The OMM 2019

IMG_7306

After last year’s foray into the world of The OMM, a mythical land that is inhabited by the beardy weirdies (or so I thought), I returned, wiser and ready to take on the Long Score.  I was accompanied by the nemesis of my early naval career, a physical trainer renowned for his killer sessions.  I say that – they were tough in the moment but as they were well prepared they did no lasting damage unlike some of the crap gym body pump sessions I’ve tried recently and been unable to move after.  I had made this my A race and got some good training behind me.  I didn’t lose as much weight as I would have liked, I didn’t pack as light as I would have liked but we were determined and had our plans in place.  

We were lucky to drive up from the South and register on Friday arriving at around 2000.  Traffic was really bad with the torrential rain causing havoc to northbound commuters.  Registration was easy, we weren’t lured by the tempting offers in the OMM shop (and I’d already pre-ordered my goodies for which I was grateful – the OMM tee which I didn’t get (a long sleeve tech shirt) looked well designed).  

We stayed in a B&B (Victoria Cottage) down the road in Saltcoats.  We checked and sorted our kit and got a very comfortable sleep followed by an excellent breakfast!  We left early enough (just) with our bellies full of Scottish breakie – not sure that’s a recommended fuelling strategy!

The OMM is an iconic event which started in 1968  and I highlight here (we may have not had as many paths as in the video).  It is the ultimate mountain challenge combining fitness, navigation, hill skills and camp craft with resilience.  Do you carry more to suffer less?  

We had a 2 mile walk up hill to the start – an interesting way to ease into the day ahead.  We arrived on time for our slot, checked our laces and queued up to leave.  At a minute to go we were given our map – we had a quick planning session although we knew there was only one path heading up towards the first control.  We found it fairly easily although there a was steady trail of people heading towards it.  It also helped get my eye in, despite running lots of days on Harveys 1:40k maps I wasn’t fully comfortable with the scale all weekend as I’d been on 1:10k more recently.  

IMG_7305

The first hour or so went really well, finding the controls easily and the terrain was quite runnable.  I had hoped we could do 12min/km as this was my Dragon’s Back pace and is very similar to Bob Graham pace.  While we did this for a little while the terrain soon became boggier, hillier, and rougher.  Tussocks, babies’ heads, scratchy rough heather, waist deep holes in the peat, streams, and sphagnum moss all got worse with every step deeper into the Muirshiel country park and we slowed towards 4Km/hr (15min/km).  We moved well with purpose all day.

I made one stupid navigation error which cost us around 20 minutes I think.  It was so refreshing to be ‘out there’ without GPS and when we drifted off course, contouring towards a mirror feature, I relocated first time.  I was disappointed with this mistake as I knew we were drifting with map and compass not tying in but couldn’t work it out until it was too late.  

IMG_7284

Not my photos – found in the OMM photos folder.

We recovered from that error and mopped up as many points as we could and got to the overnight campsite finish in the North of the Muirshiel park just as it started raining.  

I will at some point have a look at our tactics and strategy compared to the pros.  There is a certain amount that is down to fitness and strength but could we have made more points for our fitness?  To give you an idea of how tough it was here’s Tim Wiggins’ blog from the ‘A’ Course which is similar in length to the distance we covered in the long score except it is linear rather than time based and if you miss a control you are disqualified meaning long days are very possible.  The score courses have a fixed time limit in which to collect as many points as you can with more for the ones that are further away or maybe it’s a trap!  The good thing about the score course is that you get to camp with the points you have when you get there whereas the linear courses can result in a long cold day or a DQ.

