Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Cheviot to Kielder Castle Run

What can be better than running long distances? Running long distances with other like minded people.

We started our ascent up to The Cheviot in our little group of runners. I set off at about a 6 minute mile pace for the first mile up the steep slopes, but I soon realised that the other runners were still all near the bottom and suffering badly, especially Bruce and Karl. But of course that is a load sh#t. I started the day not feeling on the best of form and had to drag my ass out of bed. There was talk of snow on the top of Cheviot but there was no way I thought it was true until we arrived at the car park along Harthope Burn. I was praying that everyone wasn’t going to go out hard on the ascent up Cheviot and was so glad when someone said they planned on taking it easy. We climbed up towards the summit of The Cheviot, into the snow and through the icy mist. It was a great feeling to be out in the hills again with the added excitement of snow. It was a long 3 miles to the summit and with the cold conditions I was not eager to hang around too long and needed to keep moving and keep warm. The air was bitter cold and with all the wrong gear and no idea, I was freezing cold. We reached a juncture and Adam departed the group to follow his course.

The frozen ground was to prove an advantage as we followed the Pennine Way past King’s Seat and along to Windy Gyle at just over 8 miles. As we got to the lower elevation and the ice disappeared, the waist deep bog became apparent. It was hard going on the cobble stones as they was icy and it was even harder trying to pull your feel out of mud with each step, but it was all great fun and the sort of terrain I enjoy the most. Along the Pennine Way, over Beefstand Hill, Lamb Hill and past the Mountain Refuge Hut. As members of the group fell over into the bog it was the age old game of ‘try and wait until you are sure they are ok before you laugh’. We skirted around Wedder Hill on the approach to the Roman Camps and at this point we all agreed that the terrain was taking its toll on us. I was feeling a lot more drained that I would normally feel at 16 miles and every mile seemed to take forever to complete. The plan was to meet our support at around 11:15 but that time was here already and we had a further 5 miles left. In the distance amongst the military firing range, which was very active, we could see two silver cars driving along like target practice. We figured we had bought ourselves a bit more time and continued on towards Byrness. After some discussion with the support crew, we all met up on the A68 where everyone started a feeding frenzy. If there is one thing we should all learn from this, it is to bring more food to eat on the hoof next time.

There was mixed feelings about the next section but I think we all were in agreements that it was lacking in something. The scenery was great but the long forestry track that we followed for 12 miles first became a drag and then became just painful. We were all showing signs of tiring and the cold was getting to us. I had one goal... this was Karl’s run, the furthest he has ran so far (although the shortest he will soon consider running in the future) and I was going to run it with him to the end. The last couple of bends in the track because a guessing game of ‘are we bloody there yet’ and ‘where is that bloody castle’, but the tell-tale signs of civilisation appeared and two shining silver cars were on the horizon. To prove it is all a mental game, Karl pushed for his trademark sprint finish and provided the evidence that he had lots left in him and could have easily finished a 50 miler that day.

After a lot of shivering I retreated into the car and we started our return journey back to Wooler. I was slightly ashamed at getting car sick and kept quiet for the return journey, just concentrating on deep breaths, that is until the rest of the occupants had to listen to me hurling out the car door (it was too cold to get out the car). I arrived back in Wooler without further incident where my family was waiting to drive smelly daddy back home for a much needed shower. A big thank you to all the runners and especially the support crew.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Random 30 Mile Loop

I was supposed to be doing the Caesar’s Camp 100 mile endurance run is weekend, but after all the time off running with my injury, I had to admit defeat and gave my space to someone else on the waiting list. I was determined to still go out and get some distance in and I plotted a 30 mile loop from my house. I didn’t want the run to get in the way of family time, so I got up at 4:30am and set off running at 5:00am.

It was misty and raining lightly, but warm, and I left the streetlights of Branxton and set into a 10 minute mile plod. My headtorch is not the best but the 0.5 watt light was enough to find my way along with my Garmin watch showing me the route. I turned off the road up to Flodden Hill and discovered a lot of wildlife living in the woods with little shiny eye staring at me in the light of my torch. The tracks were good and I continued at a steady run through Flodden and along the B6352 before turning off onto a bridleway that was to nearly kill me. I was following a fence line along a field when I herd of cows went completely nuts and started stampeding. I stopped dead and waited for them to all run past me a few yard ahead. When they had all passed I relaxed a bit before seeing two more eyes in the dark looking straight at me. It then charged at me and passed within a foot. To make things worse, the bloody thing stopped and looked back at me before running backwards, then sideways straight into me. It hit me and I went flying backwards and landed skidding on my side as its hoofs were inches away from me. I got up and bloody ran like hell. I had to pass more fields of cows but I give them a wide berth and didn’t relax until I reached the houses at Crookhouse.

The next section was mainly on road and I kept going from feeling cold to hot, shivering to sweating. I could start to see the Cheviot Hills but it was still dark. It started to get light when I reached Westnewton and I made easy progress to Hethpool and started running on the St Cuthbert’s Way trail. It was light enough not to need a torch anymore but I kept it on because it was so misty. I made my way up into the hills keeping the same steady 10 minute mile pace and feeling good. I had no idea where I was but had the line on my Garmin watch to show me the way. After Gains Law hill I passed some of the Wooler running club who were out for a run, and I figured that I must be going to right way because Wooler was my next destination. I reached a familiar landmark and knew I was close to the Wooler Common car park. I made a relaxed and easy descent down the road into Wooler and ditched my headtorch into my bag and ate my reward of reaching this point (a Twix).

Next I continued on the St Cuthbert’s Way trail and went over Weetwood Moor before descending down to Weetwood Bridge. Here I left St Cuthbert’s Way and headed along roads back towards Ford. I started to feel a little drained now after 20 miles and I was feeling really hungry so I ate a bit more. I reached Doddington at mile 22 and was still feeling really hungry so ate some more. Along to Nesbit and across some fields and I now hit my low. My legs turned heavy and my head sank. East Fenton, West Fanton, then a footpath over some fields to Kimmerson, I felt like shit. All I wanted to do was call my wife to pick me up and shovel loads of food into my mouth. My stomach was growling at me and I could not believe that I could still be hungry after eating so much on the route. With 5 miles left to go I just plodded on to Ford before heading off to Crookham. At Crookham I stopped and got some fruit pastels out and downed them so try and get some energy. 1 mile to go and I just could not be bothered to run. The only problem was that it would take longer to walk so I ran on looking miserable. I finally reached home, extracted my feet from my shoes and started my eating marathon. I ate all day until it was time to sleep and when I was unable to put the food in my mouth anymore. I have never been so hungry.

On reflection, I can say that it was a good run. The cow incident freaked me out but I can laugh at it now. I got out of my low point as soon as I got home and knew it was just mental stuff and not physical. The next day I only had a slight bit of stiffness in my upper legs but felt that I could have gone out for a long run, so I am happy that my reduce mileage due to injury has not caused too much damage to my tolerance for longer distances. I will hold back on attempting a 50+ mile run at the moment until I have done some more 20-30 miles runs in the next month. The best thing of all..... No knee pain.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Border Search and Rescue Unit Sponsored Walk and Challenge Run

This was my first organized event since the Lakeland 50 and since my knee pain has gone. The route consists of a 14.5 mile loop from Hownam in the Scottish Borders with about 3000f of ascent. The weather had decided to be wet with some mist, but conditions were perfect for running. I met up with Bruce Crombie, Karl Wait and Rob Murray John and Rob’s dog at the start and ran with them during the event.

The event was relaxed and because there was no timing, we could leave anytime after we registered. The route started with a mile of road before we head off-road up our first hill, Little Humlemoor. Karl had some trouble at this point and held back, but kept his determined and caught up later in the run looking strong. We continued across to Humblemoor Hill before making a slippery decent to the waiting cameraman, probably hoping to catch some good shots of us falling. Across to Buchtrig farm, we formed a larger group with more runners and made our next ascent, nearly going the wrong way because we were too busy chatting and not paying attention to where we were going. Karl’s shouts from close behind put us on the right track. We continued on until we reached the Mountain Refuge Hut on the Pennine Way. Karl was with us again and we made our way along the Pennine Way, up Lamb Hill, Beefstand Hill and then Mozie Law. Visibility was poor with thick mist but the path was easy to follow. We were still in a large group at this point running past lots of walkers on a path made from stone slabs. Every so often there would be a pool of water instead of a slab and it was interesting guessing if it was 2 inch deep or 2 foot deep. A runner took a bad fall and in losing his glasses, he got a load of dirty water in his eyes. Rob came to the rescue but inadvertently supplied the orange juice that the fallen runner sprayed into his eyes to wash them. A citric wash must have done the trick. After reaching around the 10 miles mark we departed the Pennine Way and followed a track called The Street, which was to take us all the way back to Hownam. There was a refreshment checkpoint soon after leaving the Pennine Way, and it was great to have a Twix to eat. I have been craving Twix’s ever since. We set off from the check point and Bruce made a dash for the finish. Our group reduced to three and then two as I ran the final few miles with Rob.

It was good being out in the hills again. Despite a little knee pain during the run, I finished feeling as fresh as I started and my knee was fine. I look forward to my next outing.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Running Free Again

It’s been 2 month now since the Lakeland 50 and my IT band is feeling much better. I was initially reduced to very painful 12 mile weeks for the first 6 weeks, but suddenly one day my knee stopped hurting on my regular 4 mile route. I upped my mileage to 18 mile weeks changing my 4 mile runs for 6 mile runs and although I felt little niggles, no major pain. I have now planned loads of 50 and 60 mile runs although I in constant fear that the pain will return. Never less, I have started to increase my distance to “test” my knee. I ran an 11 mile route on two consecutive days this weekend and felt no signs of pain when running, only a nagging feeling later in the evening. With a 34 mile week in the bag and am hoping to up it again to 48 mile week, after which I will attempt a 30 mile run the following weekend, then a 50 miler the weekend after that.

