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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just a normal bank holiday weekend really

The  Four Lakeland 3000ft peaks was for many years on the calendar as an organised long walk. Some runners would do it too. When Lords Rake became unstable it was no longer advisable to 'send' people up (or down) it in an official event. One day the rock will fall and anybody in the Rake when that happens will be dead - no question.

Scamp at Lords Rake 31/07/2012

I heard about the event a couple of years ago from George Nicholson who had completed it back in the day. I knew that summiting all four was something I would like to do in one day and drew up a vague plan to cycle between them. This, (along with my Bog Graham round over 2 days recce) never materialised and was all but forgotten about until last year when Penrith Stu started talking about it again. We were all but ready to go when Stus injury woes forced another abandonment.

So this year I was again thinking about doing it by cycling inbetween. Stu was keen to try and so was Ian Charters, but when Stu conceded he would not be able to do the fells it was back to just me and Ian. I knew that if I used a bike I would always want to  return and do it all on foot so we decided to it 'go for it' and complete the classic running/walking route of approx 45 miles. 

The main difference between doing it all on foot compared to using a bike/car is that from the  parking place at Seathwaite in Borrowdale, you do the Scafells then return to your transport to use the roads back via Keswick then to the Thirlmere area. Whereas by foot  you instead come off the Scafells to the East and continue across the fells until you reach the A591 (Keswick to Ambleside road) which puts you at the foot of Helvellyn.

Based on little more than Joss Naylor having ran this in about 8 hours I came up with a very broad plan that I should therefore be able to do it within 150% of that time, about 12 hours. A schedule was drawn up which, by the time stops were accounted for would see us start at 0700 and finish at 1909.

At 7 oclock precisely we began climbing Skiddaw. Good progress was made. It was quite wet at times but dry for the majority and quite mild and not at all windy. Based on a 24hour BGR being allowed 85 mins to climb Skiddaw I had given us 75 mins (I have never accompanied any BG contender who took the full 80). Summit number 1 was reached in EXACTLY 75 mins. We then turned immediately and retraced back to Keswick. Coming off Skiddaw is so familiar to me now and we were able to take every small shortcut and off walking path line that in the fellrace for example you must not do.  Even the bit from Latrigg carpark we used Stus shortcut to the lower path by aiming for the farmers cattle feed trough - (hope he never mooves it).

We reached Keswick one minute ahead of schedule and stopped for exactly the five minutes allowed.
At this time I removed my trail shoes in favour of road shoes for the 9 mile section to Seathwaite.
A comfort break in the public WCs added an extra 5 mins or so but this was preferable to an emergency visit to a field later on.

Once on the Borrowdale road in earnest it became clear that my slowest comfortable running speed was quite a lot faster than Ians. But rather than slow down, I got ahead then stopped every now and then to stretch my hamstrings (which had been very tight since Wednesdays race). Once we reached Rosthwaite I said I would just go on ahead and take the additional time at the car to sort my bag/gear ready for the long central fell section. Just as I turned left off the main road to the Seathwaite road it began to rain. Then waiting at the car it was very very heavy rain. 

Climbing up to Styhead was on off showery but by the upper recaches of the corridor route was wet enough that we took the decision to put on our waterproof trousers.

Ian in his waterproof trousers

There then followed a troublesome half hour which ended with a comedy moment of realisation.....

We were on Scafell Pike summit but still had Scafell to reach. For any (of the three) route choices this means first  descending off the Pike toward Mickledore. Because we had got onto the Pike from the E, essentially the route from Esk Hause which we popped out onto from a steep gully, we just passed over the summit and its hundred of visitors, continuing in the same direction. Once the path split we took the left one and lost height. After a wee while Ian shouted to ask if I knew where we were going. This was a troubling question. I thought I did.  But I am quite hopeless at navigation, preferring to only go to places I already know well from being there previously on clear days. I waited for Ian to catch me and we discussed the possibility we were actually heading back down toward the corridor route. Through the mirk and rain I thought I saw a glimpse of what looked like the Mickledoor Hause but to be honest everything looks the same when only glimpses are snatched and its very easy to mistake west for east and north for south. So we bore off 90 degree left, crossing the boulder field, hoping to reach the correct path. We could see far enough that ahead lay some steep rock faces and drops and that didnt seem like a good way to go. So we retraced and got back to the path we had been on 10 mins earlier. Another brief conflab and we decided the best thing was to continue downwards, figuring when we got to the path for Lingmell we would skirt around and join the route up to Mickledore from Wasdale. 

Approx 30 seconds after making that decision and walking downhill for about 50 metres we then saw....


so we had been going the correct way in the first place and had just lost at least 10 minutes for no good reason. Ian had even mentioned binning the day off as it was so wet and we would surely have lost a good hour by dropping so far down. As it turned out we took one hour to get from Scafell Pike to Scafell. The schedule allowed 45 mins so not too bad after all.

On Scafell the weather eased and the sun threatened very weakly behind the cloud. I took off my trousers and coat and never needed them again.

After Scafell Pike number 2visit we had great visibility and took the decision to also bag Broad Crag and Ill Crag (as they are also over 3000ft). This meant we took a lot longer then scheduled to reach Esk Hause but to be honest the schedule was gone by this time and there was little point breaking our necks to try to gain time back - fair enough if it were a 24hr BGR but this was just two friends bagging 4 (6) summits to say they had done it - no pressure - no point.

Crossing the Cumbrian Way to begin climbing High Raise we skirted around both HR and Low White stones to arrive at Greenup Edge without having climbed any higher up than necessary.

 I be honest now and say I disagree with Ians idea of contouring in this manner. I like to strike out hard up the hill no matter how steep, gain the footpath and hopefully better running along the ridge. But then I do feel I am becoming exceptionally strong at climbing nowadays, and contouring has always been a pet hate of mine.

