Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Montane Lakeland 100 - The FULL Race Report - Getting it Right During the Preparation and on the Day


I'm not really sure where to start this race report.  As mentioned within my quick update, last weekend I ran one of my most satisfying races for quite a while.  I have already written my 'brief' race report that describes my experiences whilst completing the 105 mile journey around the Lake District.  This report is available on the Montane website which you can access by clicking HERE.  However, what I hope to achieve within this FULL version of my race report is a bit of background into how I managed to run over two hours quicker than my 2010 winning Montane Lakeland 100 time, even though I am now three years older, and having also past the magical milestone of being 50 years old.  Warning, it could be an ultra length blog post. (Edit: Yes it IS an ultra length post!)  I hope it will contain some useful information on the various strategies I use, which although difficult to translate to ones own situation, as your experiences, qualities, traits are different to mine, the underlying principles, rather than the actual specifics should be transferable.  So enough rambling, lets get this report finally started!

Yes, I first raced the Montane Lakeland 100 back in 2010.  My number one goal for 2010 as the year commenced was to win the Runfurther Series (Click HERE to go to one of my posts to find out more about the Runfurther series), and with the Lakeland 100 race having a bonus 100 points (so I thought at the time, but the bonus points weren't actually allocated in 2010), to add onto the 1000 points one receives for the win, the plan was set.  It was simple, win the Montane Lakeland 100, combined with performing well in three other races, and the series win would be mine.

Now many of you may be thinking, how can I be so arrogant to think that back in 2010 I could just turn up to the Lakeland 100 and win it, baring in mind, that at the time I had never set foot in the Lake District!  There is one thing to have dreams of winning races, but if they are only a dream, then more than often they will not eventuate into reality.  One has to have the want, the desire to achieve a goal, but most important one must believe that if all went well, all went to plan, everything fell into place on that one day, then yes being totally honest with oneself , then this amazing challenging goal could be accomplished.  So I guess the first step in order to achieve is to set a goal that although it is very desirable, and achieving it will be very satisfying, you must believe that it is achievable.

Right, time to stop typing!!!  At this rate I can see this race report wont be finished before Christmas!  I think the above paragraph has started to illustrate that a lot of what I do that enables me to perform in ultra trail races isn't really 'rocket science'.  Everyone knows that one must set appropriate goals, SMART goals etc, So I think I will focus this report on those aspects that I do which may be different to what may be considered the norm.

Okay, take two, lets re-start this FULL race report.

It is now July 2012.  I have just finished the Montane Lakeland 100 in fifth place, in a time of 23:45:48 (Race report available HERE.)  Although I have improved on my winning time from 2010 by 25 minutes, I have been totally annihilated by Terry Conway, now two time winner and course record holder in the amazing quick time of 19:50:37.  I am not happy.  Not just with being beaten by nearly four hours, but more due to how I had performed during the previous 24 hours.  I knew inside, that in relation to what I feel I am capable of achieving, I had ran poorly, pretty well for the last 50 miles of the race.  There were many aspects that upon reflecting on deeply, with extensive analysing of the race, I was able to identify that caused my poor performance.  But more important was, what was I going to do about it! 

From the first time that I raced Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, way back in 2009, (finishing in 22nd place), I loved that event.  Then in 2010 after completing the Montane Lakeland 100, I loved this event to the same extent.  I however strongly believe it is not possible to race both of them well in the same year, being only five weeks apart.  I therefore set a long term plan, alternate between the races every year.  So I headed back out to UTMB in 2011 (DNF, race report available HERE), returned to Lakeland 100 in 2012, so I was scheduled to again race UTMB in 2013.  The added incentive in racing UTMB in 2013 was that I would also be 50 years old, so I could have a reasonable chance of winning the over 50 category.  But within days, maybe even within minutes of finishing my disappointing 2012 Lakeland 100 race last year, I decided to break the alternating sequence and return to Coniston exactly a year later in 2013.  The reason, simple, I had unfinished business that needed completing at the Montane Lakeland 100.  Yes, the thought of possibly winning the over 50 category at UTMB was very appealing, but I realised that this appeal was simply to satisfy my ego. 

The desire of winning the over 50 category at UTMB was a destination focused, ego satisfying goal, rather than a deep honest, true heart, true inner core, journey goal.   A journey goal is where what you achieve as you travel the journey is much, much more important.  In some ways the end result doesn't actually matter.  It is what you accomplish in getting to the end that is more important. My win back in 2010 was a good example of how even though I won the race by around an hour and a half, to be honest I was actually disappointed with the way I had run.  I felt I had underperformed, in relation to what I thought I was capable of.  Yes, it was a quickish time, yes I did win the race, but to me, my feelings were that I hadn't really extended myself, I hadn't got the best out of myself, I had 'wimped out' and had told myself that my running was fine, simply because I was leading the race, I was going to win it.  Yes, the win satisfied my ego, but it didn't satisfy my inner core, the real me!  That is what is truly important, being totally honest with oneself, being totally comfortable with yourself, simply giving it your best shot, and in reality only you can judge this, the results sheet often isn't the best judgement.

So pretty well immediately upon finish the Lakeland 100 last year my key focus race was set for 2013.  At that time in 2012, although I had that inner desire to sense that feeling that when I cross the finish line I am happy with the manner of my performance in getting there, a lot of the race goal for the 2013 Lakeland 100 when set in 2012 was also ego driven.  I wanted to win the race again!  The only problem was, how do I get to run nearly four hours quicker?  Drastic changes were going to be needed.

So around November 2012 I started planning for the 26th July 2013.  I calculated that if I did the same preparation, I would probably run maybe 30 minutes quicker, similar to my 2010 to 2012 time improvement, but this would still be more than three hours behind Terry Conway.  Yes, you can see that during these early stages of my preparation, I was ego / destination focused.  Thinking about the other competitors, thinking about the finish time, the finish place.  Anyway this way of thinking at the time was good, as it got me to make huge changes. 

I have always been a low mileage person, apart for 1984 when I ran a total of 2588 miles for the year, as I set out to achieve the magical sub 2 hours 30 minute marathon time.  I guess even with an average weekly mileage of 50 miles a week, it is still rather low mileage for a 2:30 marathoner.  Yes, I didn't achieve the sub 2:30 time, missing slightly with 2:30:39!  Anyway back to ultra trail running.  Yes, back in 2009, my 20 week average weekly mileage build-up for the 103 mile UTMB was 34.5 miles per week.  This enabled me to finish in 22nd place overall, around 15 minutes behind Scott Jurek, who finished in 19th place.  So I knew that I was able to perform to a reasonably high level on low mileage.  But that result was only 22nd, and chatting to Scott prior to the 2011 UTMB, he made it quite clear to me that his 2009 UTMB race was an extremely poor performance (Click HERE to my pre 2011 UTMB post.). He wouldn't run that poorly again.  So I guess that puts my 22nd place at the 2009 UTMB into perspective.  Maybe it isn't really possible to perform at the very highest level on low mileage. 

