KMF 50km Ultra Report

Sleep deprivation, hefty wind (not mine) and a fair amount of rain all rolled up into an excellent and tiring Sunday. I also witnessed England hammer the Aussies in the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston on the Saturday. Equally rewarding to witness that. I bloody love beating the Aussies. At anything.

I’ll kick things off on Friday eve as I really want to instil just how tired I was and so make my achievement seem all the more impressive…

FRIDAY EVE

This weekend was Rosies hen party in Lamplugh, the far side of Cockermouth from Carlisle. 25 hens and cluckers were heading to the Lake District for a weekend of tea & coffee, cake, activities and booze. Probably some chippendales were in attendance, but I’m not well versed in the goings on of hen partys so I won’t speculate…

All that was required of me was to pick up Jenna, a bridesmaid from Aberdeen, and give her a lift down to the hen house. I picked her up at the train station in Carlisle, not Aberdeen, at 8.30 and we tootled down the road. It was a 2 hour round trip, made quicker on the return journey by listening to the Harry Potter audiobook. I make no bones about my love of Harry Potter, Craig and I both have the audiobooks in constant circulation and have done for about 5 years now. Ask me a Harry Potter question if you doubt my knowledge. It was The Deathly Hallows for those of you who give a toss. Anyways, I got back late, meaning I needed to pack my stuff for the cricket the next day and for the run on Sunday as quickly as possible and get to bed.

Time in to bed: 23:50 Alarm set for: 05:00

SATURDAY

Up and at em on Saturday morning, excited for a day at the cricket. Haven’t been to a match for a couple of years and its always a brilliant atmosphere at Edgbaston, especially when playing the Convicts. I won’t write out a match report, but The Aussies had their pants pulled down.

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The non drinkers enjoying their expensive ice creams!

I was far to engrossed in the cricket to worry about such things as drinking water (I wasn’t drinking alc) and around 5pm realised I’d had a cup of coffee and half a bottle of water in the last 12 hours. I vowed to drink my own weight on the way home. I only managed 1.5 litres, a reasonable effort I thought. One that I would paying for at 1am and 3am. I got home at 10.30pm and quickly laid out some clobber and got my breakfast sorted. The last time that I needed to get up at 4am for a race it was for Wooler Trail Marathon last November. I slept in and ended up having a bread roll and 2 mini snickers for breakfast. It didn’t end well! Ian was driving to mine for 4.30 and we’d be down in Keswick with 45 mins to park somewhere for free and have time to walk to the start. This time, I was prepared.

Time in to bed 23:04 Alarm set for: 04:00

SUNDAY

I didn’t sleep well, I was up twice disposing of all that water and woke up in a sweat thinking I’d missed my alarm(s), dived into the shower (Natural Source Mint) and I was ready with 5 mins to spare. I got the foam roller out while I waited to try and loosen my hips. 6 hours in a car and 7 hours sat on a plastic stadium seat had tightened things up. I always get tightness in my hips, but it usually causes problems in other areas, like my knees. Its something I know about, yet nearly always neglect to bother with until I get an injury or niggle. Stupid really, need to learn my lessons and be more proactive.

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I was taking no chances

04:30 – Ian will be here anytime…

04:35 – He’s a dairy farmer, he’ll definitely be awake…

04:38 – Incoming Call < Ian Hodgson > “Alright Ian?” “Mike, I’ve had a nightmare. I’ll meet you at Thursby!” I was just pleased it wasn’t me this time. It’s a horrible feeling of blind panic and annoyance. It wasn’t an issue, we had a bit of spare time.

Picked Ian up and found out he’d eaten his granola and milk while driving over. No comment. As we didn’t want to be running across Keswick we decided to park in the main car park, a bad decision because 1) it costs a fortune and b) you need to ring up and use your card. We’d already parked though so I rang up and selected 12 hours parking, “you have selected 12 hours, this will cost you £9” NINE PUN! Fired in the card details and that was that. To be continued…

I did a post on my course recce last week, you can have a read here, but there were a number of differences from that, as I didn’t take any notice of the actual route and just ran what I presumed it would be. The main differences were at the start below Walla Crag and towards the finish, running a different route to the base of Catbells.

As I said in my recce post, I was planning to run it as a training run, but that most likely that would go out the window and I’d try and race it from the start. I was correct. I decided to carry my poles with me, I wouldn’t usually for this type of run but figured I could use the practice. I only used them 3 times, up Walla Crag, Honister Pass and Rannerdale. To stop them rubbing my back I put my map inbetween them, this worked a treat until I went to replace them after Rannerdale to find I’d pulled the map out accidentally when taking out my poles. So, if anyone found a Harveys Lake District Map you know where to send it!

We set off at 6am, with a group of 6 leading at a fair old lick, then a couple more, then me. Within half a mile I was isolated, it was going to be a lonely day. Heading up Walla and then along to Ashness Bridge I was happy to tick along while warming into it a bit, it was pretty windy but it wasn’t cold and the rain was staying away. I felt good along to Watendlath, like I was moving well without using up too much energy. I caught a glimpse of a runner ahead of me heading to Watendlath, he would be a couple of minutes ahead of me. As I descended to Rosthwaite I was only 100 yards behind. Clearly descending wasn’t his forte, as I’m hardly Billy Bland myself (If you are wondering who Billy Bland is… shame on you! Have a Google, you won’t be disappointed, if you are… you’re in the wrong blog post).

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At Watendlath, about 7 miles in.

Just a water refill at the CP1, I planned to have enough fuel to see me the whole way round plus just a few snacks at the later aid stations. Next up was the long haul up and over Honister. I passed non-Billy just after Borrowdale YHA and started to move ahead, I missed a turn however and had to double back, it was only 100yds, non-Billy had followed so we started the climb together. He ran the whole thing while I ran and walked. We came into Honister Slate Mine and CP2 together, I decided I had enough water to see me to CP3 at the end of Crummock so didn’t stop. Climbing out of Honister I could see a couple of people ahead, maybe 2 or 3 minutes, as the climb had bunched people in. As soon as they descended they were out of sight again. I felt like I descended into Buttermere pretty well, it’s a nasty rocky path that would knock out a few teeth if you went down. A few miles of hard paths and boggy shoreline and I arrived at CP3 out of water and with tight glutes, the wind was really howling at the bottom end of Crummock, there were waves breaking against the paths, almost like a storm in a harbour town but only 1 foot high… that was hardly blog worthy. While scoffing a handful of crisps and a chocolate digestive I enquired how far ahead the next place was… “less than 10 minutes” the response “but don’t worry, you’re into a head wind now and you’re a lot thinner than they are!” Aye. Right.

