Thursday 21 August 2014

Montane Lakeland 100: The return

"The Consani Double".  We heard that a few times in the weeks leading up the Montane Lakeland 100.  The pressure was on.  But pressure is a privilege, right?   well, that's what I told myself.  At least the double was more conceivable than the "will you run together?" question. Pah!  He was up that hill like a rat up a pipe.

It wasn't a race that was going to be possible for either of us, but when the World 24 in June was cancelled, I was glad to have the opportunity to go back and give it another bash.  Call it a silver lining.  Last year I had a good race, but still felt I had more to give.  And I managed to convince Sonic to give it a go.  Even though he wanted to do the West Highland Way - again!

Picture pinched from Nick Ham
I wasn't nervous about the race.  I was scared last year, but knowing I survived, ran well and didn't get lost, meant I was quite comfortable about the prospect.  Of course, I'd forgotten all the nasty bits too, which always help.   But the weather wasn't in keeping of the English fells.  And it certainly wasn't in my favour.   It was hot.  And it was going to be 105 miles of hot.

Standing at the pre-race briefing,
there were beads of sweat rolling down the inside of my T-shirt.  That didn't bode well.  Mike said the temperature in his car had registered 33 degrees.  I think it may have dropped to slightly more manageable (emphasis on the slightly) 27 when we lined up for the 6pm start.  

For me, the first few hours of the race were pretty nasty.  Actually for this report, I'm going to break the race up into four parts:  The nasty; the freaking loved it bit; dragging a dead weight; and just happy to be there.

The nasty:  That was pretty much everything from Coniston until Wasdale - the first 20 miles to checkpoint 3.  No amount of hot yoga classes and midday training was going to prepare me for that.  I was burst.  I really wanted to pull out.  I mean really, really.  I must have looked like such a crabbit bitch, but I felt like the life had been sucked out of me.

For Steve Peter's fans out there, my human and chimp were have a full on scrap.  And my computer had pretty much fecked off and gone home.

I'd made an early decision to pack away my dream race splits and not even bother with them.  I knew if I was off, it would have a negative effect.  From memory though, I knew I was pretty similar to my 2013 race times.  Which was just fine with me.

The freaking loved it bit:  From pretty much an hour after it got dark, I got into my rhythm and sorted out my head.  I knew things would seem brighter (ironically) when the sun went down.  It was a beautiful, clear, fresh night.  It was so quiet and peaceful, running under a blanket of stars.  You couldn't not love it.   I used this time to put my head down and pick off some miles.  

Usually I will the first signs of day light, but I wanted the night to last forever.  The first signs off dawn brought a fiery red skyline, which meant another hot morning was to follow.

I moved into first position, overtaking Beth Pascall, shortly before Dockray.  I ran with Beth briefly during one of the organised recce runs (eh, recce races!) back in March.  I knew then she had fire in her belly and certainly didn't lack killer instinct.  There was no way she was going to give it away willingly.

On the 10 mile section from Dockray to Dalemain, I just focussed on getting to the checkpoint for the race's one and only drop bag.  I was like a homing pigeon and all I want my own stuff.  I'm not sure why.  60 miles down and I still hadn't consumed anything other that Torq gels.  I know I'm not the best at eating during races.  Actually I think I could be the worst, but the heat took away even what little appetite I have at the beginning of races.  

My stomach was gurgling, but even trying to eat something as simple as bread and butter was a struggle.  I eventually fed that to the birds.  Like last year, I spent far too long here - approximately 20 minutes.  I had to change my bra, as the clip had been slowly grating on my back since the race started.  I was trying to be subtle about the change, but I guess it was an epic fail.  I also changed my shoes.  Then thought they were a bit neat, so changed them back again.  

I packed up some supplies, removing all the edibles and replacing with 10 gels, drank some coffee and went on my way.  Of course forgetting my sunglasses and the Kolaband I'd bought specifically for this race.

Dragging a dead weight:  The coffee was not a great idea, as it threatened to return for most of the journey to Howtown.  I was really overheating and using every stream to soak myself and a buff, which I placed attractively ears.   The water dripping from the buff gave slight relief, but also attracted some funny glances from walkers.  I think the retching and stumbling also added to the look. In hindsight I probably looked like some kind of rabid animal.

Leaving Howtown I was actually looking forward to "the big climb" over to Mardale Head.  The ascent was good and enjoyed the descent down to the water.  Last year I hit a massive low along the waterside, which I put down to dehydration.  Readers may remember this is where I head butted a tree.  This time I managed to avoid any collisions (bonus!), but still experienced the same effects.  Heading into the checkpoint, I could barely muster a jog on the flat.  Of course it was just perfect to see Ian Corless pointing his MASSIVE camera at me.  Just what you want pictures of ;-)

The hard slog:  Not quite high-kicking
I zig-zagged my way in the checkpoint and downed four cups of coke.  I grab half a sandwich - the first bit of solid food I managed to chew since starting the race 75 miles ago - to eat on the climb.

I knew I would come out of the other side when I got to the top.  And I did.  Life was returning and I enjoyed the journey to Kentmere. I saved my iPod for this bit, so my fave gals Taylor Swift and Amy Macdonald (don't judge me!)  had a little party in my head.

