Monday, 29 August 2016

Lakeland 50 2016

I first ran the Lakeland 50 in 2014......the heatwave year! .....blazing sunshine and 30C going up Fusedale I actually phoned home and swore "I'm never doing this f*****ng race again!", finished in 12:10:40...never again!.
Of course by the time I'd driven home it was "that is such a great race, I'm sure I can do better".
2015 Twelve months on, fitter, more hill miles in my legs and with a bit of route knowledge I knocked 1 hour 23 minutes of that time, "my work with the Lakeland 50 is done!".
But the running pixies in my head kept telling me that since I'd had to don my head torch for the final descent last year I'd been painfully slow, so maybe, just maybe I could just shave a bit off my 10:43:23 and finish in daylight?
So I guess it was pretty inevitable that I'd be on the start line at Dalemain this year.

Goldilocks running weather was how I'd describe race day. Not too hot, not too cold, ideal for a tough 50 miler. I didn't feel terribly enthused on the start line though, I'd not slept well on Friday, combination of toilet trips; noisy neighbours; excitement and being woken early by some twat runners who felt it necessary to be up and at em' at 6am banging car doors and running car engines, truly that should be a capital offence.

But I've paid my money, my head may not be in the right place, but the quickest way to get it over and done with is to run back to Coniston, OK so I know its not, but you get my drift.

Muggins and Caroline at the start
Fellow Harriers, Caroline was running the 50 too and Andy had opted for the big boy race, the full 100.

In common with many other bloggers I really dislike the first couple of miles, I hate running on grass and this all meant I was in a pretty foul mood by the time I headed into Pooley Bridge!

Trotting over the new bridge, I heard a shout of abuse, fellow Harriers Gillian; Gerry and his wife Lorraine driving through in my car! I've no idea what they shouted, almost certainly something uncomplimentary but it gee'd me up and I trotted through Pooley Bridge milking the crowd for applause.
I half ran, half walked up the hill out of Pooley Bridge and then ran steadily down into Howton checkpoint, surprise surprise the Harriers were there taking photos too. I think I made some crack about finding the race "hateful"...still in my dark place.
I knew I had to keep checkpoint stops to an absolute minimum, so refill the bottles grab a flapjack and straight back out heading for the joys of Fusedale!

Howton CP 1:35

Halfway up Fusedale there was a hugely enthusiastic lady with morale boosting slogans written on balloons, one in particular said "Don't be shit". Sort yourself out Ainslie, get your race head on and get this done!
First year I ran the 50 I didn't use poles, being a Scottish purist I subscribed to the "poles equals cheat" sticks principle, last year I realised the error of my ways, but ended up running with poles in my hands for pretty much the rest of the race after Fusedale, culminating in a comic moment as I tried to walk into the school at Coniston with my (fully extended) poles strapped to my pack and failing to make it through the door.
On reaching the top of Fusedale this year, I had a blinding flash moment, I'm running with fully extended poles in one hand and I feel really unbalanced as I run. Wait a minute I never run with poles in my hand normally why am I doing it now? I take a minute to stop; collapse the poles and secure them to my pack and I'm off across towards Low Kop with a proper spring in my step. 
The running demons have disappeared, step aside......Elvis is back in the building!

On the descent down to Haweswater I see a familiar figure up ahead, running mate Andy Beattie, 73 miles into the 100 and looking like he's having a pretty hard time. I'd expected to pass him at some point but not so early in the game. Andy is probably the fittest person I know, the fact that he's looking grim is testament to the difficulty of the Lakeland 100.

I'm not the best of descenders having variously been described as descending "like a proper fanny" or "like a big girls blouse" but this time I try to relax on the descent and really enjoy it this time with no dramas. 
On the path alongside Haweswater I truly feel at home, this type of narrower stony trail is exactly what I train on. I'm definitely getting into the race now.
The last couple of miles into the Mardale Head checkpoint always seem slightly never ending, I pause a couple of times, once to sort out scrunched up insoles in my Speedcross 3s and secondly to dip my buff in a stream and give my head a thorough and lovely drenching in cold water, good friend Andy Johns passes me at this point. Andy and I are roughly the same pace in Ultra's although he's always beaten me with stronger finishes, so I reckon this is a good marker for me today.

Mardale Head CP  3:38

Once again it's a quick in and out of the Spartan's checkpoint, bottles refilled; cup of soup and an attempt to eat a sandwich, ended up dipping it in my soup to make it palatable for my dry mouth.

Poles out again and it's the thigh burning climb up Gatescarth Pass. I make a point of name checking every 100 miler I pass, I simply cannot conceive of the mental strength required for this race, especially on the brutal second half climbs.

Two thirds of the way up I decide I'll have a celebratory scream, with due warning given to runners close by I have a good old animal yell, don't know why but it makes me feel good. I'm slightly ahead of Andy at the top but stop once more to fold away my poles and we start the descent together.

My memory of this section from past years is of a somewhat nightmare surface, but with Andy and his chum Dan for company we flew down this section, and on the flat road to Sadgill I pulled ahead of Dan and Andy. I wasn't racing but I find if I get into a comfortable pace I'm better sticking with it and sacrificing a bit of company.

I'm not 100% sure of the route here, but Andy catches up and performs his human GPS role and keeps us right into Kentmere checkpoint.

