Dear Sponsors, friends, roman’s, countrymen (and women) and assorted hangers on.
Firstly thank you for your generous support in sponsoring me on this little walk across the park. A national park that is. It takes me a while to get these things down on paper but I though you would appreciate a little update on how things went on the day don't worry this doesn't contain any photos of my feet. You may want to be sitting comfortable get a brew and turn off spell check.
From rough beginnings grow mighty races
So now I have done it I can come clean and tell you that my training went completely to pot. This was thanks to being rather busy at work and so training essentially amounted to just 2 trail half marathons, and critically loosing 2 1/2 stone. Also that I was from Thursday afternoon onwards I was quite unhappy with the whole concept of going up to the lakes on my own after my running buddy dropped out through injury and wandering round and over 50 miles of it.
But you have to give these things ago. So I headed off with a car full of kit and a head full of demons. Having not relaxed at all while sitting in the M62 and M6 Car Parks I arrived at Ambleside to purchase a silly hat, a lovely cap complete with French foreign legion style flaps marks for style nil poi! Marks for practicality next day Dix poi! And new watch as I managed to leave mine at home. Ambleside was it's usual busy tourist self and just to add to the butterflies there is a nice big banner telling people that these crazy ultra runner types will be piling though on Saturday in to Sunday morning. On to Coniston......
I got to Coniston and drove on to the John Ruskin School which plays host to Race HQ. The schools playing field, which is campsite and car park for the weekend was filling up nicely duly directed to my space I pitched the tent in to which I was expecting to crash at around 6 am on Sunday morning and headed off to Register. Registration passed smoothly kit checked, race pack collected, Timing Chip fitted this is an orange wrist band and a plastic "dibber" which has a certain "criminal on day release" chic to it and draws some funny looks from those not in the know. Weight recorded and written on your race number mine a svelte 91.1 kg's. some 17kg less than when I had a bright Idea and signed up for this back in March! Now to kill some time with packing and repacking of kit, late lunch ah the fish finger sandwich... and a wander to the lake until 6pm when I went to see the Big Boys (and Girls) head off on the 100 mile event (and you think I'm mad). There was a rousing live rendition of Nesen Dorma which translates as non shall sleep, which is quite appropriate for an event which will take some people though 2 nights. This was chosen as race anthem after a competitor thought they hallucinated Paul Pots of Britain's Got Talent fame humming said tune at the side of the track on their second night out. Now hallucinations are quite common in ultra running how ever this one later confirmed via twitter wasn't an hallucination it was actually Paul Pots humming Nesen Dorma so there you go fact is indeed stranger than fiction. This made quite a few hairs on the backs of quite a few necks stand up and then it was away with the 100 runners, the elite boys and girls set off at what looked like my 10km pace. Time to beat a retreat for tea and bed.
Going for the proper bed option I was stopping at Elterwater Hostel, lovely place with the equally lovely Britannia Inn just round the corner. So a pleasant evening was passed chatting to some nice people from Dorset who couldn't workout if I was Mad or a Legend.... Mad clearly I would have thought. Saturday morning dawned clear and warm as expected there was a quick sort out of kit and some nerves and butterflies as I checked out to be wished look by the chap from Dorset and the Hostel staff that timing chip certainly gets you noticed. Back to Coniston for the race briefing which was provided my event organiser Marc Laithwaite. This was interesting as 600 runners crammed in to the tiny school hall warnings about the weather, pacing your self, not dropping out at Mardale Head which is miles from anywhere! And remembering that you aren't Kilian Jornet followed along with some banter about remembering the rubbish we all post on facebook suggesting the we maybe the afore mention Swiss, the motivational pictures of firemen rescuing kittens and what awesome hero’s we as ultra runners are there fore when you feel like your dying at Mardale head you need to suck it up and get on with it as that's what you came here for, Gulp!. Marc contribution post race is below.
