Great Lakeland 3 Day

I entered the GL3D on recommendation from a few people, a mountain marathon type event over three days with camping and transfer of bags each day, so in essence 3 days in the mountains rather than the traditional mountain marathon type event where you carry your own gear all the time. Sounded somewhat fun.

Due to injury and partly falling out with running I was in no fit state to ‘run’. I tried to sell my place but being a unique event no one wanted it. It also clashed with a lot of other good races that weekend where a lot of the top runners would be.

So given that there were choices of routes, the ‘cafe’ route the ‘wainwright’ route and the ‘expert’ route I was able to opt for the shorter cafe route, which allowed walkers with cafe’s on route. A good few days on the mountains walking.

Friday night started off in Coniston at the ‘start / finish’ area. I had packed everything in my 59 litre no more than 13kg dry bag that came in at just over 11kg including spare trainers, food for 3 days, sleeping stuff and tent loaned by Pete from running club. All sorted then. So the Friday evening I slept in my own bigger tent and warmer sleeping bag – this was a mistake as I had only taken my very thin sleeping bag with me for the other days.

Evening set up in the marque was nice and friendly, a good atmosphere. We were given our maps and the evening gave us time to ponder over the routes. I was taking the cafe route each day, no doubt. I was new to this sort of event and new-ish to the hills and self navigation wasn’t my strongest point even though I can navigate, plus I was unable to run much at all, and couldn’t be bothered to get back into the running.

Day 1

So I was up nice and early on day to to pack away the tent and start the challenge. People could start any time between 7-9am. So a very flexible sort of event. I dibbed in and saw the majority of people leave base the other way to where I was going. A lone Cafe route person just me then, it just felt like a normal walk. Immediately although I wasn’t lost I felt a bit lost, a bit lonely after the hussle and bussle of base camp.

But with map in hand I followed the route, circa 12 miles to the next base in the Langdales via a number of controls – dibbers parked in various places around the Lakes. I managed to find the first dibber without too many problems and onwards I went. Here I went a bit wrong and took the wrong pathway but in hindsight it was all ok as it lead me to the next control at a bridge without too many issues. I was still a bit lonely. Now this was all odd as I am happy as a pig in **** in my own company or on an ultra running on my own but today I just felt very alone with map in hand negotiating my way to these controls. Next stop was Elterwater,  Chapel Stile – the control was dangling on the tree. There was a cafe opposite but I was all ok with enough water and kendal mint cake to last me.

Running is like having a cup of tea, I am so much nicer when I’ve had one

I made a silly decision here and took the low path across Brown Hills campsite in hope to get up a banking. There was a sign saying ‘no footpath’ so I carried on and bumped into one of the expert course people who told me I was going the right way – he’d have just come down the way I was going up. One weird thing about this event is you don’t know who is doing what course, so you can bump into people but they may be doing a different route to you, so stay faithful to your own route and your own map. something I was dearly about to learn later on in the game.

When I knew I was descending back to the river instead of ascending up to the next control I retraced my steps and followed the ‘no footpath’ sign, i ended up scrambling up a slate slope and then decided to give it a miss and retrace my steps once again to meander across boggy grassland. I saw a bunch of people in the distance so was able to scramble across to them to reach the footpath I should have been in before. I probably lost about 30 minutes to an hour crossing an extra couple of miles. I am rubbish at this game.

If you run into a wall, don’t give up, figure out how to climb it

I followed the path up and was back on track. My map directed me up and up and up as other course runners were coming down and down and down. This was ok, I knew my aim – up and up and up. Other runners were coming in other directions and following me for a split second these were mountain pro’s and over took me with elegance and slickness that made me look like a penguin in wellies. Dibbing in at the next control I went on my way across the ridge with many of the ‘expert’ course people over taking me as they danced around the rocky terrain. I was just jogging slightly in no hope to keep them in my sight, oblivious to where they were heading, which was the same control at this point as me.

The next control did take a bit of finding but by this time there must have been 10 or so running scrambling up and down the summit dibbing in climbing down.

I got into the groove and followed all these really good runners down into the Valley, only to find that at a campsite I had gone about 2 miles out of my way and I wanted to be up there – yes up that mountain up there, not down here but up there. I nearly cried. That would teach me to follow other people and loose myself in just about the only bit of running I was doing that day. I was not happy and dug out my chocolate to binge eat and satisfy my grumpyness.

You make your own luck good

Back up the hill I walked and could see other walkers in the distance who looked like they were part of the event. I climbed up and up and up still a bit angry with myself but knowing that it was a silly mistake to make and I was new to all this control lark and the different routes etc and that I must trust my own map reading not someone elses. Next stop, it was windy and there were quite a few of us up there. I took a photo of a girl and then went on my merry way. The girl I was to spend the following two days with.

My back had begun to hurt as I tried to run down the mountain towards the camp which was in view a good two miles away. I felt sad that I was unable to run down, each step jarred my back further. I sat down for a while and watched everyone else gleefully dance down the pathway. Finally I got my act together and bit by bit made my way down to camp.

Sometimes it really is just about the destination

I crossed camp on day 1 not really smiling but in pain with my back and angry with myself for going wrong and taking silly lines. But these are all lessons learned in a good way. 18 miles instead of 12. Woopse. We were given a token for a piece of cake OR a cuppa tea. Hmmm.. I would have really liked both. Its a small thing but it really bugged me.

