Lakes in a Day race : 7th October

51 miles
12,400 feet

My initial plan was to do the Grand Tour of Skiddaw race, but due to illness I had to give myself more recovery time, and enter what is a fantastic race anyway. The only reason I didn't plan on doing it in the first place, was that I wanted to give myself a bit of down time, then a good amount of time to properly prepare for the Trans Gran Canaria race in February 2018. However I should have time for this anyway.
My only strategy for the Lakes in a Day race was to set off a bit easier than last year, in the hope that this would allow me to avoid the awful cramp ridden race I had last time.

The 6.15 am coach trip north from Cartmel (finish) to Caldbeck, set off a bit late in the black of night. A mistake by a new to the area driver, meant a long reverse out of a tight lane. This in turn made us late to the start line. I say late, what I really mean is late if you needed a "morning comfort break". The usual long queues meant that after performing the necessary, I only had time to quickly repack me running sack then move through to near the front and it was time to go.

Caldbeck to Threlkeld (via High cop, Blencathra and Halls Fell) 10.4 miles : 3,400 feet

I set off at an easy pace. The day was overcast and windy, but the forecast for the day seamed more of a promising one than the ones earlier in the week. With this in mind I wore a Gillet and a long sleeve top in the hope that it would be enough so as not to have to have to faff with putting my jacket on. On the way up High Cop I felt a bIt warm. By the top it was windier and had started to lightly rain. I felt a bit cold but not too bad. A now thinned out line was snaking down over high Cop trying to avoid the worst of the bogs. Following someone closely is always a good move, to gauge how far your likely to sink, or if its best to take a risk on some other ground. It really was as boggy and tricky as I've seen it. We were in the cloud as we started the descent to the Caldew and the metal bridge that the organisers had in place. We soon came out of the cloud allowing us to aim at the bridge. Over the bridge then the long slog up Blencathra begins. About 3/4 of the way up the rain became heavier and it got much colder, so the jacket had to be donned, and yes I did faff with it blowing in the wind and rain. I never feel good running in a jacket and that means theres a high likelihood  of having to faff taking it off an putting it on many times. However on the upper parts of Blencathra it was definitely needed. Strong wind and rain made it feel extremely cold for the type of kit I had. I did have a lightweight thermal layer that I could have put on, but that would only compound the faffing. So over a claggy Blencathra then gingerly down a slippy Halls Fell ridge and I was soon at CP 1 in Threlkeld in probably about 18th place.

Descending Halls Fell ridge

Threlkeld to Ambleside (via Clough Head, Raise, Helvellyn and Fairfield) 18.4 miles : 6,200 feet

Quickly in and out of CP I, I continued to run along the valley towards Clough head. I felt a bit warm with the jacket still on, but as the summit was covered in fast moving cloud, I made the good decision to leave it on. Last year this climb changed my race into a trudge to the end. I still found it tough this year and it was probably as hard as I worked in the entire race. But I really enjoyed the run off the other side and the rest of the ridge to helvellyn. Mainly in the cloud and a very strong, part side, part head wind made it very cold indeed. I should really have put my gloves on, but the race blinkers were on. After already having made a small mistake on the contour of Great Dodd, whilst blowing into my cupped hands I accidentally started going down the track (near Nethermost Pike) to Swirls car park. Looking at the little line on my watch I thought it had gone wrong again. Luckily the error registered with me in time to not have to regain too much height to rejoin the track around Dollywgon Pike. I kept blowing into my hands though as I knew that I needed to use them to sort some water out at the Grizedale Tarn outflow. Luckily by the time I had descended the numbness had eased. I had started to pass the odd runner and on the climb of Fairfield I was closed back in by one, which kept me pushing at a decent pace. On the descent I caught a runner and we preceeded to descend the last 1,200 feet together into Ambleside CP.

