Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Lakeland 100 2013

HMHD99 £2 up to £10 to 70070

I arrived in Coniston late morning on the Friday of the race; I had a very short wave of nerves turning into Coniston. They subsided as soon as I drove into the school field which would be acting as camp site/car park for the competitors and families for the weekend. I was directed into a space big enough for my car and 2 man Tesco tent (£12.50 bargain!!). I started to put up the tent struggling slightly in the wind. A fellow 100er ambled nervously to the pitch next to mine and asked me which race I was taking part in. He seemed defeated before he had even started and had a fairly negative tone, I didn’t dwell on it and went to register and get weighed.

I saw a few familiar faces from the Facebook community, (Jon Fletcher and Otto, Andrew Hayes, Simon Fisher, Anna Roberts etc) in the school canteen. I got weighed, registered and went through the kit check. I chatted to a few more people after kit check and then went to The Endurance Store as all the display they had out looked all bright and shiny and inviting. I bought some arm compression /warmers, quad compression and a running top that I thought I might wear after Dalemain, (one of those compress sport tight as a wet suit top thing). I got the right size tried it on and made a note to myself that they weren’t easy to put on and take off. So I though id decide at Dalemain whether id wear it or not.

I checked my race pack and my halfway drop bag again and settled myself in the car with the air conditioning on as it was getting rather warm and humid. I watched a movie on my phone(Trance, directed by Danny Boyle the guy that orchestrated the brilliant opening ceremony for last year’s Olympics), which is well worth a watch. This took my mind off things for nearly 2 hours and as I relaxed and cooled off in the car.

Time crept on and I got my running kit on and again checked my pack and drop bag, I chatted to Marcus Taylor a guy id ran with on a previous recce and Steve Mee,  who’s blog id read a few times after he completed last year’s 100.

It was now time for the briefing in the school hall, brilliantly given by Marc Laithwaite and Terry Gilpin. Things moved on and it was time to deposit the drop bag to be taken to Dalemain. We all hung around, a few nervous faces were seen on the way to the start funnel/area. I had arranged to run with Simon Fisher as we had run a couple of recces at a similar pace. I found another lad Martin in funnel (Simons mate) who I had also ran with on the same recces. He was aiming for a fast start so had placed himself near the front, Simon was nowhere to be seen as he had to attend to a call of nature that couldn’t be sorted in a bush on the first climb.

So the countdown ensued a few more brief chats with those around me and we all set off. The Lakeland 100 2013 had started and I was one of the starters! I wasn’t sure at this stage whether Simon had snuck in at the front and was in front of me or if he was behind me. So I carried on at my normal pace, not really thinking of what was ahead of me or how it would pan out. What I didn’t do and haven’t done since I signed up for the 100 last year was let any negative thought enter my head. No talks of DNF (did not finish) with anyone, the race was always a race and not an attempt, all conversations were positive (when rather than if, im running rather than im attempting and so on), I think this is a major factor in your preparation, filling your head with negative thoughts and phrases and comments only feeds any sub conscious negativity that can lay dormant until resurfacing during the event, then any hardships endured have a ready-made excuse to give up.

I cracked on up Walna Scar road not pushing too hard as it was so warm, but keeping pace with most around me. I kept looking back for Simon but he was nowhere to be seen, must have been some dump!!

I headed down hill down to the first checkpoint at Seathwaite Village Hall, quick fill of the water bottles after dibbing in and I carried on within a few minutes. I continued at the same pace into the evening, taking the climbs and descents from Wasdale Head to Buttermere in my stride, with the small matter of Black Sail Pass to contend with mind) I felt ok and carried on at this pace within my comfort zone. I also remembered to look behind me as the row of head torches stretching back into the distance and ahead of me created a surreal moment for me like i was on a row of stars or something, its hard to put into words, but the experience is amazing and only fills you with awe at where you are, where you started from and where you will end up. You have to have done it to know what i mean. As the skies were clear you could also make out many stars due to the minimal light pollution. It was truly and awesome experience.

I ran with Nick Ham (an experienced ultra-runner of countless 50 and 100 mile plus ultra-marathon finishes) for a while, knowing that he knew how to pace a 100 mile ultra I stayed near to his pace as it was similar to mine. The checkpoints came and went, each one hosted as brilliantly as the other by different teams. The 70s themed checkpoint was great, really lifting everyone’s spirits, a few photos were taken and on we went towards Buttermere.

