7 Valleys Ultra
Rich Lazenby

After what felt like a huge lead-up to race weekend, I stood on the start line of the 7 Valleys Ultra.
Some stats: 110km and nearly 4000m of ascent stood between me and the finish line.

I feel though, before I go any further, I should give you a bit of background to what led to this start line; it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Let’s go back to April, when I last stood on the start line of a big race The Northern Traverse. A huge race going from one side of the country at St Bees, to the other side at Robin Hoods Bay. My race was going really well until it wasn’t, at around 100 or so miles in, where I blew out my calf and ended up not being able to run for a good 5 weeks.

So, from the injury came the task of not only strengthening the leg but also getting back that fitness for long-distance trail running.

 

I haven’t really admitted it to many people, but that DNF really knocked my confidence. I don’t really know why but it left me feeling really quite insecure about my running. As I trained, and my fitness started to return, I still didn’t feel my usual, determined self. Then in late June, I managed to substantially roll my left ankle during a training run. I was still running well in training, but this once again slowed things down!

 

I also managed to roll my b****y ankle again on a shoot for OMM (obviously I blamed them)

Towards the end of July, I decided to get my head out of my a**e and get back on top of the sessions. A good chat with my coach and very good friend, Gary House and things were clicking again.

One small race that stood out for me during this next block was the Eyam Fell Race, not a super-long fell race but instead, a nice short, sharp one with some cracking climbs. Confidence wasn’t fully there as I started in the middle of the pack, which at this race meant I had at least 100+ runners in front of me, but as we left the road onto the bridleway and up the hill, my legs and confidence began to return. I was racing hard again, pushing with everything I had! Now, I didn’t win this race, not even close, but that isn’t the point; I ran hard with everything I had right ‘til the end and that felt great, that felt like me again.

This was late August which was great timing.

The rest of the training block up the 7 Valleys went great, and my confidence was building again.

A few weeks out from the race I got tendinitis in my lower left leg and in that same week, also managed to roll my b****y ankle again on a shoot for OMM (obviously I blamed them) so, with a week to go, I decided to not run at all to try and get everything settled.

As I climbed up towards Rossett, I felt strong but again didn’t do anything daft like try and run the whole climb, I’m not a hero

Back to the 7 Valleys start line (Sorry for waffling!)

My plan was to go out strong with the front pack, whatever pace that may be, then make my move as we came out of Langdale and up the first big climb of the day to Rossett Pike.

Off we went from the start in Ambleside. It was just gone 6am, so headtorches were on in full force as we glided through the winding lanes, I was out at the front with two local runners I know, Rowan Wood and Mark Bispham (both pretty handy) we were having a good natter and clicking off the kilometres pretty well but to my surprise, no one was really pushing the pace.

As we ran into the first checkpoint at Stickle Barn (around 10km in), I had a look to see what the front-pack was looking like. We were in a pack of 10 or so runners. Me and Mark left the checkpoint first with Rowan a few seconds behind us.

Mark said something funny about eating loads of food, then I began to start making a move up towards the first climb. Somewhere from here to the bottom of the first climb, I began to pull away from the rest of the pack. As I climbed up towards Rossett, I felt strong but again didn’t do anything daft like try and run the whole climb, I’m not a hero. But I was moving well. I didn’t look back too much but I’d say three quarters of the way up I heard the pounding of poles not too far back. Now, this climb’s no gut-puncher but still, it’s a 650m-ish slowish-going kinda climb, so when I looked back and saw this guy pounding up the rocks with his majestic poles, I was a little worried! By the time I’d crested the climb, this guy had fully caught me up; so we exchanged a few words and I pushed on.

As I went around Grasmere water, a photographer shouted “You're in first, with 18mins lead!”, my instant reaction was that’s not enough, I must have slowed more than I thought.

This section from Rossett Pike to Styhead Tarn is fast if you’re good on the slightly technical downhill bits, which normally I’m ok with, not great, but today I was floating down, picking top lines like I’d run this section a million times. Except I haven’t, but for whatever reason it was clicking. By the time I’d made the tarn, the other runner was gone; I’d left him. I carried on pushing this section, right down into Borrowdale. This is some absolutely top running and I made the most of it.

The next checkpoint was in Borrowdale, around 28km into the race. No one was around so I made the decision to just run straight through, knowing I could fill my bottles on the other side of the fell as I made the next big climb out of Borrowdale.

The next section of running to Grasmere was ace.

I dropped into Grasmere at around 45km, where I met my support Gary House, for the first time. quick bottle and food change and I was gone on my way back to Ambleside (halfway). I knew from the fact I’d not seen anyone when looking back in the high fells, I’d created a nice lead. As I went around Grasmere water, a photographer shouted “You’re in first, with 18mins lead!”, my instant reaction was that’s not enough, I must have slowed more than I thought. The section to Ambleside at 53km in, felt a little tough.

