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 ūüėČ

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.

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Day 3 – Small Part Of Heaven! Thanks to @theyurtcafe for showing it to me

it seems that hidden away, in the middle of nowhere, are small pieces of heaven.

Cornish Tipi Holidays and The Yurt Cafe are a couple of these pieces.  I’ve been to campsites and said “it was lovely” but this place is a true hidden gem.  At first site it’s just a field with The Yurt Cafe on it.  Then, as you explore deeper, you find tiny pockets with tipis and wigwams, all enclosed amongst green trees.

Then you see the sign…  “Lake”

Lake is the biggest understatement I have seen so far.  It is a lagoon like wander.  The sort of place you pay lots of money to go abroad and see.

Oddly, as of this wouldn’t be enough, there’s the delights of The Yurt Cafe.  Friendly, relaxing, good food and drink.  It’s the generosity and kindness of the two owners is just the cherry on top that makes this place special.  A place I’ll have to return to and enjoy.

Adventure Begins With A Road Trip

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 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 ūüôā

The Secret To Barefoot Toughness

It’s all in the training ūüėú

 

Joking aside…

Picking the toughest terrain to run across and doing this consistently is probably the only secret to making tough terrain easy and learning to relax as you move across it.  

I’ve got a long way to go before being an expert but then again, I have 1206 miles to practice on starting this Sunday (26th of July)!!

Acknowledge To Avoid

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It’s all too easy to fall into a hole. ¬†Sometimes, we don’t even realise that it’s happening until it’s too late and all that is ahead of us is a slow, hard climb out.

Part of the process seems to be to acknowledge where you are or where you’re heading before you get there. ¬†Everyone has moments where they realise that actually, everything isn’t ok, and part of the journey has been how to deal with this, avoid it and manage when your there.

Here’s what I’ve found helps, and although it is purely a personal thing, contains no magic bullets or new strategies, sometimes it helps to have someone repeat what you already know. ¬†So, for what its worth here they are:

  1. Learn not lie – this isn’t just to others but also to yourself. ¬†We know instinctively when things aren’t quite right and all to often we push on, making a small piece of grit in our metaphoric shoe into a giant jagged rock.
  2. Acknowledge it if its unavoidable – sometimes, situations, poor planning, bad luck and distractions take us places we really don’t want to be. ¬†Acknowledgement, in a matter of fact way is often the only way out.
  3. Just pause, look and absorb РThis is probably the simplest way to deal with a low point.  We miss so much when that low point hits.  Tunnel vision kicks in, our brains focus on the wrong things and we lose that ability to be aware of our surroundings and actually appreciate where we are.
  4. Smile – Stopping and smilling for no reason at all is odd at the best of times, but combine it with a random laugh and its like rocket fuel! ¬†It’s almost like a reset switch that puts everything back on the right track.
  5. Be ready to fail – Now this is an interesting one for me. ¬†Samurai and martial artist are instructed to fight as though they are already dead, removing that fear of dying and allowing them to act without hesitation. ¬†those negative thoughts of failure are like tiny grains of sand in that same metaphorical shoe. ¬†They continue an imperceptible grind and then you notice a huge tear that wasn’t there before, all from the constant low level nagging. ¬†Acknowledge the failure and be ready to deal with it and then use it to make you mentally stronger and ready for a rematch

Like I said earlier, I don’t believe any of this is actually in any way new, groundbreaking or a¬†magic bullet. ¬†It doesn’t even apply purely to running, but hopefully it acts as a memory jogger and that little kick for someone who needs it.

9 days to go…..

Lots To Do, Little To Say…

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So much to do, but so little to say.

Seems to be that the closer I get the less there is to say about the adventure. ¬†My equipment choices are pretty much set with a few little tweaks to do before setting off. ¬†Places to sleep are irrelevant since I’ll be¬†taking on a snail like existence and plodding my way along with my summer home on my back. ¬†There’s just one thing¬†that repeatedly pops into my head…

“Take nothing but pictures. ¬†Leave nothing but footprints. ¬†Kill nothing but time.”

I don’t know the source of the quote but it¬†speaks for itself.

14 days and counting…

A Question Of Mentality

A set of recent conversation have 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

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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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā