The Ultimate Trails 110km and 55km Events – June 2015

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Gore Running Wear

Push Nutrition

On Running

Robens Tents

Helly Hansen

Bloc Eyewear

and

Garmin Actions Cameras

First of all, here’s a film made by Dave whilst taking part in the 110km event to give you an idea of the course and the atmosphere.

Part 1, by Dave – the 110km event

This was the race I was most looking forward to this season. I’ve done a few Lakeland Trails events before so knew that they’re always run on beautiful, well marked courses and staffed by friendly marshalls, the only difference with this one was that it was going to show me so much more of the country than I’d seen previously. The route promised us 6 mountains passes, 5 lakes and over 14,000 feet of ascent and descent, it was going to be epic.

We set up our tents early Friday afternoon on the pitch of Ambleside Football Club. I hadn’t got any sleep the night before so was hoping for a few hours rest before the race began at just past midnight but in the end that wasn’t to be. No fault of the site, it was level and everybody was quiet enough, it was just I was too excited for the run. The forecast even said it wasn’t going to rain much during our event, which is a bonus for the Lake District!

VIRB Picture

After a safety briefing at 8pm we had a few more hours of rest and then we all lined up just past midnight. The sky was nearly clear and it was just cool, perfect weather.

VIRB Picture

The film will show you how the first few hours went. It was pitch black on the fells and unless you were experienced at handling the terrain with just your headlamp for guidance you had a choice; go all out and risk injury early in the race or just hold off the gas a little and make sure you got through until dawn.

I thought I was doing the latter but on the second major descent I hit a wobbly rock too fast and my knee gave way. It was one of those injuries that you didn’t know what to do with; not so bad as to have me carried away but bad enough for the pain to be in the forefront of my mind all the time. I was only 20km into the distance too, it was going to be one big challenge to finish after that.  At the next aid station I bandaged the knee up tight to support the kneecap and pushed on. It seemed to help and as the dawn broke I felt like I just might make it through if I played it careful and protected my knee on the downhills. I’m sure it was also the scenery that was inspiring me to push on, what a glorious sight there was before me as the light got stronger.

VIRB Picture

The aid stations were spaced roughly 10km apart and were pretty good. Perhaps not as extensively stocked as some events I’ve been too but good enough. I’m vegan and I was happy to find something for me at all stations, which isn’t often the case. For instance, when most were tucking into bacon sandwiches I could have porridge or soup and that was fine by me. And every station had flapjack and bananas on offer, as well as a range of drinks (tea, water, electrolyte and sometimes coke).

There was a little road running – I heard some runners saying a bit too much for their liking but it was hard to see what could be done about that considering the route – and some stunning vistas. Here are a couple of images I snapped as I ran…

VIRB Picture

VIRB Picture

This was a spectator friendly route with plenty of points for families to drive to in order to support runners, including the great Stickle Barn Tavern. The sun was blazing down as I passed through there, which for me was the best feed station with huge chunky chips on offer as well as sandwiches and the usual flapjacks and sweets.

I managed to run the last 12km into Ambleside and as from about 2km out I could hear the drumming group banging away at the finish line, reeling us all in. I felt so energetic now, knee pain gone, keeping up a nice pace. It had been a very challenging course, brutal at times and I’d completed in just over 17 hours. The winner had finished in under 11 hours, which was incredible, but for me – and I know it sounds a terrible cliche but I believe it to be true – anybody who managed to finish the course was a winner of sorts.

I collected my medal and t-shirt, ate my free bowl of chili and the headed to the showers, which were freezing cold. I could have done without that, I thought at first, but then again, cold water on tired muscles isn’t a bad thing at all. My knee was feeling ok-ish now, and the only visible problems were the beginnings of black toenails. I was overjoyed, I’d never had them before. I was now officially an ultra runner!

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Part 2 by Stuart Obbard, the 55km event

I had heard about this Ultra marathon that took place in the Lake District from a friend and I liked the sound of it. Firstly because how beautiful the Lake District is and secondly the appeal of an Ultra Marathon. So when Dave Wise asked if I was interested in taking part I jumped at the chance and was very excited about taking part.

On the weekend of the race we arrived at the camp which was at the local football pitch in Ambleside. The view from the campsite was picturesque with the mountains all around. We pitched our tents and then went to check-in for the race with our full kit bags that we would be carrying for the race complete with all the required safety gear, such as full waterproof covering and emergency food rations. We approached the race village and once I saw the start line some nerves hit me as the realization that I was about to run further than I had before, whilst running up mountains off road.

Our bags were checked with no fuss at all, then we were given our race numbers and timing chip. We were then all set for our races, except for the pre-race briefings we had to attend later. At 8pm on the Friday night I went with Dave for the 110km briefing. It was insightful and as I stood listening I looked around the room and fancied my chances at this distance but I think being realistic I was best sticking at the 55km for now as I hadn’t trained enough for the 55km let alone a 110km race!

At midnight I made my way to the start and saw Dave off, along with the rest of the 110km group. I will admit that I was a little jealous as the night was clear and there was something romantic about running through the night with just the night sky and head torch to help guide you. Now it was time to get my head down as my race started at 11am.

