Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Cumbria Way Ultra

The inaugural Cumbria Way Ultra took place on September 13th 2014. It was organised by Pure Outdoor Events, who also do the Grand Tour of Skiddaw.

The Cumbria Way Ultra is a 73 mile trail ultra race which passes through the varied terrain of the beautiful Lake District, giving over 10,000 feet of ascent. Starting in Ulverston, the Cumbria Way passes Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Dungeon Ghyll, then crosses Stake Pass to Borrowdale, Derwent Water and Keswick. The route continues to Caldbeck passing Skiddaw House and over High Pike, the highest point on the trail. It then follows the Caldew valley to Carlisle” 

I had only entered the race the weekend before, deciding that I was just about ready for my first outing since the Lakeland 100. My Achilles has been irritable since before the L100 but seems OK if I don’t do too much on tarmac and on the flat – so a day in the Lakes seemed like a good idea!

Having parked in Carlisle, I met fellow-competitor Colin Russell at Carlisle rail station. His TDS shirt and Salomon pack were the give away! Interesting to note that all car parks in Carlisle allow overnight parking for the absolute bargain of £4 per 24hrs.

Arriving in Ulverston, we checked into our respective B&B’s then wandered over to registration at The Old Farmhouse. Now I’m not usually superstitious, but I was not overly happy with race number 13 for a race starting on the 13th day of the month.

After a delicious and massive portion of paella at The Farmers Arms, it was an early night ready for the 06:00 start.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere as we nattered away at the official start of the Cumbria Way at The Gill. It never ceases to amaze me how relaxed everyone is (or appears to be) at the start at ultra’s, especially when compared to many road races. I suppose we have all day (and sometimes more) to get stressed!

We were soon off and a couple of runners seemed to be on a mission. Race organizer, Gaynor Prior, had warned us of the perils of following the person in front but we obviously paid no attention as the first 8-10 of us all blindly missed the first turning and ended up being the last 8-10!

Having made the sensible decision not to set off too hard, I found myself in the lead pack of 4 runners. After an hour or so, my calves and hamstrings started to feel really tight to the extent that I was forced to take some painkillers. I decided to back off a bit, which turned into a lot, and started to lose my enthusiasm. I was soon joined by the next group of 3. It took a good hour for me to get back into my running but my calves remained sore all day for whatever reason. One of those strange ultra-things that we get no doubt!

Not feeling very happy
...but still plodding along
The first section was fairly flat though farmland but we were soon running round the shore of Coniston Water and into CP1 in Coniston at 15miles.  We were well provided for with flapjack, ginger cake, malt loaf, peanuts, 9Bars, Clif Bars, GU gels and more. All 4 CP’s were top notch - well organized, well stocked and there was always a friendly and helpful reception.

Off towards Langdale, we passed Tarn Hows. Without any great intent, I started to pull away from the others as we approached Elterwater and I reached CP2 at Stickle Barn on my own. I was in 2nd place as two of the runners ahead were in relay teams. The next runner arrived just as I was leaving the CP. It was the last time I was to see a solo runner all day.

It just doesn't get any better...
I was feeling happier now and looking forward to some hillier terrain as I ran along the valley, with the sun on my back, to the bottom of Stake Pass. I was also comfortable with the knowledge that I knew the rest of the route.

The path up Stake Pass was far more substantive than I remembered, as was the long descent into Borrowdale. The views were spectacular as ever. There are few better sights that Borrowdale on a sunny day.
Feeling happier again
Down towards Borrowdale
Going through Rosthwaite, the tearooms were full of walkers and day-trippers, and I felt a little jealous as I munched on another energy bar!

Running round Derwentwater, my Achilles was becoming increasing sore so I had another couple of paracetamol. They soon worked their magic, and my Achilles was mysteriously cured for the rest of the day.

After 40 miles, I arrived at Keswick and CP3. As I devoured some cold rice pudding, I tried to dismiss the fact that there was another 33 miles to go, and concentrate on my tried and tested ‘CP to CP’ approach!

Leaving the CP, I steeled myself for the ascent around Latrigg, the bottom of which seemed a lot steeper than normal! Then it was the long traverse of Skiddaw to the YHA bunkhouse, and a right turn picking up the River Caldew. This section is really quite wild and I had a very strong feeling of solitude. I was still running strongly on the sections I should be running and working hard uphill.

