|Up Fusedale Beck|
I had signed up for this organised recce of the Dalemain - Ambleside on Saturday and Ambleside - Coniston on Sunday for a number of reasons. Firstly to get the route stuck in my head as much as I could to minimise navigational blunders on race day, Secondly, because of the logistics. We could leave a car at the finish each day and get a coach to the start and thirdly, just for the training effect of long back to back runs. Oh and also because it's 2 days running in the Lake district with the Ultra friendly Ultra running community which is as much reason as you need.
Arriving in Ambleside on a wet and misty morning I hopped on the coach and met up with Mark Dalton who I'd ran the Housman 100 with. While I had been getting my head straight since the Housman Mark had continued to run in the Shires and Spires the week after and also supported a couple of legs of Bob Graham for Matt Neale. There was also talk of a possible Pennine way attempt and I recommended that mark read Wild trails to far horizons Mark Cudahy's personal account on being the first to break 3 days for the route which took him many attempts and years to achieve. A good read.
The plan by Marc Laithwaite and Terry Gilpin, race organisers was changed from a Dalemain start a Pooley Bridge start, this was no great hardship as the Dalemain to Pooley Bridge section was just a small meander along the river and no great navigational challenge.
We all got off the coaches and began the gentle ascent out of Pooley and on to the fells. Everyone started in their own time and at many different paces. I stuck with Mark again, I knew he wouldn't want to hang about.
From Pooley to Howtown was on obvious tracks with only a stay right then stay right again to worry about before reaching the small tarmac road down to the Howtown checkpoint 'barn'. We decided to run straight past Howtown as there were no refreshments and we both knew where it was. On the way out up Fusedale beck we get overtaken by no other than last years winner Stuart Mills and surprisingly Barry Murray who you will know from my previous posts on his nutrition lectures. They ran all the way round together and afterwards Barry told me jokingly he was 'pacing' Stuart. Incidentally they are both running this weekend in the IAU world trail challenge in Ireland (Barry is running for Irelend).
The weather was almost Identical to the when I ran the route previously on the Lakeland 50 event last July. The ground was wet and mushy , the rocks wet and slippy and the air wet and misty.
Out between Low Kop and High Kop looks an odd route on the map as it goes over open land but taking our time over this section proved there was an actual track there to follow and it was much faster than the shorter 'through the bracken' route that many had taken before and were taking today. It all ended up at the same bridge on the way down to Haweswater and from there to Mardale was just follow the shoreline, although it does drag on a bit.
We were discussing that during Marks 100 last year Mardale seemed to be a low point at a key stage distance wise and the sight of just a van and a table in a small car park did not raise the spirits at all and was a point of many 100 retirements. This year however we were told by Terry that there would be a tent in the field opposite with more facilities which should help the situation.
part of the reason for the high retirement rate here is the long haul out of Mardale up one of the steepest climbs in the race which turns to switchbacks near the top to mellow it out a bit. Then its the long and annoying cobbled descent down into Kentmere which I remembered quite well. As ever I was left behind a bit on the descents as I was being over cautious again. Mark would pull away but kindly wait for me at the bottom.
By this time we had hooked up with a couple of Bolton runners who were down for the 50 as a first ultra. They were the usual 'couple of marathons but didn't really enjoy them' kind of guys that sounds very familiar to me. One was telling me how he ran the Edinburgh marathon but was dismayed at some of the antics of some, like the usual jumping the gate to get into a faster time pen, chucking bottles, cups and gel wrappers everywhere and just people running past someone when he had fallen that was obviously injured. We continued to put the world to rights and concluded that wasn't really our thing. I don't think he believed us when we told him there was whisky shots on offer at a checkpoint on the Wuthering hike and beer was available at one of the Housman 100 checkpoints. They seemed fast enough anyway and didn't struggle at all. I think they even ran around with Stuart Mills on the Sunday recce.