So now thoroughly briefed it is off to the buses for the journey to Dalemain where there race starts few miles north of Ullswater. The hours journey on a hot stuffy bus passes slowly and we are glad to de bus at the end. But the realisation that, that took a while on the bus and I'm I walking back turns the butterflies up another notch. With around 45 mins to the off it was time to find some shade and try to relax. I was at this point still feeling somewhat dubious and almost a bit emotional about the whole thing, so the time was spent trying to convince myself this was a good idea and fighting the demons in my head. Then people start to move as were called to the funnel for the off. 600 runners dib in to the start area there is some general back slapping among various groups, banter and goodbyes to supporters and then the horn goes and were away under the giant inflatable arch to the applause of the supporters gathered around .This is it, were off with a jog for the first 200 meters for the cameras before the course turns up hill and walk. The plan is to run only the down hill bits
Dalemain to Howtown 11.2 miles- WHAT AM I DOING!
The course starts with a loop round the Dalemain estate which thins the runners out before releasing us on to the course proper at Dockray and I spend an uncomfortable hour completing this loop in the company of my demons and too much pollen and telling myself I have done this all before I can get past Mardale head. by the end of the loop my head is in a bit of a better place then I realise that my shoes are rubbing on my heal. STOP! adjust the taping on my Achilles and carry on. We carry on down to Pooley Bridge where there are some supporters and locals alike clapping us through the village which brings a bit of a lump to the throat I know I'm in on this to. Just on the way out a car pulls up and I'm asked where we're headed?
Driver. Oh Coniston..... Pause.... Coniston that's miles away bloody hell.
Me. Yeah about 46 the way were going, thanks
Driver. yeah sorry good luck man.
Heading out of Pooley we start to hit Lakeland proper, with a steady climb on to the High Street ridge and long rolling decent to check point 1 Howtown Bobbin Mill. Jogging all the way down and in to check point one having started at almost the back I pass a few people as I start to pick up my pace a bit. When I arrive at the Mill its a busy so its a quick re fill of the water bottles one with flat coke and water, an odd combination but this stuff is like rocket fuel, grab a hand full of biscuits and head off with some trepidation for the big leg to Checkpoint 2 Mardale Head. This leg is considered the crux along the most isolated bit of the course and with the dreaded climb up Fusedale! And surely the way some have been talking on Facebook possibly dragons and my be a troll as well. I haven't been paying attention to the time but I did the leg in 2:33 which is quite quick for me.
Howtown to Sparta! 9.4 miles total 20.6 miles - Woohooo! 'av it!
Now I don't know what happened at Howtown or what was in those biscuits but about 500 meters out of the checkpoint I suddenly realise that I'm really enjoying myself, and as I start up Fusedale my negative thoughts disappear not to be seen again. It was very odd and was almost as if someone through a switch and passing the event photograph I am all smiles and happy as Larry. Fusedale has a reputation, runners don't like hills and the guys doing the 100 hit this at about 65miles we're also hitting it at the hottest time of the day for added "fun". So the people I start to pass are a bit suspired when I come bounding past. Being a hill walker primarily I have no fear of up hill and being 17kg lighter than I was 3 months ago walking up them is now just well, easy compared to how it was. But not every one is having fun there are some 100 runners lying down having a rest, I pass one lady on the 50 walking back and another 50 runner on all fours chucking up. Nice. At the top of the climb I there is a big group sat down having a rest, I carry on and up over High cop and end up chatting to 3 lads form Manchester until they go off to look for elvis as I pull up feeling were going wrong. A shout from behind confirms this as I turn to see the cairn I've been looking out for 5 meters behind me. The rest of this leg was slightly odd and it passes in a bit of a haze I was in a really positive frame of mind almost euphoric and I had to remind my self that were still another 30miles to go after this leg. What makes this leg the crux apart from the fusedale climb is the path along Haweswater which is up and down through bracken and quite technical but also very hot and normally sheltered from the wind. Mercifully there was a breeze when I got there and just a hit of cloud covers forming which added to the feeling that this was all fairly easy. After around an hour of lakeside path bashing and head-butting a tree (don't ask it jumped out at me) check point 2 was reached in 2:56. that's 5:29 from the start and 20.6 miles completed. Welcome to Sparta
