Training went brilliantly. I took part in all my usual off road events, The Hebden, The Trollers Trot, The Haworth Hobble and added a few Hardmoors marathons into the mix along with a few cross country events and a tarmac mile time trial PB too. The Cateran Trail 55 mile event in May was my longest training run. I loved it. I was on a high and so very looking forward to my main aim and new challenge. Then a few weeks later at the beginning of June, I started to suffer with Achilles pain. It was hampering my training big style. June should have been a big mileage month. I wanted to ramp things up and get fitter but I was struggling in pain and then got a viral flu thing as well and was not getting as far as I wanted in training and felt pretty weak and down. My confidence and fitness was lowering and I began to have doubts about whether or not I should pull out. I’d been having physiotherapy for 5 weeks and my physio said I should be okay to go ahead. So two days before the event I made the decision to start. I had been using Rocktape on my Achilles but it kept peeling off so I was to try a new product called Active Patch 4U. All the’ Kilians’ and’ Emilie ‘Forsbergs’ were wearing it so it must be good! I would break the event down into 15 ‘legs’ and count backwards down so it was always going to seem easier and easier in my head. I wasn’t confident but my theory is that if I don’t try how will I know? ‘A boat is safe in the harbour but this is not the purpose of a boat’.
Leg 1 - Coniston to Seathwaite 7 miles- 2162ft ascent- 1988ft descent
We stand in the starting pen at 6pm Friday evening on the 25th July 2014. It’s been a hot day and it’s still very, very warm. We listen to the sounds of Nessun Dorma and then the gun fires. We are off. Well here goes! Wonder how far I will get. Only one way to find out! Just do it! We run through the streets of Coniston to massive cheers from the crowd, then before we know it, it’s a steep walk up to Walna Scar Pass. Three of us from Sunderland Strollers are attempting the hundred, Neil Bennett, Tony Allen and I. I am aware that Tony is by my side although I had made clear I wanted to run this alone in my own time and space. I am confident to navigate round the route on my own, I enjoy that. I love the solitude and not having to talk to a soul out there. It’s a kind of enlightenment. The peace, the quiet and the nature, call me unsociable but that’s just me.
Neil went past us going up Walna Scar at a good pace. He’s done this event twice before and will be trying to beat his previous time I thought. People were talking to me on the climb but I couldn’t reply. I felt sick with the heat. Tony and I never uttered a word to each other the whole way and before we knew it we were sailing down the descent and into Check point 1, Seathwaite. It was bedlam. The guys in there were working hard to top people’s water bottles up. We waited in the queue for ours to be topped up and off we went. Afterwards I thought how disappointing it was not to have a cup of coke.
Clock time: 19:45hrs Distance: 7 miles Time on feet: 1hr 44min
(Check point time 5-10 min approx.)
Leg 2 - Seathwaite to Boot 7 miles- 1263ft ascent-1375ft descent
I was still suffering with the heat and stuffiness in the air on the climb out of Seathwaite and my Achilles was painful, no more than usual but it’s not going to get me through 105 miles. I was aware of how slow I was going and kept stopping at the side of the trail to retch. Lots of people were passing, chatting and happy and looking strong. Only a few hours in and I feel rotten. Thoughts are swimming around in my head, how can I possibly carry on when I feel like this so early on? I’m never ever, ever going to get through 105 miles. Oh well I’ll just retire at Boot, at least I’ve tried. If I don’t retire I will probably get timed out at this rate. But I don’t regret that I started. Tony stops when I stop, walks/runs when I walk/ run. I mumble to him to go on. Why is he waiting? He is ruining his own chances of completion. I don’t want to slow anyone down or have to wait for anyone, that’s my rules! Then again, I think perhaps he is using me as a tool to keep him paced as he has a habit of going off too fast and then burning out too soon. But I’d rather he just went on in case I have to stop all together. Despite all of this, I am also aware from previous experience, that these feelings and struggles are likely to pass. One foot in front of the other, no matter what! So I keep going.
