MCC 40km at the UTMB


I entered myself into the CCC ballot in December 2017, you need to be thinking ahead to get your ultra races planned, especially if you want to race in some of the more popular events. As expected, I was unsuccessful and received my bad luck email sometime in January. With me already being entered into Highland Fling and Lakeland 50, I wasn’t too concerned about not getting a place to run 100km only 4 weeks after running 50 miles. With that option out if the window we decided to still head out to Chamonix for a week in August, but we brought it forward a few days as Rosie was due back at work on the Friday of the UTMB. We booked for Wednesday to Wednesday, aiming to get a bit of the UTMB hype at the end of the week.

Roll on 6 weeks and I got a message saying that there was a new race in the UTMB week for volunteers and locals, but any places not taken up would be for those that missed out on the lottery. I don’t think there were many locals and volunteers running as there were heaps of foreigners running it too. Another money making race, marketed as giving something back. Let’s not complain though, as it got me a race whilst I was going to be there. It was to take place on the Monday, 26th August and run from Martigny in Switzerland back to Chamonix, France, covering 40km and 2000m of elevation gain/loss.

Pre Race

We were staying in an air BnB flat 10 minutes walk (up a big hill) from the town centre and started the week with a walk up to Chalet Floria, a potter around the town and a gentle run out along the river. I wanted to get some form of run in pre race so set off at 7am on day 2 heading up the vertical km and running through the clouds to Lac Cornu at 2200m. It was a bit of a struggling to make myself head back for breakfast, it’s always far too easy to go a bit further than you planned and run your race in the days leading up to a race.

Lunch at Hotel Floria

Day 3 saw us getting out early and heading for Vallorcine on the train, I was planning to have a look at the race route from Col du Balme down to Le Tour but the weather was honking and all we managed to see was 10 metres in front of us. We walked up to Col du Balme, hearing and not seeing the cows grazing next to us and then headed for Refuge Albert 1er at 2700m above sea level. The weather worsened and all we managed to see on the way up was a decapitated Marmot, cloud and the arrival of snow flakes. A quick cuppa and a sarnie and we headed back down, with the cloud opening up to give us some worthwhile views.

Descending from Refuge Albert 1er

The weekend saw a noticeable increase in race participants arriving in the town, there was a definite increase in tanned, shaven legged runners sporting gilets of the various races they’d finished. All of whom, me included, casting sneaky glances at people they pass, just to see what kit they’re sporting. Sad acts.

We had a quiet day on Sunday, not wanting to do too much. Registration was at the sports centre and we headed down for the time slot I’d selected. On the way in I asked about the supporter buses and was over heard by a fellow Brit, Robbie Britton, who lives and runs in the Chamonix region. He offered some advice on the course and described which bits were runnable, rocky and steep. All very useful and I failed to heed any of it, working too hard and overheating on a steep section before the runnable bit. Post registration it was time for pizza. And chips. And a Nutella crepe. Then back up the hill to the apartment for an early night.

Race Day – de Martigny-Combe À Chamonix (MCC) 44km

Monday was race day, I was fully prepped the night before and was ready to go with plenty of time to spare. I’ve got this much more finely tuned the more races I’ve done. All you want is a stress free pre race routine! Kit laid out next to a packed race vest with number already attached to tshirt. A 15 minute walk to the bus got the nerves jangling and the hour and a half bus journey didn’t improve things. I ate a banana and drank some water with electrolytes in on the way. We pulled up at the start in Martigny-Combe, a small Swiss town in the base of a steep sided valley, lined with vineyard’s. We hoped off the bus and I left my bag with Rosie to jump in the toilet queue, it wasn’t too bad. Business taken care of we headed for the start area. I’ve either packed my bag really well, or it’s much lighter than it should be…. FAAAARRRKK.

My dry bag, with all of my mandatory kit in, was missing. Panic. Stations. We ran back to where Rosie had waited for me, it wasn’t there. Rosie legged it to see if the bus had left already, I nashed into the school hall acting as race HQ and registration. It was there… Handed in as soon as it had been dropped pretty much. They’d already identified me by my driving licence stashed in my first aid kit and were planning an announcement on the start line. Talk about avoiding a walk of shame in front of 1000 people and a few town majors. Relaxed, kinda, I went for a quick jog to get my legs operating and then headed into the starting pen.

Martigne – Col de Forclaz

The race. Stood waiting for the start, listening to several Swiss and French mayors I was getting itchy feet. The weather was chilly, but there was clear blue skies and the forecast was set for 25°C and breezey high up. The usual UTMB fanfare and hollering and a overly long countdown before we set off. As I ran through the town, waving at Rosie, I passed a middle aged woman dressed as a playboy bunnie (picture Bridget Jones Diary). Who’d got herself positioned on the front row, set off at a sprint and looked knackered after 800m. We saw her at the prize giving, she won the fancy dress award so fair play. Got herself out there.

Based on the route description from Robbie Britton, the route was broken into a long first climb to Col de Forclaz, a flat 2 miles, a steep climb and a rocky technical section up to Col du Balme, runnable single-track and hard descent into Argentiere and a small section of woodland tracks before a fast flat 4 miles into Chamonix. And it was bang on.

