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Spine Challenger – Glyn’s story Part 2

The last time Chris and I saw Wayne was all wrapped up in the back of Max and Di’s camper van having a brew in a car park on the A672. We arrived with a few other “Spiners” to a small car park on the A672. On arrival we all spilt up to the various vehicles that were waiting. We headed straight for the camper van to see if Wayne was dead or alive, get some food in us & have a brew. Id learnt my lesson from at the last CP, don’t stop moving for long. So I’ve filled my face and I’m drinking my tea whilst shuffling around trying to keep my feet warm. It must have looked like bad dad dancing. After a quick check that Wayne was in-fact very much alive, although he didn’t look it, Chris, Paul and I agree to head out. Its bizarre crossing a motorway bridge late at night at the best of times, doing it whilst carrying 10Kgs on your back knowing you’ve got just short of 20 miles off unknown territory to cross makes it even more surreal. To the amusement of the traffic below, we set out to Hebden Bridge.  Why is it when you’re crossing a motorway bridge you feel compelled to wave at the cars below! It must just confirm what they are already thinking, yes you are mad.

It wasn’t long after crossing the M62 that we met Dr Matt Edwards. An A&E Dr from London, who told friends and family that he was offering his medical services to the Spine and not that he was taking part in the Race.

Over the motorway, turn left, then right, then continues almost straight ahead for over Blackstone Edge for a few miles and you’ll be at the next CP in no time was the instruction given by the marshall in the car park. As I mentioned in my first blog, one of the marshalls had said that some druids went up onto the fells in white robes with no shoes on to do only what druids do best. Something, if I had seen for myself I would have put down to hallucinating. Apparently not though as kindly confirmed by Amanda Crozier who said the following “There were indeed Druids it was Ally and myself who saw them head up to the Aigin Stone from our marshalling point on the A58 – some of them barefoot and all just wearing white robes     Nice one, thanks Amanda for confirming I wasn’t going mad. I remember going over Blackstone Edge and the flag stones were really icy. After about an hour of slip sliding Paul Brant decided to stop to put on his Pogu micro spikes taking the view what’s the point of carrying them if you’re not going to use them. So Paul sat down and tried to stretch them over his trainers which out much luck, so I kindly stepped in to help him out. This was quickly followed by me putting on my Yactrax. Confidence restored we set off again to catch up with Chris who had got a wiggle on and was some way up ahead. By the time we reach him he’s like bambi on ice (again) so seeing Paul and I have put on our spikes he decides to put his Pogu on. Wise move as we’ve got about 2 miles of ice rinks to cross. All tooled up, well with spikes anyway, we set off again in to the night leapfrogging other runners along the way and in no time at all we crossed Blackstone Edge had a brew with Max & Di and we are heading out Chedlburn Moor. Whilst going along here I start talking to a guy about any think and everything. Before long we are speaking about books that have inspired us and before we know it we are rambling on, sharing stories that we’ve both read, about books we’ve imported from aboard. One was called “To The edge” A man, Death Valley and the mystery of endurance by Kirk Johnson. Well worth a read. Check out www.ultramadness.co.uk for a previous blog of mine on inspirational books I’ve read

I really enjoyed this section of the course, mainly because it was flat compared to what we’d already covered, fairly dry under foot, for a change, and you could see the orange glow of civilisation off in the distance from all the street lamps miles away, hypnotising you drawing you in. I remember asking Paul if he was okay, are you eating, drinking etc. not much came his reply. Not the answer I wanted to hear. I made a mental note to keep on at him to eat and drink. We past all the reservoirs and were making our way over Warland Drain to Stoodley Pike to the monument. Paul’s Fenix watch comes to the rescue here. As the tracks splits up as we can see other runners in the distance all on different tracks. Personal and I’m sure like Chris and Paul, I didn’t want to waste any time taking the wrong track. So in no time at all Paul gets a signal and shouts out “this way guys” so Chris and I head off in the direction of his little finger and all three of us are bang on track heading to the monument. Things are feeling and looking good. I’m eating ok, although I’m not drinking as much as I should, I’m remembering to drink. I started the race with 1.5 ltrs of water in a bladder and an OMM bottle in the side of the rucksack. I chose to drink from the bottle mainly because I didn’t want the hassle of refilling the bladder all the time. Any body that uses a bladder will vouch that they can be a pain to get in and out to refill when your rucksack is full with other kit. So my approach was little and often from the bottle. Plus during the first few hrs of starting I was drinking the water from my Montane prism gloves finger tips. A great way of getting some little water in you, whilst keeping your fingers gloves fairly water free ish.

 

Prior to starting off we created what we thought was a realistic timing schedule. This would also benefit Max & Di, giving them a rough guide of where we should be and what time we will be there. Considering we planned on being at Hebden Bridge at 12pm, allowing us to get 8 hrs sleep and we are still out heading to Stoodley Pike and its gone 12p, its fair to say the timing have gone out the window, along with our 8 hrs sleep.