It feels so good to be out running again without 100% focus being on my knee. I can’t feel any loss in my legs from the lower mileage, but I’m sure I will at mile 30+. The one thing I have noticed is my breathing is now a lot harder and my heart rate is higher. It is a mystery as to why my knee would go from being extremely painful for months and months to suddenly no pain overnight. I can only assume it finally healed enough to prevent further damage when running. One sure thing that changed was that my Nike’s were wet so I used my 10+ year old Salamon’s, and even though they are so far gone with no cushioning or support, they have not caused any injury. In the fear that maybe my Nike were causing the problem or just preventing it from healing, I have now discarded them and I’m sticking with my extremely old Salamon’s for now.

If all goes well I will be posting my next running adventure very soon.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lakeland 50

Two weeks leading up to this event and I could not even run 2 miles without severe pain in my left knee. Osmotherley Phoenix had finished it off. I was changing my mind every hour about pulling out the event. I finally decided to stop running for a week while continuing spinning sessions and just go and see what happens on the day. I have already written about the course in the recce run, so I will keep this short.

I arrived on the Friday with the family to pitch the tent and start soaking up the atmosphere. I was glad to see all the 100 mile runners getting ready and getting psyched up. I was surprised to see Nick Ham all kitted up and after seeing him at probably over 20 events now I got the courage to go over and say hello after the 100 mile briefing. I was amazed to hear that he was attempting 100 miles when his knee has been diagnosed as totally screwed and he was in pain just standing there, but extremely proud. It made me realised that my knee problem is minor and it helped me during the run to endure and continue. The 100 milers gathered at the start and left with cheers and encouragement to leave the rest of us in a still silence for a while before more 50 milers arrived.

After a good night sleep, there was just enough time to get prepared and eat before the briefing. We all gathered in mass waiting for the bus and then randomly piled on. I sat in the first available seat and was amazed than when I told the person next to me that I was moving up near Coldstream, that he was from Wooler, along with two other women in the seat adjacent and part of the Wooler running club which I have been excited about joining. After arriving at the start there was a brief wait before we all massed in the starting pen and in no time we were off.

The first 4 mile loop was new to me as we did not do it in the recce run. It was all signed and there was so many people, it was just follow the leader. After a bottle neck near the start we all thinned out and I got a chance to talk to one of the women from Wooler running club before settling into an easy pace and concentrating on my knee. I ran this event with no navigation aid, knowledge of what time it was and without my Garmin watch so I could enjoy it more. It must have been around 3 miles before my knee started hurting. I cursed it but rather than resorting to walking like planned, I continued on.

I reached the end of the loop and made my way over to the first checkpoint. I was annoyed at my knee because before it would not hurt when walking the hills but now it just hurt all the time. The only saving grace was that the pain would reach a peak and just stayed the same, so I figured that all I had to do was endure it. Checkpoint 1 arrived quickly and I prepared for the longer of the big climbs. It felt longer than in the recce run, but when I reached the top I still felt as fresh as when I started. I had been eating well and often and kept this up the whole event. After an easy decent down to the lake it was then an undulating track to checkpoint 2 where it was starting to rain.

After some soup and bread bun washed down with coke, I put my waterproof top on and swam my way up the next big climb with wind and rain lashing into my face. My plan was to enjoy the views to enable me to take my mind of the pain, but there were no more view for most of the event, only a blanket of cloud and rain. I was slow on the accent as my knee was in agony. There were lots of people passing me like I was standing still, and even though I had load of energy I was getting moody and was already thinking of pulling out at Kentmere. I picked up the pace after the big decent down the other side but my mood was no better. I had run this course just over a month ago and with no views, there was little excitement and little adventure because the route was all so fresh in my mind. I arrived at checkpoint 3 and after having some rice pudding and a smoothy, decided to make my way to Ambleside where I could pull out and be picked up my the family.

More people passed me on the next big climb out of Kentmere as I was slow again. The easier run over to Ambleside heightened my mood and I started running with someone who is currently living in Hong Kong. It was good to talk with someone and by time I reached Ambleside I figure that there was only about 16 miles left and my knee could just deal with it. I was quick out of the checkpoint so my knee would not cease up. I would have loved to have eaten some chips from the chip shop but after seeing the queues, though better and continued on.

The next section was an easy section to run with only some small climbs at the start with a large flat section. Lots of people I talked to felt the same at this point, it would have been good to have some walking breaks but because it was so flat, there were no excuses but to push harder and run the whole thing. At the next checkpoint the light was starting to dull and after some vegetable stew, I was off quickly. I was running solo for most of the next section and I made a plan to reach the small road section before it got dark. My knee was screaming. The pain made me feel sick but I made it this far and I was nearly there. I made it to the small climb before the last checkpoint before it got dark and ran without a light until I arrived at the final checkpoint and with only 3 miles left.

The only problem now was that it was all up then all down. The climb hurt badly. I was very slow. I was finding it hard to navigate with my light as the mist and cloud was making viability zero and I only had the noise of a waterfall and my memory of where it should be. After reaching the top and following a very faint track I got lost a couple of times and had to backtrack. I reached a section where to track was obvious but for some reason though I should be going the other way. I waited for more people who finally arrived and confirmed that I should be on the obvious track. It was good to be with other people and we made our painful decent down towards Coniston. When we got close to the final track that leads into Coniston, I realised that the runner next to me was the person I ran with earlier who lives in Hong Kong. We ran together at a decent pace down into Coniston and into the School where the finish line was.

Finished. I felt good, apart from my knee. My weight was down only 2 pounds and I had no dizziness or sickness. I sat down and ate my free meal of vegetable chilly and a huge piece of cake before feeling sick and regretting eating it. I made my way across the camping field which must have been at least 10 miles long and painful made my way back to get a shower. I painfully walked the 50 miles back to the tent as the field was definitely getting longer. My knee hurts bad, but I am so glad I did the event and don’t have any regrets.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Osmotherley Phoenix

This is the second time I have run this 33 mile event. Last year it all went a bit wrong and I ended up in hospital overnight getting 7 litres of saline pumped into me because of heat illness. This year I got really dehydrated again and crashed out on the last 5 miles but made it back feeling a lot better than the previous year and cut my time from over 8 hours to 6 hours 20 minutes. I wore my Myeloma UK vest in memory of my Dad who passed away last month.

I started off this event with a casual approach and little preparation. As a result, I was 15 minutes down the road when I realised that I had forgot my backpack and bladder. 30 minutes after leaving home I was back again and setting off again. I was on my way along the M18 to get onto the A1 when signs appeared saying that the junction onto the A1 was closed, so I did a quick U turn at the next exit and returned to the M1 feeling that if I was superstitious I would be worrying by now. I finally arrived at Osmotherley with only a short time before the start and had to walk the mile into town as I had to park my car near the junction into town. I just had enough time to collect my tally before lining up at the start. I found myself at the front of the pack and we were given a quick talk of some rules and warned of dehydration as there was a fool who ended up in hospital the previous year (I held my hand up to acknowledge that I was that fool). The church bell chimed 9 and we were off.

I got to the top of the hill out of Osmotherley with the lead runners in sight. My plan for this year was to get to the first wooded section a mile into the route near the front so I would not be held up in the bottle neck like last year, but would slow down to 10 minute miles once I leave the wood and the track opens up. I arrived at the bucket drop at the edge of the woods and had my token in hand to throw in the bucket (unlike last year where I had to spend ages undoing knots and getting it off my tally sheet cord). I felt good and my knee was showing no signs of pain so I latched onto the runner in front and made my way across Scarth Wood Moor, through Clain Wood and into Huthwaite Green where the first checkpoint was located 4.6 miles into the route. I was carrying 2 litres of electrolyte drink in my bladder and 550ml of water in my handheld so only grabbed a Jaffa Cake and ran straight through. My plan for hydration was to experiment with a full bladder of electrolytes to see if it works for me on longer runs in the heat.

Next was the first big hill section up Round Hill, Gold Hill and onto Carlton Moor. I remembered the uphill trudge from last year but this year I noticed a big difference at the top, as my legs still felt fresh. I used the climb time to eat and drink and felt the cooling breeze which was missing last year. It was a lot cooler than the previous year with more cloud, but it was very humid and I was sweating lots. On the back end of Carlton Moor was a big decent which I was dreading because of my knee, but at the bottom my knee still showed no signs of any pain. I arrived at the next checkpoint at 7.5 miles and again just a quick grab at two biscuits and off again.

Next was a section that leaves the Cleveland Way for a short while to miss two hills. There is the option to run/walk the hills but I have not seen one person yet to venture up them. So we all skirt around the hills on an undulating track towards Broughton Plantation and I can see that the runners are spreading out now and I was on my own for some time. I was still feeling fresh but I was running at 7/8 minutes miles to get my average back to 10 minute miles after the uphill sections. I knew I could burn out at any time keeping that pace throughout the event. I reached Broughton Plantation and ran the track running along Broughton Bank. This section felt longer than the previous year but I soon arrived at the turnoff which led me down to the B1257 at Clay Bank and the next checkpoint at 11.2 miles. Again, quick grab at some food and I was off.

I knew the next section was the second of the major hills but probably the smallest of the lot. I took my time climbing up to Carr Ridge and found it easy going along the cobbled path and then up a small incline to the self clip at Round Hill cairn. I was dreading the next section. The route now leaves the Cleveland Way and heads towards Seave Green, first along a flat section but then onto a big downhill. I had predicted that my knee would start hurting around this time and I was right, on the decent I started to notice a pain at the back of the knee that moved around to the lower outer edge. By time I hit the flat road section on the B1257, I was slowing down trying to get back in a rhythm and hoping the pain would subside. The short road section led into Chop Gate and I arrived at the car park where the next checkpoint and kit check was located at 16 miles. After a quick inspection of my back to show I had my full waterproofs, map and compass, I shoved them all back into my bag. I grabbed some more food and also filled my handheld with water as the electrolyte drink in my bladder was starting to taste awful and making me feel a bit sick.