One of the main factors that I contributed my poor performance during the second half of the 2012 Lakeland 100 was the massive muscle damage to my legs.  They were pretty well 'trashed' from Dalemain, and so I accepted that this was the main reason why I drastically slowed over the last 46 miles.  Simple solution, run mega mileage like every other ultra trail runner, which would 'condition' the legs, and would therefore reduce the muscle damage, and allow me to maintain my pace better.  So instead of making a small change to my mileage, I upped it from I guess typically around 45 miles per week, to 100 miles per week.  Obviously not overnight, but over a period of three weeks and then held it at around 100 miles, as described in my Steyning Stinger race report back in March.  During March I raced two trail marathon, so the mileage dropped down a bit.  But pretty well leading right up to my Highland Fling race taper I was 'banging' out plenty of miles per week.

Amazingly I felt fantastic.  I didn't feel tired, I didn't feel over trained, motivation was high.  I was regularly seeing my physio Luke from Sportswise as prevention rather than waiting for an injury to develop due to doing more mile than I had ever trained.  I had also experimented with trying to increase my fat utilisation through carrying out all my long runs within an overnight fasted state.  I won't elaborate on this now, as I have touched on this a bit within my Endurancelife Sussex Coastal Trail Marathon race report, The key point is that I felt amazingly a lot better as a result of the fasted runs, and was finding it very comfortable running for four to five hours on only water!  So going into the UK Ultra Trail Championships, run in conjunction with the 53 mile Highland Fling, I was expecting a top performance.  Physically I was probably the fittest I had been for over 20 years.  I was the lightest I had been since I was 16 years old.  So what happened?

Yes, the Highland Fling was a big disappointment!  Come race day, it just 'didn't happen'!  And the worst thing of all, apart form not actually racing the event, i.e. never really getting into competitive mode, yes the worst thing was that although disappointed, I didn't seem to care.  I wasn't really devastated, I just seemed to accept it.  The writing of my Fling race report was the start of a huge self reflection.  I was facing a real dilemma.  At the age of fifty was it time to accept that my best running days were over, or was I still capable of more top quality performances.  Without really realising what I was doing, I typed within my Fling race report the following:
".... so in reality, I was never going to be able to perform to that level again.  My best running days were over!  I am now 50 years old.  Accept it, no 50 year olds are really still able to compete at the elite level."
I received some feedback following the publishing of my blogpost, commenting how disappointed the readers were, in that they were fifty years old, or of a similar age, and that prior to my Fling report, my running, my writing had given them inspiration, in that it was possible to defy the ageing process.  Now within my Fling report I was publicly stating that no, age will prevent me from running well.  As I mentioned following the Fling, I was in two minds, regarding my inner belief of what I was capable of, and what my future goals should be.  I could have remained within this undecided state for weeks.  But subconsciously typing the Fling report enabled me to resolve the dilemma.  A few days after I posted the report, I re-read what I had written.  And seeing the words I had written, down on the screen, as clear as day, in bold black and white was a real eye opener.  I didn't like what I was reading!  The stark reality of stating that I could no longer excel, just wasn't comfortable.  Immediately I knew I was not ready to leave my elite days.  I wasn't past it.  I could still perform!

So just as I was all set to really 'front up', and really get myself sorted for the Lakeland 100 in a little over 12 weeks time, I realised that physically things weren't right following the Fling.  I wasn't able to run comfortably, my whole left leg, the hip, my thigh, even sometimes my left foot/ankle just felt 'strange'.  And after a mile or two of running it got very uncomfortable.  I booked in to see my physio Luke at Sportswise, he had a reasonable idea what the problem was, so performed his magic, and I thought all would be fine.  But alas, for the first time in five years of being treated by Luke, the strange feeling, the pain was persisting.  I was finding myself getting really frustrated, especially since I had made the massive 'turn-around' and was more focused than ever to really get it right at the Lakeland 100 this time, with the date getting closer and closer.  I was then told by a trusted work colleague about a guy based just out of Hailsham, East Sussex, actually only 15 minutes drive from where I lived, who was equally as fantastic as Luke, but really specialises with muscular / neural pain, and he had done 'wonders' on my work colleague. I managed to book an appointment to give this new 'magical' physio guy a try.

So at around the middle/end of May, having run pretty well zilch for around three weeks, I have my first appointment with Greg Funnell from Optimum Muscle Care.  Seventy five minutes later I am full of optimism.  Greg is confident he can get me sorted.  We decide that me racing the 44 mile Endurancelife Classic Quarter in a few weeks time isn't wise, and that time is needed for the treatment he has performed to settle down. So it would be a little bit longer before I could start running again.  Not being able to carry out physical training, and being really fired up ready to train following my Highland Fling race report 'wake-up call', I go into 100 mile a week equivalent non-physical training.  I had already began to build up on my non-physical training once I had decided that I wasn't a 'has-been', as I had identified that prior to the Fling I had perhaps neglected this important aspect of race preparation.  I had put too much focus on my physical training, my high mileage, my new nutrition strategy.  I had gone up to Scotland simply expecting the race performance to happen, without doing my usual extensive non-physical training.  In essence I had become like most other endurance runners who put far too much emphasis on the physical.  So I went into mega non-physical training!

I guess readers of this blog are thinking "what is this non-physical training"?  I have touched on non-physical training at various times within my blog posts over the years.  Trying to find some of the material, my 2011 Beachy Head Marathon race report has some related material in relation to TOTAL training, with TOTAL training meaning a combination of the physical and the non-physical training.  Here is a paragraph I wrote then in specific reference to my Race Focus Energy (RFE) fatigue model:
My TOTAL preparation in order to maximise the size of my RFE tank on the start line is to spend many hours researching the race.  What are the demands of the race?:  Total Time, Distance, Profile, Terrain, Daylight/ Darkness, Navigation, Possible Weather, Temperature, Clothing, Feed Stations, Food, Dehydration, Backpack, Fellow Runners, Loneliness, Support, Family/Friends.  I also spend many hours researching myself: WHAT do I WANT?  WHY do I WANT IT?  HOW MUCH do I WANT IT?  Are these WANTS realistic, based on what evidence?
I also provide a bit more description of what I include as part of my non-physical training within my 2011 Endurancelife Dorset Trail Coastal Marathon race report.  Here are two paragraphs:
Leading up to the Dorset race extensive time was spent firstly clearly establishing answers to the initial three questions one has to answer when preparing for a race; What do I want? Why do I want it? How much do I want it? In order to answer these questions I had to be totally aware of what the race would entail, so then I would be able to determine / visualise how I would respond to the demands of the race. I therefore purchased an Ordinance Survey map, and transferred the course from the map downloaded from the website, onto the larger scaled map. The time spent doing this is a critical component of my preparation. It allows me to get ingrained into my subconscious the overall plan of the course, as if looking from above. I am therefore aware in what direction I should be heading, whether there are any 90degree turns, any out and backs, parts where we retrace the same path, etc. It basically gives me an overall feel of the route, at a deep level. During the race, just having this plan view of the course firmly ingrained, totally eliminated any doubt there could have been, just after the turnaround point where there was some confusion over which way to go. I simply referred to the visual image I had of the route map within my head, and was able to progress along the correct route, without there being any doubt at all, so thereby avoiding any upward swing of the RPE – RFE arrow (see previous Race Focus Energy posts).

