Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lakeland 50 27th July 2013

View from tent at finish
We arrived in Coniston on Friday afternoon greeted with glorious sunshine and warm temperatures.  Not exactly what I wished for – cool with cloud cover would have been perfection.  We headed to the main field at the John Ruskin school to pitch the tents which we would be falling into after the race on Saturday.  Friday night was intended to get a good kip at the local hostel... if only!

We met up with John M and checked in at the hostel then returned to the school to watch the start of the L100 and get ourselves registered.  I watched with admiration as the L100 runners got underway, what an epic journey they were about to embark upon.  Massive respect.

I got weighed and had my mandatory kit check – all the boxes ticked.  We had plenty of time to relax and get some food before turning in.  The hostel itself was adequate enough but some of us didn’t get a great amount of sleep with the amount of snoring going on.

I was up early for a quick shower, change then a quick pot of porridge.  I thankfully got a lift to the start at Dalemain rather than spending an hour on a full bus.  The weather at Dalemain was very warm and humid with the sun blazing down.  There were L100 runners coming through to a well-deserved round of applause.  I tried to get under some shade to cool down before the start at 11:30am, a little stretching of the niggling Achilles to warm it up.

All the L50 runners congregated at the start having dibbed in and the butterflies began to start.  A 4 mile loop around the Dalemain estate the off on the adventure to Coniston.  We were off at a brisk pace around the fields surrounding the estate and back through the crowds at the start.  I was already starting on the water bottle at this point, why the heck didn’t I wear a white t-shirt to deflect the sun! 

We passed through Pooley bridge and then climbed up above Ullswater taking in the cracking views on a beautiful day.  John and I unintentionally found ourselves running around the same pace. It was good to have the company.  The first checkpoint was at Howtown at 11 miles.  Bottles topped up and a bite of flapjack and then off up Fusedale.  This section up to High Kop was tough and involved lots of hiking but once at the top (the highest point of the route) it was good running along to Low Kop and descending to Haweswater.  The heat was sapping and found myself constantly taking on liquid. I remember from the recce a couple of months ago that the section along Haweswater to Mardale Head went on and on.  I tried to block that out and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  I was glad to reach Mardale for some refreshments and an attempt at having a pee. (only one pee all race was a little worrying).

The next section headed up Gatesgarth pass, another hike but I knew the descent was nice and steady pretty much all the way to Kentmere.  I ploughed on passing a few L100 runners offering my best wishes.  Only 20+ miles to go.  John and I had parted company at this stage as he was having some stomach issues at the top of Gatesgarth. All of the checkpoints were fantastic with a wide variety of food and drink and the support was brilliant.  I thought Kentmere was my favourite after necking a banana and apple smoothie.  Delicious at just over half way.

which way now

By this point runners were few and far between so I whipped out the road book to make sure I wouldn't go wrong.  Sadly that didn't work out as planned, in the wood section before Ambleside I went off track and came out onto the main road about a mile further out of Ambleside. Bummer.  

I ran through Ambleside with cheers from the pub gardens and random folk on the street, a great motivator.  I sat down in the Ambleside checkpoint and John walks in thankfully feeling better.  I gave my folks a wave and continued on with John to Chapel Stile.  It was so helpful having someone running with you to give you that encouragement and I thank John for that.  We helped each other for the last 15 miles.  I was also grateful he was there when I took a tumble on the way to Chapel Stile, a lapse of concentration and I was over on my side.  Knee,hip and hand got a bit of a hammering but was fine to continue.  The hand is currently multicoloured and fat!

From Chapel Stile we went on to Langdale and the running was becoming more comfortable. The banter was good and helped the miles tick over.  We reached the last checkpoint at Tilberthwaite and we had one a final push to the end. 3.5 miles to go - not easy by any means with the climb and descent.  We didn't think we would make sub 10 hours but plugged away and had a storming last mile into Coniston.  No headtorches needed.  The cheers from the pubs and the spectators was a huge lift all the way to the finish.  We finished in 9 hours 58 minutes and 7 seconds.  Fantastic!

My folks and Mike S were at the finish and it was good to see them, they must have had a long day.  It was a great race and fabulous organisation and support throughout.  It was brutal and challenging but we made it.  Joint 21st place.

I had no sleep that night as the rain started soon after we finished and I was in the tent.  I was up early passing the finish gantry and surprised to see Fergus' wife there.  Fergus was running as a team of four and was still out - due in at 8:15am.  He'd been out all night in the rain.  Unbelieveable.  If he'd ran the race on his own he would have been top 20.