It was lovely to see the Montane crew at the Kentmere checkpoint - for the brief moment I was there.  Fellow Montane athlete Jenn Gaskell informed me that Sonic was well in the lead, by over an hour at that point.  I was in and out as swiftly as I could, as it looked far too comfy in there to hang about.  Funnily enough, on paper it looks like I was passed lots of runners, but I was only picking my way through the field because everyone was using the checkpoints like a coffee morning.

It was mid-morning by now and really heating up.  I was joined on the climb by Alan, Chris and Simon.  We chatted for a bit, but I think I left my social skills in Coniston.  Sorry, guys.  Usually my chat it brilliant as well ;-)

I was looking at my Garmin for the time.  Well, it was the Crazy German's Garmin, as I was using his for the second half of the race.   More so to the record the race for future reference than for real time guidance.  I still hadn't looked at my race splits, but given how I felt for the majority of the race I was confused as to why I had so much time to play with. How could I possibly be ahead of last year's time?  Last year I felt good and this year was a bit of a car crash.  I was convinced the Crazy German's watch was on German time and was a hour ahead.  Hey, I was 88 miles down and my brain was completely frazzled.

I got my iPod out the check the time on that.  It was right.  I was on for a PB.  I couldn't quite believe it, but it gave me something positive to focus on and put a little spring in my step.

I arrived at Trout Beck to see the lovely Adrian Stott enjoying an ice cream on a bench.  He was in the Lakes looking for fresh meat for the GB trail team.  He made me laugh with stories of William Sichel's (the currect) running adventure,which involves running in circles in temperatures of 30+ and covering at least 100k for about a million days.  I think he was trying to help.

Running through Ambleside was great, as you're pretty much forced to pull yourself together.  The rabid animal act certainly was appropriate for the family-friendly trekkers town.

I tried to get in and out the checkpoint as quickly as possible but 1) the stairs up to the parish hall were a challenge and 2) the opportunity to use an actual real toilet and wash my hands was too good to pass up on. The lovely Lindley took my hat and buff and dunked it in a barrell of cold water, soaked me and then sent me packing.

Just happy to be there.  16 miles to go...and things were looking up.  Not just because I was nearing the end, but mentally I'd finally found my good place.  The cloud cover helped me physically, as an overdue relief from the sun was almost invigorating.

As with most of the race, I didn't try over think things or focus on the bigger picture.  I wasn't thinking about a PB, being first lady or my position overall.  I just focused on forward motion and ticking off my little mini sections in my head.  I knew Beth was close, as I was getting information from checkpoints, but unless I could see her then I wasn't overly concerned about it.  It was fruitless looking back anyway.

Like last year, I was having major problems with chaffing on my back.  The sting was unbelievable. I had cut off the clip of my Tshirt bra at Dalemain, but the damage had already been done.

I kept waiting for someone from the Lakeland 50 to pass me.  This year the race was the British Trail Championship and I expected to be passed by someone running at the rate of knots like Ben Aberdour did last year.  I suppose bring 30 minutes up on last year's time made the difference.

But there was still no sign of anyone when I arrived at final checkpoint in Tiberthwaite.  Adrian was there again and being his usual chatty self.  I'm not sure whether I was spaced out or just really content, but Adrian had to practically push me out of the checkpoint.  With a small bag of tangerines handed to me by the lovely lady manning goodies.  I may have been a bit over zealous with my appreciation, but those little orange segments were the best thing I've every tasted.

So, there it was.  Just 3.5 miles to go.  One big feck off hill to climb between me and Coniston, but that was fine.  I felt like the job was done and this was my time to enjoy it.  Andy Cole taught me not to get angry or impatient in the last section, but to use the time to reflect on your achievement.  As much as I wanted to tap into my inner hippy, all I could think about was the stinging on my back.  I could walk fine, but any juddering movement was not exactly ticklish.

I could barely run down the hill, because of my back.  So just gritted my teeth, held my breath and took short sprints.  But I was happy and content and even sat on a rock and cheered on Kim Collinson (Lakeland 50 winner) as he  flew down the hill.

As per last year, the welcome in Coniston was amazing.  Except this year I wasn't the bridesmaid.  I did it. It wasn't my dream race, but it meant everything to me.  And even better that we didn't disappoint with the "Consani Double".    Thankfully, or it could have been an awkward journey home.

And I got that PB.  Bettering last year's time by 34 minutes to finish in 25:28.   Full results here.
See me.  See ladylike.

Thanks to all the wonderful dream makers: Marc, Terry, Clare and all the great marshalls. Thanks to Ian Corless and the Crazy German for the amazing pictures.  Thanks to my lovely friend Karen for making the trip to come and see me finish and my Centurion Running team mates for their support over the weekend.

Sonic ran a blinder and finished in 21:14, with Charlie Sharpe in second in 22:47 and Lee Knight 3rd in 23:21.  I'd also like to say a huge congratulations to Beth who gave me a good run for my money and was hot on my heels in 25:44.  She's definitely one to watch.  It was lovely to see Nicky Taylor - who I shared a few miles with - take 3rd in 29:37.

The prize giving was amazing.  And not just because of the obvious.  I loved all the "special" awards for people's daftness on the course.  I can empathise with that.  The celebration of the newly engaged couple was magical.

Marc ended our presentation of awards with: "Can you imagine entering the race as a mixed team and then seeing the Consanis on the entry list"  Don't worry, folks.  That will never happen. One would finish and the other would be in a ravine.