Ladies Lake District 24 Hour Record
14th August 2021
I first attempted the Ladies Lake District record in July 2011 and was successful adding two peaks however I didn't have the confidence on the day to add in the last peak Grisedale that I had considered. For 10 years this has slightly irked me and I often wondered whether I should have another attempt. However I didn't.
When Carol Morgan broke my record in August 2020 by adding in this one extra Peak of Grisedale Pike and finishing in 23.57 hours I knew I had to give it another go and either go faster than Carol or add in more peaks. However being 10 years older, at 54, I also knew that it was unlikely that I was faster than the previous me. But I knew that I had a lot more experience and have changed my training over the years to perfect my ability to move faster for longer over more ascent and rougher terrain. I also have more experience of how to push myself harder.
Over the Covid months from March 2020 to October 2020 I had also been doing Virtual Summer and Winter Series, the same series that I had been doing in 2011. My times were similar and sometimes faster. All this gave me the confidence to train and recce over winter 2020/spring 2021 when Covid restrictions allowed and attempt in May 2021. I knew this was pushing it with limited time to recce and train but I like May for attempting. I set a date and did what I could.
On my attempt in May the weather had been very wet in the week leading up to the attempt. There were showers forecast with an improving forecast however a very cold northerly wind was blowing as well. It didn't feel right on Friday night to be setting off on a record attempt with the forecast and I didn't sleep at all. I think I was impatient to do something of many months of no races or challenges. We set off on Leg 1 and hit snow. I added Knott and Bowscale but I got very cold and we lost time 10 minutes on the schedule. I carried onto Leg 2 but the legs felt beaten already and the stomach wasn't helping. We lost more time (now 20 minutes down) but the weather was improving so I carried onto Leg 3 making a huge effort to get on the schedule. Coming into Wasdale we were now 30 minutes behind my schedule and I shouldn't have carried onto Leg 4 but I did. I was still climbing well and on schedule pace but lack of energy and something strange going on with my right ankle meant I couldn't descend. I aborted on Leg 4. I had done 60 miles and 6700m climb by the time I got to Honister. I felt shocking and needed to sleep. The legs recovered after 3 days and a few massages from Amanda Heading soon sorted my ankle which had locked up. I was determined to have another attempt and after looking at the diary chose 14th August.
I reccied Knott and Bowscale and timed all the legs again as I wanted a better schedule over the summer. I trained hard and specifically for the areas I thought I could do better at. I didn't race much but did a lot of hard Tempo runs as I thought I needed to get some speed back for the runnable sections. I did a lot of ascent and a lot of back to back days, including some trips to Scotland.
13th August 2021 -
The forecast in the week before was unsettled for the weekend of 14th/15th. I had asked my support if they could be flexible but the forecast wasn't any better for Friday or Sunday. I met up with Helen Elmore in the rain and we discussed my options. Dropping the extra Peaks would give me more leaway and I made up another schedule which was "No K&B" and sent it to the supporters saying I could decide on the day if needed.
I drove up on Friday and the weather wasn't great across Shap and into the Lake District so I sat in my van at the campsite and studied the weather. Three forecasts just couldn't agree and it was just too unsettled for me to be happy adding the two extra peaks in. The thought of running across Helvellyn ridge thinking "This is not going to happen" as I had in May cemented my decision and after I chatted to Kirsty Hewitson where she confirmed my thoughts, I sent word round to my support at 7pm on Friday night that we would be on the "No K&B" schedule as it would affect all the timings from Leg 1 onwards. That done I felt happier and settled down to sleep. I woke to rain on the van but it was still warm so I put on the clothes that I had chosen which was the Inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve with the Base Elite Long Sleeve over the top, along with a windproof jacket I wore the Race Elite shorts and the usual trusty Inov-8 Mudclaw 260's on my feet. My watch a Garmin Fenix 6 Solar had been tweaked to just show me Total time, Lap time, Time of Day and Altitude and would last for the duration easily. I have been wearing this watch for a year now since it was gifted to me by Garmin and am extremely pleased with it. There is nothing I want in a watch that this Garmin doesn't do!
Start / Leg 1 Support: Jasmin Paris and Damian Hall.
