Jayson Cavill’s Montane Lakeland 50 2016

Almost five months ago, the Montane Lakeland 100 & 50 ultra races were beginning in the Lake District. #TeamMontane’s Jayson Cavill repeated his 2015 performance to cross the ML50 finish line in 1st position.

And while there’s no doubt that he’s a speedy runner, he’s not so quick at writing – here’s his newly finished ML50 race report to take you back to the July sunshine.

I can’t remember when I made the decision to return to Coniston in 2016 and take part in the Lakeland 50 race for the second year in a row, in fact I don’t really think it took very much thinking about. I just went with the feeling of excitement it gave me and stuck it firmly in the race calendar. To be fair I did have a pretty good experience the year before not just with all of my favourite running friends but I also somehow managed to bring home a very nice trophy. I think I was in so much disbelief that I wanted to go back and do it again, just to make sure I could!

The whole weekend feels very much like a festival and gathering of UK Ultra runners, though the 100 mile competitors may disagree having to set off at 6pm on Friday evening. It’s great watching them at the start heading off into the night for a starry adventure! We (the 50 mile competitors) then head off for a nice meal, chill out, chat, sleep and leisurely start at 11.30 on Saturday morning!


Soaking up the atmosphere the day before the ML50 starts. Image courtesy of Anthony Bethell

Saturday morning, we were soon gathered at the start in Dalemain. It was perfect weather being overcast and not too warm, and the place was already a buzz from cheering through the 100 mile competitors who at this point had already been running for 17+ hours! I found the atmosphere really uplifting which helped with my usual pre-race nerves, soaking in the positivity and trying to stay relaxed. It was great to see so many friends again and at the end of the day we were all in the same boat – we had to get from here back to Coniston before 11.30 on Sunday morning: simple.

My preparation for this had been mixed with good and bad, learning so much from last year but also having a very different lifestyle now. I felt really strong and had put in some serious graft in the weeks and months leading up to this, with some balls out, eyes bleeding hill and track sessions plus long hard runs every week – maybe overdoing things slightly as two weeks before I felt completely knackered and was sick of training! Time to taper I guess! If you want my training plan for the 8 weeks leading up to it go here (I warn you now, there was a 6 month lead up to that though!)

I had a pretty vague plan in mind, reinforced by Mark Laithwaite’s inspirational race briefing, encouraging us all to throw our watches away and just run for the hell of it! For me my plan was fairly simple; not getting carried away with anyone else’s race in the first half and hold back within myself, then getting my head down later on and start to pull in anyone in front. As long as I went faster than last years time of 8:04 that would be great!

Off we trotted around the start loop and it felt like a bit of a parade and prologue to what was coming and there seemed a good friendly group forming. Heading out towards Troutbeck and Andrew Horrobin had put a bit of distance on our little group consisting of myself, Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn, and Matthew John. I felt really easy and happy to let the group dictate the pace and was enjoying the long sweeping descent down into Howtown for some cowboy action from Tim Taylor and the team there, taking advantage of some extra Chia Charge flapjacks! (I wasn’t seeing things, each checkpoint is themed and Howtown is Cowboy town!).


Cowboy checkpoint theme at Howtown

The long climb up Fusedale felt good and we soon reeled in Andrew, now starting to spread out a bit ourselves. By the time we reached the top myself and Casper were out a bit ahead, extending this gradually as we went down towards Haweswater. I really enjoy this section, nice and grassy with a sweeping speedy descent. Casper and I were running well together along here staying nice and smooth and I found myself talking much more than I usually do in these events! Sorry Casper!  I think the section along Haweswater is one of the toughest; with rolling ups and downs and fairly rough underfoot it can do some damage if you are pushing a bit too hard. This is where I started to cramp up last year so it was great to bounce along here quite nicely without having to duck into every stream to soak my legs while being careful not to whack my head off the low branch that has probably claimed a few victims!

We were soon heading out up Mardale head about 3 hours in now and I was glad of a bit of a walk up here and the chance to get some fluids and solid food down. Leading up to the race I had had a bit of a dodgy stomach (I think I ate something that didn’t want to be eaten) so had been feeling a bit nauseous for the week leading in. It just meant I had to eat more carefully and chew my food rather than shovel it down! This seemed to be my limiting “feeling” throughout the day, just odd waves of nausea but keeping it real with flap jack and other bits and pieces certainly seemed to help so as soon as I felt ok again I would get something else in followed by lots of fluid and electrolytes.


