On Friday morning we (Nathalie and me) drove to the John Ruskin School in Coniston. When we arrived it was already busy with competitors who were setting up their tents on the camp ground for the weekend. After the obligatory kit check, race registration and being weighted, we went for a short stroll along the lake. In the afternoon we had some lovely food in the canteen, relaxed and absorbed the whole atmosphere in and around the school while chatting to other participants and supporters. Then at 6pm it went all quite emotional when the runners for the Lakeland 100 lined up at the start line and The Lakeland 100 anthem Nessun Dorma (“None shall sleep”) was sung live by tenor Alexander Wall. After the start we went for dinner at the Black Bull and an early sleep.
On Saturday morning, after an early breakfast, we went back to the John Ruskin School for the obligatory race briefing. Marc Laithwaite reminded us of the heroes we all were and that in case we were thinking about a specific time, we would probably fail in this heat. When it starts going wrong (and it will) you have to find out what’s happening and deal with it. When you want to give up, ask yourself ‘what is your challenge’? What did you expect? It isn’t a challenge until you reach that point. He therefore strongly recommended us to think of a ‘Plan B’ if we wanted to complete the course. E.g. forget split times, slow down and take rests at checkpoints.
After the race briefing it was time to board the awaiting busses and what followed was a long and winding bus ride to the Dalemain Estate where the Lakeland 50 starts.
My plan for the race:
- Try to enjoy each stage of the route.
- Enjoy the checkpoints, take time and don’t leave before feeling confident to move on! Time doesn’t matter.
- Don’t think about the distance to the finish. Just think of the next checkpoint ahead.
- Stay well and finish!
Leg 1: Dalemain to Howtown
Distance between checkpoints: 17.8km Ascent: 294m Descent: 285m
After the start, there is an initial loop through the fields around the Dalemain Estate before we made our way through the fields and along the river to Pooley Bridge. From Pooley Bridge it is a gentle climb/walk up to the Cockpit and then again a gentle jog down to the checkpoint in Howtown. This first section was very hot and I took time at the checkpoint to rehydrate, try to eat some cookies and nuts and to fill up my water bottles as the next section is a long and hard one.
Leg 2: Howtown to Mardale Head
Distance between checkpoints: 15.2km Ascent: 765m Descent: 672m
From the checkpoint it’s a long walk/climb up Fuesdale. I managed to walk at steady pace to the top of Fuesdale where I had a short rest before plodding on in the heat to High Kop. On the way down to Haweswater I managed myself into a slow jog. Thanks to the recce earlier this year I recognized the faint path down towards Haweswater, which the group of runners in front of me somehow missed. Luckily they weren’t that far away and could easily correct their mistake. In May I managed to run the 6km undulating rocky track along the lake towards Mardale Head, but by now the heat had managed its toll. I didn’t seem to be the only who was affected by the heat as many more competitors where moving slowly forward along the lake.
The checkpoint at Mardale Head, which was managed by the Delamere Spartans, felt like an oasis in the desert. I’ve spend a long time here. At first I had some difficulties with the food, but eventually managed to eat a couple of sandwiches and some crisps, drink some coke and a coffee before feeling ready to move on. This time I didn’t want to make the mistake I’ve made in May where I popped in and out in 5 minutes and paying the toll for it later on during the course.
Leg 3: Mardale Head to Kentmere
Distance between checkpoints: 10.4km Ascent: 511m Descent: 589m
The climb up Gatesgarth Pass is on a steep and stony track and went steady. Luckily it begun to cool down and some of it was in the shade of the bigger surrounding fells. What followed was a very long descent on a stony track down to Sadgill. Between here and Kentmere there was another hill to be tackled before I could make my way down through some bracken fields and over some stone walls and stiles into Kentmere.
The Kentmere checkpoint is famous for its smoothies and pasta. I didn’t fancy drinking any smoothies and instead went for some coke and pasta. After 15 minutes poking around in my bowl of pasta I finally put it aside and went for a cup of coffee. I ignored the bus driver who was calling for people who were keen to get onto the bus back to Coniston and finally took my walking poles of my backpack as I didn’t feel running anything any longer. By the time I was ready to push on towards Ambleside it had started to drizzle and it was quickly becoming dark. So back inside again to put my rain jacket and head torch on.
