This is part 2 of my checkpoint-by-checkpoint account of my first 100 mile race. Part one (here, if you missed it) finished around mile 58, running with Kate through Dacre and into Dalemain, where the dropbags are. It’s 1pm on Saturday; I’ve been going for 19 hours…
Running was the best feeling. Hard, but amazing. Especially when others were walking, though it feels callous to say. My flat pace in an ultra has improved leaps and bounds (from shuffle to jog), but it was still tricky to keep up with Kate coming into Dalemain. The hill was a proper sting in the tail!
Hannah, Andy, my parents and Kate’s dad were waiting for us in Dalemain. I felt *elated*. My dropbag was produced, but the checkpoint was pretty busy so I tried to shelter next to…Louise! Yay! I was so happy to see Lou (Plodding Lou, to all you on Facebook), doing her “admin, not faffing”, in great spirits. Her positivity really helped me as I tried to concentrate on my List. I was so glad I had a List.
I took my shoes and socks off first…Aaaag. My feet were proper wrinkly. I cleaned em up and left them to dry while I changed my top, ahhhh brushed my teeeeth, best thing everrrr… A person in scrubs and a stethoscope asked if I wanted anything. “Errr…” “A drink?” OH, it was the M*A*S*H themed checkpoint!! I downed my beetroot juice, ate my pizza, half my Kind Cake Company pie. Gave the other half to a vegan woman who was being shown ingredients lists on pasta sauces… I think I did everything from the list, except rather optimistically kept my visor. Lou gave me some foot powder and I resolved to leave my (non-Injinji) socks on until Coniston.
A not-too-tearful-goodbye with the parents and Hannah and Andy ran with me to the gate. I started sobbing, and suddenly realised that it was because I really, really wanted to finish, and I was worried about my feet. Until this point I’d been living checkpoint-to-checkpoint, in the back of my mind pretending I didn’t care. Andy reassured me, bid farewell and said that Caitlin was waiting for me just up the trail. I caught up with Colm and we had a nice chat on a trail that I’ve never paid attention to before, as it’s at the very beginning of the 50.
Caitlin and I had a fantastic little run – we’ve done enough long runs together now that we make a great team, and I think I shed some happy tears when she was being all lovely. Of course we had a singsong and I posed for some photos by running up a hill (lolz). We went past Jane and her group who were waiting on the swings in Pooley Bridge; I wished I could stay longer, but my feet felt like a ticking time bomb and I knew I had to make the most of this good feeling.
After leaving Caitlin I met up with a couple of blokes. One of them seemed surprised that it was my first time, gave me a compliment on my…form? Confidence? Can’t remember, but it made me skip ahead and soon I was flying down the side of Ullswater, but being careful to relax and not hammer it. Good form. I might’ve been too relaxed, because I caught up with a pair and we managed to come into Howtown checkpoint the wrong way…I guess on the 50 I don’t normally have to navigate that section! It was proper pissing it down again by then.
Kate and Laura were in Howtown – bloody groundhog day, this!! – and we didn’t stay long. Fusedale, here we come!
Fusedale wasn’t too awful. My hamstrings were absolutely screaming on it last year on the 50, and this year I just took it at my own pace with my music in. Grind it out. Get it done. Tick off another one. The top was bloody grim – super windy and stinging rain. I passed the group with Kate in it and ran with some barefoot runners – one with sandals, one without. I was jealous, thinking of my creepy feet. Shoes are coffins for feet. It was at this point where I found my waterproof jacket’s design flaw: a plastic toggle attached to some elastic that was on a planned trajectory for my eye. Owch. I was getting really cold by this point (had my mittens and extra buff from my dropbag, wise move), but knew that if I stopped to put on my waterproof trousers I’d cool down even more.
I flew off High Kop like I always do, although this time the bit on the top felt longer, and the rocky bit by the stream to the shore of Haweswater was a deathtrap. I was glad I had my poles to negotiate the banks of fallen bracken and slippy rocks. I think that’s the last time I saw Laura, when I stopped to put on all my clothes. I ran with Jon Steele for a little while, forgoing my traditional wee-spot to compliment him on an exercise I learnt from a podcast years ago (wall squat, legs together, lift one foot up at a time. Repeat until you fall over. Loads the quads really well and preps you for downhill running) and ask him about trenchfoot. The upshot was: it’ll hurt, but you can keep going. Gulp.