The climb up Grainsgill Beck was every bit as hard as I remembered, especially after the best part of 60 miles. I checked in with the marshall at Lingy hut, and looking back down was surprised (and a little angry) to see to 2 runners taking a ‘racing line” directly to the hut. Not knowing whether they were solo or team runners, and not wanting to lose a position, I decided I’d better get a move on!

Powered on by adrenaline I probably ran my best section of the day, pushing hard down to the CP in Caldbeck.  I quickly dibbed in and grabbed a handful of calories. Just as I was leaving two relay runners came in so I was happy that I was still comfortably in 2nd place.

The 10 miles from Caldbeck to Dalston mainly follows the River Caldew through farmland. It was just before 18:30 and I was keen to get as close to Dalston as I could in the daylight. Although I had recce’d this section, it’s much easier to make mistakes when you’re tired.

A few encounters with feisty cows were dealt with by a combination of shouting and clapping. Whether or not cows understand profanities is debatable, but it seemed to work. I later heard 2 runners describe how they’d had to take evasive action, dive over a fence and ford the river to escape a snarling bull. They obviously didn’t swear enough!

Faultless navigation (!) saw me running into Dalston. The final 5 miles to Carlisle is along a tarmac cycle path, which was hard on the legs after 15 hours on the go, but the finish was in sight.

Entering the outskirts of Carlisle and suburbia, there were plenty of locals out and about ‘enjoying’ their Saturday night. Lager drinking on the riverside seems a popular pastime!

I safely negotiated the A595 and crossed to the Carlisle Castle and over the finish line in the castle itself.

73 miles, 3000 metres ascent, 15:55, 2nd place.  A good day at the office.

After several cups of Heinz tomato soup, which tastes remarkably good after an ultra, the only challenge remaining was a 1 mile walk though the middle of Carlisle at closing time on a Saturday night to my car at the station! There seemed to be a remarkable number of people out celebrating my success!

A thoroughly enjoyable race. The Cumbria Way is less bumpy, and therefore involves more running, than the Lakeland 100 course. As with most races in the Lakes the scenery is stunning virtually throughout.

Organisation was absolutely first rate and couldn’t be faulted. All the CP’s were well stocked with a good variety of food. The marshalls and helpers were absolutely brilliant – really friendly and always seeking to help. Thanks to all.

It probably suffered in terms of entrants due to the number of events in the Lakes in September and October – Grand Tour of Skiddaw, 3x3000, Lakes in a Day – and also because the Hardmoors 60 was the following weekend. However, I’m sure it will grow as an event and I certainly fully recommend it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lakeland 100 - a brief report

For need of chronological continuity, I need to quickly add my report of the Lakeland 100

I finished in 26:24.

I was 16th.

I was very chuffed.

Jenny & Jessica were brilliant supporters.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lakes 10 Peaks Xtreme

Last year’s Lakes 10 Peaks was tough, very tough; a 73km route with 5600m of ascent. So when the Xtreme course was announced my immediate thought was “Why not?!”
“The Xtreme course takes things to another level! This 100km circular route, starting and finishing in Keswick takes in all of the 10 highest peaks as well as another 10 compulsory peaks including Blencathra, Clough Head, Raise, Fairfield, Seat Sandal, High Raise, Red Pike, Kirk Fell, Dale Head and Maiden Moor. This is a natural extension to the Long Course which follows a similar, but not identical, route to that of the Bob Graham Round. The tough terrain combined with nearly 8000m of ascent make this one of the hardest non-stop ultra distance races on the calendar”.

Sounded fair enough!

So let me simply state that if the “normal” 10 Peaks course is tough, then this is brutally tough but also so totally enjoyable!

The simple facts are that I finished joint 4th (joint 3rd male) in 21:25. Apart from smashing into the wall half way up Skiddaw (not to be recommended), I barely had a bad spell all day.

This was a bit of an on/off race for me. With a gap of only 4 weeks to the Lakeland 100, I was in 2 minds as the whether it was sensible to invest not only the physical effort but, more importantly for me, the mental effort into another tough event. My rather pathetic attempt at the Hardmoors 160 really made me realize that although my body may recover quickly, it takes far longer to recover mentally from these big events – from the mental preparation before the event and the mental effort during the event.

