Are you still doing this silly long distance running thing? They asked.
We’ve not heard about any for a while….
That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been any, of course – though I think my last post on a silly long distance theme was way back Feb 2020 when I had a little jaunt around Lands End The Arc of Attrition post
Before the world changed.
So you’d be forgiven if you thought that was just a phase I had to go through.
There has been plenty of running but not any silly long distances of note – until last week.
I’ve had a very consistent year or so of training while we’ve been in-out of semi-lockdown and inevitably have taken the opportunity to change some stuff.
It’s a boredom-samey thing and a willingness to keep poking the bear.
This has mainly involved doing more sustained running on the roads. That took some serious conditioning work to get the soft tissues ready for the battering and then 3 months on top of that before the lower leg muscles adapted enough to handle said battering without having me shuffle around for 3-5 days after a run.
Because fitness is specific.
Then back in November I got serious by starting a measured progression of two key sessions. One is an old favourite – well, favourite is a bit strong but it bloody works – that I used to do on the trails and am now doing a road version, while the other is new to me and is brutally simple: Run at a sustained best possible pace – usually without taking on anything to eat-drink – for way longer than you think you can on your tod.
What that means is as fast as you can for the target duration holding everything else as consistent as possible i.e. no slowing down.
It’s quite a balancing act.
My goal is to do 3 hours – and be OK the day after.
Six months later I’m up to 2 hours 15mins which I’ve now hit twice.
And been perfectly fine the day after.
While this means nothing to anyone else except me, my 54 year young self is quietly chuffed.
So it appears my (road) running is fine – but how did that translate to this silly long distance usually over some mountains stuff? With Lakeland 100mile race www.lakleland100.com now 3 months away I figured I really ought to find out.
‘How would you feel if I had a trot round the Lakeland 100 route?’ I said to Mrs Mouncey.
(The race is pretty much a lap of the Lake District).
Raised eyebrows aside she went with it along with a few safeguarding must-dos if husband insisted on doing the whole thing solo (sigh).
Our boys didn’t bat an eyelid: Normal dad-shit as far as they were concerned.
Which was why I found myself walking away from car – yes, I know I locked it but I’m just going back to check, OK? - at the race start point in Coniston southern Lake District at 11am on a glorious and chilly morning. I’ve done this race five times now: The inaugural year 2008 when 30 people started and only 11 of us finished,
So it’s a bit like pulling on a favourite jumper that’s been hiding at the back of the drawer: It still fits, it still makes me smile – just some bits chafe a little after all this time…
I’ve decided that today is a day to practice the skills of FLOATY – focus on what you want, and all that. I’ve no idea what my climbing will be like, and while my descending has always been good I’ve not exactly being hammering down mountains recently – and the bit in the middle?
So the goal is economy of energy for as long as possible and how that plays out will be how that plays out.
But I’ll know where I’m at from a proper field test: No guessing, no positive spin and no bullshit.
As I drop into Wasdale around the 20mile point being battered by a hailstorm some things have become apparent:
My climbing’s OK even if there’s no real power.
My descending is smooth enough.
And the big revelation is that the diet of sustained road running is translating very well to chugging along very easily on anything remotely runnable.
Which is nice.
Apart from texting Charlotte the race checkpoint name as I pass, (Agreed Safeguarding Rule 1a) I keep my phone off and watch hidden. At 26miles I do my only café stop* for tea, cake and sausage roll – I could race all day on tea I’m sure – and then head up to the final (by now chilly) high point and my first view of the northern Lake District town of Keswick in the distance and the race 35mile point. Sometime later I’m trotting down the high street having come to a number of conclusions:
I am under-prepared to go through what will be a very cold night solo in remote terrain – and while I have emergency/bivvy gear I am just not prepared to run the risk.
Aspiration to do the full distance was clearly just the beer talking.
With some sneaky adjusting I can still do half this thing, and half distance I’ll take as the goal here is to see where I’m at re race readiness – and I have most of that answer already.
The sneaky adjusting takes the form of a taxi ride south to Ambleside: I’d missed the last bus and on reflection was very happy to put a considerable fare into a local taxi driver whose income had all but disappeared in the last year. Pick up the race route here and follow it back to the start/finish in Consiton.
So that’s what I do arriving back at the car around midnight and 50miles to the good.
And just because it would be rude not to, a few days later I head back out and do the other 50miles I didn’t do first time around.
This time not a taxi in sight – just plenty of snow, sleet, hail and rain.
Which was nice.
Someone will always trump your stuff – and I’m pretty certain that on my first Friday out I saw in the distance one Sabrina Vergee and support runners out on their little run round the Lakeland fells https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-VDvYqzXPA
Well, make that 214 summits to bag in around continuous 6 days if you want to set a record. At least, I know of no other reason that a small group of runners would be following a pathless fence-line if not to avoid unnecessary height-gain while linking summits as efficiently as possible. And the time and place fit with what I knew of her schedule.
Anyway, what’s remarkable is not so much as what she was doing this week and what she has racked up over the last year (see video in the link below). A year that started with setting the third fastest time for this Round - and then declaring that she wasn’t happy with that and her mark shouldn’t stand as due to leg problems she had to lean on some folks coming down the last few mountains.
Holy shit! Went quite a few people.
Then a few short months later she was back for another shot.
Holy shit! Went quite a lot more people.
And with good reason: Take a peek at this:
*Comparing like with like of long self-propelled exploits is tricky so in an effort to do just that – essential when records are at stake - The Fellrunners Association have laid down some definitions.
You may have as much support as you can find along the way but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water.
Carry all you need from start to finish except water from natural sources. Public taps along the route are acceptable. Do not collect anything from a cache or leave anything for collection. Do not meet anyone on route. Accept no external support of any kind nor any contact where moral support is offered.
(Which means that the one brief café stop on each of my trips took me from SUS to SSS – though I suspect the taxi break during my first puts that one into a special category of its own that sounds a lot like Derision).