From Greenup Edge 'all we had to do" was drop into Wythburn Valley and follow it out to the A591.
This is far from good ground - in fact it is so poor, so rough, so twisty, so boggy, that we scarcely ran at all despite the gradient in our favour. I have since considered that a direct line to High Raise followed by another to Brownrigg Moss then small climb up to the plateau above Calf Crag and Rough Crag then onto Steel Fell and off it's Northern nose might be worth checking out.

The Wythburn valley took forever and in the final 15 mins before reaching the main road I was seriously hungry, tired and ready for it to be over. I had plenty of food still in my pack - but had been getting by on Hula Hoops (yes please @KP Foods I'll have a free case for the free advert - ready salted only though) and energy drinks and nowI longed for something savoury and substantial.

At the car I removed my fellshoes and put on an old worn out pair and some fresh socks. Then I had a sit down and demolished two egg sarnies, more Hula Hoops, can of coke cuppa tea and big slice of xmas cake.

So off up to Helly, the final hill of the day. Never had been on this route in my life I had made a pure guess of 75 mins for this climb, based on it looking a bit less than Skiddaw but also being more tired.As soon as we began climbing in earnest I realised that the bad time I had endured in Wythburn was only due hunger and not general fatigue or end of my ability for that day.  was climbing up Helly like it was 7 am again, and enjoying it immensely. Ian suggested I forge on ahead which I did. 

Climbing Helvellyn - Wythburn woods - Thirlmere and Skiddaw

With 100% visibility, once I neared summit ridge at Nethermost Pike and could see the Y shaped shelter on Helvellyn I realised I was going to smash the 75 minute schedule. I had been walking very strongly up to now but with the incline much less severe I reckoned running was possible again. So I ran all the way to the trig point, easing up about 50 metres short to look around and savour the final moments of taming the 3000s. 

I know lots of people have done much harder things. Taking longer, climbing higher, enduring more pain, but that doesn't detract from my feelings of achievement on this challenge. I'm just a skinny lad never knew no good from bad... no hang on that Freddies line.  I'm just a skinny lad who never did anything sporty at school and now finds himself not only setting and achieving  tough targets but also realising abilities as never before. It wasnt a small tear - the sun was in my eyes.

The evening sun on Helvellyn was silhouetting the Western fells beautifully and glistening on Thirlmere below. Magic.

Angela Rippon may do the evening news, but Helly does the evening views!

As Joss would say - absolute magic

I put on my coat at the summit as it was quite windy for the first time. The altitude, wind and late hour meant it was getting pretty cold so I reckoned it better to jog back to meet Ian coming up than wait stationary for him. Ian completed the challenge exactly 15 minute after I had. And only a few minutes over my guesswork 75 min schedule.

Of course just because we had topped the summits didnt  mean we were yet  finished for the day. The challenge was to complete the loop so we still had to run 6 miles on road to Keswick. Coming off Helvellyn to Swirls carpark we changed into road shoes and set off for the final time. It was soon dark and the road wasnt pleasant in any way shape or form. It was to be endured rather than enjoyed.  Eventually Keswick was reached and we were done.

14hrs and 36 mins - or was it 38 mins? I cant remember and the small piece of paper with the schedule, upon which I had been writing the actual splits had long since degenerated into mush in my pocket.

Lakes 3000s DONE. Whats next? BGR has been mooted but not really by me - Stu's crazy idea. If I could do it in about 20 hours then another 6 added to this run would seem do-able. But,  if it went badly, another 10? Seems beyond imagination at this time. But not as ridiculous as winning the L50 seemed 5 weeks ago......

#We Continue

When it falls it will just keep going -  Tsunami in Wast Water will be inevitable

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Case 118. Crown vs Angus

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury it is your sworn duty as subjects of the realm to uphold justice and deliver your verdict on the charges levelled at the defendant. You must listen carefully to the arguments, evidence and statements as given by the case for the defence provided by the defendant who, contrary to the best advice of this court has chosen to defend himself  against these serious charges, and the case for the the prosecution, lead by Doubting Thomas on behalf of the  Crown.

The charges relating to this matter are that during the course of the summer of 2012, and specifically on the 17th June 2012, Mr Steven Paul Angus, AKA athleteinaction, AKA bestathlete, AKA Pluckysfastermate, AKA SPA, AKA him that runs funny, did wilfully and knowingly profess to be 'running brilliantly' in general, and relating to the 17th June did win a jammy race and go on about it for bloody ages.

We have all heard how Mr Angus does not deny that the race winning performance was indeed jammy, admitting that had Mr Ricky Lightfoot for example decided to enter then he would have been a distant second place rather than inaugural winner and course record holder. Whilst this may be admittance of luck it is not mitigation for the deliberate and calculated  repeated act of 'going on about it for ages' afterwards. The facts are clear, and to this day remain in the public realm for all to see in the defendants personal online weblog. Not one, or two, but three individually titled postings relating to the Karrimor event, and numerous additional mentions in subsequent postings.

We have also heard Mr Angus' testimony relating to the subsequent Lakes 50 Ultra, where he claims to have admonished his critics and proved his credentials with a second and more worthy win. Ladies and gentleman of the jury - Mr Angus' subsequent performances are as irrelevant as his previous ones (did he ever mention he also won Langdale marathon once) in relation to these charges and for the purposes of your considerations should be ignored.

As to the charge of bragging on about 'running brilliantly'. whether or not the defendant was indeed 'running brilliantly' is a matter of subjection and not therefore one for you to pass judgement upon. It is the bragging about it or otherwise you must consider. As well as bragging, the court has also been made aware of the defendants propensity to talk about himself constantly and at great length. Again, these are not matters for you the jury to consider - indeed, whilst they are undesirable traits they are not crimes and should be disregarded as you deliberate your verdict.