Next was the climb that finished me off last year. I had left the checkpoint with a big group of runners and kept pace with them. We climbed and I hung back not wanting to push too hard. The climb was not as bad as I remembered it from last year and after reaching to top my legs were still fresh unlike last year when my legs locked up at this point. My knee was however hurting bad and I was starting to feel a bit dizzy from dehydration with my top front teeth tingling a little. I was annoyed that I had let myself get dehydrated but I could no longer stomach the electrolytes and stuck to my handheld. I caught up with the runners in front and stuck behind them, along the moors and onto Arnsgill Ridge. I made the effort to keep the pace up even though my knee was screaming because I know now that I can acclimatise to the pain a little and numb it. There was a descent down to Hill End Farm and then Low Cote Farm before arriving at the next checkpoint at 20.7 miles. It was a quick stop for some food and to refill my handheld bottle.

Last year I ran the next section on my own and had little problem navigating. This year I made the faithful mistake of following to person in front who looks very confident at their route choice. It is probably the hardest section to navigate as there is no track and the route goes across fields at random angles. All went well passed Birk Wood Farm, Far House, Cow Wath and up to Brewster Hill, but a group of us followed the wrong footpath down to the Ford and not towards Blueberry Wood. On discovering we were off course we all tromped up through blind navigation to get back on track. We were able to identify landmarks in the distance and took the long way back onto the route via some interesting decision making and passed some angry looking dogs and a big sign saying ‘These dogs bite’. Now back on track we made our way to New Hall and along the road to the next checkpoint at 25 miles and I looked at my watch to see a time of around 4.5 hours. I stopped long enough to refill my water but did not eat anymore food. I was starting to feel sick and the thought of any more sugary food was too much.

I was still feeling ok, but was starting to lack some energy. I knew that I should eat, but could not bring myself to do it. Next was the last big climb of the event and I knew it could be a breaker. We started the long climb toward to top where we would reach the Cleveland Way again along the Hambleton Road track. I started to slow a lot now and the other runners started to get more and more distant. I was crashing fast and I knew it. I also knew that if I could get to the top of the hill it would be just over 5 miles of fairly easy going tracks down to Osmotherley. It took a while but I finally arrived at the top and clipped in at the self clip and refilled my water. I got into a rhythm along the top but my pace was slow. I was feeling really sick now and even brought up a mouthful of sick on one occasion. I have vowed never again to fill my bladder with electrolytes as I think the sweet tasting overload had resulted in this sickness. It was a lot cooler on top of the hills and a nice breeze cooled me down before I descended into the hot valley. I reached the road and car park when some runners approached from behind and overtook me. I took it easy down the hill to the reservoirs as my knee had now had enough and was threatening to give out at any moment. Passed the second reservoir and I reached to road and gate where last year I was dry heaving and losing my hearing. Up the track and passed Whitehouse Farm where two more runners passed me and they were looking very fresh and talking a 100 miles per hour. I arrived at the final self clip and clipped some random part of my tally and made my way up the last set of steps. These steps were the final nail in my coffin last year and there was no difference this year. I was totally spent and was starting to sway a bit. At the top I recovered to get back into a run to finish the final section through the village and back to the finish line.

I was feeling very dehydrated and sick and figured my best bet was to get back to the car as soon as possible to recover as I knew I had a mile to walk. Last year I sat down and I did not get up again. I grabbed my badge and certificate and stopped in at the chip shop before tromping along toward the car. Air con on and I was off home. I still felt sick when I arrived home but found that 5 big glasses of milk helped loads. I enjoyed this event last year and again this year but suffered both times. I will have to do this event again next year and conquer it once and for all. Next up is the Lakeland 50 in 3 weeks and I just hope my knee gets better before then.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Lakeland 50 Recce Run

It has been 3 week since the Heart of Scotland event but it has been a turbulent 3 weeks. On Sunday 6th June, my dad passed away in hospital due to his Myeloma. It was unexpected and a big shock to everyone, family, friends and even his doctors. After 2 weeks trying to deal with all the documentation and legality of it all, I was determined to make the Lakeland 50 recce run a focal point to get back into the routine of normal daily life. The Heart of Scotland event has left me with some blister problems on my feet which are minor, but also a bad left knee. I managed to build on some runs to get a distance of 13 miles before my knee pain returned but had no concerns for the recce run.

The recce covered the 50 mile course in 2 days. Saturday 19th June was around 30 miles from Dalemain (minus the initial 4 mile loop) to Ambleside. Sunday 20th June was around 16 miles from Ambleside to Coniston.


A bus took us from Ambleside to Dalemain, where almost the entire recce party ran into a small group of trees to reflect of the excessive amounts of water they had been drinking. The previous day had been very hot but it was forecast for a cooler day with a northerly wind. It was still quite chilly so I put on my lightweight windstopper jacket, although I knew it would be off within minutes. There were no pacing groups, but instead a number of guides who knew the route and would be coming along for the ride. It was up to us to navigate and form any groups along the way. The leaders set off and I kept a comfortable distance behind them. The jacket came off quick. We travelled out of the Dalemain estate and along fields to Pooley Bridge, up some country lanes and on a bridleway along Ullswater to the first checkpoint at Howtown. So far the route was relatively flat with only some small inclines. I was with three other runners when we reached the checkpoint but there was no one there and we figured that they must have missed this on off the recce. We climbed the small hill out of Howtown only to have the lead party pass us and ask if we had been to the checkpoint. We retraced our steps and found them in a small hotel car park. I was surprised to see supplies of Coke and Brownies and took the opportunity to fuel up.

I left the check point just when the hotel owner was giving an organiser grief for using his hotel car park. I climbed the small hill again and continued along some more track before breaking free onto fells. I was feeling good at this point and my knee was not giving me much trouble, but I was sweating excessively. Next was the first main climb of the day up to Keasgill Head and as I was in no hurry, I took the hill at a casual walk. Next was a relaxing rolling stretch along Bampton Common, which could have ended in a detour had it not been for someone who had recced before and knew the way down an almost invisible line into the valley and onto the edge of Haweswater Reservoir. The decent showed the first signs of knee trouble as I started getting stabbing pain with every foot strike. So far it was only on the downhill’s that my knee would hurt so I was relieved at the gentle rolling path that travelled the length of Haweswater to reach the next checkpoint. I was still feeling good at this point but was feeling the heat of the day and used the opportunity to take some electrolytes. The checkpoint was in a car park at Mardale Head and I could see the next climb of the day.

The next climb was a memorable climb. I was on my own but could see a couple of people ahead. I walked the entire hill at a moderate pace but my legs were screaming by time I reached the top. After a couple of false tops I finally reached the actual top where the wind was strong and I was starting to shiver. I could see the next section was going to be a problem as it was all downhill on a steep, rocky track. I warmed up quick on the decent but my knee was hurting really bad at this point and I ended up having to walk most of the decent. I finally reached the valley below and couple get some decent running in on the more level terrain. My legs were fresh again and I made good progress to Sadgill and over to Kentmere where the next checkpoint was located. I arrived at the checkpoint with another runner and was told that if we needed water and food, the vehicle was down the hill in a car park. I was carrying so much water and food I pushed on alone.

Next was the last major climb of the day up Garburn Pass. I was feeling dehydrated and the day was getting to its warmest of around 20 degrees. I took on as much water as I could knowing that I was walking the next big hill. After reaching the top my legs were like jelly and my knee was protesting at the thought of downhill’s. I knew I was getting close now and pushed my pace up a notch. I descended into The Howe and into Low Fold before going slightly wrong on my navigation and having to retrace my steps to find the right way. I was on Robin Lane now and there was signposts to Ambleside. I started feeling really good and after a small climb pushed all the way into Ambleside. As I hit the main streets of Ambleside I checked my pace at around 7 minute miles and I was feeling really good. I made my way to the final checkpoint of the day at the shop and stopped to see my family waiting for me.

After signing in on the register I made a quick bee line to the chip shop and had the biggest plate of chips ever and a massive sausage. I love the fact that I can now handle lots of food on runs and that I get really hungry instead of really sick. My legs were fresh and my knee was keeping quiet. I am amazed at how quick I am able to recover now during the longer runs. I used to try and monitor progress by finish times and distance but now I am starting to think it is all about the recovery. If I can recover during a run, then I can just keep going and never need to stop.


My knee was feeling great after Saturdays run, but on Sunday morning it was hurting bad. I could not walk without major pain. I resorted to taking painkiller an hour before the start in the hope I could take the edge off. After getting the bus from Coniston to Ambleside I was in a dilemma because I honestly thought I would not be able to run or walk at all that day. After setting off, I walked through Ambleside and found that running was not going to work. I walked through Rothay Park and beyond. I was able to start short slow jogs between walking and finally my knee went from a stabbing pain to just an intense pain. I still though I would not make it passed the first checkpoint but continued on, willing to give it a go. I grouped up with a number of runners and we made our way down to Skelwith Bridge. The next section to Chapel Stile was on a flat easy track along Great Langdale Beck on the Cumbrian Way and this gave me the opportunity to get into a rhythm and my knee started cooperating again. After reaching the checkpoint I knew I could continue on and make the distance.

We continued in a group along Great Langdale on the Cumbrian Way. We approached the first climb of the day which broke free of the Cumbrian Way, and as my knee was feeling more co-operative I push on ahead. The climb was short and I was glad to see that there was no big decent on the other side, but instead a gentle decline, passed Blea Tarn, down to Blea Moss and onto Wrynose Pass. I made a mistake of running down the pass and my knee started to hurt more. Next were a climb and a decent to the next checkpoint in a car park next to Horse Crag. For some reason I thought that the remaining 3.5 mile section was all on a gentle downhill slope but I was brought back to reality when I saw some runner ahead making another big accent.

