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:
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…
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…
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
That’s all folks.
Happy running til next time.
For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.