Hands warmed, nearing Grizedale Tarn outflow

Ambleside to Finsthwaite   14 miles : 1,700 feet

I spent far too much time in Ambleside CP. A combination of repacking my rucksack taking my jacket off, and the great food, meant I think I was there for about 15 minutes. Way too long. It took me a while to get back into my running. But after a couple of miles I started to feel good again. I was now a bit ahead of  David Johnson, who I had run into Ambleside with. This section down the west side of Windermere, and at times in Windermere, was very boggy and sections were very tough to run on. On the 2nd and final wade through Windermere I was a bit surprised to see David again. But the company was good and the odd cheering on here and there form his enthusiastic family was uplifting, and so we ended up running together to Finsthwaite CP.

Finsthwaite to Cartmel    8.2 miles : 1,100 feet

Probably a bit too much time feeding in this CP too. Then we set off together in the slight gloom of the fading daylight. We navigated the extreme bogs and at times towards the end of this section under the trees felt a bit too dark given the bogginess of the ground. But we made it through and onto the final long section of road in very gloomy light. Neither of us wanting to stop to put a head torch on. Then on a slight climb Dave made his move. I kept it easy, thinking that on the long road descent I would catch him up. However the 50 meter gap just remained. When we closed in on the finish it was still the same and we could barely see in the full darkness of night. His family joined him for the run in, but there was nothing I could do to catch him, and kind of gave up and crossed the line 17 secs after him. I never really knew what position I was in, so it was a nice surprise to find out that I was 7th in a time of  11 hours 27. 12. I figure that the conditions were a good 1/2 an hour tougher than last year too. It was pleasing to run strong all the way, especially after last years weak effort.

Thanks to Ian Corliss for the great photos on a tough day!

The Lakeland 100 (10th Edition) : 28th - 30th July

103 miles
21,000 feet

I felt reasonably well recovered 5 weeks after the 10 Peaks race. So I was confident of doing well this year. Last year I had to quit at Braithwaite. A combination of not feeling too good, and not adjusting my starting pace acordingly, ended in my first DNF of UK turf. My plan this year was to set off extremely conservatively, and only push on in the last 1/4 of the race, maybe after Howtown. The forecast was for cool temperatures and frequent showers. So I chose minimal mandatory kit. But to mitigate this expected poor weather I started in a long sleeve top and Gillet, 3/4 running tights. On my feet were Asics trail shoes to Dalemain then a switch to Hokas and Drymax trail socks.

I started a bit further back than normal so as to reinforce my easy pace. I set off determined to stick to it. Starting to walk as the wide trail becomes single track. Then by the top of Walna Scar road, the first of many showers almost forced me to put my jacket on. But dropping some height towards the first CP at Seathwaite was enough to not need to. Sunshine and showers prevailed and I made a good but very comfortable pace all the way through the night and to Dalemian. The only thing of note was a heard of cows (I really don't like cows) blocking the trail on the way up to Black Sail pass out of Wasdale. The trails were muddy and waterlogged but other than that it was all good. My feet and legs were hurting a bit, but no more than normal.

On the way out of Dalemain.

After a 20 minute stop to change shoes and socks and have some of the lovely stew, I was off refreshed into the cool early morning air. I was maybe 40 minutes slower than my fastest time to Dalemain, But I have never felt so fresh at this point in the race. The next section went well, but on the climb of High cop a very heavy shower forced me to put my jacket on for the first time. My choice of Gillet and long sleeved top had probably saved me putting and taking it off at least 8 times. But the strong wind and heavy rain in the 8 am cool air chilled me, making it feel like the coldest point of the race.

I made good progress on my favourite section down the side of Hawsewater, but from the start of the race, and especially here, the trails were very difficult. Overgrown by fern, lots of large puddles and muddy sections, meant this was the worst condition that I have seen these trails in. Ultimately I think thats what eventually caused me to have painful feet. Blisters and trench foot slowed me down on the descent off Gatesgarth and I struggled to run normally. I still felt that it was an easy pace and that I could probably go quicker but my feet were holding me back.

I struggled to Ambleside CP, I got some water and food and continued to walk whilst eating. But at least the weather had improved. Maybe too much as it was feeling too warm at times. After Ambleside I decided to ignore the pain in my feet and just get on with it. Despite my feet holding me back, it probably just meant that I hadn't slowed down too much, as I was fairly consistently passing people. I wanted to maintain my position so I tried to just run normally.  I was 50th at Eskdale CP2, 21st at Dalemain CP8, and 19th at Lansdale CP12. Going through Ambleside quick meant that I was in 14th and my new found determination meant that I maintained that all the way to Coniston. It always feels great to finish the Lakeland 100. This year it felt especially sweet after last years DNF. It also got me one nearer (4) to the 500 club for 5 completions.

