Lakeland 50 – The Torment of Failure 03.08.2013

The weekend of the Lakeland 50 event was here. Three women, two tents, loads of options of clothing/kit for the day of the race loaded into a car travelling to the Lake District on Friday morning. Not only did we want to get there to make sure we were rested for the day of our race but we wanted to be there to see of the Lakeland 100 participants.

Nerves and excitement were in full swing when the 100 participants left the line at Coniston. We were here. Our time to run will be tomorrow. It’s really happening. It’s really really happening. Oh dear, what have we done. Relax, chill, take a moment………

Quick unpack and set up of our tents and a kit check ready to go and get registered in the school hall. I weighed myself in the morning before we left so I knew I’d be 73kg. The lovely scales at check in said I was 72.2kg. Nice one. Then the kit check in the hall. The bits of my kit I wanted didn’t pass but I did have kit in there I didn’t want to use that did pass. What did I do? I took it all. Note to self. Buy lighter kit that can fit in one of those tiny small back packs that everyone else is wearing…… how do they do it? I want to design a back pack called “Mountain running Tardis” Light as a feather with everything you’ll ever need including the kitchen sink!!

During this whole process there was lovely, pretty, I want that gear displayed in the hall for those who didn’t have the right kit or for us, it looked so tempting we couldn’t resist. What did we do? Of course we did. It would be rude not to. We spied some calf compressions and shoes. I went for the Inov8’s – three styles later and I’m in love with some stylish red Rocklites. As if I need more trail shoes!! My friends had gone for the latest Hoka’s – loads of cushioned support for those very rocky paths.

After the excitement of the check in we grouped together with a number of other Leighton Fun Runners and walking into Coniston to find somewhere to eat. A nice relaxing chill out and nervous talk of the day to follow we headed back to our tents to settle down for the night.

Tent zips, car doors, clock bells a plenty and the wonderful sound of snoring to keep those light sleepers like me awake. I apologise sincerely for being one of those car door/tent zip moments at around 1am – retrieving some extra layers from the car to get comfy in my tent. It worked because I don’t remember hearing anything until 4am sounded out on the clock bell. A bit more sleep and who needs an alarm when early risers start shouting “morning” across the school field at just after 6am. Why? Well I know why but why? It was 6am!! Another 30 minutes before shouting MORNING would have been welcome. Oh well. It was time……… Time to get my lazy arse out of the sleeping bag and get ready.

Kit checked one last time. Back pack checked one last time. Trusty Inov8 trailrocks on. Sun cream, bug spray, spare buff, contact lenses and face wipes packed into the drop back sack so I could sort out the essentials on the bus. Then it was time for the race briefing which was not easy – how to squish 200 adults with back packs into a school hall with speakers located only at the front. It was handy that standing outside the hall you could hear better than if you were packed into the hall. Plus there was more fresh air.

After standing around for the race briefing my left foot was feeling bruised from a bit of the cushioning inside my trailrocks. I can’t wear these! My foot will be liquid pain if I leave these shoes on. What do I do?!?!?!?! Those were my only trail shoes……. Wait……. I bought another pair last night didn’t I? But I haven’t even tested them running yet. But I can’t go out in the pair I’ve brought with me. No choice then. A quick change of shoes to the new Rocklites purchased the night before. New shoes on their first outing and no way of changing them if they kill my feet. Not sensible at all but they felt like heavenly comfy slippers when I wear them. Mmmmm, rocklite slippers. I sincerely hope they feel like slippers by the end of this thing.

All loaded onto coaches at 9:30 am to get to Dalemain Estate – the beginning of the Lakeland 50.

Hot hot hot – Yes some of those runners really did look fit, and hot…… Focus!! There’s hills to climb! We were here. The start. That’s it, no turning back now. Dibbers dibbed and then waiting in the funnel line for the start at 11:30am.

Nervous energy had us running towards the first gentle hill which then took us on a merry wander through some fields. Ruts, holes and dips hidden by tall grass to keep you on your toes. Across a road and then back towards the start. A near miss for a packet of jelly babies that managed to escape from a friends back pack. They were soon rescued. A nice gentle 4 mile warm up before you really start hitting the trails.

With loads of energy to spare we were storming up the hills and running down the other side. Sun shine and gentle breeze. It was gorgeous.

Seeing the 100 participants on the course was truly inspiring. They’d been going since 18:30 the day before and were still moving. Every time I passed them I made sure I said “well done” or “good going” or “total respect, you’re amazing” to them. It was very motivating because if they could keep moving for that long and past 50 miles already then I have the easy job of just getting to 50 miles.