I also had a lovely run with Lou, and we had a good ol’ natter. We first met after my first Lakeland 50 two years ago – she’s one of only two people I remember from that year! Gary was pretty quiet, although he said later that it kept him going hearing us blabbering on! Lou told me all about her Lakeland wedding in September which sounds fantastic.
I was feeling really good going into Mardale and came across my first 50 scalp – she looked like she was having a tough time, so I checked she had enough food and reassured her it wasn’t far to the checkpoint. She was still moving like a trooper, mind. As soon as I got there, I was looking for Spartan Andy (not my Andy). Found him, and Kate! Andy plied us with mandarins (omg) and crisps, fixed my jacket (hero) and hugged me and told me I was a legend. I cried, obviously.
Kate and I had a good stomp going with some music up Gatesgarth, and we kept glancing behind to see the sun disappear behind High Street. Phwoar. Reminded me of the time that Old Man Shaun had taken us there on an SI day and lost my phone (JK, he was a hero and pegged it back up to help me look for it). At the top I had a wee and scarred poor Simon for life – don’t know if it was the cold, but my bladder from then on gave me approx. 5 seconds notice every time it wanted to empty itself. Fortunately it usually had quite good timing (sorry Simon).
Down into Sadgill was more of a…jog than a run. I continued my Lakeland tradition of telling jokes on the descent to try and cheer the poor thing up, and thought of the co-founders of this tradition, Pauline and Siobhan. Headtorches on.
My Andy appeared out of the darkness before Troutbeck, which was a lovely boost. Apparently we were “quite jolly” and “didn’t really have any concept of time”. We were moving at a reasonable rate but running wasn’t happening any more – my feet and Kate’s hip and feet kept us together for the remainder of the event.
Going over Garburn we joined up with Jay and Emily, had some nice chats (including sandwich rants) and saw the weirdest cloud, which looked like a rectangular rabbit – were the hallucinations setting in? Na, we could all see them – and revealed an incredible moon rise and a bright Mars. We could only laugh at the THREE BLOODY STONE STILES we had to go over to get to the next checkpoint. A cruel joke. In Kentmere they were taking down tables, which scared me a little bit. More delicious pasta. “Can I get you anything?” “Some new feet?” “Sorry, we’re all out.” “Ahh, should have run faster”. Oh I’m hilarious. Standing up was bloody agony but it soon simmered down to a constant pain.
The next plod – eugh – I spent making Kate jealous of my ‘hallucinations’. I sort of felt like there was a tree hanging over me. But there was no tree. Not quite as wild as Jay’s cats though! We lost Jay and wouldn’t catch him til much later. I felt very comforted to be with Kate on her home turf going into Ambleside. Confidence. Resilience. Faith.
Ambleside! Prior to the event, I’d thought that getting to Ambleside would mean “I’d done it”, but 15 miles seemed like a hell of a way. My parents and Kate’s entourage were there, which was great, and they fed us tasty treats. “So we’re realising, 100 miles is actually a really long way…” After sitting down for a couple of minutes (?! No concept of time!), the pain in my feet was extreme. I went to the loo (chafage! That’s new!) and had a massive sob. Felt better. Put on a brave face and said goodbye to the parents. Next time I see them, I’ll have run 100 miles…
The road up the side of Loughrigg warranted music. More waterproof faffage. Got to my favourite bit, the stepping stones, and I attempted to skip over them. Ow. I was bloody dreading that steep road into Skelwith Bridge, but I can’t remember it now. I definitely used my poles…
Chesters had some signs up! “No achey no cakey”! Lovely boost for us, especially Kate, whose name was on the sign. Robin cropped up and said hi. The next bit is flattish and usually pretty grim, but we power-hiked it. Made myself only stop once to get the millions of rocks out of my shoes. Ricardo Avocado saved us from a bullock that was standing on the path menacingly. Found Jay sleeping against a tree. Going into Chapel Stile, Robin cropped up again and said we didn’t have long til the cutoff. Shit. Tears were streaming down my face as I powered along the track to the checkpoint, overtaking a L50 competitor in a bad way. At least my stomach was ok.
