Training Plan for 2020 West Highland Way

I like to plan out my training so I have something to work on. I’m best when I have a routine and a plan to tick off. I also like to be accountable so posting my plan helps with that.

For 2020 I have three main races planned for the first half of the year so I have planned out my training for the first 6 months of the year finishing with the West Highland Way Race on Saturday 20th June.

The second half of the year will depend on whether the Deadwater 6 day event goes ahead or not but I’ll think about that once June is over.

So here is my plan ….

2020 Training 001

A few comments ….

  • Monday Fartlek Sessions are with the club (Kilbarchan AAC) so I’m happy to go with whatever is set for each week
  • Wednesday Tempo Runs – I didn’t many tempo runs last year but I feel I need to try and bring my tempo pace down a bit. I will vary what I do. For example today I ran 1 mile easy, 1 mile @ Tempo pace x 3. The Tempo pace was over 8min miles which shows me how far I have to go. Other weeks I will do 1 mile easy, 2 miles @ Tempo pace x 2 etc building up to 1 mile easy, 4 miles @ Tempo pace, 1 mile easy
  • Thursday Hill Session will either be my lunchtime run around Pollok Park which is off road and includes a few smaller hills or I’ll head over to Conic Hill or Ben Lomond after work for a tougher hill run
  • Saturday long runs will be on the Gleniffer Braes, Kilpatricks or on the West Highland Way route or something similar.
  • Races. I have planned the Hardmoors 55 in March, the Great Lakeland 3 Day Event in May and the West Highland Way Race in June
  • Easy Sunday Runs. I may make these harder with another off road run to make a harder back to back but at this stage I think an easier run might be more beneficial.
  • CWU is the Cape Wrath Ultra where I am on the volunteer team so I’m not quite sure how much running I’ll be able to fit in
  • Cycling. I will try and cycle to and from work on Tuesday and Friday but it all depends whether I need my van for work but hopefully I’ll do at least one of the days.

So that’s the plan for now. I will be flexible and I may have to change a few things especially at the weekend as we might be away visiting family etc.

Posted in whw training plan | Leave a comment

Ultra Plans for 2020

I like to plan out my races at the beginning of the year so I know what I’m aiming for. These days you also need to book ahead as a lot of events do fill up quickly.

As I plan out my races there are a few priorities or key things that help me decide.

  • A mixture of races I have done before and new races
  • I prefer hilly races to flatter ones
  • The route is key. I love the journey of the race so for me loops or laps don’t really appeal
  • Multi-day events are very attractive as I love the extra planning and challenge of running day after day

So here is my plan for 2020 so far

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 13.28.56

#1 Saturday 28th March – Hardmoors 55

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 13.31.46

This will be the 7th time I have run this race which shows how much I enjoy it. There are a few reasons why it appeals to me including the route, the organisers and the time of year.

The last two years we have had tough weather so I’m hoping that 2020 will be kinder to us but if not I will put my head down and battle it out with everyone else!

#2 Friday 8th to Sunday 10th May – Great Lakeland 3 Day Event

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 13.43.13

I took part in this event last year and enjoyed it so much I was keen to come back in 2020. Last year I did it in preparation for the Dragon’s Back. This year it will fit in really well in my build up to the West Highland Way Race in June.

I love the fact that each year they move the location of the start/finish and the overnight camp which means that the routes for each day changes as well. This year they have announced it will be in the Central Fells with the exact location announced later in the year.

#3 Saturday 20th June – West Highland Way Race

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 13.48.21

I have ran West Highland Way Race six times and it is the race that got me into ultra running in the first place so it will always be my favourite race. I would like to achieve 10 races eventually so I felt it was time to get back on the route and aim for number 7.

The last time I completed the race was 2013 but in 2017 I started the race and had my only dnf (did not finish) in an ultra so I feel it is time I went back and sorted that out!

I am very involved with the race as a member of the organising committee with responsibility for the website and host of the podcasts but I’m looking forward to being back on the start line and running the race.

For the second half of the year I am still waiting to hear whether my initial choice is going ahead or not. If the Deadwater is happening I would like to do this 6 day event but if not then I have a place in the Cumbria Way Ultra. Richard Weirmuik, organiser of the Deadwater, is going to make a decision at the end of January

#4 Friday 21st – Wednesday 26th August – Deadwater 6 day ultra

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 13.57.53

A few friends did this race in 2018 and really enjoyed it so I decided to have a go. I enjoy the multi-day aspect of the event and the route looks a real journey from Scotland, through England to finish in Wales.

