Unlike last year I didn't have to work on the Friday, so Billy took the day off too and we left home in plenty of time to get down to Coniston to see the 100 milers setting of on their journey. I looked for a couple of people I knew were entered, but didn't catch sight of them at the shool, so headed up the road to take some pictures. It was only then that I spied Flip's backpack heading on up already past me, Ah well. Still no sign of Tony though.
Did the registration thing, weigh, bag check, collect envelope of stuff, Oh wow lovely buff given out this year.
Then went for a walk around Coniston and queued in the chip shop for ages for quite frankly mediocre chips and burgers that they'd cooked when we'd entered the shop yonks before. I rather think the staff were getting a little frazzled at the edges because of the amount of customers they had had.
Found myself sitting next to a chap called Andrew, and we yattered all the way to Dalemain, turns out he follows a former club mate of mine on Twitter (small world eh). Andrew had a very respectable marathon time and was hoping to do quite well. (He did, came in at around 12 hours I think). Dis-embarked the bus and straight into toilet queue. Spent the rest of the time chatting to Anna, who I'd met last year and have been in touch with on facebook ever since, took pics of the scene and of Jon and the wonderful Otto dog. who's race was cut short because his human suffered badly with stomach problems during the event.
Leg one Dalemain to Howtown.
Standing in the pen ready for the off, I caught the eye of Gaynor Prior, who came across and wished me luck, (long story involving a very lost message). Now you've no idea how much that meant and how much it shows that this event and the Ultra Running community are special.
Picture courtesy of Kristof Nowicki
The pre-amble round Dalemain was lovely only faffing came when my strap fell off my backpack and I had to spend about 10 mins fixing it back on. Down through Pooley Bridge and up over the hill and down to Howtown, feeling great, kept sort of company for a while with Pete a 100 man who advised me to take it easy as there was a long way still to go. He pulled out after Howtown, I did see him coming back the way but it was confirmed when one of his friends mentioned it in a facebook post to me. Changed socks here as my feet were sponging. Very pleased with progress so far.
Leg two Howtown to Mardale Head
What can I say about Fusedale, it's never going to be my friend I think. I had company up the long slog though, Kim and I struggled up together, mind I don't think she sat down for a rest like me, she managed hers standing up. Must admit that once I passed the waterfall things eased and once on the top it was like thank god that's over, but at least I didn't think I was going to die, like I did last year.
Beautiful run down to the bracken, once again I met up with a 100 mile chap who more or less trail blazed the way through the bracken and down over the rough ground for me, all I needed to do was follow in his footsteps. He was another of the lovely 100 people I came across during the event. Amazing.
I found the route around Haweswater rough and hard. Kim, Laura and Sue overtook me and charged on, goodness me those girls could walk. Made it into Mardale and all I could think of was Tomato Soup, I'm so glad they had some. I bought lightweight poles to use this year and can say that I think they helped me, they did save me from going over once or twice on the rough patches and they did help up Fusedale and were light enough to just carry in one hand when not required.
Leg three Mardale Head to Kentmere
Now the strange thing is the Gatesgarth Pass does not fill me with dread like Fusedale, I just took it easy, had a few breathers and made it to the top. Laura and Sue once again breezed past, allowing Kim to take her time. It was here that the weather changed for the worse, driving rain and gusty wind. I was getting quite blown about and was pleased to get down the other side and out of the worst of the wind. The girls were ducked down in the lee of a dyke waiting for Kim, who would join them soon. The track was extremely rough, it may have been like this last year but It was dark when I came along here LOL. Up through Sadgill Woods, no wrong turns this year, just a long slog up the hill. Once again Kim had been slower than the others on the hill but still managed to overtake me on the road down to the Kentmere bracken stage. I ran along the road mainly to keep her in sight to confirm I was going the right way, found the style and ran down through the bracken, slipping and sliding most of the way onto the firm track which leads up to the Kentmere checkpoint, I was still running when I got there. Had lovely rice pudding and tea, sat for a while and chatted to one of the chaps I'd been meeting off and on, had a bit of a rest but decided to crack on.