The marshals were brilliant and I really loved this race. I felt that I finished with a bit left, I may try with more vigour for a sub 24 hour next year.

I finished 14th out of 360 in 25.42.48. Michael Jones won in 20.22.19. Lady winner was Sabrina Verjee in 23.15.22.

The 10 Peaks (short course) : 24th June

31 miles
10,400 feet

Feeling that I had trained well in the lead up to the race, I thought that I could probably go with the leaders for the first few hours then see how it went. If I felt good after Honister I would try and push on to gain a gap knowing that the run in to the finish suited me. That was the plan anyway. From the very first step onto the climb up Helvellyn this plan failed in almost every way.

After a coach trip from the finish in Keswick, to the start at Thirlspot, we assembled in the cool 4.30am air. No rain but some threatening clouds lingered.  At 5am we gathered at the start. Everyone had to dib and then go. So there would be a slim chance of the first to cross the line not being the winner. Everyone seamed reluctant to dib first so after a bit of looking around I offered to. So I dibbed and ran. At first I went fairly easy on the less steep slopes of the climb up Helvellyn, thinking that a group would form. But even at a an easy pace, this didn't happen and after 200 metres I had about a 30 meter gap. So I decided to carry on at a steady push and see what happened.

The climb went well and the gap increased. Every now and then I looked back to check on the gap. By about half way up I figured it to be about 4 to 5 minutes. So I decided to try and at least maintain that so that on the decsent of Helellyn I wouldn't be followed. This was ainly because I knew the optimal line.

This plan worked and I descended Helvellyn alone. Taking a leek part way down I looked up and could see no one. It was now that I realised that I would probably be alone for most of the race. Well certainly for the Short course race, but along the road going to the first CP at Steel End Farm, I started to catch the back markers of the long course. This would continue to provide targets to aim at until the descent off Scafell Pike.

A quick stop at the CP, made even hastier by the swarming evil midges, and I pressed on. Up the never easy Wythburn valley, as in the OCT race. But unlike that, we had to summit High Raise instead of contouring around the back of it. I was now catching many of the Long course competitors, and to my surprise lots of them chose to go over High Raise even though they didn't have to. Then I headed for Bow fell. Although I haven't done this section before I got the line quite well. I made a good ascent of Bowfell who's summit was now in the clouds, unfortunately I had to have a "comfort break" half way up. Not ideal, but needs must I suppose. Some light showers mixed with the low clouds made the rocks greasy. This section from Bowfell to Great Gable is very rocky, so I just did my best and got on with it. It was much trickier than the recce I had done of this section in perfect weather 2 weeks earlier.

I felt that I was making good progress but Great End was tricky. The top section is flat and featureless and was shrouded in thick cloud. I eventually found the line off. For the same reason Ill crag and Broad Crag were a bit tricky too. Once I turned off Sca Fell Pike I knew there would be no more "targets" as the long course goes down to Wasdale. I descended down the Corridor route to Sty Head. It was a lonely task on difficult ground, I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a race. I kept looking back as I had no clue how far behind 2nd place was, and now the only runners would be in my race. I didn't see anyone at any point, even whilst ascending into the clouds on Great Gable.

I pretty much gave up on looking behind now and just got on with it. As I enter the clouds near the top of Great Gable, for the first time I began to struggle a bit. I just dug in and kept a decent pace going. I got the line off Great Gable wrong as it was covered in thick cloud. I didn't want to make a really bad mistake, so I didn't find the optimal line. But at least I only went on the slower rock steps towards Green Gable.