Kentmere CP  5:07

I wasted time here last year by sitting down feeling sorry for myself, not this year. I grab a quick bowl of pasta and force it down, handful of Jelly babies and I'm out the door sharpish.
Between here and Ambleside it's pretty much the Dan; Keith and Andy show. The weather was good that chat was excellent and our paces similar.
Troutbeck with Dan and Andy  pic: Ann Brown
I even muster up a recitation of Tam O'Shanter as we approach Ambleside, I'm feeling strong at this point so I pull ahead of Andy and Dan.

Through Ambleside Gillian and Lorraine pop up on the other side of the road, I decide I'll lose my sunglasses having hardly used them all day, so promptly launch them over the stream of traffic..good catch Gillian.

I'm a sucker for crowds so I speed up through the town milking the applause and into the checkpoint.

Ambleside CP  6:42

What a relief the CP is on the pavement outside the steps! I refill one bottle and I'm straight through, I'm really focused on finishing in the daylight now. I ran this last section in training and I reckon 3 hours 15 minutes is realistic on tired legs. I'm as sure as I can be that a PB is in the bag and a sub 10 may just be a possibility.

My focus now is on not blowing the hard work so far, run wherever I can run, even the hills where possible, any walk is faster than a run is my race mantra!

Langdale CP 7:46

No sitting down, no faffing, dib in; water; small bowl beef stew and I'm stationary for less than a minute. I'm also on my own for the leg to the unmanned dibber, properly on my own. Possibly for the first time all day I literally cannot see another runner either ahead or behind me.
Poles out for the short but stiff climb up Side Pike pass and then quickly packed away at the top and a thank-you to the solitary supporter at the road crossing. My legs still feel good and I'm able to maintain a decent running pace down to Blea Tarn then across the stony section until the bracken becomes too thick, I'm not risking a tumble when I can't see my feet.
The road book says to stay high to keep your feet dry, and I do so until I can see the gate, this last section seems wet no matter which line you take but I reckon I'm close enough to the finish now that wet feet won't matter too much.
Quick dib and I'm trotting down the steep tarmac hill, heading for the NT cottage, past this, still running until I see a herd of Highland Cows complete with calves, they make look docile but even a friendly nudge from those horns could spoil your day. I walk carefully and VERY quietly and am glad to pass them without incident. One of my friends later had a less fortuitous encounter with them, which ended her L50.

Once I'm through High Tilberthwaite farm I'm running again and feeling strong (the slight slope on the road reduced me to a walk in 2015, not this year).

Tilberthwaite CP 9:12

Another lightning checkpoint, don't even refill bottles, I'm a man on a mission now!

Poles out for the climb up the Stairway to Heaven and I maintain what I think is a good pace, but somehow manage to get overtaken by 5 people before I cross the beck. I have a momentary low as they disappear ahead, but this is very much my personal race against the clock, forget about them Keith, concentrate on getting finished in daylight.
On the descent down towards the miners cottages, I'm pushing it, but I've realised that sub 10 hours is just not going to happen. I'm not strong on technical descents and I rationalise that I'm better with a PB than killing myself so close to the finish.
When I hit the landrover track I feel like I'm running 7 minute miles.....I'm not of course it's a 9:46 mile until I hit the tarmac. 
Then it's time to turn on the burners 7:23 minute mile past the cheering crowds at the pub, sod the footbridge, the traffic can stop as I take the straight line over the bridge. Left turn and its down the hill and through the finish arch

Coniston Finish 10:06:27 57th overall

I'm ecstatic, but I'm also done in I reward myself with a wee lie down on the grass, to the slight consternation of a marshall, who evidently thought I'd died!

My objective was to finish in the daylight, I've not only achieved that but I've knocked 36 minutes off last years time and over two hours quicker than my first attempt. And yes the last descent IS much easier in the daylight.

I may have thought I'd slowed on this last section but according to Strava my time of 52:36 was the fastest I've ever done it! Faster even than my training runs.

Into the hall to get my medal and t-shirt and I use my collapsible cup for the first time to satisfy my usual post Ultra craving for milk, sheer bliss.

Gillian is on hand to make sure I change quickly out of my soaked top, but I still have a monster dose of the shivers by the time I head for the showers. The shower was bliss even if I did need some assistance in removing my socks and a blocked plug hole meant I was paddling in 2 inches of someone else's effluent.
Now I have a new objective, I'm going to the pub for a pint before closing time!

I'm happy to report I achieved this second objective too and was able to see Caroline run through  Coniston and finish in a well deserved 11:14:17. We were both able to enjoy the luxury of Gerry and Lorraine's camper van (no midges!!) for some post race relaxation and whilst I headed for sleep Gerry stayed up to see Andy finish the 100 in 33:23:57 a quite simply fantastic time. I'll be candid and say when I passed him I thought he looked like he might not finish, so well done Andy.


I was asked if I was disappointed to miss the sub 10 hours? genuinely no, as it wasn't my objective and I'm honestly not sure where I could find another 7 minutes, I'm happy with the PB.

Is it easier to finish in the daylight?, yes.

Would I run the L100? not sure.

Would I recommend the Lakeland races to other runners? 100% absolutely.




  1. Great write up and awesome run. Sounds a great for the future!

  2. Sub-10 hours for 2017? Definitely! See you there Keith. Great run and great report.

  3. Aye, the 50 sounds like a grand day out.

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