As I write this post there are only 21 entries and they need at least 25 to go ahead. I really hope it does happen as it looks like an epic event.

If it is cancelled then I have a place in the following event. It is only 4 weeks after the Deadwater so I don’t think it would be a good idea to do both!

#4 Saturday 19th to Sunday 20th September Cumbria Way Ultra (73 miles)

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 14.07.03

This event is organised by my good friend Gaynor Prior and is one I have wanted to do for a few years since it was started.

I love the Lake District and this route goes right through the Lakes on the established Cumbria Way.  If the Dead water goes ahead I will definitely have a go in 2021!

#5 Saturday 19th December Tour de Helvellyn

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 14.11.31

I really enjoyed doing this in 2019 so I would like to go back in 2020. Katrina has also expressed an interest in doing it as well so we may well run it together.

Entries aren’t open yet but hopefully I will be able to get a place when they do.

So that is my ultra plan for 2020. I might add another one in October or November but for now this is my plan.

The other event I’m looking forward to is being on the event team for the 8 day Cape Wrath Ultra in May 2020. It will be good to give something back and also means I will be guaranteed a place in 2021.

Posted in Plans, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summary of Miles Run in 2019

In 2019 I ran a total of 1,844.32 miles which was 174.68 miles short of my 2019 miles target but I was ahead of my target for most the year. From October onwards I reduced my weekly mileage as I tried to get the discomfort in my chest sorted.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.27.28

For anyone interested here is my spreadsheet with all my runs in 2019…..

Summary of 2019

I like to keep a track of the different types of runs I do each year. Here is a summary of 2019.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 16.55.00

I have been running regularly since my teens but I have kept more details stats since getting into ultras in 2007. Here is a summary of my monthly milage since January 2007.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 17.17.00

Here is my yearly totals for the past 13 years as a graph.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 17.21.46

 

Posted in Yearly summary | Leave a comment

Review of December 2019

In December I ran 121.55 miles with my biggest run the 38 mile Tour de Helvellyn.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 16.45.13

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 09.39.25

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 16.52.55

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 16.55.00

Posted in Monthly review | Leave a comment

Review of 2019

2019 was definitely a year of two ‘halves’. The first half of the year to the end of May was dominated by training for and running the Dragon’s Back Race through Wales.

The second half of the year was disrupted by an ongoing discomfort in my chest. I was able to keep running but it did take some of the enjoyment away. Thankfully things seem to be so much better now and I feel I have finished the year fit and healthy and looking forward to the challenges of 2020.

This review will be mainly about the six ultras I completed this year plus a summary of some other highlights.

# 1 Saturday 16th March – Hardmoors 55

After the 2018 race that I ran with Katrina battling the Beast from the East I hoped that this year would be kinder weather wise. How wrong I was! This year we had 40 mile an hour wind and rain in our faces for the majority of the race.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.15.56

The route Guisborough to Hemsley

It was really hard going but it was one of those runs that I was pleased that I was able to complete even though it was the slowest of the 6 Hardmoors 55 races that I have done so far.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.53.06

Soaked after about 14 miles

It did give me an indication of where my fitness was and how I was feeling. I turned 60 a few days later so this was my last race in my 50’s!!

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.53.39

At the finish complete with lots of mud!

#2 Saturday 4th – Monday 6th May – Great Lakeland 3 Day Event

I entered this event fairly late but I was so glad that I did. It is organised by the same company, Ourea, as the Dragon’s Back race and lots of the same people were running or involved in the organising and marshalling. Katrina joined the event team for the weekend and really enjoyed her involvement too.

I had wanted to do a final big weekend two weeks before the Dragon’s Back as a final training weekend and to try out my kit and plans so this weekend was perfect.

I opted for the Expert Class (there are also Café and Wainwright options). My aim for the three days was to run within myself and finish each day feeling I could do more which I would have to do on the Dragon’s Back course.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.54.46

Day 1 route 23.54 miles in 7:03:50

 

 

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.55.37

Day 2 route 27.78 miles in 9:38:53

 

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.03.50

Day 3 route 20.15 miles in 6:00:42

I set out with a plan to stay on an even keel each day with no lows or highs. I was able to achieve that which gave me great confidence going into the main event.

