Make Your World Bigger in 2016 #mywbpledge

Great post about the Discovery Channels #MYWBPledge campaign that is reaching an end. Go get your pledge tweeted before the end of the week and you may win £5000 to make that pledge come true.

I was already on the road to running the E1 solo, and so everything I’m doing this way is linked with it. Last year was distance, this year the focus is technical terrain and ascent, and linking each of my challenges together so one feeds into the next.

So, what will your pledge be?

Paul Coxon's moments

‘And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.’ – Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (You don’t? Seriously? Why not? Find me here: @ThatPaulCoxon) will know I have been talking about Discovery Channel’s Make Your World Bigger pledges (#mywbpledge) for 2016 quite a bit over the last month.

This is the second year for the Discovery campaign, having already inspired lots of people in 2015 to get outside and out of their comfort zones to do something incredible, something they would not normally do and something that they have always wanted to do. In short, people made their world’s bigger and, in 2016, the pledges are back, better than ever…

Here’s what Discovery Channel has to say about the campaign:

At Discovery we think there’s always more to know, explore…

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Thoughts Before Doing Something Stupid – #BGR #GetOutside #PushYourLimits

I watched the dot on the screen move from peak to peak, wandering what the conditions were like underfoot and overhead.  I wandered what would be going through the runner’s head, who in this case was Ricky Lightfoot, an absolute machine of a runner.  The my thoughts turned inwards.

The last days leading up to a challenge seem to be a mixture of thoughts.

“What have I done!  How the hell are you going to get this done in the time you’re supposed to?”

“In sandals?!  No Chance!!”

“Don’t think about the clock that’s ticking.  Just get round”

“How the hell am I going to get round?”

“Need to get some more training in these last few days, and get plenty of sleep”

“No point in training now!  Shouldn’t have broken those ribs or got near frost bite traipsing around in waist deep snow for hours”

“Is that my calf feeling a bit tight?  Is my glute feeling a bit odd?  My knee feels odd”

“There is no way that I’m gonna make it round!?!?!”

“In sandals?!  No Chance!!”

So it starts with negativity and doubt.  Analysing the past few months of running and how the running felt.  The recovery of non-running relating injuries.  Conversations with others about levels of fitness and how to manage the challenge of running for 24 hours or more over some of the toughest terrain in the UK.  How to manage the nutrition.  What to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, how much to eat.  Pacing and pacing strategy.  The most interesting thing is the gap between peoples perception of my fitness and my own perception of my fitness, but always an annoying doubt.

“In sandals?!  No Chance!!”

I have to nail the climbs and get the downhills done as quick as I can.  Use whatever I can for recovery and make sure I’m running within myself, paying attention to what my muscles and body are telling me.

What if I get distracted and end up injured?  What if I fall behind early on by being unfit?  What if one of the support team have to drop out last minute?  What chance do I actually have of completing this thing and what will the failure cost me?

“In sandals?!  No Chance!!”

That seems to be all I need to refocus.  That defiance that drives us all if we let it.  That dark place isn’t a silent pit of dispair, but is a cacophony of voices shouting out challenges.

“In sandals?!  No Chance!!”

Thanks for your words.  They are ammunition when I most need it.  I had the same ammunition during the Summer, the words of an experienced barefoot runner saying that beyond a shadow of a doubt, running long distances barefoot was impossible.  The battle is against the words and not the person.  Many will be thinking the same and part of my brain joins in with the chorus of “No Chance!!” but it wouldn’t be worth pursuing.

Here’s to the external and internal thoughts of “In sandals?!  No Chance!!” :D

 

The Fine Line Between Tough & Stupid

The winter Bob Graham attempt looms on the horizon, the damaged to my ribs is slowly repairing, training is taking what ever form I can get it in and I’m back to running, so being in the Lakes to help with the Askham Trail Race seemed like the perfect opportunity to get leg 1 done.

