Our athlete Ben Abdelnoor obliterated the course record to win the Lakeland 50-mile ultra race over some of the UK’s toughest trails. His winning time of 7:39:26 was over 40 minutes quicker than anyone else on the day.
Ben wore our lightweight, super-gripping Roclite shoes. He also used our Race Ultra Vest, which is part of our exciting new pack range for spring/summer 2014.
Here the 33-year-old reflects on one of the biggest wins of his career.
The Lakeland 100 is a race that has caught my imagination in a way no other race has, or probably ever will.
In each of the previous three years I’d supported the event as it passed through my hometown of Ambleside -it actually passes my front door!
In 2010, I cheered on my girlfriend in the 100-mile event. She passed through Ambleside late at night in the cold and rain, struggling and in pain, but determined to finish. I remember being quite emotional at the time.
I’d then proudly watched her finish in Coniston to take the victory after a tortuous 32 hours of running.
That same day I’d witnessed an incredible neck-and-neck battle between the awesomely talented pair of Andrew James and Jon Morgan in the Lakeland 50-mile event.
James had eventually won by a few minutes, setting a new course record of 7 hours 47 minutes in the process.
This year I took the plunge and entered the 50-mile race -which has 3,100m of ascent -making it my big target for the season.
With that in mind – together with inov-8 team-mate Paul Tierney – I won the 37-mile Old County Tops mountain race earlier this year, taking 7 hours to cover the course. I also won the recent 21-mile Wasdale race over England’s highest mountains.
Confident I had a 50-miler in my legs, my next job was to work out what pace to run at. Using the splits from Andrew James’ 2010 victory, I paced the legs from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside, and from Ambleside to Coniston.
My training consisted of long runs (2-3 hours), as well as some longer fell races (20-plus miles).
Mentally I prepared by poring over the map and memorising the route. Every climb, every twist of the path and every bit of terrain -I scrutinised them all.
I use mentally imagery a lot to help me prepare for races, and again before the Lakeland 50 I pictured myself running strong and committed throughout the course of the race. This helped build my confidence and self-belief.
Toeing the startline, I knew Marcus Scotney was the favourite to win, and with good reason. He’d won a hilly Windermere Marathon in a time of 2 hours 38 minutes, and came within 30 seconds of the course record in the Coniston Trail Marathon.
So when Marcus flew off from the start and disappeared across the fields, I tried not to panic.
By the first checkpoint at Howtown there was three of us were following Marcus, not that we could see him!
Next came a sweltering traverse along Haweswater reservoir, before we dropped into checkpoint two at Mardale.
We then hit the stiff climb up over Gatesgarth Pass, and soon I was on my own, in sole pursuit of the leader.
I say on my own, but actually I had many Lakeland 100 runners for company. They had set off the previous evening on the longer course. Without them I think I would have struggled. I don’t think it was any coincidence that my two low points in the race were the times when I had no 100-mile runners to aim for up ahead and no-one to offer, or receive, encouragement to or from.
By the time I arrived in Kentmere I’d been running for over four hours, but was still relishing the thought of every ascents.
I was finding the flat sections a bit of a struggle though, dropping to what felt like a rather slow pace a little too easily.
I was, however, buoyed when I spotted Marcus up ahead. I had hoped I’d been gaining on him but couldn’t be sure -one person I passed reckoned he was 19 minutes ahead!
I finally caught Marcus near the top of Garburn Pass. We exchanged a quick word and then I focused my mind on the long descent into Troutbeck, determined to try and open up a lead on my rival.
After Troutbeck came Ambleside, and very familiar territory! I have to admit to choking back a tear upon seeing so many friends and supporters cheering me as I headed into the checkpoint there.
I received even more encouragement in the news that Marcus was dropping out and that there was therefore a 15-minute gap back to the new second-placed runner.
Heading over the bridge in the park at Ambleside there was encouragement from my flatmate in the form of a banner marked with two arrows – the right-pointing arrow, indicating the race route over Loughrigg, was marked ‘victory’ whilst the left-pointing arrow, towards our house, read ‘cake’!
In need of further encouragement I put my earphones in and tuned in to some music. I wanted something to further fire me up. Slipknot, System of a Down, Marilyn Manson, Korn; these are my guilty pleasures. They all gave me increased drive!
From Ambleside it felt a long couple of hours, and a long way up the Great Langdale valley to the checkpoint at Chapel Stile.
There was little by way of incident, except for what I called ‘the man in black’. Up until seeing him I’d been fairly confident that the 15-minute lead I was told I had at Ambleside was only growing, given that I was hitting my split times.
As I skirted Blea Tarn I overtook a female 100-mile competitor, the first runner in either event I’d seen for well over an hour. A little while later I looked back to see the same lady making her way along the path, closely followed by a runner dressed in black, and shifting very quickly.
It was unlikely a 100-mile competitor would have suddenly picked up such pace, so it could only be a 50-mile competitor running a well-paced race with a strong second half.
I couldn’t believe it. How could this happen? Suddenly my vision of a glorious run into Coniston was turned on its head. I was going to have to run for my life thinking I was being chased. (I realise it could have been someone just out running, but for anyone who knows that area, it’s not a common path to take whilst out on a run).
Not until I hit the Coniston Coppermines track and headed down the final mile of road into Coniston was I sure I’d done it.
To run along the main street and receive so much support from folk sitting outside the pubs, cheering and applauding, was just about the greatest welcome I’ve ever received in a race.
I crossed the finish line in a time of 7:39:26, breaking the course record by eight minutes.
As for the ‘man in black’, I did in fact, have a 40-minute cushion at the end over the second-placed runner. The female 100-mile competitor had run from Ambleside to Coniston completely alone. So I guess it must have just been someone out for a run…
I wore my inov-8 Roclite 285 shoes (the new model of which is the Roclite 243). An excellent lightweight trail shoe, they ensured me a solid grip over rock and grass as well as plenty of cushioning over rough ground. I had no blisters, rubbing or sore spots on my feet after 50 miles of competition.
I also used the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest (available spring/summer 2014). This is, without doubt, the most comfortable pack I’ve worn whilst running. Multiple straps on the back of the vest and across the chest allow for an exact fitting. I stuffed gels into the stretchable, easy-access pockets and fitted a wide-neck 500ml drinks bottle into a hip-pocket.
Although I carried more, I consumed only four energy gels, mostly early in the race when I could still stomach them.
At some of the checkpoints I picked up a biscuit or two. Twice I tried to eat a cheese sandwich, but was unable to do so.
Fluid intake, however, was a different matter. I filled up my 500ml bottle with water, or a cola-water mix, at every checkpoint. I carried a small plastic food bag to scoop up beck water either to drink, or to cool me down by pouring it over my head, chest and neck. I’d estimate I drank around 4 litres of fluids during the race.