I was so pleased to get an entry to the Lakeland last August when the online booking system went down. I had tried for 30 mins or so to get through and register for Lakeland 50 but eventually I had to take the dogs for a run. I had both my computer and wife’s on continuous refresh with no joy, so I went out and before I got to Mardale Head for the quick hour’s lap, Leigh-ann had texted me to tell me that had I had an entry. I was over the moon as for some reason this Lakeland race has never been on my radar even though when I looked at the route I knew about 75% of the 50 route already. She then texted me again saying that she had read the criteria for the 100 and I fit that, so she had entered me to that! The 100 it is then!
It’s 5.08 am on Sunday 28th July less that 12 hours since I had just completed my first 100, actually 105-mile race and I’m over the moon!
I had been in training for this race since I got an entry in August 2018. I had entered another 100 miler, the Exodos in December 2018 as my first ever but had to DNF at the third and final check point as after 24 hours of heavy rainfall, my feet had soaked up what felt like a lot of the water that had fallen in the Brecon Beacons and were mushy. I was told I had a bad case of trench foot and there was no way I could continue. I didn’t and had my first DNF.
When I was out reccing from Thirlmere to Askham Fell in January, I bumped into Kim Collinson on the side of Gowbarrow Fell, part of the 100 route funny enough. I had been meaning to talk to him about a possible 6 month program to put me in the best shape possible to aid me to finish the Lakeland 100 which if you read on you’ll find out he did!
My training hadn’t really gone to plan, not thanks to anyone other than myself. I had put a lot of hours into running from January till April, running all of the Outlying Wainwright over 13 days and sticking to the plan I had in place. In the tourism industry, we always have a period of 5 months when we are quieter, this period had come to an end and I struggled to try and get the hours in training when work was my number one focus, which when working for yourself, it has to be. I also might not have been so keen on few of the sessions I had within my plan, so we adjusted as we went on to get the best possible sessions with the time I had. With 2 weeks left until the Lakeland 100, I was knackered, we were amidst another busy summer season and felt like my 2 week taper was just what I needed as my legs and head were both knackered, from both running and from work.
Thursday afternoon, I had a few hours off to sort my life out before starting at 6pm on Friday. My 2 week taper gave me a load of free time and we are expecting our firstborn in November so I took this time to kit my trusted Vito to make it baby friendly. I had bought some seats on Tuesday, took the floor out on Wednesday to attach the seats to and hadn’t but the internal flooring back in as it needed a decent dust out. I was doing that on Thursday, I had just about finished, and for some reason, barefoot, I stepped out the side door of the van, and blood started to pour. I had skinned my second to big toe, and put a 5p size deep laceration into my big toe, right where contact is made every time you take a step. Fucking brilliant, just over 24 hours before I start what is a legendry ultra-running within the UK, I make it even harder by cutting two toes on my left foot. As if racing 105 miles wasn’t hard enough! Leigh-ann taped it up, actually sympathised with me, which is a rarity as she knew how pissed off I was with myself, she could see it as it almost brought me to tears and told me to suck it up, re dress it every opportunity I have when Ifeel it needs it and it will be fine.
We arrived in Coniston on Friday afternoon at 3.30. Being diabetic, I had put on 3 extra cannulas before we had left Shap. My insulin pump feeds into me through these cannulas to deliver insulin consistently. I had arrived and 2 had come off already and the third was looking like it wasn’t going to stay on. I always pre-load my body as there is a lot the cannulas can get caught on, such as my bag, gate posts, basically anything that possible could get caught on a tube that’s attached to your body. I saw James Thurlow who runs Open Tracking, the tracking for the event, who is also a type one and told him about my situation. I had one cannula left in my first aid kit. I would expect over a 100-mile race to lose one if not both cannulas from my body. He suggested I could borrow a spare from him but in typical fashion we are using different types of pump therapy which means his would not work for me. I have a spare injection just in case but having moved from 5 injections a day almost 4 years ago, I didn’t want to start to have to inject whilst running. I crossed my fingers for my cannulas to stay in.
I registered and went to the race briefing and listened to one of the most inspiring pre-race pep talks from organizer Marc. I took in what he said, and the Lakeland 100 has already been etched in my memory for all the right reasons and it will be littering my social media posts for the coming weeks no doubt.
