Thursday, 8 June 2017

Race Report: The Lakeland Trails Marathon

Having recently made my right achilles tendon very angry indeed, it was touch and go whether I would actually make it to the start line for this race. Generally speaking, when body parts swell to several times their normal size (quiet at the back!) and make alarming creaking noises, it's not a good sign. However, after finally, and grumpily, accepting that I needed to rest and let it heal, I was able to get myself seen by a physioterrorist who has been liberally applying ultrasound (SCIENCE!!!) to the area which apparently might do something. That, combined with lots of icing, some cross-friction massage, and hammering the eccentric heel-drops seems to have got me back on track. Oh, and moving back to a pair of firmer, more responsive shoes; I can't be certain, but it's an awfully big coincidence that this happened so soon after swapping to maximalist Hokas... Pool running slowed the loss of fitness down a bit.

Anyway, with the Lakeland Marathon being the last big run I had scheduled before July's insanity, and with having thoroughly enjoyed eating flapjack in beautiful places last time I ran it in 2015, I was keen to toe the line, and fortunately the achilles was apparently going to cooperate. Sunday morning saw me #backinblack as I donned my Tynedale vest and made the short walk from our campsite to the start line, having registered the day before. A quick catch up with Johnny and Dominic, as well as introducing myself to a fellow NFR type, and then it was nearly time to go. I knew the course had some narrow bits and didn't want to get choked, so lined up near the front. Only, near the front became at the front. Right at the front. Perhaps ill-advised after 6 weeks off?

The gun went off and so did we. Shit, I'm in second. Shit, I'm running sub 3 hour pace. Shit, my heart rate is somewhere in the region of L5. All of these thoughts, and more, went through my head. Normally I go off fairly sedately and work my way up the field - 42km is, after all, quite a long way - so goodness knows why I did what I did. A sensation of being let out of the cage, I guess! Anyway, I held that position for all of about 2km before I started to slip back, and by roughly half way I think I was in seventh place, which I was very happy with.

Still rollin'...

Shortly after the above photo was taken, the wheels fell off. Or, more specifically, my arse gave out. No, dear reader, not the dreaded Runners' Trots, but the awful realisation that most of the elevation gain was in the first half of the race, and my glutes hadn't been asked to do anything other than provide cushioning for over a month. That and the lactic acid flooding my system meant that I was stuffed, basically. Uphills became slower and slower before eventually becoming "tactical hikes" and, whilst I could still drop the hammer on the flats and the downs, I began to lose more and more places. At one point a marshall called that I was in thirteenth, but shortly after that I got passed by a handful of runners (including the First Lady, who was looking fresh as a daisy!). Resigned to Just Getting Round at this point, and cursing myself for trying to Zach Miller the race, it was head down and grind it out for the final 10km. I'd been making use of aid stations for water and flap jacks/bananas, leaving my ClifBar untouched, and this had been working fine; I don't think I was on the verge of a bonk, just had no strength in my legs. At the penultimate aid station, however, I broke the cardinal rule: thou shalt not do anything differently on race day. I drank some coke. Now, flat coke is often recommended, or at least used, by ultra runners. I rarely drink the stuff at the best of times, and certainly not the 'full fat' version. Consequently, I spent the next km or so absolutely convinced that I was going to be making a vomitty sacrifice to the Trail Gods as penance for my foolishness, as my stomach gurgled indignantly. Fortunately it settled down and there were no technicolour yawns to be had.

The last few km along the shore of the lake are remarkably technical singletrack, and not in the least bit welcome when you're knackered! I nearly went flying a handful of times the first year I did it. This year, I knew what to expect, and only got tripped once, which I recovered before hitting the deck. Then, it was the cruiser-grade trail into the finish area, with a final loop of the field before crossing the line in 3:51, 20th out of 201. Quicker than 2015 by about 45 minutes I think, albeit about 20 minutes slower than I'd ideally like to have been. Still, not too shabby considering! The winner did it in 3:01, absolutely schooling the rest of the field with a nearly twenty minute gap.

The traditional pub tea followed, at which I had four different types of carbohydrate. Five, if you count the beer. Winning.

Xander proudly strutting around outside the Adventure Tent, having been given the Very Important Job of looking after Daddy's medal

The long-suffering Mrs Trails-and-Tribulations

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