Breca Buttermere

2:25:01 – pulled out before run over Honister to protect Andy’s sore achilles ahead of Sweden in three weeks
(~ 3k swim, 15k run, across 5 swims and 6 runs)

Following yesterdays significantly amended course the weather forecast was much improved for Sunday with the winds predicted to be far lighter and the gusts not that significant. Given the reaction in the briefing to the amendments made for strong gusts I’m guessing most people had found similar forecasts to mine. In fact one person actually asked why the changes when the forecast was for pretty normal wind conditions. The guy doing the briefing (unfortunately not Ben who was ill and couldn’t attend the weekend) made an off the cuff comment that one of the last racers in the Sprint had thanked him for shortening the course – didn’t really justify todays decision or help the mood of the crowd. He then said that they’d kept the course as close to the original as possible and then proceeded to list all the iconic bits of the race were removed: the longest swim, the run over Rannerdale Knots, The Fell Section over Dale Head, The Island hopping at the end across Derwent Water. I couldn’t understand the fell parts being removed due to wind – none were exposed, Rannerdale Knots isn’t even high so that wouldn’t be removed due to low cloud. Similarly the Island hopping removing seemed strange as the wind would be with us. The briefing then went on to point out how the forecast was bad on Friday but the weather was better, then for Saturday similar and thus for Sunday it may not be what they forecast. This was getting more bizarre …

I came away wondering whether or not I’d be better just ditching it and going for a fell run.

In the week leading up to the race we’d had a discussion about using hand paddles where I’d outlined how 5s per 100 would only gain you 5 minutes and whether that was worth it to carry paddles on such a long race. I’d convinced myself that perhaps I shouldn’t use them. I finally decided not to use paddles as Andy had taken a tumble today and wasn’t sure he would be able to use his paddles. If I didn’t take them I could use his if he couldn’t.

The next morning we all got up to remarkably calm weather !! The cloud was down and it was raining on and off but no noticeable wind. We managed to get the back of the bus again and had some good banter between our three teams and the Vallances (who went on to win the mixed by 14s !!!). We got off the bus at the start to the best conditions we’d had in three years !!! I had a chat with Phil, Chris and Richard (old Tri London friends) and noticed Andy had snuck off for a warm up run. He came back looking worried and told me he was concerned about his Achilles. With so many swims removed it wasn’t playing to our strengths, so, given Andys achilles we didn’t push too far forward for the start.

The initial run is nice, undulating and over a wide 4WD track so there’s not much congestion. We passed Jo and Chris on the descent and caught Chris and Richard. Richard was giggling a bit as he explained that Chris was already cramping in both calves. I had thought he was running funny and now noticed how he was trying to descent without particularly bending his knees and was letting out a quiet squeal of pain with each footfall. It was impressive how quick he was descending. I told him he was an animal.

Without paddles it was quite a pleasure running in to the first swim as there was so little to do to be ready and it was so easy to do whilst running. We managed to run straight in to Loweswater, past several pairs and get swimming. The water was very calm and swim was lovely. Like previous years we passed loads of pairs here and after exiting it was was nicely spaced out for the run. This next section is initially on road and it became clear we wouldn’t be finishing. We backed off and discussed pulling out there and then. We decided to walk if needs be but try and get the early swims done but if it was antagonising Andy’s Achilles he was free to pull the pin.

As we came round to Crummock Water we were going over a stile as a pair caught us. The guy in front put one hand on the gate and leapt over without any other body contact. I was impressed. As we came round to the lake I looked across to where the long swim would have gone. It made me wonder whether the real reason for cancelling was that the path was flooded. From what we’d seen I would guess the crossing the fields and the path round the lake to the entry could have been well underwater. If that was the case why wouldn’t they say that ? The wind gusts explanation seemed utterly ridiculous now. Even more so given 2 years a go the wind and chop on that swim were quite something – I even had a paddle whipped off in the wind that year. Jo and Chris caught us along this part. They were surprised and we told them were pulling out. They suggested I finish with them once Andy pulled out. I thought we wouldn’t be anywhere near them by then

We came round to the swim with the tricky entry and exit. When I saw it I thought “health and safety gone mad” – rather than making us clamber up and over the rocky outcrop as in previous years they’d moved the flag back to his little beach so we could just walk in. Similarly on the other side it looked like they’d moved the flag slightly west to avoid the scramble out and make it straight forward. We had another lovely swim in very nice conditions. This brought us across to under Rannerdale Knots where we saw Jo and Chris again. We were told the next aid station was not there due to a burst river bank. We had a bit of a discussion as we wanted to be by an aid station to pull out and the helpers here didn’t know if there was another before Honister.

We decided to continue and soon came to the re-crossing of Crummock Water. We could see Jo and Chris ahead so made sure we passed them really close. It was nice to be able to smile at each other as we went through. The run round to Buttermere was pretty much in a river. There was a lot of water coming off the fell. We could see how thick the cloud was on the tops and I wondered whether the real reason for not having the fell section was actually because the race doesn’t insist on you being able to navigate and take map and compass. Another calm swim across the lake and then the final run / walk for us round Buttermere and through the tunnel I always loved as a kid. Final swim across and to the aid station at the bottom of Honister.


We waited there to see Jo and Chris and then Heather and Lotte both come through. They both suggested I finish with them. I didn’t take them up on it for a couple of reasons. Firstly I didn’t think it was fair on the organisers / helpers to add something to an already complicated day by asking about continuing without my partner but running with another couple. Mainly though because we are a team, the team is injured and we should finish as a team.

This is the last running of this race. It’s a shame the one race with genuine fell running is no more and such an unfortunate end for it to be such a tamed version of the original. We sat warming up in a minibus and got a lot of gossip / info that put a new light on the different feel to this race compared to previous Breca. I do hope Ben manages to create an alternative race from Keswick. We got a ride back with two local fell runners who were suggesting a race could be constructed based in Keswick using Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite. I’d wondered the same – they could then have some proper fell running in it – perhaps even up Skiddaw!

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