 

 

The plan now was for all of us to get to Hebden Bridge, safe and sound. We got past the monument, which is huge by the way. No wonder it never got any smaller only larger the closer we got.  I ask Paul if he’s eaten recently, no was the reply so we stop to allow him to eat. This was followed by him saying he’s struggling and doesn’t think he can carry on. Chris and I both jump on this with “yes you can mate, look how far you’ve come already, small steps and all that”, or something along those lines. It worked what every was said as before long all three of us are off Stoodley Pike, round Rough Head and dropping down to Callis wood to a CP that’s by the main road.  We met the CP crew, shouted out are numbers had a quick chat and ploughed on. We could smell Hebden Bridge from here and I think it’s fair to say we all wanted to get there as soon as possible. So we said are good buys to the CP crew and carried on. For the next mile or so took a winding path up a cobbled lane besides some houses. I remember thinking how on earth would you get a car up here to get home, quickly followed by I would get my shopping delivered by Asda if I lived here. The cobbled lane then gave way to a step path which zigzagged left and right taking you up further and was no wider than half a meter. On your right you had a gushing stream with little or no fence stopping you from falling in. After lots of silent cursing, we made it to the top. Now it was a case of going through a few fields then Hebden Bridge and more importantly are beds would be waiting. Chris, Paul and me had spilt up coming through the fields. I guessed that they were about 15, 20 minutes behind me. So I carried on with Dr Matt and we arrived in Hebden Bridge after step decent to the CP just after 5.00 am, some 5 hours later than planned.

I entered the building only to see Mimi Anderson and Javed Bhatti who were doing the race, getting ready to leave looking refreshed after a good few hrs sleep. We all shared stories on how tough we thought the first section were & how our equipment and footwear was holding up. We eventually said our good buys and I went for my tea, Hungarian Goulash, washed down with lots of cups of tea. I spent the next half hr chatting to others challengers who had just come in or some racers who hadn’t got to bed yet. Depending on whom you spoke too, including Scott the race organiser the distance for day 1 varied from 43 – 47 very wet and cold miles. Chris and Paul came in around 5.30am and got some food down there necks. I remember saying to Chris that in order to keep to our schedule, we need to be leaving here at 8am, giving us only 1 hours sleep at max, taking into account, sorting out our kit for day two, have some breakfast, shower etc. Chris was a bit unsure at this because mainly because of the swelling in his leg after hitting it on a flag stone early on in the day.  Paul said he would see how he feels in the morning. Wayne then came in looking a lot healthier than when we last saw him carrying our drop bags. So at 5.45 we retire for the night, finding a bunk trying not to make to much noise as to wake the others. This never goes quiet as planned. I remember dropping my tin cup and tripping over my drop bag. It was like church bells going off in a confined space. The next few minutes I spent saying sorry to anyone I passed in a bunk who stirred at the nose I was making.  Empty bunk found, I set my alarm for 7am, covered my legs in tiger balm to help keep the cramps at bay and got my head down for the best hours sleep I could possible have. I woke up what and felt that id had 8 hrs sleep, I wish.

Once I got my head together the next 20 mins were spent sorting my kit and food out for day two, packing away my sleeping bag and general getting sorted. At breakfast, Chris sadly broke the news to me that the Doctor had said he couldn’t carry on due to server swelling – hematoma in his lower leg from falling yesterday. He was gutted, again so much training and sacrifice had been put in to get to the start line, but deep down he new it made sense. He had been out some time earlier in the yr from a previous shoulder injury and new if he carried on and made his leg got worse this could put him out of action for some time.  And his wife Karen would kill him, if the hematoma didn’t get him first. I was gutted for him. I was gutted. Three became two that became one in less than 24 hrs.

God this race is brutal!

 

At breakfast we saw Paul who was unsure if he was going to carry on. I told him my plans and that I would be leaving at 8am and to meet me outside of he was coming. I also met Dr Matt Edwards who said he was carrying on and would meet me outside in half and hour. So I gave my drop bag back to Wayne who would pass it back to the support crew. Said my goodbyes and thanks to the cooks, and people munching there breakfast and got all my stuff together.  On my way out I said my good bys to the Ultramadness crew. Before leaving Chris and Wayne asked if I needed anything kit wise I wanted off them, what size are your boots Wayne, 11.5 he said, great ill have them please. Can you give them to Max and Di for me.

So with pats on back and good luck all round, the one remaining member of the Ultramadness crew who can get lost driving on the M6 set off into the great big yonder to beat this race.

Suddenly I felt a huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Not only was I doing this for me, I put so much in and lost precious family time training, I was also doing it for Wayne & Chris and for everybody who had helped us along the way, like Montane who’s support had been brilliant, Klymit and Haglofs’ to name but a few, and could possible be watching my progress for all I knew.

With this in mind I met Matt, we checked out with Scott and off we set up the long path back to the main road for day 2 off unknown ground for me. At least the sun was shining though.!!

