Saturday, 2 August 2014

Crashing and burning (yet again) on the Lakeland 100

Last week, on Wednesday evening just two days before the kick off time of the Lakeland 100, me and Hester (and Harry of course) went for a five mile run around Malhamdale. Apart from being an absolutely gorgeous run, on a gorgeous evening, in stunningly gorgeous countryside, it was also an attempt on my part to "properly" run on my 'achilles of doom', including running up hills which, up until that point, had giving me particular gyp. During the run, although my achilles ached at times, everything was pretty much tickety-boo and I ran really quite well but, the following day (that's one day before the LL100) my achilles ached a lot, so much so that I was limping about for most of the day at work.

Things were looking kind of ominous for the LL100 then.

So jump forward to a couple of minutes before 6pm on Friday, on an oppressively hot and humid evening in the Lake District (its always gorgeous weather in the Lakes <cough>), and I'm milling about on the start line of the LL100 in Coniston along with 305 other runners waiting for the off. My achilles is taped with blue rock tape so, if nothing else, I look really quite professional and damned stylish if I say so myself. The start of the Lakeland 100 is such a great, great moment in the running calendar, given the obvious stupidity of the enterprise (thinks: 'wtf am I doing here'), and was especially so this year with the start preceded by a loin girding solo rendition of Nessun Dorma. It was already a brilliant event, and I hadn't yet left the start line!

Anyway so off we all went on what is actually a 105 mile lap of the Lake district, pretty much all run on rock and rubble strewn trails. And yep, straight off the bat on the very first incline out of Coniston, my achilles was aching. Uh-oh!

#Jump forward again by four and a half hours to Wasdale, at the third checkpoint of the race and 19 miles in, and my achilles aching is long forgotten. Jeeezus, the heat has been unremitting and, even though its now 10:30 pm, its still really hot. I'm now sweating on full power and my running top and shorts are completely drenched. Me and Lee Evans not only share sticky out ears and good looks but we also sweat. I mean really sweat. A lot.

Er..., anyway enough about sweating; so I've reached Wasdale and, apart from overheating, I'm also feeling really sick and kind of woozy but fortunately the checkpoint, run by the Sunderland Strollers (with what seemed like a Woodstock themed checkpoint this year), had some fantastic soup (the flavour was Thai something-or-other) which pretty much saved my life at the time, helped me recharge my sweaty batteries and, thus feeling a bit better, off I trudged into the night. I'm only 20 miles in at this point though and suddenly I'm feeling the beginnings of a nagging ache in my quads, something that (this year's London Marathon aside) I never ever get after such a relatively short distance.

#Jump forward to 3:30 am on Saturday morning, about 33 miles covered now with a really long and tough climb out of Buttermere nicely behind me, and I've reached the Braithwaite checkpoint. I'm feeling nauseous again and nearly gag trying to eat some of the pasta on offer.  Never mind they have rice pudding available too and that goes down much more smoothly, along with a fantastic cup of tea. On leaving the checkpoint I actually feel chilled (for about 2 minutes in total) in the early morning air but as I start the long trot into Keswick I soon warm up again. My quads are now seriously creaking but its flat and runnable so I force them to get with the program and bash on

#Now its 8am and I've been trucking for 14 hours and I've finally reached Dockray, with circa 48 miles done and dusted, after a wearisome trudge along the Old Coach Road (by 'road' read boulder strewn track). I'm really struggling to run now, especially over undulating broken ground, and the heat of the day is all to come. Its hot already anyway and I'm desperately hoping that the weather forecast for the day (of increasing cloud cover and perhaps a slightly cooling breeze) will kick in immediately. The butternut squash soup at Dockray goes down a treat though and I amble off. Instinctively though my legs just don't want to run, even though the next little bit is downhill and on a real road. I vow to carry on running when the very next runner over takes me and somehow manage too.

#The first 'half' of the LL100 to Dalmain is supposed to be 55 miles in length and, given that Dockray is at the 48 mile point, you'd think that the distance of this final first half stage is 7 miles. Wrongo! Its 11 miles actually (with the 'halfway point' being 59 miles) and the last 4 miles to Dalmain prove a real  chore for me. I was over heating quite badly about 2 miles short of Dalmain and had run out of water completely - these last two miles prove to be a killer and when I eventually reach Dalmain at just after 11am Saturday morning I'm feeling absolutely blasted by the heat. Fortunately Hester who is at Dalmain to run the "sprint" that is the Lakeland 50 (and which starts at 11:30) cheers me up with a couple of well needed hugs and cheery words of encouragement and, despite feeling really rough, I'm able to trudge on.

