It’s taken some time after the event to work out what went wrong and right for me during Lakeland but in time I’ve come to terms with the ups and downs so here’s my story of an amazing race !

I’d been very aware that I’ve not done as much training as I have on previous years for the L50 and think with this been my third attempt I’ve become a little complacent with it, as 27th July got closer I became more and more concerned at my lack of training and dark thoughts of been unable to complete started to raise there ugly heads, the other ultramadness chaps all appeared very positive with talk of smashing last years times and even the mention of a 12hr finish all of which cast a darker cloud through my mind.
Last year and again this year we made the L50 part of a family holiday and rented a cottage for the week after the race, its great when the family can be part in my running events, after a steady ride to the lakes we made our way to the school and I passed through kit check, weigh-in and registration with no hic-ups or problems, I now have a ‘dibber’ attached to my wrist, this is a little plastic tag that you place into a small box at each checkpoint, it’s automatically updates on a live tracker so family and event organisers can track and see where everybody is on the route. There’s a very special and positive buzz around the school as all the 100’ers prepare for there race starting at 5.30pm …. Yes that’s right there’s a 100 mile( actually 105) Race going on as well, thoughts of I’m only doing the small run fill my head and ease the nerves somewhat.
Meeting up with the other chaps there some great banter flying around after our final weigh-in and were all enjoying the late afternoon sunshine as we watch the 100mile hero’s start there journey of the circular route around the lakes, these guys and girls have 40hrs to make it back to Coniston so some of them will be out and competing for two nights before they finish there journey!!!!
More fun as we watch and cheered on all the kids taking part in the Lakeland 1, a kids 1mile event, again another great event to keep the family included, my son Daniel took part again this been his second year, he ran an amazing race and finished 3rd in a time of 5min 15 sec for the mile !!!!
For a 9yr old that’s pretty impressive and I know I couldn’t have kept up with him!!!
A couple of beers to calm the nerves and its soon bed time, after a restless night the alarm sounds at 7am and I’m nervously dressing for a long day ahead, a hearty breakfast and drive back to the school sees us all herded into the main hall for compulsory briefing, it’s very hot and sticky, there’s an air of nervousness filling the room but after a short time were all outside and readying ourselves for the trip to our starting point Dalemain.
Pulling into Dalemain and parking up I exit van feeling very very nervous of what lay ahead, trying to push thoughts of DNF’ing out of my head I wonder if I’d be better DNS’ing (Did Not Start)!!!
The opportunity of 5min alone came with a small walk with the dog, a stern talking to myself and looking around thinking how lucky I was to be able to take place in something like the Lakeland puts my into a better place mentally and I think I’m ready to go, all to soon were saying good bye to family and friends and walking into the starting pen, by now its incredible warm with the midday sun beating down, I’m already hot wearing a compression skin and t-shirt but its a combination I always use that works for me.
5-4-3-2-1 were off…… Oh shit will i make it !!!! pass’s through my mind as i cross the line !!!!!
It’s a nice gentle start with a 4mile loop around Dalemain before heading out on the main route back to Coniston. A couple of miles in and I’m aware that I’m working a little to hard to keep up with Andy and Glyn so I slow my pace to what’s comfortable for me and relax a bit more knowing that Wayne’s stayed with me and not pushed on with the others, a few gates to pass through always has us queuing patiently and at one particularly long queue I turn to talk to Wayne only to realise he’s nowhere in sight, I look back along the que but still can’t see him ? Did he pass me and I didn’t see him? I spot Andy and Glyn quite a bit up in front but still can’t see Wayne ? By the time I’ve got through the gate Andy and Glyn are well out of sight and it’s not long before I’m running back past the start area about to exit onto the main route, one last wave and good luck from the family and I’m fighting back the emotions as I realise I’m still unsure about my ability to finish and I’m now on my own !!!!!
Not long before I’m passing through Pooley Bridge and cheers from the crowds and amazing support from Sarah (Andy’s partner) and her parents lift my spirits and send me off towards the first section of open fell, not long and I spot a familiar figure ahead, it’s Glyn he’s slowed a bit after realising he too was working a bit too hard in the early stages to keep up with Andy, I should say at this point Andy has worked incredibly hard this year to increase his speed and fitness and all the effort was certainly showing today as he powered on looking very comfortable.
Great to be with a mate instead of my on own with my ever changing thoughts, chatting to Glyn soon pass’s the time and we’ve made it to the top of the long steady climb out of Pooley, Glyn stops to remove a layer and we agree that he’ll catch me up as I slowly trot on, I’m soon into the first checkpoint and feeling good but pretty hot, I quickly Dib in and re-fill both my water bottles before heading back out towards checkpoint two, I did think Glyn should have caught me by now and wondered where he was… Oh well I’m back on my own and heading out toward what I find the toughest section of the whole route, there are plenty of people both in front and behind me but I strangely still feel alone ! Onward and upward I head as I climb over Fusedale the longest and highest climb of the whole route, i usually make this climb in one go without having to stop as the ground underfoot is good, but today starting low in the bottom of the valley I’m very aware of it been very very humid in the now overpowering heat, the grassy ascent has me stopping several time to catch my breath and it feels like I’m in a sauna working very hard and making very slow progress but progress all the same.
