This seems to be turning into a once-a-year blog. Whilst J the dog and I have been spending quite a bit of time in the Lake District ticking off Wainwrights, neither of us have done any bouldering this year. I did do some training on my board, but I've not touched any rock outside. I've done a few events (Howgills Trail 26, Rivington NightRunner) but my training has been minimal over the last couple of months as it has been so hot. So much so that there have been big fires on Rivington moorland/ Winter Hill, which has been quite a blow considering how much time I have spent up there running and bouldering.
Last weekend was the annual family trip up to Coniston for the Lakeland 50/100. We had booked a cottage in the village and drove up on the Friday. IronMan was helping out, so was there earlier on the Friday to park cars and set up, then had a rota for the Tilberthwaite checkpoint. We arrived around lunchtime and got settled in. I went through registration and kit check. Weigh in was 82.7kg this year, around 8kg off the previous years thanks to some healthier eating (and not having any alcohol for nearly five months).
The family had a wander around the HQ, and (as usual) there were a lot of faces we recognised. J the Dog's first outing was here 12 months ago when he was a tiny pup, and although he got less attention now he's a big lump of muscle he seemed to enjoy it. After watching the start of the 100, we went back to the cottage and I got packed up. I went to the chippy to collect food later on and had to wait in a big queue - you'd think they would realise that this weekend would be a busy one. And it felt busy too, as there seem to be a lot more entrants in both races. Overnight the heavens opened, quite a change from how hot it had been all day.
Saturday morning I was up and out fairly early, and being seen off by my wife and J. The bus journey was uneventful and we were deposited an hour before the start, allowing time to encourage the 100 runners who were coming through. This year my main aim was to get under the 16 hours finish time to let me get into the 100 next time. After my last two DNFs around Ambleside it was going to be nice to actually finish something!
Leg 1 - Dalemain to Howtown
Leg - 17.8km
Total - 17.8km
Leg ascent - 294m
Total ascent - 294m
Time - 2:07:56
Total time - 2:07:56 (7:04 ahead of plan)
This starts with a 6.3km loop around Dalemain to go past the start. I wasn't going to push hard (especially as there are a couple of gates/stiles where a queue forms) but felt quite comfortable jogging along. I passed Craig from the Endurance Store on the descent to Howtown, who was looking good and was 3 hours up on his last year's 100 pace. Quick dib and biscuits and off onto my least favourite part of the course.
Leg 2 - Howtown to Mardale Head
Leg - 15.2km
Total - 33.0km
Leg ascent - 765m
Total ascent - 1059m
Time - 2:53:44
Total time - 5:01:40 (13:20 ahead)
Not long after I left Howtown the rain started again properly and I put my jacket on. Fusedale is usually my Achilles heel as it is usually really hot - that wouldn't be an issue today as a lot of people suffered, with a lot of cold people when we got to Mardale.
Half way up the climb is a derelict building, and as the rain increased I sheltered behind the wall to put on my gloves and waterproof trousers. I was cold by this time and couldn't feel my hands. Knowing this wouldn't get any better, I decided to push on over High Kop to get out of the wind along the Haweswater path. Getting to High Kop was hard work, and people around me were being blown over by the gale. I was glad of the poles and a few extra kilos. I wasn't please to see the lightning flashing all around Harter Fell and Gatesgarth Pass.
Getting to the Haweswater path was a relief, although still very wet. At least I was out of the horizontal hail. I ran all the sections I wanted to and arrived at a very busy checkpoint where many people were hiding in the tent. I would normally get some soup, but couldn't be bothered waiting so grabbed some sandwiches.
Leg 3 - Mardale Head to Kentmere
Leg - 10.4km
Total - 43.4km
Leg ascent - 511m
Total ascent - 1570m
Time - 2:02:18
Total time - 7:03:58 (11:02 ahead)
I ate my food as I started up Gatesgarth Pass, which wasn't easy to do without drinking a fair bit to be able to chew the bread. The climb went OK, and I managed to run most of the path to the farm/ bridge at Sadgill. This next section has felt like an eternity each time I've done the 100 but this time went fine. I had some pasta at Kentmere and got on with it before getting too hot in the checkpoint.
