A Question Of Mentality

A set of recent conversation hamve caused a review of my mentality when considering the summer challenge.  

I have no milestones by which to judge or acknowledge progress and have no intention to move quickly as I make my way through the UK.  A while ago, without meaning to I switched from a goal orientated mindset to one that focuses on being present in the journey.  This is my way of explaining why I stop in a race to admire the view, or slow down so I can talk to people and fully embrace the experience.  Sometimes I catch myself being pulled in to the goal mentality in races, and I know it’s happening because the enjoyment has gone, only to be replaced by an overwhelming desire to move past the person in front and to beat that ever ticking clock.  At that point, I slow down, regain control of my breath and cadence, moving at my own comfortable pace, and admire as the colour seems to return to my surroundings as though some remotely increases natures colour saturation.  I’m not interested in a setting records or beating anyone else, just finding the limits of the fleshy vessel I seem to be part of. 

I guess with things of this nature, it’s more about knowing yourself, your limitations and strengths, being prepared to compromise and improvise when setting goes wrong.  No matter how much training I do, it’s likely resilience is going to be the most important tool in box.

3 weeks today, I’ll be walking to the sea, placing my hands in the cool water before heading north so I can repeat the ritual at the opposite end of this island I live on.  

Hope the adventure live up to the build up….

The 21 Day Countdown

Justgiving.com/barefootlejog

  
There’s three weeks left to go, ¬£2647 raised and 1,280 miles and 144,000ft of ascent completed in training. 

Right now I have a nice view up on a hill somewhere between Buxton and Belper, making my way to the Derwent River relays.   The sun is warming up for a spectacular display, I’m about to make a tea and get ready for pitch up and get some sleep before an early start in the morning.  

Hope your weekend starts as pleasantly as mine seems to be :)

Support Package Curtosy Of Backpackinglight – Big Thanks To @bpl_uk For The Support

Package arrived at work today and inside was some donated camping gear from backpackinglight.

First surprise is how light the box is!  Surely they forgot to post the tent?

Inside was a nice hand written note, a packet of Skittles and then some camping goodies.

Here’s what Bob from backpackinglight sent:

  • Vaude Lizard GUL – ultra light 3 season tent weighing in at 690g!!
  • Titanium spirit burner – super light way of getting a warm mean cooked.
  • The Pocket Stove – titanium multi-fuel stove that’s going to really come into its own along the moors and the highlands.
  • Thermatrex blanket – these light blankets will reflect 75% of your body heat back at you.  Effectively I can up the warmth of a super light and thin sleeping bag without adding lots of weight to it.
  • Skittles – essential fuel, except this hasn’t made it past the first 5 minutes!

I can’t thank them enough for this equipment, but I also have to say a big thanks to Peter Ambrose for initiating the communication with them.  If it wasn’t for his initial email, the following conversations and then offer of support just wouldn’t have happened.  

Approaching the 3 week mark ūüėä

They’re Not Flip-flops! They’re Sandals! A Love Affair With Nylon & Rubber

  As odd as it seems, I tend to get more comments when running in my Lunas than I do running barefoot.  Maybe it’s the utter disbelief that someone would actually run with no shoes on that stops the comments, but regardless, there seems to be something about wearing them that attracts people attention.

Now, I’ve tried huarache sandals in the past, and I really didn’t like them, but something about the Lunas kept catching my attention.  Maybe it was the fact that I’d read about Barefoot Ted and seen some of the videos he’s posted on the internet, maybe it was the fact that they just looked and sounded good to run in, or maybe it was all the positive reviews I read.  Either way, I’ve ended up with a few pairs (3 to be exact) and really do enjoy running in them.

Running barefoot is not like running in barefoot style shoes.  You may think your stride and movements are the same, but I’ve grown to realise that actually…  They aren’t!

So what makes Lunas different, and why have I considered them as a sound footwear choice in case I need them between the 26th of July and whenever it is I finish this adventure?

  1. They are just simply comfortable!  There’s no more to it than that on this score.
  2. They don’t seem to effect the way I run.  This has actually surprised me, especially since comparing the wear pattern on the bottom of my sandals, they are actually different to the wear pattern on my “barefoot” shoes.
  3. Your feet don’t get that nasty trenched look if you are running in wet, boggy terrain.
  4. Blisters are a thing of the past!
  5. They are super easy to put on and take off.
  6. Grit is easily removed and mud between your foot and the foot bed (which is a problem) is solved by running through puddles.
  7. There is more toe space than any other shoe.  I know this is obvious, but I think this is the key to getting your movement mechanics right.
  8. They last around 1000-2000 miles!  This is ridiculous to me.  I’ve spent so much money on shoes that generally last me around 200-300 mile of running, which is actually only a coupe of months max.  These cost less than the average shoe and last 3-5 times longer.
  9. You get to call yourself a Lunatic.