Leg four Kentmere to Ambleside
Garburn in the dark again. No problems up and over, just an extremely rough descent, had a bit of a panic that I'd gone too far along the track, but it was Ok as I soon recognised the place where I fell arse for tit last year, then in no time I was out onto the road through Troutbeck and up Robin Lane, straight through kissing gate and down the track which leads past the farm to Jenkins Wood. Met up with yet another 100 runner, this time I was very relieved as I wasn't too keen on the scary woods on my own. He was having a bit of a wobble and was also a bit worried, he said he knew it was happening and that it would pass but it was still a bit scary for him. I offered coffee sweeties but he had coffee beans LOL, much better. A group of about four or five 100 people came along and we all stayed together until Ambleside. Imagine how I felt coming through Ambleside in the dark with a group of amazing 100 runners.
It was here I met Greg, Tony from last years brother who explained why Tony wasn't on the start line of the 100, badly wrecked feet from some sort of African adventure were to blame.
Stayed perhaps a little too long here, but it was just so inviting in the nice warm, food filled, cheery shop.
Once more I was here with Laura, Sue and Kim who left about 10 mins before me. I was not to see them again until the end.
Leg five Ambleside to Chapel Stile.
An almost uneventful little leg, I'm glad I know this bit quite well now as I was completely on my own in the dark for all of it. Once I hit the road section I ran all the way down to Skelwith Bridge and quite a way along the flat section to Elterwater. Up to the cave, turn down the slatey path, over the bridge, up past Wainwrights Inn. The church clock was chiming 4 a.m. when I passed the Inn, very pleased with progress so far then it was
down walled lane and ooops, not up main flaming road Susan. How the heck I managed it I really don't know I'd read the instructions, watched John Kynaston's vid. and even switch on the GPS, but I still got lost and spent ages backtracking and still couldn't find the checkpoint. Well not until you've guessed it two 100 runners came along, I was relieved to know I just hadn't travelled far enough down the track to spot the lights. What an oasis of calm, didn't however avail myself of comfy sofa. Apparantly they had been expecting me ages ago as the girls had said I was just coming in behind them by about 10 mins. The checkpoint was very quiet, one chap was sparked out on a sofa and another chap was waiting for the rest of his party. Had some coffee and soup and then headed out into the soft light of dawn breaking.
Leg six Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite.
Although my legs felt like lead when I left the checkpoint they soon good back to work and made good time along the next stretch, even the hill before the Blea Tarn wasn't as bad as I'd remembered. Round the back of the Tarn was where the hard leg sapping stuff really bit me, this section was rough and wet and where it wasn't rough and wet it was rough and boggy, some of the step ups were almost too much for my wee legs and I didn't get high enough in the bracken to come out exactly right for the dibber point, so had to trudge uphill, by the looks of it I wasn't the only one though. Onto the road and past the NT house, up and over the public footpath to Tilberthwaite. That checkpoint looked miles away along the road, made it though.
Soon others were coming in, one chap wanted to give up, but the combined bullying of everyone at the checkpoint ensured he didn't and he finished.
Last bit Tilberthwaite to Coniston.
No getting lost this time, I knew exactly where I was going, mind you I did have company, but it's amazing what you remember. That rocky bit you have to climb over scared me a bit because all the others were up and over and gone, what if I fell backwards, they wouldn't miss me I bet. I made it silly goose. Cold wind and rain was now the order of the day. Now I'm sure someone measured this section wrongly, it's much much more than 3.5 miles really. I know it isn't, just feels never ending, and then there's the descent, eeek not as bad as last year, not as tired at this point. The chap who wanted to quit was having problems here so I overtook and carried on. Thank Goodness down safely to the road. Once past the Miners Bridge I decided I better try and run so as not to take even longer, so I ran into Coniston, walked over bridge and then ran all the way to the finish. I was so pleased. Unfortunately my phone conked out coming over Blea Tarn so Billy had no idea I was home. A very tall man guided me into the hall, where I received my cheer, my T. Shirt and my medal. Hobbled off to tent to surprise Billy. Then insisted on going back for my free meal.
I finished 1 hour 20 mins up on my time from last year and to say I was well chuffed is an understatement,
I've now read nearly all the blogs written and can understand why they reckon they take nearly as long to write as to do the event. I can't really find the words to express how I feel about this event. I was afraid it wouldn't feel the same and that to do it again would somehow ruin my memory of the first one, but it didn't each has it's own feel about it. The route may have been the same but the conditions underfoot and the weather were much different, so was the company kept and fellow competitors met along the way. What did remain the same however was the spirit of the event, the friendliness and approachability not only of the organisers, but of the really great runners. I will be back.