Tag Archives: outdoors

The Lakeland 50, a race report

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0270Sweat is pouring from me. The air is thick and sticky… My shirt clings to my skin, soaked, unable to absorb any more moisture… I try to shut my mind to the heat, that is slowly cooking me as I struggle to maintain my pace climbing out of Fusedale Valley. It’s like running in to the center of the earth, the further I go, the hotter it seems to get… I long to be on the fell tops, where it must be cooler… It can’t be hotter than here..!

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4452 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4459Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4460It had all been going so well, a short four mile loop around Dalemain had seen us spread out nicely and the pace had seemed easy, even it the heat… I settled in to a steady rhythm, and before a moment had passed, I was through the first checkpoint at Howtown, a fist full of fig rolls in my hand as I headed towards hell…

Behind and as well as in front, hundreds of runners are strung out over the mountainside, all of us are heading towards Coniston, 40 miles away. We won’t all make it… We struggle on this climb, the first major one of the day, and it’s slowly picking us off…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0278Finally I stop climbing, the ground easies out, and I can breath again… I pick up speed and allow my legs to carry me forward… Haweswater eventually appears from behind High Kop, shimmering in the heat as I start to descend. The air thickens once again, sweat runs free from my brow… We run and then walk, before running again along the lake side… I flew this section when I reccied the course a few months back, today I struggle to maintain any pace, in the heat… I fill my bottle from streams, and drink hungrily, but the water isn’t satisfying, its warm, like that from a tap that just won’t run cold…  I try to eat a gel, forcing  it down, but it won’t go and I wash the stickiness from my fingers…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0260I’ve been running less than 4 hours and the wheels have fallen well and truly off… I’m melting slowly in the sun. I can’t seem to eat, and yet I know I must… I haul myself up from the ground where I’ve been sitting and drink TORQ Energy from my platy-pus, it’s sweet and warm in this heat, but it seems to do the trick, providing me with the kick I need…

Finally, the checkpoint at Mardale Head appears, I drink flat coke, hot soup and scoff cheese and pickle sarnies. It’s an oasis in the desert, I fill my face with “free” food, before shouting my thanks as I head towards Gatesgarth Pass. It’s steep and hot again, I know for many Gatesgarth is a demon waiting in hell, but for me, it’s been a target for most of the morning. I know when I’m at the top, the hard part is behind me. I’ve been looking forward to the climb.  I relish the steepness, knowing its the fastest way to the top. I bump into a friend and we chat about races and adventures past and planned as we fly up the hill, over taking as we go…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4462Reaching the top, I slow for a few moments to take in the view, looking down Longsleddale, before dropping like a stone down the rough concrete path which leads us to Sadgill and the next climb… It passes in a distant haze, as I fly above my body, like a helium ballon, looking down as the slow torture takes place…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4463I wake up collapsed on the road outside the Kentmere Checkpoint. A Strawberry and Blueberrie smoothy is in my hand and it tastes amazing… It’s finished at record speed and I instantly want another, but daren’t risk too much fruit… As it previous Checkpoints, my water bottle is filled without asking, five star service befitting the best restaurants… But I’m not hanging around to enjoy it too long… my watch beeps and It’s time to start running again… Only another 23 miles now, almost there…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4464 Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_4465The rain starts just as I approach Ambleside, I love running in the rain, and it increases the spring in my step, but I have to fight to keep it there. As I run through the streets, people stop and cheer, clapping and raising glasses in the beer gardens… I want to stop and absorb it all, but it pushes me forward, lifts my spirt as I search down the Checkpoint, a mug of hot soup awaits…

Time is flying now, the light is fading with the dark clouds as I run along Langdale. I stop only briefly at Chapel Stile, more soup to warm my gut and to stoke the fire. I resist the chimineas outside the gazebo and I run on, in to the evening glom. I find it very comforting and resist switching on my head torch straightaway. But as I climb up towards Blea Tarn, dusk finally turns to dark and the drizzle returns but I know the way…

The suffering of so long ago, is quickly forgotten as the rain washes away the pain. I eat a Rhubarb and Custard gel and remember the hard boiled sweets I used to love as child… they maybe explain the fillings in my mouth… The next checkpoint at Tilberthwaite is not far now, but it never seems to arrive… And then there in the distance I spy fairy lights… I arrive to find Christmas well underway. Presents under the tent consist of more flat coke, sweets and cookies… There’s a chair, but as the rain fills the roof with water it cascades down my back, forcing me back on my feet… We sing happy birthday for a runners who birthday it probably isn’t, then we sing it again for a runner, who’s birthday it is… I leave as We wish you a merry Christmas  fills the air…

