’.  Oh Ok. That made more sense.  We all found our own rhythm and were soon separated once again.

There followed a bit of road running, never my forte, but I had to abandon all hope of slacking off as I espied woodrun leaders walking in nonchalantly.  The more naive Smiley may have thought they were there to offer support, and indeed they attempted to support this cover story by clapping and cheering as I passed – but I suspect we woodrunners were just under surveillance.  Those accelerate spies are everywhere!


A band of other Smilies were along the path and lined up to give me a high-five en masse.  Love Smilies.  They were horrified that I wanted to stop and photograph them afterwards though. Different priorities I suppose…

Suddenly the end was in sight. over the road, down the tunnel of innovate flags, arms outstretched for a glorious finish..,

RW me running in

What a misdirection of effort that was!  It wasn’t the finish at all, we were made to do an extra keyhole shaped loop round the field and back on ourselves which nearly ruddy killed me. I had to hide briefly behind the tree at the far point so I could get my breath back before coming back round to the finish tunnel.  I think I got away with it, phew…  That was a nasty surprise though.  I thought the hill at the end of the Wingerworth Wobble was bad, but at least we were forewarned about that! This was finish route by subterfuge.  Not good!

Oh well, it was worth it, cheered in, and into the arms of welcoming marshals to relieve you of your tag and placate you with a T-shirt.  It was green this time, different for each race.  This is an acceptable colour I think, though I have a great many race T-shirts I’ve never been brave enough to wear in public due to their fluorescent overtones. The lime green Sheffield Half T-shirt being particularly vile even amongst the vile.  TenTenTen from 2016 is probably the best.

Into the tent to get my bag and jumper and there to my surprise and delight I encountered the two saviour smilies who’d walked down with the fallen.


They’d pretty much had to come the whole way down, but then were able to race to finish.  TEchnically not the intended route, but well deserved.  Hurrah!  No need to write an article for Runner’s World explaining why methinks. I was delighted because I was worried they’d still be stuck out there waiting for mountain rescue and miss out on the chance to belt round the Filthy Four.  They were in surprisingly good spirits, so that was fine.

RW smiley saviours

I commiserated with them that they maybe hadn’t had the race they’d wished for.  This got onto the topic of ‘really annoying things other people do at races’.  Apparently, one of the worst things for one of these two, is someone running with loose change in their pockets, jingling away.  Capital offence at least in terms of its annoyingness.  This neatly segued into my suggestion of cheering the mood by indulging in ‘fantasy rage scenarios’ i.e. when you fondly imagine what you would have done if only it were possible, socially acceptable and/or legal.  Or at the very least you thought you’d get away with it undiscovered.  To my extreme disappointment, they initially misjudged my suggestion, taking it to be the altogether nicer ‘let’s change the subject’ and talk of ‘Fantasy Race Scenarios’.  As if that would be any good when you need to allow a fellow human being the catharsis of expressing their rage. Besides, we already have a fantasy race in the form of the aforementioned Round Sheffield Run – though even that could be improved with more unicorns and rainbows (which I’ve fed back every year to a wall of silence) and the attendance of a band of drummers.   I soon put her right, and we had a great time thinking of appropriate ways to act out ire.  It’s not appropriate to go into them all here, but the notion that loose change in a pocket might spontaneously heat up into liquid metal, run down the legs and reform into an ankle shackles was pleasing.  It would have the added bonus of preventing offenders from running onwards, so very practical also.  I was very glad to be able to drag down my fellow smilies to my pond life levels of social interaction.   My work is done.

By now I was feeling the cold, so I just cheered a few last runners in, and then began the walk home with two of my car share buddies.   We were in dire need of coffee, but decided to walk towards the Youth hostel to find some, rather than get further away into town where to be fair the options were much better but it would take longer to get back and changed.  The options weren’t many, but we found a post office come shop that sold pretty much everything, including surprisingly serviceable coffee, which you bought in the store and sat and drank in a sort of converted garage space next door.  Not the most salubrious of surroundings but acceptable all the same.

Coffee drunk, back to the hostel where we cleaned off our shoes and left them in the ironically titled drying room. To be fair it was warm in there, but nothing really seemed to dry. I suppose it was a tall order given the number of soaked items of footwear festooned around.  Enough to cure a shoe fetishist by sensory overload surely?

KH shoes

I was very glad of a hot shower whether just a dribble or not.  Lunch was bread and cheese and peanut butter yum. Then a snooze, pleasantly interrupted at intervals by returning smilies who could regale me with their adventures from the day.  There may have been a little bit of opportunistic T-shirt stroking as well now I come to think of it.  Well, it was a Les Brutelles one, you have to don’t you?

T shirt covetousness

In the evening it was one mass communal meal.  A practical option, if not the most inspired of menus.  Then there was chatting, sharing stories and general spreading of Smiley good will.  I opted for an earlyish night and dorm chats like a sleepover for grown ups, others revelled through to the small hours having come supplied. And quite right too!  I’m sure gin counts as a carb, and carbing up was needed if you were doing it all again come the morrow.

food for weekend

So that was it for Saturday.  For the morning runners anyway.  Other runners were available, there was a veritable plague of Smilies out on them there hills at times!  Even with some disguising themselves in mufti, we were still a force to be reckoned with, although thankfully a benign one in the main.

I’m not really fussed about times but full 2017 Helvellyn results are here for those of you who mind about or even notice such details.

Oh, and as for the route?  Well, as you know I had an epic fail where route recording is concerned so I’ve had to steal a Strava screen shot from a woodrun buddy – frankly from my point of view it’s  probably a blessing not to have my noticeably less impressive rendering of the route posted on-line for posterity.  Hopefully casual readers will assume this is me. Massively improving my running recently.  Inspirational stuff even.  Go me!  Don’t let on dear reader, please don’t…

Helvellyn route Lakes Dirty Double

It was actually a bit short of 10k, coming in at 5.3 miles (don’t know what that is in kilometers and can’t be bothered to google it) with 1,074 ft of elevation. So now you know.

Run one down.  And  you know what. It was glorious.  Tomorrow, you get to do it all again.  Fabulousness upon fabulousness, how lucky are we.

So exciting.

So well done Smiley Buddies one and all.  This going en masse to the Lakes malarkey is a very fine thing indeed.   How lucky are we to have one who moves amongst us willing to put in the work to make it so.  Smiley Magic Maker – we salute you!

Smiley magic maker

Who knows what tomorrow may bring… patience people, the time will come!

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

And so it began … venturing into the unknown departing to join the Dirty Double

Digested Read:  This weekend, a whole load of Smiley Paces Awesomeness decamped to the Lake District for a weekend running the Lakeland Trails.  Packing was a nightmare.   I got a lift up with four Smiley comrades.  Our very own road trip.   It took a lot of faffing to get us all there, but we made it.  Yay!  Youth Hostels are a lot nicer than I remembered.  The sun does not always shine in the lake district.  Who knew?

lakeland trails logo

The longest journey starts with just a single step. That’s how the saying goes. I suppose technically that’s true, you can’t really argue with the literal interpretation of that, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Case in point.  The Smiley Paces annual outing to the Lakes.  The origins of why this trip are largely lost in history, but a brief excursion into  the archeological records of the Smiley Facebook page suggest it had a lot to do with a scouting party of Smilies spontaneously heading to the Lakes some years ago, having a lot of running-related fun and deciding to share the love by bringing a whole load more smilies in their wake the following year.  A lot of prosecco was drunk too, which probably helped, until to a raucous chorus of ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ the seed of an idea that ultimately led to the birth of the annual Smiley Trip to the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double Lakes trip was born.  The rest as they say, is history.  Or more accurately the stuff of legend.

We Smiley Paces folk are fortunate in that we are blessed with a logistical genius who can make things so.   Hence, for the past couple of years Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s running club have decamped en masse to the land of the lakes where the sun always shines, to take part in the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend of running related fun around Helvellyn and Ullswater.  Basically, there are two runs on each day, a morning 10k and an afternoon 14k or 15k depending on the day.  You can run just one race if you want, but why not do one on each day and sign up for the Dirty Double Delight of getting soaked on two consecutive days?  Alternatively you could be a really hard-core pumped up Smiley and request the opportunity to do the Filthy Four and enter all of them. If you are going to do that, it’s a brilliant strategy to commandeer a whole load of other Smilies to join in too, and then drop out at the last-minute on some unexpected and/or handy pretext such as a child’s birthday (your own offspring’s not some random other child) or perhaps a broken foot.  Inexplicably, whilst the Dirty Double already has a link to it live on the Lakeland Trail website multiple entries info for 2018, the Filthy Foursome doesn’t appear to get a mention.  A Smiley Special offering it seems.  I wonder why?

On the Sunday, you get to take a boat to the start, only you don’t because it keeps being cancelled due to high winds and torrential rain.  Apparently last year it was when the event HQ marquee blew away from its moorings and tumbled off into Ullswater that participants had to concede hope over experience can only get you so far and no ferries were going anywhere, still, there’s always next year eh?  Or as it’s now next year, this.  (Keep up).

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make, is the weekend finally dawned. The 2017 Lakeland Trails Dirty Double (and Filthy Four) main event, and we Smilies were heading out if not exactly in convoy, then as moths to a flame or trail runners to mud.  We were coming to Glenridding whether the events organisers were ready or not!  The numbers have swelled over time as Smilies are a collegiate lot who like to share the love, and from just a half-dozen or so the first year, the group became 40+ last year – booking out the whole of Patterdale Youth Hostel for the occasion last year to a positive bulge of seventy-five Smilies hoping to get there in 2017. The YHA was once again booked out for our exclusive use,  the were races entered, the prosecco was bought, the event was on.   Yay!


