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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Too much for me and the dog.

 

Training for my first 100 miler 

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.

Climbing Lords Rake on Scafell

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?

One of my better selfies

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.

Running new routes (another selfie)

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.

Team outing!

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.

These legs can talk…

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!

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With Hannah & Rosie after our first ultra – Kielder 50km, 2015

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.

6 days to go… gulp.

KMF 50km Ultra Report

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

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

FRIDAY EVE

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

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

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

SATURDAY

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

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The non drinkers enjoying their expensive ice creams!

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

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

SUNDAY

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

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I was taking no chances

04:30 – Ian will be here anytime…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At Watendlath, about 7 miles in.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, another long one!

KMF 50
Splits, route & elevation

KMF 50km Ultra Recce/Preview

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

Post Fling

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

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

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

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

Carlisle City Urban Trail Run 10km

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

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

KMF 50km Ultra Recce

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

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

Climbing towards Honister Quarry

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

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

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Looking down Buttermere & Crummock

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

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

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

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

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

Since Highland Fling

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

Highland Fling Race Report

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

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

Fling Eve

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

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

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

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

Milngavie – Drymen 

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

12 miles | 1hr 35m

Drymen – Balmaha 

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

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

19.2 miles | 2hrs 48m

Balmaha – Rowardennan

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

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

Lets just take a moment to think about that.

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

26.4 miles | 4hrs

Rowardennan – Inversnaid

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

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

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

33.7 miles | 5hrs 21m | Tissue count 7

Inversnaid – Beinglas

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

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

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

40.5 miles | 6hrs 53m | Tissue count 12

Beinglas – Tyndrum

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

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feeling good with 6 to go!

 

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

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

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with the DH Kenyan flag!

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

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

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

 

fling

 

 

Highland Fling Countdown

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

Running

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

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Ullswater Way

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

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**insert expletive**

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

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Hanna Holliday & Uncle Mick!

 

Race Aims

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

Race Kit

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

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

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

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

Race Plan

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

Wish me luck!

Lakeland 100 Recce – Buttermere to Dalemain

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

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

Coniston to Buttermere – 27 miles

Buttermere to Dalemain – 32 miles

Dalemain to Ambleside – 30 miles

Ambleside to Coniston – 16 miles

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

LL100

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

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

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

No one’s looking *quick selfie*

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

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

Running towards Blencathra Centre

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

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

The lovely Ullswater!

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

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

Proof.
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Strava route profile and pace

And my poorly pinky… I exaggerated!