As I flew back down the hill, I saw Alex Staniforth in 2nd...I gave him a high five and blasted on past him, with Glenridding in my sights.

I saw Gary again here, this is where he suddenly strapped another watch on my arm explaining the course had changed due to bad weather. I didn’t really give it too much thought as he said it would be marked too.

As I left Ambleside and got back onto the trails, I decided to make a quick call to my wife Lisa, I asked her to check the tracking to see what my lead was and to complain too, obviously. She said they were only 15 or so minutes back and gaining! “No worries I’m not worried (except I was worried). I’ll get motoring on”, and that’s what I did. Barring a bit of cramp, this section to Hartsop went well.

This is where I met Gary again, another quick change of bottles and some food and I was off up to the Hayeswater Gill to the filter house. This was a long out and back, up some very nice runnable hill and I ran the whole thing (at around 70km in). As I flew back down the hill, I saw Alex Staniforth in 2nd. He was now a fair bit behind me, I gave him a high five and blasted on past him, with Glenridding in my sights.

I’d not really noticed the weather, but it was pretty bad. I was absolutely soaked, but with a lightweight vest and tee on I was fine, especially as it was so mild, and I was moving well. I was also wearing some compression sleeves on my arms which were great.

The descent off Stybeck was b****y tough! spent more time on my a**e than on my feet! God it was wet.

I seemed to get to Glenridding in no time; another quick pitstop with Gary and I was pounding my way up towards Sticks Pass, another BIG long climb. Gary had asked how my hiking legs were before I left him, I said I’ve got plenty of powerhiking left in them but I actually surprised myself and spent most of that long 800m-ish climb run/hiking!

The descent off Stybeck was b****y tough! Spent more time on my a**e than on my feet! God it was wet.

Once down I saw Gary again. Same as before; super-quick bottle and food changeover and off over the very runnable short section to Threlkeld.

This section went very well, I was moving like I was just out on a training run and now with 90km in the legs, I was super happy. As I came from under the road bridge into Threlkeld, I could see 3 people up ahead, they started shouting “Come on, stop walking…run!”. I’d just ran that whole last section, b****y Gary and 2 of his friends had just caught me on the only bit I was slacking on!

Gary changed my bottles over again for the last 15k push to Keswick

As I ran up the hill into Threlkeld, I got an amazing surprise; there on his mountain bike, was my very good friend Luke Ham. Now, Luke was supposed to be running this race but an injury had forced him to pull-out last minute. He had, however, taken the time over the few weeks prior to the race to go through every trail and hill and road in this race with me, because he’d spent a lot of time reccing it.

If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been as confident on certain sections of the race as I was. He’s honestly a diamond of a bloke!

I’d never run any of this horseshoe section before, from Threlkeld to Keswick, so I don’t really know what any of it’s called, all I can say is this is the section I truly believed I’d won this race.

Anyway, seeing him at 96km gave me an almighty boost, I’d never run any of this horseshoe section before, from Threlkeld to Keswick, so I don’t really know what any of it’s called, all I can say is this is the section I truly believed I’d won this race.

I seemed to fly around most of it with ease, passing lots of runners from the 50km 5 Valleys Ultra. I always made sure to cheer them on too, they’d done a great job! Runners just inspire me, and I just love seeing them out getting tough stuff done!

At the end of this section, you link onto the start of the Bob Graham route, from here it’s just the best little run back through Keswick to the finish by the lakeside.

I’d done it, my first ultra race win!
I was buzzing! What a trip, what an adventure!
The winning time for that day was 13 hours and 1 minute!

Not the time I wanted but who cares, I won.

Thanks to 13 Valleys for putting on a fantastic race and a huge well done to everyone who got the job done over the weekend.

KIT LIST:
Nitro Singlet
Nitro Tee
Flash Tight 0.5
Core Hoodie
Halo Smock
Fusion Gloves
Core Beanie 
MtnFire 15 Vest
Våga Cap
North Face Vectiv Infinite III
2 x 500ml Soft Flasks

You can see Richard’s Tattoo work here

After what felt like a huge lead-up to race weekend, I stood on the start line of the 7 Valleys Ultra.
Some stats: 110km and nearly 4000m of ascent stood between me and the finish line.

I feel though, before I go any further, I should give you a bit of background to what led to this start line; it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Let’s go back to April, when I last stood on the start line of a big race The Northern Traverse. A huge race going from one side of the country at St Bees, to the other side at Robin Hoods Bay. My race was going really well until it wasn’t, at around 100 or so miles in, where I blew out my calf and ended up not being able to run for a good 5 weeks.

