Background – After a great 2016 completing the Fling, Lakeland 100, Tooting Bec 24hr race, The Sandstone 120 and a cheeky self-sufficient winter West Highland way I was feeling pretty pleased with my running.
2017 then turned to a pile of shit with regard to running/injury frustration, so shit in fact that I feel a shit that came in 4th at the World Shit Championships, just missing out on podium due to missing the “minimum solids threshold” would have felt less shitty than me!
A shin strain/tenosynovitis after the winter WHW kept me out until end of Jan. A couple of runs and 1 long run was all I got before some Heel Bursitis came along and prevented any decent running for another 8 weeks.
This cleared but by then I was experiencing pain in my hamstring and insertion into the pes anserinus. Ultrasound showed some fluid in the area and a corticosteroid injection in there was advised but didn’t really help.
Soon after this the pain was in the kneecap and surrounding area, more physio treatments here didn’t seem to help so I eventually went to see the specialist Professor Gordon Mackay of The Mackay Clinic.
An initial steroid injection in the kneecap provided some relief for a while but not enough to train properly and so I finally decided an MRI scan was in order (£270 at Forth Valley hospital, a bargain compared to some).
This then discovered the Chrondomalacia of the patella ridge. A grade 3 degradation with some delamination of the bone. Worn away to buggery basically which although having no initial pain in that area the specialist advised could have meant I was relying on other areas to compensate for pain/weakness there.
A Chrondoplasty operation was recommended and so I went under the knife on November the 9th with a guideline recovery time of 12 weeks to return to light running.
There was no guarantee that I could get back to the same level of running on the same hilly terrain so I was determined not to bugger up the recovery by being impatient.
I started off with pool running after 8 weeks then some cycling 10 weeks in. A return to light jogging for 3 weeks after the 12-week period didn’t go so well in Feb and so another 5 weeks off running was recommended by the specialist.
I kept up with a bit of cycling to tick over but sometimes that resulted in a bit of pain so I didn’t go mental with the miles, only the 10mile outing here and there whilst still completing physio exercises.
I started the road to running back at the beginning of April and gradually built from there staying flat for the first month and then introducing hills.
I built my longer runs a few miles at a time, each time some pain would kick in the lower quad and around the knee a few miles before the end. The next longer run would allow me to get further before any pain kicked in so I was pretty happy things were progressing ok
The Lakeland 100 was coming up and I told myself there was no point getting stressed by this. It would be treated as a long training run if I was fit enough to start. It would be stupidly risky to put in a hard effort for my first race back especially one with the difficulty of the L100. There was no way I would be able build up the required level of endurance to be competitive or be anywhere near my previous time of just over 22hrs in the space of a few months.
I managed to get up to 50mile weeks in May and kept it around there as I was super paranoid about overdoing it and not making the startline at all.
Things went well and a 28mile recce on the Lakeland course at the end of May went ok apart from some expected discomfort on the longer descents. The left quad was still weak and needing more development.
My friend Mat was going to be in the race as well. It would his first 100miler (an inspired choice for his first foray over 45miles) and he had similar injury issues to overcome with less than ideal preparation.
I told him we could run together as I wasn’t capable of going fast this year and we could aim for 24-25hrs maybe.
I think he was less than impressed with this slightly blasé attitude towards the challenge. I checked previous results and in 2017 only 4 people had gone under 24hrs so this would still be ridiculously high up the field. I swiftly ignored his concerns and drafted up a 25hr schedule for us anyway.
Things went shit again in July when my Dad died suddenly in an accident at the family farm. It certainly puts things into perspective when shit like that happens. Despite the sadness it wasn’t a bad way for Dad to go working on the hill with his dogs and it was great to spend time with my Mum, Brother & Sister planning Dads awesome send off.
I got a few great wee hill runs in at the farm and did a crap job of being a human sheepdog again.
The last 2 weeks of July cruised by with some more easy miles before race day was upon me.
I travelled down to meet Mat at a campsite in Langdale. We had a relaxing night there and moved to Coniston on Friday morning in time for the camping field opening at 9am. There was already a queue to get in at 0905!
