Thursday, 23 August 2012

Long Tour of Bradwell 33+mi. 11/08/2012.

Race 8 of 12 in the 2012 Runfurther series.

And so it came around again, this hilly little number with its steep, rugged climbs and descents (6,750' total ascent according to Tracklogs) and longer distance than is decent for pushing hard. However we always feel compelled to push ourselves and end up paying the price, some more than others. For those so susceptible it usually proves to be a cramp fest and a good lesson on the importance of electrolytes. This year was no exception as the day turned warm and humid as usual and the sweat flowed freely. (I may have many weaknesses but cramp is one thing I don't suffer from. From what I have observed it is debilitating and slows its victim down considerably. Since I'm already slow enough I'm truly thankful I'm not also a victim.)

At registration I was impressed by the number of runners present who'd done the Lakeland 50 or 100 two weeks earlier. One of them was Ian Symington who finished 4th in the L100. He went on to win this event. In my experience, the more you do the more you can do (as far as the inate ability with which you were born allows, of course). These L50-ers and L100-ers will have been fast and fit thanks to their recent Lakeland exertions.

[That has been my personal experience time and time again over the years. Last year after getting a PB on the Lakeland 100 I posted a second best time at LToB just one week later. Compare that with this year when I got a second worst time after no such extreme exertion beforehand. Now as I write this nearly two weeks later, I think I know why. It involves three lots of antibiotics (two strong, the last of which I'm still on), an improvement in my feeling of wellbeing and a heart rate back down to normal for the first time in months.]

We wandered up the road as usual to the starting area on the side road and dibbed our first Sportident dib to confirm our participation in the event. After the brief instructions we were set off running up the lane towards the limestone works and Pin Dale. Jon Steele was there taking pictures for a change instead of taking part (he had a tough L100 two weeks earlier, finishing against the odds). As we climbed Dirtlow Rake I knew I had to walk instead of jog my way up like I've been able to do in previous years. The sweat was pouring and the heart rate red-lining. I sensed that the max effort I always put into these events without pushing myself over the edge would result in a walk-jog today, with a nice blast down any available downhills (the weakness is never in the legs, it's in the engine that struggles with a duff cylinder).

The starting dib.

I chatted with the other 2012 Runfurther Grand Slammer Mick Plummer as we dibbed in at checkpoint 2 before running down Cavedale as fast as we dared (wet polished limestone permitting). I knew he was a lot faster than this but he didn't seem bothered. With impeccable manners he held the gate for me at the bottom of Cavedale before running with me to checkpoint 3 on the lane. "I have nothing to prove", he said. Conversation overrode competitiveness. That said, he did drop me on the next climb to Hollins Cross. I can hardly blame him really. Thanks for the chat, Mick.

After slogging our way up to Edale Cross I enjoyed the run down the other side towards Edale and checkpoint 4. Great care was needed as I overtook others on the washed-out rocky path (which some of us will be climbing in the opposite direction very soon on the Bullock Smithy Hike).

The next climb up The Nab had us all plodding before the gradient eased across the base of Ringing Roger. Cutting across to the higher path that took us to checkpoint 5 tied around the Druid's Stone involved a lot of heather bashing. I wonder if there's a trod that cuts across? None of us found it if there is.

CP5 at the Druid's Stone.

The descent from the Druid's Stone all the way to Woodhouse Farm at the bottom is very steep and rough. I was in my element as I felt my knees and quads get exquisitely exercised, taking the strain without complaint. Time for some more overtaking again.

The sun in the valley was very warm, the air was still and humid, the sweat was flowing and I was already beginning to feel the burning soreness as my vest filed away at my nipples. I had packed a first aid kit (not in the kit requirements) to accompany the hat and gloves (that were) and sat down on the stile on the next climb to Back Tor to administer to myself. As I did so, Mandy Calvert then (bigger surprise) Stuart Walker powered past up the hill. By the time I realised it was him and that he shouldn't have been behind me, he was too far ahead for me to ask 'how' and 'why'. (The split times afterwards showed that he lost 35-40 minutes between Edale and the Druid's Stone. I wonder where he went?)