Heading into the Kentmere CP. Image courtesy of Jen Scotney

Still keeping good company with Casper, the 20 minute climb up Mardale was soon behind us and we flowed nicely along soon hitting the Montane staffed checkpoint in Kentmere. I think of this as halfway (actually at 26 ish miles so is just over halfway, but it’s all downhill from there right?!) I quickly got topped up thanks to the guys there and although there were lots of very nice looking things to get stuck into, I settled for a banana and hot footed it out with Casper.

The next section is a very loose rocky climb up to Garburn pass and then a long fast descent down to Troutbeck – pretty much one of my favourite sections with lots of rocks and a fast downhill with a few rough sections to blast over. Casper started struggling up here with cramp being his main issue, a pretty frustrating feeling I can certainly empathise with. We soon hit the pass and were greeted with an awesome cheer from Garry Scott and Casper`s fiancée Katie Boden (2nd place in last years LL100) who were out cheering people on. I still got a hug from Katie (last year it was in the Kentmere checkpoint! when she was running the 100!) This spurred us on and I quickly found my legs on the descent. Casper was still struggling a bit with the cramp so I started to creep out a bit of a gap and by the bottom I was feeling great and had a bit a space now. Coming up a short steep hill into Troutbeck I saw Kim. She was sat on a bench under a  tree drinking ginger ale and chatting away to someone. As soon as she saw me, she leapt up with the brightest smile and loveliest look in her eyes – funny how these things stick in your mind. I have no idea what we said to each other at this point but I think it was maybe a bit more positive than the picture by Anne Brown suggests!


Image courtesy of Anne Brown


Stay focused

Being in the lead is of course a great place to be, however you have no idea how far behind you anyone is or how they are feeling. It is also very easy to switch off and become complacent – then before you know it you forgot to eat anything/get cramp or take a wrong turn, then someone behind you gets on a charge and passes you while you lose the plot, leaving you to have to work even harder to make it back up! With this in mind I reminded myself of the need to stay sharp, not push too hard and risk blowing up but also keep moving at a good pace – there was still 3 or so hours of running to go. Although I had some splits written on my watch I hadn’t really paid too much attention to them, my main goal now was holding onto the lead. I had a quick look at them after each checkpoint which helped me know if I was dropping off or going well, but that was as much attention as I was paying to them at this stage.

I got in a good groove now and turned some tunes on, just leaving the headphones in the top pocket of my pack but turned right up allowing me to hear the music more as a background noise in addition to still being sociable when passing other 100 mile runners and offering words of encouragement. It wasn’t time for full music immersion just yet!

I passed though Ambleside pretty happy, it was starting to warm up a bit with lots of people out and about. Knowing I would get my bottles topped up, I squeezed out the remaining fluid over my legs to give them a bit of coolness. I am not sure if a few people thought I was weeing myself though as I received a few interesting looks which was amusing (I have not actually managed to wee while running before and have tried – though not in a town!)

There is a fairly flat section before the next checkpoint at Chapel Style and probably my least favourite: it seems to bring out any tightness in the legs and can become a bit of a slog, though seeing second time 100 mile runner Jamie Hauxwell along here was great. He started running along next to me chatting away– which made me wonder if I had started to slow down quite a lot (he had already done 80 odd miles!) Thankfully (for me) he said he would see me later as needed to slow down! I passed him last year coming into Ambleside so nice to see he had got quite a chunk further this time! (One to watch in the future definitely).

I clocked on a bit to get the flat stuff out of the way and coming into Chapel Style I felt a bit weary for the first time. Whilst topping up with fluid, the checkpoint guys asked if I wanted some soup. My first thought was no way I needed to crack on, then something at the back of my mind said to me it may be a good idea. There was still a good chunk of race to go so I meandered out of the checkpoint, bowl of nice thick stoup and spoon in hand – it went down an absolute treat and was well worth taking the few minutes of walking to get it in.

Fuelled up, it was time to take on the last 8 or so miles, another section of really great trail and track with a few technical bits thrown in. I knew from here I had about an hour and a half to go. I was feeling ok and had no one in sight behind me going up towards Side Pike pass – which meant I was at least 6 or so minutes ahead of anyone else.

Time to go for full immersion banging tunes time! On came Swedish House Mafia’s Until One album and I slipped into my own little world of joy at running swiftly over whatever trail lay before me. Any pain or suffering was embraced and accepted as necessary, cranking things up and enjoying the fact that I was there in the moment, 40 odd miles into a race, winning, feeling good and able to do what I loved.


