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!

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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!

Couch to #E1Run – The Story So Far… – #GetOutside @Pledgesports @OrdnanceSurvey @TrailRunningMag

Join the support and pledge for adventure -> #E1Run

I decided that I should put some words down to explain a few things.  Why is it I keep saying ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things?

Some already know my journey to this point…  Preparing to run the length of Europe, self supported, but others are new to the journey so it seems right to share the story and explain why I really do believe that anyone can do what I do and that I am in no way anything other than ordinary.  I have no special gifts and seek recognition for any form of prowess.  I simply try to inspire others through the simple act of being nothing other than ordinary.  So here it is…  The beginning and story so far…

My lungs burn, my muscles scream at me to stop and I feel like I’m fighting gravity and the ground with each step.  BEEP!

That’s my signal to stop.  I double over, feeling sick, out of breath and head spinning from the exertion.  “How on Earth am I going to do another 7 of these??”

Truth is, I’d jogged…  I hate this term!  I’d ran for no more than 30s and I was already feeling like death!  “Why on Earth would anyone do this for fun?”

The odd thing is that the C25K app I downloaded quickly changed to the 10k version, then the half marathon and finally the marathon version, something I never thought I would describe when talking about my past, present and future!!

This was July 2102 and the start of a year which led me close to (and I admit this with great reluctance and a the bitter taste of what I experienced) taking my own life on several occasions, only to turn to running for a moments escape from the bitterness that I felt.  The thing is, I am now living in a way I need thought possible, never imagined I would be capable of and that seems to have allowed me to let go of so much anger, pain and blame.

I was unfit, I was overweight, the world I’d created for myself and the dreams I’d nurtured were falling apart around me and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was taking slow and deliberate step into the pit of depression, unable to stop myself and unaware of what was happening to those I cared for.  The result was living along in a flat, in a town where I knew few people and having to live off £80 a week.  Those were dark times, but my decisions had led me there and I refused (I refuse to this day) to change my decisions and all the way through I continued to run, discovered the joy of running in the Peak District and developed a love for the peace and clarity it gave me.

All the while I research running.  It felt instinctively wrong.  I was fighting the ground, I was putting in lots of effort for little gains in speed, giving me the sensation of being inefficient, until I chanced on the concept of barefoot running and correct running form.  It all made perfect sense!  Each step was a use of energy and if we run poorly, we need more energy to sustain that particular motion forwards.  I began to change my running.  My running began to change me.  I skipped the marathon distance, and with 20 miles of run walking I entered a 50 miles ultra!

3 weeks I trained for it.  I finished.  I didn’t understand how, but I finished.

The switch had been flicked and now I was looking for challenges, running the same hill rep 652 times back to back, covering 75 miles and gaining the same amount of ascent as Mt Fuji was the start of running barefoot from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which became the catalyst to preparing to run the 4750 mile long E1 trail.

The point is simple…

It takes little more than persistence to change our view point from ‘Running Sucks” to “Love to run”, no more.  It’s the same principle with any thing we can’t do and find challenging, but we are all made to take on these challenges if we can just remove the blinkers that we self apply through our pursuit of comfort and ease.

Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

Join the support and pledge for adventure -> #E1Run

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)!!

Acknowledge To Avoid

Justgiving.com/barefootlejog

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 – This 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…..

Introducing The Equipment – Part 2 – The Vaude Lizard GUL

I have to start by saying that this tent was provided free of charge by Backpackinglight, as part of a support package for the LeJog on the 26th of July, this year.  The other important point is that I would consider the tent if having researched it briefly it didn’t seem suitable.  I don’t see the point of accepting something that I wish I wasn’t using or accepting an offer of support if it wasn’t suitable either.  Luckily for me, Bob at Backpackinglight really knows his stuff.  I was offered the tent first, researched it and then took them up on the offer, and Im glad I did.  The tent is the Vaude Lizard GUL 1 person, 3 season tent and at first glance it seemed to be a beauty, but I was dubious of the 2/3 length pole!