Family illness a couple of weeks prior to the race and the fact that it was Jade’s birthday the day before tipped the balance so I withdrew. Then a window of opportunity presented itself, and I reinstated myself on the Wednesday before the race!

I decided that the best way to circumnavigate the use of mental energy prior to the race was to not really think about it! So I went for the no taper approach. This seems to have worked previously in the Frostbite 30 (Dec 12) and this year’s Hardmoors 55. So having run just over 50 miles on Monday – Wednesday, I hadn’t spent all week with ever increasing taperitis! With Jade’s birthday dinner on the Friday evening, there wouldn’t be much time to psych myself up either.

I left Lincoln just after 10pm, arriving at Keswick shortly after 1am. I then curled up on the passenger seat expecting to wake up at around 02:30. Next thing I know is that the clock says 02:53. Race start 04:00. Oh well, no stress allowed today! I made and ate my porridge, went into the football club announced myself present, registered and changed. Quick hello’s with Andrew Hayes, Jon Steele, Annie Garcia and anyone else who was listening, and suddenly it was 03:55. Decided I’d better focus a little…….well, at least put my rucksack on!

And then we were off on the approach to Blencathra. Up Blease Fell, I was in a lead bunch of 8 or so runners as we peaked in poor visibility. Down Hall’s Fell Ridge, and out of the cloud, I watched in vain as several of the mountain goats sped off into the distance as I picked my way down – this was really demoralizing.

Down though Threlkeld and over the A66, I worked hard up Clough Head and recaught the lead bunch. Around the Dodd’s in clag, and approaching Raise, the call of nature called somewhat urgently and that was the last I saw of the first 3 runners.

I peaked Helvellyn with Bill Williamson whom I subsequently spent most of the day with. I lost some time going down to Grizedale Tarn but reached the top of Fairfield just behind Bill. This was to prove the pattern for the day with Bill pulling ahead on the downs and then me catching up on the ups.

Up and over Seat Sandal, my first new Wainwright of the day, we raced down to CP2 at Thirlmere. Then it was the long, boggy climb up to Greenup Edge and High Raise. We took the Bob Graham route up Bowfell, with me going a little off piste. Once on top, the clag had lifted and we started to pick off some of the long course competitors. Over Esk Pike to CP3 at Esk Hause where there was a food shortage.  Then up to the Scafell plateau, rapidly dibbing at Great End, Ill Crag and Broad Crag and then Scafell Pike itself.

I was feeling remarkably strong and full of running. Working hard up the ascents and then running nicely where possible.

Going up Lord’s rake to Scafell, Bill developed bad cramp. I waited for a minute but then pushed ahead. Not the greatest place to get cramp. Before exiting the ‘Rake’ my phone rang – I decided it was not the best place to take a call!

As I reached the summit plateau, there was Bill just ahead of me. He had taken a sneaky direct route - as though Lord’s Rake isn’t steep enough!

Down towards Wasdale there were a few darker clouds gathering and some moderate drizzle started. My prayers were answered and it soon dried up. After some excellent scree skiing, we reached Wasdale CP. The main excitement on arriving at any CP now was the thrill of not knowing what flavour of Clif Bar there would be on offer!!

After the nasty climb of Dorehead Screes, it was up to Red Pike and my 2nd (and final) new Wainwright of the day. I was feeling good still and pushing harder on the climbs. Then it was swiftly round to Pillar. The run down from Pillar to Black Sail Pass was frenetic – I think Bill was making a final effort to shake me off on my weaker downhills.

Up and over Kirk Fell to CP 5 at Beck Head where there was water rationing in force. Great Gable was surprisingly quickly summited. It was a great to get here feeling so good. Then it was the pleasant run down to Honister YH, and CP 6. I passed on the hot food and had a Mars Bar and probably a Clif Bar!

Skiddaw awaits... 
Dale Head and Maiden Head were soon ticked off, and we circumnavigated the summit if Cat Bells before heading onto Keswick. We ran well to CP 8 at Nichol End Marine, passing several Long Course runners. Still feeling pretty good, I had a mini-feast of Soreen and mini-Snickers. Probably a Clif Bar too!

On the way towards Keswick, Bill and I decided that it would be reasonable to finish together – we’d be running together since just before CP2. Shortly after, Bill hit a low patch, forcing us to walk for a while. Fortunately he seemed to eat his way out of it.