I chose the Borrowdale race route, around Green Gable and Brandreth to the right, and then Grey Knotts to the left. I ran into Honister CP expecting to find out how much of a gap I had, but the marshals couldn't tell me. So I pressed on up Dale Head. The sun came out and it started to feel warm. I climbed at a grinding pace. Then began the descent, after answering the marshals as to what I thought to be the best route. I was soon off the steep zig zags and crossing the river at the bottom. For the first time I took my Gillet and arm warmers off.

I then ran the trail towards the Newlands valley road. I passed a lady with a push chair and kids, she said "well done" and just before I was out of ear shot "2nd". 2nd? Had I been passed on Bowfell whilst comfort breaking? Unlikely. Was it a runner, not in the race?  I really couldn't get my head around that statement. It disturbed me for a while. I thought that this was going to be my first time to cross the line 1st (I crossed the line 3rd in a race, but was actually 1st). Had I somehow unknowingly blown it? A few hundred meters on and a runner approached me saying well done. He joined me and informed me that I was indeed in 1st, and that the other guy was Andy Berry storming the Long course. Few.

Relieved by news, I ran well down the road to the last CP at Nicol End Marriner on the shores of Derwent water. I asked them about the gap, I sort of knew the response I would get, and they didn't disappoint. They agreed with me when I suggested I should just get on with it. Its only 1.5 miles from here. So I ran it at a good steady pace, my legs now feeling a bit tired. My only nav error was to go left into the car park for the football club and then have to climb the fence, before running through the finish line. I then knocked on the door and dibbed for the last time. I think I surprised them.

I needn't have worried about getting caught, by Dunmail Raise I had a 15 minute lead, and at Sca Fell Pike I had a 40 minute lead, and by the finish I was nearly an hour ahead of 2nd place.

I had the luxury of the first food, and first use of the showers. It felt really good to have finally cross a finish line 1st. Unfortunately I don't have a trophy to put on the mantel piece, but I did get an entry to any of their races until the end of 2018. I'm thinking Ring of Steall or Ben Nevis Ultra, 2018.

I Finished 1st in 7.38.56 out of 106 starters. I also beat the old record (2014) by 14 minutes. Although this course was slightly different.

The Old Counties Tops race with Bill : 20th May

35 miles
10,200 feet

It rained hard just as we registered. This was a bad omen for the race. But I was optimistic that this years race would be less wet and cold than last years. How misplaced was my optimism? Massively.

A few showers weren't a problem as we started on the "warm up" over and through Grassmere. As usual at this point Bill and I were moving smoothly and swiftly. As we approached the tough climb up the side of Dollywagon I felt that we were maybe a little too swift. Running all the way up to the steep climb. I checked that Bill was ok and not pushing it, he affirmed all was good. Helvellyn was ticked off in about our normal time, and the weather was cool but ok.

Wythburn was even feeling a bit warm. So I took my Gillet off. By the top of Green up edge it almost felt like a replay of last year. The clouds amassed it started raining and the wind picked up. However this time it was cold rain with some sleet and hail in it. By the time we closed in on Angle Tarn, the now incessant rain, was getting to me. I felt very cold and thoughts of quitting crept in. I comforted myself in that, as we climbed to Esk Hause the wind would be at our backs.

Somehow we struggled to the Scafell Pike summit, and decided on the quick route down. Unfortunately Bill started with cramp whilst still high up, and in the cold wind and rain. My hands now painfully numb and almost useless, I said to Bill that unless things improve in the valley i'll have to quit. He sort of agreed as he too was cold.

After struggling up the steep slopes of Sca Fell Pike we dropped out of the cloud, and gradually the valley lit up with sun shine. Like a lizard warming in the sun, I could feel energy and enthusaiasm gradually return along with the use of my hands. We both decided to go for the finishers T-shirt.

Although the out and back to the Old Man of Coniston was cool with a fresh wind, it still felt quite mild by comparison to the earlier mailstrom. We made good time over the last section and finished in our slowest time of 10 hours 13 mins. But finishing was the main thing. I really enjoyed the race, maybe even more for the on the edge feel of it.
After warming up and drying out, on the ascent to the Old Man.

Closing in on the Old Man

Very happy to finish.

