The BIG Five-O… The Lakeland 50

It’s been a while since I wrote anything of substance, I’ve just not ‘felt’ it for one reason or another but I thought it was about time I got off my proverbial ass and made some notes about my up and coming run and how I’m preparing for it.

Since I started trail running I’ve always had the thought that in my fiftieth year I’d like to have a go at the Lakeland 50, it seemed so far away and almost unreachable until a couple of years ago I did the 36 mile St Begas Ultra (SBU35) and from that point in time my mind was set.

Task one was getting a place. The Lakeland 50 and 100 are very popular and places go quickly, in fact, this year they’d sold all the non-charity places within 4 minutes of the entries going live. Thankfully Wendy and I volunteer every so often for events held by Epic Events (or Trail 26) and although we don’t do it to get anything back the team offer places in their races for those who help out.

Ambleside Circus – Checkpoint 12 Crew

The Lakeland 50/100 is no exception and last July saw Wendy helping out on Friday and both of us manning the Ambleside checkpoint which as well as being one the most tiring, crazy and inspiring weekends I’ve had also had the added bonus of guaranteeing me a place in the 2017 Lakeland race of my choice (the 50, I’m not quite mad enough to attempt the 100)

I’ve only entered a few races since last June, nothing of any great distance although I did run a tough Trailffest half marathon last September for the second time but I’ve kept my running ticking over during winter and managed to stay injury free so now is the time to kick it up a notch.

Now it’s time to think big as no matter how you look at it 50 miles is a bloody long way and we’re at the tail end of March. British summer time has just kicked in and in just under four months I’m going to be standing on the start line of one of the most iconic long-distance trail races in Europe. One of just under 800 people hoping that they’re physically and mentally strong enough to complete the task they have set themselves. Hoping the plan (simple or complex) for eating during a race that could last up to 24 hours would work and that the training, bizarrely far more miles than the actual race, had been enough. But that’s months from today, now it’s all about the last bits… food and training.

Training – long and slow

So how on earth do you train to run constantly for over a day? I doubt I’m alone in hitting the internet and reading all sorts of plans and advice from professional and amateur athletes, coaches and experts as well as quizzing friends who have tackled the same thing.

After a lot of reading and taking in consideration my limited experience from training for the SBU35 I’ve once more gone with the long run plan from Ultra Ladies but whereas this plan involves running to the exclusion of all else I’ll be replacing one of the midweek runs with cycling to work and back and another with yoga. This leaves a mid week run of between 6 and 10 miles with the weekend back to back runs starting at 16 miles Saturday and 6 miles Sunday and going up to 28 and 12 miles, 3 weeks before the race.

Sometimes the footpaths in Lancashire are a little bit damp

I’ll be trying to do as much of my running on similar terrain with most of the long, long runs being around Rivington while doing some of the shorter long runs along sections of the race route. This should help me get used to the terrain and learn some of the trickier bits of the course.

Eating – there’s more to life than cake!

Ultra-marathons are “eating and drinking contests with a little exercise and scenery thrown in”, says Christopher McDougall in the Fever Pitch of running, Born To Run.

There’s always time for cake.

How do you fuel for a run that lasts such a stupidly long time and takes so much energy? For the Trail Marathon Wales I used Torq energy bars and gels which worked well and I adapted this to add ‘normal’ food that was to be available at the aid stations for my previous ‘ultra’ but the LL50 is going to need a bit more thought, in fact even the training is going to need a bit of planning as I’m going to need to carry everything, including 2-3 litres of water as there are no aid stations during training.

After trying a few different brands of energy products I’m going to stick with what I know and use the Torq and Mule bars but not the gels, although I will have a few stashed in my pack for emergencies. I’m also going to be adding another source of fuel, Xtreme Energy Fuel from Mountain Fuel which is a powder added to water, tastes great, weighs almost nothing and as I’ll have to drink anyway is an easy way to grab a few calories.

During my long training runs, I’ll also be taking fake checkpoint stops and snack on examples of the food supplied at the checkpoints to make sure I’m OK using the provided food. This ‘food training’ worked for the 36 mile SBU35 so I’m fairly sure that with a few adjustments it should work for the extra 14 miles of the LL50.

Poling – four wheel (limb) drive.

There’s been an increase in the use of poles of all types in the ultra running community over the past few years with many of the professional racers using them for the longer or more technical races. After seeing a few of the runners come through the Ambleside checkpoint using poles of all makes, sizes and brands it seemed like a good idea to look into these ‘cheat sticks’ for myself and since Nics Nordic Walks were in charge of the CP we manned it seemed the logical place to start was to check out Nordic Walking.

A Nordic Walking taster at Fellfoot

Our first try was a free taster session on a sunny Saturday morning last September at Fellfoot, Windermere, where Nic introduced us to the techniques and gave us all time to have a go and learn a little while doing it. After a while (I was slower to pick this up than Wendy) it seemed to click and we left feeling it was something definitely worth pursuing.

Fast forward a couple of months and we find ourselves on a two-day course, once more with Nic (and Charlie, Nics husband who is an expert mountain guide and ultra runner as well as being the owner of Mountain Run) to give Nordic Walking a ‘proper’ go. The first day was all about technique, again on the shores of Windermere but this time near Bowness and once more, against all odds, the sun was shining. The morning lessons were great, lots to take in and practice the following day where we had a great morning walking up (and down) Grisedale Beck from Patterdale.

We’ve had a go with the poles doing a bit of running and walking, again up and down Grisedale Beck and I can definitely see myself using them for longer ultra type runs. I can see how they can take the pressures of tired legs and give your walking a bit of a speed boost, a useful thing in the lakes where some of the hills are long steep power walks rather than runs. I just have to figure out the best way to carry them.

So that’s it, I’ve no doubt forgotten a few things but I’ll keep writing stuff down so that I can look back and check how things went.

My training plan weekends are below – I’m also doing yoga once per week, a smaller run building from 6 to 12 miles mid-week and cycling to work at least once per week. I’ll keep posting updates as I write about my Lakeland 50 preparations. It assumes a good level of fitness to start and

Lakeland 50, 2017 – Training Plan
Amended 31st March

W/end Miles (km) Activity Route(s)
March 18 16 (26) Up and over Winter Hill Over the hill
March 19 6 (10) Local river bank loop  
March 25 6 (10) Local river bank loop
March 26 18 (30) Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, Tockholes loop Hill and more
April 1 4 (7)    
April 2 8 (13)    
April 8 20 (32)    
April 9 8 (13)  
April 14 20 (32) (Easter weekend – runs moved forward a day)
April 15 10 (16)  
April 22 10 (16) Goldrush 8.5m race plus cooldown  
April 23 6 (10)  
April 29 10 (16)  
April 30 22 (41)  
May 6 10 (16)    
May 7 22 (41)  
May 13 10 (16)  
May 14 6 (10)  
May 20 24 (39)    
May 21 24 (39)    
May 27 10 (16)    
May 28 10 (16)    
June 3 10 (16)    
June 4 8 (13)    
June 10 26 (42)    
June 11 10 (16)    
June 17 26 (42)    
June 18 10 (16)    
June 24 10 (16)    
June 25 8 (13)    
July 1 28 (45)    
July 2 12 (20)    
July 8 12 (20) (switch runs round due to holidays)  
July 9 28 (45)    
July 15 10 (16)    
July 16 8 (13)    
July 22 10 (16)    
July 29 50 (80) RACE DAY – Lakeland 50  

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