A nice leg stretch took us to the summit of Lose Hill before a right turn and run all the way down to checkpoint 7 at Killhill Bridge. (Jon Steele was just approaching the top from Killhill with his camera at the ready as I began my descent.) Is it just me or does anyone else feel spent by the time they arrive at CP7, which is only 14 miles in? Every time I've run this event (that's all four of them), CP7 is where the walking survival strategy has to commence even when running should be possible. It is where others go on ahead and I find myself alone. I'm used to it and don't worry too much. I might catch one or two of them later.

Checkpoint 8 in the woods above Ladybower Reservoir (atypically, almost full to the brim this year) marked the sharp right turn and descent to the railway bed that was used in the construction of the dam. I shuffled my way alone in the partial shade and stagnant humidity along the track to checkpoint 9 at the road crossing. Water was not short or rationed this year. More than that, there were jam sandwiches on offer, which is a first for this event. Enthusiastic volunteers who were keen to take on board suggestions for improvements next year was very encouraging. Things are looking up for this traditionally frugal event.

The River Derwent in Bamford was all sunlit tranquility (see top picture and below). I was still alone as I dibbed at checkpoint 10 on the bridge in the middle of the river. The peace was soon shattered by my pounding heart and pulse throbbing in my exploding head as I dragged myself up Leeside Road / Bamford Clough ('The Escalator'). As I ascended very slowly, some mountain bikers descended very quickly, leaving in their wake the smell of overheated disc brakes. Then came hoards of scramble motorbikers. They very wisely picked their way slowly and carefully.

Checkpoint 10 at Bamford Mills.

Reaching the top and right turn up the less steep road was a big relief. A rest stop was afforded by having to wait for a line of off-road vehicles coming down to squeeze past other cars going up. They just about made it. Rejuvenated by the rest and with another gel on its way down my gullet, I proceeded to give chase to some other runners on the road ahead.

Checkpoint 11 offset to the left seemed a long time coming this year before the final walk-shuffle up onto Stanage Edge. The views, warmth and sunshine were just like they've always been on this event - pure magic and like going back in time every year. Also the same every year - a combination of a body pushed to its limits and rocky terrain underfoot with multiple trip hazards meant that I mostly walked, and ran only when a frisson of extra energy leached its way into my being until it was used up 30 seconds later. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? It's what ultra running is all about for me.

As I shuffled my way along the edge I drew closer to a couple of other runners, one of whom was David Bethell. He was struggling with - you guessed it - cramp. This was his first Ultra and he was on a very steep learning curve. He hadn't heard about electrolytes until this day. I had just about emptied my bottle and was going to prepare a second nuun at the next checkpoint at Upper Burbage Bridge, which was drawing close now. I told him he needed to take a few gulps of that when it had finished effervescing, and not to worry about me because there would be far more than I would need for the remainder of the day.

We arrived at checkpoint 12 to restock and refuel. My recollection is that a major water refill is always required at this checkpoint because it's a long, tough slog all the way from the railway bed before Bamford. David took his fill and I left him recovering to run the easy track beneath Burbage Rocks down to Burbage Bridge.

David stretches cramped legs at CP12.

Checkpoint 13, which overhangs the river on a steep, precipitous slope is just silly. I slipped and nearly fell in this year. Lucky I didn't or you might not be reading this. ;-) I always look forward to the next stage beside Burbage Brook and the climb through the overgrowth along secret trods known only to the privileged few, along the top of the woods to checkpoint 14. The heat and exhaustion are always to the fore by this stage, with 26 miles done.

The descent from CP14 through the heavily wooded old quarry workings is always a delight (more steep downhills to enjoy, and shaded from the sun). We cross the railway line and descend to eventually join the River Derwent. It's always hot and I'm always in serious plod mode by this point. I get overtaken some more but I was past caring years ago. The flat drag to checkpoint 15 at Leadmill Bridge is never easy. Walking alternating with ultra-shuffling is the best I can ever manage by this point.

Like CP12, major water refill is always required at CP15 (organisers, are you taking note?). With 5.5 miles to go I set off shuffling my way up the road from CP15. From here is where I did some overtaking all the way to the finish, without getting overtaken myself. On the descent to the last checkpoint (CP16, 29.8 miles) at Stoke Ford, I crashed my head on an innocuous looking bunch of leaves that concealed a brutal club. I stood for 30 seconds rubbing the pain away. Post-race forum and blog reports suggested that many were victim to the hidden snare. At least one was hospitalised for stitches. Someone needs to return to cut it off. If I remember I'll take a saw with me next year.

