Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon 2012

Being so close to the Lakeland 50 I missed this event last year but this year was going to be a real Spartan-fest, with 16 club members turning out across the Marathon, half and 10k. I couldn't say no!
Gareth, Paul A and Alan studying the route
at Bank Ground farm

The previous night we had a fantastic club get together at Bank Ground farm. Large amounts of delicious lasagne was wolfed down followed by excited chatter about the following day. I had a firm plan not to run this one hard but to treat it as a final long training run. I’ve been battling with some pain in a ligament in my right knee since May so with one month to go before the Lakeland 1oo my only goal today was to end the day un-injured...be that at the finish or before. This was the first time I have ever gone into a race expecting not to finish.

Mich and I got up early to pack the tent away and head over to John Ruskin school for 8am. All was going to plan until we jumped into the car and found that I had run the battery down charging my phone. We faffed around for a bit before abandoning the car and hot footing it with two small children in tow over the mile walk to the school. I just made the start with seconds to spare, feeling pretty stressed. Not the best way to start a race!

The race began with a lap of the school field, and it was really nice to see supporters before we headed out into the hills. The Spartans generally stayed together for the initial lap (except Nick, who bolted off into the horizon like a man possessed) before settling into our natural paces. I hooked up with Paul Crisp and we just jogged along, chatting away at the perfect pace for this race.
Having a great time with Paul at Tarn Hows, around 10 miles in.

The first few miles out to Tarn Hows were on new ground to me and the route was superb, mainly on undulating metalled roads with stunning views but mixed in with some single track. Paul and I were just chatting away, thoroughly enjoying the day. At one point Andy Whittaker blasted bast with Jim in tow but Paul and I let them go. I’m not racing, remember!

Paul and I went through half way in 2:02, both feeling as fresh as a daisy. Coming into Grizedale we caught and passed a pretty dejected James Hack. He was having trouble with pains in his quads and was really struggling. He did battle on to make it to the finish though so respect there!

At the bottom of the lake, around 30km, Paul stopped to take off some layers. I was starting to feel the first signs of tiredness as well as some worrying niggles on the inside of my right knee so I carried on, expecting him to catch me in a mile or two but this would be the last time I would see Paul until we were almost at the finish. 

The route setters had planned a real sting in the tail for the last 10km, with climbs, lots of mud and some technical descents to finish off the quads. At 20miles I still felt great but soon afterwards I started to struggle a little. I had only eaten two blocks of Kendal mint cake all day and now my body was getting unhappy about running. I got slower and slower as we ran on the lovely single track by the lake. It should have been a wonderful location to run but I just wanted the race to be over. I had pain on the inside of both knees but that wasn’t the main thing slowing me...I just could not maintain a pace. What's going on? Aren't I supposed to be top shape and about to run a 100 mile race through the mountains?? I really should not be feeling this tired 23 miles into a run that I have paced sensibly.

Half a mile from the finish Paul finally caught me. He slowed to my pace but I encouraged him to carry on and go for a strong finish. A few more people passed me and I just jogged along. As we entered the school field for the final lap Andy W flew past with a huge smile on his face. The man had rockets on his heels! I had just enough time to shout "hey...aren’t you ahead of me already?” before he vanished into the distance.

On the lap around the field I jogged over to my family to get some pre-finish kisses, remembering to smile so the kids know that this is what daddy does for fun. Mich asked if I wanted to carry Josie over the finish line.  Erm, ok...I feel wobbly but I think I can just about manage that.

I finished in 4:20 and felt pretty shot at the end. Mich has seen me like this many times and took charge, walking me over to a quiet spot so I could sit down while she went to get me some food and a cup of tea. By the time she got back my whole body was shaking. So THAT’s why it was so tough at the end then...very poor nutrition. After food and a sugary tea I was back chasing the kids around the field again; legs feeling strong and ready to go for another run. 

It was a really good weekend with the Spartans and we had some impressive results. The club is really growing in strength, which is great to see but more importantly it is the social/supportive side that is still very much at the heart of things. 

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