Spine Challenger – Wayne’s story Part 1

Sound. Mountain. Judgement.  I hadn’t heard this phrase much before about December last year and then I heard it a number of times within a very short period of time. I’ll like to think (hope) that I exercised a bit of this, despite some circumstances within my control, in the Spine recently. Glyn’s already told part of the story, but it’s surprising how everyone’s views of events differ, so here’s my bit:

Despite Beavis taking the mickey out of me repeatedly in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the Spine, I felt a lot less terror than I had before the MdS.  I didn’t pack, unpack, repack quite as many times as I had for that (that’s not to say I didn’t do this though), and I felt much more prepared.  In fact we should all have felt incredibly prepared considering the time and investment and support we’d had, particularly from the likes of Paul Cosgrave at Montane (who supported me brilliantly for the MdS, and did so again for the Spine), and Charlie Sproson at www.mountainrun.co.uk (and his previous Outdoor Warehouse/Mountain Lite ventures).  We had so much kit it was frightening (frightening but obviously all NEEDED), although the purchases went on right up to about two days before we went.  Anyway, we had enough kit each to sink an aircraft carrier, but luckily enough Max and Di (our awesome support crew) had a campervan that was much sturdier.

Glyn’s already told the story about getting to Castleton, so I won’t labour the point, but I felt pretty calm in the van on the way down there, all things considered.

We’d booked in for the Spine Masterclass with Stu Westfield from the medic team that were supporting the event.  This was enlightening, exciting, incredibly interesting, and terrifying in equal amounts.  There were some pretty awesome characters present including Tom (who’d finished the Challenger the previous year), Mimi Anderson, Javed, Justin and a few others who’s names I cant recollect.  The stories and information exchanged was truly superb and gave me some reassurance in certain elements, and worried me a touch in others.  After close to four hours of hypothermia, hypoglycaemia, nav tips, feed and hydration tips, and general kit tips, it was time to get in the minibus and head off to Edale for pre-race briefing and registration.

We got off the bus and walked into the village hall to see a throng of familiar faces, most of which I’d never met but recognised from Twitter and Facebook.  We registered, and had the TERRIFYING briefing, then had our race packs checked for mandatory kit, then left these in the hall to be collected the following morning. That’s it, no more fretting about kit then!  I remember my anxiety started building here, and then we got back in the minibus to get to our accommodation at the YHA in Castleton.  We’d checked our bags into the room earlier and made our bunks, so we just laid there semi-snoozing.  I was starting to feel a bit sick, and really worrying about the lack of sleep ahead.  I’m crap without sleep at the best of times, and we’d had a rough night with our one-year old the night before I left, so I was already struggling.  I think we snoozed a bit, and I’d had a text exchange with Max about meeting up for a pint and some grub.  I really couldn’t be arsed with speaking to anyone at this point, but Chris said it’d do us good, and would obviously be a bit rude not to go and see Max and Di, who were sacrificing their weekend to support us, so we got up and off to the pub.

I just felt sick with anxiety throughout the walk, the meal, and the walk back.  I managed to get some soup down, and some coke i think, but that was about it.  Not a good start, to have this emotional draining before such a monumental event. We got back to the YHA, minced about a bit, think I contemplated starting smoking again, then we got in the bunks to sleep.  Or at least try.  It’s not easy with Glyn the Gorilla, who snores like he’s trying to bring the building down. Or the kids outside the room running up and down the corridor, or the slight breeze outside, or Chris breathing. Yeah, it’s ridiculous, this was all me being anxious and unable to sleep!

The following morning arrived and we managed to stomach some porridge before we were to be collected.  I felt sorry for all the other guys who were waiting for a lift to Edale, while we piled into the campervan and off we went.

We got there to see bodies and bags everywhere, and I was very glad I’d had my kit checked the night before.  I was messing around in the back of the van with my kit when I heard a voice and turned round. ‘SPRO! How are you mate!’ I shouted at Charlie Sproson – he’d brought me a Montane Air jacket for the event as I’d had issues with jacket failure over recent months and wanted something sturdy for the event.  Turns out this was a good decision.  We had a brief chat and he cursed me for being elusive and said he hoped I hadn’t been too worried.  I responded by saying something like the jacket was the least of my worries!  I was starting to feel a lot more positive now, and the atmosphere for me was pretty awesome.  We were around some of the countries top ultra-athletes, as anyone who followed the event will know, and this general feeling of super-fitness tends to rub off I feel (if you allow it too anyway!).  We went inside and grabbed our packs, had the GPS trackers fitted and had a bit of pre-race briefing action from Scott Gilmour the race director.  As Glyn mentioned this consisted of – going to be a nice day, bit of hail around 1, bit windy potentially, but fairly clear. Awesome.  A stunning day on the fells with my mates then.  We shouldered our packs, had a bit of banter with Charlie and Andy Burton (very serious looking), and a few others including Paul Bryant, then it was outside and back to the van.