Just before the final descent to Bradwell (there were no parascenders this year because the wind was in the wrong direction) I was caught and slightly overtaken...... until the descent came. Ah, back in my element again. The pained trudge was transformed into a gravity-assisted blast down the steep, technical single track. I re-overtook the recent overtaker, and a couple more for good measure on my way down to the lane. I ran down the lane, up and down to the steps on the right down to the main road. I expected to get overtaken again as I struggled to shuffle my way down the gentle descent. It didn't happen. My pursuers must have been tired. I thrutched my way to the finish in 7:57 for a second worst time, just like last week on Dovedale Dipper. Only one thing was different. I felt less trashed this time than I did a week earlier. I took that as a good sign.

The Dark and White volunteers provided the best support so far in this traditionally frugal event. The tea, soup and roll at the finish were just what the doctor ordered for rehydration and recovery. It was a grand day out, like it always is. Here are the pictures.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Brownlee Olympic Gold Run. Tues 07/08/2012.

This was unusual - a mid-week daytime special, one-off 1.7 mile run on Penistone Hill, Haworth, for anyone over 10 years old. This was organised by Dave and Eileen Woodhead of the WoodenTops. There was a very special reason for it; it was timed to coincide with and celebrate Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee's running in the Olympic triathlon. The brothers honed their skills in the rough tough WoodenTops fell races as youngsters.

Before the run, some of us got the chance to hold one of the Olympic torches. It was surprisingly heavy. Tim Done took a load of pictures: Posing with an Olympic Torch. He also took plenty of the run itself, as did others. A large crop of pictures and video clips is linked on the relevant page of the WoodenTops site.

The rain started on cue shortly before we were due to start the run but fortunately the worst of it held off until afterwards. The speed of some of the youngsters around this course blew me away. 13th overall out of 170 finishers was U12 (Thomas Nelson). 9th was U14 (James Lund). 6th was also U14 (Seth Waterman). 5th was U18 (Edward Evans). There must be some potential Olympians among them. The winner was Tom Brunt in 10:29. Yours truly finished 96th in 15:07.

We watched the triathlon live in Old Sun Hotel pub in Haworth afterwards as the rain beat down outside. It was the only Olympic event I watched in its entirety. The outcome was spot on and the pub was very loud! Ali won gold (as expected) and Jonny won Bronze after an enforced 15 second time-out penalty (which probably didn't affect the outcome). Well done the boys!

The proceedings were saturated with TV and radio media. The Brownlees did themselves proud and the turn-out at the Brownlee Olympic Gold Run did them proud too. The 1.5 hour journey there was worth it.

Here are the pictures I took (none during the race, for obvious reasons).

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Dovedale Dipper 26+mi. 05/08/2012.

After a year off last year spectating due to pressure of other events, no clashes occurred this year so I was taking part once again. As it turned out it formed part of my post-lurgy rehabilitation to 'running' so I wasn't expecting a fast time (though I always live in hope). My older brother Julian travelled up from Buckinghamshire again to run it. I suggested we do our own thing rather than run together to avoid one (me) holding the other (him) back. We would push our own respective limits and see what transpired.

The day was not as hot as it can be for this event. Showers were forecast for later, but if we were lucky we might escape the worst of them. Race organiser Cliff Cartwright was his usual enthusiastic self as he sent us on our way at 10am. The route took us through well-supported checkpoints at Sparklow, Longnor (near), Revidge Wood, Wetton, Castern Hall and Mill Dale. Julian pulled away out of sight before Sparklow (CP1, 5.2 miles) to leave me in my own world of plodding purgatory enjoying the sights as I made my merry way back to Hartington. I had decided to try Terry Conway's strategy of a gel every 0.5 - 0.75 hours to keep the fire burning. It seemed to work, at least until Wetton (CP4, 17.3 miles), by which time I was siezing up into survival plod mode, the thunder was rumbling closer and the rain was beginning to spit. Time to don showerproof top, grit teeth and just get on with it until the end.