The Great Lakeland 3 Day event is superb for many reasons but two stand out to me. Firstly I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the event. You could push as hard as you like or take it steady. Each day you can choose your start time so it doesn’t seem there is the same sense of competition.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.56.07

Setting out on Day 2

Secondly you can choose your own route between the checkpoints which made for a lot of variety and decision making. I had decided to plan my own route and trust my decisions. I think I got some right and some wrong but it was all good preparation.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.56.24

Striding Edge on Day 2

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.56.42

One of the many checkpoints to visit – all with a view!

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.57.12

Almost at the end of Day 2 – photo thanks to Jeni Rees-Jenkins

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 13.58.28

Finishing Day 3 with a smile!

I enjoyed the event so much that I have signed up for 2020. Each year they move the location of the overnight camps so it is not the same route each year.

#3 Monday 20th to Friday 25th May – Dragon’s Back Race

This was my main target for 2019. In fact it had been my target for the last 3 or 4 years. The event has been held every 2 years (though from 2021 it will be every year in September).

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.08.30

 

When I worked out that 2019 would be the year I turned 60 I really wanted to do an event that would really challenge me and it did!

The whole experience of the Dragon’s Back race was everything that I hoped it would be and far more. It was a very special week and I was so pleased to be one of the 251 who completed all five days out of the 402 who started.

I really enjoy the challenge of the multi-day events as there is so much more to plan and prepare for. Running day after day for 5 days is hard on the body and how you use your time in the camp is vital to whether you are able to get going the next day.

I feel I prepared well having reccied the whole course over 5 weekends with my good friend Andy Cole, trained hard on the mountains in Scotland with another good friend Cammie Kennedy and tried to get my body and mind ready for the challenge of the week.

The week went as well as I could have hoped for and I was very emotional at the end having achieved my goal of completing this epic race. I could talk about this race for ever and if you want to listen to an interview I did for the whwrace podcasts that I host then here is the link.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.05.03

With good friend and tent mate Stephen Brown at registration

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.05.20

Leaving Conway Castle on the start of Day 1

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.05.31

Running with Dan Milton on Day 1 past Llyn Ogwen

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.06.02

Finishing Day 2

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.06.16

On Cadar Idris on Day 3 in the mist and wind

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.07.15

Day 3

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.06.57

Receiving my well earned baby Dragon

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.07.05

With Stephen at the end. His face says it all!!

#4 Saturday 3rd August – Devil o’ the Highlands

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.09.27

Before the start at Tyndrum

As I mentioned early since the Dragon’s Back Race I had been having some discomfort in my chest. I had been to see the doctor who thankfully ruled out heart problems but it did mean I was struggling to run as hard as I wanted.

I decided to be really sensible in this race and start really easily and see how it went. The first couple of hours I did feel my chest but then it eased off and I was able to run strongly to the end.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.09.40

Photo at Bridge of Orchy

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.09.49

Running with Devon Scott

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.09.58

Love this photo taken by Neil McNicol at Glencoe

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.10.08

With twins Fiona and Pauline at the Devils Staircase

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.10.34

At the finish

It was a very hot day which also affected how hard runners could push. I was pleased to finish the race and even though it was a lot slower than previous times I was happy to get to the end and enjoy it!

#5 Saturday 28th September – Ochil

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.11.43

In the 8 weeks since the Devil of the Highlands Race I had been able to have a solid block of training and while I could still feel some discomfort it was a lot better. I reccied the final 25 miles of the course two weeks before the race with good friends Neal Gibson and Richie Cunningham which helped me in my preparation.

Neal had done the race before so I it was good to spend the weekend with him and start the race together. Again I set off sensibly as I could feel my chest. Once again it eased off after an hour or so and I really enjoyed the route and the event.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.05.53

Starting my recce run with Neal and Richie

I was very happy to finish under 12hrs and I felt I had run as well as I could on the day. It is a great route and a well organised race so I would recommend it. I gather for 2020 they are running it the opposite way Perth to Stirling.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.10.57

At Stirling University at the start

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.11.54

First climb out of Stirling

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.12.15

Arriving at Checkpoint 3. Photo thanks to Alexa Jury

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.12.25

Ten miles to go

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.12.35

Finishing at Perth

#6 Saturday 21st December – Tour de Helvellyn

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.13.32

I had planned to run the Jedburgh 3 Peaks four weeks after the Ochil ultra but the soreness in my chest was feeling worse so I took the wise decision to not start Jedburgh, go back to the doctor and take time to sort out what was wrong.

