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A day of racing - The Lakeland trails 100km - Jo Meek - The Running Squirrel

by Cheryl Fox on July 15, 2021

I entered this race because I wanted to try and qualify for the GB World Trails Championships (top 2). Entering was the easy part.

Training went well. I got my quadricep muscles prepared for the 3500m of elevation by a training run in the Brecon Beacons amongst many Dartmoor runs.

Wilfred, the border terrier, arrived in April and I had to plan to take him with me because no one else could look after him. I had booked camping but the thought of a puppy experiencing tent life for the first time and the dawn chorus was not appealing pre race so I had to book a hotel room for my last full nights sleep. I also had to ask nicely and take a friend with me to help look after him whilst I raced. Thank you, again, Clare!

I prepared all race kit and fuel the day before. I used 32Gi (RacePro, Endure, gels, chews), Tailwind, Maurten all from Komfuel and also Supernatural fuel energy pouches. I fuelled regularly and reliably and honestly felt like for once I got my strategy right.

Friday, waiting for the race to start at midnight was LOOOOOOOONG! We had to move to the campsite on the local football pitch because I could not get two nights in the hotel. We set up camp, got a parking ticket, ate, chilled, ate, walked Wilfred, registered, ate, tried to sleep, got nervous and got more nervous. Finally the alarm went off at 2300hrs. The temperature was kind; I could wear a vest from the start. Although cuddling Wilfred kept some of the initially freshness off!

Saying hello to fellow runners after a long year was great although conversations were stilted as apprehension hung in the air as to what was to come. 0001hrs we were off!

The front group of women left Ambleside in silence as the men disappeared off. I tried to settle into a routine with those around me as I didn’t want to go off too fast. It was only a few miles into racing when Meryl Cooper went past us on a descent that I thought I would speed up a little and go with her. We ran many miles together, head torch leading the way. I loved running through the night; my practice on technical terrain seemed to have paid off and we silently travelled along the trails in peace. We travelled through checkpoint (CP) 1, Kentmere village hall and CP2, Mardale head together.

Unknowingly I was probably leaving my race in these miles; it wasn’t the pace it was my fartlek approach. Basically I had a terrible stomach 2hrs into the race which meant I needed to stop many times and each time I pushed on to catch up. I should have been more patient! By sunrise it seems I had emptied the contents of my stomach enough to continue without gut rot! One of the reasons I wasn’t patient was the race could off had a few more flags on route so it was reassuring to run with company. I went off course twice during the race; once after following some flags which had been moved- thanks Meryl for calling me back! 103km in the end.

We got to CP3 in Bampton and I pushed on, (through a nasty stinging nettle jungle near Askham) however, by CP4 in Howton Meryl had the lead. I needed to stop to refuel. I did not have a crew but I did have fuel bags left at various CP’s to collect. I never saw her again. She ran a strong race.

Daylight emerged and the rain arrived. The trails grew greasy which hampered my descending but ultimately my pace slowed from the previous efforts.

I ran the rest of the race alone, continually pushing as I did not know how far 1st (Meryl) was in front and how far 3rd (Claudia Chmielowska) was behind! I passed through Glenridding village hall (CP5), Grasmere reading rooms (CP6), Little Langdale (CP7) climbed up to Wall End (CP8) and down to Langdale Primary school (CP9).

By now I was pretty keen to finish. My pace was steady but certainly not competitive. My mouth felt furry, my legs were nettle rash itchy and my muscles had had enough for one day. I ran for 12hrs 8mins, came 2nd female and 7th overall.

Now to await GB selection- it’s not automatic and it’s not confirmed.

Congratulations to all those that finished!

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