At the foot of Skiddaw, I was feeling pretty good but very much looking forward to finishing! A few minutes later the wheels fell off. I started to feel really nauseous and then I could feel the energy literally draining out of me. I really didn’t feel I could stomach any food, but given that I was virtually at a standstill and getting cold, I chewed on a few Clif Shots which helped a little. We stopped to put on head torches and windproofs. I braved a gel and by the time we reached Carlside Tarn I was feeling significantly better, and able to eat a little solid food.

By now, the wind had picked up significantly and the temperature had plummeted. On the Skiddaw summit plateau it felt bitterly cold, and my only though was to get down as quickly as possible.

Soon, we were running down into Keswick and the long-awaited finish at the football club.

Apart from smashing into the wall on the way up Skiddaw, I had felt really good the whole day. In particular, I felt really strong on the climbs. I’m not sure what happened going up Skiddaw as I’d been eating and drinking well all day – just one of those things, I guess. It does throw the whole business of the taper into turmoil. Having already run 50 miles in the week, I had no right or expectation for the race to go quite so well. Perhaps I was just lucky!? Either way, I was very happy with the day out, and it has left me feeling really confident about the Lakeland 100.

It was great to run with Bill. His knowledge of the 'good lines' was a real learning lesson as was the simple 'run on the grass' message

The Lakes 10 Peaks races are amongst my very favourites. A truly tough test in simply superb surroundings. If you like tough, if you like brutally tough, then you can’t do much better than this.

Thanks to Mark and Paul for putting on such great races, and to all the volunteers, often in remote places.

So next year……Lakes 10 Peaks Mega-Xtreme?

The route!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not the Hardmoors 160

Well, that didn’t go quite as planned!

The grim facts. First person to pullout from the race, after 30 miles at CP3 (Cropton). A fully conscious decision, and one that I was happy with at the time and still just about am!

It just wasn’t happening.

I felt my preparation had been good. I done a couple of long recce’s since the Viking Way and my legs seemed to have recovered OK, apart from some residual calf tenderness. Mentally, I was looking forward to the event but was aware that the excitement, the build-up, wasn’t quite there.

I packed all my gear on Thursday, putting a lot of thought into what I would need at each particular stop. Jenny would be supporting me through to late Saturday evening, and I knew that Tony Holland & Archie Stewart would be around on Sunday.

We arrived at the start at Scalby Mills in good time, and I was beginning to get that ‘buzz’. It was good to see some the usual suspects - Annie Garcia, Allan Rumbles and Ben Davis amongst others. Andrew Hayes, Tony Holland had come to support the start which was great.

Soon we were off. Initially things went well. Eventual winner, Lee Knight, Shelli Gordon, and Neil Ridsdale shot off, leaving the rest of us in their wake.

As usually happens, my legs started to feel a bit lethargy and achy after 90 minutes or so. This generally eases by 3 hours as I get into the race. However, this seemed a bit different, almost crampy. Instead of getting better, my legs just got tighter and tighter, but I was still moving along nicely. I was running with Matt who had ‘rescued’ me on the Spine this year. Apparently I had been walking around in circles; I didn’t think I’d been that bad!

I acquired my head torch from Jenny at CP2 (Levisham)

Then it began to rain. As we stopped to put on waterproof tops, it started to rain a lot. Waterproof trousers were donned. In torrential rain, conversation stopped. My legs seemed to hurt more.

We got to Cropton and that was that.

So what happened?

From a physical point of view, I’d done a couple of good long runs and had also done a couple of really nice shorter, tempo runs since the Viking Way. My legs had felt really stiff and sore for 2-3 days prior to the start but I had put that down to taperitis. Just one of those things or fallout from the Viking Way? Not sure really but probably cumulative damage.

Mentally, I didn’t feel the same as I had before the Viking Way. Once the rain started, my will disintegrated. Ultimately the want, the desire just wasn’t there.

Bottom line is that 5 weeks isn’t enough time to recover from a 147 mile run. Now there’s a surprise. Physically, perhaps, if you’re lucky, but mentally it’s just not enough time to get yourself up again. Not enough time to regain the drive and the desire required for something of this magnitude.

I’m not beating myself up after this one. Yes, I’m disappointed but it just wasn't going to happen. Any Jon Steele said he’d hit me if I got all depressed about it!

So, lesson learnt.

