Wednesday, 6 May 2015

GL3D an adventure into the unknown

It rained so much last weekend it couldn't possibly do the same again could it? Weeks ago I had expressed interest in this event and then when the LAMM was cancelled it seemed like an even better idea. Bob was keen to marshall and see things from the other side. It will  also get him credits for the RAB MM this autumn. We were packed an ready so travelled up at a leisurely pace and even had time for lunch in the sun in a big layby on the lakes coast road. After minor nav difficulties we found what would become the event centre. Shane and a few others were already there so we joined in helping to put up signs, erect tents and other jobs. It was a beautiful afternoon and great to meet up with Charlie, Heather, Little Dave, Andrew and others.
Phot- Ian and GL3D site Charlie attaching my Si card
Maps for the GL3D are premarked with all the controls and available as you register. It is not like other MMs in the sense that unless the clag is down the nav is not hard and controls are all on path junctions or summits.
Photo Ian and GL3D  Route planning!
I joined the others in the marquee marking up maps and studying possible routes. I planned to do the A course feeling that my legs were too trashed from The Fellsman to contemplate the Elite (perhaps another year). It did not look too bad although Day 2 would be tough. At registration you also get to drop off a dry bag that can be 59l and up to 13kg. This was weird for me used to MMs where you carry all you want. We did not have any huge dry bags and I reckoned the ones we had would be fine, so long as I took the tent poles out. My little bag weighed in at about 9.5kg. In retrospect I would put in more real food, more of that later, but at the time I was happy that I had enough spare and warm clothes for the worst the weather could do. I had booked my tea and the Shaff film so armed with a pint I made my way to the little tent. The second and longer film of Finding Traction follows Nikki Kimball's attempt at breaking the Long Trail record was quite emotional and inspirational. Suddenly I realised it was dark, I should be packed and in bed etc. I shot off to the van  but was still awake when Bob arrived later to say he needed the van by 7am to drive to the other start in Eskdale. Oh well, a slightly earlier start than I planned - something I would thank him for later.
6am came round very fast and I quickly got fed, organised and left the van. After a short spell in the marquee I decided I might as well get on with it. Starts are flexible between 7-9am and it wasn't raining yet! To avoid sheep and lambs we started up the road- up hill all the way to the track just after Muncaster castle.My legs felt heavy but I know the first 30 minutes of long days are not my best and told myself I would be fine later. It was good to get onto softer ground on Muncaster Fell and the huge cairn was soon in sight. First CP sorted. The winning mixed pair on the Elite were just up ahead and it stayed that way until Illgill Head. Braddan was also on my tail until the descent off Illgill where my toes screamed and slowed me down. It was good to have some company through Nether Wasdale and up onto the high fells. Somewhere in all this the weather started to deteriorate but the rain was not too bad and I was able to leave my hood down for much of the time. Dropping off the fell into Brackenclose we started to meet those on the B and C courses who had been bussed to the Woolpack in Eskdale. I also knew that the Elite would leave the A here. The fastest route to the Wasdale Inn may have been the road but I did not fancy tarmac and so used the footpath behind the campsite with river crossing and bogs.
Windy Gap Credit Ian Corless
My ascent was via Windy Gap and onto Pillar. Bob and I had come down this last year and it was not something I wanted to repeat although going up was actually nothing like as bad. I concentrated on picking off those up ahead and wondered whether we would get up and onto Pillar before Braddan etc on the elite appeared. The top was in mist and it was getting windy. By the summit it was very windy, there was snow on the ground and it was sleeting. Come on weather gods, this is now May! Not wanting to hang around I shot off towards Black Sail Pass and Moses trod. At least I knew where I was going and I could see the line I wanted to take. The rain was not too bad but the wind was shoving me around. The next CP was Honister so there was no need to climb over Grey Crag and I was pleased with my line and mostly grassy run down to the cafe. Only one more climb now and we did not need to climb all the way over Dale Head. The rain was getting worse as I forked right across the little plateau of bog. I had told myself that it was now easy but I am a woos on wet rock and the first part of the descent path was annoyingly slow. It meant I had energy in my legs to run the valley floor though and I reached camp at Little Town in 6 hours 14 which I was quite pleased with.
