The training had gone pretty well, including putting a solid four days in covering the 105 miles four weeks before race- this time staying on my feet and not falling and cracking any ribs! The progression in my training times across the route had improved from the previous year and, together with the relative ease that I was covering ground, I knew I was in good shape. What I didn’t know was where this would put me in the field.
Conditions were set fine for the weekend, the weather looked kind and it was relatively dry under foot for the Lakes. We were on for a quick race.
The first couple of legs are my least favourite, it’s early on in the race and you’re not yet settled into your rhythm. Runners are shooting off at crazy paces that can’t be sustained and it’s easy to get dragged into this. My strategy was to set off at a pace that felt comfortable and move as well as I had done when I was training there a few weeks beforehand.
After the dibbing in at the start and listening to Alexander Wall sing Nessun Dorma which has become a Lakeland ritual in recent years we were off. The crowds lining the streets were pretty awesome this year as we headed out from John Ruskin School. The first mile and a half is up and quickly gets your heart rate up, you have to endure this before you get to the top and settle into more of a rhythm. It was a tad on the warm side but I soon found my stride.
The first couple of checkpoints came and went uneventfully, I was enjoying moving well, taking in the views and looking forward to a day out on the trails. On the short uphill out of Boot James Elson caught up with me and we exchanged tales about running on the trials and having young children to contend with! James and I had run together on this part of the course only four weeks previously when we bumped in to each other whilst training. Two southern boys making a four hour plus trip up to Lakes completely separately and we manage to meet up with each other. What are the chances of that? As it happens we pretty much ran together into Buttermere, which is exactly what we’d done previously.
|Photo by Sports Sunday Photography|
The climb out of Wasdale and over Black Sail pass is where the race really begins, the first big technical climb, it’s starting to get dark and the pace really settles down to something more akin to 100 mile pace. On the ascent we could see Mark Denby in the distance, he’d gone off pretty quick from the start but I’d chosen not to stick with him, he looked back a couple of times and that was the last I saw of him for a few hours. We scrambled down off Black Sail Pass, taking a direct but slow slippery line and got down in one piece, although this clearly wasn’t the best line. On the descent into Buttermere I pulled away from James, he wasn’t feeling up to it and I was into Buttermere in 4:51 (26 miles).
The next section between Buttermere and Braithwaite was my weakest of the course. There are a few tricky navigational parts, I’ve taken a different path every time I’ve been up there even in daylight. ‘Cross three becks, sharp left up the scree, over the top, keep right on the way down and take the second left path down in Braithwaite’. I’ve taken every route off of there during the past couple of years, but this time I found the right path and hit the grassy track into Braithwaite.
I had two time checks for the race, 6 to 6:15 into Braithwaite and 10:45 to 11:00 into Dalemain. I knew I was capable of hitting these and if I did I would be in the mix at the sharp end. Based on the 6:12 into Braithwaite, I was feeling strong and well in control of my emotions and pace.
On climb out of Keswick I caught Mark and went past him just after the climb out of the town. This section is pretty runnable and being a flatlander from down south this played to my strengths, I’m no climber - anything more than a five per cent gradient is classed as a hill where I live!
As the miles ticked by over the next few hours I was enjoying the experience of running at night, the sense of adventure and also remembering that in 2014 I was running along the old coach road and it was just getting light. This year it was about 2am so I was enjoying the feeling of being so far ahead of my previous times.
During these hours I was working hard to control the emotions, I’m not used to leading in races and I hadn’t really been expecting to be here. Every now again I found myself looking back for head torches but kept telling myself to focus, stay in the moment and concentrate on the process goals, eat, drink, Sicaps at different time checks during every hour. It turns out the drinking part I hadn’t concentrated on very well, with what was still a relatively warm night.
The trek through Aira Force and around Gowbarrow went without a hitch and I was soon on the road section into Dalemain, at this point I was easily knocking out 8:30s which, after 60 odd miles I was pretty pleased with, that will be the flatlander in me coming out. I arrived at Dalemain in 10:45, much quicker than I’d anticipated but I felt as though I had been running well within myself and although ‘working’ through the night I hadn’t been pushing hard at all. It was good to see a couple of friendly faces as I arrived, two of my good friends Conor and Dionne had made the trip up from the flatlands to cheer and shout abuse at me when I was feeling sorry for myself. ‘Have you drunk enough?’ Conor asks ‘Yes, yes I’ve been drinking’, ‘Have you been eating?’ ‘Yes I’ve been eating’ (I hadn’t, gels only until this point). A quick top up of fluid, replenish the gels and off I went. ‘Have another drink’ as I was leaving he shouts, ‘I’m fine’ and off I went.