Probably not.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Getting ready for the Hardmoors 160

So this time next week, I’ll be readying myself for my next big challenge – the Hardmoors 160. A new addition to the Hardmoors family, the 160 links up the 48 mile Tabular Hills Route with the Cleveland Way. Starting at the coast at the cliff tops of Scalby Mills, Scarborough, the route first heads westwards and inland to Helmsley and then follows the 112 mile Cleveland Way (Hardmoors 110) to Filey.

Having done the 110 last year, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

After the Viking Way Ultra, I had a couple of restful weeks. My thighs recovered remarkable quickly but my calves have been pretty stiff ever since. I imagine this is a combination of changing to Hoka’s (with their lower hill drop) and the sheer distance and runability of the VWU. 

Anyway over the last couple of weeks I’ve recce’d the second half of the Tabular Hills route and reminded myself of some of the Cleveland Way, trying to do the bits which I will encounter at night. Due to the linear nature and the intricacies of public transport, this has required an encyclopaedic knowledge of the bus routes of North Yorkshire, and I have spent many hours pouring over text books

For the Tabular Hills part, I parked at Pickering and picked up the route south of Levisham. The route passes through several pretty villages and is mainly rolling countryside, but there is one vicious hill that pops up out of nowhere! I made my way to Hemsley and caught the 16:30 bus back to Pickering.

Last week, after typical Richard indecision and procrastination, I finally decided to start the next recce at…….Hemsley. This was mainly based on the fact that I like the moors more than the coast!

The plan was to Gump it; essentially I just keep on going until it seems a good time to stop. It was a lovely day as I set off and I made good time towards Osmotherley, stopping only briefly to chat to a man carrying a Venice Marathon rucksack. At Osmotherley, I decided an ice cream boost was required; I can recommend the Brymoor’s ice cream from the village store.

Over the moors I went; I love this part of the route. Having gone t*ts up after Bloworth Crossing, and with well-bloodied knees, I decided it might be time to stop. Kildale was close and seemed like a good option. Unfortunately there was no room at the stable so studying maps and consulting the locals, I decided to run 5 miles down the road to Great Ayton. I mobilized my brother who kindly did the sensible thing and sourced a B&B for me. Arriving at 8pm, after 45 miles, the owner proceeded to tell me off for not booking anywhere in advance!! I smiled sweetly, had a quick bath and wandered to the pub for a very well earned meal.

I felt remarkably fresh in the morning as I made my way up towards Roseberry Topping. I was planning to get as far down the coast as I could given time constraints and the complex combination of buses required to get back to Helmsley.

I merrily made my way on to Saltburn, stopping for emergency blister repair and a bun. 

I ran along the coast on a glorious morning, passing through the lovely village of Staithes.

After 25 miles, I arrived in Runswick Bay, just catching the 12:42 bus to Whitby. Then the 13:35 bus to Scarborough, followed by the 14:45 to Helmsley, followed by an ice cream.

Happy days.

So is my body recovered and ready for another onslaught? More importantly is my head ready again? If the motivation and drive is there, then my body respond.

Anyone need any information on bus routes?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Viking Way 2014

On Good Friday, 22 intrepid ultra-runners began to converge on Hull for the start of the 3rd running of the Viking Way Ultra; 147 miles in 40 hours, from Hull to Oakham.

It was great to see so many familiar faces at race HQ, Premier Inn Hull West, in the evening – Mark and Alex Cockbain, Riccardo Giussani, Ben Davies, Jon Steele and Shirley Colquhoun, Allan Rumbles, Colin Fitzjohn, Andy Horsley, Cliff Canavan-King. Many others I knew by reputation.  After a communal dinner and with the race due to start at 7am, we all settled down for a good night’s sleep.

Or so we thought.

We were to woken to fire alarms just after midnight. Personally, I ignored them, although I did immediately think of the conch shell which is blown to announce 1 hour to the start of the legendary Berkley Marathons. The alarms sounded again and we were told to evacuate the building. Great.

I decided that the only tactic was to remain cheerful and see the funny side. After all Mark does call his events “The Hard Stuff”. In fact we wondered whether he had arranged for the alarms to sound just for a laugh! Some of asked if we could start now!

After over an hour outside in pajamas in very chilly conditions, we were finally allowed back to our rooms. For a final hurrah, the alarm sounded a few more times before allowing us to sleep at around 01:30.

