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Ultra Tour of the Lake District: Part 1

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Ultra Tour of the Lake District: Part 1

Ever wondered what it might be like to compete in an Ultra-Marathon? Perhaps you have already done so, or maybe it's one of your lifelong goals. Read Lifesystems athlete James MacKeddie's account of the Lakeland 100 below...

Last year, I signed up for the Ultra Tour of the Lake District to run the 50 mile course. In my naivety, however, I also decided to run the Clif Bar 10 Peaks Long Course the month before. After 45 miles and 5600 meters of climbing over the 10 highest fells in the Lake District, I was destroyed. I wouldn’t be running another Ultra marathon the next month.

One year later I was driving up the motorway network towards Coniston, mentally running through my mandatory kit list periodically, checking if I had left anything at home. With a boot full of ultra and camping gear, I knew the coming 36 hours would be challenging…

The Ultra Tour of the Lake District (otherwise known as the Lakeland 100) consists of two races, 100 and 50 miles, circumnavigating the Lake District National Park. An unmarked route across fell and bog, it is the pinnacle of UK ultra-running. The 50 mile route starts in Dalemain, heading to Howtown, Haweswater, Kentmere, Troutbeck, Ambleside, Langdale, Tilberthwaite and finally Coniston.

Lakeland 100 route

With 2965 meters of ascent and 3069 meters of descent it’s a tough course regardless, but you’re also carrying essentials for any problem you may face. 1 litre of water, waterproofs, thermals and survival kit adds up, but at least it’s a level playing field for all competitors.

Lakeland 50 route statistics

Arriving in the nick of time, I was able to witness the start of the 100 mile race, as they set off the night before my race, at 6pm, before I striked camp and signed in. After showing I.D., having my kit checked, receiving my dibber and being weighed (that’s my little secret) I was free to relax under a stunning sunset over the fells surrounding Coniston. With a mind that wondered about what lay ahead, rather than filling it with doubts, I slung some headphones on and watched Outside Voices, following ultra-legend Jenn Shelton on her travels amongst other trail running films.

Waking up early, race briefing starting at 0830, I had plenty of time to walk around my mini camp, scoffing a variety of food from my Lifeventure Ellipse Cookware. With time in hand, it allows you to eat slowly, promoting proper digestion and preventing GI distress. Neck your breakfast and you may find yourself sprinting for a bush in the early miles.

Lifeventure Ellipse cookware

Laying out my kit for the 4 th time, I wanted to make sure I had everything I would need for the coming 50 miles. The reality is most of what goes into the pack will not be used and certain items should never be used unless an emergency occurs.

The contents were as follows:

  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Road Book
  • Waterproof Jacket & trousers
  • Long sleeve baselayers, top & bottom
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Survival Bag
  • First Aid Kit
  • 400 Calories of emergency food
  • Head torch
  • Water
  • Food
  • Cup
  • Charged Mobile phone

This would be on my back for half a day, so making sure my pack fitted well and didn’t rub was essential. I opted for my favourite Lifesystems Safety Whistle, despite my pack having one built in, as I know it’s easy to locate, ridiculously loud and is my one go-anywhere piece of kit.

I stripped back my Nano First Aid Kit to meet the minimum requirements of the race. Though comprehensive and designed for endurance sports, I took out the sun cream and primary care leaflet to make it that bit lighter and smaller. Hidden in the depths of my bag, I had a Light and Dry Bivi Bag, ultra-light and compact, if I or someone else had to use it something would have seriously gone wrong. Finally, I bathed myself in Active 40 Sun Cream before heading to the start line. With hours of being exposed to the elements in the middle of summer, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about getting burnt or UV skin damage.

To keep it all organised, I used 3 Lifeventure Dry Bags to colour code my kit. Red for emergency, Blue for waterproofs and Green for thermals. Though it didn’t rain, it meant the contents would be protected from my sweat, as well as making finding kit in a hurry easier. Dry bags are often an overlooked tool in the outdoor kit arsenal – just using a large bag liner doesn’t make finding your headtorch any easier.

Part 2 to follow on 2nd September 2016

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