Written by Sally Fawcett - https://sallyfawcett.wordpress.com

I had 9 hours as a rough target for the Lakeland 50 but was aware this was a tough target and I needed a good run, with good conditions to achieve it. We certainly got the weather for it, not too warm and barely any wind. I didn’t have any paces worked out though as I didn’t want to be chasing a target and pushing myself from the start, instead running more to feel.

I ran really steady to the first check point at Howtown, partly as I was with 5-6 others here and it being the only part of the course I hadn’t recced, I appreciated the route knowledge!

The climbs are always my strength, I climbed really strong up Fusedale and caught up with Matty Brennan here, it was nice to have a chat as we’d both run the Ultra Tour of the Peak District last year. Matty was moving much stronger than me so I let him go here, saying I’d see him up Gatesgarth (it was actually Garburn I next caught up with him).  When I recced Gatesgarth 3 weeks ago it was blowing a gale so the calm weather on Saturday made it an easier climb than I expected.

When I was approaching Kentmere I could see 2 females moving well ahead so tried to catch them, it turned out to be some of Sunderland Strollers out for a run after marshaling the Wasdale checkpoint. It was nice to have a chat with them in passing, after stopping at the checkpoint for a freshly made smoothie!

On the climb up Garburn I firstly caught Anthony Bethell who I’d been in Annecy with in May, he noted how well I was going and that Matty was not far ahead. I soon caught Matty and we ran together most of the way to Troutbeck, we caught up with someone else on the road here, apologies I can’t remember the name. It was at this point I first started to think times, Matty said 8:45 was on so I tried to keep up with them to Ambleside. It was great going through the crowds in the town but I wasn’t able to keep up with their pace, it was pushing a bit hard for me with 16 miles still to go, so I dropped back and didn’t see them again until the finish.

I grabbed some crisps and refilled my coke at the Ambleside checkpoint. Next was the flat section which I managed to run well along, it was my least favorite bit though, I wanted a hill for a walking break!

At Chapel Stile I started doing some maths, I was thinking 5 miles an hour would get me the record but I had forgotten how hilly and difficult the trail was to Wrynose! Into the final checkpoint I wasn’t going to stop but was swayed by the water melon.

On the final climb I had realised I was going to be just outside the record but was feeling good considering the stage of the race. I had expected to hit a bad patch at some point but it never came. I just ignored the watch from here and ploughed on through the quarry. I got the best compliment of the day here, 3 people on the bank shouted “go on Lizzy, it is Lizzy Hawker isn’t it.” To be mistaken for a running legend when you’re absolutely knackered spurs you on no end! The descent wasn’t great as my 2nd toe nail on both feet had blistered but there wasn’t far to go, and I can’t really complain as this was my only niggle of the day.

As I came down the track into Coniston, Ben Abdelnoor gave me a cheer and said “you do know you’re in 4th?” It was the first time I knew just how well I had run. I had no idea on position, I hadn’t even looked behind to see if there were any other 50 runners nearby. I tried to up the pace into the finish but in reality I was pretty spent and was relieved to get to the finish. I was delighted to be 4th overall, and to have run so well inside my target time. I was also pleased to have got the fluid and fueling right, probably for the first time in an ultra. I had my perfect race on Saturday when everything just seemed to go right, I’ll take the 4th fastest female time over the course behind some amazing runners, even if I wasn’t able to get the record!