The sun was rising as we headed towards Braithwaite, I still felt ok and was running well. By now I was running on and off with a small group, Chris Enwright a noisy scouser (Liverpool fan!!, ahh just my luck, i remember mentioning in jest that 'youll never walk alone' was one of my least favourite songs, (im a Manchester United fan), so 10 minutes later true to scouse form he starts singing it, i was a bit grumpy at this point and asked politely to refrain from singing that or hed be found in the bracken/ferns around October time :-) in jest of course ;-). Also with us now for a while was David Coxon, who I knew from The Wall Run last year and a couple of other lads (Shaun and Darren) who I hadn’t met before. Shaun, Darren and Chris were running strong a bit ahead of myself and David.

We headed out of Braithwaite (after some pasta and sauce and a brew) through Keswick and up towards Latrigg car park. We had a quick chat about the climb up Skiddaw, a decent route which id done a few times in June after work when I (lucky for me) was working on the A66 at Threlkeld and Doddick Farm supervising the construction of some access steps and stiles on the Public Footpaths that cross the A66. We headed around the fell and made our way down the left hand side of the Horseshoe shaped path which headed towards Blencathra. Chris, Darren and Shaun were running strong and were ahead of us as we reached Blencathra. We dibbed in filled water bottles and picked up some food  and headed off towards Dockray. It was on this leg that i had my first major wobble. The combination of the mid morning heat, plus the food just consumed and the slightly slower pace added up to me feeling really tired. It was on the long flat section (Old Coach Road i think) with not much change in scenery pace etc. I couldnt shake it off and was falling asleep on my feet. Id walk for 5 seconds with my eyes closed counting in my head thinking this might help if i closed my eyes. Looking back now i could easily have gone to sleep in the bracken and not woke up until the Sunday morning!

I managed to keep going being passed by a few, Jonathan Steele being one name i knew from the Facebook page, he ran past me obviously feeling good at that point. I made it to Dockray refuelled, had a bit of a break and carried on. I inspected my Hoka Mafate at Dockray and realised the tears along each instep (where the sole meets the material of the shoe) had worsened. I had felt this on the last recce, but they werent at a stage where they needed replacing, that added to the fact i couldnt afford a new pair prior to the event. So i took and bit of a gamble hoping they would at least last to Dalemain. The tears meant the insides of my feet werent protected and felt a few times on the downhills rocks and stones hitting my feet through the holes. I had my Bondi B in the halfway dropbag at Dalemain so i now had to change into them even though it was due to rain later that day (and the Bondi B are a road shoe and are pants on wet and muddy trails).

Dockray to Dalemain is one of the longer legs covering 10 miles, by now Chris, Darren and Shaun were running strongly, too quick for me to keep up with. I was still running within my own comfort zone and did not want to push too hard so soon (there were over 50 miles to go at this point) so continued to run with David Coxon at a steady pace all the way to Dalemain passing the castle renovated to current living standards.

At Dalemain i had the break that i had promised myself, i sorted my feet out as i had a small blister on each heel, changed my shoes (the Mafates i binned as i wouldnt be wearing them again) and socks and t shirt (i decided against the Compressport top as it seemed too much effort to get it on after 59 miles), and had some vaseline applied to my back (by that friendly scouser Chris Enwright) that had chafed with the excess sweat and movement during the first section of the event.

Myself and David cracked on towards Howtown now following the more familiar L50 route, we were ahead of the start time (1130am) of the 50 and we were looking forward to the leaders of the 50 coming past us. I kept looking back, got my camera out a few times thinking id get some photos of the L50 leaders, they didnt materialise when i though they would at the top before the descent to the Bobbin Mill which was checkpoint 9. Then all of a sudden a copper headed elite looking fell runner came flying down the descent. We gave our support and he nodded in return. It was Marcus Scotney and he was motoring. The next group were a good 10 minutes or so behind him, this group included Ben Abdelnoor the eventual winner of the L50. Also just behind them doing really well was Katherine Brougham, who was on the last recce i attended (Ambleside to Coniston), she looked strong then but struggled a bit on her descents, looked like she corrected that in some style. Well done to her.

