I always fancied doing something slightly longer in the lakes as the usual 15k-18k races that I normally do are fun but leave you wanting a bit more. So I was running along the canal when I spotted a runner with a 55k top and I thought I could give it a try.
So I looked it up and saw that Lakeland trails did a nice looking 55k course starting in Ambleside in July. So I took advantage of the early bird discount.
Next I needed a plan so I worked out a 24 week plan that went up to 65 miles a week. It also recommended running very slowly and doing a slow marathon as preparation.
Then I needed to buy a running backpack to carry all the mandatory gear : head torch, first aid kit, full rain gear, hat and gloves, emergency rations, whistle.
Training went pretty well. Even managed a couple of hilly marathons without too much discomfort. The marathons (Three Forts and Richmond Park) were on fairly warm days so I was slightly worried about doing an ultra in July.
Booked a house in Coniston as would have a few in-laws in tow.
Back to the race weekend:
Drove to Coniston and then went off to register in Ambleside. This takes quite a while as they examine your mandatory kit to ensure it meets requirements.
Race morning was quite relaxing as it is a 10:30 start.
Race starts and grinds to a halt after about 400m as a white van is blocking the road and we can only get through in single file. In fact the first climb is like that as the trail is quite narrow and hard to pass. I forgot to mention that the rain has already started and I woud say it is ok enough not to require my rain gear yet. After 5.5k I reach the top of Kirkstone Pass which is the 2nd highest climb of the day. I stock up on jelly babies and ginger nuts while they record my number.
Next leg is straight down to Brotherswater and then flattish to Glenridding (11.3k). By this time the heavens have opened. The descent is quite tricky and I have my first fall but nothing serious. After that it is an easy trail to Glenridding. Into the checkpoint, restock and on my way.
Then comes the climb to Grisedale Hause which a 12.5k leg. This is fairly uneventful even though it is the biggest climb. Reach Grasmere which is just over halfway and have a cup of tea, cake, crisps, etc. I relaxed a bit as I felt the hard work was over as the next leg is fairly small and the hill looked less daunting.
The rain was pelting down and the wind was picking up. Started the climb over Silver Howe. This was quite rocky and my trails shoes were not coping with the wet rocks. It began to hail and temperature really plummeted. Managed to get to the top but the descent was hard. Lots of stone steps. Fell a couple of times but I thought I was through the worst of it when I saw the road ahead and knew it would be flat to the next checkpoint. Before I reached the road I slipped and fell a bit awkwardly and twisted my knee a bit. Got up with the help of some runners around me and then tried to continue the descent but the knee gave way and I slipped again. Reached the road and thought if I can get to the next checkpoint then I can assess whether to continue. So I walked 2k to the checkpoint at Little Langdale.
So 37k of the 58k completed and still 7 hours to go before the cutoff, I stopped. I probably could have hobbled 21k to the finish on the flat but still a couple of the smaller hills to go and a descent back to Ambleside. Apart from parkrun I have never quit before so it felt a bit strange. Anyway phoned the wife who did the pickup.
It was a beautiful course despite the weather and hasn’t put me off doing another ultra. The runners are really friendly and the feed stations ace.