The first sign of my brain starting to make rubbish decisions was coming out of Dalemain, you head across some fields and over a couple stiles before you drop down on to the road. I couldn’t find the road and soon realised I must have gone through a wrong gate which sent me off in the wrong direction. Nobody can get lost here, except today! Disaster was averted as I realised and had to make some tricky manoeuvres over a couple of barbed wire fences.
|Photo by Sports Sunday Photograph|
The road section out of Pooley is the first place I walked where I should have run, something didn’t quite feel right but I just went with it. This leg felt longer than it should have which was also a sign things weren’t quite right. I caught the volunteers at Howtown unawares as they had only just started to set up, they were very kind, topped my half empty bottles up and I was on my way.
Now, the next climb up Fusedale is meant to feel hard, it’s the longest and highest on the route, it is not technical by any means but it drags. I’d recced this a few times, I know how to move efficiently over it but this time something was wrong. My legs had nothing in them, my hip flexors were in agony every time I lifted my leg, I was slowing more than I should. I persevered but I kept coming to a complete standstill. Tracey Dean who was out for the day on the 50 course caught me, she stayed with me to offer some encouragement, but I had to let her go. It took me a good 45 minutes to reach the top and by the time I did I was in a pretty bad place, I took on more gels and drank, but nothing seemed to work. The descent off Low Kop was painful, my quads were screaming at me as I bounded down the grassy track, the run along Haweswater was going to be a long one, I tripped, fell over a few times and a few expletives were shared with anything I could blame for my slow progress. By the time a reached the checkpoint in 14:20 I was ‘gone’. I was convinced by the caring marshals to eat something and for the time in 14 hours I sat down, and ate some soup and bread. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was also the first real food I’d had to eat. Until then I’d been solely running on gels.
Despite taking the time to eat I didn’t hang around long, it was time to get this next bugger of a climb out of the way. From Mardale Head there are two more sections that have significant climbs and after that it’s relatively flat and runnable - if you’ve not ruined yourself beforehand! As I left the checkpoint I saw Michael Jones skipping along the other side of the Lake. It was at this point, deep down, I knew I’d get caught. I gave it everything I could on the climb out of Mardale, but it was slow and as soon as I was over the top my legs were in such a bad way I couldn’t descend as I should. Michael had gained 30 odd minutes on me the previous three hours and I had nothing to give in response, the next 30 odd miles were going to be a real slog. Michael passed me with ease between Mardale and Kentmere and by this point I was just focussing on getting to the end. On the descents my legs were getting progressively worse and I was finding it unusually hard to run the runnable sections.
The next few sections continued in a similar vein, the crawl into Ambleside briefly lifted my spirits as I saw ‘Team Brookman’. As is often the case at this point in a race, I’m not very socialable, a grunt of ‘I’m broken’ is all they got, as I passed, my seven-year-old asked my wife in a concerned voice ‘what’s Daddy broken?’ Looking positive when I see my children is clearly an area I need to work on!
A good 10 miles of the last 15 are runnable and this is where I’m normally strong, even if at this stage it feels like I’m knocking out seven minute miles when they are in fact 9:30s, I can usually run. Not today, I’m ashamed I had to jog/walk through the Langdales in pain like I’ve never experienced before.
I got to the compulsory checkpoint at Wrynose Pass in 19:45, heading down the road from there I looked across and could see Marco Consani coming across Blea Moss. I gave it all I had on my crawl into Tilberthwaite but I wasn’t moving well and it was only a matter of time before he caught me.
As I was climbing out of Tilberthwaite, at some points literally crawling over the rocks, I was surprised Marco hadn’t caught up with me but it was only a matter of time. At the top on the grassy track with a mile to go he finally passed me. He was much stronger than I was, a few encouraging words from each other and he was off. The descent into Coniston wasn’t pretty but I made it back in 21:26, almost four hours quicker than 2014, 13 minutes behind Marco. I would have taken that at the start.
|Photo by Debbie Martin-Consani|
around the corner to test you. Third place in 21:26, the fifth fastest time on the course and is a good sign of the progress I’m making, I never learn the easy way and this was no exception. I didn’t eat solid food early enough in the race, my hydration wasn’t adequate for the warm conditions overnight and consequently played a massive part in my below par performance in the second half of the race. It turns out I was probably quite lucky to get away without causing myself some serious damage. An hour after the finish I was in a bit of mess, being forced to drink Dioralyte to get something back into me. Two hours later my pee was jet black (sorry!) and it took two days to get it back to anything like normal.
|Pre and post fluid intake after the race.....|
Finally thank you toTORQ Fittness for their support and Exposure Lights for their Brilliant 'Verso' Headtorch, a seriously good bit of kit.
Below is a cool video of the event made by Epic Events Management