Amanda Heading drove me, Jasmin and Damian to the bench at Braithwaite at 2.45am and we waited in the drizzle for 3am. I felt well prepared this time and it was good to have such good runners and friends to set off with. They both had maps which was pleasing and I knew Jasmin could navigate exceptionally well. Damian isn't renowned for navigation but has done a few solo rounds so is very competent. We set off along the road and I remembered it from last time. No photographer this time. I liked the low key start and hoped that I could find my way through the bracken and heather to the main track. The bracken was so high and crossed the path making it hard to push through which worried me but I couldn't think of anymore bracken sections on route apart from the very last descent which I had clipped twice!! I found the route up and climbed well. I had pinched minutes off this split for the later splits and we it the schedule spot on. Heading up to Skiddaw we hiked into some really crap weather. A headwind and thick clag making it very hard to figure out where the edges of the path were. I stayed on the right following the path stones next to the grass. Confusing even though I had been there many times. I was looking for the col where we needed to drop left on our return and couldn't spot it. Over to the trig we battled - but on schedule which was pleasing. Turnaround and back over one bump. "It must be here we drop" I said. Jasmin had a bearing and I tried to find the grass I knew was there somewhere. We dropped and contoured then hit the fence. Climbing it I couldn't tell where we were but then there was a track, turning left on the track I was partly ok with it. Then the track bent right and yes it was the right one. Jasmin caught up and we dropped below the clag. There was Sale How below. I ran down and up to the summit. We looked across and now the sun was rising and we could see the top of Great Calva, clear and not in clag which was pleasing. We dropped to the main track and I asked for more food. After supporting Helen Elmore I had been impressed at her eating and decided to be more like her. I was eating a lot and happy with everything. I knew it was early yet though. Up Calva we walked/jogged and to the summit. I looked left and muttered "Not this time" to Knott and Bowscale before heading back and down the horrid path directly to Blencathra. I was on schedule and feeling positive. Jasmin and Damian were great company and always had what I needed while I listened to them talking about their races and plans. The sunrise as we climbed Blencathra was incredible and Jasmin exclaimed that everytime she ran with me we got a great sunrise. Down the parachute drop we went and arrived at Threlkeld on schedule. I had my two allocated minutes and off I went to Clough Head.
Leg 2 Support: Neil Talbot, Ben Abdelnoor and Jean Brown.
I was in good hands and feeling so much more positive than in May. Clough Head felt like it should (like I remember it from 2011). I wasn't getting excited though as this runnable leg is not my favourite. The team did a great job with Neil and Ben knowing the lines and Jean being good company by my side. The leg went very well, I was eating a lot and my legs felt so strong and it just didn't feel as hard as I had thought it would. I had really set myself up for a "suffer fest" but I was hitting the splits without too much extra effort. Scrambling along and back Catyscam was a nice change from running and I said to Ben I was looking forward to Fairfield. Mark Townsend was at the col before Seat Sandal and shouted encouragement as I ran passed. Neil said not to trash my quads on the descent and it was nice to go at my pace and still arrive at Dunmail on schedule to meet Amanda Heading. The temperature was still quite cool and the clothing combination worked well. The tops came on and off but I was always just comfortable. I ate some beans and then was reminded that I had to go by Amanda (always on the case and even had time to take photos!).
Leg 3 Support: Tom Pape, Tim Rippon and Fiona Pascal - again a stirling team.
Setting off up Steel Fell I wasn't looking forward to the Langdales but better to get them over and onto the rocky stuff which I like more. After the steep climb running felt a chore but the legs soon woke back up across to Calf Crag and that seems like a good section done. Interesting that Tom took me the same way that I had gone with Steve Sanders a few weeks before and doubted myself. Tom always has a knack of finding the great lines and Fi and Tim did a good job of being there with food and drink. I was mainly eating rice puddings, fruit salads and potatoes with a few gels, sweets, coffee beans etc thrown in. It all felt so much better than in May and the closer I got to Pike of Stickle the more confident I felt. If I could just keep this up for another leg I would be ok. Tory Millar and Bo from https://www.inov-8.com/ were at Pike of Stickle and shouted encouragement and took photos. It was a shame I couldn't stop to chat! I felt a bit dodgy on the descent to the river and threw a fruit salad up but continued eating straight away just no more fruit salads were consumed that day! Fi was positive and great company. It was lovely running with her after I had supported her on a BG earlier in the summer. Tom magic'ed a tub of beans out of his rucksack and I exclaimed "Where did you get those?" He said he had taken them off the table at Dunmail. What a star! I ate some beans and Tom managed to run and carry the tub as well. I had finished all the rice puddings but I was happy climbing Rosset and up to Bowfell with Tom. I felt strong and like these rocks when I'm feeling skippy. The ankle was fixed and I could rock hop with confidence. All those lakes races I do pay off now. We headed across to Great End, Eel Crag, Broad Crag and towards