Date: Sat 30th July to Sun 31st July 2011
Start: Dalemain
Finish: Coniston
Weather: Hot, Sunny and Blue Skies
Distance: 50 miles (80.2km)
Time taken: 15 hours 49 minutes
Ascent: 2965 metres
Race Position: 230/469

Website: Montane Lakeland 50


fter what had seemed an eternity, the weekend of the Montane Lakeland 50 was upon us. Also, my good run of awesome weather on race days looked set to continue with a great forecast for the weekend. I left work early on the Friday afternoon and after some congestion in Edinburgh City Centre, I was soon making good progress down towards Biggar and then onto Carlisle and Maryport where I was meeting Scott. I arrived early evening and after a bite to eat, we set off to John Ruskin School in Coniston where the race event centre was located.

It was a lovely evening and we arrived at 8pm and rather than wait until the morning we registered immediately. That way we would avoid any last minute rush in the first thing. First point of call was the medical centre where you were weighed. Your weight was then recorded on a band and you were also weighed at the end. Apparently, this is ensure you are not suffering from a condition called Hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition caused by over-drinking, when your sodium levels are low. I stood on the scales and was informed of my weight. 76.5kg!

“Are you sure?” I asked..

“Yes” replied the man.

Well I would not deny the fact that I have paid one or two visits to Greggs over the last couple of weeks but the last time I weighed myself I was about 73kg. Hmmm.

“Are the clothes you are wearing now, similar to what you will be wearing tomorrow?” the man asked.

Highly unlikely. I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved top. Is this guy for real? Surely a pair of jeans could not account for the additional weight.

“Well I am not running in jeans” I responded.

Scott had already been weighed and was a massive 10kg lighter than me. Goodness, that is like me being loaded with five bags of sugar. I made a mental note to ban all cakes and biscuits next time we went to Tesco.

I listened to the safety advice then went into the hall to continue registration. Here we had our kit checked, received our race numbers, map, guidebook and our SPORTident dibbers. There was definitely an air of excitement and anticipation, nothing like I had experienced at an event registration before.

We headed back over to the tent and settled down for the evening. I had brought my laptop with me and we watched a film called ‘Bronson’ about the infamous criminal, Charles Bronson. Or maybe should I say started to watch the film because it was terrible and after 45 minutes we turned it off. With nothing else to do, we settled down for the evening.

The following morning, we were up early and greeted with blue skies. No different to when Emma and I ran the Coniston Trail Marathon from here, earlier on in the month. It was going to be a really hot day and with a start time of 12 noon we would be running when the sun was at its highest.

We were summoned into the hall at 9am for a safety meeting and a chat from no other than Joss Naylor. Josh is a fell running legend and even now, in his senior years, he looks like he would have no issues smashing a big run in the fells. It was great to listen to him and it was certainly an inspirational talk. Once complete we were loaded onto a series of coaches for a journey to the Dalemain where the race started. Our coach was pretty much full by the time we boarded so we could not get a seat next to each other and instead I sat directly in front of Scott and next to a guy who seemed to be fast asleep. No such luck for Scott though. His seat companion could talk a glass eye to sleep and for the next 90 minutes Scott hardly got a word in edgeways as the guy told Scott about all the classic Lakeland fell races he had run and how he was intending to do a sub 10 hour today . (When we checked the results later on, the guy had DNF’d at the third checkpoint)

Large coaches are not a great ‘fit’ for narrow country lanes and after what seemed an eternity, we finally arrived Dalemain. We ambled down to the start area and watched as some of the hundred mile entrants ran through. As well as being the start area for the fifty mile event, Dalemain was half way for the hundred mile event. These guys had been running since 17:30 the previous evening and still had fifty miles to complete! Great effort.

We assembled at the start and discussed our strategy. Our plan was to take it easy and maintain a steady pace, running the flats and downhill sections and walking any inclines. We waited at the start for the race to begin. Unfortunately, a coach was stuck in traffic and the start would have to be delayed for thirty minutes. Not ideal, but I felt really relaxed and excited about what was ahead.

Eventually everyone was finally assembled and the horn was blown. We were off! The first part of the course is a four mile loop around the Dalemain estate and as we set off at our planned pace, everyone was streaming past us. Did they know something we did not? Well we soon found out! There was a number of stiles and gates to negotiate and with over 450 people this caused obvious bottlenecks. Unfortunately, we were stuck somewhere near the back and we progressed at a snail’s pace. In due course, the field gradually thinned out and we were able to start running but we had lost significant time.

We headed out of the estate and picked up the path that ran parallel to the River Eamon. A few people were already feeling the pace and I wondered how they would be fairing later on in the day. From here we ran through the village of Pooley Bridge and up onto the path that heads up towards High Street. We walked the uphill section then ran the great path that heads down to Ullswater passing the infamous crag where we had lost significant time on in the RAB Mountain Marathon last year.

