This blog took quite a long time to write… much like the race did to complete! We hope you enjoy reading it.
While recovering from the Pilgrim’s Ultra, Julie went looking for her next 100 mile adventure. It needed to ideally be in the Yorkshire area to make the logistics work and the Lady Anne’s Way 100 was the race that caught her attention. Julie was a bit nervous about navigating in winter with the longer nights and increased risk of bad weather. Support crews are not allowed as there are regular outdoor vehicle points and indoor check points/aid stations. With a very kind offer of childcare from Iain’s aunt and uncle, he was free to run too and it meant the LAW100 was the ideal race for us to run together. Iain didn’t need much convincing before our places were booked!
The run up to the race was a little tricky as the mandatory kit list is a little vague on what you need! Julie in particular was very unsure what to run in as she usually gets quite warm running and really dislikes being too hot. The week before the race it was a relatively mild January so no snow or ice to deal with but instead we had storm Malik forecast with 50-60mph gusts of wind! This was a little daunting! The week was made more stressful with the boys coming down with coughs and colds. Repeat lateral flow tests all round (all negative) and negative PCR tests for the boys meant that by Friday all the bags and kit were packed and we were good to go.
We loaded everyone into the car after school on Friday and dropped the kids off for a fun weekend at Chapelknowe on our way to race registration at Skipton Town Hall on the Friday night. We arrived about 9pm and signed in, picked up our LAW100 drop bags, trackers and numbers and dropped off our finish bags which would be heading to Penrith ahead of us. We were all set.
We had booked a room at the Woolly Sheep Inn which was just a minute down the road and had a car park where we were able to leave the car for the weekend. It looks like a lovely little pub and it would have been great to sit and have a drink in front of the open fire but we had drop bags to sort and an early night to get so we headed straight to our room. It was ideal too, situated in a separate building at the rear of the pub garden so nice and quiet and direct access to the car for leaving early in the morning!
Our drop bags would be heading to CP6 and CP9 so we filled them with spare shoes, some extra clothes and food to replenish our supplies. With everything packed and checked we headed to bed with the alarm set for 4am. Race start was at 6am just up the road at Skipton Castle.
Neither of us slept well even thought the room was very nice and quiet, but when the alarm went off at 4am we were keen to get started. Plenty of time for breakfast and a couple of cups of tea, final checks of bags etc and we headed to the start at about 5.30. We handed over drop bags, used the loos in the town hall which was helpfully open and then waited for the start. With only a very light drizzle we opted not to wear our waterproof jackets – although we were in the minority! The start was a very relaxed affair with us all congregating outside the castle gates at just before six. There was no pre race briefing and we were told to start when the clock struck 6am.
Skipton – Kettlewell (CP3 / 22mi)
At 6 exactly headlamps were on and we headed off up the road out of Skipton. The first couple of miles are completely different to the official Lady Anne’s Way route which you rejoin just before Embsay. We started off just at the tail of the front runners keen to find a space that meant we wouldn’t be waiting to cross stiles at Embsay (there are a few). Iain felt that Julie was pushing the pace a little too much but she prefers to take the first couple of miles a bit faster before settling down to an easier pace. The navigation was straightforward and we were soon crossing the fields behind Embsay with the first of many stiles! It was fun to start the race in the dark and the first few miles flew by. The wind wasn’t too bad and it was still quite mild (Julie was already wondering if the Flanci fleece leggings were a mistake!).
Once past Embsay there are a few miles of farm track and fields (we were getting used to the gates and stiles – there are a lot!) then a small climb over Halton Edge before a short road section to Barden Bridge and the first vehicle point. Race numbers were recorded at all the vehicle points/check points (except the last which was unmanned) but we didn’t need water so were straight on our way. The next section is along river bank, the sky was now light and we were feeling good. Runners were well spaced out by now and we were happy to do our own thing! The navigation was easy as you follow the river for the majority of this section to Burnsall where you head away from the river and across farmland. There is a short road section through Hebden before you are back to more fields and farm tracks. The second vehicle point was at the National Parks car park in Grassington. This is a little way off the Lady Anne’s Way but Grassington is at least a pretty village to run through and if you were taking a more leisurely pace then the bakery looked very nice. There are also toilets at the car park which was handy. We didn’t stop and were soon heading back to where we had left the Way and looking forward to the next check point which was indoors at the village hall in Kettlewell. Standing in our way, we had to tackle the first big climb of the day and Julie thinks with the weather conditions it was the hardest. This was the first point the wind became a really big issue!
