Friday 28th July – 6pm start
105 miles with 22,211ft elevation change
After 5 hours of the race I was stationary on a big climb leaning on poles for support, during what felt like a never ending climb up loose rock in the rain and dark. This was the climb out of Wasdale Head and I felt utterly terrible. Only around 20 miles in, my feet had been soaked for the full race so far and it was painful to keep going up. I resolved to the fact that I would have to struggle on the hills now for the entire day and just run the downs. People kept passing me saying “Ya’right mate” – I felt shattered, struggling to cope with odds I felt were being stacked against me.
This was my first real low of the race, I knew it was going to come but didn’t expect it to be so soon into the race, maybe it was a sign of things to come in a 100.
Rewind to before the race.
Preparation had gone really well for this race. I had recce’d most of the route, some tricky parts I’d done twice just in case of any issues on race day, especially during the night sections. I was confident going into my first 100 miler that if I played a sensible game I could bag a finish which was what my main goal was to do. My other goals I had were 33 hours and 36 hours.
I had trained smart thanks to the fantastic Sarah at Missing Link Coaching, all my training was structured and no excessive mileage which would ultimately lead my body to a DNS.
I had lots of help from my friends with different aspects of the route who had previously completed the race; Ozzie, Neil, Andy & Paul. Shared some great chats about 100 mile races and overall good times with; Scott, Gavin, Stuart, Ryan, Vicky, Jo, Fin, Andrew, Graham and to every one of them I am thankful because it helped take my mind of being tired during these training runs.
The plan was to drive down on Thursday and check into a lovely AirB&B with Vicky where we would meet our friends Rae & Adam. After a relaxed hour and half driving down the M74 with sunglasses on Vicky asked if I had everything, I had to pull into the service station “I’VE FORGOTTON MY SHOES!!!!!” – What a numpty! I’d packed my spare shoes for the drop bag at mile 60 but nothing to start in. It was a long drive back to the house to pick up the main shoes before heading back down again.
We stopped by Sarahs to pick up some lovely new clothes to wear on race day!
Checked into the AirB&B and had a catch up with Rae from Raevolution, Adam and Zilean the dog before bed.
Friday I had planned to stay in and rest for as long as possible after checking in at registration: Name checked, bag checked, packet pickup, Timing chip attached, weight checked & that was me ready to go. We headed back and I just tried to get a few hours kip while the others (my support team) went out to explore.
Rae drove us all to Coniston and I got there in time for the briefing. After saying goodbye to the crew and Vicky, I dibbed into the start corral.
Nessun Dorma rang out in the crowd as an opera singer had come to sing it live, the crowd were silent and the runners were all silent too. It was very emotional just thinking about the journey ahead knowing I planned to arrive back here on foot after a 105 circular loop – That was a very dangerous thought creeping into my head so early on.
Coniston > Seathwaite (7 mile leg & 7 miles total)
The start was pretty hectic as we all ran out along the lined streets of cheering family and friends up onto the trail. It seemed like straight away we began climbing and soon what felt like we were heading up Coniston Old Man, the rain came on pretty bad within the first hour. Got my waterproof on in time but within 30 minutes of the heavy rain I was already soaked through – “Better keep moving to keep warm” I thought.
During the first descent just after we left the misty top of the climb, I just ran down pretty hard because it was too easy to just let go and go fast, I bombed it down the trail past a few folk and arrived into Seathwaite checkpoint to be served by some real life superheros!!!
Seathwaite > Boot (7 leg – 14 miles total)
I don’t remember much about this section of trail apart from the rain stopping, holding onto a fence to get down a really rocky and steep descent while other people fell down it, loads of people cheering runners on from their conservatory. I was running with some guys but not really talking to anyone, just in the zone and getting the job done.
WELCOME TO SCOTLAND – I’d arrived at the second checkpoint with a Scottish theme, John was there in a kilt to dib me in. I got some food and drink while being treated to some traditional Scottish music in the evenings lovely overcast skies. Soon enough Debbie was ushering me out of the CP “Right Ian, time to get going now” – Cheers for that!
