Mountain Air Clears The Mind – The Bob Graham Round Obsession Continues

I was yet again privilege to be part of something that was awe inspiring, humbling and truly inspirational to be part of.  Many things happened and a myriad of thoughts passed by, remembered on brief occasions but on the whole allowed to float away on the light breeze that brushed the star lit fell tops, but the important things are ever clear…

The destination is only important if the journey is used to inspire and teach others that adversity is the way in which we learn to be more than we were before taking our first steps.  Words are wasted if they are not followed by action and in all we do we should acknowledge were we have come from.

It doesn’t matter how big the steps that are taken are.  They could be infinitely small in comparison to the grand adventures of others, but adventures is how we learn the importance of the simplest of things…  The act of moving as we were intended to do and making each step part of our daily mantra.

A huge well done to Raj M. for allowing me to be part of his incredible support team, as he made his way around the Bob Graham route, touching 42 Lakeland peaks, climbing a total of 28000 feet and covering 62 miles of bog, scree and mountainous terrain.

 

Being Ruled by Your Heart – #RunE1Trail Training Update – @PledgeSports @TrailRunningMag @OrdnanceSurvey

The specifics of my training aren’t as important as the driving principles behind it, train by heart rate and not by pace or perceived effort.

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Mornings Start at 4am & coffee!  No food if I’m going out for training (run or bodyweight work)

I’ve written about the 3 M’s of adventure training and this is the key part of that. Tuning the engine so that you can make the most of the calories that enter your digestive system and the calories stored on your body as fat. In short, I’ve been running around 50-70 miles per week on a 4 week cycle, making sure my heart rate stays below a magical number… 145bpm for 80% of the time. This is mixed in with a reduction in the amount of sleep I have (bed at 10-11pm and up at 4am) and some core, body weight and movement based high intensity work (around 20-30 minutes twice a week). This isn’t some mystical formula I’ve come up with but a combination of training concepts by Matt Fitzgerald and Dr Maffatone for those interested, but I seem to be pretty much injury free even though my mileage ramp up has been quite steep.

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Focus is on 2 things…  Metabolism & Mechanics

This past weekend was a test of that training, supporting a friend on a leg of the tough long distance challenge in Wales called the Paddy Buckley Round and then running the Keswick Mountain Festival 50K race a day or so later.

 

The PD leg was tough (Read about it here). Not only the terrain, distance or the 6000+ft of ascent, but the winter like conditions. Howling wind, visibility of around 3-4m max and constant cold rain from the start of the leg to very near the end. After just three and half hours of sleep, I woke up, drove carefully to Keswick for the Keswick Mountain Festival, in bed by 10pm, with the intention of waking up early and getting my kit ready for the 50K race the next day.

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Some times, the lack of sleep catches up with you.  You find you just don’t seem to be  able to move out of bed!

For the first time is a very long time I over slept and arrived at the race just as the runners where given the off!!

4 minutes later I crossed the start line and started to run and by mile ten, although legs felt fine and I was moving at a good pace, I needed to sleep and decided that if by mile 20 I needed to sleep still I would.

I didn’t need to sleep though. I just seemed to be able to move along, chatting to people, stopping to take pictures, admiring the view in parts and generally being amazed at how well my body was coping wit the route and with the fatigue I started with.

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Learning to survive as much of the land around me is going to be the key things to surviving Europe’s more remote areas.

I ignored the food at the check point, collected water from the natural water sources around the course and relied on 800 calories and my bodies natural reserves. With the late wake up, I’d not eaten any breakfast, so the fuel I needed had to be taken form my own body. I did notice I was dehydrated at mile 35, so I supplemented the Tailwind mix with some pure water, mainly to compensate for the amount of sweating (it was a warm sunny day). 6 hours and 33 minutes later I was at the finish line, over taken 4 people in the final stages and finished 50th overall!! I actually felt ok. I wasn’t limping, I wasn’t aching and I wasn’t struggling to walk around. Today, the legs are tired and deserve a recovery day before training resumes and it’s off to the Lake District for some fun.

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I’m lucky to have such amazing places to run on my doorstep.

I loved every single minute of the weekend runs, even the Paddy Buckley round where I was genuinely freezing for a big portion of it and I was glad I decided to go with my Luna Tabu socks. It seems I’m getting more ready for the E1 run, but the doubts are still there and the fear of the unknown remains, driving me forwards with more and more momentum.

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Endurance of hardship needs to be habitual, just like being barefoot.  The more it is experienced the more second nature it becomes.

More training to come next week, starting at the weekend with a Bob Graham Round support (Legs 1 & 2, maybe 3 with a run back to Keswick afterwards), some runs with serious climb, recceing the Lake Sky Ultra race route and then heading to the first ever Ultra Festival down south so I can sit or stand in awe of the ultra running legends that will be there!

Supporting The Paddy Buckley Round – Realising The Gains From #RunE1Trail Training Part 1

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It’s Friday morning, my alarm goes off at 4am.  I test out my new trick for getting myself up and ready…

It works!  I feel more awake and less inclined to slide back into the sleeping bag and drifting back into a warm and hazy slumber.