Out of Grassington you head up onto the fells for the first time, heading for Bycliffe Road. Iain enjoyed the settlement field system that you have to run through (a few more stiles) and the barren terrain up past Bare House. Navigation was straightforward using the GPX file of the route on Iain’s watch. The only point where he found it hard to find the exact path was little further on when we were at Capplestone Gate. We knew the direction we had to go but couldn’t find a good path through the boggy heathery moorland! The shake holes and old mine shafts are really interesting around this point (Julie is glad it wasn’t misty!)
The guide book for the Lady Anne’s Way also has fantastically detailed descriptions of the route and very clear maps (which we carried but didn’t have to use). The wind on this section was horrendous at about 50mph and it only got worse as we climbed and got more exposed. The rain also got heavier and wind-blown so we had to stop and put rain coats on. At times we were running with a side wind which made travelling in a straight line interesting and at several points we end up bumping in to each over! Iain looked very comical from behind running while leaning at about 45 degrees! A headwind was particularly challenging as it made running almost impossible and at points felt like you could barely move forward. One particularly comical downhill had us running into a head wind which resulted in our faces being wobbled around like when a dog puts his head out of a car window at speed. It wasn’t pretty and was not very enjoyable! The few sections the wind was behind you required a lot of concentration and braking to stay in control. Julie had a couple of points where she was nearly blown off her feet and you had to be really careful opening and closing gates that they weren’t ripped out of your hands by the wind. We were both aware that we were using far more energy than was ideal but didn’t want to slow and be on this exposed section for any longer than was necessary.
We finally made it into Kettlewell after what felt like an age and were pleasantly surprised to find we were still keeping to Julie’s schedule for a sub 24hr race. However we both felt like we had run nearer 50 miles rather than the 20-odd we actually had which was worrying – mainly due to the additional effort needed to fight through the wind. We headed in to a brilliant aid station with loads of food choices including soup and an all important cup of tea. We stayed slightly longer than we had intended so we could have soup and regroup after the challenges of the fells.
Kettlewell – Askrigg (CP6 / 39mi)
The next section from Kettlewell runs along the side of the valley initially, parallel to the road and being at a lower level the wind wasn’t such a problem. Still lots of stiles to cross, though! Just at the edge of the small hamlet of Starbotton you cross over the road and head down to the river. Someone had come out with some cow bells to offer their support which was much appreciated. Crossing over the river, we then headed along the bank for a short way before the river bends away and the path rejoins the river again just before Buckden. After following the river a little further you come out onto the road and skirt the edge of Buckden itself before taking the steep path up the hill from the car park. This next section is on good gravel paths, although still plenty of gates to open! As we were nearing the road above Cray we got to see a waterfall being blown back upwards like chimney smoke in the wind! The next vehicle point was on the road just before the track up to Hell Gap, midway up the second big climb of the day. The wind was still atrocious but the views were wonderful and the clouds had cleared to leave a blue sky. The wind made the going tough across Stake Moss but the route was at least easy to follow and there weren’t too many gates to wrestle in the wind. Gradually we started descend towards Wensleydale, and the track gradually improved into a tarmac road as we passed the dramatic outcropped top of Addlebrough on our right.
After a quick chat with the marshal who was sensibly hunkered down in his Land Rover at VP5 and we were on our way, focussed on getting to check point 6 and our drop bags. Iain’s feet were causing him some bother and we were looking forward to some warm food after so long out in the wind. Immediately after the vehicle point the route turns right and heads East over open moorlands. For about a mile we had the wind at our backs – and it was a wild ride, but at least made a change from fighting it to simply steering and staying on our feet. Before long we dropped off the hillside, passed the small village of Worton and crossed the River Ure. Looking longingly at the sign for the short direct road into Askrigg we made a loop further East to Nappa Mill and up to the road at Nappa Hall. After 100m of road, we entered a field and managed to find the path down the rocky escarpment and headed directly across farmland to Askrigg. We came across a beck which was big enough to result in wet feet. If there was a bridge here, we didn’t find it and just splashed right across. A handful more stile crossings and then the short run along the road into Askrigg and and CP6.
