Keswick Mountain Festival 50k race report

Ever since getting into off road running and reading Richard Askwith’s brilliant Feet in the clouds I have been longing to visit the area and run. I have been keeping a look out for races in the Lake Disitrict that would be a challenging distance and course profile and would also provide me with some stunning vistas. So when I stumbled across the Keswick Mountain Festival I instantly bought my ticket. It appealed even more to me because the festival would collect likeminded people together for a weekend and they held talks. On Friday I went to Ricky Lightfoot’s followed by Nicky Spinks & Jasmin Paris , Saturday was Donnie Campbell who also ran and won the 50k, so for an aspiring ultra, mountain runner it was perfect.

The course

‘The course is a mixture of wide open trails, single track (fast & technical), big long ascents & fast technical descents, open valley running & very remote feeling trails around the back of the Buttermere/Crummock Water & the Newlands Valley area. It takes in area’s that you will not have run in before. Expect to be blown away by the views of the 4 valleys we take you through & overwhelmed by the quality of running you will be enjoying. This race is not only tough, but is also one of the most scenic routes in the Lake District & takes mountains & lowlands in its stride offering you the best trail running experience in the country’

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50k route
50k elevation (2)
Elevation profile. My Strava came out at 5946ft of elevation gain

The alarm went off at 4.30 am to allow me time to devour some Summit to eat porridge which was a freeby from the festival and get myself awake and to the start line which was moved next to the Theatre by the lake for the 6am start time. The weather forecast was for 60mph gusts and rain but the temperature was moderate, and I recently had a 18 mile training run on Dartmoor which blessed us with zero visibility and driving rain so I had confidence in my kit and my ability to grind it out when the weather has other ideas.

I started at a comfortable pace and had to remind myself that although it was flat now I had another 32 miles to go so settled in to enjoying the race and trying to find a pace that was difficult but sustainable. We climbed up through the woods where we appeared above Walla Crag. Early on I tried to manage my ascents by realising there would be large sections where I would be more efficient and faster power hiking then trying to run. This egoless strategy semmed to work because throughout the race I felt good on the hills and was able to up the pace on  the more runnable terrain. I was running well in the top twenty and started to pass a few people in the lead up to the Honister mines. I found this the most difficult section. The climb was very steep and difficult and the high winds were really felt here, to the point where any forward progression felt like progress. I consoled myself by thinking of the old adage ‘what goes up must come down’ But the descent via Dubs Quarry round the back of Fleetwith Pike was extremely technical and I didn’t feel like I could gather any speed or flow. Whenever I thought I was cracking this rocky descent business I would stub my toe and nearly fall or kick a rock into myself.

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The view from the top of the ascent down to Buttermere

I had managed to find myself in 10th at this stage which is the position I maintained until the end. From the bottom of the descent we ran around  the southern shore of Buttermere & then Crummock Water to the 3rd Feed Station (CP 3) of the day at the foot of the lake and follow-on to run back up the north side, utilising the shoreline footpath. This was pretty flat in comparison to the rest of the race and I tried to crank out some faster miles here. The route then enterted the Rannerdale vale which was very wet and boggy leading to a single track hugging Whiteless Pike and Addacombe Beck. This section felt quite deceiving, I thought I should be able to run faster but I found it slower and more technical then I thought it looked. This is the most remote section and it certainly felt it.

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Somewhere around Whiteless peak

Following another rocky technical descent towards the Newlands valley, you are on the home straight back into Keswick, having just ran 32.7 miles and covered 6000ft of elevation gain, I was pleased to finish but felt that I could of continued if necessary which is good to know If I plan on upping the training to tackle greater distances.

Kit and fueling

For the race I used from top to bottom

  • Buff
  • Inov8 AT/C Stormshell
  • Salomon long sleeve top
  • Salomon Skin Pro10
  • North Face better then naked shorts
  • Injini trail socks
  • Inov8 Roclite 290’s

Nutrition

I used all of my own nutrition and drink for the race apart from a few chocolate digestives I picked up at CP4. I didn’t seem to suffer from a lack of energy and I think I attribute that to constantly sipping on my Tailwind which kept the dreaded bonk at bay.

