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.