Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lakeland 50

Two weeks leading up to this event and I could not even run 2 miles without severe pain in my left knee. Osmotherley Phoenix had finished it off. I was changing my mind every hour about pulling out the event. I finally decided to stop running for a week while continuing spinning sessions and just go and see what happens on the day. I have already written about the course in the recce run, so I will keep this short.

I arrived on the Friday with the family to pitch the tent and start soaking up the atmosphere. I was glad to see all the 100 mile runners getting ready and getting psyched up. I was surprised to see Nick Ham all kitted up and after seeing him at probably over 20 events now I got the courage to go over and say hello after the 100 mile briefing. I was amazed to hear that he was attempting 100 miles when his knee has been diagnosed as totally screwed and he was in pain just standing there, but extremely proud. It made me realised that my knee problem is minor and it helped me during the run to endure and continue. The 100 milers gathered at the start and left with cheers and encouragement to leave the rest of us in a still silence for a while before more 50 milers arrived.

After a good night sleep, there was just enough time to get prepared and eat before the briefing. We all gathered in mass waiting for the bus and then randomly piled on. I sat in the first available seat and was amazed than when I told the person next to me that I was moving up near Coldstream, that he was from Wooler, along with two other women in the seat adjacent and part of the Wooler running club which I have been excited about joining. After arriving at the start there was a brief wait before we all massed in the starting pen and in no time we were off.

The first 4 mile loop was new to me as we did not do it in the recce run. It was all signed and there was so many people, it was just follow the leader. After a bottle neck near the start we all thinned out and I got a chance to talk to one of the women from Wooler running club before settling into an easy pace and concentrating on my knee. I ran this event with no navigation aid, knowledge of what time it was and without my Garmin watch so I could enjoy it more. It must have been around 3 miles before my knee started hurting. I cursed it but rather than resorting to walking like planned, I continued on.

I reached the end of the loop and made my way over to the first checkpoint. I was annoyed at my knee because before it would not hurt when walking the hills but now it just hurt all the time. The only saving grace was that the pain would reach a peak and just stayed the same, so I figured that all I had to do was endure it. Checkpoint 1 arrived quickly and I prepared for the longer of the big climbs. It felt longer than in the recce run, but when I reached the top I still felt as fresh as when I started. I had been eating well and often and kept this up the whole event. After an easy decent down to the lake it was then an undulating track to checkpoint 2 where it was starting to rain.

After some soup and bread bun washed down with coke, I put my waterproof top on and swam my way up the next big climb with wind and rain lashing into my face. My plan was to enjoy the views to enable me to take my mind of the pain, but there were no more view for most of the event, only a blanket of cloud and rain. I was slow on the accent as my knee was in agony. There were lots of people passing me like I was standing still, and even though I had load of energy I was getting moody and was already thinking of pulling out at Kentmere. I picked up the pace after the big decent down the other side but my mood was no better. I had run this course just over a month ago and with no views, there was little excitement and little adventure because the route was all so fresh in my mind. I arrived at checkpoint 3 and after having some rice pudding and a smoothy, decided to make my way to Ambleside where I could pull out and be picked up my the family.

More people passed me on the next big climb out of Kentmere as I was slow again. The easier run over to Ambleside heightened my mood and I started running with someone who is currently living in Hong Kong. It was good to talk with someone and by time I reached Ambleside I figure that there was only about 16 miles left and my knee could just deal with it. I was quick out of the checkpoint so my knee would not cease up. I would have loved to have eaten some chips from the chip shop but after seeing the queues, though better and continued on.

The next section was an easy section to run with only some small climbs at the start with a large flat section. Lots of people I talked to felt the same at this point, it would have been good to have some walking breaks but because it was so flat, there were no excuses but to push harder and run the whole thing. At the next checkpoint the light was starting to dull and after some vegetable stew, I was off quickly. I was running solo for most of the next section and I made a plan to reach the small road section before it got dark. My knee was screaming. The pain made me feel sick but I made it this far and I was nearly there. I made it to the small climb before the last checkpoint before it got dark and ran without a light until I arrived at the final checkpoint and with only 3 miles left.