Leg 4 - Kentmere to Ambleside
Leg - 11.8km
Total - 55.2km
Leg ascent - 491m
Total ascent - 2061m
Time - 2:10:32
Total time - 9:14:30 (13:20 ahead)
Kentmere is effectively halfway in the 50 with the biggest climbs done. The remaining course isn't as tough in the climbs, but makes up for it in the underfoot technicality. I took a coffee with me as I headed up towards Badger Rock, then got my head down in the rain for the ascent. This went fine, as did the drop to the road at Troutbeck. The Robin Lane contour felt easier than usual and I was soon through the woods and at the checkpoint. There were some cold snacks outside, and inside were the hot drinks and food. I opted to dib and go, taking more sandwiches with me.
Leg 5 - Ambleside to Chapel Stile
Leg - 9.0km
Total - 64.2km
Leg ascent - 234m
Total ascent - 2295m
Time - 1:28:48
Total time - 10:43:18 (16:42 ahead)
This is where the wheels came off in 2016 for my 100, and it was good to pass that point feeling good. I ran most of this section (albeit slowly). I now knew that unless something broke, my 16 hour target was safe - from Ambleside I had 6 hours and 45 minutes to finish (25km, and a pace of 16 minutes/km). This was quite reassuring, but the mental maths started to make sure I was on pace for my plan. I ran-walked the flat section through the campsite as I was getting tight behind my left knee and needed to keep stretching it. At the checkpoint I had some stew and got going.
Leg 6 - Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite
Leg - 10.6km
Total - 74.8km
Leg ascent - 387m
Total ascent - 2682m
Time - 2:09:52
Total time - 12:53:10 (6:50 ahead)
It was dark now, so the head torch came out. There were some 100 runners who I played cat and mouse with, me being quicker on climbs and slower on descents. In the past I have worried about the navigation on this section, but it's actually pretty straightforward. It is pretty rocky though, so I didn't run much of this section and was 9 minutes slower than planned, but had time in the bag to compensate.
I walked pretty briskly from Blea Tarn to the Wrynose road, passing quite a few people on this section. The last up and over to Tilberthwaite seemed a lot shorter than usual too, which is always a bonus. IronMan was off shift when I got to Tilberthwaite CP so I put my donation in the bucket and took a couple of custard creams.
Leg 7 - Tilberthwaite to Coniston
Leg - 5.7km
Total - 80.5km
Leg ascent - 283m
Total ascent - 2965m
Time - 1:14:56
Total time - 14:08:06 (21:54 ahead)
The last leg, and for once I wasn't on mine. I seemed to leave people behind on this ascent, which is unusual, and passed a few people on the more gentle section to the summit. The descent was fine this time, and I was soon able to jog down the access road and finish. 14:08 and very happy. My wife and J were there to greet me, and I think J was please to see me as I ended up on my back covered in a licking dog. So now we have another Lakeland 50 medal for the collection.
I was asleep in bed by 3am after a shower and a drink, so was up in the morning. Wife, dog and I went for a few walks on Sunday (narrowly avoiding losing a dog down the sheer drop to the river near the Miner's Bridge - daft thing went down to look, but luckily managed to get back up as if butter wouldn't melt. Took years off us, that did) and the legs were fine. No blisters either, which is my usual problem.
We had good day, relaxing and mooching about. IronMan heading back and took the lads, so the three of us had Sunday evening/ Monday to ourselves. We had a takeaway on Sunday night, and some well earned sleep.
On Monday we were packed and checked out, so had a walk around Grizedale forest for a couple of hours, a nice lunch and another mooch about the lake (J likes swimming A LOT). So all in all a great weekend away with the family, and a big thanks to my wife for sorting most of it out whilst I was off doing my own thing.
Everything went right this year, although it was "only" the 50. No blisters at all, legs perfect, pace right etc. Blisters wise, the main difference was not using any anti-blister treatments prophylactically (and a new pair of my Speedgoats). I'm not sure what worked for me, but I could do with finding out for next year. I'm still looking at going for the 100 next time and could do with more training than I did this year. I'm happy with my kit and set up now (apart from a big hole in one of the pockets of my running vest, that is). Sleep deprivation and blisters are my two biggest issues over any longer a distance, and I will need to work out what to do with them.
All I have booked in the future in the Red Rose 50 later this year, which I enjoyed last year (being on home turf). I have a couple of other things I'd like to do (Lakeland Four Passes, NightRunners, Northern Traverse, Spine Flare, Lakeland Five Passes etc etc) but I'll need to think about timings etc.
Anyway, thanks again to my lovely wife for putting up with all this madness. And see you all in Coniston next year.