It was a bit disappointing not to see the Kentmere institute open, the home of the finest checkpoint in the land. Instead one of the helpers had a drum of water, some juice and an assortment of flapjack and biscuits. We carried on up the Garburn pass towards Ambleside and the finish in Lakes runner shop. One of the Bolton lads kindly got the brews in at Bilbos cafe. A good solid training run with the navigation issues sorted.
|Running the down hills - walking the ups|
Most of what Stuart talked about is all in his blog but I think the most refreshing thing to see was his lack of actual mileage that he trains, somewhere between 30-50 miles a week seems to work for him.
A lot of time was spent talking of positive thinking and even preparing your family for what you will act like in the days leading up to and the actual day itself. A video was shown of him in the final stages of winning last years race and he ran straight past his kids without acknowledging them. His explanation being he was just 'in the zone'.
One amusing slide was when there was just one big list of others blogs. (this wasn't one of them, I did check). He then apologised if any of the bloggers were in the room and went on to explain that all the blogs had negative titles, ambition exceeds ability, run like a girl, the optimistic runner etc. Positivity is his key to success in ultra running. In my limited experience so far I would agree that anything over about 50-60 miles, success is mostly determined by your positivity and by success I don't just mean winning a race or even just finishing but achieving what you set out to do.
To every ones amusement the old 'run as fast as you can while you can' subject came up again and as Stuart talked about it I realised why my one attempt at implementing this theory didn't work.
At the Wuthering hike last year I ran steady all the way and was pleased with my time but this year went off way faster and was some 20 minutes up on my previous time at the first checkpoint. At every point up to about two thirds of the way round I was increasing the time, then it all went wrong, I just slowed down, took my eye off the ball as if I'd already finished. At the finish I was only 1 minute faster than last year but my heart rate was way lower for the whole run, I'd not tried hard enough.
After about 90 minutes of chat Stuart was nowhere near finished but I could see Terry Gilpin looking at the time and getting agitated inching his way towards the front.
Ultrastu certainly loves to talk and is enthusiastic about the subject.
With my mind full of positivity I walked back to the YHA opened the bunk room door, got a lung full of the musty stench, saw the dehumidifier on full blast in the corner shut the door then went and slept in the car.
They stopped serving food at 8pm and didn't serve breakfast until 07:30 both of which I missed. That was a waste of 20 quid.
The second day was a struggle to get up as the Ambleside - Coniston leg was quite short and straight forward but I was here to do it and the back to back long run days were what I needed.
The promised sunny weather never materialised and we all set off from Lakes runner as fast as we could while we could much to Stuart Mills's amusement who said we were all going too fast!
I stayed with Stuart for a while but eased off and let him go after a mile or so. It amazes me how he even got around last year let alone win it as there were a couple of occasions where he wanted to take us the wrong way. Not massive detours but he did confess to Terry at the Chapel Stile checkpoint and jokingly offered to disqualify himself and hand back the winners trophy.
The route remained quite flat until the boggy barely visible track that comes just after the camp site at Chapel Stile. This was quite a challenge in the dark on the L50 and the gps came out to get back on the correct path but this time in the daylight all became clear and the views around Langdale made the recce worthwhile.
On to the final checkpoint at Tilberthwaite quarry and again it was nice to see it in daylight. This is the sting in the tail on the 100 but never seemed that hard a climb on the 50 and today was no different. Walking all the way but feeling fine I remember passing a few 100 runners last year in bad ways at this spot. One just starring into the water, presumably sleep standing. There's a little kink on the map to show a stream crossing which is the only part where you could go wrong then it's all downhill to the finish. Sounds nice but it's that downhill that's just that bit too steep to be 'brain off'. Reaching the quarry track at the bottom it is fine.
Arriving back at Coniston all too soon and Stuart Mills is still there chatting away merrily to everyone who arrives. He's not even running the race this year but using it as training for UTMB.
So. Another thoroughly enjoyable day in the hills. What more could you ask for.