We arrived late and rushed as usual in Coniston for the epic and fantastic Lakeland 100, 50 and 1 mile races. As Nics parked the van, I rushed with Winter to register for the kids race.
Nic sorted some poles for Tory, a friend and marshal volunteer of ours. We watched the 100 runners start and all was good. Now just the Lakeland 1 to do with Winter before a relaxing evening. I say that, until Nicola produced a Leki strap from her hand and gave a look of surprise. Then I realised it was Tory's strap and she had just set off on the Lakeleand 100. Shock and horror descended on us both and I did the only thing we could do, ran full pelt after the 100 runners, dodging through them as fast as I could to get the strap to Tory. I took me until the ascent out of Coniston up the tarmac road towards the Copper Mines Valley to catch her. Needless to say this wasn't ideal for the following day, but at least Tory now had her strap!
The next event was the Lakeland 1. Its a kids fun race, but still its a mile and thats quite a bit for a 5 and a half year old. This was Winters second time of doing it and he was excited, but his excitement got the better of him and he ended up with a stitch and grimaced for the second half. Still, its all fun, the start was fantastic with Marc in his Mr Foxes suit and strutting his stuff to the Greatest Showman. What has to be said is the Lakeland 100 Team really know how to add showmanship and theatre to the whole race weekend, it really shines. The kids all love the Lakeland 1, the epic-ness has just begun.
With the L100 start and the L1 race out of the way it was time to register, eat and then sleep.
First two ticked, now for some sleep..... well, its always hard to sleep the night before a race and with a 5 year old in your van bed kicking you its even harder. Sleep is essential, but its also a luxury pre-race.
Saturday morning and all is fine. I'm ready, Nics is ready and we are on our way to the start, in a car because Nics gets travel sick and today was no stranger, travel sickness was kicking in well.
The start of the Lakeland 50 is always epic and today was no different. The music is blasting and we're about to set off. The obligatory 10 second count down is in process and I'm mentally checking myself. Still toiling with race strategy. Do I go out hard and fast and try to keep it going or do I take it easy and apply the pressure after Haweswater? I know the right answer and drop back slightly in the ranks. The start happens and we're off. I run easy and I'm going past people so I settle in and don't gain anymore places. I sit on the shoulder of a friend, Sarah Harley, and run at her pace. We move easily until we start to head back into Dalemain and I start to allow a little pressure into my stride, but still keep it easy. I'm happy at this pace.
The run to Howtown is great, I'm passing people to Pooley Bridge and keep running up to the cross-roads footpath turn to Howtown, now I can just keep pace and steadily gain places.
On the long descent I let my legs go and just run, passing more runners as I do. All is good and this pace seems reasonable for now. My legs feel great and life is good.
I see Matt Wilson, someone I know from Windermere and I know I've been running fast to catch him up, so I decide now to catch him and then tail him for a while. Easy to think, hard to enact.
I catch Matt at the top of the climb out of Fusedale and say hello, then competitive Charlie kicks in and I push on, moving past him and stretching out on the open fell, relishing in the good Lakeland Weather that plays to my strengths. But strangely I can't feel my hands, now my fore-arms and even thighs. The wind with the wet is really biting, but we'll be down in Haweswater soon. The descent is great, I pass Janson Heath on the tops and keep ahead on the descent. The trail along the side of Haweswater is great running and I'm really enjoying it. I hear breathing on my shoulder and look back to see Janson is with me. There are undulations along this trail and the first surprises me. Something has changed in my legs.... they seem to have gone solid! My hips complain and start to grind a bit and my legs loose their spring. I say to Janson to overtake as I know I'll hold him up and I think on what might have happened?
Too fast from Pooley to Howtown? Bag too heavy (I was carrying enough food for the L100 not the 50! Rookie error), new shoes causing issues? That sprint to catch Tory last night?
No matter, I'm now going to have to manage myself well, as we're only 15 miles in, 35 still to go!
I keep Janson in sight and keep the distance the same. A quick in and out at Haweswater, just dibbing, and then up Gatesgarth. Its a good climb and great part of the course. I'm looking forward to the run into Longsleddale until I start to make the descent and realise my quads are completely trashed. I've gone from running really well and feeling really free in my muscles to completely solid post race DoMs, mid-race!
