Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 21, 2012

UK AR Ball & Social 2012

After some emphatic persuasion by teammate Sarah that I must attend this year's Adventure Racing Ball (with the promise that I wouldn't be forced to wear a dress)...I gave in and agreed to go.  The event was held at the Thurston Outdoor Education Center near Coniston, which was well up to the task of providing us with food, shelter, hot showers, and multiple places to hang out and chat. 

Bike photos courtesy of Mick Kenyon
 The weekend kicked off on Saturday morning with a mountain bike ride, starting appropriately late in the morning to give me a chance to sleep in.  About 10 keen speedsters set off in the fast group, another 10 riders (including 2 tandems!) decided they were going mostly for the cake at the noon meet-up, and the rest of us found ourselves left in the middle.  There were about 20 of us, and I'm sure we were secretly hoping that our ride would be a "cake" ride as well, but first we had to earn it!  The driving rain stopped a few minutes before we set off, and soon even blue sky was visible amidst fluffy clouds.  Our route took us over Bethecar Moor with fabulous views looking over Coniston, and then up to the visitor's center at Grizedale.  There were plenty of lunch options and muddy riders were welcome, so we spread our dirty selves liberally around the tables and set to.   Have to recommend the vegetarian quiche, it's worth visiting there just for that!  It was a nice change to have time to hang out with fellow racers, without being in a hurry to get going. 

Heading out after lunch was a chilly proposition but immediately we were hike-a-biking up a steep hill to get warm again, almost like it was planned that way?  We then went up and over several more hills, taking in a few random bodies of water and some chilly hilltops before dropping down into Hawkshead.   I must admit with very frozen feet, I was thinking of a shortcut home and an afternoon nap at that point!   But there was some of Grizedale's best singletrack left on our route, and another section of hill-hiking warmed my feet back up, even if it made me wish to be done even more!   Once past some swooping singletrack it was a long fast descent to the event center where we all made a beeline for hot showers and afternoon tea and cake. 

Soon it was time to get dressed for the evening's entertainment.  Wearing borrowed clothing (but no dress, thankfully), it was strange to see everyone dressed up rather than mud-splashed faces.  First it was a curry supper, then out to the barn for a short awards ceremony and dance.

The awards were somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but celebrated some outrageous acheivements on the year by fellow adventure racers.   The EpicTri video was a crowd pleaser, as well as female Fi Spotswood winning the "Go Balls Deep" award...no irony there at all.  I was amazed to hear my own name called for the "Best Newcomer" award...I'm sure I said something inane when handed the microphone, so perhaps it's best I can't remember!  It was a relief to melt back into the crowd, and soon the music started, a ceilidh band called the Striding Edge.   For those of you who have never heard of a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee), it's a Gaelic social evening, with dancing playing a large part.  This was my first experience at a ceilidh, and although I have a big aversion to dancing, with the lively music I found my feet tapping to the music.  Indeed, almost everyone's was, with the majority of the crowd out on the dance floor with almost every song.  There was barely room for the wildly twirling dancers, but with a little encouragement even I joined in for a few dances, grinning like mad and trying not to step on any toes!    The band called it a night at midnight, but the music and partying carried into the wee hours.

A full list of the awards can be found here on Sleepmonsters.

Hiking photos courtesy of Gill Watson and Heather Jackson
 It was a more subdued crowd the next morning, as everyone was in a post-party shock with a bit of sleep deprivation thrown in...come to think of it, not all that different from a long adventure race!  A few folks were going to take advantage of free canoes on offer from the centre, but that sounded a bit cold to most of us. We managed to pull ourselves together for a morning run, which soon got downgraded to a hike with approval from all involved. 

It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear and cloudless, just begging to be enjoyed.  There was a fresh skiff of snow on the hilltops, so with camera in hand it was our goal to get up to the top of Coniston Old Man.  It was sunny and warm in the valley and the creeks were flowing quickly past the copper mines. I borrowed a map and found myself nominated as navigator, which might explain why we took such a meandering course to get up to the ridge! At any rate, we passed by Levers Water, fortified ourselves with Sarah's cake (a whole tin of it!), took a shortcut up to Black Crag, and then found a bit more snow and ice than we had bargained for.  It was coldly blowing over the top, so we wore what clothing we had brought and hurried to the summit of Old Man for a quick photo.   Even the descent was quite chilly on the north side, with the hordes of weekend warriers slipping on the ice as we made a running descent past them.  Once back in the valley, the party reluctantly broke up and we made our separate ways back home. 

Thanks to Sally & Ant for a superbly organized weekend!


  1. Wow, you certainly know how to enjoy yourself and live life to the full. You enjoyed some amazing weather by the looks of it.

    Are you sure that wasn't a Karaoke session? Those keks / strides look more like two dresses, one per leg; surely your ultimate nightmare ;-)

    1. Nick, The AR crowd does like to live it up! But no Karaoke for me, I've banned myself ever since I attempted it and croaked like a frog.

      Japanese pants are suprisingly comfy..but do look like tents! Managed to dance quite comfortably in them, but not volunteering to either dress up again, or dance, anytime soon!