A bit more shoreline and it was up Rannerdale, where the map got lost, I wasn’t enjoying the climbs as much as I usually do, I often start wanting a climb so that I can walk/march a bit and try make up some ground. Not today. It had started raining too and was at it’s wildest for about an hour. Some of the later runners got it much worse. I looked back down the hill at the top and could see non-Billy starting the climb, wasn’t sure how far ahead I was but it was a kick up the backside. The next section is deceptive, there are a few short sharp climbs on it as it traverses the valley side, I caught sight of n-B a few times, each time convincing myself he was closing. He was a still running all of the climbs! I knew, based on the evidence so far that I could make up some ground on the next downhill, which I did. Hit CP4 and got water (not enough), a cup of coke and some crisps. My legs felt great on the last descent and on the road section too I was cruising at 6.30 minute/miles on the flat and downhill, it didn’t last. A small uphill gradient started reducing me to 9 m/m and I was beginning to get cramp in my inner hamstring (I deduced as I ran that it was down to my tight arse cheeks, which weren’t pulling their weight and so burdening my hammys with extra work, they’d now kicked the bucket), I stopped for a quick stretch and had a deek behind me, I could see n-B but he was 3-4 minutes back. I wasn’t that worried, I used my last gel with 3 miles to go hoping it might reduce the twinges. Luckily the last couple of miles is flat and I ran in no problem, having another coke and some jelly babies from CP5 at Catbells for good measure. Ran into Keswick, didn’t miss the right hand turn with 2 signs and a marshall saying “its the second right” (like Ian did, he ended up at Theatre by The Lake, costing him 10 minutes), over the relocated finish line near the rugby club (it was moved as the high winds had closed the festival village). Finish time 5 hours 14 minutes and 8th place. Very happy with the effort, result and how my legs were.

 

All was fluffy bunnys and homemade flapjack (thanks Charlotte!) until I got back to the van that is. A parking ticket for £25! WTF?! Looked at my phone and saw this…

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No idea what went wrong, maybe the £1.40 was an overnight charge. But I was pissed. Currently trying to get a response from Allerdale Borough Council, I’ll keep you posted.

Had a 20 minute sit in the back of the van in the dark, ate a couple of bananas and 3 bits of flapjack then walked back to the finish (via a coffee shop) to watch Ian and fellow DH Runners Matt and Dan finish. 10 minutes later the hen party started to finish the 10km run, some looking a bit worse for wear. We gathered up and then headed for a sit down Keswickian. Splendid.

Distance 32.5 miles | Elevation gain 6600 feet | Time on Feet 5hrs 14mins

Thanks for reading, another long one!

KMF 50
Splits, route & elevation

KMF 50km Ultra Recce/Preview

Keswick Mountain Festival 50km is only a week away (11th June) and I as I have been lax on the blog posts recently, here’s a couple rolled into one. This one will be an update on my training and also a preview of next weekends 50km.

Post Fling

Following the Highland Fling I had a couple of niggles, mainly due to tight legs. I was in pretty good shape apart from my left quad, which had tightened up a lot and was causing me pain in my knee. I had a couple of easy weeks after to let me legs ease back into training and then I started to try and get out in The Lakes again with the intention of getting some runs with more climbing included. I’ve managed to get out 7 times clocking up 77 hilly miles with a total ascent of 20700 feet.

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Running on Skiddaw (poles ninja style) photo: Kath Pigden

My legs are feeling good and I just need to keep clocking up a few longer runs to get as much time spent with my race vest on with all the kit that I will need to carry as possible. Most hilly runs from now will be wearing race vest with full water bottles and kit packed in. I noticed that my upper body was beginning to feel tired at the end of last weeks long run when I recce’d the KMF 50km route.

I have also turned 31 since my last blog post, and acquired a pair of running poles, courtesy of Rosie (it’s like she knew exactly what I was after…) so I’ve been trying to get as much practice in with them as possible. They are made by Black Diamond, they collapse into a third of their length and weigh bugger all. The only issue I’ve had is how I store them whilst running when I don’t want them out. The two ways I can stick them in my bag haven’t worked so far. The first, down the back of my running pack (like a ninja), looks cool, but the ends poke my spine. Manageable for 15 miles, but certainly not 100. The other is to store them cross ways in the mesh of my bag, again, this rubs my back and stops me getting anything else out. I’m open to suggestions if you have any techniques? Please let me know. I don’t really want to have to buy a new pack to carry my poles, maybe a bit of bag modification would work. Bungee cord and a sewing machine could be my solution… I’ll keep you posted. I know you’re desperate for the answer!

Carlisle City Urban Trail Run 10km

I picked up my second podium ever! I came 3rd at the Carlisle Urban Trail Race put on by Sport in Action, its a nice course around the centre of Carlisle on trails and park paths, it always seems to be sunny, has an abundance of flies and has really grown in its 3 years. . I was hoping to run sub 36 minutes, I ran 36:02. I can’t complain as there were bridges, kissing gates and cow poos to negotiate. It helped that James Buis, a sub 2:30 marathoner was running ahead of me, just loosening up before he ran Stirling Marathon on the Sunday (4th in 2:36), I was happy to sit in behind him and hang on as he told me not to get dropped in the last mile! I got my first prize too, a £20 Chivers Sports voucher. Excellent. One of the best running shoe shops in the north and where I get my road shoes.

L to R: James Buis 2nd, Paul Graves 1st, Me 3rd photo: Brian Allen

KMF 50km Ultra Recce

Not really sure how to approach this one, on one hand I want to race, on the other I want to be efficient so I can keep on training. I ran the whole course on Bank Holiday Monday as a long run, I totalled 33 miles in 6hrs 45mins. I felt good at the end of it which was a positive. Still managed to get lost, even though I had the route uploaded to my Suunto, so easy to do and great for planning training runs and using on race day, but doesn’t help if the wearer is a dope. I often create a route on Strava and then export that to my watch, it’s the reason I’m useless at practicing with a map and compass.