We bagged a nice spot in the shade of the trees. Before long it was like a VW festival with T5 vans lined up on both sides of us.
Registration was a smooth process with all the mandatory kit being checked and a weigh in completed. I noted I was 2kg heavier than the last time I completed the race. No surprise there really.
The rest of the day was spent lazing around, catching up with people, drinking water, going to the toilet, and repeating that process 😉
Pre-race chilling with Mat and Duncan
Don’t leave your kit list unsecured when Mat is about…
With the brief over in the oven like school hall we readied our kit and went to the start pen with Duncan Oakes who I had ran most of the race with in 2016. The singer banged out the Nessun Dorma as a warm up act then some quality ACDC tuneage was turned up and got us in the race mood. Before I knew it we were off through the village and up the hill with 400 other runners.
Ready to go
It was very humid from the start and we tried not to get carried away and hold back enough to hit our planned time at Seathwaite.
The 3 Amigos coming down to Walna Scar Road
I made good use of my poles going up the hill and we went through the Checkpoint at 1hr 25, in 41st place and 5mins behind schedule which was no bad thing at this stage of the game. This was 15mins behind my 2016 time.
Onwards to Boot and we were in a decent group of runners all comfortable at the same pace. The ground was much dryer than the last time I was up here and so the going was good.
Into Boot checkpoint to see a few familiar faces, John Duncan, Debi Martin Consani, Lorna Mcmillan. A quick few scoops of coke and a flapjack was all I fancied here. Results show we were in 26th place.
The steady climb out of Boot spread the runners out a bit and by the time we started to descend to Wasdale I could tell something was up with Mat, he was dropping back a bit and not comfortable with the pace. Pat Robbins had joined us here and Duncan and him cruised on to the checkpoint while I slowed with Mat.
Mat was out of energy and feeling the heat big time, we walking into Wasdale meeting Duncan on his way out with Pat. I told him not to wait for us and we would see him later maybe.
Mat was promptly sick whilst at the checkpoint but managed to eat and drink some more before we moved slowly out the checkpoint. I wasn’t listening to his requests to be left here to run on his own. I wasn’t fit for any fast time this year and if the schedule went out the window then so be it. Results show we had dropped from 26th at Boot to 47th at Wasdale.
On the way up Black Sail pass Mat got slower and we had to stop regularly. There were some heavy rain showers also so the jackets were on and off a few times. A significant stop outside Black Sail hostel was required and Mat was sick again. I could see he was in a bad way and the chat from him now was that I should leave him and he would make it to Buttermere and pull out there.
I wasn’t up for leaving him though and I kept saying some positive bullshit like “this will pass mate, get whatever you can down you and some rest and food at Buttermere will sort you out” He didn’t look too convinced by this.
In a moment of emotional weakness I put a reassuring hand on his back while he vomited some more into the toilet. I can imagine this helped massively…….
Whilst he was being sick some more I took a look back up Sail Pass to see all the headtorches coming down thick and fast and passing in front of the hostel.
I remained positive as my knee was feeling ok with the descents and I felt absolutely fine. It was just Mat who was fecked.
We made our way to Buttermere with people passing us regularly and rocked into the busiest checkpoint ever with people squeezing in and out the door and nearly every seat taken up. Results show we came in here in 188th place!
Mats friend Troy was managing the checkpoint and he quickly advised some salt tabs which I scrounged from the generous Graham MacBroom who was in the checkpoint at the time. These salt tabs, some crisps, electrolyte drink, hot sweet tea and jam sandwiches saved Mat’s race. He was transformed in about 25minutes and ready to face the mere 70miles left.
We left Buttermere in a more positive mood and I was confident we would be catching most of the people who passed us in the many miles to come. We made decent progress up the valley out of Buttermere, through Barrow Door successfully and by the time we were running down to Braithwaite passing people and running just as we had in the first couple of sections.