Its an effort to run down the valley to the climb over Sadgill, but seeing 3 friends (Little Dave, Rachel Platt and Andy Jackson) at the end of the track gives me a boost and I attack Sadgill.
Its got to be said that one of the really great things about the 50 is you pass loads of 100 runners, which is great for morale, but often its a friend you run past and you get to exchange pleasantries etc. I passed Alistair Hurst up Sadgill and it was nice to see him.
Dropping down into Kentmere and each foot strike is a painful experience. I also notice Matt Wilson has caught me back up and its likely he's going to pass me. We run together into Kentmere and its nice to chat.
Waiting for me here is Mr B, ready with his Mountain Fuel Jellies (more on these later), he sorts my bottles, gives me 2 more jellies and tells me to sort myself out (I'm moaning about my legs!) and get out of the CP. So I do as I'm told. Lucky, as I really wanted to just stop at that point.
Garburn Pass is a blast, literally, as hail and massive rain pelts us as we climb. Its good weather, its keeping me alive and cool. The descent into Troutbeck is just painful and Matt pulls away. I can't keep him in sight. The tarmac road to get to Robin Lane is horrible, it keeps coming up and my feet to make each strike even more painful. Its all I can concentrate on and this is bad, I need positivity not pain. Still, Ambleside isn't far now, just keep putting one step in front of the other and try to move as fast as possible. Simple stuff really.
Ambleside is a welcome sight, loads of supporters and passers by cheering. Some shouting out my name, but I can't focus on who they are, but thanks if it was you. The Ambleside CP looks great with a big rainbow arch across the road and circus performers dressed up, but I don't see much. Just a few faces and Jason Millward's hard reaching to fill my bottle with the water I've requested. Orange slices are a nice addition for this year and a half banana, its the first CP food I've taken.
I'm really not feeling happy in my legs but everyone says I look strong, so I believe them, even if they are lying, because I need to change my negative thoughts to positive ones right now and get moving.
The ascent over the side of Loughrigg is ok, but I'm looking over my shoulder for a red shirted runner I saw back in Ambleside, waiting for them to catch me, they never appear, or at least not yet.
The descent to Skelwith is horrible, pain and more pain. The I remember the trawl up the valley to Elterwater. I really don't like this section. Its so runnable but just like last time, my legs don't want to run this flat valley path. I need technical rocks and trails, that is my strength, not flat valley running.
A runner with a green jacket passes me and I try to keep up with him, but he steadily pulls away until a runner in a blue shirt passes me and I'm bonking in my mind now, negativity is taking hold. I'm reduced to walking a few sections and then grimace to get running again. Its a long-haul up this valley.
Thankfully its over quite quickly and I'm heading into Chapel Stiles CP to sample some of Nicki Knappett's 'almost' famous (but not quite yet) double/tripple/superdooper Chocolate Brownies.
Nice to see Will, one of our LSU competitors from 2016 here, he asked how I am. I try to sit down, my thighs scream and I exclaim that I'm f**ked (I'm sorry if my foul mouth upset anyone in the CP when I was there, but if you had my thighs at that second, you would have said the same!)
I got my paracetamol out, wishing they were actually morphine, and had 2. Next I ate, well when I say ate I think I just shoved them into my mouth and straight into my stomach bypassing my throat, 3 or 4 of the 'said' chocolate brownies with white choc chops in... wow... these were heaven. Then I got my sorry little ass up and left the CP. Running was still hard but the further from the CP I got the better my hips started to move. The paracetamol were working and the pain was going. Even my thighs felt better.
Now it was time to chase down 'Mr Blue Shirt' and I could still see him. On my tail I had 'Mr Red Shirt' and I wasn't going to let him pass me. Also, there were 4 other likely 50 runners moving in close behind him.