The only problem now was that it was all up then all down. The climb hurt badly. I was very slow. I was finding it hard to navigate with my light as the mist and cloud was making viability zero and I only had the noise of a waterfall and my memory of where it should be. After reaching the top and following a very faint track I got lost a couple of times and had to backtrack. I reached a section where to track was obvious but for some reason though I should be going the other way. I waited for more people who finally arrived and confirmed that I should be on the obvious track. It was good to be with other people and we made our painful decent down towards Coniston. When we got close to the final track that leads into Coniston, I realised that the runner next to me was the person I ran with earlier who lives in Hong Kong. We ran together at a decent pace down into Coniston and into the School where the finish line was.

Finished. I felt good, apart from my knee. My weight was down only 2 pounds and I had no dizziness or sickness. I sat down and ate my free meal of vegetable chilly and a huge piece of cake before feeling sick and regretting eating it. I made my way across the camping field which must have been at least 10 miles long and painful made my way back to get a shower. I painfully walked the 50 miles back to the tent as the field was definitely getting longer. My knee hurts bad, but I am so glad I did the event and don’t have any regrets.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Osmotherley Phoenix

This is the second time I have run this 33 mile event. Last year it all went a bit wrong and I ended up in hospital overnight getting 7 litres of saline pumped into me because of heat illness. This year I got really dehydrated again and crashed out on the last 5 miles but made it back feeling a lot better than the previous year and cut my time from over 8 hours to 6 hours 20 minutes. I wore my Myeloma UK vest in memory of my Dad who passed away last month.

I started off this event with a casual approach and little preparation. As a result, I was 15 minutes down the road when I realised that I had forgot my backpack and bladder. 30 minutes after leaving home I was back again and setting off again. I was on my way along the M18 to get onto the A1 when signs appeared saying that the junction onto the A1 was closed, so I did a quick U turn at the next exit and returned to the M1 feeling that if I was superstitious I would be worrying by now. I finally arrived at Osmotherley with only a short time before the start and had to walk the mile into town as I had to park my car near the junction into town. I just had enough time to collect my tally before lining up at the start. I found myself at the front of the pack and we were given a quick talk of some rules and warned of dehydration as there was a fool who ended up in hospital the previous year (I held my hand up to acknowledge that I was that fool). The church bell chimed 9 and we were off.

I got to the top of the hill out of Osmotherley with the lead runners in sight. My plan for this year was to get to the first wooded section a mile into the route near the front so I would not be held up in the bottle neck like last year, but would slow down to 10 minute miles once I leave the wood and the track opens up. I arrived at the bucket drop at the edge of the woods and had my token in hand to throw in the bucket (unlike last year where I had to spend ages undoing knots and getting it off my tally sheet cord). I felt good and my knee was showing no signs of pain so I latched onto the runner in front and made my way across Scarth Wood Moor, through Clain Wood and into Huthwaite Green where the first checkpoint was located 4.6 miles into the route. I was carrying 2 litres of electrolyte drink in my bladder and 550ml of water in my handheld so only grabbed a Jaffa Cake and ran straight through. My plan for hydration was to experiment with a full bladder of electrolytes to see if it works for me on longer runs in the heat.

Next was the first big hill section up Round Hill, Gold Hill and onto Carlton Moor. I remembered the uphill trudge from last year but this year I noticed a big difference at the top, as my legs still felt fresh. I used the climb time to eat and drink and felt the cooling breeze which was missing last year. It was a lot cooler than the previous year with more cloud, but it was very humid and I was sweating lots. On the back end of Carlton Moor was a big decent which I was dreading because of my knee, but at the bottom my knee still showed no signs of any pain. I arrived at the next checkpoint at 7.5 miles and again just a quick grab at two biscuits and off again.

Next was a section that leaves the Cleveland Way for a short while to miss two hills. There is the option to run/walk the hills but I have not seen one person yet to venture up them. So we all skirt around the hills on an undulating track towards Broughton Plantation and I can see that the runners are spreading out now and I was on my own for some time. I was still feeling fresh but I was running at 7/8 minutes miles to get my average back to 10 minute miles after the uphill sections. I knew I could burn out at any time keeping that pace throughout the event. I reached Broughton Plantation and ran the track running along Broughton Bank. This section felt longer than the previous year but I soon arrived at the turnoff which led me down to the B1257 at Clay Bank and the next checkpoint at 11.2 miles. Again, quick grab at some food and I was off.