  
The night before, there was a reasonable amount of snow, meaning most of the higher ground had a delightful layer of powder, and the ascent up Skiddaw, although tough and shin deep in parts, was fun.

   
  

    
    
   
Then we began to desend from Skiddaw and towards Great Calva.  The snow just got deeper and deeper.  The pace downhill slowed to a crawl as we trudged through knee deep snow and then the pace dropped even further.

The snow was close to waist deep and I was starting to lose the will to live.

I am planning on completing the winter BG in sandals, so on Sunday I was armed with my sandals, some thermal socks and some Luna Tabu, which when moving at a good pace are adequate, but when the pace drops as it did, my feet began to freeze.  2 hours in and even snails were moving faster than we were.  My feet were cold.  My feet were beyond cold.  They had started to develop that tell tale ice block feeling that’s the sign that tell you if you don’t get them warm you’re going to get frost bite.

I have been in that situation before and my feet were an absolute mess after.  That and the fact that the day was slowly disappearing as we effectively waded through a snow quagmire, we decided to ditch the route, found the straightest line to the Cumbrian way, which we could see was well trodden, and get ourselves back to Keswick.  A quick pause at the YHA, I removed the Tabu socks (that were now solid ice) and quickly put on some Injinji socks.  Now, I don’t normally run with socks and sandals and in snow, its a bad idea.  My feet soon gathered more snow than most of the trail we were following, gathering as balls of ice under my toes and the arch of my feet.  Eventually, they had to go!  As soon as they were gone and we ran down the main path from Skiddaw, the feet started to thaw out a bit, but unfortunately I think it was a little bit too late.

I also found a spot in my comfort zone I hadn’t yet poked around in.  The place were no matter what I do, I can’t move fast enough to stay warm and instead of seeing the distance shorten, I feel like I’m just treading water.  I caught myself turning that sinking feeling in on myself and the future Bob Graham Round attempt and as I did, I could feel the confidence slowly drain away.  Then the sinking feeling was put aside as the problem solving brain reengaged.  I tend to not look at maps whilst out running or exploring, but I study them before and make as many links between sections as I can.  It’s my way of always having a rough idea of how to get out if I need to, so there was no need to stop, get the map out and try and work out the solution to this snowy problem.  The solutions were pre-formulated and it was just a case of selecting the right one.  I think Rob had probably come to the same solution, and the decision to head back via the Cumbrian Way was easy to make.

Defeated by the conditions, but not destroyed.

Two days on, the sensation is slowly returning to the toes on my left foot…

‘There is a thin line between tough and stupid’

I got dangerously close to that line, and now I’m going to have to take stock.  Continuing the Bob Graham Round in those conditions is going to be on the stupid side of that line and not having some form of back up footwear would fall even further on the stupid side of that line.

To top it off, in the pub after the run, Billy Bland’s sister happened to be working and she effectively gave me a stern but polite telling off, adding more fuel to the ‘you just came very close to being stupid!’

So, if you are planning on going up any peaks, mountains or even walk in the snow make sure that you are prepared for the worse and you know the warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite.  You’re responsible for your own safety, but at the same time this responsibility spills across to anyone you happen to be with.

You are never too tough to become stupid!

 

What are your 2016 challenges? – #GetOutside #Adventure Thoughts & Plans @OrdnanceSurvey

 

IMG_0543On Christmas eve my grandmother said “You’ve achieved so much and you seem to just want more.  Why?”

It was a good question!  I actually thought I knew why but I couldn’t get the words out in a coherent and understandable way.  I’ve spent lots of time after completing the summer adventure thinking about the next challenge, and at the moment, with my current situation (in that I need a job and have a job that isn’t particularly flexible with time off) any of the challenges I’ve pencilled are either too expensive or will take too long to complete.  On top of this, I’d like to see more of the places I love this year, so the adventure ideas like the Iceland Mid-Atlantic Ridge run have been placed on the virtual adventure shelf for now, ready to be picked up once I manage to make changes to the way I live.  But I still had this problem of not really knowing what to do to make 2016 better than 2015?  Others have said it but…   “How do yo stop that?”