Howgills Trail13 race : 13th May

3,200 feet
13.4 miles

Last year I did the 26 mile version of this race. After being a bit frustrated by the amount of gates to open, and my poor finish, I decided to have a go at the half marathon race this time. The courses share the same start and finish with the Trail 13 effectively short cutting the 26 mile race by cutting down off the Calf via Cautley spout, to pick the route back up and circle back to the start finish area.

I had travelled up with my good friend Mark, we both watched the Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp led out of the field closely followed by the first lady. I said to Mark that I doubted she would end up in 2nd overall. Well Charlie (3.37.16)  held on to a comfortable win, and Helen Bonsor emphatically proved me wrong, by comfortably holding 2nd position overall (3:49:24). That had to be the run of the day.
The Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp, and Helen Bonsor leading it out.

So 20 minutes later, at 10 am. We were lined up ready for the 13 mile race. The MC pointing at 2 young looking lads and proclaiming "don't try and keep up with those". I later found out that one of them (Jonathan Cox) had won the race for the last 2 years.

Most of the 3,200 feet of climbing and descending is in the first half of the race. Then its an undulating trail run with a few gates to open. This year the route near the end was changed to bring the course back to the fell side, rather than out away form the fells to follow the river Rawthey. This included a bit of a sting in the tail in the form of an ever steepening climb. I hadn't recced that part of the course so it was to be a surprise.

Soon enough we were on our way out of the field and up the steep road.  Jonathan, and Richard Smith  (sponsored athlete) led followed by the other young lad "not to try to keep up with" (Jamie Ankle). So I tried to keep in touch with Jamie as we started climbing up Winder. He maybe had a 50 meter gap at first. But as the climb got steeper near the top I had closed him down and then overtook him. The lead 2 were now fairly distant, maybe 300 meters ahead. When I passed Jamie I thought that we would run together, but we never ran more than a stride together.

Without pushing too hard I pressed on, and by the climb around Arant haw I and the lead 2 caught the back end of the Trail 26. This made it difficult to see where I was in the field. So I decided that it was very likely that 3rd would be the best I could do today. Even the encouragement of some of the Trail 26 guys wasn't likely to improve that. But I decided to reassess when the routes split, and could see only our race. On the last part of the big climbs up the Calf, a spectator warned me that some were catching (or at least I think thats what he said). I did wonder how he could tell. But maybe the differential in pace gave it away to a stationary observer.

As the routes split I couldn't see the first 2. I descended for 200 meters then allowed myself a look back. I figured that I had a 90 second gap to 4th. I took it easy-ish on the steep descent down Cautley. Just before the (only) CP there is a 500 meter out and back to it. just as I started this, on the now rolling trails, Jonathan went the other way with Richard a minute or so behind. Looking at their cadence and feeling a bit of leg fatigue. It confirmed that they were gone.

7 miles in, getting back to tempo paced running 

I had a quick drink and a Gel at the CP.  On the way out I saw Jamie going the other way, maybe 2 minutes behind. I saw another 3 runners before I started the last 6 miles. The Gel worked and I ran well to the last (sting in the tail) climb. It was a tough climb, but I had a good view of the lead 2 at the top as I started it (definitely gone) and as I gasped my way to the top, I looked back to see the next 2 starting it. I felt pretty confident of 3rd now. Figuring I had a 4 to 5 minute gap. Then I started a bit of a descent, and missed a marker and descended about 200 feet lower than the wall that I should have followed. Luckily I knew the route followed a wall to the finish reasonably high up the fell. So I worked my way back by contouring the heavy going farm fields. I very carefully scaled a high drystone wall and was back on course. I figure that I lost 3 to 4 minutes.

The black circle (black line) is me rejoining the route, Just as 4th and 5th go straight down to the road! and Jonathan is about to win.

After the race I discovered that the 4th guy made the same mistake, followed by Jamie, but went all the way down to the road before realising and returning to the route. They eventually finished 15th and 16th (2.21.39), gutted for them.

Back on course I was fairly sure that they wouldn't have passed me. But still had a niggling doubt. On the last bit of fell before entering the same bit of road we ran up, I asked the Marshall's and they confirmed 3rd.  I needn't have worried as the now 4th place guy (Mark Tiptrot) finished over 8 minutes later (2.08.32).

