Last weekend I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the Lake District watching the Montane Lakeland 100 Ultra Trail race, as well as enjoying the fabulous weather and scenery with the family, including successfully climbing Scafell Pike. So tonight is a brief (?) race report on my experience as a spectator.
It was around 2:00pm on the Friday afternoon when we, i.e. me, my wife Frances, and our two boys, Robert and Chris, arrived at the school in Coniston. Immediately, I felt the tremendous supportive atmosphere I remembered from last year. There was a real buzz about the place as tents were being set up, and the 100 mile runners were checking in, and sorting out there gear and themselves, ready for the 5:30pm start. As I walked around I recognised many faces from previous races, and the recce weekend back in June. Although the Lakeland 100 was due to start at 5:30pm, I had already started my ultra event for the weekend, that being 24 hours+ of non-stop talking!!!
As 5:30pm neared it really became apparent just how much the event had grown, just from last year. The school field was nearly full with cars and tents, and there was literally hundreds of runners everywhere. As I spoke to many runners, I was abused and nearly punched on a number of occasions by people I had named as potential top performers in my pre-race blog post, for putting added pressure on them to perform. It was in all good fun (I hope!)
Running legend Joss Naylor starts the race, and the 224 starters make their way off on their journey of the 105 mile circuit of the Lake District. As I watch the last of the runners walk off, I can't believe my eyes, here at the very back off the field is Andy Mouncey, last year's 2nd place finisher, and one of my named runners to look out for as a definite top placed finisher! Was he injured, what was he up to???
Click the image above to view a poor quality video of the race start that I have just posted on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQeAd5N8D28
Once the runners have departed, we quickly jump into the car and drive the one mile up to the start of Walna Scar Road, to watch the runners go past, which for them is at around the 2.5 mile mark, after a short sharp climb up by the Coppermines Youth Hostel, before descending down to the gravel/dirt road.
As the runners approach there is a lead bunch of three, closely followed by another nine runners. The lead three are Terry Conway, Paul Tierney, and Ian Bishop. I have raced Ian on a number of occasions, and he is a very capable ultra runner, so although he wasn't named in my top seven runners expected to perform, (I failed to see his name within the entry list), it wasn't a surprise to see him at the front.
Terry on the left of the photo, Ian in the middle, Paul in blue on the right.
We watch all of the runners go past, as they start their first big climb of the race, up to around 650 metres of height, along Walna Scar Road. If you click on the following link http://www.flickr.com/photos/62532054@N02/sets/72157627349507066/detail/ it will take you to my Flickr album with photos of quite a few of the runners at the start of Walna Scar Road.
Having travelled all the way up from East Sussex, I had decided that I would follow the race, where possible, during the early stages of the night. I therefore drive across two very steep passes, along an amazing road to arrive at Checkpoint 2 at Boot, shortly before the arrival of the lead runners, after 2 hours 26 minutes of running. There is still a lead group of six runners with a small gap of one minute to a following group of three. The lead group now consists of Barry Murray, Paul Teirney, Terry Conway, John Tims, Ian Bishop, and Adam Perry. Being the competitive runner as I am, I just so happen to have a copy of my race splits from 2010 with me! I look at my splits from last year, they are 10 minutes slower than my arrival time at Boot, which doesn't surprise me considering that I took off at an extremely fast pace last year. If you have a spare 30 minutes or so click: http://ultrastu.blogspot.com/2010/08/lakeland-100-importance-of-preparation.html for my race report from last year, which describes my fast start.
Barry leading, closely followed by Paul, John (wearing tights), Terry, Ian, and Adam just out of picture, approaching Boot pub.
Exactly ten minutes later Andy Mouncey arrives in 17th place, aha, I think I know what his plan is! Last year his race plan was similar to mine, go hard at the start, get out in front, so therefore able to run his own race without being distracted by other runners. See for Andy's race report from last year. Only problem for him last year was that I had the same plan, hence why I had to go so fast last year to get ahead of him! So it seems apparent that again he wants to run his own race, without focusing on what the lead runners are doing, hence walking at the back of the field at the start. In essence giving the leaders a ten minute head start. Not sure about his approach, a brave approach, but clearly illustrating total confidence in his race plan, which is essential for a good performance.