I left the checkpoint reassuring myself that accents are good because they don’t hurt my knee as much, but I was fully aware that on event day after covering 46.5 miles, this accent could be a problem. The actual accent was less than a mile and at the top I could see the massive decent needed to reach Coniston. I started the decent at a jog but the pain was too much and I yelped on more than a number of occasions. I found that I could do a fast shuffle where my right knee did not have to bend. I finally reached an easier track and road section into Coniston and started running again as a token effort. I reached the playground just before the School and found my family there playing. I grumbled about my knee and we made our way to the last checkpoint to register and finish. My Garmin watch recorded 46 miles in 10 hours 15 minutes for the two days. Luckily for me there was an event being held at the School and the showers were open, so after a quick shower and some food from the garage, it was time to drive home.

To my amazement, the next day my knee did not hurt at all. It took a day and a half to hydrate properly and get some stiffness out of my right leg muscles due to them overcompensating for my dodge left knee. I feel more confident after this run as I now have a new focus point to aim for. Recover. I am going to train to recover during runs so that I can endure and keep going. Next up is Osmotherley Phoenix on 3rd July.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Heart of Scotland 105

First of all, I managed to complete the event, although it did not go to plan and I did more walking than I did running. I did however enjoy every second of the event and would not change any of it if I could do it again. Before undertaking this event I decided to make my personal attempt at this event a dedication to my Dad who has got Myeloma cancer and is currently in hospital. I decided to try and use this event and all future events a means of increasing awareness of the Myeloma disease. If you have not heard of it already, please take a little time to look at the Myeloma UK website at http://www.myeloma.org.uk

I arrived at Dunkeld in time to see the first wave of walkers off at 10am then retreated to the Drill Hall where I sat and let my nerves get the better of me. During my wait for the start at 12 noon, I was given an interview by someone who put a camera directly in my face, although I was so nerves that I don’t think he will use the footage. I also managed to meet the other David Egan who has been listed in some other events I have taken part in.

At 12 noon, we had a quick briefing at the starting area and then we were off. The first checkpoint was at about 6.1 mile up a gradual climb. I made sure to get my pace right so that I was doing about 12 minute miles and found it hard to keep to a slower pace. I would stick behind someone to keep to a slower pace but after a while I would tend to accelerate off and have to slow myself to remain behind the next person I met. The scenery was stunning and the sun was out. Before I knew it, I was arriving at checkpoint 1.

After a quick bite to eat and a drink, I made my way out and headed for the next checkpoint at 15.5 miles. The next section started off similar to the previous section but progressed onto a bit more open moorland. It started to rain a little at this stage but only quick showers which were gone as quick as they started. A track had been made through the heather but it was still harder going and the heather made it easy to trip over on a regular basis. There was a mix of level ground and some ascents until around 12 miles when the trail started to descend down towards Kirkmichael. It was all too tempting to make a break for it on the downhill, but I remained focused on the total distance and kept to a slower pace. I finally reached The Cateran Trail and arrived at the Kirkmichael checkpoint in 3 hours 5 minutes.

After some sandwiches and banana in custard, I made my way to the next checkpoint at 23.8 miles. I had now caught up with the back of the pack walkers who had set off at 10am. The route followed The Cateran Trail to Enochdhu where it split off and followed the Gleann Fearnach valley towards Daldhu. Most of this section was on hard tracks and road which were easy going but harder on the feet. As I had caught up with the walkers, I found that I was overtaking lots of people but only had one other runner to keep track with. About 2 miles from Daldhu it started to rain and by time I was only half a mile away, it was pouring down. I arrived at the checkpoint in 4 hours 45 minutes to find a small tent, which was packed full of people all sheltering from the rain. The only problem was that the food was at the back and no one was moving, so I abandoned the food and quickly set off to warm up as I was now soaked through.

The next section looked tougher that the previous sections but had spectacular views. The first half was on vehicle tracks and the second half on single track. Most of this section was undulating with equal ascents and descents. I was still feeling good and had loads of energy and fresh legs. The rain reduced and eventually stopped when I was approaching checkpoint 4 at Shinagag. There was a little climb to reach the checkpoint but I had now covered 30.4 miles in 6 hours 20 minutes.

After some more food I headed off to the next checkpoint with some soup in hand, as it was too hot to drink at the checkpoint. I felt like I was going slow but I was feeling as good as when I started and knew I was on schedule for a sub 30 hour finish. This section was again on rutted vehicle tracks and roads but had only a little ascent and a big descent. I was not looking forward to the descent as the reoccurring pain in my side always creeps in and sure enough it did. I was at around 34 miles when the pain caused me to slow and even walk on some of the descent. I was starting to get a little annoyed but told myself that I would be saving lots of energy for when the pain went and kept a walk run strategy on the downhills. I was grateful when I arrived at Blair Atholl to see the next checkpoint at 36.7 miles in 7 hours 39 minutes. I had a quick salad sandwich and some pudding before setting off.

I started to feel a bit drained in my legs for the next stage and I found my stomach turning a bit with the taste of the salad sandwich staying in my throat all the way. I was catching up with some of the faster walkers who had set off at 10am and I found that I would overtake them on the flats and downhills but they would start to catch up on the uphills when I walked. Some doubt was starting to set in about how my energy levels were going to last but I was still moving and was still on schedule. There were a couple of possible navigational nightmares on this sections but I was put right with an arrow of stones and small florescent flags. I clipped my tally card at the self clip and made my way to Calvine where I arrived at the school checkpoint at 43.4 miles in 9 hours 24 minutes. I had lost my appetite and when offered hotdogs I declined and instead grabbed a hand full of KitKat fingers to eat on route.

It was becoming dusk so I put on my head torch and headed out on the next sections. This section was a flat long road with little stimulation for the brain, which resulted in it being a hard section. I caught up with a fast walker and I found myself walking with him as we talked. For some reason I was finding little motivation to run and I was worried I would run out of energy. I was ahead of my planned schedule and decided that I would walk this section and continue to walk through the night so that I would be re-energised to run again at first light. After a short time another runner caught up and started walking with us. She seemed very familiar and it turned out to be Kirsten Airlie, the same person who had got me through the end section of Not for Nothing 50 when I had a wobbler. We continued on along the flat road before finally reaching checkpoint 7 at 49.2 miles in 11 hours 6 minutes. It was dark now and I was starting to feel a bit tired and cold. I was having some soup when I heard the rain start, so I dug out my waterproof top but decided to keep going in shorts.

I was feeling content sitting in the dry tent but when Kristen asked if I was ready to go I kicked my ass into gear. Now that I was walking, I had my energy back but the rain was getting heavy and the temperature was dropping to around 1 degrees. I felt freezing cold and was getting extremely wet. We walked at a quick pace and soon I warmed enough so stop shivering. The next section was mainly on road and I was really looking forward to getting off it and onto something more exciting. We ploughed on through the rain and dark and reached Maud Loch where we would soon leave the road. The temperature seemed to plummet at this point and I was shivering violently. We left the road and found that there was tape at regular intervals showing the way, although visibility was poor and it was hard keeping track. By time we reached Errochty Dam checkpoint at 53.6 miles I was colder than I can ever remember feeling. I checked in at the tent at 12 hours 40 minutes and sat at a table for a long time trying to stop the violent shaking and convulsing. I started to fear that I would not make the next section because I knew how hard it was going to be and marshals were warning people not to attempt it if they were unsure. I now had 5 layers on top and 3 layer on my legs but was still shivering. Kristen asked if I was ready to go but I declined and said I needed longer. I honestly thought I would die if I attempted the next section. I made an educated decision. I know that caffeine is a thermogenic and will convert calories into heat. After eating 4 apple pies, a bar of chocolate and some more goodies, I took 3 ProPlus. After 5 minutes the shacking was subsiding and I was feeling warmer.

There was a couple about the leave and the girl was undecided when the marshal warned that the next section could take 5 hours to complete the 6 miles. I made a deal with her that we can try walking 2 miles and return it was too much. We agreed on 1 mile and set off. It was good to be moving again and I was feeling warmer and knew I could make it. It was still raining heavy and very cold but after 1 mile we were all in good spirits again and marched on. Loch Errochty seemed to go on forever and reminded me of the never ending Loch Lomond, when doing The Highland Fling Race. We left the track to continue on bearings across heather and bog. I just laughed my way across and into the bogs as we followed the occasional tape showing the way. There was a red flashing light ahead which turned out to be the self clip and we reached it at first light. Next we had to slog uphill for the next mile and a half and it seemed to last forever. I was so hungry at this point I was dreaming of a big fry-up at the breakfast stop. The approach to Kinloch Rannoch was all decent and a steep one at that. I finally arrived at the checkpoint at 61.7 miles in 16 hours and 53 minutes. My drop bag was small and all I took was a new supply of cereal bars. I made my way to the breakfast stop and impatiently waited for my fry-up, mouth watering and stomach grumbling. I wolfed it down and felt much better. It looked like it was going to be a sunny day so I shed some layers and stocked up on water.

I left 24 minutes after arriving and walked along a road section towards Schiehallion with another walker. My feet had now been wet for about 16 hours and they felt like they had trench foot and big blisters on the balls of both feet. I did not have a change of footwear in my drop bag because I knew the next section was going to be wet and they would not stay dry for long. Every step stung and felt like I was walking on hot coals. I remained positive and still walked at a fast pace. I was planning on running again but there was a big uphill section and a trek across heather and bog again, so I knew I would make little progress. I walked on and started to feel an intense pain in my right ankle around my ankle bone. I started to walk on the outside edge of my foot to try and stop the pain. I was in high spirits but this section was the hardest of all and I was taking a beating. My legs remained fresh but my feet were screaming. I knew I was behind on schedule and I knew that unless some miracle happened with my feet, I would not be running much more of this route. I was strangely content at this point as I was no longer pressuring myself to beat a time but to only complete the distance. All I had to do was endure the pain in my feet. I approached Pheiginn Bothy at 69.9 miles in 20 hours 21 minutes. I was not going to stop but ended up sitting down for some food and shelter. To my surprise I saw Nick Ham stretching on the floor and was amazed and very happy to see that he was here and attempting this event despite the trouble he has had in the last 4 months.