Then, completely by chance whilst waiting for a friend in Keswick, I stumbled on a set of the Wainwright books and remembered an old idea of doing all the Wainwright walks back to back (a challenge that was completed by Steve Birkinshaw in just 7 days!!). I remember following his progress and being a bit astonished that someone could run 320 miles, with 118,000ft of ascent in such a short time, and wandering what it would take to get fit enough to do it myself.  That’s around the same amount of up and down as my entire run in the summer!

It’s clear to me that this year’s challenges aren’t going to focus on long distances (I know this is going to be a question of viewpoint since 320 miles isn’t exactly a short distance), and I’d like to have more time on hills o my weakness becomes a strength.  I’m curious what this body of mine is capable of, so I’m going to use the winter and spring months to find out.  Which leads nicely onto the There 3 mini-adventures I’m planning on completing (with one or two secret little challenges thrown in that I’ll announce later in the year) in 2016.

Here they are:

  • Winter Bob Graham Round in support of #Cumbriafloodappeal – Jan 29/30th –  justgiving.com/aleks-kashefi
  • Barefoot Bob Graham Round – June – Lets find out if it’s possible?
  • The Wainwright’s Barefoot and Unsupported – July/August – A leisurely paced run/walk with a tent that I hope lots of people will join me on different sections

 

Other adventure ideas are on the virtual adventure shelf, for a time when I can afford to just get up and go adventure, and that is were my other focus lies.  It’ time to lay the foundations for change, have less, do more and be more creative.

So, what challenges have you set yourself for 2016 and who did you decide on what they should be?

A New Year Draws Ever Closer.  How Do You Plan To Make 2016 Awesome? #GetOutside

It’s been quite an eye opening year.  Ideas that have been bouncing around have been given credence and there’s a new curiosity that’s now driving me forwards.  

There’s so many ideas floating about that it’s hard to find focus but that’s why I tend to be out and about so much.  It’s a great way to refocus on what’s actually important to you, so I think I’ve managed to get my ideas sorted, just need to get a bit of research done before New Year’s eve and workout a few kinks.  

There’s no questions about my reasons, I simply what to be a better person and closer to what I’m capable of as a human machine.  I also want to explore the idea of having less and doing more.  Let’s see what the limits of a normal human is :)

So, how do you plan on making 2016 more amazing than 2015?

Why Do You Run? An Existentialist Angst Response @Trailrunningmag @Runnersworlsuk @OrdnanceSurvey #GetOutside & #Run

I apologise in advance for the existentialist angst in this post….

I run because it is fun!  I run because I get to see cool places, lots of cool places and I get to see them in a shorter space of time.  I run, so I can sit on top of big things, looking all contemplative when in reality I’m tired from running up the hill.  ;P

 

Have a great Christmas!

Pacing Tour de Helvellyn Ultra – #GetOutside @Nav4Adventure @OrdnanceSurvey

The forecast was for a warm day with good visibility and that’s what everyone got.  Along with this unexpected winter weather package was the copious amounts of rain and gales that would peak at around 40mph.  Still, when you enter an Ultra, in the Lakes district, in winter, you kind of expect the worse and dress appropriately.  The combination of wind and rain meant that if you moved too slowly you got cold as the wind evaporated the rain on your skin.  It also meant that in the out bound sections of the course, you would be running into the wind, making progress a little soul destroying in parts.  Still, people got registered, got their kit ready, had some breakfast and took the firs steps out of Askham hall and out to complete the 38 mile loop around Helvellyn.

Before the race, the hall was filling up with people and a great atmosphere.  There was a feeling of urgency, nervousness and keen anticipation in the air, but the Nav4adventure guys and gals added a real sense of friendliness and fun to it.  Out of the few races I’ve taken part in, this was by far the most friendly atmosphere.