Running along the road on the climb out of town I knocked the first mile out in 8 minutes, probably too quickly for the gradient. Once onto the trail, we climbed up grassy slopes on paths behind people’s houses and every few hundred metres we would pop out onto a road switchback and start the climb again. It was warm going, and I was already lamenting the decision not to use poles. It got much hotter than I anticipated that early and I was soaked through, I passed the chance to put my hat under a hosepipe which I’d regret within the hour. As I reached Col de Forclaz I guessed I was in and around the top 20. I was 15th. The number of people out supporting and the enthusiasm they show is a real positive and negative at the same time. 200 people shouting “allez allez allez!” “UP UP UP!” and “GO GO GO Michelle!” gets the juices flowing, I power hiked up the steep grassy bank not realising I could feel my pulse beating in my temple. As ever, Rosie was the first person to see me and the first person I heard! Cresting the hill I set off around a corner and within 20 seconds was on a flat forest track, on my own, and blowing out my arse.

Warming up!

Col de Forclaz – Col du Balme

I ran the flat track steady away, and crossed a bridge to start the climb up to Col du Balme. I knew I was off as soon as I started climbing. How did I know? The people just in front of me hiked away from me like I was standing still and I was passed by 6 or 7 people within 15 minutes. Life was shit. It was emphasised when I passed a couple of hikers out for a walk and couldn’t pull away from them, my legs literally wouldn’t move quicker than a regular walk. Figuring out what had happened didn’t take long, I wasn’t sweating and my head was boiling hot. Accepting my fate, I dribbled some water down my neck and carried on hoping things would turn around. When the trail began to level out I started to move a little better, it became rocky and quite technical, which slowed me down, barely (and everyone else) which gave me the chance to cool down, not work too hard and enjoy the slight breeze that was blowing higher up. As I continued to pick my way along the bouldery path I started to feel a lot better, I rounded a corner and could see Col Du Balme up ahead. The vast majority of the climbing was done. I hiked the last climb into the CP and grabbed a drink of coke, filled my bottles and set off on the amazing singletrack that followed, it flowed and switch backed its was down the side of the Col Du Balme ski area, which in the summer months is a upland grazing meadow and big mountain biking area.

Col du Balme – Argentiere

The scenery was epic, and I didn’t even realise that I was on some of the same paths that we’d walked along a couple of days earlier. I really got into a nice rhythm on this section and caught a couple of people ahead of me, not wanting to overheat I decided not to work too hard to pass along the singletrak and as they were unwilling to move to the side (despite clearly moving quicker than them) I contented myself with sitting in behind for a little bit and see what the downhill entailed. As we started to descent to Le Tour that dropped 2000ft in 2 miles, all on hard packed dusty paths I was clearly moving quicker than the guys in front. I found a couple of chances to pass but they didn’t seem keen to oblige. I ended up running off path for a short section to get passed. This is something I’ve found with races in Europe, it’s very much every man/woman for themselves. As the descent wore on, I noticed that my feet were starting to feel a bit hot, I was having to apply the brakes too often on the sharp switchbacks and I felt like there was a pebble in my shoe. It quickly became apart that this wasn’t the case, as when do you have a pebble in each shoe sat in the exact same spot? The answer is you don’t. And you’ve got the beginnings of a blister. As the path started to level I stopped to retie my laces to prevent any further foot slipping. I had a quick look at one of my heels and I couldn’t see anything, but it was definitely there! The path had now dropped back into a woodland area and as I emerged from the trees Mike Jones was waiting for me, he jogged along side for a couple of minutes asking how I was and how it was going so far. His advice was just what I wanted to hear. “Most of the people ahead of you look like shit.” … yeah, but what do I look like? “Take your time in the CP, get some extra fluids in, cool down and get ready to bury yourself on the flat run to the finish” I then realised how hot I still was, my head was boiling and the day had started to really warm up, it was mid to late 20s at this stage. “You can definitely catch five people before the finish!” I can? I can! I left Mike and ran the bit of tarmac before the CP into Argentiere and as I ran in, I passed Rosie, she said afterwards that I looked terrible here. I knew Mike was lying to me! I couldn’t face any food, so just necked a cup of coke and kept going. I got a bucket of water poured over my head on the way out which did wonders. Waved to Rosie and set off towards Chamonix. Only 7 miles to go.

Argentiere – Chamonix

The path from Argentiere to Chamonix is a rolling woodland trail with some short hills, a couple of runnable climbs and a section of tree roots before emerging by the river on the valley floor when it flattens out to the finish. I started well, knocked out a few 8 min miles and felt good. I passed a couple of runners only a mile or two outside the CP, but things started to slide after this. I hit a gradual incline in the woods that I was trying to run, but every 20m I would get a spasm of cramps up the inside of my right thigh, I changed my running style and tried to push through it. I’d only just passed my third victim since Argentiere and I wasn’t going to start walking straight after it. He must have been in a worse way as I didn’t see him again, despite my own ailments. The path dropped sharply through a patch of boulders and tree roots which in most circumstances would be fun to run through, having to stop because of bouts of cramp took away the joy factor. I resolved myself to run through as much cramp as possible and only stop for a stretch or leg loosen when it reduced me to a walk.