The route is a really good mix of flatter running and climbs that you can get your teeth into. There is 2000m of ascent, which replicates the ratio of climbing to miles in the Lakeland 100. I parked at the bottom of Latrigg, as its free parking, and set off with Rosie and Agnes up Walla Crag and along to Ashness Bridge, they were going to head back to Keswick from here via the lake shore. They knocked out 8 miles. From there I travelled to Watendlath and down to Rosthwaite, this was one of the sections I didn’t know and was also where I took a turning too soon and added 1/2 a mile onto my day on a loop of road. The climb up Honister wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I was soon in the cafe scranning a ham salad roll and a bottle of coke.

Climbing towards Honister Quarry

This will be check point 2 during the race. The only negative about this pit stop was the £4.95 in shrapnel that the waitress gave me in change. Despite my best efforts to keep it separated, as soon as I ran downhill I had a bunch of 50p, 20p and 5p coins clinking away for the next 3 hours… Chinese water torture must have been invented based on this.

From Honister theres a bit more of a climb up and over into the bottom end of Buttermere, from here it’s a flat section around Buttermere and Crummock, same route as Buttemere 10 as far as Rannerdale. It was strange running around here as I was recounting my blog post in my head on that race and was getting same emotions of being chased as during the race. It won’t be like that come next weekend, thats for sure!

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Looking down Buttermere & Crummock

Happy to turn off and climb out of Rannerdale, this was a bit of a suprise to me. I didn’t expect this to be as long a climb as it was. Will have to make sure I’ve got plenty in the tank for this climb. The next section is a few miles of off camber single track, which I found difficult to get a rhythm going on. A steep descent and a bit more rocky path and I emerged onto the Newlands Hause road, a few miles of feeling fresh on tarmac brought me to Catbells and from here it was the familiar path to Portinscale Marina and then back to Keswick, and in particular The Keswickian chippy. I’d conjured this plan whilst running along the boggy far shore of Crummock Water, I was trying to decide what £4.95 would get me. I’d settled on a small battered sausage and chips, maybe a tin of pop. What I didn’t plan for was a size of the queue. Out the door. I nearly fell to my knees and cried. As it was already 7.30pm I instead walked back to the car, dejected and hungry. I called Rosie to tell her the bad news. She got to cooking straight away and I walked into the house to a plate of cheesey haddocky bake, roasted veg and new potatoes. That’s why I’m marrying her. I also ate a burrito that was left over from the night before. And some Green & Blacks birthday chocolate (I say some, I mean a bar).

I imagine that I will tell myself to run a steady race and not to trash my legs all week and then I’ll get white line fever on race day and chuck all my best made plans out the window. For this very reason I’ve decided not to enter Carlisle Tri Club 10km on Wednesday evening. I would end up battering myself for 6 miles on the road and be sore for 2 days afterwards. I’ve only ran on the road twice in the last month.

I’m also announcing a blanket ban on biscuits and cake unless I’ve run for more than 10 miles, and that doesn’t mean a full packet. Need to stop falling into the “I’m training hard so I can eat anything trap”. Have an apple FFS.

Other races in the pipeline are High Terrain Events Scafell Trail Marathon, that’s 2 weeks before the 100 and will be a run out with finalised race kit and nutrition.

I’ll try and get a race report up a bit quicker next week. Thanks for reading!

Since Highland Fling

Distance – 130.4 miles | Elevation Gain – 22619 feet | Time on Feet – 24hrs 23mins

Highland Fling Race Report

Mixed feelings on this one. Good, as I got finished close to the time I thought I could run, despite having leg issues from early on. Not so good, because I feel like I could have done so much better, given the training and lack of injuries I’ve had since November.

It was the first of my 2 big races this year and I had DOMS Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the week before. I played cricket in a pre-season game on the Saturday and batted for 25 or so overs. Then, stupidly, I went for a run with the dog. I failed to think what that would have already taken out of my legs, having not played since September. A cold bath, self massage and nightly tens machine stints seemed to have loosened things off and my legs felt ready to go by the weekend.

Fling Eve

We drove up on Friday eve after dropping off Agnes with Jo and the labs. We hit the road around 6pm and went straight to Milngavie to register so we’d save time in the morning. I managed to find a room for 40 quid in The Lorne Hotel in Glasgow, only a 20 minute drive from the start. Perfect. We spied a couple of Italian restaurants close to the hotel while looking for a car parking spot and headed straight out after checking in and dropping off the bags.

The food was quality, I went for a sausage, ricotta and spinach pizza, Rosie had parma ham, rocket and parmesan and a glass of wine the size of her head. While we were waiting for our food a couple of lads came in and sat at the table next to us. As soon as they sat down I said to Rosie “Bet they are running The Fling”, I could just tell. They weren’t wearing running shorts btw. Turns out I was half right. One of them was (Rob Sinclair), the other (Mike Raffan) was crewing him. He won. And set a new course record by 10 minutes! Mental.

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Alarm… 4.30am. Quick shower, tape my toes to TRY and prevent blisters, wolf down some granola, make a coffee for me and a flask of tea for Rosie and we were behind schedule. We set off at 5.10am and were arrived and parked up by 5.35am. Chucked (literally) my drop bags into the correct cars to be taken to the check points along the route and joined the queue to the portaloos for my PMT (Pre Match T**d).

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Missed the race briefing, but figured, had there been a route change it’d be unlikely I’d be out at the front. Standing in the start area, I saw a guy who I follow on Instagram, Jacob. He finished 6th! I said hello and we chatted for a few minutes while waiting for the start. He said he’d like 8 hours and ran 7.45, awesome stuff. He’s also running Lakeland 100 this year so I’ll be making contact to organise some training runs!

Milngavie – Drymen 

The start line was a bit of a funny one, nobody seemed keen to get forward to the front for the start, so while I was chatting to Jacob, I was only a couple of rows back from the front. Not where I wanted to be! When the siren went, I deliberately stood for a second and let a few people passed me. I set off at a nice easy pace, heart rate felt low and I wasn’t breathing hard. My legs felt spritely, for all of roughly 3 miles. The tightness I had earlier in the week was back and while it wasn’t a problem now, I knew that it would have an impact on me later on. The race route for this section is flat packed track and bits of road, and it’s easy to go out too hard and pay for it later on. I tried to stay at an easy level and even walked a couple of hills on the road section. Got a quick water refill and bashed on… didn’t see Rosie, as she got there after I had already passed through.