As I ran the last bit of the road, I felt a tinge of disappointment that I was going to just miss sub 2 hours. But I was happy with 3rd overall out of 163. I felt that without the mistake my time would have been more like 1.56 instead of my finish time of 2.00.48.

The Route change makes this a much better course. I really enjoyed it. Jonathan Cox won for the 3rd time in a row in 1.49.33, and Richard Smith was 2nd in 1.52.19.

Wray Caton Moor fell Race : 1st May

6.8 miles
1,100 feet

Unfortunately, for optimum performance and no excuses, I only discovered that this race was on the night before. At this point i'd already had a few beers, it was late (or early in the morning to be exact)  and i'd had a fairly tough tempo run early in the morning, followed by a hard day at work. See what I mean the excuses are lined up now.

I work weekends so I don't get to do as many races as I would like these days. So when I discovered this local race on Bank holiday Monday, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

So feeling a bit groggy and tired I made my way to the Scarecrow festival in Wray village, which the race is part of.  Soon enough we were lined up in the centre of the village ready for the steep climb up the road. I felt I started ok. Although I was further back in the field than last year. The fell was dry and hard mostly but still patches of softer ground and bog. It was similar ground conditions to last year and I watched fellow Bowland Runner Mark Chippendale lead the race to the summit maybe 2 minutes and 15 places ahead. The descent was tougher than last year due to a stiff headwind for most of it. I never really got up to full speed on the descent, as I was still catching my breath from the ascent, and never really got on top of it.

I think overall the course was a bit tougher this year, mainly due to the headwind.  So I was pleased enough with a slightly slower time of 49.23 and 14th out of 106. Mark had a great run and held on to win in 45.36. His first win after 20 years of doing the race! Brilliant.

Trans Gran canaria Marathon : 24th Feb

26 Miles
2,700 feet  (8,000 feet descent)

Having started working weekends in October, I now struggle to get to many races. So this being part of a long time planned holiday with a race in it, meant I got to finally do a race. This time I decided on the shorter course of the Marathon. It is the last 1/3 of the full Trans Gran Canaria route. Starting at the major CP for the TGC race and following the same route. That is from the centre of the island at 5,600 feet, to climb 600 feet to the highest point at Pico de las Nieves and mainly descending to the south end of the island at Maspalomas. 2 climbs of about 1,200 feet each are the only exception to this mainly 8,000 feet of descent and 26 miles. My preparations had been hindered by an injury to my little toe. 5 weeks prior to the race I caught it on a very heavy pouffe and possibly broke it. I couldn't walk very well, let alone run, for over a week. When I got back to running it was too late to achieve the top end of fitness that I am used to.

An early morning start and a long bus ride into the hills, so us at the very cold (maybe 6c and drizzling) start area. With only the very light kit requirements with me,  I made the best I could of them to keep warm. Unfortunately we had a 45 minute wait for the start. I had a long slow warm up, then it was time for the off. It was cramped and chaotic for the first scamper on the flattish forest tracks, then a steep climb up to the highest point on the Island. The pack thinned out, and by the top my hands regained there feeling, after the numbness gained by waiting around.

I descended well and felt powerful, on the long descent to Tunte, I climbed well out of Tunte. I felt good on the descent to Ayagauras but on the road into the CP I felt the first signs of tiredness. It was also starting to feel warm, maybe a coincidence, maybe not?  I climbed the very runnable track at more of a jog and felt ok on the first bit of the descent. Then came my nemesis, that of the dried up riverbed. I suddenly felt very tired. I was desperate for easier ground, but knew this went on a bit. I walk / ran part of it, and no doubt wasted a bit of time at a makeshift CP, as well as some more time at the last CP at Park sur. The race was fading for me. I tried to rally on the easy paths and roads near the finish. But didn't Quite make my sub 4 hours target. Finishing 52nd out of 800, in 4 hours 2 mins. I did however get a sub 5 hour wrist band.

