Gary Wane’s report on the Lakeland 50.
On Friday 24th July, I entered Coniston to register for the Lakeland 50 trail race. I flew through bag check no problems but nearly didn’t have my checkpoint dibber. It was only after meeting Warren by chance in the Black Bull pub that I realised my error. I dashed back to registration to collect it and thought, “Phew, crisis averted.” That evening the Harriers massive, Julie, Warren, myself as well as our cheerleading posse of Dave Wad, Jackie and Mel ate at the Crown. (eventually… Despite a minor dispute in the Yewdale…) then off to our pits to rest.
Saturday was sunshine and before long it was 11.30am and time to set off from Dalemain.
The race began and before long Warren and Julie were out of sight. After 4 miles we left Dalemain estate and were soon in the hills of the lakes. The time and miles ticked by and I was soon in Howtown. A checkpoint that was manic and manned by Cowboys and Indians. I dibbed in, stocked up on snacks, refilled my water bottle and was off again.
It was then, one of the worst thing that can happen on an Ultra, happened. I was going up the first major climb (Fusedale – 2000ft of climbing) and as I overtook another competitor, I stepped into a boggy slush puddle. Wet foot. After a few mins I could feel a tingle on the pad of my left foot. After climbing more I realised my wet sock was rubbing and I was getting a blister. “I’ll sort it out when it evens out or I get into a gap where I can sit down.” It didn’t happen until I got to the top. By that point my foot was in agony and I was regretting not stopping straight away. I took off my wet sock and had a large blister.
I spent 5mins putting plasters on and carried on. I had knocked myself out of my rhythm and struggled to get going on the jog down to Haweswater. People were drifting past me and I felt powerless unable to get going properly. The next 4.5km alongside the lake was the same. It was very stop start jogging on narrow, rocky paths. On 18miles I felt a sudden wave of nausea. I started to walk and a few mins later had to stop hands on knees. I couldn’t go on. My foot was in agony and I felt dizzy. I took a gel and some jelly babies, put on another plaster and carried on. I walked miserably the next mile to Howtown checkpoint. As I sat pondering my next move, I looked up at Gatesgarth pass (my next major climb) and honestly thought I’ll never make it up. I grabbed some jam sandwiches, drank a cup of tea and sat with my head down hoping I wasn’t going to be sick. It was honestly the lowest I have ever felt on a run ever. I felt terrible and struggling to find the energy to eat. I even thought of dropping out. I took out my first aid kit, replaced my blister plaster with a thicker pad, taped it to my foot. “Go now,” I thought. As soon as that thought hit me I stood up, and thought about how good it would be to get to Kentmere. That was 27 miles in, I just needed to get up the next hill. It took forever to get up it but as I was going further up the climb I realised something. I was overtaking people. People around me were struggling too. I felt better knowing it wasn’t just me. The top appeared and I went up a gear and for the first time in 3-4 miles was actually jogging (albeit v slowly). I stopped at 25 miles for a halfway selfie and felt fine. This was the point I knew I had the 50 in the bag.
I hit Kentmere, ate some Pasta, re-taped my foot, changed my socks and top and was on my way. I was walking past people on the ups, reigning them in on the downs and every time I passed someone, I felt better. Better knowing that all the people who passed me earlier I was taking the place back. A few people tried to engage me in conversation, I was polite and then left them behind the first chance I got! They had taken my place earlier after all…
I entered Ambleside. The crowds perked me up as I ran through the centre to a constant ripple of applause and well dones. A stag do left a pub in Lord of the Rings fancy dress and for a short time I even had Gandalf himself running alongside me giving me encouragement. I sped up and left him behind. Soon I was 100m or so from the checkpoint and this is where the Harrier massive was waiting. It was great to see them all – a massive thanks by the way to Team Kaufman, Waddy and Jackie, Karen and my mum and stepdad – Imogen had a sign saying, “Go daddy go!”
There was no way I wasn’t finishing this now. Into the checkpoint, a chat to everyone as I ate my food / re plasterer and taped my foot, and 10-15 mins later I was on my way to Langdale. On the way it was getting dark. I knew this route from 4 recces and was uber confident of getting to the next checkpoint. This was the case, passing more and more people, helping those unsure of the route (calling a few back even). Soon the fairy lights of Langdale were in view.
It was like a mirage in the night. I sat down had some soup, and… You guessed it, foot management. Back out into the night. I could see lights ahead of me and set off to Tiberthwaite. This part of the route was fine. I went to the hill no problem but as I descended I became tired again. As I entered into the last 800m or so onto the Tarmac to the checkpoint I felt low again. I was ok in the checkpoint, ate drank but no taping my foot this time. No. I’d run out so bandaged it instead. I nipped into the loo there and as I came out my legs wobbled and I felt sick again. Tiberthwaite is nearly 1000m of uphill in under 2 miles starting with stairs. Not a place to be feeling rough. I had to go. I’d got through my low enough once, I’d do it again. Gel down my throat (nearly throwing it straight back up too) I set off and just hit the stairs jogging. By step 2 I was wobbling up them in a slow walk. “Keep going, keep going”. I just kept saying it. Soon I was over the worst bit of the climb and nearly at the river crossing. I perked up. I knew then I’d broken it’s back. I even managed a power walk / slow trot up the next section passing more people. I’d jog 20 steps or so then walk for a min or so. Soon I was doing more jogging as I got closer and closer to the summit. Once I was at the top I saw the lights of head torches below. I began the sharp descent. The steep decent was killing my quads. I buckled quite a few times. But I could see the lights of Coniston. I passed some other 50 runners giving them encouragement as I passed them. I was soon at the bottom of the rocky path on the road to the finish. I started trotting quicker, then jogging. I passed a few more people. After each pass I did, my the pace increased. Soon I was in Coniston centre next to the Black Bull pub 400m or so from the end. I kicked again passing 2 more people in the last 200m. I could see the finish. I got to the line. Stopped. Fist pump and chest pump for good measure. Shouted, “Get in.” Then dibbed for the last time.
I was an ultra runner and a Lakeland 50 finisher.