I set off for the next checkpoint just after Nick Ham but he unfortunately left his route description behind in the bothy and had to trek back up the hill and added another half a mile to his adventure. My feet were feeling worse with the blister burning feeling covering every inch of my feet. This section was down winding tracks before reaching a 3 mile road sections. On the descent I noticed that my hands had swelled up to michelin man proportions and I could not move my fingers much. By time I reached the road section I was weaving around a bit and felt a bit dizzy. I could not work out if I was dehydrated (which I felt like) or over-hydrated. I was going to the toilet regularly and it was mountain spring clear, and along with the swelling suggested over-hydration, but I was drinking very little and felt thirsty. I decided to drink 550ml of electrolytes and take some painkillers for my feet. I told myself that if I did not feel better by the next checkpoint I would pull out. I was slowing down a lot now and my feet were beyond painful. Walkers were passing me now and my morale was low. It was on the approach to the Fortingall checkpoint at 76.1 miles that I started to feel more human again and arrived at 22 hours 36 minutes. I tucked into lots of food and felt much better. My feet still hurt but the painkillers took the edge off. I modified my left shoe with a pair of scissors to take the pressure off my ankle bone. I had been close to pulling out but now I just focused on the next stage.

I set off feeling good. The pain in my feet was a little bit more bearable and I found that if I slammed my feet down hard the pain turned more into a numb feeling. The route was easy underfoot although on hard surfaces. I entered Tay Forest Park and was soon passed by one of the couple who I did the night section with, and he was on his own so I guess the other half had to retire. This section was a short section at 4.5 miles in length but I found that as I approached the checkpoint I was feeling the pain intensify in my feet. My right foot was now throbbing from the inside along with the stinging of the outside. I was starting to have doubts again but knew that all I had to do was make it to the next checkpoint. I arrived at the car park checkpoint at 80.5 miles in 24 hours 18 minutes. Nick Ham arrived just as I did and gave me some words of encouragement which boosted my spirits and I used that boost to get out of the checkpoint quickly and keep moving.

I found that just stopping for a minute meant that it took a lot longer to acclimatise to the pain again and I limped on. I was slowing down but remained at a constant momentum. The next section was a riverside walk and I found the uneven track more painful on the feet. The track seemed to go on forever although I kept looking around and enjoying the views. I had caught up with 2 walkers ahead but slowed and was unable to get any closer. I was probably 5 miles down the track when I was passed by three people including Nick Ham and they were looked strong with a good running trot pace. With some more encouragement I continued on with a smile on my face but with clenched teeth. The section was dragging a bit but I was in no hurry and I could see Aberfeldy in the distance getting closer. I arrived at the checkpoint at 86.3 miles in 26 hours 15 minutes. I sat down and had a meal followed by some jelly and ice cream. I was energised and ready to go. I looked at details of the next section and realised that it was going to be tough with some big ascents through hard forestry tracks.

I set off but found my feet were intensely painful. I was moving at a very slow speed and tried to find some painkillers in my bag. Unfortunately I could not find any and realised that I did not pick them up from my drop bag. I resorted to some music to try and take my mind off the pain but little helped. I made it into the forest before my legs started feeling a bit heavy and my right foot throbbed so much I felt like it was broken. I loosened off the laces on my shoes but after another couple of miles my feet were bulging in them again. I tried to make a walking stick from a branch but my arms did not have the strength anymore and it was soon abandoned. There were a lot of walkers passing me now. I was walking very slowly and the hills never seemed to end. I was in that place where the pain and tiredness had gotten to me and I was full of doubt. There were a couple of times that I would suddenly get all emotional and well up inside for no reason. I had decided that I could go no further and would retire at the next check point. The mile leading up to the checkpoint was the biggest battle of physical will power I have had so far in my life. I was walking at around a 45 minute mile pace, where 8 steps were needed to make the distance of a normal step. My Garmin watch has logged me going at this pace and it is amazing to see movement at such a slow speed. I was less than a quarter mile from the checkpoint and my right leg gave out from under me because of the pain. I sat for a few minutes and tried again only to collapse on the floor again. A couple of walkers said they would tell the next checkpoint that I needed help but I was determined to make it there on my own two feet. I was getting up from another grounding moment when two marshals walked out to meet me. They grabbed my bag and told me to walk to the checkpoint, have a rest and get my ass moving again. They informed me that even if I walked 1 mile per hour, I would get to the end in the remaining 12 hours before the cut-off. I finally got to the checkpoint at 92.6 miles in 29 hours 54 minutes and took a seat. The pain was still intense but my spirits were high again and I knew I could make it. The marshals could not give out painkillers but I asked a walker and he opened his pharmacy to me. 800mg of ibuprofen and 20 minutes later I was ready to go.

The pain had not reduced by much and I was staggering all over the path trying to steady myself from the pain. I convinced the marshals that I was ok and off I went. It took a mile to adjust to the pain again but the painkillers took the edge off and I was moving again. I was passed by a walker but I locked onto them and followed close behind. The remaining route was mostly all downhill to the end, and my legs were feeling good, spirits high, feet in pain, a smile on my face. I knew now I was going to make it but also knew there was a window of time before the pain relief would start to wear off. As I approached the next checkpoint a marshal was walking out and asked me my number. On reply he told me that he was informed of my situation and was checking to see if I was ok or if I needed to be pulled out of the event. I walked into the next checkpoint with the marshal and overtook the walker in front. I had reached 97.4 miles in 32 hours and 17 minutes. I had a pot of rice pudding and two Jaffer cakes to go.

I had 4 miles to the next checkpoint and I was storming ahead. The pain in my feet was intensifying and I was worried that the pain relief was about to end. I pushed as hard as I could and started to trot a little on the decent. I was limping a lot now and my knees were starting to hurt a little. I found that I would limp on one side, which reduced the pain enough to limp on the other side to reduce that pain. I made my way down a steep decent down to Strathbraan and reached the road. The road felt hard and my feet felt like they were pulsating and almost spongy on the trek into the final checkpoint at 101.8 miles in 33 hours 43 minutes.

There were less than 3 miles to go and a marshal who was previously stationed at the Errochty Dam checkpoint was making the walk into Dunkeld, so I walked with her. It was good to have the company and I had to push my pace to keep up. We talked the whole way back and it was starting to get dark when we approached Inver. I was aware of how far this section was and how I would have to walk it again to get back to my car (fortunately I did not have to walk). We passed another walker and were on to the home straight. I had a previously thought I would be full of emotion when finally getting to the end but now I felt only happiness and relief that I could sit and take the weight off my feet. I think that I felt all the emotions during the event and the end was just that, the end, and with it comes the end of the all emotions apart from the satisfying buzz of happiness that lingers for many days to come. We approached the Drill Hall and the marshal hung back to let me have my moment of glory passing through the doors. At the desk I was asked if I had just got in before a large bell was rung and everyone in the hall cheered. I had arrived back in 34 hours 32 minutes.

I found a chair and was provided with a nice meal and pudding. After sitting for a bit I was feeling really tired and thought I would fall asleep right there. I got cold and started shivering so I decided to get my bag and head for the showers. A very kind marshal got my bags for me and I retreated to the hot showers where I got to look at my feet for the first time. They were covered in blisters on all sides and there was the largest one on the ball of my left foot. There was a lot of swelling in my feet but mainly my ankles. I somehow showered and dressed along with all the other walking dead and felt so much better. I finally returned to the main hall and asked if there was any transport to get to my car, which thankfully there was. I grabbed my certificate and badge and limped on the minibus. My first reaction to driving my car was the excruciating pain on the ball of my left foot when using the clutch. After nearly stalling the car a number of times I parked up and made some phone calls. I did plan on driving a little of the way back home and getting some sleep at a service stations, but I found it next to impossible to concentrate on just reversing the car out of the parking bay, so I made my way to the medical centre car park and get some sleep there. Just before I went to sleep I noticed that my ankles would not bend sideways and my feet were so swollen that they were rounded on the soles of my feet. I went to sleep feeling the pain and woke the next day feeling it.

It is now 4 days later and my feet are on the mend. The swelling is gone and blisters are mostly dissipated. My hips were a little stiff when moving from sitting but my legs on the whole had very little stiffness. I have been quite tired for the last few days but I am eager to get back out running. This has been the biggest test so far for me and the most exciting. I can’t wait till next year’s LDWA 100 event. I have no regrets with walking most of the route and would consider walking the whole thing next year with the challenge of a longer time on my feet rather than a longer distance.

In the end 495 people started, 142 people retired, 353 people finished. I came in at number 110 which I am very proud of.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Brathay Windermere Marathon

I don’t run road events anymore but Brathay Windermere Marathon was an exception because a year ago it was my first marathon and I wanted to come back and do it again for sentimental reasons. As far as road marathons go, I would say that this is one of the best, with plenty of inclines to keep it interesting. With only two weeks until my 105 mile run up in Scotland, I did not want to trash myself too much, but on the other hand I was getting a bit too over confident with my strategy and timings and wanted to remember how it feels when it all goes wrong during a run. My plan was simple, to run it too fast from the start and see what happens. I also ended up eating too little and getting dehydrated which was not part of the plan but it all helped to make this run go horrible wrong in the latter half.

I got up at 3.40am and set off at 4am so that I could get to the event when registration opened. The marathon did not start till 10.30am, but I wanted to relax and soak up the atmosphere. After a short briefing we all followed a group of drummers down to the start, which gave a really good starting atmosphere. I found myself very close to the front of the thousand or so runners and slowly made my way back a few rows. The starter gun went off and gave me a shock as I was still looking round the crowd, so I quickly turned and started running with the masses. Immediately I pulled a muscle in my back but found it only annoying and it was not affecting my pace. I set a pace of around 7 minute miles for the first mile then slowed a little on the hills so that I was averaging just under 8 minute miles. In my previous Windermere Marathon I set off at an average of 10 minute miles. With no other targets to aim for, I just ticked off the miles.

