March 22nd saw Tom and I out on our inaugral Old County Tops training weekend of the year (this might be my only Old County Tops recce this year depending on how things work out). Tom is my Old County Tops running partner. We've won the race two years on the trot and we're going to do our best for the hat trick.
The goal of the day was to recce some of the alternative lines of the race route and to cement our knowledge of the rest of the route. We were out for seven and a half hours and we probably found one better line. However there were four or five places where we decided that we weren't executing the known route very well, so we'll work on that before race day.
For me, it wasn't just about the out and out recce of the Old County Tops race route that was important: it was also important to have a good training session out on some big hills and to enjoy the Lakes again (almost every Lake District pimple is a better training venue than Bencroft Hill: the closest you'll get to a mountain in Chippenham - my workplace). Funnily enough, we did find some big hills and I was pleased by how we powered up them, especially the ones late in the day.
We ran most of the day into a headwind (how can that happen on a circular course?). When we were on top of Helvellyn in a howling gale, the dark views over to Scafell Pike looked really forboding. The weather never really did go that nasty (certainly not as nasty as the 2007 Old County Tops race when we ran over Greenup Edge into a horizontal ice storm) and I think it was good training to run into the wind as we did.
We got 28 miles and 7 and a half hours running in which I was pleased with. This clearly isn't race pace, but I don't think that's what recce-ing is about.
Before my running career, I was (and still am) well into rock climbing. Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and so we headed up to Pavey Ark for a day climbing some of the classics. I was a bit nervous about how things would go, but as soon as I was delicately crimping my way up the first pitch of Arcturus I knew that the old magic was still there. We were really enthused by the first climb and were up and at it until the sun went down (and the clouds came over). We walked back down to the Old Dungeon Ghyll using our headtorches, well pleased with a great Lake District weekend.