Training On No Fuel Day 2 & 3 РPreparing For The Reality Of Running Europe #RunE1Trail @Pledgesports @trailrunningmag 

 

Day 2 involved the same rule…

500 calories in total for the day and a 50km run, but I made it slightly more difficult by picking a flat and unchanging trail to run along.

 

Simply put it was mentally difficult.  Physically my legs felt tired but they didn’t ache.  I stuck to that one simple principle of being ruled by your heart, and it seemed to work.  I slept for 5 minutes at 21km and realised that I seemed to be struggling to stay warm, but that’s why I had extra layers in my pack.

There’s not really much else to it…

I welcomed the rain that started with around 12km to go, I admired the misty views the rain created and felt that sense of achievement that I did during the summer month as I reached the end of my 50km.

The simple side of this is that my body was generating glucose using fat stores as well as some muscle.  Using fat is a good thing and generally happens under low intensities.  All that needed to happen was to have enough oxygen getting in to my body, and by keeping the intensity down, walking when I needed to and even that little nap I had, I managed to supply enough oxygen to my cells to carryout the magical process of gluconeogenesis.

So, so far it’s day three, my cold is still here, I’m not dead yet, I feel ok (other than the cold) and I do want to eat!

The reality is that on the run I will be taking on board around 500 calories during the run and then a 500 calorie meal at the end of the day and I wouldn’t really expect to maintain this for more than 5-6 days at a time. The other part of this is that this is preparation for a worse case scenario, but the likely hood is running on a calorie deficit for quite some time. The trick will be to manage the route schedule is to know where they are so I can prepare for them with some big feeds a couple of days before.  The other thing that is important is having food to hand that are high fat, so I can get the best calorie/gram amounts and having some basic knowledge of what I can forage as food.  

For now, I’m gonna start eating properly so I can be rid of my cold sooner, rather than depress my immune system and stay I’ll for ages.

Who would have thought that planning such a long trip would be so technical ūüėČ

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:

 

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs. ¬†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.

‚ÄúAre you ready then?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI have no idea. Gonna find out tomorrow though‚ÄĚ

Shoes Optional ‚Äď A barefoot runner‚Äôs journey along the length of Britain ‚Äď 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 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.

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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Self Perpetuating Motivational Device

In all the training, organising potential sponsorship, contacting people regarding potential talks post run and getting the equipment sorted, I completely forgot that there is a Land’s End to John O’Groats Association. ¬†This is what their site says about becoming a member:

“Anyone who has completed the journey From Land’s End to John o’ Groats in either direction, by whatever means of transport is eligible for membership of the Association.¬† You will have to have completed your trip as a single journey no matter how long that takes and you will be asked to provide evidence of a properly completed trip¬†which could be in the form of a diary or log book with signatures from anyone who has witnessed your trip.¬†¬†Many places, garages, post offices etc¬†have a date stamp and will be happy to stamp and sign your log.¬† Other¬†acceptable forms are accommodation receipts or similar which show where you were at any particular time and date.”¬†

The¬†idea of carrying a small book that is then stamped, signed or is used to collect some kind sign of my passing is really appealing. ¬†One of my favourite pieces of art is by the artist On kawara. ¬†He went on a journey and would send a postcard home that simply said “I am still alive”. ¬†Without getting deep and philosophical he was questioning his own existence.

So here’s what I plan on doing.

I’m going to purchase one of my favourite makes of notebooks, a Moleskine. ¬†On the 26th of July, in the Early hours of a Sunday morning, I’m going to carry this small book and along the journey I’m going to collect items that I can store in this little book, and for each item title them with the date and time. ¬†It is a little arty I guess, but as a personal piece of memorabilia, it’s going to priceless.

It’s the little things that cause out memories to jolt into action and let us relive moments in the past, so this is going to be my little memory jogger, and it’ll give a second goal to focus on whilst moving persistently forward.

I guess that’s what this post is about….

I’ve found a way of redirecting my focus at times when I will be low and struggling. ¬†The book really can’t go unfinished!

I’ve already planned one or two of the Scottish pages. ¬†They will be filled with the daed bodies of midges ūüėČ

Pleasant Surprise & Fuel For The Flames

This morning I had some mail in my inbox.  Not the sort of mail that goes straight to the trash, but one that you read and get stoked about.  

The email was forwarded from the ever helpful Peter Ambrose, who has been super supportive and been that voice of genius through the last few months of training and planning.

Mark Hartell appears to have acquired a purple tshirt!!  Here’s the words he sent with his picture…

“Britain has a fine tradition of eccentrics and nothing could be more so than running the entire length of our country off road and barefoot. It will certainly require uncommon dedication and endurance, but Aleks already has a pedigree that shows he is made of the right stuff. 

I wish him well on his endeavour and hope that he smashes his fundraising target for the Stroke Association!”

Mark Hartell

11 Time winner of the Fellsman 60 mile fell race.  Holder of the Lake District 24 hour fell record (77 Peaks)

If you’re not sure who this guy is do a quick google search.  He’s a legend in running and despite numerous attempts, especially recently by Adam Perry.  All I need now is a little of his ultra powers, combined with a purple power tshirt and all will be well!

So, as the event draws nearer, I’m finding it slightly difficult to find time to train and carry on doing my job.  Last week was a definite reset week, with little running or other training, and huge focus on sleep and school work.

This week things pick back up.  Running, gym, work and supporting a fellow ultra runner Clare Holdcroft on her Bob Graham Round attempt.  Hopefully not too much of it will be in the dark as I’m aiming to support her on 3 out of 5 legs. The big challenge will be to get recovered in time for the Peak Districts Kinder Trog fell race the day after. 

BGR is a monster of a route with lots of uphill, so if I can use it as part of training and do it successfully, it’s going to be a huge tail boost.  Here’s to the next 5 weeks before the utter madness begins.

Grand Week Of Training

So far a solid 70 miles in the bag, with a mix of aerobic and anaerobic training.  Today 10kg weighted vest 5 miler was tough, but if it doesn’t kill me it’ll make me stronger.

I keep repeating the same things in my head.  Is 1206 miles barefoot going to be achievable in 6 weeks?  Will I fail?  How will I cope physically after so many days of high mileage?

To dispel the doubts I searched for some runspiration and found some quotes of achieving the impossible.  Time to switch mindset ūüôā