IMG_7283

We’d actually had a very pleasant day in the hills, I ran in a base layer and tights.  We moved well.  As we arrived it started to rain.  I ran through it until checked in (6:53 – 7hr time limit) and then got warm kit on.  We got the tent up and got our admin together.  I am grateful to Sean for his water ferrying and admin.  With a very small 500g tent (Nordisk Lofoten 2 ULW) there isn’t much room.  I had done the initial cooking and proceeded to get into the tent to stay as dry as possible and warm.  Sean followed slightly after but was getting cold – I had too undo his laces.  Soon enough we were tucked in and fed.  It was soon dark.  The OMM camp is something to be endured.  Last year I was in the Nordisk Telemark 2 which was slightly larger and fit my Alpkit Numo mat.  The mat didn’t quite fit my tent and so I was forced to use the back pad of the OMM backpack.  We were in bed by 1730 and up at 0700 with an hour clock change.  It’s a long time to be uncomfortable over 14 hours.  The wind increased, it rained far more than the expected showers and condensation soaked the inside of the tent.  The outside of my bag was wet, the wind dripped cold condensation onto my face through the head hole in my sleeping bag.  Yet inside my bag I was and dry.  I was not comfortable!  It was cramped; my knees, ankles and hips ached.  The dawn chorus roused us at 0600, Jon Whilock (legend from the Dragon’s Back) on the bagpipes gave us a traditional Scottish wake up call.  We also heard someone get wished happy birthday!  I lay nursing my bladder until 0700 when we sprung into action, stove on, wet shoes on, and a trip to the loo.  All fuelled and packed up we walked the 15 min to the start just as the heavens opened.

IMG_7282

We started with our gore-tex on and headed uphill.  Soon the weather improved and we stripped off although our battle with the bog continued.  We made another silly mistake (which is almost undetectable on RouteGadget) but it didn’t cost us much time as we just changed plans but wasn’t optimum.  When we reached the paths to cross the road we showed our fitness and bashed out some fast Kms.  We had a quick skirmish around the southern area to use our time up.  Once more we timed our arrival well arriving just before our 6hr day 2 time limit including a 6:40 last mile!  

We were given hot squash, a tandoori wrap and some tea to devour sat alongside fellow competitors and mountain warriors.  What an adventure!  It was two of the hardest days in the hills I’ve ever had.  Thoroughly enjoyable but bloody tough.  

IMG_7281

After a comfortable sleep fuelled on by a chip supper we made our way back home.  By Tuesday my foot was hurting and I went to the doctor on Thu.  A month off is the sentence.  A shame as I was looking forward to taking training up a gear.  It’s long enough from any A races though that I can just concentrate on not rushing back and recovering properly.  For the past 4 weeks I’d worked with Jason Battle at http://www.performancecoaching.me  I’d never considered a coach and the interaction I had, with targeted training plans would make me consider it on my return subject to financial approval (it isn’t cheap).  I could see real improvements in the way I was training but the downside is that you still have to do the training yourself!

O-rain-teering – Ashridge

Treating you lucky people this week with another blog.  Or at least treating my MacBook.  Busy week at work and a failure to do morning sessions meant I had to tough out evening sessions which are not my preference.  Tuesday’s intervals were late and felt sluggish as my load has been fairly high – trust the process.  Wednesday I decided to pop down to the club for the club run.  It was quite an uneven pace with road crossings.  I will join the trail team next week I think and there’s a talk on from the clubs Commonwealth athlete.  Helped me get it done.  My left hamstring was starting to feel tight behind my knee so I took it easy.  Getting back late from work on Thursday and feeling like I needed to rest I didn’t do the bike session.  Friday was a 1500m swim which had some sprints.  I still don’t enjoy swimming but it’s good aerobic exercise but I can’t judge my pace.  I hit the gym for my circuit on Friday PM.  Note to self: the dreadmill goes up to 18%.  On Saturday I left my run until the evening while Andrew was on a Cub activity night in the woods.  Hill reps in the rain.  Great training, still warm though so wasn’t too tough to get out the door but it was dark and raining.  Sunday, another orienteering event.  I DNF’d at Ashridge last year, I was tired and borderline ill (post-OMM I think). IMG_7134

Today went much better – my fear of spider-like path junctions is almost conquered.  I slowed down and it went better.  I had a good second half.  Still made mistakes but also made progress.  I could have saved time wearing a cap – it rained far more than I expected which as a bespectacled gent means I was basically running half blind!  I mean once I was 10m away from a kite and staring at it and couldn’t see it!  Some interesting inny contours (looks like a hill but is actually a bowl! I taped laces and wore the iNov8 gaiters but maybe I should have tightened laces a bit more.  Onwards to the OMM!

IMG_7126

To err human, to oriente-err divine?

IMG_7092 3I’ve not written much for a while and been quietly ticking along, trying to focus on quality training despite having a much fitter partner for the OMM which is coming up very soon.  So after being offered a month’s free coaching via twitter I’ve just finished week 2 of that and what a difference.  I’ve found it refreshing to not have to think about what to do and also where I’ve been nervous to push I’ve got myself into a slow running fug.  Mile after slow mile.