I could keep going on an on about how great they are, but they are the main points that make them so good if you are wanting to go minimal.  Over the next week or so, I am going to have to make a decision about which sandals I am taking with me on my journey, so I guess the next thing to do is to write a little post about each one and the reasons behind my eventual choice.

Barefoot Ted…..  Thanks for going to that canyon and learning how to make these bad boys!  They really are amazing to run in :)

Sleep Deprived Musings Of An Ultra Runner

As teachers, we encourage reflective thought in our students.  We are encouraged to be reflective practitioners with our teaching and continually review, refresh or improve out practice.

The weekends adventures (all be it, joining and supporting someone else’s adventure), and the looming start of my challenge (26th of July) has given me some time to think. ¬†A couple of things kept cropping up during the run in random conversations.

1. ¬†People don’t understand why

This is a common thing said by fell and ultra runners.  People find it difficult to comprehend the reason behind what we do as runners.  The distances are hard to comprehend, the lack of sleep, need for food and the persistent forward motion are also tricky to grasp.  Why would someone give up comforts for such a mundane activity?

I’ve thought long and hard about this, not being happy with the “if you are asking you won’t understand” response. ¬†It seems (for me anyway) to stem from a love of the elegance of it all. ¬†To be able to navigate through empty landscapes, cross vast expanses of land and scale mountains¬†with an¬†air of effortlessness, is just simply put, graceful. ¬†There is something of the greek myths and legends about the people who take on these journeys, were even failure to complete a challenge becomes a victory in itself. ¬†Simply completing one of these endurance challenges wouldn’t be enough for someone to understand the reasons why for one simple reason…

The reasons why is ephemeral, and shifts.  What begins as a way of digging yourself out of a dark hole changes into a myriad of colourful reasons, with only one common theme.  A persistent drive to move forwards.  It seems for me the only common theme to my reasons for  taking on these challenges is seeking a simplicity in my existence.  A way to constantly redirect those inner demons that slow my development as a person.

2.  What are you running from?

Often disguised as the question ‘why do you run?’ or “why did you start running?”, the question is still the same. ¬†What is it that you run away from?

The reasons are personal, but they seem to be variations on a theme. ¬†Most people run because they realise that they aren’t happy with themselves, whether it is their weight or bad habits. ¬†I started running to overcome a low point, where happiness was something fleeting, but now I simply run to be. ¬†Not to see if I can run further, not to hide problems that I don’t want to acknowledge and not to prove a point or seek some ego boosting prestige. ¬†Running tends to bring with it a sense of freedom and a sense that you are in fact being your true self. ¬†Clarity in thought, responding to your bodies needs, moving with the landscape as apposed to fighting it and experiencing the moment. ¬†In fact, the moment¬†itself seems to stop having the same meaning. ¬†I find it shifts in length,¬†at times being short and others stretching out as though it could be infinitely long. ¬†Despite this chaotic nature, one thing brings it all together. ¬†The sense of nothingness that engulfs me. ¬†Not a nothingness where I seize to exist, but more an indifference to the normal demands on a person, where you can just be. ¬†I’ve struggled to put this feeling in to words, and I still find it difficult to do so. ¬†All I can say is this…. ¬†it is the one mental place, were it is possible to truly acknowledge who you really are and measure your value and significance. ¬†Realising that we are but a tiny blip in time is somewhat scary and to many sounds a little depressing but its this feeling that brings a smile to my face every time, regardless of the pain or tiredness Im feeling.

It should be interesting to see¬†whether my thinking shifts, or whether I discover anything new about myself. ¬†Long endurance challenges are said to be the perfect arenas to see what we are made of and to test our limits. ¬†I have even heard ultra running legends say that they reveal a person for who they really are. ¬†Right now I have just two desires in terms of the challenge… ¬†To complete it successfully and not disappoint those that have given their support and to allow the selfishness of the whole adventure do some good for others who are less fortunate.

So… ¬†after that long and rambling piece of philosophical thinking, why do you run?

3 Out Of 5 On The Bob Graham Round

Yesterday, along with several others, I supported Clare Holdcroft, a buxton runner, on her attempt to conquer the Bob Graham Round, a 65 miles circular route that takes in 42 of the highest points in the Lake District.  In total it has approximately  the same amount of accumulative height gain as Mount Everest, and is mostly off-road.