We’re all going on a running holiday
Lots of running for a day or two.
Fun and laughter on our running holiday,
No more worries for me or you,
For a day or two.

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the lakes are blue.
We’ve all seen it on Facebook posts,
Now let’s see if it’s true.

Every runner wants a running holiday
Doin’ runs they always wanted to
So we’re going on a Smiley holiday,
To make our running dreams come true
For me and you.
For me and you.

So, obviously, I didn’t want to miss out.  In the euphoria of coming back from the last trip, participants conveniently forgot all about the torrential horizontal rain, brushes with hypothermia and ending up in A&E parts of the collective Smiley excursion.  Rather they regaled us with tales of shared laughter, joyful scenery and bonding in front of an open fire amidst a veritable upturned bottle bank of empty and ongoing prosecco receptacles.  Great!  You have to admire and embrace the optimism and celebratory qualities of fellow Smilies, but sometimes you do also need to contextualize it with the visual evidence to the contrary.  Not that hope over experience isn’t lovely, but a bit of triangulation of the evidence can help to manage expectations, that’s all I’m saying.

Clearly, I’m shallow and susceptible to peer pressure so signed up for this 2017 sojourn at the first possible opportunity.   Yes, we’d have to share a dorm, but hey ho, I’m a grown up it’ll be fine.  It’s only two little 10ks it’ll be lovely.  I’ll just throw my running gear into a little bag with my tooth-brush and a clean pair of knickers and away I go.  Travelling light, leaving nothing but footprints, taking nothing but photos.

Oh. My.  Gawd!  Do you have any idea how much stress is involved in packing for a two-day running trip? I am in the midst of moving house and I swear that I got way more stressed sorting myself for the Dirty Double outing than I am over moving or when I had to pack for a three-month trip to Cambodia.  It’s a nightmare I tell you.  How on earth people manage to pack kit for a triathlon overseas I have no idea.  I was thinking of becoming a professional sports personality, but it’s just not worth the bother of trying to qualify for the GB team (other teams are available) unless you have staff to do your packing, logistics and kit for you.  Make your own choices, I can only speak from my own personal experience, but whilst the trip was most definitely worth the effort, it was most angsty preparing for it.

There’s the what to wear aspect.  Two days running in potentially foul weather means a lot of kit. Then you are going to get your shoes full of water so that means two sets of shoes potentially. I knew almost intuitively trail shoes were to be order of day. Well, I say trail shoes, but maybe fell?  Oh gawd…  These runners are fell over a lot on the terrain earlier in the year, so that would suggest fell might be best?

Trail shoes suggested

No shoes in the youth hostel so you need slippers for inside and ‘normal’ shoes for when not running. Then warm clothes because the lakes are cold, and wet weather gear because it always rains in the Lakes whatever unlikely tale last year’s graduates may have tried to spin. Then there was the kit requirements for Ullswater:

Mandatory Kit List – Cagoule, tights or over trousers, hat and gloves. The Ullswater Trail is unique and follows one of the most beautiful lakeside trails in the UK. Access is difficult for a large section of the route, and safety teams can only reach it by boat. For this reason, we have a mandatory safety kit list which you must bring with you (wearing or carrying). This will be checked before you board the Steamer, and we will be running spot checks at the finish.

Upshot was I did not travel light.  I pretty much emptied my entire running wardrobe into a squishy sports bag and then wore every other item of clothing I possess in a futile attempt to make it look like I had less stuff than I did, like some people do to avoid paying luggage excess before flying.  It remains a mystery to me that I can still expect on pretty much any trip I undertake not to use half the stuff I’ve brought with me and yet still have ommited to bring one or two items of crucial significance. This weekend amongst those items on the latter list was the charger for my TomTom.  Oh well, we live and we (sometimes) learn.

Then there was the minefield of collective catering.  What to bring?  Enough for the occupants of your car?  Enough for your dorm allocation?  Enough for all Smilies in attendance?  Enough for all smilies everywhere, past, present and still to come?   Yes, that, the last one, and a bit extra ‘just in case’.  Tell you what, feeding five thousand barely registers as food provision in Smiley terms, collectively we could feed the world!  What about nightwear? Oh my gawd, I forgot that. And then you’ll need to change after running.

My only consolation was that fevered messages were exchanged by others too.  Well I say consolation, but in many ways it also created further potential for angst as I thought of new things to stress about.  Someone suggested a bike would be a boon as it’s about a mile and a bit from the start to the hostel, and if you are doing lots of trips that saves a lot of walking.  Then there was the reminder that at Patterdale Youth Hostel there is no wifi and no phone signal?  ‘I’ll have to pack carrier pigeons as well now’, I thought, and yet in my heart of hearts I knew that 2 hours pre departure time there was insufficient time to source such birds, let alone train them.  My favourite post though was the plea for someone to lend them an extra Smiley Vest as they were doing multiple runs and were worried about their pong quotient exceeding acceptable levels if they had to wear the same top throughout.  Of course lovely smilies offered up a multitude of tops to borrow, but one wryly observed this request would never in a million years have been posted by members of her other running group.  Hard core, out of the peat Dark Peak Runners who can run in shorts through ice and snow-covered peaks aren’t going to let whiffy kit scare them on a weekend away.  That made me laugh.  A lot. So true.  Smilies are hard-core runners too of course, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate wearing kit that’s come laundry fresh straight from an intensive sport cycle on the washing machine if we are about to tackle vertiginous terrain!

The countdown to Dirty Double Departure day included regular updates from the Lakeland Trails Facebook Page.  Although this included handy stuff about starting lists it also alerted us to the possibility of, well let’s just say ‘inclement weather’ shall we.  Here was the parking field a couple of days out. Ooops.

parking plan

But we didn’t need to rely on them to tell us what was happening. The BBC was also obligingly keeping us up to date.  Well, this is a Smiley escapade we are talking about, what could be more newsworthy and in the national interest than making sure we were all up to speed with the potential running conditions in the Lakes?

cumbria flooding

To be honest, it was a bit like the relief of exam day when Friday finally dawned, and it was too late to do any last-minute purchasing or packing adjustments!

My cheetah smiley buddy had offered to drive.  Not only that, but she’d worked out a logistics timetable for pickups.  She arrived at mine to the minute, having even rung (hands free) en route to let me know she was on schedule.  I mean you can’t buy that sort of attention to detail.  So it was, five of us were all a-jolly in the car and off to Patterdale by 1.30 on Friday afternoon.   Food in the car boot, squidgy bags in the roof box, and away we went.

We were soon off doing our very own road trip. Exactly like Thelma and Louise, except that we were five people not two, and there was no sexual assault or murder en route and we didn’t have to drive off a cliff edge as a finale. But otherwise identical – oh apart from the weather.  Our road trip was less desert dust and cloudless skies and more horizontal rain.  So basically same same.


Smiley catch up was mandatory of course.  De-brief of the contents of every food bag.  Detailed cross comparison of packing choices.  Speculation about the weekend ahead. That kind of thing.  A micro adventure.  One of our party wanted to stop to stock up on further provisions.  ‘Only if there’s a waitrose or M&S en route‘ because we have our Smiley standards it seems.   Even more  hilariously, there was! One of the service stations had an M&S food outlet so we all decamped and got emergency rations that we suddenly realised we wouldn’t be able to manage without like honey roasted cashew nuts, that kind of thing. Well, they weren’t just honey roasted and salted cashew nuts…. as the advertising slogan reminds us!

We left Sheffield in glorious sunshine.

The weather worsened en route.  Here are some scenic shots along the way:

Despite the weather, we did get the occasional glimpse of the surrounding scenery and it did look super awesome.  I can’t lie, I wasn’t over enamoured at the thought of running not only in torrential rain, but essentially through flooded rivers throughout, but I was comforted that I’d be doing so with a veritable Smiley army of compatriots, plus wet water running is really hard-core, so extra kudos would offer some compensation.   It was a pretty smooth drive up all things considered, apart from the last couple of twisty, turny miles which made me regress to being a carsick child in the back seat of the family cortina.  Why haven’t I outgrown carsickness?  It’s not fair!

Our route took as part the race start, and then just over a mile up the road – and a manageable walk meaning we’d avoid the nightmare of lack of parking and shuttle buses from Penrith entirely by being able to companionable amble down to the races each morning and afternoon.  Handy indeed.  I mean, it’s very impressive (no it really is) that the Lakeland Trail organisers had such an effective wet weather contingency plan, but that would be a whole new level of angsty faff to add to my neuroses, and that I am very glad to have avoided.  Big buses aren’t they? I think I’d definitely have heaved in one of them on the windy roads.

shuttle bus

Finally, we were there! YHA Patterdale!  It is pretty impressive. HUGE.  We disgorged from the car and padded across the entrance….

I was so glad to be heading in to an actual building. The camping fantasy is all well and good, but really, would you?


We kicked off our feet as we entered and found it all brilliantly organised within. There were lists of who was in what dorm.  A fantastic communal area with enormous squidgy arm chairs and a roaring fire. The kitchen was miniscule, and soon over-flowing with Smiley tuck bags.  The dorms were simple but spacious and everywhere was immaculately clean.  It was also incredibly and unexpectedly hot. Every radiator was blasting out heat.  That I did not expect.  Youth Hostels have evolved a lot from the grim austere dorms I remember from my youth.  Not that I stayed in them very often, but the memory of communal cleaning and the horrors of huge dorms lives with me still.