After what feels like an age I eventually make the top feeling absolutely shocking, I’d passed and been passed by others on the way up all of whom looked better or worse then I feel, I spot a familier face sat at the top, Sam Blackburn had also struggled a bit on the ascent and had stopped to take a two min break, he suggests I do the same but i know that stopping now might see the end of my race, we exchange a few choice words about the previous climb and I carry on out towards High cop feeling very sick, Sam soon joins me and we walk for a bit chatting before he jogs off, by now I’m having serious doubts about finishing, suddenly the overwhelming feeling of sickness overtakes my thoughts and before I can do anything about it I’m vomiting the full contents of my stomach everywhere…… This is the first time I’ve ever done this whilst running and it’s not an experience I want to repeat, I’m feeling awful, very drained and very very hot, thankfully there’s a slight breeze and a bit of cloud cover so I take off my cap and t-shirt to cool, thoughts of returning to the first check point rush into my head but the thought of passing others on the way back is unbearable so I decide to walk onwards toward checkpoint 2 at Mardale head, by now I’m questioning why I do these ridiculous ultra event !!! In never doing another or come to think of it I’m never going running again !!!!!
After a long walk over High Cop in the breeze I started to feel a bit better, while puttimg my t-shirrt back on i initially missed the turn off down to Hawes water but quickly realised my mistake and tracked back to the correct point, here I started to feel thirsty and took the kill or cure opinion drinking all the last litre of fluid I had, I did this knowing there was at least two points further along the route that I could safely fill with clean water from the streams, almost instantly I started to feel a lot better and began steadily jogging down the decent, 10 mins later and I’m moving along nicely starting to overtake a few other 50 and now some 100 competitors, my mind was in a much better place then I dared to think after been in such a dark place and I was beginning to enjoy myself, this was probably helped by joining up with a couple of people I knew from last year and a couple of the reccie runs I’d completed, chatting to them really brought me round and by reaching checkpoint 2 at Mardale I was in a better mood, again I’d planned a quick turnaround here so Dibbed refilled water bottles and was leaving as I bumped into Liz (Wayne’s Partner)….. Liz was on a quick turnaround so I waited a minuet and we left the checkpoint together, I’d now realised I’d lost any chance of beating my previous time but after going through such a bad patch I was now in it to complete and not compete.
So off we set onward and upward, that’s right upward again this time straight up Gatesgarth pass, this is one hell of a technical rocky/loose scree climb that’s not as long as the previous one but certainly steeper,together we made very good time up to the top and before I know what’s going on we were running down the other side, this is a tough decent it’s not to steep but very rough underfoot and with 24ish miles already covered my feet are starting to feel the strain and I was cramping in my quads fairly frequently, a quick mental evaluation and I’m feeling good, not 100% but good, quads are a bit crampy, calfs are fine feet are sore but I guess there a bit swollen for the relentless heat, after the decent it flats out a bit all the way down towards Sadgill farm it was here that we had our first taste of the oncoming weather, a large crack of thunder and a quick downpour of marble size rain that was very refreshing, not heavy enough to stop and put my Montane waterproof on but just long enough to be quiet refreshing although its stayed very warm and humid, a few miles and a couple of awkward climbs over walls and styles and were depending the grass field toward checkpoint 3 at Kentmere.
I rate kentmere as the best checkpoint on the L50, your over half way and mentally im now on the homeward stretch. there’s always tasty pasta and fresh fruit smoothies the thought of these push me on to the checkpoint in a great time, Liz and I Dib in and I head straight for some pasta, I notice Liz pouring the contents of a small sachet into her mouth and ask what it is…… Table salt comes the reply, Liz had also been feeling a touch of cramp and was swallowing table salt to replace lost salts, I’d never thought of this as an option so I added a couple of sachets to my pasta and swallowed another sachet after my smoothie….. Whilst it tasted disgusting I was prepared to give it a try !!!
After a quick break we put waterproof jackets on and headed out into the now pouring rain…. 100 meters and there was some truly disgusting sounds coming out of me and a slight sickly feeling felt by us both, I put this down to a combination of food, drink and salt on my still unsettled guts, as ever after a checkpoint its an upward climb this time over Garbon Pass this allowing time for the guts to settle by the time we reach the top, another quick stop half way up to remove my waterproof as I was getting very hot again, it was lightly raining nowvbut still very warm, as we reach the top Liz sets off and were running the nice decent down and through to the village before a gentle climb to skegwell woods, were moving well and have picked up another 50 and a 100 runner on our way and all run through the woods heading to Ambleside, I’m feeling quite positive now and really enjoy this section, it’s beginning to get dark but we make it through the wood and into Ambleside before we need our head torch’s, it was around here that Liz received a text from Wayne telling her she was doing great and informing her he and Glyn had retired at Kentmere, this was received with short lived sympathy and then a fair amount of name calling from us both, i wondered if we’d see Sarah and her parents in Ambleside, knowing there were going to be there to see Andy through and knowing he was running well I was unsure if they’d still be there or already left as I assumed he’d be a fair way ahead, just as we reached checkpoint 4 in Ambleside I spotted Sarah’s parents and went over to ask how Andy was doing and how far ahead he was, to my amazement he was stood with them, a quick explanation of his cramping and now missed target time had seen him retire here.
