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.
Today was the final round of the Chiltern League cross country and my club was in a strong position to do something that they’d never done before – stay up in Division 1 for a second consecutive season. The turnout to make sure this happened was fantastic with more people than ever coming along.
This was my first race of the year and I prepared well by eating my own body weight in bacon, sausage and eggs for lunch. Okay so I wobbled and plodded around the ice and snow covered fields and felt like vomiting every step of the way but at least I was warm. And smelled vaguely of bacon. (Note to self: have a single banana before the next race. Preferably three hours before the start.) It was such a schoolboy error and I should have known better but I hadn’t really got my head around the fact that I was racing but it happened and it didn’t kill me.
Despite my bloatedness, the race went okay from the point of view that I got around and I was reasonably happy with the time. The course was 6.18 miles by my Garmin and it took me a little over 48 minutes (with the first 5 miles being run in 39:10 which I was happy with). The course in Wing was three laps (one short, two long) of some fields. The ground was hard and rutted and I’ll be honest that I didn’t push it hard because I was terrified of putting my ankle over – I could feel it aching a little anyway – especially this close before the big race coming up. But the course was one that MC Escher would have been proud of as I’m sure he was inspired to draw a picture of impossible stairs that only ever go up! Every slope seemed to be a climb. Okay, I know really that there was a steep descent from the start but the rest of the course seemed to climb interminably. Or maybe that was my lunch.
Still, a nice bright sunny day out and a cold, brisk chill in the air livened up the occasion. The ladies and gents from the club did a sterling job and we were safe from relegation by a 1000 points. Now I know what’s in store, I’m looking forward to next year.
The last time I ran cross-country was back in about 1994 at the Leeds University cross-country championships. I remember it well – actually, no, that’s a lie. It’s very much the dim and distant past but I do still have the long-sleeved top that DOSS AC (the Leeds Uni cross country club) had made to commemorate and that yours truly designed. And I ran it. And it was in Meanwood Park in Leeds. Apart from that I recall absolutely nothing – although it’s likely there may have been beer involved.
Anyway, yesterday I put on a club vest for the first time in over ten years and ran for my club at the first round of the Chiltern Cross Country league. The Chilterns – an area of outstanding natural beauty with so many beautiful tracks through stunning woodlands and forestries and marvellous trails along the chalk downs. So obviously the event was held at Luton Airport. Okay, to be fair, it was Wigmore Park but it’s right next to Luton Airport – as in, I think one side of the park actually runs alongside the main runway.
Still, a race is a race is a race. The course itself was three laps around the park, each lap being about 3km long (which, I’ve been reliably informed, means it was 9km in total – or 8.97km according to my trusty and brand shining new Garmin GPS thingymajig). Having met up with my club, got my number and appropriated some pins (why is it that I have three film cases full of pins and NEVER remember to take them to an event like this?), warmed up, been denied some cake and quickly asked someone how to use my new wrist mounted running computer device macguffin, I lined up at the start with the 214 other runners. Then the gun went. Well, actually, it was more of a whistle. Or maybe a beep. Or perhaps someone just said “Off you go then lads”. I’ve got no idea but people started running and I figured that meant the race had started.
And bloody hell did they go off quick!
Quite obviously, I’m not the only person to have written a report and there are plenty out there. I’ve added those I know about to a list below. Feel free to send me links to any more (or request that your link be removed if you prefer).
(Note: all links open in a new window/tab)
Photos & Videos
1 Added 18-Aug-2011
2 Added 23-Aug-2011
The conversation I’ve had most since coming back from Coniston goes something like:
“How did your race go?”
“Okay – but I retired after 75 miles.”
“Oh dear, what happened?”
Sometimes, I just tell them about twisting my knee and injury forcing retirement, giving them an explicit reason that’s mostly true (the knee was still weight bearing and wasn’t swollen so didn’t force retirement). Most importantly, it doesn’t lead to more questions. Other times, I just mumble something indistinct before distracting my interrogator with an offer to make a cup of tea (which is normally effective but was greeted with funny looks when I was in the middle of Waterstones.)
My experience of previous DNFs have always been fairly straightforward; for example, the first time I attempted the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) my team mate and I made a simple navigation error and got extremely lost in some thick fog. We found ourselves 5km away from where we were meant to be and couldn’t make up the deficit, leading us to be timed out. (We were in good company that weekend as famous adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes was in the Elite competition and was disqualified after missing a checkpoint entirely.) The Lakeland 100 was a different matter; I was tired but not exhausted, in pain but not disabled and had a little under 16 hours left to cover 30 miles.
So what was the reason behind my decision to pull out? Continue reading
A week and a half ago or so, I took part in my first attempt at the Lakeland 100 ultramarathon aka the UTLD100 (Ultra Tour of the Lake District). Quite an experience it turned out to be too.
Lakeland 100 is actually a misnomer as the course itself is about 105 miles in total (or 104, depending on who you ask), starting and finishing in Coniston and covers a mind-bogglingly large amount of ground in between. After the relative success of my attempt at the 85 miles of the Ridgeway Challenge last year, I decided to enter this on a whim – and because it was on my list of things to do before I’m 40. And also because I don’t do things by halves and figured that, hey, why shouldn’t my second ever ultra race be what’s probably the hardest ultramarathon in the UK?
You already know how this is going to turn out don’t you?