A great event, now looking forward to a few days off before getting some short stuff under my belt.  I have the points to enter the CCC at UTMB in 2014, just need to picked out of the hat now!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Chevy Chase Fell Race 6th July 2013 20 miles, 4,000ft

This classic Northumberland race was perfect timing in preparation for the Lakeland 50 on the 27th July.   This was very much coincidental - I was always going to do this race, as I have done the previous two years.  The route, the challenge, the runners, the organisation and the volunteers make this race one for the diary year after year – hence the rush to apply for a place back at the beginning of February.  The limit is around 200 runners, and fills up quick sharp.  Three weeks to the day before embarking on the Lakeland 50, the Chevy would give me my last big training run in terms of distance, time on feet and ascent for conditioning.  Back in April I had similar preparation for the Highland Fling by running the Allendale Challenge three weeks before.
Chillaxed before the race

The forecast was to be very warm with little wind.  We arrived at Wooler for registration and got “dibbed” up.  The mandatory kit check stated that water had to be carried due to the hot weather with limited refreshments at the checkpoints.  Luckily I had my donut bottle in the car.  It was great to see so many NFR’s at this race and to get a chance to be in the team photo. 

We set off bang on 10:30am at a steady, relaxed pace.  The intention was to enjoy the race and use it as training, not being concerned about where I finished.  The first few miles are easy running, some road, trail and a couple of steady inclines.  At this point I had no idea where I was in the field as I chose not to look too far into the distance.  It was steady going, I was enjoying the scenery and trying to remain relaxed with a clear head.  This works for me, I should use it more often.  Thinking back to the Allendale challenge and the Fling, I adopted this approach there too and the results exceeded my expectations.  It makes such a difference when you are enjoying running rather than having outside influences and pressure get to you.  At shorter road races like 10k’s there seems to be a completely different ethos where runners are in the zone and worried about getting PB’s.

After the first checkpoint at Broadstruther, I was sitting in a group of five letting the others do the work.  The next two sections were going to be tough eventually ending up on the top of the Cheviot, so I was conserving energy.  The heat was having an effect by this time, although there was a nice breeze.  I reached the Cheviot summit after a little “hands on knees” action and scoffed a gel.  The descent from the Cheviot is quite sharp and it takes more effort to stop tumbling down (although this would be quicker!).  With this in mind I was worried about my quads getting a bashing so eased up a little.  This allowed a couple of runners to pass me but I wasn’t overly concerned. 

The next checkpoint would be Hedgehope at halfway, after another long drag.  A bit more walking/hiking on this section but managed to get back the two places I lost on the Cheviot descent.  The Hedgehope descent is more manageable, but still quite acute.  Once this was out the way it should be relatively plain sailing to the finish….

I somehow lost a place between Hedgehope and Langlee Crags; I obviously took a different (and longer) line.  I was still in a good place and feeling comfortable with my pace and nutrition/hydration.  I ran with Bruce Crombie from Alnwick Harriers and Andy Blackett for a while up until Brands Corner which helped pull me along.  The section along Carey Burn seemed to last forever up until the dreaded Hell’s path (and final) checkpoint.  I dibbed my dibber and was told I was in third place – what!!!!  How did this happen?  Did I miss a checkpoint? Are you sure? I clambered up Hell’s path and took a last cup of water ready for the last couple of miles.  I went from not being worried about position to “get a move on, you’re in third!  How often does this happen!”.

The pace quickened and I made sure I didn’t look behind me.  I passed a walker who muttered something about 250 metres – what? I had 250 metres gap?  I ploughed on and dug deep, the legs were suffering now.  I crossed the finish line with relief.  In the end I had quite a gap between myself and fourth.  I found out later that I wasn’t far off second. 

Huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers – fantastic as usual.  There were some great performances, I know Phil G and John T were well chuffed with their times.  It was a shame to see Chris W DNF.  He’s had a period of some rotten luck.  I hope he recovers well to do the 100k he has planned in the Lakes in September.

Had a great chin wag with a certain Mr Tim Bateson, producer of the Great British Trail Running podcast (check it out, it's fantastic!).  It was good to finally get this opportunity having followed his activities on Strava and to quiz him on his Hardmoors exploits - great run Tim.

I’m now looking forward to a gentle taper down for the Lakes 50.  It’s going to be a great weekend.

19 days to go.