Into the checkpoint and dibber Dibbed I moved into the large room been used…..it was really uncomfortable in here with lots of people in varying states, it was obvious quite a few we’re retiring here and the room felt very down, we obviously both noticed this as we agreed on a quick cup of warm tea before moving on quickly (another sachet of salt ! Not had cramp since the last one so I’m convinced it working)….. A quick good bye to Andy, Sarah and crew and were on our way out of Ambleside, I felt really sorry for andy here and wished he’d held off retiring and had continued with us but no time for negative thoughts after my earlier episode…. Leaving Ambleside we were joined by John a 50 contestant who was unsure on the route and Annie a 100 contestant, after a short climb out of Ambleside we cross the open fell quickly and are making good time on the decent towards Skelwith Bridge even running at times, I’m aware that John keeps pushing ahead a little and is obviously wanting to crack on but Liz is sticking with Annie at her slightly slower pace, she’s over 90 miles in by now and I’m happy to stick at her pace and help a little if needed, it’s a smooth good track forbthe next few miles along the river towards Troutbeck before a rocky section through to the campsite location of checkpoint 5 Chaplestyle.
We stay together through to the checkpoint and there’s a little wait to Dib in and get into the tent, it’s now torrential rain and cooling quickly and my patience is been tested stood out in the rain, a quick bowl of warm vegetable stew and a cup of warm tea and I’m warmed up, Liz and I choose to stay standing and not be tempted to site down here, this was a wise choice as we didn’t stay long here, waterproofs back on and were out into the awful weather as a group of four again.
The next section out towards Blea tarn is quiet difficult to navigate in the dark with the path been unrecognisable in places even in daylight, I’m confident on my ability to get this right and set out at the front to lead the way, there’s a couple of 6ft tall styles on this section and in the rain there a bit tough to get over but we all cross safely, hit the right line through the boggy section and come out bang on the corner that we need to hit (bonus)….. A short sharp climb and were at the road crossing heading to the tarn, a group of 3 others had joined us after seeing us higher up on the previous section they joined us after realising they weren’t quite right,
Across the road and down towards Blea moss on a good track, the other 3 moved ahead at a slightly better pace and were soon making good ground on us, John still wanting to get on left us and joined the other three, didn’t see him again but hope he finished ok, I must add by now I’m still in a good place mentally and feeling good but I was a little annoyed he left without so much as a good luck, thanks or a see you at the end I’m sure this wasn’t intentional and just a combination of our joint tiredness and as I said I hope he finished, we crossed Blea moss on the high line that’s needed to stay out of the very boggy area and found the onlybself Dib point on the 50 course.
One last rocky climb up towardsvTilbethwaite farm and there’s so much rain coming down that it feels like we’re walking up a riverbed, it was here that my feet started to feel very wet which was a surprise as I was wearing my inov8 298 Gortex boots and I couldn’t work out why my feet were wet !!! A short road section from the farm and were at checkpoint 6 Tilbetwaite.
Just 3 1/2 mile to the finish from here and we know we’re going to finish for sure, a quick drink of warm tea and LIz suggests a change into a dry top before the final ascent, it took a while to sink in with me but it made sense knowing the weather would be awful over the very exposed last top section and it was now very cold and I was starting to shiver, a quick strip down to a bare chest and on with my Haglog merino wool long sleeve top and I was instantly warmer, back on with my waterproof and Liz Annie and I start the final section, this starts with large stone irregular height steps before continuing the ascent on a stoney path up and over towards Coniston, there’s a scrambley section here that you have to climb using you hands and feet and again it’s like ascending a waterfall, we pass with out incident but have caught upto a couple of slower people who we can’t get past due to the narrow path, we bide our time and stay in line across the stream crossing that’s now a raging torrent and takes some care to cross over the final ascent and on a wider section I take the opportunity to get past them, by now I can see the lights down below at the cottages on the miners road into Coniston just the rocky decent to tackle….. Now I’m extra careful here in daylight and in the dry but tonight it’s absolutely treacherous and I slip a couple of times but stop myself from fully falling, I turned to see how Liz and Annie are doing and realise there still behind the other two and hadn’t made it past them, I make the decision to get myself down to the miners road and take shelter under a tree while they catch up, after been together so long there’s no way were not finishing together, it’s only a couple of minuets and they appear , Liz is looking at her watch and works out we can still make sub 16hrs if we run the last section into and through Coniston to the school, we agree to try and Annie who’s now around 104miles starts running and we keep to her pace, this truly humbled me and I still don’t know how she did it !!!!
Past the pub and over the bridge we pass the the deserted village and take the final turn down the school road, you can see head torch lights at the finish and the marshals are looking for runners coming in, we break into a proper run and head for the lights….. Now it’s here that my biggest challange comes as I know Karen and kids will be waiting for me , I spot Karen and Lauren stood in the rain waiting and run to them for a finish line kiss, Daniel is waiting for me inside as he’s feeling cold, I Dib in for one last time and its over I’ve done it again 3 out of 3 finish’s and this one feels by far the hardest.
Were escorted into the hall and I get a massive hug from Dan as I see him … the marshals are shouting “50 Finisher” another moment to fight the emotions as all your fellow finishers stop to applauded everybody in another humbling moment, through to the hall and the dibbers cut off and you given you final finishing statistics on a small print out,I finished in 15hrs 59min 35 seconds, your then handed you medal and finishers t-shirt, a few pics and a quick 2 min sit down before its time to head to the cottage for a sleep of what’s left of the night, food and drinks are available for finishers but with it been nearly 4am I feel guilty keeping the family up while I stuff my face so say my goodbyes and head to bed.

