Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Early Years - Learning


I have just written the title for tonight's blog, but not really sure what I will write about.  I was going to title it The Early Years - Learning to Race, but felt that I would probably stray about a bit and cover a lot more than simply learning to race, probably also a bit about learning to understand oneself.  So anyway here goes!

Over the last week my thoughts have been rather jumbled as I read various people's blogs about their West Highland Way experiences, and Ian Sharman's report on his Western States 100 race. But what probably got me thinking the most was catching up with Chris Howarth the weekend before last.  Just to update you, Chris won the Great Britons competition, which was fantastic news for his Run Kenya Charity Journey. To those of you that voted for him, many thanks.

Chatting to Chris, I was in admiration of the charity work he is undertaking.  His ability to mix his passion for running with a desire to help others.  It started me thinking about my running, and how for many, many years, the sole focus of my running was self desire, self satisfaction, a very selfish approach.  Some may conclude that nothing has changed, I hope not.  I consider it has changed.  But before I can explain this, I need to go back to the start.  The start of my running.

Those of you that have read my post back in April about my first ever marathon will know a little bit about what got me started. As I highlighted in the post, leading up to marathon number one, it was alot about trying to prove to myself that I was good at running, as I wasn't much good at any other sports.  And in New Zealand, back in the 70s there was a massive influence/emphasis about being good at sport.  As I haven't lived in NZ for coming on 20 years, I can't comment whether things have changed, but looking back now, this emphasis I think was largely responsible for my 'lack of self worth'!

So April 1980, at the age of 17, I achieved my goal I set myself in order to earn some self credibility, a sub 3 hour marathon finish.  Having achieved the goal, I found my running performance improved dramatically, as if overnight!  From finishing around mid-field in most Under 18 harrier races, typically around 30 - 40th out of 60 - 80 runners, my first proper race, the Dorne Cup, 6 weeks after the marathon, I finished 2nd.  Unbelievable, how could I improve from 33rd the year before to finish 2nd?

I have mentioned previously that although I never read about psychology, I place alot of emphasis on it in my race preparation.  Well back in 1980, I think that was when I started to prepare mentally instead of just physically.  Having succeeded at the Fletcher Marathon, I was ready for the next success.  I clearly remember using imagery to imagine myself running the race, being at the edge of the front group as we ran around the fields.  I remember when it actually happened during the actual race, thinking there and then, at that moment in time, "I have been here before, many times before, it feels like it will just happen", even though it had only ever happened within my imagination!

So as if instantly I go from a mid-pack finisher, to now a top 5 -10 finisher.  From being a 'nothing', a 'nobody', I gained a lot of self satisfaction from this improved performance.  Sure, I was probably a bit physically fitter, as a result of an increase in training in running the marathon.  However, I feel my change in performance was largely due to a change in my self belief, my self expectation of what I was capable of achieving.

My original intention of this post was to try to illustrate a message by telling my story of how my running changed, and how I changed.  However, I can sense that this story could be very, very long, so maybe this story should wait for another day, or possibly another forum, maybe write a book!  So I will rapidly advance many years into the future. 

So from becoming a runner in 1980, through many transformations as I became a multi-sporter in the mid 80s, next a cyclist in the late 80's, then an Ironman in the mid 90's, and then back to being a runner.  Through all those years, there was still the need to prove something to myself,  The position in the race was so very important to me.  I needed to finish high up in the field, to try to overcome this inner self-belief of not being a very good athlete!  Sure, I had mini-successes along the way, but I think during all those years, the success of the race was externally dictated.  It was dependent upon how well I raced compared to others.  The result was the important factor, not the journey!

I'm not sure when and how things changed.  Whether it was due to other things in my life, such as getting married and starting a family, or just getting wiser, as I got older, difficult to say.  But I guess around the early to mid 2000's there was no longer the need to prove something to myself.  No longer the need for external factors to determine whether I ran well.  And what was so surprising, looking back now, the moment the external measure of success was abandoned, success came.  Just like back in 1980, there was a dramatic change.  I became a successful runner.  I became happy with my performances, my new determination of success.  I became more aware of what I was able to achieve.  I became more self confident in what I was capable of achieving.  The journey became important, rather than the destination.  I became more aware, in how running was an integral part of me, of how my mind and body are not separate items.  How important it is to be happy with your body, to be happy with yourself as a whole.  And once you are happy with yourself you are then able to share this positive energy with others.  To help and energise those around you.

So as I return to where I started this post, I referred to those runners who had recently ran an ultrarun.  I referred to Chris Howarth and his planned journey through Kenya.  But what is common amongst these people within their writings, within meeting these people in person, is their ability to energise, to inspire, to help people to enjoy, to learn, to possibly to help people discovery themselves.  And as I continue to run, to enjoy the running even more than ever, I am hopeful that in my journey, I can do the same.  To share what I have learnt, to help others to achieve success, in whatever way they measure it.

Well, I'm told you at the start of this post, I wasn't really sure what I would end up writing.  My blog isn't called  'Mutterings' for no reason!

To sign off; "Success means different things to different people.  Know within yourself, how you measure success, and have self belief in your ability to achieve success", Stuart Mills, 2010.

May you all be successful,


Monday, 21 June 2010

Run Kenya - An Amazing Challenge for a Great Cause

Hi again,

As I begin to hear about the results of the West Highland Way and the challenges people faced along their journey.  I would like to raise your awareness to a challenge an ex University student of mine is undertaking next month.

Chris Howarth graduated with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Brighton, (where I work), a few years back.  Shortly after graduating he completed the Jungle Marathon in Brazil.  Since then he has completed a Masters degree in Scriptwriting, and is now combining his running passion, together with his script writing to raise awareness and money to help Kenya's street children.

Click the link to take you to the charity website that provides information about his 1100 mile run across Kenya.

Chris has been shortlisted to the final 8 people (out of 442 applicants) in the British Airways "Great Britons" competition.
He could win free flights to Kenya and loads of great publicity for the challenge.

The competition winner is chosen by public vote over the Internet, but the votes finish TOMORROW TUESDAY 22nd June.

If you think you might like to vote for Chris and the Kenyan Street Children charity then please click on the Great Britons link which has information about his challenge:

Then click on "Chris Rhys Howarth" and then on "Vote Now"

You must however sign up first. This is a check that people don't vote more than once. It only takes a minute. You won't get spam e-mails from British Airways!

Follow the instructions after clicking "Sign up now". When you click "Go", it takes you back to Chris's profile. You have to click on "Vote Now" again!

You should then get a confirmation page that asks if you are voting for the right person. YOU MUST CLICK ON THIS PAGE to actually register your vote. It will then say "Done".

If you could spend a few minutes reading what a great project Chris is raising money for, and then click on the British Airways website and vote it would be very much appreciated.