“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.” Emil Zatopek

IMG_7083

Over the last two weeks I’ve noticed an amazing difference.  Weight has started to drop and tone develop.  Having someone tracking my calorie intake and sessions has kept me honest (enough). Even my easy run pace has sped up.  After a few testing sessions to set HR/Pwr zones intervals and aerobic steady runs have replaced slow and easy pace runs.  I don’t even know how far I’ve run the last few weeks.

I had to google deadlifts and other leg weight machines will help strengthen my legs.  My left hamstring is weaker than right by some margin – coupled with my weak left arm swim adds to my probability of injury.

IMG_7094 2

Today I ran at the Bucklebury Common Orienteering event.  Rubbish map quality but that wasn’t the reason for my poor performance.  I was tired and made some very noob errors.

To err human, to oriente-err divine?

Errors to fix:  Tape your laces.  Wear a sweat band, head band – stop sweating.  Look through the magnifier not around it!  Steady to 1 (and 2, 3, 4 etc).  Concentrate out of the control as well as in!  Avoid veering – the 30 degree veer so you hit the wrong side of the forest square.  Grr. Frustrating first run on the season.

Positives:  I knew and looked at my control descriptions.  The inov8 shoes I’ve not worn before are amazing – very grippy and comfortable.  Ankles were strong.

IMG_7087 2

Glad I got this rubbish run out the way on my first run of the season.

My goal race for 2020 had been the Lakeland 100.  It’s a big race that I’ve wanted to do and it will only get harder to get in, especially with no wait list.  And then sometimes life throws opportunities at you that you can’t ignore.

IMG_7048

The Barkley Marathon: You know the one from Netflix (which I can’t find on there now so here’s the trailer).  Many watch the documentary and think it looks ragequit hard, I think it looks fun but also know entry is nearly impossible (over 1000 entries for 40 places with the best in the world entering) and failure almost certain.

Wikipedia has a good overview of the race.  What few people know is there’s other events run by Laz such as the Big Dog’s Backyard series and the Barkley Fall Classic or BFC.  Except with the internet people do know.  There’s 8000 people in the BFC group on Facebook, which someone called Laz posts on.  So it’s the kind of race I enter because I don’t expect to get in.

I didn’t enter the wait list last year but it turned out they were auto-entering all previous years people who had entered this year on 1 Oct 19 meaning there were about 94 places for over a 1000 entries from what I understand.  And here’s the curious bit some people don’t accept or they drop out days after.  Some said they were just hoping to keep their lottery wait list going, some may have got scared.  Around 250 people are likely to come off the wait list. It’s a ridiculous event.  50Km on the website, more like 40 miles, 20,000ft of climb including 2000ft over 0.8mi at one point.  It visits Rat Jaw, the Meth Lab, Testicle Spectacle and the winner gets entry to the Barkley.  The winner gets entry to the Barkley.  I’m not suggesting I’m of that calibre but I’d like to see how I get on against that course, those famous hills and meet the legend of Laz.  Touch the yellow gate “where dreams go to die”.

It has a 50% success rate.  I beat the Dragon’s Back with a twisted ankle and blistered feet.  I’d like to think I can tough out the bad times.  I’ve swam around a jetty sticking a mile out to sea in conditions that the safety swimmers didn’t go out in.  While I’m yet to do a ‘simple’ 100 miler the opportunity to know my place and test myself on the hardest courses ‘out there’ is too much to resist.  I entered, I got offered a place, which you have to accept immediately.  I know why people drop out, a 90% refund makes it easy and affordable.  The course is not a place for the faint-hearted.  We’re looking for that goldilocks difficulty.  So I now need to reassess.  Do I join those who cannot dare to follow through and stay with the Lakeland or do I dump lakeland and go for endless hill repeats at Wendover which opens Wendover 50Km as a long run race warm up in July?  Do I look at Ultra Trail Snowdonia (UTS) 30/50/100 in June?  The main goal, a bucket-list adventure of a lifetime.  Soon enough I’ll be back at sea and all this will be a distant memory.

 

https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=71482 So what are you waiting for?  Who wants to come and meet Laz?

IMG_7064

 

The Salt Path – Time

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

The book is Sunday Times Bestseller and on the Costa Book Awards Shortlist is well described at the links but I wanted to explore a theme which is hinted at but I feel is left hanging for book clubs to discuss!  It reads like a novel as the reader is left to fill in a few bits – John Le Carré buying theatre tickets?!

