Tuesday 3 July 2012

Coniston Trail Marathon

This course and a stomach upset smashed me to bits last year, I shuffled and puked my way round finishing just inside the 6 hour cut off time.

I had of course resolved to train myself to destruction and exact a revenge on the fells of Coniston, how did it work out?

Training and preparation:

Perhaps put a few too many events in the calendar this year seem to be going from race to race with little rhythm to my training . A new job complete with a long commute has not helped.

With an eye to the Adidas Thunder Run later in the month decided to train through without taper. Still managed to lack any real volume or intensity to my training. Managed one or two 60 mile weeks in the build up but mostly hovered around the late 30's and early 40's, with a proportion of that done on the Dreadmill. On a more positive note did manage a little hill work and a trip to the Peak District to find my 'fell feet' (more on my fell running trip with Dave Taylor of Fell Running Guide in a later post).


With a 2014 MdS slot to pay for my approach to running and racing has out of necessity entered a period of austerity.  With this fiscal responsibility toward family finance at the front of my mind toyed with the idea of camping, my running partner for this MR Phil Turton suggested a compromise and booked the YHA in Ambleside, a wise decision indeed given the weather.

Arrived Ambleside in plenty of time and enjoyed a very relaxing day with Phil pottering around the YHA and Ambleside itself, took advantage of the self catering kitchen and cooked up a large bowl of noodles each. Hopefully this in some way balanced the large sack of fried tates we scoffed earlier in a ying and yang balancing act between fast fatty food and home cooked goodness.

Grown men should not be required to sleep in bunk beds outside of prison and possibly stag nights. Not a great nights sleep but adequate.

Equipment and Nutrition:

New Balance MT110's with Smart Wool \merino socks
Salomon XT Wings 5 (2 x 600ml bottles)
Perpetuem (3 sachets in 600ml)
Guu gels 1


Quick technical briefing gathered in the hall, then out onto the field for a few minutes before the start. Looking around at the collection of racing snakes young and old it was clear the races reputation for challenge had attracted a pretty competitive field.

Started the race jacket, hat and gloves on which I soon regretted. Started toward the front of the pack and was passed by a good number of runners through the first wooded section and plenty more on the initial climbs.  Not worried I stuck to my race plan with a quiet confidence that I would see a number of these runners again later.

First several miles passed happily, removed the jacket and gloves at the first opportunity all was well until around mile 7 when my running partner for the day MR Phil Turton turned his ankle. A few moments lost to Phil fitting an ankle brace, bit of sterling dib dib dobiness if I ever I saw it now there is man who came prepared. I gulped about a third of the Perpetuem bottle.

Quickly we were on our way reaching Tarn Hows, I must have had some sort of previous year flashback here as in the driving rain at a moderate pace I heated right up and was sweating heavily (visible on pictures), found the two laps really hard and was blowing badly up the inclines. Phil confided later he thought I was shot at this stage. I am not sure why I felt so flat but do remember my stomach really not appreciating the long gulp of extra strength Perpetuem, think I will keep this for Ultra's in one hour bottles.

Happy to get off Tarn Hows and up the final few miles of the initial climb we made decent time on the wide packed paths and started to interchange places with some runners in front catching them on the flat and downhill dropping back as we walked the tougher inclines.

Topping out the climb of the initial 14 mile uphill is a great feeling. The next section is a technical downhill on sharp, craggy, wet rocks which is great fun. Did hear a runner go down hard behind us, a quick look confirmed that it was some spill with claret everywhere, hope he was OK.

Enjoyed the technical climbs and descents of this next section a great deal getting out onto to the ridge over looking Coniston is the absolute pinnacle of this race. You know at this point there is just one big climb left and the scenery is incredible.

Coming off the ridge and through the boggier sections as you round the lake and head for home is where I had expected to put my pretty well preserved legs to use to gain some time and places.  The wet weather though made this section extremely boggy and not well suited to pushing the pace, thus making the decision to run the early hills so conservatively a poor one.

Up the final 95M climb and into the last checkpoint in good shape, popped my blood pressure pills, drank some water and off we went. Knew from last year that the section at water level around the lake is super treacherous but with strong legs made really good time and started for the first time in the race to haul back other runners when ... ... an animal cry when up in front Phil had done a proper job of his ankle this time. Hung around for a couple of minutes whilst he swore, he sent me on so left him with some encouraging words and  comradely kiss on the head.

Having dropped a good number of places set about at least getting back to where we were in the standings and managed to get a good pace going, perhaps enjoyed this section more than any other.  Coming off the lakeside into the caravan site picked off the last of the 5 or so runners that had passed me and set my sights on the 5-6 left between me and the finish.

Continued at a good pace, although started to find it tougher. With the last 3 people in my sights had a rare gentlemanly moment and thought it a little unfair to pass the two ladies directly in front in the last few hundred metres of the race, so tucked in comfortably and showboated a little across the line.

I was delighted to see Phil stomping across the field oblivious to his injury just a few minutes later, oh the restorative power of a comradely kiss on the bonce!

Finish Time 4:45 mins

Used the school showers and had the best burger of my life from the gourmet burger van.

Post Race Thoughts:

Once again a fantastic race, supremely well organised, with a superb atmosphere in spite of the filthy weather.

I am OK with the time, I do not plan to go back next year but will run it again, when I do so I will be targeting a 4 hour finish.

The New Balance MT110's were supreme, much comfier than the inov8's worn last year, they handled every surface and left my feet without a hot spot or blister.

When you know you are going to get your feet wet Merino socks rock, toasty warm feet free of blisters in spite of the weather, awesome.

I much prefer Perpetuem as a single sachet per bottle than mixing the stronger multi sachet multi hour bottle, it definitely upset my stomach when I gulped it down before Tarn Hows and it took me over an hour to feel right again.

The early long climbs shone a light on a lack of aerobic fitness that is the result of a lack of training intensity and recent volume. Prescription lots more hill and speed work and minimum weekly log run of 20+ miles.

The collection of racing snakes with single digit body fat percentages reminded that I have let my weight creep back up over 13 stone.

What the race did serve to remind me is how much I love being in the fells.

Next Race:

TR24 28th/29th July

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