Your vote could really make a difference to the expenses for the run, as well as raising the publicity for the charity.

Thanks for taking the time to read the above. 


PS Chris wrote a race report about his Jungle Marathon experience.  Here is a link to his report from the 2004 Jungle Marathon, which is fascinating reading, especially if you are thinking of doing the race:
Chris Howarth - Jungle Marathon Race Report - PDF Document

PPS  I will be back to my usual mutterings hopefully later this week, although with watching New Zealand do so well at the Football World Cup, I don't seem to have enough hours in the day!

PPPS  Well done to everyone that finished the West Highland Way.  This race is definitely on my 'to do' list as it looks such a great event.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

South Downs Marathon - The Importance of Race Preparation

Hi, welcome back.

Last week's post was titled South Downs Marathon - What Do I Want?  Well, what did I get???

The answer is a 'Good Performance', i.e. a performance I am happy with!

The South Downs Marathon is a point to point course along the South Downs Way, starting not too far from Arundel, and finishing at Queen Elizabeth Park near Petersfield.  Hard to say how many runners there were, but the start at Slindon College seemed really busy.  There was a 9:00am start for runners expecting to be slower than 4 hours 30mins, probably around 250 runners.  Then a 9:30am start for the four person relay teams (maybe around 60 teams), and then the 10:00am start for probably another 250 runners.

Last week I wrote about the importance of knowing "what I wanted" from the race before the race started.  Well after quite a bit of preparation leading up to yesterday, all I wanted from the race was the satisfaction in knowing that I had run hard, that I had run to the intensity I know that I am capable of.  After the 'diasppointment' of 'wimping out' during the Marlborough Downs 33 Mile Challenge, it was important that I got back 'on track' and was able to run fast again, at a high intensity.

So the hooter blasted, so straight away as planned it was a quick start to get the heart rate up high.  Within 2 - 3 minutes I was working really hard, puffing and blowing, it felt great!  I seldom look behind when racing so I didn't know if any other runners were near.  It didn't really matter, if need be, I was focused to run hard the entire way to the finish on my own.  Having ran the race twice before in 2007 (a different start venue) and 2008, I had made a note of my 2008 checkpoint times (at the relay changeovers) prior to the race.  If I was able to run at a high intensity, then I expected to run at a very similar time to 2008.

I wear a Garmin305 GPS watch, but during the race I never look at the heart rate display.  I know instinctively if I am running hard or not.  I don't need the watch to tell me.  In fact the watch can give you false information as your heart rate can vary quite a bit depending upon your state of dehydration, how hot or cold it is, current state of over-training, how far you have run, etc.  A high heart rate therefore doesn't always mean that you are running at a high intensity.  So best to avoid this possibly false feedback.

I am pleased that I am running hard.  I feel a runner 'pulling me in', which happens shortly after the one mile mark.  I say "giddaye" as he runs straight past me!  For the next three miles it is a steady climb up to the top of the Downs, this runner who I don't recognise gradually pulls away.  As we near the top, coming out of some woods, he is standing at a track junction not sure which way to go.  I shout to him "straight ahead" as he starts heading off down a side track.  The course was well marked, so not sure why he thought to turn right, anyway we end up running side by side.  The next mile was what I love about racing, it was a very, very gentle downhill.  I was now fully focused for a really hard run, so instead of easing off after the hill, I relax and enjoy running fast.  The next mile was completed in 5 mins 58 secs as we gained 11 metres but lost 17 metres.  Who was breathing harder?  Hard to tell but it sounded like him!  We reach the first water station, and feeling quite hot, I slow down to ensure that I drink plenty from the bottle of water, and tip the remainder over my head.  The other runner takes one sip from his bottle and powers away from me.  So much for him breathing hard I think!

Again I watch him leave me behind, then as we approach checkpoint 1, there is a nice descent.  I stride out, really flowing as the downhill increases my pace.  I fly straight past him reaching CP1 in a little over 48 minutes, this being around 45 seconds quicker than 2008.  This is a pleasant surprise. 

Although I would like to run quicker than two years ago, the aim of the race is simply to run hard.  If I do this, then the quick time will happen.  I think this approach to goal setting is quite important.  Simply having a goal of running a certain time, for me doesn't really work.  I need a strategy, a plan to ensure this time happens.  I spend quite a bit of time prior to the race getting information about the course, the terrain, the profile, the contour lines from the map, images from google earth, information was other people's race reports, but if I have run the course previously, then my own race data and memories.  I then establish my expected times at various locations along the course, usually at each checkpoint or drink station.  For the South Downs Marathon, target or expected times are simply at CP1, 2 and 3.  Once I pass through a checkpoint, I then compare my actual time to my expected time and compare the information I receive, with my perception of how hard I have been running so far.  On some occasions it confirms that I have been 'taking it easy'.  On other occasions, it confirms that my expected split times are too slow, i.e. I have overestimated the difficulty of the course.   Please note that I never conclude that I have gone too hard.  As with my philosophy on ultra racing, I don't believe you can go too hard.  Remember, run as fast as you can while you can!  If I have run that part of the course in a faster than expected time, why consider slowing down?  No, take on board the positive feedback and look to continue being up on your expected time at the next checkpoint!

Back to the race!  Again as we pass through the checkpoint, I get left behind as I slow to drink the majority of water from the drink bottle to wash down the gel I consume.  The course climbs up again, along the top and then descends down to CP2 around 5 miles later.  The lead runner continues to pull away, and even with another really enjoyable fast descent to the checkpoint (5 mins 39 secs on rough trails) he must still be around one minute ahead.  I am now around 1 min 15 secs quicker than 2008, so all is going really well!  Although in second place, I conclude that I am running well, and I am looking forward to the next 13 miles to see what happens with the leading runner.  Will he continue to run away from me, or will he slow down.  In both my two previous wins of the South Downs Marathon (2007, 2008) and my most recent two wins in the Beachy Head Marathon (2008, 2009).  In all four of these occasions I have been in 2nd or 3rd place at halfway, so I am well aware that other runners often slow down!  Remember, you can't control what they do, so I just remain focused on what I can do, and as if watching a movie, I am excited in waiting to see what happens next!

There is a tough climb straight after the checkpoint.  Although I have gradually been overtaking runners from the early starts, climbing up the hill I pass absolutely loads of runners.  I am really puffing and blowing so they hear me coming and move to the side.  I often sense their thoughts as I run past, a mixture of admiration and encouragement as I run past, but also the thought of "Is this guy stupid, doesn't he realise that there is still miles to the finish, surely he can't puff and blow like that to the finish!"  It is this 'puffing and blowing' that gives me the feedback I need to tell me that I am running at a high intensity today.  It is what I want!  After all it is ONLY a marathon.  Just a sprint compared to a decent length Ultra!

