Blood. Sweat. Tears.
As I sit here typing this I have my Lakeland 100 UTLD Finisher 2012 medal nearby and I look at it and I think “Yes, you literally are the result of my blood, sweat and tears.” No, not literally as in it’s made from my viscera and bodily fluids because that would be weird and gross. And improbable. But, oh my, tears have been shed, blood has been spilt and so much sweat has been, err, sweated. There was also copious amounts of mud, rain, sun, jelly babies and, importantly, smiles.
Now I come to try and write about my experience and how the event panned out and I’m stuck. I’ve given away the ending already so there’s no suspense wondering whether I made it and no drama in wondering if I’d make it before the cut-off. I suppose it’s a little like the film “Titanic” in that you know what’s going to happen at the end – except in this case there are less icebergs, no bands playing and I didn’t get to paint a picture of a naked posh bird. Yeah, actually it was nothing like Titanic at all.
So all that’s left is for me to tell you how it all played out. Unfortunately I can’t promise it won’t be a little bit mundane.
This year, rather than a B&B, I stayed with some friends in Preston and had a relaxed night catching up with them. On Friday morning, just like last year but also as I expected, I woke up early, but with a mere trickle of adrenaline rather than the usual heart-stopping surge. A few hours later and I was at the John Ruskin school in Coniston, tent erected (big blue tent, small Welsh flag) and on my way to registration and kit check. I was delighted to see that I was about 6kg lighter than last year
A major difference from last year was that it seemed much more social. Having joined the Facebook group and interacted a lot more on Twitter, I felt like I at least knew who a lot of the people were even if I didn’t actually know them. I met up with Mick Wren again and my club mate Brian, an experienced 100 miler who was having a crack at the UTLD100 for the first time (having only completed his last 100 the weekend before). I chatted my camping neighbour, Dave, who gave me the inside knowledge on the women’s 50 mile race and introduced me to Stephen, someone I was aware of from the Runner’s World forum (and who told me he’d read this blog on more than one occasion which was nice to know).
Big dilemma though – what’s the correct etiquette for introducing yourself to people who you don’t actually know except incidentally through social media? It’s definitely an odd one. Example: I saw last year’s ladies winner, Gaynor Prior, whose blog I read and who has commented here, talking to Paul Tierney, who I’d chatted to on Twitter a bit (and who’s such a decent guy that he’d kindly offered to lend me a spare headtorch when I’d tweeted that mine had stopped working last Tuesday). I decided to bite the bullet and introduce myself. Turns out I’m a creepy stalker guy: “Hi Gaynor, I’m Tom. Read your blog a lot, love your work, big fan of your running.”
Dear god I wish someone had put me out of my misery right there and then. Oh well.
After sorting out my kit and drop-bag and dithering over what to actually pack or leave behind (didn’t take camera or jelly babies, did take spare top and socks), I realised it was well past 2pm and the chances of getting my head down for an hour or two had all but evaporated – but it didn’t phase me. 4pm rolled around time for the event briefing. No Joss Naylor this year and also no lecture about over-hydration and hyponatremia, just an instruction not to smile at the cameras when we saw them.
I did get a bit distracted half way through by trying to glance at peoples weight bands. I noticed a lot were 10 to 15kg lighter than me and one chap was a massive 25kg lighter. That’s 55lbs. 55 bags of sugar. I wondered if I should suggest some Harrison Bergeron type arrangement where runners had to carry the weight to bring them up to the same level. Either that or divide the race into weight categories. After the briefing, I bumped into Terry Conway and wished him the best of luck (I am, like most people, truly in awe of his running ability) and saw Stuart Mills and told him how much his blog has inpsired and encouraged me (it really has). The general feeling I got was that everyone thought the top end of the race would be very exciting this year.
What was this post about again? Oh yeah, the small matter of running 105 miles.
