Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coniston Trail Race - Report

Well, that was wet (and muddy)!

I woke on Saturday to lead grey skies and a little rain but nothing to suggest how bad it was up in the Lakes. As the start had been delayed by two hours after the problems they had at the Derwentwater race I had plenty of time to wake up, eat etc. Pam and I even visited the farmers market - it was really chilly, I had a hat on for the first time in anger this autumn and my down gilet, which is filthy and really, really needs sending away for cleaning (that's what happens when you carry bags of mucky compost around in a pale blue gilet).

Jez had gone off to Staveley at 7:50 this morning to ride over Garburn pass with some friends of his from work. He phoned me just as we were setting off t 11:30 to say that it was lashing in the Lakes and he was calling it a day it was so wet, oh goody!

Things didn't really get bad until we got off the M6 and it just chucked it down and the wind was strong. Anyone that was out and about, be that on foot or on bike, looked drenched...and miserable.

As we pulled into the car parking area at Coniston Hall the rain was horizontal and there were lots of very wet people milling around. I saw a couple of people walking towards us with their race numbers but they also had the t-shirts too, so something was afoot as they normally give them out once you finish.

We drove down to the first (very wet but cheery) marshal who informed us that the main 15k courses had been cancelled on mountain rescue advice and there would be two laps of the low level Sport Trail course instead, with everyone starting at 2pm. This was a little disappointing but given the weather conditions it was the sensible decision. The marshal told us to head along the track where we would be directed to park by other equally wet and cheery marshals. The track was in fact a brown river, it was just sodden.

We parked up and got ready to dash to the registration point, we waited for a few minutes to see if the horizontal rain would ease off but not a chance. Pam decided to accompany me to registration and we were both dreched within about 30 seconds of leaving the car. This wasn't ideal as the trousers I was going to change into at the end were soaking wet through now. I at least had gore tex lined boots on but poor Pam had running shoes on so her feet got soaked through. The brown river/track was actually an inch or two deep all the way along and the grass alongside was just as squelchy so there was no escape from it.

The registration point was in a building rather than a marquee this time and it was crammed full of wet runners. I picked up my number and was given my t-shirt, I also saw that they had brought the t-shirts from the Derwentwater race as well so I picked up one of those too. We headed back to the car so I could get ready to run.

The car was lovely and warm and I thought about how I was going to get my kit together for running. I had most of my kit on already but I needed my running vest, shoes, gloves and jacket which were all in the boot of Pam's car. The seats were folded down as she had her bike in but it's a Vectra and the stuff was right at the boot door, no way I was going to reach it from the front seat.

I decided to take my wet trousers off, take my nice warm fleece off and make a dash for it. I was freezing and wet by the time I got back in the car with my bag, then realised I'd left the shoes! Out to get cold and wet again, at tleast I was keeping Pam entertained. Pam had originally intended to do a short offroad ride while I ran but she had decided against that in the end. I decided to pin my number to my running vest then wear that over my jacket rather than put holes in my jacket, it's thin enough without putting holes in it. I put a buff on my head to keep weat hair out of my eyes and my thin running gloves on to keep the wind off my hands.

I watched soaking wet people running past for a while until I finally left the warmth of the car and headed to the start line. The jog there would be my only "warm up" and as there was no point in trying to stay dry I got straight on with the business of getting wet and ran/splashed/waded along the track then over to the start area. There were a lot of dafties prepared to run so that made me feel better even though I was soaked to the skin aready.

Standing waiting for the start the water was puddling round my feet, the ground was so sodden it couldn't absorb anymore. I had decided to take it easy and not run really hard, just enough to stay warm. I didn't have a watch on (as I still haven't found the damn Garmin and I forgot my other watch) and no idea of the course so would be taking it easy on the first lap in particular. I also can sometimes overdo it in races and end up coming down with a cold. I thought I was fighting off a bit of a sniffle after Wednesday's drenching but two rest days seemed to put paid to it. The soaking I was getting now was laying me open to getting it again.

As it was a mass start it was a bit crowded but it made it easy to keep a nice pace, it climbed for a little while but it was nothing like what we would've been climbing if we had done the proper race. We were running across a wet field for a while then onto some hard packed tracks. We also ran alongside a main road (I assume the road to Torver) and this track was just standing water. I watched the feet of the runners in front of me to get an idea what the ground was like under the constant puddle.

We must have looked a sight but I didn't feel as miserable as all the Polaris bikers we saw looked, at least I would be heading home to a hot shower and proper bed rather than a night in a tent (though at least Sunday would turn out to be a cracking day for them). This section of th course was the most exposed to the wind and it was here on both laps where I had my "I'm not enjoying this" moments as the rain stung my face. However, once I turned off the road I had the wind behind me for a while.