As we’re stood there, I was looking around at the sky. It was stunning as the sun was just coming up and the sky was mostly clear, with some whisps of cloud on the tops which would clear shortly if the weather reports were correct.  Then I felt a splodge of rain, then another. I said to the lads ‘was that rain?’, ‘no mate’ was the reply, then more came, so we got our waterproofs on.  Then the sky went red. Which i’ve never see before.  And the hail started. And the hail continued. Hoods up and time to make our way to the start. More hail and the grass looked white now from where we were stood.  There was a bit of fannying around and we were off on our adventure!  I felt pretty good and was looking forward to the event and adventure ahead. And the hail continued.  We made our way through Edale, and passed a few people that we knew, including Annie Garcia, who’d finished the Lakeland 100 with Beavis, and Chris when they did the 50 last year.  Then it started snowing. Jesus, we’d not even got out of Edale yet. We made our way onto the Pennine Way proper and onto the open fields to be hit by the wind and more snow.  People were starting to put waterproofs on behind walls, both to protect from the snow, and the biting wind.  I put my Montane Prism gloves on as my hands were already getting a bit cold. Hood up, and I was loving it.  Chris came alongside and shouted ‘This is why we entered!’, ‘AWESOME’ i responded.  And it was.  The brutal weather conditions of last year, and following the race reports, were the reason we’d entered this as a major adventure, pretty close to home, and incredibly cheap considering the support we got throughout.  I took the following picture as we made it past the buildings and just before we reached Jacob’s Ladder.  Bear in mind we’d been on the move for around forty minutes at this point:

 

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We hunkered down and got on with the climb.  The snow was piling up underfoot and the clag was down so visibility was crap.  We hit the ‘yellow brick road’ as the flags on the Pennine Way get called, and we tromped on, chatting to people around us, and picking up with Paul Brant, who was to be with us for the majority of my time in the event, and was a great replacement for our missing Andy Holohan, who’d wussed out and gone to California to meet Mickey Mouse or something.  Paul didn’t swear anywhere near as much though, or pass wind as much, or be politically incorrect anywhere NEAR as much.

 

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We were up on Kinder now and it was pretty exposed – buffs up over faces, hoods still up, hunched over to get any protection from the wind that buffeted us from the West.  This was unreal.  We were trotting bits of the flagstones, which was pretty precarious to say the least.  We’d agreed to try and trot the flats and downhills in order to move along a bit more quickly.  I was in front of the guys when I heard a shout behind me, and I turned to see Chris falling and probably about up to his hip in bog.  He’d fallen in a gap between flags and gone down.  He said he was ok to carry on, so we trotted a little, but this was more cautious and wasn’t the last time one of us went down for sure.  Shouts of ‘look out Bambi’ were going up, with me shouting ‘you’re like Bambi on ice/stone/mud/grass Chads’ back at Chris, I got plenty of gentle words of encouragement in response obviously.  We were due to meet Max and Di at the A57 road crossing and already this couldn’t come soon enough. It seems that plenty of others had already taken advantage of the hospitality on offer!  Di said they’d struggled to get up the road as the police had closed the road from the East to get up the A57 so they’d had to go back around. Just as they arrived on the top, the police were closing the road on the West too.  This was incredible and not we’d expected from the day after the weather reports. We had a brew, some scoff (melon was going down a treat) and carried on towards Bleaklow which I wasn’t looking forward to.

I remembered this section from our recce in November, and it’s a bit like a peat bog wadi, and was very very wet then, and it’d rained solidly for about two months now so I was expecting torrents.  In the end it wasn’t too bad, and the sealskinz socks we had on were working a treat.  The downside were the Inov8 295’s which I’d chosen to wear rather than the Roclite goretex boot, which would have kept my feet a bit warmer (was this a sign of things to come????).  I quite enjoyed this section and we were checking each other constantly to see we were eating and drinking enough.  We soon came to Torside Castle and the view was surreal.  We were stood in snow, with thick clag, and we were still being battered by the elements.  We looked across Torside Reservoir towards Crowden, and there was nothing, it was just green and clear skies.  ‘Yorkshire’s that way’ said Chris, ‘that’s why the sky is clear’.  I’m not convinced by his geography but it made us chuckle all the same.

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Max and DI were meeting us somewhere round the reservoir, so we got a bit of a wriggle on descending down the bottom, but it was pretty muddy and there was a load of hilarity as I ended on my arse, along with a good few others around us at that point.

We came on to the road, and Ashleigh was there with a Lakeland 50/100 buff on her head (she was supporting Neil Bennett) – so i shouted ‘Hooray, nice buff, we’ve all got one of them’ and trotted past. Not sure what you shouted in response though Ash sorry!

More grub, piling it down, lovely hot brew in ‘my’ pink mug in the campervan. Words of encouragement from Max and Di, and we were off to Crowden.  Now I hold fond memories of Crowden after our recce.  Chris and I spent a wonderful night together in a one man tent after my bivvy/bothy combination didn’t work as well as expected.  There’s plenty to tell on that story, and I’ll have to blog it in the future, but bear in mind I’m 6 foot 6, and the Terra Nova Laser Comp – being a one man tent, was only big enough for one. Not one, plus me!

We were moving fairly well in my view and I was still enjoying the day.  I was a bit apprehensive as it was probably around 3pm by now, and I knew darkness wasn’t really that far away for us.  Paul and Glyn were having a good chat in front, but Chris seemed to be struggling a bit.  I turned to see if he was ok. No was the answer. I’m just not enjoying it mate, he said.  So I got my camera out and took some pics of him as that’d obviously cheer him right up.  Go on mate give us a smile

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Go on mate smile

 

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There you go beautiful! That’s better, and he was smiling a bit now.  We were climbing up by Blackchew Head and Chads was still struggling.  He complained that he was feeling nauseous as we climbed (sign of what was to come for him i reckon), and I admitted that I was struggling in the same way for some reason.  We carried on up onto the tops, and it was never ending climbs and more and more Yellow Brick Road.  The sun was starting to descend now and it was getting much much colder

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We carried on with much falls, as the Yellow Brick Road had been very wet during the day, and this had now frozen so we were all over the place.  Paul said a number of times that he was putting his ice spikes on, but I was having none of it, and just minced along the side of the slabs gently.  On reflection, we should have just put our spikes on and it would have saved us a whole lot of hurt, and made us move a bit more quickly.