As I emerged onto a road heading in Les Praz on the outskirts of Chamonix I was really struggling. Both legs were cramping badly, all I could muster was a grimacing shuffle. I rounded a corner and arrived at a water trough with a runner filling his water bottles up. I ran up to it, put my entire head into the trough and left it there for 20 seconds. Emerged, filled up and drank a full bottle and set off after refilling my bottle again. If only there’d been a water trough sooner. I was a new man. Admittedly I knew there was only two miles to go. But I was now moving freely and quickly dispatched the chap who’d stopped for a drink. I now knew in my head how far was left as I’d run this section on yesterdays jog out. It was flat and horrible, but I could see a runner in the distance and was determined to catch him. As the town centre got closer and we passed over the final timing matt before the finish, I saw the runner ahead look behind. Bingo. Gave myself one last kick up the backside and moved ahead of him just before the town centre. I tried to turn right but was blocked off by a marshall, WTF? He pointed over my shoulder at the three tiered gantry that crossed over the road. You’ve got to be kidding me?! Cursing, I climbed up and hobbled down the other side and ran towards the finish. The town centre was packed, it was 2:30pm and it made for a noisey finish. I gave out a host of high 5s on my way through and the rush of elation you get when being cheered on by hundreds of people you don’t know is goose bump stuff. Rosie was in the same position as the last time I raced in UTMB week, The OCC, in 2016. I crossed the finish line with a massive grin on my face, delighted I was able to turn things around.


Post Race

Post race I felt horrendous, I ate a mountain of water melon, took off my shoes and realised the size of my blisters. BIG. I chatted with Rosie and Mike for a while before Rosie headed off to get my flip flops, the shoes were NOT going back on my feet. I stood and cheered other runners under the arch, and started to feel faint. I was still in the sun. I sought out some shade. With flip flops on my feet I limped to the medical tent to enquire if my blisters could be tended to. I sat on the camp bed and the lady volunteering took a look, then drained both blisters with a syringe. The dye that was injected into them didn’t disappear for 8 weeks. We hobbled to a nearby smoothie cafe when Rosie returned. After an hour I felt able to walk up the two big hills back to the apartment for a shower before heading back out for some bait. I had a burger and frittes, with lashings of salt. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Blisters getting fettled (fella next door wasn’t too clever)

The next day I was in for a shock when I tried to walk down the hill for a baguette. Try spending the day walking only on your toes after a marathon the day before. Grim. We pottered around the town centre, did a few laps of the expo, Rosie got a signed copy of Emelie Forsbergs book and we went for a lounge in the sun and a dip at the swimming pool. We flew home on Wednesday morning, after another epic week in Chamonix and The Alps. If you’ve never been before, I would urge you to head out during the summer to see the scale of the mountains, the alpine flowers and just enjoy being outside. The area is so accessible. The whole area is serviced by chairlifts so even if you’re not a runner or walker you can get up high and enjoy the scenery.

Post Chamonix

Since getting home and getting this blog post written up (3 months… SHAME SHAME SHAME!) I’ve actually been back to Cham again, this time for a 3 day outing for Ian’s 40th. We had a couple of runs in the mountains, ate a heap and drank coffee like water. While out there, I got the news that I’d been selected to be a part of the Squirrels Nut Butter (SNB) and X Miles ambassador team. SNB isn’t, like Rosie thought, a range of peanut butter, it is in fact superbly effective anti chafe salve for your errr… nuts. Along with other body parts that may be on the receiving end of some chafage. It’s made of all natural products, is great on dry and cracked skin and their Happie Toes product has seen off some of my feet issues (miracles do happen).  If only I’d had some on my feet in August. X Miles is a specialist sports nutrition store that caters nutritional advice and plans for endurance athletes and stock all manner of running products along with a huge range of nutrition products. Check them out!

Autumn in The Alps!

2018 running “resolutions” I more than likely won’t stick to.

Number one on this list should really read “update blog more often” but since the summer and after finishing the Lakeland 100 I rather lost a bit of edge for training and blogging and what not. There were a number of reasons, I’ll call them reasons as opposed to excuses.

1. We got married. Should really have written a blog post on that.

2. We travelled across California for 2 weeks. Taking in Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur Coast and San Francisco. Should definitely have written a blog post on that.

3. I barely did much in the way of running for a month or two, but was happy to let my body recover for a bit.

4. We had the usual busy autumn/winter in the workshop on the kitchen front.

5. I couldn’t find the motivation. Lots of things popped into my head for post ideas but I didn’t have the urge to get them written down. I will endeavour to do so, even if its just for my benefit.

OK, with the “reasons” out of the way lets set about 2018 like we mean business, with a hipster/blogster style “5 things” post.

I decided last year that in 2018 I might consider the use of an online coach to help me with my training, race advice and nutrition etc etc. Well, sadly it didn’t work out but its still all good. I made contact with Mike Jones, back to back winner of the Lakeland 100 and as it turns out, a bloody good bloke too. We set a date for December with regard to coaching, but due to work schedules on both sides and Mike being busy setting up his own ultra running races in Snowdon this May (Ultra Trail Snowdon 50/100), which by the way are fecking beasts. The 100 miler has 6000m MORE climbing than the Lakeland 100 **trembles**, things didn’t work out. But, being the guy he is, Mike has offered to give me some help with my training for The Highland Fling and has been in contact most weeks with ideas and advice. Many of which I hope to implement going forward. 

Hoping for improvement at The Highland Fling

Enough waffle, here’s the resolutions (not a fan of resolutions, lets say goals):
1. Cross train

Having never beem able to crank out a big load of mileage without getting injured, utilising cross training (specifically the road bike) will hopefully allow me to increase my training time without adding extra stress onto my chocolate legs. I plan to use the bike for recovery rides, intervals and for leg strength and turnover.