I took it easy on the downhill section due to my psoas, particularly as it was tarmac (and I made sure I breathed properly), so I had no problems. The last part of the lap is along the edge of the lake and waves were breaking against the shore. This section was very,very wet and there were a couple of streams that run into the lake which we had to cross. In normal conditions they would either be a trickle that you could step over or not there at all. Today, depending on which part you stood in they were knee deep and also extremely cold. Even though my feet were wet the water in my shoes was warm but it was a real shock going through these. I tried to follow someone who hadn't disappeared up to their knees to pick a shallower spot to cross.

As I ran through the start/finish area to head out again a couple of people in front of me pulled over, they had had enough and didn't want to do another lap. Pam says she saw quite a few people doing this. I was tempted for a brief second but then I thought what the hell, I can't get any wetter. Wrong!

I set off up the climb on my second lap. The inital part is on fire road style tack and it had a bit of a stream running down one side of it and a dry line on the other. I was running up the stream line and was just thinking to myself that it wasn't sensible as I couldn't see what was under it when I stood on a rock and went over on my ankle. I swore to myself and gave a little skip, well I though I swore to myself but two people turned to ask me if I was ok so it might have been out loud.

It was ok after a few strides (the wonders of lots of off road running) and I kept on running. The field was a lot more churned this time round and the road section just as wet and windy as it was before.

I was really feeling soaked now, I don't know whether it was because I was getting more tired but I was really noticing it now. My running vest was absolutely sopping and it felt like it weighed a ton (should've wrung it out!), it was sliding around on the top of my jacket which didn't help. My wrists felt cold becuse the jacket was stuck to it and was so wet its wind blocking properties seemed to have gone.

I enjoyed the run downhill as the wind was behind me but the section along the lake was a mess after all the runners tramping through it. I'm sure the streams had gotten deeper because my feet felt so cold after running through them. Pam says they caused a few people to cramp - as she's waiting in the finish area she gets to see all the action. I could barely run the last kilometre, it wasn't so much slippy as like trying to run through treacle, I couldn't keep any sort of stride pattern going at all which is probably good practice for my first cross country race!

I finished with no idea what my time was or how far I'd run but I didn't care. Pam handed my my jacket which was at least waterproof and did help warm me up while we headed straight to the car. Even if I hadn't soaked my trousers earlier the rain didn't let up at all so I wouldn't have been able to have gotten changed anyway. I basically took my top layers off and got into Pam's car to sit on some towels. I put my dry race t-shirt on which was quite difficult to do in a confined space without punching Pam at any point. I put my fleece on but left my shoes/socks and everything else on and Pam cranked the heating up. My fingers were all wrinkly, it looked like I had been lying in the bath for an hour rather than running.

I had packed my recovery drink which I really needed to have after that drenching. I had the powder separately in a little bag to make it up fresh but as I was pouring it into the water the powder all stuck in the bag handles and I then proceeded to dunk them in the water so it all became a big blob. I think I got about a quarter of the powder in that should have been in there and as I was making enough of a mess of Pam's car with my muddy feet and legs without covering it in banana recovery drink powder I gave in.

The drive home was quite eventful too. The main road between Coniston and Ambleside had been wet with a little standing water on it as we drove over. It was now full of huge puddles, the kind where only one car at a time can go through and you wish you were in a 4 x 4. Some poor sod broke down in one of the puddles, they got help to get pushed out to clear the road but it didn't look good. We were glad to have left when we did as with the amoun of water still coming down there was a risk the road would be closed. We had only been parked up in Coniston for a little over two hours.

The rain followed us down to Preston I think or it seemed to, it was a minging day. Pam dropped me off so we could both get a hot shower before she came back round for tea later.

The upshot was the race was approx 6.8 miles long and I took 1:04 to get round, so not brilliant but I'm just pleased I finished, just hope I don't catch my death of cold.

The photos are on Sleepmonsters but I couldn't find any of me, which is not that surprising as I didn't notice the photographer at all though it does look stupidly wet. There is one particular one in the "Finish Area" section where someone is lying face down in the mud, yuck.


  1. Wow sounds like quite an experience and in those conditions an amazing time!

  2. It was fun in a perverse way! I'm glad I did it, just hope conditions are decent for the next one.

  3. But surely some of the fun of running off-road is the cold and the wet?

  4. Indeed, MTBing on foot! I think that's why I like it so much. I would prefer if it was a touch less wet for the next one though!