At 5am, my alarm sounded. I didn’t feel like I’d slept at all. At least I’d be getting an early night that night. Oh, that was it….I wouldn’t be getting any sleep at all.

Viking Way 2014 
We sauntered down to the start and soon enough we were off on our journey. I started very steadily, having a good chat with Jon. Before long I found myself in a lead group with Ed Catmur, Luke Ashton, Cliff  Canavan-King and Andy Horsley. Cliff and I nattered away, whilst the others could barely get a word in edgeways.

Soon we were at Bilby, CP1, at 15 miles. Ed appeared to eat his body weight. He is very fast (15:44 at NDW100) so I decided to copy.

The next couple of legs through the Lincolnshire Wolds are the prettiest and most interesting part of the route with a few hills. Please bear in mind that the high point in Lincolnshire is the imaginatively named Wolds Top at 168m so I use the word ‘hill’ in that context!

Cliff, Ed and I seemed to be running fairly much together as we approached Tealby, CP2, at 30 miles. Luke was ahead of us but must have gone wrong as he entered the CP just after us. He was soon through with Cliff & I following.

Apart from pausing briefly in Donnington-on-Bain for a very therapeutic ice-lolly, we kept up a good pace through to Fulletby, CP3, at 50 miles. Here we had access to drop bags so we had a longer stop, changing socks and picking up gear for the night. Mark had outdone himself this year, providing hotdogs, rice pudding (with jam to accompany) and even cream eggs. Real Cadburys ones too, not home brand!

Living the dream!
Replenished it was down through Horncastle and then the long, flat, straight run to Woodhall Spa. Just before Woodhall Spa, I began to feel very tired and lethargic. I knew I had been eating and drinking well so thought it was one of ‘those phases’. Coming out of the town, I suddenly felt very lightheaded, and strangely emotional and tearful. With the next checkpoint only a couple of miles away, Cliff pushed on to warn them I was struggling. 

It was time to call Jenny!

Jenny and Jade were on their annual Easter break; this time touring Ireland. Jenny was driving but Jade was amazingly supportive and generally lovely. Our 2 girls really are wise beyond their years. Jenny pulled over and gave me some loving advice. With my resolve strengthened, I made my way towards Stixwold, CP4, 64 miles.

The checkpoint was manned by Drew Sheffield and Claire Shelley and well stocked with goodies. A couple of hot cross buns with lashing of jam seemed to work wonders, so I guess I must have been a bit low on fuel, or perhaps it was just the sugar hit. Or perhaps it was just one of ‘those phases’.

Off I trundled towards Lincoln. On the section towards Fiskerton I managed to go completely the wrong way. It was absolutely ridiculous to go wrong here as I live in Lincoln and know this bit like the back of my hand. Fatigue, pure and simple. Not wanting to end up back in Bardney, and seeing headlights, I opted for the cross-country route to the road. Lincolnshire really is very flat and featureless so although I was fairly sure where I was, I decided to wave down a car and check that I was actually still going in the right direction. Amazingly the first vehicle to pass was Mark and Alex Cockbain – I was on the road to Fiskerton. Happy days.

Back on route, I made my way along the 2.5 miles of riverbank, to CP5, just before Lincoln, 81 miles. A cheery welcome was waiting and I was soon on to Lincoln where it was great to see my son, James, who had come out after midnight to cheer me on. This was so good of him and it really lifted my spirits.

I really do know the next section well which is good because I can't remember much about it. I do remember the temperature dropping markedly. However, I arrived at Wellingore, CP6, 96 miles at 03:40. This was an almost identical time to when I had done the race in 2012, but I was in much better shape. In 2012, Mark had had to virtually force me to continue but this year he just told me that one of his goals for the race this year was to see me finish which meant a huge amount to me.

I was surprised to see Cliff here. Apparently, he had come into the CP with Luke, but had been passing blood in his urine and was in a lot of pain. He wasn’t sure if he could continue.

It was getting really cold now. Drop bags were available for the final time before the finish so I grabbed my veteran Montane Fireball smock and took plenty of time making sure I had everything I needed for the rest of the race. I had packed individual mini-bags for the 2 drop-bag CPs  with food, electrolytes, kit etc. This made life a lot easier. I also changed shoes and socks. After a good feed, and another cream egg, I was ready to go.