As Glyn’s said in his blog, we made it to the road crossing at the A635 – gutted cos our support crew weren’t there (they were, in a big white campervan, which I’d actually seen but not recognised the number plate!).  The guy spoke to us about a missing lad on the fells, as Glyn said, then we crossed and went onto Wessenden Moor, following Tom and Annie, who were fairly shifting down the valley.

Again as Glyn mentioned – he shattered all of my banter by coming up with the goods and ensuring we didn’t go too far off track by the wessenden Moors. It was bloody freezing and pitch black up here as we crossed the moors, past reservoirs, through bogs and all the time along stretches of Yellow Brick Road.

We came to the next road crossing near Standedge to be met by a familiar and very friendly face of Jon Fletcher.  We exchanged a bit of banter, probably about his crap beard, or being a scouser. The lad behind that had a hacking cough, bailed at this point, which was a relief for me as I had thought he was going down for some time, and I’d asked him a few times if he was ok.

We climbed up on the tops at Standedge, and the clag was really down now.  My Alpkit headtorch isn’t great in conditions like this and I was struggling a bit.  For some reason, the other guys were

tucking in behind me so I could see nothing as they just shone their stronger torches on my torso and I just saw my shadow. I was proper grumbling and snapped at them a couple of times to get past me.  Glyn asked what was up so I said about the headtorch and said it’s ok, as I’ll just pick up my LED Lenser H7 at the M62 crossing where we were to meet Max and Di next.

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Now at this point, and I’m going to carry on telling the story as I initially thought it happened.  On reflection I’ve got a different impression of what happened but I’ll save this for later (possibly instalment 2!)

It was pretty stunning being on this stretch, we could see the lights of Manchester and all it’s surrounding towns, way over in the distance that looked like a big plain.  We were also starting to see the M62 snaking around in the distance too. This got us pretty excited as it meant it wouldn’t be long until we saw Max and Di next.  We could hear dogs barking in the distance, and Glyn expressed some concern as he thought they were fairly close. I think I snapped at him and said don’t be daft, they’re probably around ten miles away

I recall it being pretty clear by now, and the clag had disappeared. We were following Paul’s GPS to keep us on track, and doing a bit of maintenance as we went e.g. drinking, eating, checking location etc.  We stopped a few times and every time we stopped I started getting really cold and was getting desperate to move on.  And then it felt like something sucked all the heat out of my body through my feet. God it was cold.  Someone asked if I was ok.  Yes, just a bit cold I responded, I’ll get in the van and warm up when we get there.

It gets a bit hazy for me at this point, and continues to be hazy until the next morning.  I think it was only ten minutes from the point i got really cold, to the point I got in the van. But it could have been an hour, or more.  We got the van and I just needed to get in the back and get warm, so I bundled past Di and sat down. She told me to watch out for the little heater on the floor, and told me to put my hands near it to get warm. Then I started shivering. And I haven’t shivered like this before, I was bloody freezing.  I think (but am not sure), Di said to get my shoes off. I said OK, then looked at my shoes, and looked back up at her. I couldn’t figure out how to undo my shoes. She asked if I needed help. I don’t know, I said.  The next thing I recall is her rubbing my minging feet in a tea towel to warm them up, and it was the most amazing feeling I think I’ve ever had.  But I couldn’t get warm.  I had my Montane Extreme Mitts on, sat in the back of a campervan, with a heater, and I couldn’t get warm. Quite the opposite in fact, I was shivering like a shivery beast.  Then a medic arrived and asked me to recount what had happened, so I told her. She asked how much I’d drunk, and when I last pee’d, whether I had been confused. Then she told Max and Di to feed me hot water with loads of sugar in.  She also asked how much clothes I had, and told me to put on EVERYTHING.  So i ended up with about six layers on top, plus my Montane Punk balaclava, and the Extreme mitts.  And still I was shivering.  I think I kept zoning out, and various people got in and out of the van, including Tom, who bailed at this point, and just looked out of it (pot calling the kettle!), and Paul who got in to keep warm.  Every time there was a draught of wind, all of the heat got sucked out of me again, and I started shivering.   I don’t know how long this went on, but I just knew that my mates were waiting in the freezing cold for me to get my shit together. And I couldn’t.  ‘Do you want to go on?’ asked Max. ‘If you mean do I want to go back out there, in the cold, now, then the answer’s no’, I said.  Then a few tears came.  I think I knew I was out at this stage but I let the decision slide for a little while longer.  I had a great chat with Paul who was sat in the front, and another chat with Max, and LOADS with Di. Then the lads came up with a suggestion, it was only a couple of miles until the next road crossing, why didn’t I give it a try?  OK, I thought.  Someone suggested we check with the medic.  No, keep drinking, you’re not going anywhere like that, said Cat the medic.  OK then. And still I was shivering.  And I looked up at Glyn and Chris and realised I was out.  I can’t remember the conversation but I was devastated inside. 12 months prep, heartache, training. And i was done. I’d only been on the move for around 14.5 hours. 35 miles of 108. I felt lame. But my guardian angels (that’s you Max and Di), talked me round, explaining that it’d be stupid to go back out, and potentially put myself, my mates, and Mountain Rescue in harm’s way if anything further happened Sound Mountain Judgement. Don’t put yourself in such a position.  And I was still cold.