At the top of the climb I pick out the green vest and red shorts of the leader amongst the loads of other runners.  All of a sudden he seems a lot closer.  Strange, I think, I haven't increased my intensity.  I then see him stop and start stretching out one of his legs.  As I get nearer he sees me and continues running quickly again.  This happens two or three times as I get closer to him, until eventually I run past him as he is stretching.  For the next few minutes I sense him close behind me, and then it feels like he is gone.  I don't bother looking to see.  As it doesn't really matter how close or far he is, as my plan for the day is for me to run hard the whole way to the finish.

I pass checkpoint 3, in pretty well exactly the same time as 2008 in 2 hours 13 mins for slightly over 20 miles.  So losing all of the 1:15 I had gained up to CP2.  I try to maintain the same high intensity over the last six miles, but it is beginning to be a struggle.  I start counting down the miles, which is the first sign of negativity!  The moment this starts to occur my pace drops instantaneously.  This negativity in the mind seems to 'infect' the body.  All of a sudden everything seems more difficult.  It is something that I really need to work on.  I guess it is pretty good as it doesn't really start to around the 21 - 22 mile mark.  But why look forward to the finish?  It is as if it is an admission that the race is no longer enjoyable!  On occasions I manage to get back into a positive frame of mind, especially as I run through a really picturesque wooded section.   I remind myself that running hard and fast through beautiful scenery is what I enjoy about trail marathons and ultras.  The finish line arrives quite shortly, and for only the fourth time during the race, I look at my watch.  It shows 2:54, my time from 2008.  With 100 metres to go I really pick up the pace to try to finish before 2:55, thereby running the same time as 2008 (if I ignore the seconds!).  I watch as the finish line clock clicks up 2:55, and finish in an official time of 2:55:02, exactly 41 seconds slower than 2008.

So, a good performance, one I am happy with.  Sure, I ran 41 seconds slower than 2008, but remember, the time wasn't the goal.  The goal was to race at a high intensity.  If the time happens, it happens.  If it doesn't, well it doesn't!  I can control my intensity on race day, but in some ways, come race day, I can't control my time! 

Why do I consider it a good performance.  Well it felt hard during the race, and the heart rate trace confirms this.  My overall average heart rate for the entire 2:55 is 171bpm, significantly higher than my average for the Marlborough Downs Challenge of 161 bpm.  Yes, as the race duration increases, the average heart rate has to decrease as it is not possible to maintain the same state of focus for longer durations.  However, a difference of 10 bpm for a race duration of only exactly one hour difference, confirms why I don't rate my Marlborough Downs Challenge as a 'good performance'.  (Click the following link to access the GPS trace on the Garmin Connect website: )

Second place finishes in 3:03, and the chap that led to around the 16 - 17 mile mark finishes in around 3:12, as he later explains that severe leg cramps dramatically slowed him down.

Reflecting on this race, in comparison to the Marlborough Downs Challenge, I attribute the difference in performance as being entirely to my race preparation.  Not the physical preparation, but the mental preparation, ensuring I knew what I wanted from the race prior to race day.  It is important this this 'want' is clearly established at a 'deep' level.  It takes time for it to penetrate to a 'deep' level.  It is not something that can occur 'instantly' or with minimal effort.  This is the Importance of Race Preparation!

To sign off I will repeat a quote from the Part Two Ultra Racing Performance post.  Probably the main difference between ultra running and marathon running is that one is able to enjoy and run at an UNcomfortable pace during marathon running.  Apart from that, pretty well everything is the same.

"Focus on enjoying every moment, staying confident in that your preparation has been sufficient for the realistic goal you have set yourself, and feel assured that the fast, but comfortable pace you have started at, is correct. Listen to your own 'deep and inner beliefs', and ignore the comments, views and actions of others if they are in conflict with your well thought out and planned strategies. "  Stuart Mills (2010)
Enjoy your racing.  Ensure your race preparation is complete!


Thursday, 10 June 2010

South Downs Marathon - What Do I Want?


Welcome back.  It has been a wee while since my last epic post.  It has taken me equally as long to recover from both the lengthy post as it has physically to recover from my lengthy recce run.

Tonight's post will be significantly shorter and concerns my final pre-race preparation to this Saturday's South Downs Marathon.  The focus is regarding "What Do I Want?"  What is the motivation for this Saturday's race? What am I hoping to achieve?  Hopefully I will expand on these aspects.  Firstly some race background.

The South Downs Marathon is organised by Mike Gratton and his company 2:09 Events.  Named 2:09 Events because Mike Gratton won the London Marathon in 1983 in a time of 2:09 (and 43 seconds!).  This year will be the fifth running of the race which also includes a 4 person relay option.  The race is an excellent event.  They probably don't come any better.  It is extremely well organised, including transport to the start, computer chip timing, sufficient drink stations with water bottles, not flimsy cups, carbohydrate stations as well as water, a good quality Solomon shirt, excellent prizes for many categories, a really good post race atmosphere, but best of all a fantastic scenic course along the South Downs Way!  If you aren't doing it this year, put it on your to do list for nest year!

I have raced it twice before in 2007 and 2008, winning on both occasions.  The 2007 race, probably ranks as one of my best ever performances in a trail marathon.  Back in 2007 I was only racing trail marathons, so they were my key focus.  In 2007 I actually raced five trail marathons, but I targeted the South Downs Marathon as my key race, equally with the Beachy Head Marathon.

Each year I usually target one or two key races.  The consequences of a race being a target race is that I tend to therefore increase the level of mental preparation for the event.  This mental preparation involves identifying 'What do I want from the race?'  I think this is one of the key initial steps in race preparation in order to obtain a 'good performance'.

I have mentioned in previous posts the book titled "From Last to First" written by Charlie Spedding.  If you haven't read the book, it is well worthy of a read, especially Chapter 6 - The Beer Drinker's Guide to Sports Psychology.  At the end of the chapter he summarises all he had to do with regards to sports psychology was "Change my vocabulary. Aim for perfection.  Know what I want, why I want it, and how much I want it.  Use my imagination. Try to feel fantastic, and think like a caterpillar."

So my race preparation tends to involve most of the aspects mentioned by Charlie Spedding although I don't tend to aim for perfection ( I am too lazy for that), and I don't think like a caterpillar.  The image I used to use, and on occasions still do is the Gazelle.  Other people may describe this preparation as "goal setting" and "motivation".  Whatever you label it, is is essential for achieving a 'good performance'. With good performance simply being defined as a performance that you are happy with.

