The day didn’t start brilliantly. After my second night on the couch looking after the new puppy I was really tired. So tired that I slept through my alarm, and once one the way managed to take the wrong motorway exit twice before even getting out of Merseyside.
When I got closer to Ennerdale the main road in was closed, so I battled the satnav telling me to turn around for an extra 20 minutes, eventually arriving at the event start with about an hour to spare. Or so I thought. Turns out the postcode they gave out was for a school in the next town about three miles from the start. Fortunately I spotted another runner walking along the road, checked he was doing the race (he was) and that he knew where the start was (he did), and then gave him a lift. It’s just as well we bumped into each other, there’s no way I’d have found the start, or that he’d have made it in time walking from where I picked him up.
Fortunately I think a lot of other people got lost too, and despite being late we managed to bag the last parking space in the tiny car park. Just as well really as the next nearest other one was about 2.5km away. We went in to register, got our numbers and race t-shirt (generic to the race series, they only had Medium left, and ran out of them completely just after us with loads of people still to register).
It was one of those rare races these days where I didn’t know a single person at the start, apart from Mike they guy I’d given a lift to. The 50km runners went off at 1000, with the 25km runners who only had to do one loop setting off 15 minutes later.
Things sort of started ok. I fell into pace with a local guy who knew the route and we chatted for a bit, until around 10km when I started to feel a bit rough. I let him go on while I had a gel, and that was about the last time in the race that I didn’t want to die. For no obvious reason I was really struggling. It felt like I was bonking, but 10km into a race after a week’s rest it couldn’t have been that. I just kept feeling worse, going through the water station at about 12km I felt grim, and for the next 6-7km I had the added joy of having to stop every minute or so to let 25km runners through.
At about 18km it got pretty rough underfoot. I was trying to keep a half decent pace despite feeling crap, but I went over on my glass ankle twice in quick succession and pretty much hiked/scrambled the next couple of miles up and over Anglers Crag. I trudged miserably into the start/finish area where they made the 50k runners go right up to the finish line, turn around and run back out of the finish chute, which was weird. There wasn’t much going on there at what was the only real checkpoint in terms of food either.
By this point I was really struggling, my heart rate was spiking with the slightest effort and I just felt like shit. I ran a bit, walked a bit, swore a lot, and just generally wished it was over. Around 5k into lap 2 I decided to take my emergency 100mg caffeine gel, and at that point a lady Pam caught me up. We chatted a bit, and for the next few miles were taking turns passing each other. I think I was going a bit quicker up the hills and she was going quicker on the flat, but we met again the water station and pretty much ran the last quarter of the race together from there.
We somehow managed to grind out the last few miles, scramble over the crag again, and with a bit of effort we held off one lady who was threatening to catch Pam in the last few hundred metres. We finished together in 5:57 (only two hours longer than my last 50k lol), and clapped in about another six or seven runners who all of a sudden came in behind us. I had a couple of manky cheese and onion pastry things, looked around in to see if anyone was going to give me a medal (they didn’t), and then trudged off to get changed and start the 2.5 hour drive home.
I’m trying not to let how bad a day I had colour my opinion of the event, but to be honest, I wasn’t hugely impressed. On the plus side the route was really well marked, and using the scout camp as the start/finish meant somewhere warm and dry to get ready/changed afterwards which was cool. And it’s always nice to have a proper toilet. On the downside, it just felt a bit low-rent for the £35 entry fee. Now I’m not one to complain about how much races cost – this was my 37th or so this year and I think they’ve all ranged between £7-£90 or thereabouts, so this wasn’t expensive by any stretch. It’s just hard to see where they spent the money. One checkpoint at the start/finish, one water stop at half way, generic race tee for their series of about 10 races, a roll or two of barrier tape and whatever the mountain rescue guy on the crag and the medical staff were getting? The same route from the LDWA would’ve cost about £10, the food would have been better (and every 5km) and you’d have got a certificate.
Anyway, on the plus side I managed to grind out four hours of really unpleasant running which is good to have in the memory bank for when I’m struggling somewhere else. It’ll rarely get that bad again (fingers crossed). It was also marathon/ultra number 96, four more to go and I get my yellow and blue vest!