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!

Why Do You Run? An Existentialist Angst Response @Trailrunningmag @Runnersworlsuk @OrdnanceSurvey #GetOutside & #Run

I apologise in advance for the existentialist angst in this post….

I run because it is fun!  I run because I get to see cool places, lots of cool places and I get to see them in a shorter space of time.  I run, so I can sit on top of big things, looking all contemplative when in reality I’m tired from running up the hill.  ;P

 

Have a great Christmas!

#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:

 

Why Do You Run? Revisit The Age Old Question

I’ve revisited this so often I’m not even sure if my reasons are changing in any way.  I run to feel human.

To get in touch with that part of me that exists but can truly be on show when I’m out and running. 

I run so I can be myself and not a version of me that is socially acceptable. 

 

You only know if it’s doable if you try. ive looked at the collapsed face of Mam Tor many a time and wandered if i can go up it. i guess the answer is yes

 
    
  

Im a little shocked by the difference in foot position between me and the guy behind!

  

 

I stopped after 2 miles and took off my shoes. Running just didnt feel as light and easy with them on.

 

The Mam Tor, Loose hill ridge. A glorious running place.

  

A quick bask in the sheer awesomeness of running up a gorge.

 

Luna Origen Review – First Impressions

It’s no secret I’m a bit of a Luna addict, so it’s no surprise that I have yet another pair of Lunas to run in. There are other Luna sandals that I’ve looked at and not considered buying, but when I saw the Origen, I was suckered in. They are actually made, in part, out of tyres! So, last Wednesday I decided I’d waited enough, visited LunaSandals.com and ordered a pair.

By Friday, I was amazed as always, as to how quickly they arrived from the US. Then I got them out the FEDEX envelop and first impression was their weight. They’re heavier than any of the other sandals I own, but then I flipped them over and grinned.  

There’s something oddly rad about having some tyres strapped to your feet when you’re running, so the day after, despite feeling a little ropey (virus induced as apposed to alcohol!), I headed out to one of my favourite trail routes.
The route is actually a great mix for testing shoes out, with a mix of sharp rocks, polished limestone, mud, concrete and gravel trails, so the Lunas were strapped on, adjusted and it was time to have a little gentle trot.

All strapped up and ready to go

The first thing you’ll notice if you’ve ran in any other Lunas is how bouncy these things are. They seem to flex and mould to any and every bump and groove in the trail, but they gave enough protection so that no sharp bits of rock stabbed the sole of my feet. I did notice the difference in weight in these sandals, and I started off being a bit more sloppy than I should be usually. Now, I’m not sure if this is because of the density of the tyre rubber, the weight or just bad form on the day, but after a few minutes of running they got quieter.

As soon as I got off the road leading to the trail, I knew the sandals were awesome. They handled everything the trail had to offer, giving just enough grip in the mud, just enough ground feel on the tricky technical sections and surprisingly good grip on the wet polished limestone rocks! This last bit surprised me as there is nothing known to man that can grip polished limestone. So after 6 miles, I’m a fan.

They seemed to grip everything from mud to polished limestone trails!

Testing the flex in he sandalss on a rocky river bed. they seem to flex and mould to the terrain tge way your feet would.

What are the sandals like in comparison to other Lunas?
I’d place them at the perfect midway point between the Oso and the Leadville Pacers. I think they have the same foamy rubber mid section as the Mono (or at least the top feels like the same rubber), so I’m going to presume they will mould to my feet as I put the miles in, and I’m actually looking forward to giving them a baptism of fire on the gnarly terrain of Mordoresc Crib Goch and Tryfan in Snowdonia at some point very soon.

Getting more to the point, they are heavier and more protective when you compare them to the Leadville’s and I think they are going to mould better and quicker, but they are more flexible and match the form of the trail better than the Oso, feeling a little less stiff from the off.

Only more miles will tell if they are going to be a repeat purchase in the future, but first impressions are that these are going to be a favourite for most of the trail runs I do, the Leadville Pacer’s have been relegated and the Oso will come out for those days where I want to feel the extra responsiveness that the stiffer Oso give.

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.

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)!!

Introducing The Equipment – Part 1 – The Main Bits

The selection of the kit for this adventure has been interesting, and what I’ve ended up with may be useful for others who are thinking of taking part in similar challenges, so here’s most of my kit.  There’s this odd contention between lightweight, functional and useful when selecting kit, but luckily advice has appeared when I needed it and I’ve had the time to trial the various pieces of kit and learn first hand what works, what doesn’t and what you can live without.  The last point, what you can live  without, is probably the part that will cause alarm bells to ring in other people’s heads regardless of how I justify the decision, but I guess that will happen regardless.  There are some items that may have the time to be changed, so I’m not including them on the list below.  The whole idea is to take only what I need, not the equipment that will cover all the various what ifs that may arise, and to deal with them the bets I can until reaching one of the many little towns and villages along the route.

So here’s the confirmed parts of my kit:

If you have any advice on the kit list or useful little tips then I’m all ears 🙂

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

Justgiving.com/barefootlejog

  
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 🙂