Next stop is checkpoint 4 at Buttermere, this is at the 26 mile mark. As I wait outside the village hall checkpoint, the night is extremely dark, but amazingly warm, and not a breath of wind. Perfect running conditions. Race time of 4 hours and 54 minutes passes, (my arrival time last year), and I wonder how soon will the leaders arrive. I expect very shortly, as due to the quality of the field, and the dryness underfoot, I am expecting the winner this year to finish in under 22 hours. Only six minutes later, out of the darkness appears a lone runner, Terry. He is pretty busy as he fuels up, but still able to chat and tell me that he left the other runners behind leaving checkpoint three.
Terry at Checkpoint 4, Buttermere.
Just before Terry departs, Paul and Adam arrive, less than 3 minutes behind. They probably also spend around 3 - 4 minutes re-fuelling before heading back off into the dark. There is then a 12 minute wait before Barry and John arrive together, refuel and depart, before Andy Mouncey arrives now in 6th place, five minutes behind Barry and John, but 20 minutes behind Terry. Then the checkpoint becomes very busy, as a large group of around eight runners all arrive within a minute or two, all extremely positive and buzzing, except Ian Bishop. Ian explains to me that he thought he had got over an illness he had 2 weeks back, but unfortunately his body is telling him it has not completely recovered. So Ian makes the difficult, but wise, decision to withdraw. He is extremely disappointed. He had prepared extensively for the race, coming up to the Lake District on many occasions with Terry Conway, doing 50 mile runs over the course. Sometimes things just don't go to plan. The important thing is to accept that things happen for a reason, and learn from it. No doubt Ian will be back next year, fitter and wiser.
Paul and Adam arriving at Checkpoint 4.
John and Barry leaving Checkpoint 4.
The large group fuelling up at Checkpoint 4.
The group leaving Checkpoint 4, into the dark.
Next stop is checkpoint 5 at Braithwaite, the 33 mile mark. Terry arrives on his own, with there now being a 14 minute gap to Paul and Adam running together. All three of the runners look really good, full of positivity and appearing to be really enjoying the experience. Although it is pretty hectic at the checkpoints, they are still able to briefly chat. Adam jokes about his Dad also running the 100 mile race, stating something like "Yeah, he goes pretty well for an old man". I think to myself typical cheeky youngster, I bet his Dad is around my age (he is actually only one year older than me), and reflect on how great the activity of ultra trail running is, in that it is suitable for all ages, with age definitely not being a barrier, in fact being a bonus!
There is a bit of a surprise as next to arrive is Andy Mouncey, 14 minutes after Paul and Adam, but significant in that he had moved ahead of Barry and John, who arrive together 3 minutes later. There is then a 18 minute wait until the large group from the previous checkpoint arrive. I recognise most of the faces, but not all of their names. All are in high spirits, although Jeff McQueen, the "Comrades King" who I had met during the June recce weekend, was struggling a bit with consuming food. Already he was finding fuelling difficult.
Stuart Walker (in red), and Jeff McQueen trying to eat some creamed rice at Checkpoint 5.
As I make enquires regarding each runner's identity, I discover my 'Dark Horse' Simon Deakin is within this group. He comments that he was surprised, but complimented by my 'Dark Horse' label, but with this being his first 100 miler, he wasn't promising a high finishing position. Click the link http://ultrastu.blogspot.com/2011/07/montane-lakeland-100-preview-and-bit.html to read my Lakeland 100 race preview post, where seven lead men are identified. I chat to Oliver Jeffcote, 14th place finisher in 2010, really buzzing due to being over 45 minutes quicker at Braithwaite than last year. I mention that I had chatted to his Mum back at the pub in Boot. He apologises for his Mum, and is surprised that I was able to get away from her talking! Yes, at checkpoint 5, there is a real sense of camaraderie amongst the runners, and having run the race last year, so totally aware of what they are experiencing, I feel welcomed into their group. Looking at the results I see that unfortunately it appears that Oli DNFed at checkpoint 9. No doubt, he like Ian, will learn from the disappointment and return to take on the truly demanding challenge of the Montane Lakeland 100.
Oli all smiles as he leaves Checkpoint 5.