Braithwaite was very busy again and I scoffed a few more jam sandwiches here along with a rice pudding chaser and some coke. We left fairly swiftly and I figured we jumped a few more places there. Results show we dibbed in 185th place. The first 3 scalps of many to come.
We ran well between Braithwaite and Keswick passing quite a few people and daylight came just as we were skirting through Keswick. It was great to see Lorna Sinclair loitering outside the Pheasant Inn. She jogged with us for a bit and told us of the progress of others we knew in the race. She knew something had been up with our race from the tracker and I swiftly filled her in putting all the blame on Mat for our slowed pace early on….
It was funny going up Latrigg in the daylight as in 2016 I was through Dockray before daylight came. No matter though, 2018 was never going to be close to 2016. We made good progress up to the unmanned dibber at Glendeterra. We didn’t waste much time in Blencathra just replacing bottles and grabbing a few bites of the treats on offer. I think I had some chocolate brownie chunks here which went down well. 11hr57mins in 144th place.
Running down from Blencathra to the A66 I like looking across to the coach road and seeing the miles to come. We passed a few more people after the road crossing and made our way up onto the coach road in good spirits.
A mile or so before Dockray we came across Darren Coates and ran and had a chat with him for a bit. It quickly became clear that he was an ex-marine too and so we all talked ex-marine bollocks for a couple of miles towards the checkpoint.
Darren was on his 50th Ultra and has done 50 marathons as well!
We ran into Dockray together just as the heavens opened with some serious downpour battering the checkpoint tent while we all refueled here and got the jackets on. We dibbed in here with 13hrs 52mins elapsed and in 124th place.
The rain was pretty constant on us all down through Aira Force and up onto the hill above Ullswater. There were less people about now and we only passed a few as we closed towards Dalemain.
We met Lorna again just as we got to Dalemain and she told us how we were moving through the field well now…and about how the weather wasn’t as bad as when she had done it in 2017 😉
Just before Dalemain pic - Lorna Sinclair
Dalemain was pretty busy with every seat taken. Mat was on a mission here and went straight through the tent and dumped his checkpoint bag on the ground on the other side. We got stuck into our goodies with Mat telling me how brilliant the muller rice tubs were that I had suggested he tried the day before.
The sun was out now and we left here feeling as if we had just overtaken about 20 people still in the checkpoint. We had dibbed in here with 16hrs 5mins elapsed and in 110th place.
There were quite a few supportive voices going through Pooley Bridge and we took it steady on the climb up onto the moor before the easy descent down to Howtown. We passed a few more people running down to Howtown but were surprised to find the CP empty and not busy like the others. We were in and out fairly quickly. We had dibbed in here with 17hrs 56mins elapsed and in 79th place. The majority of those places jumped had been taken at Dalemain checkpoint I am sure.
The wind was getting up now and dark skies ahead indicted we were going to see some more rain. We had climbed most of the way up Fusedale before the rain started in earnest, and boy did it start! It hammered us all the way along the tops. I thought there would be some respite when we dropped down towards Haweswater but there wasn’t, the wind felt even stronger and just hammered the rain into us even harder. It was blasting the waves in the reservoir and spraying it into the air.
I was feeling the cold a bit here and thinking why hadn’t I changed my vest top for my warmer t-shirt top back at Dalemain. Dickhead.
The built-in mittens on my UD jacket were working a treat though as I could not be arsed stopping and digging out my gloves buried somewhere in the bottom of my pack.
The first L50 runners hammered past us a mile or so before Mardale Head. They weren’t feeling the cold the speed they were going that’s for sure.
We rolled into Mardale Head to briefly assist holding the tent down before the wind took it away. The soup here was amazing and Mat and I had a good few scoops to warm us up a bit and set us up for the climb out. There were a few bedraggled runners here in a worse state than us which always boosts my morale somewhat.
We dibbed here in 20hrs 46mins and up to 71st place.
The climb up Gatesgarth Pass is a tough one and the poles were doing their magic here. Luckily the rain had passed and things were warming up nicely.
