Archive for July, 2016

Heroes To Tackle Lakeland 50

A team of wounded veterans are taking part in this weekend’s Lakeland 50 challenge as part of their recovery.

The group of 20 former members of the military will be accompanied by staff from Help for Heroes – the Charity that is supporting them as they try to come to terms with their injures and subsequent end of their career.

The majority of those competing have Hidden Wounds (mental illness) and benefit hugely from training for and completing tough challenges.

They will be led by Mark Airey, Strength and Conditioning Manager at Help for Heroes northern Recovery Centre, Phoenix House in Catterick who said prior to injury or illness, military personnel are highly-trained, extremely fit individuals who are used to working as part of a closely knit team.

“As such, many require a challenging rehabilitation/recovery environment within which they can prove themselves once more – albeit, within the arena of sport, not combat,” explained Mark.

“Events such as the Lakeland 50 enhance self-confidence, self-efficacy, competitive spirit and sense of camaraderie with others who have experienced serious injury, disability, and/or mental health issues.”

Among the veterans looking forward to making his way from the Northern end of Ullswater to the finish line at Coniston is Sean Donlan. Although Lakeland 50 is acknowledged as one the greatest ultra-running and walking challenges in Europe, Sean embraces every opportunity to improve his physical prowess as it’s not that long ago that he could hardly walk.

Five years ago, he was lying in a hospital bed with a very serious brain injury caused when he was caught up in the explosion in Afghanistan. His family had been told he was unlikely to survive. He did – but was left almost paralysed down one side, deaf in his left ear and unable to speak. Part of his skull was removed to relieve his symptoms and he spent months in hospital undergoing countless operations. Even at the end of all that, he could barely walk and couldn’t talk.

But intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy has resulted in vast improvements in Sean’s capabilities. So much so that, in 2014, he competed in Ironman UK and then, last year, completed the Catterick to Windsor Hero Ride in 2015 before being part of the first disabled team to complete the ultra-distance triathlon Arch to Arc which involves relay teams running 87 miles from Marble Arch to Dover, swimming across the Channel and then cycling 181 miles from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe.

“The support of the military up until discharge, of the Help for Heroes supported activities team in Catterick, and also Vista Home Care Ltd, the Cleckheaton company that taught me how to speak again, all helped me get to the stage I’m at now and I am determined to make the most of every opportunity presented to me,” said the 28 year old.

“Before injury – when I was fit – I would never have dreamed of being capable of doing these endurance events so to be competing in them now, after all I have been through, is unbelievable. Training for each challenge gives me a sense of purpose and the camaraderie among the team is like being back in the Army which I loved.”

* For more information about how Help for Heroes can support you if you’re a wounded, injured or sick former serviceman living in Cumbria, visit: or call Phoenix House Recovery Centre on 01748 834148.

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Lakeland 100 Goal Setting Part 2

This is the forth and final of a series of guest blogs as we build towards the Montane Lakeland 50 & 100, written by Dr Ian Boardley, a sports psychology lecturer at the University of Birmingham and a 4 time Lakeland 100 finisher.

This is the final blog post in a series of four aimed at identifying and working towards appropriate time goals at the Lakeland 50/100.  In the first two posts I looked at data from past events to see how people paced their races, and which pacing strategies appeared to be associated with better performances.  In the third post I went on to look at the different types of goals we can set when running, and how we can link different types of goals to help optimise performance.  So at this stage the information provided in the previous blogs should allow you to identify achievable outcome and performance goals for your race, and how to break down your overall performance goal into performance goals for each leg of the race to form an effective pacing strategy.  As described in the previous blog, process goals focus on the processes you can incorporate into your performance during the race that should help optimise your performance and therefore make the achievement of your performance and outcome goals more likely. Examples of such goals include running within a set heart rate zone, following a nutritional plan, and strategy decisions such as run/walk strategy and if and when to use poles. The aim of this final post is to demonstrate how setting and working towards process goals can help you achieve your performance goals through effective race-day planning.