This was the first point where we had access to our drop bags, so we restocked our packs with food and water for the next section, ate some of our own supplies (gluten free sausage rolls!) as well as had more of the excellent soup and tea that was on offer. A few other runners traipsed in while we were there, all looking like they’d had a hard time in the wind. One was getting some serious bandaging done to a nasty-looking gash on his arm, not sure how he got that 😮 . Julie was sitting 3rd in the ladies ranking, less than an hour behind second place so was keen to keep moving. As mentioned earlier Iain had pretty sore feet, and they turned out to be pretty badly macerated from crossing all the boggy moorland above Grassington, not to mention a few becks. A quick change of socks seemed like the best plan and after a stop of about 20 minutes we headed back out onto the next section.
Askrigg – Winton (CP9 / 62mi)
Unfortunately, we headed out the wrong way 🤦♂️ Too busy eating to check the map, we carried on down the road we had approached the checkpoint on. Fortunately we’d only gone a few hundred metres when we realised our error, but this was our first (albiet minor) navigation error. Retracing our steps we headed off on the correct route which headed over more fields and minor roads, roughly paralleling the river all the way the hamlet of Sedbusk. Iain’s feet were a bit better thanks to the change of socks at the CP but running was becoming quite an effort, even though the terrain was relatively easy going. Concentrating on keeping up a reasonable pace, we missed a stile – again only a few metres detour, but errors were definitely starting to creep in. Dusk was starting to fall as we made the planned diversion through Hardraw (bypassing Hawes), making decent speed and no further navigational issues! By the time we reached VP7 our head torches were back on and darkness had really fallen as we left the road and headed back onto the fells, this time to face the steepest climb of the entire route – the mile long slog up Cotter End.
We could see the light of another runner about half a mile a head of us on the climb, which gave some motivation to keep striding up the grassy slope. Passing a couple of rocky outcrops (complete with in-situ lime kiln!) the path levelled out and the wind hit us head on again as we reached the “High Road”. This was relatively runnable, gradually downhill and even though it was only about 6 miles long, seemed to last forever. Based on our experience of the last two high sections we knew it would be cold and hard going, and had taken the approach of eating plenty before the climb with the aim of not having to slow down and fumble around with food when up in the full force of the wind. However, by the time we eventually got back down to the river we were both feeling decidedly low on fuel. Iain really started to struggle a bit at this point and what should have been fairly runnable terrain turned into a bit of a hike. We did manage to get some more food down as we made our way through a couple of farms and eventually back onto the road for the short out-and-back stretch to VP8 outside Pendragon Castle. At 10 miles in total, this section was the longest between vehicle points, and it felt it!
Down in the valley we were out of the worst of the wind again but Iain’s feet had got quite sore, and combined with the exertions of the last 50+ miles, we were reduced to walking pace for most of the next nondescript few miles to Kirkby Stephen. From there it was only about another mile of road before we arrived in Winton and the warm and welcoming lights of CP9. More soup, tea and restocking here, and as it was after 10pm and a long cold night was expected we put on an an extra layer. Iain took the time to inspect his feet, which were still very sore and macerated (pics at the bottom of the blog for those with a strong stomach). He had hoped to make another change of socks, but couldn’t find them in his drop bag. It turned out later than they were stuffed inside his spare shoes to save space! We decided the best approach was to try taping, and ended up wrapping his entire forefoot with KT tape while the socks dried on the radiator!
Winton – Kirkby Thore (CP12 / 82mi)
Leaving the CP, Iain commented that his feet felt as good as new so the KT tape solution seemed to be a good one, but his body had gone into shutdown and the rest of the night was going to be mainly walking. Julie was still feeling OK at this point (and was a bit frustrated at the slow pace, but didn’t show it – much)! Heading out of Winton we passed a police van waiting at the main crossroads – not sure if they were on the lookout for Cumbrian ne’er-do-wells, or just watching the strange procession of ‘runners’.
