Here is one of my 1st ever Ultras and write ups! Seems such a long time and many many miles ago but still quite fresh! Enjoy.
July 29th 2011 was here and I found myself pitching my tent on John Ruskins School on the back straight of the 400m running track! It had been around 10 months since I decided to enter the Lakeland 50 Ultra Marathon race and I now had less than 24hrs to wait till the preverbal hit the fan!!!
My registration was done totally on a whim, alone and having ever only run around 21 miles in just over 5hrs on some very flat terrain around my home town of Harrogate. There were lots of gets outs along the route, only ever 3 miles from my house and 3 spaniels to pull me along!!! It was fair to say I was so far out of my league it was beyond comprehension.
On top of this I registered whilst sofa bound recovering from a hernia operation which had me laid up for 2 months!
So my regime took an immediate hit, Christmas came and went with little or no training and my 1st recce and indeed 1st real run was lined up for the end of March, Ambleside to Consiton!
Id previously arranged to do this recce in February with Nick Smith and Deborah Goodall which had been arranged by Anna Barker although sadly Anna had to pull out of the recce and indeed the whole Lakeland event due to illness!
It was with great disappointment that I too was unable to attend that recce. In hindsight his was quite handy as it snowed but due to damaging my back in a mountain bike fall there was no way i could run. I actually spent the following 6 weeks receiving treatment from my Chiropractor around 3 times a week just to get me back in shape.
I think it is fair to say that at this up to this point my preparation really wasn’t going very well!
So from a pretty much standing start and on a beautiful sunny March Sunday morning we set off from the Lakes Runner and headed out of Ambleside. This was the start of my Lakeland 50 journey!
Id noticed that when I 1st arrived in Coniston for that recce and looking at all the other runners I was so the odd one out I was almost reluctant to get out of the car. However my saving grace was my trainers. Id noticed at least two other people had the same ones as me so I at least had something right. It wasn’t much but it was something and out of the car I got!
From the start in Ambleside I arrived in Coniston some 4 and half hours later in disbelief and overwhelming elation that id completed it. My motto around everything i’ve done regarding the Lakeland & other events was to enjoy and not endure.
I didn’t care how long or where i came amongst the other runners, this was about the journey and enjoying the ride! I’d certainly done that on this lovely spring morning.
So my training for the event had begun and a mental target had been set, extended, changed again and finally settled at completing the event between 15 and 20 hours! Now im not built like a runner and certainly carry more weight than your normal runner but i was full of good intentions to train hard and do what i could to prepare myself for 50 long hard miles.
I took part in the recces from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside where I met & laughed far too much with Wayne Singleton and Liz Beavis that constitutes training and Ambleside to Coniston the following day. I finished this section of the recce with Sam Blackburn and Maxine Grimshaw and covering 43 miles in 2 days this was the furthest id travelled on my feet in two days! This recce was an amazing weekend and it was great to hook up with some good friends along the way!
Id also completed some unofficial recces of our own with great support and fun from Nick & Deborah. These included Howtown as far as Kentmere, I was actually headed toward Ambleside but after running out of water and likely daylight I decided to hitch to the pub with a couple of Brummies instead and had an amazing discussion with a woman on a bus from Staveley to Ambleside. I was to hook up with them back in Ambleside who’d made the full distance and rewarded themselves with treats in Esquires.
My running had come on leaps and bounds but I really struggled with my legs and couldn’t master the downhill’s as well as my running partners had.
We also managed a night recce of Tilberthwaite to Consiton as it was our expectation that we would be doing this section in the dark come the event. Turns out this was a total misestimation for me!! The run was great and I was pleased to keep up with my partners and enjoyed running at night.
Id also completed the Osmotherly Phoenix 17 as a recce of our own with Deborah and my dog Dibble. We managed to cover over 18+ miles which gives an indication of my navigational prowess. Again my running had improved and getting time on my feet and miles under my shoes was proving to be so valuable.
The 17 mile recce was in preparation for the Osmotherley Marathon proper in early July. My 1st ever Marathon!
It was on completion of this in just over 7hrs that I tapered down my training and prepared for the event proper! I managed a few 3-4 miles runs in the weeks running up to the main event but nothing greater.
So here i was and only a few minutes away from watching the Lakeland 100’s setting off in the glorious sunshine. I had made many friends along the way and also had my support in the form of Sarah and Rachel who had fully embraced the experience by booking into a B&B instead of camping with me!
That night i got around 3hours sleep and rose to have some breakfast and get ready for the event. My pack was sorted, around 5-6lbs or about 2.5kg
I boarded the coach after the briefings and last minute check of kit and we set off for Dalemain. The coach journey seemed to take an age, not great after taking on a LOT of water which resulted in the biggest communal toilets against the fence when we got there. So finally we reached the estate to see a lot of supporters to see us of and 100’s of runners itching to get started.