We continued onwards towards Mardale Head, by now i had my second wind (at 66 + miles i wasnt sure this was possible), or maybe it was my third wind, anyway i felt great and the pace we managed towards Fusedale was not what i would have expected. Where i thought i would be walking as preparation for the climb up Fusedale I was running (not too quick i might add) but still running. Tony Holland who was doing the L50 passed us on the way up and stayed with us for a chat as he knew David well, i know him only through Facebook so it was good to meet face to face rather than just knowing the avatar.
We pushed on up the climb and had a chat with Steve Mee writer of the great post that is on the home page of the Lakeland 100 website. He had some positive methods of staying motivated throughout the event last year when he did the 100 for the first time.
I had my own motivational tools which I'll come to in a bit. We maintained a decent pace passing some of the 50ers on the way up the climb, Steve being one we passed. I think alot were struggling in the midday heat which they had just started in whereas we had acclimatised to the heat along the course of the morning so it wasn't such a shock to us. He shouted a well done and I shouted back that he'll be passing us again on the descent. Sure enough 10 mins later Steve and his group passed us at high kop before the descent to Haweswater along the path that never ends to Mardale Head. We continued along keeping pace with most of the 50ers all the way to Mardale Head. I spotted Carla Murphy along the way who was 'having a mare' with cramps similar to what i had at the Highland Fling back in April. At the checkpoint we caught up with Chris, Darren and Shaun, Shaun was suffering with his calves or feet, cant remember which and Darren also had a similar complaint. They mentioned that they may have pushed too soon back on the run in to Dalemain (i thought at the time they were running strong, perhaps too quick and it had caught up with them). We pushed on up Gatesgarth Pass a cheeky climb which is fairly short but steep. I was next to Chris Enwright again who inadvertantly wound some 50ers up by saying this was just a baby of a climb :-), as if laaa!

I continued feeling strong passing to my amazement more and more of the ladies and gents doing the 50. I couldnt believe how i felt after 75 miles! I was half expecting the wheels to fall off at any point but i continued knowing that the pace i was going at i could maintain at least until Ambleside. We dibbed and refuelled at Kentmere, by this point i think i had left Chris and David behind me although they werent far away. I felt energised again coming out of Kentmere and wanted to use this positivity to the best i could while it lasted. I was now not only thinking of just finishing but finishing in the best possible time i could. I still maintained a manageable pace but was picking more and more fellow 100ers off as i went. This felt good and motivated me even more to push on. I was up and over Garburn through Troutbeck and was heading into Ambleside before i knew it. I picked up the pace again keeping up with some 50ers all the way to the checkpoint which was now located in the Ambleside Parish Centre having moved from Lakesrunner which is now a coffee shop i think. I flew up the steps like they werent there causing a marshall to shout 'no way are you doing the 100!!', this gave me even more of a boost entering the checkpoint. I sat down for a few minutes, filled water bottles had a brew and ate something proper ready for the run to Chapel Stile. I hooked up with a few lads doing the 50 and ran with them all the way pretty much to Chapel Stile. I reckoned this saved me half an hour easy and i passed some more 100ers who were walking at this point.

The rain was now coming down pretty hard now and for the first time the waterproof jacket came out. Im glad of it now and that i opted for the OMM Kamleika, kept the driving rain out well. I was now back running with David Coxon who was also moving well. We picked the right path through Blea Moss, remembering to stay high this time, and stayed on the path through the thick tall ferns to the unmanned dibber on the wall. We headed down the tarmac road past the farm. This is where things got for the first time a bit confusing, the head torches reflecting off the driving heavy rain added to the tiredness due to the nigh on 100 miles we had just covered had myself and David questioning the route to Tilberthwaite, the trail looked mighty different at 0230 and for a few minutes it looked like we had gone round in a circle and were back at the same wood on the right of the track with cobbles and rocky trail underfoot. It was at this point following my pre-programmed route on my Suunto Ambit (i had been using this since the start every so often to make doubly sure i was taking the right path, and up to then had been working great), for a minute or so thought to myself had we somehow turned round and were heading along the line on the watch the wrong way ahhh!! I knew we were sort of heading in the right direction as i could see a few head torches up the slate path from Tilberthwaite Car Park. Then some 50ers caught us up who were also having a similar experience checked their GPS and we were ok, so i trusted it and followed the arrow rounded the corner and thankfully there was High Tilberthwaite Farm. I ran steadily ino the checkpoint and began refuelling ready for the last climb. It was getting cold now, i could feel myself starting to shake so put on all kit i had in my pack, spare t-shirt, gloves, waterproof bottoms. Without this spare kit it would have been 10 x harder to get myself warm again. The kit list is definately there for a reason, do not skimp on kit, just because 6-7 hours earlier people were dropping with heat exhaustion doesnt mean you wont need your spare kit for the latter legs. The rain and the wind combined at 0300, added to the fact after so long on your feet the body finds it harder to heat itself made it really cold. I was hoping the layers i had on and the climb from Tilberthwaite would warm me up.

