So, Lakes in a Day event – 7th October 2017. 50 mile ultra marathon across the Lake district with a reported 12000 feet of climb. Actual race stats puts it at 54 miles with just over 12300 feet of climb.

Spoiler alert: I finished it!

I registered at Caldbeck about 7.20am where I got my t-shirt and shoe drop bag. Camera crew were out interviewing the nervous hopeful finishers. A short walk to the start line and a good race brief followed. We were warned of flooded routes.

A prompt start and we were off! An easy few miles on road and track led us up to the start of the fells. On the event recce I knew the 1st 11 miles would be awful. So I expected to just get my head down and plough on. It didn’t turn out like that.

The weather changed to rain and low cloud, visibility was poor and the wind was starting to get pretty damn strong. The bridge was available at the river so only another short river crossing was done (surprisingly warm) and the expected hellish slog up to Blencathra didn’t feel hellish. I actually enjoyed it! No idea why as the weather was horrendous. Clearly in a delusional state.

I crawled up Blencathra and the wind and rain was really going for it now. I heard reports of winds between 40-50mph. No idea if this was accurate but as I was nearly blown off my feet a few times, it felt accurate! At the start of Halls ridge I met the most helpful marshal. Cheery and full of smiles…what a lovely guy he was! That man deserves a special mention.

I opted to go down Blease fell rather than scramble down the ridge as I wasn’t confident in the dry let alone in the wind and rain. Blease was longer but for me, worth it. Turns out over a mile longer.

I strolled into Threlkeld cp feeling pretty darn good. A quick water top up and I was on my way.

Then Clough Head.

What an absolute b*tch!

This was the only part of the route I hadn’t done a recce but I knew it would be the toughest climb. It was.

I can’t describe how tough that climb was. I saw several runners give up and head back to Threkeld. One guy near me said he’d had enough but I told him that it was the worst climb so just keep going. He did. I caught up with him again somewhere after Helvellyn, asking me which path to take. I hope he finished. The mile that included the Clough climb took me 47 minutes! Got to laugh 😂

So more bad weather, which nearly took my contact lenses out, up Helvellyn and a drop down to Grisdale tarn. Actually saw a bit of blue sky in the distance but as soon as I headed up Fairfield, it quickly disappeared. Fairfield was tough but I knew it would be over quickly.

I got to the wall that drops down the Ambleside. A lovely feeling! Quite a few bog patches and over 15 falls later (I stopped counting after 15) I hit the drop. This was the point I was worried about as I needed help down it on the recce. This time, I grabbed a tree branch and swung down then dropped. I must have had a confidence injection 😁. It was plain sailing into Ambleside checkpoint where I arrived just as it hit darkness.

Head torch out, pizza and pasta eaten, change of shoes and clean top on. And I was off again. Still feeling pretty darn good. I was actually enjoying it. It’s weird how horrendous weather can exhilarate you, make you feel unstoppable! At this point I felt like a warrior 😁

They say this is a race of 2 halves. The first being a 30 mile fell race and the 2nd being a 20 mile trail race. This is spot on accurate. I’d completed what I thought would be the toughest section. Then the next section would be easier terrain wise 🤔

I headed out on my own at first but caught up with other head torches. I decided to stick with them as I didn’t want to be in the dark on my own. I was mostly walking but I didn’t mind. The company was good. The terrain …..well. lots of flooded sections and some pretty epic mud. A couple of minor hills then we hit the climb opposite the YMCA. I know this would feel tough 😂. It really feels as if it’s never ending. Some weird groundhog horror movie where all you do is climb up in the dark with no end in sight. I didn’t like it. But happy street soon arrived as soon as I saw that metal fencing at the top 😊

A nice plod down and then to the 3rd and final cp at Finsthwaite. And still feeling good but slightly irritated that I hadn’t run more.

The confidence levels about going it alone in the dark were higher at this point so I decided to shoot off and run the last bit. Ha!

Navigating was easy, I knew the route well from my previous recce but it was like a piggin ice rink! Note to self: pick shoes for mud not for the road sections. I should have gone for grippy shoes and walked the road bits, not picked shoes that I though would be ok for easy trail/road. Lesson learnt. 7 miles of falls, walking and sliding followed. Oh boy was I p*ssed off with myself! As soon as I got to the last 3 miles I knew it was all road so I ran! Oh I was so happy! I overtook a few but it just felt good not to be skidding anymore. Road never felt so good.

I finally strolled in after 19 hours 12 minutes and 9 seconds. I was ready for a nap but not broken. And you know what….one tiny blister. How epic is that 😊. Full on smug mode.

Overall there’s a few things I’ve learnt

  • Think carefully about shoe choice. If you hope they’ll be fine, they probably won’t be.
  • I’m ok in the dark on my own.
  • I need to have more confidence in myself on scrambles.
  • I feel epic in horrendous weather.
  • I can and will eat anything.
  • Your kit can really make or break an event. Prepare for the worst. My kit was perfect (excluding shoes)
  • Perhaps fearing for the worst meant that the actual experience was better than anticipated.
  • Ear worms (In my case, Foo Fighters The Sky is a Neighbourhood) really do keep you going.
  • Chaffing is real.
  • I LOVE this event!

I always said this would be a one off challenge but the organisation, the inspiring marshals, the food and use of proper toilets has tempted me to come back for more. If there is a next time, I’m going to see what I can actually do. Even now, some 40 hours later, I feel confident I could knock a couple hours off. Who knows. I may end up eating my own words.

So thank you to all. You made this event the best I’ve ever experienced.

Now where’s the food?