I’ve gave it a few tests, one night in torrential rain, gales and a thunderstorm and a week on the Isle of Arran, with several hours of heavy rain and windy conditions and I have to say the following…

Despite the unique 2/3 tent pole (the single tent support pole only spans 2/3 of the total tent width) it’s an amazing little tent!  Why?

Well, here are the reasons:

  • Easy to put up – I had no instructions for it, watched a youtube clip and then had a go at setting the tent up and it was straight forward.  Peg out the tent (you can leave the internal compartment permanently attached to the outer) insert the main pole and the smaller end poles, peg and adjust the guy lines and the tent is ready.  I managed to get it up and ready to use in about 5-7 minutes.
  • Extremely stable – It got the baptism of fire when I tested it with 40 mile gusts on top of an exposed hill, but it stayed stable, didn’t flap around and was quite enough for me to get a good nights sleep (that was until the thunder and torrential rain kicked in)
  • Extremely waterproof – I’ve had tents that claim to be really waterproof, but eventually they give up and begin to leak.  This tent gave me a waterproof sleeping area after a days worth of solid rain.
  • Lightweight – The tent comes with carbon fibre poles, super light internal and external materials and some lightweight pegs.  The entire tent can be packed down to a cylinder that is around 3-4′ in diameter and 7-8′ long.  In fact, I’m carrying it in the side elasticated pocket of my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 when I take it out.  The only thing I have done is replaced the pegs with some Terra Nova titanium pegs which have saved me around 30g.
  • Great ventilation – There is ventilation windows at either end of the tent, which are protected enough so that rain does splash in and there is also also one on the door flap.  I didn’t have any problems with condensation on the inside and never felt that the internals of the tent had become stuffy.  The ventilation window on the for flap can be closed if you want to close it.  One amusing thing is that the internal compartment develops a nice wave motion if wind is blowing along the length of the tent.
  • Just about enough space – if your traveling light, there’s enough space in there to get your gear out of the wet and the porch area could be used to cook, but only if you’re careful.  You can use an extra pole, or stick along with a guy line to keep the door flap open as a shelter which could provide a safe place to cook in poor weather.  

There’s one point that I think would be good to improve on the tent and that is providing the ability to tighten the internal walls so they aren’t so flappy.  This is me being picky really, since it doesn’t really effect the tent working, but would make the internals neater.  You can set it up with just the outer, which makes the whole tent even lighter, something I would consider, but only if the areas I’m travelling to are likely to be midge, horsefly or mosquito free.

So, if you are after a light tent that would cope with almost all weather conditions then this is a corker of a tent.  It’s opened up a whole load of new adventure options for me, which would mean I can carry the minimal equipment, with the minimal weight, but not start having to deal with the usual problems of using a bivvy bag.

For the slightly geekier individuals among you (like myself) the technical specs can be found here –> Vaude Lizard GUL

Links to related videos on youtube below:

Demo

Setup

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….

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 😊

The Point Of No Return

Ive read a few book that are true stories about some incredible acts of human survival, and I’ve wandered what they must have had running through their minds.

I’ve asked these questions of others and myself…

“When do you know you’re ready?”

“What happens if you fail whilst under the watchful eyes of others?”

I think I’ve reached a point where I can answer both.  Oddly, it’s dawned on me not when running, but when revisiting my old hobby of Tai Chi.

How do I know that I’m ready?

It’s hard to put into to words, but in short, there’s a certain clarity to my thinking and I know that even when utterly destroyed from a previous days running that I can still move and my body will respond by becoming more fluid with each step.  I know I can embrace the dark moments of doubt and use my persistent forward motion to break through them.  Staying in the moment, listening to the feedback my body provides and acting as much on instinct as is possible.

Then there’s the whole issue of failure.

This is the second part of knowing you are ready.  You accept failure.  The Hagakura (samurai code) describes the perfect samurai mentality as one who has already accepted death.  A little morbid, I agree, but I’m ready to fail, learn, train and repeat the whole thing in the following year.  It is something I will keep trying till it is done and borrowing the words of Edison, I will learn 99 ways not to run 1206 miles in barefeet and one way to do it. 

Enjoy your day 😊