• LAKELAND 50 2018 – THE JOURNEY – Rob Heap

LAKELAND 50 2018 – THE JOURNEY – Rob Heap

WHY?

Lots of people have asked me why I entered the Lakeland 50. It’s a valid question for someone who hadn’t done a marathon on road when I entered this race.

I have been doing triathlons for 5 years and have been building up from short pool sprint races to standard/Olympic distance. The bike is strong, the swim isn’t fast but is efficient. The place I drop off the pace significantly has always been the run.

So how do you fix a triathlon run, must be by running more and further.

In July 2017 a friend had attempted the Lakeland 50, he did a fantastic job but didn’t finish due to medical complications. I thought that 50 miles of trail running over the Lakeland fells sounded like a proper running challenge and maybe this would be just the thing to help my triathlon run as this was sure to involve running on already tired legs.

BUILDING UP

2017 involved two half marathon PB’s. Firstly the brass monkey in York, hosted by the Knavesmire harriers on a damp January morning where I was pretty consistent until the last three miles where my pace fell off. The finishing time of 1:50:26 was a new PB by some 7 minutes so very happy with that, but it was tantalisingly close to breaking 1:50. Maybe next time. The course is pretty flat, out and back on the same route with a loop in the middle it was light rain for most of the route and was around 7C so warm clothes were required.

I then had a work trip to Bentonville Arkansas planned for march/April and realised that the middle weekend coincided with the Bentonville Half Marathon on April Fools day, so I entered after a bit of faffing with trying to enter a US event without a US zip code. Registration was the day before the run in an event village. I had to convince them that I hadn’t paid already, they gave me a discount for honesty and I was all set. The only slight hiccup was pulling my Achilles tendon just two days before the race while running in the dark early in the morning and not seeing a dip in the path. The start was on Saturday morning at about 7am which was only about ten minutes after dawn so still quite cool – about 8C. I decided I was OK running on the straight but cornering was a little painful. I therefore decided to take every corner wide so as not to be bumped. This plan worked well. I think the injury prevented me going off too fast so helped my overall pace. I was going well as the first 7 miles were relatively flat, the next 3 miles were gently downhill. It’s the last three miles which were quite tough. It was gently uphill through parks and past bands from 10-12 miles, then we quite a steep hill for just over half a mile. I was on a walk run strategy for the last 3 miles but pleased to get another PB of 1:50:21. A PB is always welcome, but this was frustratingly close to getting under 1:50.

In May I completed the pretty flat Driffield sprint tri, someone in transition warned me about the hill on the bike course which I took heed of, but when I could see the loop back to transition I realised this was the difference between being in East Yorkshire for a race but training in the much hillier West Yorkshire. The three lap flat 5k run took me almost 26 minutes and lose most of the advantage I had gained on the bike.

June was time for my first attempt at the ITU Leeds Tri. I had a pretty solid swim followed by a quick (for me) bike and although the run was net down hill I struggled to get going and suffered towards the end. It took me 57 minutes to complete a downhill 10k.

In July I had a did the spectacular windermere triathlon. The swim in lake Windermere was spectacular, a completely flat calm lake with reflections of the Fairfield horseshoe as we swam back in again. The undulating bike loop round the lake was brilliant with some brutal but short climbs followed by some long sweeping descents. I suffered again on the run taking 56 minutes to do a 5 lap 10k on the flat. So this was better than Leeds but still not great.

It was decided, I needed to dedicate 2018 to improving my running. Go big or go home, so I had decided to enter the Lakeland 50.

September 1st 2017, I arranged to work from home and booked 9-10 in my diary for some work so I can try to be quick enough to enter the Lakeland 50. I had been tipped off that it’s very hard to get into and you have to be quick, I was convinced however that as I had been successful for the Brass Monkey I stood a good chance with the Lakeland 50. I was ready, I had pre-registered with SI Events, I had checked out the login details the day before. Then 9am came and I was in the queue and it looked like I would get a place. 9:35 and I was confirmed as entered for the Lakeland 50. This was the first moment of euphoria. About an hour later I realised that I had never run more than 16 miles, never done a marathon on road let alone trail and wondered what on earth I had let myself in for. Why would someone enter an ultra-marathon before doing a marathon?