The first check point at Howtown was getting close and we started seeing signs – “Don’t let the thing between your ears stop you”. It kept us amused all the way to the checkpoint to find super helpful marshals and biscuits and water a plenty. Fabulous smiles as well. Thank you.

Then out onto a real steep climb. At the end of the road and beginning of the trail the last sign was “This seemed like a good idea last September”. Yes. Yes it did, hahaha!

The climb seemed to take forever to reach the top. One of our team was taking to the hills like a mountain goat and she powered on ahead. It was awesome to see. We met a couple 100 participants, one of which was having real trouble with sickness. I had nothing but dextrose tabs or ginger biscuits that might help, my friends had painkillers a plenty. We felt so guilty leaving her and her partner.

We reached the top and then enjoyed some lovely views. Met up and stayed with Graeme and Stuart – two very entertaining fellas who were absolute gentlemen. Down through some very high bracken. Finding a hidden path next to a stream/river. Undulating path alongside Hawswater. The views from there were amazing. We just needed to make sure we stopped before looking up as the path was very challenging.

Just as we get to the second check point the heavens open. Quick stop to pull out waterproofs and we’re on our way again. We passed by someone injured on the path down to the checkpoint. Their Bivi bag was very useful at that point to those peeps, the rain was heaving down. Ouch.

We caught up with our mountain goat friend at Mardale Head checkpoint and we were debating at that point whether to quit due to the heavy rain or carry on. A number of 100 participants were going to be collected by coach and the lure of quitting there and then was very strong. Go out on the hills with heavy rain or get on a lovely warm bus and go back to the start a quitter. Hmmmm. I’m very glad we continued.

Again up a very very long steep climb. The mountain goat flew up the hill and again it was great to see my friend attacking those hills with what seemed like unending strength.

Navigating around various trails, roads, fields, bracken, walls, gates and then encroaching darkness before the next checkpoint – Kentmere. At this point I chose to change from my poncho – nick named Russel – to my waterproof coat. I didn’t know it then but I was approaching exhaustion.

All I remember of the trip to Ambleside was lots of rocky paths that looked like rivers. The occasional road and trail that gave my feet a welcome rest from being massaged to oblivion on the rocky paths. A path down a very steep hill surrounded by very tall bracken. A Post Office pit stop to sort out a friends blister. More trail then road into Ambleside. Not much scenery at this point as we were in darkness and navigating by head torch light.

By the time we got into Ambleside I was beginning to suffer. Feeling very hot and wanting to remove my jacket to let the rain cool me down to violent shivering and feeling so unbelievably cold. My throat felt like I’d been eating glass and my tonsils felt huge. What the hell was happening!! My feet were tired, my legs were tired – if it wasn’t for this hot/cold/bad throat feeling I would have been very happy to continue. I decided to quit at that point. Majorly disappointed in myself. The thing between my ears was screaming at me to stop and I did.

My friend “The Unstoppable” continued on to Consiton. The “Mountain Goat” had already been through the Ambleside check point and was already on her way to the finish line. Me? I was in a taxi heading for Coniston with a number of other DNF’s all feeling pretty gutted about not being able to continue on to Coniston. It took me another 2 hours to finally warm up and once I did I felt fine. The pity party didn’t start until after the awards at 12pm the following day but until then I kept myself occupied by clearing up the hall for the finishers. Cheering as much as possible for all the finishers and having kit ready for my two friends that were out there working their way back to Coniston.

It was an amazing event. I’ve gone from feeling extremely angry with myself to being sort of okay with quitting. My friends have been amazing, not only for finishing but for also giving me a good talking to. 35 miles in those conditions was tough. I got to 35 miles in those conditions. 35 miles is a long way. 35 miles is farther than a marathon. Yes I didn’t finish but I listened to my body and didn’t put myself at further risk by going back out into the cold, wet night. I will be happy with that at some point and I’ll keep telling myself that until I believe it, groan!!

Thank you to my friends and everyone else that made it to the event from Leighton Buzzard/Linslade. Leighton Fun Runners have truly taken Ultra Running to a new level.

Thank you Marshals – you were fabulously cheerful, helpful, ready with cups of tea and cakes/biscuits/sandwiches/cheese on toast/pasta…… so much food I hardly needed my own.

Thank you to the lovely people at the School. These guys/gals were making tea/coffee and serving food all the way through the nights. 24 hour service – you’re amazing.

Finally thank you to the organisers – An amazingly well organised event that I won’t forget. Bits of it might be a blur but wow. Fantastic!!

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