So, from the injury came the task of not only strengthening the leg but also getting back that fitness for long-distance trail running.

 

I haven’t really admitted it to many people, but that DNF really knocked my confidence. I don’t really know why but it left me feeling really quite insecure about my running. As I trained, and my fitness started to return, I still didn’t feel my usual, determined self. Then in late June, I managed to substantially roll my left ankle during a training run. I was still running well in training, but this once again slowed things down!

 

I also managed to roll my b****y ankle again on a shoot for OMM (obviously I blamed them)

Towards the end of July, I decided to get my head out of my a**e and get back on top of the sessions. A good chat with my coach and very good friend, Gary House and things were clicking again.

One small race that stood out for me during this next block was the Eyam Fell Race, not a super-long fell race but instead, a nice short, sharp one with some cracking climbs. Confidence wasn’t fully there as I started in the middle of the pack, which at this race meant I had at least 100+ runners in front of me, but as we left the road onto the bridleway and up the hill, my legs and confidence began to return. I was racing hard again, pushing with everything I had! Now, I didn’t win this race, not even close, but that isn’t the point; I ran hard with everything I had right ‘til the end and that felt great, that felt like me again.

This was late August which was great timing.

The rest of the training block up the 7 Valleys went great, and my confidence was building again.

A few weeks out from the race I got tendinitis in my lower left leg and in that same week, also managed to roll my b****y ankle again on a shoot for OMM (obviously I blamed them) so, with a week to go, I decided to not run at all to try and get everything settled.

As I climbed up towards Rossett, I felt strong but again didn’t do anything daft like try and run the whole climb, I’m not a hero

Back to the 7 Valleys start line (Sorry for waffling!)

My plan was to go out strong with the front pack, whatever pace that may be, then make my move as we came out of Langdale and up the first big climb of the day to Rossett Pike.

Off we went from the start in Ambleside. It was just gone 6am, so headtorches were on in full force as we glided through the winding lanes, I was out at the front with two local runners I know, Rowan Wood and Mark Bispham (both pretty handy) we were having a good natter and clicking off the kilometres pretty well but to my surprise, no one was really pushing the pace.

As we ran into the first checkpoint at Stickle Barn (around 10km in), I had a look to see what the front-pack was looking like. We were in a pack of 10 or so runners. Me and Mark left the checkpoint first with Rowan a few seconds behind us.

Mark said something funny about eating loads of food, then I began to start making a move up towards the first climb. Somewhere from here to the bottom of the first climb, I began to pull away from the rest of the pack. As I climbed up towards Rossett, I felt strong but again didn’t do anything daft like try and run the whole climb, I’m not a hero. But I was moving well. I didn’t look back too much but I’d say three quarters of the way up I heard the pounding of poles not too far back. Now, this climb’s no gut-puncher but still, it’s a 650m-ish slowish-going kinda climb, so when I looked back and saw this guy pounding up the rocks with his majestic poles, I was a little worried! By the time I’d crested the climb, this guy had fully caught me up; so we exchanged a few words and I pushed on.

As I went around Grasmere water, a photographer shouted “You're in first, with 18mins lead!”, my instant reaction was that’s not enough, I must have slowed more than I thought.

This section from Rossett Pike to Styhead Tarn is fast if you’re good on the slightly technical downhill bits, which normally I’m ok with, not great, but today I was floating down, picking top lines like I’d run this section a million times. Except I haven’t, but for whatever reason it was clicking. By the time I’d made the tarn, the other runner was gone; I’d left him. I carried on pushing this section, right down into Borrowdale. This is some absolutely top running and I made the most of it.

The next checkpoint was in Borrowdale, around 28km into the race. No one was around so I made the decision to just run straight through, knowing I could fill my bottles on the other side of the fell as I made the next big climb out of Borrowdale.

The next section of running to Grasmere was ace.

I dropped into Grasmere at around 45km, where I met my support Gary House, for the first time. quick bottle and food change and I was gone on my way back to Ambleside (halfway). I knew from the fact I’d not seen anyone when looking back in the high fells, I’d created a nice lead. As I went around Grasmere water, a photographer shouted “You’re in first, with 18mins lead!”, my instant reaction was that’s not enough, I must have slowed more than I thought. The section to Ambleside at 53km in, felt a little tough.

As I flew back down the hill, I saw Alex Staniforth in 2nd...I gave him a high five and blasted on past him, with Glenridding in my sights.

I saw Gary again here, this is where he suddenly strapped another watch on my arm explaining the course had changed due to bad weather. I didn’t really give it too much thought as he said it would be marked too.

