The pain in my feet ,seems to dominate my very existence ! Every footstep is agony and it had been for the last 37 odd hours, I had 5 miles left to run/walk/crawl, Only 5 miles and the Lakeland 100 would be completed and I could stop, I could sit down, I could end this continuous forward progression, but this wouldn’t just be 5 miles, it would contain a steep climb then an excruatating painful rocky descent on badly blistered feet and trashed legs. I look to my left and hanging from the trees are 2 rotting corpses, I look away and back at the trees, they are still there, I know they are hallucinations, but for a second I think they are real, I have had dozen of hallucinations in past 100 milers but nothing so sombre, at least I hope they are Hallucinations? I look ahead and Carl is moving quite well ahead of me so I try to speed up and thus doing so catch my toes on a rock and am wracked by pain. Will this torture ever stop? I open my eyes and realise I have stopped, I am facing the opposite direction of where I am going to and I have an arm forward with my palm out almost like I am accepting something? I have no recollection, am I going mad? I carry on for a bit, I shut off again, the pain in my legs brings me back to life, I’m trying to kneel down? Why? Its like something is taking me over? I try to focus but my body is shutting down, this is 46 hours without sleep, I’ve gone longer before, much longer. I look to the floor, there are dozens of skulls scattered around my feet, How am I going to step over these?
In 2011 Shirley and I had run the Lakeland 100, Shirley had pulled out at the 75 mile point after bravely pushing on to the point she couldn’t take anymore pain with her feet . I finished the race in just over 36 hours, the pain in my feet had started to become too much when I tried to run and had to walk the majority of the way from Dalemain after arriving in pain at Dalemain but being up on a sub 30 schedule.
We had both worn Sealskin socks from the start to keep our feet dry while heading over to Boot through the marshy ground, unfortunately water got into the socks and stayed there for 50 odd miles, by the time the socks got changed at Dalemain the damage had been done and ‘Trench foot’ had taken hold, every rock stood on or caught proved to be agony. When the 2012 entries came out I bought Shirley her entry for her birthday and I entered to get my revenge on the race and get my time down nearer to the 30 hour mark!
The Lakeland 100 was to be one of my 4 big runs of the year (95miles plus) A month before I had run the 95mile West Highland Way Race in just over 24 hours, facing 19 hours of constant torrential rain escaping with a couple of blisters, not bad for spending a day in what seemed ankle deep water.
The Lakeland 100 would also be the 29th Ultra I had ran in 2012.
Lakeland would be an experiment, would all the Ultras already ran effect me, would I be stronger or weaker?
Shirley had been working in Saudi Arabia since October 2011 and had also undergone ankle sugary before she had flown out there, so Shirley’s Lakeland 100 training had started in January 2012 but was confined to running on a treadmill in a ladies only gym in Jeddah. We had run the 45 mile Wadi Bih in Oman in Februrary and the Blubberhouses 25 a month or two later, plus a 30 mile training run on the Cleveland Way in June but apart from that her training had been Treadmill and the odd ‘Hash’ (and no! not the type you smoke)
Boot checkpoint was reached and my legs felt very sore, almost like ‘DOMS’ which worried me a little as in the 2007 West Highland Way Race I had been hospitalised with Rhabdmylosis, and in the early stages of the race my quads had felt the same as they did now! I reasoned to myself that all the Ultras were taking there toll and my legs weren’t getting time to fully recover.
The brief climb up to Burnmoor Tarn is worth it for the stunning views over to the Wasdale mountains with the water in the foreground, this is one of my favourite sections, skirting by the Lakeland Giants, Scafell close by and Gable, Kirk Fell etc in the distance with Yewbarrow opposite, not as tall but bloody steep as any one who has ran a Bob Graham Round will tell you. The descent down to the valley which I had flown down last year racing another runner for fun, had to be at first taken slower due to the wet grass then it was my quads and knees screaming out in pain as I took the stone path. I reached the bottom and eventually joined the road, this was easy but painful running. I left the road to join a very slippery path where again I spent more times on my backside then on my feet , minutes later I was at the Wasdale Head checkpoint filling up on coke, I donned my head torch and set off for Black Sail and the way my legs where feeling, a climb I was dreading. On the climb itself my legs seemed to have no power and I fell into a slow trudge. John Kynaston caught up with me, John was a good friend and I didn’t recognise his voice at first. John holds a very impressive sub 20hrs time on the West Highland Way Race and has ran the Hardmoors 110 and 55. This year he was having a break from the WHW (which he is now part of the Race committee) he was looking strong and pushed on at a speed I was jealous of. I had a nice chat with Steven Foster who was looking strong and he pushed on ahead as I slowed down. The summit was reached and I followed a long line of runners down the treacherous descent down into Black Sail, last year I had flown down this descent but this year it seemed to be so slippery and last year I was wearing fell running shoes. Eventually the valley was reached and I looked in through the window at the Black Sail Youth Hostel with jealousy, looked so cosy in there.