I can currently knock out 3 or 4 50 mile weeks back to back as a maximum, after this I generally know about it through niggles or tiredness. Maybe I need to toughen up a bit? Or do more of the things that will aid recovery, segway to resolution no.2…

2. Foam roll/stretch (all that good stuff)

It should really read “Foam roll/stretch more“, but for that to be the case I’d have to actually do some in the first place. Bet this sucker is in 90% of all blogs and resolutions on running. I’m gonna include following some hip mobility or yoga videos for 30 mins on YouTube too on rest days. This will most likely be the hardest thing for me to achieve, I’m very much a sit down stay down kind of guy of an evening.

3. Make a plan and stick to it!

My usual approach to training is to get long runs in when I can, add in a regular 8 miles with DH Runners and then a couple more runs with the dog, usually easy but sometimes a bit of speedwork. I don’t really ever run hills during the week unless its on a Tuesday with the running club. This year I want to specify hill reps/speed sessions. If I run them on a Tuesday I wont run them on another run. I’m also going to start using strides at the end of easy runs (another Mike Jones tip). Basically it’s to help me get faster without running fast as often.

Strides (stolen directly from a google search) – short bursts (20-30 seconds) of quick running that are typically completed in the middle or at the end of a run, or as part of a warm-up to a speed workout.

This year I’m going to be following a training plan, hopefully much more religiously than before, in the hope that being more consistent will see some extra improvements in my running. Below is a plan that I have drawn up myself, based on what works for me and also fitting around my schedule. It’s an ideal scenario and often the days within the week will be swapped around in order to fit in with what is happening in the rest of my life.



If you have any ideas or thoughts on how I’ve set up my plan, please let me know. Always keen to hear advice or suggestions.

4. Be more consistent

1, 2 & 3 rolled into 4. It’s a bit of a mix of everything. Stick to a plan where possible, maintain a good level of training, make sure I do the little things like foam rolling and cross training on a regular basis and be less willing to take the easy option by having a day off or cutting a run short when I can’t be bothered or don’t feel good. I am probably in a position to slightly increase my weekly training load after running 40/50 mile weeks for a few years and reducing down time between races along with adding in road cycling will help with this.

5. Get more sleep

This one is easy. Aim to get 7.5 to 8 hours sleep a day. Obviously not always going to happen, but if I’m able to get more shut eye I’m sure I’ll feel better, be ill less often and be able to recover better. As an added bonus I’m going to charge my phone downstairs to prevent me using it before sleep. Hopefully I’ll waste less time looking a shite on the internet and spend more time reading and/or sleeping.

2018 Races entered so far

January – Inskip Half Marathon

February – Dalemain Trail 10km

April – Highland Fling 53 miles

May – Old County Tops Fell Race 37 miles with Craig (still to enter)

July – Lakeland 50

August – UTMB – CCC 110km (waiting on ballot result)

2017 Final Stats

Distance – 1585mi | Elevation – 205000ft | Time on Feet – 242hrs

Lakeland 100

I was up and awake at 6am, too excited to sleep! I say excited, I’m not really sure what the feeling was… apprehension maybe? It was the not knowing that caused the nerves, rather than the actual event. Would I be able to run through the night? How would my legs react after 70-80 miles having only done 53 previously?

We got the van loaded with my kit, drop bag, sleeping bags and the tent and we set off for Coniston, its only 1 hour 30 minutes from Carlisle. We arrived at John Ruskin School (race HQ) around 1.30pm, set the tent up and headed for registration. It was a slick operation, as was every aspect of the weekend, I was checked in, tagged, weighed and ushered through the metal barriers like a lamb to slaughter in double time (help me??!).

Race briefing wasn’t until 4pm so we filled the time by getting stuck into the pasta and salad available in the marquee. £5 for multiple helpings (I sampled every type) followed up by a coffee and I was set. The briefing started at 4.30, it was ideal for relaxing the runners. “Look the person next to you in the eyes….” “One of you won’t be finishing. Decide now between you who it will be…” You. You bastard!

Post briefing I mingled with some of the DH Runners down for the 50 registration and Curly (Michael Irving), also a DH Runner, running his second Lakeland 100. Mum and Dad (Maz & DH) arrived at the same time as Rosie’s parents John & Jo (nearly related Jo!) It was a a quiet sort of atmosphere, lots of people were chatting with old friends, but with minds on what was to come in an hours time. I found this bit quite frustrating, I just wanted to get going and was full of nervous energy. We were shepherded into the start area where we had to dib in, I bumped into Jacob Snowchowski, who I’ve seen at nearly every race I’ve done this year, and Marcis Gubats. Both were running their first 100 milers too. Although they would have much higher expectations than me. Marcis finished 2nd!

Standing in the start area we listened to a fantastically sung Nessun Dorma, which got the juices flowing. I made sure I told myself to set out at MY pace, if people wanted to pass I’d step aside. If I wanted to pass I’d wait and be happy to go at an easy pace. I had zero expectations on a time or position. My only goal was to finish. I knew that if I had a good race and my nutrition, legs and everything else held up I’d be able to sneak under 26 hours.

