Two years ago I got a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the Lakeland 100. This was the summer after I’d ran in the Himalayas and really the first year where I’d taken winter training seriously, I could go into the a reasons (or excuses as to why I didn’t finish and why it wasn’t my fault) but at the end of the day, I ended way out at the back and on my own, and I took a wrong turn, when there simply wasn’t time for errors. I wasn’t good enough! (I did go on to unofficially complete the Lakeland 50 the next day, but that’s a whole different story).
I’d like to be saying that this year I’d set out to set the record straight and complete my nemesis, but that simply wouldn’t be true. Coming into the final stage of the Lakeland 50 last year I swore that I was going to take a break and not but myself through it again this year.
I have to be honest the idea of running the Lakeland 100 was a little daunting, thinking back to 2012, I remembered sitting in the school hall at the finish with a bowl of Chilli in front of me and just not having the energy to lift the folk to my mouth, the idea of turning around at that point and running back to the start seemed incomprehensible. It wasn’t just the mileage, it was the hills and the time on your feet. I really did not want to DNF at the Lakeland again, but the nagging doubt remained, could I really do 100 miles? I started thinking there must be an easier 100 miler and that’s when I found the Cotswold 100. Maybe not everyone’s idea of the ideal 100 miler, ran entirely on the roads, and a just a little close to the Lakeland (only 4 weeks before) but with just 2639m of ascent it would be a great test to see if I had what it took to do a hundred.
I now found myself with not one but two hundred milers to do and only a month between them.
Having had the regular colds and coughs over the winter, I sat down in front of the computer in January, with my training plans from the 50 the year before and the 100 the year before that and started making a training plan for 2013.
I was going to starting at a position of zero miles a week and build up gradually over the thirty weeks to the Lakeland. Idea was to use 3 simple principles I’d discovered from Ultra plans found online; build up the miles each week, take a rest week every fourth week, then drop a back a couple of miles before building up again. (Here’s how the plan looked: Lakeland 100 Training plan 2013)
This strategy was based entirely on weekly mileages, I’d fill in the daily mileages week by week, based on work schedules trying to include as many runs to and from work as possible (11.5 miles each way). This should leave as many weekends free as possible for family/social life. (I have a 5 year old Nephew and Niece and like to spend as much time with them as possible at the weekends).
As the weeks, turned to months the training seemed to be going well, I was getting up to fifty and sixty miles a week. Of course there was the occasional blip when I had a busy week at work or a family event to go to, and just couldn’t get the miles in, but on the whole I was around about on target. I just wasn’t getting any hills in. The run to work is along a river bank. With about 12 weeks to go I started to include a few more hilly runs from the office before work in the mornings. Still largely on the roads I found a little loop that would take me around the angel of the North and clock up about a thousand feet.
By the start of the Cotswold 100, I’d ran just under a thousand miles but I’d only been over 20 miles in a single run 3 times all year. This was not an idea position to be in, but it was the position I was in and I’d have to make the most of it.
The Cotswold went better that could be expected. There was a field of a mere 40 runners and only 30 would get to the finish, but many of us were around the same standard so I was never far from the runner in front and in a race were support was allowed, I was joined by my friend and Himalayan roommate Paul Stoneley for the last 20 miles. I made it around in 22 hours and 10 minutes and to my great surprise came in in tenth place.
The problem now was that having completed the Cotswolds, I was going to have to take on the Lakeland (and in only 4 weeks time). In the back of my mind you see, I’d expected to have struggles in June and to use that as an excuse to pull out of the Lakeland, only I hadn’t and I couldn’t!
All conventional wisdom told me that 4 weeks was not enough time to recover, I would be going straight from recovery into tapering and there would be no more time for getting in any extra hills or distance, but I’d ran my hundred miler this year and no one could take that away from me, so whatever I did in the Lakeland would be a bonus.
As expected race day came around before I knew it and as I lined up at the start, I saw a lot of familiar faces, but both Dave and Ian that I’d ran with in 2012 had had to pull out due to injuries. I was the last man standing, but if the Cotswolds had taught me anything, it had taught me that while its nice to run around with other people, at the end of the day you run your own race and you have to run it at your own pace.
The run started well, I was taking it one check point at a time and made Wasdale before I needed to grab a head torch. I was happy to get passed Buttermere (although there is nothing at all wrong with Charlie’s checkpoint – its was were I timed out in 2011 and anything beyond that would be a fantastic). Having made it through the first night, I was feeling pretty good, but the heat of the day affected pretty much everyone at one point or another, and some sections felt better than others. Over the 33 hours and 55 minutes from the start I ended up running a constant game of cat and mouse catching runners only to be over taken by many of them later on, but I slowly inched my way up from 100th place to finish in 66th. It may have taken 2 years but I finally got an ellusive Montane Ultra Tour of the Lake District, Lakeland 100 finishers medal.
Looking back it maybe wasn’t the most text book training plan, and running another hundred miler 4 weeks before possibly wasn’t not the best training, but in an odd sort of way I think I benefited from a couple of things, doing mainly shorter runs meant I spent less time injured or recovering and running twice a day meant that I was used to running tired and to recovering fast.
The only question remaining is what to plan for next year!