I picked up my dry bag and unpacked tent and got some hot water, then settled down with my book and zonked out for a while.

I decided to use my little token for some cake as I could make myself a cuppa tea with free hot water and my little milk sachets I had brought. The cake was nice, thats why we run.

And then it was time for bed.

Day 2

I was up early and packed up by 6.30am. Hot water was on tap for porridge and tea so I got stocked up with my porridge and tea, and plenty of it. I met the girl who I had taken the photo of the day before and we decided to set off together. We chatted a bit down the valley. It was nice having company today. Up Bowfell we went scrambling amidst the random weather. Visibility wasn’t too bad but it was cold up there and my body warmer came out. I found out Hisayo was doing the Dragons Back and had done Lakeland 100, and Northern Transverse, an incredible woman. It put my little Ultra diary to shame. A mere mortal in the ultra world.

We ignored all other runners and did our own thing, choosing good lines. Hisayo was very good with the compass but we supported each other and I had bag envy as she had a really nice bag. Down the valley was lovely really runnable and for once I felt like I was running, across streams and following the lovely trail. I was finally enjoying myself. Hisayo was really good at the downhills but I was probably stronger on the uphills. I was enjoying the company today. Today was a good day and the back was ok too.

Running is kind of an investment in yourself


We didn’t really see anyone else until we reached the top of the final control, where we had taken a detoured line and another guy caught up with us on the top. I headed straight for the control dibbed in and then began my rocky abseil down to camp which again was nested about 2 miles down yonder. I struggled a bit on the down hill the back was jarring again at every step but I managed to stay focused and controlled all the way to camp.

This time we had managed to do the correct miles around 12ish, and arrived at camp just as they were opening up at 1pm. This meant we didn’t get any penalty for being early.

I set up tent again but high winds meant the organisers were unable to get the marque up which also meant there was no hot water, just cake, only cake and just cake and nothing but cake.  I tried to get my stove out but had bought the wrong gas for it – cold supper for me then. I began munching on rubbish stuff. oat cakes, more oat cakes and even more oat cakes, and some popcorn and a cereal bar or 3. After a meeting with my book ‘A street cat named Bob’ which I was really enjoying I decided to have a go at making some cold mash, with mash. Yes cold mash. Hmmm… it kind of worked. I found out half an hour later though that they finally had hot water. Bad move. Cold Mash in my face.

I was cold tonight, and my back was hurting even more so much so I was bent over and it looked like I had a bit of an injury. I was worried I may not make it for day 3. But evaluate day three when you get there not now and it was time for some sleep.

Day 3

Myself and Hisayo ended up meeting up again and setting off together. As this was day 3 a lot of people were setting off early and the wainwright and cafe courses slid together for the first few miles. Within a mile there seemed to be a dead end for a while so a group of us retraced our steps to find a path a bit higher up.

We made the mistake that I made on day 1 and followed the wainwright course people. We realised our mistake and rather than backtracking we were able to follow the edge of a wall back round to join the cafe route course which went up and up and up and up towards Old Man of Coniston. If  I had been a tineeenny weeney bit fitter I could have attempted the wainwright course today as it wasn’t much more than the cafe route. I had runners envy as I saw people running across the ridge looking like proper runners where as I was just walking most of the way with a little bit of trotting in the middle. A frustrating mindset for me.

I wanted to be free so I became a runner

On the ridge it was a matter of putting two steps forward and one step back as it was so so windy. Visibility was good, if not excellent but the winds were horrific.  Old man is a bit of a slog and after a false dip down there was a climb back up to the top. The wainwright course people merged with us mere cafe routed people for a while but then went off to another control. Old man was the last control before the final descent down to home – the start; coniston. I jogged down chatting to a couple of people – a woman and her daughter. I left them to take photos and rejoined Hisayo at the pathway, where we also joined 2 others from the expert course as all four of us ran down into Coniston, my fastest mile for about 6 months. I finally felt like I had done a bit of running if only a mile or so.

Life should have more mountains and less stress

We got to the finish before the finish, that was before 12 noon so we were not allowed to dib in until 12 noon. Times would not be recorded until 12 noon. That was fine, it didnt matter, the sun was shining and I had got through the three days unharmed apart from my back hurting.

A nice mash up of a vegan stewy thing and a piece of cake saw me right to the end. This time tea was included too. Hurrah.

People ask why you like to run its like asking someone why they like to eat

An interesting event, I can see why people like it, its 3 days in the mountains, trying to find controls with like minded people. Atmosphere at camp was good too, buzzing with outdoor gear porn, from RAB to Marmott to North Face to any other mountain porn you can mention.  For me  the event was a disappointing battle with my mind and body, frustration that I couldn’t run and I felt I wasn’t challenging my body enough for what I would have liked to have done so didn’t enjoy it as much as I possibly should have done.  The other courses, the wainwright and expert courses looked brilliant and I vowed I would try and run some of those in the near future. So much so that a month later, I went up to the Lakes and took in some of the wainwrights on the wainwright course. The weekend on my own cost me a mere £5 a night camping with my own private tarn to swim in rather than the £150 that the GL3D cost.

Run your life dont let it run you

Would I do it again? Probably not as I know I can do these things on my own for a fraction of the price and challenge myself in probably a stronger way with almost free tea and cake.

Photos of the event

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