I remember going through the plantation on November’s recce was a nightmare of a slog in the mud and bogs and I’m dreading it, but this time it’s a lot drier and it seems no time at all before we reach the rocky knolls before the steep descent. Tony is behind me, I hear a fall, a wince. He has twisted his ankle. Great, I think, if he is injured I can stay with him and then I have a great excuse to retire! His ankle is fine though, good for him, and we carry on into Boot. I have still barely spoken a word along the way. I refill my water bottles, have a biscuit and take a couple of paracetomols to help calm my stomach. I hear a marshal say there are only 25 more people to come through. I ask if there’s any coke. They tell me they’ve ran out of coke but they have tea. Coke disappointment hits me again. At Kielder marathon last year, they had ran out of socks for the finishers. Too slow for socks! Now I am too slow for coke! In May, when I was feeling fit and strong, I was contemplating trying for a 30-32 hour finish, this seemed reasonable at the time but not anymore. I refuse to let the fact that I am near the back of the field bother me. This is a mega challenge for me after all, with lots of fitter and more experienced folk ahead. I am in my rightful place.
It’s getting cooler now and the light is fading. It’s only 5 miles to Wasdale Head and our running club Sunderland Strollers are manning this checkpoint. I shall take my time to get there and then think about retiring in familiar company and get a lift back to Coniston if I still feel rough.
Clock time: 21:54hrs Distance: 14 miles Time on feet: 3hr 54min
(Check point time 5- 10 min approx.)
Leg 3 - Boot to Wasdale Head 5.4 miles- 974ft ascent-942ft descent
Heading out of Boot the light is fading, so on go the head torches in readiness for dark. Once up onto Eskdale Moor I notice that I am feeling better, and seem to be moving quicker now too. I absolutely love this section as darkness opens up a sky full of stars and beautiful mountain contours in the distance. On reaching Burnmoor Tarn I realise I have been chatting the whole way since Boot and I am starving hungry too! At last I feel like eating. I had been hoping the coolness of the evening would take awake my nausea and it had. I was now raring to go with legs and chatter and poor Tony’s ears were about to drop off! ‘I suppose we’re running this together now then’ I said to him. It was going against my initial wishes of wanting to run alone but I didn’t want to cause bad feeling on this experience of a lifetime and we were enjoying one another’s company and generally ‘having a laugh!’ We somehow both agreed that if one of us dropped out, then the other one would too, a kind of running partnership pact. We both realised at this moment how disappointing it would be if one of us finished and the other didn’t! But thoughts of retiring at Wasdale have now completely left me anyway.
We run past the tarn and thoughts of Strollers spring to mind.’ I wonder if we will see Neil again’ I say. Low and behold we come upon him a few miles later. He says he’s not going well. I expect it’s just one of those rough patches and he will be passing us again soon. It’s so exciting to reach Wasdale Head. We are greeted at the entrance by the lovely Ally Pattison in 60’s dress. On entering the barn there is a huge welcoming cheer. A head torch wearing, long haired, fairy lit hippy greets me and shows me to the soup station. I grab a cheese and pickle sandwich and a cup of soup. ‘Who was that?’ I say to Tony. ‘Why it’s Ken!’ he says! Doh, I didn’t recognise this fabulous running legend and friend! Ha ha! Ken comes back over and I give him another hug now I know who he is, and we pose for photographs. I say hello to the rest of my marshal companions, these wonderful friendly faces looking after us – Clare, Kirsten, Jill, Adnan, Michael, Ray, Richard, Paul - forgive me if I’ve missed anyone. Ah yes, they have coke, I’m gagging for my first cup of coke! Down in one! My eyes also widen at the ‘sweetshop’ and grabbing a bag of goodies it’s time to move on into the night.
Clock time: 23.59hrs Distance: 19.4 miles Time on feet: 5hr 28min
(Check point time 10-15min approx.)