Start Coniston to CP1 Seathwaite

We got a count down from the crowd.. 10….9….8…. skip a few 3….2….1….off you pop! We ran out of the school entrance and up the road, I couldn’t believe how many people were out watching! Probably a testament to the popularity of the event amongst runners, supporters and the locals too. As we climbed it seemed like a nice evening. Marc Laithwaite had promised light showers and nice weather during the briefing so everything was going to plan… we turned a corner and so did the weather. Out of nowhere it was jackets on and hosing it down. This set in place some issues for later in the race. Some sensitive issues. Where the legs join the body. Its a nice track to run on the whole way on this section with a bit of tarmac into the CP, grabbed a couple of custard creams and refilled a water bottle and I was on my way.

Feeling – apprehensive

7 miles | time 1:20:14 | distance covered 7 mileselapsed 1:20:14


A wet start!

CP1 Seathwaite to CP2 Boot

As I entered the CP Curly was leaving, he slowed down and waited for me. We ran together for this whole section. Chatting away and getting gates for each other. It was great to run with someone early on, it helped to pass the time and we ran nice and easy along the farm track and into the plantation, the midges started to rear their ugly heeds and the going got much wetter, from now until 4pm tomorow I’d have wet feet… get your head around that. Descending towards Boot we ran down a grassy slope that was soaking wet, Curly skidded onto his arse and came up with a broken pole. Not ideal after 10 miles of 105! He carried on and tried to assess the damage as he went. In the end he was able to jam one piece of pole into the other to make a slightly shorter one than the other, but it still worked. We got into the CP, manned by a bunch of Flingers in their finest tartan. Water refill and a handful of custard creams to go.

Feeling – happy

7 miles | time 1:25:24 | distance covered 14 mileselapsed 2:45:38


CP2 Boot to CP3 Wasdale Head

This section seemed much shorter than during the recce. Maybe as I was feeling like death then, but I got a good march uphill going on, passing a few runners without really breathing hard. I lost touch with Curly for half an hour or so but he caught me up at Burnmoor Tarn and we ended up running as a biggish group into Wasdale just as the light was starting to go. By the time we were running into the CP it was pretty much dark. This was one of the livelier CPs, The Stroller Disco was in full swing and I was greeted by Rosie and Agnes (the hula girl) as well as an inflatable shark and dolphin. Got myself a cup of tea and had a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches here. I was starting to feel hungry through the leg and wanted to keep plenty going in. Especially with Black Sail coming up next. We donned our head torches and as we were about to leave Curly shouted me back for a photo (see below), we were the first to use it, so that makes it a DH Runners one two on the photo stand thingy.

Feeling – fresh

5.4 miles | time 1:09:50 | distance covered 19.4 mileselapsed 3:55:28

Curly and Myself, looking fit.

CP3 Wasdale Head to CP4 Buttermere

Head torches on it was out the CP and along the valley bottom, slowly climbing to the base of Black Sail Pass. My etiquette seemed to be terrible with a head torch on. I was using a battery pack powered Silva one of Craigs, and it was pretty powerful. This meant that when I was running behind someone too closely I would cast a shadow of them where they wanted to put their feet. I did this crossing a raging stream and the lady in front was stood on a rock in the middle not knowing what was in front of her. Whoops. Ever wanted to work out who is from the countryside and who is from the city? Just have them walk up Black Sail Pass in the dark and have a couple of cows stand on the path you’re going up. Folk were scrambling through the bracken to get away… I gave it a pat and said “hello cow”. Now at the front of the group the next cow sniffed my head before I knew it was there. I didn’t say hello this time. Just nearly caked myself.  The descent from Black Sail Pass was wet, rocky and slow but I was happy with that. I just accepted that it was going to be slow and that it was better to walk downhill than hit the deck like a few around us. It was then up and over Scarth Gap, halfway up I looked back and the head torches descending Black Sail Pass was awesome to see! Once over the top it was the rocky descent to the shore of Buttermere, I felt good here and picked my way down nicely. Spotted a mouse! I moved ahead of Curly by a couple of minutes as he’d bumped into someone out spectating (at 11.30pm. In the drizzle. And the dark.) but only by a couple of minutes. I arrived at Buttermere ready for something to eat, it was supplied in the form of hotdogs (multiple) and coffee.

Feeling – easy

6.9 miles | time 2:04:31 | distance covered 26.3 mileselapsed 5:59:59


CP4 Buttermere to CP5 Braithwaite

Out the door and through the woods before heading up the valley towards Sail Pass. During the briefing this was highlighted as a place where you could easily go wrong in a couple of places. “Theres a small cairn of white stones put there for you, turn left here.” Nope. Didn’t see them. Should have been a large cairn of white stones. It took a little while to notice I was too low as I could see a few headlights ahead and much higher. A group of runners had followed me but assured me there was a left ahead and that not much time was lost. They were correct and I was soon back on track. Having made one mistake I was determined to get the next split in path right. It was easier to miss the next one but I didn’t have to worry. Shaun and Craig had walked out from Newlands Valley with Molly to see me, I stopped for a chat and a photo with the dog. I was happy to let a few folk repass me, I quite enjoyed the rest! It really made a big defference to my morale/state of mind to know people were out on the course in crap weather, in the middle of the night to cheer me on. It made me smile as I reached the top when I could hear Shaun’s booming voice from 200m below as they made their way back to the car.