This may be the first event where I actually need to follow some kind of training plan, read up on proper training and probably even enter some build up events.

EVENT PLANS

Brass Monkey half marathon would be a good start to the year

A recce of the night section would really help come race day.

Complete a marathon seemed sensible as a build up event – queue entering the windermere marathon.

The summer run of events –

  • 21st May – Windermere marathon 
  • 10th June – Leeds Triathlon 
  • 15th June – Yorkshire 3 peaks with some proper runners 
  • 28th July – Lakeland 50

Long training runs, multiple long runs in a day, back to back long run days…

KIT SHOPPING

Ever since my time at university and the orienteering club I have been known as a kit freak. I enjoy researching mountain clothing and equipment. Triathlon has fed this habit well over the last few years, but ultra light weight running clothing and a mandatory kit list was like a dream to me.

First I considered the bag. All this kit was going to require a bag I could run with. This is something I have always struggled with. When moving fast I want something stable, this needs straps which are flexible and allow me to breathe easily. The waist belt often restricts breathing and keeps most of the weight quite low and tend to pull down on my shoulders. I looked around a lot and wanted something that would have enough space for longer days out and still be stable enough to run with. I eventually went for the Montane Dragon 20, this has loads of space, quite a few pockets and comes with 2x 500ml bottles which conveniently mount on the front of the bag. (The newer versions come with soft flasks which are both lighter and more convenient) It also has a pouch for a bladder. I think this is a good bag so long as you don’t need quick access to the contents. The roll top is slow to retrieve kit and reseal the bag. It is very stable and the bottles on the front really help balance the weight. It sits quite high and therefore the straps are on my ribcage allowing my stomach plenty of space. The bag isn’t waterproof so I have all the contents in various dry bags. I use the alpkit ones as they are good value and come in different colours so I can colour code my kit. My snacks are all individually wrapped so they just go in a small mesh drawstring bag to keep them together.

The next on the list was waterproof top and bottoms with taped seams. I have always hated running in waterproofs as they get very warm and noisy. I found the new OMM Kamleika to fit well and have a soft shell which is very quiet. It has a very adjustable hood which was great in all weather. I haven’t found a fault with this jacket and love it. The only enhancement I would suggest would be a window on the wrist so I can see my GPS watch while on the move.

For waterproof trousers I decided that it was highly unlikely I would actually wear waterproof trousers while on a summer race so the key was for them to be as light weight as possible. I bought the Inov8 ultra race pant which are incredibly light weight (100g for the XL) beware of the sizing as they are quite a close fitting trouser, I initially bought the large but they were too tight to get over my thighs so had to exchange them for the XL which are still a little snug but would be fine over leggings.

Trail trainers was a big challenge, after much research I bought the Salomon speedcross 4’s. They were brilliant in the winter and on very muddy grassy routes where the grip is phenominal. They were great when the ‘beast from the east hit’ or as my Canadian wife called it ‘winter’. When I paired them with some sealskin socks I had good grip and warm dry feat.

There is a bewildering array of headtorches on the market man of which seem very similar but with vastly varying prices. From having head torches since the days of scouts I thought the main criteria for me were to have a separate battery pack at the back to save it sagging down and also after having a torch without a top strap and it not being very good decided I wanted a top strap. I went for the very economical Alpkit Gamma II. More on reliability later but at just £25 it was a bargain and good bright beam. Hindsight has taught me that this beam is good for walking but not beefy enough to run with on uneven terrain.

I already had plenty of running base layers, T-shirts, leggings, compression tops etc so didn’t need much here, however I had been advised by an experienced ultra runner that I should consider quad compression for a race this long. I have a couple of pairs of shorts with built in mild compression but the age of these now means its more just close fitting than actually anything useful. After lots of research I decided I wanted some compression shorts with built in modesty shorts. I’m not convinced men should run in lycra shorts alone. On the bike it’s OK but running is different. I read loads of reviews and found that the reviews were much better for the more expensive shorts, I was hoping that this wasn’t the case. I bought some Salomon Exo twin skin running shorts. They are ludicrously expensive but with the help of a half price sale for the red version and a voucher code from a friend got them for a slightly less eye watering 55% off the original price. I was a little bit too concerned with avoiding chafing especially in the nether regions. These shorts delivered what I expected. They were comfortable for the full distance, no unmentionable chaffing at all. They also dried out quickly between showers.