Leg 4 - Wasdale Head to Buttermere 6.9 miles-2336ft ascent-2188ft descent
This leg in my mind was the toughest technically with lots of climb and rocky descents and I hadn’t reccied all of it in the dark. But I was looking forward to it, I am stronger on the ascents/descents than the flat sections and I generally like to walk up hills! In the earlier sections there was hardly anyone close in front or behind but now climbing up to Black Sail Pass the head torches in the distance are getting closer and closer and I excitedly start to pass people. There’s a long line of head torches now and it just looks fantastic. I love, love, love running in the night! Tony is behind me and I intermittently pass him some of the sweeties I got from the Woodstock sweetshop, this is my plan to keep us going through the night and he accepts them with a smile. They taste so good! The descent down to Black Sail hut is much easier than I’d imagined it to be in the dark. No different to daylight really, with the use of a good head torch. The climb up to Scarth Gap is easier and I feel I want to overtake more people in the snake of head torches. But being cautious about burning out I stick to the pace which is being set. It’s very comfortable and that’s nice. Once over the top I just love the gnarly, rocky descent leading me to my favourite place in the whole world, Buttermere.
I’d been feeling a few sore areas on my feet so my first point of call is inside the hall to check my feet and change my socks. I have blisters on both little toes and very sore areas on both soles of feet. Humphhh I never get blisters! I even took precautions by smearing them in Bodyglide before the start. I’m not impressed. So after patching up my feet with zinc oxide and Compeed, I go outside to fuel up, I’m so hungry again. Cheese and pickle sandwich, soup and crisps and coke too….yum! It dawns on me that I’ve made it to Buttermere. This is as far as I thought I’d get due to my Achilles. But it wasn’t really bothering me that much, the little toe soreness had taken over. Now I really need to think about finishing this thing, if I can get this far, I can go the whole way! Bring it on!
Clock time: 02:07hrs Distance: 26.3 miles Time on feet: 8hr 6min
(Check point time 20-30min approx.)
Leg 5 - Buttermere to Braithwaite 6.5miles-1880ft ascent- 2011ft descent
We head out of Buttermere and further into the night. It’s been so warm for hours but it’s getting a little chilly now. A guy called Shaun asks to tag along with us. I only know him as a fellow Stroller’s brother and I am also aware that he is a very good and very fast runner. I worry a little that I will be far too slow for him and he will push the pace but it turns out he is happy for a bit of company I think. I seem to be a bit of an asset on the night navigation as I’d reccied this section three times including in the dark, any excuse for a trip to Buttermere! A group of us stick together for a while and I point out the turn offs. Some people have taken a different, higher track but I know we are on the right one according to the L100 route.
It’s not long before we reach the start of the climb up to Sail Pass. The track is quite scree like in places and with a line of people on the narrow path. I couldn’t get momentum going on the up hills and my feet kept slipping back, I needed to go faster and I was getting frustrated, so when I saw opportunity, I took it and got past a few people, then my path was practically clear. When I reached the top Tony and Shaun were nowhere to be seen. They’d be ok without me to Braithwaite. I’d get cold if I hung around and I was craving some time on my own too. So off I went, literally ‘sailing’ the wonderful descent. Night is coming to a close now and a new day is dawning, it is just beautiful! A bit of a climb up to Barrow Door and I’m on the home straight downhill into the next target, Braithwaite. I absolutely loved the time of solitude on this section, really feeling at one with the Lake District landscape with no one around me at all. I’m hungry again too so looking forward to a spot of breakfast soon! I reach the church hall at Braithwaite and it’s full! I grab a drink of coke. It’s nice to be amongst the field again and not trailing right at the very back. I’m itching to get going but I need to properly refuel and it would be wrong of me to leave ‘the team’ so I sit for a while and have some spicy kind of crackers, a cup of tea, a bowl of rice pudding and then more spicy kind of crackers…yummy! I check my sore feet again and I now have a blister at the side of my heel. I apply more Compeed! Unbelievable! I grab a few jelly babies then Tony and Shaun appear and I tell them I’m going to start walking slowly while they get fuelled up. I’m getting cold and need to get moving and I’m also aware that they are both fast pack runners and the next section is flat with lots of tarmac. I don’t want to hold them up!
Clock time: 04.33hrs Distance: 32.8 miles Time on feet: 10hrs 32min
(Checkpoint time 30 min approx.)
