My first 100 miler looms large. The Lakeland course has 105 miles and nearly 22’000ft ascent along its rocky, mountainous profile. New territory for me and a steep learning curve is no doubt to follow…
As endurance athletes, training and preparation are the tools that enhance our performances and raise our confidence. However, questions can creep into the smallest recess of our mind and slowly manifest into something else directly in conflict with these tools – that which leads to doubt. Doubt can grow exponentially, becoming a beast with its own consciousness, threatening to unpick all and any positivity. So how do we fight back and become the slayer of doubt?
Training is a baffling concept to me at times. We essentially break down and almost destroy our bodies, but in doing so it recovers stronger. Yet in this state of fatigue and depletion we have to have faith that a fastidious taper will bring with it new strength and fitness. Despite this I always feel anxious that I should have done more, yet logic tells me it would be to risk injury. Few of us lack the motivation, it's more to the contrary, it is restraint we often need. In preparing for the Lakeland I have targeted specific areas of my perceived weaknesses that are pivotal factors in taking on this challenge. Vertical hill reps to target the right muscle groups and thus less speed has been the main focus. Yet because I haven’t done astronomical weekly mileage totals I can’t help but be concerned when I hear about some elite (and non-elite) runners impressive achievements in this area. However I must keep faith in my training and accept it’s time to test it all come race day.
Other than training, preparation also requires course knowledge and equipment. With some solid recces on the route I've pretty much squared away most navigation issues I might encounter - along with a healthy respect for the course profile!
The equipment we use can give us confidence and of course compliment all the other preparations we've worked so hard towards. As regards equipment I've selected the following items to bolster my chances of a successful day;
Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultras & Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Soft Ground
For footwear in the race I've opted for the Sense 4 Ultras. An obvious choice with more than sufficient grip for the Lakeland course, super lightweight and supremely comfortable. They feature a low drop and although borderline minimal (something I prefer in a shoe) they feature an effective rock plate to shield feet from the tough conditions on the Lakeland course. To complete an impressive and luxurious shoe is the Endofit technology. The lacing and fit serves to keep the foot locked down allowing it to work in harmony with the shoe, meaning the wearer can concentrate on negotiating technical terrain with confident proprioception.
As a backup I will have a fresh pair of Sense 4 Soft Ground waiting in my drop bag at the 60 mile point at Dalemain. Not only will a dry pair of shoes help, the extra tread will offer some additional protection and grip.
Salomon GTX Active Shell Jacket & Salomon S-Lab light jacket
To keep me warm and dry during the race I had no hesitation in picking the Salomon GTX Active Shell. Having tried numerous lightweight, breathable, packable, waterproof running jackets, the GTX a superior product all round. Performance in fending off the elements is without question, keeping me dry and protected from the wind. For me this jacket really excels in it's fit, allowing freedom of movement when trying to traverse the mountains as quickly as possible. For me, where clothing's concerned it's about being able to forget you're wearing it that's the test of quality, and that's exactly what I get with this coat.
As a second layer I'll be carrying 2 S-Lab light jackets. Purely windproof, but again you genuinely can't tell your wearing them at times such is the lightweight and motion fit technology.
Between these jackets I should be warm, dry and comfortable throughout the event.
Salomon L-Lab Sense Shorts & Salomon S-Lab Tank
I've always enjoyed running topless in the summer months, but in order to race with a hydration vest on it's necessary to wear a top. Luckily the S-lab range continues it's theme of materials that have the unique property of keeping you both cool when it's hot, yet somehow locking in heat when it cools down during the night.
The Sense shorts will round out my primary clothing selection. Keeping chaffing at bay with light, soft and flexible materials. They also have the added advantage of some built in pockets where I'll be able to keep some items I will need on the go such as nutrition and S-Caps.
The 60 mile aid as a drop bag location will serve as a physiological turning point, which I will treat as sort of a 'halfway' point. In order to capitalise on this, in addition to the fresh shoes I will be packing a full change of clothes. This will include fresh socks, some Salomon S-Lab Exo calf guards and the Salomon S-Lab Exo Twinskin Short. These compression items will help my muscles if the wheels are coming off and hopefully in doing so will instil the confidence that I can carry on running strongly.
Salomon Advanced Skin Hydro 12 Set & Salomon Sense Ultra race vest
Tested in the toughest conditions last year I'll be running Lakeland with my Hydro 12 Set again. With plenty of packing space for the large kit list required for the Lakeland 100 and yet still lightweight and comfortable - it was an easy choice. Despite this my love affair with the Sense Ultra Race Vest (white version on the left) after working so effectively in the Hoka Highland Fling meant I was tempted to try and make it work for me. However it came down to allowing myself the luxury of taking all the kit I'll need comfortably. The Sense Ultra Vest is a really nice minimal item that although it's got plenty of packable space it's just not got quite enough room for what's required. I'm in the fortunate position where I have both to choose from dependant on the needs of a particular race.
Both race vests utilise the Salomon soft bottles which are amazing. I've previously suffered bruising on my ribs from packs using hard bottles, but the Salomon bottles not only eradicate this they also pack down when empty.
Other equipment includes the Suunto Ambit 3S which will track my progress and provide GPS directions if needed. I'll also be carrying a Petzl Nao2 headlamp which should see me comfortably through the night section with its reactive light technology.
With the kit in place, the training and preparation finished it's time to put it all into practice on Friday 24th July. Many before me have been on the same or similar adventures, but this journey is mine and now I'm ready and can't wait to get started!