Repetitive thoughts of random crap always seem to get in my head during ultras. This time it was slugs. The sheer number of them. Fecking thousands. I ended up wondering how many would be killed over the course of the Lakeland 100/50 weekend. HEADLINE: Slug population decimated by heavy footed ultra runners. I jogged the gentle descent to Braithwaite, with thoughts on my slugs, a few runners cruised passed me and I followed them into the CP. The spread was unbelievable but I only had eyes for the rice pudding and jam, it was AMAZING. The best thing I ate at any of the checkpoints. I went back for a 2nd. This was the first time that I noticed people were struggling, some were lying across chairs or sitting to the side not eating. There was a big number of drops at Braithwaite. I was feeling ok but the lateness of the evening started to make me feel drowsy. I had a couple of caffeine tablets with my tea before setting off again.

Feeling – sluggish (chortle)

6.5 miles | time 1:41:41 | distance covered 32.8 mileselapsed 7:41:40


CP5 Braithwaite to CP6 Blencathra Centre

This section was one that I was worried about. On the recce I got a couple of blisters here from the quicker running on road and stone tracks, I had decided to wear my Inov-8 Roclite 290, a lower, less cushioned shoe but with a bit better grip than my other (many pairs of) trail runners. I was wishing I could have changed my shoes at Braithwaite rather than Dalemain. My toes were getting a bit beat up and were feeling tired and aching (I guess 33 miles and 8 hours of running will do that). But, I still had 17 miles to go. I was keen to look after my feet. Along the A66 (lots of slugs, dead and alive) and then the old railway line. I was excited to see Rosie at the base of Latrigg, Craig and Shaun were there too so I stopped again for a chat and took the chance to clean out some grit from my shoes and give my feet a rub. Another team photo and I was off up Latrigg. It’s always good to have Craig out following me when I’m running. I know I’m fairly cautious but he is even more so, this is a very good thing as I was feeling good and wanted to push on. “Don’t race anyone!” were his words when I enquired what place I was in. He didn’t tell me. I agreed and said I’d walk all the way up Latrigg, even the flat bits. Once up I pootled round Glendeterra and to the unmanned dibber to stop corner cutting. I had my first collision on the path to Blencathra Centre, with a mouse. I’d seen 3 already, scurrying around the path edges, but this one ran out in front of my right foot. I kicked it, it rolled up my foot, hit the path and I nearly stood on it. Thankfully it bolted from under my foot. Shaken from my near fatal accident I was glad to arrive at the next CP. I was fully aware of what was in store here. Little Dave’s Mum’s chocolate cake. A thing of legend amongst Lakeland 100 runners passed and present. If I’m being critical, now don’t kill me or troll me fro this but… I thought it was a bit more of a tray bake, with the texture more like a tiffen. Delicious all the same. Hopefully that comment won’t see me barred from future events!

Feeling – content

8.5 miles | time 1:55:50 | distance covered 41.3 mileselapsed 9:37:30

Agnes removing some salt

CP6 Blencathra Centre to CP7 Dockray

Good, bad and fantastic. My feet were now very tender, I was looking forward to Dalemain too much and that was annoying me. I was telling myself to concentrate on whats happening now and on what I can control. Sore feet wasn’t one of them. Moving forward and keeping nutrition and pacing right would see me to Dalemain in due course. Don’t jump the gun. I started to feel a little sick (too much tiffen-cake) soon after the A66 unmanned dibber, just as I was dreading the wet slog up to The Old Coach Road (OCR) a bat flew straight at my light and swung away about a foot from my face. I’d say I didn’t shit myself, but that would be a lie. As I shouted out my headtorch ran out of battery. Highly confused, stumbling in the dark and my heart rate through the roof, I had to rummage through my pack for my smaller Alpkit light, which next time I’d start out with as it was more than adequate and much lighter. I slugged up climb feeling terrible, it started to rain, and I had to get my wet jacket back out. As soon as I hit OCR I felt great, the sky was lightening and I turned off my torch, 15 minutes later I saw a glimpse of pink sky on the horizon! I immediately started running and shouting, delighted to have made it through the night. I cruised along to Dockray, leapt the ditch into the CP and had a couple of plain cheese sarnies, a cup of coffee and I was off towards Ullswater. Making a dent into the distance now.

Feeling – elated

7.7 miles | time 1:43:15 | distance covered 49 mileselapsed 11:20:45


CP7 Dockray to CP8 Dalemain

Running out of the CP along the road to Dockray I came along side a runner limping along looking in some pain. I stopped to walk alongside him for a spell and offered him some paracetamol. They’d gone soggy and were useless. His name was Bryn Jones and he’d taken a nasty fall. He had a tennis ball lump on his knee and a golf ball lump on his forearm and elbow. “I’m alright, I’ll just walk it in.” Just walk it in. 56 miles of walking it in with a busted leg. He finished in 34 hours, walking through a second night. As I hit the path around Ullswater there was a touch of mist on the lake, the sun was making the clouds slightly orange and at the same time lighting up the little bit of rain in the air. It was one of the nicest images I’ve seen in the Lakes. I stood still and enjoyed the view for a minute before carrying on. 50 miles came and went, almost at halfway.