In addition to marking the route on the map, I also carefully observe the number of contour lines I cross and the closeness of the lines, hence the steepness of the climbs. I also note the height at the peak of the climbs, so therefore get a feel for the elevation demands of the course. Further time is also spent trying to find photos of the area, which is combined with viewing the map, and a fly over the course on Google Earth, using the GPS file provided by the Endurancelife organisers on the website. The hours I spend doing this research / preparation, I consider are as beneficial, if not more beneficial to my performance than spending the same time running.

And finally a different aspect of non-physical preparation, and what I probably spent the majority of my 100 mile equivalent non-physical training weeks doing prior to the 2013 Lakeland 100, reading.  Yes, as simple as that, reading mainly auto-biographies of great sportspeople.  Here is a list of some of the books I read while in New Zealand last year, and it's effectiveness illustrated in a paragraph from a blogpost back in June 2012:
Whilst in New Zealand not being able to run, I also did quite a bit of reading.  I first read the autobiographies by some of New Zealand's great runners including, Jack Lovelock (1500m Gold in 1936 Olympics and World Record holder for mile and 1500m), Peter Snell (800m Gold in 1960 and 1964 Olympics, 1500m Gold in 1964 Olympics and World Record Holder for 800m and mile), John Walker (1500m Gold in 1976 Olympics and World Record holder for mile) and some other New Zealand runners less well known; Dick Taylor (10,000m Gold in 1974 Commonwealth Games beating David Bedford in a World Class time) and Anne Audain (3,000m Gold in 1982 Commonwealth Games, but more well known for being unbeaten on the roads in the United States for two years in the early eighties).  So I was discovering as much as I could from these great athletes.  They weren't ultra trail runners, but they understood about performing to the best of their ability, that just so happened to be the best, or near the best in the World.  What was really interesting was that similar themes/characteristics were common to them all.  I haven't got time to share them now, another post, but the key one that stood out was their inner belief in their ability, and that their preparation had been effective for their key goal race.
I also signed of that blog post with the following:
PPS Nearly signed off without a quote. Having read loads of books I have plenty to choose from, however, the quote from Chris McCormack - Awesome Australian Triathlete/Ironman - from his 2011 book titled "I'm Here to Win" has been quite relevant recently as I carry out my TOTAL training for the upcoming races:

"The mind game that takes place before the starting gun ever fires is really the critical point of a race.  It's when you have that good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other.  One is saying "You can do it, mate!"  The other is whispering, "Why are you here? You can't win!"  The angel you decide to listen to will determine whether you are competitive or an also-ran.  There's always a voice in everyone's head saying "You haven't done the work, mate.  You know that track session you missed? It's coming back to get you on this hill."  That's what holds you back.  Each race is a new war against the evil angel! Mastering your own self doubts is the battle!"
And a second finally! I expand a little on the use of visualisations as part of non-physical training, within my 2012 Endurancelife Classic Quarter race report.  Although the visualisation here were different to what I performed this year leading up to last weekends Lakeland 100, as I no longer focus on specific opposition.  My goals now are simply about me, not actually about the opposition at all. Perform well. i.e. run to the level that I believe I am capable of, and the finish position will 'look after itself'!

Just before I finish this section on non-physical training, I'll just expand on how reading these sporting books assist.  As I read the sporting biography books, I have a pen and paper at hand, and I write down all of their great 'words of wisdom', (see photo below).  I am therefore able to access the most important, the most useful aspects of the book instantly without having to search through two to three hundred pages of the book.  I also find that writing down the key points, has a more lasting impact.  It helps me to associate with the message, to remember it, to relate their messages to my experiences.  Over the last five years I have read absolutely loads of sporting books, but if I had to name just one or two, the ones that I turned to the most, during these one hundred mile equivalent non-physical training weeks back in May and June, it would be Chris McCormack's I'm Here to Win, and Scott Jurek's Eat and Run.  These two books really stood out to me, and had a huge, I will repeat a HUGE, impact on my race preparation. 

The Key Messages from the Sports Books Noted Down

At the same time as I was reading my notes from all the books I had read, and re-reading the notes from these two books multiple, multiple times.  I also re-read my 2012 Montane Lakeland 100 race report, and also looked at my Garmin data for the race, which is accessible from the 2012 race report. A key thing that was apparent from my Garmin data was just how low my heart rate was from halfway through leg 8 until the battery run out on leg 11.  Following leg 11, I slowed even more, so the heart rate, the physiological intensity, would have been even lower!  This data wascombined with the overriding message from loads of athletes, but especially Chris McCormack and Scott Jurek, was just how important getting the right mind-set was in order to perform.  Here are just two examples from Scott Jurek:
"I knew that will wasn't just a matter of strength but a matter of focus.  The health of my body was critical to running an ultra.  But to run it well. my mind was what mattered."
"An ultra runner's mind is what matters more than anything. running ultra requires absolute confidence tempered with intense humility."

So I changed my evaluation of my 2012 Lakeland 100 relatively, based on what I feel I am capable of, poor performance.  I decided that simply 'blaming' my lack of mileage that led to my damaged leg muscles, which caused me to slow down wasn't correct.  The real blame was simply a poorly trained mind.  Poor goal setting, poor self belief, poor non-physical training.  The physical, the physiological wasn't really the problem.  And then to totally reinforce that I had finally found the correct cause of not performing to the level I believe I am capable of, I bought Kilian Jornet's Run or Die book, and it was FANTASTIC!  It was exactly what I needed to confirm that I was finally 'on the right track'.  That right track being simple; if I just sort out my mind, the top performance would eventuate.  It was such an uplifting feeling.  My performance was totally within my control.  All I had to do was get my mind sorted!  Again I'll just provide one example of Kilian's outstanding messages:
"I realise finally that the threshold isn't in my body or in my legs, I see now that I could have gone faster along the whole course.  Why had I put on the brakes?  It was my mind, my mind had led to lose concentration and motivation, had placed difficulties and obstacles in my path and blurred the image of the finish line, disorientating me and making me lose sight of my goal and my determination to get there, made me think it wasn't possible."

Reading this paragraph, I literally shouted out.  Yes, I am correct.  I have found the answer.  What Kilian is talking about is exactly what I encountered in the 2012 Lakeland 100.  Sort out my mind, and the performance will come.  And one last great message from Kilian:
"Winning isn't about finishing in first place.  It isn't about beating others.  It is about overcoming yourself overcoming your body, your limitations, and your fears.  Winning means surpassing yourself and turning your dreams into reality."