Soggy tents at Little Town credit GL3D site
Thanks to my early start there were not too many others already in so I reclaimed my dry bag and found a sheltered spot for my tent. The weather got worse and I thanked Bob for the early start. I still had not really got my head round the luxury of the GL3D. Once my tent was up a fell asleep but then after an hour realised I could claim Wilf's cake and endless cups of tea AND sit in the nice marquee.
Wilf's chocolate cake  Credit L3D site
Loads of people actually cooked and ate there too having collected hot water from Heather. I returned to my tent to cook but went back to the marquee to socialise and find that I was second overall. Not a bad start. I now had time to pour over the map and worry about the weather forecast for day 2. It looked a big day and some serious climbs but what really troubled me was staying warm and dry especially as we went over Scafell Pike and Scafell . I knew I would not move fast over the wet rock and the forecast gales worried me. I prayed for bad weather courses. I slept well despite the wind and rain and ventured out early to find we did indeed have bad weather courses.... and that we could not start before 8am. Oh well back to bed for a bit and a leisurely breakfast.
The dry bags, some were huge. Credit GL3D site
It was nice to pack most gear into the dry bag although I did opt to carry warm layers and started in 3 thermals and two waterproofs. It bucketed down most of the day and I was pleased to be comfortable. With all that on I did not really feel cold and I had to take my hat off and did not wear gloves. The start was more level today and we took the big track to the northern end of the Cat Bells ridge. Most people then turned up the ridge but Julie and I had spotted that there was no need to climb extra here so I trotted off road the path on the east side and then after the gap for Maiden moor began to climb diagonally on smaller trods. At first I was on my own but before long a faster run appeared and then Braddan. It was good to have company once we reached the ridge and we wordlessly fell into running together. After our control on High Spy the cloud cleared just enough to show us a glimpse of the fence and stream heading east down to Borrowdale. Sticking by the fence line I avoided most of the rock and the decsent was faster than I had hoped. I did not want to go all the way down to the road but hoped to cut off the corner. I shouted after Braddan and three of us ran along the wall towards  the YHA swapping tales of The OMM in that valley. The climb up Glaramara was a pig and by now the weather was awful. I hate running with hoods up as somehow it gives me tunnel vision and seems to stop my brain working. We found the control at the top with no problem although it was not on the main summit where I had expected it to be. Then I made a stupid mistake. I blame the hoods up issue. I thought great, I know where I am and now we just head for Bowfell, easy. I was so pleased not to have to go over Scafell etc first. I shot off in what I thought was a southerly direction and Braddan did the same. After about 5-10 minutes we stopped. The thick clag, rain and lumpy ground gave us doubts. Were we sure? No. Maps and compasses out and we were even more confused. OK believe the compass. We did but then after 5 minutes we were even more sure that it was not right. Both our compasses seemed to be misbehaving. Is it magnetic granite? We did put it right but we lost at least 20 minutes and it was frustrating after such a great start to the day. Little did we know that the leader on the A course and several others would not even find the control.Actually that just made the silly mistake seem worse. It took a while but eventually Esk Hause shelter appeared and we set off for Esk Pike and Bowfell. Others on the A and Elite now caught us up and about half a dozen of us formed a loose group. We skirted the top of Esk Pike and clambered up a very snowy Bowfell in clag and rain or sleet. Here Braddan and the others on elite left us and Sabrina and I headed off to Pike O Blisco. I did not have confidence to find the race line and so clambered over all the Crinkles. Annoying but I did not want to risk wasting even more time. It was a joy to reach the grassy slopes and big path to our last summit. Sabrina knew a grassy way all the way into Little Langdale but we lost the trod for a moment and split up. I just headed south knowing I would hit the road. It was two sides of a triangle and tarmac but safer.