It’s a long descent off the back down to Sadgill and my right calf was complaining a bit by now, not cramping or anything just feeling mega tight from time to time. I was looking forward to getting into Kentmere and picking off some more runners along the way.
We rolled into Kentmere and met a few friendly faces. Had a quick chat with Paul Nelson who I had run with for the latter stages of the 2016 race. He looked quite fetching in grass skirt and seashell bra combo outfit here. Andy Johns was here also but I declined his offer to run on with him from here as I didn’t think we would be able to match his 50mile race pace.
We dibbed here with 22hrs 55mins elapsed and 65th place.
Fueled up, we walked out of Kentmere and pretty much the whole way up the Garburn road. Mat was regularly dishing out the jelly babies he had picked up from somewhere and we were chuffed of how our race had transformed from the nighttime energy bonk from hell.
We jogged down towards Troutbeck and got a shout from Debi Martin Consani as we climbed up towards the village. We had stopped here for ice lollies during our recce run and talked about doing the same today. It was just talk though and we progressed onto Ambleside where there was a great crowd of people supporting and Mats wife Faye waiting to see us with their dog Harry.
Harry was ecstatic to see Mat and his tail wagging was a blur.
We met Ian Garnett at this checkpoint who was fueling up and preparing for the remaining miles. We grabbed some nibbles, topped up the bottles and headed on to Langdale.
Ambleside dibbed in 25hrs 4mins, 65th place still.
It’s a cheeky wee hill out of Ambleside and we walked all of this and jogged our way along the nice and flat riverside path to Chapel Stile checkpoint. They had the fire on and a fine spread within the tent for us to graze from. We picked up a few nibbles and were on our way sharpish.
It was coming up to 9pm now and I knew we would be finishing at dark o’clock. At some point we had discussed trying to get in under 28hrs but that was out the window now with leaving Chapel Stile about 8.45pm (26hr45mins)
We were going to finish and Mat was going to crack his first 100miler, that was the main thing….no matter how fekd he was he would finish!
The darkness came as we were nearing the unmanned dibber at Wrynose pass. Mat was slowing a bit now and a few people passed us. I saw Ian Garnett zip past as we climbed up the track before dropping down to Tilberthwaite.
We didn’t waste any time at Tilberthwaite and cracked on with the final climb.
There was a fair bit of wind up here and I took a short video as I followed Mat along the trail. I hadn’t been up here since the race 2 years ago and Mat had recced it recently and would lead better than me.
It was great to finally descend towards Coniston and know it would all be over soon. Mats quads were lost somewhere and he staggered down like a blind constipated 3-legged goat. It was hilarious.
We got a few cheers from crowds around the pubs and rolled down to the finish line making a good impersonation of running.
29hrs 51mins was our final time in 57th/58th place (I dibbed just before Mat 😉)
Chuffed to bits for Mat to come back from such an energy meltdown and finish his longest race by a long way. Pleased for myself also to get around that course in one piece with my knee holding up well.
If Mat had had to pull out I may have gone a bit quicker but also may have pushed my knee too much and screwed it right up so it was a fine result for both of us really.
The finish line set up was great and very efficient being welcomed into the marquee/given medal/photographed/t-shirted and generally looked after.
A decent crowd in the tent and the bar and food set up was really great for all the supporters and finishers.
It’s a fantastic challenging race with the finishing percentage generally around the 65% mark.
It was a great experience and interesting for me being a bit further down the field than the previous time. The checkpoints are so much busier but then the support is much better at the finish line so not all bad!
Mat did brilliantly for his first 100miler and I know when he is back on form and with more experince at similar distances he has the potential to get on the podium here one day. We have both entered again for 2019 and hopefully we will both get around a bit quicker all going well.
Fat feet post race
2016 v 2018 comparison
Thanks again to Beta Running who continue to support me with the supply of my Ultimate Direction mountain vest, the UD waterproofs and the Guidetti poles. Its all fantastic kit and the jacket really proved its worth this race being the first time I have used it in bad weather whilst racing.
Roll on recovery and a hopeful return to racing form for 2019.