Reading Kilian's book allowed me to really get my race goals correct.  It wasn't about winning the race.  I already knew this, but I had replaced the winning goal, with a goal something vague like "running well".  But with a goal as vague as that, it proved useless during the actual races, to define what does 'running well' actually mean.  How do I evaluate myself during the race if I am 'running well' or not.  I now had my goal sorted. Simple.  Run without fear!  Run as hard and as fast as I am capable of, at the present moment.  Do NOT think about the whole race, as the enormity of the task of running 105 extremely demanding challenging miles will be too daunting, and will create fear, and therefore subconsciously slow me down, reduce my performance.  So I spent hour after hour to get me with the right mind-set to have no fear.  To not be afraid of running hard and fast.  After all, running 105 miles in a time of 19 hours and 50 minutes doesn't result in a very quick minute mile rate.  So when I am talking about running hard and fast, it is after all relative to the duration of the race.

So, following reading Kilian's book, I was happy.  No I was very, very, happy!  I knew what I had to do during the last six to eight weeks of training.  Remind myself of my race goals, get them formulated correctly deep down within my subconscious.  It was all totally within my control.  It was literally all in my mind.  With regards to the physical training.  Well, I have been running for over 35 years!  I have over 43,000 miles in my legs.  And to top that off, my physical training from December through to April was absolutely loads, more than I had ever done.  So I didn't really need to worry about the physical training between now and race day.

I have spent quite a bit above going on and on about this non-physical training, and how I see this as the key to my good performance last weekend.  I was totally convinced leading up to the race, and now having run the race I know my substantial improvement in performance over my 2012 race was due to having the right mind-set.  However, lets go back to my preparation though.

Many paragraphs above, I mention that I had seen Greg Funnell from Optimum Muscle Care.  Well I continued to see him around once a week.  I can't remember whether it was during my second or third visit, but Greg wanted to know what physical training I was planning to do over the next few weeks, as he wanted to check that I wasn't going to overstress my back, which was the root of my problem, and also the amount of training I was planning to do influenced the degree of manipulation/treatments he would carry out on me.  I remember replying to him saying something like "I don't intend to do any 'proper' ultra training.  I know what is required to perform on the day.  Physical training isn't important.  All you have to do is get me to that start line, being able to run freely and pain free and I will perform."  He first gave me a puzzled look.  He couldn't believe what I was saying!  Greg, two months earlier had successfully completed his first ultra trail race, the South Downs Way 50 miler.  And he like most ultra trail runners thought that the physical training attributed to the majority, if not most of the performance, with attitude, determination, motivation etc. simply making up the last few percent.  I repeated to him that the physical training wasn't that important, he started to realise that I was totally serious,  He then gave me a worried, anxious look, and replied "No pressure on me then!  I'd better ensure I get you running freely"

Over the last week, since I won the Montane Lakeland 100, I have found myself following the Lakeland 100 facebook page.  There have been a number of comments left on my facebook posts asking me for information of what training I was doing prior to the Lakeland 100.  A number of runners were wishing to either improve on their performance, or to move up from the Lakeland 50 to the Lakeland 100, so keen for some useful training tips.  So I will try to briefly summarise my physical training, having already extensively summarised my non-physical training above.

So below I will type out my weekly mileages for the last 13 weeks training leading up to the Lakeland 100.  To respond to the requests on facebook, but also to illustrate that perhaps increased emphasis on the non-physical training could also have a substantial impact on your running performances.   Please bear in mind, when you see the low running numbers presented below that there are two important overriding aspects to take into account; (i) my 43,000 miles in my legs, and (ii) the excellent physical training I did between December and April.  So although the physical training was at a low level over the final three months, I did have a fantastic level of background physical fitness. As I mentioned right at the very start of this blog, if you can remember that far back, the specifics of what I am able to do, are heavily influenced by my 35 years of running.  So it isn't easy to simply replicate the specifics, without knowing how your characteristics correlate with mine,.  rather instead try to identify the principles I am outlining.

So, lets look at my last 13 weeks of training, that includes the four days of the week prior to the race start on the Friday.  The weekly mileages were:  8, 0, 0, 0, 13, 4, 30, 27, 42, 50, 69, 45, 9.  Giving a grand total of 297 miles at an average of 23 miles per week for the 13 weeks, or more representative an average of 39 miles per week for the 7 weeks of training once I got over my injury.  What was the intensity then?  Every single run was at a relaxed easy pace, probably around 8 min to 9 minute per mile pace.  What about the terrain?  The majority of the runs were flat / undulating runs, with the longest continuous climb being 100 vertical metres.  Nearly all runs were off road, but the under foot conditions were smooth, dry grassland, dirt tracks.  Why, such non strenuous training?  Well, because I had such an enormous physical background, mega, mega miles in the legs, combined with the realisation that my relatively poor performance during 2012 Lakeland 100 wasn't mainly physically caused but was more likely to be mentally caused, resulted in me simply wanting to just enjoy the rhythm, the relaxation, the smoothness, of running.  I guess in some ways I was doing a massive 13 week taper.  In terms of the distance of my runs, during these weeks, I run three runs longer that 11 miles.  These being a 13 miler, a 14 miler, and then two weekends out from race day, I ran a 23 miler along the North Downs Way, an out and back over the last section of the NDW50, just as a test, to reassure myself that I could actually run further than 14 miles, bearing in mind that I had to race 105 extremely challenging miles two weeks later in the Lake District.

Within my 'brief' race report available on the Montane website, I made the comment that "I was satisfied with my preparation".  Yes, although I missed six weeks of running, and my weekly mileage was pretty low during my seven weeks of running prior to race day.  As a result of the extensive non-physical training, and getting my mind-set totally in order.  I was more than satisfied with my preparation.  Probably the most satisfied I had ever been.  Once I had got back into running, with exactly seven weeks before race day.  I dug out my training diaries from the previous five years, and noted all of the seven week build-ups to my more successful races during these years.  I then used this information to help me decide upon just how much physical training I should attempt to complete.  Luckily, there were quite a few races where I had performed well, with weekly mileages during the last seven weeks of only in the thirties.  This reassurance that 35 miles a week was plenty enough miles in order to perform helped in making me feel more than satisfied with the physical training I had completed.  The photo below illustrates the extensive time I spent reviewing training diaries and making notes.