Before you retire to the jury room you are obliged to listen to Mr Angus' final mitigating statement....

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. Your Honour. I wish first to bring to your attention the Buttermere Round 22mile race in February of 2012. For a fifth consecutive year I ran faster than the previous year. In April I was forced out of the VLM but fought back merely two weeks later with a V40 personal best half marathon performance in the hilly Keswick race. By July and fellrunning season I again outperformed all previous years results in the Blencathra, Skiddaw and Rydal Round races. On road I punched above my weight in the Round the Houses race and on the very eve of this trial produced a 40 second pb at the Round Latrigg race.

In accepting I will never repeat the times achieved in my mid 30s (see RHS column), I nevertheless stand by my claim to be 'running brilliantly' in this my 44th year."

So you must now retire to consider your verdict. For a guilty verdict you must all be in agreement. If you are unable to reach a unanimous decision you must inform the clerk who will come to my chambers. I may then allow a less than unanimous decision to count as long as at least ten of you are in accord. In the event of hung jury a retrial will be required which at the great expense to the taxpaying masses, of which you are all members (except you Kev Bell), I urge you not to force.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going long (again)

With a seriously big fellrun planned for next weekend I took myself off down the Borrowdale valley to Seathwaite to run the central section as a recce.

A stunning morning in the Lakes today. The early morning was to be the best of the day, though I didnt know that at the time. 

a few hours after sunrise,  it breaks over the ridge

I set off up Ruddy Gill at a leisurely pace to reach Esk Hause in just under one hour. Great Ends face looming above the walk-in never fails to make an impression (although on this occasion I didnt photograph it)

looking over Ruddy Gill back to Skiddaw and Keswick

From Esk Hause I continued to Angle Tarn then took  a deviation left to follow around the back of  Rossett Pike. As I neared Stake Pass the magnificent Langdale Pikes dominated the skyline (again, no photos - I'm thinking maybe I should have had camera round neck as well as compass, dog lead, rucksack)

From Stake Pass was the slightly tricky section - the natural path would take you up to High Raise then Northward to Low White Stones then NE to Greenup Edge, but I had been advised to contour around to the East of High Raise and High White stone to avoid gaining unecessary height. I got this half right - its very unnatural to put trust in myself to go off the marked paths and simply choose a line around a hillside and although I avoided climbing onto High Raise I came out on Low White Stones summit - must do better next week.

From there I took a beeline toward the Wyth Burn Valley which I could see quite clearly. Crossing straight over the path that would take me to Easedale I droppd into the valley bottom with some speed for the ground was grassy and  boulders easily negotiated. 

At the valley floor there is a bog - a bog like no other I have encountered previously. I mistakenly found myself on the North of the bog and after consulting the map realised I needed to be the South to get onto the path.  To be honest the path on the S was as good as useless - but getting to it proved... well lets just say eventful. 

The bog was strewn with thick coarse tall reeds. These prevented short legged Scamp seeing very far ahead and there were frequent loud sploshes as he fell in yet another trough/ditch. He went in black and white and came out the other side black and shitty brown. I also went in up to my backside more than once. It was quite disconcerting and but for the thick reeds to pull myself out with and half lie on to take weight off my feet I think I might still be there.

At that time it also began to rain - the soaked shorts, horrible ground, rain and general gloominess of this valley did little for my mood and I was not looking forward to revisiting it soon after for the return trip.

I reached the road at Steel End 2hrs 15 mins after leaving Esk Hause. I would say that could easily be reduced to 1hr 45 by not stopping to look at maps, take photos at Angle Tarn, fall in bogs and laugh out loud at Scamp. From Steel End I ran to the A591 then via the woods to Wythburn Church. Just another 10 mins. 

And there endeth the  recce. 

I still had to get back to Seathwaite of course

I figured on taking a little less than 3 hours to return as there would be less climbing and I shouldnt need to stop to check maps.  But I would have to go through that horrible valley again and also do the rather crappy contour back to Stake Pass. I thought struck me that if it was about 15 miles via road I might be better served to go back via Keswick instead. So off I set from Wythburn Church, north along the A591.

Terrible idea. Stupid idea. Bad move. An ill advised course of action

The road was too narrow and busy to run with a dog on a lead so I had to walk mostly. Making such slow progress I looked across Thirlmere and wondered why on earth I hadn't doubled back to Steel End to run on the W side of it.  I still could have done so for it was only a mile or so but doubling back is like admitting a mistake and I was still intent on running to Keswick (where I thought I would get a coffee (but anyway later realised I had taken no money with me)). When I got St john vale road end I checked my map and noted that there was a path from Armboth over High Tove to Watendlath - hmmmmm.

Just after that a very large road sign loomed into view. I knew it would say how far to Keswick and I reckoned either 2 or 3 miles, probably 3.

Just to Keswick!

I knew it was then 9 miles exactly to the van as I had tripped it on the drive down. So, another 14 miles of road running with poor Scamp on his lead, or turn down the back of Thirlmere road and over High Tove? No contest - although it about 2 miles I didnt need to have done (had I stayed on the back road at Steel End) it was far nicer having Scamp able to run alongside or sniffing about  - I could also move faster too.

As I turned sharp right  W to begin the climb it began raining quite heavily. I stashed away into dry bags my camera and phone. I  had been running with my phone in my hand trying to make a call to someone I knew was in the Keswick/Borrowdale area that day. I wasnt too proud to admit I had made an error in judgement embarking on the road run and was hoping for a lift all the way back to Seathwaite. There was zero reception and  I later discovered that said  friend had been back at home  home many hours earlier anyway. Plus, if I'd taken the lift I would never have lived it down.