I was quite excited to find myself in a dorm with predominately woodrun folk.  Who are not to be confused with woodcraft folk which is something else entirely, nor folk dancing which is also a different skill set altogether.  I have been inwardly speculating for some time how our Smiley leader arrived at her final lists for dorm allocations. Does she pick names from a hat? Does she randomly allocate by numbering off room numbers against an alphabetical list?  I think not. My current favoured scenario, is that she operates from a sort of subterranean bat cave, and has a huge wall of glass on which she draws colourful overlapping circles to create a flowing montage of Venn diagrams. Like they do in contemporary detective dramas when they are trying to be all high-tech.  There would be a circle for woodrunners; another for triathletes; snorers would have their own sub circle somewhere and so on.  She’d overlay this diagram with one of the dorms and then using some sort of statistical fairy dust arrive at a ‘best case’ matching scenario to ensure no-one is left all alone with no special friend to hang out with, but all also get the chance to make new friends too.

glass board

I’ve since had some inside information on this, and it seems that – other than the subterranean bit – I was way out. She actually operates from an underground military bunker.  She has a huge map of the destination, and a variety of shaped elastoline (or plastic) figurines, and then she pushes the figures around using those little rectangular ended sticks.  Whatever strategy it is, it seems to work. Respect for that.

We did some milling and loitering. Poking the fire and sharing anticipatory excitement angst with other Smilies that had also just arrived. The Youth Hostel is pretty amazing, my photos don’t really do it justice:

The views were just amazing. Hang on, I’ll steal photos from someone else with better photographic skills:

CF hostel view

and the hostel was pretty swish too:

There you go…  I’ll do my best getting some photos for you by way of illustration, but you need to appreciate there’s a lot of photos to sort through you know. It’s not like the olden days when you waited four weeks and then got your 12 bonus print shots back from the printer with stickers on them telling you they were blurred or over-exposed because you were a failure as a camera operative. Those were the good old days when you didn’t really have to choose between photos because there was only one useable offering worthy of retention let alone display. Nowadays in this digital age there are thousands. What’s a blogger to do? You have no idea how I suffer for my questionable art. …. no idea at all.  How could you.  If you saw how exorcised I was trying to pick out my most suitable pair of running socks to take with me to the lakes when they are even the same make just at different stages of wear and tear, then you might get some small insight into the paralysing effects of being faced with thousands of alternative Smiley sourced photos from which to choose.  It’s hard being me. It really is. To be fair knowing me or hanging out with me is even harder, but at least people in those categories don’t have to do so 24/7.

Never mind, whilst I was hobnobbing with the sofa set, my more selfless and community minded traveling companions were whipping up a fabulous meal.  Choice of vegetarian or meat chilli, pasta, salad followed by cake. We even had vinaigrette dressing and parmesan cheese (not on the cake, that would be stupid).  I may have no aptitude for catering, but I clearly have considerable aptitude for tagging along with Smilies who do. It may be parasitic but at least I was appreciative, so that’s practically symbiosis. They do all the work, but I thank them for it.  They gain kudos and appreciation in return.  It might not sound quite fair and balanced to the untrained outsider, but I’m sure it must be, otherwise what would that make me?  Anyways, it was all very delicious.  And very civilised. Left to my own devices I might have had the wit to bring a sandwich with me, or possibly I’d rustle up something vegan and dubious using only the mould scraped off the interior walls and moss from the outside.  It might have been innovative even, if not actually palatable, but we’ll never know.  I did bring yorkshire tea bags along though, so that was something by way of contribution.

So there we are, Smilies all a gathering on a Friday night all set for a weekend of running adventures ahead. Who knew what the morrow would bring?

The anticipation is exciting, isn’t it! Eek.

Spoiler alert – some of what it brung is this lot:

Good eh?


For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dirty Double Dispatches Direct from the DD Devastated Dropout :(

It should have been me!   I should have been here.  Curses.

Call it a ‘conscious uncoupling’ if you will, but the bottom line is I didn’t make it through the Darwinian selection process that had to be negotiated to make it even to the start line of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double  this weekend.  You know the science, survival of the fittest and all that.  I failed. I am gutted.  Seriously gutted.  I really wanted to do this race, albeit as much for the social smiley takeover angle  as the actual running bit.  It is a measure of the extent of my mid-life crisis and/or evidence of how I must surely be a victim of alien abduction – what other possible explanation can there be as to how my sense of self has been so altered over time that I actually shed tears of frustration and disappointment about not making it away this November weekend to run around a lot in the cold.  Only a few short decades ago I went to quite considerable lengths to avoid any sporting endeavour, including regularly getting ‘lost’ between the changing rooms and playing fields whilst at school.  An act with which I can only assume my PE teacher enthusiastically colluded with, as I never once got caught.  How times change.  Now I feel deprivation and paranoia.  Why can’t I go?  It’s not fair?  Let me go and play on the fells?  Everyone else is going – why not me? Fortunately, I may be shite at running, but I can lay on a pretty darned indulgent pity party, so all was not lost!


I am fully aware of the ludicrousness of all of this.  I know other far more serious runners who have been thwarted in far more important running endeavours, but I suppose up until now I’ve been relatively lucky.  Spared injuries by my risk averse running techniques I’ve not really ever had to miss an event before, I can usually yomp round somehow.  Even if I don’t participate either with glory or dignity than at least I do so with a reasonable degree of confidence I’ll make it to the end eventually. I’m not even injured for goodness sake, just picked up some grim viral thing which has made me metamorphose from being an inspirational running blogger (ahem) into some sort of deeply unpleasant hybrid between a sweat-fountain and a phlegm factory.  One that can’t breathe to boot.  All of this is incompatible with being seen in public or walking to the chemist, let alone running anywhere or sharing a dorm.  So it is, rather late in the day and probably for the first time, I’ve come to fully appreciate it isn’t making it to the end of the race that is the real challenge, sometimes it’s just making it to the start.  For me, this weekend, in that respect, epic fail.


It seems that no sooner than I got my unlikely London Marathon Place, I’ve been plagued by illness.  This is doing nothing for my survivor guilt I don’t mind telling you.  Consequently,   I’m doing my training in reverse, almost completed my four-week taper with significant front loading in the carbing up strategy as a consequence of comfort eating.  At this rate, when my health is finally restored I’m going to have to start from scratch.  Fortunately though, today I saw by chance an episode of ‘This time next year‘ and people were telling Davina about the unlikely things they’d accomplish over the next 12 months, and what’s more apparently doing them.  (I imagine they edited out all the no-hopers/losers but let’s not dwell on that).  I hang on to the notion that I still do have time, worse things have happened to other people, especially at sea, and maybe, just maybe, this conscious uncoupling is all for the best….  It was my decision to pull out, but it was a bitter choice to make all the same.  Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but I’m in it for the long game with my running journey (I was going to say ‘career’ but that is stretching the truth too far even for me!)

So, what is it that I’ve missed out on and why?   Are you insane?  I’m missing EVERYTHING, my life is now ruined.  I’m missing out on:

  • a fab run in the Lakes (twice – a 15k round Helvellyn and another 14 k round Ullswater);
  • a boat trip with music accompaniement;
  • hanging out with awesome women for a wise-cracking weekend;
  • the retrospective hilarity of forced communal living;
  • porridge prepared and served as if ambrosia for the gods;
  • fabulous scenery;
  • limitless amusing anecdotes;
  • carrying out ethnographic research/ method acting techniques in preparation for my forthcoming running-themed murder mystery novel;
  • pasta and prosecco parties;
  • material for my running blog post finale.  A write up of this event was to be my last post pre-departure for new lands and new adventures overseas.  Curses.  No chance that could happen now.

More specifically, for those of you who haven’t been concentrating, this is/was to be basically a weekend in the lovely Lake District that offers up a smorgasbord of trail races over two consecutive days.  You can choose from a 10k or 15/14k done as a ‘race’ or as a ‘challenge’ (same route, more time to complete).  All in an awesome location, with Saturday being based round Helvellyn, and the Sunday around Ullswater – including a boat ride with a musical accompaniment.  I don’t think there was karaoke or requests as such, but jolly appealing all the same…


An advance party of Smiley Paces scouts went off last year and had a lovely time – albeit much of the pleasure was retrospective.  They experienced apocalyptic weather conditions but pulled through with the sort of camaraderie that is only generated through shared experiences of adversity and too much prosecco (or gin).  Consequently, these pathfinders pronounced the event to be overall both anecdote generating and memorable.  A plan was hatched.  Next year (which is this, now indeed in November 2016) the whole Smiley Paces club membership should decamp en masse.  Patterdale YHA was to be commandeered, and a whole new Smiley Race Tradition born.  A Smiley Takeover of the Lakeland Trails with some considerable style and  pizzazz (a word which I’ve just looked up to check for its official definition to find it means: an attractive combination of vitality and glamour – how apt).  What could possibly go wrong?


Well, actually, quite a lot.   Despite some initial apprehension, I took the plunge and signed up months ago and had been really looking forward to this for a variety of reasons, not all related to running.  There was the whole physical challenge bit of course, the trails are set against a stunning backdrop, but more so, the appeal was for a mass outing in a gorgeous location, and a big positive and supportive Smiley Party.   I’ve only once before in my life been on a mass takeover of a Youth Hostel.  It was a New Year Party and we went to a remote loch side location somewhere in Scotland.  It was a surreal experience.  I didn’t know everyone in advance, but it made for quite an intense and memorable weekend, albeit one during which I had at times felt trapped with unstable others.  There is a reason why contemporary horror films always commence with a scene which demonstrates there is no longer a mobile signal available and you are surrounded by impenetrable forest.   It gave me the idea that it would be great sometime to write maybe a murder mystery based around such a premise – you know the type of thing, dark nights, no mobile reception; inclement weather and lost on them there hills.  Patterdale YHA and a bunch of unknowing Smilies would be the perfect way to do some background research for this project.  Jessica Fletcher does it all the time, and she’s a great role model.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good at coming up with plot, so I was thinking I’d have to adopt a method acting type approach in search of material – you know, experiencing it all for real in the name of authenticity.  Regrettably therefore, had I attended, there would have had to have been a couple of unexpected murders, or near misses at the very least, but I like to think this sort of collateral damage would have been a sacrifice worth making to help bring my best-selling page turner to fruition at some future date.  I’d donate some of the profits to further Sheffield Running initiatives in general and Smiley Paces endeavours in particular obviously, so that commitment to stumping up some blood money would make it all legitimate I’m sure.  Even if some are a bit less than sold on the idea, I’m sure slaughtering another runner in the name of art would be less anti-social than not washing for 3 months say, which is another illustration of (admittedly pointless) method acting in action.