The following few days I have plenty of time to reflect on the weekends events and there’s a few things I’ve learnt.
Firstly I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished so strongly or quickly without Liz, we helped each other on the ascents and descents and having someone to talk to just makes it a whole lot better, I’m sure I talked some nonsense at times but it keeps your mind occupied and stops you thinking about what hurts.
Secondly I don’t think I could have done anything to have stopped the awful events up and on the top of Fusedale, I was well hydrated and not over-hydrated, id not started to fast so wasn’t burning out, i think the shear heat and humidity just got to me and I don’t know of anything I could do differently.
Thirdly Gortex boots are great until you get water in them, once it’s in it’s not coming out and a combination of very hot swollen feet been suddenly very wet and cold makes for a few good blisters, I should have put my waterproof trousers on that would have stopped my legs and socks getting soaked and running into my boots filling them with water, lesson learnt.

And finally it’s all worth it for the pride of wearing a very hard earnt but well deserved finishers t-shirt that was worn and washed continuously through the weeks holiday.

A big thanks to the amazing organisers, marshals and checkpoint people, many of who are now good friends, there too many to list and in fear of missing someone ill group you all and again class you as amazing !!!!!

Whilst I struggled more then ever at the beginning of this race I was amazed at how I managed to pull it round and finish feeling strong and very happy, i’ll remember and use this as a tool to get through future tough patches.

Plenty of other events to complete yet this year so that’s it for now ….. Hopefully I’ll make the start line for the upcoming Ring of Fire and be able to ramble my way though another blog post !!!

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