Before we set off i had refuelled with some food and a few cups of sweet tea. I also had to to change the batteries on my head torch as it had started to flash a warning that it was getting low on batteries on the way in to Tilberthwaite. I changed from the Lithium battery in the Petzl Nao to some AAA, to my horror within 2 mins it had started to flash again warning that the battery was low. How could this be, i had checked and rechecked this before packing kit for the final time. I didnt panic and positioned myself as close to David as i could on the climb out of Tilberthwaite. Pushing on up the climb with us was a group of 50ers, one had a brighter head torch so i got behind him for a while. This was easily the least enjoyable section for me, the lack of head torch plus the wet ground and slippy Bondi B and i was sliding all over the place. I didnt let it get me down and laughed evertime i fell on my arse. I found it easier on the grassy sections just to slide on my arse as i could keep up with the man in front better!!. So after picking my way down the tricky  rocky steep descent with no head torch we finally came to a proper path. I now found myself running/shuffling next to a 50er with TWO TORCHES!! ahh if only id found him earlier I explained my predicament and asked if i could borrow his hand held torch for the run in (the easy bit down the road, not the rocky tricky steep descent!!), he very kindly lent me it and i set off knowing the end was not far away. My left IT band was giving me some gyp by now, so to counter this i ran sideways like a crab all the way down the hill into Coniston, i corrected my gait for the last 100 metres (wasnt sure how people would react to black mansized crab-like figure running through Coniston in the early hours) and rounded the corner on to the final run in to the school. I was soaked to the skin but felt elated when i saw the finish line. I was met on the final turn by a bubbly (for 0345 in the morning) Tracy Dean who shouted ahead that another 100er was here, i dibbed for the final time and entered the school. I was hit by a wall of applause, warmth and friendly faces, i didnt know whether to laugh or cry so i just smiled the biggest grin. I was led into the hall where i picked up my medal and t shirt.

What an experience!!

I finished in 33 hours 52 mins and 08 seconds in 65th place. I could not believe the time and the placement. I was over the moon, so pleased at how it went.

I completed this event with a few motivational/tools for inspiration. The first is for the Charity i ran for Duchenne Now and the young lads and girls my fundraising efforts will help. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy affects mainly boys and is a rare muscle wasting disease. Most of the young people affected ny this disease dont make it past their late teens or early twenties. A friend through works stepson Tyler Richardson has it, and Nick Irlam (his Step Dad) and family spend alot of time fundraising for Duchenne Now www.duchennenow.org I wanted to help. If you have managed to read this far and are would like to donate there are a couple of ways that you can, the www.justgiving.co.uk/christetlow249 link, or by texting HMHD99 £2 up to £10 to 70070. Thanks in advance for your donation.

Tyler Richardson
Another motivational tool that helped was my own son Jimmy, hes five and sort of grasps what i do. So as a tool for when things got tough i asked Jimmy to stand in front of me and say a few times 'come on Daddy, you can do it' So when things got rough id play that mental recording in my head, it would make me smile and push on. He also really wanted a meadl with 100 on it, so i promised it to him!! It worked for me anyway!!

Ill be back in 2015, as next year i hope to bring my sons up for the Lakeland 1 and help out marshalling if they need it. I like the idea of being on the other side for once. See you next year then!

I pinched a few photos for this post as mine werent that great, thanks Adam Rose and others that posted to the L100 Facebook page.