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/the-salt-path-book-journey-walking-coast-path-cornwall-devon-homelessness-a8502256.html

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/dec/06/home-is-a-state-of-mind-you-dont-need-walls

The theme.  Time.  When people, ‘normal’ people, walking the path ask them how far they’re walking or what their schedule is or when they have to get back they explore various answers from having sold up to explore (how romantic) to the horrifying reality of a vagabond existence.  Raynor’s writing and references to the plight of the homeless in the UK reminded me of Laurie Lee’s writing.  Through Orwell and Lee the intellectual vagrant appears historically romantic when considered with hindsight through their writing (Down and Out in Paris and London, As I walked out one midsummer morning etc) and the misreporting of the current issue.  

A common response to the romantic notion of selling up to have an adventure and explore is that they are ‘lucky to have the time’.  If only they knew!  I think I would have broke very quickly and gone with the truth!  Lucky to have the time’ when viewed against the backdrop of homelessness it is an interesting theme – where does time sit in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs

Time is the thing that allows you to achieve the various levels.  The basic needs are rather shaky but arguably their self-actualisation needs and self esteem needs are the base on which their triangle is built.  This isn’t a new idea but it shows how irrelevant arguments over which shade of paint or who left the lid off the jam are.  I think there is too much happiness marketing – if you want to be happy you must have X or Y and do X or Y leading to the idea that poor people don’t have fun or aren’t happy.  Instagram doesn’t help – fuck me, I saw a post that some one has put a specific type of clouds (it’s an app) on every photo so they looked right and of course they’re having a great time. 

“I work hard everyday, Working for a man,

Who when I’m old and grey, Will steal my pension plan,

Sometimes I ask myself, I ask myself what’s the point?

Two weeks in the sun, For a lifetime in this joint….”

As sung by Hard Fi https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/hardfi/iclosemyeyes.html and highlighted throughout the literature are of dreamers ‘time waits for nobody’ (Freddie – https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/freddiemercury/timewaitsfornoone.html ).  Yet, and this is the crux, time is what ironically Moth and Raynor don’t have because of his illness.  This is why it’s such a punch  in the guts every time someone say how lucky they are, to have time.  The reason they have time is unpalatable, the truth is how much time they have is unknown.  I wrote this only because I couldn’t tweet it! 

Los Guajares

After surviving last night’s foot race up hill it’s time to switch my focus to the bike.  I feel a little bad after treating my fat arse to a top of the range Roadmachine https://www.bike24.com/p2339390.html hired from https://www.sierranevada.cc/theclimbs/ to tackle to challenges that the climbs of Granada have to offer.  

IMG_6428

Beautiful bike after the seat cushion was taken off!

Today I did a local favourite Los Guajares.  https://strava.app.link/XztehCKm4Y It is a Cat 1 climb covering 8.8 miles climbing over 700m at an average of 5% with the hardest sections near the top.  I set some PRs on the downhill and flat sections as the brand new bike ate up the kilometres.  Then as the road ramped up it wasn’t about the bike.  I set a PW on the ascent 1:15 after literally putting my sole into the climb – not a typo, the entire sole fell off my shoe!  11 years, over 10,000Km logged in 6 of them and many more unlogged.  So I walked the last 500m before coasting back.  

My best time remains 55 min set in 2013 when I was Ironman fit and I was one of only a dozen riders who had climbed the broken tarmac and logged on Strava.  I did that on a steel framed Orbea with a bent rim. Back then I was second less than a minute behind Michal Kwiatkowskiand now there’s 2670 on the segment and I am in the 800s!  The road has since been laid with fresh tarmac and as stated on the Cycle Sierra Nevada website is one of the best local climbs.  I joke that as many of these roads were EU funded I’m going to get my money’s worth seeing as I’ve paid for them (pass the gammon)!

IMG_6426

By the time I returned home it was 1100 and very warm.  I’d taken 2x 750ml bottles – one was frozen which worked a treat.  The other I refilled from the fountain in the town of Los Guajares which was recovering and continuing the village fiesta of the night before.  I passed €500 laying in the gutter as I climbed passed the massive covered growing fields of the Tropical Coast – unfortunately it was in avocado form, hundreds of rotting hipster fruits, so I couldn’t take it with me.  In the book Driving Over Lemons by one-time Genesis drummer Chris Stewart (before Phil Collins) he describes the English affliction of attempting to avoid driving over lemons as they cover the roads of these parts and cost so much in the UK.  