Written by Helen Crossland - http://hels205.com/

Where do I start? The terror. Oh the complete nullifying terror of this weekend has given me nightmares about running packs, falling of rocky paths, feet disintegrating rain, faulty headtorches and………. The list goes on. I took part in this event last year and got to Ambleside and just gave up! I had some very valid and pretty scary reasons at that point but ever since then I’ve been haunted by that decision. What went wrong? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why didn’t I just sit down and chill and make a decision afterwards? Dimwit!! I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and I didn’t let anyone down. I felt like I should have tried harder so ever since then I have. I’ve pushed and pushed and trained and tweaked until I could just keep on going no matter what. The recent failures after North Downs Way 50 brought back all the nightmares of failure. I really did not want to fail this time. I wanted to face my adversity. There was a pre-race speech with mentions of firemen and kittens, it was a – you had to be there – moment.
I arrived on the Friday after battling the M6 traffic; ultra-driving at its best. As soon as I arrived in Coniston I put on my race ready running pack and went to find Lesley, John and Karen at the school. The 100 participants were getting their race prep speech and I found my friends chilling out on the grass in front of the school. I was there, this is it. It’s real. Ugh!! That feeling of excitement and vomit inducing nerves. I kept repeating to myself – everything will be okay, everything will be okay, everything will be okay, oh good grief what am I doing, everything will be okay…….
We watched the 100 competitors from the bridge in Coniston. Every one of them having that look of determination, the occasional smile broke through but these athletes were on a mission. Awe inspiring stuff.
Afterwards I got my kit checked and myself registered and weighed. Heavier than last year, hmmmm. Too much carb loading? Or more muscle? It didn’t matter; there was nothing I could do about it now. A lovely meal in one of the local pubs and then Lesley and I headed off to get some sleep before it was our turn to start the next morning. Much faffing and kit checking later we got some sleep haha!!
Saturday morning was looking sunny and bright. The B&B we stayed in put on breakfast early for us, thank you. The morning just rushed by and suddenly I was sitting in the school hall with other 50 competitors getting briefed on what was to come. A whole load of why we were doing this. To confront adversity. If this was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge. Firemen and rescued kittens. Get out there and be awesome. The kind of people who work in IT. Don’t quit because it’s too difficult. Be awesome!
A quick toilet stop and we were being loaded onto the coaches. The day was staying sunny and the coach was warming up on our trip to the Dalemain estate. I had suncream to apply and one last pack check to perform. This kept me occupied a little on the coach. An interesting journey later and we’re at the estate ready to go. One more loo trip and we’re watching weary, hot 100 competitors whilst we pack ourselves into the starting pen for the start of our own adventure of 50 miles across the Lake District. I had agreed with Lesley before we started to run our own race. If she felt strong then keep going and I would keep going myself. I managed to keep up with Lesley for just over a mile before she started pulling away. My ankles felt like rocks, my feet were cramping, my knees just didn’t feel like working and the heat was energy sapping. Not my best 2 miles but I kept going, kept repeating to myself that it will get easier and I knew this bit. Get to Howtown, checkpoint 1, bag food and climb like it’s the last hill in the race!! What I forgot was there was a climb before Howtown, hahaha!! Yeah! It was that funny – not!! Every time I felt too tired to go on I would stop, turn around and take in the view. Awesome, beautiful views. Then I would get back to work, step after step up those hills.
The Howtown checkpoint arrived really quickly – 14:16. Bottles refilled, food bagged and I headed for the big climb up one heck of a hill that just keeps on giving! Just when you thought you were at the top there was more uphill to go. This hill may have felt the most difficult but I knew this one was the easiest climb. A nice clear path with no rocks that could be tackled with a steady pace. At the top I had a sit down and munched on my checkpoint bounty whilst cheering on other competitors as they arrived at the top of the hill. I got some bemused looks and some big smiles. TOP OF THE HILL!!!!! Then it was onto the next checkpoint at Mardale Head. Lots of twists, turns, rocky paths alongside Haweswater reservoir and soon you can see the checkpoint. More rocky paths then a bridge or two later and I was welcomed into the Mardale Head checkpoint – 18:06. Cola, drink, water bottles filled, food noshed and bagged, quick loo visit and I’m heading up the next climb. This time it’s a rock path that keeps twisting and turning. Lots of unwell looking competitors this time. I took my time of this one. I would stomp uphill for a while and then take a rest on a rock, more stomping, more rock resting, more stomping, more rock resting, enjoy the views, more stomping and so on. Bit by bit the hill was tackled and again at the top I cheered on others that had reached the top whilst I had a sit down and munched some food on top of the hill. The route from there to Kentmere was a blur or rocky footpaths, roads, wall styles and bracken. I met a couple at this point and we kept each other company until we got to the Kentmere checkpoint – 21:02. It was getting dark now and it had started to drizzle when we arrived so I got a very sweet cup of tea, slice of pizza, loo break, sweet tea, slice of pizza, half an apple. Then got myself changed into my waterproof bottoms, rearranged my pack so I could easily reach my head torch and my poncho, swapped my cap for my buff to keep my head warm, made sure everything was secure and agreed to help out another competitor, Bob, to Ambleside. Most of the route from Kentmere was easy going, there were a few climbs but nothing like before. Bob was going strong and kept up with some faster competitors so I was alone for most of this leg. Creepy dark lanes with my head torch as dim as I could comfortably get it to preserve the battery life. The rain after Kentmere was heavy but blissfully brief. I kept myself occupied with singing songs to myself and dancing when I came to tarmac. A few runners past me but being alone along that stretch was really odd. By the time I reached Ambleside at 00:34 I was in a really happy place having talked to myself for a good two hours!! My feet were really sore at this point so I decided to undress a little, get myself comfortable for the next stage and give the food I was stuffing into my face a bit of time to work its wonders before getting up and heading out of that checkpoint. It took a good 15 minutes for my feet to stop throbbing and another 10 minutes for the food to settle enough for me to get organised and out of that comfortable warm cosy checkpoint. I knew this next section well and the night reccie earlier in the year was flooding back to me at each turn on the route. Out of the checkpoint, into the park, over a bridge and yep, up a hill hahaha!! It was during this hill climb I met Ann and Nicola who were appeared strong but they felt they were struggling with the directions. I was confident and agreed to help get them to the next checkpoint. After the climb from Ambleside this leg of the route felt the flattest. I’m not sure if that was good or bad but my feet and legs hurt more from the constant walking pace than climbing and descending they had been put through so far. I enjoyed the clear night sky and kept up a good pace to the next checkpoint at Chapel Stile – 03:28. This was an inviting checkpoint with a log fire outside to get toasty and sleepy with. I kept myself on mission with a desperately needed loo break, kit check, sweet tea and custard to settle my stomach that was trying to figure out what the hell was going on at this time of night!! I had no appetite for food at that point but I knew I needed something that would give my poor stomach something to work on whilst I kept moving through the night. Ann and Nicola were ready to leave, it was so difficult to pull myself away from that lovely warm fire but we needed to keep moving. My feet were starting to complain constantly now and I was managing the pain well. The next section was a mixture of tricky rocky paths and open fields. I had planned to change my socks at the unmanned checkpoint because I knew there were two sections of boggy ground to cover but my feet never got wet or soggy because we followed the trampled path the other competitors had made for us. That was a very welcome and nice surprise. This section also had the most beautiful change in sky colour. When we left the last checkpoint the sky was black, by the time we reached the unmanned checkpoint the sky had changed to purple, dark blue then light blue. Awesome!!
After the unmanned checkpoint I was trying to remember where a section of really tricky rocky path was. Had we already gone past it? Was a remembering the route wrong? I was doubting myself. As soon as we reached the farm at the bottom of the road I remembered where that horrid rocky path was. We were heading straight for it. My feet were really starting to complain now and my legs were getting very tired of the constant motion I was asking of them. I really didn’t like that section to Tilberthwaite but we did it. Ouchy, ouchy OUCH we did it!! We arrived at 06:53 and I knew if I stopped to sit down I really wouldn’t want to get up. I wanted this over with. I knew that next hill would be tough and the downhill afterwards would be terrifying. The finish was a mere 4 miles away! I couldn’t stop. I grabbed a sweet tea, said good luck to Ann and Nicola and headed for the steps of DOOM!!!!! Oh those steps hurt. My feet hurt. My arms hurt. My back hurt. I couldn’t tell what wasn’t hurting so just agreed to let everything hurt as long as I could keep moving. Every few steps I would stop to catch my breath and then push on again. Not long after I started climbing Ann and Nicola caught up with me. I’d gotten them this far and they didn’t want me to face the pain alone. Bless, add heartache to the list of pain I was going through. Those ultra gals were awesome!! Bit by bit we kept moving till we reached the top of Old Man. Now we just needed to get down the craggy steep slope the other side. With tired pain filled legs this took all of my concentration. For every 100 mile competitor that passed us I felt inspired to push myself that little bit more. Some looked fresh as daisies, others looked in so much pain it was painful to look at them but they were moving faster than I was and they had covered far more mileage than I had. If they can do that then I could push myself that little bit more and finish this thing!! It felt like a really long time to get from the steep rocky path to the road but we were there. Sore, painful feet being forced to continue. It wasn’t long before we reached the tarmac road and people from Coniston were cheering us onto the finish line. So close!!!!!
Lesley and Veritie were at the bottom of the hill and they ran/walked with us to the finish line – 09:03.
I cried, smiled and downright enjoyed the cheers as we walked into the school hall. I DID IT!!
Ann and Nicola from Holborough Harriers – THANK YOU SO MUCH. I thoroughly enjoyed your company, you were both amazing.
The checkpoint volunteers were amazing. Thank you so much for looking after us. So much help and food on offer and always with a smile. Totally fabulous.
Will I go back and do it again? My initial answer whilst I was removing my painful feet from my shoes at the school hall was an emphatic NO. I’m not sure what my answer will be when it comes time to enter again. At the moment I’m so pleased I managed to get myself around such a tough event with only swollen feet and one blister to show for it. Time for some rest and relaxation.

Keep on running.
Helen

Written by Gemma Carter - https://ultratrailsandtribulations.wordpress.com/

The lakes:

The Lake District. 885 square miles of fells and incredible countryside. To a Londoner in me, this felt like some kind of mythical place the first time I visited, driving up the M6 some 3 months ago. I had heard so much about it but had never been. Now that I have, I understand why people love it.

It’s beauty and vastness are the main attraction, with unrelenting weather at times that shows you Mother Nature is always boss and views that will take your breath away. It had me hooked.

This was the main reason behind choosing to run the Lakeland 50, my first taster session in running in this beautiful landscape. It was also announced this year that the race was nominated by UKA to be the British Trail Championships this year which made it even more tempting. The opportunity to race amongst the best in Britain, with elites who had and were representing GB, was not to be missed.

