FEAR, DOUBT & CURIOSITY – The Reasons Behind #RunE1Trail – #GetOutside @TheUltraMag @GetOffTheRopes

It is a simple fact that the unknown and unfamiliar will scare us at some level.

I am filled with fear of this unknown and yet refuse to stop heading for it.

I am filled with doubt of my ability to survive.

Two are voices that is daring me to stop.

The other is daring to go on.

Curiosity…

Never satisfied, it pushes you beyond what you know you can achieve, daring you to just take one more step into the unknown.

 

 

 

It plays a cruel game with fear and doubt…

Curiosity is a bastard!

Things That Will Be Missed Part 1 – #RunE1Trail #GetOutside

 

I once had someone to spend my time with.  Someone who I thought would be beside me for the rest of my life, but that wasn’t meant to be.  The gap that should be there however, is filled with a love for the Lake District fells.  Their unpredictable temperament, their harsh terrain and the beautiful simplicity of moving around them.

To all the fells of the Lake District…

I will miss you!

The Dark Side OF Adventure Planning – Part 2 – Logistics Of Running The E1

This is going to be one of the biggest time consumers of the whole trip, if not the biggest time consumer of the trip.  I have to get myself to the start, get myself back from the end, setup a schedule for the route so people can have an idea of where I’ll be, when I’ll get there and what sort of distances I’ll be covering.  Then there’s finding addresses along the length of Europe so I can post equipment along the route and collect as needed.

In essence I’m trying to predict or put in place lots of systems and events that ultimately lead to specific points in space and time, and doing all this while become an meteorologist and trying to predict and plan to changing weather conditions.

The time of the trip is done to partly coincide with the first time I managed to run for more than a minute, almost exactly 4 years ago.  It also gives me a time where flying to Norway is slightly cheaper.  But there is one issue…

At some point I will have to be up high and have to deal with potentially impassable conditions, whether that is in the Swiss Alps, Apennines or the higher sections of Norway.

I’ve chosen the what I think is the lesser of the evils.  Starting in Summer in Norway.  The idea of running in sub-zero conditions, snow and with little to no sunlight wasn’t something I wanted to even experiment with, so I’ll now have to contend with whatever conditions the Swiss Alps throw at me at around 2000m.

This bit is important.  The logitstics of something this long are going to be intimately linked with the weather.  There is absolutely no getting away from the fact that as I run down Norway, I will be losing between 30-15 minutes of sunlight, as I reach the latter parts of Sweden and then Denmark, I will be running through mild but wet conditions as Autumn begins to take hold and then there’s the Swiss Alps…

The E1 runs along a pass through the alps that at it’s highest will be in that border line section where I could have no snow, some snow or enough snow to make the whole rejoin liable to avalanche!

Some conditions, are passable with a control of the risks.  Others will stop me dead.  This is where I’m going to have to find some form of employment and wait for the ideal conditions (or more to the point, passable conditions).

The change in seasons on something this long are also going to play a big part in what is needed, which is going to be the most fun part of the ‘Dark Side of Adventure Planning’.  Get it wrong to not have the equipment where and when you need it is likely to be a barrier to the constant forward progress, but I’m going to enjoy working closely with Alpkit to get this side absolutely nailed down.

So what is the point of all this?

Simply put, you will always have a few things to workout:

  • A general schedule of places you are going to pass through and possibly dates or even times you will pass through them.
  • Knowledge of whether certain sections are passable (i.e the need for ferries, knowledge of tide times, average weather conditions etc).
  • Drop locations that will reduce the need to cary equipment and food for later stages.
  • Location of food and water (water is less of an issue with the use of water filters).

 

What else do people consider when dealing with the logistics of adventure planning?

#GetOutside, #PushYourLimits & Become More Than Before

I’ve written something about the mentality the allows someone to push on when others would stop and spent long tired hours contemplating how it is that we can keep moving when really, by the popular consensus we should have quit, stopped and returned.

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about a moment of realisation that seemed to changed my whole approach and outlook to getting myself outside my comfort zone.  The below is a small section of it, and probably the most important sections…

“Yet, at some point I made the conscious decision to go in.  It is easier to be in a dark place and stare up at the light than it is to stand out of reach of the dark and wander what demons lurk within.

Gradually, this dark place began to fill with light.  Where once there were undefined shapes of forbidding, there now stands figures of encouraging challenge.  The way out is easy to find, no longer a distant star, but more a beaming beacon.  The euphoria of reaching a stop point was simply the realisation that it is possible to sink lower than you imagined and then rise out.  I am no longer ashamed or fearful of this dark place. 

It is easier to crawl out of the pit of despair than it is to avoid falling in.”