It was an absolute privilege to witness Clare running and be part of her tremendous journey, al be it for 3 out of the 5 sections, and I have to say that I am truly inspired by the whole experience. ¬†Apart from he obvious display of super human endurance, everyone in the support team (whether running or checkpoint support) where totally focused on Clare and her well being, carrying her food, equipment, water and making sure that she didn’t have to worry about navigation.

There’s 4 weeks to go till the start of Barefoot Le Jog, and to have this as training and experience, is priceless, but I’m going to stop spoiling the whole thing through my clumsy use of words and let the pictures speak for themselves.

If you have ever wandered why I, or anyone else, would choose to run for hours on end through the wilderness, then look no further than these images.

Clare after the first leg of the BGR, having a quick break.

Clare after the first leg of the BGR, having a quick break.

Break over and it was time to set off.

Break over and it was time to set off.

The first climb of leg 2 begins.

The first climb of leg 2 begins.

The sun shortly after sunset.

The sun shortly after sunset.

First big climb done and en route to the next peak

First big climb done and en route to the next peak

Several peaks later and as we approached the first peak of leg 3 the sun began its rise.

Several peaks later and as we approached the first peak of leg 3 the sun began its rise.

Pre sunrise light.

Pre sunrise light.

Temperature inversion in the valley bellow.

Temperature inversion in the valley bellow.

Almost time to remove the head torches.  The sun had a little surprise for us.

Almost time to remove the head torches. The sun had a little surprise for us.

The sky beginning to catch fire.

The sky beginning to catch fire.

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Sunrise and the sky over the Lake District explodes into colour.

Sunrise and the sky over the Lake District explodes into colour.

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A brief respite from climbing and just enough time to enjoy this.

A brief respite from climbing and just enough time to enjoy this.

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Another peak bagged

Another peak bagged

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hiding the seriously suspicious looking zip-lock bag of Tailwind Nutrition

hiding the seriously suspicious looking zip-lock bag of Tailwind Nutrition

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Navigation cairns.  Although, with Kirsty and Mandy at the helm, these weren't really of any use.

Navigation cairns. Although, with Kirsty and Mandy at the helm, these weren’t really of any use.

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Lord's Rake, AKA "really?!  After 40 miles this is the best route?"

Lord’s Rake, AKA “really?! After 40 miles this is the best route?”

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getting ready for his second leg of support by drying out socks and shoes.

getting ready for his second leg of support by drying out socks and shoes.

Final leg.

Final leg.

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Self Perpetuating Motivational Device

In all the training, organising potential sponsorship, contacting people regarding potential talks post run and getting the equipment sorted, I completely forgot that there is a Land’s End to John O’Groats Association. ¬†This is what their site says about becoming a member:

“Anyone who has completed the journey From Land’s End to John o’ Groats in either direction, by whatever means of transport is eligible for membership of the Association.¬† You will have to have completed your trip as a single journey no matter how long that takes and you will be asked to provide evidence of a properly completed trip¬†which could be in the form of a diary or log book with signatures from anyone who has witnessed your trip.¬†¬†Many places, garages, post offices etc¬†have a date stamp and will be happy to stamp and sign your log.¬† Other¬†acceptable forms are accommodation receipts or similar which show where you were at any particular time and date.”¬†

The¬†idea of carrying a small book that is then stamped, signed or is used to collect some kind sign of my passing is really appealing. ¬†One of my favourite pieces of art is by the artist On kawara. ¬†He went on a journey and would send a postcard home that simply said “I am still alive”. ¬†Without getting deep and philosophical he was questioning his own existence.

So here’s what I plan on doing.

I’m going to purchase one of my favourite makes of notebooks, a Moleskine. ¬†On the 26th of July, in the Early hours of a Sunday morning, I’m going to carry this small book and along the journey I’m going to collect items that I can store in this little book, and for each item title them with the date and time. ¬†It is a little arty I guess, but as a personal piece of memorabilia, it’s going to priceless.

It’s the little things that cause out memories to jolt into action and let us relive moments in the past, so this is going to be my little memory jogger, and it’ll give a second goal to focus on whilst moving persistently forward.

I guess that’s what this post is about….

I’ve found a way of redirecting my focus at times when I will be low and struggling. ¬†The book really can’t go unfinished!

I’ve already planned one or two of the Scottish pages. ¬†They will be filled with the daed bodies of midges ;)

Pleasant Surprise & Fuel For The Flames

This morning I had some mail in my inbox.  Not the sort of mail that goes straight to the trash, but one that you read and get stoked about.  

The email was forwarded from the ever helpful Peter Ambrose, who has been super supportive and been that voice of genius through the last few months of training and planning.