12 miles | 1hr 35m

Drymen – Balmaha 

The second section heads up and over Conic Hill, with my tightening groin it was a nice chance to have a bit of a hike uphill, eat something and take a leak without losing much time. This part of the course climbs through a section of forestry and then tops out with brilliant views of Loch Lomond. It was also the first time I got to appreciate how bloody long Loch Lomond is. Very bloody long. My feet were starting to bother me here too, having run a fair amount of road and hard trails they were already tender and I was wishing I’d just run in my road shoes. This was the start of a bit of a negative spiral that lasted for the next 30 miles. A few hundred metres from the top of the climb a photographer had set up a flash and was snapping away as runners passed by. “A little run for a photograph mate?” Yeahhhh, I’ll just waste a load of energy running uphill while smiling for a fecking photo! I did, but only because it’ll be going straight on my Instagram account.

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A little wave at the drone on the descent into Balmaha and I arrived at the first checkpoint to pickup a drop bag. The first thing I asked? “How far away is the car?!” I think a few folk thought I wanted to go home. I wanted to put road shoes on, but as Rosie legged it to the car while I ate a banana and drank some IrnBru I wanted to just get going again. Turns out I hadn’t even put them in the van. As I was hanging about looking like an idiot, Mike Raffan came over to say hi and apologised for not saying hello the night before, they didn’t want to have to talk about the race. Totally understandable. I’d have almost certainly asked what time he was looking for… “Umm the course record?” may have sounded pretty bold. Anyways, really nice guys. Onwards to Rowardennan!

19.2 miles | 2hrs 48m

Balmaha – Rowardennan

I’d made it to the shores of Loch Lomond, and for the next 20 miles I had the following in my head…

O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before ye,
Something something something,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

Lets just take a moment to think about that.

OK, having told Rosie that I was feeling good and that my legs were “fine” (I didn’t want to admit my legs were sore so early, or worry her, she’s good at that) I set off for the relatively short section to Rowardennan, this was a nice runnable section on shore paths and little bits of wooded climbs, nothing too severe. Even got a couple of honks from passing cars. Spirits picked up, albeit fairly briefly. After running on any uphill section for a few minutes my left hip would begin to tighten, to a point where I had to walk a few strides, luckily this section was flat and any ups and downs were pretty short. Passed a nice chap doing a mandatory kit check on a small steep slope, a good place to do it as everyone was walking it. I asked him if there were many hills I could walk, he said no. I cursed.

26.4 miles | 4hrs

Rowardennan – Inversnaid

More of the same, except that I was starting to feel the fatigue in my feet and my body and not just in my leg. The discomfort had shifted into both groins, but my hip seemed to have freed up, which was nice. It didn’t really affect how quickly I could run. Started to notice that there seemed to be quite a few tissues that had been dropped on the route. I didn’t think it was runners as some were fresh and some soggy. But I must have seen 30 or 40, and that’s not even an exaggeration. In the last 10 miles I saw heaps, I swore out loud a few times “ANOTHER F-ING TISSUE!” It seemed like whenever I looked to the side of the path, I’d see one lurking there. It was kinda getting in my head in my tired emotional state. I was on tissue watch. I was starting to go off solid food now, I had been eating caramel wafers and a few cereal bars but I took my first gel in an effort to get some energy back on these slightly longer climbs.

O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before ye,
Something something something,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

I was running in and around about 5 guys, all of us in a similar state, one of us would have a good spell and pass the others and then, 20 minutes later they’d be walking and the others would pass back. This happened a few times, I got talking to one lad, he was Irish and I don’t think we understood each other, we said “aye” quite a lot. But it doesn’t half pass the time if you can talk a bit. The talking died down as the path got more technical and slippery. Every now and then one of us would sigh really loudly or smack our legs to wake them up. We were starting to battle. We eventually chugged into Inversnaid and I drained a welcome IrnBru in one effort. The marshals were amazing all day, taking your bottles and filling them up and making sure you had everything you needed out of your drop bag. The fella sorting out my water here, insisted on putting the bottles into my pack for me so I could eat my salt and vinegar Hula Hoops. What a legend.

33.7 miles | 5hrs 21m | Tissue count 7

Inversnaid – Beinglas

This was the hardest part of the course, and once through this section it was better paths to the finish. I’d spoken to a few people about this section and was told it was technical and that it would slow you down but that it wasn’t difficult (thanks for the info Debbie), shame I wasn’t in much of a state to be able to enjoy this section as its the kind of thing I really like. It did provide a welcome change for my legs and they seemed to be going much better again. There was a mix of rocky outcrops on the path, some bridges and ladders to climb and quite a lot of tree roots. The fatigue of running 35 or so miles was starting to show and I was feeling pretty worked by now.

O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll…. enough!

At the end of the technical section I was pleased for about 500m where we were able to run across a field. The pins tightened up and I was forced to watch a group of runners all tootle off into the distance! It started to rain, just to improve my spirits. I donned a windproof as I didn’t want to get cold but that squeezed my running pack into my ribs which caused pain in my chest as it was tired as well. I took off the windproof. Walked a bit. Counted the miles until the finish… 15. Nightmare. The only thing I remember about this part of the course was that I felt horrendous and the check point seemed to take an age to arrive. But it did arrive, like an oasis in the desert.

40.5 miles | 6hrs 53m | Tissue count 12

Beinglas – Tyndrum

Rosie had made some new pals and I said hello to them while I rummaged in my drop bag and the bag Rosie had to find something I fancied. Ahh, Frijj chocolate milkshake, pretty sure thats been warming up in the van for 2 days but its getting destroyed all the same. Topped that up with half a can of IrnBru to make a concoction of milky sugaryness. I set off walking, and was certain I was going to be seeing the milkshake again very soon. Two miles later and I was still swilling along burping chocolate IrnBru flavours. It was a case of getting to the finish. A new batch of people had caught me, a lady who was looking really strong came passed and another group weren’t too far behind. I tried to stick with a guy I had ran close to most of the way and found myself feeling better. “Ooo look a tissue…” Checking my watch I noticed I only had 9 more miles to go. Only 9! It was a bizarre change of mindset. One minute feeling like death, the next willing to run, and push through a bit of discomfort in order to get finished. I started closing people down, I repassed a number of runners within a couple of miles. Even felt fleet footed picking my way along Coo Poo Alley, famed for its lack of dirt, gravel or soil and its abundance of cow shite. I stopped to take a wee, adding to the alleys problems.