My watch was beeping at me about lack of battery so I turned off the GPS, I wanted battery to be able to tell the time for the rest of the day. I took my only fall here, kicking a tree root coming straight up out the path, both hands went down but I didn’t land hard. Told myself off for not concentrating. I was starting to get over the number of slugs and started thinking about another Harry Potter reference. I kept saying “The Adventures of Martin Miggs The Mad Muggle”… don’t even ask. I was still saying it in my head 8 hours later! The couple miles of road section into Dalemain seemed shorter after the recce run, I spent it drying my jacket in the breeze while running along. I came into Dalemain to see Mum and Dad, Rosie and Agnes waiting for me. Agnes sprinted over to say hello. What a dog. In the CP I was able to get into my drop bag. I changed my clothes, towelled down a bit and changed my shoes and socks, applying liberal amounts of talk to my feet and glide to my chafage. I had a couple bowls of veggie broth and a muller rice, washed it down with yet another tea and got ready to leave. It started raining. FFS.

Feeling – confident

10.1 miles | time 2:07:58 | distance covered 59.1 mileselapsed 13:28:43


CP8 Dalemain to CP9 Howtown

Leaving in the rain really pissed me off, my feet were nice and dry! I’d gotten a bit cold after stopping so went to put my gloves on… not there! I’d had them in the CP. I turned around and trudged back to the tent. Having explained what I’d done, ratched through my drop bag and in the tent I gave it up as a bad job. Curly was in and he kindly lent me a spare pair he had. What a guy! This cost me about 20 minutes. After the couple of fields theres a left along the road and a right through a kissing gate. Hold on. That chap seems to think you go straight aross the road and diagonally across a field… the same guy I heard saying he’d done it a couple of times before. YOU’RE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF! Seriously… why bother? You’ve saved yourself 250 metres out of 105 MILES! Anyways seems a few people had done it through a different gate as there were footprints in the wet grass across the corner. My back was well and truely up! “I’m taking down that guy” were my first words to Rosie in Pooley Bridge. I didn’t. Running along Ullswaters east shore was ace, I felt good, passed corner cutter and dropped into Howtown. I’d taken the wrong route though, I ended up entering the CP from the road after wasting more time checking if I was right or wrong. Had a couple of packets of crisps and a Chia Charge bar who were running the CP and more tea or coffee, can’t remember which. One lady pointed at me and said “You look brilliant!” Boom. The perfect words. Thanks you!

Feeling – frustrated

7.1 miles | time 1:55:27 | distance covered 66.2 mileselapsed 15:24:10


CP9 Howtown to CP10 Mardale Head

Horrendous. That’s about all I need to say. Pouring down, cold hands and boggy. I climbed strongly and by the time I got near to the top of the climb I had caught up to 4/5 others including Steve Edwards and Janson Heath. They were running together and Janson seemed to be battling. Steve navigated us nicely across the bog to Haweswater. As we dropped to the lakeshore we had our first and only sunshine since the start of the race. Janson “it’ll probably only last 20 minutes..” it lasted 15. It’s a long section and after the slow climb then over and down High Street its a slow rocky path to Mardale Head. “Michael Holliday?!” What? Who said that? Ahh Lindsay Cowen, stood on the top of a rocky outcrop, turns out Dave and Lindsay had come to watch me run by and do a spot of fishing at the same time. They’d gotten their timings wrong and had been waiting for over 2 hours in the rain. Sorry, should have run faster. Not sure how much fishing got done. We arrived at a battered CP being run by Dellamere Spartans, 2 marshalls were having to literally holding things together. The roof had blown off the tent in the morning. Had some tea and soup then hit the climb up Gatesgarth.

Feeling – wet

9.4 miles | time 2:35:22 | distance covered 75.6 mileselapsed 17:59:32


CP10 Mardale Head to CP11 Kentmere

We set of up the climb spread out, I again, climbed quite well, passed a couple of guys who took less time in the CP, ran over the top and set off on the rocky downhill. As soon as I began descending I got pain in the centre of my shin, like I’d been whacked with a sharp stone. Which I hadn’t been. I was caught by Steve who checked to see if I was OK and we jogged down together, Steve informed me Janson was struggling with his stomach and had barely eaten anything since Dalemain. We stopped briefly to chat with Mum and Dad who’d made another big detour to see me again. We started the next climb, we stopped to take off jackets and Janson caught up. He looked terrible. We decided to wait for him and see if he improved or dropped at Kentmere. As we ran along the road into the CP a sheep came up the road and asked us if we’d like any pasta? Yes. A sheep, but only a member of the Mountain Fuel aid station. It got my friendliest aid station award. Emma Hardwick introduced herself, she’d met Rosie during The Highland Fling and I said hello to fellow Instagrammers and awesome ultra runners Cat Simpson and Jen Scotney too, it was so good to see friendly faces. We had a bottle of Mountain Fuel to go and pulled ourselves out the door.

Feeling – weary

6.5 miles | time 1:51:45 | distance covered 82.1 mileselapsed 19:51:17

Running w/ Steve Edwards on our way to Kentmere

CP11 Kentmere to CP12 Ambleside

The beginning of the end. Even though there was still 23 miles to go, I knew it was in the bag. We started a to and fro with other runners. As a trio moving quicker than those around us, but spending longer in aid stations. Some were in and out chugging away, we got more food in but was harder to get moving after every stop. Janson looked like he might drop at Ambleside, he was a ghost. But, he got out the CP first and set off walking, we would catch up and we’d start a shuffle/walk strategy to next CP. We caught Janson climbing Garburn pass, he had improved with some coke and Mountain Fuel. We reached the summit and turned the corner and as we began a run there was an almighty clatter up, Janson had stood on one of his Salomon quicklaces (that should live in their pocket) and army rolled over rocks and through a 6 inch deep puddle… I was certain he’d jack it in now. How wrong I was. It’s like he decided to stick two fingers up at his situation. I was looking forward to Ambleside as the rents, Rosie and a fair tribe of DH Runners would be there, turns out Dan, Steve and Jess had come down to watch too. So good to get a big cheer when limping into the CP.