Nearing the top of the steep climb I had a bit of a wash in a small waterfall. I was a bit minging after falling in the bog and a freshen up was badly needed for mind body and soul. I also filled my bottle and mixed up another sachet of Kinetic energy for the final push.

We reached High Tove - the only summit of the day, and despite the rain I figured a photo was in order
The gate leads down to Watendlath
I realised I was once again enjoying myself immensely. The low points of that hellish valley and dreadful busy road were all but forgotten as I was back on familiar ground - both in terms of location and terrain underfoot.

At Watendlath I washed Scamp in the tarn outfall - what a state he had gotten into. I even managed to run all the way up the short pass out toward Rosthwaite. I didnt bother with the map - I knew not to keep left for I would end up at Stonethwaite. Unfortunately though I kept too fat Right and came out on the B5289 about one KM North of Rosthwaite instead of right in it. No matter, a couple of miles later I was back at the van.

A man who we passed a few hundred metres before finishing passed us back as I changed clothes at the van. He remarked that Scamp looked ready to go up Gable. I actually reckon I could quite easily have done so myself for although tired and pleased to finish, I was by no means wasted and could have gone on. I suppose that just as well as 6 hours today and one hill small hill is merely a warmup for next weeks 45 miles, probably 12-14 hours and the 4 highest mountains in England.

Unsure of distance today - probably 25 miles. Kinetica energy sachet and bars continue to prove to be the best in-run nutrition I have tried. Approx 1000 cals consumed in run today (plus maybe a couple more from the bugs in the fellwater).

Perhaps more so this year than any previous I continue to learn more about my own ability to run long in the fells. It seems a long long time ago I struggled to complete the Derwent watershed with Iain Kelly and took 12 hours for the Lakes 50.  I think my 40s are going to be the years I remember as being the best times of my life.


Thursday, August 16, 2012 see the queen

After my long run on Saturday I called into town to collect my Dick Whittington costume for Sundays trip to London. I went there with my pal Darren who dressed up as Dicks cat.

I was dreading getting up at 4am to collect Daz and drive to Newcastle for the 6am 'olympic special' train. It wasn't too bad though - only 2 hours earlier than I seem to be getting up these days for no apparent reason.

In Newcastle were children already waving union flags as they also made their way to the station with parents. After the British successes and particularly Mo Farahs historic 5000m win the previous evening it felt like we were all heading to the biggest party of the century.

Early in London

I didn't end up getting the job as Londons mayor, but the streets were certainly paved with gold. The sunshine, in stark contrast to the conditions met one week earlier for the womens marathon, streamed through the patchy clouds all day long and helped make 12th August one of the best days of the year.

Not training on Sunday I figured I should do something worthwhile on Monday (rather than my usual jogging with Scamp). After a reasonably swift mile warm up I ran the Houghton 5 circuit more or less as hard as I could. I was very unhappy to beat 6 pace by merely 10 seconds  (that's 10 overall, not 10 per mile). The difference from the run with Plucky one week earlier surely suggests that his route is not accurate - for I know mine is. I suppose the 23miles hilly bike ride and 60 mins fellwalk earlier in the day would have had some effect on my run - but not a lot in just 5 miles, as they were both very easy pace anyway.

Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda - 22 miles before he became the Olympic Marathon Champion

Scamps jog was done on Tuesday then Wednesday I didn't train at all. I felt absolutely knackered. Perhaps the inexplicable early mornings were/are beginning to catch up with me? Anyway, I know better then to train feeling so jaded. This leaves me with my intervals session to do tonight. I will be on my own so will stick to my tried and tested mile reps - possibly a two miler as well depending on time available (appointment with the man who takes my money to inflict pain on my legs in the name of sports massage)

Lesothos Tesepo Ramonene - 85th place in 2:55:54
 (knew I should have moved to Lesotho 20 years ago when I had the chance)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Who gets me?

Tallying up the last couple of weeks of running I realised at one point I had ran 75 fell miles in 6 days.

Three days after the L50 I ran for 5 hours in the fells including Scafell Pike, Scafell, then into Wasdale and back via Styhead Pass. Three days later  I was back in the same neck of the woods again to check out the different approaches to Scafell Pike from the North.

One day after that I ran 16 miles at marathon pace effort. It wasn't marathon pace (at least I hope not) as I could only manage 6:21 per mile (and I had managed 6:11 per mile for 13 miles two weeks earlier). Surely though some degree of speed drop off/fatigue can be attributed to the 50 miler and all the fell mileage. Despite the overall pace I did manage to negative split the run - which is a great indication of perfect pace/effort judgement

So no wonder I was feeling tired.

I also seem to be continuing to lose weight for no explicable reason. Without making any attempt to diet, I am currently about a half a stone below what I was at the beginning of the year (which itself wasn't a high or concerning figure). Not that I am complaining. I wouldn't want to be forced to carry 7lb sandbag with me every hill I ran up, and at present I have effectively got rid of one.

After an easy jog on Monday in the rain, I went to Pluckys on Tuesday to run with him around the 10k loop he uses. I had promised it would be a proper hard session and was looking forward to dishing out some serious pain his way.  A last minute decision to ride my bike 25 miles immediately prior to the run  (my first bike ride in 18 months) may have effected me a little - but more likely the accumulated mileage of the weekend was accountable for my legs feeling truly awful for the whole run. I wasn't able to push the pace as hard as I wanted - my legs were on the verge of collapse way before my lungs were feeling troubled.

Plucky was still hurting though - and sitting in behind me when the wind was in our face.  Upon finishing, seeing 5:47 pace for the 6.2 miles astonished me. I only need 10 seconds/mile quicker to run my "dream" 34 minute 10k, and as it would be a race not training, and on fresher legs not having ran so much slow fell mileage, I reckon I would could run nearer 5:30 pace. Cannot therefore believe I am going to be on holiday and miss the Dumfries 10k next month. Damn damn damn.