Going back to 2007, the South Downs Marathon was my key race for the year.  I think I targeted this race because having run part of the course, which follows the South Downs Way, previously as part of the Eastbourne to Winchester Relay Race, I was well aware of the amazing scenery.  I had wanted to do the inaugural race in 2006 but unfortunately was slightly injured, so I wanted to make up for missing it in 2006, by running extremely well in 2007.  In addition a £200 GPS watch was advertised as first prize, and seeing the 2006 winning time, I thought, I can run faster than that!

Race day 2007 arrived, and my good friend Dave, came to support me.  He was going to follow the race on his mountain bike.  As it is quicker to run up a hill than mountain bike, he headed off before the start to get to the top of the first climb well ahead of the runners.

People occasionally ask me "Are you planning to win the race?"  Well whether I win or not, is not really within my control.  What I try to achieve within my race preparation is that I am well prepared, both mentally and physically, to run fast, so fast that it will take a 'good' runner to beat me.  If a 'good runner' turns up on race day, I can probably increase my performance by a tiny bit, by getting it absolutely right on the day, but if they are simply better than you, for whatever reasons, then you can't change that.  So I focus on what I can do, rather that what others are able to do!

The race starts in 2007 and as with my approach now, I started fast.  Well for two other runners that day, it wasn't fast enough!  By the time I reached Dave at around the 4-5 mile mark, I was in third place nearly 1 minute behind!  He shouts at me, "What are you doing, why are you running so slow?"  One thing that is important in both marathon running and ultra running is to be able to assess accurately how hard you are running.  You must be able to establish whether the pace you are running is appropriate for your state of fitness, and your state of mind.  This comes with experience, and is probably one of my strengths.  I knew I was running well, it felt fast, I felt focused.  I simply replied to Dave, either they are extremely good runners, or they are inexperienced runners and running beyond their limits.  Either way I just had to simply run my race, although remembering back now, I definitely was affected by their fast start, and was running at a higher intensity than usual.

As it so happened, for what ever reason, one of the runners pulled out just after halfway, and the other runner, slowed down significantly just after halfway and also pulled out after I went past.  I went on to win in a record time of 2 hours 51 minutes!  Amazingly quick if you know the terrain!

I learnt a few things from the South Downs Marathon from 2007.  Firstly the need to stay focused and to clearly know, what do I want from the race. Although the thought of winning is nice, I focus on what I am able to control.  I focus on running fast, relaxed, within a smooth rhythm, at all times trying to enjoy myself, enjoy the surrounding beauty of the environment, enjoy the excitement of competing.  It is important to know that these are the things I want from the race.

The other day the following comment was left on my blog, on the What Determines Ultra Running Performance Part Two.  (Thanks for the comment Brian, sorry to hear that the race didn't go as planned.)
"I bailed out of the 145 mile GUCR at the weekend basically because I didn't want to finish enough. Physically I could have continued beyond the 93 mile point where I stopped, but just didn't have the drive to complete. Completing is definitely all mental."
Although, as suggested by the comment, it was possibly a lack of planning that contributed to the less positive result!

The 2007 race also got me questioning, what determines the pace, the intensity I race at?  How do we know that we are running at the quickest pace that we are capable of?  A big issue this, in terms of what determines what we are capable of?  Well as I have highlighted in previous posts, the body and mind are not separate identities, they are intertwined, so what you are capable of is largely determined by your attitude.  Hence Charlie Spedding referring to "Use my imagination.  Try to feel fantastic"  I learnt that day the importance of positivity and enjoyment during the race!

So this Saturday will be the third time I have run the South Downs Marathon.  It is not one of my key races this year, so I haven't given it the same mental preparation as before.  However, in writing this blog, I am hoping to fully clarify "What do I want from the race?  It is essential that this is 'sorted' prior to the start of the race.  To put it simply, what I want on Saturday is the same as what I wanted back in 2007, the enjoyment of running fast, the excitement of the competition etc.  The mental preparation this year for the South Downs Marathon hasn't been as extensive as 2007, but I feel confident that there has been adequate preparation.  I am more experienced now.

Well sorry, if tonight's blog has been rather jumbled and a bit all over the place.  As mentioned above, tonight's blog is mainly for my benefit, my essential race preparation.  Thank you for aiding me in my race preparation. 

I think I will sign off by repeating Charlie Spedding's key section from his excellent book.  Give it some thought.  How many of the following aspects do you do?

"Change my vocabulary. Aim for perfection. Know what I want, why I want it, and how much I want it. Use my imagination. Try to feel fantastic, and think like a caterpillar."  Charlie Spedding (2010) p86.

Enjoy your racing,


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Lakeland 100 (UTLD) Course Recce - My Mini Adventure!


To those of you out there who are running the Lakeland 100 or the Lakeland 50 hopefully you will find tonight's post valuable. To those of you not running it, hopefully you may find the post interesting. I'll try to keep it interesting, but my main aim for tonight is to provide some information to those runners who are unable to recce the course. I'm not sure how long this post will be, but with the course distance being 167km or 103.9 miles, it could be a long one. Good endurance training!

I guess it was around December last year when I planned my races for 2010. I had completed two of the Runfurther Ultra Series races in 2009 and decided that my main aim for 2010 would be to run four of the series races. Having completed Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) in 2009, I thought that running the British equivalent, the Lakeland 100 also known as UTLD, would be appealing. So the Lakeland 100 was one of the first dates that I 'bagged' on our family calendar, along with my other races for the year. With the weekends now confirmed as available to race, it was then down to getting the preparation right!

To those of you new to my blog, I will just quickly update you on my progress to date in 2010.

Race No. 1 - Hardmoors 55 Miles, back in March. Managed to win and earn 1000 points.
Race No. 2 - Marlborough Downs Challenge 33 Miles, in mid May. Had a really good battle and finished 3rd earning 985 points.

So it then became time to turn attention to Race No. 3 - Lakeland 100 Miles (actually 103.9 miles!) near the end of July.

Reading various race reports from the previous two year's races it became apparent that knowing the course would be an advantage. The only problem, being that I live down near Brighton, so it is quite a drive up to the Lakes District to check out parts of the course. Solution, run the entire course in one recce trip! The idea seemed simple. Leave very early one morning, drive up to Checkpoint 10 at Mardale Head car park, then run the entire course in three days, staying at Coniston and Keswick youth hostels. Returning back to Mardale Head car park. Jump back into the car, and drive back to Brighton. Yes, looked simple on paper. I didn't think anybody I knew would be either mad enough, or possibly fit enough to join me. So I decided that this would be my own personal mini adventure!

Having decided on the plan, the next problem was to somehow manage to squeeze onto our family calendar, me being away for three days. After a bit of 'wheeling and dealing' with my family, the date was set to include the end of May bank holiday weekend.

Warning, I told you this could be a long post. I haven't even got to the course and it already is getting lengthy!!!