By mile 5 I had averaged 7.39 minute miles and was feeling good. It was slightly overcast and I was not overheating, but I could tell it was going to get warmer. I was carrying some water and rationed it to last about 10 miles with a couple of drinks from the aid stations along route. I also ate a small cereal bar of 100 calories, every 5 miles, along with a few chunks of Kendal mint cake from the aid stations. In next 5 miles I had averaged 7.50 minute miles, so I had slipped a little on pace but was still running steady. It was about 12.5 miles when I reached the bottom of the lake and left the quiet back roads for the busy A592 along the East side of the lake. I have to admit that I was not enjoying this part as much because of the heavy traffic just inches away but it was not as busy as last year and there were no problems, only encouragement from all the passing drivers. I pushed myself on and covered the next 5 miles in an average of 8.19 minute miles.

It was between mile 15 and 16 that I noticed that I was very hungry and thirsty, and my pace also started to slow. It was obvious that I was going to crash and burn really soon and had no food or water to stop it. I continued to push on but started finding the up-hills a struggle. I covered the next 5 miles in an average of 9.03 minute miles. The only food left was Kendal mint cake at the aid stations but I could not stomach it anymore, so I went without any more food. Not only was I tired, but I was starting to hurt now. The pulled muscle in my back was intensifying after a quiet period and I had a strong pain in my side, which at the time I thought was a stitch, but now I think it may have been my reoccurring pain in my abs. For the final 6 miles I lost the will to push the pace and decided to slow it down. I had achieved my goal of pushing myself to crash and burn and there was no point in causing too much damage for my 105 miler. I ran, plodded and walked my way for the next 6 miles, checking my watch every 10 sections to see if I was any closer to the end. I finally reached mile 25 and covered the last 5 miles in an average of 11.09 minute miles which is a good thing as I intend on starting out on my 105 miler at a similar pace and got a good idea how fast I should be going without the help of my Garmin watch telling me. The pain in my side was becoming unbearable and the only thing keeping me going was that I knew that walking was going to make it last longer. I covered the last mile in an average of 12.10 minute miles to finish in 3 hours 54 minutes 52 seconds, only 48 seconds off my best marathon time which was at the New Forest Marathon and 46 minutes better than my previous attempt at Windermere Marathon.

I recovered really quick after finishing and found that after getting changed and walking around for 10 minutes, all the lactic acid had gone from my legs and I felt fresh again. I spent the next 3 hours watching the remaining runners crossing the finish line only missing the last two as I had a long drive back. There were a number of runners who showed great emotion for overcoming their personal challenges and it reminded me of what this is all about.

So what have I learned for my 105 miler? Pacing is key, and I am going to have to go out slow from the start. If I had ran the first 15 miles at 9 minute miles I would have probably finished without crashing and would have finished in the same time but without the suffering. I also reminded myself that I have to keep eating and drinking all the time, starting at the start line. My upper body always seems to let me down recently, so I will need to strengthen that up a bit more. I will re-examine my game plan for my 105 miler and maybe slow my pace down a bit more, spending more time to enjoy my surrounding and less time looking at my feet. I will also make sure that I am going to fully stocked up with food and water so that I will never run out. For now I am going to protein and carb overload for the next two weeks to recover and be ready for the big one.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Mileage and Training Review

With only a month until my first 100 mile run I have looked back at the mileage for the previous 8 months to try and reflect on how my running and training schedule has developed. I crunched the numbers and made some easier to read graphs, only to discover that what I have actually ran is different to what I thought I ran. I don’t know how I feel about my finding but I don’t think that continuing my current training schedule is the most efficient course of action. I think that in order to make more progress I need to make some changes.

I have put together a .pdf document with some graphs and included some thoughts I have about what I see.

Mileage Analysis.pdf

Monday, 26 April 2010

Highland Fling Race

I have been looking forward to this event for a long time, almost a year, which may not seem like much but I have only known that ultra events existed for the same length of time. The website said that the entry forms would be posted some time after the West Highland Way Race 2009 and I checked the website daily (and I mean every single day, sometimes twice a day) for a long time before finally getting a chance to send my entry form in days before they were posted on the web. Because of my excitement for this event, my blog entry is extremely long so I apologise in advance.

After escaping a stomach bug for the Compton Challenge, it finally got me and with only two weeks until the Fling I spent 3 days and 3 all nighters camped out on the toilet. I was so weak that I just sat shivering, too weak to do much. I finally got out for a 6 mile run, nearly quitting at mile 1, but progressed through the remaining week up to a steady 10 mile run and a 2 miler two days before the event. I felt good again and my injuries were only whispering. I had no concerns about the run but I had some worries about the strategy that I have devised a day before the event, which was to ditch my 15L backpack with 2L bladder, waterproofs, mountains of food, mp3 player, spare toilet roll, spare socks, map, kitchen sink etc.... Instead I was going to wear a small waist pouch, wear an ultra thin wind stopper that I could tie around my waist, and carry a handheld for water. It should not have concerned me as there were ample drop bag locations where my little parcels full of goodies would be waiting for me. In the end, going light was a good strategy that I would do again.

I had decided to say in the Premier Inn at Milngavie for the night before and after the event because of the 6 hour drive. I planned on getting up early and trying to say hello to John Kynaston as I have been following his blog on almost a daily basis and it has been one of the biggest things that has kept me motivated through the rough patches. Unfortunately, I woke a bit too late and would have missed his start by minutes. I figured he would be finished and long gone before I arrived at the finish but luckily he was still there.... more on that later. I arrived with a good hour before my start at 8am and spent some time soaking up the atmosphere. We finally headed to the famous underpass where it all starts and I shuffled from foot to foot on the line between the sub 12 hours sign which was my goal, finish good and finish strong was my thinking.

20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go. We were off, I had no idea where to go as I have never been on any of the West Highland Way and I had no map. I set a pace that I felt comfortable with and could breathe 4 steps in and 4 steps out. The high street flashed by and we were through Allander Park before I could comprehend that I had started. I continued to just follow the line of runners through Mugdock Woods where I fell in behind a group of runners, two of whom I would continue to follow for the next 18 miles. I do not tend to socialise much when running or much in general but I enjoy the company when running. Out of Mugdock Woods, passed Scroggy Hill and on past Craigallian Loch. My breathing had switched back to my regular 3 steps in and 3 steps out. It was great running up to Dumgoyach Hill at around 5.5 miles but the next 4 miles was on a dismantled railway line and I always find them harder to run on due to the uniformity and straightness of their profile. As far as this one goes, it was well established with vegetation and better than most I have run on. During this section my left knee pain returned, first on the inside then moving to the lower right where it lingered. At the end of the track there was a road section and a small field crossing before reaching Drymen at around mile 12, in 1 hour 47 minutes, where the first timing station and water refill was located.

I still felt great and was appreciating not having a very heavy backpack on. I would recommend it to anyone doing this event. The next section headed into Queens Elizabeth Forest which is a forest still managed for timber. I spent most of this time remembering my forestry education that I have locked away in my brain but alas have resigned myself to the fact that the only outcome has been a degree certificate that one day I may need to be used as emergency toilet paper. The group I was running behind was now down to only two and as we left the forest I got my first proper views of Conic Hill. After reading many blogs and accounts of previous races I was unsure what the terrain and accents would be like. After seeing Conic Hill I was undaunted as many runs in the Dark Peak and Yorkshire have given me a longing for hills (I would not have said that at mile 40 though). After crossing the Burn of Mar the accent started and I only ran if there was a flat section and walked the lot. The two runners in front became one and I walked to the crest before taking about 10 running leaps down the other side and feeling the pain returning in my right abs. I was annoyed because it had stopped me in my tracking in previous events, but fortunately when I slowed down it reduced to a mild irritation. I lost the runner in front but would see him again later at around mile 30. I was relieved when I made it to the bottom with only a slight pain in my left knee and only an aching pain in my abs. I could see runners in front and followed them in to Balmaha car park, the first drop bag point at around 20 miles. As I approached, someone asked for my race number in a very urgent manner and I got all flustered asking if he could repeat the questions a couple of times. I found out that marshals were situated in front of the drop bags to shout the number so the bags are ready for a speedy collection. I am so used to the LDWA runs where you have to wait patiently for the marshal to finish a conversation then proceed to have a conversation with them yourself for the next 5 minutes before finally punching your tally and remembering that you are supposed to be running. I sat down and ate the contents of my parcel. So far I have ate three cereal bars, one every 5 miles and now I ate a bag of crisps, 550ml of coke, a pot of rice pudding, downed an Ensure Plus and reloaded my pouch with a cereal bar and Mars bar. I thanked the marshals before leaving for their amazing effort and I could see the enthusiasm they held for the event.

As I started walking out of the car park I got a shock to bump into Jez, which gave me a boost, and we talked as I walked to the road. It was a good job he was there because I had no idea where to go and he pointed me in the right direction. As I reached the Craigie Fort section I lost the markers and started walking back before another runner told me I was on the right course. I was to run behind him for the next 6 miles to the next drop bag point. I thought this section was great and I loved running through the weaving trail sections with great views of Loch Lomond. I started passing people who had slowed down, but I was feeling great and felt like I was floating on the trails. I am so used to running on muddy slippery farm fields that I was a good feeling to have firm trails underfoot. I am fortunate to have very few problems with my feet in regards to blisters or pain and could just plough my way along without worrying where my feet landed. I don’t remember any landmarks on this section other than the occasional shoreline of the loch and a few short road sections, which mainly had the trail running alongside. The runner in front was running at such a good pace that I stuck behind him the whole way until suddenly I saw a sign for Rowardennan Hotel and was surprised to be there already at mile 27 in 4 hours 28 minutes. I had not eaten anything over the last section as it was only 6 miles but I again wolfed down the contents of my drop bag, which was the same as the first.