Thursdays session of five by one mile was altered at the very last minute due to a chance meeting with George and Russell just as we were all getting to the start point. They were doing 4x3 minutes then 2x 1mile. Although this was shorter than my session, it was only so by .7 of a mile and the quality was far superior. George is the UK vet 55 5k champion and also soon attempting the UK V55 150mm all time record (which he will almost certainly beat), and Russ is a prolific race winner and currently an England capped runner at 50km.

I struggled to stick with these lads on the 3 mine efforts (dropped each time at 2 mins in), but on the miles I was OK and hung on, even taking on the last mile into headwind and finishing just behind Geo and ahead of Russ. A super tough but enormously worthy session.

Saturday had to be my long easy run (after last weekends long MP 16). As always I planned on sub 7 pace and knew that 6:45s should be well within me without pushing hard. It didn't feel quite as easy as I hoped it would. My legs felt troubled by about 12 miles and the final 5 were really tough going as by then it had also become properly hot and sunny and I was also getting trouble from a stitch due to too much breakfast. Pace was there though. 21 miles at 6:40 pace and with a negative split by a handful of seconds.

We continue

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cheers Cowboy

Despite taking a few days to compile and re-check my previous post reporting my L50 race, I managed to overlook one rather important person.

Penrith Stu tore into me last year for taking so long to complete the event and messing about talking to lasses when I should have been getting on with it. Along with me he then entered the L50 on the first day of registration and promised we would do it together and tear up the course, smashing 10 hours.

Things havent gone so well for the auld lad and he had to withdraw. He was still bigging me up though, and emailed and txt all the time to tell me I could easily get in the top 10 if not top 3. I thought that top 3 was ridiculous but knew he was right and I had it within me to improve massively on my 2011 time. Despite injury he also 'came with' on numerous training runs and a route recce.

On the Friday he drove all the way to Coniston to give me a lift home to Carlisle, then he came along to the start and watched me head off up the fell from Pooley Br' with encouragement. He even came back to Coniston again on the Sunday just to see me go up on stage at the presentation/Marcs comedy routine.

So cheers fella - you may be the ugliest fekker in the County but you are a great pal.

(and I've deliberately not mentioned that most of the photos were taken by you just so you still have something to moan about)

Friday, August 3, 2012

you raced 50 miles?!?! How did you do? I won.

I made a bit of fuss when I won the Karrimor Trail Marathon in  July because I felt it was a stroke of luck that none of the local top runners entered it and I was a bit jammy really to take victory in such a slow time. I  honestly thought it would be the last race I would ever win.

Even when I took the lead early on in the L50 I remained just as assured I would never win another race, and then later, with just a mile to go, when I struggled to descend into Coniston due to cramp I was still  uncertain if I would hold on to win.

Win it I did though, and in a time that smashed all my own expectations and wasn't too far away from previous winning times. In my 43years I have never been so proud and so pleased. Not just with winning a prestigious, highly regarded and tough mountainous event, but with the way I took on the challenge mentally, stuck to my plan, and dealt with the little demons that mounted their mini campaigns to spoil the day.

Friday in Coniston

Prior to embarking on the race report proper I shall just make reference to the Two previous occasions I have ran the L50.

In 2009 50 miles was to be the longest run of my life. I hoped to beat 12 hours (it just seemed a nice round figure). I struggled with the nav' and ended up running from Ambleside to Coniston with Wendy Dodds who knew the route well. I recall finding the pace very easy but was unwilling to leave Wendy behind as I reckoned I would probably go off course and lose even more time.

Skip 2010 when I didn't enter and lets go to the 2011 event. Many will recall how damn hot it was, not ideal at all. I remember walking some of the uphill parts of the initial loop in the fields above Dalemain - because 50 miles was such a long way. And I also recall taking loads of food on board at Howtown - again because 50 miles was such a long way and I thought I should. Soon after, whilst going up Fusedale eating bananas I started to feel bad. At High Kop I stayed on the central summit path (instead of dropping right) and almost got to the dam before doubling back. By this point though my head had gone and my pal Stu reported me entering the Mardale CP 'ages after expected' and 'looking for any excuse to sit down and avoid getting on with it'. Later in the race I teamed up with my pal Stephen Weston (who completed the 84 mile Hadrians Wall path route in record time, ran his first ever sub 3hr marathon AND completed the L100 this year) and mentally enjoyed the camaraderie of the final 25 miles despite feeling dreadful physically.

So the biggest issue to deal with this time was how to eat during the run without feeling ropey (and to go the right way). I read up on Marcs advice about the stomach being a fine sieve that would allow energy to pass only once it was at the optimum dilution and decided to try the Kinetica products that would be available in the race itself.

Despite regularly running in the high fells for 2-4 hours most weekends I hadn't completed any runs specifically aimed at the endurance needed for the 50. Then suddenly there was only 2 weeks to go until race day and I realised I had better start working on that aspect. One 25 mile,  six hour run (I'll be honest here and admit it was 3.5 hours of vigorous walking followed by 2.5 hours of hard running. Thanks for the company AW) later and I felt happy with the Kinetica though still a bit concerned that the race could easily last twice as long.

Pre race day I looked up my splits from last year and compared them to the winners splits. Not because I thought I could run as fast as last years winner, but so I could get a realistic idea of how much time I could knock off my own splits. 5mph is a pace I can run at for 3-4 hours including numerous high summits and short stops for taking photos/filling bottles etc, and I came up with what seemed like a do-able sub 10 hour finish. I also figured that sub 10hrs might see me in the top 10 overall. A result I would certainly have taken if offered me pre race.

