On my previous 2 races the weather was conjussive to fast times. This years race however was to be different. The heat was pretty oppressive for an event as long as this. Sheltering from the sun under trees before the start, and sweating profusely at the briefing in the school sports hall, is not an ideal way to prepare for a tough 104 mile race!
A quick chat with Bill Williamson and the usual gathering at the start line, and I was off on another long tough race. I set off at a good pace but it was hard to judge how I was doing compared to 2 years ago, as this year we set off from Coniston at 6 pm rather than 5.30 pm. I normally judge my progress by where I have to put my head torch on. However I felt that I made good progress through the first sections, of Eskdale, Wasdale and Buttermere. Nothing too fast, but steady, and close to my times of (25:11) 2 years ago. I had tentatively targeted a sub 24 hour race finish. But even at this fairly early stage in the middle of the night I knew that was very unlikely. A PB was going to be a tough ask as well.
During my preparation for the race I banked on; as I had in the previouse 2 races; drinking half a litre of water, mixed with nuun salt tablets, between most CPs. But the heat was such that even during the warm night I drank 1 litre. I also, only needed to wear a sweat soaked T-shirt; no jacket during the night was needed this year. I had to rethink my strategy for the day ahead on the fly. My progress was good durring the night my new Salomon rucksack felt comfy and my feet held up pretty well.
Night turned to day on the Old coach road, as I passed a friend of mine Ian Symmington, who seemed
to have had a bad time and was about to quit on the race. Normally he would be right up at the sharp
end. I was at the fairly pointy end but I figured that I was outside the top 10, maybe 16th or so. Normally daybreak is a nice feeling. Being able to see ahead takes less concentration, and ultimately moving faster is easier. But with daylight came heat.
I started to not only need to fill both half litre soft flasks at CPs, but also to refill them at streams, sometimes twice in between CPs. On occasion I even climbed down slightly off route wasting a few minutes to get water out of a stream I would never normally risk. But needs must. It was a tough day
in the bright sunshine and heat but at least being near the front meant the CPs were quiet.
After the tough climbs of Gatesgarth and Garburn pass I knew I was going to at least finish. At the top of the Garburn pass climb I started talking to the eventual winner of the women's race, Debbie Marti-Consani. At the top she moved ahead but later I would catch her just as she left each of the last few CPs. I carried on at a pace that by now, at Langdale, I knew would not be a PB. I was thinking
sub 26 hours was the best I could expect. I caught Debbbie on the last climb over hole rake towards the final descent to Coniston. We chatted for a while whilst a fine mist threatened to cool us down. It was short lived and didn't. It was still too hot for this, but at least the finish was only a descent away.
I felt tired but my legs felt OK on the descent, and I knew from the CP staff, that we were battling for a top 10 finish. Having done so in my previous 2 races (2010 7th 28h 31), (2012 8th 25h11) I made an effort on the descent and managed to get a gap on Debbie. Which I managed to extend to 1 minute 30 by the finish line. Feeling very tired I was glad to see it, and ran through Coniston to the finish line reasonably strong. My time of 25 hours 27 wasn't a PB but given the heat, and being slightly above my ideal running weight, I think it was a descent effort. Unlike other years my feet fared pretty well, I put this down to the Drymax ultimate protection socks that I decided to wear. This also aided a fast recovery, for my future races. Bill had a rough time with the heat and towards the end with the bad weather and rain that moved in. He toughed it out after a quick start, to finish in 32 hours 34.