I will start by looking at some of the processes that can influence our performance and are within our control as these are prime targets for the process goals we may wish to set for the race.  The first of these and one of the most important is nutrition. Although we may not be able to directly link nutrition to our time-based performance goals, to maximise the likelihood of achieving our performance goals we need to optimise our macronutrient (e.g., carbs) intake.  One of the good things about the Lakeland 50/100 is that the food available at each of the checkpoints is advertised in advance. Thus, we can plan exactly what food we plan to collect, eat and carry when we reach checkpoints. This not only helps us to ensure we are taking on the optimal amount of fuel, it can also minimise the amount of time we spend in checkpoints.  Nutrition research tells us that the main macronutrient to focus on during endurance exercise is carbohydrate, and that we can adsorb between 60-90g per hour depending on the type of carbohydrate we eat.  Eating any more than this will not be adsorbed and may cause stomach problems that limit your ability take fuel later in the race. Using the information on what food is available at the checkpoints and how long you estimate each leg to take you (based on your performance goals for each leg), estimate the amount of carbs available in the foods on offer and then plan in advance what food you will take on board at each checkpoint so that you are taking on the correct amount of carbohydrate.  When doing this it is also important to take into account which of the foods you find most palatable!  If you prefer to you carry your own nutrition products or at least supplement the checkpoint food with food you carry yourself, then you need to incorporate these within your planning.  Once you have done this for each checkpoint then process goal number 1 is in place.

An associated aspect of race-day planning is fluid intake. Although guidelines exist for fluid intake, there tends to be a large degree of inter-individual variation on the amount of fluids individual athletes can adsorb. This is also heavily influenced by temperature, humidity, and work rate amongst other factors so it can be useful to take into account your fluid intake in past races on similar terrain and in similar conditions and use these as the basis for your planning.  Using this information to estimate the maximum (work towards the upper limit to avoid the possibility of running out) volume of fluid you are likely to need per hour and then based on the amount of time you estimate the upcoming leg to take (again based on your performance goal for it), set a process goal for the amount of fluid you plan to collect at each checkpoint to ensure you have enough to last, not forgetting to take into account the volume of fluid you plan to drink at the checkpoint. This volume of fluid to collect at each checkpoint is process goal number 2.  You may wonder why I am advocating that the goal is based on what to carry rather than what to drink. This is because there are too many factors that influence the amount of fluid you will drink on the day to plan for this in advance. Instead, thirst may be the best indicator of how much to drink during the race.  Further planning relating to this may be having additional carrying capacity for longer legs such as leg 4, 8 and 10. I find a soft bottle doesn’t add much to the pack, but allows me to carry an extra 750ml for such legs.  An additional strategy that can be considered and incorporated into your plan if you know the course well is to collect water en route, but you need to be confident of finding water at the appropriate point to use this strategy effectively.

A key factor in executing an effective race is controlling intensity appropriately, especially early in the race when feeling fresh. One sure fire way of ruining your race and increasing the likelihood of a DNF in an ultra is to run at an intensity that approaches or even surpasses your lactate threshold.  Amongst other things, doing so will use up more of your carbohydrate stores making it more difficult to maintain sufficient carbohydrate levels for later, increase your body temperature and therefore your sweat rates making it more difficult to maintain optimal fluid levels and lead to premature muscle damage and fatigue which will limit your ability to take advantage of more runnable sections of the course later in the race. A useful process goal for those who monitor it in training is to have a heart rate limit to work towards on climbs. I wouldn’t advocate a heart rate zone for undulating off-road terrain as this can encourage running downhill sections too hard when heart rate naturally drops. However, having a maximum heart rate to work to on the climbs and when running on the flatter sections can help prevent running at too high an intensity.  For me, I work towards a maximum of 140bpm, but heart rate is very individual so look at average hearts on very long training runs and similar races to identify an appropriate maximum for yourself.  This would be process goal number 3. If you do not monitor heart rate (or even if you do) then breathing rate can be a very useful – if less objective – indicator of intensity. Here you should be looking for a breathing rate that allows conversation in full sentences; a breathing rate that doesn’t allow this is a clear warning sign you are working too hard.

