Pour yourself a mulled wine and hold onto your Santa hats, you’re about to embark on this year’s most festive adventure- Nav4’s Tour de Helvellyn.
39 miles, +2000m elevation, self-nav, winter conditions, ho ho ho!
Let’s just say that I ran the majority of this race in a ski jacket and was glad of it! Not to be underestimated.
Really interesting race this one. You can start from Askham from 7am, the proper CP (10 miles away at Side Fm) opened at 9.30am. We set off at around 7.45am and got there for around 9.45am. The early stretch was great, lovely dry conditions but incredibly icy underfoot meaning concentration was required.
I was concentrating so hard, I noticed that someone had dropped an *unopened* packet of shot blocs…and in the interest of preserving the environment, and myself..I picked them up and saved them for later.
We’d maintained a good pace and we were feeling good at Side Farm so didn’t stay long as the first major climb loomed ahead, Sticks Pass.
As we tramped up the road from Glenridding it became clear that this was going to be no mean feat. The snow was fairly deep and the train of brightly coloured jackets streamed up and up. It was a one step at a time job and, we emerged to total whiteout. It was like landing on the moon, except my legs were so heavy, I might as well have been 10000 leagues under the sea.
At this point, my spirits were low and I’d been working through my supplies but fancied something different. I remembered the shot blocs and shoved a couple into my gob. At this point I was transported back to my student days, dizzy with an aftertaste of tequila… am I dying?? Checked the packet- Margarita flavour. What kind of a fractured mind buys these for an ultra!! Ed loved them but not for me…maybe that’s why we found them on the ground. Maybe it serves me right for eating stuff off the floor. In any case, if you happen to be reading this and I ate your horrendous shot blocs- I will send you another pack, along with a leaflet for counselling, I certainly need it after that experience.
We picked our way through the snow, flinching from the glare, it was a long section that seemed never ending. Gradually through the low cloud, a view began to appear and we wound our way down the incredibly slippy descent towards Thirlmere.
As we negotiated the tricky path, the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen opened up across the valley. No photograph will ever do it it justice. The low-hanging cloud created a wonderful light and ethereal quality.
The next big climb came after a steady section of forest trails. The rocky, slippery climb up a gully made for challenging work but it was soon over and we were then on our way back to Side Fm.
It was a welcome break and we were greeted by a plethora of sweet and savoury goodies. A hot coffee did the job and we were soon up and running, well, walking up the last major climb of Boredale Hause and the homeward straight back to Askham.
Feeling good, we kept up a good pace, making it back to Askham just as darkness fell. Incredibly pleased to be finished in 8.38.
I’ll say it again, this is not a race to be underestimated. We were incredibly fortunate with the weather and not running too much in the dark was a bonus. It was a huge sense of achievement to finish this race feeling good.
Aside from being an incredibly well organised event by the best in the business, the marshals and volunteers were superb and the food at the finish? ….worth the entry just for the soup and cake alone. If you’re up to it, this is a race that is not to be missed.