Monday 8 November 2010

Derwentwater 10 and a birthday weekend

Saturday, a birthday walk.
      Awoke to clear skies and a touch of frost that brought leaves shuttering from the trees. The earth under the Maple was blood red, the driveway under the limes a brilliant yellow akin to that road in the Wizard of Oz.  After a hasty breakfast we hit the trail bound for Steel Knotts, with its castellated rock tower of Pikeawassa, planning to return by the silence and solitude of lonely Fusedale. Ullswater was smooth as glass reflecting trees, high hills, rocky promontories and the deep blue of an almost cloudless sky.
      After recent heavy rain the pier at Howtown was inaccessible. A steamer approached, circling to view the situation, then quickly retreated the way it came. The skipper no doubt realised that under current conditions no could either board or disembark - unless they were prepared to swim!
Birthday girl on Pikeawassa
      Thankfully the steep and slippery path up Steel Knotts was mainly in shade but we still sweated profusely as we toiled to its high point at 1,414ft.  After recent heavy rain sheep basked in the welcome sunshine, loathe to move as we puffed past. The views were clear, sharp and utterly breath-taking. High in the stainless air a hunting Kestrel hovered on trembling wings. From high on the Nab came the distinct roaring of a Red Deer stag in the last stages of the Rut. We posed together for a birthday picture by Pikeawassa's rock tower, regarded as the sharpest summit in Lakeland.
      After ogling the panoramic vistas we descended into the higher reaches of Fusedale. A lone Buzzard dropped silently from the sky onto some unsuspecting prey. The only sounds were of distant streams and the occasional bleating of sheep.  We crossed Groove Gill by the old ruin and descended parallel to Fusedale beck.  High on the hillside towards the upper reaches of Dodd Gill we spotted two Red Deer stags with half a dozen hinds, all being friendly to each other. Their Rut was over. Time to build themselves up again ready for the rigours of winter.
Keswick and the Moot Hall
      We passed Cote Farm, gleaming white among magnificent Larch trees, crossed the bridge and took the path below Bonscale Fell to our base at Ravencragg. Here, after the obligatory cups of reviving tea, my wonderful birthday partner put her cards on display and set about opening her many delightful presents. I'm not allowed to say how old she's become, but suffice to say in tomorrow's run around Derwentwater she'll no longer be racing in the LV60 category!

Sunday, the Derwentwater 10
      Everything went right and I was ready for this race, but still felt nervous going to the start line. We'd driven to Keswick early after a good breakfast of muesli - fortified with a few grapes and half a banana - followed by toast with lashings of my wonderful partner's home made marmalade. The start near Moot Hall in the town centre was half a mile from the changing area at Keswick School, so we walked there and back to loosen our legs and locate the nearest toilets. Back at the school runners were arriving in their hundreds to record the highest number of entries in the race's 51 year history.
2nd LV65
      Lakeland was lit with brilliant sunshine under cloudless skies but there was a cold nip in the air that  prompted me to wear a thermal top under my racing vest as we jogged to the start. And for the first time ever, regardless of how I looked, I wore tight shorts (or are they short tights?) to protect my quads and hamstrings. They were a great success.  
      I placed myself in the middle of the pack and at 12 noon we were away, charging up the main street past Moot Hall bound for the jaws of Borrowdale. The first 5 miles, as far as the bridge over the River Derwent at Grange, are gently undulating so I was able to maintain a fairly even pace as far as the drinks station near Manesty. Then the climbing began, but nothing too viscious and with level bits in between where I could get my breath back before the next gradient. There were notices at the steeper bits saying 'SMILE, CAMERA AHEAD' so we all tried to look as cheerful as humanly possible as we toiled upwards with Catbells towering above and Brandelhow Park in all it's dazzling autumn glory below us. 
Last Maple leaf - waving goodbye
      The views across the lake were positively stunning with the great bulk of Skiddaw silhouetted against the sky ahead and the serrated slopes of Blencathra to the north east. There can be no more scenic race than this. Another hill towards Portinscale slowed me down a bit, then it was a flat, fast mile to the finish by Keswick School. My watch registered 1.21.21 - in 321st place from 585 finishers - which was faster than I'd anticipated so over the moon with that, and delighted to score another MV75 victory after my defeat at Richmond three weeks earlier.

With 'King of the Mountains', Kenny Stuart
Mile splits, according to my Garmin  were:
1.   8.14
2.   7.53
3.   7.44
4.   8.10
5.   8.16
6.   9.31
7.   7.58
8.   8.08
9.   7.53
10.  7.09
       To make it an even more memorable day I was photographed receiving the MV75 prize from that legendary 'King of the Mountains', Kenny Stuart.  I shall cherish that photograph. Well, I would if I could find some way of luring it from Keswick A.C.'s website into one of my picture folders, then into this report!
       Unfortunately, there was a slight problem with later results when the computer went on strike - as they do - so it was not possible for LV65 and LV70 prizes to be awarded until the results can be ratified. Nevertheless, my wonderful partner was highly delighted with her time of 1.39.14 but the second lady in the LV65 category was close to that time too. Time will tell - so to speak - as we eagerly await the final results.
ADDENDUM. Time has now told (!) and in the final results my Longwood partner finished 34 seconds and just seven places behind the LV65 winner, Liz York, but quite happy with her 2nd place performance.  Full results here.


  1. what a beautifully written post....

  2. Another wonderful post RF and a fantastic result too. Well done. It was a gorgeous day, wasn't it.

  3. Thanks Hayfella, we couldn't have ordered better weather - but there was a sprinkling of snow on the Helvellyn range when we drove back in the afternoon.

  4. Great report - makes me want to go to the lakes even more...though not to race you...I would be soundly beaten!

  5. Sorry to hear about the dog nipping your bum! Looks like you have such a beautiful place to jealous! Someday I might make it to your neck of the woods to run. Any great ultras near you?

  6. Pure goosebumps reading that Gordon. Wish i had been there, maybe next year.

  7. You are and will always be my English poet! Lovely writing as always:) Congrats on a fantastic 10 mile finish...check out those last two mile splits! You would of left me in the dust:) I enjoyed the pictures too...looks like a beautiful day for a run!!

    I am so glad I found your blog Running Fox! You must know that you are one of the four blogs that I read and follow from England:) I love reading your blog because you have a passion for running and for writing! I am a huge fan of poetic and romantic writers.....just like you! Have a wonderful week!

  8. well done - again !!! don't let up !!
    best wishes

  9. Oh that was so beautifully written - I love Keswick and I wished I had run it with you now (well.... not quite with you, more very far behind you!).

    Congratulations and very well done.

    Suzie, Running Bug xx

  10. You're split times are very impressive - you are in great form right now, fair play Running Fox!