Boot > Wasdale (5.4 leg – 19.4 miles)
I was anticipating it getting dark during this short leg but I didn’t realise how awful this short 5.4 mile leg could be! For most of this leg the route seemed to be on open fell with grass all around, it was boggy, it was lumpy, uneven and it was very muddy. It felt like doing a Tough Mudder event at times! I played a game with my fellow competitors: “Who can turn their head torch on last, wins” (They didn’t know about this game), but I lost it anyway! I bottled it after rolling my ankle twice and wading through some bogs, putting the head torch on helped a little with foot placement but it was still very boggy.
Way off into the distance I could see the glorious lights of Wasdale Head, a real party atmosphere, it looked like how I imagined Las Vegas in the middle of the night from above! I tucked in behind two other runners who seemed to be picking a line through the grassy sloppy descent following the other head torches in the distance. Soon enough I hit the dark long road into the checkpoint, with a little drizzle to top it off.
“FOLLOW THE UNICORN” – The lady was shouting at the checkpoint as I crossed a little bridge and saw an inflatable shark bobbing in the stream. The checkpoint was amazing, easily my favourite theme of the race, it was a beach party, inflatables everywhere, Disney banner of Baloo, Bucket and spades, men wearing coconut bikinis serving us squash. I grabbed some Jam sandwiches, some tea, some coke and some other bits of food before heading out.
Wasdale > Buttermere (6.9 leg – 26.3 miles)
Okay so going back to the first paragraph this is where I had my first real low. This leg was only 7 miles in length but it took in two pretty nasty climbs and two nasty descents.
As I started climbing up Black Sail Pass I just felt exhausted and kept thinking “Why am I even here, this sucks” – I kept going every few steps and then stopping to catch my breath on my poles for a minute, I kept this up all the way to the top after I’d been passed by loads of people asking if I was ok. At the top there was nobody around but I just followed the trail down to the rocky descent. Best to take my time down here now, feeling pretty drained and not wanting to fall and cut myself I did go down with everyone else. I let out a guffaw when someone in front fell and slid quite a way down the grass, oops. Crossing more boggy ground lower down before another climb, this climb was no different but I kept thinking how close I am to Buttermere and when I get there I can treat myself to a SEAT!!
Scarth Gap Pass done it was time to head down the extremely rocky descent in a conga line of pitter patter. I felt good now and didn’t want to be stuck behind slower people descending so overtook a fair few people here so I could run at a more comfortable descending speed. The long rolling section along Buttermere is beautiful in the daylight but it was quite spooky at night through the woods.
The checkpoint was just ahead so I picked up the pace as I had my heart set on that seat.
I can’t remember the theme for this checkpoint but there was a lovely older lady in there who gave me a cup of soup and made me a strong tea to pick up my spirits. I sat down and ate it, there was a runner in here wrapped in a foil blanket, I didn’t want to stay too long just in case I got cold. However this was the first time I’d sat down so tried to make the most of it. After I’d refueled a little bit more, I got a handful of salted crisps and another tea to take out on my way.
Buttermere > Braithwaite (6.5 leg – 32.8 miles)
I left the checkpoint alone into the darkness and through the forest before emerging on the open fell. There was no doubt in my mind about the route here because I knew and felt comfortable being alone, I sometimes caught glimpses of head torches up ahead but that was fine. I was only concerned with finding the correct fork in the path at the tiny cairn amongst the ferns. Sure enough I caught up and passed some people on the long ascent up to the top of Sail Pass. Once at the top I said well done to a guy I’d followed the whole way up, he took a few minutes rest and promised to catch me up as I headed down the long descent for a few miles to the next checkpoint.
The descent was incredibly fun and I was just running freely but probably too hard. I then caught about 8 runners all bunched together walking through the darkness, I was in two minds if I should now walk and stick with them or just go ahead and try finding the route on my own. I decided on the latter and stormed by them, a few of them decided to run and stay with me instead of walking which was funny because I had no idea on the route down these grassy hills hehe. Luckily I didn’t get anyone lost and made it into Braithwaite quite amused looking for the actual checkpoint.