The plan was to pace a friend, Lucy, around the course and to start with stick to an  hour pace.  The thing with setting a pace is that you can end up feeling like you are chasing your own tale around during the race, so I said I would be in charge of the pacing, wouldn’t mention anything about the actual pace, and having played in the Lakes, new that it was going to be a tough course.  A bit of faffing later, we dibbed out dibbers and were off.  the navigation at the start of the race was fairly easy but the head on gales made progress a little tricky.  The pace was just about right for an 8 hour finish, but it was kind of obvious that we would be hard pushed to get round that quickly.  To keep warm, I’d run ahead and then turn back or wait in a sheltered spot while Lucy caught up, and before we knew it, CP1 was ahead, dubbers were dubbed again, numbers were shouted out and we were off towards the first major climb.

This climb was truly epic!  The rain fall had created a rocky stream that meandered up the hillside and since I had sandals on, it seemed the only way up should be up the stream.  It was great fun bouncing on the rocks and weaving my way up the hill and Lucy had picked up her pace too, so we were just about on track for 8 hours.  Then the long descent to CP2 started!  It was absolutely tremendous to run along.  Rocky and technical, with a few landslides of mud that quickly put you in your place.  We reached checkpoint to between 2 and 3 hours in, behind schedule, but it was early on and pace can always be picked up.  It was still raining but at least we were sheltered from the wind in the Patterdale valley.  I was a bit amazed at the amount of flooding and when you realised that actually, the river that is around 5 feet below the bridge, was flowing happily above the bridge not so long ago.  The roads, paths and fields had the tell tale patches of silt that marked the passing of the river.  A slight pause for navigation and we started the ascent up to CP3 and after a zig zagging climb we arrived.  Lucy was tired and you could see it in the way she moved.  8 hours was ditched and it was a case of get Lucy round to the finish before the cut off at the penultimate checkpoint.  The rain had just about stopped too, which meant we could dry off.

At CP3 after some laughing and a little bit of patting around, we set off again through some truly amazing terrain, past tarns and streams and along rocky footpaths, up and then over a saddle to CP4.  Here we had a choice…  we could take the road, or follow the footpath to the next checkpoint and it was time for a little mental break, so we headed down to the road, I slipped on to my arse in comedic fashion and a steady pace was set to CP5.  Up to this point I’d only had a bottle of tailwind, so I grabbed some cheese, heckled Lucy to make her get out of the checkpoint faster and we followed the footpath that skirts the base of the Helvellyn range.  This was close to apocalyptic in parts!  The bridges had all washed away and crossing the streams that had developed serious delusions of grander and were closer to rivers added to the challenge.  Landslide after landslide was crossed and then we were met by Tom, who advised us of the missing footbridge ahead and our potential path choice.  We decided to contour up and around to the footpath leading to Grizedale Tarn, and had yet another raging torrent to cross.  Lucy was waning, and need a little helping hand across the stream.  In the end, I crossed over, wedged myself in the stream using some of the rocks under the water and gave her a helping hand as she jumped a few feet across the water.  The thing that was great to see was that she was tired and in pain but despite the odd moan, groan and swearing, she kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I made sure she was ok and gave her tips on how to manage her progress and after a while she worked out how to move so she had the minimal amount of pain.  Then we met Santa!! Finally she smiled a genuine smile, and her pace picked up.  I didn’t say anything to her but she was close to not making to cut off at that point, struggling to lift her legs as we made out way up the climb to Grizedale Tarn.

Santa must have handed her some kind of rocket fuel though!!  she picked up her pace, shortened her steps, picked up her cadence and started to use her shoulders more as she trudged up the hill.  The view at Geizedale tarn was awesome, with the valley that leads to Patterdale ahead of us.  We picked the shorter, but more boggy, route and headed to the descent to Patterdale.  Downhills tend to hurt when your tired, but to have ITB pain and have to tab on long downhills only add to the pain.  “If it hurts to walk, run.”  I repeated to her and she picked up her pace again.  We were making good progress and from being close to the cut off point and having to dib and run at the Penultimate checkpoint, she potentially had a 30-40 min break ahead of her, but only if she could maintain her new pace and not give in to her brain.

