Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Lakeland 100...... (well 75% of it anyway)

So last Friday evening at 6pm the Lakeland 100 Ultra Tour of the Lake District kicked off from Coniston with 105 miles of beautiful but tough (as arse'oles) Lakeland trails to traverse in one huge great loop back to Coniston (hopefully). As far as 100 mile ultras go its supposedly one of the toughest in the UK so it was just about the most 'excellent' choice for my very first 100 mile ultra race, especially as the furthest I've ever run before in one go was over 40 miles shorter than that.

Going into UTLD my one big worry was whether my now fairly battered Inov8 Mudclaw fell shoes would last the distance and protect my feet enough. For sure at the end of my recent Bob Graham attempt my feet were feeling a bit sore. I was targeting a 30 hours or more completion time for the LL100 so I was expecting to be on my feet pounding the trails for a loooong time.... so what should I do about my shoes?

I know, I'll by some brand new specialist ultra distance running shoes from the Endurance Shop an hour before the race and wear them for the very first time straight out of the box.


The particular running shoes that I bought are Hoka One One Stinson Evos especially crafted for long distance trail running and worn by many many top long distance trail runners. I'd guess that a third of the runners doing the UTLD were wearing Hoka's of one sort or another so my decision to wear them wasn't on the face of it as stupid as it perhaps appears. And yes they do look big and lumpy and weird and like shoes that you imagine Sponge Bob Square Pants might wear but don't knock 'em until you've tried 'em. More to the point they appeared to fit me perfectly with the sales guy letting me have a test run out around the field in his very own Hoka's which were the same size as mine.

So.... what could possibly go wrong?

My Hoka's

The route of the UTLD is, in a nutshell, a fabulous clockwise lap of the Lake District. From the start you head west from Coniston up and over the Walna Scar Road (not a road but a rubble track by the way) to Seathwaite and then through beautiful Narnia like countryside to Boot in Eskdale, from there north over to Wasdale, from there further north over Black Sail Pass and Scarth Gap Pass to Buttermere and...... crikey this is going to take ages - to save time the checkpoints lifted straight from the UTLD web site are:

The weather on Friday evening was hot and humid and, pretty much as soon as we got going, I was sweating profusely. The event requires runners to take safety gear, food and drink with them but at all the 14 main checkpoints there was plentiful food and drink provided, as well as loads of streams and becks along the way to drink from, so hydration and food weren't a problem. After a while though I was feeling fairly nauseous and sick and, on and off, I was plagued with periods of nausea for most of my time running. In fact when I reached the Buttermere checkpoint, after dark, I was both very thirsty and also craving something savoury and salty so, pretty much back to back, I drank a cup of squash (cherry flavoured?), half a cup of coffee and then a cup of vegetable soup. As I stood up having perhaps gulped things down too quickly I heaved but held things just about in check but, as soon as I continued on my way for the next part of the race, I threw up everything I'd just eaten and drunk. 

All the same I'm kind of used to this feeling sick malarky (and being sick) while long distance running nowadays and I was carrying a bag of pringles with me from which I'd grab a few of from time to time and these seemed to help quite a lot. At one stage I also took something like 2 hours to gradually nibble away at one fig roll and eventually got that down too. Patience and perseverance.

Anyway back to the Hoka's. For the first 15 miles they were absolutely perfect but, on the descent down into Wasdale, suddenly I felt my toes pressing against the inside front of the shoes.... which was not a good sign with still some 90 miles to go. I think this was because the Hoka's are a wide chubby footed fitting whereas I have sleek and slender feet (haha), meaning that on downhill running my feet must have started to slide forward in the shoes. I'd also just prior to this stood in a stream to have a drink of water and got my feet wet in the process, which probably didn't help much either. Soon after that, descending from Black Sail Pass on tricky ground, my toes really started to hurt so, at that still early stage, I knew I was going to have a darn painful time of it.

That said I ran really well for a long flat stretch after Braithwaite and again, after a real rocky struggle to the Blencathra Centre, along the disused railway line to the Old Coach Road. This 'road' (which also isn't a road but a rubble track) then became really tough going for me - not only were my toes hurting (especially my right toe) but the front soles of my feet were stinging too - and it just seemed to go on and on for ages. Up until this point I'd been making relatively good time and a 30 hour finish was still on the cards but, after finally getting to the Dockray checkpoint, just finishing the event became my target and I ditched thinking of a 30 hour time. After that though, following one painful descent and then a long, tough but gorgeous climb up a hillside overlooking Ullswater, I again found a second wind and managed to finally reach the 59 mile checkpoint of Dalemain running well.

After that though it all went tits up. The stretch from Dalemain to Howton via Pooley Bridge was in absolutely blazing heat, as was a long drawn out climb up Fusedale (the biggest climb of the whole event), and by the time I reached the top my feet were gone, every step was like on daggers and, to make matters worse, the next checkpoint in Mardale was 6.5 miles away down a steep descent and along an incredibly rubbly path alongside Haweswater. This 6.5 miles I have to say was probably the single most painful and tough thing I've ever done in my life (and for any lady readers miles worse than childbirth I'm sure ☺) - my feet were agony and, what with the sun boiling my brains too, it went on and on for ever, not at all helped by me shuffling along at about 1 mph. By now the LL50 runners were all passing me, all of them fantastically cheering me on and telling me to keep going, but I knew I was out of it. The irony is that my legs felt tip top and it was just my feet and my new Hoka's that were the (massive) problem. Hester, who was running the LL50, caught up with me and helped me along for a while but I forced her to carry on, which she did, running an absolutely corking race and finishing 76th out of 583 LL50 starters (and 481 finishers) in a time of 11 hours 42 minutes. She was 9th lady to finish - what a super star!

