Tuesday, 1 February 2011

That’s Lyth; 23+ miles with 3,100' of ascent. 30/01/2011.

That’s Lyth is a non-competitive walk/run from Kendal in the southern Lake District, organised by Westmorland and North Lancs LDWA. The only competition is the private pact you make with yourself and your fellow runners. Yet again we were blessed with good conditions. I can only remember one wet outing in eight completions since 2000. This year we enjoyed cool, calm, overcast conditions with ground that was mostly dry and frozen firm. The ideal conditions made it perfect PB fodder. I’d been dreaming all week of a second sub-4-hour finish, but felt it was probably out of the question because I still don't do any training. Sub 4:15 was a more realistic target, which I would have been happy to achieve.

The scout hut was heaving as usual with a capacity crowd as we left it to the last minute before venturing outdoors into the cold. We would need to get running with little delay to keep warm. From previous experience I knew I had to wear minimal layers and be feeling cool at the start if I wasn’t to overheat and blow a gasket within 5 minutes of setting off. My bones (skeleton cycling top) felt just right, the rear pockets providing an ideal alternative to a bumbag, while the obligatory exposed legs would provide some essential heatsinking. They would be generating enough heat of their own anyway! (Photo courtesy of Sportsunday at last week's Hebden.)

After the inaudible utterances of the M.C., we were suddenly on our way running beside the river towards the climb out of Kendal and the hills that beckoned beyond. The lead runner was out of sight within the first mile.

The first 7 miles to Checkpoint 1 (Crosthwaite Memorial Hall) undulated mostly across fields and along lanes, with plenty of stiles to break our stride. The next 7 miles to CP2 (Witherslack Parish Hall) gave us our first proper climb over Whitbarrow Scar. Geoff H finally overtook me at CP2, while Ian H was arriving as I was leaving.

The next 4.5 miles to CP3 (Cotes Corner / Cinderbarrow) took us around the southern end of Whitbarrow Scar and across the wide, flat Lyth Valley. I was giving chase to Geoff but he was gradually pulling away. I wasn't bothered. I was doing my own thing and it felt right. I have learned that if I can run all the way to CP3, including the seemingly interminable flat road sections across the valley, I’ve gauged my effort levels and fuelling just right. I achieved that ‘holy grail’ this year. Things were looking surprisingly good. Ian finally caught me just before CP3. I still didn’t care because my race seemed to be going just fine.

A lovely welcome and a jam doughnut at CP3 set me up for the final 5 miles. I managed to sustain the uphill shuffle under the transmission lines past the southern end of Brigsteer Park, past Helsington Church (where I caught my final glimpse of Geoff and Ian ahead) then up Scout Scar to the big cairn and the right turn. I glanced at my watch. I could not believe that a sub-4 seemed to be on the cards. I couldn’t let up. I pushed the pace down the back side of Scout Scar and across the defunct race track to the road and left turn for the final downhill run back into Kendal for a 3:55 finish – a second best and just 6 minutes outside my PB of 2008. WOO-HOO! There’s life in the old dog yet.

That’s Lyth route is hilly rather than mountainous, while the footing is trail rather than fell and good for the most part. Therefore the temptation to run too much too fast is enormous, which can either result in a wonderfully fast time (good times) or a blow-up if I overdo the effort even slightly (bad times). Just as important is the fuelling – just the right amount of the right stuff (too much or too little could ruin it) is essential to finish fast and strong. This year I got it just right, running fast and strong to the end without that post-race trashed or tired feeling like happens if I over-egg it (e.g. Winter Tanners?) Good race outcomes are so satisfying and leave a long-lasting contented warm glow deep within.

Post-race chatting and refuelling was as good as ever. The winning time was comfortably under 3 hours if I recall correctly, but we shall never know officially; so low-key and non-competitive is this event, there is no results service. They don’t even put our finishing time on the certificate (which is unusual even by LDWA standards).

That’s Lyth always fills to capacity because the route is so good, it is so slickly organised, the checkpoint food is so good and the entry fee is so cheap. In fact it is embarrassingly cheap, at only £4. I suggested to the timekeepers at the finishing desk that they should put the price up. They said I wasn’t the only one to suggest it and they would put it to the committee. If we see something a little more realistic in 2012 (£6 sounds more like it), you’ll know who to blame.

The picture offerings are necessarily poor once again. Snap-happy racing just doesn’t work, unfortunately.


  1. Your picture of the heaps of post-race snack cakes makes me wish I could run it all over again. We did have a great weather day for the race, oh, if they could all be so fine!

  2. Yes Dawn, it was a great day, and great to see you again too, sporting your new globetrotting tan to brighten our dank winter ;-) You pulled off an impressive time.

  3. Nick - well done. Big question - did you wash your skeleton between events??!!

  4. Most certainly, Mad. My bones have to work hard on bike and hoof. Fester they not.

  5. well done nick
    its a great event..hope i'll be back there next year

  6. Great write up Nick, I really enjoyed reading that and looking at the plate of cakes mmmmmhh. Sounds like a fantastic event. It was good to read your points about effort and fuelling. Being a bit new to all this I must admitt I havent quite got it right yet and boy do I know when I get it wrong, ha :P

  7. Thanks UC. Get your entry in early next year. I'll see you there, and before I hope. That goes for your master too :-)

    Thanks Dorian! Strangely enough, none of those cakes passed my lips this year. You're so right about getting the fuelling wrong. It's so easy to do. I still do occasionally after 15 years of ultras.

  8. Great post Nick. You make the LDWA events sound so enjoyable I must try one soon. I love that there are no results. Another event with a different take on why people run.

  9. Sounds a good one Nick - LDWA seem to spoil us at this time of year - and not easy to pull off such a good sub-4 at!

  10. Good pacing Nick! I obviously wasn't much help at the WT! but recovered you have and in fine form. Oh and by the way thanks to you and your 2011 schedule blog post which I was rereading earlier still in astonishment, I've regiestered for the Snowdonia Marathon!! I've being looking for a 2011 marathon and this seemed like the perfect answer! Not til October end but already looking forward to it emmensely and the training starts here. By then I hope to be in the form of my life and smash my pb even on this hilly course! Let's see but I love a challenge! :-)

  11. Thanks DE, though you could have done much better with your current fitness.

    That's brilliant news Stu. You will blitz that course with your ultra trail experience. All I ask is that you wait for long enough at the finish without getting too bored so I can offer my congratulations. I'm making a weekend of it again. Will you join us for post-race Karaoke in the Padarn Lake Hotel?

  12. Nice photo of the cakes, but I should point out that's MY plate of cakes...

    I reckon I put that amount away at the end, not to mention hot-dog, tea, malt loaf, dounuts and custard creams throughout the run. And I still managed 3.23 with no stitch!

    Good to catch up with you again Nick, keep up the mid-week training! ;-)


  13. Ben you gut-bucket you! Finely tuned machines get broken if they are abused ;-) It was good to catch up with you too.
    My midweek training still consists of the 2-mile cycle commute to work trying to burn off all other road users. It's the only sprinting I do and it uses up chains and sprockets rather quickly.