This was to be my 2nd attempt at the Lakeland 100 trail race. In the race 2 years ago I had very sore feet for half of the race, and consequently never really felt that I ran the 2nd half that well. So after some good training runs I felt fit enough to be able to better that time. More of the adventure is in aiming for a time when you do a race for the 2nd time, so I set myself a 26 hour target. Thinking that I could achieve this if I had a good day.
My good friend Mark was with me again to enjoy the race in a very helpful support roll. He would never leave Coniston, but just knowing he was there would be a help, especially when tired at the end. So he wished me luck and I lined up with 263 runners ready for the start.I found my other friend Bill and set off with him. It was great to get going after the long build up. I immediately lost Bill on the first climb and couldn't see him ahead. I would not see him again, I just hoped he was behind me, as he is prone to going off too fast; and it was his first time at a race this long.
I enjoyed the first climb in the evening sun and ideal temperatures I was simply making that I kept a nice comfortable pace to the first CP. I thought 1 hour 15 would be a good time to arrive in Seathwaite so was pleased to take only 1 minute longer than this. It was my only time check, the rest of the way I planned to run as fast as felt right without fussing about times.
I made a very quick stop to top the bottle up and dib then I was off on the very boggy section to Boot. I enjoyed this section the least, it was very boggy and I even went in bog up to my knees at one point, muddying my hands in the process. I also followed a pair in front too low on the contour around to Doctors bridge and had to backtrack, I was also the gate opener for a canny few behind me for most of the way.
So I was glad to arrive in Boot for a quick stop, do the usual process of dibbing, filling the water bottle, grabbing a bit of cake or other food item then shooting off. I left behind my gatekeeper followers and from this point was on my own for a long time, only passing a runner on the climb over to Burnmore tarn. The decent down to Wasdale was a bit easier as the track has been smoothed out, so this was a positive change. The other positive was the new road section past the campsite, avoiding the potentially flooded beck, I like the odd bit of road to get a rhythm going. Soon enough I made Wasdale CP, saying hello to Gene who was awaiting Bills arrival. This is when I discovered that Bill was in fact behind me. I wasn't to know until a lot later but Bill retired here mainly due to an ITB strain.
I decided on an extra to the usual routine here, which was that I sat down for a short breather. But I made it short and got on my way to head for the long climb up to Black Sail. On the ascent I passed 3 guys all going together, I never struck up a conversations I was keen to avoid part of what slowed me last time around. So I pressed on and crested the Coll in good daylight. One of my targets was to descend to the bottom of the valley in daylight, as it would make the rough descent easier. So all alone I reached the bottom and pressed on to hope to make the top of Scarth gap in fading daylight. My optimistic aim before the race was to descend from Scarth gap in daylight. Well I sort of did. It wasn't exactly daylight but it was usable light. Last time I put my headtorch on, on Black sail pass. This time I put it on as I reach Buttermere shore. My only other measure of how I was doing was when i took it off. I was enjoying the lonely run in the dark beside the lake. Then out of the trees a bat missed me by what felt like 6 inches. It certainly woke me up.
I arrived at Buttermere CP in good spirits had a quick chat with the guy at the CP then took off for the climb up to Sail pass. I was enjoying being alone until on the section through the woods my right foot slipped straight down and I was the grasping at the ground to arrest what would have been a 20 foot sheer drop onto a rocky beck. A wake up call, more care was needed. I made a good climb up to Sail pass and descended well until I used the first path to Barrowdoor, I realised, too late, that I had left the wide path too early, but pressed on across the open tussocks to then descend 60 feet back onto the track. I think I wasted about 5 or 6 minutes but it was no disaster. When descending to Braithwaite I noticed a runner ahead unfortunately he was going too slow to guide me to the CP which I wasn't 100% sure about. So I arrived in Braithwaite and doddered about a bit backwards and forwards before finally finding the CP.
A quick bowl of pasta and I was off again. This time road running beside the A66, I got into a good rhythm and ran all the way until Spoony lane.I walked most of the ascent. Then i ran the section into the out and back valley. A new unmanned dibber CP had been placed on what was described as the point where you make the right turn to head for Blancathra centre. So on approach I met a runner for the first time in ages. I said it was further being confident of the CPs flashing beacon as a guide. But it was down to our left. Luckily Kevin spotted it and we made for it. We then ran together for most of the rest of the race. Nearing Blencathara centre I felt a massive amount on pain under my big toe. A blister had come from nothing but Christ it was painful until a few minutes later when thankfully it burst, then I could run again. I caught Kevin back up as we entered balloon lined CP.