The rain fell in fits and bursts for half an hour or so but thankfully it had stopped by the time Castern Hall (CP5, 19.6 miles) was reached. We were struck by how wet, muddy, overgrown and unrunnable some of the route was compared to previous years. The path that contoured the valley towards Castern was particularly treacherous, eroded and unrunnable this year.

The steep rocky limestone path down to Milldale was taken very slowly due to its polished ice-like quality when wet. The Dovedale Dipper warning sign at the top had forewarned us. Once on the lane came that long, slightly uphill drag I remember of old that should be run but is always so difficult to do at this stage. The shuffle that results would be of equivalent speed to an energetic walk. It brings us to the final checkpoint at Mill Dale (CP6, 22.4 miles).

A good refuel is needed here because there follows three miles (seemingly never ending) of slightly uphill 'running' up Wolfscote Dale. The temptation to walk is so strong but it must not be allowed. The gradient doesn't warrant it. "This is purgatory", I said to myself. I managed to overtake a couple of energetic walkers (who started an hour earlier) shortly before the right fork up the steep path. The steep, narrow, technical uphill released me from the obligation to run and I settled into my fastest uphill trudge. Shortly I heard a call from behind: "Walker coming through". The two walkers sped past as I stood aside to make way. Oh the ignominy.

As the gradient eased, the shuffle action was cranked up again, which developed into a jog as the gradient turned downhill back into Hartington and the village hall. My time of 5:34 was the second worst out of five completions. Julian finished 35 minutes ahead in 4:59. Well done Julian.

Now for some facts and figures.
Out of my five finishes, just one has been a sub 5 (4:54 in 2005). For Julian, 2 out of 2 have been sub 5s.
In 2010 when I last ran this event I managed 5:07 (second best time). That was the weekend after completing the Lakeland 100.

And there's more. My heart rate recordings are as follows:
This year (2nd slowest time): ave 168, max 180.
2010 (2nd fastest, after L100): ave 163, max 177.
2005 (PB year): ave 167, max 181.

I tried just as hard this year as I did in 2005 and was 40 minutes slower.
I was damned fit in 2010. (2010 also happened to be my all-time record year for the Bullock Smithy Hike, probably the only time I will ever get a sub-12 finish.)

I'm suddenly feeling old and past it, but it's nothing that a bit of running won't cure, eh? Perhaps I need to do more events.....

I took pictures.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Cracken Edge fell race 7mi. Wed 01/08/2012.

A longer than usual 7 miles (with >1,400' of ascent) for an evening race, this one is organised by Kinder Mountain Rescue Team and is an important fundraiser for them. The route goes from Hayfield up to and along Cracken Edge (touching some of the Bullock Smithy Hike route) before descending back to Hayfield. It follows a figure of 8 route but you don't go straight on at the crossover point at New Allotments; you turn right instead to effectively make two loops joined at their points.

Persistent showers had just about cleared away in time for our start. The evening was cool and pleasant. It was great to see Barny Crawshaw and Will Meredith there. Will ran the 59 miles to Dalemain on the Lakeland 100 just 4 days previously. For Barny this was his comeback race from an ankle fracture since the Kinder Downfall fell race in April (where he lent me the (non)essential kit to pass muster).

As part of the Hayfield Championships, this was my one and only chance to complete the four races required, so lurgy remnants or not I found myself standing at the bottom of a big uphill start with the keen racing hoards, heart beating 20bpm faster than it should have been to await the send-off speech and release. The uphill run soon had me gasping, lungs gurgling and cough spluttering involuntarily until I felt as if I might pass out. Then I allowed others to overtake as I treated myself to a brief walking break.

The race melted into a survival blur with tunnel vision, every second pushing to the brink of collapse (or so it seemed at the time). I figured if it didn't kill me at least it would blow the cobwebs out. The steep climb from the old quarry workings up to the top near Chinley Churn (the reverse of the Bullock Smithy Hike) brought us to the high point, where Andy Howie was snapping away merrily with his compact. After that it was mostly downhill to the finish. The return took us down technical, muddy, root-ridden paths through woods where it looked as though someone had turned the light off. It was dark in there. I'd been chasing a female runner (Jane Mellor as it turns out) for most of the descent but I just couldn't catch her. We ran the big grassy final descent to the finish in the field, Jane in 1:05:53 and me 8 seconds behind. Will finished 8 seconds behind me. Barny did well on his comeback race to finish in 1:07:15.