Planning the Seven Week Physical Training - Reflecting on Previous successful Build-ups

One last bit of essential preparation I carried out was also to do with the kit to use on race day.  Being a Montane athlete I am fortunate that I have the best, lightweight kit available to me, but in terms of other kit to carry, I got mega obsessive regarding weight.  I was weighting drink bottles, gloves, hats, first aid kits, safety blankets, etc. in order to reduce the weight I was carrying as much as possible.  I also decided that using a hydration bladder wasn't the best approach.  The reason for this is that because to refill the bladder one as to remove the back pack, and fiddle around with the bladder opening, carrying less than one litre of water, so one kilogramme would waste too much time refilling.  However how many legs would it take to consume one litre of water on the Friday evening, probably around 4 or 5 legs.  So it means you are carrying some water for possibly six hours.  So I splashed out and purchase the newly released Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Hydration Vest.  Rather than using an Ultimate Direction drink bottle that came with the pack that weighed 80 grammes, I used an Endurancelife drink bottle that only weighed 56 grammes.  A saving of 24 grammes!  In addition I only carried one 600 ml bottle and used the other bottle pouch to carry my gels.  Carrying the water in the clear bottle I would also always be aware of how much water was left, so I would know whether to fill up at the current checkpoint or there would be sufficient to get through to the following checkpoint.  My wife thought I had really 'loss the plot'.  Me, I was really pleased with myself.  I felt as though I was the David Brailsford (British Cycling guru) of ultra trail running.  Accumulating all of the marginal gains, in order to make a big difference to performance!

So FINALLY, I hear you shouting at me, lets get to race day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Living in East Sussex it is a long journey, so I left Thursday afternoon and travelled to Worcestershire to stay the night with long time friends Jane and Gary.  My family, Frances and our two boys Robert and Chris, after watching me 'suffer' at the 2010 Montane Lakeland 100, no longer travel with me to races. (Click HERE to go to a video of the 2010 race on YouTube, at around the six minute mark, the suffering is evident.  The fact that I pretty well brush my two boys aside, without even acknowledging them also did not go down too well!)  But I knew they would be tracking me intently via the web live tracking, so although they wouldn't be there in person in the Lake District, I was still able to receive their positivity and support through knowing that they would be aware of how I was performing during the race.  As I mentioned in my brief report, this aspect of knowing friends and family were following me each time I dibbed my dibber was a huge source of positive energy during the race.

So race morning I complete the journey to the Lake District.  By the time I arrived in Ambleside I was nearly up to date with my Talk Ultra podcast episodes, after a total of nearly seven hours of listening.  Just a quick aside, I have been a fan of Talk Ultra since episode one, and although the podcasts are quite ultra in length, so I often find that I end up being a few episodes behind, on the whole they are excellent.  Listening to the interviews, similar to reading sporting books, one is able to learn from the elite.  One particular point I really enjoyed this year was British ultra runner Ian Sharman's performance at Western States where he finished an awesome fourth place.  During his interview it was commented that "he had been off the radar", keeping quiet, so no one was aware of what he was up to, so he was able to shock them all with a great performance.  As I listened to this, I thought, yes, great.  That can be me.  Having gone into 'hiding' since the beginning of May, no blogging, no facebook, no e-mails etc. I thought yes, my preparation is ideal.  I'll come out of the wood work just like Ian Sharman and surprise everyone. 

Basically I was turning every tiny, tiny aspect possible into a positive for a good performance.  One other positive example, was when on Friday morning I realised that I had left my Garmin 310 GPS watch at home.  I try not to look at my watch during the actual race, but I do like to have access to the data following the race, to try to identify strengths and weaknesses.  Upon realising I didn't have my GPS watch, I thought back to the last race I didn't wear it.  The 2011 IAU World Ultra Trail Championships, where the wearing of GPS watches was banned.  I immediately turned this into another positive.  My race at the Worlds was probably my best running performance to date.  Maybe I performed so well at the Worlds because I wasn't wearing the GPS watch / heart rate monitor.  Conclusion, tonight's Lakeland 100 race was going to be another great performance.  Throughout the lead up to the start of the race, and during the actual race, any tiny incident, I would immediately turn it into a positive.  Reflecting back now, it was unbelievable just how many potentially negative aspects were turned into a positive.  I'll mention one or two more possibly, but the length of this post is already getting out of hand!

I arrive in Ambleside and have no problems finding a car park (good omen) and an excellent café which was serving lasagne, which I had decided in advance would be the ideal last meal at around 1:00pm (another good sign).  While eating my meal, I am re-reading my notes from Chris McCormack's, Scott Jurek's, and Kilian Jornet's books.  I also have my race schedule for the 15 legs, which is set to achieve a finish time of 19:45, also indicating when I was to consume the TORQ gels that I was racing on this year. (See photo below).  The schedule was set to be five minutes quicker than Terry Conway's 2012 winning time.  Deep down, I didn't really expect to be able to hold myself to the schedule for the entire 105 miles.  But my attitude was, that 'I was going to go down fighting'!  I would start at that pace, WITH NO FEAR, and just see how many legs I could hold it for.  I wasn't specifically focusing on beating Terry.  All I was focusing on was giving absolutely everything, to run as fast as I could at each moment in time.  Trying to ignore the reality that the race was 105 miles in length.

The 19:45 Race Schedule with Planned TORQ Gel Timings from Start to Dalemain

Specific to this point, during my non-physical training, I spent hours convincing myself that the race was only 59 miles, only to checkpoint 8, i.e. Dalemain.  The reason for this is tied into my Race Focus Energy (RFE) Fatigue Model, where the anticipated duration of the race has a large impact on ones rating of perceived exertion (RPE).  If I was able to get into my sub-conscious that the race was only to checkpoint 8, then I would be able to run heaps faster.  My plan therefore was to try to treat the race as a 59 miler, therefore I would be able to race so much quicker to checkpoint 8.  What would happen at checkpoint 8 then, surely I would be absolutely stuffed?  I gave this some thought and decided that I would 'cross that bridge when I got to it'. remember NO FEAR.  I also hoped that I would be absolutely buzzing due to getting to Dalemain so quickly, that the 'buzz' would carry me the last tiny bit, i.e. the last 46 miles.  Yes, a rather bizarre and possibly foolish plan, but I was willing to give it a go!

As I leave the café and am heading back to my car, I bump into running friends Simon Deakin (Hardmoors 110 winner this year) and who is running the Lakeland 50, and Paul Tierney (2nd Lakeland 100 2012).  Paul looks at my clip board and asks what's all the paperwork.  My race schedule is on the top.  I instantly remove the clip board out of his sight, knowing that I am going to be racing him in a few hours, I don't want him to know my plan, i.e. to go out really hard and fast.  As I drop all my papers onto the ground, he states, "Relax, I not racing tonight."  He explains that he has had a few niggles and is wanting to save himself for UTMB in five weeks time.  I am therefore able to openly discuss with Simon and Paul my plans for the race, these being my no fear attitude, and the belief that I will finally be able to actually put into action the lessons I learnt from previous races, especially the 'devastating' UTMB DNF.  Paul then mentioned that Terry Conway up until the previous day wasn't going to race the Lakeland 100 this year due to getting over an illness, but had changed his mind only yesterday, on Thursday, that he would start.  Not that I was focusing on any specific opposition as my focus was on me, but I did think to myself about the extent of my non-physical preparation I had carried out in order to have the correct mind-set come race day, and thought that Terry with the uncertainty all week of would he, wouldn't he race, that his mind would not really be in the ideal place.  Again, another positive I 'banked' into my mind when comparing the extreme contrasts in mental preparations.