With the time now being 1:00am in the morning, I decide that it is time to go back to the tent at Coniston to get some sleep. Not that I am tired, I am buzzing as much as the runners, but I know that it is an early start tomorrow morning, as Frances and the boys are doing a three hour high ropes course in the morning, which just by coincidence is only two miles away from checkpoint 5 at Newlands Activity Centre. I have the company of Ian Bishop as I drive back to Coniston, and we chat non stop about ultra trail running, so the longish drive back doesn't seem to take long at all.
As I try to sleep, I am thinking about all of the runners out there running through the night. Amazingly there isn't one bit of me wishing that I was out there running the race. I made the decision at the end of last year that the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc was going to be my focus race for 2011, so I am totally comfortable in not racing. In fact, to my surprise I have found watching the race during the night probably equally enjoyable!!!
Saturday morning is time to spend with the family, without the distraction of the race, although I do get a quick update on the race positions from the computer screen in the school hall before we head off. The leaders have past through checkpoint 9 at Howtown, the 66 mile mark. Terry has extended his lead over Adam and Paul, still running together, to 1 hour 25 minutes. His time at Howtown is 12 hours 40 minutes, and as expected, he is now 43 minutes ahead of my time from 2010 at the same checkpoint. Knowing how much I slowed down over the last six legs, I roughly calculate that Terry should finish pretty close to 22 hours. The race for first is now pretty well over, it would have to take something pretty drastic for Terry to lose that much time. Andy Mouncey is still in 4th position, but now only 4 minutes behind. To find out what happens next in the battle between Adam, Paul and Andy, I recommend that you click on the link http://www.doingbigandscary.com/#/blog/4552672432/L100-Holding-Back-Holding-On/30227 to take you to Andy's excellent 2011 race report, where he describes the tactics of leg10 in some detail.
The computer screen also shows that at checkpoint 9 Howton, "Dark Horse" Simon Deakin is now in 5th place, "Old Man" Kevin Perry is in 6th place, and "New Comer" Barry Murray is in 7th place. I think wow, I am in the wrong profession, I should be a professional gambler, as for the seven runners I identified as potential top ten finishers, all of them that started the race (Duncan Harris didn't start, so I presume he is still recovering from his injury) are currently in the top seven positions.
The high ropes course at Newlands Activity Centre just out from Keswick is excellent. The instructor is fantastic, as she guides Frances and the boys around nine different high rope activities, such as tarzan swing, leap of faith, bell tower, etc. I am on camera duty.
Chris and Robert on the giant rope ladder.
As we drive back to Coniston we take a quick detour to checkpoint 13, Chapel Stile at 94 miles, to see how many runners have passed through. We are informed that Terry is long gone. As we have lunch outside the pub at Langdale a rather tired looking Andy Mouncey walk/jogs past. It reminds me of how I felt at the same stage last year, tired but still enjoying the journey. Andy gives a brief friendly acknowledgement, but he is quickly back into his own personal zone. He has still around 3 hours to go. He looks tired within his eyes, but you can also see his deep determination. Unfortunately I miss Paul and Andy run past as I was off course searching for an ice cream for Robert and Chris, so we, well actually I decide to head straight to Coniston to see if we can catch Terry crossing the finish line, and their ice cream will have to wait until later!
Andy shortly before Checkpoint 13, Chapel Stile.
We are too late, Terry has already finished in an impressive time of 21 hours 58 minutes and 19 seconds. He hasn't been finished for long, as he still doesn't quite look normal. As he stands up from his chair to walk across the hall, he immediately faints and collapses to the floor. Fortunately a medic is immediately at his side, arouses him, places him in the recovery position and assesses what the problem is. It appears that it was simply an issue of low blood pressure, so it isn't long before Terry is all smiles and begins to appreciate his amazing accomplishment, smashing the previous record of Andy Rankin's from 2009 by 48 minutes.
Andy Mouncey is the first runner I meet, climbing up from checkpoint 14 at Tilberthwaite at 101 miles! This time he is totally within his own personal zone, although there is still a brief raising of his eyes, to acknowledge my presence.
Andy climbing up from Checkpoint 14, Tilberthwaite.