Another strategy you may consider using relates to caffeine intake.  Recommended guidelines here are 3-4mg/Kg of body weight for the optimal effect on performance.  Use these guidelines to work out how much caffeine you need to take to optimise its effect for you individually.  The next decision is when might be the best time for you to take it during the race. You may want to take this prior to the night section to promote wakefulness, and/or prior to particularly tough stages of the race (legs 4-5, legs 10-12) to reduce feelings of fatigue.  One you have worked out how much to take and when you plan to take it, then you can incorporate this into your plan. This would be process goal number 4.

To help identify and inform the specific process goals for each leg, a useful exercise is to conduct is a race analysis that looks for specific characteristics for each particular leg of the race.  This allows you to identify and plan for processes that are most useful for – and potentially specific to – particular legs.  This exercise allows you to plan effectively for each leg, and also to stay in the moment and focus on the present throughout the race.  Clearly this is a very individual process, but I will present a couple of examples to demonstrate how this can be done.  The analysis of data from last year’s Lakeland 100 presented in the first two blog posts suggested fairly even pacing across the race as a whole appears to be most effective.  However, variation in terrain throughout the course should be accounted for and incorporated into one’s pacing strategy.

For instance, analysis of the data from last year’s race suggests leg 4 (Wasdale to Buttermere) is one of the slowest legs of the race, whereas leg 8 (Dockray to Dalmaine) is one of the faster sections. If one compares the climbing per mile and surfaces for these two legs, we can see why this is the case, and why quite different processes are needed to approach them effectively.  First, for leg 4 there is an average of 339 feet of climbing per mile, the leg is run almost entirely in the dark (for most people), the running surface is a mixture of hard off-road tracks and rough ground, and timewise it is going to be one of the longest periods you will be on your feet (along with legs 8 and 10) between checkpoints.  Thus, for this leg important considerations would be having your poles (if you are planning to use them) ready to go from the start, what your downhill strategy is for the technical descents, your run/walk strategy for the runnable section along Buttermere, and having enough fuel/fluid to take during the leg.  In contrast, leg 8 has only 120ft/mile of climbing, will likely be run completely in the light and a warmer part of the day, and is either mainly on good tracks or long sections of road.  However, distance wise it is the longest leg of the race and therefore you are still likely to be on your feet for a long time between checkpoints.  Thus, for this leg important considerations would be how to control intensity appropriately, keep your body temperature down if it’s warm, your run/walk strategy for the road sections and again having enough fuel/fluid to take during the leg and when to take this. Completing this exercise for the entire race and setting appropriate process goals for each stage will ensure you plan effectively for each leg.

Hopefully this final blog post has helped build on the earlier posts, and stimulated some useful thoughts and ideas regarding how to plan for your race in the upcoming Lakeland 50/100.  All being well it has provided the final piece in the puzzle in terms of identifying outcome, performance and process goals you may want to set for your race.  I have tried to discuss most of the main process goals that are likely to be relevant to the race, but there may well be other processes that work for you that you want to add in.  One further consideration is how to remember your goals on race day. For me, I always find it helpful to have a laminated sheet to hand that details key information and my performance/process goals for each stage. This way I can easily check my goals for the stage such as what food I aim to eat and collect at checkpoints and the amount of fluid I plan to collect.  Focussing on your goals and processes throughout can help you to stay in them moment and prevent you from potentially getting dragged into other peoples’ races.  Have a great race and I look forward to seeing you on the day, and most importantly at the finish!

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The Montane Lakeland 1

What started as 30 children and parents has grown over the last few years to 175 in 2015. The Montane Lakeland 1 is THE main event. Starting at 6:30pm from the main start and finish gantry, the Lakeland 1 is a 1 mile fun run which follows Lake Rd to it’s end at the famous Blue Bird Cafe. Participants then turn and head back to Coniston School, to finish under the main gantry. There are medals for all children and parents / grandparents are encouraged to run with children (but you are not allowed to finish in front of them).

