As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Five Oh

Thats a Five and a Zero - Fifty. Thats how many miles I ran/walked last Saturday.

The Lakes 100 and 50 Ultra trail races around Cumbria took place for the second time and I think were generally hailed a success. I reckon I will do the 50 again next year as there are several aspects of my run I think I could improve upon.

I had to leave home very early and drive down to Coniston (approx 50m away from home) to sign on and get my number and map and route details. Once that was done I had over an hour to kill before getting bussed up to Dalemain (only about 22m away from home) near Penrith. Quite annoying that bit but unavoidable I suppose.

Then, at noon, with clear skies and even a glimpse of the sun we set off. First there was a 4 mile loop across fields surrounding the estate before heading South toward Pooley Bridge. During this first 2hours or so I deliberately ran easy. Watching my pulse always, I eased back if it went above 155 BPM, walking if necessary.

The first checkpoint was at Howtown, South of Pooley Br'. I was a little disappointed to find mainly cake to eat as I was intending to eat savoury food during the first half of the event (due to the rapid rise (and fall) in energy levels from sweet sugary foods). Anyhow, I took plenty and scoffed it as I covered the next mile or so toward Haweswater.

Up to this point I had been reading carefully the route description and following the marked map. However, I made a mistake and was corrected by someone shouting from behind. Luckily I had earlier been chatting to these people and they were only too happy to help me out. a little later on very high ground I went wrong again, failing to turn left when I should have done. This mistake cost me perhaps 4 minutes but more importantly it made me realise I was really quite inept at map reading and was likely to struggle much more as the day wore on.

There was a long slow descent to Haweswater. Slow because the ground was very rough in places with big dropoffs hidden in high bracken. This kind of Terran really slows the average pace of a run as sometimes you aren't going much faster downhill than you were up. I was really looking forward to seeing Iain Kelly at the next check. He had said he might cycle up to Mardale Head from home. I was also hoping for some more suitable food. Iain wasn't there. The food was much worse than at Howtown, only some flapjack and cola. This was approx 4hours into the run and I had been feeling a bit crappy for the last half hour anyway. I considered quitting. Quitting wasn't really an option though as there was no way of getting home. I would have had to run to Penrith and phone for a lift so it made sense to continue on course and get to Kentmere at least.

As it turned out, after wolfing down some flapjack and steadily walking up Gatesgarth Pass I was feeling much better altogether. From the top of the pass was a superb view of the long steady descent ahead. The running was good all the way to Kentmere where I enjoyed a good 10minute break including, finally... some savoury food, pasta in a tomato sauce. I also had a fresh fruit smoothie, some OJ, and I left the village with a cup of tea in one hand and 5 choccy digestives and a kit kat in the other. Just as well it wasn't downhill for a while.

Out of Kentmere over Garburn Pass was not really a navigational challenge and I reached Ambleside without incident. I had also teamed up with two other competitors, a young lad named Doug and Wendy Dodd. Wendy is rather well known in the fellrunning world and as we neared the Lakes Runner shop I suspect the cheering crowd was mainly for her.

Leaving Ambleside I felt as if we were more or less finished. The next bit to Elterwater and Chapel Stile didn't include much in the way of big hills and I imagined the energy from the latest food stop would allow me to run at a decent pace over flat ground. Wendy was very good navigationally and had actually ran the race route from Ambleside to the end just a week or two prior. A couple who I had ran with on and off since Haweswater were yoyoing ahead of us. that is to say they would run off in front, gaining ground, only for us to catch up with them a mile or two later as they were inspecting their map and GPS. Wendy would just shout 'this way' and run past them. They would catch us, exchange pleasantries and shoot off ahead again. This continued so often that I figured I would be best to stay with Wendy as I was definitely more of a novice than these two and I didn't even have a GPS to help me. 15minutes after finishing, the couple came into Coniston so I feel vindicated in my decision. I could definitely have ran faster but it's not much good running for 2 miles the wrong way faster than someone going slow along the correct route.

Chapel Stile came and went. Tilberthwaite came in the dark, wet night. The marshals at their 4x4 were incredibly cheery and supportive despite the prospect of many more hours waiting there in the rain for competitors to come through. Only one section remained. Approx 4 miles. Over a decent climb and then drop into Coniston. It was quite spooky being on such unfamiliar ground at night in the wind and rain. The hood of my waterproof kind of hampered my vision and sense of awareness but I knew that on my right was a very steep drop into a raging stream far below. Wendy expertly guided us over a small beck at exactly the right point to pick up the final footpath over the final small climb before the final descent. This last descent was to prove tricky though, Wendys expensive Petzyl headtorch was giving off a poor light. Mine, a £12 DIY jobby from B&Q was infinitely better. Wendy stumbled often, and unfortunately took a decent tumble on some wet rocks. Her torch, which she was holding for better effect smashed apart on the ground and we had to spend a minute or two clipping the constituent pieces together again as well as inserting fresh batteries.

As we raced through the streets of Coniston Wendy took us through a cut between some houses. apparently this was the best way to get through to the Primary School which had a footpath through the playground and out to the race HQ beyond. She wasn't quite correct though and we were in a hammer head dead end. not to be foiled though, and certain she could see the road we needed behind the houses we were at, she nimbly jumped over a garden fence, ran through the back garden of some oblivious Coniston resident and over the rear fence, where we did indeed reach the HQ and finish the race. A few minutes inside 12 hours.

I don't know Wendys age but if i had to guess I would say between 55 and 60. But I don't mind admitting that she got over those fences with more agility than I did. And in the final 100metres to the line she was doing a speed that I could only just keep up with, I certainly could not catch back the 5 or 6 metre lead she had over me.

Inside the Rugby Club race HQ there was a great atmosphere. People finishing to applause, people looking like zombies, people who could hardly walk, people asleep, people pissed, and everyone having a great time. I had a pint of Guinness, a baked potato, a chat with Doug (who finished very close behind us) and then drove home. What an event. I enjoyed almost very minute of it.

The next day I felt quite ropey all day. I had slept well for 8 hours or so but was ready for another catnap by late afternoon. My stomach was a Little upset too, not from eating or drinking something bad, but i think simply due to the massive alteration to my usual daily routine of eating/sleeping/training. By Monday my shoulders and back were aching somewhat but not really my legs. By Tuesday I could sense no after effects of the 50 and honestly felt like going for a jog. I didn't though, not until Wednesday and it wasn't so much of a jog either......

Things I learned for next time
1) Mark up the route map with distances between key points/direction changes
2) Recce the route, especially the final part, ideally in the dark.
3)Put suncream on
4)Run a tiny bit faster at the beginning and a lot faster at the end
5) Have a very good headtorch the best I can afford.
6) Eat even more than I did. (Theres no way I could consume the 10,000 or so calories I must have used up)


  1. yeah ,great blog Steve!
    Could this be the new 42 tops? A lot to live up to !

  2. Great race report Steve. See you didn't do the Kelly special. Run with the person that knows the route and then burn em off in the final 100metres.