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Sooo, everything to run for.  Except, as the time drew near, I was ill.  It was quickly apparent I wasn’t going to be well enough to do the 15k /14k  distances.  I began by contacting the race organisers to see if I could swap to the 10K (they said possibly, but only on the day as the participant lists had already been finalised), but as the days ticked by I realised I’d have to cry off.  Still, ill wind as the saying goes, I missed out on doing the method based research for my trail-running themed murder mystery, but on the plus side, everyone made it back alive… this time.

Nevermind, it was the only realistic option, armed with lemsip and a newly acquired inhaler, I could enjoy the event vicariously.  If I’d thought of it, I’d even have got myself a white cat to stroke whilst I observed it all unfold in front of me.  After all, it was more fun  than expected watching the olympics and Paralympics and I didn’t get my act together to enter those, so I’d just have to stalk the pilgrims that made it to the Patterdale rendezvous and experience the event through their eyes and my diseased and misinformed imaginings.

As for now not being able to do a post on the Dirty Double on account on not actually being there.  Well, sod that.  One should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, it might even be an advantage not having to nod too much to accuracy. It certainly helped with the write up of the Inaugural Doggy Dash 2017.  I’ll have a stab at it (though I’m not committing to using that as the murder weapon in the final version, running spikes or a moved checkpoint might be just as fatal when strategically utilised, you’ll have to wait and see….)

So back to bearing witness to the events of this glorious weekend as they unfolded.

It seemed as if even getting to the venue, let alone the start-line was rather more challenging than originally anticipated.   Committed participants had to battle past the four horsemen of the apocalypse to make it just to the start.   I was got by pestilence early on, but I was not alone.  Numbers dwindled.  Facebook posts increased in frequency as the event weekend drew nearer.  Wisdom was shared by previous runners, determined to help as many succeed as possible – albeit some of their words of wisdom were apparently valued as much as pearls before swine.  Incredibly complex logistical operations were mooted, negotiated, confirmed, abandoned and redrawn.   Rather than heading off in convoy, risking the whole running club membership being taken out in one act of sabotage, like the Royal Family, Smileys would travel separately.  They formed little break-away smiley groups and set off from different locations and at different times to confuse any enemies.  To ensure this cover was absolute, they also confused each other quite a lot, and there were relatively few passengers or drivers who had any concept of who they might be traveling with let alone where or when.  Bit like a secret santa.  You have a vague idea presents are to be exchanged, but don’t dwell too much on the details of their exact origins, just go with the flow, pretend to be delighted with the comedy christmas socks or thong and move on.


Packing plans were shared.  Prosecco seemingly taking priority for space over say running tights, with at least one runner only narrowly avoiding being made to run the whole two days in nothing but her school knickers.  A chilling thought – literally as well as metaphorically.  Authoritative advice to improve performance included not falling over in the shower and knocking yourself out on the morning of the race.  This sort of insight is I think particularly, helpful, because it wasn’t the most obvious, but when you come to think of it she definitely had a point there.  There was much angst over fell shoes versus trail shoes and sudden realisation that ‘essential kit’ involved hats, gloves, waterproofs, wellingtons, brrrr, it was going to be cold.  In fact it really, really was.  Early evidence showed SNOW up top.  I know it’s november, but I didn’t expect to see that.  Joyful, but slightly intimidating too!  The photo below was taken on the morning of the run, I’ve not yet seen an ‘after’ shot  – hope they aren’t still out there, disoriented by snow blindness, resorting to eating one another.  It would really mess up the Twelve Days of Smileys Christmas Challenge if loads of us are still yomping around having gone feral in the Lakes.  Oh well.


Not all made it through without incident.  Those who survived pestilence, had instead to tackle fire, as barricades of blazing lorries barred their way.  Persistence meant the occupants of the Fun Bus did make it through like fearless, invincible heroines in some post-apocalyptic road movie.  This was just as well, since without them famine would also have potentially knocked back the morale of the team. The Fun Bus occupants having been entrusted with the communal porridge provisions for the entire Smiley cohort.


Without these bulk porridge supplies, without them to prepare them, no breakfast for anyone at all!  No breakfast equals no carbing equals no racing.  FACT.  (Bit like the ‘for want of a nail’ proverb,  only MUCH WORSE!). They also were on some sort of mystery quest, having with them some magical lucky keys, that comprised (reading between the lines) a set of extra special ones namely: the key to happiness; the key to life; the key to survival and the key to running success.  Most critically of all, the key to cheetah buddy’s bike lock (I think).  There’d be no holding back those four  horsemen if the Fun Bus didn’t make it through with the keys.  They did though, so worry not.  Death and War were thwarted for now, but we haven’t had the American Election results yet so you might want to keep on working on your Anderson Shelter and get Ocado to do an extra delivery of bottled water; canned and dried food early next week, just in case….

Where was I.  Oh, so those who had evaded pestilence, and pushed through injury, assembled as planned.   Basically, it was a sort of Darwinian selection process ensuring survival of the fittest.  Only the most tenacious and hardcore would make the start, let alone the finish.   Some assembled a lot later than planned on account of leaving late, traffic jams at Glossop and the motorway burning barricades. This would have had terrible consequences in terms of encroaching on prosecco quaffing time, but bless them, the troops made the best of this.  They had other horrors to distract them. Christmas themed disposable cups adding to the nightmare journey as if it weren’t hideous enough already…  It may be wintry up tops, but it is still only November. Poor Regal Smiley, how she suffered in her quest to get there.


Whilst the Fun Bus occupants were battling fires to get to the venue, the early arrivals at the running ball were enjoying a rather civilised and scrumptious chillie feast.  Bad luck all of those of you who missed it…  This is what you could have won:


The Lakeland Trails Facebook page was thoughtfully kept up to date with photos to fan my flames of despondency and my sense of missing out…  Gawd it was looking lovely.  Just as well there was some communication here, as otherwise the Smiley Cohort were incommunicado for much of the Saturday.  I suspect this was a combination of being hungover, being out of range of any mobile signal and the Smiley elders sensible implementation of an immediate security lock-down at the event village to avoid other running clubs becoming aware of Smiley tactics –  not that these were especially opaque.  Stay up late drinking and laughing, try to remember to put on the correct running shoes in the morning and then run faster than any/all of your opponents.  Not hard really, apart from the running fast bit.

So, here are some event photos, sigh.  It makes my heart hurt to look on them…   That was there on Saturday, and where I was not. If you look carefully you can see I’m not in any of the photos by way of evidence.

One aspect I’m quite glad I missed out on (apart from the whole battle to get the best bunk bed which might have tested even the seemingly strongest of friendships and strategic alliances) is the attempt to work out which race everyone was taking part in.  This was made extra confusing because of the range of options; the complexity of the website (Dr Smiley by her own admission entered twice by accident, and a couple of others entered completely the wrong races by mistake); and changes of mind about the most suitable distances due to injury or even greater fitness than originally anticipated.  All I know is that organising Smiley went armed with spreadsheets, print outs and negotiating skills.  I have confidence she will have accomplished the extraordinary and seemingly impossible feat of getting everyone shoved into position on the appropriate start lines and at the designated times… but I don’t envy her in doing so.

After a longer than comfortable silence, at last some news.  A video showed the start of the 10k and aren’t they marvellous!

I was a bit perturbed that I couldn’t spot all the runners I thought would be heading off, but perhaps those Darwinian principles were still taking their toll.  I was as patient as I could possibly be, but as the day wore on did post on the dedicated Smiley Paces Dirty Double Facebook page noting my separation anxiety and requesting event feedback. This was a very pleasingly effective strategy.  I learned two useful and important things:

Firstly, we had a triumphant Smiley.  Hardly a surprise, but pleasing all the same.  Podium position second place, for one of our very own.  What’s more she ran the whole thing in her fancy dress Michelin man outfit, which would have been my clothing of choice had I known it was an available option.  Plus, she was wearing a very fine bobble hat in tribute to Sheffield’s lovely Jessica.  (That’s Ennis not Fletcher by the way, the Fletcher one lives in Cabot Cove, Maine).  JEH returned the compliment by  sporting a matching(ish) bobble hat at Sheffield Hallam parkrun earlier on on the same day. It’s that sort of sisterhood in the sports community of Sheffield that you can’t put a price on.   I don’t know if it was planned, or if they just have a deeply profound telepathic link… I mean the coat is a pretty good match too you’d have to agree – either explanation is not just acceptable, but veritably marvellous.  Yay.  Initially I thought this photo was the table top dancing competition in progress due to the evident animation in the hands, but I think that was to take place Saturday night after the pasta party buffet all booked up for later on.  You know what, I think it’s loads more fun writing up a blog post based entirely on randomly telegraphed photos, I can just make it up as I go along – just like I usually do, but with less of the guilt at knowing I’m ocassionaly maybe stretching a point shall we say…

Secondly, a true friend of a Smiley offered up words of personalised, unsolicited comfort.  Clearly, when I thought I’d be in attendance for the races both days, I’d naturally assumed I’d be a shoo-in for last place. The final finisher spot being rightfully mine and one I have carried off with considerable consistency if not actual aplomb over the past year.  I didn’t want to go on and on about it, but it saddened me to leave this post unfilled.  I should have credited my Smiley compatriots with more insight.  One took the trouble to let me know that she had taken it upon herself to adopt that mantle.  What can I say?  It brought a lump to  my throat that she’d do that for me, and so keep the Smiley honour in tact.  Good job, well done!  I like to think that next year I’ll be back to reclaim that position, but in the interim it is so very comforting to know that final finisher spot is in safe Smiley hands.  Well done and I salute you!*

*correction – I subsequently learned there was actually vicious jostling for final finisher post.  So coveted is this placing, it seems so low-lives (non smiley) lurked way back purely to disrupt the placings.  There were also sweepers, again messing up the final placings.  However, all was not lost, Smileys delivered final finishing placings in other events over the weekend, so I think we can all be proud of what was achieved.  Well done all.  Oh, and here are some sweepers – they’ve lost their brooms though.  Nevermind.  Personally, I don’t let the presence of tailrunners prevent me from coming last, but it does take my nigh on unique skill to achieve this.