THE TAPER

Usually before a race I won’t have any alcohol the night before the event, maybe a couple of days just so I’m on top form for the race. For the Lakeland 50 I got serious and gave up alcohol 3 weeks before the race. I got to the point when all the long training was done and all that was left was to taper. This is when the race planning spreadsheets came into play and other plans for making marginal gains. Giving up alcohol was one of the marginal gains I had in mind. I don’t generally drink much but probably do have either a couple of glasses of wine or a pint or beer maybe three or four times a week.

I also reduced my run mileage, I had been averaging over 20-30 miles per week for a couple of months and reduced this to 15 and then less than 10. The 10 days before the race I only ran 4 miles at a gentle pace three times. My cycle commuting to work and back continued, largely because the weather was beautiful and it seemed a waste to use the car. I did however aim to have very low intensity rides averaging no more than 130bpm and aiming to peak at less than 150bpm. This was relatively successful.

I have a bit of a problem when on the bike, I see cyclists in the distance and subconsciously wonder how long before I’ll pass them. I have regularly arrived home in a sweaty panting mess to be asked ‘were you chasing someone who didn’t know they were racing again. The answer is usually yes. The rise in popularity of ebikes has been a challenge for my competitive nature. From behind it looks like someone pootling along on a mountain bike, I’m there in my lycra and either my road or cyclocross bike thinking that I should be quicker. When I eventually chase them down and notice the battery and quiet whine of the electric motor I sigh and try to pass them with a cheery (and not out of breath) ‘morning/afternoon’. I keep thinking I’ll learn from this lesson, that if there is a mountain bike being ridden quickly without appearing to be using much effort, maybe they have mechanical assistance. I fear this is a lesson that will take me a long time to learn.

The final week before the race I did a single, low effort 4 mile run around the easy trails of Farsley and Calverley just enjoying being out and taking in the views. I cycled to work twice along the canal watching the Heron majestically take flight and the swans teaching their young to swim along in a family line – I wish I could get my kids to follow in line so perfectly.

Friday morning arrived and after some final packing I left for Coniston excited and a little scared by the prospect of the L50. I think a healthy respect tinged with fear is appropriate for a race of this magnitude.

LAKELAND 50 RACE WEEKEND

I packed all my kit on the Friday morning, had lunch with my family and set off for the lakes. It was hot but the forecast was very mixed. I had been hoping it wouldn’t be too hot for the race as I’m a little too big to run in the heat. As I got closer I became increasingly excited and scared in more or less even measure!

Navigating down a very busy lake road in Coniston took much longer than I expected. I camped in the adjacent field, setup and then went up to see the start of the L100. It was very warm for them starting to run. I felt for them setting off in a very humid sunny 28C.

In the queue for registration and chatted to many excited and nervous first timers and a couple of people who had done it all before. Registration was a friendly affair but a bit of a rush as they check all your mandatory kit, attach your race timer and pre-race weight. This is when I collected the special L50 2018 designed Montane Chief (like a thin buff) and another soft cup.

The pasta party was a little disappointing both in terms of it not really being a party atmosphere and also a very small portion size, I was expecting a small mountain of pasta to fuel me for the next day.

Time for an early night before a long day.

RACE DAY

I got up early for some breakfast before the final tweaks of my kit. I had a couple of cups of tea and two pain au chocolates. I was planning to have some porridge but as it was a warm morning didn’t really fancy it so stuck to pastries.

Then to fill up my water bottles, change my torch batteries and double check my kit. This is where my morning turned for the worse. I decided I would put fresh batteries in my head torch so as to reduce the risk of having to change them on the course. I went to close the battery compartment the clip snapped. This, for my torch (Alpkit Gamma II) is a disaster as the electrical contacts don’t work and therefore the torch doesn’t work. I rushed the rest of my kit check and raced over to the event tent and shop only to find they had sold out of head torches. At this point I thought I may not even get to the start line. I called Kate (wife) who calmed me down and reassured me. When I got to the car I found that my usual stash of electrical and gaffer tape was missing from the car. I tried micropore medical tape but it simply wasn’t strong enough to hold it. I then started asking fellow competitors if any of them had tape to bodge a hasty repair. Luckily one kind gentleman found some on his car toolkit which he offered me. Torch repaired, time to calm down and get to the race briefing.