Mardale Head to Kentmere 6.5 miles total 27.1 miles- OK just cool it, there's a way to go yet
Mardale Head is run by the Delamere Spartans who run an excellent check point and "Welcome to Sparta" is there call on the way in. Time for water bottle filling, some excellent ham sandwiches, more coke and a bit of Foot TLC with some more tape adjustments and some for my chest as well if you know what I'm saying if you don't then Joggers Nip is just a whole world of pain that I wish you remain ignorant of. Stash some peanut butter and Jam sarnies for later and straight out of the check point on to the climb to Gatesgarth Pass. Again I am off like a relative rat up a drain pipe and fly past some very weary looking 100 runners, some struggling 50 runners till at the top I bump in to Andy. Andy is a 100 runner who looks like he’s out for a Sunday stroll and not at all like he's 75 miles in to 100 miler. As we chat and jog down the big decent in to Sleddale it transpires that Andy ran the Coast to Coast earlier this year and that's 190miles and he did it in 3 days! so relatively speaking this is nipping out to the shops, well almost. After the euphoria that gripped me on the way to Mardalle I'm glad to use Andy as a bit of a brake worried I'm burning myself out. With the new lighter me I really have know idea what my limits are, which in a 50 mile race is quite an interesting thing. As we approach the turn off to the kentmere we form up with another 2 of the 100 runners as we climb over the ridge to kentmere the little group stays together were running the down hills at quite a pace which I mention to Andy, "yes my legs are shot" he replies "it hurts less to run them!" We drop to the valley floor and down to Kentmere checkpoint in the village hall. at 27miles. 2:10 from Madale which makes 7:40 which is a Marathon PB for me in to the bargain.
Kentmere to Ambleside 7.3 miles total 34.4 miles - Cracked it!
Montane the event sponsors run this checkpoint and there's lots of encouragement and the legendary smoothies, which I have to be honest look revolting. We go trough the routine, bottles filled, eat, this time Pasta bake very tasty and away. I leave with a running buddy one of the 100 runners I ran in with who says he's not so hot on navigation so can we buddy up for a bit? Yes fine by me social animal that I am. As we leave we have "The Chat" the chat take place at the begging of all these little alliances and goes along the lines of don't worry if you want to head off if I'm to slow. As we begin to climb the final of the big climbs Gartburn pass we catch back up with Andy and I find I cant walk slow enough so the "the chat" takes effect as I power off up the hill passing another hand full of runners when I say runners all are pretty much walkers now at least on the ups. I catch up and chat with chap from the Isle of Wight about his clown shoes (Google Hoka's you'll see what I mean.) as we approach the summit there are a few spots of rain and Mr Isle of Wright decides its time to jog I'm still on strictly only run the downs so I wait and only start to jog the long rolling decent to Troutbeck once at the summit. Here I meet Lizzy (actually its the second time it was Lizzy who called out the navigation error on leg 2) who I will to continue to bump in to for the rest of the race I was a little faster than her over the ground but she was so efficient in check points while I was soaking up the atmosphere we ended up similar paced. I also catch up with Mark from Manchester who I end up running the rest of the race with so a new alliance continues on down to Troutbeck and on over to wards Ambleside we are clapped though by some friendly local at Troutbeck and as we crest the hill out were rewarded with a stunning dusk view down Windermere. we can also see the promised showers a head.
After the race briefing I shelved all timing plans but I did keep one goal and I am about to achieve it, as at now 9pm we will get though Ambleside before last orders. But not dry as the lake needs a little top up and it starts to rain declaring it too hot for waterproofs we run on in to town with the rain proving wonderfully refreshing. Splashing down Ambleside High Street is an incredible experience, the town is buzzing and locals and race supporters giving us a rousing welcome. Its so good as were clapped and cheered the length of the high street the boost is fantastic and we go through at what fells like a 10km pace. Yes of course we've run at this pace all the way..... the buzz is so good that there is a serious discussion about going back for another lap! its taken 2:15 to get here total time 9:55 and with 36miles gone and the biggest climbs done there is a definite feeling of having cracked it.