It was the best decision as it is so much better now. The doctor put me on anti-inflammatory tablets for a week as he felt it was the muscles around my rib cage. After that week things have steadily improved.

For a couple of months, I just ran 3 times a week for around 5 miles each run. I did one longer run of 19 miles two weeks before Helvellyn.

I went into the race feeling I wasn’t in my best shape but good enough to get round and enjoy it which is what I did.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.13.46

Misty day but still some great views

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.13.56

Approaching Checkpoint 4. Photo thanks to GrantDayOutPhotography

The weather was fairly kind to us and even though it was very boggy underfoot I really enjoyed my day out and was happy with my run. It was a good way to finish the year ultra wise.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 14.14.12

At the finish

Other Races

Over the year I ran 12 parkruns with a best time of 21:02 in May. I also ran a couple of our Kilbarchan Christmas races in December. Both the 4.2 mile Christmas Handicap and the 10.55 mile Donald Crawford Hogmanay Handicap were slower than previous years I was happy that I was able to run them as best I could with no discomfort in my chest.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.14.08

Christmas Handicap Runners

IMG_7536

Donald Crawford Handicap Runners

Volunteering  

Over the year I volunteered at the Highland Fling in April and at the West Highland Way Race in June. If I’m not running these races I love to be involved. I continue to be on the whw race committee looking after the race website and hosting the race podcasts. I’m up to 158 episodes since I started in 2012.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.16.17

Highland Fling Inversnaid Team

I also volunteered for the Glencoe Skyline Races in September. I really enjoyed being involved with this excellent weekend.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.18.22.png

Being part of the Skyline registration team was good fun!

Summary

I would say 2019 has been a good year running wise with completing the Dragon’s Back as the stand out highlight.

It has also been a bit frustrating with my chest issues but hopefully that it behind me now so I can look forward to more challenges in 2020. I have entered four races for 202 already with plans for a couple more so I’ll be posting them soon if anyone is interested!!

Thanks for reading and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Screenshot 2020-01-01 at 14.20.36

Family photo from our holiday in July

Posted in Yearly summary | Leave a comment

Tour de Helvellyn Video Diary

I have made a short video diary of my 2019 Tour de Helvellyn. I hope you enjoy it and gives you a taste of the event.

Posted in Race Videos, Tour de Helvellyn, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tour de Helvellyn Report

Saturday 21st December 2019

I had wanted to do this race for a few years so decided 2019 was the year. I had been having some issues with my chest in the build-up so hadn’t been able to train as much as I wanted but a 19 mile run two weeks before the race gave me enough confidence that I would be okay.

I left Paisley just before 6pm and had an easy journey down to Askhan where the NAV4 race HQ was situated in the Village Hall.

Sandra, Dragon’s Back super cook, was on registration so it was good to catch up with her. James Thurlow was once again providing the timing equipment. He was trialling a new system alongside his normal scanning so we had two bits of kit.

Over the next couple of hours it was great to chat to various friends who were either running or marshalling. I also joined the Scottish contingent in the Queen’s Head next door for a drink and chat. I had a hot chocolate while the rest enjoyed something stronger.

We all headed off to our various accommodation at 10.30pm. I slept in my van and it was really cosy and warm. It was a mild evening compared to some nights we have had recently.

Joe Faulkner who organises the race provided a bowl of porridge for the runners so I enjoyed that to start the day.  One of the things about this race is you can start anytime from 7am to 9.30am. The checkpoint at Side Farm, Patterdale (9.75 miles) doesn’t open until 9.30am so you need to time your start to make sure you get there after 9.30am.

Basically it means that the slower runners need to start nearer to 7am and faster runners around 9am. I opted to start around 7.30am as I had planned 2:25 which would work out well.

I normally try to take the recommended amount of kit and not much more but for this race I decided to be a bit more cautious and take extra clothes and gloves. I think I might have gone over the top as when our friend Gaynor Prior saw me at Swirls Car Park checkpoint she asked whether I had Katrina in my pack!

Most runners were wearing long running tights but I decided to carry them and run in shorts. I had a base layer, my favourite green long sleeved top and a Gillet style body warmer on top and my skins and shorts. I also wore light weight gloves and a buff.

Once I had got myself sorted I headed to the start just after 7.30am. By the time I had gone through kit check my timer started at 7:38:53. It was still dark when I left so I had my head torch on but only needed it for the first 20 mins.