I climbed Scarth Gap over to Buttermere, the descent is pretty tricky in the light but by head torch isn’t easy. I enjoy technical descents and soon was on a decent track. I dropped down to the shores of Buttermere and enjoyed a nice runnable route to checkpoint 4, I passed several runners who were walking and felt pretty strong (for once) Buttermere Checkpoint was outside and quite surreal, I filled up on coke and grabbed a handfull of gels (this impressed me, being a celiac Im usualy resigned to my fate as checkpoints are never gluten free friendly, ie I cant eat flapjacks, cake, biscuits, soup as it contains noodles etc etc, but this cp had energy gels and energy bars) The Montane photographer was there taking hundreds of pics, he was looking for pain on peoples faces, no smiling, he took dozens of me ! He said I looked haggard or something similar :0).
The route to CP 5 (Braithwaite) involved a couple of smaller climbs and contouring a hillside,
at one point I slipped off the path and fell a dozen feet or so downhill, a pretty close call!
I missed the Braithwaite Checkpoint and had to retrace my steps. The Checkpoint was inside a village hall and on entering took a few seconds to adjust to the light. Mark Dalton greeted me as I came in, this started to become a regular occurrence, I would arrive at a cp just as Mark was leaving (maybe I smell, well actually I did, pretty bad!!) I saw Carl Hobbins and we exchanged greetings, for the rest of the race we would be running together on and off.
Leaving the hall it had started to pour down, so on came the waterproof. Parts of the next section are my least favourite. I ran alongside the main road for awhile (luckily quiet in the early hours of the morning) and then with a group of runners we ran alongside an old railway line track. The route then cuts over a footbridge onto the Skiddaw/Latrigg path, this bit I don’t mind, I have been up here dozens of times on Bob Graham Rounds/attempts etc, the climb isn’t too steep but a good excuse to walk and after the flat running gave me a great stretch in my legs. The Latrigg carpark was reached and we headed towards Jenkin Hill, but luckily not climbing it as it is pretty steep to say the least! A couple of runners passed us heading up that way, a woman not carrying anything and a man carrying a bag, I thought this must be a BGR attempt, I called after them and asked if they were, she replied ‘yes’ so I wished them luck! ( I found out later the lady was ‘Nicky Spinks’ she was attempting the Ladies Bob Graham record and she did it, she got round in 18 hours or so) Running as a group we contoured around the hillside to reach a self dibber at the out and back point and continued contouring the hillside at the other side of the small valley. We soon reached checkpoint 6 Blencathra Centre.
Blencathra Centre cp was indoors this year, I stuck into the coke had some gels, yet again Mark Dalton was sat at the checkpoint when I arrived there, he left a few minutes before I did. I headed off with a few others to the next checkpoint. We descended to the old railway lines, The others pressed ahead while I slowed down. John Pitchford rang alongside me and we had a good chat. John lives about 7 miles away from me (small world) he is also running the Hardmoors 60, we chatted about other races, triathlons etc. Along the path a lady walking her dog asked us what we were doing, we explained we where running a 100 mile race , she smiled and said her brothers were fell runners, only turned out her brothers where Stuart and Billy Bland! Billy has the record for the fastest Bob Graham Round completion in under 14 hours while Stuart ran it in 15 hours, Billys record has stood for years.
Cutting across the marshlands to the Old Coach Road I started to feel pretty rough. I went for my water bottle and realised I hadn’t filled it up at Blencathra! Classis mistake.. The more I thought about it the worse I felt . John had pressed on by this time, I just pushed on as best as I could, another runner passed me, I explained the situation and he gave me some of his drink but he didn’t have much himself ( I was that out of it at the time, I cant remember who he was, so thank you if by chance you are reading this, actually I will apologise because a lot of the races events are a blur so if I chatted to someone and have not included it in this race report then I have forgotten at this point of time) The Old Coach Road seemed to go on forever. Ahead of me taking photographs while I was staggering about the track like I was dying from dehydration in the Sahara desert was the Montane Photographer, catching me yet again looking VERY haggard! I asked him how far the checkpoint was and he said it was pretty close. He looked and sounded pretty worried about me, I smiled and thought this is nothing, I’m still upright and not on a drip in a hospital ward like I have been several times after pushing myself to and through the limits. Eventually I arrived at Checkpoint 7 and what a surprise Mark Dalton was there. I must of looked pretty bad as the marshals where milling around me getting me fluids etc, according to one of the runners I was as white as a ghost. After a quick drink and remembering to fill my water bottles up I was on my way, the next checkpoint was to be Dalemain around about the 60 mile mark, then all that was left would be 45 miles.
