I write this from Kendal on the morning of the longest race I’ve ever done (in one go), the Lakeland 100 or the Ultra Tour of the Lake District (UTLD) is a 105 mile jaunt around the Lake District… and it is pretty much around all of it. Describing the course to anybody leaves me breathless although despite the altitude gain statistic of 22,500ft, it is quite remarkable just how much flat they have managed to keep on the course (this is not a complaint :)).
To date, almost all my long runs have contained a fair bit of climbing since my preferred habitat it I the mountains, but UTLD is different in that it makes use of as much bridleway and disused railway tracks as possible – much of which you can drive a 4×4 up. Thus it’s a bit different from the narrow sheep trods or wild open fell land that I’m used to. If anything I think this gives me a bit of a disadvantage as I’m not that quick so technical open fell suits me, but the L100 does also present a different challenge in that most of these paths see a lot of action over the years so they are “repaired” in a way that minimises erosion – great thing for the path, but very bad for my poor feet! Underfoot will probably be my biggest nemesis.
22,500 ft of climb is not small; it’s roughly Kilimanjaro and Snowdon combined, however, spread out over 100 miles when compared with something like the Bob Graham (~28,500ft over 66 miles) it is pretty flat… but I can’t forget it covers an extra 40 miles – essentially I’ve little doubt that the accumulation will balance everything out. Reading the various forum posts it is clear that many people attempting UTLD this weekend are trail rather than fell runners, so for them this really is an ultimate challenge and something really different… there will be a few curses at the bumps in the way, of that there is no doubt.
I’ve fully recce’d the course which I think is a first. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a blessing or a curse. My final recce was last Thursday were I introduced myself to the part of the course I am now convinced is the toughest. Thursday was baking hot and I was heavily sweating within moments of setting off from Mardale Head at the base of Haweswater, but it was the conditions underfoot that took their toll between here and Ambleside. It consists of “baby’s head” sized rocks coupled with loose stone and a steep path, so running at any real speed is broadly out of the question whether going up or down. The fact that I’ll already have done ~70 miles by this stage means I’m trying not to think about it right now – and that’s the key, don’t think about the next stage until you’re on it, break down the challenge into little stages and enjoy suddenly appearing at a checkpoint. The fact that I’ve recced the route means it’s less of a surprise when I appear at a checkpoint and that will be interesting to deal with psychologically – is it closer or further away than I remembered, etc.
So how am I feeling pre-race and what has my prep been like? Well, I’ve been on a taper for the past 3 weeks… ok, 6 weeks… ok, maybe more. Anyway, I’m not convinced my build up has well timed (started too early) and thus I’ve got a little weary and allowed life to get in the way. One time I will get this right! I’ve also been ill since last Sunday which, whilst better, still continues. Let’s just say I’ll be at my lightest when I get to the start line! I just hope that I don’t spend the whole time looking for cover or worrying whether or not to release that “danger fart”.
I’m confident I’ll finish unless I take a significant injury. Call it complacency but since the DBR I’ve not feared a race – not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but it does allow me to put my energy into the race. The biggest obsticals I foresee are:
- The conditions underfoot – I’d rather be on open fell land as on these rocks my feet will take a battering
- The heat – with our fabulous recent heat wave and naturally high humidity it will be very difficult to cool down and I suspect it’ll be a major factor in the success rate for the event this year. I have prepared though and have invested in some S!Caps which are favoured in the States for electrolyte replacement
- My recent illness – I just hope it doesn’t plague my journey and enjoyment of the event
- The distance – I’d be lying if I said otherwise
On the flip side I do have quite a bit going for me:
- Experience – the DBR, Transvulcania and other events have taught me a great deal about how to manage my race
- Bullet proof psyche – I know that I will finish unless I have a particularly nasty injury
- Pretty good condition – illness aside I’ve been running well and although my extended taper means I haven’t been banging out the miles and that will tell in the latter stages, I am in pretty good shape
I’ve been asked this a lot and the honest truth is I just don’t know. So my Gold would be sub 24, my Silver would be Sub 26 and my bronze Sub 28 – I’ll not lie, anything over 30 hours will have me disappointed at my time, but no doubt very happy that I finished!