I squeezed into the back of the race briefing stood at the back and couldn’t see very well. The briefing was a light hearted chat about some key things to remember on the course, advice on if you want to drop out and a reminder that a 50 mile hilly ultra-marathon isn’t ‘normal’ even if you do have friends who also do similar things. There is also nothing half about it. Many race weekends will have a marathon and a 50 and then the 50 competitors will puff out their chests and proudly say they are doing the long course. Just because this event has a 50 and a 100 doesn’t make the 50 any less impressive.

Briefing finished and onto the coach to Dalemain. I sat next to a guy who had done the 50 before and done the 100 a couple of times so had some useful tips. I ate a packed lunch and had a large bottle of coke on the coach to keep my energy up before the start. I didn’t think I wanted to have breakfast before 8 and then not eat again until CP1 probably around 2pm. The most useful tip was that he thought the worst part was the climb up Fusedale and over High and Low Kop.

Arriving at Dalemain we got to cheer on some of the L100 competitors who were passing through the checkpoint and then proceed to the starting pen ready for a few last minute comments from Terry and off we went.

THE RACE

DALEMAIN TO HOWTOWN (CP1)

The loop round the Dalemain estate was a friendly run with everyone glad to finally be on the move. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too warm and we were on our way. The loop was a great way to thin out the crowd before hitting the proper course. Nice easy first few miles along the river to Pooley Bridge to warm up the legs. I managed to hold back the pace and not race off like an over excited puppy. The first climb up from Pooley Bridge to High Street (not the summit just part of the old roman road) was pretty gradual and then a nice long gentle descent into Howtown. The rain started along this section and got quite persistent so on with the waterproof (top only)

I didn’t hang around long at CP1, just a quick pit stop, fill up drink bottles with juice, collect some jelly babies into a ziplock bag I took with me and pick up some flapjack to eat as I walked the start of the next leg.

Stats at CP1

  • Arrival time – 13:27 
  • Leg duration – 1:57
  • Distance – 11.2 miles 
  • Ascent – 965 ft

HOWTOWN TO MARDALE HEAD (CP2)

The rain was light but consistent as we trudged up the valley towards the highest climb of the day. As we climbed the cloud closed in, visibility was still OK to navigate but there weren’t any views of the lakes.

As we got close to the top of High Kop the weather got colder and the rain turned to sleat which was driving into our faces from the side as we crossed over the tops of High and Low Kop. We were all jogging slowly trying not to be blown over.

This was my lowest part of the race emotionally as I had just done over a half marathon and still had more distance than I had ever run before still to go. This was the point I questioned if I was capable of completing this race, and questioned why I signed up to it and what I was doing here. I felt quite out of my depth at this point. Maybe I should have entered a shorter fell race, maybe I should have built up more gradually, maybe I simply wasn’t fit enough to take on such a challenge.

We dropped off the top of the fell into Mardale and Haweswater, the rain stopped and there was even a bit of sunshine. After a few miles of flatish running, parallel with the side of the lake I started to feel much better and more confident. I came into the checkpoint, grabbed a couple of jam sandwiches, some hob nobs and flat coke then walked and ate.

Stats at CP2

  • Arrival time – 16:00
  • Leg duration – 2:32 
  • Total time – 4:30 
  • Leg distance – 9.4 miles 
  • Total distance – 20.6 miles 
  • Leg ascent – 2510 ft 
  • Total ascent – 3475 ft

MARDALE HEAD TO KENTMERE (CP3)

A brisk walk up Gatesgarth pass started this leg. I was showing how my thunder thighs from cycling helped me power up the hills so I was making good time up here.

About ¾ of the way up the pass we started getting some hail, then quite large hail stones probably about a 5mm diameter. This with the wind felt like how a wall must feel when it’s being pebble dashed. We then had some lightening and thunder. Note I said and and not then as the thunder was almost instantaneous due to the lightening being so close. Thankfully the hail soon stopped and that was the last of the close quarters lightening.