Leg 4: Kentmere to Ambleside
Distance between checkpoints: 11.8km Ascent: 491m Descent: 602m
The climb up Garburn Pass went remarkably fine and I started to feel stronger again. By the time I reached the top of Garburn Pass it was dark and pouring down. So a short stop to put on my waterproof trousers before descending into Troutbeck. On the way down I managed to overtake some walkers and even jog down sections of the trail. In the far distance I could see some headlights and by the time I hit the road in Troutbeck I had closed the gap. All of a sudden I was leading a small group on the climb up Robin Lane in search for the signpost that would lead us to Ambleside. It was almost midnight when the group reached the checkpoint in Ambleside.
When I went into the checkpoint I felt good again and was confident that I was going to finish. I had some sandwiches and a cup of coffee which has handed to me over by the checkpoint staff, which where really doing their best to look after everyone who stumbled into their checkpoint.
Leg 5: Ambleside to Chapel Stile
Distance between checkpoints: 9.0km Ascent: 234m Descent: 213m
On the way out, I came by a competitor who cursed the stairs leading into the checkpoint, which made me laugh. Outside I waited a minute for the others to be ready and together with Graham Beech, Helen Meredith, Amanda Kirtley and John Smith we set off to the next checkpoint. I had some nice discussions with Graham along the way and before we knew we had reached the checkpoint in Chapel Stile. Once again the recce I did earlier in May on this section of the course proved valuable as the new path along Elterwater led to some confusion by the others.
Once again the checkpoint itself and the staff running it were fabulous. They even had some couches, where some competitors were taking a nap on. We stopped for approximately 15 minutes and I’ve had some lovely vegetable stew, a coffee and some wine gums.
Leg 6: Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite
Distance between checkpoints: 10.6km Ascent: 387m Descent: 323m
It was still dark when we left the checkpoint and made our way up on a stony track toward Side Pike Pass during which had to climb over some steep stiles. My feet had been feeling well so far, but I managed to misjudge a small puddle of water when we made our way up the track by the light of head torches and ended up with a soaked right foot. A few seconds later I heard Amanda ask whether more people had wet feet, so I wasn’t the only one who managed to dip his feet into that puddle… By the time we crossed the boggy ground around Bleamoss it was light again and we could switch off our head torches. At the compulsory checkpoint Graham, Amanda and Helen pushed on while John and I took some time to eat some food. I talked to John while we walked downhill and then pushed on again on the way up High Tilberthwaite Farm in attempt to close the gap with the group Graham was walking in.
Leg 7 Tilberthwaite to Coniston
Distance between checkpoints: 5.7km Ascent: 283m Descent: 385m
Just a short stop at the last checkpoint to drink a cup of coffee and to make a wake up call to Nathalie that I was approaching the finish line in Conison. Graham, Helen and Amanda left while I was still sipping on my coffee. I had a quick chat with John Smith who arrived shortly after me and was sitting beside me. He urged me to push on and confirmed that he was doing fine although he was struggling with his feet. The stairway to heaven, as the stairs out of Tilberthwaite are called, weren’t actually that bad and I managed to close the gap once again to the group with Amanda and Graham. What remained was a horrible rough steep track down towards Coniston Coppermines before we could enjoy the nice road down into Coniston. I let the others go ahead and walked down to Coniston as the misstep I made earlier that night had caused me some sore feet by now. When I reached the village of Coniston, I managed myself to a gentle jog past the Black Bull and the Petrol Station and then down the road to the finish at the John Ruskin School where Nathalie was awaiting me.
||Time of Day
|Pre Start Dalemain
|CP9 Howtown Bobbin Mill
|CP10 Mardale Head
|CP11 Kentmere Village Hall
Did I enjoy it? Yes! We’ll not the climb out of Howtown up Fuesdale and the section along Haweswater in the heat. But once it cooled down in the evening and I was on my way to Ambleside I got again some energy in my body and it was then when realized that I could finish the race.
Will I do it again? For sure! Now I know that I can do it, I am keen to improve my finish time. I walked a lot and took some long rests at the checkpoints due to the warm weather in order to make sure that I would finish. Maybe I was a bit too conservative, but that is how it went and I am happy that I completed the course. So the date for next year’s race is already marked on the calendar, with the intention of finishing significantly faster!