Day 1 Mardale Head to Coniston
Anyway, after an early start and long drive, I arrive at CP10 just before 10:00am. To fit within my Inov8 running pack in addition to the full badder of water, I squeeze in as much spare/emergency clothing, emergency bag, torch (never know, I could get severely lost and be out at night!), food, etc. as possible, and start running leg 11 to Kentmere at 10:13am.

I am wearing my Garmin GPS 305 watch that has sufficient battery life to last each day, (I have the charger to charge each night), however, I am unsure what the memory is. Hopefully it will store around 24 hours, the total running time I expect to take to complete my recce.

Leg 11 starts immediately with a steepish climb up and over Gatesgarth Pass. My pack is feeling quite heavy, reminding me of when it was last this heavy, running UTMB. So I get into UTMB mode and prepare myself for a lengthy walk up the steepish climb. The first surprise of the day, it didn't take long at all to reach the pass. The map shows a gain of 369 metres vertical, but it didn't seem too bad. Especially as I had in mind UTMB proportions, with each big climb there of typically around 800 - 1000 vertical metres!

Unfortunately, upon completing the recce and getting home to download the GPS watch, I then discover that the watches memory was not sufficient. As new legs are loaded, the watch wipes the data on the oldest legs, so I have no GPS data for legs 11 - 15, and leg 1! So therefore unable to state exactly how long the climb took.

Following the climb there is a nice descent, not too steep or rough, before a smaller climb up and over to CP11 at Kentmere. I arrive at Kentmere in around 1 hour 10 minutes, pretty happy with myself. I am running well within myself, keeping in mind that I have 29miles planned for day 1, followed by 37 for day 2 then 38 on the third day, back to my car. Also pleased with the fact that I have had no problems at all regarding navigation. The route description within the Road Book is very clear.

Leaving CP11, there is another reasonably long climb up and over Garburn Pass. This isn't as long, or as steep as the first climb out of CP10, so I get to the top in no time at all. Again a nice descent down to Trout Beck, probably a bit smoother underfoot, but so far all terrain is very runnable. The route description states "Always take R forks .. until the track turns sharply R." A little bit of confusion here as not totally sure whether the first sharp right hand turn I come across is the sharp right hand turn I need to turn right at. After checking the map, I realise that it isn't and continue further along the track until it turns sharp right.

The route description is pretty clear all the way to Ambleside, probably the only point worth mentioning is that it takes longer than you think to reach the running shop once you join Old Lakes Road. I had only just finished two legs, I can imagine that running along the road after having completed 12 legs could be a bit demoralising! I pop in quickly to the Lakes Runner Shop, say hello and continue on my journey. So far, my GPS watch shows 13.73 miles, in a total time of 2 hours 28 minutes. The website lists the distance for legs 11 and 12 as 21.1km, so 13.1 miles, so I am a bit unsure on where the extra 0.6 miles have come from as I didn't go off the course. Not to worry, the course is feeling a lot easier than expected, although I remind myself that come race day, I won't be running it fresh like today! I would have already completed 74 miles prior to leaving CP10. The reason for running this section CP10 to the end first is due to there being no affordable accommodation near CP10. However, looking back now, it seems a good strategy as running the last section fresh appears to be instilling positive memories of this part of the course, definitely what will be needed come race day!

Coming out of Ambleside, first a steepish climb, but this is shorter than the two more substantial climbs so far completed. It is then a really enjoyable run first through Fishgarthwood, and then along the Cumbria Way through Elterwater before arriving at CP13 at Langdale School in exactly 50 minutes after leaving Ambleside. I am surprised how quickly I am running. It feels really easy. I attribute the quickish pace down to the absolutely amazing scenery. The running is just so enjoyable, it just feels really easy! This is my first proper visit to the Lakes District and it's reputation for beauty is really well founded.

Leg 14 to Tilberthwaite first skirts around the side of a large hill. The route description is pretty clear until where it states "Continue on clear track, path thru wall to Side Pike Farm (Side House - QUIET). Do NOT cross footbridge to farm." The description is clear, except you do not know when you have reached Side Pike farm, there didn't appear to be any sign indicating the farm name, so I kept on running along the path through the farm before realising that I was getting too close to the road, so then deduced that the last farm must have been Side Park Farm.

There is then a steepish but short climb to Side Pike Pass, followed by a nice gentle descent along a smooth path, then across bog before joining a sealed road. The course is pretty easy to follow, with a mixture of terrain and small gentle rises and falls all the way to CP14.

Departing CP14 the climb starts immediately up some steep steps. The climb continues for what seems I guess around 20 minutes ish. The route description is pretty clear with the main thing to look out for is when to cross the stream "above small gulley and tree onto indistinct path." It was quite easy to locate this on the day, but I can imagine that if it was dark, and if your brain is pretty dead after running 100 miles, then it could be difficult! The hill flattens out prior to the stream crossing and continues at a shallower gradient before the final, rather steep descent down to the gravel roads that then leads into Coniston. Although I had only run around 27 miles at this point, the steep descent was quite tough on the legs. I was trying not to think what they would be like after 101 miles on race day! Although I imagine the satisfaction in knowing that the race is pretty well 'in the bag' once you start the descent will more that overcome any pain from the legs.

I run the gentle downhill along the gravel road into Coniston. The GPS watch shows a total of 29.70 miles for the day. The race website suggests 29.2 miles, so only slightly different. Apart from going a little bit extra near Side Pike Farm, I think I stuck pretty well to the course. Time from Ambleside to Coniston for the 15.97 miles is 3 hours 6 minutes, so a total running time of 5 hours 34 minutes. A good days training I think to myself. Time for a shower and some food. Unfortunately the youth hostel doesn't open to 5:00pm, so it is a wee bit more running as I jog the extra third of a mile back into the village to a cafe for a well earned coffee and cake.

Day 2 Coniston to Keswick
I wake up after a good nights sleep, not really knowing what to expect. I am typically a lazy trainer, so very seldom do long training runs. Whenever I race marathons I am always really stiff and sore the next day, definitely not able to run. So I was hoping my easy pace of day one would save my legs. I am really pleased when my legs have pretty well no muscle soreness at all. I load up my pack with water and squeeze everything else into it and head back into the village, to start my watch in the centre of town.

The course starts immediately with a gentle climb before crossing Miners Bridge and joining a narrow track. The path is a bit stepper but it doesn't take long before descending down a smooth path to a carpark and the start of a four wheel drive track (Walna Scar Road). The track takes a pretty consistent gradient up to around 600 metres so a climb of around 375 metres. It could be runnable with a bit of an effort, but I decide to walk up as I have a long day of running today, and more again the next day. The descent down the other side isn't too steep but a bit rough underfoot, so need to be focused and relaxed. It is pretty well all down hill to CP1 which I arrive at after 1 hour 24 minutes, with a distance of 6.99 miles, so again further than that listed on the website of 6.4 miles. Maybe I have a dodgy GPS watch!