The journey down Longsledale was beautiful, unfortunately my left knee was complaining about running on the rough rocky surface so a fast walk was very nice down the valley. I arrived at sadgill and headed over to Kentmere. Here the weather started to close in again and started to pour with rain just as I approached the Kentmere Village Hall.

I started to think of the L50 as a journey rather than a race around this point in the event. It was a collection of fantastically motivated individuals all on a collective journey round the lakes. There were many Lakeland 100 competitors that we passed on the way, they are incredible, however hard I was finding the event whenever I saw someone who was doing the L100 I was reminded that they had done 55miles more than me so would be suffering much more.

The heavy rain made the beach party theme of the checkpoint even more ironic. The volunteers were as positive as always and most were dressed in beach wear, hula skirts etc. It brings a smile to even the wettest of L50 or L100 runners. I filled up my water bottles, had a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise with extra salt. Munched several oranges and a couple of slices of melon. Then grabbed a handful of custard cremes to eat in the rain on the next leg. I was also continuing to munch on jelly babies through every leg of the race.

Stats at CP3

  • Arrival time – 17:51
  • Leg duration – 1:51 
  • Total time – 6:21 
  • Leg distance – 6.5 miles
  • Total distance – 27.1 miles 
  • Leg ascent – 1677 ft
  • Total ascent – 5152 ft

KENTMERE TO AMBLESIDE (CP4)

It was still raining quite heavily when I left the warmth of Kentmere Village hall and this first mile or so of the leg was the only time on the journey when I felt cold. This soon stopped as I started to ascent Garburn pass towards Troutbeck. The ascent wasn’t very steep or long which was appreciated at this point. At the top of the pass the weather brightened up again with some amazing views over the southern lakes.

From all the rain, hills and rough terrain my feet were starting to suffer on this leg. I could feel blisters forming under the balls of my feel which were OK on ascents but was starting to get painful on steep descents. I debated changing my socks but wasn’t sure it would help so decided just to press on. This may have been a mistake with the benefit of hindsight!

The descent into Troutbeck was a lovely gentle path down and I wished my legs would have allowed running but it was a nice decent paced walk down. I realised that I wasn’t actually much slower than many of the runners at this point and as I was also way ahead of schedule so didn’t think this was a problem. I was enjoying the journey, I was over half way and getting into the most familiar sections of the race felt so good.

We then passed through Troutbeck which had some locals out cheering for the competitors as we walked up to Robin Lane. The views of lake Windermere from up here were fantastic, only hampered by the giant rain clouds heading towards us and looking quite dark. This path took us right into Ambleside.

The support in Ambleside from everyone and the standing ovations and cheers from the beer gardens was a great encouragement. I was also very pleased to be in Ambleside in the daylight as I had predicted it would have been dark before here.

The checkpoint at the church in Ambleside had a table outside for quick snacks or you could go inside to sit down for a longer break. I decided to grab some snacks, top up the drinks and carry on. I was feeling quite good at this point. Naturally I was tired but I felt like I had broken the back of the journey and would make it to the end.

On the previous leg the stuff in my bag had shifted and my emergency foil survival bag was now digging into my back so I had a rummage around in my pack to make it more comfortable. I had several slices of lemon drizzle cake and some hob nobs before walking and eating.

Stats at CP4

  • Arrival time – 20:00 
  • Leg duration – 2:37:43 (includes my longer stop in Kentmere)
  • Total time – 8:30 
  • Leg distance – 7.3 miles 
  • Total distance – 34.4 miles
  • Leg ascent – 1611 ft 
  • Total ascent – 6763 ft

AMBLESIDE TO CHAPEL STILE (CP5)

Armed with a fist full of lemon drizzle cake, full water bottles, a newly rearranged pack which was comfortable and ‘only’ 15.5 miles to go I was feeling good. The rain had now stopped, and I was leaving Ambleside in daylight which was a huge encouragement to me. This was the section I covered on the recce in January, so I knew where I was going.

I asked some supporters in the park if they knew the weather forecast for the next few hours, they didn’t know but one of them slowly jogged alongside me while checking their phones. They wished me good luck and I continued. The hill on this leg was smaller than I had remembered which was a pleasant surprise when I went over the top. Great views of Langdale and over to the Coniston fells in the early evening light.