Ambleside to Chapel Stile 5.6 Miles 40 miles total
The church hall in Ambleside is roasting and almost foggy with wet runners steaming and so its water bottles topped up, coke, 2 nice big mugs of tea and 4 ham sandwiches and were off again. Well almost there is first a quick stop with a Marshal. err wheres your waterproof? To hot for it I explain but as soon as I'm on loughrigg I know I'll need it then officer. They eye me up to make sure I am not about to go and give myself hypothermia and duly convinced I am in possession of my marbles, sorry enough in possession of my marbles, I am doing a 50 mile race after all, they let me go in to the rainy night almost, Mark forgets his poles and I shelter under the brolly of some supporters, Mark returns poles in hand then onward night head torch now on. Up and over the shoulder of Loughrigg over taking several groups and bump in to Lizzy who has overtaken us whilst we were our stuffing faces at Ambleside and this little group heads on down to Skelth Bridge where we are again clapped by a group of supporters who are now treated to a little jog as we pass. along the Cumbria way to Elterwater fast walking and jogging the this flat section there is a small group ahead as we approach the village.
Mark - "Supporters ahead Run?"
We run to wards them there's no clapping
Me "No clapping walk"
We almost past last nights digs and on to Chapel Stile. We reach the another pub Wainwrights inn and before closing time and are given another rousing welcome and discuss nipping in for a swift half sadly this is against the rules! More clapping thorough Chapel Stile campsite, with the smell of BBQs mmmm. BBQ and to the checkpoint lit with fairy lights and a fire pit. 1:45 takes us to 11:40 with 42 miles down.
Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite 6.5miles 46.5 miles total. How you feeling? Awesome actually.
Chapel Stile is a lovely checkpoint which even has some sofas which I manage not to succumb to, but also contains a stark reminder with 2 runners wrapped in tin foil and crashed out in the tent being attended to by the medics. The wonderfully helpful team fill our water bottles and ply us with tea, soup and cake and custard. It stops raining to, so a quick change out of the wet base layer in to a spare dry one which is nice and we head of up the Langdale valley under a clearing sky. We reach the climb up Side Pike Pass and enter open county for the first time at night and see head torches strung out along the routes up the climb, we start to pick people off on the way up passing a big group at the top as we head round Blea tarn down a technical section of running and round the bog of blea moss without falling in. Its here we meet Lizzy again and head on towards Wrynosse pass for the self dib and head on. I am sure that she must think that myself and Mark are either incompetent or some odd ultra running stalkers as we seem to catch here but never pass her wired but there you go. I am not a stalker but I cant explain this one either. The sky is now clear and there is an amazing display of stars but no time to stand and stare as long a sheep or cow. I now start to realise that this is going faster than I ever expected a lot faster. So its down towards Tilbertwaite the little bump over to Tilberthwaite which is much rockier than I remember and is carefully negotiated 45 miles done in 13:55 Suddenly the end is close there is just the last climb over to Coniston. How are we? Is our greeting form a cheery marshal "I feel awesome I'm 3 hours early" is my response and tell them "I can't believe how well things are going".
Tilberthwaite to Coniston 3.5 miles 50miles total. I'm about 3 hours early
At the Checkpoint its Tea and Jelly babies to refuel. Lizzy, again the model of efficiency is in and gone Mark and I take a little longer and then the realisation hits me that we could do sub 15 hours! BLOODY HELL! I also realise I need a proper ultra runners watch for the next one of these. WOOOWW did he say next one? Anyhow. Were off as fast as possible up the steps of death this is a little sling in the tail with a big reputation but its nicely lit by tea lights and again its taken in the style of a rat up a drain pipe despite 46 miles I am still not feeling up hills which is frankly weird or mostly adrenaline. But on we plough up the final climb, once up on to the flat its now almost a constant jog I am jogging at 47 miles WTF! But its happening, in to the bowl, past the tree, on to the ramp, up the stream past the tarn and Bam! Suddenly, Morcambe bay and Lancaster are lit up in the distance and Coniston below, as we crest the final rise to the decent it is a stunning scene. I haven't been this high in the lakes at night before, but there is no time to stand and stare. This decent is a sod. Rocky, technical, loose and just rubbish! We want to sprint, we crawl. Down we go carefully, toward the cottages and track to home, at the bottom we hit a T junction, err which way? Torches to the left, torches to the right. Bugger after 49 miles with the rest done on memory form my recce in March I reluctantly have to resort to the road book. Its right, no left. Torch to the right went wrong. From here we run the rest down to Coniston past miners bridge, on to tarmac, the Black bull, up over the bridge in the middle of the road, past the BP Station in to Lake Rd, (My heart is racing and my palms are sweating reliving this. Even editing this let alone typing it first time) down the last 100 meters to the school under the arch and Dib, Done! Did I want this to end? Chip off, hand shake with Mark and mutual congratulations, were lead in to the school our Marshall declares "two 50 finishers!" and the place erupts in to applause as if we'd achieve podium places. I am grinning form ear to ear and enjoy applause, were lead on handed our times, finishers medal and t shirts. 15:09:29 is my official finish time at 2:45 am that's 3 hours earlier than I ever dreamed possible and 5 hours off my 50 mile PB. This is surreal quite some walk across the park! Lizzy finishes some 10 seconds behind us her light to was to the right of us.