Toeing the start line for a ultra with 500 odd other runners is a unique experience, one that I’m looking forward to doing again and again (shh, don’t tell Leigh-ann!). We listened to another speaker, who continued in the tone that this is a race of legends if completed. I was reminding myself how I should be running, repeating the words of a good friend, Matt Rowat, who had texted me the night before. He said not to be an idiot in the first 75 miles and not to be a wimp in the last 25. He knows me well, I ran the Highland Fling in April and went all out for the first 26 miles in 3.36 leaving me 27 miles to hang on to everything I had. I wasn’t going to repeat that this time!
I started slowly, chatting and basically trying not to focus on the job ahead. Thinking that you have 105 miles from the start line is daunting. There are 14 checkpoints within this race, I was focusing on getting to each of these, one at a time. Seathwaite was the first, I arrived as number 140, but you wouldn’t know this until you’re finished. The weather was close and claggy, I was hoping that the forecasted rain would stay away for as long as possible and if we could make it through the night without the torrential rain that would be great!
I really enjoyed from Seathwaite to Boot section, chatting loads and the running was gentle. The feed station was manned by Santa and his little helpers from Petzl and La Sportiva. I was happy not to have to get my trusted Petzl torch out yet and that my toes that I had cut the day before where holding up in my La Sportiva Akashas. Santa made me a coffee which hit the spot and off I went up towards Burnmoor Tarn before dropping into Wasdale. Here, I did turn my torch on, in fact that’s a lie. I pulled it out of my bag and I had obviously not locked it so who knows how long it had been on for, or how long it would last.
The climb out of Wasdale up Blacksail was something I will remember forever. There were torches as far as the eyes could see, both in front and behind. It was mesmerising. I was concentrating on going slow and not pushing myself too hard. It was still hot at 11ish and I passed a few casualties en route to the top of Blacksail which was the highpoint so far at 543, a stark reminder that I just needed to relax and take it slowly. My friend mortgage advisor Matt’s words again running around in my head.
I had been running with a couple of lads, Stuart and Richard before dropping to the side of Buttermere as well as a couple of West Coast Cumbrians who told us there were some ace milkshakes at the Buttermere feed station. We got there and were told that they didn’t have them this year, they were in Braithwaite. The hope of a milkshake dashed, I thought right, let’s get a move on to Braithwaite. Richard and I continued on together up towards Sail pass hitting the next high point of the day so far at 650m. I felt I was climbing really well and moving through the pack in a fashion that should have felt harder than it was. I knew I could descent well, with every descent I caught the guy/ girl in front with minimal effort.
I thought I had taken the descent into Braithwaite well but also felt it, this was the first time I realised that there was still a long way to go. I use to work up at Whinlatter with Cyclewise so I know the drive home was an easy 45 minutes, in my head I was thinking it’s another 1 hour 15 minutes to Coniston from Shap. Christ, there was still a really long way to go! I had what was the best food out of all the checkpoints, rice pudding, jam and banana before dealing with my toes. I re-bandaged them for the first time and replaced my socks. It had only just started to rain and I changed from my Injinji 2.0 Trails to a liner under a Bridgedale waterproof socks. I wanted to keep my feet in the best shape as I could and took the time to look after them. This lesson was learnt from the Exodus in December when I DNFed.
I had just passed the Latrigg car park and my trusted Petzl Reactik had ran out of juice. Great, on this next section of the trail down to the end of the compulsory checkpoint at Glendeterra, I would have really liked my big torch. I replaced it with my spare, the Bindi and this was great. I hadn’t used this for running before, I always used it for a round the camp style torch but it really came into its own on the trail. My Reactik might be going into semi-retirement this winter.
At the Blencathra feed station I felt pleased I had managed to move up a couple of places, even after faffing around with my torches. Note to self: don’t pack your spare at the bottom of your dry bag! I set off and then ran with Stuart who had completed the 100 previously and who I had run with from Buttermere. We were moving well and both arrived within a couple of minutes to the Dockray checkpoint. I was in and out pretty quickly and I had felt at complete ease with the navigation for the last 20 miles and I knew the next 40 really well. I hit a bit of low patch while skirting Gowbarrow Fell and Stuart caught me again. He passed me and a few others which basically gave me a kick up the arse I needed and got on with the job at hand! We moved well for about 8 miles and arrived into Dalemain together.
Don’t let Dalemain fool you, which I’m sure it has many. Although it’s the start for the Lakeland 50, it isnot 50 miles into the 100, it’s more like 59/60 miles. So only 45 to go and I felt fresh and I changed my socks again into a pair of performance Injinjis which I was going to wear over the next 25 miles or so. I was on home turf and I knew I was going to try and push on a little harder from here towards the end. My mate Neild, whose brother was doing the 100, Leigh-ann, my mum, brother and his two girls were at Dalemain. Seeing all these faces really made me realise that seeing family on events like this is really important to me. I felt strong and confident after seeing so many friendly faces and now felt like it was time to start racing. I knew if I blew up at any point between here and the end, Matt’s words of wisdom would be ringing round my head for a very long time.
