Tag Archives: Race Report

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…

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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Strathpuffer a Race Report

Mountain Biking in ScotlandIt had all started well enough. At 10am on Saturday morning, whenever that was, to the sound of bag pipes the race kicked off, with several hundred mountain bikers running 500 or so yards, skating in SPD shoes along the frozen road to our waiting bikes. From there it was a battle of wits as we thought our way up hill, trying to pick the best lines between other riders and ice… It was tough not to go off flying, racing against the guys in teams. As every rider passed me I had to check myself, remembering I was racing solo not as a pair or quad. All being said, the first lap was over relatively quick … And now I had seen the course, I know what to expect… So out I went again, and again….Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0012Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0053Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0117

It went well for at least twelve hours. At least it seemed to be… But each lap, I was eating less and less. At first I didn’t notice, by the time I did, it was to late. Eating was an effort, an effort I didn’t want. Eventually I ground to a halt. Insufficient food, meant there was no fuel to keep the engine driving my legs going.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0227I crumble in to a heap in the back of the van… I pull off wet, soggy clothes and crawl in to my sleeping bag… Fortunately my brother arrives and passes me a pork sandwich from his hotel… I eat what I can, is it too late..? I can’t get warm, worse I can’t get my clean clothes on, I can’t get back out, I’m not peddling, this isn’t meant to be happening… I’m alone once again. I shiver, I’m tormented by visions of hot baths, of warm beds, about being dry and warm… I know I can have these, I just need to quit. But I can not quit… I don’t know how… Eventually I dress for war again… I open the door in to the cold night, allowing it to come flooding in, as I prepare once again to peddle…

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0187It’s 2am, I shiver uncontrollably as I fight to strive off the cold. My tyres crunch on the ice of the frozen fire road. I’m freezing, I shouldn’t have stopped, but I needed to eat. The van was warm, inviting, dry… The cold, icy fire road is anything but inviting. Yet I must defeat her, do battle and win. It had taken all my mental strength to force myself out of the warmth of the van, from sleeping, from quitting. I wanted to curl up in my sleeping bag, call the whole thing off as a stupid idea and sleep. Stop peddling and warm up. Now, as I slowly grind up this road, I pass other vans and tents… Most have team members, stoking fires and fettling bikes… I long for the warmth of a fire to thaw my bones… I ride past, head down, these are not my fires…Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0177I fight on, as gingerly I climb this frozen road, even my ice tires are slipping on the thick sheet ice, my senses are numbing, slowing, why am I here..?

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0132 Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0135 Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0073What am I doing..? Hum, well that’s the thing… A year ago, I had been told about this small town in the North of Scotland and how in January they held this 24 hour mountain bike race called the Strathpuffer. Through the midst of winter, riders competed, not just against each other, but against the weather, themselves and all their inner demons. It happens to be the only winter 24 hour mountain bike event in the World. For some reason I was sold! It became my focus through those long summer riding days, when our backs are warm and faces brown. It became a reason to get out and ride when rain lashed the windows and friends suggested there were better things to do. So really I only have myself to blame.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_2308Yesterday or was it the day before, I’m losing track of the simple things, I loaded the van with bikes, warm riding clothes and loads of food and set of on the long drive from Newcastle, to this frozen remote corner of the World of Mountain Biking. Now I’m peddling, it’s all I’ve done for hours… peddle, peddle and peddle some more, occasionally I stop to eat, but not long enough to get cold or to rest.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0122I reach the top of the fireroad and wobble over a small log bridge. I know what’s coming… the first of the rock gardens. There isn’t a clean line through, it’s almost perfectly designed to tire you out. To beat you into submission, to grind the last of your resolve away… I dig deep and embrace the discomfort, before the trail takes a dive down in to the trees, mud and night…

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0196I reach the top of the next climb, and stop for a quick breather, I’m knackered… I switch my lights off and stare in to the dark night… lights twinkle in the distance, the air is still again, just a little snow drifting down… I clear my head of thoughts, just allowing myself to think about the next small section, it’s fast and flows with a couple of small jumps, and then opens out in to a muddy motorway section, which will leave my face mud splattered and grinning, before the final decent to the finish, to the lights, fires and the mad crowds awake at this crazy hour to cheer us on… Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0220And then… it’s back out, back up hill, back peddling, another lap… praying for the dawn, for real light, waiting on that final lap… after which I can finally stop.

Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_0224Hours later, I slowly push my bike back up hill towards my van. I no longer need to peddle, the race is over and the clock has stopped its ticking. I’m covered in mud, in every place you can imagine… Now it’s over, I don’t want it to be… Before the engine of the van even warms, as crazy as it may seem I’m planning next year…Reuben_Tabner_Strathpuffer_2334

I would like to say a massive thank you to all who helped me get through this event, namely the people who were still out cheering riders on at 4am, my brother Thomas for acting as driver, general support and photographer, Square Wheels for putting this fabulous event on, Colin Henderson for his amazing photographs, Montane for keeping me dry and the Coul House Hotel for allowing me back in the doors looking like a swamp monster and for feeding me throughout the event. Thanks Guys…