The lads carried on along the Spine, and I hunkered down in the back of the campervan, in my own, dehydrated and hypothermic world and tried not to cry. Too much.

Spine Challenger – Glyns story Part 1

Its 6am and I am feeling nauseous, the thought of having anything to eat only makes it worse. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now.

Problem is its only Monday the 6th Jan and The Spine Race is not until Saturday 11th. Is this normal? Have I caught a bug or something, my minds going into overdrive trying to work it out? I tell myself to stop stressing but its not working. It’s the last thing I need. I share my thoughts with my partner Kerry, I just get the look. The, ‘you must be kidding’ look. To be fair all she’s heard for 12 months is Spine this, Spine that, it’s new kit hun, I need it for the Spine. I’ve ate, slept and dreamt THE SPINE. So in 60 hours from 8am on Saturday 11th Jan the Spine Challenge not only comes to an end for me but also for my family and friends.

So I set off on Friday 10th with my mate Ian at the helm in charge of driving the Ultramadness crew, consisting of me, Wayne Singleton & Chris Chadwick to Castleton YHA. Andy Holohan, the fourth of the crew was supposed to be running but had to go to California on business.

Anyway, once in the van and the banter started I soon forget all about my nausea as it was now replaced by waves of excitement and terror. We arrived at Castleton Youth Hostel in good time, walked into the reception area and who should we see standing there Eugeni Rosello` Sole who looks about 12yrs old and can’t weigh more than 8st. Seemed a really nice chap though, he says hello and all that.  

We are first to arrive at the Spine Master class run by Stu Westfield, me with pen and paper to hand, (don’t know why, but thought I might need it always come prepared and all that) This class was invaluable; it was great to get first hand tips and advice from fellow Spiners, like heating jacket potatoes then stuffing them down your clothing to heat your core.!! Ps didn’t need the pen and paper.

This was followed, after a short journey to Edale, by the Spine briefing, which really drummed it home to what we where about to under take in case we didn’t know. Being sat in a room with some well known ultra runners was all a bit surreal.  Being sat in a room with ultra runners who actually finished the Race was even more surreal. The briefing was great, again it drummed it home how difficult and dangerous this race was.

With the briefing over and our kit check out the way, it was time for some food, a pint and a meet up with Di and Maxine the Ultramadness support crew for some words of reassurance. Di & Maxine are just great. Considering we only asked them a few weeks ago, they said yes straight away, dropped everything and came to support us. So after some good conversation & good food we felt reassured (ish) we made our way back to the YHA, threw a bit more banter at each other, until, slowly the silence creeps in, as we all lie in our bunks thinking, thinking about what tomorrow will bring, then sleep comes from nowhere quickly followed by my snoring and the silence is no more (apparently)   

Race Day:

We make our way downstairs to the reception area in the YHA to a gaggle of Spine runners all pacing, shuffling, waiting for there mini bus to take them to the start. Its 7.30 and Maxine and Di arrive bang on time to take us the 20 min journey to Edale. Again more thinking time..!!

We arrive, collect our kit from last night, checked it all over to make sure it was as it should be. Then Scott gives us the weather report. Ladies and gent it looks like you’ve got some cracking weather for the Spine race. Okay people you have sunshine to start with, possible cloudy later on, westerly winds, bit of hail at around 1pm.  Then it’s back outside to Max and Di’s campervan to wait for the start