Leg 6 - Braithwaite to Blencathra Centre 8.5 miles-1568ft ascent-1001ft descent
I set off walking along the A66. I decide not to run this section as I know the hard tarmac could seriously tire me for further legs. A fast walk will suffice and besides, my feet are killing! I’m really feeling the cold now so put on my lovely new white Falke top that I’m carrying as an extra, it’s cosy. ’All the gear, no idea!’ Mentally, this section does me no favours so I’m going to enjoy some music on my MP3 for the first time. But alas, the boys run up behind me so I feel it rude to put on the music. I’m not feeling very sociable as they chat away behind me, wishing I was on my own. But we’re all marching along towards Keswick, on a mission! I hear Shaun’s big sighs every now and then. He’s frustrated that he can’t keep up with my walking pace, so he keeps running on ahead every now and then to maintain the pace. Tony is also doing a little jog to stay with the team. This all amuses me greatly and I let out a little chuckle every now and then. I’m the slowest runner amongst us, but I have long walking legs.
A little way before the unmanned checkpoint we come upon a young guy sitting on a rock. He is wearing adidas tracksuit bottoms, a long sleeved top and a small rucksack. I presume he is just out for a walk but just as we reach him he gets up and I spot an L100 number on his rucksack, with the name Eduardo. He runs off into the distance and we never see him again. I find out at the post race briefing this was the guy who had lost his bearings and slept rough overnight just one mile from the Mardale Head checkpoint!
We do a bit of jogging. Tony pipes up ‘Lou, this is in the bag mate!’ I remind him we still have 70 odd miles to go, amused to bits by that! This section seems to fly over though and we reach the Blencathra Centre in fine spirits. We are welcomed by a very macho but very friendly, pink fairy! I sit for a few minutes to eat, I can’t remember what, I use the toilet, then pretty sharpish, get going again.
Clock time: 07:05hrs Distance: 41.3 miles Time on feet: 13hrs 5min
(Check point time 10-15min approx.)
Leg 7 - Blencathra Centre to Dockray 7.7 miles - 1368ft ascent-827ft descent
I had only reccied this section once before and it was a little hazy so I used my road book until we got to Threlkeld and then I knew the way. After Threlkeld, the route takes in the start of Bob Graham Round Leg 2. I had reccied the BG route twice and although the Old Coach Road on the L100 seems long and tedious, I am more than grateful not to be taking the BG route up to the summit of Clough Head! So even though this Old Coach Road is more undulating than flat, it’s a bit of a blessing compared to my usual route around here. I think it is along here that Shaun reaches us again bringing news that Neil had retired back at Wasdale Head. I put on some music and we march off into the distance reaching Dockray in what seems like no time. At this point I realise Shaun isn’t with us, in my little world of my own I don’t recall whether he went ahead or fell behind. I grab yet another cheese and pickle sandwich here and some coke and sit, thinking about how warm it’s getting and how much my feet hurt and also recalling how much the next downhill road section hurt my feet on the recce day.
Clock time: 09:28hrs Distance: 49 miles Time on feet: 15hrs 28min
(Check point time 10-15min approx.)
Leg 8 -Dockray to Dalemain 10.1 miles- 1214ft ascent -2093ft descent
I knew this leg was going to be a slog….and it was…it seemed to go on forever. I really wanted to get to Dalemain though, I needed to do something about my feet and I had my good old faithful Salomon Speedcross waiting there….my running slippers. I’d worn these for last year’s L50 and my feet were so comfy and unmarked at the finish. However, during training and on the actual day, I had turned my ankles badly a few times. I put this down to the high heel raise as it never happened in my lower drop Mudclaws. So during L100 training I had trialled a few shoes and was very happy with my choice of Salomon S Lab Ultra Softground. They were so very comfortable on training reccies but they weren’t so now, due to the blisters I had formed.
The run to and around Gowbarrow is just stunning. I make sure to stop and look back upon the view over Ullswater, a highlight of the route. I chomp on a few jelly babies and lose myself a bit in the greenery and wonderful shadows of the trees. In fact, this is where I experience my very first hallucination. Along the forest track, which appears to be a red brick road, not a yellow one, sits The Tin Man with his head in his hands! As I get closer to him he transforms into a broken bit of fencing. That was cool!
