Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Ultra Trail 26 - Grizedale

A tough marathon in more ways than one.           

Sunday 18th November 2912 it's a beautiful sunny morning and we are lucky this late on in the year to have perfect conditions for the inaugural Ultra Trail 26 based in and around Grizedale Forest.

Grizedale Sculptures

It has taken a massive effort to get here, I have been on a constant emotional roller coaster for many weeks and in essence I have been really quiet depressed and struggling with every day life. I am so use to masking this complex illness in order to function that it is hard for others to have an insight or an real understanding of the battle I have been going through. It's not an issue I harp on about or want to draw attention to on a daily basis, ironic I know, I use my (this)blog in order to raise some awareness of the crushing impact this illness can have and also how it can be also improved and contained through exercise, for me through running and to create an understanding that despite it people can achieve.

I arrive at Grizedale ready to take on the 27.2 miles of forest, hills and lakeside with in my mind it's 2 loops if I'm not hacking it I can drop after loop 1, especially as I can't remember the last time I had a complete nights sleep - all part of this crappy condition

I'm starting on empty! but this will be my 10th marathon at marathon distance my 4th this year and I am looking forward to the race after recceing some of the course and knowing other aspects from other races in the area I know it's going to be good; the course did not disappoint.

Competitors gather for a race briefing at 10.15 in the Grizedale Forest courtyard and we are set off promptly at I am a little concerned as I realise it's a small field of runners and will I, as a plodder, get left behind? but I was given some sound advice "embrace your inner burner, let go of the plodder" or in reality there are sweapers out on the course.

Grizedale Forest
The race takes us through Grizedale forest on well established forest tracks, non of it flat but gradually and constantly undulating with some good steady climbs, the ones that slowly pull on your legs but your daren't stop. Some of the views across to the main mountains above Coniston are breath taking as you come out of the wooded forest to be greeted by the majestic hills it is quiet a contrast and just amazing.
It doesn't take long for me to drift towards the back of the pack but I do seem to hang on to the sight of the back of the pack, and I'm enjoying the journey despite massive waves of tiredness that I don't usually experience this early in a race but I accept I'm knackered. My wonderful partner is out and about walking in the area and pops up every now and then to cheer me on and I know is checking I'm ok, I am loving the sun, the views and the course. - Loop 1 12 miles is the warm up, the fun was about to begin.

After a pit stop to collect water, jelly babies and flapjacks at the checkpoint I choose to press
on quiet quickly if I stop I won't start out again. I'm pointed in the right direction and soon find myself on a rocky, stone strewn path to start the 1st short climb for loop 2, this is more like it love this sort of terrain and soon hook up with fellow runner Emmett and we fall into jogging, chatting as we explore this exciting loop and exchange race stories and experiences.

There is great variety from forests, lakes, Esthwaite Water, Windermere and the villages of Near Sawrey, Far Sawrey and tarns.We narrowly miss a bull in a field as a local dog walker tells us we have missed turning, too busy gabbing and lost our position on map. The variety is also under foot with some challenging climbs and descents in particular down the coffin trail to the edge of Windermere Belle Grange scarily slippy - a snail would have got down this quicker than me.

Hawkshead Fisheries
A sudden downpour as we move along the bank of Windermere  before another rocky climb that would take us over to Far Sawrey, darkness is falling and as we enter High Dale Park we give in an get the head torches out although improved vision doesn't stop me falling head first in the stream we were
crossing, a chilly dip and a fit of the giggles to compliment the bruised hip.

It is
noticable that we haven't seen other competitors for a couple of hours and we are now admiting to each other tiredness has set in, my companion hasn't done a lot of training on hills and we fall in to informal team work, I pull us up the hills Emmett keeps us going on the downs and flats.

The last 3 miles took an age I had really slowed down, I knew the route but the forest track in the dark seemed to never end and I was really hanging on I needed to eat but couldn't face anything. In the dark other runners caught us up and we chivvied each other along, the girls knew the course well and I realise I wasn't totally focused on where I was, the 4 of us complete the half mile or so together, a short rocky descent and across the road to a fairy lit finish line and a warm welcome. I was so pleased to have finished but felt like I had been run over by a tractor.

It had been tough getting to the start line for this one and it was a tough course, but so worth the effort, the challenge and pushing that bit further. Even for me this has taken a long time to complete, its not an indication of a poor performance more an indication of a challenging exciting course. 27.2 miles done.
Revived by really delicious soup I give an very brief interview about the event take a look then sign up for one of the other marathons next year, challenge yourself and you may find you love it too. Race video featuring 30 seconds of me!!!

The event organiser's Epic Events, the marshalls and volunteers were excellent. THANK YOU
It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.


  1. Brilliant. Running always makes me feel better. I was hoping to do this event but hurt my knee a few weeks before. Well done, are you doing Rivington? I have transferred my entry

  2. Maxine - Thanks for dragging me up the hills and the Navigation, I could have still been out around Carlisle if not for that. I was not prepared and struggled with a previous injury but as they say "If you're not in over your head, you'll never know how tall you are"

  3. Hi Guys
    Paul yes I am doing Rivington and Emmett I was so relieved to have company around the second loop, thank you. Emmett come on you know you want to do this again sign up for Rivington.

  4. well done was a great event :)

  5. You may be right, I'm doing the Rome marathon the Sunday before but why not, it'll an extreme change of scenery, and no doubt a change to the weather too.
    See you at the start line