With my championship entry place I was excited. But first I had to visit the place, and herein lies the start of this story. Driving up to the lakes for my first time, ready to explore and recce the race route.

Fast forward 2.5 months and again I found myself on that same long stretch of motorway pulling off before Birmingham for some breakfast. 6 hours is a long drive.

It was Friday. The day before the race and I was on my way up, crew in toe, ready for an exciting weekend of racing ahead. The weather was extraordinarily hot (I mean seriously un-British hot!) at 27 degrees and all I could think about was my last experience at the NDW 50 in May where I suffered heat stroke, spending half the race wobbling across the path and vomiting up anything and everything for the next 25 miles. This was not going to happen again!

Walking out the service station I was taken by surprise as I bumped into the ever present gang of Claire Shelley, James Adams and Drew Sheffield. Experienced and talented runners in their own right, however this weekend they were coming to support the race but also James Elson (RD of Centurion Running) on his Bob Graham attempt. It felt like the whole of the ultra community were going!

The Lakeland 50/100:

To say that the Montane Lakeland 50/100 is a large affair is to put it mildly. Arriving in Coniston (race HQ and also finish line of the 50 route) we were marshalled with precision into a massive field of hundred of tents and thousands of cars. Runners were absolutely everywhere. If I didn’t know better I would have mistaken it for a festival. The race’s popularity is shown by it’s size with 400 runners in the 100 option and 600 runners starting in the 50. Far more than most ultras in the UK.

The 100 mile race was starting this evening at 6pm so hoping to watch them off we took perch at the top of the first road where they led out. It was incredible to see. Not only the enthusiasm of the runners themselves but the spirit of the supporters. Crew, marshals and even random locals alike were all line the streets ready for the parade. The noise was loud and the atmosphere electric. Again I was understanding why people love this race so much.

After a relax night at the hotel, I bedded down ready for my turn in the morning.

Unlike most ultras I have run, this 50 started at 11:30am, making me feel odd rising at a relaxed hour instead of the usual crack of dawn. The race started at Dalemain (the half way check point for the 100 milers) and we were to be taken by convoy of bus from Coniston ready for the start.

Arriving in Dalemain, runners swarmed around doing last minute checks, loos stops and saying goodbyes to support crews. It was also starting to get a little hot for my liking. As I glanced around watching people sunbathe, I thought of the route before me, hoping I would fair well.

They’re off!:

Suddenly we were gathering in the start chute and the countdown commenced. 3,2,1 and we were off! A 4 miles lap of farmland fields awaited us around the Dalemain estate before we shot off towards Pooley Bridge.

I was roasting, I mean ROAST-ING. The small top and shorts I was wearing felt too much and I wished I didn’t have to carry such a heavy laden camel back full of extra kit, feeling sweat pour off me.

The first few miles of the route proper are leisurely and flat as we progressed through Pooley Bridge village up to the first minor fell and then down to check point 1, Howtown.

My strategy was to go out steady keeping my heart rate low so I didn’t burn up in the heat and so far it was working. I was enjoying the pace, taking in the views and smiling at the sporadic bunches of supporters who would pop up at random places to cheer you on. It especially helped having a name on your number as the morale boost of someone cheering you on by name personally works a treat. 10 miles in and I was having a great time. Maybe this race will go well I thought ;)

I had chosen to wear road shoes today. The trail shoes I had been testing out for the race had been giving me blister issues and coupled with the fact it was so dry and hot I thought this was a wise choice. I turned out to be right and didn’t get one blister the whole day, good stuff!

Howtown:

Decending into Howtown I was greeted by check point staff thrusting a dibber station at me. The race was recorded my SportsIdent the dibbers we were wearing around our wrists automatically tracked out progress and updated our positions online for friends to see- a good addition to the race.

Howtown was a lovely oasis of a check point but made even lovelier by the presence of a friendly face- James Adams. As I refilled my bottles and got race staff to drown my head in cold water, James took the opportunity to catch me at my finest moment! (See photo). Thanks James! ;)

Feeling completely refreshed, flapjack and jelly babies stuffed in my ‘hamster pouch’ mouth, I shot off ready to battle with the first monster of the course- Fusedale Beck. It really is a beast.

The temperatures were now climbing to there highest of the day, and now in the beck the hot air gathered. I believe one runner’s watch recorded 91 degrees!

The climb up out of Fusedale was slow and arduous. There were a few runnable sections interspersed along the way but mainly just a long hike. It is one of those climbs which is utterly deceiving. You think you have reached the top only for more of it to reveal itself. However, reach it I did and before I knew it I was descending towards Hawsmere Reservoir and with it the next check point.

The path the runs anti clockwise around the reservoir is flat but technical with slate and rocks littering the way. At the tip, far in the distance the check point’s tent stuck out and slowly began bigger and bigger the nearer I got.

Mardale Head:

Another welcome relief. Dibbing in first, I then grabbed coke, cake and biscuits having my bottles already taken care of by the ever helpful volunteers. I downed my head under a bucket of water and ran on, packet of crisps stuff in my top to boot!!

I knew what was coming. Anyone who knew this course knew what to expect and probably just wanted to get this bit out of the way. It’s a long steep twisting climb up Gatesgarth Path and as I glanced up and then behind me back down I could see the slumped- postured steady hike of the runners and they battled the incline. It wasn’t to be run, but a purposeful hike, at times with hands on knees, eyes gazed solely at the patch of ground in front.

About now I was struggling with stomach issues. I was bloated with sloshing water in my stomach and feeling sick. I knew it was the heat that was getting to me making me unable to get anymore liquid or calories in with them coming straight back up however the problem I was trying to solve was whether I was feeling this way because I was dehydrated, lacking salts or in fact too hydrated?? My mind struggled to decide on the back course of action to claw my stomach back to normality (and in fact prevent my race from finishing early!) I decided if in doubt, just leave it be- better to be a little more dehydrated for a while than the opposite!

On I went, relief at finally reaching the top. I didn’t even turn back to see how far I had come and look at those still climbing, I was too focused on getting back down and onwards to Sadgill.

The decent was sharp but my quads, strengthened from my race in Chamonix seemed to hold up well and before I knew it I was running smoothly and solidly on to Kentmere and the next wonderful pit stop.

However, I was still struggling with my stomach, whenever I tried to up the pace my stomach stabbed with aches and pains. The cramps were bad but I just hoped they would ease soon as I sipped mouthfuls of water bit by bit. I also managed to roll my ankle here, a momentary lapse of concentration which led to some hobbling.

Kentmere village is a quant village tucked up against two mountain sides. Anyone who has driven to it also knows it takes an age to get to making it a quiet and serene town.

Kentmere:

The check point was utterly delightful, manned by a great morale boosting team who catered for everything I needed. Bottles refilled- check, bag full of sweets and nuts to take away?- check and a banana to boot. The even had a smoothly maker for runners so you could request what fruit you wanted and get your own smoothie made! Tempting yes but I was cautious of my delicate stomach.