British relays Leg 2 with James : 15 th Oct

A late call up to the Bowland  Relay team for the British champs relays, was always going to be a tough day out. It was made even tougher by its location in Luss, on the western shores of Loch Lomond. A long 6 hour round trip was part of the deal.  It was also tough as I felt a bit outclassed by most of the team. But as I reminded myself this was a team cobbled together because a lot of the faster guys couldn't make it. In a way I felt that the new star of Bowland fell runners had been let down, as he really deserved a better team to run with.

After a 3 hour drive I met up with the team, and got the feeling that James and I were reasonably well matched. We set off on the second leg and the first climb was good, but on the first descent we went slightly off line and lost maybe 10 places. On the second big and unforgivingly steep climb I struggled and maybe held James up a minute or so. I got my act together on the descent, and we probably took back those 10 places that we had lost.

The nav leg 3 went well and then Chris stormed the final leg (5th overall!) to pull us up to 26th place out 115 teams. Not bad for a cobbled together team.

Lakes In a Day : 8th Oct

51 miles

13,400 feet

Feeling fit, but in hindsight not particularly well rested, I thought that I may be able to compete at the front end of the race. But only 3 hours in, on the steep ascent of Clough head, I realised this was going to be less of a race, and more about getting to the end.

I had set off at what I thought was a steady enough pace over High Pike and Blencathra. I was however in the top 10 until Clough head. It was on this climb where I felt I had no energy. It is a tough climb, and one that I tend to struggle on, but I was battling hard and moving slow. Over the summit I tried to run off the heaviness
in my legs whilst descending towards Great Dodd. This didn't work and I ended up literally floored by cramping legs. I still had 37 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing left! This was to be a long day.

For the rest of the route I was flirting on the edge of cramping, and at times floored by it. I struggled to the end, but was very slow, and when it got dark, even slower. The Route is fantastic if a little boggy towards the end. But this point to point, North South traverse of the Lakes is set to be a classic ultra. I only wish id enjoyed it a bit more. I did however enjoy finally crossing the finish line in Cartmel, in 21st place out of 316, in 12 hours 32.03.

Whilst feeling ok on the first big descent, on Halls Fell ridge.

The Grand Tour of Skiddaw : 3rd September

44 miles

7,100 feet

I had high hopes for my second bash at this race. Feeling fit, and knowing I lost at least 20 minutes wandering off course last year, I felt I could at the very least get a PB. But I also wanted to be at, or near the front of the race.

After the first climb of High Pike I was in 5th place. Jacob the eventual winner, was already a speck in the distance, and Paul Nelson (eventual 2nd) wasn't too far behind him. I closely followed Andrew Morely and Michael Irving as we descended High Pike (above photo). I ran down Glederatera valley with Michael, Andrew had gained a 400 meter gap. On exiting the valley I started to pull clear of Michael as the weather got worse and it started to rain. On the climb of Skiddaw, close to the top it was very cold with driving rain, as Andrew put his jacket on I closed in on him and we ran together until near the end.

me approaching Lattrig CP

Andrew Morely (4th)

Michael Irving (7th)

We both closed in on 2nd placed Paul Nelson, but when he noticed us about 2 miles from the end he reacted and maintained his 500 meter gap. Andrew allowed me 3rd stating that he wouldn't sprint it out as he would probably have gone wrong in the race and finished much further back, if he wasn't with me. I Gratefully accepted his kind gesture and pushed on for the last 200 meters, to finish a satisfying 3rd out of 75 in a new PB of 7.53.46.

the finish line

Andrew and I at the Start

winner Jacob Snochowski near High Pike

Lakeland 100 : 29th July

105 miles

24,000 feet

I felt less than great in the lead up with a cold. Also, I had to complete the race within 30 hours in order to get some sort of sleep before catching a flight to a family holiday in Gran Canaria. My sister booked it without asking when the race was, so I had to forgoe the first 3 days and schedule a flight for (just) after the race. Not the best lead up to a long tough race!

I got as far as Wasdale feeling ok, then halfway up the climb to Black Sail pass I ran out of energy. My legs fealt dead and within the space of 20 mins my thoughts had gone from, feeling ok maybe sub 24 hours is on, to, well I'll get around in under 30 hours anyway, to, I can't do this. By the top of Black Sail a few went  past me with words of encouragement as the night closed in. Unfortunately their good sentiments were wasted, I had already quit in my mind. I struggled on to Buttermere vowing to have a long break to decide what to do.

