Sitting poised at my computer on September 1st last year waiting for online entries to open for the L100 2018, I browsed the website with a few minutes to go …
The Lakeland 100 ‘Ultra Tour of the Lake District’ is a circular route that encompasses the whole of the Lakeland fells and includes in the region of 6856m/22,493ft of ascent. The event is continuous in nature, the overall time available for the route is 40 hours but time is not on your side. The climb, descent, rugged terrain, darkness and tricky navigation generally ensure a 40-50% failure rate over the 100 mile course. Seasoned ultra runners have tried and many have failed, a finisher’s medal in the Lakeland 100 is possibly one of the most treasured possessions you will ever receive.
At 9am on the dot I rushed to enter online. In just three and a half minutes, all the places had gone, and to my amazement I had bagged one of them. A few months off due to injury meant I had recently missed out on some special events, so I was chuffed to have a new training focus and the prospect of lots of Lakes adventures in 2018.
I put a shout out to some folk for help, and started planning Lakes trips towards the end of last year. The race organisers put on a series of organised recces ahead of the event, splitting the route into x4 chunks (you are left to your own devices, using the map and written description to navigate around the course, with cut off times in place). The buses that run you from the finish to the start make travel logistics MUCH easier, and these recces gave me the chance to see if I could run the route quickly enough. My first reality check came mid November when Elaine Bisson kindly accompanied me on the first recce (Coniston to Buttermere) as part of her Bob Graham preparation. Allocated 9.5 hrs, we completed it with only 30 minutes to spare…and I struggled. Blaming my relatively unfit state on my recent injury, I just hoped that by next year I would be fitter, and it would feel easier … if I felt that tired after just 26 miles, how would I cope with 100?
I drew up a training plan, and over the next months gradually built up my mileage … incorporating multiples of a 15m off road local loop and shorter tempo runs into my week (thanks Geoff Davis) … a painful contrast to the hours spent plodding.
With the help of Joan and Mandy from the club, I ran routes on the N York Moors, visited the Lakes over New Year, and in February ran the Yomp and Howgills marathon routes on consecutive days. The idea was to run long miles on tired legs, and as Spring approached, the back to back weekends became more frequent and included memorable adventures … an autumn pie pit-stop in the bracken above The Rigg at Haweswater, ploughing through thigh-high snow in Durham and Ostmotherly, sitting by Lake Windermere in the evening warm sun, eating mid marathon giant hotdogs in Wensleydale, or re-fuelling on mid run chips at the Wasdale Inn, to name just a few.
I signed up for more official recces in late March and May, and upon each of these and other visits to the Lakes and events elsewhere, did two back to back days running 25-30 miles each day. The LDWA Yorkshire 50 on July 7th was my longest single training run, and during the 3 week taper I did a couple of shorter days in the Lakes to check the navigation on a couple of the route sections.
As event weekend approached I had mixed feelings … at times it seemed ridiculous to have signed up for a race in the Lakes that relied on others providing transport for the training and event itself. I knew that no amount of plodding around Durham and doing reps up and down Redhills like a loonie would alone be suitable preparation for Lakes terrain, but hoped that combined with the training trips I’d had, would be just enough. By mid July I felt as fit as I had ever been, I had trained to the best of my ability, so I knew that it was now or never.