Cliff then decided he was going to come with me. I wasn’t sure that he should from a medical prospective but I think we both wanted the company. I was getting quite cold so we were quickly off.

Dawn soon came which always lifts the spirits but unfortunately, after crossing the A17, Cliff was obviously struggling and in a lot of pain. He made the sensible decision to stop. I was sad to leave him; he was great company and we’d been getting on really well.

I then steeled myself for the trek to the next CP at Foston. I was getting really cold and was shivering a lot despite base layer, t-shirt, OMM Cyber smock, Montane Fireball and OMM Kamleika, hat, 2 pairs of gloves etc. I really do feel the cold! I was also struggling tremendously to stay awake and at one stage was seriously contemplating sitting down for sleep. That would have been a very bad idea!

It was time to mobilise my support structure! Had a nice chat with Jenny who told me to keep on going, and then checked in with my Mum & Dad whom I was looking forward to seeing at the finish.

After a brief (ish) heavy shower. I approached Foston, CP7, 113 miles. I had dropped out here in 2012 and that certainly was not on today’s menu. Feeling much better, I set off on the long 18 mile section to Sewstern.

I was heading south towards Oakham now, it was getting warmer, I was feeling pretty good all things considered and I was going to finish.

This was a REALLY long leg and seemed to go on forever.

Going around Grantham, I popped into the Rutland Arms on the Grantham Canal and grabbed the best available food, a couple of pepperami’s and a Mars Bar, and filled up with water. This pub is in a great location and is sadly missing an opportunity.

The long, long, long Sewstern Lane was rife with cross-country and quad bikes, and nicely dug up into a veritable quagmire in places. Not fun.

I nearly bumped into a couple of people out for a walk who turned out to be Archie Stewart, fresh from his successful MdS, and his daughter Sophia. It was great to see them and I met another brief heavy shower with spirits lifted. Not for long, as I hit even worse sections of slippery mud, easily the most unpleasant bit of the whole event. I wasn’t having fun and I wanted to go home.

A graveyard for ultra-runners? Pretty much how I felt.....broken

Eventually, I got to Sewstern, CP8, 131 miles. I was feeling really tired and suddenly the remaining 16 miles seemed a very long way. Just before the CP I spotted my Mum and Dad with James.  My Mum insisted on ‘running’ the last 200m to the CP with me which was rather comical at the time. She then tried to help me with my bag. I asked politely to be given a little space! Once a Mum……

It was good to see them though and they were particularly amused by the number of chocolate rice crispy squares that I was able to eat in one go! Why do you think I do these events?

As I got up to leave another runner approached. It was Steve Gordon who must have been reeling me in all day. I wasn’t particularly bothered if he caught me. I had been walking almost all of the day and although I didn’t have much left, I knew I was going to finish. To me these long races are events rather than races. The race is 99% against oneself and I was winning that one.

Five minutes out of the CP, I suddenly decided I was bothered about finishing second. I had been in 2nd all day and I deserved to be 2nd! So I tried to run and it seemed to work so I kept on running. At this stage, I really didn’t want to go wrong so I very much had map in hand and was double-checking everything. 

I kept on running and I couldn’t believe how good I felt.

I was soon through  Exton and then down to the final checkpoint at Rutland Water.

141 miles done. 6 miles to go.

Pausing quickly for water and a couple of hits of cake, I ran along Rutland Water pleased that I had recce’d this bit.

A selfie after 143 miles of running felt appropriate.

Then it was along the main road into Oakham. It started to drizzle but I didn’t care. Mum, Dad and James were waiting just before the final corner so I stopped quickly to thank them.

As I rounded the final corner and saw the finish, I suddenly felt really emotional, and then it was over. I’d finished. I was happy.

147 miles, 36 hours and 9 minutes, 2nd place.

Mark and Alex gave me my t-shirt and medal. We’re talking serious bling here! The Mayor of Oakham was also here so I had a photo with him too. I was a bit excited now of course and called him “Your Excellency”. Mum insisted on an obligatory family photo.

And I went home.

And I was in time for tea (see here!)

Big thanks to Mark and Alex for all their tireless efforts over the weekend and for giving such a good vibe to the event. A real family feel. Thanks also to all those who gave freely of their time over the holiday weekend. Events like this just wouldn't happen otherwise.

Congratulations to all runners. Whether you finished or didn't, you toed the line. He who risks nothing......