Coming onto a section of road just before the last checkpoint at Tilberthwaite, I looked up to see a couple of lambs in the road, then noticed a farmer behind them on a quad bike. The lambs stopped to look at me and the farmer started shouting at me. Deep in my own world, it took a second to realise he was trying to usher them in the opposite direction to me. Before I knew it he was getting off his quad giving me some real verbal crap and asking me “what I was going to do now?” He looked very much like he was going to punch me, so me telling him that “what I wanted to do now was carry on running to Coniston” wasn’t the answer he was looking for. I stopped, apologised profusely for whatever he thought I had done to his lambs (who had quite happily sauntered past me ages ago) and then legged it past him, putting the quite bizarre moment out of my head as quickly as possible!

Into Tilberthwaite and greeted by the checkpoint with a very welcome piece of watermelon – lush! The last 4 miles beckoned which consists of a very steep climb then into a gradual climb with lots of rocks and roughness ready to batter any tender feet even harder, then a very rough and steep descent onto a track and downhill finish to Coniston. Not a long section but one of the hardest of the route. This was the first time I checked my splits and paid any real attention to what they meant as far as a finish time – 7 hours 3 minutes had passed – I knew Ben Abdelnoor’s course record was 7:39 because it is written on the trophy I had had at home all year. Could I do the last section in 36 minutes? Well there was only one way to find out! Time to go into full immersion and crank up the pain cave!

After 46 miles of trying to stay smooth, keep a relaxed pace, think about food, think about hydration, all these things to remember and not blow myself to pieces by going to hard, it felt like someone had opened up the emergency release vale when I said lets “go for it”. Obviously you are never quite as springy as you think you are but in my mind it was all coming out, there and then! I dug in and kept pushing, running as much of the climb as I could do. Towards the top I was starting to fade, then saw the beaming smile of Debbie Martin Consani and her son Cairn which gave me another huge boost and I powered on running to the top of the beautiful final descent into Coniston.


Image courtesy of Debbie Martin-Consani

With 2 miles to go from here, I had a quick time check at the top. I only had something like 11 minutes to get to the finish. Knowing how rough and steep the top of the descent was, I reigned in the excitement and focused on getting down in one piece before letting it all hang out in the final road stretch to the finish. There are just some times in your life when you can give it absolutely everything you have, it all just works, together, in sync and this was one of those days. Belting through the town, it was total pleasure and pain rolled into one huge feeling of incredible intensity and then complete and overwhelming relief as I crossed the finish line, done!

Finish time of 7:38, only a minute faster than Ben`s incredible time of 7:39, and to be fair to Ben he didn’t have a time near his to beat, so a minute faster isn’t all that amazing, but it is still a minute so I will take it! Also, it’s always nice to finish a race on your fastest m/mile pace too! (6:12)

It was fantastic to see Casper come in only 12 minutes behind me – a bit of a surprise to some but he had put some hard work into preparing for this and I think this was only the 4th ever fastest time so an incredible performance from a cyclist! Congratulations to Matthew I think this was his first ultra and a really strong time of 8:01 as well.

The ladies race was pretty close in the end to with Sabrina Verjee just getting under the magic 9 hours with 8:54 and Charmaine Horsfall not far behind in 9:04 and Jess Gray in 9:26. A few years ago all of these times would have been in the top spot so really exciting to see how much stronger the field is. Next year could be exciting too with Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn (newly married to Casper) and Kim Cavill (newly married to me!) toeing the Lakeland 50 start line -in addition to a few other very strong runners I am sure!

The rest of the weekend was obviously very enjoyable. Watching all of the other amazing competitors finishing, seeing the looks of joy, relief and sheer amazement on the faces of some as they are welcomed into the finishing hall is great. Then the weekend was topped off by another very entertaining presentation and talk from the one and only Mark Laithwaite, and just to highlight how much of an amazing community and atmosphere there is Mark went down on one knee to propose to his lovely partner Natasha: she even said yes! Congratulations guys!

A huge thank you to the sponsors both for the event and for me – Montane – an absolute pleasure to have the support from these guys; Mark and the Endurance Store team and all of the amazing helpers, supporters and checkpoint staff for taking care of us all, often out for very long days themselves. I think this is certainly something that makes this event so special and the checkpoints so entertaining!!

Obviously some time has passed since then and thoughts are onto next years calendar: will I be back for the LL50? It is a pretty firm no thank you for me, and that is in a really good way to be honest. I don’t think I will ever top that day in that event. I want to keep it for what it is and next year I am looking forward to new challenges. I want to push things further now and after some more experience running hard and feeling good for 15+ hours I think it is time for me to step up to the big one! Yes the Lakeland mile against Mr Fox!


This report is also available to read on Jayson’s website

Read more about Jayson here

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