Pre race plan was to run as much as possible, ie not walk, and to stop for the absolute minimum time necessary. To that end I didn't bother packing any gear over and above the minimum kit requirements. I intended to eat only what was provided so didn't pack any food either. But then at the last minute I had a panic about maybe feeling hungry and added 4 eccles cakes and 3 packets of plain Hula Hoops to my pack. Just as well as two of each were eaten in the race.

Section  one. Dalemain to Howtown
I'm not sure what exactly happened in the 4 mile section lead by Richard prior to reaching Dalemain CP again, there was at least one wrong turn leading to us all doubling back, and  at 18 minutes it certainly wasn't 4 miles. I was in the first 10 runners while we were running across the fields but then with the doubling back, the first 30 odd runners were suddenly bunched again.

Once we got out across the main road and making our way to Pooley the order was put more or less right again and I was in perhaps 10th-12th place and running very comfortably.

As we climbed the tarmac hill out of Pooley I knew I would pull away from whoever I was with and this was how it panned out. By the start of the fell section I was in about 8th place and could see all those ahead of me quite clearly as nobody had pulled much of a gap.

I ran very steadily across the open land to the wall and alongside the wall to Howtown. I would put my perceived effort as about 30 secs/mile slower than when I complete 'long' marathon training runs on road (which are usually 6:45/mile). Overtaking another couple of lads not long before the Howtown CP, I got there in 6th place, exactly one minute behind the leader. Crucially though, I dibbed in and left immediately (ie didnt go in the building). I had no intention of eating so early and my bottle wasn't empty and I knew I could fill it at the mini waterfall on Fusedale Beck at the top of the steep climb anyway. So I was immediately into equal third place as we began section Two climbing the tarmac road back to the fells.

Section 1 in 1:14:48 
26minutes faster than 2011 though I suspect 10 mins shorter due to missed miles pre Dalemain)
lying in 6th place
one minute behind leader

When they announced another portaloo had been placed at the opposite end of the field.....

Section Two. Howtown to Mardale
It wasn't really my intention to engage in much conversation with anyone, but when running alongside or right behind another person in the middle of an otherwise vast empty space, it would seem strange to me not to speak at all. So I asked the fella if he had done the race previously. Turns out he had done it twice and been 13th twice, in about 10 hours.

We didn't chat much more, the gradient began to steepen once we were on the way toward the ruin and the bench and this allowed me to pull away alone into a clear third place. I caught second place on the steep steps up to the mini waterfall, just before the very boggy ground to the second ruin. This is very familiar territory for me as its the same route as used in the Day in the Lakes Tri (which I have competed in as relay runner a few times).

The final slog up before levelling out a bit before High Kop I spotted the leader overtake a group of four L100'ers. I also saw him put on a jacket and figured that would be losing him some time so I pressed on a bit more.  When I passed the four L100ers one of them knew me (if you read this, sorry I didn't recognise you).  Even though I was running strongly here (if only tiny baby steps) where the current leader was walking, the encouragement from the group was a real lift as they realised they were watching the L50 leaders racing each other up the fellside.

At the top of the steep climb where we bear left toward High Kop summit was where I took the lead. Only for a minute or so then I was in second place again but shoulder to shoulder. Once we started to lose height I started to pull away. Then as it got steeper downhill I started to really fly. I knew the ground before the bridge near the tall deer gate would be so wet that I could footplant with 100% surety of not slipping on wet rock or hard but greasy grass. Through the high bracken with the falls to my left I was still flying. Then something went a bit wrong. At the bottom of the falls path there is a gate to the left. I know the roadbook says 'dont go through gate'. I had been there on a short recce a month earlier and gone through the gate just to convince/reassure myself that it was indeed the wrong way. I knew fine well that the CP was to the right.....

So I went through the gate.

I realised within 10 metres that I had been stupid and gone the wrong way and immediately retraced and got onto the right path. Just perhaps 30-40 seconds lost, but in that short time I felt my stomach turn over and a horrible sinking feeling  begin to wash across my mind and body.

Its very lucky that I was  timing myself over the sections and I could see that despite still having a decent way to go to the Mardale CP, I was going to be a huge margin up on my 2011 time there. This knowledge and the fact I was running strongly was enough to dispel the sinking feeling - it never returned.

I also realised that if I could just keep a hold of the lead then everybody keeping tabs on me via live tracking would see I was leading the race. No way in the world did I expect at this time, to win the race  - in fact I was certain I would be overtaken by half a dozen later in the day.

I pushed hard all the way to the CP. I knew that I would take on energy drink there and allow myself to walk up the pass drinking it. I got to Mardale with a two and half minute lead. I know this time gap now but at the time it seemed much less when I spotted the lad in second coming to the CP when I seemed scarcely any distance from it.

Section 2 in 1.36.11  
44 minutes faster than 2011
Total time 2.50.59 now 1hr 10mins up on 2011 time at this point
leading by 2mins 31s

My favourite shorts and Blue cap 

Section Three. Mardale to Kentmere
A checkpoint routine wasn't something I thought much about until it became obvious that I should have one. What I did was empty both water bottles in the last couple of minutes prior to reaching the CP and as soon as I was within earshot of the staff I would hold out both bottles and ask for them to be filled with whatever I wanted. This worked well at Mardale and I was able to quickly add water to the Kinetica powder from the open cups of water on the table whilst also swigging a couple of cups of coke  with my other hand.

I didn't want any solid food until Kentmere so again I was in and out in seconds as the marshal held open the gate which I positively sprinted through.

Gatesgarth Pass soon gets steep so I was soon walking. Walking very strongly though and running at every tiny opportunity when the gradient eased for just a few metres. I finished one bottle of Kinetica energy by the top of the main climb and the other before Kentmere. Despite the dreadfully rough stony track I ran well and skipped across the lane from side to side picking out the best lines I could see.

I had a couple of minor reservations about the exact route across the roads and fields in the final mile or so to Kentmere so after crossing Sprint at Sadgill and was going uphill again I took the opportunity to look out the road book and kept it in my hand for easy reference.