When we hit the road it was a quick right turn into Howtown and our first checkpoint. It had took us 2 hours 24 minutes to cover the 11.2 miles and had put us in 310th position. Not great by any standard. Having not run an ultra before, the concept of checkpoints where you stop and refuel was something new to us so we were unsure as to how long to stay. We grabbed some cake, a cup of tea and refilled my Camelbak. I half-drunk the tea and then we set off.

We had been told that leg 2 was the toughest leg with a big climb up to the highest point on the course, Wether Hill. As we followed the path alongside Fusedale Beck you could see a steady stream of people snaking up the hill in front. For one hundred mile competitor, wearing the distinctive yellow race number, this must have been the final straw. She stopped momentarily, looked up the hill, then turned and headed back to the checkpoint. I imagined how I would feel if I had been on the go for over 18 hours and was faced with that climb.

Scott pushed on ahead and I hung on behind. Scott is a strong climber and I was determined not to lag behind. The sun was beating down and it was a brutal climb. My heart rate was greater than 95% of maximum and I was finding the climb really tough. The good news was that we made excellent progress, gradually overtaking people as we headed up towards the top. I stopped momentarily to help stretch a girls leg who had cramped up and then caught up with Scott where we gradually pushed over the top. There was a decent breeze as we ran down to Bampton Common which made the running easier. We descended towards Sandhill Knotts and picked up the path that runs alongside Haweswater.

We headed along the single track and admired the amazing views; Selside Pike, Branstree, Harter Fell – the hills looked amazing. There was a guy throwing up at the side of the path with two people assisting him. In this weather, this was no race for the faint-hearted. We were feeling good, however and made excellent progress passing Speaking Crag and The Rigg, then up to Mardale Head and the second checkpoint. We had made decent time on this leg with a rank of 154 which moved us up into 223nd position.

I grabbed some soup and bread and whilst I did not feel hungry, I forced the food down. There was another decent climb up to Gatescarth Pass so after a brief rest we headed out and up the hillside. It was probably a 300 metre climb up to the pass but we pushed pretty hard as on the other hill and made good progress. It was significantly cooler now and for the first time we had some solitude as we ran down towards Longsleddale.

I had been conscious not to over drink but had still consumed over 4 litres of fluid and felt reasonably hydrated. I stopped to take a ‘pee’ and my urine was the colour of Irn Bru! Maybe, I was not as hydrated as I thought. Do I need to drink more? The taste of the nuun tablets we were using was making me feel nauseous and I decided to just take on water at the next checkpoint and see if that would help settle my stomach.

We arrived at Kentmere Village, the third checkpoint in 7 hours 11 minutes, in 210th position. We had performed reasonably well on the previous leg, ranking 175th. We had covered just over 27 miles and apart from feeling a little ‘sick’ I was in good ‘nick’. My legs felt ok and I had no issues whatsoever with my feet. Great news!

The checkpoint at Kentmere village was amazing. They were making some amazing smoothies and there was pasta and rice pudding in addition to cake, fruit, biscuits etc. I struggled to stomach the pasta unlike Scott who ate as though he had not had a meal in a week! But the rice pudding was great and I managed to eat half a dozen biscuits.

We probably stayed a little too long but eventually we dragged ourselves up and set off up to Garburn Pass. Once again there was a decent climb straight out from the checkpoint but it was past 8pm now and much cooler so we were able to make good progress up the hill. Once at the top we followed Garburn Road, a wide track that afforded great running, down towards Troutbeck. The views from the top were amazing and although it had clouded over slightly, the ‘pudding shaped’ hill of Great Gable was visible with the sun setting behind.

We ran down the track and hit the road just south of Limefitt Park. From here it was another brief climb up Robin Lane then through Skelghyll Wood and into Ambleside. It was twilight by the time we entered the wood and by the time we were running through Ambleside it was dark. The pubs were rammed and with it being a really hot day, everyone was stood outside. People were cheering and clapping as we ran past and although I suspect that most of them were probably ‘Three sheets to the wind’ it was an amazing feeling and really gave us a great morale boost.

We checked into the Ambleside Checkpoint in a time of 9 hours 32 minutes, a little over 35 miles down. We had ranked 223rd for that leg and was in 210th position. Compared to the previous checkpoint, the food was a little disappointing but I did manage to eat some mushroom soup. A slightly bizarre selection in my opinion. How many people actually like mushrooms? We ‘donned’ our head torches and headed through the town centre and towards Rothay Park. From here we followed a road up onto the open fell.