The famous Mr Fox will be making an appearance and there will inevitably be a dance routine. The 2016 routine has been finalised and can be seen by CLICKING HERE. Parents and children must learn the dance moves.

There’s no requirement to register, just gather at the start and finish gantry at 6:15pm on Friday 29th, just after the start of the Montane Lakeland 100.

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Things to Remember…

There’s just over a week to go and there’s a few things to remember for the weekend which are very important:

1. Make sure you’ve read the camping guidelines, don’t turn up with a huge tent to accommodate a large family and take someone else’s space, or you’ll be asked to use Coniston Hall next door. Please be sensible and be fair to your fellow competitors. Camping is available from Friday 9:00am, no camping Thursday night.

2. Registration is FRIDAY for both 50 & 100 competitors. The Saturday registration is EMERGENCY registration. It is impossible to register a large number of people Saturday morning and would result in the whole event being delayed.

3. Bring photo ID to registration. Drivers license or something else with photo is fine, but we need to ensure that’s it’s YOU who is registering.

4. Bring your full kit to registration, you can’t register without it. All team mates for pairs or teams of 3 must register together.

5. Check the compulsory kit list and don’t try and bend the rules. During recent years, we’ve had some horrific changes in weather mid-race, which has put some people in real difficulty. It’s not complicated, read the list and bring what’s requested. Don’t add stress to your weekend by having to go emergency shopping due to incorrect kit. If you need last minute stuff call The Endurance Store: 01257 251217, they’ll be there all weekend and can bring stuff to registration for you.

6. Read the competitor notes (go to web home page and see the latest news section, click to download the PDF). It’s fair to say 95% of the problems we encounter, is due to the fact that competitors have not read any information prior to the event and are only find out when they arrive. Read the information in detail so there are no surprises and no upsets during the weekend. We promise it’ll be a lot more enjoyable…

All of the information regarding the points above has been emailed to competitors. Each of the items are posted on this blog. Check the ‘recent posts’ and ‘archives’ sections on the right hand menu of this page and select the relevant blog posts. As mentioned above, the full competitor notes can be found on the homepage of

We can’t wait to see you all in Coniston for what promises to be another amazing weekend of trail running.

Over and out.

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Lakeland 100 Goal Setting (pt3)

This is the third of a series of guest blogs as we build towards the Montane Lakeland 50 & 100, written by Dr Ian Boardley, a sports psychology lecturer at the University of Birmingham and a 4 time Lakeland 100 finisher.

In the first two blogs in this series I looked at data from the 2015 Lakeland 100 to see how people paced their races, and which pacing strategies appeared to be associated with better performances. This analysis suggested fairly even pacing across the race as a whole (with natural variation across stages due to changes in terrain) appeared to be an effective strategy, and that such an approach was possible for runners throughout the field. I also explored how pace ratios for individual legs based on past results can be used to calculate specific, realistic and meaningful target splits for each of the 15 stages in the race. Once this has been done, the next step is to identify strategies through which one can best try to run these times in the race. Over the next two blogs I will address two topics that are relevant to this issue, goal setting and race day planning, with the focus of the current article on goal setting.

When looking to use goal setting in sport, it is important to recognise the different types of goals athletes can set. There are three main types of goal, often referred to as outcome, performance and process goals. First, outcome goals focus on the outcomes of an event and are usually based on comparing your performance to others. Examples of these types of goals are winning a race, being the first lady finisher, or being the first person from your running club. Next, performance goals are concerned with the end products of performance, with achievement of goals viewed according to the attainment of absolute and often self-referenced standards. Examples of performance goals are breaking 30 hours for the Lakeland 100 or beating your previous best time. However, of importance to the current article is that performance goals can also be set for each stage of a race. Thus, the recommendation I made in the previous blog regarding the setting of target splits for each stage of the race – based on past pace ratios and your overall target for the race – represent performance goals for each stage. Finally, process goals focus on the processes you can incorporate into your performance during the race that should help optimise your performance and therefore make the achievement of your performance and outcome goals more likely. Examples of such goals include running within a set heart rate zone, following a nutritional plan, and strategy decisions such as run/walk strategy and if and when to use poles. Thus, the goals you set for races can be categorised as outcome, performance or process goals.

