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!

#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:

 

The Season Of Mixed Emotions

Taking a time out to enjoy the view and colours.

I find Autumn to be an odd month.  It comes with a sense of loss as Summer ends and those warm and relaxed days are replaced by days that start and end in the dark, the temperature drops and the winter moodiness sets in, but at the same time it’s full of sense of joy and wander as the countryside transforms.  Gone is the green and in comes the varying shades ranging from yellow to red.

It’s also that time of year when people find a myriad of excuses to not get outside.  I would have been one of these people, but luckily, my training bud organised me into an early Sunday run.  No excuses we’re made today and it was glorious.  I’m amazed at how lucky I am to live where I do, so I’ll stop using words and hope that the pictures will do this mornings views some justice. 🙂


Being shown new trails is always great fun.

Running through the mist that was clinging to the rocky edge.

Chatsworth estate, where all the trees have folaige that starts at exactly the same height.

Run done, so time for breakfast and tea.

Day 28 – The Nature Of Endurance

I’m no expert, and the words below are likely the result of dehydration, malnutrition and a distinct lack of sleep.

I rambled about this in an earlier post but yesterday, feeling oddly ill and making my way (at a slower than slow pace) to Bellingham I seemed to have had a moment.

The nature of endurance and the drive to move forwards is somehqta schizophrenic.  I’m not making light of the condition in anyway however.

When those difficult moments hit, there is a part of a persons mind that says “Stop! You don’t have to go any further”

This is true of my situation as I have everything needed to stop at any moment and be comfortable for a day or so.  But here’s the paradoxical bit.  I don’t seem to stop.  There’s another part that seems to reply “I know.  Still gonna keep going till I reach….”

The two different personalities jostle for dominance and really, it seems that at the core of it, endurance is an unwillingness to listen to the part of the mind that says “stop”.

Today, many people will endure lots of hardships and they will do it because it is in our nature as humans, but only if we allow it and encourage its flurishing in the young people we interact with.

Day 22 & 23 – Thoughts Whilst Crossing The Moor

We all have that dark part of us that we hide and in doing so we hide from it.  We teeter on its edges, occasionally moving just beyond its horizons, but we avoid it at all costs.  We stare into the abyss and nothing but dread stares back.

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.  

Pasta meal curtosy of Bob from The Outdoor Station.

The Secret To Barefoot Toughness

It’s all in the training 😜

 

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)!!

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….

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 😊

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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