Checkpoint theme was Halloween (I think) – Again my mind is a little fuzzy here so I can’t be sure, but I think there was cobwebs and skeletons all around the inside of the CP.
When I got in I had to take all the stones out of both shoes, I know what Joss Naylor says about leaving them in until they embed into your feet but that’s crazy talk, this was painful! I had a lovely bowl of Pasta Bolognaise, some coke, some flapjack then took a tea out with me to drink while walking through Braithwaite in the middle of the night.
Braithwaite > Blencathra (8.5 leg – 41.3 miles)
Chatted to a fair few people on this leg and even shouted 2 people form going on the wrong way, felt really proud of that moment! Was chatting to a guy who’d done 3 Lakeland 100s and his head torch already had low batteries, there was probably a few hours of darkness left so it was a bit worrying for him. I had other issues to deal with: The main compartment zip on my brand new Salomon pack wouldn’t go back up! I spent about 15 minutes at the side of the A88 trying to get the zip up but it was useless, luckily I managed to close it by using safety pins, oh well that pocket was now rendered useless so I stuffed everything from that pocket into the big kangaroo back pouch.
Running up towards Skiddaw was really nice, I enjoy this section even though there is a huge out and back almost along the valley following the ‘Cumbria Way’ paths. Just after hitting the unmanned dibber I got to take my head torch off to see the beautiful sunrise – 5.04am.
Nice quick run down to the next CP picking off a few folk.
When I got into Blencathra Centre (CP6) I sat down to take the million stones out of my shoes that were starting to embed into my soggy feet. I spoke to a guy in a onesie with a lock dangling over his junk (I think anyway) – About my pack but there was nothing they could do to fix it. I had some of the famous ‘Wee Daves Mums Chocolate Cake’, it was as delicious as I’d heard about from various runners for the best part of 11 hours. Some other bits of food and drink then headed out into the rain to find a loo in the centre nearby.
Time to put the waterproof back on as it was properly raining again now.
Blencathra > Dockray (7.7 leg – 49 miles)
This section takes you to almost the halfway point but I never thought of it as the halfway point at the time.
Leaving the checkpoint was fine again for route finding running along little roads until I hit an underpass, another unmarked dibber, then followed the route up leg 2 of Bob Graham territory. The longest and probably worst bit was along the ‘old coach road’, this went on for what felt like the full 7.7 mile leg, but realistically was probably about 4 miles, I ran and walked this section with really sore feet and being battered by the wind and rain. I’d be curious if anyone else felt so crap at this point in the race with the wind and rain as I did?
Upon arriving into Dockray it was raining so heavy I was happy to get into the checkpoint, take a seat, have some warm soup and try to warm myself up.
I sat for ages for two reasons 1) To wait for the rain to ease off while I ate, and 2) because I was just messing around really with my pack. I can’t remember what I was doing other than putting a plaster on a little open wound I had on the outer side of my ankle from rubbing. The marshals were lovely as usual in here and kept running around after all the runners. I took a jam sandwich and some warm tea out of the checkpoint which went down a treat.
Dockray > Dalemain (10.1 leg – 59.1 miles)
This was my official halfway point in the race and I really wanted to get here by 11.30am on Saturday (17 hours 30 race time), as this would mean I’m halfway and I’m also out of the checkpoint before the 50 mile race starts. I knew this would be a big boost of confidence for me to have all the fresh 50 runners blazing by me for the rest of the race.
Anyway so this section was 10 miles long. The nicest section was around Aira Force waterfall and Gowbarrow Fell, after that it was the most boring and uneventful leg of the entire route. It never got any closer, the roads went on forever, and the fields went on forever!