Bazar… I’m in the Lake District, it’s July, it’s pouring with rain, it’s dark… We are sing Christmas Songs…

I set off up the steepest of steep steps, and the take the lower path, down to Crook Beck… but it’s dark, and you can’t see much, and its the wrong way… I turn back and find the right path. I see frogs in the beam of my torch, it’s good weather for frogs…

2 miles to go…

I fall in with a L100 runner for a few minutes as we pick our way over the fell top. The path is faint, and our lights are the only ones in the dark… As we round a corner, I see path dropping off all the way to Coniston, to the warmth, to the dry…

I hit the boost button on my SEO5 Head torch and focus the beam. The rest is muscle memory as I take my brain and put it in my pocket. Its wet, its dark, its downhill, its a roller coaster ride…

I’m grinning from ear to ear, as I fly, passing other runners in the dark, bouncing from rock to rock, feet only glancing. I’ve been dreaming about the for months… Ahead I see Rob and Amanda, who I’ve run with at various points of the day… We chat briefly, but now my legs are no longer mine… and they head towards Coniston…

The streets are quiet at this early hour, until I pass the Black Bull, and the clapping comes from nowhere, I stare into the dark and see two figures, I pass the garage, and there are people there, sheltering from the rain, cheering… I’m chocked…

The final left turn, the final downhill… There’s the gate, more people… The finish arch, the medal… the lights, the t-shirt, it’s all over… Really it’s only just begun…

50 miles: 12 Hours 53 Minutes…

Reuben_Tabner_Lakeland50_0307Powered by TORQ, Carried by Mammut, Light by LEDLenser, Inspired by Life…

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Alpine Adventures…

Reuben_Tabner_Aiguille_du_Midi.jpgI’m back in Chamonix for a few days, to spend some more time running on these amazing alpine trails, this time with my girlfriend. The weather has been amazing… The views breath taking…

Reuben_Tabner_185700.jpgIt’s largely a relaxing holiday, taking time out, to drink coffee, watch the clouds, and read as much as enjoying the trails. Whilst here, I’m also making final adjustments to my kit for the Lakeland 50, which is now only 10 days away and moving my thinking forward to the UTMB – TDS which is also getting increasingly closer.

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Friday Stoke: The Beauty of the Irrational

Follow Ryan Sandes as he completes the Fish River Canyon trail, which normally takes 5 days in under 7 hours… Passing zebras, and stunning landscape… Running based on an impulse or a feeling, leading to those perfect moments when it feels great to be alive.

“I don’t have reasons, I just want to do it.” – Ryan Sandes

Into Mordor

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3396What a difference a day makes… I slid the van door open this morning expecting to be greeted by more rain, but instead it was a bright clear day… Ok the tops were still hidden in a blanket of clouds, but apart form that… It was enough to make me jump out of bed and put the coffee on…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3397The clouds had rolled in by the time coffee and porridge were finished, but it was still warm enough for just a base layer as I worked my way up hill. The plan for today was flexible, but either a long run or an even longer run… but I didn’t know I was heading to Mordor…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3399I crossed fields and streams, through gates showing the test of time, and up a path laid by generations before for me. Carved from the hill side, with blood, sweat and tears, turning my own into mere insignificance…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3411Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3417As I reach a view point, I’m brought to a stand still by the view below me. The valley drops away, turquoise lakes shimmer in the sun, light patches play the opposite hill sides… what more could you wish for…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3423 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3448Yet higher I climb, through gates on to a track, winding its way through the landscape… I’m absorbed in one foot in front of the other, blocking out my surroundings… but when I look up, my feet stop moving once again… carved through the hillsides, my path goes onwards… to another world…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3439 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3434It’s a world created by man before us. Some may regard the slate quarries as a blemish on the landscape, but they are a stunning monument to what we have achieved. I follow the path through them in awe… and when I reach the road, I turn around and go back for more. Climbing a series of inclines and staircases, exploring tunnels into the mountain, climbing ever higher on ancient steps and paths laid by hand. I stop watching the clock, I stop paying attention to the distance covered and just run free in this dream landscape…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3452 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3457Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3473Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3468Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3471Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3466 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3462Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3455Eventually I climb clear of Mordor and I’m alone once again with the hills… I continue up, climbing in to the cloud, before tucking into a small stone shelter to eat some flapjack…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3478And then it’s down a ridge, jumping from rock to rock, uphill and down again, as the cloud lifts to reveal more views below. I hear the sounds of a distant helicopter, settling in to a hover, I hope it’s a practice, not someone fallen or worse… It’s hidden in the mist, as I race again one foot in front of the other… passing a man and his dog, the wind behind me, not a care in the world.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3501 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3484Bam..! I fly through the air, hitting the ground hard… For the first time ever, I trip over in the hills… I was enjoying the moment too much, misjudged the height of a rock and caught it with my toe… Blood seeps from my finger where I’ve grazed it on a rock, but worse my new Skins are ripped… At least nothing, except pride is broken so I continue past a little lake and I’m faced with a rather steep climb…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3502I look for the path, but all I see is scree… It must be there somewhere. And yes, there are the faint tell tail signs, but it is barely a path… Snaking straight up, no let up… I pass a group of walkers, complete with stares… I assume it’s the beard… wild in the wind… As before me lies the finish…