I leave CP1 following last year's 2009 road book. Now at home and having downloaded the 2010 Road Book, I note that I start this leg slightly different to what I will be doing in July. No problem, it appears straight forward anyway. After crossing a few bridges, the course heads up a steep climb, but rather short. It then flattens out so becomes runnable along a high up flattish section. The course skirts around the side of a farm and then enters a boggy section. This is where I now wish that I had the 2010 Road Book with meas before I know it, upon starting the boggy section, I appear to have lost the path. I then decide to continue running, mistake No. 1! If lose the path, stop and go back to where you last knew you were on it. Easy to say this now, I however, continued running up the gentle hill, ended up running through a pretty thick pine forest before emerging out the other side. With no idea where I was it takes me ages to locate myself on the map. I look up to try to find the sun to orientate myself, but there is too much cloud. Then probably after around 10 minutes trying to figure when I was, I remember that I had a compass in my backpack. I never use a compass, I just threw it in as most race gear lists require it. So I get it out, immediately it becomes clear where I am. I then head across the side of the hill to rejoin the track. Upon relocating the course route, I then decide to drop down the hill to try to identify where I lost the course. It becomes quite obvious where I went astray, immediately after entering the boggy section I should have turned sharp right across a small wooden plank bridge. (I make a note of this at the end of the day at Keswick). Reading the 2010 Road Book next to me now, I see that they have now included this important bit of information!!! Don't miss this small wooden plank bridge, important!

The remainder of the course to Cp2 is pretty straight forward to follow, although if it was dark it could be difficult trying to stay to the path on the descent. I guess this may have been one of the reasons of moving the start to 5:30pm so everyone will be on this part of the course in daylight. It is smooth running, mainly gentle downhill all the way to CP2, which takes me a total of 2 hours 37 minutes for the 9.57 miles. Going off course takes me at least 1 hour extra and nearly 3 miles longer. I cheer myself up by thinking that my recce is now worthwhile. I won't make that mistake come race day!

The leg from CP2 to Cp3 is straight forward a gentle climb to start with, a small bit of navigation to go to the right hand side of a tarn (never knew that a tarn meant a lake, what language is it, sounds Scottish?). Then upon descending the hill, it is not totally clear in the 2009 Road Book where CP3 is, so I just continue running until reaching the river crossing. The 2010 Road Book makes it quite clear as the CP has moved to next to Wasdale Head Inn. The route description regarding crossing the river is also heaps clearer, I would recommend, if it is possible on race day, to stay on the river bed for 150 metres as the prickly gorse bushes were quite prickly!

Heading out of CP3, is where the first tough climb of the course starts. It is easy to navigate the course in daylight, it could be more difficult at night. The climb seems to take forever. I have just remembered that I have my GPS data for all of the remaining legs on the Garmin Connect Website. Looking at the GPS elevation data it shows that the climb goes from 150 metres at 6.7 miles up to 547 metres at 8.0 miles (from CP2), so as I thought a tough climb of around 400 vertical metres.

The descent down into the next valley is the steepest experienced so far along the course. I am trying to work out, will I be running this in daylight or dark? Running it in the daylight would be heaps beneficial. Good I think to myself, I now have a valid reason to run as fast as I can while I can at the start of the race. A tactical decision to get through this difficult part of the course before dark!

At the bottom of the hill the Black Sail youth hostel is visible, so it is quite easy to see where to head. It doesn't take long to run past the youth hostel, then after only a few minutes of flat running, there is another steepish climb up and over Scarth Gap. The descent from here is again steep and quite difficult. I think, oh no! I am going to have to run even heaps faster at the start of the race to try to get past this section as well before dark! I haven't done the calculations yet, but this is most likely not possible. I have to remind myself that come race day it is non stop, not like my recce run where I have two nights sleep to recover!

The path drops down near to the lake. It is then a really enjoyable section along to the end of the lake. I get to CP4, in a time of 3 hours 7 minutes since leaving CP2, 12.27 miles back as shown on my GPS watch. The website indicates the distance from CP2 - CP4 should be 12.2 miles, so my GPS watch appears to be recording correctly again!

Leg 5 starts with a pleasant narrow track section climbing gently through a small wood. It then comes out into open grassland and gently climbs skirting around to the left. The road Book highlights to "watch out for L fork narrower path ..." This was easy to find during the day, but I would imagine quite difficult at night! There are a number of steep bits as you climb up gulleys to cross streams, (now realise they are called Beck or Gill, Scottish???). There is another left turn that you have to look out for, again easy in daylight, but I would expect also difficult at night. The climb then gets even steeper. The steepest on the course to date. It seems to take forever to get to the top! I am beginning to feel quite exhausted, and I am meant to be taking it easy. I finally pass over the top and start the steep descent down. Once out of the wind I decide to give myself a 'zap', and eat quite a few chocolate covered coffee beans. If you haven't tried these, then you are really 'missing the trick'. Consuming these you understand why caffeine was a banned drug for so many years! (The ban was removed a few years back, hence why pretty well everything now has caffeine in). Within minutes my mind is back in focus. It is a really enjoyable drop from the height of 614 metres (from Garmin Connect website after starting at 104 metres from CP4 and also from map contours at Buttermere CP4). There is a bit of a tricky navigation to ensure you re continue your drop down at Barrow Door, again could be difficult at night!

A really fast smooth descent follows before quickly reaching CP5 in Braithwaite. My total time for leg 5 is 1 hour 49 minutes for the 6.84 miles I ran. This distance recorded on my GPS watch is massively different to the 8.6 miles listed in the Road Book. Not sure where the discrepancy lies. I stuck exactly to the route. It isn't really possible to take a short cut! Looking at the average mile rates ran by last year's leading competitors, based on a distance of 8.6 miles, they ran this section substantially faster than the other sections. This therefore seems to suggest that my watch may not be at fault, with the listed distance being in error!

The final part of the run on day two is the first 2.6 miles of leg 6 before I turn off to head to Keswick youth hostel. No need to worry about whether they are open before 5pm, as it is nearly 6:40pm as I finally arrive! Although I am pretty tired, the coffee beans seemed to do the trick as the GPS watch show the first flat mile coming out of CP5 was completed in 7 minutes 44 seconds, not bad considering I had just ran a total of 38.28 miles in a total time of 9 hours 20 minutes. The extra time and distance as a result of being massively lost on leg 2!