And trudge it was. My quads are now totally shot and the heat is oppressive with no sign at all of the desperately needed cloud cover and 'cooling breeze'. I had eaten a fantastic cup of meat stew at Dalmain and my game plan at this point was for that to completely restore me, body and soul, heal my aching quads and for the sun to go in. If the stew could somehow achieve this I'd be fine....

#Jump to the Howtown checkpoint at just before 2 pm and I've finally, finally reached it. Almost all of the LL50 runners have over taken me, including Hester whizzing along, as well as one or two LL100'ers and my ground speed has been set at 'slow sloth' for some time. The sun has been blazing pretty much all of the way since Dalmain and, although I have my buff on my head which I've been keeping wet by dipping it in streams along the way, I just can't cool down. I've now slightly worryingly stopped sweating which can't be a good sign. And there are still 40 miles to go......

And I give in.

The heat coupled with my shot quads convinces me that carrying on would become a seriously tedious slog and I just can't be arsed. I still have 20 hours available to complete the LL100 so conceivably I should be able to walk it out in good time but the thought of it has no appeal to me. And anyway the Howtown checkpoint is fantastic, run by two or three slightly mad ladies and its right beside Ullswater. The very first thing I do after a short rest here is pop down to the lake for a completely marvellous swim. Then it was back to the checkpoint for some serious lounging about, with the 'mad ladies' providing strawberries, peaches, cups of tea and later on some pizza. A 'losers'  bus back to Coniston was due in around 6 pm but the checkpoint was so cheery, with other LL100'ers popping in and out every now and then, it was just great fun to chill out there. As it turns out most of the LL100'ers who visited the checkpoint while I was there, right up to about 5:30 in the afternoon, managed to finish........ so how wimpy am I?

Epilog: What went wrong?

1. Well firstly NOT my achilles. It ached for much of the first 30 miles and it hurt a lot two or three times when I tripped and jarred my left foot. But after 30 miles it was almost normal. In fact its almost like running the LL100 has cured it and this week I've been for several good runs, including a couple up Pen y Ghent, and have felt properly able to run for the first time since I injured the achilles in mid-June.

2. The heat. Be able to sweat like Lee Evans is not an advantage in that kind of weather

3. My quads. Inevitably on a run of that distance my quads would hurt after a while. I wasn't expecting them to feel knacked so soon though.

4. My grit and determination. Okay I could have carried on and maybe finished before 10 am on Sunday morning. But heck I really enjoy running, and challenging running, don't get me wrong, but  I don't want to smash myself into pulp just to complete one event at the expense of what might be the next two or three weeks of adventures out in the hills. So yeah, maybe I'm probably not focused and determined enough to finish one single event against such adversity. So sue me ☺︎

5. My running fitness? I think my general level of fitness is pretty good, despite having my running interrupted in June with the achilles injury. Certainly I have recovered really quickly from this year's LL100 and have been out running in the hills all week since. Of course I could be fitter, and lighter but I felt okay at the start so I think I'm good to go with that.

6. The Cornish coastpath. Both me and Hester finished our 167 mile yomp 10 days before the LL100 and LL50 and I think that this was still in our legs and was our major problem. Hester again ran brilliantly in the LL50 this year finishing a minute or so over the 12 hour mark but her legs, and her quads in particular, have been completely obliterated all week since. She still has trouble bending her legs to sit down. Last year on the other hand Hester ran the LL50 half an hour quicker and then went on to pb two fell races in the week following it. That said I wouldn't change a thing - the Cornish coastpath-arooing was completely brilliant and, if it made the LL100 just a 'tad' harder, so be it.

And the best single thing of the LL100 and LL50 weekend. The swim on Coniston Water with Hester on Sunday lunchtime. It was utterly sublime

Stylish rock tape huh?

Walna Scar Road and heading for CP1 at Seathwaite

Fellow LL100'er Carol dropping down to Seathwaite

On the way to CP2 at Boot

Early saturday morning now and this loop out and back before the Blencathra CP is psychologically draining

Blencathra looking stunning from the Old Coach Road

Ullswater on the way to Dalmain

Hester overtaking me and smiling too!

On the way to Howtown and yes having a huge lake in sight when dying of thirst is not fun

My feet were brilliant all the way with no problems at all - these fell shoes though have definitely had their last outing

The route of the Lakeland 66

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