I am pretty confident with my navigation generally due to a history of scouting and orienteering, so when we were coming off Loughrigg fell and heading down towards Skelwith bridge I knew where I was heading. I was chatting to a couple of guys who were almost convinced they needed to go a different direction. I stuck to my usual internal rule of always trust my own navigation over anyone else’s unless they can prove it. They couldn’t and decided to follow me down the correct path. I think they were trusting the road book without enough attention to the map. I on the other hand didn’t look at the road book but had been studying the map for weeks most evenings when I wasn’t creating time prediction spreadsheets.

Descending on the steep road into Skelwith bridge we saw a couple of roe dear gently running through the woodland which was a lovely distraction from my increasingly uncomfortable blisters. The next few miles to Chapel Stile was an easy flat section all the way to the checkpoint. The easy progress was very welcome at this point in the day, the sun was setting and I was considering using my torch.

I was welcomed into the night club checkpoint warmly and the fire pit outside the marquee looked very inviting. However, I stuck to my no sitting down principles which had served me well to this point. I had some lovely brownie and took some biscuits for the next few miles. I still had plenty of jelly babies for the next section.

Stats at CP5

  • Arrival time – 21:33 
  • Leg duration – 1:31 
  • Total time – 10:03 
  • Leg distance – 5.6 miles 
  • Total distance – 40 miles
  • Leg ascent – 768 ft 
  • Total ascent – 7531 ft

CHAPEL STILE TO HIGH TILBERTHWAITE (CP6)

Heading off into the dark with headtorch on and 10 miles to go. It doesn’t sound far, but progress was slow in the dark and my legs were starting to feel a bit tired too now. I knew the next leg would be a tough one, the path along the latter part of Langdale gets harder once the Cumbria way turns right towards the Stickle Barn pub.

I resisted the urge to cut the corner onto the climb up Langdale pass. There was a L100 competitor who was getting a little anxious about his tracker and not wanting to cut the corner and be disqualified. I agreed while he grumbled as a few other L50’s cut the corner. I don’t think they realised it was a shortcut and were merely following what they believed to be the path. I doubt it made much difference to the total difference. I was very keen to make sure I did the full course so was happy with a few extra yards.

I was pleased with my progress up the Langdale pass footpath, it seems my legs were still able to climb well even if descending was slowing down and running was just a memory. I was still making good progress. The path through the woods by Blea tarn seemed very dark, but it was flat still warm and a good quality path before the tricky traverse of Blea Moss. Following a contour is always tricky as the natural tendency is to either gently rise or fall depending on which way round the hill you are going and if you are left or right handed. If you are right handed and going around the hill to the right you tend to gradually drift down hill, if you are left handed you will gradually drift up hill. This is because the leg on your dominant side is usually marginally longer which in the dark has an effect as you have fewer visual cues.

The short road section before the path up to High Tilberthwaite was an brief opportunity to go a little quicker. The mood was high amongst the competitors as we had all found the unmanned checkpoint and dibbed in. The trail up to High Tilberthwaite wasn’t steep and was an easy ascent. It was now totally dark as the cloud cover led to having no benefit from the full moon. We quietly passed through the farm and village and on towards the final checkpoint which could be seen from about a mile away.

This checkpoint was a quick bottle fill and carry on. I knew I was almost at the finish, didn’t feel hungry so just had half a dozen custard cremes.

Stats at CP6

  • Arrival time – 23:39 
  • Leg duration – 2:06 
  • Total time – 12:09 
  • Leg distance – 6.5 miles 
  • Total distance – 46.5 miles 
  • Leg ascent – 1270 ft
  • Total ascent – 8801 ft

HIGH TILBERTHWAITE TO CONISTON (FINISH)

This leg starts with a donation to charity to help a poorly child which I thought was an excellent idea. This was at the bottom of what is known as Jacobs ladder. This is a steep section of stone steps. It looks quite intimidating 46.5 miles into the event but the grip is good and I was soon at the top of the steps. Unfortunately this isn’t the end of the ascent, there is a further mile or so of slog up the hill, there weren’t many people running by this point and we all trudged wearily up the hill. My mood at this point was pretty positive as I knew I had broken the back of the course and would finish. I wasn’t yet allowing myself to think I could finish in under 14h but I was starting to believe this was possible. This would be a huge 4h ahead of my predicted finish time.