Day 3 Keswick to Mardale Head
For the second morning I am a bit apprehensive as I climb out of bed. But again for the second time I am pleasantly surprising as my legs are only a tiny tiny bit stiff. After a full English breakfast of bacon, sausage eggs etc. (It was part of the nights accommodation so I wasn't not going to eat it after I had paid for it!) I jog slowly, largely due to a full tum! and start the GPS watch as I rejoin the course where I left it the previous night.

After crossing on a footbridge over the A road, there is an immediate steep climb up to a car park. It doesn't take too long to get up, but a bit difficult to start with. It is a bit cooler today and the forecast is for rain. I put on an extra layer and take it easy as the path continues to gently climb up and around the contour of the hill. The path is easy to follow, and should be easy in the dark as well. The sharp turn down to the right is obvious and this is followed by a smooth gentle drop down to CP7 at the Blencarthra Centre. Combining the distance and time from the first 2.61 miles from the previous day with the mornings 5.89 miles gives a total of 8.50 miles (slightly different to the 8.2 miles listed on the website) in a total time of 1 hour 42 minutes. This included a stop of exactly 7 minutes and 30 seconds indicated by the pace chart on Garmin Connect as I chatted to a guy walking his dog.

Leg 7 continued with further loss of height as the course dropped down to a disused railway line. There were many turns to take but the Road Book was pretty clear. The route then follows the disused railway line first on a smooth cycle path, and then on a narrower footpath before climbing up a steep hill. I was enjoying the flat running so much that I forgot to pay attention to the route description. I then read that I should have left the path and gone over an over bridge. I recall running under an overbridge about 400 metres back, so return back to the overbridge, to only realise that this clearly wasn't the bridge referred to in the Road Book. I therefore have to rerun the same ground again as I reach the correct overbridge to cross, a wee bit further along the path.

The route then climbs quite steeply, not too bad but definitely walking material, easy to follow in daylight, but could be difficult at night, up to a clearly defined four wheel drive track (Old Coach Road). After a little bit more gentle climbing it is good steady running, slight undulations all the way to CP7, which I arrive at after 1 hour 43 minutes after starting the leg, with the GPS watch showing 8.28 miles. Slightly longer than than the 7.7 miles listed due to doubling back on myself near the overbridge along the railway path section!

Leg 8 begins with a gentle descent along the road down to the village of Dockray. It then joins a narrow path which further drops down as it skirts around the side of the hill. The path is reasonably easy to follow, it then starts a steady climb up a reasonable distance (Garmin Connect shows a climb of 160 metre over 1.6 miles). At this point I again go off course due to following last year's Road Book, which previously stated "Keep L going over footbridge". So I just continued running waiting for this footbridge. Before I knew it I was pretty well at the top of the hill, knowing that I shouldn't be. I then had to drop down to where the 2010 Road Book now correctly states "At the obvious building ruin bear R then ... cross over narrow footbridge". I don't think this turnoff will cause any problems now, at the time though, I wasn't really that over joyed at climbing an extra 52 vertical metres, even though the scenery was still spectacular as it overlooked Ullswater and the steamships cruising up and down the calm lake, with the clouds still quite high, and with light drizzle only beginning to start!

After rejoining the course, the next section was very enjoyable as it gently dropped in height first across fields and then on country lanes all the way through Dacre village and eventually arriving at CP8 at Dalemain House. The one difficult bit was making sure you found "Where field levels out and narrows go over stile in hedge uphill to your L (not straight ahead thru gate). The hedge has been vey severly trimmed so barely recognisable as a hedge! Leg 8 takes me 2 hours 20 minutes for the 10.76 miles, again longer than the 9.8 miles listed, due to going off course, although Garmin Connect only shows that I went an extra 0.67 miles off course. So reasonably close but still a discrepancy of 0.3 miles.

As I leave CP8, it is now raining quite heavy and the wind has substantially picked up. I am pretty pleased though, as I have already completed 13 out of the 15 legs of my recce in the total dry apart from the occasional light drizzle. The course is easy to naviagte down to and through Pooley Bridge village. It then takes a rather gentle climb up a sealed road before continuing to climb on a four wheel drive track. As I pass through the gate onto the four wheel drive track, the gate is held open for me. I decide that this is a good time to take a bit of a breather, so I chat and walk up the gentle climb with four women who are walking 19 miles that day as part of Wainwrights Coast to Coast walk. I express my view to them that walking 19 miles (as I quite dislike the slowness of walking), in the now rather unpleasant heavy rain and strong winds and low cloud, is a bit extreme. They ask me what I am doing, I reply stating that I have 38 miles planned for the day, after having run 67 miles the previous two days. They think this is a bit extreme! After 7 minutes of chatting and walking, I say goodbye and get back into running up the gentle climb. Before long the route turns to the right, and then runs along the contour of the hill before a very gentle runnable descent down to CP9, three miles later. Leg 9 toals 7.08 miles, quite close to the 6.8 miles listed, which I complete in 1 hour 27 minutes.

I am guided to the checkpoint hidden away around the corner from the Howtown Hotel by a woman I meet. She happens to be a fell runner, who was meant to be pacing someone that day on part of their Bob Graham Round. However, it was called off due to the poor weather forecast. While chatting to her I put on extra layers in preparation for my last leg back to my car at Mardale Head. My final leg, leg 10, just happens to be the highest point of the whole race route at 665 metres high, and also the most isolated and exposed! By now the cloud has dropped really low and the wind still pretty strong, being a direct headwind, so I am prepared for a tough finale to my Lakeland 100 recce.

The last leg starts fine, as it follows a stream, on at times a difficult path to find, up a narrowish valley. I am out of the wind so keeping quite warm with my extra layers on. The climb gets steeper, leaves the stream and plateaus for a bit. I find the ruined buildings no problem, but if running this in the dark it would be difficult, although I would expect that everyone will be running this section during daylight. The climb then gets steeper again as it angles right across the slope. The higher I climb, the stronger the wind, and the colder I get. I stop and put on one more layer on my upper body, and a balaclava and some gloves, but still continue to run in shorts. Not that cold that I need to put my tights on. It is pretty well identical conditions to the Hardmoors 55 race back in March. Being now at around 600 metres high, it feels just as cold!

I guess with the coldness, and my overall tiredness, I fail to look carefully at the map and am relying on the 2009 Road Book description "angling R across slope and up to wall corner ..." For some unknown reason I continue along the track that crosses through a fallen down wall, and head away from the wall. Why, maybe I was more tired than I thought? I continue to follow the clear path and eventually reach the summit. Where is the wall corner? At this point I realise that I have a small problem, visibility is now down to 20 - 30 metres maximum! There is thick mist, the wall corner is meant to be "between Wether Hill and Red Crag", but with pretty well zero visibilty it is not possible to see anything. I study my map carefully and realise where I went wrong, back at the gap in the fallen down wall. I am following a different bridleway. Just as I decide to head back to the gap in the fall, I hear voices, and then immediately in front of me out of the mist appear two walkers. I have a quick chat with them, and they confirm that I am able to read the map and where I thought I was was exactly correct. This gives me confidence after there beginning to be a slight bit of concern reagrding my situation, being lost with zero visibilty.