An important aspect of effective goal setting is the linking of outcome, performance and process goals. Although you may set an outcome goal – such as trying to finish in the top 10 – as your main goal for a race, it is still important to link this goal with appropriate performance and process goals. Similarly, if your main goal is a performance goal – such as trying to break 25 hours – it would still be prudent to link this to apposite process goals. This is because the three types of goals differ in terms of their controllability, and it is more effective to work towards goals that are within your control. The least controllable of the three types of goals are outcome goals. As we have very little control over how our opponents perform it is possible to perform very well in self-referenced terms but still not finish in the position we would like. Next in line are performance goals. We have more control over this type of goal as they are usually absolute, time-based and self-referenced. However, factors outside of our control (e.g., weather, underfoot conditions) can still heavily influence our performance and therefore prevent us from achieving our performance goals even when running very well. Finally, as they focus on processes we control directly during competition, process goals are the ones most within our control. This is why it is recommended to always set appropriate process goals, and primarily focus on these during competition rather than the other two types of goal.

So if your main goal is an outcome goal, how would you go about linking this goal with appropriate performance and process goals? First, to link your outcome goal to a relevant performance goal, a good approach is to look at the standard of performance (in terms of finish time) that has been required to achieve that outcome in the past. For instance, if your aim is to finish in the top 10, then a finish time of between 24:52 (2015) and 25:27 (2014) may be required to achieve this based on performances during the last three years. Once identified, your overall performance goal can then be broken down into performance goals for each leg of the race based on target pace ratios as discussed in the previous blog. Once you have your performance goals set, you then need to link these with suitable process goals aimed at achieving your performance goals. More specific information on how to do this will be covered in next week’s blog, but the aim here is to identify a range of processes designed specifically to help you achieve the performance goal/s you have identified for each stage as well as the race as a whole.

Another aspect of effective goal setting is to set more than one overall performance goal. The last thing you want in a race as long as the Lakeland 100 is to put all of your eggs in one basket and then find a quarter of the way round that you are on a bad day and your overall performance goal already seems unachievable. Similarly, race-day conditions may not be conducive to optimal performance; a sub-25-hour performance in strong winds and rain is not equivalent to the same time in ideal race conditions. Thus, it is good to set more than one performance goal, in an attempt to capture challenging but realistic goals for both the ideal situation, as well as the worst case scenario. In this way you can ensure you still have targets to work towards regardless of the prevailing conditions and how well your body is operating on the day. A useful starting point when doing this is to set three performance goals for the race: An A-goal based upon a dream day when everything goes right; a B-goal based upon what you expect to be a realistic challenging target given your current training status and past performances in similar races; a C-goal based upon what you would consider to be the lowest acceptable performance for you on a day when nothing goes right. For me, this last goal is always set on a 40-hour finish at the Lakeland 100, because the aim is always to get round within the time limit no matter what.

Hopefully this has provided some food for thought regarding the types of goals you currently set for your running, and how you may adapt these or link them with other types of goals for future races to help optimise your performances. At this point you should be able to identify and link relevant outcome and overall performance goals for your next race (e.g., Lakeland 50/100 2016), as well as performance goals for individual stages of the race. Also, you should hopefully be able to start to identify the types of process goals you may set to help you to achieve your outcome and performance goals. The fourth and final blog in this series will focus on the final piece of the puzzle, that of race-day planning. Here I will address how to set process goals that are linked directly to your performance goals, and the importance of making stage-specific process goals and the importance of having them to hand on race day.

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Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 Race Numbers 2016

The entries have been finalised and the system locked down. The official Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 start list and race numbers have now been published and can be seen by clicking on the correct link below:

Montane Lakeland 100 & 50

Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 Charity Entry

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Is it possible to run a negative split for the Montane Lakeland 100 and would you actually want to? (part 2)

This is the second of a series of guest blogs as we build towards the Montane Lakeland 50 & 100, written by Dr Ian Boardley, a sports psychology lecturer at the University of Birmingham and a 4 time Lakeland 100 finisher. In his first post, he asks whether it’s beneficial to run a negative split and shows some interesting data from previous years events to support his article.