Last night was spent under a tarp, sleeping somewhere in the glorious Peak District next to the #AdventureTaxi to test out my new sleeping bag.  Luckily it only rained for most of the night and the Alpkit tarp worked perfectly.  Sleep for the last few months has been limited to 5 hours or less on average, so this is now a norm.

I make my way back to Buxton, meet up with Lucy, an old training partner and we start the mornings training run shortly after 5am.  Something had made me slightly grumpy, so I moaned a bit, acknowledged to anger and moved on.  The pace was slow and steady and the weather was fortunately drier than the night time.  5 miles later, we were done and t’s time for work.

5 lessons later, a class set of exam marked in lunch time and its time for the mad panic rush to get to Wales early enough to sleep before starting Leg 2 of the Paddy Buckley Round to support Ode (who helped on leg 3 of my Winter BG attempt).  Things don’t always work quite as planned and I arrive in Wales without enough time to get an hour of sleep.

I turn on the stove, boil some water and opt for a coffee instead.  The taxi is a complete mess from throwing everything in there after work had finished, so a little reorganising is going to be needed at some point!

10pm arrives…  The other two people supporting on that leg arrive and we set off for the meeting point.  10:40pm and we start.  It’s raining, visibility on the peaks is down to between 3 and 4m and we are moving through streams and saturated bogs.  In parts the ground was so saturated it warlike walking on a water bed.  The wind is bitingly cold and after an hour I’m completely drenched, squeezing the water out of my gloves by clenching my fists repeatedly.  One of the other people supporting makes the decision to drop down before the end of the final climb.  I grab Ode’s extra clothing, food and water and begin the chase.  It’s incredible how far people can move when they don’t stop.  I lose site of both Ode and Clive as they move over the brow of the first climb and I resort to using the glow of their head torches in the clag to find them.  I pick up my pace and start to feel the burning in my calves as the hill gets steeper and eventually I catch up.  It’s time to resume the duty of care for Ode, making sure he’s fed and watered.  When you take on these challenges you tend to lose track of time, focusing purely on the act of moving forward.

The temperature drops as we climb higher, visibility gets worse, the wind picks up and blows us around like dolls but we keep moving forward.  We made a couple of navigation errors, I’m aware that I’m getting colder and colder and my hands and arms are beginning to show signs of poor coordination, so I stop and get an extra layer on.  I have no idea where we are on the route.  Ode and Clive continue along the ridge and vanish into the mist and eventually even the light of their head torch is gone.

This is were things can go wrong.  Very wrong!  I’d taking a general direction bearing just before the light from their head torch vanished, so I start to run in that direction.  Running with out a bearing or visible land marks makes it hard to stay on a given line if you are off trail.  I remember a friend telling me about the bushman in Africa using high pitch whoops to communicate.

I whoop….

“OOOOooooooooooWi!”

I cover my head torch stand still and look.  I see the glow of a head torch light up the a small patch clouds we’ve been running through, so I start to run towards.

“OOOOooooooooooWi!”

Again and again I whoop out loud, until I reach the brow of the ridge and can see them making their way down the descent to the valley floor and heading for the next climb.  Finally, I reach them and we carry on.  Ode is in good spirits still, and I carry on with my duty.  Make sure he’s warm.  Make sure he’s drinking and make sure he’s eating.

Why didn’t I take out a compass and take a bearing or refer to a map?  If you have no idea where you are and have zero visibility, a map is next to no good.  My only other option was to find a hold to hide form the weather in, get in my survival bag and wait for the morning and better weather before making my way back down the mountain.  Phoning was also not an option since there was absolutely no signal.

Eventually the leg is done, we drop out of the clouds, the rain stops, the sun is rising and we are on our way to the next check point.  It was tough, but I loved it.  I was amazed that Ode had chosen to do this and at the single minded determination he’d shown in getting his goal complete.  We’d lost two and a half hours and Ode grudgingly decided to call it a day on this attempt and reschedule.  He was strong enough to continue, but the idea of meeting a given time had buried itself in his head and once that happens, it’s hard to let go.  I’ll be joining him on his next attempt and I may even have a go myself before the E1.  It was just incredible running and I genuinely didn’t mind the wind, rain or cold.

3 hours of sleep later and I get the 4 hours drive to Keswick out of the way, present a talk on my summer run in a daze, grab some food, organise the taxi and by 10:30pm I’m asleep!

The alarm rings!  I press snooze and go back to sleep for 9 minutes until it rings again…

I wake in a panic!  it’s 5:00am and I have to get my kit ready for the 50k, drive back to Keswick and start running.  No time for breakfast!  No time for coffee!

Sophie pops along at 5:30am and realises she has no food with her.  I give her a pack of walnuts and tell her to go to the race briefing and the start of the race.  I arrive just in time to see everyone run off and I haven’t even pinned my number to my chest yet!!

4 minutes late, I run over the start line and chase the runners…

This is where the story stops.  The race came and went, I relied more on the natural resources of the Lake District than I did the checkpoint stations, I ran keeping my heart rate at an average of 150 beats per minute (5 beats higher than my training limit) and ran the 55Km distance taking on just 800 calories.  The more I push, train and learn, the more amazed I am at how this simple machine responds.  Now to carryon with training and get ready to support a BGR attempt on Saturday.