I look at Wayne, we both look at Chris, the three of us look up to the sky, and then Wayne says “was that rain I just felt” yep sure was, so we put on our waterproof trousers. This was quickly followed by Wayne saying is that sleet coming down, yep and 5 minutes after that it was hail, then snow and that’s how it stayed for the next 3 – 4 hours. In the space of 15 minutes we had gone from a promised of sunshine to full on snow. After a few issues with some runner’s paperwork we set of at 8.21am from a small muddy playing field in Edale. Now, I hadn’t recced any of the route form from Edale up to Cowling. I couldn’t make it when Wayne, Chris and Andy did this section. Sometimes I think that’s a bonus. Working on the premise of what you don’t know won’t kill you. No sooner had we set off than we were at the bottom of Jacobs Ladder, a 596m climb to the top. I had heard lots of talk about Jacobs Ladder, most of it bad, so in my head I compared it Fusegill, a long climb with a few false summits which is part of the Lakeland 100 route in the Lake District. In the end it didn’t really matter what I compared it to as I couldn’t see my hand in front my face, let alone the top because of the snow.  After a few shouts out to Wayne and Chris asking them if they are okay, it was a case of head down get it done. Once up Jacobs Ladder, we were on Kinderlow 663m, following what’s more commonly known as the “Yellow brick road” Basically, there are huge flagstones all along the route. This is brilliant in summer, but in winter they are like mini ice rinks and you’ve got a hundred’s/ thousands to run over in the next 60hrs.  So, with the snow still coming down, winds still blowing in from the west, all we see for the next few hrs is flagstones. You can’t look up to see where you’re going for fear of falling over. We were also told in the Spine masterclass that some of these flagstones have a tendency to flip if you don’t place your feet in the middle of them. So the three of us are going along nicely over Glead Hill getting a good pace going where possible, reminding each other to eat and drink, when all of a sudden boom Chris almost disappears. Whilst running on the flagstone he placed his foot on boggy marshy ground between two stones, and almost sinks up to his waist. After a quick check over making sure he was okay, Chris being from Yorkshire picks him self up, drains the water out of his waterproof trousers, grabs his poles and starts running again. What he couldn’t have known was in a few hrs he would pay the price for that fall. Luckily we had arranged to meet the Ultramadness support crew on the A57 so we didn’t have to far to go before we could rest for a few minutes and get a hot brew down to warm us up.

The smell of tea and coffee out of the support van must have drifted on the wind, because when we got there, there was another runner sat on the camper van bumper drinking a brew and tucking in to nibbles, which was fine. So after a hot drink, nibbles and change of gloves to Montane Extreme Mitts, Prism gloves were soaked, we set off. The next section wasn’t too bad, all things considered and seemed to pass without too many incidents. I think we all fell a few times.  We meet up with a friend of ours Paul Brant on Devils Dyke on the way over to Torside Reservoir. Paul was doing the race the second year running. So three became four and the next few hours were spent chatting away about why we run these things and life in general. During this section we play leapfrog with other runners & pass some hill walkers.

Around by Bleaklow Head we were caught up by a youngish guy doing the race. It became obvious very quickly that something wasn’t right with him, he was coughing for England. Not just a tickle but a real “from the lung cough” We asked him on several occasions if he was okay, which he replied yes ish. Later on route he confessed to just getting over a cold. To us he sounded like he still had what ever it was and it was more than a cold. On the plus side we kept a good pace, always keeping up wind of him and it stayed this way for a few hrs. When we came off the fells to the CP I mentioned the marshal that the guys behind wasn’t in good shape. Next thing we new he’d retired and we where at Torside Reservoir.

I couldn’t remember if Torside Reservoir was an agreed meeting point with our support crew. Like Chris and Wayne I hoped it was. I remember telling Paul a few hrs earlier that they would be there which put a smile on his face. Like us he was gagging for a brew. Imagine his disappointment when we came off the fells and we couldn’t see them. Paul was gutted, we were all gutted. To cheer us up we were met by a rather jolly Mr Jonathon Fletcher though, all snug in his -32 down parka. So it was hand shakes all round, and a quick double check just to make sure Max and Di weren’t hiding somewhere and off we go.

You can’t really miss a big white camper van, can you….? Well apparently so, Max and Di were there, somewhere, but we missed them.    

 We all got some energy bars and water down our necks and off we go again at a good pace. No long after crossing reservoir Paul said he want to slow it down a little as he knew what’s coming. That can only mean one thing to me, hills. Regards hills, I take the view that the sooner you’re up the better. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run up them, but I would rather just get them out of the way so its head down and get it done. I can remember Chris feeling slightly nauseous going up the climbs and Wayne talking to him about anything to take try and help him take his mind of things. It must have worked as Chris did a grand job and got to the top stomach intact. By this point we were all focussed on getting to the A635, just before Wessenden head.

When we came of the fell on to the main road a guy came over and asked if we had seen a young lad on the fell dressed in horse riding clothing, similar to what he was wearing. He went on to say the lad was following the hounds and had lost contact with the others. When we said “no we’ve not seen anybody” you could see a real concern on his face. The light was fading fast and we had had head torches on for the last hour or so. I hope the lad turned up safe and sound.

I’m sure I remember a marshal telling us that a group of Druids, dressed in cloaks with no shoes on had also taken to the fells a few miles away. Apparently this came over the radio from a fellow marshal who couldn’t believe his eyes, so took some pictures to prove it.   

Now im not known for my navigation skills so prior to the event the Ultramadness crew did some navigation training with Charlie Sproson from http://www.mountainrun.co.uk which proved invaluable. After leaving the marshals on the A635 we caught up with a few other runners, and we are all heading towards Wassenden Reservoir. Just after Wassenden Reservoir the track splits in two and before I know it I can see Wayne, Chris and the others trotting off up what I think is the wrong track.  After a quick double check of the map I shout them all back telling them they are going the wrong way. A guy called Tom gets his GPS out and reads out the coordinates, checks them on the map and it turned out they were all heading to Marsden. Team work puts us back on track and more importantly back together as we make our way round Black Moss, over Dinner Stone towards the M62. Off we set with about 2 miles to go until we meet our support crew, and I am getting desperate for a brew and some hot food. The miles pass without incident. On reflection we all went quiet. Not much talking or banter. I think we all felt the same and wanted off this fell. I remember looking over to my left and seeing Manchester all lit up with the light of the M62 snaking off into the distance. A view I would never see again, well not this year anyway. Off in the distance I can hear some dogs barking, probably miles away, but they seemed pretty close to me. We had been running for about 14 hrs now and the mind starts to play tricks on you, especially at night on unfamiliar ground. With the lure of the M62 lights in the distance we plough on to meet Max & Di on the A672. On arrival the support crew are there along with a mini bus used by the race Doctor. 30 miles down about 15 to go to Hebden Bridge

