Regular readers of my race reports often feedback that they fortify themselves with food and a brew before settling down to wade through an epic description of whatever event I am waxing lyrical about. No need to even put the kettle on for this one though as my first ever DNF means that for once my write up will take less time to read than to run!
Lakeland Trails were celebrating their 10th birthday at Staveley at the very place where the series began with a dash over Garburn pass from Windermere a decade earlier. Consequently the atmosphere around the village was even more joyous than usual with bubble machines on the start line and cake and champagne spraying around afterwards!
The weather gods had smiled upon the Kentmere valley once again with glorious sunshine from the opening 10k race through to the entertainment and prize giving at the end of the day. I had volunteered to marshal the 10k race and had a grand time basking in the morning sunshine in a field full of sheep encouraging the runners as they passed my spot. I was also afforded a grandstand view of young Will Jackson of Helm Hill who tore through my position at 5k already a good 2 minutes ahead of the nearest opposition. Will turned 17 that day and marked it with a stunning 36:29 victory over a tough, hilly course. I’ll be telling people about seeing him race one day when he picks up his International titles!
With such an early start my build up to the 17k race at 2pm seemed to take forever. Pre-run nerves were settled with a gentle jog up the first half mile of the course to remind myself of the need to take it steady up the sapping climb that begins the race. I had pretty much blown up within 2 miles of the start last year thanks to over enthusiasm on the initial inclines. This year I had taken advantage of staying locally for much of the year to run the first few miles a few times to fine tune my tactics for race day! I had high hopes for this event.
My mum always told me not to get a tattoo. She’s a mum, so its her job not to like them, and she gets special privelige to say so. The chap next to me on the start line didn’t have that privelige but was also moved to tell me he didn’t like them either – or more accurately he didn’t approve of my Lakeland 50 tattoo and didn’t think it worth celebrating a finish in that event with permanent body art. Race on then!
The Samba band were dragged back from the pub in time set pulses running with their infectious beats, (allegedly), and the adrenalin began to flow as Race Director Graham Patten began the countdown…and then we were off.
With huge self control I stuck to my race plan of holding back on the inital climb and settling at a pace somewhere just below lactic threshold. It was a still a quad burning start to the race as the tarmac section kicked and twisted its way along, but I was careful not to get carried away with racing in these early stages. It felt unnatural to allow a few runners to coast past me but I kept repeating to myself that they would either come back to me later on, or were faster than me anyway.
Sure enough, as we crested the worst of the inclines I pushed on over the top and found myself hauling in other runners. My outspoken start line companion was amongst those that were placed in my wake with no small measure of satisfaction that the race was going to plan. This year I hit the broken up rocky ground heading up towards the fell with a measure of confidence in my ability over rough ground, and passed even more runners as I gradually sped up.
I passed Course Director Rachel who was marshaling at the point where the route turns onto the open fell, and pushed on to the summit feeling good. In fact I was feeling so good I began composing the race report in my head as I closed on another runner and found myself unable to pass for a short while on the narrow track. I put in a surge at a wider section and made the move before setting off downhill on the rougher ground at full speed. This was downhill rough ground but I was equally confident here as I had been on the way up, what with my “ability over rough ground” and familiarity with this route.
We all know what pride goes before though don’t we? Living the cliche to the max I let my attention wander from the path ahead for long enough to turn my ankle and go stumbling down the mountain, arms windmilling and desperately trying to save myself from a full on face plant into the rocks.The last time this happened to me I ended the day with 3 cracked ribs and a job threatening amount of time off work. I suppose i can count myself lucky that on this occasions I did manage to save myself and just ended up with a banjaxed ankle and a very early finish to my race.
I hopped to the side of the track and initially blessed my luck that I seemed to have got away with it. My biggest concern at this point was the couple of places I’d just lost. I quickly got going again and felt the sudden sharp pain that clearly announced that I hadn’t got away with it at all. I hobbled out of the way swearing quietly to myself, (at least i hope it was quietly), and suffered the demoralising sensation of having all the people I’d just overtaken come hammering back past me again…. including my mate with the tattoo problem.
The number of fellow runners who asked if I was ok, or offered to alert the marshals was a testament to the friendly nature of these Lakeland events. I tried to be the hero and turned down their assistance, determined to hobble back to Staveley under my own steam. Thankfully a lovely lady in the event medic vehicle wasn’t going to let me do that and I was soon cruising back in her car with an emergency ice pack on my ankle.
I was back at the start / finish before the leaders had even arrived feeling pretty sorry for myself. At any other event the day would have been a write off, but at least there was the fun of the post race entertainment, the chance to chat and catch up with friends from other races, (hi St Helens Striders!), and the fun of watching an increasingly tiddly Graham Patten enjoy the 10 year celebrations in style!