IMG_6425            

 

Subida Santo Cristo 2019

Subida Santo Cristo

I regularly visit a region in the south of Spain called El Valle.  It is around 30km south of Granada.  Finding running races in Spain can be hit and miss – especially in the very local towns and villages where we holiday.  Luckily with the rise of  https://www.cruzandolameta.es and www.global-tempo.com races have become easier to find.

IMG_6437

The chapel is the corner of the LH ridge climbed via zigzags through the wood. (View from bar) 

At Christmas I did a lovely 25Km trail race around the Alhambra.  On Sat 10 Aug I lined up for the Subida Santa Cristo.  I write this on the terrace of the local restaurant with an amazing view across the valley to the little chapel that was our goal for the race.  I say goal, it wasn’t even half way.  Start slow and fade.  I had last done this race in 2013 when it was a 6Km blast around the town and then a balls out up and down to the little white chapel.  This year there was no loop of the town and it was well over 9km.  People had complained that there wasn’t enough mountain.  There is now!  

I’d spent the day driving from Cadiz back to El Valle.  It was about 36 degrees.  I had drunk quite a bit of water and in the hour before had polished of 750ml.  I also tipped a bottle over me 15 min before the start.  

IMG_6433

After a quick brief (en español claro), we were off.  I started near the front.  I find that some of these routes can have lots of single track and you can get stuck behind slower runners if you don’t start far enough forward.  The lead motorbike kicked up a lot of dust, my throat dried out instantly and with the combination of heat and altitude (only 600m but I know that I suffer on my first day) I was struggling.  At the first water station I felt the dust clear from my mouth and my breathing ease.  Once I reached the zigzags to the summit before I had to walk – it’s steep!  I wasn’t alone and by now we were strung out on a wide path so I wasn’t holding people up.  I reached the top in clip.  

After my chip registered I was back down – no time to admire the view.  I woke the legs up and started overtaking people.  My Dragon training had helped me get some descending skills but I’m still an amateur compared to some.  The single track through the forest was lovely.  I skipped down although I was burning cardiovascular matches.  At the second drinks stop I slaked my thirst and set off on the relatively flat last 2km back to the finish.  

IMG_6434

I finished 62nd of over 140 in 1hr 2min – it’s quite a different event from last time.  Despite the heat it was a good race and well run.  For my 5€ entry I got a toight t-shirt, PE bag, some olive oil and fruit (let’s face it S.Spain is Europe’s allotment) – great value.  Another positive is that my ankle which I sprained on Day 2 of the Dragon was pain free even on the descents.   

  

  

90 days to go. Endurance Training Block.

E406CAF1-B4B8-4C1A-A2B8-7A18DDC12D95I’ve never used the Garmin IQ widgets; I’m very much an oem kind of guy. I’ve been restless trying to get back to basics; I’m sure training was easier when I started.  I remember in 2013 multi-sport training in all weathers for the Outlaw without issues. I love(d) the polar training platform and fitness tests but can’t justify the beautiful Vantage V Titan at the moment.  So I’ve gone into Garmin connect and found a triathlon training programme, dug out an unused heart rate monitor after my second hrm run perished, and installed a widget!  Like getting a new watch and new motivation. It should help me avoid injury on the way to my next A race.  90 days to go.

IMG_6056

I managed a run during the week and did my 50th Parkrun this week in the rain.  20:25.

Today I got out on my bike to a local bike themed cafe in Uxbridge – took some finding as HS2 had closed the direct route.  It was nice to get out – 32Km, 20 miles in 80 min.

Plans.

Mon 29. REST?
Tue 30. Swim (?)
Wed 31. Easy run
Thu 1. Ride
Fri 2. Swim (?)
Sat 3. Very early start
Sun 4. I’ve entered a 50Km – not sure if I’m doing it or not
Mon 5. Wild swim?
Tue 6. Rest/fun jog
Wed 7. Rest/fun jog
Thu 8. Rest/fun jog
Fri 9. Rest/fun jog
Sat 10. 9Km fellrace
Sun 11. Hire bike
Mon 12. Hire bike
Tue 13. Hire bike long
Wed 14. Hire bike short
Thu 15. Rest
Fri 16. Run trail?
Sat 17. Run trail?
Sun 18. Run trail?

https://www.sierranevada.cc/theclimbs/

 

 

Bob Graham Support

BLUF: No BGR this year for me but that’s not the story.

