Monday, 25 August 2014

Lakeland 50 - lessons learned

I’m not sure if I’m OCD or excessively analytical but I do find it useful to record my post-race thoughts whilst it’s still relatively fresh, mainly for my own benefit, but if others can learn from my experiences…so be it.


Whilst my general preparation and training was OK, I think I fell down on L50 specific training. I signed up 10 months before the event full of great intentions of fully scoping the route beforehand, I even signed up for two of the recce runs and failed to attend either.
2013 was a year entirely focused on the West Highland Way race so I’d told myself 2014 would be a quiet year from a racing perspective. I’m not sure how my definition of quiet managed to include the Lochaber and Edinburgh road marathons, the D33, Highland Fling and L50 plus a sprinkling of shorter events too.
My training mileage was higher than last year but, with hindsight it was neither suited to road marathons or trail ultras and I never quite knew whether I should be training; long running or tapering.
My first recce run with club mates theoretically from Pooley Bridge to Mardale Head in February was a near calamity, appalling weather conditions; poor route choice; bad navigation; inadequate clothing; overconfidence and near hypothermia. On the plus side it gave me a very healthy respect for what the Lake District could throw at you.
Recce number 2 in April was better Pooley Bridge to the top of Fusedale out and back, even managed to do the sensible thing and turn back when the cloud closed in
Third and final recce was only the weekend before the actual race when I ran from Chapel Stile to the finish, given I ran most of this in the dark on the day, I’m so glad the route was fresh in my mind.
I had no navigation issues until just before Kentmere and then I had a couple of wobbles between there and Ambleside and one more wobble just before Skelwith Bridge, proper route knowledge might have saved me a minute or two!
Lack of reconnaissance was inexcusable as I’m only just over an hour’s drive from Pooley Bridge.
With climbs like Fusedale and the Gatesgarth pass I should have done some speed hike/ climb training, I didn't.


I run wearing an ancient Salomon X-wings back pack, 8 litres capacity and two 500 ml bottle holders, not as fashionable as the new and almost ubiquitous race vests but it’s comfortable and I could fit all the compulsory kit in, JUST.
I wore Inov8 Race elite trail shorts with under armour compression shorts and a short sleeve Adidas compression top, I’ve worn this combination on all my long races and runs and never had an issue with chafing ever!
Socks were brand new Inov8 merino wool trail socks, I know you shouldn’t try anything new on race day, but my previous Inov8 trail socks literally fell apart the weekend before.
Shoes were Salomon Speedcross 3s, the Gore-Tex kind, my 4th pair of these. I think they are great shoes, very comfortable, great aggressive grip and good support. The only downside is that when wet and on downhill’s I find the insole slips forward and bunches under the ball of my foot. Proper runners might suggest this is because they are too big! I take a size 11 in a road shoe and my first pair of Speedcross was also 11s, but I found them too tight on the toes, losing a few toenails in the process. For subsequent pairs I upped to a size 12 but found the insole slipping badly (only when wet), I then discovered the Goldilocks solution, Salomon do half sizes 11.5, not too big, not too small, just perfect.
The only solution is to stop and do a bit of sock/shoe maintenance when I feel it slipping; I apparently didn’t do so often enough on race day, as I ended up with a mahoosive blister on the ball of my left foot. I’m now giving serious consideration to gluing the insoles into my shoes.

For waterproofs I carried an OMM Kamelika race smock for wearing and an OMM race jacket for emergencies, I also took an OMM lightweight Sonic Smock, the sonic is OK for light drizzle but I switched to the Kamelika at Bleatarn when the rain proper came on, my Gore-Tex Paclite trousers remain unused, but previous outings have shown they are bombproof and with virtual full length side zips, easy to put on when tired and without taking off your shoes.
I run with a Buff and this proved invaluable when soaked for keeping my head cool, I carried a spare buff just in case too.
I’d give serious consideration to a set of light weight poles for next year.
I’ve used a Garmin 910xt for a couple of years, it comfortably lasted through the 50 miles, in the past I’ve used it for up to 19 hours. It’s the dogs danglies I’d buy another in a heartbeat.


I use a Berghaus Snowdonia 2.0 tent (now discontinued), it’s a generous 2 person tent in normal circumstances even with an inflatable mattress a double duvet and a proper pillow. What I’d forgotten was the bizarre post Ultra cramps you get and that any form of in-bed manoeuvring sets them off. I’d almost certainly go for a larger tent next time, it’s impossible to get truly comfortable after an Ultra, but a bit more space would have helped. I arrived in Coniston about 2 pm, plenty of time to get set up and chill and avoid traffic hassles.

Food and hydration

I used Nuun tablets throughout and was very disciplined with my drinking, I happily drunk from the cleaner streams too, in all I reckon I took on-board 8 – 10 litres. In addition to my compulsory emergency food I carried one packet of shotbloks and 3 gels, I used these but pretty much didn’t eat anything solid until the Tilberthwaite checkpoint, so probably a fail on the nutrition front. I tried a smoothie at Kentmere and nearly barfed, never again.


  • Thorough route recce’s for next time
  • More route and race specific training (avoid the road marathons)
  • Eat something solid earlier in the race
  • Practice on steeper climbs

I finished in 12:10:40 so still not too shabby a time, but I know I could do better, here’s hoping I listen to my own preaching’s for next year.


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