A late addition to this blog has to be these extra photos papped by those present and in the midst of the action.  We have Smilies assembling on the front line, sprinting off, and generally spreading the joy.  It looks fabulous darlings, absolutely fabulous!  See, this is how it all starts with running.  Compelling stuff.

It must have been pretty cold out there, what with the snow on the tops.  However, trawling the event Facebook page I see that the marshals were well prepared.  Not only wrapping themselves up warm, but at marshal point 7 on the Helvellyn trail, free hugs were available.  I’m not sure if they were just optional, only given on request or mandatory issue, like having taped seams on your waterproofs, but let’s not get bogged down in detail, let’s enjoy the view instead.  Lovely.  This might have been the 15k, or it might not, don’t be pedantic.


Also, pleasingly, finally mindful of their loved ones left behind, some kind souls did get to posting some Smiley shots of the 10k participants.  Aren’t they lovely?  Warms the cockles to see them in action.  So wish I was there though, so wish I was there.   I say it warms the cockles, but it actually looks quite nippy doesn’t it. I think it would take more than a nice view to make you feel your cockles warming if you were out in situ.  Also, I think someone is over-compensating for something with their ostentatious shoe display, but I daresay they had their reasons.  Might be large, but it’s just the one, so not that impressive I venture…  It’s very tempting to Photoshop myself into the group picture, but then again, it’s probably more authentic for me not to be in it, I seem never to make the Smiley group shots.  At the end of races it’s because I never finish in time, at the beginning… well, maybe the others always see me first and  head off before I can join the line up, I’ve never dared ask.  In any event, my being omitted from the shot is no marker as to my actual presence of otherwise.  Next year though, next year will be different.   Note to self, I must email Davina in order to ‘make it so.’  That will work.

On reflection though, there don’t seem to be any ‘after’ shots.  Maybe I’ve got the details of the event all wrong.  Perhaps they just set off the 10k runners like hares, and then in the afternoon the other runners have to chase them down.  What’s that film called where a load of prisoners get put on an island and killed off one by one – like that anyway.  There’s probably a cut-off time, like for the OMM, so any 10k runners that aren’t found by nightfall are just left out there.  More Darwinism in action you see.  Plus, we know that the races are always over-subscribed, if they don’t lose a few runners on day one, there’d never be enough space on the boats to get everyone across the lakes for the start on day two. In the pictures that follow you can see some of them snaking across the hills trying (in vain) to escape their pursuers, plus some rather poignant start line selfies.  All hopeful and naively optimistic about the path that lay ahead.  Touching really.  My favourite photo below is the one of the Smiley Trio all hardcore running in their vest tops whilst other runners pass on by all roasty toasty in their coats.  These are also women with (in my view at least) admirable priorities, stopping mid-race to take a selfie knowing they’ll soon take out those other runners once the photo shoot has ended.  Respect my kindred Smilies, respect!

Obvious when you think about it… the not letting them all finish ruse,  just hope the nominated drivers got back OK, it would be a long walk back from Patterdale, though still only slightly slower than driving given the traffic congestion vehicles will experience coming back through Glossop I suppose.  I know from the pictures, that it seems a couple did make it to the finish line, but that’s consistent with my theory.  It would attract suspicion if no-one made it back, and Darwinian principles demand that some at least survive, otherwise who is around to contribute to the planned captive breeding programme to ensure a strong gene pool for future generations?  Glad we’ve cleared all that up.

These are the hardcore 15 kers prior to set-off onto them there snow-capped hills.  Personally I’m thinking it must have been mighty nippy out there, but then I’m probably just a nesh soft southerner.  I would have gone for more than just a blue morph suit and some fish net tights had I been there, I’d have gone for the full bear onesie given half a chance…  As for the sleeveless vest only option, well I shudder at the very thought.  Surely that can’t be advisory kit for such an occasion, rather a display of wanton exhibitionism?


Incidentally, why is Honey G still on the X-factor?  This is what I was having to endure as a substitute to the Lakes pasta party.  The first week it had a sort of bizarre humour, now it’s uncomfortable territory, exploitative in both the sense of cultural appropriation and mocking a potentially vulnerable, talent-less performer.  I now want it to end.  Maybe if I find the remote control I could change channels…  Oh it’s hard being me and being ill, way too much to think about in the multi-tasking departments.


So later on updates established that races having been run, gin drinking commenced at 4.00 p.m. which is in fact gin o-clock now the clocks have changed, with prosecco at 5.00 (though an eye-witness subsequently requested I amended this figure to 4.30, which on balance is a very plausible correction from one who was actually there.  Thank you Dr Smiley).  Committed lot Smilies.  There has already been some animated Facebook discussion about incorporating into future training plans building tolerance and stamina in the gin and prosecco consumption stakes.  Any serious runner will tell you, it isn’t only about the running, it’s about planning your nutrition and hydration too, and that doesn’t just mean putting it on a spreadsheet, oh no, it means putting it into PRACTICE too.  Because, practice makes perfect.  Well, Smileys are nothing if not mutually supportive, sounds like there was lots of supportive practice going on back at camp.  Go them!   Of course only the morrow would reveal if they were going for the staying up all night and blasting the run whilst still drunk on Sunday, or favouring the running off the hangover option, which seems high risk given the potential for choppy waters on the boat crossing – though there again, the emetic impact of such a passage could be potentially helpful if a therapeutic chunder was the outcome.  Oooh, I could hardly wait to see how the morrow would unfold!  Exciting spectator sport this trail running malarkey, it really is.


So then it was Sunday.  After no doubt much cavorting until the small hours, it was a simple matter of getting up and doing the whole running malarkey all over again but this time in wet trail shoes.  I posted a good luck message, then  basically had to wait it out for further information, hoping that none would either fall in or be sick on the boat crossing.  Or more accurately, hoping that if ill-fortune were to befall anyone, some splendid Smiley would have the wit to post all about it on Facebook.  Under the pretence of being supportive and wishing them well, of course, but essentially to do the social media equivalent of pointing and laughing at their expense nevertheless.  Own it people, you know what I mean…

Subsequent reports suggested my original predictions were wildly out.  The Youth Hostel was equipped with a very fine drying room, so the majority were able to set off with dry feet at least.  None however, got to try out their sea legs.  It was too windy to risk sending the boats out apparently.   Poor show by those Smilies who earlier I’m sure were talking about taking a dip in Ullswater on Sunday morning at one point.  Given the organisational flair shown with respect to getting food orders sorted, I’m sure some sort of spreadsheet could have been devised to get people over in relays, sharing the two available wet-suits that I understood made the cut in the luggage packing roulette. It’s like that story where the chicken, the fox and the grain have to be taken across the water but only two at a time will fit in the boat, and you have to work out how this can happen without someone getting eaten..  Actually, not sure what happened with that story, didn’t something get eaten anyway, wasn’t that the point?  Or was that the one with the scorpion and the frog where everyone died?  I think the picture is exaggerating a bit, I reckon it would have been doable with a bit of Smiley teamwork…  Smiley Paces members are all AWESOME they can do anything when they put their minds to it, anything at all.


To make up for missing out on the excitement of catching a steamer, the participants were given alternative excitement in the form of a sort of impromptu is the race on or off hokey cokey routine.  To be honest it seems not everyone thrived on the uncertainty.  No doubt it played havoc with their precautionary pee and warm-up routines.  Here are some Smileys on the edge of their seats with eager anticipation awaiting the official announcements of how the day might yet unfold…  They look like coiled springs ready to explode upwards and outwards don’t they.  Awesome concentrated and pent-up energy in evidence there – if you know where to look.  (Or it might be waiting for the buffet to come out on Saturday night, hard to be sure).


 Eventually though, an alternative route was  laid, and everyone got to have a bash at the alternative 10k.  The route looked beautiful, but let’s be honest, definitely nippy out there.  Fortunately there were fine marshals on hand to direct and encourage – ooh look, an especially fine one sourced from our very own Smiley Paces gene pool for example!  Plus, some awesome supporters traipsing round like Ofsted inspectors, scrutinising the action, this is the unofficial Smiley Inspectorate, whom nobody expects.  I think they should have some sort of a uniform myself, something with golden braided  cord on the sleeves for preference.  (To be fair, I have absolutely no idea if these photos were from Sunday or Saturday’s running excursions, but I say, never let the truth get in the way of a promising narrative, so let’s not explore too deeply.  Fine shots all the same.)