Here’s something I’ve recently clocked on to, without being nebulous…

I tweeted that I was likely to fail in my next challenge (a winter BGR in sandals), but since its for a good cause I’d take it on.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to try for the last 2 years and after supporting a friend on the route in summer, I’ve become slightly obsessed with it, or more accurately fallen in love with the stupidity of the UK rounds.

For those that don’t know, the UK rounds involve long distances, lots of peaks and the main national parks of the UK.  All of them have ridiculous amounts of ascent, are ultra distances, involved as many peaks as you can grab and require lots of navigation and outdoor skills.  This is all before you consider the fitness needed and the mentality that goes hand in hand with these challenges.  There are 3 big rounds in the UK that I’m fascinated by, mostly because of the mental aspect.  How does a person cope mentally with such a challenge?

This is where the tweet reply from Ricky comes in….

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At some point along the way, I seem to have embraced the philosophy that I was so interested in when I was at the end of my university degree, and even more interested in when I went back to college to try my hand at photography.

It’s a simple concept.

When faced with adversity you should embrace failure before you even begin.  But this seems to completely counter what we are told about positive mental attitude.  Think about it happening, see yourself being successful and you will be.  The thing is, it’s an oddly peaceful mental state to get into.  As soon as you acknowledge the failure and embrace it, a sense of indifference seems to roll over you.  You aren’t worried about failing.  It’s almost as though the failure doesn’t exist.  The same happens with the thoughts of success.  They seem to disintegrate as you develop the same sense of indifference to the idea of finishing successfully.

What is there left if your indifferent to it all?  Well, its an odd sense of nothingness, where you simply act as is needed.   You develop a strange sense of purpose that drives you forwards, regardless of pain, tiredness or injury.  Most importantly, you act as you need to act, freed from the usual constraints that inform or shape our decisions when involved in challenges.

I am a fan of the phrase “endeavour to cultivate stupidity” because for me it embodies this attitude to challenges.  I will be starting a whole new part of my little adventure, and it will be interesting to see what happens, but for now, I’m going to focus on getting in the right frame of mind to complete probably the hardest physical challenge of my life…

The Bob Graham round, and I will do it to raise awareness of the fundraising that the Cumbrian Foundation are doing. So, if you wish to help you can get involved in one of the following ways:

 

Planning The Next Adventure

There are protocols and rules to follow when planning any adventure, but I have no idea what thy are so I’m kinda making it up as I go along.

The steps seem to be:

  • Write down (decide) what the adventure is going to be.
  • Research the place – visits, other people’s adventures and books are great for this
  • Workout how to get to the location and the start of the adventure
  • Workout how to get back
  • Plan the route
  • Gather and test the equipment
  • Sort out food and water
  • Go adventure

So here’s step one..

I’m planning on running (in my usually shonkily shod fashion) either Coast to Coast in Iceland, the circumference of Iceland or a similar thing to the UK’s LeJog (furthest south easterly point to the furthest north westerly point in the case of Iceland).

Now I need to get my self a guide book on the trails and a while load of maps.  Let the fun begin 🙂

Shoes optional – A Barefoot Runner’s Journey Along The Length Of Britain – Chapter 1 – Before I begin

It’s early and I’m regretting the previous night’s drinking.  Head feels like a small demon is inside it, pommeling my skull in an attempt to break free.  Quick motions are followed by a wave of nausea and I have to get myself to a rendezvous with my good friends Rooth and Adam’s to make the trip to Land’s End.  A quick coffee is all I can handle, so I go stand in the shower in the impossible hope that the water will wash away the hangover, but it doesn’t.   That odd taste of nail varnish remover that accompanies the night before stays, and it’s time to leave.  Luckily I had packed everything the morning before and after some dithering I get in the car and I manage to get to Ashbourne before I have to pull over and let the nausea take over.

Kit laid out ready to pack the morning before the day after.

Kit laid out ready to pack the morning before the day after.

“Why the hell do I drink so much?”

Well, the answer to that is a collection of ex-sixth formers chanting the name of the teacher at the bar followed by “get us a drink!” and several shots of tequila.  Can’t say it’s the best start to an adventure but then it makes it more interesting.  I get myself together and head to my mother’s house to drop off my car so my uncle can borrow it while I’m away.

“That stone you’re going to pick up at Land’s End made me remember something about Dziadek” my uncle says as though we had been taking for hours.

“Really?  What?” was the only reply I could muster.

“Well, when I was smaller, he used to take me and my friends down to the canal and he showed us how to skim stones across the water.  It’s made me think.  He introduced the whole idea of picking the right shaped stone for skimming and without him the idea would have completely alien to me.”