Mark Hartell appears to have acquired a purple tshirt!!  Here’s the words he sent with his picture…

“Britain has a fine tradition of eccentrics and nothing could be more so than running the entire length of our country off road and barefoot. It will certainly require uncommon dedication and endurance, but Aleks already has a pedigree that shows he is made of the right stuff. 

I wish him well on his endeavour and hope that he smashes his fundraising target for the Stroke Association!”

Mark Hartell

11 Time winner of the Fellsman 60 mile fell race.  Holder of the Lake District 24 hour fell record (77 Peaks)

If you’re not sure who this guy is do a quick google search.  He’s a legend in running and despite numerous attempts, especially recently by Adam Perry.  All I need now is a little of his ultra powers, combined with a purple power tshirt and all will be well!

So, as the event draws nearer, I’m finding it slightly difficult to find time to train and carry on doing my job.  Last week was a definite reset week, with little running or other training, and huge focus on sleep and school work.

This week things pick back up.  Running, gym, work and supporting a fellow ultra runner Clare Holdcroft on her Bob Graham Round attempt.  Hopefully not too much of it will be in the dark as I’m aiming to support her on 3 out of 5 legs. The big challenge will be to get recovered in time for the Peak Districts Kinder Trog fell race the day after. 

BGR is a monster of a route with lots of uphill, so if I can use it as part of training and do it successfully, it’s going to be a huge tail boost.  Here’s to the next 5 weeks before the utter madness begins.

Natural Born Heroes Review – Kind Of!

Claire, the editor of Trail Running magazine was kind enough to send me a copy of Christopher McDougall’s new book, ‘Natural Born Heroes’ a few weeks back.  The story is based around the adventures of several World War II heroes, working to thwart Nazi progress on the island of Crete, but that’s all I’ll say about the story.  I’m not really qualified to review a piece of literature, so if you enjoy a good story, and don’t mind some simplified scientific ideas, then grab it, read it and just enjoy it. 

Having said that, I’ve slowly trundled my way through it, enjoying the story unfold and even more importantly picking out the nuggets of wisdom that are hidden in the book.  In true McDougall style the book meanders around a main story and repeatedly bounces backwards and forwards, giving an insight into movement efficiency and feeling that movement.

Now, the following is a real short summary of the key points McDougall brings up:

  • Learn to move efficiently.  As humans we evolved to move quickly over lots of different terrain and doing it using muscle power isn’t necessarily the best way of achieving an end goal.  I mentioned this in an earlier post and it was nice to see some evidence based writing to back it up.
  • Learn to burn fat as fuel.  Fad diets aside, this makes perfect sense just based on the energy content of fat per gram.
  • Train to be useful.  This is probably the best bit and in short…  Don’t specialise and be adaptable.  Go for a training run, but throw in a climb or two along the way, pick a route where you have to climb and jump around and learn that all important lesson.  Trust your instinct and let your body instictively workout what it needs to do, including feeling and hydration. 

So, is the book worth a read?

The answer is yes.

Is the book a manual on how to be a heroe or preach about barefoot running, diet change or any of the above billet point?

No.  It mentions them in the context of what the main characters of the book achieved and how they managed it, despite a diet and hydration plan that according to today’s thinking should have caused their death beiges they started. 

I’ve finished the book, it was given to me for free and so it needs a new home and this is how it’s new home will be chosen.  All you have to do is say why the book should make its way to you next by commenting here, on barefootlejog’s Facebook page or tweet @fat_man_runs with the #barefootlejog. 

Best comment gets a free book ;)

The Point Of No Return

Ive read a few book that are true stories about some incredible acts of human survival, and I’ve wandered what they must have had running through their minds.

I’ve asked these questions of others and myself…

“When do you know you’re ready?”

“What happens if you fail whilst under the watchful eyes of others?”

I think I’ve reached a point where I can answer both.  Oddly, it’s dawned on me not when running, but when revisiting my old hobby of Tai Chi.

How do I know that I’m ready?

It’s hard to put into to words, but in short, there’s a certain clarity to my thinking and I know that even when utterly destroyed from a previous days running that I can still move and my body will respond by becoming more fluid with each step.  I know I can embrace the dark moments of doubt and use my persistent forward motion to break through them.  Staying in the moment, listening to the feedback my body provides and acting as much on instinct as is possible.

Then there’s the whole issue of failure.

This is the second part of knowing you are ready.  You accept failure.  The Hagakura (samurai code) describes the perfect samurai mentality as one who has already accepted death.  A little morbid, I agree, but I’m ready to fail, learn, train and repeat the whole thing in the following year.  It is something I will keep trying till it is done and borrowing the words of Edison, I will learn 99 ways not to run 1206 miles in barefeet and one way to do it. 

Enjoy your day ūüėä