Feeling – grim

7.3 miles | time 2:00:57 | distance covered 89.4 mileselapsed 21:52:14


CP12 Ambleside to CP13 Chapel Stile

This was a tester! With 15 miles to go, the end was in sight but I was also aware that at current pace it would be 4 hours more of shuffle/walk/feel like crap/repeat. I didn’t know this section at all so it was great to run with people who did. All I had to do was follow. As we left Ambleside and entered a section along a river/camp sites the words that escaped Janson were “I fucking hate this section.” turns out I do too! Flat concrete paths that you have to run. The long and painful winding road.

Feeling – shit.

5.6 miles | time 1:20:42 | distance covered 95 mileselapsed 23:12:56


CP13 Chapel Stile to CP14 Tilberthwaite

This was just a couple hours of misery. Shin now prevented me running at all downhill and the back of my opposite knee was now rigid. Don’t really know where this  part of the course went. Head down and get to Tilberthwaite. The mandatory self dib CP seemed miles away though.

Feeling – broken

6.5 miles | time 1:51:50 | distance covered 101.5 mileselapsed 25:04:46


CP14 Tilberthwaite to Finish Coniston

Hallelujah. With the finish just a parkrun away, a 1 hour and 15 minute parkrun (not a PB), it was all good. We’d done it. Apart from climbing that greet, steep set of fecking steps, stumble over that wet boggy path and descend down the rocky, loose, treacherous trod down to the miners road. I was far slower than the others descending now and they waited for me as we hit the road into Coniston. We jogged side by side, passed the packed pubs to massive cheers. One dude, dressed as Scooby Do’s mate (the blonde one who wears a cricket jumper and a cravat) offered me his pint! A wave at Steve and Jess sat on the bridge, passed the petrol station and left into the school. I heard Rosie before I saw her. She ran along the road just behind us with Agnes. We turned in and finished together, having a mini group huddle (I won’t call it a 3 way man hug) at the finish line. A quick hug for Maz (mum) who was in tears and a handshake from DH. We got a quick photo and walked into the marquee together and to more cheers, so much love!

Feeling – proud.

3.5 miles | time 1:10:15 | distance covered 105 mileselapsed 26:15:01


Finished. A team effort!

What a feeling. So so good! I would honestly recommend having a go at the Lakeland 50 or 100 to anyone, as long as you put in a bit (read; a lot) of training and it will be one of the most rewarding things you could possibly do. I stood leaning on the barrier in the Marquee and Marcis came over to say well done, no mention of what he’d achieved! He let me know that Jacob had unfortunately had to pull out due to a hip injury. Yet again I think it’s more the people that I met over the course of the weekend that really shaped my experience. Ultra running and it’s community really is amazing.

Rosie kindly went for my clothes while I sat next to Janson in the Marquee not speaking and staring at the table leg. I had the worlds longest shower as I could barely take off my socks. Assessed the chafing damage… could have been worse. No blood. Got some Chilli con carne and a lemonade into me and limped towards the tent. Flat out by 10.30pm. I had a solid 8 hours, 8 more than many of the heroes still out on the course in the pouring rain! The next morning I left Rosie to sleep and went in search of a sausage buttie. Sitting watching runners coming in after 35, 36, 37 hours on their feet was unreal. Such respect. I caught up with some of the DH Runners and shared our experiences before heading back to bed for another hours kip. We waited for the presentation of prizes, some of the stories Marc Laithwaite mentioned were amazing, from a runner going off course to inform a farmer his dog was having pups to the lady who had to stop at the CPs to breast feed her baby during the 50. Outrageously good.

Then we went home. Via Greggs, of course.

Distance – 105 miles | Elevation Gain – 6300 metres | Time on Feet 26 hours 15 minutes

Too much for me and the dog.


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.

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!

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

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.


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

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

Why start a blog?

Hello, and welcome to my first blog attempt. Up until 12 hours ago I had absolutely zero knowledge of how blogs worked or how to start a blog. Jumping in with both feet seemed like the only logical thing to do. It’s kinda how I’ve gone about my running (which this blog will be about) since I started in 2012. Since then I’ve run a trail half marathon in 2013, a trail marathon in 2014, a 50 km trail race and a 50 miler in 2015. in amongst that I’ve run numerous half marathons, one road marathon (which ended horrendously) and 2 more trail marathons (Scafell Pike Trail Marathon).

Why start a blog? Well, this year I am running my first 100 mile ultra. Which is double the distance that I’ve run before. I ran Lakes In A Day in 2015, a 50 miler travelling the length of The Lake District National Park. By the end of that I was absolutely cooked. Who knows what state I’ll be in come July. So yeah, its a way for me to document my races and training and anything else that I think might be of interest to somebody… anybody!

I was asked to write a race report by my running club DH Runners on a cross country race I competed in a couple of weeks ago. That was my first blog post, I copy and pasted it in with a couple of adjustments. I actually enjoyed doing it, and the words seemed to arrive relatively easily. I doubt that’ll last. So, with a little encouragement from my girlfriend Rosie, this happened.

I hope you find something that might interest you!



Chamonix, 2016