The route follows a few roads before coming to a climb up to Gowbarrow, the sun was shining and it was all very reminiscent of the 2011 L100. The views over Ullswater from Gowbarrow are stunning, its always a shame not to stop and relax while taking in the view of this beautiful scene. I continued down roads over fields and coming into Dalemain caught up with Carl. Dalemain is a busy place, the race start of the Lakeland 50 and also the point to access your drop bags, entering the marquee/checkpoint there were bodies splayed out everywhere, all either eating or fixing their feet, low and behold amongst the group was Mark Dalton. I refuelled and changed my socks, John Pitchford had given me a spare pair after I realised I hadn’t put any spare socks in my drop bag, the socks where a size medium and I take a size xl 12-13, strange enough even with swollen feet I got into them okay. John was a lifesaver. My feet where bad, but not as bad as in 2011. In 2011 I had arrived here 2 and a half hours quicker but with wrecked feet (trench foot and badly blistered on the soles) walking had been so painful after. I checked my watch, aggravated that I was so much slower this year (I suppose all the ultras where eating up my speed, but I can look forward to 2013 and coming into races fresh and smashing my 2012 times)
Mark Dalton had left, so I set off on my quest to try to eventually catch him up. I bumped into Danny Aldus who was waiting for the race start of the 50, he had a great race coming in under 10 hours! Danny was saving himself for the TDS (one of the UTMB races, shorter but in some ways tougher than the UTMB) We had a catch up and then I set off walking, Howton would be my next port of call. After a mile or so I caught up with another runner, Ben Leigh Brown We decided to run together and talked about running and other races as we pushed on through Pooley Bridge and followed the path towards Howton. Ben had ran the L100 in 2011 but had not finished the race, this year he was back to make amends, he looked strong and I believed he would finish, but it ant over to the fat lady sings or so they say and you never know what may happen later in the game. (Checking back on the results I was pleased to see he had finished several hours in front of me) Along the stretch to Howton the Lakeland 50 runners started to pass us by, the lead runners were flying, I looked on in envy what I would have given to have some of that speed and energy in my legs at that time. The majority of the L50 runners congratulated us as they went by. Our race numbers also have our names on and which event we are doing on , the race numbers are on our bags so any runner coming up knows if you are a 50 runner or a hundred runner plus your name, after 65 miles of running you forget these things and when they pass you and say ‘well done Jonathan’ you are left thinking ‘How do they know my name?’ We arrived at a very busy Howton checkpoint , but no Mark Dalton, obviously I had now either slowed down or he had speeded up. Or more likely both. I was looking out for Danny Aldus and Andy Cole, both running the 50 and was expecting them to pass me at anytime along the way. Looking back it must have been at this checkpoint , while I was inside they must have passed through quickly. My feet were really starting to become painful, so I necked a handful of painkillers and we left Howton for Mardale. In 2011 I reached Howton on my own to a very quiet checkpoint being run by Si Berry and Karen McDonald from Runfurther, I had awful toothache so Karen gave me some sensodyene toothpaste to put on it, in minutes it worked, it wasn’t until close to Mardale the lead L50 runners had passed me.Leaving Howton checkpoint we passed Carl who was going into the cp, I wasn’t sure at Dalemain if he had being going to pull out, he had been suffering with his stomach, we told him to catch us up. The route towards Mardale takes you on a muddy journey along a valley floor and then up what seems at that stage a big climb and then a descent down to Hawsewater, the route follows an undulating path along the side of the Lake/Mere? For several miles (which seems a dozen) to the Mardale Checkpoint. I could imagine on the 50 after the climb it’s a pretty fast piece of ground to cover. After 20 odd hours of running on battered feet and trashed legs it isn’t. The climb lasted forever and Ben pushed ahead on this climb, I didn’t see him again, Carl caught me up and we suffered together, eventually reaching the summit we started the descent but my quads refused to leap over water filled ditches and on steep sections of descents my legs wouldn’t bend due to the pain in my quads. Last year I had flown down this descent, no problems with my legs just pain in my feet. I remembered a waterfall on the way down and we filled up with water, I washed my legs and the cold water seemed to help loosen them off a bit. We joined the lower path and set off on a walk with an occasional jog. What seemed to be hours later I arrived with Carl at the Mardale checkpoint. The checkpoint was predominately 2 tents, the weather had started to become pretty chilly and wet, I found a seat in the first tent and Carl got me some soup, this tent had quite a few people sat in it waiting to be shipped back to Coniston, they were L50 and 100 runners who for whatever reason couldn’t continue, a couple of the 50 runners looked in a bad way, one shivering uncontrollably . I took my socks off, my feet where a mess, a combination of trench foot and huge blisters between my toes and on the soles of my feet. A runner who was sat next to me very kindly gave me his spare socks, he was pulling out here and said he didn’t need them. While I was changing my socks, my friend the Montane photographer popped into the tent and recognised me, he saw my feet and gave me a worried look. He had this knack of turning up while I was at my worst, or was I at my worst all the time? Another cup of soup later one of the marshals entered the tent and said ‘whose for a lift?’ one guy pointed to nearly everyone in the tent including me, tempting as it was I declined and got up quickly (well kind of quickly ;0) ) With Jacket hat and gloves on I set off over the pass with Carl to head for Kentmere.