This is were I lied!!  “We’ve got 35 minutes before we are timed out.  I’m happy to be timed out, but you need to make the call.  We move faster and we’ll be there in about 20 minutes or you give up now.”  Not my exact words but it was something along those lines.  She did tell me to run off as we were heading down from Grizedale, but I’d said I would stick with her and get her to the end, and that was what was going to happen.  Eventually, we made it to the road section, bumped into Kirsty and Clare (fellow Derbyshire based ultra runners) and I managed to get Lucy a couple of pain killers.  She reached the checkpoint with around 40 minutes to spare, grabbed a tea, ate some food (I went a bit mad for the crisps and tomatoes!) and we set off again, up the last major climb of the route with only 10 miles left.  It was silly to assume any running would take place, so it was a steady walk all the way.  I made a slight navigation and missed the right turning that would lead us back down to the last checkpoint, but I got my head switched back on and we doubled back for a 100yrds to pick up the right path again.

We were the last people at the last checkpoint and got joined by the sweeper.  Lucy managed to pick up her pace and all was going swimmingly on a section of the course that causes lots of people to go astray.  I made mistake number two and followed a group of other runners as soon as I saw their head torches.  Here’s a tip…   Use your compass and dont follow others, especially when you know that the navigation at that point is tricky and easy to get wrong.  I missed a right turn towards the gate back onto the track leading to Askham, but luckily I know how to use a map so we followed a wall that would eventually lead us to the gate we needed and it was comforting to see that the right navigation decision had been made after the mistake as we popped around a corner to see the head torch of the sweeper.  It was somewhat biblical!

I ran off as soon as we joined the sweeper with the plan of locating beer then running back to hand it to Lucy for her Herculean efforts.  Here’s where I ended up remembering that I can’t navigate streets, even with a map!  I ran passed the beer and finish twice, Lucy and the others got to the end before me and people started to get worried about my whereabouts.  I planned on dibbing the finish line after Lucy.  It was the only right thing to do since she put in far more effort than I did, battling with herself, overcoming what people call ‘the dark place’ and changing her body into a perpetual motion machine regardless of the terrain, mental or physical fatigue.  I ended up finishing last and around 7 minutes behind her, didn’t find the beer but it was great to see her finish.  The route and race aren’t going anywhere and next year, I’ll have a crack at it solo.

It’s one hell of a route, the Nav4 crew are unbelievable and made the whole race (despite what most are calling horrendous conditions) a joy to run.  If you’re looking for a tough challenge, would prefer to do it with the safety of a well oiled support crew and you want to see some spectacular examples of Lake District views then you should sign up the Tour de Helvellyn next year.

Why Do You Run? The Relevance Of The Question Whether you #GetOutside or #StayInside

I’ve revisited this repeatedly and realised something…

I’ve either been asking the wrong question or the question isn’t relevant anymore.  When I do run, I get to a point where there’s an urge to just keep running and moving over the terrain as efficiently as I can, letting that effortless sensation wash over me.  The point is, I’m interested in moving efficiently as apposed to quickly.  Even in races I enter, I’m not concerned with how fast I finish, but more concerned with how comfortable I am when I finish.

I’m obsessed with training myself in being able to move over different terrain, passing obstacles with the minimal effort and without the loss of momentum.  Styles, gates, fences, boulders and even fallen trees become part of a giant playground that I can crawl, jump, vault and bounce along.  It’s as though those moments as a child when you challenge yourself to not step on a crack in the pavement, or to cross a stream using the scattered rocks that stick out have returned.  Let the body do what it was designed to do because it feels good.  Training has shifted in favour of working on my mechanics and metabolism, then applying it in a challenge, race or even a new sport.

But the question ends up creeping in again…

 

Why do you run?

