Thoughts On Planning The Winter Sandalled #BobGrahamRound – #CumbriaFloodAppeal 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 🙂

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