Sarah and Rachel had installed themselves to watch the 100 runners come through and see us all off.
It was clear at this point to Sarah that I was incredibly nervous and just wanted to get going. We were late starting by 20 mins or so but the horn blew and we were off on the lap of the estate and away down to Pooley Bridge. The feeling was amazing and i hooked up with some friends i met on the recces. Sam, a great chap, and I ran for a small distance and I passed Maxine who id covered a lot of the double recce weekend with. In fact we all finished the recce weekend together running down the Coppermines to the finish!
I covered the Dalemain estate in much quicker time than I expected to and was doing ok in the amazing weather but tremendous heat! Running down by the river provided some shelter and cooler air.
The support we all got through Pooley Bridge was fantastic, as was to be the support all the way around the event. Sarah, Rachel and new recruit Chris were by the side of the road to scream and cheer us through. This was amazing and really spurred me on, only after stealing a kiss from Sarah to send me on my way toward Howtown.
Id struggled on this section before, especially pulling up Elderbank but i reached the cairn in much better time and enjoyed the run down under the crags into Howtown checkpoint. I had some good cake and a banana and lots of juice. I refilled my water to be greeted by Deborah who asked what the hell i was doing there in front of her! Debs was of much greater pace than i and i was as shocked to be in front of her!
I left the checkpoint to tackle the highest point of the 50 and indeed the 100 route. It was a hard climb up onto Wether Hill to High Kop at over 2,000ft! I eventually scaled this, all be it at a very slow pace and across and down Brampton Common to the banks of Haweswater. I’ve never liked this section of the course as it seems to drag for an age, is tough on my feet and the run down to it always effects my legs terribly and sets the tone for the remainder of the course.
The long pull up to High Kop had taken its toll on my water supplies too and as I made my way beneath Laythwaite Crags toward Flakehow Crag I ran out!
Thankfully I knew how far it was till Mardale check point but didn’t like not having any water, especially in the heat! It was lack of water that had forced me to hitch from Kentmere on the recce in April, this wasn’t about to happen again! Regardless I cracked on as fast as i could and headed toward the Rigg and it was here i had a wobble. The lack of water and my poor food intake, virtually nothing since Howtown, was taking its toll. Before the right turn before the wood i felt very dizzy and nauseous. I was worried i was going to be sick and faint and was worried that if i did id be pulled from the race. I took a few moment to compose myself, reminded myself how far the the checkpoint was and headed for it.
I started to dream of Coca Cola and what i would eat should i arrive victorious back at Coniston before 12 noon on Sunday! This was crazy as I was way less than half way.
When i saw the check point at Mardale Head i knew I was ok, although this was still over a mile or so away. I tried hard not to look up too much at Gatesgarth Pass as i arrived and gulped down the cola and jelly beans which were gratefully received. I took some soup and propped myself on the wall for 10 minutes or so and tried to regain myself.
After the recharge I pulled up from the wall and swung my pack on, thanked the guys for their support and headed up toward the pass. This would be my 3rdtime of tackling Gatesgarth and on my 1st ascent of the 1800ft pass I must have stopped a dozen times! The 2nd time I tackled it only 2 or 3 times & on this, the most important ascent, I was to only stop once!
I made good progress up the Pass the the 1st plateau and upon seeing the 2ndclimb i laughed out loud as id forgotten about this bit! Still, I re gained my rhythm and cranked the steps out. I came across Dave from the Darwen Runner. (It was his running club that manned the CP at Tilberthwaite)
We made the summit together and carried on over the top and down towards Longsdale. Dave’s pace was good, too good for me and I let him go ahead, I was conscious of not wanting to go too fast and burning out.
As I got to the head of Longsdale and the route levelled out I got a 2nd wind and started to run toward Sadgill. To my amazement I felt as fresh as when I was running round Dalemain and was passing a great number of people who had overtaken me on the descent.
I made Sadgill in good time and excellent spirits and headed toward Kentmere. As I made my way into Kentmere i was caught by Sam whom id last seen at Mardale Head and was a way behind me going up Gatesgarth. Sam too had a great ascent and had made great progress. It was great to see a friendly face as we were also now coming into the night section arriving at Kentmere at 9:30!
As I entered the checkpoint i was greeted by my recce partner Nick, my delight in seeing him turned to horror as I realised he should have been way ahead of me by a good number of hours. He’d had some difficulty on Gatesgarth Pass with being sick and losing a lot of fluid. He’d been well looked after at Kentemere, so much so he spent a couple of hours there! It was about to get worse as I made my way into the checkpoint for fruit smoothies pasta and biscuits I saw another familiar face in Deborah looking very glum in the corner. Again Deborah should have been hours ahead of me but had suffered in the heat and also had been diagnosed with trench foot on what was one of the hottest days of summer in the Lakes! Whilst pleased to see these two I was massively disappointed for them as there races had been shattered!
