KMF 50km Ultra Recce/Preview

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

Post Fling

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

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

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

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

Carlisle City Urban Trail Run 10km

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

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

KMF 50km Ultra Recce

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

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

Climbing towards Honister Quarry

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

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

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Looking down Buttermere & Crummock

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

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

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

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

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

Since Highland Fling

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

Highland Fling Countdown

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

Running

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

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Ullswater Way

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

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**insert expletive**

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

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Hanna Holliday & Uncle Mick!

 

Race Aims

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

Race Kit

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

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

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

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

Race Plan

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

Wish me luck!

Buttermere 10 Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mile 2

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

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

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

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Running along Crummock

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

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

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

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

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

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Finish line snap

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

An altogether excellent day out!

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

Trail booty

 

Strava view

Lakeland 100 Recce – Buttermere to Dalemain

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

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

Coniston to Buttermere – 27 miles

Buttermere to Dalemain – 32 miles

Dalemain to Ambleside – 30 miles

Ambleside to Coniston – 16 miles

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

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

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

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

No one’s looking *quick selfie*

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

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

Running towards Blencathra Centre

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

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

The lovely Ullswater!

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

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

Proof.
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Strava route profile and pace

And my poorly pinky… I exaggerated!

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!

Mike

 

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Chamonix, 2016