At checkpoint 14 I stop and chat to various people I know who are waiting for their runners to shortly arrive, and it isn't long before Paul and Adam arrive at the checkpoint. It feels like Andy is only around 10 minutes ahead, so there is optimism within their supporters that it is possible to catch Andy. They have a quick load up of water, as it is pretty hot, being around 5pm in the afternoon, and they on their way, hoping to chase down Andy. Although they do manage to pull back 8 minutes during the final 3.5 mile leg, the gap was actually 15 minutes, so they finish together in 3rd equal place in a time of 24:34:47.
Paul and Adam approaching Checkpoint 14.
I then continue on my run to Ambleside and next meet Kevin Perry, Adam's Dad the "Old Man" in 5th place, then "Comrades King" Jeff McQueen in 6th place, David White 7th, and Stuart Walker 8th. These runners were sufficiently far enough apart that they remained within these places to the finish. I next meet "Dark Horse" Simon Deakin, closely followed by "New Comer" Barry Murray. Barry is looking the slightly quicker, and does manage to overtake Simon to finish 9th, although at around the 99 mile mark, neither of them are really moving at great speed! Simon finishes in 10th place in a time of 25:56:04, six seconds faster than the 2010 3rd place finisher Duncan Harris. Yes, the standard of running has definitely improved this year!
Kevin not far from Checkpoint 14.
Jeff a little bit further away from Checkpoint 14, enjoying being in 6th place.
David in 7th place.
Stuart in 8th place.
Simon currently 9th, but finishes in 10th place.
Barry currently 10th, but finishes in 9th place.
After what seems quite a break between runners I meet John Tims around halfway duing leg 14. John was one of the "Mr Positivity Banter" guys from the June recce weekend. It comments that he has been struggling since leg 10, although he still appears to be enjoying the experience. What I love about John's attitude was his just 'give it heaps' and not be concerned that he was way up the front with the leaders, most likely beyond his own expectations. Yes, one of the secrets of success in ultra trail running is to have 'no fear'. Not to limit yourself with doubt! What caused John to struggle during the later stages of the race, I don't know. But I doubt it was due to him starting out too fast.
John, currently 11th, but finishes in 14th place.
I continue to enjoy my run, and manage to take photos of all of the runners running towards me. Click the following link to view the photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62532054@N02/sets/72157627225557929/detail/ Somehow though I manage to miss getting a photo of the winning women, Gaynor Prior. Gaynor finishes in 15th place overall in an very quick time of 28:24:12, absolutely smashing the record by nearly 4 hours!!! It isn't much later when I come across the first 50 mile runner. The difference in speed is hugh! Craig Stewart greets me with a very relaxed "Hello, Stuart". We were Great Britain team mates at the IAU World Champs earlier in the month at Connemara. Prior to the race I had a feeling that Craig would run a strong race here at the Lakeland 50, and he was definitely doing that today. He was too quick for me to get a photo before he had run past, so I had to sprint hard to get ahead of him again, in order to take the following snap!
Craig Stewart, winner of the Lakeland 50.
As I get nearer to Ambleside the runners from the 50 and the 100 miles races are now totally intermixed, although it is very easy to identify which race they are in, as the 100 mile runners are all showing signs of the previous 90 miles! I come across Sue Sleath, she was one of the runners who was going to punch me prior to the start for naming her on my preview post! I had no need to worry about being punched by her at this moment in time, as she was really struggling, as she commented that she was feeling rather sick and hence unable to take on any fuel. At this point in the race, climbing out of Ambleside, she was in 4th place. Chatting to her the next morning I discover that shortly after meeting me in the race, she was fortunate to be sick, which made her feel heaps better. She was then able to increase her pace, and managed to overtake two women ahead of her to finish second women in 30:07:17, only narrowly beating Kirsty Hewitson, who finished two minutes behind in 30:09:18.
Sue Sleath, 2nd women Lakeland 100.
The last runner I see, running through the park ar Ambleside, appears to be the women's leader of the Lakeland 50 race, Poppy Lenton. She is looking strong and goes on to win in a time of 11:04:33, in 22nd place overall.
Poppy, winner Lakeland 50, running through Ambleside.