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Well, not quite… I eat Scottish Tablet, feeling the sugar hitting my veins, before I set off back down the way I have just climbed, running with the scree where I can, trying to find the path when I can’t… back round the lake and then follow the little stream all the way to the valley floor… Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3508The sun is back out and it’s getting warm, I drink from the water running next to my feet, fresh from the hillside, nothing tastes better. One more stile, and thats it, the final stretch is along the road, a minor inconvenience after a mind bending day…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3520 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3518 Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3516Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3511Shower, pub, Steak Pie! Thank you!

(Sorry for all the photos in this one… got a bit carried away…)

Ankle deep and alone in the Welsh mountains

I’m in North Wales for a week of running up and over mountains. The idea is to get fit for the Lakeland 50 in June, get some miles and hours in my legs and generally escape from work and find the smiles…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3279Today was day one, and as I pulled the van in to the car park at Capel Curig it was lashing with rain… big droplets ran down the windscreen as I changed… I waited and made a bacon sarnie, at least it would provide me with some fuel… then I made a mug of coffee, but still it rained… It didn’t matter how long I sat and waited, I was going to get wet… So I slid the van door fully open, pulled on my muddy shoes and said goodbye to the cosy dry van.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3299I set off a gentle trot, ignoring the rain, feeling the ground pass beneath my feet, the track was running like a river. I was looking for the sharp right, that was meant to be so obvious, but I turned to early and contoured round the hillside, sure I was going the wrong way, yet convinced this was the path… Common sense prevailed, I back tracked to find the right path, the one that rose steeply up the hillside, working my lungs and quads to burning point.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3309The hillside was like a river, water running over every surface, my feet sank ankle deep, with every step water flushed through my shoes. I climbed higher, into the cloud and driving rain… I ran to my compass, passing no-one, or at least seeing no-one, the mist was so thick, I could just about see twenty paces in front…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3306To day there is no view. A steady wind blows sheets of rain at me. I huddle in a rock shelter to eat some flapjack and quaff a TORQ Rhubarb and Custard gel (I could get addicted to these) before heading onwards.

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3302As the mist thickens, I make the executive decision, and turn for that warm dry van… But as I quickly drop height the World opens up below me, to a brighter dryer day, I stop in the lee of wind to take in the view… it’s all so worth it…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3324Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3342Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3331A brief mountain drink and quickly now I skip from stone to stone, over dryer ground, making for the valley floor…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3354Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3353But again I’m forced to pause on a stile to admire those views… Views you can never get running in the city, feelings which just aren’t there when you pound the concrete…

Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3375Reuben_Tabner_Running_Wales_3378Almost home now… as tired legs turn the miles, this track seems to stretch further and further away… I leave the Devil behind me, alone in his kitchen… One last stile, one last muddy puddle and theres the van… slide open the door… Job done… Smile..!

Grizedale Off Road Duathlon

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Following the spectacular Kielder Duathlon back in December I was addicted. So Saturday saw us dodging rain storms between tea shops in the Lake District, in preparation for another Run-Bike-Run outing. Sunday dawned bright and clear, if a little chilly as I crawled from my bed amongst the trees of Grizedale Forest. You couldn’t wish for a more stunning setting.