I wanted to move well over Askham and up Fuesdale fast which I did. I had hatched a plan to put some effort in on the uphills, move well at the tops of the climbs and hammer the descents. I meet my friends, Eeva and Andy on the climb up Fusedale. If I had told them my plan of pushing hard here them might not have made the effort but they both did with was welcomed, thanks!
I run on the Kops and Haweswater weekly so I had planned on moving well down the side of Haweswater, the ferns of the other hand had a totally different idea. It felt like they had taken the idea of the race being legendary and decided to grow to 5 foot tall. God forbid you were shorter than 6 foot, it felt like they would have eaten you. I have a feeling we will hear more of these midget eating ferns from the Coast to Coast guests in the coming weeks at work!
Mardale check point is the closest point to home and I park here weekly, my motion of pushing on the climbs continued as it did on the descent into Sadgill with a couple of 5.30 min kms. Before arriving into Kentmere my feet, again felt like they needed attention, I packed a change of socks at Dalemain, you guessed it, a pair of Injinji no show ultras and replaced my waterproof Bridgedales with another pair. The guys at the Kentmere check point were ace! They told me what to do, I was starting to feel it by the time I got here, so helpful and kind, the sort of people you want to meet at a feed station 82 miles in to 105 miles!
I started the Garburn pass climb which is about 250 meters from Kentmere and before I knew it I was in Troutbeck where Matt, Fran and Sophia were to offer kind words of encouragement and for Fran to take this god awful photo of Matt and I! At this point me and a lad called Curley had been running together. Every now and again I would pass him, I would then need the low, get something out of my bag or just generally faff. We chatted, almost entirely about running and how he loves the fact he is a smoker and still manages as much as he does- 3000 miles last year- WTF?
We landed into Ambleside, it was a stream of people all the way down high street shouting words of encouragement and our names, this totally blow me away. Curley had witnessed this before, what a legendary event to be part of and we were moving well together. The check point staff were again awesome, I said I didn’t want to hang around but could do with some vaseline as I had put mine in my bag but couldn’t find it. The CP staff didn’t have any for competitors but I was offered some chocolate flavoured which I took to deal with the chaffing in my nether region. On the way in I had said I wasn’t hanging around Curley said the same. The pair of us continued out towards Airport CP, Chapel Style. We were beginning to wonder if there was anyone else racing. I had arrived at Mardale at 12.12 and passed one person by the time we had got to Ambleside at 3.55. Almost 2.45 hours of racing, I thought we were going well, maybe not. We then passed Ken who came out of nowhere, who Curley told me had raced Sabrina last year to the victory. Maybe we were moving well.
As we approached the Castle Howe compulsory CP we saw another competitor about 2 minutes in front of us. We hadn’t been chasing down other runners at all, with 90 minutes to go I felt like we were going to chase him down. As soon as we saw the last checkpoint, we could then see 3 runners. We hammered it from above high Tilberthwaite farm to Tilberthwaite checkpoint. As we ran towards the CP, we were cheered in by ultra running legend Glynis and her partner Martin. I felt an animal type instinct within and as we got to the CP, I dipped, told Curley he doesn’t need water, I’m going for it. Double stepping the first 10 steps to catch the 3 gave Glynis even more to shout about! Curley and I were on one. We flew up Tilberthwaite and reached the plateau, where we would see another runner in front us. We agreed he was just out for a joy but we still wanted to put everything in for what should be the last hour between Tilberthwaite and Coniston. We kept pushing and passed the fellow we thought was just out for a run, we realized he was racing but just had a bumbag, at the same time we could see the first of the 50 runners approaching. The final 4 km was the only section I had not recced. Jayson, the eventual 50 winner passed me half way down the slightly tretcherous top section of the descent, which was ideal as I didn’t fancy checking my map at this point in the race. I had said to Curley I wanted to finish together as we had almost ran every step of the way together since Haweswater and would wait for him on the finish line. I stuck with Jayson for the final 2.5 km and ran in just before him.
I waited for Curley on the line, which I was pleased to see he also got passed the final 100 competitor we would both pass on the road section into Coniston.
That was it: my first 100 miler complete.
25 hours 26 min 36 seconds and equal 14th place.
Genuinely couldn’t be happier.