Lakeland 50 – 2017

It’s taken me a week to write this so here goes. 

Lakeland 50 – I was prepared, confident, strangely relaxed, not too excited and, oddly, not in the mood!! Neither was the weather, it couldn’t make up its mind if it was going to be sunny/windy/rain/sunny/mist/sun/rain/wind/sun…..

I managed to arrive in time on Friday to get some cheesy chips before the big queues started then got to see the Lakeland 100 participants start.  After all that excitement, it was time to register and get my kit checked.  Gotta love this bit.  I was confident about my kit – apart from forgetting the obligatory compass!!  Then the weigh in of shame.  80kg!  Yeah, I’ll admit how much I weigh.  This is NOT race weight, this is stuffed my face with crap weight.  That’s another blog post on its own!!

A quick hello with a few familiar faces then I quietly retreat for an early night.  The benefits of not arriving with anyone else but also a drawback because I was alone. 

Awake super early to get ready, one more empty the pack/refill the pack to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything and it was time to go down for breakfast.  Say hi to some unfamiliar faces who also looked nervous.  Time to go to the race briefing.  Nothing unusual apart from the fact that most of the participants could actually fit in the marquee.  This year the school was closed for refurbishment and the school hall is usually a rather squished affair!! 

The usual excitement wasn’t there.  Sure, I was happy to be there and I was enjoying myself but the mad puppy, butterfly stomach just wasn’t there. 

Time to pile onto the coaches and enjoy the twistiest, windiest roads in the biggest vehicle possible.  Nope!! Not this year, I got to enjoy a much easier journey to the start by getting a lift with one of Nici’s friends.  Phew, not experiencing the coach of doom was a blessing. 

The start – it was wet and nobody looked pleased to be there!! There was a low hum of excitement but a lot of grumbling and people in waterproofs – the sky was grey and everyone was getting soaked whilst they were waiting to start.  It’s 11:30 – time to go…… it’s a slow start, like everyone is trying to get into the mood but it’s just not there yet.  I enjoyed the slow start, it was nice.  No rush.  I had no illusions about what was about to happen. The hills, the views all the way to Howtown checkpoint.  Then onto one helluva big climb…. something was missing around Howtown though.  No signs – no cheeky signs into and out of Howtown.  Odd.  Hawswater checkpoint came very quickly, my feet now soaking from all the boggy grass tops on the hills.  The Spartans were waiting with the usual big smiles.  Onto the next checkpoint – Kentmere.  Rocky paths, lots of noisy sheep and some brief company then Kentmere.  A quite, tired but happy checkpoint.  I must have caught them at a bad time because it looked like they were about to pack away.  Odd again.  My mood was slipping into sombre for the rest of the walk to Ambleside and with each step I was wondering why I was out here, alone, not really enjoying this event that I usually relish.  I get to Ambleside and my mind is lost in the darkness.  Lovely helpful marshals asking me what I want and I just don’t know.  I’m totally blank.  Nothing makes sense.  The hill before Ambleside had me breathless and I was not looking forward to the hill out of Ambleside.  That’s all I could think of while this lovely marshal was trying to get me to drink a hot drink or eat something.  I sat and occupied myself with changing the batteries in my headtorch and Etrex, mustered the words to ask for a black tea and sat there trying to gather together some thoughts.  Nothing!  20 minutes up and I try to stand.  My legs are stiff from the lack of movement but then my head is swimming.  Lovely marshal gets me to sit.  I just can’t think straight.  I agree to go into the hall with bright lights to see if it’s the darkness causing my disorientation.  The stairs are monstrously high, what the hell is wrong with me!!  My head starts swirling and I sink to the floor in the hallway of the hall.  Mr Medic turns up and immediately takes control – Look at me, control your breathing, slow your breathing, keep looking at me, that’s it, keep control, keep looking at me, that’s it, get control of this, nice slow breathing, nice n easy, keep looking at me.  The room stops spinning and I get asked – do you suffer from panic attacks? 

DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT!!!!!!!

The mindless, endless spiral of thoughts suddenly snapped into place.  HAH!!  I hadn’t suffered from a panic attack for a while.  The stress of a family breakup caused them.  I was a ticking time bomb alone on dark trails, not fully enjoying the whole thing because I was already exhausted before I got there.  The stress of a new job in January this year with a full-on work load.  I hadn’t noticed the signs, the tiredness, the exhaustion.  As the adrenaline starts to ease off and I start to relax.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!!  I missed all the signs.  Missed them entirely.  Disconnected and alone.  It all made sense now.  But what about the last 16 miles!! Mr Medic checks me over while I get myself under control and he can see I’m running the calculations in my head.  I’m too slow on the uphill to keep up with anyone and I’m faster on the downhills to be comfortable sticking with anyone.  This thought process is beginning to let the panic back in and Mr Medic sees it.  He’s not comfortable letting me out on the trails alone and I’m very much aware that a panic attack on the trails alone is downright dangerous! 

PANTS!! I knew what was next.  DNF.  I wasn’t enjoying it, it felt wrong.  I had done the training, my body was more than capable of the distance but my heart and soul wasn’t in it.  This was the right decision. 

I’m gutted about the decision.  I’ve completed the course before and I’ll be back to bury the demons. 

Until then, I’ll keep on training but I will have to get my new job stress under control before I tackle something like this again.  Knowledge is power!!

Congratulations to all those who completed the Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50.  Massive thank you to the Medic at Ambleside and thanks to all the marshals.  It was a tough weekend of relentlessly challenging weather. 

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