Me? I eventually dragged my sorry ass into the Mardale checkpoint and retired. That said there was a high attrition rate in the LL100 with 124 finishers out of 275 starters come the finish. One tough cookie.


At the end of my race, when I took my shoes and socks off, I was expecting to see gory stumps for feet but apart from what looked like trench foot on the soles and my crushed toes, things weren't too bad. I had a small 1 mile run on Sunday evening (not in my Hoka's) and felt fairly okay and a 3 miler yesterday and felt even better. My toes will come round no problem, although I'm expecting to lose the right big toenail. I think the Hoka's will be fine too, although I will probably need to wear two pairs of socks just to make the wide fitting hold tighter to my feet. Hoka's are not cheap so I will definitely find a way.

I am so giving the LL100 another go next year.

Game on - the LL100 leaving Coniston

Just before Seathwaite

Descending Walna Scar 'Road' to Seathwaite

Heading for Eskdale

Still early doors - later the following day the Lakeland 100'ers were separated by miles rather than feet

Stolly cruising into Boot

Sun up on Saturday morning

Ullswater looking stunning

Ullswater still looking stunning

Yet another lovely view of Ullswater - needless to say it took me a while to get up this hill with plenty of time for pics

Heading towards Haweswater - now very very very slowly....

My 75 miles of the LL100

Since taking this picture a blister under the right toenail has burst

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ullswater Lakeland Weekend

Me, Harry and Hester were in the Lakes at the weekend near Ullswater for Andrew's 50th birthday camp over and, either side of his fantastic shindig on Saturday evening, we managed to fit in two cracking expeditions into the hills - on Saturday a loop up Helvellyn via Striding Edge from Glenridding and, on Sunday, a yomp over Birk Fell and Kilbert How and back along the shoreside of Ullswater from Patterdale. With loads of lake swimming thrown in for good measure in the 'usual' beautifully hot Lakeland weather. 

Saturday's route

Helvellyn ahoy!

Striding Edge

Not far from the summit now

Harry admiring the view

Running down is a doddle

Harry playing with the yachts in Ullswater

Harry hitting landfall having just swam out to Cherry Holm island

Sunday's run commences

Ullswater from Birk Fell

The 'birks' on Birk Fell

Whizzing back to the lake for a swim

Splash down

Harry with stick

Harry cam 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Saturday's post runs run....

A really tough run on Saturday with Hester and Hazter, following closely on from a severe bout of bubonic runny tums that started on Thursday evening and peaked at maximum 'output' overnight and during Friday. I still felt nauseous, weak, hadn't really eaten much (and what I had had fallen right through), and relatively dehydrated from the experience but, as I usually end up feeling like that on really long runs in the hills anyway, in that respect I was set up nicely for some realistic ultra running practise, without having to run nearly so far to get to feel crap. All the same I don't think Hester helped matters by offering me a bite of her gooey melted snickers bar half way through the run! On the positive side of things, I at least had a tighter grip on things below..... ish.

The weather was boiling hot too, making things just that little bit more interesting if they weren't interesting enough. All the same we followed a glorious route from Kettlewell up to the trig point at the top of Firth Fell, beyond Old Cote Moor Top, before whizzing down to Buckden and then following the Buckden Beck gully up past the many beautiful, trickily waterfalls and the old lead mine to the trig point on Buckden Pike before effectively following the ridge-line back to Kettlewell. I even managed to eat some egg and chips afterwards which was a good sign of improvement!

As usual Harry forgot to have a drink first thing and was dying of thirst 2 miles in

Harry discovers the trig at the top of Firth Fell

Hester and Hazter

Buckden Pike ahoy!

Harry taking on more water

Hester in her pants

Mid run cool off

Mr July

Hester searching (every flipping square inch) for fossils 

We saw two of these guys - we think they were ferrets gone wild or maybe ferret/polecat crosses?

Buckden Pike

The Polish aircrew war memorial from an RAF bomber that crashed on Buckden Pike in a snowstorm in 1942 

I think they were chanting "come and 'ave a go if you fink you're 'ard enough"

Crayfish attack at the final cool off in the beck in Kettlewell

Ze route

Friday, 12 July 2013

A couple of evening runs in this week's glorious Yorkshire Dales weather

Tuesday evening - Upper Winskill, Catrigg Force and Stainforth Force from Langcliffe

Heading out along the cart track from Langcliffe

Upper Winskill

Catrigg Force in trickle mode

The Pennine Bridleway dropping down to Stainforth

The Ribble from the bridge below Stainforth

Mine and Harry's swimming pool


A little swim

Thursday evening - Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove from Malham

Janet's Foss, one of Haz's favourite swimming pools

Gordale Scar - climbing up with Harry is never straightforward

Emerging from the top of Gordale 

Gordale Scar below

Harry in Harry Land

The top of Malham Cove where Harry Potter and Hermione pitched their tent in the Deathly Hallows
Malham Cove