After 15 minutes refuelling at Buttermere CP (just in case I got food intake wrong, although I doubted it to be the problem) and a good chat with James Ellson, who was going through a similar experience, and decided to withdraw there. I decided to try again by getting to Braithwaite CP and reassessing. I struggled way more than I ever remember on any Ultra, I was moving at what should have been a conservative pace, yet I felt like I was pushing, as if near the end maybe 90 miles in. Halfway through the leg I decided to quit at the Braithwaite CP. I think the cold and Flemy chest had had a bigger effect on me than I realised whilst training.

I felt gutted to pull out only 30 miles into the race, but I know it was the right thing to do as I just didn't have it on the day. A long wait for the broom wagon ensued, and I got to see the entire (apart from the first 28 runners) field pass through. Night turned to day then we set off on the sleep inducing trip of shame back to the campsite.

I've already entered next years race, to put things right. Hopefully!

Looking on the brighter side. I got to see 4 hours in the life of a well organised checkpoint....

... and the start of the Lakeland 50 race.


The Borrowdale trail half marathon : 10th July

13.1 miles
1,260 feet

My 2nd successive year at this race. Last year I came 3rd, so I had high hopes again this time. My training for the Lakeland 100 had been going well and I was feeling fit, if a little tired from high mileage.

The day was overcast and on the verge of raining all the time. But perversely, it was also warm and humid. So the rocks were slippy and it was a touch on the warm side once working hard. Never mind, as they say, it's the same for everyone.

Instead of a 25 minute walk around the eastern end of Derwent water, same as last year, I chose the boat across. I think it just adds a bit of adventure to this race. After docking I had A bit of a warm up and then we were off. Straight up a little slope. To the horror of some that had gathered at the top of the slope waiting prior to the briefing, before being moved down. I settled into what turned out to be a fast couple of miles. During the first few miles whilst opening gates and dodging some semi startled walkers, a guy went off the front and constantly pulled away. A lady runner also went off the front and slowly pulled a gap. Up to about mile 4 I had settled into the back of a pack of 4, a lady, 2 others guys, and me. Then I felt a stitch start to gather in its menace. I decided to ease off the pace a little, whilst hopefully still hanging onto the 3 runners ahead. On a  mile of road another guy past me, making me 7th place. This was not going to plan.

My mind was awash with thoughts of how strong I must have been last year, compared to how feeble I feel right now. I had to run smart, this wasn't just a case of going at a hard push all the way. I was going to have to listen to how my body reacted to the climbs to maximise this far from ideal situation.   As we left the road and started on the easy slopes of the climb around Castle cragg, I was surprised that I straight away past one guy. We then had to wait as the leader of the pack struggled to open a gate, after what felt an age, (probably actually only 40 seconds) we continued on the steeper slopes.

I had a good climb and past all but the lady. The stitch now a distant memory, as I pushed on. On the descent to Rosthwaite I overtook the lady to move into 3rd place. The flat run through Rosthwaite was awkward, as was the rest of the course from here, due to the slippery rocks. Apart from making the rocks slippy, the frequent rain showers were welcome to cool us down. At the start of the long climb up to Wattendlath, the lady and one of the guys were right behind me. By the top  she just sneaked past. But on the first small rough descent I overtook her to regain 3rd.

I then pushed on, never looking back. Thinking if I get overtaken they will have deserved it. I always thought that I would get a look at 2nd, but probably not 1st, I never got a look at either. It was made tricky anyway as we were now overtaking a fair few of the 13k runners that had joined the course after setting off 30 mins behind us on a shorter circuit. By the flat 1.5 mile run in, I felt that I was set in 3rd and eased off the pace a bit. Crossing the line I was pleased with 3rd overall and 2nd male, but not pleased at how much I had to manage my pace. Still it was a really enjoyable run out around Derwent water.

150 finished the race. Oliver Smith won in 1:40:07. I finished in 1:46:45.