My lungs were as clear as a whistle for a few hours afterwards. The cobwebs were cleared and I survived to see another day. Whoopee.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Lakeland 50/100. 27-29/07/2012.

Update 12/08/2012. All 348 photographs finally uploaded. (See link at the end of the report.)

In anticipation of getting a UTMB entry I had entered the L50 this year.

[Some might regard last year's L100 + UTMB double as ambitious and a possible reason for the UTMB DNF. However I'm not convinced by this argument. I was going well and holding it together until retirement was forced upon me because I couldn't walk any more, caused by a transient injury that arose during that event and was gone after two weeks of rest. Nevertheless I played it safe in 2012, just in case. I didn't need to. Like many others I didn't get into the UTMB. So next year it is then, but after the L50 or L100? I suppose it depends on how ambitious I'm feeling (or how much wine I've drunk) when it's time to enter, but I'm already leaning towards the L100. It's just so epic.]

The lead-up to this year's L50 was not very auspicious:

2 weeks before L50. On the day after the White Peak Walk, heart palpitations began, with seriously raised heart rate and extra beats or missing beats thrown in for good measure. It's happened in the past and assumed to be my body fighting some evil lurgy that's lurking within.

1.5 weeks before L50. On the Wednesday I had a Basal Cell Carcinoma cut out from the back of my neck (the appointment had been planned well ahead). I was not concerned about this and was quite prepared to run Lakeland with a stitched-up 'Frankenstein neck'.

1 week before L50. The palpitations had eased and I was feeling better so I walk-jogged the final 22 miles of the Bullock Smithy Hike route with a friend. I was more than happy not to be running it. I enjoyed the views and conversation for a change. On the following day I began to feel unwell - usual thing, sore throat, irritated lungs, cough just starting.

On the Monday my neck wound was more painful than after the operation. The Doctor said it was infected and set me on my first course of antibiotics in years / a decade / who knows when.

2 days before L50. The lurgy did not follow the usual pattern of niggling then buggering off. It ratcheted up day by day and climaxed on the Thursday, finally forcing me to take time off work for the first time in years / who knows when.

Was something trying to tell me that I should not run Lakeland this year? I didn't feel well enough to go anywhere, let alone run a step. My lacklustre bicycle journeys to work on Monday to Wednesday had my throat burning as it was. I cancelled my B&B accommodation and emailed Marc and Terry that I would not be able to run.

On Thursday evening I took a different cold and flu remedy that can only be described as good sh1t. It had ingredients I've never heard of before but their vapours calmed the lung irritation and stopped the bloody-tasting hacking that had already firmed up my abs no end. By Friday I could tell I'd turned the corner. I'd spent a more comfortable night and my mind had been scheming. On the assumption that I would continue to improve, I might just be able to drive up to Coniston and support instead. The clincher would be the B&B. If it was still available I'd go. It was so I did.

Well, what a weekend! I might have been denied my weekly exercise but the slightly more sedentary alternative was a privilege to be a part of. Slogging out 50 tough, rugged, wet miles was replaced by chatting, car-park duty, chin-wagging, rubbish clearing, ear-bending, photo-taking, nattering, litter-picking, mingling, bagging of nuts and jelly-babies at Tilberthwaite (don't worry, that's after hand sanitisation), chewing the fat, running with Terry Conway for a hundred yards or so (I could keep up with him with 100 miles in his legs and none in mine), fetching tea for finishers, and removing Stuart Mills' soggy shoes at the finish (I was the right person for that task because my sense of smell had deserted me). I would say I'll never wash my hands again but in the interests of hygiene......;-)