The multi-talented marshal was able to multi task to a high degree of competence.  Offering directional pointing, shouting support and taking photos all at once.  What I think is particularly impressive is how even though most runners were speeding past faster than the speed of light, she still managed to catch many on film, some with a clever frissance of blur to indicate speed.  Not everyone can pull this off.  When I do it, it just looks like my photos are out of focus.  Clearly not so here.  In the Smiley slideshow of delightful snaps below you can clearly differentiate between different running techniques.  There are a couple of hoppers, a few team twosomes, one or two borderline manic (but mania can be quite an engine to power you through a tough race) and my personal favourite, the jazz hands/ teapot twosome who have synchronised their movements in a way normally only seen in the opening rounds of Strictly Come Dancing.  Look and learn people, you have to work it for the camera, these shots show how and why far more eloquently than I can.  You’ve got to love a Smiley in Action shot.  Thanks Smiley Elder for sharing these.

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So it seems that the Sunday run happened late, and happened short, but it did at least happen.   Running took place, and fun was had.  T shirts were earned, and how splendid they would look juxtaposed with official smiley kit:

If the gushing expressions of enthusiasm are anything to go by this weekend away was carthatic; inspirational; hilarious; joyful; lovely and basically splendid.  Whilst undoubtedly a LOT of work for our Smiley organiser I hope the forcefield of good will that now engulfs her may be some small recognition for her labours.  She shall henceforth be known a Superstar Smiley.  Let the records show that many recognise this coming together would never have happened without her vision, hardwork and enthusiasm.  All Smilies are awesome both by definition and by association, but Superstar Smiley is especially Awesome for pulling off this logistical challenge.  We thank you. All of us.  Even those that got cold out on them there hills.  Type two fun (retrospective fun) is still fun after all.


All too soon the weekend ended, the marshals and participants dispersed and doors were shut on the youth hostel dorms for another year.  Here’s hoping though, this weekend is but the origins of a new Smiley tradition, that might yet carry on for future generations.  Oh, and for the record, this is a dorm,however the occupants shown are for illustration purposes only, your actual room-mates may differ from those pictured should you choose to book in another year.  For better or worse, you have been warned.


All that was left, was to travel homewards, and then pour over the results at leisure.  The most important prize winners were those who won the fancy dress.  A tradition for the Sunday Ullswater trail apparently.  How did I not know this?  Obviously Roger wasn’t in attendance this year, so we can be gracious in applauding this crew – though I can’t help wondering if they were in fact the killer tail markers, tasked with culling any real slowbies to cut down the numbers a bit for day two. Still, I wasn’t there, what do I know?  There was a story going round that the ‘official’ tail markers had fairy lights adorning them, but that was most likely just to put people off the scent.  I don’t want to cast nasturtiums but don’t mock my conspiracy theories until we’ve counted all the Smilies back in at the next Smiley Thursday night rendezvous, OK?


Oh, and if you want the results they follow below, but really, who cares?  Everyone who took part was brilliant, in whatever capacity they took part.  Everyone who finished covered the same terrain for the same distance, it seems petty to quibble over minutes passed on the hills.  Though for the record, those who were out for the longest showed greater stamina and got more minutes for their money, so everyone’s a winner!  The marshals are of course the most glorious of all, they are out longest and in the most inclement of conditions.  Stars all of them (though as has already been established, we love the Smiley Stars best of all 🙂 ).

Helvellyn Lakeland Trails Results 2016

Ullswater Lakeland Trails Results 2016

So well done everyone, grand weekend away.  Here’s hoping to same time next year, but whether we do or whether we don’t we’ll always have our memories eh, false memory syndrome or otherwise.


Oh, and it’s not too soon to enter the Dirty Double for 2017 eek…  though there will come a time when it will be too late I suppose… I really want to, but it would break my heart if I had to duck out again.  Is it tempting fate to sign up too soon… I wonder if Jessica might be able to organise some child care and come along too?  I’d be equally happy to share a dorm with Jessica Ennis or Jessica Fletcher, both are role models in their own ways.

You can find out more about the Lakeland Trails events here – but good luck with working out which race is which, it is the most confusing event series I’ve ever seen.  Guess it all makes sense when you get there….  Just go with the flow and keep on smiling.  That will get you through most challenges in life.

So til next time happy running y’all and well done Smilies.  What larks eh?  What larks!

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Corrections, clarifications, amendments and updates, added 12 November 2016:

So, using the flimsy pretext of having a leaving do prior to my imminent departure to Cambodia, Cheetah Buddy colluded with me in gathering together a group of Smiling Smilies so I could research a bit more what had really happened under the cover of Patterdale YHA whilst apparently just benignly circulating.  A bit like penguin-cam going undercover to research penguins, only marginally less ethical I imagine.  The photo below is of an actual undercover penguin by the way, not one taken at my Smiley ‘leaving do’.


So I learned explicitly, the following new things:

There was a major incident en route, but Smileys came to the rescue, at some personal sacrifice.  What happened was, depending on which version of events you believe, a fellow runner, who coincidentally ended up running sandwiched between two Smilies (not in a pervy way, but in a fortuitous one).  He took a flying tumble at one point, and then the Smiley duo, sacrificed their own race performances to come to his aid.  A fact for which he publicly thanked them on Facebook, noting that one had selflessly sacrificed her own buff in order to mop up blood spillage and allow him to continue.  This was noble… up to a point, but let the records show that it was only an innov8 buff, one relatively easily sacrificed, if she’d (unwisely) ventured out with just the one buff, and had to surrender her Smiley one instead, it might have all ended rather differently.    It’s an old ruse, one used by wily travelers, always carry two wallets with you, so should you be mugged you have one you can surrender as it is of low value, keeping your really prized of valuable possessions secure.  Even so, great PR for Smilies, and I’ve subsequently researched the photographic evidence for myself and I don’t think it’s absolutely conclusive about whether the whole thing was engineered for publicity purposes. I don’t thing the sudden braking by the front-runner and inadvertant shoving or heel clipping of the runner from behind would necessarily have resulted in tripping.  Purely coincidentally.  Besides, an independent witness, Dr Smiley, said the fallen runner kept falling over all the time anyway.  To be surrounded by Smileys on this occasion was to be flanked by guardian angels and not at all an added hazard as you can see.  Great teamwork y’all!


The mysterious key that had to be secretly recovered and returned to Cheetah Buddy was not in fact the key to immortality, no, no no no no.  It was waaaaaaaaaaaaay more significant than that.  It was the key to Cheetah Buddy’s car-roof box.  Into this was packed food provisions AND smiley running gear prior to departure from Sheffield.  En route it became apparent the key for this had got left behind.  Once again, Smilies worked together to source the key.  Someone still in Sheffield was despatched to the house to retrieve it, and then it was passed from contact to contact with a complexity only ever shown previously by the French resistance smuggling people out of occupied France, and the exact pathway of which will never be known. What is known, that the person who entered the property for the initial purpose of key removal found the house to be occupied, but was still able to help themselves to pretty much whatever they fancied unchallenged.  This is lovely and heart-warming hospitality on the one hand, but a sad indictment of the effectiveness of the local neighbourhood watch team on the other.   Let the records show the key did eventually get restored to Cheetah buddy and the contents were made available to all once again. This was good in that people got to eat, but at least one Smiley confided to me in ‘absolute confidence ‘ (a loosely interpreted principle for the purposes of this blog) that there was a bit of her that would have been quite happy to have had an excuse not to do all that running around in the freezing cold and wet.

Packing tip – the best way to pack for this weekend, is apparently to just get the biggest bag you can find (a bin bag will do) and just empty the contents of your runner drawer/ shelf or clothing rail into said bag.  Job done.  Really not a big deal.

Another thing, I don’t know whether it was peer pressure or the alcohol talking, but a Smiley Elite have invented their own new special event for 2017.  This is to be the Filthy Four (see what they’ve done there, not just Lakeland Trail people who are great with their marketing).  The (somewhat distorted) logic of this group is that if running is fun, then running more is therefore more fun. To them, this is quite obvious, and they would all run to infinity and beyond if they could, much as does Buzz Lightyear.  Getting marshals for an infinitely long run would be logistically challenging, unless the race took place on an extra-large hamster wheel, to be honest the Filthy Foursters wouldn’t be fooled but that practical approach. Rather, they have created their own kind of crazy.  They have negotiated with the race organisers to enter both the morning 10k runs AND the afternoon 15k and 14k events.    They will have to get a wiggle on for the 10k on the second day, as they’ll need to make it round in time to catch the last paddle steamer of the day across Ullswater, but apparently it is doable.  Personally, I don’t think these runners have necessarily understood that just because something is doable it doesn’t follow that it is desirable, but hey ho, it will be fun as a spectator sport, and these women are inspirational hard-core.  It will be some clash of the titans if they pull it off!  Yay.  So exciting.  If it was the alcohol talking, this was one of the contributing bottles, apparently it was jolly nice, so here it is for reference purposes:


Lots of photos were taken of Smilies in action. The Lakeland Trails people just make these shots available for free.  Isn’t that splendid?  Here are some Smilies being awesome in action to illustrate the point.  As a little teaser for you, see if you can spot the filthy four founders by their shots and check out those Smiley Smiles.  There are just a couple of preconditions of smiley membership, one is to be generally all round awesome, which is fair enough, the other is to be able to crack a smile even in adversity and even if it’s a bit fixed and crazed at times.  I think everyone acquitted themselves admirably in respect of these directives.