“How Fast You Move Determines How Long You Live”
The atmosphere at the start was as great as I remembered with the difference being that I still felt no apprehension or nerves, just eager to be getting on with the task in hand. Other than that, it was uneventful and we set off through the streets of Coniston before heading up to Walna Scar Road. I felt in good shape, far better than last year, and got chatting to a lady, Catherine, on the climb up. I asked her if she’d done the L100 before (a question which would end up being the main question I asked or was asked by just about every runner along the way). She told me she hadn’t and that her longest race prior to this was 87 miles. I was right in suspecting she meant the Ridgeway Challenge and found out that not only had she run it in the same year I had (2010) but she also lives in the town where I work and runs for a local athletics club. Typical – I come all this way north and meet people who live near me.
We reached the top of Walna Scar Road and started the rocky descent to the checkpoint. Catherine took off very quickly and I wouldn’t see her again – but she finished remarkably well and was the 2nd lady home so congratulations Catherine. I remembered how much the descent killed my quads last year so relaxed into it, knowing there was nothing I could do apart from make sure I didn’t put my ankle over. I ended up reaching Seathwaite in 1:25, 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
About that schedule: I didn’t mention it in my targets because I wasn’t really working to a schedule. I’d worked out what sort of times I would need to be aiming for if I wanted a 30 hour (yes, 30 hours!) finish time but had not committed them to memory. They were a useful guideline but I didn’t want to stress about them. I knew anything might happen that would affect the timings and some would be out of my control.
Grassguards was even boggier than I recalled and the chances of escaping without wet feet were even more remote so I didn’t worry about it. I soon caught up with Sally, a runner who also DNF’d last year and who I’d met coming down Fusedale back to Howtown to retire. (I was pleased to find that Sally finished well, not long after I did – no DNFs for either of us.)
The rest of the leg and the descent into Boot went quickly and I arrive at the checkpoint chatting amiably with a chap called Charles. (Unfortunately he ended up dropping at Dalemain later on.) 3 hours elapsed, still on schedule. No hanging around so I pushed on up the hill towards Burnmoor Tarn.
Not far from the checkpoint I realised I felt a little bit dizzy and perhaps a little bit bloated. It was an odd sensation and I couldn’t quite work out what was going on. I noticed my hands had swollen, felt a little twinge of a headache and alarm bells started ringing – had I been drinking too much? I didn’t think so as I’d only filled one bottle at the start and the first two checkpoints. So what was going on? I decided to just walk as well as I could while holding my pack straps to keep my hands raised for a bit and would avoid drinking unless I absolutely felt the need to. I quickly disengaged the alarms and pushed on.
After 15 minutes or so I did manage to bring myself to jog around the lake and felt a little bit of sloshing in my gut – yep, definitely drank too much at the last checkpoint. Silly, but not an issue at this stage. I felt well enough to run down the track towards the valley, taking note of the beautiful sunset and waxing moon over Wastwater. I definitely felt stronger than last year at this point and knew that I’d get to the Wasdale Head checkpoint in daylight.
Now it was time to put my nutrition strategy into effect. Rather than rely solely on carbs, I had decided that this year I would take some powerded recovery drinks with me (High-5 Protein Recovery) based on the theory that ingestion of protein during the event would offset eccentric muscle damage. I’d been putting this plan together this during my weeks of preperation, doing the research and coming up with strategies. Of course, as it’s never wise to try something new during a race, I’d made sure that I’d found the drink I liked and got used to it during training, hadn’t I?
Bollocks had I! I’d only bought the stuff the week before. I was basically going on a wing and a prayer and god help me if I didn’t like the stuff. Bit of a calculated risk as there’s not much that disagrees with me apart from tuna and luckily there don’t seem to be many tuna-flavoured drinks on the market.
I grabbed a bag of jelly babies and left the CP while it was still light. Soon I was away and trekking over to the Black Sail ascent hoping that maybe someone had seen sense and installed a cable car or something in the intervening year. Unfortunately not so it looked like I’d have to do the climb myself.