Navigation, up until this point had not been an issue. We had not had any difficulties following the map and the Road Book that contained the detailed directions had remained in my rucksack but with it being dark we decided we better use this in conjunction with the map. The last thing we wanted was a navigational error that would add extra distance to the route.

As we progressed over the fell our progress slowed. I am not sure if it was the darkness, fatigue or both but we were doubting our decisions.

“Do we turn left here?”

“Are you sure that path back there was not the fork we needed?”

These were some of the questions we were asking and we were not the only ones struggling. We grouped together with some other people and managed to navigate successfully over the fell and into Tarn Foot. From here we headed into Skelwith Bridge and picked up the Cumbria Way into Elterwater and Chapel Stile. We arrived into Chapel Stile in 11 hours 23 minutes. We had ranked 260th for that leg and we was in 219th position.

It was midnight now and I was exhausted. My legs felt ok but I was so sleepy. I slumped on the floor and grabbed a brew and some beef stew. The checkpoint was a strange affair. We were in some kind of garden, sat under a gazebo with what seemed like Christmas Tree fairy lights. Or was my mind playing tricks with me?

We headed out of the checkpoint and tagged onto a group of people in front. There was probably about a dozen of us heading across the hillside now and I was happy to just sit at the back and let other people navigate. I was just so tired and could feel myself falling asleep as we walked on. It was only a distance of 7.1 miles to Tilberthwaite but it took forever to get there. It was strange that a couple of hours previous, I was feeling great and now I was totally wasted.

Fortunately, some of the guys in front had been on ‘recee weekend’ so they knew this part of the course so we just hung in at the back and followed. I suspect that in the daylight this the scenery would have been amazing but all I wanted now was to finish. I was spending far too much time looking at my Garmin and counting down the distance to the next checkpoint. Of course, we were moving so slow, each kilometre was taking an age.

Eventually, we did arrive at Tilberthwaite in a time of 14 hours 15 minutes. It had took us 2 hours 52 to cover the 7.1 miles from Chapel Stile. We had ranked 246th for the leg and were in 233rd position. I was not hungry at all and my only thoughts were to finish the course. I grabbed a cup of Coke and we decided to head on immediately. It was only 3.5 miles to the finish. Just a case of heading up by Crook Beck and then down past the disused Blue Quarries into Coniston. We had been warned to be careful with navigation on this leg but by now there was a decent line of people so we just followed everyone else and managed to avoid any mishaps.

The final descent was tortuous. My quads were screaming and progress was slow. After what seemed an age we finally came out into Coniston Town Centre. At this time in the morning, it was abandoned and it reminded me of when you walk home after leaving a night club late when there is not a soul in sight. We jogged down towards John Ruskin School, the first time we had ran since Chapel Stile. When we arrive at the finish there was a decent amount of people hanging around and it was a great feeling to walk over the finish line.

We had completed the race in 15 hours 49 minutes and 37 seconds. This gave us a position of 230 out of 469. How did I feel? I think my huge smile as I crossed the finish line said it all. We headed into the event centre, downloaded then went over to be weighed. My finishing weight was 72.7kg, a net loss of just short of 4kg although I am not convinced my start weight was accurate in the first place.

There is no doubt that the Montane 50 was an amazing experience. Considering this was our first ultra, I thought we did reasonably well. I think we could have run a little faster, especially at the start and in the early stages I will definitely have to work on my nutrition. The race was significantly more difficult than I expected and it was definitely not just a case of running two marathons back to back. There is only one way to train for something like this and that is ‘time on your feet’ and something I will address next time I train for an event like this. Overall I was happy with my performance though and had an amazing day. :)

Race Statistics

Checkpoint Leg Distance Cumulative Distance Ascent Leg Time Cumulative Time Leg Rank Overall Position
Howtown 11.2 miles (17.8km) 11.2 miles (17.8km) 294 metres 02:24:26 02:24:26 310 310
Mardale Head 9.4 miles (15.2km) 20.6 miles (33.0km) 765 metres 02:41:32 05:05:58 154 223
Kentmere 6.5 miles (10.4km) 27.1 miles (43.4km) 511 metres 02:05:41 07:11:39 175 198
Ambleside 7.3 miles (11.8km) 34.4 miles (55.2km) 491 metres 02:21:02 09:32:41 223 210
Chapel Stile 5 miles (8.1km) 39.4 miles (63.3km) 234 metres 01:50:41 11:23:22 260 219
Tilberthwaite 7.1 miles (11.5km) 46.5 miles (74.8km) 387 metres 02:52:16 14:15:38 246 233
Coniston 3.5 miles (5.7km) 50 miles (80.5km) 283 metres 01:33:59 15:49:37 249 230
Full Results on SportIdent
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