Firstly, a massive thanks to the lovely people at Kitshack, the UK’s distributor of Buff for sending me the fabulous UV Cap Buff (http://www.kitshack.com/new-ss16-adult-headwear/ss16-uv-cap-buff) to review, that will be coming up once I’ve put it through the rigorous hailultratrail testing process!
Now the Lakeland 50 is one that you often hear about and it’s a big deal compared to other races, the scale is bigger, more participants, more logistics, more marshals and to be honest- more fun!
As ultras go, it’s a pretty safe route, varied, pretty easy going with a few climbs. It’s also an opportunity to run with Titans because the Lakeland 100 is around 66 miles underway by the time the 50 sets off from Dalemain. When you set off you have 50 miles to go, these guys have already banked that and more so shut up and stop whinging!
Another nice thing is the lack of pressure, the cut offs are not just kind they’re saintly with a 24hr limit for the 50. We were aiming for about 14/15 hrs.
Registration was on Friday at John Ruskin School, Coniston, camping is included the price and the facilities were good with showers, portaloos and a canteen. An in depth kit-check and a weigh in? passed quickly and we were soon sitting out enjoying a beautiful evening with a bottle of corona.
We were up at 7.30, I slept really well and enjoyed a cup of tea and a porridge pot before getting making final decisions about poles and heading to the race briefing.
At 9.30 is the buses were ready to pick us up and take us to the start at Dalemain. After our customary bus-selfie, I slept the whole way with my mouth open (so I’m told).
The atmosphere at Dalemain was amazing, runners from the 100 kept coming through to rounds of applause and cheers, us 50-er’s knowing that we had quite a journey ahead but no inch to complain. The weather was perfect for ultra running, overcast, cool and dry.
We dibbed in and waited under the start gantry passing the time with our little game of shoe bingo, HOKA! Innov-8! Salomon! You get the idea. We were underway by 11.30, the route begins with a 4 mile loop around the Dalemain estate, funnily enough, the same route as the Marmalade run, one part of the route I could confidently claim to be able to navigate.
We kept a good pace and soon we were out of the grounds and on the riverside footpath to Pooley Bridge. A steady rise took us up the Cockpit on Askham Fell, this was followed by a nice descent into Howtown and CP1 at the Bobbin Mill. This CP had a western theme and after some fudge from Al Swearengen and a bottle refill from EB, we got out of Deadwood pretty quick and made our way to the (massively underestimated on my part) climb of Fusedale Pass. Bit of a challenge that one but powered it out and soon we were up, over and heading down to Haweswater.
Footing was a bit tricky and I was tired but we kept seeing those heroes in yellow numbers so no margin for griping. We battered on the Mardale CP. Water filled, ham and pickle sandwich tentatively scranned and boom climb #2, Gatesgarth Pass. No problem. A long rocky descent pulls down into the valley, another drag, followed by a grassy footpath leads into Kentmere.
You’re a wizard Hailey! Harry Potter theme! Awesome. Digestive biscuits dipped in coffee, a slurp of smoothie and bottle fill up, 5 mins later we were off again.
A steady climb followed by a lovely runnable section brought us into Ambleside past cheering crowds and into the CP. I’d been employing my usual strategy throughout the race of a nibble every half hour, ZipVit bars and Cranstons sausage rolls- are you reading this Cranstons? You can sponsor me if you like! It worked well, I felt good and again, we spent hardly any time at the CP.
15 miles to go from here and pretty much unchartered territory. It was still light and we’d made surprisingly good time. The following section was quick with easy to follow paths and tracks. The light was getting good now, that pinky glow that makes me feel peaceful and happy. We were still running well and in good spirits.
The next CP was Chapel Stile, brief stop and a fill up and then off to work on the last bit. I was feeling a little nauseous but put it to the back of my mind. The route took us through fields, over stiles and back onto the fells. I gave in and put my head torch on as the going was rocky and technical in places, requiring a substantial amount of concentration, a lot to ask 46 miles in.
It got dark and the night was beautiful, cool, clear, millions of stars. Just perfect. We hit the Unmanned CP after a squelchy trudge through bog and pressed on for the last CP at Tilberthwaite. One of the things about running at night is that you get an idea for the route by the progressing lights of head torches that bob along into the distance. I remember reading a Sherlock Holmes novel, was it Hound of the Baskervilles? and there being a light that was seen from the house, I think Sherlock suggested that a candle could be seen from a mile away. Well these lights were far away, into the sky. The massive climb after Tilberthwaite loomed ahead. After a brief stop, the graft began.
Up, up and up. Floating little lights ahead. Rocky, steep, draining. Still, we made it and after an annoyingly rocky descent, met up with the road for the finish. I was very surprised to see that we’d made it round in 12.50, well up on expectation plus we weren’t really pushing ourselves too hard. We collected our medals and headed to the camper for a nap before driving home.
I will do this event again, I could have kept going at the end which is a mark of well managed nutrition for me. I’m not going to rule out the 100…it left me feeling little more positive about the TDS.
The marshals, organisers, volunteers, spectators made this race and the themed CP’s party atmosphere was a real boost, so thank you to everyone involved, 10/10 would race again!