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feeling good with 6 to go!

 

“C’MON MIKE!” I heard her before I saw her. Its always a massive lift to see Rosie when I’m in an event. She’s such a good supporter, and she’s really rather loud for someone so small. I hadn’t expected to see Rosie again until the finish. She’d followed her new bff’s up here and I’m glad she did. I decided as I ran passed giving out a high five that I’d have a crack at getting under 9 hours. Until now I seemed to have ignored the fact that it was still achievable. My watch said 6 miles to go and 8hrs 3mins elapsed. It would depend on the terrain, but I set off marching up the hill like a maniac. Even got an admiring “Nice stomp going on there mate!” from a fellow runner I was passing. Double tissue. The miles were all of a sudden ticking by nicely, pretty sure its because I was focusing on something other than how long was left. I even ran well downhill to a road crossing 3 miles from the finish, I worked out I needed to run a 26.5 minute parkrun to get in under 9 hours, I was only really able to knock out 8.30 minute miles so it was going to be tight, I didn’t allow for opening and closing gates and a final uphill section to the finish. With a mile and a half to go I was aware I would’t do it. As soon as I knew that it became a real struggle again, but I was now happy to potter along and ran the final 10 minutes with a big grin on my face. I knew it was in the bag.

Coming into the finish of any event is great, but this was right up there! 200m out I passed the bagpipers, and they were playing…. O ye’ll take the high road… they weren’t really, but I wish they were. Turning the corner I was at the top of the red carpet finish straight, lined with flags from the countries of every nation ever represented in The Highland Fling, brilliant! Got shouted at by Debbie Martin-Consani (who was MC-ing the finish line) to “pick your knees up Mike!”… I’d not done that in 7 hours!

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with the DH Kenyan flag!

This is where this race stands out for me, the volunteers. As I crossed the line there was a number of volunteers cheering me in, giving me my medal and a bottle of water and my carrier bag of Fling Bling (bottle of cava, thermos flask, tshirt, sticker, buff). Now, I’m not sure if it’s because I took a couple of sideways sways as I stopped running but I was chaperoned into the marquee and taken straight to the tea & coffee table. A cup of tea (well, half, as I poured a fair bit into my carrier bag trying to sit down) inside me and I was perking up. A gloriously hot shower and a complimentary rub down in the sports massage tent and I was ready for some scran. Think its the best soup I’ve ever had too.

We hung around for a while watching other finishers and cheering them in, ate some food and watched the prize giving. We were walking back to the car and the race winner Rob and his pal Mike ran passed, they were going for a warm down or a leg loosener of some sort, most other people couldn’t manage to sit in a plastic chair! They hit the breaks and came to have a crack. The first thing they asked was how I’d gotten on. What nice folk ultra runners are.

Distance – 53 miles | Elevation – 7500ft | Time on feet – 9hrs 5m | Tissue count – 94

 

fling

 

 

Highland Fling Countdown

With a week to go until the Highland Fling I thought I’d give an update on what I have been up to in the last couple of weeks and my goals for next weekend.

Running

I finished off my long runs with another loop around Ullswater, this time parking at Dacre, so I was able run a bit more along the Lakeland 100 route. The weather was glorious again, I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna cost me on race day. Being openly and increasingly geeky about all things running I decided to combine two elements I’d read about that week, an irunfar article on runnable long runs and an interview on talkultra with Hayden Hawks about practicing running with little fuel to replicate finishing a race as a shuffling/spluttering mess (and being able to get through it). It went to plan. Kinda. I started to flag a bit earlier than intended, probably due to the heat, so, having travelled clockwise around Ullswater I was feeling the affects when Glenridding arrived after 16 miles. Deciding to top up on sugar I entered the shop/post office/ice cream meca and purchased a can of IrnBru… and a bounty ice cream (don’t judge me). Having put them away I set off for the last 10 miles. Running into Dacre in the last mile the lack of water and food were starting to have an effect. I’ve had it a few times now, when your vision starts to narrow and go blurry at the edges. I only had a mile to get done so all good, got a decent distance in on not much fuel and didn’t collapse. Inhaled a chocolate milk and drove home. Via a well known fried chicken outlet.

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Ullswater Way

Did a couple of hard 5km efforts rather than intervals including the DH Runners 5km time trial. A looped course with a nasty great hill in the middle. I turned up to the club run rather looking forward to a nice sociable 8 miles. Should have checked the run plan before leaving the house. If I had, there’s a good chance I’d have bottled it and taken the dog along the river instead. Mile 1 there was a horrid head wind, mile 2 was Cummersdale Hill and mile 3 was with a tailwind (but I was desperate for the finish). Fair to say I suffered, this pic was taken by Lakesman, DH Runners chief and parkrun bigwig Andy Graham moments after finishing… landed a 5km PB though, 17:19. Good signs I hope.

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**insert expletive**

Easter. The killer of all tapers. I’m running less and eating more! We drove down to visit Matt, Laura and Grace on Easter Sunday then drove to North Wales to see my elder brother Andy, his wife Charlotte and Harri as they’d just had another bambino, Hanna. We were out the house for 30 hours. In that time I had 5 coffees, 6 cups of tea, brownies, cakes, a roast dinner, bacon and egg buttie, pom bears (very nice), a beef sarnie, lemon meringue pie, numerous small eggs from the easter egg hunt, an apple and a banana (being healthy).

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Hanna Holliday & Uncle Mick!