In other news, it was reported that there was some sort of spontaneous reconstruction of a people smuggling operation whereby an indeterminate number of smileys were bundled into the back of a petrol-fumed suffused van for the purposes of relocation from the start line on day two, back to the hostel. This was an alternative to hanging around in a chilly marquee for another two hours whilst waiting for the alternative course route to be put in place.  Water crossing being cancelled due to ill winds.  There are a lot of ill winds at present if international politics are anything to go by. Everyone survived, but had a new compassion for those whose circumstances force them into the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers, stuffed in the back of darkened vehicles, hardly able to breathe and entirely at the mercy of the vehicle drivers as to whether or not they will reach their desired destination. Fortunately, in the Patterdale context they did.  Yay.

I also learned the drying room was AMAZING and the youth hostel roasty toasty warm.  So I was wrong both about the lake crossing and the having to run the whole thing again in wets shoes.  On the other hand, it did snow over-night and it was pretty wet under foot already, so I think that whilst on a technicality I was wrong, people began the day with sparkly clean and dry feet cosseted in perfectly pre-warmed running shoes, in the facts that matter I was of course completely right.   Didn’t take long for feet to reach saturation point out there on them there hills.  So that’s good.

Next year, the even will take place earlier, mid October, 14/15th October to be precise.  Also, this year, and hopefully in subsequent years too, there were lots of spot prizes that were only awarded to people who were physically present. Thus, if you want to be in with a shot at winning say a pair of fine technical socks or a free entry to a series ultra then hang around.  If winning a free entry to a series ultra fills you with fear and precipitates an attack of nausea then maybe not.

Oh, and finally, lest you need further convincing of the generally accepted awesomeness of the Smiley Paces cohort.  We/They got a special mention on the Lakeland Trails Facebook page who noted (favourably) the fantastic Smiley turnout of fifty entrants and chose this shot using Smiley members as the poster girls for next year events.  I was going to say ‘the faces of…’ but it seems the Lakeland Trails marketing department decided these particular Smileys best side was their backsides.  Who are we to argue with such experts?


This concludes the update for the Lakeland DD, but suffice to say it is already in the diary as game on for 2017. The Smiley Paces annual migration has been set in motion. There will be no turning back the clock or stuffing these genies back in the bottle (though they may well be sinking a few).  Smiley Paces members are indeed the best thing to come out of Sheffield since Henderson’s Relish or Stainless Steel.  Life changing discoveries and exports one and all!

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.


Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Type two fun, and tackling running mind demons.

My running credentials speak for themselves.  Unfortunately.  One issue I do not face when running is the burden that elite runners routinely have to carry, that is, the burden of expectation that they will perform well every time out.  This worry I am free of.  However, this does not mean I am free of running angst.  Ooooh no.  You must know what I mean unless you are either supremely well endowed with self-belief and/or running talent combined with an unbleamished injury record.  For the rest of us mere mortals, it seems running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.  Whether it is a chimp on your shoulder (which makes for a very asymmetrical running technique) or that all too common sense of imposter syndrome we all have our mental demons to battle with.  For me, it’s a constant voice in my head.  You might hear it too ‘I’m not a real runner, everyone must know I’m not a real runner, those few who don’t know yet will find out soon, then I will be exposed and – ironically – run out of my running club, humiliated by exposure of the truth I can no longer hide…‘  Sound familiar?  I hope not, but I suspect for many  it will be.


It is it seems, an extremely common affliction.  I finally made it back to woodrun today after a summer recess that would put any sinecure holder to shame.  It was nice to be back in Ecclesall woods, it definitely had a slightly different pre-autumnal feel to it.  It was also a bit like first day back at school after the summer holidays, with a few of us trooping in after a summer absence.  Some of us instantly started to get our apologies and excuses in first, out competing one another in respect of our woeful fitness levels/ innate (in)ability etc.  Many of us feeling somehow unworthy of the ‘runner’ moniker.   Why do we do this?  Talk ourselves down?  It may or may not be true that we are not at the top of our game, but does it really matter.  It’s not how fast we go, it’s that we go at all isn’t it?  The thing is, I can recognise this phenomenon in other people. I look at them in disbelief and awe at what they can achieve and see that it isn’t all that helpful or even relevant.  Lawks a lordy, it isn’t even true!  Of course they are ‘real’ runners. There is no exam, no certification required (although some of us at least should perhaps be certified)  how could they not be the real mckoy.  Owning the label for myself is another story, I need to keep chanting the mantra – you just have to leave the sofa and put one foot in front of the other, that’s it.  However slow I am going, I’m still lapping the alternative version of me that woud have stayed on the sofa…


It’s partly ,my fear of what ‘other people’ must think.  I know I’m not exactly poetry in motion out running, but I am at least giving it a go.  In my head I recognised that in most situations the mysterious  ‘other people’, whose judgement we, ok, well me, I am so in fear of,  really aren’t judging at all, they don’t care what we/I do. Firstly, I am not that important to merit being the centre of attention, most people wont even notice.  Secondly, even if people did steal a glance, it doesnt follow they are that interetsed about what anyone else is doing – people are thinking about their own goals at that point.  I’ve often thought at the start line for a race, or even a parkrun, you could turn up naked (apart from your trainers) and people would be far too focused on their own paranoia and performance to notice.  Obviously, this statement doesn’t apply if you happened to be wearing a more technical brand of running shoes then they were, in which case they’d be wanting to know all about the tread and drop and other stuff to do with running shoes that ‘proper’ runners are interested in, and fair enough.  Ostentatiously showy running shoes (and/or active wear gear) are always going to operate as attention magnets, so if you wear them, then you have to concede a degree of contributory negligence on your part  if you then attract the odd, covetous, sideways glance…. Posing in active wear will inevitably turn heads.  (Please, click on the video link, it just tickled me – how can you not want to sing along to the catchy line of ‘smoking on the streets in my active wear‘?, though I am a bit too easily entertained I know, it’s been pointed out to me before).


Even so, when it comes to myself, I still feel that it’s somehow different.  In my case I’m not so much talking myself down, just being realistic, managing expectations blah de blah.  No point in taking unnecessary risks out there…  Some smug person has produced a poster showing the limitations of this stance, ‘path to mediocrity..’ etc.  Well, I concede that might be true, but it is also annoying to have this pointed out to you in motivational poster format.  I prefer a bit of cynicism in my motivational phrases and posters to be honest.  So let’s balance it with the whisky advice one shall we?  That I can work with.  I’m also persuaded by that ubiquitous quote ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right‘.   Seems we all have the innate gift of personal prophecy.   It’s certainly the case if you don’t give things a whirl then you will never find out what you are capable of, just have to trust that it won’t be too terminal a lesson in your absolute limitations I suppose…

So, what’s brought all this on?  Well, it’s The Dirty Double coming into view all over again.  This is a two-day Lakeland running festival.   I booked in ages ago, near as dammit a  year ago to be precise.  With a whole 11 months stretching ahead before I’d be required to run anywhere up and down hills in torrential rain, I’d fondly imagined that by the time the event came around, I’d have lost 30% of my body weight (by losing body fat, not through amputating extraneous limbs), done weekly hill-reps and generally metamorphosed from relatively inanimate grub to speedy running and flying beetle or whatever.  Are there beetles that run?  Cockroaches I suppose, but they don’t go through  metamorphosis properly though do they?  That’s a rhetorical question by the way as  I’ve just looked them up, they go through incomplete metamorphosis apparently, just so as you know… Actually, this analogy doesn’t entirely work does it?  As with much in life, I am finding myself really wishing I hadn’t gone down this particular route.  My entomological knowledge is not all that detailed, and, apart from insects I can only think of amphibians that undergo metamorphosis, and, much as I genuinely like frogs and toads, I can’t really stretch that to regarding them as perfect exemplars of aspirational running form.  When I was thinking of undergoing metamorphosis it was by way of transformation from earth-bound hobbit yomper to graceful, leaping fell runner.  Ironically, and coincidentally ,the  possibility that I have metamorphosed into a toad seems a rather more  apt analogy for my current state of physical readiness in respect of running round lake land trails in November, but it really wasn’t what I was aiming for when I signed up last November….


Oh for goodness sake, stop hassling me!  Surely you get my point!  No?

Well, it’s basically this:  I entered into this demanding trail race (Helvellyn Trail 15km Race + Ullswater Trail 14km Race on two consecutive days) basically through fear of missing out and the lure of having a boat trip out to the start of one of the races.  I overlooked the ‘running’, ‘inclement weather’ and ‘steep off road gradient’ elements of the events.  Also the ‘race on two consecutive days’ aspect.  I suppose I thought by then I’d have trained, or at least hung out with better runners than me so my own form and endurance would improve by osmosis, and that basically ‘it’ll be fine on the day(s)‘.  Now though, it’s just a few weeks away, and starting to feel a bit real.  Fellow Smilies are posting about it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that this may not be a completely blaggable event.   There is/was also the option of doing the same routes as a challenge (you get more time to finish), or doing a 10k on each day instead.  Those other options are looking ever more appealing.  It hasn’t helped all that much that hobbit buddy responded with ‘yikes’ when she realised I’d entered the longer race classes instead of the two 10k.  Oh here we go again with the peer pressure.  I don’t mind being slow going round, but I do want to finish before the cut off point so I don’t get left out there on the mountain long after all the marshals have packed up and gone home, and have to swim back to the hostel because I’ve missed the last boat ride home to boot!  Maybe I should swap…

However, I do expect this weekend away to meet the criteria of generating a few anecdotes, although possibly ones that are only hilarious and enjoyable in retrospect.  This brings me to the central point of this post (yes there was one), which is about understanding (and implementing) The Fun Scale.


