Sunday, 14 August 2016

Montane Lakeland 100 - the preamble

 I knew it was going to hurt: a lot. I hadn’t covered the mileage in training that I had wanted to. I don’t think I had done any more mileage for the 100 than I had done last year for the 50. On the plus side, my hill training had been good. I had had some wonderful days on the Lakeland fells, but the price for this was the obvious reduced mileage.  And those numbers played on my mind.  There have been numerous points since January that I have considered withdrawing from the race. But I didn't. For the first time since I started running 10 years ago I was going into a race with absolutely no time targets and just wanting to make it to the finish. I know we all say that we have no targets but secretly we do, we just don't want to tell anyone in case we don't quite make it. Come on, you know you do it too!

Race number - suddenly it was very real.

The thing is, it never really registered with me before the race that finishing the race within the 40 hour time limit is actually a tough time to target itself. I even saw some chat online about how tough the new cut-offs were for the checkpoints, but still it didn't register. So when I started the race on Friday evening I really didn't have any time targets. It was only as the weekend progressed that I realised how wrong I had been.

Apart from the physical training part of getting ready for the race I had actually prepared quite well. I'd really done my homework. I'd studied the route in detail. I'd done multiple recce runs. I’d read a ridiculous number of blogs of the race. I'd made careful choices in what kit I was going to use (after much experimentation). Knowing how poor my physical training had been I had been working on a bunch of mental strategies to utilise during the race. Whether I'd been doing 100 mile weeks all year or not I think the mental training for this kind of race is crucial.
Race day kit

So when we turned up at Coniston on Friday morning I was ready as I could be given what life had thrown at me during 2016. That's what we all do though really isn't it – certainly when you're facing what is widely regarded as the hardest 100 miler in the UK. You do what you can and hope that it will help you get to that finish line.

I really dislike it when you hear some runners say “it’s not about finding the time to train but making the time.”  The phrase makes the training-life balance seem black and white, but as we all know life is a million shades of grey. The way some people can fit their training into their own lives simply won’t fit into another person’s.  You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. The commitment and dedication to training cannot be measured in miles or time.  From the sharp end and all the way down the field of runners you will find people fully invested and committed to an event.  For a race like the Lakeland 100 you can’t just wing it. There will be a minimum amount of training that you need to make in order to make sure that you cross that finish line (in whatever time it may be) and this will provide the basis of the mental strength you need to get through those key moments that will either make or break you.
'Resting' in the tent before the race
See how we are pretending not to be stressed ;-)

 As Marc Laithwaite told us all in the L100 pre-race briefing, we had all done all we could to prepare and train for the race: If we could have done more we would have done it.  I have spent so much of this year disappointed in myself at not being able to complete the physical side of the training that I’d hoped to be able to do due to health issues and things beyond my control. My confidence in my racing ability was in all honesty at an all-time low.  This is why I had to switch my goals for the race.  I had to look at my training and decide how I was going to approach the event.  I could no longer be aiming at splits for checkpoints, looking at who else was in the race or be thinking where I was going to see my sunrise (initially I only planned on seeing one!). I shifted from target goals completely and I was only focused on process goals.  It was all about being in THAT moment and being in THAT mile and doing what I could there and then.

So my plan for the race was incredibly simple. After a jog through Coniston to soak up the atmosphere I would walk the entire first climb up the Walna Scar Road, the only exception being the short flat bit before the car-park and take it easy on the first descent to save my quads for later. That left 98 miles to deal with, one mile at a time. Other than that, stay away from sugar in the early stages and keep sipping on my Tailwind.  I have been using Tailwind for over 2 years now and never had any stomach problems whilst using it.  I didn’t want nausea and sickness to feature in this race as it was already a huge enough task without adding to the challenge. 

So that was it. There we were, all standing nervously in the starting pen listening to Nessun Dorma; some chatting, others, myself included, standing quietly, trying not to let the challenge ahead overwhelm them.  There was no turning back now. The countdown started and to rapturous applause we set off into the early evening on our quest to become Lakeland Legends…

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