The climb over the pass was tough but changing my socks had temporarily helped. I looked behind and saw a couple catching me up on the climb. I took a double look, it was Shirley, or was it? I stood there glaring, as they got closer I apologised. It wasn’t Shirley, I explained why I had been staring, they passed by and I continued on, Carl was quite a bit ahead by this time. I stopped to take a leak. Unsure of how long later, seconds?, minutes? I awoke and realised I had gone to sleep while having a wee! I looked around luckily nobody had seen me. I pushed on to make a concerted effort to speed up and at the top of the climb I caught Carl up and we took the long descent down to the valley below. Thank god I was wearing Hokas!, the path was a mixture of boulders, and rubble all pretty easy to twist your ankle on. I blotted out the foot pain and we both made the most of gravity, we flew down the track passing a dozen of runners along the way, feeling quite good and strong when the bridleway levelled out we continued running. This felt more like it, at this pace we could get some time back and I would stand a chance of catching the elusive Mr Dalton up! Then a spanner was dropped in the works! We missed the turning off the road, looking at the map we decided not to retrace our steps as the next right would join us up with the route we were supposed to take, by this time a l50 competitor (sorry I forgot your name) with his dog who had made the same mistake caught up with us and we all tried to rejoin the route. Cutting through a farmyard following footpath signs we where only a short distance away from the L100 route and then all the markers vanished, there was one path off to the left, so we followed that one which led to a stone wall,. To cut a long story short we wasted well over an hour looking for the route and had possibly covered several miles of knee height bogs. Eventually we stumbled on the route. We said goodbye to our new friend and his dog and set up a pretty good pace to try to catch all the people we had passed a couple of hours ago back up. The route into Kentmere can be quite confusing but we were luckily behind some runners who knew the way. Last year when I had done this section I was blindly following another runner so didn’t remember this section. The Kentmere Checkpoint was reached and we had completed over 75 miles. The Kentmere checkpoint was indoors, well stocked and full of runners relaxing or being massaged. We had agreed to get in get some food and get out of the checkpoint as quick as possible. Carl caught up with some friends, I necked a couple of fruit smoothies and we set off.
The next checkpoint would be in Ambleside. First though we would have a climb over the Garburn Pass, a descent into Troutbeck and then another climb out of Troutbeck followed by a wooded descent into Ambleside. I felt pretty strong ascending the pass, Carl’s friends who were running the L50 caught us up and we all climbed together, we left them on the descent and once again got a descent pace over the rough track down to Troutbeck, yes it hurt, it crucified my feet but if I had gone slower then it still would of hurt. We climbed out of Troutbeck and I had to stop at a bench to sort my feet out, the pain was pretty intense, I took my shoes off but I had no more spare socks, so replaced my shoes and got back to my feet. By this time we were back in a group and we all headed over to Ambleside. The descent down to Ambleside is a pain in the backside. It is a steep woodland section which isn’t the easiest to negotiate on tired legs, eventually we reached the road, Carl and I left the group and ran ahead arriving at the Ambleside Checkpoint based in the Lakes Runner Shop.