Scafell Pike meeting more and more people until it was the usual mayhem on Scafell Pike at 3pm. Through the crowds I dodged people and kept my eyes on Tom. Fi and Tim could be heard behind me also dodging the crowds. Down to Mickledore we ran. Steve Wathall was sat there grinning at me. He had supported on the rope in May and we both knew I was in a better place now. I had asked Jim Paxman and Lewis Ashton to do the rope and they had spent time getting everything set up so it was a slick operation. Giving me instructions I was soon into my harness and climbing up the slippery rock. Having reccied this a few weeks ago with Jim I was happy even though the rocks were wet. Just knowing where I had to get my feet and ram my elbow into the crack saved time in dithering. I was soon up and scrambling the slabs, hoping Tom was soon behind me, which he was. There was clag on the summit so we couldn't see the summit cairn but over the plateau we headed until it appeared and then back to West Wall Traverse we ran. I had reccied West Wall Traverse a few times with Joss and Wisp (my dogs) and remembered Joss skittering about as he wasn't happy until Wisp showed him the way to go ie behind me so if they slid they landed on my shoulders!! I'm quite used to this now and so hang on with a firm grip waiting for the crash onto my head to come. But four legs are better than two down here. So I knew what was coming and we took it steady and it was ok. Meeting Tim and Fi at the bottom of Lords Rake for the traverse to Lingmell, with encouragement from Steve Wathall again. I set off down the scree path and was so happy skipping across it and the traversing to Lingmell. Now I knew it was getting to be possible. In May my ankle had all but ceased up on me and I had no energy whatsoever. Now I was running and Lingmell looked small and do able. Tom had said to me the week before that I had a Killian split between Sargent Man and Raise and so to add two minutes on there I stole it from this split. Getting to the top of Lingmell I said this to Tom and he smiled. I also said we could do his grassy line down as he had asked me in May and we'd done the direct rocks on my request. Heading down everyone was happy. I was still eating stuff ok and was looking forward to some good climbs on Leg 4. Descending into Wasdale goes on a lot and gets steeper and steeper. Unlike the Wasdale race when you can trash your quads being near the finish, now I had to be careful, but the legs felt good.
At the stile over the wall I spied some people and there was Joss Naylor and Charmian Heaton. Knowing I shouldn't stop but wanting to was a difficult decision. I just suddenly ran over to Joss to give him a hug and a kiss. It felt special that he had hiked up to see me come down and just at the point where they knew I could be needing some encouragement. I continued on happy with how things were going and knowing I had to keep eating to maintain the energy levels as Leg 4 is a huge leg with two big extra's of Haycock and Fleetwith Pike and a couple of smaller ones being Stirrup, Scoat Fell, Looking Stead and Kirkfell East
Leg 4 Support: Simon Rippon, Jess and Gwilym Rivett (new to me but friends of Fiona Pascall).
Wasdale stop was set up in a prominent place on the track and I tucked into more food. Beans I think. I was getting jaded of all my food now but got something down. Again Amanda was on the case and I was soon off up Yewbarrow and I enjoyed the long climb making up 5 minutes instead of struggling to stay on schedule as in May. It was a shock to Jess and Gwilym to climb so quickly but hats of to Jess as she really dug in and stayed with me. I was finding choosing food to eat a chore now but got something down. Stirrup felt easy to climb and great to descend as I like a good scramble when I'm happy. Up to Red Pike and again we made time up on the schedule. I did wish that I could just keep climbing instead of running. Heading over to Haycock on the Ennerdale line there was the race trod all flattened down which was useful. Up and back we ran on the schedule again. Pillar came and went with me finding the lines in the clag that had descended on us but made the rocks slippy and not so nice. Down the long descent with Simon asking about Looking Stead. Having found it in the clag one recce I knew it was way along the ridge and off to the left. Coming off Looking Stead back to the path Jess twisted her ankle and looked in pain however she rallied round and stayed with us. They were all lovely company and didn't seem phased that I wasn't very happy and it must have been hard work supporting. Gwilym was always there withe the split time and now I was trying to make them instead of it being easy. The next bit was a bit of a blur but I knew I wasn't moving as strongly and was arguing with myself about food. Then up Red Gully to Kirkfell I wobbled backwards and having seen the downwards spiral of Steve Sanders on his BG I knew I had to have food. I had a rice pudding before the top and felt stronger going down to the ponds and clag to Kirkfell East. Great Gable felt like a huge never ending monster and we lost more time so I wasn't happy. The descent to Green Gable wasn't perfect in the clag with slippy rocks and a bit more time lost so now on schedule. I felt sleepy and so ate some coffee beans and they kicked in across to Grey Knotts. It was good to be heading out to Fleetwith still in daylight as although I knew the lines the paths are small and fiddly to run. There was a glorious sunset and photos were being taken. Another leg done and only two to go so about 5 to 6 hours. Running down to Honister on the track there was Fi with Dibble, their excitable spaniel cross dog, whizzing about as we had arrived. It was lovely to see her and she was encouraging. I was quite happy with things and determined to find something to eat..
