The Lakeland Trails Derwentwater Trail Race was the 2nd race I entered after starting running in 2010. That year I had the pleasure of Mark Rogers for company and although we joked at the time we looked the part i.e two skinny men in shorts it was only Mark who raced the part in an excellent run of 1.03. Since then this race had remained ever present on my calendar along with the Hawkshead Race and would be a good opportunity to measure my progress. In 2012 I had spent the summer doing the sessions with Harriers and saw a 3 minute improvement in my time so I wasn’t sure how much it would change this year.
The race starts close to the heart of Keswick in Fitz Park and usually makes for a good day out however it does have a tradition of rain often very heavy! Due to other commitments I travelled north for the race without the family. The dark skies encircling the M6 did not bode well but the rain held off during the journey. After parking up I jogged to the start to sort registration and then the heavens opened so I hot footed it back to the car to change into my black ‘n’ red. The rain was bouncing off the bonnet so as the minutes ticked by my plans for a lengthy warm up quickly receded.
Eventually I manned up and did a warm up and soon it was time for the off. It was strange to be in a race as a solo Harrier but I knew Graham Millington would be out on the course ready to offer some encouragement and words of wisdom!
Thankfully as the race started the rain eased. I had been struggling with a sore Achilles since the last Harrock Race which had hampered my training so my plan was to start at 6.30 pace on the first section and then take it from there.
This 14km Trail Race can be thought of as being in three sections.
Section 1: This is an old railway line so fairly flat and smooth so good running for 2.5 miles
Section 2: Steady climbing for 3 miles through bogs and rocky hillside.
Secton 3: 3.5 miles of descent, sometimes steep or technical i.e mountain goat standard but a roller coaster ride to the finish.
I felt comfortable on the opening section, trying to maintain a steady pace so I was ready for the climb. I managed to go past a few people but also had a few pass me as runners attempted to find their placing in the race. As we turned off the track I was surprised to be greeted by the diminutive figure of Julie Platt. Julie has spent the summer blasting around the Lake District on Marathons and Ultras but on this occasion was lending a hand with marshalling duties. Seeing a familiar face and some warm words spurred me as the race burst into action with it’s first vicious climb. You know it’s steep when a few runners moan and groan aloud about it’s severity. You also know then that those guys are toast as the climb carries on for a fair while!
As we battled up the climb I started to pick off quite a few runners. I was only feeling a dull ache from my achilles which didn’t seem to be impeding me too much. I passed Philip Eccleston (one of many Burnden Road Runners) and worked at gradually picking people off. Ahead of me as we approached open moorland was leading lady Pippa Maddams who was back running only 6 months after giving birth!
I was able to pass Pippa before entering the Glenderterra bogs which meant I had a fairly clear route ahead of me so I was able to pick a good line through the muddy depths. In previous years I had got caught up in traffic here so my extra pace on the opening section had paid dividends. When you leave the bog you swing left across the valley to cross the river, it was at this point I heard the next person I knew. Injury had forced Graham Millington to trade down to the 10k but he had also volunteered for marshalling. No easy checkpoint for Graham, the kind people at LT sent Graham as far away from Keswick and civilisation as possible. As I said I heard Graham before I saw him, by this stage I was blowing very hard and drenched in sweat. Not sure what he said but it warranted a two fingered salute. He told me that I had moved into 16th place, which was a pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect to be anywhere near the top 20.
The next section of the climb really tests your stamina as already knackered you need to negotiate a rocky narrow path strewn with debris with a steep drop off in places. Usually you reach the brow of the hill to be greeted by a strong headwind and today was no exception. It spurred me on to get to lower calmer ground so much so that I picked off another place and nearly ran through the photographer! I was really working hard and didn’t even slow for a smile as I ran by!
The rest of the race was all very familiar to me of course and was all about running fast downhill and staying upright. Blasting down the hillside at Harrock had helped me prepare but I still felt this was an area I could improve on in future races.
After running through the fells it comes as a shock to emerge back at the park full of people. I crossed the line in a very pleasing 14th place in 1.05.58, 30 seconds a mile faster than last year’s pace.
I was certainly pooped and ready for a lie down, the race ending was the cue for the rain to start again so I set off for home looking forward to eating my Cartmel Sticky Ginger Pudding, yum yum!