Once we’re through the nice trail section the route takes us across a few fields. It is here we get chatting to a lovely lady, Emma, and we share the dreaded eternal road section into Dalemain, chatting about all kinds. I ask if they mind me being unsociable by putting my music on for a while. I’m tempted to sing out loud but I manage to contain myself luckily for them! I need more distraction to ease these tarmac miles. Tony reminds me how I ran this undulating road section effortlessly on the 33 mile recce. Yes but that was because I knew I was close to the finish, as it stands I still have around 50 miles to clock! It seems like an age passes but eventually we reach the tent that is Dalemain major checkpoint. It’s a bit of a disappointment to me to be getting here so late. That’s an understatement! A few months ago I had visualised seeing and joining all the L50 runners but I was far too slow today for that. I eventually find my drop bag and begin the slow process of a wet wipe wash down and full change of clothing, socks and shoes. This proves rather difficult in a tent full of men and no towel to protect my modesty. I use my plastic drop bag to wrap around me and hope for the best! Mission accomplished after what must be 15-20 minutes and a re-taping of my feet, I eventually get to wolf down the vegetable stew followed by cake and custard and a cup of coke that the nice checkpoint lady has brought over for me. Disappointed to see my mate Adrian has retired here. He asks if I’m going to carry on and I nod. I’m in pain and it’s going to be slow and uncomfortable in the heat of the day but there’s no way on this earth I am giving up now. Re-fill the water bottles, grab a few sweeties and off we go.
Clock time: 12.48hrs Distance: 59.1 miles Time on feet: 18hrs 47min
(Check point time 30min approx.)
Leg 9 - Dalemain to Howtown 7.4 miles -965ft ascent-935ft descent
I put my cap on to protect from the sun and boy is it hot as we march across the fields towards Pooley Bridge. I’m feeling the heat immediately. Unbeknown to me at the time, the top temperature for the day was 33 degrees! This is going to be a slog. I know I am well hydrated. I’ve been drinking 500ml of water and 500ml of electrolyte between each and every checkpoint as well as drinks at the food stations. The topic of conversation that I have had with Tony has mainly been about how well my bladder is performing! Poor guy still sticks with me! But I didn’t pee at all during last year’s L50 and I couldn’t let that happen this time, so the volume of the peeing I was doing this time was somewhat a novelty to me!
Coming out of Pooley Bridge I felt I was going so slowly. After seeing the zombified L100ers last year I excused myself for this. It’s normal at this stage, I thought. We met another Stroller friend, Nicola, on the uphill track. She was full of enthusiasm and I was having none of it. I think she could see I was finding it a slog and she tried to boost me by telling me to think of my daughter etc. At this point I started blubbing a bit, not so tough now am I, time to move on! She walked with us up to the cairn, gave me a hug and promised that the wind would be cooling as we turned right. It was a touch cooler as we traced our way along the winding track to Howtown but not much. I keep looking out for the white house but it never comes. My shoulders start hurting really bad, it feels like I have a rock embedded in the muscle of each one, so I have to take my rucksack off and keep swapping shoulders. My quads are also starting to lock up, and along with the feet pain it’s no surprise that I can’t seem to break out into even a little bimble. My mouth is so very dry but I’m out of water now, I’ve drank a litre since Dalemain. Tony tells me we only have a mile to the checkpoint. Wrong! It seems to be taking forever to do a mile, however, this is familiar territory and I guess we still have about 3 mile to do at this point! When we finally reach Howtown I quickly find a seat. I can’t be bothered to get a drink, despite how thirsty I am. I feel dizzy and put my head in my hands. One of the checkpoint girls takes me by the arm and leads me inside to cool off. I never found out her name but she was such a superstar and I am so very thankful to her for taking such good care of me here.