Next up was the last major climb risng out of Kentmere towards Troutbeck Village after a sharp decent over a slate ridden path. It was here I caught my ankle with a sharp piece of algae causing me to scream in pain clutching my ankle watching blood ooze out. That stuff is sharp! I wasn’t so much bothered by the blood but whether I had damaged my ankle. Seeming to be working fine I ran on ignoring the sting of my foot.

All I was doing now was counting down the miles until Ambleside, the next major check point but also the next point I would see my crew.

Running down past the forest into town I was suddenly hit by the noise of it all. The peaceful paths through countryside and woodland were now replaced by roads and people. It awoke my senses and my excitement built as I received such a welcome. The streets were littered with people clapping me past and shouting encouragement. These weren’t just supporters, they were random locals. Their support was so warm I was incredibly touched. It boosted my spirits and my pace as I sped towards the check point.

In the distance I spotted him- Sam, my crew for the day waiting on the other side of the road. I ran up to him as I continued towards the check point and before anything blurted out ‘Jesus Christ, it’s so bloody hot!!!!’

Continuing round the bend, crew never number two, my delightful mother was ‘manning the road’. It seems she had taken it upon herself to be the traffic warden for the day, stopped traffic to let runners zip through. Oh mum how I love you ;)

Ambleside:

Ambleside check point. Delightful. Running in to the lane I was greeted by whoops and cheers, loud claps and positive words. Everyone was so friendly and really boosted me on. A quick pit stop for some cola to settle my stomach, bag of crisps stuffed in my top (I was getting quite a collection now) and on I went, waving to James Adams who seemed to get getting everywhere today!

My pack must have been rubbing some what as glancing down at my sides and feeling my back, I noticed I was bleeding and realised the back, ladder with weight and pulled so tight, had rubbed my exposed skin raw. So much for chaffing, it had taken the skin right off! Not much I could do about it now other than try and manage the pain so off I shot into the distance.

Further up the path I caught up with another lady who was going strong up the climb, Joanna Rae. Seizing the opportunity to chat to someone (anyone who’s knows me knows I like a good chat!), I struck up conversation and we ran on together. The miles flew by in the delightful presence of Jo. We talked about all subjects and I discovered she is a talented runner aiming for The Spine race next year. Wish you lots of luck Jo!

Chapel Style:

It didn’t feel long at all before we were dropping in to the next check point, second to last, Chapel Style. The volunteers were catering well for the 100 milers. These guys had been going since 6pm the day before! Already having been through one night and many of then about to go through another. I was simply impressed. You could see the pain and fatigue in their face, yet there’s one thing I’ve discovered about 100 milers- the hardly ever complain! They could be tired beyond belief, blisters everywhere and in agony but ask them how they are and you’ll get ‘I’m doing ok’.

Wanting to get on quickly, I turned briefly to one of the volunteers and asked if I could take the bowl of crisps that was out if she has plenty more. She probably thought I meant a handful but the look on her face as I folded the paper bowl in half and slid the whole bowl of crisps into my mouth at once was priceless. Jaw open for an age and as I ran on trying to dissolve them with any saliva I had left she shouted ‘Ha! Well you definitely went to eticate… school!’ I turned, remembering my ‘schooling’ and curtesied. Oooh such a lady!!

The route from here took a thin path round a large feel curving round anticlockwise before descending down to a road on the other side of a boggy field. Jo and I were running strong passing a few runners ahead.

Once locating the ‘compulsory check point’ and unmanned dibber- station we took off down the road towards Tiberthwaite. I was feeling really strong and with my pace rapidly quickening I bid Jo farewell and shot off ahead hoping to catch up on some time with the flat more runnable section.

Ahead was a group of runners and a female runner who turned out to be Izzie Wykes. I know her well from her GUCR exploits so ran up to join her for a chat. Ever the chatty girl herself we shot off ahead gossiping like a bunch of school girls! Izzie not knowing the route was grateful for my route guidance and company and me, enjoying the conversation was grateful for hers.

I must say at times I think she doubted my confidence screaming ‘Gemma!! This isn’t funny anymore! Is this the right way??’ ‘Are you sure you’re sure??’. It was like running with myself!

Tiberthwaite and the Finish:

We bolted down the road that lead into the last check point before the final climb. The rain had now well and truly started and the heavens opened.

I was reluctant to put on my waterproof, so close to the finish, thinking maybe I could hold out but soon I was absolutely soaking and not only that, now getting cold. It was getting dark and with visibility down I took the decision to stop, take out my waterproof and headlamp to save risking a bit blind fall on the decent.

Izzie and myself was storming, eager to home and finish this beast. With a few other runners we caught up in toe we descended down towards Coniston and the finish line.

We made a good team, Izzie glad to tag on for directions and myself glad for her floodlight of a headlamp shinning the way making my feeble excuse for a torch seen very inadequate. It worked a treat!

Before I knew it the cobbled road came into view and I was ready to sprint the last mile. I shot off, speed gathering, turning right into town and blasting past the pubs with cheers of support either side. I could hear Izzie somewhere behind but all I could think of was that finish line. How sweet it would feel to cross it!

Spotting the school I went up a gear further and took off. With one final turn I had made it and crossed the finish line. The relief and joy was immense but then suddenly people were shouting at me to dib in! Blimey I had forgotten that! By now Izzie had finished also so we ran over together an dibbed in side by side. A good ending to a great day making new friends I like!

Joint 6th lady in the British Champs, not bad at all. 10:40:24, my final time.

I went over and hugged my two trusty supporters before making my way in to the hall to receive my medal.

Jo Meek, First Lady and this British Champion came in in a incredible 8:43:14 proving she is a force to be reckoned with in the future. Congrats Jo!

In the men’s race, Kim Collison took the win in 7:48:01. A jaw dropping time considering the immense heat of the day and very well deserved.

For me, I see this as a stepping stone towards things to come. I know it’s a race I need to ‘learn’ how to run before I can do it justice. The heat definitely slowed me but I think also my inexperience at fells and the general terrain of the lakes. Hey, maybe next year sub 9! ;)

20140802-074406-27846159.jpg

On a recce a few weeks before

20140802-074320-27800011.jpg

At the start line!

20140802-074527-27927382.jpg

James Adam capturing me at my finest moment!!

20140802-074527-27927453.jpg

The final climb!

20140802-074527-27927535.jpg

20140802-074527-27927205.jpg

Celebrations!

Written by Di Newton

If and when

Those two words are very significant. When someone says IF you finish as apposed to WHEN you finish it makes a great deal of difference.

In a moment of madness we signed up for the LL50 2015. My partner and I had been running for about 2.5 years and my niece, Cecily had completed the LL50 in the summer of 2014. She inspired us to get involved. I know there were many good people who had not been lucky enough to get a place, the race had sold out in less than 20 minutes. I took it upon myself to make sure I trained well and did not waste my place with a DNF for all those who did not have a place.

We would not run as a duo, we would go and do our own thing. I got straight into training and based on the training I had done for the Grizedale marathon and the Scafell marathon, I just upped the mileage and chucked in a few more runs. I wasn’t out to break any records, just finishing would be an achievement. I needed to know where I was with regard to the distance and so entered Ennerdale 50k and Tour de Helvellyn. Ennerdale 50k ended miserably with me dropping out at the half way stage. I had run with a bad hip from about mile 8. Tour de Helvellyn saw me drop at Martindale Church with runners lean. At least I had managed about 34 miles. I always take the positives. So I had two DNFs and the Lakeland 50 was not going to be the third!