The course is a pan shape the handle a run to Patterdale followed by a big loop around Helvellyn before retracing your steps back to Askham.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 11.20.03

Askham to Martindale – 6.18 miles

I like to have a plan and as I hadn’t run this race before I decided to base my splits on Graham Kelly’s run in 2017. I think it was a particularly snowy year but I thought it would give me something to work on.

I was on my own from the start which suited me as I really like to get into my own pace. I like to start easy as I like to be able, if possible, to finish strongly and I know I can’t do the latter if I go off too quick.

On the way out I tried to make some mental notes of the route as it would be dark on the way back and a few people mentioned how easy it is to take the wrong path.

It didn’t take too long until we were on the Lakeland 100 route and familiar ground. There were a steady stream to runners going past me. Normally this would be discouraging but it was fine as I knew they were stronger runners who had left later!

A few of the runners who went past were friends I had met at various races so it was good to have a chat as they went past. I would say there were runners going past for the first 3hrs.

One of the other things about this race is you can make some route choices. Most of the route is obvious but one option is between Howtown and the first Checkpoint (CP) at Martindale Church.

I stayed on the higher track whereas a good number of runners opted to that bit on the road. I had downloaded a gps trace from a previous year and this runner had gone out one way and back the other way.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 11.33.37

As I made my way to Martindale along the higher path I caught up with my first runner who started ahead of me. It was Sarah Wallace. I had chatted to Sarah and her sister Jo the night before. They are from Scotland and have run various Scottish ultras. As I caught Sarah she explained she had gone off course near the start and thinks her sister will have gone past but won’t have seen her Jo will think that Sarah is still ahead.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.08.48

Just leaving Howtown heading to Martindale.

On my 10:30 plan I had 1:25 for this first section and I was pleased to see that I arrived 8 mins early and more importantly feeling really good having taken things relatively easy.

  • Start to CP1: 6.18 miles in 1:17:25 (12:48 pace)

Martindale to Side Farm – 3.90 miles (overall 9.95 miles)

The first mile or so is along the road and then once through the farm we were on a good track which was first bigger climb of the day.

Runner still continued to go past me going well but I slowly caught up with a group. Just before I did one of them dropped their map so I picked it up and hoped I would be able to hand it back.

Just as I caught them Anna realised she had dropped her map and as she looked round to look for it I was able to hand it to her! Good timing.

I had met Anna before or she had watched some of my videos but anyway we climbed the hill together chatting about various things. It made the climb a lot easier and soon enough we reached the top and started the descent to Side Farm.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.12.07

Descending to Patterdale

More runners sent past moving so confidently on the wet rock. I, on the other hand, was a lot more cautious but made it down safely. I was happy to see I taken another 5 or so minutes off my plan for this section.

I spent a few minutes in the CP refilling my Tailwind and getting some more food out of my pack. This is the only indoor CP and I had thought if the weather had turned for the worse I would put on my running tights but I felt really comfortable in shorts and stayed that was for the whole race.

Katy and Sharon were just leaving as I arrived so I assumed I would catch them soon.

  • CP1 – CP2: 3.90 miles in 54:50 (14:04 pace)
  • Overall – 9.95 miles in 2:12:15 (13:17 pace)
  • Rest – 3:17

Side Farm to Swart Beck Footbridge – 3.45 miles (overall 13.40 miles)

I caught up with Katy and Sharon as we made our way through Patterdale and on to Glenridding. They had set off just after 7am and were enjoying their day out.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.16.37

Sharon and Katy

The route starts a long climb up to Sticks Pass and I chatted to Katy about her recent challenge when she ran the Great Glen Way and then the West Highland Way carrying her gear and sleeping on the trail. After a while she stopped to wait for Sharon and I pushed on.

It was a good steady climb and I was happy with how I was feeling.  I was drinking my Tailwind and eating the odd nougat or energy bar. I’ve started using the ones from Decathlon and I really like them as they are tasty and small enough that you can eat them in a few bites and so more likely to actually eat them.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.17.15

View towards Glenridding

It was good to see Stuart Smith and his team at the extra checkpoint at Swart Beck.

  • CP2 – CP3: 3.45 miles in 57:27 (16:39 pace)
  • Overall – 13.40 miles in 3:12:59 (14:24 pace)

Swart Beck Footbridge to Stannah Beck – 2.84 miles (overall 16.24 miles)

Once over the Footbridge there was plenty more climbing until we reached the top and then started descending to the next CP. It was quite misty and a fair bit colder but never really cold enough to consider stopping to put on my jacket.