I spot Stolly, who has retired here too due to the heat and I signal to him that I am not good. Once inside I start shivering uncontrollably. The lady advises that I put on my extra layers. I still can’t get warm so she gets me a quilt. My teeth are chattering and the pains shooting through my whole body are agonising. How bizarre that I’ve been too hot and now I can’t get warm. I take some paracetomol and a few sips of tea and lie there shivering and in pain for what feels like an eternity, tears streaming down my face at the thought that it’s all over and I can’t possibly carry on. I presume that Tony has gone on but he appears after a while and sits with me. I’m glad to have one of my best friends with me at quite a scary time but I tell him to go and not give up his chance to finish but he says he’s out too if I am and he doesn’t relish the thought of finding his way alone or trying to tag along with other people. So I ask him to tell me to man up instead. He reminds me that I haven’t actually officially retired from the race yet. I have no intention of retiring, but I have a feeling the marshals will not allow me to go on. I lie with my eyes closed for a while, trying to relax my pained body and get my head straight. Then after a few more sips of tea, water and a finger of pizza, I’ve warmed through, dried my eyes and manned up. Determination head is screwed back on, so I make the decision that if my urine looks okay and I can get my shoes back on, then I’m good to go. I hobble to the toilet, all good there. Squeeze my sore feet back into my running slippers, jobs a good un. And to the surprise of the checkpoint staff who question me a little, I am off on my travels again! If you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, crawl, is my mantra upon leaving, and as I can still walk, I have no excuse to stop. This, unbeknown to me at the time, would be the last time I suffer real hardship during the L100.
Clock time: 15:28 Distance: 66.2 miles Time on feet: 21hrs 57min
(Check point time 60 min approx.)
Leg 10 - Howtown to Mardale Head 9.4 miles 2510ft ascent-2205ft descent
This is a long section and I’ve never really enjoyed the deceiving track along Haweswater but I know I have to make it to Mardale Head somehow as the Howtown checkpoint would be closing. So there’s no turning back should I feel unwell. Some may say it was a careless decision but I can look after myself pretty well out there and I wasn’t afraid. Sometimes you’ve just got to take risks to find out your destiny and I was willing to take this one. I wasn’t prepared to give in after getting this far.
We set off on the climb up Fusedale and I am pleased that the temperature has dropped a bit. The pains in my shoulders and legs have miraculously gone, I can wear my rucksack comfortably again and I feel we are making good progress up here as a group behind aren’t catching us. We reach the top and I notice that I’ve done it quicker than on my L50! Great, let’s keep moving well to Mardale….and we do! Or it seems so. It actually took us 3 hours 45 minutes, not so quick after all. But it’s still good news, I am recovered from the heat of the day and it’s getting dark. Hoorah!
I’m pretty excited to reach Mardale as a few hours ago it seemed an impossible task. A guy coming out of the check point looks surprised to see me and comments that it’s amazing how I got here after he’d seen me shivering at Howtown. Nice chap. After posing for photos courtesy of Steve Mee, I have the meal of the day, you guessed it, the best cheese and pickle sandwich ever, a cup of soup and a cup of coke. We are being eaten alive by flies here, so I don’t finish my soup and make a run for it...but not literally you understand!
Clock time: 20.45hrs Distance: 75.6 miles Time on feet: 26hrs 44min
Leg 11-Mardale Head to Kentmere 6.5 miles-1677ft ascent-1932ft descent
We head off into the start of the second night without sleep and I’m trying to work out if we will be timed out at Ambleside. Tony seems confident that we have plenty of time but I am not so sure. After 75 miles, our brains just can’t function well enough to work it out. We just have to do the best we can. But we are very determined and excited to be getting closer to our goal.