After Christmas 2014, I did a few little training runs and gradually built up my distance. By February I was doing about 25 miles a week. I entered a few 10k races to keep the legs going. I had to have an eye op in March and had two weeks off. In April I did the Kentmere Ramble, got lost and ended up doing 25 miles. This was looking good now. In May I ran the Howgills marathon and although I found it tough I survived.

May saw me do the Pooley Bridge to Ambleside reccie. It went well and I was relieved that I could at least run to Ambleside. I entered the Lakeland Trails Coniston marathon a week later and stormed my PB. This was all encouraging. A week later I joined some friends and travelled to Mizuno Endure 24. We ran in teams and I found it totally awesome, running through the night and completing lap after lap.

I was concerned that my pace was so slow and I really needed to do more speed work, but I just love to run and if I have to put too much effort in I lose that love. However I entered the Whinlatter 5 in July and came home 7/32 females. Well, I can’t be that bad I thought!

So, July 24th arrived and as we live in Kendal, we had decided to catch the bus to Coniston that day, stay 3 nights in the Black Bull and then return on the bus on the Monday morning. My niece, Cecily had entered the LL100 and we would wave her off. The atmosphere was electric. I walked up to Miners Bridge to get a better view of the runners coming up the track. Then when they had passed I trotted back down to the hotel. We had a lovely room. I had already enquired about porridge for breakfast and asked what time breakfast would be served. 8.30am. No, that was the time for the pre-race briefing, before we catch the bus to Dalemain for the start of our race. They would not waiver on this, so we went to the School hall for breakfast, where unfortunately they did not have porridge either. I had two croissants, one of which I just couldn’t eat. Not great fuelling.

Soon we were all piled on the coaches to Dalemain. Nerves were jangling a wee bit now. As soon as we reached Dalemain I made a beeline for the loos. Of course there was a queue. Ten minutes later I was done and sat on the grass in the sun to change out of my skinny jeans into my running shorts. It was inspirational watching the LL100 runners coming through the checkpoint and I wondered where Cecily would be. Our friend Stephen Braithwaite told us she had gone through Dalemain earlier and I knew then she would reach the finish well before me. I had a Chia bar and water and settled down. I had lost Richard in the crowds, but found him again at the start.

And we were OFF!

My strategy was to run the downs and flats when I could, and to walk the hills. I would spend as little time as possible in feed stations and I WOULD NOT SIT DOWN. I had told various people that if they saw me sitting down to kick my sorry @rse. My mantras were “Be relentless” and I borrowed Steven Robinson’s saying, “keep moving forward”. I remembered reading “When you’re going through hell, keep going”. These were all going to play a part in my journey today.

Richard set off fast. I tried not to. Already someone had lost their garmin and someone else had lost their map out of their backpacks, oh dear. The loop of Dalemain is a bit trying, I just wanted to get going on the path to Coniston. The weather had warmed up and I am not keen on running in the heat. I took it quietly along the river to Pooley Bridge and chose to walk most of the path up to the Cockpit. From there I got a scoot on and ran to Howtown. I was feeling good.

At Howtown, I grabbed one biscuit a drink and some jelly babies. I munched the biscuit as I left and immediately felt awful. I tried a jelly baby, still didn’t feel right. I struggled to run along the level bit at the beginning of Fusedale. This really wasn’t what I had expected. I walked up past the cameras and kept walking all the way up Fusedale. Where it levelled off a little I made a half hearted attempt to run, it was impossible. Now I was walking and stopping and walking and stopping. I had drank water, but was feeling dire.

At the top I had clocked a 38 minute mile. I knew this was no good. I stopped, made an electrolyte drink, drank it and set off again. I was able to run and picked up a bit of pace. I ran past most of the people who had past me on the up section and carried on running all the way down to Haweswater. This gave me the boost I needed. I was over the biggest obstacle now.

I trundled along Haweswater, passing the odd LL100 runner and trying to give words of encouragement. I was feeling ok, but worried that I had not eaten and drank very much, also I had not had a pee, but was not unusually worried about that. At Mardale Head the reception was great. I grabbed a jam sandwich and some more jelly babies to add to my stash. Filled my water bottles and then there was the beast that is Gatesgarth! I left the checkpoint and a few metres along stopped to re-jig my water bottles with electrolytes again. I had a bite of the jam sandwich and immediately felt like I was going to vomit. I stashed the sarnie for later and walked oh so slowly up Gatesgarth. I recorded my slowest mile in the history of my running, 44 minutes. Lots of people were passing me and I just gritted my teeth and did the walk stop routine until I got to the top. I met a LL100 guy who was also walking and we talked for a bit. He was a Dallam club runner. Then I said I better start trying to run. He said the same and we ran together all the way down to the bottom. It was done in no time. We parted company at the bottom and I plodded my way up and over into Kentmere. It was turning chilly now but I didn’t stop to put on my layers. At this point I knew I would DNF at Ambleside if I didn’t get some food in me. I decided that I would tell them at Kentmere to make me sit down and don’t let me leave until I had managed to eat something. Just before the checkpoint I caught up with Izabella, and her boyfriend kindly opened the gate for me. What a lovely smiling couple.

At the checkpoint I recognised Jacqui Marwick and told her I hadn’t eaten or drunk much. She was so kind, she sat me down and brought me a little bowl of pasta and a smoothie. I had a hot sugary tea and started to feel better. I looked around, there was a lot of people in there but nobody I recognised. I stripped off my top and there I am with my flabby white belly showing when Rob Johnstone shouts, “Hi Di”. Ha ha, I was past caring. I quickly put my fresh long sleeve top on. I looked at my watch I had been there for 10 minutes. Right, out the door, thank you to the marshals.

In my head I had hoped I might reach Ambleside by 10pm. If I felt well, this was still on. I was on my own now and know Kentmere very well. I trotted up the rough path to the bottom of Garburn. I met a German chap. I said it was a slog up here and he asked me what was a slog. He hadn’t heard that phrase before. He was worried about running in the dark – to which I explained there were no cows, the sheep would only stare at you and you might hear the odd scary sounding owl. I left him behind at the top and was feeling really good running down into Troutbeck. I walked out of Troutbeck and caught up with a young guy. He was hoping to be in Ambleside by 10 too. He said his family would be waiting there for him. I led the way through Skellgyll Woods down the road and there were his family. I shouted to them that he had found a new girl friend. I don’t think his girl friend was amused. I carried on and he caught me up as we ran through the main street. There were people outside the White Lion and they gave us a great cheer, probably because I was beating a young lad half my age! At the checkpoint it was 9.45pm – I was so pleased. Jo Kilkenny was there with the dibber in her hand. She told me Cecily had looked good when she went through. I was so pleased. She would probably be at Coniston by now. I managed to get up the steps and into the feed station. There really wasn’t anything I fancied I took a crisp and a drink of orange and got my water bottle filled and off I went. Then I thought I would just ask Jo if she knew where Richard was on the course. He had set off very fast and he had not done nearly enough training because of Achilles injuries, I quite expected her to say he had retired. She said he was still “live”, but behind me! I hadn’t seen him, but I was very focussed on my own survival for most of the time.