Looking at the race results for the Lakeland 100, which are available on the Lakeland 100 website, it shows that out of the 224 starters, only 116 managed to complete the 105 mile circuit of the Lake District, this being only a 52% finish rate, which is lower than the typical 58% finish rate for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB). It just goes to show that although the Lakeland 100 doesn't have the difficulty of altitude, and less overall climbing than the UTMB, the at times difficult underfoot condition, such as rocks, gravel, occasional boulders, occasional mud and bog and the need to self navigate does appear to make the course as equally challenging. I guess the added heat of this year may have also led to the high drop out rate. To all of you runners that completed the Lakeland 100, well done, a great achievement. To those of you who unfortunately had to drop out, hopefully you will learn from the experience, and be back next year to achieve success and the satisfaction of finishing this very demanding course.
I eventually finish my run at the flash hotel, and feel rather shattered. (It definitely feels a lot longer duration of time watching the race, than actually running it.) Not shattered enough though to prevent me from searching out Paul at the Ambleside YHA, to celebrate his great 3rd place run with a well deserved pint!
The next morning we briefly pass through Coniston, time for quick few chats with various runners, before embarking on the challenge for the day of summitting Scafell Pike. Not via the direct route, no but a more demanding route from Wasdale Head Inn, up around to the left following Lingmell Beck. After exactly 3 hours we reach the checkpoint, opps I mean the summit! Unfortunately during the climb the clouds had come in, so the view was non existent! A quick descent down along the Brown Tongue and we complete our circuit in 5 hours 5 minutes.
Robert, me and Chris at the summit of Scafell Pike.
To finish of this post, firstly I would like to thank Marc, Terry and their massive team of helpers. Without the time and effort all of these helpers put in, the Montane Lakeland 100 and 50 would not happen. The Montane Lakeland 100 has truly established itself as the number one premier ultra trail race in the UK. I for sure, will be back next year to enjoy the absolutely fantastic community atmosphere of this great event. Throughout the whole weekend everybody you meet is just so friendly and full of positive energy. Yes, the real enjoyment from ultra trail running is sharing the unique experiences of like minded people as they challenge themselves within the natural beauty of the countryside.
Secondly, I just want to make a quick observation regarding fuelling for the race. Now, I am not a nutritionist, so there isn't any science/research supporting my comments, go to 9th place finisher Barry's impressive website http://www.optimumnutrition4sport.com/ to get the science behind the ideal ultra race nutrition. But I have a simple belief that the body and mind are pretty clever, it knows what is best. So if the messages you are receiving as you try to force feed loads more sugarier, sickly fuel into your body, are telling you it isn't pleasant, it can't stomach it, then listen to your body. Basically your body will burn either fat or carbohydrate to get you through an ultra trail race. The lower the intensity the greater the proportion of fat that is used. Knowing from my own experiences, and watching the Lakeland 100 runners towards the end of last weekend's race, during the second half of an ultra race the intensity is so low that you just do not need much carbohydrate, so why force feed it! I spoke to a number of runners last weekend who had nutrition problems, feeling sick, which could possibly be contributed to trying to consume too much carbohydrate!
August last year I wrote a post regarding the nutrition I used during the 2010 Lakeland 100: http://ultrastu.blogspot.com/2010/08/race-nutrition-is-more-always-better.html I think the key message from the post is a comment left by Andy Cole which I feel is well worth considering. Remember, science is not always correct! Remember the 'old science' regarding hydration: "Drink as much as you can, because if you wait until you are thirsy it is too late, your performance will have already deteriorated". Wow, wasn't that message a wee bit wrong! I will sign off tonight with the quote from Andy Cole. (Click the following link: http://ajc-runninglate.blogspot.com/2011/08/lakeland-100.html for his excellent race report of the Montane Lakeland 100, experienced a wee bit further down the field).
"My general takeout from all this now is that one shouldn't worry too much about forcing down food as "fuel", natural hunger should give you enough. I think modern thinking on hydration is "drink when you're thirsty", so maybe you could add to this "eat when you're hungry." Andy Cole (2010).
Once again, a big thank you to everyone involved last weekend, for making our family trip to the Lake District so enjoyable. See you all at Coniston, July 2012!
PS I received a special request from an ultra runner in the United States who asked me to promote a worthwhile charity she is involved in. So any runners out there in the United States, please click on the following link http://freshairfundhost.org to see if you are able to help the charity in any way. Thanks.
PPS Two days ago the total number of hits to my blog passed twentyfive thousand! Quite amazing really, in less than 18 months. It is nice to know that people come back to my blog to read more. They definitely must have too much time on their hands!