All climbs are very welcome now as the ascents are more forgiving to my feet, so I embrace the track up to Gatesgarth Pass. It’s starting to rain but it’s too warm for waterproofs so I hold off a bit. I’m getting eaten alive by flies buzzing round my face and arms and getting very irritated which makes me want to move a bit quicker to get away from them. It’s getting dark so we put on our head torches and this seems to scare the pesky mites away. It doesn’t seem long before we reach the top and are heading down the long descent. I usually love this but my feet are way too sore and I painfully teeter down the rocky slope. It starts to rain heavy so on go the waterproofs. We come across a guy called Raj who wants to tag along with us through the night section. He is more savvy with this section than I but I get out my road book anyway to remind me of the route, having only done it once before but that was a year ago. I’ve learned to trust no one and always double check my directions. I don’t recall this leg as being so long but it does seem to go on and on and on. Trudging through the wet night, it is now that I experience more hallucinations, lots of them! Nice goats, evil goats, Labradors, witches, Montane flags, houses, vans, and random people rising up from the ground. The most impressive being a beautiful gypsy caravan with a whole family of traditionally dressed Romany’s sat in a row. Epic!
We finally reach Kentmere. I grab a handful of salted peanuts, do the usual water bottle drills and I decide to have one of those smoothies everyone raved about last year. I’m concerned about the time and I’m really keen to get going sharpish, so I shimmy the boys along.
Clock time: 23.41hrs Distance: 82.1 miles Time on feet: 29hrs 40min
(Check point time 10-15 min approx.)
Leg 12-Kentmere to Ambleside 7.3 miles-1611ft ascent-1975ft descent
There’s not a lot to say about this section other than that, yet again, it seemed to just go on forever. Raj, Tony and I were on a mission to get to Ambleside, it was a long slog. I kept trying to work out the time available to us. It wasn’t easy but I knew we were literally running out of time. The fruit smoothie I’d had was a bad idea. It made my tummy a bit gurgly and I felt as if it was going to have adverse effects but that eased off thankfully. I won’t be having one of those again mid run. We don’t say a lot to each other and I actually start falling asleep as we are jogging along, how can that be? It’s a bit like almost falling asleep whilst driving after a night shift I guess. I’m struggling at times to keep my eyes open and worry about falling over, so I adopt the same approach that keeps me awake after nightshift, I eat! A few jelly babies do the job this time. Tony is getting really fed up now and swearing a bit that he’s had enough. I remind him how far we’ve come and that in comparison, despite how long it’s taking, we don’t have far to go. I dish out the jelly babies again.
Tony and Raj need to change their head torch batteries on the Garburn Road track. I meander ahead so that I can keep warm and stay awake! A really bright light appears. Wow they have good head torch batteries! But as the light nears I realise it’s a mountain biker. This is real! What the hell is he doing out in the middle of the night I wonder, then realise, he must be thinking exactly the same thoughts about me! More rain came and more hallucinations, the best being a huge black owl swooping down at me. I let out a shriek and a swear word and I was convinced this was real but the boys just laughed at me. They hadn’t seen a thing.
Hallelujah! We reach the Ambleside checkpoint at long last. No sweat, we had 45 minutes to spare. However, we were later told by our Stroller L50ers who had been watching our progress from Coniston that they’d been worried we’d be timed out here and arrived with only 15 minutes to spare. Close shave either way! Raj wanted to stay here and have some proper food and sort out his feet. I wanted to get going straight away. I didn’t sit down, got my water bottles filled, grabbed a packet of crisps and headed for the door. But Tony was having trouble. He hadn’t managed to sort his torch out earlier. He’d lost one of his spare head torch batteries and was wandering around trying to find someone with spares. Thankfully someone had an extra and we got moving again at last. I’m sure we would have managed with one head torch anyway…..I knew the way to Coniston like the back of my hand, having reccied it quite a few times in both night and day, the most recent being two weeks previous! Or did I?
Clock time: 02:44hrs Distance: 89.4 miles Time on feet: 32hrs 44min
(Checkpoint time 15 min approx.)