Following the climb I was again flying along the levels and downhills and half recognised Ste Weston ahead of me. Unsure at first if it was indeed him I called out a bit late and all he had time to say was something along the lines of "whoa, go on Steve, are you leading?". I felt a bit bad as I almost jostled him
 and just said 'yep' as I  whizzed by Ste and his party of about 5 or 6 fellow L100ers. Angie was also here, just ahead though,  and I had time to call her name and hifive her as I passed.

Though I must have been out of earshot within ten seconds I could hear Angie and Ste's encouragement all the way to Kentmere. I was buoyed seeing my friends and for the very first time I actually considered the possibility of winning the race. I knew for a certain fact that Stephen would not expect me to have slowed up even a fraction to have had a chat or ask about how he was doing, but how much better would it be if I had been so selfish because I was on my way to winning the Lakes 50?

So I decided that I would try to win the Lakes 50.

Section 3 in 1.12.01 29 mins faster than 2011
Total time 4.03.00. 
now 1hr 39 up on 2011 time at this point
leading by 10 mins 42s.

Section 4 - Kentmere to Ambleside
Kentmere was my favourite CP in 2009 and 2011.  They had music playing, fairy lights strung up, jugs of fresh water on the tables and fruit smoothies made to order.

I have absolutely no idea if they had any of those things in 2012.

My only recollection I'm afraid to say is being a bit short with the volunteer who, when I asked for a Kinetica sachet, asked me what flavour I wanted? I couldn't even remember the flavours she had mentioned as being available one second earlier and I just said something like ' any, any it doesn't matter about flavour'. Whilst I was being bombarded with what to me at that time seemed the most ridiculous question ever asked I was trying to fill my bottle with fresh water. The container obviously did not have an air inlet point, resulting in the water leaving the vessel only marginally quicker than a drippy tap. And I was just squatting there on the floor watching the water level scarcely rise in my bottle. I tried putting the bottle on the floor so I could do other things while it filled. But this resulted in half the already piffling flow going on the floor, so I had to resume my holding under the tap regime.

Eventually both bottles were full. I stowed them away and also asked for two energy bars. Being sure to add the words - 'one of each flavour'.

I want to say that I echo the sentiments of the competitors who praise the CP staff and race helpers. It's quite clear that the event could not go ahead without their volunteered input. And when you add in their cheeriness and encouragement as night turns to morning (a part of the event I have never  been personally involved in) then words are hard to string together well to properly thank them and say how much their help and support is appreciated. But it is appreciated, even if at the time of meeting I was so wrapped up in getting in and out again and staying ahead of the next runner that I wasn't the most grateful of participants.

I am grateful.  Thankyou all.

Climbing out from Kentmere up the Garburn Pass I was still feeling pretty good. Leaving Troutbeck up that steep road past the Post office I was reduced to walking - I was knackered. I caught up to a 100 runner and we chatted briefly. He realised I was leading and I said something about "not for much longer if I keep walking".  "I need to run" I said, and wished him well and I ran again.

Coming into Ambleside I felt great - lots of people suddenly - cars to keep away from - noise and shops and a hard floor underfoot - all very familiar as a city dwelling roadrunner.

Section 4 in 1:17:22 30 mins faster than 2011 
Total time 5:20:22 
now 2hrs 10 mins up on 2011 time at this point 
leading by 14mins 12s

Section 5 - Ambleside to Langdale
Lakes Runner CP went smoothly. Bottles filled from cups already on the table. A lady stashed away my roadbook in my rucksack as I knew the rest of the route without its help. Lots of things were offered to eat and drink. All were politely refused. "I just wanna get on with this now and get it finished" I said. And I sprinted* out the door and through the arched lane opposite.

*after 35 miles this description of my incredible pace may not be quite the same as Crammys and Brendons of Mr U. Bolts next week. Just saying.

Just prior to crossing the main road and heading down the lane past the church I spotted Ben Abfabdelnoor, he was standing in almost exactly the same place as he had been one year earlier with Britta. I wonder if he actually lives in a shop doorway near there and only clambers out of his duvet upon hearing rapid footsteps approach? It was certainly another boon to see a familiar face and, when I shouted to him that I didn't know if I was leading by one minute or ten, to hear Ben tell me I had more like 15!!

Once I was out of Ambleside and onto the next climb I felt a tiny bit of cramp in one leg as I ascended the relatively easy gradient. I wasn't overly concerned, but I should have been.  I should have been taking my Nuun tablets hours earlier but had forgotten all about them, and they were right there within easy reach in my pocket. The steep road descent into Skelwith Br was the beginning of a rally bad section for me. The jarring of that descent brought on proper cramping in both legs. Upon reaching the   stone works behind Chesters Cafe I was at my mental low point of the whole run - I felt certain I was being caught - I was knackered and my legs hurt. I walked for a short while but walking action made the pain of the cramp much worse. So despite feeling too tired to run I was forced to do so.

This continued all the way through to Elterwater and Chapel Stile. Brief walks then longer runs. I note now that I only ran this section 4 mins faster than one year earlier. Considering I was knocking 20-40 mins off most sections this one was clearly the poorest performance of the day. Still, if you are to have a bad section then better it be a short one with little climbing on which to lose time.

I had another mild panic at the Baysbrown campsite. I hadn't read up on where exactly the CP would be sited. I didn't imagine it to be much further than last year and so once I had passed last years spot I grew concerned I should perhaps have left the path I was on up a side lane or some such.