In part 1, we discussed pacing and whether it is possible and preferable to run a negative split in the Lakeland 100. In part 2, we compare elite runners and slower runners to see if the potential benefits of an evening out of pace are not constrained to the elite (see Figure 2).


In this second analysis I took the ten runners with the highest pace ratio for the opening stage (i.e., those who set out most conservatively) and compared them with the ten runners with the lowest pace ratio for this stage (i.e., those who set out most aggressively). This figure shows a clear difference in pace degradation for runners with the ten lowest initial pace ratios compared to those with the ten highest. An outcome of potentially greater importance though is the finding that it was not only faster runners who demonstrated the most evenly paced races, as the runners with ten highest initial ratios came from runners who finished between 6th and 107th. Thus, there was a large spread in finishing position for runners with conservative opening intensities – and resultant even pacing – meaning you don’t have to be elite to pace evenly. You may therefore be thinking is a conservative opening intensity effective then? In response to this it is important to consider pacing strategy is just one factor in determining performance (along with fitness, navigation, nutrition, etc.) and also to consider what is shown in Figure 1 alongside what is shown in Figure 2. In combination these two analyses show the fastest finishers run a fairly even intensity, but also that the ability to do this is not restricted to the fastest runners. Further, if one compares the positions of the ten runners with the highest opening pace ratios (i.e., 6th to 107th) with those for the runners with the ten runners with the lowest initial pace ratios (i.e., 67th to 209th [i.e., last]) one can see that although high and low initial pace ratios are both associated with a wide spread of finish positions, the high ratios are spread largely across the top half of the field, whereas those with the lowest initial ratios are spread mainly across the bottom half of the field. It therefore appears that on average a more even pacing strategy appears to be advantageous in comparison to setting out aggressively and slowing later.

So based on these analyses, what can we say about running a negative split (or its equivalent) in ultra-marathons and in particular the LL100. First, the line of best fit for my run (see Figure 1) shows they are possible. What is more difficult to determine is whether they are desirable. The course at the LL100 is set up such that in theory running quickly later in the race (think Ambleside to Coniston) is more possible than it is in the early stages (think Coniston to Braithwaite). This is especially so when you consider many of the early stages are ran in the dark. Thus, if you have a history of running negative splits in marathons (or ultra-marathons) on the road then this may be a viable – and possibly effective – strategy. If not, then I would at least suggest trying to even out your ratios across the race as much as possible, such that the ratio for your final stage is similar to that of the initial stage. Using the values for the top ten (or winner/my values depending on how even-paced you want your strategy to be) in the first analysis it is possible to calculate target splits for each stage of the race. Doing this would allow runners to have more specific – and arguably realistic and meaningful – targets for each stage in comparison to those derived using other methods (e.g., using your averages paces from other ultras). For instance, the average ratio for the first stage for the top ten was .82, which for someone targeting a 30-hour finish (i.e., overall average pace 17:09 minutes/mile) would equate to an average pace for stage one of 14:03 minutes/mile (i.e., 17:09 x .82). This would give a time of 1:38:24 as a target for stage one. Based on the second analysis – and my own experiences – I would advocate a more conservative approach using a ratio of around 0.90 for the opening stage which would give a target time of 1:48:00. These calculations can then be repeated for each stage of the race, once target pace ratios have been identified for all stages (making sure they average out to 1.0 overall!). Once this has been done, the next step is to identify strategies through which one can best try to run these times in the race. This issue will be addressed in subsequent articles focussed on goal setting and race day planning.

One final thing worth bearing in mind is that the analyses presented here only include the finishers of the race. It is possible – indeed quite likely – that the support shown for an even pacing strategy would have been even more marked had the ratios been included for those runners who failed to complete the course!

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