IMG_5551

I can only try to describe waiting in the lay-by.  My photos didn’t come out as it was dark.  There is a slight wisp of wind but it is a perfect temperature for running; I am wearing shorts. The hills silhouette the clear night sky. It is just after midnight and yet it is barely fully dark.  More cars pull in. “Are you here for Sarah?” I ask. “Who’s Sarah?” Is the reply. It’s a busy weekend for Bob Graham hopefuls making the most of the maximum hours of sunlight and better weather.  We look the other way waiting for a glimpse of our runner.  I nurse a cup of coffee and try to ensure I’m ready for the climb.  Starting from Dunmail Raise on the A591 Ambleside to Keswick road Leg 3 is the longest and steepest section of the Bob Graham.  I have driven up from Watford to support a runner in her attempt to complete the traverse of 42 lakeland tops over 66 miles and 27,000ft of climb.  The idea is sown for my own attempt but that can wait.  There are three of us supporting.  Kirsty and I had recently completed the Dragon’s Back and Andy (with Ollie the Collie) a super quick runner with over 30 BGR supports to his name.  Sarah came in and gave us our orders.  I ditched my warm kit and waterproofs but kept the survival blanket just in case to fit more water and food.  Given the weather that wasn’t going to be an issue.  We set off up Steel Fell ‘hands on knees climb’ the map says.  It was the first time using my Silva 2XT Limitless headtorch.  Rated at 800 lumens it turned night into day.  A great investment from eBay.  The pace is not breakneck but steady.  I think my DBR fitness would have been good enough.  Power walking is a minimum.  We ticked off the tops quickly, Calf Crag, Sergeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle.  It started to get light and the Langdale Valley stretched out before us.  Bloody impressive.  An amazing Lakeland sunrise.  The views all round are impressive and the entire round is visible if we had time to admire it.  Rossett Pike and Bowfell followed.  Many of these names I’d read about but never visited.

From here the terrain noticeably changes from rolling fell to rocky mountains.  Esk Pike on to Great End.  I was struggling now, my ankle hurt from the 1084 degree movements (360 degree in 3 planes) which it didn’t get on trails or roads.  It is not yet that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth to misquote Tennyson.  The rocks were Glyder-like and my pace was sapped.  

IMG_5533

I have only walked up Scafell Pike once before.  A sixth form misadventure in the rain and inappropriate clothing from Seathwaite.  We had seen one person all morning, they stood on Rossett Pike (I think) silhouetted by the sky as we climbed Bowfell; that was about to change.  We bounced across the rock fields of Ill Crag (pronounced ill not 3), Broad Crag and then we saw then England’s summit, Scafell Pike. IMG_5534

 

It was before 0700 and there were hundreds of people sprawling over the top like ants.  I was reminded that it is 3 peaks season!  Sarah had a climber to protect Broad Stand and I would have loved a go but my descending is so poor and I was worried about slowing people up so I offloaded some supplies and descended via the northern scree gully by Lords Rake.  Not sure I’d go that way again!  It was a but dodgy – if I’d gone 100m back there is a better path (but not by much).  My shoes were filled with scree and I had visions of broken wrists as I slipped down the hill!  

IMG_5519

I saw them descending the gully of Scafell (a peak I’m yet to visit), making great time, and we reached the car park shouting for Sarah’s crew.  We found them and prepared for the handover.  

I got quite emotional seeing the effort that was still to go, the support that she had and a job well done.  The drive back to Dunmail Raise was tough with closed roads.  I couldn’t sleep straight away so headed to Keswick for an ice cream and to check out The Round bar.  The burger hit the spot and I dot watched for a bit.  I would have loved to have seen her finish but I wouldn’t have got home until midnight.  I started back and then immediately hit the wall and pulled over in a lay-by in Windermere and slept for an hour before pushing on.  I had to keep pulling over to check my phone and check on progress, some late trackers updates made me very nervous.  I’m so pleased that she did it.  Sarah, Andy (Ollie) and Kirsty were amazing people to spend a few hours on the fells with and I feel very lucky to have had the chance to help someone achieve their dream.

