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.
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
For the last 9 months I have been training / building up towards my first 100 mile race, The Lakeland 100. I have decided to give an overview of what I have done and found of use to me in my training, rather than a recap of my training runs. I’ve listed 5 points that may be of use to you if you too are planning a long distance, off road run. These points are the first 5 things that came to the top of my head, I’m no expert and some (read most) of what I say is probably nonsense. If you think it is, call me out! I also reckon much of this can be applied to any type of race distance. So, here we go…
1. THE TRAINING IS THE BEST BIT
I see it as a reason to spend time in amazing places. Going out for 3 or 4 hours on a Sunday morning with the dog was my favourite part of my training. I would go out early and be back to achieve something with rest of the day or not, depending what Rosie had in store for me! Often I got back to a hot bath waiting for me. Someone should marry that girl.
Get out in all weather, don’t let a bit of rain or snow put you off, buy a waterproof jacket and don your hat and gloves! If its wet stay closer to home or lower down in the valleys. Start out doing routes you feel comfortable with and build up to more challenging ones, go with someone more experienced if you feel unsure of a route or uncomfortable with a certain section. Recently I ran legs 3 and 4 of the Bob Graham Round as a training and recce run with Kath Pigden, shes running the Bob Graham Round in September and I’m supporting her over these legs. Neither of us knew the route, we practiced our navigation and got to spend a full day in the fells. Some sections (climbing up Lords Rake) neither us were hugely confident on but having someone there to give/receive encouragement from certainly helps.
Also. Think of all the social media likes/kudos/thumbs up you’ll receive! (Don’t go for a run purely to prove anything, I’m only joking… its purely a nice little bonus) but I do enjoy taking pics of a variety of things, a lot of you will say I like taking pics of me, and/or the dog, running in The Lakes! What can I say, I’m shameless. Summit selfie anyone?
2. TRAIN ON THE COURSE
The best way to learn the route is running on the route (if possible) I know lots of people can’t get to where their races are going to be, but replicating it means you are running and improving on the terrain you will be racing over. Entering the Lakeland 100 has meant I have been in parts of the Lake District I haven’t been too before, that’s been one of the best things about the whole process.
I have only run 218 road miles this year out of a total of 968, for those of you who don’t have a GCSE in maths, that’s… hold on *uses calculator* …that’s 750 miles off road, with less impact and at a slower pace. Running off road where possible will improve your strength and agility. From my house I can turn left and be at the river in 2 minutes, it’s completely flat but even running over uneven grass is better for my training than road miles.
3. RUN WITH COMPANY
Being part of a group that you run with regularly is a brilliant way to get more consistent. It makes you get out at the same time each week and designates that evening as your club runs. We run with DH Runners every Tuesday, its a guaranteed 8 miles in the bank, like clockwork. It also makes running more fun, I either start slowly and have a chat with people then do some quicker stuff in the middle and slow down at the end, or, if I’m tired I’ll just gas for the whole hour.
Running with Rosie is always awesome, it makes me run easier and we just natter about all sorts, probably more so than if we were both in the house (she’s hooked on Love Island) I have to watch it too, which I do, even though I swear it’s the biggest pile of Sh**e I’ve ever witnessed. Or, I trawl though youtube, my fav channels being Sage Canaday (a total beast) and Run Steep Get High (awesome vids). I also think I get Rosie out running when sometimes she might not be too fussed. You never regret going for a run.
Agnes is a reason to go out everyday or close to it. A running alarm clock at 6pm on the money. If you don’t take her, she sulks all evening. Its probably a reason I’ve not been nearly as injured this year, I do the vast majority of runs off road with the dog and often just pottering along letting her sniff about or try and chase rabbits. Running long runs with the dog makes time pass too, concentrating on what she’s doing makes me switch off from the distance to go. She loves it as I always share my food with her!
4. EAT WELL/BETTER
My diet in general is mixed. I should have shares in Greggs Bakery. But I have found that since I’ve started training and racing ultras that my diet has improved a lot. I eat more crap than I should but my meals are generally pretty healthy at either end of the day.
Most days look like this:
Morning: smoothie – (milk, orange juice, banana, blueberries/raspberries/strawbs, grated ginger, handful of spinach, greek yoghurt, linseed and pumpkin mix (aldi), ground tumeric and honey) or Brown toast with peanut butter and jam and a cup of tea – but only if Rosie makes me one!
10am: coffee plus a biscuit if I don’t resist.
Lunch: Depends where we are. At the workshop it is anything from sarnies, poached egg on toast or cheese on toast (nearly always bread based) plus fruit and yoghurt. If we are fitting a kitchen we’ll call in at Greggs on the way and get a baguette and pasty (sausage and bean melt is my kryptonite).
Afternoon: lately I’ve been having nothing, often its a biscuit or piece of fruit.
Evening: If I’m running I’ll have a bit of toast or a cereal bar and a banana before hand to stave off hunger. Afterwards its usually BBQ meat (it is summer) and then a big plate of salad with a variety of stuff lobbed in. We’ve also been using the Lean in 15 books for a while now, easy recipes and don’t take long. Plus it gives a bit of variety. Doesn’t mean we don’t have meals that aren’t so healthy, pizza and salad is a favourite, as is the occasional fish and chips (Fontanas) or chinese (China Express). In general though, I have what I want. Especially after a hard or long run. It’s often not what I eat that’s the problem, it’s the quantity.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR LEGS
Can nobody else’s legs speak? Just me? Oh…
Having a training plan is an excellent way to structure your training, but its important to listen to how you feel. I’m generally, made of chocolate. I can get a couple of back to back 50 mile weeks in and afterwards I need to back of a bit. That’s just me, some people can manage much higher mileage. I probably have a lot more days rest compared to other people I finish around in races, but its all personal. If you’re tired, take a day off and run another day.
Run EASY for the majority of the time, this lets your legs recover and enables you to push harder during quicker training runs. The long runs are the runs that count. Speed is all well and good but if you want to cover a long distance, you need to be putting in long runs, they should be prioritised, in my opinion.
6. BONUS POINT
You are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Start small and build up, but if you do as I do then sign up for an event and you have no choice but to train, or suffer during it for not putting in the training. I learnt this the hard way in 2012. I entered Scafell Pike Trail Marathon, my first marathon and longest run by 14 miles. I only did one “long run” a 14 miler 2 weeks before hand and that was bad enough. It ended badly, but you learn more from your mistakes than successes! I’m saying that a lot it seems. I have found that being more consistent has been the reason I have started to improve more in the last couple of years (consistency can be 5, 10 or 50 miles a week) start out slowly and gradually build up mileage. Doing things you doubt that you can complete is a real mental test and seriously rewarding!
Six points that you may disagree with completely… let me know what you think, leave a comment or send me a message. I don’t know a great deal in terms of training and nutrition and any pointers would be great, I’m forever pestering people on social media asking about a variety of stuff. It’s how to learn, as well as having a crack yourself.
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…
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
“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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!”
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