A chastening day in the hills!

06 April 2015

​We’re up in the Lakes this week, so we’re spending lots of time walking amongst the fells and lakes as a family. I had intended to run/walk a steady lap of the 50k course at some point, but have half an eye on a fast half marathon time this coming Sunday so downgraded those plans to running a couple of the key segments in the first half of the week instead. I figured that this would save me some time on race day, through not needing to check the maps etc quite so often, as well as putting my mind at ease in terms of knowing what I would face. I am typing the latter part of that sentence with a slightly pained expression on my face, as I’m now entirely aware of what I will face! Before the negatives though, let’s (in England cricket speak) take the positives from the day:

kit

I have to say, the kit that the event sponsors had sent me performed admirably!

I wore the trainers that I received from HokaOneOne today, and they offered my feet all the protection they needed. I ran just short of 9 miles, including 1600 feet of climb, over slate and stone trails as well as the smooth sections around Buttermere and at no point did my feet hurt. No blisters and no rubbing means a massive thumbs up for these trail shoes. I shudder to think how I would have fared had I worn my usual minimalist footwear - I cope fine over the grassy paths of Lincolnshire but I do not think I would have escaped unscathed!

The Garmin Fenix 3 was also a big winner today - I’ve been training in it for 11 days now and it has become better the more I have got the hang of it. While some of the features needed a bit of investigation to get to the bottom of (it took me ages to find how to change the data screens for use during runs), on today’s run it came into its own as when you start to climb it immediately starts tracking your elevation and the speed at which you are gaining altitude. I didn’t use it today but I have also found the feature where you can use it to control music etc on paired Bluetooth devices. Pretty handy if (like I did today) you wear the wrong pair of shorts, the ones where the pocket is only just big enough to get your phone in if you squeeze it, and then you have to stop running to get it back out again!!!

And as for the Berghaus Vapourlight jacket; it behaved impeccably, packed small and tight in my pack as I enjoyed (?) the sunshine.

fitness

My fitness level held up well enough. I ran the sections I expected to be able to run, and there were some parts on the climb up to Honister slate mine that I expected to be walking but actually jogged without too many problems. Looking at the course profile (more of which later), this was one of the hardest sections so I was pleased with some of the climbs.

What else?

Well, the weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful as expected, but as this blog is meant to relate to my race preparations I won’t spend too much time on that (look at the photos to get a feel, though!). There are two main things that I have learnt today, and I’m not sure that I can do much about them at this stage:

Overestimation of my ability/underestimation of the challenge:

Certainly I’m still a bit of a novice at this game (the ultra running/fell running area), but I never fail to overestimate what I can do. The 8.74 mile section I ran today took me 1 hour 54 minutes. At this rate (and bearing in mind that I was fresh here) a conservative estimate of my finish time would be around 9 hours, way in excess of the 7-7:30 that I was hoping for. Now, obviously the route will be the same for all runners so it isn’t counting against me specifically, but a 9 hour race is way out of my zone. Psychologically it’s a huge step up from the 5:57 that I completed my previous 50k race in, and even the 6:50 that the Shires and Spires 35 took me last summer.

my hopelessness on uneven terrain

I was pretty pleased with my efforts on the big climb (although I was shocked and dismayed at Honister Pass when the cars start descending to see that the footpath gets significantly steeper in an upward direction for quite some distance!), but I was, if anything, slower on the descent down towards Gatesgarth. I was too timid, too careful, so could not make back any of the time that I had lost on the ascent. I don’t think at this late stage (and with nothing comparable back home to train on) I can improve in this area. This meant that I had to hammer it along the shore of Buttermere to try and get a bit of respectability back in the average pace. Over 32 miles I’m not sure this approach would be sensible!

Apologies for the downbeat nature of this post - I had a lovely time out in the most beautiful area of the country, after all - but I’m starting to have significant second thoughts about the race and my ability to complete it.

Beautiful Buttermere
Meeting the locals
Heading down from Honister to Buttermere

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neil Mitchell

Neil Mitchell

I’m a full time primary teacher, husband and dad with a 35-40 miles per week running habit! I’ve been getting into longer events over the last year or so, and enjoy long miles, both off road and on, to relax. Not much beats spending a steady couple of hours out with good friends and surrounded by fantastic scenery, or having a blast right on your very limit.

I’ve completed a 50K and a 35 miler before, but the 50K at the Keswick Mountain Festival in 2015 will be a step up and I can’t wait!

  • Location: Lincolnshire
  • Event entered: Ultra Trail Marathon
  • Favourite outdoor activity: Running!
  • Favourite cake: Profiteroles, or cheesecake if they don’t count!
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