The next section to Chruch Brough proved to be quite navigationally challenging. After crossing fields to Kaber, we struggled to find the correct path onwards. Supposedly there was a plank bridge over the Popping Beck, but we couldn’t find it and eventually just jumped the river, climbed the first of several fences and got back on course. The route down to the bridge over the River Belah was also tricky as we missed a stile and again had to hop a fence, scramble down a banking, and make our way back on course before missing (yet again) a small ‘stile’ which was a tiny hole in a wall. Our GPS watch kept us from going too far off track, but it was demoralising and slowed progress even further. By now the clouds had cleared and we took a minute to turn off our lights, and letting our eyes adjust to the darkness we were able to see glow of the Milky Way stretching across the sky above us – a special moment! After following the River Belah for about a mile, and a short stretch of road, we once again got a bit lost bypassing Sowerby Park farm, and paralleling the intended route, but on the wrong side of a ditch and fence. After scrambling under and over, we got back on track and saw another runner ahead who seemed to be having even more trouble with the route approaching from a completely different angle! Reaching the main road and the relative civilisation of Church Brough, we were back on easier terrain and managed to get back on top of navigation for the rest of the route.
Our next challenge was when without warning, the battery on Iain’s watch died! The reason for this will be covered in a future gear review blog post. Fortunately, our progress so far was autosaved, and after hooking it up to a power bank we were able to restart recording and navigation within a few minutes, but it was frustrating nonetheless. As it was now past midnight, the temperature had dropped to nearly freezing and we had been mainly walking for several hours so we stopped briefly to put on all our extra layers, hats and an additional thick pair of gloves that we shared throughout the night. At least Storm Malik seemed to have blown itself out by now! Slowly we made our way past Flitholme, crossed the disused Eden Valley Railway, and before too long arrived at VP10 in Warcop. The lovely marshals here had hot tea on offer, which was gratefully received! They also let us know that a resident up ahead had complained about the noise of runners coming through their farmyard, so we should try to keep the noise down as much as possible.
From Warcop to Appleby-in-Westmorland, the route meandered along fields and back lanes. We were glad to have our new LEDLenser NEO10R head torch, which was powerful enough in beam mode to scan the fence line on the far side of each field to locate the stile so we were able to take mostly direct lines from stile to stile. The main point of interest was a mile or so of woodland right by the banks of the River Eden. The path was twisty, rooty and slippy, with a steep drop right down into the river on our right. Iain loves this kind of path, and led the way (for a change), but Julie was not happy with her footing and was worried at several points that she might slip into the river! We made it through unscathed and then made the short but steep climb up round the castle walls to VP11 at the top of the main street in Applebly, in front of the castle gates. Here we were advised that due to the aforementioned noise complaints there was a diversion up ahead.
Instead of following the official Lady Anne’s Way (which went straight through Far Broom farm), we were to stay on a tarmac road all the way to Long Marton. This didn’t make much difference distance-wise, but was much easier going. Passing quietly through Long Marton and another farmstead, before long the lights of Kirkby Thore could be seen ahead, and the welcome sight of the final indoor checkpoint! No drop bags at this one, so a relatively short stop here – time for more hot soup, warm up hats and gloves over the radiator and then back out on the road, for the final 15 or so miles to Penrith.
Kirkby Thore – Penrith (Finish)
Already 5am in the morning, our original aim of a 24 hour finish was long gone. We were both tired, and with the second placed lady now more than two hours ahead, Julie’s attention was focussed on keeping hold of third place. Between the last two checkpoints the gap behind had closed by 10 minutes, but we were still about three hours ahead. Julie was able to use this (and the fact we weren’t going fast enough to stay comfortably warm) as motivation to get Iain to run a few sections!
The next few miles outside Kirkby Thore were over fields to Ousenstand Bridge and the tussocky ground was hard going. Iain was starting to lose it and was hallucinating fences in the middle of empty space! After crossing the river, a short road section led into more interesting and varied paths on the estate behind Crossrigg Hall. The miles seemed to be simultaneously passing very slowly (they were – we barely averaging 20 min/mile at this point), and counting down quite rapidly. We couldn’t find the right way out of a field so decided to climb the wall over onto the road that took us towards Cliburn. Before long we were back off road again for the final few field crossings up towards the final vehicle point VP13 at the oddly named Street House. The going was a bit grim underfoot here as the fields were very waterlogged but with an inconsistent crust of ice over the top. The sky was lightening as we reached the vehicle point, and we would have been glad of the friendly face of a marshal but there was just a reflective jacket hanging on the gate and a water container. We didn’t need anything so headed off down the road.