Now, the conversation continued but my mind was fixated on this newly learnt bit of family history.  There seem to be certain links in what we do and our past that we aren’t really aware of.  I remember seeing people press stones to the graves of loved ones in Iran and then leaving them there, but I never thought there would be any link to the polish side of my family.  We carried on towards Long Eaton and if we carried on talking j couldn’t really say, but eventually we arrived at Rooth’s.  I said farewell, we shook hands and I may have imagined it but there was something in my uncles eyes that made me think he wanted to say something, but he didn’t.  I wander if I imagined it or there was something he wanted to say?

I emptied my pack at this point and decided to pack everything one last time, decide what I’d leave behind and get ready to jump in the van. At some completely unregistered time we left, I got in the back of the van, lay flat and promptly went to sleep. I don’t remember much about the journey down apart from the food stops and a traffic jam that seemed to appear then vanish with no apparent reason.

My view of the road trip to Land's End accompanied by a bag of protein truffles made by Rooth for SK1 Fuel.  Delicious and the perfect keep the hangover at bay food.

My view of the road trip to Land’s End accompanied by a bag of protein truffles made by Rooth for SK1 Fuel. Delicious and the perfect keep the hangover at bay food.

Rooth & Adam - Two of the best people I know. I guess I'd perked up a bit at this point.

Rooth & Adam – Two of the best people I know.
I guess I’d perked up a bit at this point.

Once we got to Land’s End, I wandered down the rocket cliff to find a pebble to carry the length of the country. The south west coast is made up of lots of granite, but amongst it all was a small piece of white quartz. I grabbed it, along with a piece of granite and scrambled back up to the van. It was time for food, followed by pitching up the tent and sleeping. It was all about to begin and I was filled with an odd mixture of calm excitement, complete disbelief and a lack of comprehension as to what I had to do, all with an undertone of doubt. The doubt was all to do with the unknowns that Id have no control of.

“Are you ready then?”

“I have no idea. Gonna find out tomorrow though”

Shoes Optional – A barefoot runner’s journey along the length of Britain – Introduction

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Within these posts you will find no hidden secrets, no magical formulae and no recipes for adventure.  Instead you will read about one person’s journey and their realization that there are no limits other than the ones we set ourselves and it is these limits that hold us back.  We pander to the softer side of our nature, seeking the easiest route through life’s.  At some point we must realise that this is not the way to be true to our nature.  It is as important to embrace and invite discomfort, as it is to invite challenge.   Without these, how are we to grow?

 

The 3 Elements Of Trail Running – Brief Thoughts After #BareFootLeJog Part 1

I finished at 10pm on the 2nd of September after a 53 mile day in 10 hours of running.  This was the day after, having had a nice evening of celebrating with the traditional Scottish beverage.

I finished at 10pm on the 2nd of September after a 53 mile day in 10 hours of running. This was the day after, having had a nice evening of celebrating with the traditional Scottish beverage.  There’s nothing like making fun of yourself with a proper wolly pose 😉

Sean Conway, having completed his JogLe posted an article called the 4 elements of trail running.  At the time, I was in the process of putting the final pieces of my LeJog in place, so I read with interest and even added an additional element.

Travelling for 38 days, carrying what you need to survive tends to provide you with lots of time to ponder ephemeral ideas like the nature of endurance or how we escape from that dark place we sometimes find ourselves as ultra runners.  The whole elements of trail running seemed to stick in my head and it seemed to me that there are actually 3 elements to focus on.  The 4 Sean Conway mentions are actually breakdowns of these 3 elements and having complete LeJog, barefooted and unsupported in 38 days, I think I can put my thoughts down (38 days is a long time to think!).

The first element, although they are all of equal importance is mechanics.  I’m referring to the understanding of how you move as a person and developing the efficiency of this movement.  I felt I was reasonably efficient when I ran or walked, but on the 5th day I found I was moving far better than day one.  Maybe it was getting used to the 8kg pack or even the breakfast I ate, but regardless, running along the Devon section of the South West Coast path felt more fluid that running ever had.  Later I was using what I knew about physiology (research in book like Anatomy for Runners and various podcasts and websites) and I would then treat the problem and alter my movement as consciously as I could to prevent the problem.  My hips would hurt near the end of the trip and so I dealt with them by working on my quads that were causing the problem.  The was one problem early on that could have ended the barefoot LeJog adventure after just 5 days.  I was thrown off my feet by the gales of day 2 and had a lovely bruised lump on the top of my left foot.  We compensate for injury, no matter how small and alter our mechanics, and mine caused severe tendentious at the join between my Achilles and my Soleous muscle.

