Wow. What a day! A plan is all well and good until it goes out the window!
Early start and ready to rock with Martin dropping us off and Jo as my bike support. All started perfect. However, little did we know the first 5 or 6 miles were through farmers’ fields and involved around 15 to 20 styles or gates. Jo was riding a road bike (defo an MTB route - by bad) and told me to keep on running and she would carry on and catch me up. I genuinely felt so bad at the idea of her having to keep lifting her bike with all my nutrition on board over all these styles and through farmers’ fields (and being an ultra-runner she is not cyclings biggest fan at the best of times). However, she soldiered on and told me to keep my eyes on the prize, keep moving forward and she would catch me later on, which she did at around mile 6.
We encountered our first navigation error at this point and I am incredibly glad I was with Jo at this point as she worked out we had followed the canal path too far and needed to head back and use the bridge to cross the M6. Disaster averted!
After half a mile on the road and another farmers field ahead we decided it best for Jo to take the road and then re-join the canal path further along. This didn’t quite work out as she was unable to get back on the canal path, so this is where I lost my bike support. No bother, I have some supplies on me and hopefully we will reconvene soon.
Start to get a bit low on food and drink so get in touch with Jo, getting back on the canal path isn’t going to happen. However, due to her quick thinking and the even quicker driving of her other half Martin, they were waiting for me at mile 30 in Lancaster City Centre with my brown paper bag containing soft flasks and gels (think Jason Bourne meets Team Sky).
So, over halfway, bit depleted but legs feeling good and now got supplies so back on track. Very impressed with the nutrition delivery I genuinely don’t think I’d have got through 5 more miles without it.
I then really struggled between 30 and 40 (check the spilts) almost stopping every 1 mile for a walk. I was low on energy after getting behind on my nutrition and it hadn’t quite kicked back in yet, however, I knew my parents were waiting for me at 40 miles which was now my next and only goal, get to 40 miles.
At mile 40 I met my parents and it was like being born again, 2 cans of red bull, a packet of sweets and 1.5 litres of water consumed, and then my camelback and 3 soft flasks filled and pockets stashed with sweets. Great to see them, they were incredibly helpful and positive, and it gave me a real lift to see them after counting canal bridges for the last few hours.
I then made a deal with myself to run in 5-mile blocks from here on in as I was eating dangerously into my buffer time for the FKT and stopping every mile or so was using too much time. The refuel worked (thank goodness) as I was able to stick to this plan. At about mile 54 I realised I didn't have time to stop again even for one minute and had to just power on, which I was thankfully able to do. My last 2 miles were two of my quickest of the day as I had worked out I was so close to the time limit and would be gutted to miss it by a handful of seconds. Starting to see some houses and recognise I was within 500 yards or so of the finish. My parents were waiting and waving at the finish and I checked the elapsed time against the previous time and I had just sneaked in around 3 minutes under, YES!!! (phew)!!! Incredibly pleased to have encountered some bad times during the attempt and be able to shake them off, refocus and get it done!
Really enjoyable – now on a perfect day I think I may have been able to go a bit quicker, however, having to adapt and respond to what the day dealt me, work with how I felt and have to use whatever mechanisms in my arsenal to get it done and still sneak under the previous FKT made it incredibly satisfying so actually, it WAS the perfect day!
Thank you for your support (Mum, Dad, Martin and Jo).
For next time (you not me)......
Route is not suitable for a road bike, defo MTB. Also, it is largely grass and runs slower than hard packed trail but when the concrete or hard trail comes it feels amazing.
If having bike support, get them to join you mid route to miss out the first part which is really not very bike friendly.
There is a petrol station at 20 miles on the track I didn't know about (which could have been used). There was also a pub on the canal path at around 42ish miles (Old Nells) which again could have been used if needed water/toilet etc.
Do not follow the canal to the end when approaching the M6 you pass a steep staircase (labelled with a 'Lancaster Canal Path' sign) to take you over the motorway. Again, I missed this is probably added 10-15 minutes to my time (and would have been a lot longer if not for my support pointing this out).
Also, the canal splits at one point, one goes to Preston (over the bridge, take this route), one goes to Galgate (DO NOT take this route). Again, I did and added maybe 2 minus on to the route.