The little fell we climbed smelt of poop because somebody had taken a poo right by the trail, later on I needed to go too so hopped over a fence. I had also called Vicky to tell her I’m nearly at Dalemain and I won’t be too much longer (oh that was a lie), the roads did in fact go on for much longer than I’d remembered. I ran fast into Dalemain past the applauding marshals and the 50 runners stood around waiting for their race to start.
I got in here sooner than I expected in 16 hours and 6 minutes so I had plenty of time to now relax. All the marshals were dressed as nurses and this is where you can prepare a drop bag to change clothes/shoes etc.
I took my shoes off and sat in a chair, my feet was shredded from the constant rain and bog, I took all the remaining tape off and just sat there letting them dry out for 5/10 minutes. The marshals eventually found my bag after some panicking about it being missing, thankfully it wasn’t and they must have looked through every drop bag about 15 times to find it hidden somewhere, they were my saviours here!
I took some pudding in my hand and ate it then a lady asked if I wanted pudding and custard – YES PLEASE 🙂
That went down a treat!
I tried to re-apply tape to my feet but it was hardly sticking because they were so wet. I changed both my tops, change my buff, eventually got the tape on, changed my socks and also my shoes – This felt excellent now.
I had some jelly sweets, took some soup and some tea with me as I walked out the checkpoint.
Dalemain > Howtown (7.1 leg – 66.2 miles)
I left the checkpoint to get lost in some random fields before Pooley Bridge. I was very excited to get to Pooley Bridge to see Vicky, Rae, Adam and Zilean the dog for the first time in the race. I thought it would be sooner than expected but had to wander around a bit trying to find the route here, it was hard just navigating which gates in which fields to go through. After crossing the main bridge in the village my eyes were scanning everyone like a hawk for them.
I spotted Vicky and company just next to their car, they walked up the hill with me chatting away, I was just power walking up the hills at this point using my poles. Vicky was keen to hear how I was getting off after I kept complaining about my mashed up feet. Rae was taking some videos too which I didn’t realise until after the race and she made a lovely montage video (Link at the end).
I left my support crew and headed off back into the drizzle for the next few undulating miles into Howtown.
Howtown had a cowboy theme at the CP and there was loads of Chai Charge bars to help yourself too, I took some tea, 2 Chai Charge bars, the lovely marshal filled up a little bag of Jelly babies for me to take on to the next section because it was a long one with the biggest climb.
Howtown > Mardale Head (9.4 leg – 75.6 miles)
This section of the race is a bugger, there is a long climb up Fusedale before you top out and cross some very boggy ground again – So long for dry shoes and socks!
After I hit the top of this relentless climb the first 50 runner came by me, I was happy it took them this long actually, and all the way along the boggy top they were passing me and we were sharing well dones.
On the descent to Haweswater I was feeling great and bombed it down there, some 100 runners stood aside and let me pass thinking I was a 50 runner, that was a nice confidence booster for me. All the way along the single track the 50 runners were blazing by me, I really enjoyed cheering them on and I valued their support and encouragement they were giving me in return. My foot was starting to hurt before the checkpoint and I thought it was just tendonitis coming back after 2 years ago when I had it bad.
Got into Mardale Head, had a packet of crisps, some sandwiches, coke and left the checkpoint ready for the next climb.
Mardale Head > Kentmere (6.5 leg – 82.1 miles)
Climbing up here my foot was absolutely killing, I don’t recall any time where I went over on my ankle to cause so much pain and thought it must just be from overuse and some tendonitis. It felt like somebody was stabbing needles into the outer side of my foot.
Near the top of the climb out of Mardale I saw two folk stood at the top, I thought they were my friends so when they waved I got giddy and started waving my poles above my head like an idiot. As I got closer it dawned on me I had absolutely no idea who they were – Soooo embarrassing! They were waving at somebody they knew behind me, I apologised and they found it really funny.
On first of two descents I was hobbling down feeling sorry for myself, I wanted to take some paracetamol but knew I only had 4 and if I was to finish I’d need more than that. I thought a lot here about pulling out and saving myself, but I wouldn’t really allow the thought of quitting to enter my thoughts, I kept pushing it aside as I limped down the descent. People were passing me left, right and centre asking if I was ok “I’m ok cheers”. I kept walking then running the odd time, Caroline passed and stopped for a chat before storming her 50 mile race.
