The finish! :)
38 hours and 8 minutes! At the third time of asking I've managed to get round the 105 miles of the Lakeland 100. It wasn't pretty and very slow but it was all about finishing. Very hot and humid conditions gave way to torrential rain and thunderstorms on Saturday evening neither of which were condusive to moving fast in the hills so I'm very happy to have made the finish with a couple of hours to spare. The stats tell a tell with 124 finishers from 274 starters. The full results can be found here.
I started slowly in the heat anticipating I could pick up some time in the cool of the nightime. The usual stomach problems slowed my pace from Black Sail onwards but I was picking up places on the climbs and descents and holding my own on the flat. I arrived at Dockwray, my 2011 end point, feeling stronger than I'd ever felt at this stage of the race but the wheels did come off slightly on the long leg to Dalemain after i miscalculated on the water and ran out. My aim had always been to arrive at Dalemain before the Lakeland 50 race started which I managed with a couple of minutes to spare arriving at 59 miles in 17:28. It also meant the magical experience of being clapped into the checkpoint by 750 runners!
The lowest point of my race came around the 65 mile mark. Despite stuffing my face at Dalemain I hit the wall again and ran out of water dropping into Howtown. I took 20 minutes to sort myself out but was still moving slowly on the leg over to Mardale losing 50 minutes on my 35 hour schedule. Apologies to the Howtown check point volunteer who walked in as I was fixing some chafeage issues!
Crouched in a clump of bracken off the trail for a quick break I heard a 50 mile competitor quip "Look - he's evaporated" on spying my bag dumped by the side of the path. I wasn't far off in the heat of the day and was looking forward to the rain promised by the black clouds which were ominously building. The first crash of thunder and driving rain came 30 seconds before the Mardale checkpoint at just over 24 hours gone. From here it was head down in full waterproofs and keep moving. the checkpoint was incredibly busy with everyone trying to get under cover so I grabbed a couple of sandwiches and set off quickly feeling strong in the cooler condition.
My stomach problems had now resolved themselves and I set a comfortable pace through the darkness. The rain was bouncing knee high and there was a river coming down Garburn Pass. Ambleside was a welcome sight although the crowds from earlier in the day had headed home. Accepting that my target of 35 hours had slipped away in the conditions I opted to spend a bit longer in the checkpoint to ensure I was in good shape to get to the end. However on the climb out of Ambleside the sleepmonsters arrived for the first time. There had been plnety of frogs and toads on the path enjoying the rain but now they were everywhere and all different sizes!
The Langdale checkpoint loomed out of the rain like a mirage. Sofas, open fires and a pounding soundtrack.
The marshalls were all only wearing shorts and t-shirts so it must still have been pretty warm but there were a lot of cold competitors huddled under space blankets. I started to get cold quickly so opted to head back out in to the weather wearing everything I had. A calculated risk as I didn't think I had much in reserve to deal with any problems but the fear of an embarrisng rescue by my old Mountain rescue team should push me that little bit further or at least out of the valley!
Dawn arrived suddenly at Blea Tarn but the rain didn't let up and many of the trails were still ankle deep in flowing water. Foolishly I'd never recceed the final leg from Tilberthwaite to Coniston despite hearing plenty of horror stories about the nav and the stone staircase. I drank my thirteenth and final cup of coffee and quickly set off. My constant companians from Ambleside were a team of young ladies running the fifty as a team of three. I'm afraid I wasn't very sociable by this stage but I'm sure I gave them something to laugh about as I fell asleep on my feet with my head resting on my cheat sticks. Helena had stopped to deal with an unconcious competitor with a head injury just before Mardale but had caught up with her team mates Ann and Judith and was marshalling them (and me) towards the finish.
The final descent was long and painful as my body suddenly tightend up and seemed very fragile. I lost one place just before the end, beaten in a 'sprint' finish after 104 miles! Good effort Gary.
I managed a trot to the line where a few brave souls waited in the rain. However the reception on entering the John Ruskin School was pretty amazing with a couple of hundred folk cheering people home. I was cut free from my shackle (Sportident band) and received my medal and t-shirt. I lasted about 40 minutes before I fell asleep in my chair but enough time for a very welcome bacon sarnie! A couple of hours sleep in the van and back up for the final presentation and story telling which marked the culmination of a great event.