Food follows, Pasta Bake and Ice cream and my first sit down in 15 hours. We enthusiastically clap in other finishers as we eat and eye the 100 finishers. Richard Lendon is there in a 100 T-Shirt. Richard is an inspiration to me and I know he doesn't have a happy history with this race so I'm chuffed on his behalf. Ultra running is an odd sport where people like me get to toe the line with the elite. this years 50 was the British Athletics Ultra Trail Running Championships. That is pretty much like me joining Mo Farah for the 10,000m at Crystal Palace. It also technically means that finishing in 298th I am one of the top 300 trail runners in the UK*.
*OK we know that’s not true... if only,
Then its time for a Shower and bed. I hobble to tent back to the shower and back to the tent as the sky to the east start to lighten. I now pay the price for all that coke, as combined with all the adrenaline still coursing trough me sleep doesn't come but who cares. I have done the Lakeland 50 in a time I never dreamed possible! I lye in the tent until at 7am, I give up on sleep and join the queue for a bacon cob and a tea. I see a face I think I know, I thought it was Andy who I ran to Kentmere (Andy Jackson 63rd place in 33:37:50 top effort) with but its actually John Vernon who I finished the First Ring of Shap with some 6 weeks earlier. He explains he hasn't run in the event but is here supporting friends and he asks how I did and what’s next? I explain my 15hour finish time which I had no right to achieve and I reel off a few races that have suddenly become possible which quite surprises me if not him. I have since entered 2 of them. How did that happen? As I return to the tent and get my chair out the car a bespectacled chap asks how I am feeling and reply that I am good and cant believe that I finished so well. Its only after he's left that the brain clicks and I realise its Mark. Opps fortunately I see him later to apologise!
Nothing left to do now but pack up the tent and head off, I slide away to Ambleside for coffee and cake and to phone home. Dad is immensely proud when I call, bless him he stay up till 3am with the text alerts to find out when I finished. I hobble round Ambleside for half an hour and top up the bacon sandwich with Coffee and carrot cake. I phone Gary who had to drop out due to injury on there Thursday who is at Pooley Bridge. I then head up to join him and 32nd Nottingham BB who are camped there. Its retracing a journey I took 24 hours earlier. This time there are no butterflies and I am not emotional but I'm wearing a red T shirt, there is an slight sense of realisation and there is a Medal wedged in a slot on the dash board...
I did it, I did it quickly, I don't quite believe it still and It also took 5 days before I could walk down hill normally. I have the 1st September 2014 in the diary and I also seam to have entered 2 more ultras which covers the would I do it again question.
That Night as I am introduced to the camp as a visitor, I am introduced as an Ultra Runner who has done the equivalent of Gold DofE in the day. The camps theme is Super hero's. I am asked 3 questions. Firstly, What is my strength surely after today its my determination to complete the goals that I set myself. Secondly my weakness, Setting appropriate goals for my self? Thirdly my super power? I say feet of Steel, did I mean quads of Steel or maybe I should have said flight.
My Name is Richard (Ricky) Martin and Just maybe I am an ultra runner?