I return to the gap in the wall and then continue along the wall back up the hill to the top, where I find the wall corner I am looking for. Great I can now continue along the route down to the lake and back to my car. The Road Book states "From wall corner take obvious track L (NE)". The only problem was that there was no obvious track NE. I had my compass out again by this stage!
After searching around, not moving too far away from the wall corner in case I lose it, I come to the conclusion that this obvious track is only obvious in normal conditions, not with only 20 metres visibility. I think for a moment of simply taking a bearing NW and heading off in that direction. But never using a compass, I decide this isn't wise, as the map indicates that it would be a difficult descent down to the lake if I am not on the actual path. After thinking about the possible options, convinced that I was at the correct wall corner, I decide to abandon the race route and simply head back to my car the easiest way possible. It wasn't until I was relaxed at the breakfast table the next morning that I realised that I wasn't at the correct wall corner. This was shortly before the gap in the fallen down wall. I had walked straight past the wall corner I needed!

Looking at the map, the route to my car is straight forward. Continue south along the bridleway before joining the Coast to Coast path that heads East down to the lake. I take things pretty slowly making sure I don't miss the Coast to Coast path. Somehow I do miss the path as my GPS watch shows that I have gone too far along the main bridlepath along the top ridge. Looking at the map, I see that this isn't a problem, in fact it is an advantage because not too far further along there is a footpath indicated that drops down to the lake directly at Mardale Head. Great stuff I think, a bonus for missing the previous path. I then look at the map further along the bridleway I am following. If I miss this next path to the East I could be in trouble as the path continues into nowhere! It would be miles before I would reach civilisation! A small bit of worry is beginning to appear! Maybe there was a good reason they cancelled the Bob Graham Round the woman back at CP9 was supposed to be doing. As I progress even more slowly along the bridleway, concern begins to grow at a quick rate. How long will it take for me to get out of this situation?

Then relief as I find the path I am looking for. It is clearly marked with a cairn, another word that I have discovered means a man made rock formation to indicate a path! But just before I can relax, worry returns as the path down is extremly steep, with quite large drops, requiring use of my hands to lower myself. I then have visions of "Touching the Void" of tripping, breaking my leg and having to drag myself down to my car, as there is no reception on my mobile phone! As I get tense, I tend to stumble more on the descent. I convince myself to relax, remain calm, and the tripping reduces. After what appears like forever, I hear a noise, it sounds like water. Then sudently I am out of the cloud, and the lake is probably only around 50 vertical metres below me. I look across and can see my car in the carpark on the opposite side of the lake. To say I was a wee bit happy is probably an understatement. Looking back now it is amazing how the mind starts playing tricks on you. I went from being totally confident/happy, to a over concerned, nearly panic stricken runner, within a very short space of time.

I finally arive at CP10, with my last leg taking 3 hours 29 minutes. A very long time to cover only 10.75 miles. This being longer that the 8.3 miles listed for the actual route.

So after three days of running I have completed a total of 110.74 miles in a total time of 24 hours and 14 minutes. After all my efforts at getting lost a number of times, I am only 14 minutes slower than my planned duration of 24 hours. I am well pleased with myself, but can't relax as I have a long drive back. Luckily not all the way back to Brighton, but only to Enfield in North London to meet up with my wife Frances and our two boys, Rob and Chris. As I pass through the village of Shap immediately before joining the M6, I spot a fish and chip shop. I never eat fish and chips, but for some strange reason, it looks extremely appealing at this exact moment. They have just closed, but the shop owner must recognise my massive diasppointment. She opens the shop and I pretty well buy all that she has left, two massive sausages and absolutely loads of chips. I am one happy person!

So what have I gained from my mini adventure? Quite a few things:

1. Do not underestimate the weather conditions. Luckily I didn't and I had all of the necessary equipment to survive if things went wrong.

2. Maybe not enter the high hills on your own in poor weather conditions. This is only a maybe, as one has to take risks to achieve the goals one sets. Yes, I would be called an absolute fool if I did require rescuing, but I was quite confident in my ability to run over rough, slippery terrain, and to read a map.

3. In terms of the actual race route. Having run UTMB last year, I feel the UTLD is quite different. With UTMB there are no navigation issues at all, as there are markers every 50 - 100 metres in areas of difficulty. Having to navigate the Lakeland 100 definitely takes both time and energy. Having completed my recce apart from the last half of leg 10, this navigation should hopefully now not prove a problem. Although running a number of legs in the dark could be a different story!

4. Physically in terms of climbing, the Lakeland 100 is nowhere as demanding as UTMB, where some of the climbs are HUGE! There are sections which are rough underfoot during the Lakeland 100, but there are also some rough sections in UTMB. Where the main difference lies, is if the Lakeland 100 course is wet. Which reading last year's race reports, that definitely seemed to be the case. The course last weekend was 'bone dry'. This made the condititions underfoot very favourable.

5. Probably the main thing I got from my recce, is just what a FANTASTIC route the race is. The people behind setting the course should be massively congratulated. The course is GREAT! The whole 3 days was so enjoyable (apart from the little bit of worry on leg 10). The great course really made the running so pleasant and hence so easy!

I have started counting down the days until Friday 23rd July. I just can't wait. I am really excited, really looking forward to the race.

Well I warned you at the start that this post could be an epic. Hopefully for those of you running the Lakeland 100 or Lakeland 50, reading it has been of some use to you. Do you need to recce the course? I would like to say no, but in reality, I think you probably do. As mentioned above it takes both loads of energy and time establishing which way to go. Better to use that energy up on a recce run rather than on race day.

If you go to the Garmin Connect website and search for my username franstu by clicking the Show Filters tab, you should be able to access my GPS data for legs 2 - 10. The route for those legs can then be viewed on google earth. Alternatively try clicking this link

I have also cut and pasted all of the elevation profiles for legs 2 - 10, and adjusted their sizes so the distance and elevations all match up. Click on this following link to open a pdf file of the route profile.

Hopefully you will find the profiles useful to guage how much climbing is involved. If anyone has got the course profile for legs 1 and legs 10 - 15, please let me know, as I find viewing it in graph form really useful.

Well this has truly been an ultra post. Time to sign off with one last bit of advice.

"To those of you currently entered in the Lakeland 50, or should I say the 'Lakeland Half 100!' I would strongly recommend that you give some thought to changing your entry to the Lakeland 100. The whole course is absolutely superb. Why only do half of it?"

All the best with your preparations, see you all on the start line in Coniston.