- Weather: dry with some sun
- Temperature: warm
- Ground conditions: dry, not boggy
- Route: linear, with hills, grassy, some tarmac here and there to make up time
- Scenery: varied. Sea, mountains, open moorland, rolling farmland, quaint villages
- Night time conditions: full moon, cool not cold
- Support: good food, smiling faces, encouraging words, banter, belief
I don't want to boast, but this weekend was special! The planets aligned, conditions were perfect. The LDWA 100 had it all.
The route took us from Wadebridge in Cornwall, past vineyards, through farmland, over rocky Tors, through pretty settlements, back into lush green valleys and towards the sea. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would complete this event. It was made for me.
From the start line, where the Brass Band sent us on our way to the 'Floral Dance', I was running back towards where my family waited for me at the finish - I love linear routes. My strategy was just to tick down the miles by running checkpoint to checkpoint, setting myself time goals for completing the leg I was on, and not really thinking too far ahead. I knew that I would be slow walking the uphills, but had confidence that I could make up time on the descent and the flat runnable sections. I ate small amounts of food at each checkpoint, but didn't really need any of the emergency rations I carried with me. Mentally I was strong and physically I was strong so I just had to get on and do it.
Of course, there are always minor criticisms that can be levied. I've done shorter LDWA events in the past and I'm a huge fan, but the 100 is the big annual event in the calendar and seemed to attract a small, unrepresentative, hardcore of LDWA pedants. I was quizzed in the loo queue before the start by a lady who refused to accept that the mandatory kit had fitted into my pack. She had never seen soft shell waterproofs before and refused to accept that they met the criteria. Along the route, concern over obeying the rules was clearly occupying the minds of a minority...not that I saw anyone flouting them (apart from a group who conveniently went off course to avoid a boggy field). I reached CP 2 early and the marshalls refused to open it until the official opening time, so our small group of 5 grew steadily in numbers until, 45 minutes later, when almost the entire field had turned up, the race was practically restarted when the official checkpoint opening time had been reached. These are the negatives that provide amusing stories more than anything else, but are certainly not significant enough to mar the event.
Apart from this hardcore, and an unpleasant chap named Jeremy, I met some smashing people who offered great company a big laughs along the way. I ran the night section with a chap named Keith who was excellent fun and great company in the dark hours, but after the breakfast stop at 1:30am, our paces altered and our requirements changed, so I didn't see him again, but I hope he finished well.
As is always the case with any event now, I met up with a fellow Lakeland 100 runner, a man I'd run with coming out of Blencathra last year. Duncan was timed out at Ambleside after running 90 miles at last years UTLD, but he got round the LDWA course this weekend in 28 hours and I'll see him back in Coniston in July.
The ground conditions were exceptionally dry. I managed to keep my feet dry for the first 57 miles! I've never done that before, ever. My feet are usually wet within 5 miles and then stay that way until the end. This freakish dry foot scenario ultimately caused me problems and I rubbed a massive blister on the ball of my right foot which slowed me down in the last 20 miles. I ran the full 100 in my Hokas Rapa Nui and they did the job nicely. I don't think they were the cause of the blister but I think they probably contributed. I managed to control the pain ok and kept a pretty positive outlook throughout. Tiredness on day 2 made it difficult to make decisions, and on a couple of occasions I sat with my head in my hands, tears rolling down cheeks, paralysed by indecision over route choices. On the hills above the River Dart I was revived when Jez Bragg and Paul Chapman ran past me and offered words of encouragement. I was stopped in my tracks and asked those around me if I had imagined it or was that Jez Bragg - blank faces...'who?'..!
On the final descent into Teignmouth, running down a steep tarmac road, meters from the finish line, I planted my foot, and pain brought me to another dead stop. My little toe had exploded and drenched my sock in bloody puss and I limped over the line in 31 hours and 20 or so minutes. There were points during the event where I was confident of a sub 30 hour finish, and at 57 miles I thought that 28 hours may even be within my grasp. But this is how ultra's go - up and down.
A couple of days on and I'm still on a high - I ran 101 miles mun! Legs are great - no DOMS, blisters healing nicely and I'm almost walking like a normal person again.
Next year the LDWA 100 is on my patch in South Wales. If you are looking for a well supported, challenging 100, I don't think you can go wrong and I can't recommend it highly enough. I think I might have said that next year would be quiet - no big events. We'll have to wait and see.