Getting out of Ambleside was no problem, I had reccied the next bit numerous times. I caught a lady up and we went up to the top of Loughrigg together. I stopped to get my head torch on and an extra layer. I was able to run down past Tarn Foot, where some guys who had passed me must have taken a wrong turn there and they passed me again! I walked from Chesters at Skelwith Bridge until the path opens into a field and I started to run. I just ran and ran all the way to Elterwater. A little shrew ran across my path! I was feeling really good, passing people and managing to drink and eat the odd jelly baby. I even had a bite of the jam sandwich – it tasted good now. As I ran past the back of the school I heard some very strange noises. I think it was an owl screeching. It was a bit eerie. I caught up with a LL100 fella just before Wainwrights. He wasn’t saying much. I respected that so just ran along in front of him, opening the gates for him until we got to Chapelstile checkpoint. I filled my water bottle and immediately left. I knew the next bit would be tough and it was, but it was a doddle compared to Fusedale! I found my way up the zigzags and across the road to Blea Tarn. I knew this bit very well. It started to rain so I ran until I got to the two benches where I stopped to change into my waterproof jacket. Debbie Porter past me and asked if I was ok. What a lovely lady she is. We had met a couple of time on the course. At Blea Moss, I was full of confidence. I had double checked this bit of the route a week earlier, the bracken had grown but I found the best route across the bog. I saw people going wrong and I shouted to them that I knew the way, but no one took any notice of a demented old lady! Ha ha. I heard a few people cry out as they got very wet feet. I got to the dibber and looked across, I must have past about 10 people. Their head torches were all over the place. I caught up with Debbie again and we ran together. I was telling her what a little star my niece was and how she would probably be tucked up in bed by now. We ran towards Tilberthwaite giving encouragement to any LL100 runners we saw.

Just before the farm I was astonished to hear a familiar voice shout “Aunty”. It was Cecily. In a mad moment I thought how really sweet of her to finish the 100 and come all the way back here to cheer me on! Then it struck home, she was still trying to get to Tilberthwaite. She had been praying for hours that I would catch her up and help her. She had sore feet from Braithwaite and had the “Tom Tits” all the way. Three LL100 guys had stopped to help her get this far. What heroes those guys really are. I told her that we would get her to Tilberthwaite checkpoint, get some food and water, get her feet checked out and see what to do next. She was less than 4 miles from the finish. It was a very slow walk and every step was extremely painful for her. She was also very cold. I was concerned that she might not get to the checkpoint, but just kept trying to keep her motivated. On the road she made better progress and we got into the checkpoint and she sat down. She knew if she took her shoes off that would be the end so she had some food and a hot drink, I gave her my duvet jacket to put on and we all persuaded her that she could do this. She would have been gutted in the following weeks to think she had been so close to that medal.

Up the staircase to heaven, that was probably the easy bit. Then across the rocks and onto the path at the top – she was so close to tears. It was very hard for me to see her going through this. I hoped I had made the right decision in encouraging her to keep going. The “What if” sentence kept creeping into my head. What if I had to get emergency help up there? What if she became seriously hypothermic? I was a bit cool myself, so all this was going through my mind. One or two people passed us and asked if she was ok. She really wasn’t but there was nothing anyone could do.

I had invested in some Mountain King poles that I intended to use only for the downhill into Coniston. I knew my knees would be screaming at me by then. I offered her the poles and she took one. I insisted she use two and we struggled together down that God awful path. I was disappointed by the lack of support from some of the LL50 runners on this section, but perhaps they were suffering too in there own way.

Once on the road, she started moving a little better. Suddenly I needed a pee. Well after 40 odd miles you would wouldn’t you?

We finally arrived back at the school hall that she had left at 6pm on Friday night. It was nearly 4am on Sunday morning. There was a great cheer from everyone. Cecily’s boyfriend and Stephen Braithwaite were there to welcome us back. She had her feet looked at and was taken home.

I sat on a chair with my feet up on another chair for a while and then went over to Marc and Terry to see if they could tell me where Richard had got to. He had passed through Kentmere. That meant he would be hours yet. So I put my feet back up and watched the people finishing. I must have dozed for a little while when I heard Marc shout me. I hobbled over and he told me he had a phone call from Richard. He was sitting on a rock at Blea Moss refusing to move! I told them to tell him to Bugger off! Unfortunately the rescue vehicle driver had been up all day and night and had gone for a sleep. Luckily for Richard a runner totally unrelated to the race had past in his car and stopped to ask what he was doing there. He offered to give Richard a lift back to Coniston. When he came into the hall, they tried to give him a medal, but he had to tell them he had DNF’d. He had runners lean and was not in a good place. I knew what that was like from my experience at TdeH.

We walked back to the hotel in time for breakfast and then returned to the hall for the presentation. I think a few people were struggling to stay awake.

From Ambleside I had been on track for a really good time for me. At one point I had been happy thinking I would be back in Coniston for breakfast and then, when I left Ambleside I realised I still had plenty in the tank, I knew it would be probably about 3am. However, I finished at just before 4am. I would not have changed any of this for the world. It was such an amazing experience.

We were privileged to see the 80 year old Legend that is Harry, finish his 50 miles. What an inspiration.

After my horrible experience up Fusedale and Gatesgarth, I told everyone “Never again”. I never wanted to feel that bad again, but you know what, well it would be rude not to!

I checked the results and I had managed 421st out of 585 finishers. At 64 years old I was the oldest female competitor. I was as chuffed as a chuffed thing!

Written by Frances Britain

The packing for this little race finished about midnight Thursday, with complicated arrangements in place to cover childcare until husband returned from the depths of middle England.  Friday morning it was just a case of dropping the kids off at school and tying up with the two friends who were accompanying me down to Windermere, although they had a weekend of Christmas shopping, cream teas and general tourist-like behaviour planned unlike my energetic jaunt.

The journey down the A9 and M6 provided plenty of disgusting weather, making progress slow and left me hoping this was not a preview of weather for Saturday.  Sometime late afternoon we eventually arrived at Brockholes and I went in to collect a bag for my drop-bag contents, had my kit checked – was so pleased they actually checked waterproofs as I am so fed up of doing races where they make a real song about having the proper kit, never do the kit check and most people travel light with none of it! Boo bah humbug!!  I also collected the electronic SI tagwe were all to wear around our necks for the duration of the race, , and my race number.

My friends were staying in the relative luxury of a B&B for the weekend, but I opted for camping at the start/finish. I figured it made life easier for everyone and I’m sure they didn’t need to be up at 5.30am on the Saturday to drop me at the start!  After check-in’s and tent pitching were completed we went in search of the ultimate pre-race meal. Lazy Daisy’s in Windermere did a fine job, Cumberland sausage on a bed of mash, encased in a giant Yorkshire pudding and liberally doused with red onion/wine gravy – yuuuuuummy!  Then, I was dropped back at the campsite and off I went for a good hour of kit faffing in the tent before finally setting the alarm for 4.30am. Always such a lovely time to be eating breakfast and trying to stick contact lenses in eyes – not!!