As the path flattened off over the top of the fells I picked up the pace a bit, unfortunately the IT band on my left knee was still complaining when I ran, but I was happy with a brisk walk. It felt brisk but may not have been quite so brisk to the casual observer thankfully there weren’t many of those at midnight in the hills! I soon arrived at the part I hadn’t been looking forward to, the rocky descent down to the Coniston copper mines. My legs on the descent weren’t screaming at me as much as they were at the end of the January recce of this section, but the blisters under the balls of my feet and on my toes were making up for this. There were a couple of big steps where I could feel blisters bursting and slopping around in my damp shoes which, just in case you were in any doubt, isn’t particularly pleasant. This is one of the times I pondered if poles would have been a good idea.

Once I reached the hard path into Coniston I saw someone coming towards me, this was a very cheery supporter who clapped and told me I was only about 7 minutes from the finish based on my current pace. I wasn’t convinced as I thought it would be more like 15-20 but he was right as I finished just 8 minutes later. The race briefing was clear that we couldn’t make noise coming through Coniston until we were pretty much back at the school and the finish line. I was amazed how many people were lining the streets and quietly cheering and miming celebrations, it was all quite amusing. I finally finished in 13:29:47. As I crossed the finish line I dibbed for the final time to register my official finish time. I was then met by a marshal who checked I was OK as I was ushered to the finish marquee, they then announced me into the marquee with a big cheer from everyone in the tent. We then had an official finishers photo taken, which when I saw it was much better than I was expecting.

My dibber was taken off me wrist and I got into the queue for a massage.

I was thrilled to have finished what was a long and tough day out. I was aiming to complete the race before the sun came up in the morning so was amazed to have completed the race in such a good time, much quicker than I expected.

Stats for the final section

  • Arrival time – 00:59
  • Leg duration – 1:20 
  • Total time – 13:29:47
  • Leg distance – 3.5 miles 
  • Total distance – 50 miles 
  • Leg ascent – 928 ft 
  • Total ascent – 9729 ft

Race Position

  • Entries – 1000 
  • Starters – 826 
  • Finishers – 756
  • My position – 308

THE AFTERMATH AND RECOVERY

The finishers marquee was warm and jubilant with a big cheer every time someone finished. I quickly got in the queue for a massage. The husband of a lady who finished shortly after me brought me some cakes and a cup of tea. I could have had a free beer but just didn’t fancy it – I must have been tired.

The massage was amazing, absolute agony but really helped. Walking back to my tent was only about a quarter mile from the marquee, by this time the rain was coming down pretty hard again and everything was now stiff. I must have looked a right mess.

When I got back to my tent and sleeping bag I got into the tent and was initially a little confused, why was everything wet. A few minutes later I realised I had accidentally pitched in a small hollow in the field which was now waterlogged as was my tent. This is not what I wanted after a long day in the fells. I quickly folded the seats down in my car, glad it is a large people carrier, pushed all my stuff to one side and then put my camping mat and sleeping bag in the boot. Luckily the mat was tall enough that the sleeping bag was still dry. I was soon asleep.

In the morning it was still pouring, I couldn’t be bothered to get up and cook breakfast in the rain so had a couple of chocolate bars and some high 5 zero electrolyte drink, packed up my tent (dumped it in an ikea bag) and set off in search of a warm café and a full English breakfast.

It took me a few weeks for my feet to recover from what turned out to be trainers that were a bit too small in the toe box, especially for a long race on a warm weekend in July. I was running slow short runs in a couple of weeks and back on the bike to commute a week later. Now to wait and see if this really has improved my running or was it just a great day out and another challenge completed.

2020 BRIEF UPDATE

The theory had worked, over the next 18 months I got PB’s at 5k (21:45), 10k (43:55), half marathon (1:43:45) and marathon (3:50:12). I also did a 48 minute 10k at the end of the 2018 ITU Leeds Triathlon. I was now ready for the next challenge the Outlaw Half in 2019. A Half Iron distance triathlon. Now my run was OK I was ready to go longer in triathlon.

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