Leg 5 Support Steve Sanders and Keith Holmes
At Honister though I made the fatal mistake of drinking too much before eating something solid and it all came back up suddenly - aka like on my BG record however no film crew to witness it! Never mind. I asked Amanda to find "something to eat for Newlands for me" and off we headed up Dale Head. I was still climbing well and could get into a good rhythm. Keith and Steve were in good spirits and between them they did a great job of getting me back on track. I ate a rice pudding near the top and felt ok right across that leg eating more rice pudding and gels. We had a slight mishap off Hindgarth, missing the runners path but it was fine and the descent off Robinson went well down to where Kirsty Hewitson was waiting. I was looking forward to getting the last leg done now and happier now I had eaten food again.
Leg 6 support - Kirsty Hewitson, Helen Elmore and Adam Micklethwaite
I had already decided not to stop at Newlands so when Kirsty pointed me to a car I just said "I'm not stopping" and carried on walking. That threw the support into a panic though as Amanda was stuck in traffic and wasn't actually there. So the new support plan had been to take the rest of the Leg 5 food onto Leg 6. But me carrying on gave them no time to sort it all out and so no rice puddings, no sweets and only a few of my gels made it over. In hindsight I should have waited and helped but in the moment, and not really taking it in that Amanda wasn't there, I just kept going past a group of party goers that apparently had been chatting to Adam and Helen. They shouted for us to join them and I said "I can't party yet!!" Heading up another nice climb I felt so much better with chatty and positive support again. Adam was out in front and Helen was by my side. Kirsty put in a stirling effort to catch me and along to the col we trotted where we met Flora Balaster with Tryfan, their dog. and exchanged some hugs and greetings. But no more food. I had kept the head torch on from Leg 5 as there my replacements were with Amanda. Kirsty, Helen and Adam had brought all their spares and I seemed to be able to use batteries like smarties and we had to change head torchs about three times on the leg. I think the problem was compounded by some drizzle and slippy rocks. I was worried about tripping and wanted strong light. After I had eaten the 4 gels of my own there was very little else to go at. A few Hula Hoops and then after an attempt to eat and keep down a gel of Kirsty's which it my stomach like a block of lead, and it tasted like lead too. I ran along feeling decidedly sick. My pace was now slower than not having no energy and so I threw the gel up and decided to not try eating anything more now and to just manage my energy levels as feeling sick was slowing me down more than lack of food was. We ticked off the tops one by one with me puffing away like a train up each one. The legs still felt good but the energy was lacking somewhat. However we were still on for a record breaking time although I know we all did a lot of watch checking. I had known these splits were pretty fast from my reccies but it was a bit scary losing time so badly on each split. It was only on the last top Grisedale that I realised it should, bar a bad fall, happen! It was now claggy and raining so the rocks were lethal but I was happy descending as fast as I could. Heading down the steep bracken fested path I was glad that my bracken cutting efforts had come to fruition and I was able to slither down a pth instead of be bracken bound in head high undergrowth. It was a lovely feeling to hit the track and be running down to finish with Helen Elmore by my side. Down the knarly path avoiding more cut back gorse and brambles to the bench where I gratefully sat down and grinned in happiness.
I finished in a time of 23 hours and 45 minutes, 29 seconds. So so happy.
It's taken me two weeks to come round and write this up. I can't remember all of it which is what happens when you're concentrating on mainly getting the job done and not looking at views. But the feeling of contentment has remained with me. I think that this meant a lot more to me than I initially realised. People ask me what achievements I am really proud of and the Ladies Lake District record was up there even though I was annoyed at myself for not putting Grisedale in. So after ten years I have managed to hone my training, put everything I know into practise and after a failed attempt in May, use that as a training exercise to get better over the summer and attempt again, in less than perfect weather three months later. Then along with a perfect team of supporters I manage to break the record. It's thanks to my support and Amanda Heading that this happened in the end. I couldn't have done it without all the people mentioned above.
Well done all of us. x
Photos in the Gallery with some of the May attempt at the end - Lakes 24 Record 2021