I arrived home safely, showered and slept very soundly.

So, no BGR for me as I won’t be sure I’ll get round and risk further injury not to mention the drain on everyone’s time.  Thank you to everyone who offered support. 

Every year you mentally get a new beginning, the new page in the journal, the first day of the year.  Every month has a 1st and some months start on a Monday too.  July 1st.  The start of the the second 6 months of the year falls on a Monday.  A new start.  

My next ‘A’ race will be the OMM long course – last weekend in October.  I have the WW50Km night race in 2 weeks.  I’d like to run a sub 6hrs time there.  I also have the Veleta 50Km in Aug.  I think I’ll be okay if I take it easy.

For the Bob I will need to get better at descending, I am so slow – it is where you make up so much time.    I really want to do the Type 2 fun race but I don’t think it’s for me this year.  I have to remember that I am only a month post Dragon.

“In summertime, the cairn often becomes over-run with tourists, and a seeker after solitary contemplation may then be recommended to go across to the south peak, where after enjoying the splendid view of Eskdale, he can observe the visitors to the summit from this distance. He may find himself wondering what impulse had driven these good folk to leave the comforts of the valley and make the weary ascent to this inhospitable place.

Why does a man climb mountains? Why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here when he might instead have been sitting at his ease in a deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis, or fast asleep, or sucking ice-cream, according to his fancy. On the face of it the thing doesn’t make sense.

Yet more and more people are turning to the hills; they find something in these wild places that can be found nowhere else. It may be solace for some, satisfaction for others: the joy of exercising muscles that modern ways of living have cramped, perhaps; or a balm for jangled nerves in the solitude and silence of the peaks; or escape from the clamour and tumult of everyday existence. It may have something to do with man’s subconscious search for beauty, growing keener as so much in the world grows uglier. It may be a need to re-adjust his sights, to get out of his narrow groove and climb above it to see wider horizons and truer perspectives. In a few cases, it may even be a curiosity inspired by A Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides. Or it may be, and for most walkers it will be, quite simply, a deep love of the hills, a love that has grown over the years, whatever motive first took them there: a feeling that these hills are friends, tried and trusted friends, always there when needed. 

It is a question every man must answer for himself.” 

Finally, these photos from IG @Andy__Berry are far better than my attempts.

Screenshot 2019-06-30 at 11.25.57

Screenshot 2019-06-30 at 11.25.41

Screenshot 2019-06-30 at 11.26.10

 

Recovery

Trying to come back.  It was quite a long way so my body needs time 

Week 1: 27 May – 2 Jun 19.  4 miles run/walk and 22 mile ride.
Week 2: 3 – 9 Jun 19.  13 miles run and 11 mile ride. 19:47 Parkrun
Week 3: 10 – 16 Jun 19.  21 miles run. 41:10 10K
Weight: 77Kg+ and increasing!

With the skin peeling off my feet and time passing I think I can think about training and taking care of myself.  My ankle is not perfect and I need to do some exercises and stretching.  Remember Steve Birkinshaw and Huw Brassington needed months to recover.  I am hoping my lack of running will get me back sooner.

This week I rested on Monday after a ride and very short run on Sunday where I ate the gnats of Essex.  On Tue I had to do my fitness (fatness) test.  I passed which was good.  The bleep test isn’t easy when recovering from a sprained ankle but pain was only a 2/3.  I wasn’t stopping at my level 8.03 as it was embarrassingly low so kept going to be last one standing (yes I’ve seen the ultra, yes I’m keen to have a go and visit big dog’s backyard ultra run by… Laz Lake or Barkley fame), level 11.03.

IMG_5263

On Wednesday I ran in the evening for the first time in a while.  It was a midweek 10Km competition in the Watford park.  I’d signed up, bought a vest and put in my club change just in time!  I ran 3.5 miles to the start, picked up my kit – there was a group on newbies, all recruited by Steve N.  Nice to have company!  I did the 10K in 41.10 in the rain.  I paced it really well.  After my trail and mountain training I was strong on the hills, fast going uphill and down, slow on the flat!  I really didn’t want to go out after a busy day at work into the rain and pound the streets – now if it’d been a lakeland fell I’d have been straight out the door!  It felt good to run fast though and I was 50th overall, 15th Watford Jogger.  