I received a few surprised comments after my arrival. "I thought you weren't .....", etc. No I'm not running but I'm here anyway, like a bad smell. It felt surreal to be in this familiar situation chatting to all these Ultra buddies but without the frisson of excitement that I'd be joining them on the weekend's adventure. I searched out training buddies (no, not mine!) Terry Conway, Barry Murray and Paul Tierney to wish them well. I chatted with Terry last year after he'd won the L100 in 21:58. He has inciteful Ultra fuelling tips which I really must try, to see what it does for my performance - one gel every 30 - 45 minutes until finished. If it works it might even get me into the top half of finishers. Now there's a heady thought. Barry is a stalwart of the Brecon Beacons Ultra series. Our paths cross on the Brecon Beacons 40. Paul, on the other hand, is a rare species in my experience, only ever seen on the Lakeland 100. My conversation finished with Terry. "Have a good race" I said as I prepared to depart. "It's not a race, it's a run" came the reply. That took me aback and is the very thing I hear among LDWA friends (except replace "run" by "walk"). That short reply spoke volumes to me. Humility and absence of elitism, the removal of pressure to compete with others but just do your best on the day. This is the purest form of sport devoid of prize money and commercialism, where you pay for the privilege of taking part and the prize is little more than a handshake and a "Well done" from fellow runners.

The L100 briefing was poignant and nostalgic for me as I tried to recall the previous two years' emotions associated with up to 40 hours of imminent physical exertion, exquisite pain and vivid hallucinations. The Paparazzi was there in force this year, with long lenses and big woolly sausages hiding microphones. I hope most of the runners remembered Marc's instruction to grimace in pain at the cameras out on the course.

I chatted at length with good friend Garry Scott, for whom this was his first Hundred last year. He suffered badly and finished in great pain in 36:33. He expected to beat that time this year. I didn't expect, I knew. Pain is a common feature of this event. His personal account is moving and relevant to the majority of those who might consider taking on this challenge. From the many runners I've spoken to I know it would be lapped up. It just awaits a host site so it can be linked and read by the masses. The L100 organisers were not interested (shame on them ;-). I really must investigate activating my Virgin Media web space to give it the airing it deserves.

The starting dib.

It was not long before the L100 runners were filing through the first Sportident dibber station into the starting pen. I waited in jealous anticipation as the clock counted down to 5:30pm and they were sent off, lolloping up the road in the direction of the fells and soon out of sight. I then made myself useful spending a few hours on car-park duty, welcoming the evening arrivals for camping on the massive school field. It would fill to capacity with the 800-odd competitors. I dragged myself away before dark to my B&B across Coniston for a final comfortable night's sleep. I was woken by heavy rain falling. "This is not right", I said to myself. The forecast predicted a clear, dry night. I thought about them all out there and hoped that the showers were localised and short lived.

I returned on Saturday as the L50 briefing was already underway. It was standing room only in the hall, with entrants spilling out of the back and side doors. One thing's for sure, not everyone will have heard that briefing. At 10am a fleet of coaches ferried them to Dalemain for their 12pm start.

The refectory and hall were already humming gently with a few retirees who had been ferried back to base, possibly some supporters, some marshals, and timekeepers who grappled with the internet connection that was giving the live Sportident timing updates. They got it working reliably again after a protracted internet outage. The kitchen staff were doing a sterling job with the food and drink provision. I needed plenty of tea to keep me going and they were always willing to supply, a Pound a time until they realised I was supporting. I also necked another of those turbo flu remedies to maintain recovery, with the added pleasurable benefit of the vapour. We monitored runner progress on the screens. Terry was proving to be a machine and was extending his lead as the race run progressed. A television had been set up to show the Olympics. I wasn't interested. This was far more exciting.

With Terry through Chapel Stile/Langdale I drove up to Tilberthwaite after 11am to help out on the checkpoint if required and await his arrival. The rain started in persistent showers while the sun tried to shine through watery, wind-blown cloud. It was novel to be at this location in daylight. It was even more novel to look back at the track we run down before joining the road to the checkpoint. That strip of track down the distant hill became etched on our eyeballs as we waited for our first customer. I made myself useful by filling little bags with jelly-babies and mixed nuts (not sure how they would go down; I'd pass if I were running the event). Even though my hands were well washed before leaving Coniston, hygiene protocol made sure that our hands were well and truly wiped by baby wipes before handling the food. The baby wipes were scented quite strongly and very florally, as befits babies. Even I could tell with my medical condition. I hope the runners, those that partook, did not mind their floral nuts and scented jelly-babies.