Finally I am on the start line, enjoying the glorious sunshine, and quietly chatting to a few other runners.  I am calm.  I am relaxed.  I am focused to enjoy every moment during that moment.  If you wish to see the exact opposite of where I was at in terms of attitude and relaxation on the Lakeland 100 start line, simply look at the top photo of me on the start line at the 2011 Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race  within my UTMB race report.  It's pretty obvious from even before I started UTMB that a DNF was 'on the cards'!  Click HERE to view a short video of the 2013 Lakeland 100 start and other small portions of the race.

Relaxed and Calm on the Start Line

The race starts, and most of my experiences have been described within my brief race report available on the Montane website.  But basically everything starts off to plan.  Although I have planned a 19:45 race schedule I have actually only memorised the first three checkpoint times.  I am reasonably confident that I can run to the required schedule for at least three legs, and am hoping that if all went well maybe even keep to schedule for all eight legs to Dalemain.  I don't really try to remember the other checkpoint times, because I really want to run by feel.  I simply want to run as hard as I can.  So I am puffing and blowing the entire journey.  If I find that I am not working hard enough, the plan is to simply increase the intensity.  After all, my race goal is to simply give it everything, in some ways to race myself to a collapse, although I am well aware that the safety mechanism within the body and mind won't allow this to happen, no matter how hard I push.  So I am pretty comfortable that I can push as hard as I want and am content that the over protective safety mechanism will prevent me from doing any harm!

Running Fast from the Start Line

Running Side by Side with Ken Sutor - Moving Away from the Field
Running Fast During Leg 1

Working Hard up Walna Scar Road During Leg 1
I reach the first checkpoint in 61 minutes, two minutes up on schedule.  Although I am in second place I am not one tiny bit concerned.  The race today is about me.  Focus on me, and my finish position will 'look after itself'.  A quick in and out to dib, and I am now level with Ken Sutor, but quickly move ahead of him and am running on my own.  Ken re-joins me on some technical descents.  One thing I'll mention here is that on the first descent off Walna Scar Road, I actually eased off the pace from my usual at times 'suicidal' pace that I had adopted in 2010 and 2012.  I purposely slowed my descent as I felt that possibly some of the damaged muscles I suffered with later on in the race in previous years was due to descending on leg 1 too fast.  So getting to checkpoint 1, two minutes up, even after I had taken it pretty easy on the downhill was another massive positive! 

Anyway back to the race, Ken and I approach Boot together. Whilst racing as we near Boot I recall that during the 2012 race, I never dibbed my dibber first at any of the checkpoints, so according to the leg split times I was never in the lead.  Also back in 2012, during leg 3 I was caught up by the group of three running together, who went on to fill the podium, Terry Conway, Paul Tierney and Barry Murray.  Not knowing how far Terry Conway was behind, I was conscious that the same could happen again, I could get caught by the runners from behind on leg 3.  So this upcoming checkpoint could be my only chance to be recorded on the results sheet, and to be seen by all my family and friends all around the World, that I am actually leading the race.  So rather than being a 'bit of a dork' and making a big deal of getting my dibber in first if we run into the checkpoint together, I decide that I will make a move now, about 400 metres out, so my dib first plan isn't obvious.  I therefore significant increase the pace, and that is the last I see of Ken.  I dib, and I am still two minutes up on schedule.  Excellent, all to plan.

I quickly make my way to the next checkpoint at Wasdale Head, I am still one minute ahead of schedule.  Fantastic, everything is falling into place.  Up and over the climbs to Buttermere, checkpoint 4, and by this time it is now dark, and I can't remember what the schedule split was meant to be.  I am quickly in and out of the checkpoint and there is absolutely no sign of any following torches.  It feels like I have eased off the pace a bit, but I accept that the concept of going really hard the entire way was rather flawed, so accept reality and allow my intensity to drop.

As I make my way over the next big climb before dropping into Braithwaite I see a few following torches.  It is really hard to gauge distances especially when running up hill, and with the many little stream valleys you have to run in and out off along this section of the course.  I remind myself to ignore the other runners.  Tonight is all about me, whether they catch me or not is out of my control. To be honest, I thought they would catch me.  Knowing that I had eased off the pace a bit during leg 4, I was thinking it would only be a matter time.

I dib in at checkpoint five and race time is 6:01.  For some reason I had in my head that I thought that my schedule split was 6:00.  The advantages of not clearly remembering the split times now become apparent  There is actually no need to know all of the schedule split times.  It is good for the first leg or two, just to check that one is on track.  But after that it is better to try to run by feel.  It felt that I was achieving my goal of pushing myself as hard as was really possible for a 59(!) mile race.  So knowing whether up or down on the schedule at this point of the race isn't going to really make any difference.  Why bother going to the trouble of spending hours calculating the scheduled leg times then, I hear you asking?  Well it is all part of the non-physical training.  These scheduled times, that are obviously quite fast and therefore result in an overall shorter race time duration, will enter the subconscious and therefore result in the race having a planned shorter duration.  Which will reduce the level of rating of perceived exertion (RPE) for the same running pace, compared to if one hadn't carried out this important non-physical training. 

Anyway I leave Braithwaite absolutely buzzing, thinking that I had only lost one minute from my extremely ambitious 19:45 schedule.  I conclude that I am running 'on fire'.  Little did I know that over legs 4 and 5 I had actually lost 19 minutes from my schedule, and that second place runner Ed Batty had gained five minutes on me over these two legs.  One bit of positive news I did receive at Braithwaite, was that Terry Conway had pulled out back at Buttermere.  With that bit of news, for the first time during the race I actually started to think that I could possibly win the race.  I quickly shouted out loud to myself "One leg at a time!  Focus on this leg.  Stay within the present moment.  Enjoy this moment, now, during this moment".  During the race, I must have shouted this to myself verbally out loud probably around twenty times.  It was so important not to let the mind start getting ahead of itself, and therefore missing the enjoyment from the present moment.  I find that to stay within the present moment is actually quite hard to do.  It is something I have been really working on during my races.  For the first time I was really pleased with the manner in which I did remain present.  I definitely think the chanting to myself worked.