***

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It’s cold as we line up for the 10am start. We are warned of strong winds on the exposed tops. The klaxon sounds and we are under way, jostling for postions as we slowly spread out, through the gate and over a river. But the adrenaline of the start soon wears thin as we slog up a long fire road, climbing steadily in to the trees. Thankfully we eventually turn off onto more technically challenging ground, although this soon has the lungs screaming for air as we continue to climb in the sharp wintery air. After an age, the trees thin, and as I lift my eyes from the trail my breath is taken away by the spectacular view of frozen snow capped fells. I want to stop and take it all in, look around and absorb the beauty, but I don’t have time, I’m in a race against time. I turn and race back down hill, racing for the transition time to get out on the bike.

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***

“Where are we?” I ask another rider, as we slog up this seemingly never ending fire road. “Coming up to 10k”  is the short reply. I check my GPS, bugger, it’s right. It can’t be, we’ve been peddling for ages, it feels closer to 20k, how can we only have done 10k. Flash backs, nightmares of the Strathpuffer, of a never ending course, come flooding back. My legs feel like wood, like the trees we are cycling through. It is never ending. I battle my brain, looking for the rule book, it’s there somewhere. Rule Number 5 = Harden The F*%k Up! I come back to the present, I’m still however peddling. I drop a couple of gears and tuck in as I try to make the most of this easier surface. The bike feels numb between my legs. The climbs have been hard, rocky singletrack switchbacks, with few places to pass slower riders.  No let up. Then we are out, in to the wind on fire roads, which go on, not quite forever, just to the next rocky climb.

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We round a corner, and are greeted by spectacular views over Coniston Water and fells capped in snow. It’s moral lifting. Then it starts to snow. Then I start to recognise some of the course. I’ve ridden here before. Ridden The North Face trail we are now racing around. I hit a section of board-walk as a smile starts to find it’s place again. We drop down on to another fire road, but now I’m rolling, as I check my watch, finally it’s 20k. I pass last nights campsite, not long to go now. I eat a gel, ready for the the run. My legs still feel heavy, but at least I’m zipping along, as the course dives off to the left, down a singletrack decent. I know this route. Weaving in and out of the trees, avoiding gullies, there’s the odd little jump here and there. Another boardwalk and then open fields. Spectators lining the trailside, shouting and howling, through the double gate, peddling for home.

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DISMOUNT! Argh! I only just see the sign in time, slamming on the brakes.  I jump off the bike and pull open the final gate, run down the rocky steps and dib in through transition.

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Fresh shoes on I’m back out again less than 80 seconds later, munching flapjack. Run two is a repeat of the first run. Back up the same long fire road, but it’s quieter now and feels different, I exchange a few words with a runner from Hudersfield, it’s his first duathlon, he doesn’t like running and prefers road biking. It seems today my legs don’t like running up hills and they aren’t that sure about peddling up them either. I push on and finally turn off in to the woods and work my way back to the top of Carron Crag. The views are once again worth it, if only I had the time to stop and wonder, but now warm legs are carrying me back down hill, skipping over the rocks and through the freezing puddles. I hear the screech of disc breaks behind me, and the rattle of a bike tackling the rocky path. I let them past, but soon, I’m calling that I’m passing them. On this terrain two legs are quicker than the two wheels. I fly downhill.

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The final stretch looms, friends are screaming. I dig down for a last sprint of sorts, round the final corner and its all over. 3:05:04 on the clock and 63rd overall.

A much tougher course than Kielder, or maybe I’m not as fit? With being ill and away in France I’ve not had much chance to get extra miles in on the bike since the beating of the Strathpuffer at the end of January and I paid for that on the bike section. My legs felt heavy most of the way round and I felt I struggled to do the 24km in the 1 hour 42 mins in took me. This knocked on to my second run which ended up being 7mins slower than the first. My transition times let me down last time, a little bit of thought and pre planning this time, meant these were much improved, and actually helped pull me up the placings. 30th in my category, down from 18th in December, the long and short of it, I need to train more!

The Grizedale Off Road Duathlon was another event run by High Terrain Events based in the Lake District and specialists in organising unique and exciting events, that incorporate challenging combinations of activity, amidst stunning scenery. If I can beg, borrow or steal a road bike in time, I will be back to do the final event of the series in April just outside Keswick.

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Friday Stoke: Sarah Ridgway – Mountain runner

Sarah Ridgway is a mountain runner lucky enough to live in Snowdonia, Wales where she works as a fell running guide through Run Snowdonia. She also writes a inspirational blog, littered with stunning photographs, which give you a reason to get outside and get the miles in.

She has just released a beautifully shot mini film, which is well worth a watch, filmed entirely in Wales, it contains stunning views, no punches and a cool dog. After watching it, you will want to pull on your shoes.