All this came at exactly the right time. Pain relief from paracetamol, sugar from Choc Brownies, desire to chase from Mr Blue Shirt, desire to run hard and not be passed by 'Mr Red Shirt' and his following crowd, the thought that sub 9.5 was still possible and to finish in the top 20 (top 10 had been the plan), so hammer down I set to it all.
I dropped Mr Red Shirt and caught Mr Blue Shirt just as we left Little Langdale. Mr Blue Shirt was called James and we ran together for a while, talking and moving. Then we were at Tilberthwaite. Charles Colby and crew had known my problem with not wanting aspartame and had brought the real deal, real Coca Cola! My eyes locked on to it and I needed coke, right there and then. One of the marshals took my bottle and filled it with coke/water, I downed this and then took another half a bottle.
With this inside me and my £1 paid to access 'Jacob's Ladder', I got to attacking the hill. This has to be one of the best sections on the route, short, hard and fast. Its uphill for 2km and then downhill to the finish and thats it, done... so with the bit between my teeth, my Leki Micro Trail Pro's ready and my head in the right place... locked on the finish, I set to it.
James kept pace behind me, but I wasn't worried nor thinking about James, if he passed me so be it, I just concentrated on moving well and moving as fast as I could. My legs were great, my hips were working and the finish was almost here.
I summited the pass and descended like I was in a fell race and ran the final concrete and tarmac roads into the finish. It was all done.
Organising and packing - I neglected to organise myself properly for the race and only did it the night before. Ordinarily I would do this, but I couldn't find some things like my 5 litre UD pack and I wasn't sure on food. I should know these things, but just bundled everything I had into my 10l UD Pack which allowed me to fit too much food in. WARNING: you will always fill the pack you carry, so go as small as you can.
Footwear: I decided to use a brand new pair of shoes, usually fine, but I hadn't run in this model before and they were 3mm lower in the drop than the 225''s I've been running in for the last few years. The Inov8 X Talon 210's are 3mm drop and seem slightly less built up than my 225's, almost looking like a zero drop shoe. This may well have had a bearing on my hips and quads/thighs
Hydration: I use Team Nutritions Carb/Electrolyte powers for my hydration. I love the taste and it works a treat. I've been testing their new product out and have found it to be even better than the last. The guys at Team Nutrition developed this with Formula One racing drivers earlier in the year.
Food: I don't often do races on Gels fully, but I like a few to use, however Mountain Fuel have just released their new Jellies and wow, these things are perfect for racing. Clean tasting, not sweet, jelly unless warm/hot and then they become liquid. Easy to swallow, constant energy flow, no spikes, just perfect. No stomach issues at all.
I also used Longhaul Endurance - Turmeric Chicken - these are sachets of pureed food, with pure and natural ingredients, no nasties. No additives. These sachets are great, easy food to eat, no chewing, swallow and digest. I find half a sachet takes away the thoughts of hunger. I used 2 sachets over the duration of the race.
I took a few other bits of food, like around 5 bars (different brands) and didn't eat any of them. Next race I do will be just with Mountain Fuel Jellies and Longhaul Sachet's, unless its a Mountain Marathon where I find real food it necessary.
Strategy: I got my strategy laid down ok, but I didn't follow it to plan. I meant to hold back until Haweswater, but allowed myself to go too fast from Pooley Bridge to Haweswater and this caused me some upper leg issues with trashed quads and hips, but this also can be attributed to a heavy pack and brand new shoes.
Conclusion: I am really happy with my race and how it went. I went as fast as I could on the day and most things went well. I fought the negative demons in my mind and got to the end in a good time. Next race I need to be more organised and make sure I have my nutrition strategy completely dialled, now there are Mountain Fuel Jellies, all is fine in the world!
So what makes the Lakeland 100, 50 and 1 mile races so good?
For me its the team delivering it. The courses are good, could be better in places, like the flat sections, but then this is subjective, as its personal preference.
What makes the Lakeland Races so good is a culmination of everything thrown together.
Ultimately the Lakeland 100 team rock, they are progressive, want the races to be inclusive and keep improving the organisation year on year.
Thanks: A final quick note, just to say thanks to the Lakeland 100 crew, thanks to all the fabulous marshals, without you there wouldn't be these amazing races.