I guess I dozed a little, I was certainly warm and comfortable but all too soon the alarm went off.  I was unsure what to wear really as the MWIS forecast had suggested there could be some showers in the afternoon, also that winds would be 15 mph, so opted for a long-sleeved base layer. Why I thought I’d need my compression shorts under my knee-lengths I’ve no idea but seemed a good idea at the time. Opted not to take baseball hat (would probably blow away) and sunglasses – now that’s just asking for rain isn’t it!!!  Downed a large bowl of muesli and yogurt and washed it down with a cup of tea – breakfast done. Final kit adjustments and then it was 5.40am and time to head to the start area.

It was still quite dark and chilly. There were two categories completing the 100km distance – ‘racer’ with 24 hours and ‘challenger’ with 26 hours (I think), plus a 50km race covering the second part of our course.  There was a nice friendly atmosphere under the starting arch, then a countdown and we were off to much clanging of cow bells and the obligatory circuit of the grounds before heading out onto the road, we were off.

Light improved pretty quickly and the head torch was soon off and tucked away. We headed out along the road and then off up a narrow bumpy track. I found this stretch quite frustrating as there was a lot of bunching and walking as people jostled to find their place. But soon the route opened out and people settled into place.  The sun kept rising and the views kept opening out as we headed across towards Troutbeck, eventually picking up the Garburn Road which is a track leading up to the village of Kentmere (first checkpoint). I was alternating between jogging and walking depending on the incline, sticking firmly to my rules of walking the hills and jogging the rest. I’d say my jogging pace was slower than I would have imagined but I did jog a fair bit.

Out of Kentmere onto more tracks and it started to feel more like heading into the hills. We climbed above Kentmere Reservoir and the views were simply stunning.  Ahead I could see a steep pull up to the Nan Bield Pass and thought this would be a good point to try out my new lightweight poles.  Took me a while to get the hang, as ground was quite uneven, but they definitely helped.  Suddenly we popped out at the top of the pass, greeted by a marshal in fluorescent jacket. Was so funny, everyone was stopping to take pictures, much like coach party tourists!!!  From the top we looked down at Haweswater.  The descent off was pretty technical, more so than I expected and I took a couple of tumbles on the way down.  The rocks were still slippery from yesterday rain, but I arrived into the second checkpoint, Mardale Head, at the bottom in one piece having covered about 13 miles by now.    Quick water bottle refill – they were supplying Nunn tablets which were fantastic. I found them really refreshing and suffered from very little cramp throughout entire race.

The next section wasMardale Head to Bampton village. This took us round the bottom of Haweswater and onto a track following the edge of the lake. Terrain was relatively flat with the odd climb, but the path was narrow so in places it was tricky trying to pass people. Really don’t understand the stubbornness of people, their refusal to let fast(er) runners through … why would you want people hanging on your heels?  Ultimately this passed fairly pleasantly and we eventually popped out on the road with three km to run along the road up to the check point.  Resupply here, I tried for the first time the Grasshopper Food porridge that was on offer. OMG, it was delicious, I am not a porridge fan really but the Coconut and Date one really did it for me. Grabbed a lump of flapjack, refilled water bottle, made use of toilets … and stripped off the darn compression shorts as I was absolutely melting by now!

Twenty-ish miles down by now, but feeling pretty fine and dandy!!! Route continued along the road for another km before turning off onto a track leading up onto Askham Moor. Really enjoyed this stretch, there was a slight cooling wind, it was soft turf underfoot and I found someone to chat to :-D, I am easily pleased!!  Some gentle climbs but nothing evil and then we were dropping down some switchbacks into Howtown and checkpoint 4.  Didn’t hang around too long here as just wanted more liquid.  I was carrying a 500ml squidgy bottle in the front of my pack and then some spare in the bladder at the back (probably about 3/4 ltr) for emergencies, so I just kept refilling the front bottle.

I headed out pretty quick from here, leaving my companion behind. This leg would take us to the half-way point, and also over the first significant climb of the day – up to BoredaleHause. We started on fairly flat road, which eventually became a flattish but boulder-strewn trail and eventually becoming steep and narrow as it entered the hause – 200m of climbing over about half a mile at a guess.  So short but definitely NOT sweet!! I chatted to a couple of people on this stretch, a lady I was to leap-frog with many times throughout this race and a guy I was also to see several times throughout.  That’s what I love about ultras, you get to chat to lots of lovely interesting people, who don’t think you are strange for doing this kind of thing for pleasure!!!

Up to the top of the hause, and then off the other side into Patterdale, the half-way point and our drop-bags. Somewhere about 32 miles completed at this stage in 7:55:53. I was happy with that, but did make we wonder how much time I’d lose in the second half seeing as that was harder and hillier, was kind of hoping to get in about midnight if possible … given the lack of training throughout the school holidays I was prepared to be flexible with this guestimate though!!!

So, fresh t-shirt from the drop bag as the other was disgusting. The showers and wind had not materialised and miles of blue skies and sunshine were evident in the state of the long-sleeved base layer I’d been wearing – yeuch!!! Another pot of porridge, a cup of tea, a cup of Nuun, a piece of flapjack shoved in my pack pocket. I decided against checking my feet as currently there were no hints of blisters, so I shoved my spare dry socks in my bag in case I needed them later on, grabbed a few more gels and off I went again.

Am always surprised how settled in people seem to get at checkpoints,I’m alwaysterrified my legs wouldn’t let me get up again! So the next leg involved another gruelling climb – this time up to GrisedaleHause. Another longish flat yomp along the trail before a long tough pull up to the tarn. I started off with a guy who seemed to be wearing far too many layers, he paused to de-layer but soon caught me and we chatted about triathlons (his main sport) as he worked on persuading me to do Keswick Tri as a good first one … soon it became clear he was working at a different speed to me and he left me behind. I caught up with the guy I’d climbed the previous hause with, he seemed to be having a tough time so I worked on encouraging him and trying to ignore how bl**dy hideous the climb seemed.  As before, the path was boulder-strewn and you seemed to be continually kicking large rocks or trying not to trip over.  Eventually the tarn came into sight. Such was the nature of this race, the obvious route round one side was ignored, sending us what seemed the longer (and more climbing) way. Eventually we started to lose height, but it was down a fairly tortuous route but finally onto an open forest track leading to CP 6 on the roadside at Dunmail Raise, just before Thirlmere.

I don’t remember much here, I suspect more water bottle filling and I think I grabbed some ginger biscuits before heading off again.  This is the stretch where I hit probably my worst patch in the race.  We did about 1km on the road, then headed off west, this was terrain I’d covered on a mountain marathon a couple of years ago and I chuckled thinking of us trying to find a checkpoint here.  Soon we were in hot sticky undergrowth, a small wood but it was really humid and sticky underfoot too.  My stomach was grumpy and bloated and I just felt bleugh … onwards and upwards and eventually we popped out by a small tarn, along a bit further and then out onto Watendlath Fell, which was just horrible as far as I was concerned. Apparently we were on a footpath, but it was just all bog. I can’t imagine anyone would choose to go walking up there on a Saturday afternoon. My general grumpiness was made worse by the sight of two girls and a guy in front of me, completing as a group, who appeared to be skipping and laughing merrily across this horrible nasty fell!!!  We probably had about 3km of this joy, there were some lovely marshals sitting at the top of this stretch to check all was well, and they were welcome sight.