 

Race Aims

I dislike making predictions for what time I will run, mainly because I don’t really use any science behind the times I’d like. Browsing the Fling FAQs, it suggests that a rough guide would be 3 x your marathon time. 3 x 3:04 = 9:12. So, on that evidence I’ll be very happy with a sub 9 hour run. I’m discounting the 4 minutes as I was walking/staggering towards the finish line for those very painful 4 minutes *shudder*. I don’t like to think about it. However, I’ve definitely improved in the last year so on a good day, who knows. A more important goal for me is to be able to run well during the last 10 miles, as this is going to benefit me more for Lakeland 100 than having to walk it in. Hopefully, I can make up some places too.

Race Kit

Having now run a number of ultras I’m starting to get a list of things that work for me. Nutrition wise, I try to eat as much real food as possible to start with, then when I start feeling like death warmed up I’ll use gels. Nuts, cereal bars, bananas and satsumas are all on the list, as well as my luxury item… a bag of Salt & Vinegar Hula Hoops. As the Fling operates a drop bag system I’ll be able to have a few different things at each check point and grab whatever takes my fancy. On top of scran, I’ll be taking a S!Cap tablet every 30 mins, they’re a sodium tablet that prevent cramp getting you. I really like them. Far more than using electrolyte tablets dropped in water bottles. I find those weak flavoured and I much prefer water when my mouth turns dry.

I reeeally hope its going to be dry. The reason for this? Nobody likes the rain. Plus, my waterproof jacket is out of action, as its turned distinctly none waterproof in the 6 months I’ve had it (Inov-8 Stormshell) due to the inside delaminating from the outer fabric. I’ve been meaning to send it back for about 6 weeks, I bought a sealable bag to send it off 2 weeks ago. Really need to be more organised. I have a bulkier more waterproof alternative (Montane Minimus Mountain Jkt), so don’t worry.

T-shirt and arm warmers on the top, much more versatile than just a long sleeve top. You can take off sleeves without having to take off your pack. Patagonia shorts below, my favourite piece of running kit. Bar none. Good fit, lots of pockets, don’t chafe. Big tick. Having asked a number of people what to wear on my feet I have arrived at trail shoes, rather than road shoes. My only worry is whether my feet will be shot after 53 miles, most likely, but I’d rather have a bit more grip if they will be battered regardless of what I wear. Anyways, I’m going with my Inov-8 Roclites, they are swinging 1 from 1 in races entered so far so they’re in good form, I expect that’ll drop to a 0.500 average soon however!

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Other items I will take include phone and foil blanket (race requirement), Suunto watch, vaseline, kinesio tape, cap and gloves if its cold. And of course, my DH Runners buff. I’d like to wear my club vest too but it chafes me something chronic. Not much of a compulsory kit list for this race, but I’ll still be taking my race vest. I’d rather take slightly more stuff than run out of calories or water between check points.

Race Plan

Start slow. Try not to slowdown. That’s all I’ve got.

Wish me luck!

Buttermere 10 Race Report

Spoiler: I took home the bacon. [Not actual bacon, which would have been nice, but a glass trophy, also very nice]

Now, I don’t want to write this post and try to be a) casual about winning, as I’m absolutely loving the fact I did and fairly surprised also, or b) overplay the significance of it, as clearly it wouldn’t take much for a faster runner to be on the start line and I’d get comfortably beaten. But hey, you can only run against who is there I guess. Onwards.

It was an early start on Sunday morning, alarm at 6.30am, granola fruit and yoghurt (the usual) and a coffee to gan and I was out the door with Agnes and Molly. I was looking after my brothers dog Molly for the weekend. Shes an awesome black Cocker Spaniel who NEVER stops. But she exercises Agnes nicely. Race registration was 8.30-10, but with parking at a premium I went early and took the dogs for a walk along Buttermere for 45 mins. I think if you want to really enjoy places like Buttermere then you have to get there early, ahead of the crowds. The Lake was like a mill pond and with the sun rising just above the fells tops it made for a beautiful morning.

I met Rosie at registration and collected my number, used the facilities and headed back to the car to change and drop of the dogs. Although the sun was out it wasn’t warm enough to make the van hot, even so I hung a dust sheet up inside the van to stop it warming up. We left the dogs at the last minute and jogged down to the start, an entertaining briefing from Ian Mulvey and we were ready.

I’d had knee pain on Fridays run and spent the eve foam rolling like a mad man for the entirety of Titanic. I lashed on some kinesio tape in a way I seem to remember Dan Anderton showing me last year (wild guess) so I was dubious if I’d be halted with some more knee pain. I also paced a guy round Carlisle parkrun for his A-level assesment on Sat morning and then broke in a new pair of runners that eve whilst testing my knee (Inov-8 Roclite 290), not the first time I’ve raced in a brand new pair. I ran 33 miles in a pair straight out the box last summer during OCC. I’ll get caught out one day.

Race strategy – go out hard for 2 miles, see how the knee is and where you are at. I’m generally very cautious and running hard from the start isn’t my usual tactic, but you gotta try sometimes, right?

Mile 1 – The countdown started from 30 (thirty) seconds… 20 seconds… 15..10.. (can I warm up again please?) 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! With not many folk seemingly keen to be at the front there was plenty of space and I was first over the footbridge and along Buttermere shoreline. This was the best part of the course for running, nice and hard gravel paths. I could hear 3/4 pairs of feet close behind me. I was already blowing hard but told myself to keep at it until 2 miles.

Mile 2 – A quick u-turn and a rocky uphill section through the trees. Had a glance, there were 4 of us all 15 yards apart from each other. I was pulling away uphill, but the fella in 2nd closed the gap on the flat. Back at the footbridge and on towards Crummock Water.

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Mile 2

Mile 3 – Having done my hard 2 miles I figured I’d do another and see where 2nd place was. This was a very wet and rocky mile along hard paths and windy single track. Think I made some ground, not sure.

Mile 4 – Starting to feel it a bit now, stupidly had a glance behind me, kicked a stone and fell forwards, putting my hands down to save my knees. Something that lots of people didn’t manage to do. The mixture of bog, boggy grass and rocks made for slippery going, I counted 5 people with split knees getting patched up at the finish line. But, we ain’t there yet.

Mile 5 – More of the same, one minute I felt like I was going well only to run into a bog or take a poor line and slow down or lose rhythm. Still grafting, wondering if I’d be able to keep this up for another 6 miles.