I was still moving well and feeling good. Early on in the race I did feel my chest a little bit but it soon eased off and for the majority of the race I couldn’t feel anything which was encouraging.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.19.34

Almost at the top of the climb. We did see a little bit of snow!

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.20.14

View towards Keswick

Granddayoutphotography  had a photographer taking photos of the runners as we made our way down. I liked this one so I bought it (£3.99 good value!)

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 17.36.07

Once we reached the top and started heading down I slowly caught up with a couple and we arrived at the next checkpoint together.  There were a couple of marshals ready to scan our numbers. Thankfully the weather wasn’t too bad but it was still quite a commitment to stand out for a few hours checking all the runners through. Joe has a great team ready to help him.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.20.40

Checkpoint 4 – Stannah Beck

  • CP3 – CP4: 2.84 miles in 50:09 (17:40 pace)
  • Overall – 16.24 miles in 4:03:08 (14:58 pace)

Stannah Beck to Swirls Car Park – 1.37 miles (overall 17.61 miles)

This was the shortest leg of the race but was probably the muddiest. I tried to run as much as I could but probably ended up walking more than I would have liked.

A few runners went past me, including Jo Wallace, who were moving so much better over the muddy ground than I was!

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.22.12

Jo Wallace running well

Jim Tinnion, who I met on the Northern Traverse in 2018, was scanning runners 100 yards before the CP and our good friend Gaynor Prior was taking numbers as we arrived. It was great to see both of them.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.32.46

Jim Tinnion scanning the runners as they pass

I spent a few minutes in the CP refilling my Tailwind and drinking some orange squash before heading off to the next CP.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.38.21

Gaynor checking all the runners through at CP5 Swirls Car Park

  • CP4 – CP5: 1.37 miles in 27:08 (19:48 pace)
  • Overall – 17.61 miles in 4:30:16 (15:21 pace)
  • Rest: 5:01

Swirls Car Park to Birkside – 3.13 miles (overall 20.74 miles)

Another shorter section but which included a bit more climbing than I was expecting. But what goes up comes down and there was also long downhill sections when I could have a decent run.

I don’t think anyone caught me on this section and I didn’t get overtaken but there were a couple of runners going the other way who looked good runners!

I started to think a bit more about my finishing time and target. I was now at least 20mins up on my 10:30 aim so I wondered whether I could gain another 10mins and finish under 10hrs. It was still a long way to go but it gave me something to aim for and keep my effort up.

It was good to be on a decent forest path for this section as I knew the next climb up to Grisdale Tarn would be wetter and tougher.

  • CP5 – CP6: 3.13 miles in 44:11 (14:07 pace)
  • Overall – 20.74 miles in 5:19:28 (15:24 pace)

Birkside to Side Farm – 6.42 miles (overall 27.16 miles)

I had given myself 2hrs to do this section which would be the longest section of the race. After leaving the CP the path contours along before crossing the river the heading up to Grisdale Tarn with the river on your left.

A group of 4-5 runners went past me so I tried to hang on at the end and become part of their train. I arrived at the river just behind the group but soon found myself at the front of the group and leading the way.

I got into a rhythm and just kept on going to the top without stopping. One of the things I learnt in training for and running the Dragon’s Back this year is to just keep on going and the top will eventually arrive. I had a tendency to be always looking for the top to arrive and when it didn’t it had a negative effect.

Sure enough the top did arrive and even though we were in quite thick fog and drizzle which meant we couldn’t see too much it was good to run along Grisdale Tarn and know that there was a long downhill section back to Patterdale.

The group I climbed up with were obviously a lot better at descending than I am and they soon disappeared down the hill but at least they helped up to get up the hill.

I tried to run as much as I could on the way down and I could see a group of 4 runners not too far ahead so I decided to try and catch them before Patterdale.

Once we got down and on better ground then the road I caught up with them. I was pleased to see that Nikki Somers, who was one of the medics at the Dragon’s Back, was part of the group. They were running the race together and were having a great day out. I stayed with them and chatted for a mile or so before pushing on.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 16.42.44

Nikki with her Christmas Hat

It was good to arrive at Patterdale and then after turning left head back to Side Farm. I had decided to stop here for a few minutes and I had three jobs to do. One – change my gloves and buff as they were pretty wet by now. Two – recharge my Suunto watch as I was down to 15% battery and three – have a sit down and drink of tea.