The Fun Scale apparently originated in the climbing community, but as with many sports, there is a cross over to running.  Type One Fun is basically ‘fun at the time’.  You are consciously having a good time whilst doing it.  Personally, I’d put the Round Sheffield Run into this category. Then there is Type Two Fun.  This is the sort of fun which is only really fun in retrospect.  You do not get any inherent joy out of it at the time, but when you look back on it and laugh, it does seem in fact to have been incredibly joyful.  You forget how hideous it was at the time, and enter the same event again next year.  Personally, I think I’d put Percy Pud into this category.  Freezing cold, icy rain, road surface battering my arthritic feet and seeing returning runners speeding towards me on their way home before I was even half way out did not make this an unremittingly joyous occasion for me.  However, when you finish and get given a vegetarian Christmas Pudding at the end, you come to believe it was actually fun.  Other runners oozing endorphins reinforce this sensation, so each runner colludes with the others until there is a shared collective belief that the Percy Pud is brilliant fun.  Which it is, apart from when you are actually running the darned thing.


According to The Fun Scale for climbers at any rate, the third type of fun is basically no fun at all.  ‘Shoot me if I try to do it again’ sort of thing.  I appreciate what they are getting at here, but I think there’s a category missing.  I’d put this ‘truly, never again’ as Type Four Run  myself, and insert what I consider to be the missing third category here instead.  This is the sort of fun me and my erstwhile flat mate used to experience after attending an angst ridden studenty party in our youth.  (Yes, I was young once).  You must know the kind of thing.  Agonising social interactions at often dingy and dodgy locations, for long nights of excruciating ‘fun partying’, where you only went in the first place out of peer pressure, didn’t believe you’d come out alive, and spent the entire time wishing you at least knew where you were so you had a sporting chance of getting home.  (Actually, I have unconsciously described a fair number of my running experiences out on the hills in that statement).  Anyway, these were unrelentingly hideous occasions,and for that, you might reasonably assume they would be in the category of ‘never again’ but not so.  Whatever their inherent and known horrors, they would still score as Newly Calibrated Fun Scale Three for me because, when debriefing after the event we would have to concur that whilst we were ‘not at all sure I enjoyed myself’ we were nevertheless absolutely confident ‘ but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘.  Thus, whilst knowing to repeat the experience would be hateful and possibly dangerous, you are compelled to return to it again and again, like a moth to a flame (until I can think of a better analogy anyway, analogies are not going well today I know).


I think the Dirty Double, may well be lining up as Newly Calibrated Category Three Fun Scale score.  It has all the elements there.  Bit far, bit wet, bit hilly, fear of missing out.  Lure of the landscape.   How will it end? Well, we are all going to have to just wait and see..


I suppose I could try training a bit in advance, or is that taking it all a bit far?  I could start posing in my active wear out and about a bit more I suppose.  That would be a start… or is it really and truly a case that running this double is all in the mind.  A virtual run if you will.  High risk strategy to take that as a literal truth, but it might yet be worth a go.  I suppose the bottom line with my running journey is ‘must try harder’ not as in undertaking masochistice punishing workouts that would end up with me hating running for ever, but in not giving up too soon.   Hmm, we shall see.




Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The irresistible lure of a Dirty Weekend

Beware the company you keep.  If you are weak, and suggestible, and hang out with the wrong/right crowd, it is very easy to become susceptible to peer pressure and end up committing to undertakings you’d never give into if of sound mind and more independent spirit.

Case in point, the Lakeland Trails, Dirty Double for 2016.  A couple of weeks ago a troupe of Smiley Paces comrades returned triumphant from their jaunt to the 2015 Lakeland challenge.  They were on a collective high, yes the weather was challenging and the conditions rough, but that was part  of the fun.  Them against the elements, battling to finish against the odds.  They were full of adventurous tales like pirates returning from the high seas.  Bonded together as only those who have survived adversity through leaning on one another can truly understand.  The evangelical zeal in their eyes, the persuasive stories, the inner confidence they exuded from having come out the other end of this apparently unsurvivable hell, well, it seemed bizarrely compelling.  Especially, if like me, you have this constant fear of missing out.  You can see the slight look of mania in the eyes in these three Smileys crossing the finish.  More than a slight look to be honest, but I don’t want to libel people on whom I may subsequently depend for my very survival, so let’s stick with ‘slight’ to be on the safe side…

For those not in the know, the event is one of a series of challenges in the lake district, but this particular one takes place over a weekend.  Day one is a trail run based in Helvellyn, and day two takes on the tracks round Ullswater.  You can choose from a range of challenges and races and distances.  The 2015 tales of rain like stair rods and scree covered slopes did leave me with more than a niggling sense that the only way to tackle this would be in a cagoule, but equally, there is something hilarious and heroic in heading out in such conditions… weirdly I can see the appeal.  Think of the anecdotes and bragging rights.  Wow, you’d probably never have to run a trail race again you’d be so richly supplied with laurels on which to rest and stories to tell – they’d easily last you a lifetime!

So, the next thing I know, is that a proactive Smiley is suggesting a Smiley Takeover for same time next year.  There is a Youth hostel that we can stay at, there are challenges for all abilities, next year the weather will be great (that bit’s a lie, the Lakes in November?  I think not).  Call your bluff time, there are 40 beds booked at the hostel, who’s in?  Not me, obviously, though I do stalk the conversation on Facebook.  Ooh, that Youth Hostel looks nice, four star eh – not damp sleeping bags and bedbugs any more.

Patterdale Youth Hostel

 I look at the event website (which is quite hard to work out to be honest but even so) the pictures are gorgeous.  They talk of a carnival atmosphere, even a boat ride to the start… I can feel myself beginning to see the attraction, albeit not for me, but for other hypothetical runners out there.

atmospheric shot

It is only a matter of time before  my regular, but rather fitter than me running buddy confronts me with the idea at Bushy Parkrun.  She’s doing it – not that that means anything in itself because she has developed cheetah like prowess in her own running journey – but it does mean I’d have at least one ally there, and what’s more, she clearly thinks the basic concept of me taking part is not utterly insane.  Unlikely and amusing perhaps, but not actually impossible.

Initially, I dismiss the idea out of hand.  I’m not fit enough, I’m pretty preoccupied with other stuff right now and I can’t think beyond today let alone this time next year.  ‘I could be dead by then.’  I point out, uncharitably.  Quick as a flash she reassures me ‘that would be fine, someone else would take your place no problem.’  You can’t really argue with that kind of compelling logic.  Although I am sure the notion of me running in the rain on two successive days after sleeping in a dorm is beyond bizarre, I concede she did plant the seed of an idea.  What if…

I revisit the Facebook discussion and start to post some queries – ‘Can I run in a cagoule?‘  Yes, apparently I can!  I can run in whatever I like. No-one will care.   Will I be fit enough (tactful responses follow along the lines of sure, it caters for people even less fit than you, which is really saying something).  I hover for a while.   Then embracing the ‘what the hell’ approach that has served me so well or got me into more scrapes than you can possibly imagine depending on how much I can get away with re-writing history I decide to go for it.  I sign up for the hostel, and I enter the race.  Two 10km romps out.  That’s OK, only a couple of Parkruns, it will be fine.  Now I’m a convert and really enthusiastic.  Forty Smileys on holiday together in the wilds of the lakes.  It will be hilarious.  The actual running part receded, it’s ages away.  There is something wonderful and empowering about a bunch of women going off and taking on some mountains (ish – I think you run round the lakes really, but let’s not split hairs).  Together, we will be invincible.  Hang on though – I do hope those white posts in the foreground don’t mark the last resting place of previous years runners who didn’t quite make it… still, let’s not dwell on that eh?  Let’s concentrate on being invincible!

2015 dirty double

Then a weird thing happens, a message pings into my own Facebook thingy.  If you know me at all, you won’t know whether to be more amazed at the content of the correspondence that follows, or the fact that I was using Facebook as a communication device, I really am not social media savvy, and only reluctantly joined Facebook at all a couple of months ago, and that was under extreme reluctance and duress, but necessity, to maintain my running relationships and facilitate photo exchanges.  The message is from a fellow Smiley who is an awesome runner, though recently beset by injuries, hesitating about whether or not to enter.  I can’t believe it, this is a first, someone conferring with me about running matters.  It would so brilliant if she came too!  With a bare-faced hypocrisy that would make my other aforementioned running buddy choke if she should ever find out (but obviously no chance of that), I enthuse.  ‘you’ll be fine, it’s for all standards, it will be hilarious, what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, yes, it is a lot of money to find before Christmas, but this time next year it will feel like a free holiday because you’ll have paid up front – besides Christmas is so materialistic these days, I’m sure a satsuma will be fine for under the  Christmas tree this year‘ and so on.  I am persuasive, she is in!  We can start really looking forward to it now.  Maybe by then I’ll have trained for it as well.  That would be quite something, cavorting across the landscape, at one with the world!  I’m not so confident about the communal living aspect of dorm life, but loads of time to whip myself into a frenzy of angst about that nearer the time!

So, that’s the lesson.  You think you can resist your peers, but it’s so easy to get sucked in, and then before you know it, you too are sharing their world view and espousing their values.  That’s why you have to be so careful with the company you keep.  It’s a sliding scale too.  Did I tell you I’d entered the two 10 km?  Well, that was true… but then there isn’t so very much difference between 10 and 14km and it would have been a shame not to be able to head out with my friends, and how would the post-run post mortem work if we’d all done different things?  It was only a matter of time before I’d emailed the race organisers to convert my entry to the 15km and then 14km race.  It’s ages away, it’ll be fine, now I just need to get onto Facebook again and persuade my Smiley friend that in for a penny in for a pound is the way to go. We can always change back again, but it would be awful to be left wondering what might have been after the event…

 what the hell

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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