The final stretch towards Penrith was quite challenging (and possible dangerous). We were able to pack away our head torches as it became fully light but both of us became aware we were starting to micro-sleep as we were walking. As the route was taking us along the narrow shoulder of the Wetheriggs road, fortunately there was not too much traffic at 7.30am on a Sunday morning, we may have been weaving a little! There were quite a few other runners in sight and we trudged along the road, which was a strange experience as typically near the end of such a long race the field is quite strung out and usually people’s competitive instincts kick in to make it a bit of a race to the finish. As it was, I think everyone must have suffered equally from the combination of wind, distance and cold and were all walking it in like a bunch of zombies! A couple of miles across more farmland took us out in front of Brougham Hall – we’d passed several other of Lady Anne’s castles through the night but hadn’t seen much in the dark. Before long we also passed Brougham Castle, under the A66 and up the hill into Penrith. It was now mid-morning, and we had a brief chat with a local runner out for their Sunday morning run who was incredulous to hear that we’d come all the way from Skipton!
Despite all the walking overnight, we had agreed we’d aim to run the last mile down into Penrith. In the end honour was satisfied as we ran about half a mile before the road took a turn uphill again. We did manage to run the last hundred metres around the corner and under the gateway into Penrith castle. There wasn’t much to see there and we weren’t quite sure where the finish was, until the finish line marshal spotted that we’d passed him and informed us that we’d in fact finished! 27 hours and 47 minutes for a total of just under 100 miles – 3rd place female finisher for Julie and joint 20th overall 😃
A short distance from the finish, the Wayfarer’s Hostel was set up receive us! We were well looked after with sausage sandwiches (including gluten free), hot drinks and lots of delicious cake. Having showers available was great, and if we’d had time we could have had a sleep in one of the bunks. As it was we had a couple of hours to sort ourselves out before being shuttle-bussed to the station for the train back to Skipton to pick up the car. Iain had been looking forward to the scenic journey on the famous Settle and Carlisle railway line, but as it was we were both fast asleep within minutes of sitting down!
Julie: Despite the added challenges caused by the weather and walking from relatively early on I really enjoyed this race and running with Iain. I will have to wait for my sub 24hr 100miles but am confident that I can achieve it! I was pleased that my feet held up pretty well, mainly thanks to my waterproof Geckowear Socks I had got for Christmas. It was unusual to be the runner with more in the tank as usually when I run with Iain I am the one keeping up – I do wonder if I could or should have tried harder to get him running again. I ended up incredibly cold by morning so would definitely pack an extra layer in my drop bag for overnight on winter races (I had 4 layers on my top half, fleece lined leggings, hat, gloves and knee length socks).
Iain: Looking back now on the race, I can’t help but feel I didn’t get the best out of myself on the day. Yes, the weather made the going tough, particularly in the first 50 miles but it was still disappointing to be reduced to walking so early on. My feet were sore, but changing socks and eventually binding them up with tape made it managable. There was nothing in particular that was stopping me from moving, but somehow I slumped into a total mental and physical shut down. I’m left wondering if had I tried harder after Winton to carb up and try and get back into a running rhythm (or even a regular run-walk), I might have found a second wind?
Still, some lessons learned – first of which is to look after my feet better. I’ve already invested in a pair of Gore-Tex shoes (which served me well in the past on previous boggy races such as the Fellsman in 2019). Secondly, I needed to find some motivation to keep pushing – knowing that I was nowhere near the front of the field, I was thinking about Julie’s placing (which was pretty much always a safe third), when if I had kept focussed on a 24 hour(ish) finish that might have kept me going.
I’m certain I could do better – and I’m planning to come back next year to prove it!
Julie: Unlike Iain I am happy with my 3rd place female finish and feel no need to go back and run it again, but I’ll be there to cheer him in at the finish line (no crews allowed on this race).
Finally, as promised there are some gross feet pics below. Scroll down… if you dare!