The road section before the final descent into Kentmere was really sore but at least on the flats I could muster something which resembled a run, I think I talked myself out of quitting and knew I’d just have to limp the descents, walk the climbs, and slowly jog the flats (Glad to report that did change overtime).
Got into Kentmere CP and everyone is dressed as sheep!! I’ve been here before during my first 100km+ race where it was also used as a CP.
A young girl came over with a bowl of pasta bolognaise which was excellent! I can’t remember what food I took here, probably tea, jam sandwiches, Madeira cake and flapjacks. I asked the medic if I could take something to mask the pain and she gave me two paracetamol and took my race number. When I took the paracetamol it was ON! I set a timer on my phone for 4 hours countdown to the next batch and left the checkpoint.
Kentmere > Ambleside (7.3 leg – 89.4 miles)
The sun was shining, I had been going for close to 24 hours – Better late than never!
The climb up Garburn Pass was a nightmare, it’s a tough climb being so rocky in places and my foot was still really sore here, I ran pretty well with a pack of 50 runners down into a little village ‘Troutbeck’ – I remember meeting Vicky at the post office near the end of a training run here a few years ago.
Anyway the climb out of Troutbeck was quite fun chatting with people going a brisk walking pace, then I got chatting to a guy doing his first 100 too called Luke, we ran pretty hard through the forest and into Ambleside together.
It felt like sprinting through Ambleside because the crowd lining the streets really carried you! – I felt like crap but managed to muster up a great pace, I saw Vicky & Rae very briefly here before running on into the CP.
At the CP I ate some more sandwiches, had some coke and was on my merry way through Rothay Park. I saw Vicky & Rae again here and even sat down on a bench for 5/10 minutes just chatting about it all and telling them there I’m 100% finishing now, no matter than happens, there was only 15 miles left – It HAS to be done!
Ambleside > Chapel Stile (5.6 leg – 95 miles)
I left Vicky & Rae and began the climb out of Ambleside. I quickly phoned Scott to tell him about my feet and ask him to give Vicky some advice on how to dry them out after the race and keep them healthy looking.
I remember these final 15 miles very well so the next 5 miles to the Chapel Stile CP were pretty good. I saw Vicky & Rae again at Skelwith Bridge Hotel – This would be the last time I saw them before I got to the finish, and I couldn’t wait.
Most of this section, I ran along with another 100 runner who I kept passing during the day and he kept passing me. For the full race we had been around the same pace always seeing each other so it was good to finally chat to him.
Neil and myself ran really well into Chapel Stile, and it helped to have somebody else with me to chat to so I wouldn’t concentrate on my foot. The plan was to hit the unmanned dibber after the CP on sub 30 hour pace.
I got into Chapel Stile CP and filled my full bottle up with coke to take with me, had some soup and was ready to run.
Chapel Stile > Tilberthwaite (6.5 leg – 101.5 miles total!)
Along this section I ran with Neil and told him a great joke about Pirates and he told me one also! We were running with a 50 runner but struggling to keep to his pace, I was flagging a little and said to Neil to just go on and get the sub 30, because I’m no longer enjoying this and can’t keep this pace until the end. He wanted to stay together because it was more fun so we just soldiered on without a care what time we would eventually finish in.
As we both put on our head torches again for the second time I realised I had lost my backup Silva torch in case this Petzl one ran out – Damn it! Neil had to stop at the side of the trail for a pee which ended up being a poop.
We ran through the darkening fells through a forest where there was wild campers having a rave – It was quite surreal.
Just before the final unmanned dibber you contour around the hill which is quite rocky and overgrown with ferns, a 50 runner was behind chatting to us and he said “Has anyone dropped a head torch” – I guessed it was my Silva one and it was!!!! Happy to be re-united with this beauty so thanked the kind stranger and he went past. The unmanned dibber came and went by without any issues, it was easy to find.