This was hard to deal with and then leads to the second element, mentality.  We train our bodies when we take on long distance running (well, any length of running or exercise) but how often do we train our brains?  Day 6 was a difficult day.  I had nothing to do, I could barely walk around and the time seemed to be used by my brain to think about failure.  I realised a few days after that I wasn’t looking into that dark place but I had fallen in.  The people who had virtually joined in, donated money and spoken to me at races before LeJog became a whole host of people I was going to let down.  Then the phone buzzed and a friend sent me a message that threw my own words into my face…

“You either do something or you don’t.  There’s no trying to do something”

I’d like to thank Master Yoda for that pearl of wisdom, but it had a massive impact on me.  I genuinely believed those words when I spoke them and they seemed to trigger some kind of flow state.  The rest of the run was rescheduled so that I had several weeks of short days and I set my mind to getting as far as I could.  I think this is the part of our mentality as ultra runners that we need to celebrate and keep building.  We can enter these flow states and become problem solving machines, but it seems to take utter immersion in what we’re doing and slight changes to our environment to trigger them.  The other part of the mentality that is equally as important is acknowledging the suck!  We know when things are bad, but we don’t always acknowledge them.  I reached a point near the end of the trip where I would just admit I was tired, admit I needed to stop and once I did this, solving the problem seemed to be easier, whether it was related to physical or mental tiredness.  Mental tiredness tended to end in a quick snooze and the physical tiredness was in some cases completely removed by knowing what to eat.

Above Malham Cove.  One of the best climbs of the trip with some awesome limestone slabs to bounce around on.

Above Malham Cove. One of the best climbs of the trip with some awesome limestone slabs to bounce around on.

Now comes the third element which is metabolism.  By this I’m not just referring to what we eat, but how our bodies utilises water and the food we put in.  After 2 weeks, I was barely eating anything.  I would mix a bottle of tailwind up (2 scoops in 600ml) and this would last me for half a days worth of moving, followed by a refill and then an evening meal.  Admittedly I was staying aerobic for most of the time, but even on the occasions where the trail was tremendous and it would be a sin not to unleash for just a few miles, I didn’t seem to need the extra fuel that we are told we need.  I would go into shops after 20-30 miles and what I purchased was specific.  I even left a fair few shops with no extra food and just water, even though I knew the day after would be a long one without any form of food stops.  Now this is all diet based, but there is the side of metabolism that relates to what fuels we burn whilst moving and it really did seem to boil down to fat as fuel and glucose as a minor top up.  I must have been doing something right though since I lost 10lbs over all, which was 4% of body fat with a 2% muscle gain.  I was hoping to at least lose enough to get that coveted six pack!

Two days after I restarted (day 9) I was lucky enough to be given a bag of left over roast potatoes and a nice lunch they made too.

Two days after I restarted (day 9) I was lucky enough to be given a bag of left over roast potatoes and a nice lunch they made too.

Now I’ve been really brief with these elements, since I have lots of thoughts on each one, in particular the mechanics and mentality elements.  They are what made the trip as successful and for the majority of time a joy to do.

What was or wasn’t on my feet aside, once I got my head around the mentality and mechanics elements the metabolism seemed to be second nature.  If something hurt, I would hunt for the source of that pain, whether it was poor movement, tight muscles or the distribution of weight in my pack.  Aches and pains that I was getting seemed to go, new ones developed until I found their source and they would be banished too.

It’s time to round this off as the first part.  These 3 elements deserve a little more time, so I’ll be working on my thoughts some more and posting about them as distinct ideas, but as far as the LeJog write up goes, this is part 1 of a possible 3.

Hope you found something useful or interesting in this post.

Day 6 & 7 – Regroup, Replan, Repair, Realise

Yesterday was a tough day…

I realised why a journal and a blog are so important when doing things like this.  So, I took my own advice (see earlier post) and I embraced the negativity, made it mine and waited for those moments that make the difference between do and do not.

My schedule and route has had to change slightly, and I will be completely lower mileage days will I’m certain the calf issue is solved.

The most important thing is this….

There is definitely a certain beauty to this form of living.  It is not easy, it is not some romantic view of nature, but moving along the coast path on the 5th day I noticed something different.  I felt different in my movement.  More certain.  Better able to judge my effort and almost unconsciously flow trough the landscape around me.

Today I feel  like it is time to move on again, and it is only my sensible brain that is holding me here.

It’s been 7 days and it feels like I have been in this moment for ever.     

    
    
    
    
    
   
    
Here’s to the rest of the journey…..

Adventure Begins With A Road Trip

Justgiving.com/barefootlejog

 Feeling slightly worse for wear after some celebratory “schools out” drinks, but at least there’s good company along the way and since I’m not driving, plenty of time for catching up on missed sleep.  

It seems I’m currently stuck between excited and nervous, which appears to be a strangely calm location.  First day needs to be gotten out the way, but for now I’m planning on enjoying myself.

Have to say thanks to Adam and Rooth for being Adam and Rooth.  Possibly the best two people I have the pleasure of knowing 🙂