We got a false alarm when a recreational runner ran down the distant track. Nevertheless the fruitless run up the lane gave me much-needed exercise. Then we were informed what colour shirt to look out for: white with short red sleeves. The time ticked past 12:30pm and we wondered whether the magical sub 20 finish was now out of the window (a pre 1:30pm finish was required). Then a lone white shirt with red extremities appeared, running steadily and strongly down the distant rocky track. We ran up the lane to intercept. As I ran back with him, Terry remarked: "That last section was tough", yet he was still running, not plodding in a self-pitying way like we mere mortals would be doing after 100 miles. He spent the minimum time replenishing supplies - dripping a few drops of Elete into his refilled water bottle before leaving. We had just explained to spectators that no-one, not even the leaders, run up the steps of Tilberthwaite quarry after running 100 miles. Terry turned us into instant liars by running all the way up to the top and out of sight over the brow of the climb. I got back into my car, filled with emotion at the athletic spectacle we had just witnessed, and drove back to Coniston to await his arrival. Loud exclamations of incredulity were shouted at the windscreen all the way back.

Terry at Tilberthwaite.

Forty-one minutes after arriving at Tilberthwaite, Terry came running down the road to dib in at the gates of the John Ruskin School, Coniston, looking as fresh as a daisy considering what he'd just done. He smashed 20 hours. His time of 19:50 was 2 hours 8 minutes faster than his own record of 2011. I never thought it would be possible but my idea of reality does not match Terry Conway's world. The crash mat was prepared in the hall for him to recline on in case he was overcome like last year. With all the marshals at his disposal he was treated like royalty.

We continued to follow the results screen and guessed how much later to expect the runners after they entered Tilberthwaite. The welcoming committee was outside ready for Barry Murray and Paul Tierney, who breezed effortlessly down the road to finish equal second in 22:01. That was 2:34 faster for Paul and 3:50 faster for Barry compared to last year. They looked as fresh as Terry did. Their training has obviously paid off.

Paul Tierney and Barry Murray run home for equal second.

Ian Symington loped down the road in 4th place in 22:47 to maintain the Irish superstud theme. All the finishers so far seemed to be Irish, though not so sure about Terry. I won't call him a stud either because he might object. It's just a run, remember? ;-) Alright, I can't resist. TERRY YOU'RE A STUD.

Stuart Mills seemed to be the first one who was suffering and forcing a run out of reluctant legs as he finished 5th in 23:46. He commented that he hadn't looked after himself properly and suffered towards the end. I know what he means. That's normal for most of us even if we do look after ourselves. It was evident the next day as he hobbled around on atypically trashed quads that he really had pushed himself to the limit. It got him a PB by 25 minutes over 2010 though, so I'm sure the pain was worth it. His achievement is even more impressive for someone who's nudging the M50 category. Well done that man. I'm not far behind you, in age but certainly not in speed.

Gancho Slavov was hot on Stuart's heels so I missed his arrival. He was 6th in 23:49 and the final runner to finish in under 24 hours. That's a record for this event and proof that the talent is hotting up year by year. Last year only one person (Terry) finished in under 24 hours. In 2010, no-one did.

Warm glow of success from Gancho and Stuart.
As Stuart collapsed into a seat after finishing, and detecting his depleted condition, I asked if he wanted a cup of tea or anything else. He said no, 'but you can remove my shoes if you like'. I sat cross-legged at his small and once perfectly formed feet (before he took up ultra running) like a humble servant to a king and pulled one of the sodden lace ends. It was fixed solid. 'Ah right, a double knot. This could take some time.' It's a good job I don't bite my fingernails because they were needed, clamped either side of the most likely part of the knot to pull, tweak and wiggle from side to side until something started to give. Then it was possible to tease the knots apart to the standard lace knot where a tug of one end released it. I was careful not to just pull the shoes off because of the counterforce that would be required. I know from experience that this can set off calf cramp if it's lurking in the wings. I made sure to hold his ankle with one hand while I pulled the loosened shoe off with the other. (Did you notice the loving care and attention I lavished on this shoe removal process, Stu?) My offer to remove his socks as well to begin the foot drying and recovery process was politely declined. I can be thankful for small mercies.

1 hour and 21 minutes after Gancho, Kevin Perry ran down the road to finish in 7th place in 25:10. Kevin is an impressive M50 stalwart who just keeps going and producing impressive times in the process. His son Adam is following in his footsteps, but he wasn't running it this year.