  • I put two satchets of Tailwind nutrition in my bladder
  • Clif bloks
  • Wiggle energy bar

Conclusion

I loved the festival, great food and talks in the adventure tipi were amazing. The town of Keswick itself is also fantastic. It is surrounded by peaks and the views of Derwentwater are great. When it was raining all day on Saturday I went into town and looked around the shops which are a dream for anyone into running and outdoor activities, a special shout out to the guy in needle sports I spoke to and even checked the forecast for Sunday on the computer for me. The race was well organised even with the high winds forcing some last minute changes, the course marking was probably the best I have ever encountered and at no point was I ever concerned about where to go. I also got my most ambitious result of a top ten and 5.30hrs so overall I was very happy. I do not recommend driving back to Devon for 7 hours though immediately after running  33 miles, I have been a bit stiff since.

Strava of the race

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The view of Derwentwater from the shore of the festival 

Gear review Patagonia Houdini jacket

I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing

‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’

It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.

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Me running on the South West Coast path in the Houdini

This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.

Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.

Features

The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.

  • 102gr/ men’s med
  • Full zip
  • Zipper chest pocket/ stuff pocket
  • One pull adjustable hood
  • Reflective logo’s front and back

Inov-8 Roclite 290 review

I am a fan of Inov-8’s line of trail running shoes. The first pair I owned were the X-Talon 212’s. I found them to have almost unbelievable traction and the weight and confidence made me want to run as fast as I could at all times. However I found the precision fit created hotspots when I ran over ten miles, and the 4mm drop wasn’t enough for me when I had to run on hard packed trails. I then purchased a pair of Race Ultra 290’s they provided less grip on the sloppy stuff but had a roomier toebox and 8mm drop. They were perfect for longer runs on the variable coast path and even performed admirably in the Brecon Beacons in the snow and mud in November. But there were limitations particularly the grip when it was wet and boggy. I was clearly finding out that no one shoe is perfect for every run and terrain and living in deepest darkest Devon, I will often encounter various different underfoot conditions on any one run.

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Me racing a hard hilly half marathon in them

This leads me to the new Roclite 290’s. I was on the lookout for a shoe in between the two previously mentioned. I wanted to be able to run long on multi terrain without the lack of comfort I had in the X-Talons on the harder stuff and without the slight lack of confidence on the slippery stuff in the Race Ultra’s. So I went to Runners Need in Exeter and tried a few different shoes on, had a good feel and once again settled on Inov-8 and the Roclites. They state that they are;

‘Designed for running quickly over multi terrains. Delivering a responsive ride and high levels of durability, its perfect for moving fast over everything from wet mountain rock to muddy grass, hard-packed trails and roads’

This eloquently summed up what I was looking for. Specification wise they boasted a standard fit, which is what I thought I required after using the X-Talon’s. A 4mm drop which coupled with 6mm lugs as opposed to 8, I  hoped that I wouldn’t find them quite so jarring on my gammy shins once the ground had dried out.

I have had the shoes since January and completed a range of runs. One in particular I thought exemplified their versatility and personified exactly the kind of running I had wanted them for. I ran 14 miles beginning in a village, I climbed up a country lane and from their entered the woods. This was standard woodland running, some really wet areas and I found myself charging through a puddle that came up to my knees. I exited this section of woodland ran down an old road before cutting through a boggy flood plain and entering the woods again. These were dryer hard packed trails which eventually took me to a beach, which I had to cross at low tide through water before running along the South West Coast Path and through a few more lanes to complete my loop. The Roclites performed magnificently throughout. I felt confident on the muddy descents, they drained fast after being fully submerged and were perfectly comfortable for the short road sections. As previously mentioned there is not a perfect one shoe fits all in trail running. The terrain dictates the shoe. But if you do lots of multi terrain running like I have just described then these are really worth considering. I also think that if you are new to trail running then this is a great place to start, and I wish I had these as my first pair of off road shoes.

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My happy face on the described run

These are currently my primary running shoe, unless I know I am going quite far, like the Endurance Life marathon then I will be using these, and that is only because I haven’t ran 25 plus miles in them yet. They are one of those pairs of shoes that makes you want to run more and run faster so kudos to Inov-8 for engineering such a brilliant shoe. Rather then getting into the technicality’s of how they achieve this I have included a picture below.

I highly recommend these shoes, they have performed fantastically on every run I have taken them on so far, are highly versatile and look fantastic.

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How the Roclite’s construction makes it the shoe it is

Pure Trail’s Deep River Trail race half marathon report

The race began at Piddledown common just off the drive way to Castle Drogo at the top of the steep Teign valley. The race would take us down to the river where we would then snake through the beautiful wooded hillside in a loop before returning to where the pain began. 7 of the 14 miles have positive ascent and 7 have more descent then ascent. This equated to around 2,400ft of elevation gain for the course. I actually enjoy a hill usually but the length and severity of what we were faced with really took the power from your legs, then your thighs got thrashed on the mad dash down. Unfortunately it takes twice as long to get up them, so the feeling of forever running up hill couldn’t be descended from.

