It has been 3 week since the Heart of Scotland event but it has been a turbulent 3 weeks. On Sunday 6th June, my dad passed away in hospital due to his Myeloma. It was unexpected and a big shock to everyone, family, friends and even his doctors. After 2 weeks trying to deal with all the documentation and legality of it all, I was determined to make the Lakeland 50 recce run a focal point to get back into the routine of normal daily life. The Heart of Scotland event has left me with some blister problems on my feet which are minor, but also a bad left knee. I managed to build on some runs to get a distance of 13 miles before my knee pain returned but had no concerns for the recce run.
The recce covered the 50 mile course in 2 days. Saturday 19th June was around 30 miles from Dalemain (minus the initial 4 mile loop) to Ambleside. Sunday 20th June was around 16 miles from Ambleside to Coniston.
A bus took us from Ambleside to Dalemain, where almost the entire recce party ran into a small group of trees to reflect of the excessive amounts of water they had been drinking. The previous day had been very hot but it was forecast for a cooler day with a northerly wind. It was still quite chilly so I put on my lightweight windstopper jacket, although I knew it would be off within minutes. There were no pacing groups, but instead a number of guides who knew the route and would be coming along for the ride. It was up to us to navigate and form any groups along the way. The leaders set off and I kept a comfortable distance behind them. The jacket came off quick. We travelled out of the Dalemain estate and along fields to Pooley Bridge, up some country lanes and on a bridleway along Ullswater to the first checkpoint at Howtown. So far the route was relatively flat with only some small inclines. I was with three other runners when we reached the checkpoint but there was no one there and we figured that they must have missed this on off the recce. We climbed the small hill out of Howtown only to have the lead party pass us and ask if we had been to the checkpoint. We retraced our steps and found them in a small hotel car park. I was surprised to see supplies of Coke and Brownies and took the opportunity to fuel up.
I left the check point just when the hotel owner was giving an organiser grief for using his hotel car park. I climbed the small hill again and continued along some more track before breaking free onto fells. I was feeling good at this point and my knee was not giving me much trouble, but I was sweating excessively. Next was the first main climb of the day up to Keasgill Head and as I was in no hurry, I took the hill at a casual walk. Next was a relaxing rolling stretch along Bampton Common, which could have ended in a detour had it not been for someone who had recced before and knew the way down an almost invisible line into the valley and onto the edge of Haweswater Reservoir. The decent showed the first signs of knee trouble as I started getting stabbing pain with every foot strike. So far it was only on the downhill’s that my knee would hurt so I was relieved at the gentle rolling path that travelled the length of Haweswater to reach the next checkpoint. I was still feeling good at this point but was feeling the heat of the day and used the opportunity to take some electrolytes. The checkpoint was in a car park at Mardale Head and I could see the next climb of the day.
The next climb was a memorable climb. I was on my own but could see a couple of people ahead. I walked the entire hill at a moderate pace but my legs were screaming by time I reached the top. After a couple of false tops I finally reached the actual top where the wind was strong and I was starting to shiver. I could see the next section was going to be a problem as it was all downhill on a steep, rocky track. I warmed up quick on the decent but my knee was hurting really bad at this point and I ended up having to walk most of the decent. I finally reached the valley below and couple get some decent running in on the more level terrain. My legs were fresh again and I made good progress to Sadgill and over to Kentmere where the next checkpoint was located. I arrived at the checkpoint with another runner and was told that if we needed water and food, the vehicle was down the hill in a car park. I was carrying so much water and food I pushed on alone.
Next was the last major climb of the day up Garburn Pass. I was feeling dehydrated and the day was getting to its warmest of around 20 degrees. I took on as much water as I could knowing that I was walking the next big hill. After reaching the top my legs were like jelly and my knee was protesting at the thought of downhill’s. I knew I was getting close now and pushed my pace up a notch. I descended into The Howe and into Low Fold before going slightly wrong on my navigation and having to retrace my steps to find the right way. I was on Robin Lane now and there was signposts to Ambleside. I started feeling really good and after a small climb pushed all the way into Ambleside. As I hit the main streets of Ambleside I checked my pace at around 7 minute miles and I was feeling really good. I made my way to the final checkpoint of the day at the shop and stopped to see my family waiting for me.
After signing in on the register I made a quick bee line to the chip shop and had the biggest plate of chips ever and a massive sausage. I love the fact that I can now handle lots of food on runs and that I get really hungry instead of really sick. My legs were fresh and my knee was keeping quiet. I am amazed at how quick I am able to recover now during the longer runs. I used to try and monitor progress by finish times and distance but now I am starting to think it is all about the recovery. If I can recover during a run, then I can just keep going and never need to stop.
My knee was feeling great after Saturdays run, but on Sunday morning it was hurting bad. I could not walk without major pain. I resorted to taking painkiller an hour before the start in the hope I could take the edge off. After getting the bus from Coniston to Ambleside I was in a dilemma because I honestly thought I would not be able to run or walk at all that day. After setting off, I walked through Ambleside and found that running was not going to work. I walked through Rothay Park and beyond. I was able to start short slow jogs between walking and finally my knee went from a stabbing pain to just an intense pain. I still though I would not make it passed the first checkpoint but continued on, willing to give it a go. I grouped up with a number of runners and we made our way down to Skelwith Bridge. The next section to Chapel Stile was on a flat easy track along Great Langdale Beck on the Cumbrian Way and this gave me the opportunity to get into a rhythm and my knee started cooperating again. After reaching the checkpoint I knew I could continue on and make the distance.
We continued in a group along Great Langdale on the Cumbrian Way. We approached the first climb of the day which broke free of the Cumbrian Way, and as my knee was feeling more co-operative I push on ahead. The climb was short and I was glad to see that there was no big decent on the other side, but instead a gentle decline, passed Blea Tarn, down to Blea Moss and onto Wrynose Pass. I made a mistake of running down the pass and my knee started to hurt more. Next were a climb and a decent to the next checkpoint in a car park next to Horse Crag. For some reason I thought that the remaining 3.5 mile section was all on a gentle downhill slope but I was brought back to reality when I saw some runner ahead making another big accent.
I left the checkpoint reassuring myself that accents are good because they don’t hurt my knee as much, but I was fully aware that on event day after covering 46.5 miles, this accent could be a problem. The actual accent was less than a mile and at the top I could see the massive decent needed to reach Coniston. I started the decent at a jog but the pain was too much and I yelped on more than a number of occasions. I found that I could do a fast shuffle where my right knee did not have to bend. I finally reached an easier track and road section into Coniston and started running again as a token effort. I reached the playground just before the School and found my family there playing. I grumbled about my knee and we made our way to the last checkpoint to register and finish. My Garmin watch recorded 46 miles in 10 hours 15 minutes for the two days. Luckily for me there was an event being held at the School and the showers were open, so after a quick shower and some food from the garage, it was time to drive home.
To my amazement, the next day my knee did not hurt at all. It took a day and a half to hydrate properly and get some stiffness out of my right leg muscles due to them overcompensating for my dodge left knee. I feel more confident after this run as I now have a new focus point to aim for. Recover. I am going to train to recover during runs so that I can endure and keep going. Next up is Osmotherley Phoenix on 3rd July.