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Running along Crummock

Mile 6 – No bogs! Huzzah! Interesting section along shale beach, over footbridges and on top of concrete flood type walls (that’s their name). Much better going made it easier to enjoy, had a glance back at a kissing gate, had about a minute lead. Could I?

Mile 7 – Doubts. Legs starting to struggle uphill, took a gel, wish I hadn’t. “Mmmmm mocha syrup with no water, just what I wanted in my dry mouth”. This would be a great bit of track to run along without the fear of being caught in your head.

Mile 8 – Legs gone. Water station was at the start of this mile, much needed gobful of water, some poured on my head. It was a steady pull up Rannerdale, where in a months time it will look like this, and I was really struggling. Another kissing gate, another gap update. Much closer, 30 metres. Oh heck. “I’d have taken 2nd at the start”… “don’t be a berk, keep running”.

Mile 9 – I was loving the downhills, I felt like my legs were turning over easily. However, the start of this mile took us up and over the corner of Rannerdale Knotts, it was only 100 or so feet, but it was steep and I was walking, practically on the spot. Looked behind me at the top. Has that guy just jumped 50 feet up that hill? “FFS I’m gonna be caught!”. Pegged it down the hill as fast as I could, over the road and passed the corner of Crummock. Kissing gate, I’ve pulled away! “How much faster would he have to run to catch me over a mile?…” “Too much to think about, keep running”.

Mile 10 – I’m actually going to win. Bloody brilliant. Ran in behind Buttermere village, through Syke Farm campsite and along the gravel road to the finish line. All with a cheesy grin on my face. I managed to put 30 seconds onto 2nd place in the last mile and finished in 1:09:09. A quick photo and a slug of water and I walked back to get the dogs while cheering on the other finishers.

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Finish line snap

The dogs didn’t even get excited when I arrived, too busy sleeping! Miserable gits. I shouted at Rosie as she passed us, she’d just overtaken someone so didn’t want to be caught. She finished 5th women in 1:39:46, amazing effort as she’d not done much running due to work lately. The dogs had a swim, we had some cake and chatted in the sun.

An altogether excellent day out!

Distance – 10 miles | Elevation – 900 feet | Time on feet – 1hr 9mins

Trail booty

 

Strava view

Lakeland 100 Recce – Buttermere to Dalemain

This July I shall be attempting to run my first 100 mile race, The Lakeland 100 (105 miles but who’s counting). Scary stuff! The course starts in Coniston and travels in a rather large anti-clockwise circle around the Lake District gathering a not insignificant 22490ft of elevation gain and loss. Any map geeks can view the course on Bing Maps.

As a part of the preparation for it’s runners, Lakeland 100 puts on 4 recce days on each of the 4 sections of the course.

Coniston to Buttermere – 27 miles

Buttermere to Dalemain – 32 miles

Dalemain to Ambleside – 30 miles

Ambleside to Coniston – 16 miles

On Sunday it was section 2, from Buttermere to Dalemain, 32 miles. The longest but also the flattest section of the course. I say flattest, there was still 5850ft of elevation gain.

LL100

One of the best parts of these recce days is meeting people. Being a newbie to running 100 miles I was able to talk to a number of different people who have run this race and many others previously. I probably feel more confident about the job having talked with other finishers than I would do from running the sections of the course alone.

7.30am, park at Dalemain to get the buses over to Buttermere, an excellent way of organising things, everyone runs at their own pace and can head off home as soon as they are back. I wasn’t envious of the chap from Worcester who was driving home afterwards. It was only 30 minutes for me (that was long enough).

Arrived in Buttermere at 9am, straight off the bus, tied up shoes and set off. The days goal was to be able to run well in the last 10 miles, in prep for The Highland Fling at the end of April, so nice and easy on the climbs. The first section gradually climbs up to Black Sail Pass, this was a cracking bit of singletrack to run/walk along.

No one’s looking *quick selfie*

At the top of the climb we hooked a left and dropped towards Barrow and then dropped into the valley bottom to Braithwaite village (6.5 miles), I was used to dropping off Barrow on the otherside of Barrow Gill and was kindly pointed in the right direction from a chap 50 yards further back. A nice grassy run into the village and I checked in with the support vehicle where a CP will be located.
The route then runs alongside the A66 for a couple of miles and I got talking to the guy who helped me earlier, his name was Tom and he’d run Lakeland 100 twice before, once in 30 hours and again in 26 hours. Very impressive! He was keen to stress the importance of not working too hard on the first section, as walking the bits that are easier to run when you’re paggered is counter productive. As we climbed round the back of Latrigg, I bombarded him with questions about the race and his experiences. He seemed happy to answer…

As it was so warm, we filled our bottles in a stream and carried on around Lonscale Fell. We seemed to be well matched for pace and walked at similar times, so we ran most of the day together. The conversation then moved to his previous experience when he had to walk the final 40 miles due to blisters. “I’ve never had any problems with blisters” were the words that came out of my mouth. I’d pay for this later.

Running towards Blencathra Centre

A quick stop at Blencathra Centre (15 miles) for water and 4 jelly babies and I set off after Tom who had filled his bottles before me, I was mincing around and lost sight of him as he took a right and through a gate before I saw which way he’d gone. I then wasted 5 minutes trying to decipher the route notes that my printer had scrambled with calligraphy. Back on track it was 30 mins until I’d caught up along the Old Coach Road towards Dockray, it was warm now and my feet were starting to complain. This wasn’t helped by the goons riding their dirt bikes right passed us, even though there was 20ft of gravel path to go at! We were getting low on water again so reaching High Row carpark (22.7 miles) and another CP was very welcome, they even had suncream! The horse had bolted.

The run down the road to Dockray was hot and we both complained as we chugged down hill full of water. We were caught by a chap, Jason Lewis, we had passed with his friend along the coach road. His mate had stopped due to a groin injury. We’d seen them on and off a bit and Tom had mentioned he’d finished 3rd a couple of years ago, he ran 105 miles in 23 hours! As he caught us he shouted “Right you lazy bastards! (we were walking) lets get our arses moving!” 

The lovely Ullswater!