As I left Ambleside and got back onto the trails, I decided to make a quick call to my wife Lisa, I asked her to check the tracking to see what my lead was and to complain too, obviously. She said they were only 15 or so minutes back and gaining! “No worries I’m not worried (except I was worried). I’ll get motoring on”, and that’s what I did. Barring a bit of cramp, this section to Hartsop went well.

This is where I met Gary again, another quick change of bottles and some food and I was off up to the Hayeswater Gill to the filter house. This was a long out and back, up some very nice runnable hill and I ran the whole thing (at around 70km in). As I flew back down the hill, I saw Alex Staniforth in 2nd. He was now a fair bit behind me, I gave him a high five and blasted on past him, with Glenridding in my sights.

I’d not really noticed the weather, but it was pretty bad. I was absolutely soaked, but with a lightweight vest and tee on I was fine, especially as it was so mild, and I was moving well. I was also wearing some compression sleeves on my arms which were great.

The descent off Stybeck was b****y tough! spent more time on my a**e than on my feet! God it was wet.

I seemed to get to Glenridding in no time; another quick pitstop with Gary and I was pounding my way up towards Sticks Pass, another BIG long climb. Gary had asked how my hiking legs were before I left him, I said I’ve got plenty of powerhiking left in them but I actually surprised myself and spent most of that long 800m-ish climb run/hiking!

The descent off Stybeck was b****y tough! Spent more time on my a**e than on my feet! God it was wet.

Once down I saw Gary again. Same as before; super-quick bottle and food changeover and off over the very runnable short section to Threlkeld.

This section went very well, I was moving like I was just out on a training run and now with 90km in the legs, I was super happy. As I came from under the road bridge into Threlkeld, I could see 3 people up ahead, they started shouting “Come on, stop walking…run!”. I’d just ran that whole last section, b****y Gary and 2 of his friends had just caught me on the only bit I was slacking on!

Gary changed my bottles over again for the last 15k push to Keswick

As I ran up the hill into Threlkeld, I got an amazing surprise; there on his mountain bike, was my very good friend Luke Ham. Now, Luke was supposed to be running this race but an injury had forced him to pull-out last minute. He had, however, taken the time over the few weeks prior to the race to go through every trail and hill and road in this race with me, because he’d spent a lot of time reccing it.

If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been as confident on certain sections of the race as I was. He’s honestly a diamond of a bloke!

I’d never run any of this horseshoe section before, from Threlkeld to Keswick, so I don’t really know what any of it’s called, all I can say is this is the section I truly believed I’d won this race.

Anyway, seeing him at 96km gave me an almighty boost, I’d never run any of this horseshoe section before, from Threlkeld to Keswick, so I don’t really know what any of it’s called, all I can say is this is the section I truly believed I’d won this race.

I seemed to fly around most of it with ease, passing lots of runners from the 50km 5 Valleys Ultra. I always made sure to cheer them on too, they’d done a great job! Runners just inspire me, and I just love seeing them out getting tough stuff done!

At the end of this section, you link onto the start of the Bob Graham route, from here it’s just the best little run back through Keswick to the finish by the lakeside.

I’d done it, my first ultra race win!
I was buzzing! What a trip, what an adventure!
The winning time for that day was 13 hours and 1 minute!

Not the time I wanted but who cares, I won.

Thanks to 13 Valleys for putting on a fantastic race and a huge well done to everyone who got the job done over the weekend.

KIT LIST:
Nitro Singlet
Nitro Tee
Flash Tight 0.5
Core Hoodie
Halo Smock
Fusion Gloves
Core Beanie 
MtnFire 15 Vest
Våga Cap
North Face Vectiv Infinite III
2 x 500ml Soft Flasks

You can see Richard’s Tattoo work here

Richard is a well-established tattoo artist and super keen ultra trail and mountain runner from Sheffield. If he’s not in his studio tattooing or at home with his family, you’ll more than likely find him out running the beautiful trails and hills of the Peak District or on some crazy running adventure. Rich hopes to keep pushing his limits in the future to see what’s possible for him and above all he always does his best.
Richard is a well-established tattoo artist and super keen ultra trail and mountain runner from Sheffield. If he’s not in his studio tattooing or at home with his family, you’ll more than likely find him out running the beautiful trails and hills of the Peak District or on some crazy running adventure. Rich hopes to keep pushing his limits in the future to see what’s possible for him and above all he always does his best.

If you have a story to tell, whether it’s from the OMM, another race or challenge or just how you use our kit, get in touch! Just pop an email to james@team-ark.com and who knows, you might just earn yourself some free kit!

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