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Elevation profile

I had this race scheduled months ago but due to the whole tree falling on my leg fiasco I cancelled as I didn’t think I would recover in time. However I managed to start running again, albeit gingerly 2 weeks ago so decided to reenter and run anyway with no expectations. Having said that I also felt good on the start line so thought I would try to hang onto whoever was in the lead for as long as possible. This turned out to be a great tactic until we reached the first hill and the eventual winner Lucy Mcalister stormed on, with two other men in toe and I  knew then that they were beyond me. After that realisation I just tried to concentrate on putting in some serious effort and to just assess how I felt. Where the tree landed on me is sore when I run and to a much greater extent when I race, it feels like someone has kneed me really hard in the side of my calf, but I don’t think it limits me much, that came purely from not being in the same class as Lucy and the others. IMG_20170319_173643_024

The whole Fingle woods area is truly stunning, and if you are going to suffer for a few hours blowing out of your arse running up and down hills it does soften the blow substantially when you are surrounded by such natural beauty. I finished in 6th place in 1:54 with the winner finishing 5 minutes ahead of second in 1:43. When considering the less then ideal build up to this race I was happy on reflection of my time. I found my major weakness to be speed. I kept overtaking the guy who finished 5th on the uphills and would always be overtaken on the down and unable to keep pace on the flatter fast sections. So I need to start to incorporate some speed work into my training if I want to compete at these events.

Me running up one of the never ending hills

It was a very well organised event. The registration was seamless and the marshals who are so integral to these events were encouraging and ensured I didn’t run down any wrong paths. And for those who like these things the medal was a bespoke little number that is one of the nicest  I have seen.

Kit used

Salomon skinpro 10

Inov 8 Roclite 290’s

North Face better then naked shorts

Drymax socks

Inov 8 tee

Buff

Clif shot bloks

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Medal

INOV-8 AT/C Storm shell jacket review

 

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Picture of the jacket

If you are a dedicated runner in Britain then you will have to run in the rain, wind, snow and whatever else this islands gloriously unpredictable weather throws at you. This is even more applicable if you enjoy running the trails of the British uplands. I live near Dartmoor which is notorious for its bad weather and it experiences around double the average precipitation per month then other lowland areas of Devon. As I enjoy running on the moor, I felt that buying a fully waterproof lightweight jacket would be a sound investment. Many races also stipulate that a waterproof is carried regardless of the forecast or conditions and therefore a quality lightweight jacket is a necessity for anyone who wants to race longer distances. When you have the correct gear it also a real incentive to get out and train, no excuses then.

After researching different products and brands I decided to buy an INOV-8 AT/C storm shell jacket. I use INOV-8 shoes and have always found their products to be comfortable and made to a high standard. INOV-8’s website states that

‘This men’s lightweight, waterproof running jacket weighs just 150g and boasts 20,0000 B-1 breathability. The AT/C STORMSHELL HZ features taped seams, adjustable hood & half zip. It has Lycra bound cuffs with integrated thumb holes and includes a stuff sac’

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Me running on the South West coast path wearing the stormshell

So how have I found the jacket after running in the winter on Dartmoor and the South West coast path? Firstly I like the cut, I am 5ft’9 and bought a small, the arms are long enough to keep you fully covered and crucially the back is long enough so that it doesn’t ride up, which is something to check when buying lightweight clothing, that there is still enough of it to do its intended job. The thumb loops are a great feature when it is really hammering it down to keep you as sealed as possible and the wire in the hood ensures that when it is really blowing a gale and the rain is coming at you from all angles you can still see. Crucially the weight and size when in the sac means that it is great in any situation and not just running, it can be put in a bag and forgotten about until the heavens open, this means it really gets a lot of use and is perfect for many situations. I bought the jacket in red which to come might be a bit garish but I really like the look of the jacket, which as we all know still plays a part in gear choice. I have found it to be completely waterproof thanks to the taped seams and 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with 20,000 HH, it also hasn’t wetted out from sweat when I have been slogging up a hill or running fast, and the mid chest zip allows for more aeration if you are getting hot.

Conclusion

I am a big fan of this jacket. So far I have no complaints and can’t find a single negative. It is comfortable and crucially fully waterproof, with some well thought out design features and style. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for a lightweight waterproof for running, racing, hiking or just about any outdoor activity.