Yes! Someone else who was willing to answer a tide of questions. We ran as a trio for a couple of miles round Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell, Tom dropped off a little bit to get some peace (he was having a few stomach issues). As soon as we hit the 2 miles of road to Dalemain Estate I knew my feet  were in trouble. I only complained a little bit (read: a lot). Were were discussing Chamonix and UTMB when Jason realised we’d made a wrong turn *weep* and we nashed back the way we’d come adding an extra mile or so onto our day along that God forsaken tarmac. “Ahh sugar sorry pal, oh well all miles in the legs!” were the words from the super positive Jason. I grunted. An eternally long gravel track and we were back at the cars, a quick name check and I was done.Tom rolled in as I was kicking off my shoes and we had a cup of tea. He’s hoping to run Highland Fling too, I hope so.
The best outcome of the day was meeting a couple of guys I can now look out for and will hopefully see at other events. The worst outcome? The blister that looked like a Cadburys mini egg on my little toe.

Distance – 34 miles | Elevation – 5866 feet | Time on feet – 6 hours 28 mins

Proof.
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Strava route profile and pace

And my poorly pinky… I exaggerated!

Carrock Fell Race Report – 19/3/17

Wet. Wetter than wet.

To term a phrase “it was wetter than an otters pocket” … and I doubt you get 60mph winds in an otters pocket. Or peat bogs.

Carrock Fell Race takes place as close to me as a fell race is able to get so it’s a local one, if you deem a 30 minute drive local, but it’s where Craig (my twin brother) and I started to run when getting into fell running and we still get up High Pike when we can, especially during the light summer nights. We even took Andy, our older brother on his first fell run up High Pike over Christmas.

So anyway. It’s local. The weather forecast that on Friday morning said it would be blustery, with low cloud and no rain until 2pm got steadily worse. It rained most of the day Saturday and Sunday morning the wind had picked up too. So much for the weather forecast. But then, it is the Lake District.

I was due to pick Craig up at 9.45am, I arrived early to spur him on as I knew he wouldn’t be ready. Before I had even knocked on the door there was a shout from the open bog window upstairs

“Come In!”  pre-race poo and all that. 10 minutes later we were on the way and on time.

“Sorry mate, the car park is waterlogged. You’ll have to park on the verge. But make sure you keep 2 wheels on tarmac.” Exclaimed the steward as he pointed us where to park. Guess it’s damp underfoot then…

Sitting in the van watching the race registration sign clinging for dear life to its post I wasn’t filled with optimism. This is where doubts always start to creep into my head before almost any race. Even at parkrun I get nervous about who I can run with. “Do I really need to do this?” “You might get injured” “You don’t feel good today”… piss off, it’s gonna be great fun.

At registration we were informed of the diverted start due to the stream being in full spate, we were to follow a flagged section and cross over a footbridge, it would add about half a mile. Being a bit of a novice fell racer, I wasn’t sure of what I was going to wear, shorts obviously. But I was torn between a merino baselayer and vest or thin layer and waterproof jacket. Having walked 50 yards to register I went for the merino baselayer AND the waterproof. A very good choice.

Strava evidence
Strava Evidence

A token warm up consisting of a 500m run up the track and back, including a wee that I tried to point in the right direction and then it was to the start to be counted into the start area. A safety measure to make sure everyone is accounted for, and vital on days like this.

The hooter sounded and 100 shivering people set off across a mossy sodden hill following the red flags. This section was decent going, it was mainly downhill and with a bit of adrenaline from the start it felt easy. That soon changed. Crossing the bridge we started to climb towards the base of the fell. This part wasn’t easy. With saturated tussocky ground on a slight incline and a strong wind into our faces my legs were on fire and we were running at 10min/mile. I quickly decided that marching was the best solution, a stooped and bent over hike that would look very odd, had a whole line of people not been doing the same. Apart from the 10 or so guys ahead who kept running.

The climb up Carrock is a steep one. Craig decided to head straight for the summit, we had talked about this but I was ahead of him and, being unsure of the right line to take didn’t want to go wrong so I stayed on the path with the rest of the field. Turns out it was a good decision, the conditions made it quicker to go slightly longer. Half way up my calves were screaming, I was desperate for a change in gradient to relieve my legs. Yes! A flatter section, I’ll have a run on the bit. Nope. Stomping it is. I made a few places on the climb and as I got to the top of the fell and started climbing the tumbled stones and rocks that litter the summit the leaders were coming past me in the opposite way. I was surprised how close I was. After nearly getting blown off my feet trying to show the marshall my number it was back down and off towards High Pike. We were really into the wind now, and I could hardly see for rain in my eyes as I slowly picked my way through the rocks again.

Slogging across the boggy area wasn’t any great fun. One of the guys I passed on the climb skipped ahead of me over the rocky section and now I settled in behind him. Focusing on his heels and not looking into the weather. We made good progress and soon caught another runner, I was at the back of the three, luckily, as I slipped jumping a pool of stinking soup and went down flat on my face, head and shoulders submerged I came up spluttering and spitting out peaty water. It’s a mark of the conditions that I wasn’t any wetter than I was before falling. I’ve no idea how but I didn’t lose any ground.

As we started climbing I moved ahead of the others and turned right and up to High Pike summit, a quick wave and a thank you to the marshalls and their tent, I veered right and down the lovely grassy track that’s great for opening up your stride. I knew laddo would be coming so I tried to stay relaxed and not worry about him. He passed me about half way down, but not before he shouted that I was taking the wrong path. Very kind. I’d have let him go an extra 20 yards first (jokes). With the wind howling it was hard to hear anything that was going on around you, apart from the flapping of your jacket and your feet splashing on the flooded paths. And so, as I rejoined the track with 100m to go I glanced behind me not expecting to see anyone, least of all that of GB trail runner Kim Collison. A mental “HOLY F*&K!” and I sprinted for the line expecting to be caught. I wasn’t. Amazing how a jolt of fear can give you an extra kick for the line. In fairness, he had gone off route a couple of times in the clag. I’m not sure how intent he was on racing at that stage. Turns out a few people had done the same, which meant me and downhill runner were bumped up a couple of places. I came home in 53 minutes and in 5th place, absolutely buzzing.

Craig arrived a minute later in 11th, a few handshakes and “well dones” and it was back to the van. A quick change and off to meet Rosie, Gemma and Joe for steak pie and chips in the pub. Marvellous.

Distance – 5.7 miles | Climbing – 1600 feet | Time on feet – 55mins

 

Race Results
Race results