Pleased to finish in the sun- thanks Bob
She did in fact find her route and so in the end beat me that day by 25 minutes. Ah well it meant she was now a minute ahead of me overall. We ran into Little Langdale in warmth and sunshine!

 It was great to shed layers, put wet clothes to dry on the wall and get the tent up and dry too. (spare a thought for the marshalls that moved about 200 dry bags each day and loaded them in and out of vans, as well as putting up 2 tents and the marquee and being ready with download, hot water etc).
Wind and sun to dry the tents
I even got to have my tea and cake on a real chair in the sunshine. It didn't last long of course but still. Rain had us scuttling back to our tents and the marquee as we heard other runners finishing in the rain. I ate in my tent again and only returned to the marquee to chat and find out what was forecast for the final day. It seemed to suggest some improvement but strong winds. For no apparent reason I slept soundly for 90 minutes and was then wide awake. I tried not to get cross but got increasingly annoyed as I saw 11.30, 12.15, 1am, 2.15am and 3am. I gave up and had a picnic of chocolate in the hope I would then fall asleep. At 4 I had to go out and sort out the tent that was trying to take off. The winds were dramatic and some did have to chase flysheets across the field. Even in the van parked behind two walls and a farm Bob said he was buffeted and poor Shane had a wakeful night worrying about the marquee. I slept eventually but once up was too tired to contemplate sitting around for a later start in the hope that the weather improved.
Cloud on the tops, it got worse.  Credit Ian Corless
I should have done but hey ho. Day 3 started with a climb up Wetherlam. It has been a while since I have done the 3 Shires race but I knew what to expect. My legs felt fine until they were forced up here. Gradually we climbed into the cloud and wind. The summit was easy to find but less easy to stand up on. Fortunately the ridge to Swirl How was better and the path big enough to follow after the first col. After this the elite rejoined us and the B and C departed. I had hoped I could find the race line below Dow but the in the cloud and on my own I lost confidence after the errors of yesterday. It meant I was cautious and slower than I needed to be all the way from the Goat tarn col to Brown Pike. It seemed to take forever to appear and I had visions of missing it and landing on Walna Scar road. Predictably as I punched on Brown Pike and stormed off down Walna Scar to the Duddon valley the could started to lift! I should have started later. Before the valley bottom I was melting and had to take layers off. My spirits lifted as the weather improved and I braved the confusion of footpaths rather than the road. It worked well and I was soon at the stepping stones and wire across the river. It was now dry and getting very warm. It cost me several minutes but I had to stop and shed more layers. Just as well I had opted to run with my OMM sack as it was getting full! I got to the paths below Harter Fell quickly and used two fell runners out for a trot to pull me along. I was also confident that I knew where to cut the corner here and pick up the Esk Valley path. I could see the Woopack across the fields and kept trying to run fast now the ground was flat and easy. Just before the next CP I hooked up with Patrick and another guy. We pushed each other and felt we were going fast until Alex came floating past (he beat me by an hour today but failed to find Glaramara). Muncaster Fell seemed to have grown over the weekend and we all tried to find lines that avoided the smallest of unnecessary climbs. After this I was worried my legs would hate the final run in. Several Km and all downhill please don't fail me now. They did well plus having tourists and others about meant stopping to walk would be too shameful. One last sprint (?) and the finish gantry was there. 5 hours 23 and I was back in Ravenglass. It was wonderful to slump into a chair and drink cold water, refuel on Wilfs veggie stew and eat cake. I even treated myself to the free beer. Sabrina managed 5 hours 14 so she beat me overall by 10 mins. Not so bad I guess at 5 minutes a decade of age over 3 days. Gradually all but 4 runners finished and people started to drift away. As the field emptied we started to clear up. Once refuelled I felt fine and helped collecting in signs etc.They are a great team and had worked so hard all weekend. I will return and might even do the Elite. Thanks Charlie for great courses, Shane for organising, Heather for food and all the others who moved so much gear each day.

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