I faffed on retrieving the roadbook from my rucksack and was mighty relieved to read it was beyond the campsite. Then I spotted it ahead anyway. I felt a bit renewed to have made no error after all and found a bit of speed for the last couple of hundred metres to the big gazebo. ( I also didn't want the staff there to think how dejected and slow the leading 50 runner seemed)

 Section 5 in 1:00:48
4 mins faster than than 2011. 
Total time 6:21  
now 2hr 14mins up on 2011 time at this point 
leading by 10mins 49s 

Section 6 Langdale to Tilberthwaite

Perhaps I did look slow and dejected after all because I dont actually think the staff at Langdale realised I wasn't a L100 runner and was actually the first L50 runner they had seen. As they filled my bottles and realised I was getting straight back onto the track one of them said 'you're overtaking a few here' . I replied along the lines of "no, I'm the leader". I'm not sure my position was made clear but it mattered little  - I just wanted to get back going again.

I also took a brief look at the road book here and was told it would be 2hrs to Tilberthwaite and another  1 hour from there to finish. I thought - "no bloody way in the world will I take another 3 hours to complete this - I can run Ambleside to Coniston in 3 on fresh legs". In actual fact it took me 2hrs and 9mins to finish from there, but at the time I looked at my watch and realised that even 3 full hours would see me well inside 9and a half.

The ground from the Langdale CP to the compulsory CP is a part of the course I really like to run over. Boggy, not too steep either way, little bit technical with rocks etc to hop around, and best of all, a fresh stream to pile through.

Unfortunately, once you turn right off the main Wrynose road there is a significant (at this late stage) climb with a very rough descent into the farmyard. Once through the farm though you can see the Tilberthwaite CP.

Section 6 in 1:21:29
30 mins faster than 2011
Total time 7:42
now 2hrs 25 mins up on 2011 time at this point
leading by 5mins 13s

Final section - Tilberthwaite to Coniston

It was great to be greeted by the Tilberthwaite staff by my name. It felt like I was being taken seriously as a potential winner as I  was obviously being mentioned on the radios.

A very short stop once again then off up the big steps. Climbing wearily, I constantly looked to my right to see if another runner might be steaming along the road towards the CP intent on catching me. I saw no one but sometimes the view was obscured. All I could do was walk as fast and hard as possible, then run as soon as the gradient and my tired legs allowed me to.

Despite having been over this ground only once in the light (and twice in the dark) I feel I know it very well indeed. Run alongside the beck, get to the small falls with a windswept tree above, then hop over the beck and follow the faint path up the final climb of the course.

Again on this final climb I was always looking over my shoulder to see If I was being caught. I was a long long way up when I did see a figure below. No way could he be a L100 runner so he must be my rival. But I was almost finished climbing. Once I was  descending the speed differential would see the already large gap grow larger so I was fairly confident.

But then the high point came and I began to descend and something VERY MAJOR WENT WRONG.

All leg muscles above my knees cramped up far far worse then at any previous time. The pain that shot through me with every footfall was the worst pain I've ever known whilst running.

To put it into context - In my 2012 London marathon I felt sufficient abdominal discomfort, that despite having trained specifically for 4 months solid I quit the race at 10 miles. And this pain was much much worse than that. The big difference of course was I was still in the lead on my way to the biggest and most surprising win of my life.

I was going downhill slower than I had just ran up it. If there was just a mile to go I knew it would take me 20 to 30 minutes at this pace. If the next guy was feeling Ok he could do it in less than 10 so even a 15 or 20 minute lead would be wiped away.

I wanted to lie down on the ground and stretch my legs out. But I knew that if I did that I would lose lots of time and it would still hurt just as much afterwards - 8 hours of accumulated lactic from running cannot be undone or dispersed quickly.


So I just bore the pain and shouted out loud, very loud

"get down this fucking hill now and win this fucking race"

It was a good pep talk and one which obviously did the trick.

For the previous 7 hours or so I had considered the potential but unlikely chance of winning the race.
For the previous couple of hours I had considered the increasing possibility that I might actually somehow win the race.
And now I was just over a mile from the end and in serious trouble I finally realised just how badly I wanted to win it.

Surely I deserved to win it? I certainly didn't deserve to be overtaken in the final mile and lose it did I?

Again and again I shouted at myself..

"do it"
"win this"

It was still hurting. A lot. But every painful step was one closer to the line.

As the buildings on the track below grew ever larger, the gradient grew less and less steep.
As the gradient grew less steep my legs hurt less
As my legs hurt less they moved faster
As I moved faster the mental image of Coniston loomed
As the mental image of Coniston became a real image of Coniston I knew I was safe and was going to win the L50.

The track turned to tarmac and I increased the pace. Into the village and I increased the pace again. Finally the left turn down to the lake and I ran as fast as I possibly could, I dunno why, it just seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Then I stopped 'cos I had won.

Section 7 in 48 mins 12s
21 mins faster than 2011
Winning time 8:30:51 (3 hrs 6 mins up on 2011 time at this point)
Won by 3 minutes and 45 seconds

Proudest day of my life

As it turns out the best thing about winning the L50 was the 8hrs 30mins 51seconds of my life I spent winning the L50.

Stopping running was good, a relief even.  Getting applauded by the hall full of people was great. Being congratulated by people at the time and now in the days afterwards is good.

But as it turns out, none of those things that come after the race win are really as good as when I was still running the race. Those last 5 minutes when I was alone running fast down the miners track into the village were possibly the best 5 minutes of my life. Over dramatic? Perhaps to many. But I am a runner. I train every day to run fast and to to run long and to find out what my body is capable of doing.

In those last 5 minutes of this, my biggest, most prestigious race win and proudest achievement of my life,  I realised exactly what I was capable of doing.

I realised it, I relished it and I revelled in it.

The Spoils

"I don't know why Steve still bothers doing marathons - he packs in half way round"

Yeah? Well I didn't pack in half way round Keswick marathon and I didn't pack in this one either you clever shite - I won them both. 
(name of my former so called friend witheld)