Leg six flies by, as does the first half of leg seven.  Then as I get over the crest of the Old Coach Road, where it is then either pretty flat or slightly downhill, it feels like I am absolutely 'creeping'.  I am really pleased that I don't have my Garmin GPS watch on, so I am unable to see just how slow I am running.  It feels like I am running around 9:00 - 9:30 minute mile pace.  On this terrain, I feel that I should be able to run at 7:30 - 8:00 minute mile pace.  So I calculate that for every mile I am losing 1:30 - 2:00 minutes.  I struggle into checkpoint seven, a big marquee.  Immediately upon entering the marquee I sense the energy, the positivity, there is a real buzz within the area.  Up to this point the duration of my stay at the checkpoints had been minuscule, definitively less than two minutes, for most checkpoints less than a minute.  I take in the positivity, and combined with my calculation of losing nearly two minutes a mile if I continue running, I decide to sit down and simply 'chill out'!  Leg 8 is a long leg of 10.1 miles, that includes loads of runnable terrain.  Probably the fastest leg on the course.  Running slowly over this leg would be a massive waste of time.  I do some calculations.  Even if I stay at the checkpoint for ten minutes, as long as I am running back to normal on departure, ten miles gaining two minutes a mile, would equal twenty minutes, subtract the ten minute checkpoint stop, I would still gain ten minutes. Click!  Another massive positive is bagged.  Yes by stopping, by resting for up to ten minutes here within this checkpoint, I will gain ten minutes.  Reflecting on this now, it absolutely amazes me how my mind-set was so positively framed that anything that occurred could be turned into a positive.

So I stay seated in the chair, typically in past ultra trail races I would never ever sit down during the race, scared that my quads would seize up upon trying to stand.  Martin from the Sport Ident timing company was at each of the checkpoints making sure the dibbers were all working prior to the lead runners arrival.  I got to know Martin during the 2010 event, and it was great to meet and chat to him again at each of the checkpoints this year.  Martin had noticed that at each of the checkpoints I refused any food, and simply consumed one of my TORQ gels.  While I was seated trying to get my body and mind working in harmony again before departing, he looked me in the eye and said "Stuart, I think it's time to move off the gels and consume some real food".  In between the 2010 race and this year's race I discovered that Martin from Sport Ident was actually Martin Stone, an ex awesome trail runner who won the inaugural Dragons Back race way back in 1992.  I therefore had huge respect for his judgement.  I listened to his advice and decided that it was good advice.  Up to that point I had stuck religiously to my TORQ gel consuming schedule, and had consumed eleven gels without any problems, but some non gel fuel could just give me the boost I needed.  Not that I thought my struggling was nutrition related.  In all of my previous 100 mile races, at around the same time, at around 3:00 - 4:00 am in the morning, I have struggled with the mind wanting to switch off, I lose race focus.  So I think possible it is simply a time of night issue.  Anyway I eat some biscuits, drink some warm coffee and really enjoy the banter from the ten or so checkpoint volunteers.  They were trying to wind me up about my whinging about how slow I was running.  It was great energy.  I left the checkpoint after about nine minutes, pretty well a totally revitalised runner!

I wasn't sure of the exact duration of the time of my stay, but it felt like a little under ten minute, my planned stop in order to gain ten minutes for the following leg.  Around a minute after I left, I heard the cheers and clapping as the volunteers clapped in and gave the same huge welcome to Ed Batty, the runner still in second place.  The results show that I arrived at the checkpoint ten minutes before Ed, hence the nine minute stop!  As I started running along leg eight, which luckily starts with a one mile gentle downhill along a sealed road.  I recalled listening to an Ellie Greenwood interview on a Talk Ultra podcast where during her Western States win, she had a really difficult patch, was sick and was stationary at one of the checkpoints for ages.  She went on to win the race, so I started thinking I could do the same.  But before I let my mind wander to much into the future I repeated to myself my chant "one leg at a time".  Leg eight was fantastic, I was back 'on fire again', and I was really pleased at the pace I was running over the fast sections.  I didn't know what the time gap was back to the second runner, but feeling that I was running well, even though depending upon how long Ed had stayed at checkpoint point seven, he wouldn't be too far behind me, I didn't really care.  I was happy with the pace I was running at.  I was still pushing myself slightly out of the comfort zone, even though the pace had slowed quite a bit since the early legs.  I knew I had drifted quite a bit of my 19:45 schedule, but I was pleased with the level of my Race Focus Energy.  Note, the results later showed that during leg eight I actually did manage to gain elevens minutes on Ed.  Amazingly exactly as I had predicted whilst 'chilling out' at checkpoint eight, unreal!

Leg 9 goes pretty smoothly, I run all of the climb up out of Pooley Bridge.  Not at a very fast pace, but not walking up this incline I took as a massive positive.  Leg 10 doesn't go so well.  I begin to struggle up the biggest climb on the entire route.  I also start finding myself looking behind a lot more,  Searching out to see what my lead is over the second place runner.  I am losing my 'stay within the present moment' focus.  My mind is wandering, my pace slows!  I eventually manage to get to Mardale Head to another fantastic welcome.  The checkpoint is manned by the Delamare Sparten running club.  Back in 2011 they invited me up to their club to do a talk.  It was a great weekend and I recognise a few of the faces.  They all know me, which is a good boost to the ego.  Following my difficult leg 10 I was definitely in need of a boost.

Mardale Head Checkpoint - Concentrating Hard to be Fully Focused  for the Next Leg

Mardale Head Checkpoint - All Smiles as I Receive the Positivity from the Delamare Spartens

I am no longer 'on fire' as I leave the checkpoint, and I walk out to start the huge climb.  Again I focus too much on the runner behind, and from half way up the hill I see him, and clock the time he arrives at the checkpoint behind me, which I calculate is around fifteen minutes.  Knowing that I had probably stopped for around six to seven minutes, I am keen to see what the duration of his stop is at checkpoint ten.  As I lose sight of the start of the climb, fifteen minutes has passed and he hasn't appeared.  I conclude that he has therefore had a lengthy stay like me, and since he hadn't appeared, it could be who knows, many minutes longer than my stop.  Conclusion, he is in a worse state than me! 

During leg 11 my running pace slows dramatically.  The reason for the slowing of my pace isn't really clear.  Could be due to one of many reasons, but I think most likely due to a wandering mind.  I don't know it at the time but I lose during leg 11, which is only 6.5 miles in length, seven minutes to Richie Cunningham, which follows on from losing on the long previous leg, leg 10, eight minutes to Richie.  Whilst at the Kentmere checkpoint at the end of leg 11, I am informed that at Mardale Head, i.e. the previous checkpoint, that Richie was in third place, 38 minutes behind me.  I have raced Richie four times previously, having beaten him every time, but often it is quite close.  More significant though is that usually when analysing the leg split time data, he always out runs me over the final leg, which occurred at this year's Highland Fling where I finished 8th and Richie was a close 11th.  Again I started doing calculations in my head.  Thinking about when would he pull me in, as he always finishes strong, and the pace I was going was pretty slow.  It felt slow, and the actual results confirm this.  In terms of leg split time rankings, leg 11 was relatively my worst leg, managing to only obtain the twelfth quickest time for the leg, (see table and graph below).  Yes, I was running relatively slow, and I knew it.  My buzz had gone.  I was struggling to find any positivity.