Whilst i was grabbing some pasta yet another friendly voice shouted there you are, where’ve you been all day you fu%%er! Wayne, who id met on the last recce, was running with Glyn and Liz but sadly Liz had dropped out at Howtown. Id expected to run with them, hence the greeting, but with Liz not being well id made good progress and got ahead. Wayne and Glyn had done extremely well to get to Kentemere in the time they did.
Sam and I had agreed to do the next section together and in doing so followed Nick & Deborah and Glyn and Wayne up and over Garburn and potentially head into Ambleside together as they all set off a little while ahead of us.
We’d left Kentmere with a target of hitting Ambleside at midnight.
Garburn Pass was ok and it was good to have people to talk to, Wes had now joined us and he was struggling with his feet. So much so he dropped out at the next CP. This section was OK, all our feet were hurting, a blister was forming on my right foot and the plates of my feet felt bruised. With every step and twist of my foot the pain was very evident. We negotiated the pass and Skelghyll Wood and descended into Ambleside a little after midnight. It was at this point I realised we’d set off 20mins late at Dalemain so I was in fact just inside my target time!
It was great to see Sarah, Rachel and Chris along with Deborah and Nick. It’s amazing what a huge hug and a rewarding kiss can do in the middle of the night after 36 miles! From Sarah, not Chris!
Sadly it was here that Deborah had to pull out after her gargantuan effort given her feet and issues with the heat etc. Nick on the other hand had been reborn and ran off into the night making excellent progress all the way to finish and claiming his medal! He left around 15 mins ahead of me yet finished hours in front, well done Nick, truly amazing and you SHOULD be doing the 100 next year!!!
So after a good rest at Ambleside and catching up with everyone we set off toward Coniston for the last 16 miles.
The temperature had dropped dramatically and I added a layer or two. We steadily jogged out of Ambleside, through the park, over the river and made our way to Skelwith Bridge.
It was here we took a couple of brief wrong turns towards Elterwater and onward to Chapel Stile. We made the checkpoint around 3am and were greeted with a very warm welcome, juice, soup and a rewarding cup of tea. The chimnea was also very welcomed as the temperature had swung by around 11 degrees from during the day and upon finally leaving id donned my jacket and hat to keep warm.
It wouldn’t be long now before dawn but until then it would remain cold. We made our way along Great Langdale Beck under the Lingmoor Fell and finally made it up to Blea Tarn. We’d seen a few head torches off the main route along the way.
Making our way under Hollin Crag we hugged the fern to avoid the bog, this didn’t work. Down toward Castle Howe my feet were really feeling it and starting to be quite painful. One last pull to Ruestone Quarry up to High Tilberthwaite and down to the checkpoint at Tilberthwaite I knew we were going to make it.
The short walk on the road to the checkpoint was starting to be agony and being able to sit down for ten minutes and have a brew made all the difference.
Sam and I set off to the finish some 3 miles away and began the ascent up them bloody steps to Tilberthwaite Quarry. We followed Crook Beck and made a fantastic pace up to the summit and didn’t break stride all the way, one thing on our minds to get to the top and start the descent to the finish. We completed this section in not much over the time id done on the night recce which was amazing.
We had the descent down to the Coppermines, my feet were burning now, and onto the track into the village. We upped the pace and ran down to the main street where we were met by applause from the people on the streets wh knew what we’d been through. We passed the pubs, over the bridge and toward the school.
Turning into the road to the finish I could see Deborah, Chris, Rachel and Sarah waiting for us which was amazing. We made the finish and dibbed in to stop the clock on 19hrs and 22 mins, inside the 20hrs id targeted and in 342ndposition!
We quickly went inside to be weighed, get our split times and of course our finisher’s medal!
Once wed done all this I made my way outside to Sarah and Rach. It was here the emotion of the whole event and indeed the journey id taken hit me! Trying to hold back the tears over the top of Tilberthwaite had been hard however I wasn’t so fortunate this time the emotion took over!
Sam had made his was out of the hall with his medal and we stood very proudly with the memento of our achievements.
I entered this event to be a challenge of the mind, the body and the soul. The last 50 miles, 19hrs and 22 mins had certainly been a challenge of the body; the time from me entering the event had been a challenge of the mind and soul. My journey was complete!
Had I not met the amazing people along the way, Nick and Deborah, whom id done a lot of my training and recces with and who’d also offered me so much encouragement. Sam who was the 1st person I met on the very 1st recce id taken part in and finally crossed the finish line with. Maxine whom id struggled round with on the double recce weekend and Wayne and Liz who id had such a laugh with also on that weekend this journey would have been very different.
The organisation of this event is second to none, Terry and Marc did an amazing job and of course their team from the recces to the event itself. The undertaking is massive and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Many many thanks to you all for such fun and enjoyment in what was one of the most enjoyable yet painful experiences of my life!