The truth of it is that I run so that I can expand my playground, and I can enjoy more of my chosen playground of fells, mountains and trails without less limitations that are caused by a lack of fitness and inability to move.

So…

What’s your reason for running?

Thoughts On Planning The Winter Sandalled #BobGrahamRound – #CumbriaFloodAppeal

Justgiving.com/aleks-kashefi in aid of #CumbriaFloodAppeal

This is a collection of thoughts more than a ‘how to’ guide.

A winter outdoor challenge tends to have a set of problems associated with it, and the higher the ground you will be moving  on the greater the level of risk.  It’s really important that the excitement and anticipation that comes from setting a challenge doesn’t cloud judgement or get in the way of preparing properly.

A Bob Graham round is a challenge in itself, but to undertake it in mid winter, and considering the damage that flooding has done to certain sections of the route, it’s a whole different level of what I fondly called ‘stupidity’.  It is possibly one of the toughest challenges in the UK.  You have to contend with the cold, strong winds, icy conditions, snow (potentially deep snow), visibility issues and you will have to navigate the route, or you jeopardise completing the round.

People will find the fact that I’ll be running in sandals on the route another element that makes it super difficult and for some, the sandals will cause them to completely overlook that other aspects that need to be in place, like physical fitness and the right mentality.  For me, the sandals is normal.  I’ve spent far too many miles, whether wet and muddy, icy and snowy or pleasant and dry, running in either sandals or bare feet to consider doing the round in any other way.  The issue of doing it in sandals will come down to keeping my feet warm with 3 simple steps:

  1.  Making sure that I’m constantly moving.  If you stop, your core temperature drops enough for your body to kick start the response of stopping blood flow to your extremities.  If I have support at the end of each leg, I’m likely to stops for a very brief moment if I stop at all.
  2. Keep your torso, legs, hands and head as warm as possible.  That’s why I have such nice woolly hats.  They are often too warm, but I’d rather have a warm head and avoid cold feet than the other way round.
  3. Protect your feet from snow!  Sound simple, snow has an incredible ability to rob your feet or any other body part of heat.  Running through puddles doesn’t even come close to the running on the same day and happening to run across snow.  Water in puddles that aren’t frozen or the water beneath layers of ice is often around 4oC which does actually feel warm in comparison to snow or ice.  Just to make sure this isn’t a problem I has some interesting ‘ninja’ socks called the Tabu by Luna sandals.  I don’t normally wear them for training runs, regardless of the weather, but I will put them on when travelling across a snowy set of Lake District fells.

The hardest part of the challenge will be to move  fast enough in the snowy, wintery conditions that I’m expecting to face.  The round itself is not going anywhere, but it would be nice to be able to complete the challenge and get it ticked off.  With support during and in between the legs, I can see it being possible, but whether it is done in under 24 hours or not is going to largely depend on the level of my fitness, my ability to manoeuvre over wintery mountain terrain and the weather conditions on the day.  Although I take calculated risks and have learnt to problem solve when things do go wrong, I’m not prepared to put others at risk during the BGR attempt.  If need be, I’ll delay the winter round and wait patiently for a good window of opportunity, using the time to train.

So what am I doing in preparation, other than making sure that I have ways of overcoming the problems of cold feet?  Training and preparing for that persistence in forward motion even when severely sleep deprived, making sure I’m familiar with the route, making sure there is support around the route and making sure that I have planned my nutrition and hydration (and make sure that it’s were I want it when I want it), and most importantly have my escape plans in place.  If you get yourself into a dangerous situation, it is only as dangerous as you make it by not being prepared.  Sometime accidents do happen, but it’s how you are prepared to deal with them that makes the different between an accident and a disaster.  There’s 5 weeks left before the first attempt date is set.  Here’s hoping for a bit of luck in terms of the weather and conditions on the day, but lots can happen in 5 weeks.

If the attempt does have to be called off, I’ll just have to head over to the Grand Day Out in Cumbria Event and get involved in anther way :)