Race Leg Split Time Rankings Table

Race Leg Split Time Rankings Graph

Leg 12 starts of even worse than leg 11.  I have lost my self focus.  I am struggling.  I walk out of the checkpoint, and although it is flat I continue to walk the 400 metres or so until the climb starts.  Then on sections when the climb flattens I continue walking!  Things are getting grim.  All the time in my head I am simply thinking of being caught!  On the descent into Trout Beck I start to regain my focus.  I start to refocus my mind on me, what I am doing.  I recognise what I have been doing wrong for the last two legs, i.e. thinking about the other runners, thinking about the end result and really start shouting to myself to focus on me.  "Be within the present moment."  Control the wandering mind.  I think to myself, "I know what I should be doing, come on lets do it."  Then just as I am finally getting back in control of things as I pass through the woods above Ambleside, I meet good friend John Kynaston, (the man responsible for starting me on my blogging path), running towards me.  He notices that I am struggling a wee bit, and shouts to me to remain positive, to focus on the positivity.  He is telling me my own 'words of wisdom'.  It just confirms that I do know what to do, I simply have to put it into action.  I think from that moment on I get pretty well back on track.  Within an instant I am back on task, race focus back in place, and my pace quickens.

Approaching the Ambleside Checkpoint

I enter the checkpoint at Ambleside and friend Paul Tierney is cheering me on.  He then comes into the check point and sits down opposite me, as again I am sitting down, as I have at every checkpoint since checkpoint seven.  My new strategy, possibly lose a bit of time at the checkpoint, but gain it in the following leg by running faster.  He sits opposite me and calmly says something like "If you get a move on, and not waste time here, you can win this race for a second time.  And that would be absolutely amazing!".  I recall thinking to myself, yes I realise that, I know that it would be pretty amazing, but don't worry, I've got it under control, I'm back on task, and I simply going to 'hammer myself' from here on in, and if Richie or whoever is going to beat me, it will because they are simply stronger than me, not because I performed poorly.  Yes, although I was running scared.  Not liking the idea of being 'hunted down' by the chasing runners, I was now focusing on me, and more importantly I was now staying within the present moment.

The last three legs are described in detail within my brief race report on the Montane website.  I eventually reach the finish line in Coniston, having achievable my goal.  My goal wasn't about winning, that was never the goal.  My goal, which I feel as though I have achieved, was about giving everything out on the course. Click HERE to view a video on YouTube which shows me finishing at around the five minute mark into the video. Crossing the finish line in such an exhausted state, I must say was one of the most satisfying feelings I have had from my ultra trail racing.  So overall my 2013 Montane Lakeland 100 performance was very, very satisfying.  And yes, the win was also a bonus.  A good boost to my ego.

My Time Gap Lead Over Other Runners at Each Checkpoint During the Race

Approaching the Finish at Coniston

The Large Crowd Welcomes me to the Finish

Crossing the Finish Line

Struggling to Stay Upright!

Phew!  I have finally made it to the finish of this race report!  I did warn you at the start that it would be an ultra length post!  To those of you that have managed to survive the journey of this race report, hopefully you have found some useful bits of information that will improve your ultra trail running. 

Over the last week I having spent some time on the Lakeland 100 facebook page reading peoples comments about their race and also finding most of the above photos.  (Sorry I can't acknowledge the photographers who took these photos as I didn't write down where I got them from.  But if you see one of your photos here, thanks for posting it on facebook).  One thing I have also observed from being on facebook is that just like me, most runners have the desire to run better on the trails, and are keen to learn as much as they can about the best way to prepare for trail races, especially the ultra events.  I, myself, am still on an upward learning curve, however, with many, many years of endurance running experience, I feel that I have a lot that I can offer.  I therefore think that now is the ideal time, to share my knowledge within an alternative mode, in addition to my UltraStu blog.  I have been informally coaching two athletes for the last year or so, but I would like to publicly announce here that I am now available to take on athletes for on-line coaching.  So if you think that you could endure, lengthy e-mails, or Skype/telephone calls, then click the On-Line Coaching with Stuart Mills tab at the top of this blog page to find out more. 

My motive with the On-Line Coaching with Stuart Mills is to share my knowledge and to experience the joy of being involved in assisting runners to improve their trail running performances.  However, as the On-Line Coaching will involve substantial input from both the athlete and myself, there will be a monthly fee.  My motive for establishing the coaching isn't about making money, so you should find that my coaching fee is more than likely to be less than other On-Line Coaching providers.  However, I would anticipate that my lower price won't correspond with a lower quality coaching service. 

If you are interested, please have a look at the On-Line Coaching page and give me a call or zap me an e-mail, to find out more.  As you can imagine, due to my rather excessive ultra everything manner, I will not be able to accommodate many athletes.  At the moment I am thinking of most likely a maximum of ten runners, so hopefully there aren't twenty or thirty runners out there wanting to experience personalised coaching advice from yours truly, UltraStu, as I would hate to create disappointment within the fantastic ultra trail running community of which I am so fortunate to be involved with.

Lastly, to those of you who were at the Lakeland 100 / 50 prize giving on the Sunday, you may recall that I said a few words after receiving my trophy.  My family weren't present at the prize giving to see me collect  the trophy or hear what I said, so I was just wondering if anyone out there has any video footage of any part of the prize giving.  As mentioned within my few words on stage, the atmosphere, the positive energy within the school hall during the prize giving was absolutely amazing.  It would be great to have a video record of the occasion.

My sign off quote will be short:  "Thank you to everyone that was involved in putting on the Montane Lakeland 100 and 50 races. Also a huge thanks to everyone who gave me tremendous support, leading up to and during the event.  It was very much appreciated."  Stuart Mills 2013 



PS  Earlier this morning I was interviewed by Ian Corless from the Talk Ultra podcast show.  So if you haven't had enough of UltraStu by now, you can listen to a bit about my background, a bit about my training ideas, and a bit about racing the Lakeland 100, this coming Friday, the 9th of August, when the show is released.  As one would expect, the interview ended up being a bit of an ultra in length.  Well the podcast is called Talk Ultra!


  1. I was interested to read about your experiences, Stu, the length of the article isn't a problem but have you considered writing a draft version first and then editing it to make it an easier read? Well you're probably not writing it for other people though...

  2. Congratulations on your fine run Stuart. Your report made me over-shoot my lunch hour but it was entertaining and thought-provoking as always.



  3. Awesome race performance Stu. What an amazing way to stamp your mark on your 50's, not just for yourself but also for all ultra's runners, you have raised the bar to what can done.

    Reading through your race report I do see several of areas you could improve your racing, both in terms of prep and on race day. I strongly believe that you can and will run faster, your full potential has not yet been realized, inside of you there is smarter and faster athlete.

    Well done. Best of luck with recovery.

  4. What a superb blog! I had 90 very enjoyable minutes reading and learning. Thanks again for going into such detail and congratulations on a great performance.


  5. You're a legend Mr Mills, and a friendly guy. I completed UTLD in 2011 and you gave me a wave and a smile in Ambleside which was really helpful!

  6. I'm in my 50's preparing for the Lakeland 100 in July and I'm finding your blog an absolute gold mine of information - really pioneering stuff. Great writing style as well. Thanks.