IMG_5349

I rested until Sunday and got out on some new trails with the Joggers.  13Km in 1:15.  I now have nearly 4 weeks to train for the Wendover Woods 50Km night event.  After that I have the Subida Veleta 50km straight up the highest peak near Granada, Spain.  50Km with 2800m isn’t a lot compared to the DBR but there is no downhill so it finishes at 3400m altitude!  

And then I need to plan for the Bob Graham.  At a social the other night someone who had done a recce and decided they stood no chance couldn’t remember the names of some of the peaks.  I rattled off the detail.  Mmmm… I might not have recce’d yet but the revision is coming along.  I’m stacking up a list of supporters so I need to make plans.    

 

Diolch & pob lwc!

8025DA4C-F504-482F-86B9-B1746DB39821.pngDon’t worry it’s nearly the end of these blog posts. Then you get the post race spam! After completing GL3D on Monday week I took all week off training. I ate and couldn’t stop. My body was recovering. I ran an easy 4 miles on Sunday and had a sports massage. My legs feel ready. I ran 5 miles on Monday and Tuesday.

CD4DF2F1-272C-4B85-ACF7-08988F4A3AD5.jpeg

I have prepared my kit. It’s all laid out, well was all piled up but now I’m ready. I finished a final week of work and now it’s  up to Conwy.

There’s not much more to say and I’m not renowned for emotion.  It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. I’ve explored a lot and managed to experience new races. It’s been a crazy adventure. This is where is all began.

528060F8-9766-4C95-A5BC-DF578BCF82D0.jpeg

It does seem like a long time ago and most of those 10Kgs are gone. I certainly don’t have much ultra pedigree to go on as the GB Ultras Snowdon 50is my only mark. I’ve lost a few pounds since that photo.

Actually, it was reading Mr Vassos’ book that started it. I’m re-reading it now and the Dragon’s Back is right at the start. It sounded horrific and I needed to change my life so sign me up! We had been in the UK 6 weeks after the Australian summer and I was in a tough job looking for a distraction to focus on. It took me about 6 months to really focus on the challenge. I’m thinking of putting it in my drop bag and asking him to sign it for me…

4FA6FCF8-E018-40FE-8F9A-1472276C9BFD.jpeg

I’ve recced days 1, 2 and half of 3. During that time it hasn’t scared me. I’m nervous now though. Knowing I’m locking into the system with only what I have in my bags.  My feet are good now but what shape will they be in in 3 days time?  What pace will I be able to maintain then?  Well we’ll see.  This section around Drum was the bit I found tough on the recce. 

331A01B7-EEBF-4C92-99E0-7067D26A003A.png

Follow the adventure at http://live.opentracking.co.uk/dragonsb19/number 330. Send me a dragon mail through the envelope which goes live on Monday.

Obviously no one is going to do this for me. It’s all on me. The volunteers, I know from GL3D, will be great and help but they cannot climb these mountains. The support I’ve had through the year from family has been amazing – a week in the lakes, in Aug, orienteering in the rain when it was 30 Deg everywhere else. Chasing me around Ogwen Valley with no phone signal (the infamous CP5) until 0300!  The random packages containing more essential kit!  

B6E8FE79-31E6-42AB-B146-3532F9D7D9E1.jpeg

Letting me run, race and prepare for this mid-life crisis has been a sacrifice – gracias guapa!  It’s been fun getting the kids outside. Catbells, Snowdon, rock climbing – they’ve loved it. I think that support will carry me along when it gets tough! I’m really motivated to get outside. I’m not convinced this will be my last crazy adventure though…

E9309D11-1665-4D25-9321-C81EACF1636F.jpeg

 

In July, I’ve got the Centurion Wendover Woods 50km.  I want to do the Pico Veleta 50km in Aug and I’m keen to have a go at some more mountain marathons too. Let’s not get ahead of myself…

A final thought. I was brought up on the ‘clean shirt’ rules based adventures of scouting and DofE. I used to study maps linking routes but was stifled by a the rules. It’s only know that I know my limits and the margins of safety. This weekend Nicky Spinks is double paddy Buckley round. Impossible is nothing, anything is possible.  https://www.inov-8.com/blog/nicky-spinks-double-paddy-buckley/

http://live.opentracking.co.uk/x2paddy19/

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right” Henry Ford.

AFEB9A3C-64E9-4788-97A3-20D151B3E7A3.jpeg