In the checkpoint Kate and I both had a big cry and a hug and some lovely support from the checkpoint people. We had 4 hours to do 10 miles. Which seems like a lot, if you forget there are three ascents left, our feet are falling off and we’ve just done 95 miles. Shit. We left Chapel Stile 20 minutes ahead of cutoff (I think?).
More crying. Fuck this hurts so much. “I really want that fucking t-shirt!” Confidence. Resilience. Faith. We managed to move pretty quick along Langdale and had a nice (nice?!!) plod up to the pass. Robin was there and took a picture of us in floods of tears. “You’re going to make it!”
Andy met us near Blea Tarn, where we did our first recce 2.5 years ago with Hannah and Zoe. 10km to go. We’re going to make it.
I took some paracetamol for my feet. I couldn’t tell if it was raining or I was just constantly crying. By the time we got to Wrynose, they became hopeful, slightly happy tears. Music was in, I felt like we were athletes. We absolutely hoofed it over that pass, past the L50 walkers. Tried to run a bit…nope.
Got to the checkpoint at Tilberthwaite. “You’ve got time, just have a cup of tea and warm up” “Na we’re off, we’re getting this done.”
Plodded up out of Tilberthwaite. Nice to do it in the light. Remarkably, I got a personal record on a strava segment. Bloody false summit. It’s not over yet. That top bit’s longer than I remember in the dark. The tension was diffused with us trying to work out what that noise was…ah. The man behind us hiccuping. We eventually got to the top… The final descent down to Coppermines starts quite technical. There was no way we were running it “Take it easy, don’t fuck it up now…” Man it hurt. I had a different swear word for every goddamn step.
That road felt soooo good. Kate’s fan club met us and provided us with the reassurance that we had plenty of time and we were going to do it. We didn’t have to run. Phew. Maybe we’d run when we got to Coniston. Maybe.
We started running at the garage, down the road to the school, past people who were clapping. We fucking did it. Dibbed in at the finish. I kept running. “You can relax now! You’ve done it!” I didn’t know how to stop! “You can compose yourselves, I’ll walk you in.”
There was no composing myself. I saw Dad. Mum. Hannah. Caitlin. Andy. All the hugs. It was the most emotional moment.
The man with a pan announced us. “Their first time doing the Lakeland 100!” We fucking did it. So many tears. So many hugs.
Didn’t want to take my socks off. There was an extra angry red blister between my toes “ahghhhhgh what is that!” Waved at Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn (another celeb who won the 50) “my medal’s massive!”
A week after starting, and it hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m not sure if it ever will. We were the last female finishers. We were the last finishers under 40 hours. Almost 50% didn’t finish this year. 39 hours. 41 minutes. 12 seconds. We did it.
Thank you to Andy, Hannah, Caitlin and my parents for being an awesome support team and putting up with me for the months in the leadup… Thanks to everyone who sent a wonderful message of support. Thanks to Kate for being the best worrying and stomping buddy; I’m so glad we got to experience so much of it together. Thanks to all in the Lakeland Family for being awesome.
The Lakeland 100 was my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for several years – it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever worked for or achieved. I’m enjoying the afterglow and keeping an eye on the next thing…but I’d love to help others to do the same. So if you have any questions or want to chat about taking that leap, I’m all ears. Go for it.
My playlist included:
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
Born to Conquer – Phil Rey
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee Cast
Easier to Run – Linkin Park
Everything Louder Than Everything Else – Meat Loaf
Everything Will Be Alright – The Killers
Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
Here It Goes Again – OK Go
I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow
I’m On My Way – The Proclaimers
Like Eating Glass – Bloc Party
Movin’ On – Good Charlotte
One Foot Before The Other – Frank Turner
Sail – AWOLNATION
Sand In My Shoes – Dido
Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
Sigh No More (album) – Mumford & Sons
Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers
Sprawl (II) (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire
Steady As She Goes – Corinne Bailey Rae
Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
Unstoppable – The Calling
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet – Bachman Turner Overdrive
Link to my Just Giving page here
Link to splits here (if you like that sort of thing, or want to know when I was where)