Hot on Kevin's heels was 8th place finisher Alan Lucker. Again, he looked effortless and running well within himself (which you have to do on extreme Ultras like these otherwise you might never finish). His time of 25:11 was nearly three hours faster than his last completion in 2010. Everyone had certainly upped their game for this year. He had an interesting recovery strategy afterwards.

Alan recovers.

Scott Bradley was the 9th finisher to run without any apparent stress to the finish in a time of 25:29. I suspect that his Dad might have been even more elated than he was.

Dave Troman completed the top 10 finishers in a time of 25:52.

The first female finisher and 27th overall was Rachel Hill in a time of 28:48.

In the L50, Steve Angus was the first to finish in 8:30:51. He looked a little used up for a while, seemingly having pushed hard to the finish. Perhaps it was because 2nd and 3rd were not far behind. Grant MacDonald was second in 8:34:36 and Matty Brennan was a very close third in 8:35:40. The first female finisher and 5th overall was Tracy Dean in 8:38:08. She jumped up and down with the most enthusiastic celebration of any. F2 Annie Conway was close behind, finishing 6th in 8:41:35.

Garry Scott (he who suffered to a 36:33 finish last year) completed this one with much wetter underfoot conditions in 31:03. I knew he would. Good effort Garry.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be mingling at the finish from the word go as the runners began to return. We became quite adept at guessing when each runner would arrive after passing through Tilberthwaite. It is an occasion I would never normally get to experience. Incapacitation through lurgy can have its benefits. I carried on chatting and made myself useful on another rubbish clearing round before retiring to my car at gone 2am on Sunday for 4 hours of fitful slumber. The rain hammered on the roof in fits and starts. I felt sorry once again for all the runners still out there.

A 7am rise and more finishers to applaud, more chatting to bleary-eyed runners, more litter rounds to be done, more food to be consumed (very reasonably priced yet £4,000 was raised for a disabled chidren's charity) and more tea to be drunk. I like my tea. I even had my own mug for the purpose.

The endorphins I experience from completing major challenges like these were starkly evident in all the runners I chatted with. The positivity, the highs, the achievements are so infectious. This was proven as I chatted to one of the kitchen volunteers (they are true stalwarts in their own right who toiled for 48 hours to feed the masses - an army marches on its stomach an' all that). This volunteer, although tired had an exited and fulfilled spark of life in her eyes. She knew she would and could never do what the runners had done that weekend, yet she had been so enthused by what she observed from behind the serving hatch that she wants to marshal in the event next year. What the runners undertake and go through makes the volunteers want to serve them to the best of their ability to ease their journey and ease their pain.

I waited until the 1pm presentation. Marc gave his usual entertaining performance as he gave the results, presented the prizes and told the funny stories. Apparently, Mark Willett encountered Paul Potts on the path to Langdale. Nessun Dorma - None Shall Sleep. Was it a hallucination? Twitter was consulted. It was true. (I had no idea who Paul Potts was but Marc explains very well. He tells a good story.)

I said something similar last year but it's even truer now: the Lakeland 50/100 has matured into one amazing, well-supported, world-class challenging Ultra marathon. I hope it retains the goodwill of Coniston and the highly pressured rough, tough outdoor recreation region known as the Lake District so it can thrive for many years to come. It deserves to considering the money it brings into the area, not just on race weekend but throughout the year on all the organised and personal reconnoitres that take place as well. I did my puny best to maintain the goodwill of Coniston by scouring the road, pavements and verges outside the school for litter. None of it was from the event. It was just the usual school kid detritus, but it got cleared anyway.

I took nearly 400 pictures until the camera battery ran flat. Here's the pick of the crop. I ain't no SportSunday photographer and my equipment is small and amateurish (missus), so the outcomes will not be a patch on theirs. However, with all the faults arising from the puny inbuilt camera flash that causes uneven lighting and horrible shadows, I hope my efforts complement SportSunday's to provide an even more complete pictorial record of the weekend. I don't feel guilty in saying that mine are free for download as always, since we did not take the same pictures; we complement, not compete (that's the disclaimer sorted. ;-)