I walked out the checkpoint while on the phone but as soon as I started running I could feel that my stomach was feeling a bit dodgy. Too much food I though. Little and often, not lots and often. I was on my own and I found my mood swinging because of my stomach. I was still overtaking people and no one was overtaking me so I remained positive but on a downhill I suddenly started feeling a lot of pain. The pain was mainly around my appendix area but my whole lower stomach was stabbing with pain. It was only a problem on the downhill’s but it is annoying when you are walking the uphill’s and reduced to a slow run on the downs. The wider forestry track turned into a single track and my mood swung back up. I was really enjoying the terrain and got a control of the pain. I was still overtaking people and figured that I could be a lot worse, I still had all my energy and my legs were fresh. I finally arrived at Inversnaid, mile 34, where the third drop bag point was and with all the trouble I was having with my stomach I decided to go light and only downed an Ensure Plus and put an electrolyte tablet in my water as I felt a little dehydrated.

I had mixed feelings about the next 6 miles as I thought this section of the route was the best out of the entire Fling. I loved the single track and the rocks, I loved weaving through the trees and boulders, but it was now starting to go a bit wrong also. My stomach hurt like hell and I was also starting to lose some energy. I think it was mainly because of the heat as it was warming up. I carried a buff on my hand so I could dip it into all the streams I passed and use the water to cool down. I was starting to regret having put an electrolyte tablet in my water because after my very strong tasting fruit punch flavoured Ensure, the last thing I wanted was something sweet. I started craving just plain water and eyed up the streams with envy. I could remember getting to near the end of Loch Lomond and thinking when is this loch going to end. I was still passing people and only relay runners were passing me so I remained positive. As I approached the end of the loch with about 2 miles before the last drop bag point, I caught up with the runner that I had previously been behind in the section between Balmaha and Rowardennan. At a couple of uphill sections he stopped for me to pass, which I declined. He must have thought I was using him as a pacer but I just did not have enough in me to get past. As we approached Bein Glas Farm he pulled away from me and disappeared from view. I finally arrived at Bein Glas Farm, mile 41, at 7 hours 34 minutes. I got my drop bag but nothing in it appealed to me as I had reached sugar overload. All I wanted was something greasy, like a fry up. I managed to get a rice pudding down and drink some coke before loading a packet of mini eggs into my pouch and filling my hand held up with water along with my empty coke bottle. It was now that I looked at the time and realised that I was so far ahead of my 12 hour schedule but knew that the last 12 miles could blow up in my face.

As I set off for the finish, I reminded myself that these events are not meant to be easy, and I should just run when I can and walk when I couldn’t. I remembered that on John Kynaston blog he mentioned breaking down the last section into three sections consisting of a 3 mile, 6 mile, then a final 3 mile section. I could not remember quite where the end of the first section was but when I came up to a farm and saw the name above the door, I recognised it. It was Derrydaroch, and I was surprised that I had done almost 3 miles already which gave me a big mental boost. I was running on empty as my nutrition was down, I was dehydrated and in pain, but I was still enjoying the run. I arrived at the tunnel that passes under the A82 and despite thinking that I was moving too slowly, I continued to pass people. When I pass people in runs, I never get any thoughts of competitiveness because I truly believe that a person can only compete against themselves. Instead I appreciate that although my brain is telling me that I am suffering and that I should feel sorry for myself, there are others felling much worse, so I should just stop listening to my brain and let my body push on. After passing a herd of cows in the path I knew I was getting closer to Crainlarich where the route would swing left through a forest. After the last of the larger inclines of the remaining route I again caught a glimpse of the runner whom I had been trailing most of the day. This time I could not catch him and he disappeared on the downhills where I was reduced to a painful stomach clenching hobble. After winding down the track for some time, I approached the tunnel under the rail line and approached the A82 road crossing. I could hear lots of cars and though how nice it would be to stop and rest while waiting to cross. No luck for me, it was clear and I crossed over. I knew that when I hit the remains of St Fillan’s Church that there was only about 3 miles left. I could tell from the terrain that it was mostly going to be flat and I made a deal with myself that I was going to run as much as possible. I ended up running the small inclines and walking the small descents due to the pain in my stomach. I was so hungry at this point and just wanted to eat masses of savoury food with lots of fat and no sweetness. I instead ate all my mini eggs. I have to admit that this section seemed to last forever. I was wishing to see sight of the finish. As I approached the final wooded section, someone told me I was really close but because of the trees I could not see how far. I finally came out onto a road near Tyndrum Lower Station but did not know where to go. I chose left and could see some runners just up ahead. Before I could see the finish, the runners ahead turned right and I could hear bagpipes erupting into action. I turned off the road, passed the piper and could see the crowds of people waiting at the finish. Again, I am used to the LDWA events, which are usually so laid back that you can arrive in silence back to a hall where it takes you 10 minutes to surgically remove your shoes before entering and wait patiently for someone to retrieve your tally and note the time. This was an electric reception and I pushed myself through the finish line.

After crossing the line someone asked to remove my timing chip and when I looked up I was shocked to see it was John Kynaston. I even said something like ‘sorry, it’s such a shock’, at which point I felt like such a prat that I didn’t say anything else. When my bag was handed to me I nearly dropped it and found it hard to lift it up, before the marshal kindly took my empty coke bottle and I could use both hands. I wolfed down my fish supper but I was feeling a bit rough. When I looked at the time I knew that I had smashed my 12 hour plan and have came in under 10 hours 30 minutes. I decided to get my kit bag as soon as possible and get changed before I got too cold as I was starting the shiver. I bought some pasties from the shop to get rid of the taste of sugar in my stomach. I then got a bit of courage to go and say hello to John Kynaston before retreating to sit on a wall where I did not move for a long time. I was feeling really rough now. I had lost all feeling in both my hands and some way up my right arm. I had waves of dizziness coming over me. But I’ve felt worse and knew I would live, so I sat it out. It was great seeing the awards ceremony. By the time I got on the bus at 9pm to go back the Milngavie, I started feeling better and got feeling back in my hands. What a hell of an event. I will definitely be back before the end of the year to run the last section of West Highland Way..... I will just wait will the midges have dwindled in numbers first.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The 14th Compton Challenge

The Compton Challenge is a 40 mile figure of eight route which also includes a 20 mile option for completing only the first loop. It was a race to the start for this run as both my daughters where projectile vomiting with a stomach bug, and I was covered on a number of occasions as a result. Luckily I made it to the event without contracting the plague. I headed down the night before to use the free ‘camping facilities’ at the school hall, with the intention of getting some decent sleep and not having to get up at 5am. It was raining heavy that night and with a forecast for rain the next day, I was ready for a wet one. The morning of the race ended up being cold and dry. I was torn between wanting to take only a handheld water bottle and a bit of food, or taking my backpack with 2L of water, spare waterproof jacket and lots of supplies. I ended up taking the heavier option.

We all made out way to the start line at the schools playing field and stood shivering. I was wearing a long sleeved thermal top and a fleece but most people were only in vests. Just before the start, the sun came out and I could tell it was going to get hot. We had a countdown and were off, which first involved a lap around the field before heading into single track through woods, involving lots of people franticly jumping through trees to avoid the bottle necks. I soon got into a rhythm and fell in with other runners, slowly playing leap-frog with them until I found a group that suited my pace best. I started getting really hot and wanted to take my fleece off but decided to wait until the first checkpoint. There were eight checkpoints in total, and the first was at 4.5 miles. The journey there involved running through a mixture of fields, tracks, roads and footpaths which on the whole where fairly muddy from the recent rain but it was only shallow mud that allowed easy passage through. After a close encounter with postman pat (who did not want to slow down), I arrived at Hampstead Norreys and at checkpoint 1. It was only a water station and with 2L only my back I ran straight through.

The start of the next section involved climbing a hill and I used the time to take off my fleece and tie it around my waist. The top of the hill levelled out and a long section of running of flat could be seen ahead. The constant changing between tracks, fields and footpaths enclosed in woodland gave a really good sense of progression through this run, with very few long views of the route ahead to allow for negative dwelling about the remaining distance. Through Ashampstead, through more woodland and up a few hills, the next checkpoint arrived at mile 10. As this was a proper running race I thought the checkpoints would be just water and a bit of sugary fuel, although the checkpoints were similar to the LDWA with a variety of food and drinks.

Next there was a steep hill to climb, although very short in length, and as the top levelled off my energy returned immediately. I had been running at an average of 9 minute miles, which involved running 7 to 8 minute miles of the flats and down hills to compensate for the slower uphill accents. I was worried about burning out in the later miles of the run but wanted to get an idea of pace for the Highland Fling Race which I need a 9 min/mile pace for the first 12 miles. I continued on through more woodland and onto Lardon Chase, giving views out over Streatley and the surrounding hills. A steep downhill section brought a bit of pain to my knee but a level section of running made it go away. Running through Aldworth brought imminent arrival of the next checkpoint at 15.5 miles.

The next section was mostly all on track and included a section of the Ridgway bridleway. Although good for running fast, it brought less stimulation for the brain. Up until this point I had been feeling good and had ample energy but I could start to feel it fading slightly. I had always wanted to pass the 19.5 mark feeling good as this was where the route split for the 20 mile route and I did not want to battle with my mind if I was in a low and wanted to quickly divert back the finish and call it a day. Luckily I arrived at the next checkpoint where the route splits and was still feeling good.

The sun was becoming stronger at this point and I had salt build-up round my eyes from sweat. My heavy backpack was causing my back to sweat excessively also and I made sure I was drinking enough to prevent dehydration. The route to the next checkpoint involved long straight sections that allowed you to see how little progress you are making and how far you have left. I started having my low point here. A number of runners passed me as I started plodding with my head down. I pushed on, but halfway to the checkpoint I started feeling a pain in my abs, the same pain as in my run the weekend previously. As the pain increased I slowed further until I was reduced to a walk. I was furious at the pain. It would subside when walking only to increase again when running. I continued with a run/walk approach to the checkpoint on the outskirts of Chilton.