Leg 13-Ambleside to Chapel Stile 5.6 miles-768ft ascent-699ft descent
Just Tony and I head out into the night with 90 miles in our feet. I’d spoken earlier about how chuffed I was that we weren’t L100 zombies. We’d been positive and in good spirits throughout and chatted coherently for most of this journey. We reached a wooden bridge on the other side of the park. This is not right I thought. We need to find the stone bridge. I know it’s a stone bridge as I’ve crossed it many times! Tony is none the wiser and in his usual James Bond approach, he suggests crossing the wooden bridge anyway just to see where it leads us. There’s no way I’m doing that and ending up going the wrong way this day! He follows me up and down the road and round the dark, dark, very dark park. We can’t see a thing. I become more and more frustrated as the minutes tick by and I can’t find my way. So I decide it’s best to go back to the checkpoint and start again! Hilarious! Ah I spot another head torch we must be on the right path. Alas, there’s a head torch moving towards the wooden bridge but in my mind that’s not the right way. I see Claire Shannon and explain we can’t find our way out of the park! She tells us to follow the L50ers head torch and cross the WOODEN bridge! I can’t understand it but it must be right. So we cross the wooden bridge and there before my eyes is the stone bridge….hoorah!!!!! 15 minutes wasted! What a complete nugget head!
It was so worth wasting 15 minutes in the park however, as our walk up the next track was perfectly timed to receive a visit from a beautiful white owl which swooped down to sit on the wall next to us for a few moments before flying off into the night sky. This was not a hallucination! Magical!
We make our way across the open fell that skirts Loughrigg and yet again I am subjected to brain freeze! I don’t know whether to go left or straight on and I can’t make head nor tail of the road book. Tony is clueless too. We wait for the L50 lady, Susan, to catch us up and she points us in the right direction! Thank you Susan! The way is all becoming clear to me again now, the brain freeze must have melted and we reach Chapel Stile in one piece! No time for hanging around here either. A quick loo stop, a slurp of coke and we’re off.
Clock time: 05:05hrs Distance: 95 miles Time on feet: 35hrs 4min
(Check point time 5-10 min approx.)
Leg 14-Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite 6.5 miles-1270ft ascent-1060ft ascent
This is a really lovely section and I enjoy it very much, aside from the struggle over the many ladder stiles in this area, it feels easy! I don’t have any more hallucinations at all now. I’m very confident of the route and daylight is upon us, so the road book is stashed away for good. It’s hard to run, although my legs feel fine and strong, my feet are not as happy, so I adopt my fast walking pace combined with a few little bimbles all the way to Tilberthwaite. I don’t want to stop here at all, I’m so excited to be finishing. ‘Now you can say it’s in the bag!’ I say to Tony and laugh. I top up my water as I have a feeling the last 3.5 miles could take some time. I work out that we have 2.5 hours to reach the finish line and this section took me 1 hour 2 minutes on last year’s 50. So we have ample time. The steps out of Tilberthwaite are a bugbear for many without having 100 miles in your legs already! I tell the marshall not to laugh at me as I predict I will be crawling up them!
Clock time: 07:28hrs Distance: 101.5 miles Time on feet: 37hrs 28min
(Check point time <5 min approx.)
Leg 15-Tilberthwaite to Coniston 3.5 miles-928ft ascent-1263ft descent
One step at a time and rest every few steps is my plan. But hey, the steps seem to fall behind me so easily and in no time we are at the top. I’ve pretty much conserved lots of energy and under paced the miles due to a fear of burning out too soon. Not that I think my feet would have allowed me to go any faster than I had. But now I can throw a bit of caution to the wind and let my legs loose, I don’t care how much agony I feel in my feet now, I’m nearly there! We start to pass people and come across Shaun again not long before the descent. It’s good to see he has made it too!
I break out into a jog and dance down the descent. I am loving this, it doesn’t hurt at all. Adrenaline is kicking in for the finish line. We laugh as we are passing lots of people now and jog all the way to the tarmac road. That shouldn’t be possible!
What a wonderful feeling as we hit the road into Coniston and see lots of friends there, cheering us in. I never in a million years expected to run through Coniston after 105 miles but I did, pretty slowly but all the way to that glorious finish line without stopping or walking!
I enter the school. Someone shouts out ‘We have a 100 finisher!’ A round of applause greets me and the Lakeland 100 medal is placed around my neck. Mission accomplished! What an absolutely amazing experience I have just had…..shame it’s over really!
Clock time: 08:40hrs Distance: 105 miles Time on feet: 38hrs 39min Position:153rd/306starters
Only one who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. -T.S.Eliot