I knew the next section was the second of the major hills but probably the smallest of the lot. I took my time climbing up to Carr Ridge and found it easy going along the cobbled path and then up a small incline to the self clip at Round Hill cairn. I was dreading the next section. The route now leaves the Cleveland Way and heads towards Seave Green, first along a flat section but then onto a big downhill. I had predicted that my knee would start hurting around this time and I was right, on the decent I started to notice a pain at the back of the knee that moved around to the lower outer edge. By time I hit the flat road section on the B1257, I was slowing down trying to get back in a rhythm and hoping the pain would subside. The short road section led into Chop Gate and I arrived at the car park where the next checkpoint and kit check was located at 16 miles. After a quick inspection of my back to show I had my full waterproofs, map and compass, I shoved them all back into my bag. I grabbed some more food and also filled my handheld with water as the electrolyte drink in my bladder was starting to taste awful and making me feel a bit sick.

Next was the climb that finished me off last year. I had left the checkpoint with a big group of runners and kept pace with them. We climbed and I hung back not wanting to push too hard. The climb was not as bad as I remembered it from last year and after reaching to top my legs were still fresh unlike last year when my legs locked up at this point. My knee was however hurting bad and I was starting to feel a bit dizzy from dehydration with my top front teeth tingling a little. I was annoyed that I had let myself get dehydrated but I could no longer stomach the electrolytes and stuck to my handheld. I caught up with the runners in front and stuck behind them, along the moors and onto Arnsgill Ridge. I made the effort to keep the pace up even though my knee was screaming because I know now that I can acclimatise to the pain a little and numb it. There was a descent down to Hill End Farm and then Low Cote Farm before arriving at the next checkpoint at 20.7 miles. It was a quick stop for some food and to refill my handheld bottle.

Last year I ran the next section on my own and had little problem navigating. This year I made the faithful mistake of following to person in front who looks very confident at their route choice. It is probably the hardest section to navigate as there is no track and the route goes across fields at random angles. All went well passed Birk Wood Farm, Far House, Cow Wath and up to Brewster Hill, but a group of us followed the wrong footpath down to the Ford and not towards Blueberry Wood. On discovering we were off course we all tromped up through blind navigation to get back on track. We were able to identify landmarks in the distance and took the long way back onto the route via some interesting decision making and passed some angry looking dogs and a big sign saying ‘These dogs bite’. Now back on track we made our way to New Hall and along the road to the next checkpoint at 25 miles and I looked at my watch to see a time of around 4.5 hours. I stopped long enough to refill my water but did not eat anymore food. I was starting to feel sick and the thought of any more sugary food was too much.

I was still feeling ok, but was starting to lack some energy. I knew that I should eat, but could not bring myself to do it. Next was the last big climb of the event and I knew it could be a breaker. We started the long climb toward to top where we would reach the Cleveland Way again along the Hambleton Road track. I started to slow a lot now and the other runners started to get more and more distant. I was crashing fast and I knew it. I also knew that if I could get to the top of the hill it would be just over 5 miles of fairly easy going tracks down to Osmotherley. It took a while but I finally arrived at the top and clipped in at the self clip and refilled my water. I got into a rhythm along the top but my pace was slow. I was feeling really sick now and even brought up a mouthful of sick on one occasion. I have vowed never again to fill my bladder with electrolytes as I think the sweet tasting overload had resulted in this sickness. It was a lot cooler on top of the hills and a nice breeze cooled me down before I descended into the hot valley. I reached the road and car park when some runners approached from behind and overtook me. I took it easy down the hill to the reservoirs as my knee had now had enough and was threatening to give out at any moment. Passed the second reservoir and I reached to road and gate where last year I was dry heaving and losing my hearing. Up the track and passed Whitehouse Farm where two more runners passed me and they were looking very fresh and talking a 100 miles per hour. I arrived at the final self clip and clipped some random part of my tally and made my way up the last set of steps. These steps were the final nail in my coffin last year and there was no difference this year. I was totally spent and was starting to sway a bit. At the top I recovered to get back into a run to finish the final section through the village and back to the finish line.

I was feeling very dehydrated and sick and figured my best bet was to get back to the car as soon as possible to recover as I knew I had a mile to walk. Last year I sat down and I did not get up again. I grabbed my badge and certificate and stopped in at the chip shop before tromping along toward the car. Air con on and I was off home. I still felt sick when I arrived home but found that 5 big glasses of milk helped loads. I enjoyed this event last year and again this year but suffered both times. I will have to do this event again next year and conquer it once and for all. Next up is the Lakeland 50 in 3 weeks and I just hope my knee gets better before then.