We refuelled, and set off for the leg I had been dreading since the start of the race. Last year 20 minutes after leaving Ambleside my body started to shut down and I could barely keep awake. Bits I remember where a haze of pain and hallucinations, a combination of tiredness from lack of sleep, sheer pain in my feet and too many painkillers. This year I was in sheer pain with my feet again but at least awake. We cut through Ambleside, and headed on our journey to the next checkpoint, I was awake but don’t remember much of this part of the route, only it seemed to go on forever, running alongside rivers, houses down lanes, we only saw a couple of runners and eventually we reached the Lamgdale Checkpoint. Again my memory fails me at this point. We left the Checkpoint heading for the next Checkpoint at Tiberthwaite. We followed a very muddy and slippery path for quite a while, every minute or so I would slip over, regain my footing and repeat the process, at long last we climbed uphill and joined a road briefly. Last year just before this climb, I had been in such a bad way that I had stopped and had sat down and slept a little. From just outside Ambleside I had bumped into another runner and we had teamed up, he had been trying to keep me awake, I told him to continue while I had stopped for awhile. Dozens of people had passed me while I had stopped, I realised I couldn’t quit there as Id have to go to the next cp to quit or back to the last one. I had thought ‘sod it’ and necked some more painkillers, put on my headphones and listened to ‘Guns and Roses ‘ and started to run, I began to pass people, the more people I passed the stronger I got, I had made my own path through the bracken to pass a good chunk of runners, I kept the pace up to Tiberthwaite and must of passed well over 3 dozen runners! At the top of the descent down into the Coppermines it had hit me, the pain in my feet, the tiredness, everything! That was it the temporary lift I had received had gone! I literally staggered the last couple of miles to the Race Finish where Shirley had come out to greet me. I didn’t have the energy to smile at her. (The guy who had helped me from Ambleside and I had told to go on while I rested, actually finished 2 hours after me,)
We headed through some woods then the hallucinations began to occur, I have had hallucinations dozens of times before but not like these, these are like my worst nightmares, corpses hanging from trees, rotting flesh hanging from them, skulls everywhere. This is first light, my head torch was off and everywhere I look there is something barbaric. We pushed on to the self-dibber and dropped down the road and passed the farmhouses on the track to Tiberthwaite. Carl looked back every now and then just to check I was still there, I was there in body, nothing else. I keep drifting off asleep and waking up facing in the opposite direction, then would push myself to continue on, a few minutes later I would be back asleep again and I would wake up to find my arms outstretched to the side as if accepting something off someone. I could see the checkpoint at last and I pushed myself on to jog.
We left Tiberthwaite for another climb and headed up high for a couple of miles. At Ambleside I had put my Garmin Forerunner on so I could count down the last 15 miles, my Garmin will only give 7 hours of GPS on a good day. We had about 4-5 miles left. Eventually we reached the descent which took us down to the Coppermines, this descent is pretty technical when you have been on your feet for over 38 hours, it was wet and my Hokas wouldn’t grip on wet grass. On reaching the bottom there was a track/road descent which we start running, there were 3 of us L100 runners and we picked up the speed as the descent steepened. We come into Coniston maintaining the speed and eventually reached the road leading to the Race finish, Carl started to sprint, I felt someone behind me so I did too, I heard someone say, ‘wow look they are L100 runners and look how fast they are running now‘, this spurred me on and I increase my speed again, and just as I am about to reach the finish line the guy behind me just passes me and dibs his dibber seconds before mine. I look at his pack and after all that he’s a L50 runner. They announce a Lakeland 100 runner is entering the finish, Carl had gone in seconds before me, the guy who piped me at the post is walking in front of me, he hears the announcement and realises everyone thinks he’s a l100 runner, he then realises the two he was racing where L100 runners not L50 runners. On entering the building to a huge applause, my eyes started to dampen and the medal is presented to me plus the T-Shirt, I look for Carl and shake his hand. Another Ultra ticked off!
Shirley came in a couple of hours after me, looking fresh as a daisy. We spent a couple of hours after the race chatting to Friends, catching up with Nic Ham who couldn’t run due to illness, Mark Barnes who was manning his Hoka stand. Andy Cole who put in a superb time in the L50 sub 10hrs at 64 years of age! Garry Scott who had a great race in 31 hours, bettering his time by 5 or so hours. Mark Legget and Helen Legget, Mark had finished in just over 30 hours! John Kynaston who with blistered feet had got round in 34 hours. Dave T who smashed it and came 11th in just over 25 hours!! Helen Witham who came in around about the 31 hour mark. Julie Gardner again around 30 hours, and John Vernon who dropped out late in the race, feeling pretty tired still from a rather hilly 100 mile race he had ran in Spain a fortnight ago.
I apologise if I haven’t mentioned everyone I chatted to .
The elusive Mr Dalton finished around the 34 hour mark! 4 hours quicker than me.. Maybe next time………………