Checkpoint 8 was in Watendlath itself, again, I don’t recall much of this checkpoint, I think I picked up some more ginger biscuits and put on my windproof top as the sun was starting to dip a bit and it was cooling.  I think this was the point I started to feel better, I suspect I had got overheated earlier along with the effort used to get over the two big passes.

I skipped out of here with my poles, along with a couple who appeared to be completing together (and guy and a woman). A bit of jostling for the front spot here but I eventually headed to the front and positively yomped through to Rosthwaite (oh boy do I love my poles). I was alternating jogging and walking and still legs were feeling pretty good. Quads were definitely feeling a bit trashed and right hip flexor was niggling but generally feeling good and strong.  Along the Cumbria Way we went, passing below the Borrowdale Fells. It was significantly cooler, but still no wind and the sun was starting to go down.

I LOVED this stretch, travelling on my own but knowing people were ahead and behind so I just got on with enjoying feeling good. I paused to get my head torch out as it was difficult to tell when darkness would hit. Stake Pass was the next big climb and it loomed ahead but turned outto be way easier to climb than I’danticipated. The path was nice firm gravel rather than those dreaded boulders, so although steep with lots of switch-backs you could get a good steady pace on. At the top of Stake Pass there was meant to be an un-manned checkpoint with a dibber to swipe, instead we were greeted by marshals, who were having a fine old time sitting up there taking in the stunning views. The sun was almost down, the moon was up, bright orange surrounded by grey clouds. Wow, it was amazing.  I headed on the path that works its way across the top, a bit more boulder here, and then was looking down into the next valley.  The sun went and the route down was a zig-zag of glow sticks going down, down, down to the valley below, all quite a sight.

The head torch came out and I headed down what was quite a tough long descent, especially getting used to the reduced light.  A marshal was heading up towards us and said it was 4km down into the valley and the checkpoint was at the Sticklebarn (a pub up near Chapel Stile).  All I can say is that it was a bl**dy long 4km!!! My Garmin had given up before I got over Stake Pass so I wasn’t too sure how far I’d travelled anyway.  Once down off the hill it was a fairly straightforward and flat track into the Langdale Valley, but the moon had gone behind the clouds and I found it difficult to get a perspective on where I was. There are several pubs in the valley and I knew it wouldn’t be the first one, but with party music drifting down the valley it was difficult to work out what was coming from where.

This was compounded by a complete disappearance of regular signing. Up until now the route had been fantastically marked throughout (we were not meant to need to do any navigating on this race) with flags and signs by day, and then signs and glow sticks in the dark.  A sign took me off main track and up a minor slope and then there was nothing for a fair while … I started to doubt myself and had visions of going for miles in the wrong direction (can you tell I was a bit tired by now?!). So I hesitated, I back-tracked to the sign, I waited for some head torches, and then after wasting about 15 minutes I thought “oh sod it!” and just pressed on anyway.

Eventually I popped out behind the Sticklebarn Pub and was guided in by glow sticks.  I was a bit dazed at this point, especially when the guy running the checkpoint greeted me by name - it’s on my race number – doh!  Anyway, he was awesome – ‘did I want a plate of chips?’ oh my, did I?  A piping hot plate of French fries smothered in salt and tomato ketchup … I didn’t bother with niceties and just shoveled them all straight down, washed down with a cup of Nuun.  By now quads were stiffening up and the hip-flexor was having a good old whinge but still feeling pretty good and not lacking for energy at all. The lovely man serving the chips kindly wrapped up some ham sandwiches in cling film for me (so they didn’t crumble in the pocket of my pack) – I was so over sweet stuff by now.  I’d been on the go for 15:28 by now. Just Ambleside and the finish to go, so in theory about 10-12 miles to go I think.

I managed to negotiate the steps downstairs to the way out, via yet more nice toilets. I think I’ve never done an ultra race where there has been access to so many nice clean toilets!!!  Into the car park, and then doh?which way? no signs again … got onto the road and the right direction but again, stalled by lack of clear signage so I backtracked to the pub, and came across two guys having the same problem but the marshal didn’t seem to know either. So we hung around while she double-checked …  eventually coming back and pointing us in right direction (I had been correct) and off we went to Ambleside.  The two guys provided great company for much of the remainder of the route.

All fairly flat at this point so we took it in turns to motivate running stretches in-between yomping … they could run faster than me, but when I started yomping with  my poles they couldn’t catch me. One of the poor guys had stood on a plug the wrong way up the day before, so he’d already damaged his foot before he even started!!! Anyway, we negotiated our way along the footpaths, taking it in turns to fathom out how to open the hundreds of gates we passed … they were such gentlemen actually, I did chuckle, always holding the gates for m …  Signage was a bit variable and we were kind of guessing our way in places.  Eventually we caught up with another guy going at our pace, he was local and had recced this section into Ambleside. This proved invaluable as a lot of signage and glow sticks were now missing.  A slight shock to body as we negotiated Loughrigg Fell … I thought we were done with hills! and then eventually we popped out into Ambleside, the final checkpoint before the finish.

This was in a very posh community hall, more nice warm toilets :-)  No idea what I ate here but I grabbed another cup of tea, although as I tried to drink it while jogging through town centre I think I ended up wearing most of it!  Met a few of the locals on a night out and put up with the usual questions and comments … ‘run Forest run’ … ‘how far you goin' etc.

I knew it was going to be horrible getting out of Ambleside – another nasty hill, it started off on road and then became a vile rocky uneven thing. We were literally guessing our way through here by now as most glow sticks had disappeared.  I didn’t care, I just pressed onward and upward. No more running for now as was just climbing again up through Skelgyll Wood.  I started to pull away from the two guys I’d been with but was just so desperate to get to finish I kept on striding.  Signs started to reappear so navigation became easier and I caught up with a guy I’d jogged behind earlier.  So we had a good old chat as we climbed up onto the trail that took us to the path we’d come out at the start on. This was a bit gnarly so no jogging down this but once we hit the road at the bottom with a marshal pointing us to the final stretch then we both started running.

Off course, we got to where the finish was to find we had to run a lap, albeit a smaller one, to complete the race … so round we jogged, and came in at 19:21:54.  Final distance not really confirmed but apparently 110km and possible 112km.

Quads absolutely trashed, hip-flexor groaning, knee definitely having a whinge, NO BLISTERS, but I didn’t feel tired or hungry and if it hadn’t have been for state of quads I could have kept on going for a fair while longer!!!

So having made the finish, I thanked the guy I came in with for that final push and waited for the two other guys to come in and cheered them in.  Then I had to walk UP a hill to collect goody bag and drop bag … and then back DOWN the hill to find my tent … ouchyouchyouchy!