Well, morning came pretty quickly. I ate my breakfast, got kitted up and before I knew it I was at the start line with 100’s of others. We had our briefing and our start was delayed as the winner of the 110km group was nearly finishing. He was done in under 11 hours and we welcomed him home with a massive roar. I was in awe of him as that was a superhuman performance.

Now our countdown began and we were off. We ran slightly uphill from Rothay Park through the town of Ambleside. I will admit for the locals this is no hill and at the time I knew things were only going to get steeper as the race went on. The locals and tourists in Ambleside were out in force cheering us on our way and once we had made our way through the village we were off uphill on tarmac. Before the race I did have a bit of a dilemma about what to wear, I chose road shoes in the end as this is what I had practised in but there was plenty of others out there in trail shoes. I knew if my feet were to get wet this would be the biggest problem but I took the chance.

The road we were climbing was windy and became single tracked. About 2 miles in we were heading onto the trails and this would tell me if I was a fool for selecting road shoes. Instantly the ground around me felt pretty solid so I was happy with my grip. We ascended the hill to the Kirkstone Pass and made our first checkpoint, on the way here we had passed several spectator spots where I was my usual self and chatted away, this would be the same at all the other spots as one family used me as their guide to see when their runners would be through.

This checkpoint was well stocked with plenty to eat and also plenty to drink. Throughout the race this would be the same at all of the check points. There was water, energy drinks, coke, crisps, sweets, cakes, bread, noodles and sandwiches all around the course. It was described as a running picnic by one racer (however there sadly was no clotted cream and scones).

I didn’t stop long and made my way out on the trail to the top of the hill, as we descended down the other side I started to notice the beautiful landscape and scenery,  something I have always loved about the Lakes and I find myself romanticizing about life as I drift off into another world. We passed Ullswater and I had to take a picture as this was a postcard scene, before I knew it I had arrived at checkpoint 2 at Glenridding. There was a great crowd here also, I think some of the tourists in the coffee shop were a little shocked at all the runners as it was turning into a cracking day, 20+ degrees.

After this brief stop I made my way out of the village and was joined a little bit later by a female runner, we got chatting, no surprise there for those that know me as I can chat. She said the hardest climb was coming up and it is relentless, the climb will seem to go on and on. Well she was right as we made our way up Grisedale Hause she took off and left me in her dust and I had to battle the climb. I started to feel cramp in my calves but this soon stopped. There were points on this climb that I wished I had walking poles to aid me, and there was also times where I wished the climb would stop. But I made it to the top and I was a little overjoyed. “Downhill to the next checkpoint” the Marshall shouted, off I went, after a little down hill I could feel my quads burning. This was because I hadn’t trained enough running downhill or spent enough time in the gym working my legs. This is something I will add to my training.

We got to Grasmere and it was time for a quick stop for a brew and some noodles then out through the village and up to Silver How. I was getting a little excited as we were getting closer to the Langdale Valley, this area was the first place I visited in the Lakes so has a lot of special memories. When I got to see the valley I had a bigger smile than usual and I found this lifted me a little. We went out and around Little Langdale and as I hit a little climb I felt both quads suddenly start to tighten. I was worried as I still had a fair way to go, they did ease up but I knew this would slow me down. We hit checkpoint 4 and I was off quicker than before as it was said the next checkpoint had chips. I got to Blea Tarn but with wet feet now as we had passed a very boggy part of the course, this wasn’t going to help my feet but this didn’t matter as I already blisters coming from the downhill running as well.

I made checkpoint 5 at Stickle Barn Tavern and this is the first time on the course I really got to see the 110km group, this was a nice spot for a checkpoint as it was inside with plenty to eat. I had to have a sandwich as I am sorry to report there were no chips left (Dave later said that it was probably him who ate them all). When this is the only complaint I have come across it shows what a well organised race this is this. As there were no chips I took off for the final 7 miles, this was going to be a slog.

And it was a slow slog towards Ambleside as I kept getting cramp in both calves and in both quads but I knew I was near the end, I felt my mental battle had been won and as I had only run 18 miles max in a training week in mid-April I was pleased. I got over Loughrigg and I was running downhill towards Rothay Park, once I was near the finish I saw the same spectators who high-fived me and then I gave a sprint, well more a fast paced jog to the finish. I was smiling still, as I was given my medal I hugged the marshal and she commented that I looked happy all the way around as she had seen me several times. This race hadn’t broke me and I had learnt a few things about myself and my training, mainly I need to get in the gym as well as running miles.

When I had a chance to look at the medal I liked it but did think that they could have personalised it a little more on the actual medal rather than the ribbon, but then I am a race bling fan.

This is a very well organised race and one I would recommend to anyone that wants to push themselves to another level. The location is perfect and there was nothing left forgotten by the Ultimate Trails team. This is definitely one to do and ideal for families to spectate too; I will be back.

To discover more about the Ultimate Trails events, please see http://www.ultimatetrails.com/

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