I was pleased to see that I had run that section in 1:53:35 so felt the sub 10hrs was still a possibility.

  • CP6 – CP7: 6.42 miles in 1:53:35 (17:42 pace)
  • Overall – 27:16 miles in 7:13:03 (15:57 pace)
  • Rest: 9:03

Side Farm to Martindale – 4.09 miles (overall 31.25 miles)

I probably stopped a little too long but I did feel better with dry gloves and buff and some hot tea inside me as well as having a quick sit down.

I reckoned I had 2:35 to cover the final 10 miles. It had taken me 2:12 on the outward journey so it was possible but would mean I would have to run as much as possible.

I climbed the hill with Nikki and her group. It was good to chat about various races we have done and have planned. The next big one for Nikki is the Spine in January so I look forward to following her progress.

At the top of the hill I missed the track we came down on and added on a little extra and then missed a turn and was thankful to Nikki and her group calling me back.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 11.20.54

Route out (top) was a better line than the route back!

Once back on the proper track I pushed as hard as I could all the way down. I could see a runner ahead and slowly caught up with him. It was Dave who I have run with before so we made our way to Martindale together. We were running all the flats and downhills and walking all the ascent which is pretty much what I’d been doing since the start!

We arrived at the Martindale checkpoint for the return leg after 1:07 which was probably 7 mins more than I hoped. It meant I only had 1:30 to cover the final 6 miles which I thought was going to be a challenge.

  • CP7 – CP8: 4.09 miles in 1:07:51 (16:35 pace)
  • Overall – 31.25 miles in 8:29:57 (16:19 pace)

Martindale to Askham – 6.18 miles (overall 37.43 miles)

It was still light but we wouldn’t have too much daylight left so I put my head torch on and filled my Tailwind bottle for the final time.

Dave was also sorting himself out so I headed off on my own. I followed the trail path back to Howtown. I had done very well in not having fallen but that record came to an end as I slipped on the wet boggy ground and went down quite heavily. I sat down in a bog so my bottom, hands and arm were covered. Not what I wanted but no injuries.

I put on my head torch at Howtown. The climb back along the Lakeland 100 course was longer and steeper than I thought it was going to be but it may have been a combination of feeling tired and the darkness.

I decided I wasn’t going to look at the distance or time until I reached the wall at the top when the route takes a right and heads over to the stone circle.

I tried to run as much as I could but I was doing more walking than running. I had my Petzl Nao head torch which is great but the battery life isn’t as great! I had used it for about 25mins in the morning and after 30mins or so it flashed to say it was about to die.

Thankfully I had put a spare smaller head torch in so I switched to that one for the rest of the run.

Dave went past me going very well near the top of the climb and I could see his head torch in the distance. It was a lovely evening and I felt warm enough.

Eventually the wall arrived and when I checked my watch I had done 3.25 miles since the last CP so had about 3 miles to go but I only had 35 mins to get under 10hrs. I knew there was still some small climbs to go and the ground was wet and boggy so I didn’t think I was going to make it but wanted to be as close as I could. My time was going to be well under my 10:30 initial target so I was more than happy with that.

I made my way over the boggy ground past the two signposts and headed for the forest which showed the path down to the Village and the finish. As I reached the forest two runners came from my left. I’m not sure if they had a better line or had wandered off line. I expected them to go past me but they never did.

When I reached the road I looked at my watch and it read 10:00 so as I expected it was too much of a challenge. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped so long at Side Farm on the way back! But this race wasn’t all about the time. I had had a great day out and really enjoyed the whole day.

I ran down the road and into the village hall finishing in 10:05:56. I asked James to take a photo of me at the finish.

Screenshot 2019-12-22 at 17.21.25

  • CP8 – CP9: 6.18 miles in 1:35:59 (15:32 pace)
  • Overall – 37.56 miles in 10:05:56 (16:11 pace)

Congratulations to Donna Pass who was closest in my Guess My Time competition.

Finally a big thanks to Joe and his team for putting on an excellent event. The soup and cake at the end were so good it was worth running for 10hrs just for them!! I would definitely recommend it and I hope to be back for another go one year!

Race Results from Open Tracking

Posted in race reports, Tour de Helvellyn, Uncategorized | 1 Comment