After the checkpoint I decided to tighten the waist belt on my backpack so that it would hold my abs as tight as possible to try and reduce the pain. I found that this, along with straining my stomach out, started to ease the pain, but it was another 4 miles before reaching the next checkpoint at East Hendred that the pain would go completely. On the approach to this checkpoint another runner passed me but as the pain subsided, I managed to catch up with him and we both reached the checkpoint together.

We both refuelled and set off together but I found myself ahead of the other runner, slowly gaining more and more ground between up. At this point I started felling great after my low point, and I mean really good. My pace increased and my legs started feeling fresher. There was a half marathon distance of 13 miles left to go and I started ticking off the miles. I passed two more runners at East Ginge, which was the 30 mile mark, and headed along tracks towards checkpoint 7. There was a hill on the approach and I could see a runner catching up from behind. I was still feeling great and pushed on to arrive at the checkpoint.

On leaving the checkpoint the runner who was catching up arrived but was getting a cup of tea and I did not see him again. It was just less than 5 miles to the next checkpoint and I still felt good. It started to rain at this point. I continued on down a bridleway which included random horse jumps, some looked like little castle walls and other made into great wooden structures. I arrived in West Ilsley at the 33 mile mark and headed on a long detoured route along bridleways towards East Ilsley where the last checkpoint was located. My energy was started to subside a bit now but I was having such a mental high. All my recent runs have finished in me feeling like death and were a battle to finish. Here I was having run 36 miles and I was feeling almost as fresh as mile 6. I arrived at the final checkpoint just as the rain started to get heavier and turned into a downpour.

I left the checkpoint on my final 4 miles, climbing the hill through East Ilsley and following the Ilsley Down Riding Route bridleway. There was a steep uphill where I could see another runner at the top and I walked the hill using the time to put my fleece back on to warm up a bit in the rain. I pushed now and soon caught the runner ahead and passed by. I was soon running back on a leg of the outward route and knew exactly where to go. I started to run most of the uphills now and was pushing hard. I could see another runner ahead but had no incentive to pass him, only to finish strong and on a high. I started feeling a bit sick on the last mile but only because I was pushing myself and as I approached the finish, the sickness soon went. I returned through the single track and ran onto the school playing fields where it all began, before being greeted at the finish line.

I got my winners t-shire and a Cadbury’s Cream Egg for an Easter treat before making my way back to the canteen and wolfing down some amazing sausage, chips and beans. It was a long drive back so I got ready quickly and headed off home in the rain. I passed through East Ilsley where the last checkpoint was and could see a number of runners in the pouring rain looking miserable and wet, but I was still on a massive high. I never mention my running times because I only care about making the distances but my time for this was 6 hours and 49 minutes, which is amazing for me. My best 50 miler was just over 10 hours but I feel that I could have done an 8.5 – 9 hour 50 miler that day. On reviewing my Garmin watch I could see that there was a reduction in pace when I hit my low and I was in pain, but my final 13 miles were almost as fast as my first 20 miles. I am now in high spirits for the 53 miles of the Highland Fling Race in three weeks time and have to make sure to rest properly as it will not be an easy one, with lots of accent and difficult terrain in the second half. I can only hope for that amazing feeling at mile 40 again which I why we all keep coming back for more.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Kipling Kaper

With my dodgy knee starting to feel less dodgy, it was time for the Kipling Kaper, a 31 mile event in the Peak District. For this event I had planned to just going for it, to just run as fast as my legs will take me (but without getting too out of breath). The event was closer to home than most so I got to get up at a later time of 6am for a change. Everything was going good until I reversed my car (still on the drive) into my neighbour’s car. I felt like such a tosser. After a quick letter through his letter box apologising, I set off in a really shitty mood. The weather did not help when I was met with rain and thick fog.

I arrived at the start with plenty of time to register, get ready and dwell on the morning’s incident. The start was more memorable than most events I have participated in recently with a mass start and I had just drove into my neighbour's car. I can now recognise a lot of the regular runners in the local events and felt sorry for Nick Ham who had to recount on his injuries over and over to everyone he talked to, although all the concern shows that he is a much liked member of this community. As we all grouped together in the car park, the sun came out and off we went.

We all set off in a big group which I positioned myself hear the front. The first hill came quickly and the group began to spread out although not by much. Everyone seemed to want to run the first hill, so I just got my head down and ran with them. We reached the top of Gun hill trig point where I could see about 6 runners in front of me and a long line behind. All the aches and pains of injuries were staying a bay so far but there was a section of downhill to tackle next. I thought I kept at a slower pace to make sure my knee did not flare up, but on reviewing the data from my watch I found I was going 5 minute miles at times which is 12 mph. A few runners when flying past me on the grassy banks and I cannot imagine what speed they were doing. At around the 3 mile mark I thought I could feel a blister on the back of my right foot which started hurting so bar I had to stop. I noticed that there was no blister there but a big purple patch. Already feeling down after redesigning my neighbours car, I was so deflated that I thought about quitting right there and walking back. On the other hand, in light of the damage I had done to the car I was going to make this run count for something and any suffering may take my mind off it. I ran on and found the pain started decreasing as the mile ticked by. We passed Abbey Green and headed due west. Before the first check point at 8.5 miles there was a long straight stretch along a disused railway line. I found myself with two other runners who were running at the same speed. We sped along the flat section and with the pain on my heel not hindering me anymore, I fell into a meditative pace dwelling on damaged cars.

After 2 miles running alongside Rudyard Reservoir, I arrival at check point 1, grabbed a couple of biscuits, and set off quickly along with the two other runners I was with previously. A new member joined the group before we left the disused railway track and headed toward Rushton Spencer. We continued onto the Dane Valley Way and along a canal feeder. Here another runner joined the group which would continue to lose a few in front and behind only to rejoin again at the next style or gate. The group passed through Danebridge before heading off through farm fields, passed Hammerton Farm, then passing a pub called the Wild Boar. This event allows for a number of different route combinations to allow for a varied distances. It was my intention to do the whole hog and coming up next was an out and back climb up a hill called Shutlingsloe, which is only 506 feet in elevation but a ‘crawling on hands and knees’ accent to get to the summit. I could see it in the distance and it looked big and steep. A number of our group asked me if I was going to do it and although I was still feeling relatively fresh, I was having concerns about pains in my knee and my right leg. As we approached the start of the 2 mile extra sightseeing tour up the hill, I had almost decided not to do it but as everyone else was heading up the hill I followed. For the next 2 miles I was regretting every extra step I had to take. It was not the extra distance but my legs were telling me that I have not done many hilly runs recently and were turning to concrete. We reached the top and nearly got blown away in strong winds before descending back to the bottom. The very last section of the detour was a steep road and right at the bottom I felt sharp stabbing pains in my abs. I could walk fine but running sent stabbing pain with every step. I was having a nightmare of a time. I damaged my neighbour’s car, got a new injury on my heel, trashed my legs going up some hill and now I am doubled over in pain. The next check point was within spitting distance and I walked it in catching the group in the hall, all on a feeding frenzy.

I decided to make it a quick stop so I could get back out and try and walk off the new pain in my abs. I shoved a load of cakes and scones in my mouth and grabbed a couple of sausage rolls to eat on the hoof. I left the group still feeding knowing they will soon catch me and leave me for dead. I walked at first and slowly started to do a run/walk until I could tolerate the pain. I was feeling so low that I just focused on forward momentum. I started along Cumberland Brook before two of the team caught me up and we ascended up to Danebower Hollow, walking the whole way. At reaching the top I was all but finished. I started running again, but at a much slower pace trying to suck my abs in to reduce the pain. The other two runners were ahead and I slowly lost sight of them. The only people I would see for the remainder of the event was three more runners who I would crawl past in the later stages. There was a bit of a downhill section next and I could see the route would take me through a valley. I managed to pick my mood up a bit and found a bit more speed, keeping to a run. I spent this time thinking about my version of 'pimp my ride' to my neighbour's car. I was getting cold and decided to put my fleece on, hoping the extra heat would reduce the pain. There was a bit of navigational error which resulted in me running randomly across fields to find the correct track, which I eventually found. On the map I could see how close the next check point was and this, along with a surface that was easier to run on, gave me enough of a boost to push on. Finally I could see the check point.

The third and last check point was in a car park and there was ample food and refreshments and a warm atmosphere. I didn’t stop long and made my way towards The Roaches. I have been rock climbing here a number of times in the past and was looking forward to running through it. Unfortunately the approach involved a big accent up through Gradback Wood, up to Roach End and up to the top of The Roaches. I walked the entire length with short jogs on any flat sections. I was starting to have a big low again and though the climb would never end. I just wanted to run and get this over with. At the top of The Roaches, it levelled off and I started to run again. It was just before the decent down from the ridge that I caught up with three other runners and after passing two, I continued along with the third. We ran through the maze of paths down to the road and I could see that it was mostly downhill to the finish. I pushed ahead in the hope that it was all going to end quicker and after a quick navigation error involving climbing up a steep hill I had just ran down, I swore my way along wet muddy fields. This was the final push and I was doing everything to keep running. The pain in my abs was becoming unbearable and my face was completely contorted as a hissed my way through endless number of gates and stiles. I was so close and the last few hundred yards I was reduced to a walk as I could not take the pain any more. I ripped my shoes off at the entrance of the finish hall and after handing in my card, made my way to the food and started shovelling it down (and what a feast there was). I could not be bothered to put my shoes back on as the effort seemed too much, so I finally walked back to the car in my socks. Only one thing left to do... go home and talk to my neighbour.

My neighbour was extremely understanding and said that everything was fine, but I still feel angry at myself. This whole experience has shown me one thing. When undertaking an endurance event, a positive outlook from the start will get you a long way after your body fails, and a negative outlook will only get you as far as your body will take you. I have physically recovered well the day after the event and now have to mentally focus on the Compton Challenge 40 mile run I have next weekend. Then there will be only 3 weeks until the Highland Fling Race which is my first none training run of the year.