Shortly after BOOM – A highland cow just chilling right next to the trail, it scared the life out of me, and a few other folk for that matter. We kept going along with loads of 50 runners hoping to find the bright lights of the final checkpoint.
I high fived Neil as we hit 100 miles – A personal best for both of us, in terms of time out on feet and also distance!
Finally we got into the last checkpoint at 101.5 miles and sat down in relief to catch our breath. The pace was pretty good, my foot was sore and I had taken my next paracetamols a while back so they must have been kicking in by now.
Timberthwaite > Coniston (3.5 leg – 105 miles total & finish)
I got some more coke in my bottle, a tea (I think) some quick bites of food and we headed out up the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ steps up onto the fell. These steps really are a killer, it seems cruel so late in the race but they were the start of the final climb separating me from Coniston.
We hiked up together with some 50 runners behind us like a conga line, I kept asking if they wanted past but they seemed happy following our footsteps.
I was watch watching all the time now, I thought of that Madonna song multiple times “Time goes by, so slowly” – the distance wasn’t moving up so it seemed like hours before we reached the top.
My Petzl head torch was flashing low battery and it turned out the batteries in the Silva were useless – I bought new Duracell before the race and now it wouldn’t even turn on. So I had to stick with my Petzl and hope it lasted for the rest of the race.
As soon as we hit the top of the climb there was a big sigh of relief, this was surely in the bag now, just one final initial rocky descent to contend with before we would be on the nice wide jeep road down into Coniston centre.
We both ran very strongly down, taking over a few more 50/100 runners in the process. I personally couldn’t wait to just be done, I really didn’t care about position or time, I just wanted to stop!
I made it into Coniston which meant a few minutes and it would be over, we turned left and ran down the hill to the finish arch at the school, it was a great experience to be finishing here after starting 2 days ago and covering 105 miles on foot.
We dibbed in together, hugged and then I found my lovely crew of Vicky, Rae, Adam and Zilean. It was a real mix of emotions, I was unbelievably happy to have finished it but also in quite a lot of pain now.
30 hours 22 minutes 31 seconds
The marshal walked both Neil and myself into the marquee and announced to everyone it was our first 100 miler and we’re both finishers. When he said that all the people around started clapping and were looking at us both, it was very emotional and I was overwhelmed by the support and appreciation people had shown. I had no idea it would be possible for me to even finish at all by Kentmere, let alone in that time so I was super happy and proud of myself.
I got my wristbands cut off, a medal put on, a t shirt and finally got a chance to chat to my support crew.
Got some tasty food, met up with the legendary Ozzie (My friend who’d travelled out to see me finish at 1am) – He helped take my pack, shoes and socks off – eww but thank you for that!
We chatted for about half an hour and then got in the car and headed back to the AirB&B for some sleep before our 10am checkout.
The fantastic youtube video our friend Rae made to remember the race.
Mentally it was incredibly tough, by far the hardest race I have done. I choose to do the Lakeland 100 based on a few factors and I’m so pleased to have completed it as my first 100 mile race.
The self supported aspect of it, with no outside assistance really appealed to me, the self navigation relying on paper maps/road books was also a huge plus. I wanted to stack the odds against me and come out on top – Really pleased to actually have accomplished something of this magnitude.
Training has been pretty intense but it had all paid off, I had a dream to complete this race and now that is done, smashing my estimated goals in the process I should have more faith in my ability to endure hardship and respect my mental toughness.
Looking back it was the right decision to continue with a sore foot, I can still hardly walk but most of the pain has now gone – It had only been just over a week but hopefully in 4 weeks I should be good to go again.
I’ve learnt the importance of keeping on top of race nutrition, not faltering there. I need to continue to learn about different types of socks and footwear to suit the terrain – especially incredibly boggy terrain.
Looking forward to the CCC race again in 4 weeks, fingers crossed I heal well enough to start!
Next year I’m looking for an even tougher 100 with some ideas spinning in my head.
Thank you all for reading!