On leaving Blencathara centre asked Kevin if we could do this next bit together as I was not totally sure of the route to the old railway line. He was o.k. with it. So I tracked him through and we had a chat whilst running down to the old railway line. We went slightly wrong after the A66 underpass me thinking left (correct for once) Kevin right (wrong) but we sorted it out fairly quickly. On the next climb to the Old Coach road I went ahead and would leave Kevin behind for a couple of hours or so. I made good progress to the next CP at Dockray
A quick stop and I was off on the road descent down to the beautiful track around Gawbarrow. Just after starting the track I caught up with the headtorch ahead. It was Grancho and we would run together to Dalemain CP. He had set off too fast and had suffered for the last 2 hours. It can be a tough time through the dark hours and I think I appeared at the right time to get him back on track mentally as much as anything. On the last bit of ascent of the contour of Gowbarrow we took our head torches off. This was a marked improvement on last time when I took it off on meeting the Old coach road. So I now knew I was doing well. At times I struggled to keep up with a rejuvenated Grancho, but I did all the way to Dalemain CP.
At Dalemain I had to spend a rather long 24 minutes sorting my feet out and eating. By the time I left Grancho had left and he would only be seen as an ever distant object in the next 2 stages. Kevin took a shorter break than me and so we left together. It was now 06.30 and it started to drizzle. Although it drizzled a bit during the night I managed to avoid donning my jacket until now. Later in the day it would be on and off about 6 times with sunshine and showers teasing us. Kevin went ahead then I caught him on the climb out of Pooley bridge. I went past him then during a toilet break he went past me.
After the Howtown CP, on the long climb to high cop I had my first bad patch. Kevin pulled away, but I was lucky that another runner near the top was struggling more than me, so psychologically this helped. I went past and decided to temper my pace all the way to Mardale head, to get over the blip.
Kevin left the CP as I arrived. A quick stop at Mardale CP and I was off to test if my blip was over. I decided that if I could climb Gatesgarth well, I would be o.k for the rest of the day. I did but the weather became a bit windy and wet on and off from now, still it wasn't too bad, better than heat all day. I caught Kevin on the climb up and over to Kentmere, where we arrived soaked and cold after a heavy shower. It was always nice to get the personal treatment at these empty CPs but this made it tempting to stay too long. So we got up and left for the last long climb up to Garburn pass.
The rest of the route to Ambleside was good and Kevin and I were pretty much side by side now until the last descent into Coniston, more of that later. Ambleside CP was nice and calm and after a quick chat with the marshals we were off. On the final bit of climb contouring Loughrig, top local runner Ben Abdelnoor informed us that Terry Conway had already won in19 hrs 51. We were amazed what an incredible effort and a great new record that will take some beating no matter who has a go at it!
As we rounded Elterwater I would find my friend Bill with a camera ready to take photos, I was glad and sad to see him, glad to see a friendly face, but sad to discover he had to pull out at Wasdale. He ran with us for a while before we continued to get the job done. The rest of the route went well and we just tried to keep a decent pace going. I knew I was not running as fluid or fast as I did to Dalemain, a combination of blistered feet and tight calf muscles made sure of that.
But we did egg each other on to make sure we held a pace that no one could catch us up at. But we were being caught by Scott Bradley. At the last CP at Tilberthwaite he was 7 minutes behind. We didn't know he was catching us, but it didn't matter as this is a strong leg for me, and for Kevin too as it turned out. He power climbed all the way, in hindsight I think he was trying to get drop me. At this time whilst following 20 meters back I was thinking of asking if he wanted to dib together for joint 7th. Ironically I never quite closed the gap enough to ask him. But this pace meant that Scott had little chance of catching us so never mind.
After the rough last bit of descending on the route I caught up with Kevin and he did look surprised that I was still with him. He continued down past his family and onto the cinder path, then he kicked before I could ask the question, I think I know the answer now anyway. He flew away and although I ran fairly quick my stiff calves would not permit me to chase. I let him go happy with 8th. Then as I got onto the road Bill informed me that Scott was only 7 minutes behind at the last CP. So I made a last, and as it turned out unnecessary, dash for the line. It was great to finish and the time was a really pleasing 25 hours 11mins. Scott was 11 minutes slower on the last leg, so lost ground on that leg, but it was better to air on the side of caution as Scott is a class runner. He finished 18 minutes later. To put my time, and the quality of the field into perspective, my time of 25 h 11 m would have been good enough for 2nd place in 2010!
Mark helped with my kit, and it was good to see his parents Ken and Angela, as well as Bill and Gene at the finish line, it made it feel really special. It was good not to need the head-torch on the last descent as well, as i had had to last time. After half an hour I started feeling a bit rough so ended up on the floor with my feet on a chair for 15 minutes. But it definitely helped. After this it was just the usual issues of blistered feet and stiff legs. All together though it was a pleasing race, but I still feel I can do better if I can prevent blisters and look after my calves. I may have to have another go next year to find out.
top left : Terry Conway top right : Grancho Bottom left : Kevin Perry bottom right : Me