Now what happened next happened so fast it was scary. I remember seeing Max & Di’s camper van, doors open kettle on, nibbles out ready for any takers. Next thing Wayne’s sat in the back of it looking at his boots, looking up at Chris and me with out saying speaking, not really knowing what he’s doing.

It turns out his feet are freezing; he is freezing, shivering for England and he has a vacant look on his face. Next thing I see is Max is taking his boots off his and Di is drying his feet ready for clean socks to go on. By this point Wayne is going down hill fast, still shivering he puts on several layers of clothing including his big Rab insulated jacket.  Next thing he asks to speak to the race medic who was treating some other runners had requested her attention. So she climbs in the back of the camper van, the doors close and Wayne has a one to one consultation with a medic on the A672. In no time at all she gives her diagnosis, “early on set of hypothermia due to de-hydration”. Hot sugar water was prescribed followed by “you aren’t going anywhere until I say so”. So with this in mind Max gets the kettle on again but not only for Wayne but for those also diagnosed with the same symptoms in the Doctors vehicle. It turned out that about 6 to 8 runners withdrew here, all for various reasons. Some of them because their feet were in bits & some because something just wasn’t right. For all concerned this was a tough, but sensible decision to make. One of the guys that withdrew was Tom who shared his GPS coordinates with us at Wassenden Reservoir. Toms was a really nice guy who we first met at the Spine Master class. Here he shared his experiences of previous years with the group offering tips that he leant the hard way.  

Wayne is still drinking hot sugar water whilst shivering in the back of the camper. Chris and I get a brew inside us followed by some food & Max and Di are worried. After a while I get in camper, the heat hits me as it’s nice and toasty compared to outside. I speak to Wayne to see how he doing, not good mate came the reply, I’m freezing. I can see the concern on his face which is pale, ghost like. I leave him to it and Chris and I jump in the Doctors vehicle to keep warm as the front seats of the camper have been taken by Tom and co

After some time the Doctor check’s on him again. Keep drink the sugar water Wayne you still aren’t going anywhere she says. Times ticking on by this point, I think about an hours past by already, it seems like 5 minutes. Now I can only guess at what must have been going through Wayne mind at this point but I should imagine it was something like.

  • ·         Wish I was in California with Holohan.
  • ·         Will I be shivering for the rest of my life?
  • ·         I’ve put too much in to quit.
  • ·         Do I stay and get warm as per doctors orders – but I don’t know how long this will take.
  • ·         Glyn and Chris will be getting cold waiting for me.
  • ·         If I get warm, can I make it to Hebden Bridge with out putting myself or others in danger
  • ·         Do I withdraw and let the guys carry on.              

Not a decision I would like to make. After climbing into the camper to see how he was doing things it was obvious that things hadn’t changed that much. It had been over an hour and Wayne had said that it could take forever to get warm and didn’t want to hold Chris and me up any longer, so had decided to withdraw from the event. I can see the disappointment in his face, along side the, not fear, but a real understanding that he came close it to it and the potential dangers involved.

Like Chris I’m gutted when he tells me, but I feel I can’t show it for that would put additional pressure on him when he doesn’t need it. As much as I want him to get up and come with us he can’t. Inside I want him to tell the doctor that he’s fine, ready to go, but that’s selfish of me. He’d trained so hard and sacrificed so much, but I have to respect his decision. Now, my feet are like blocks of ice, I’m stamping the ground, shuffling around trying to keep them warm. I debate changing my wet socks and boots to get some of that fast towel action off Di to dry my feet but decide against it in the hope that once I get going they will warn up. So we say are good bye’s to a shivering Wayne with Max and Di saying they will take care of him, and off we go heading out to cross the M62 to the amusement of the traffic using it.

2,014 in 2014…….?

Well in simple terms it means 6 a day, 39 per week or the equivalent of 168 per month. That’s miles, 2,014 miles to be run throughout 2014!!!

To put into context 2,014 miles equals either more than 600 park runs, 75+ marathons, 150+ half marathons or 40 Lakeland 50 Ultras!!!

The beginning of my year has been dealt a rather large blow given I can no longer compete at the Montane Spine Challenger 108 mile challenge due to work commitments.

I have various events already lined up or penciled in the calendar which include the Great Lakes 3 Day Event, Woldsman, the Fellsman perhaps and of course the Montane Lakeland 50 in July as my ‘A’ race of the year followed by The Grand Tour of Skiddaw closing the year out as this year with The Tour De Helvellyn!!

I’m signed up to #Jantastic so can track early progress there and will also be posting on my Garmin Connect account!

There are some simple rules to follow and all need to be recorded so Garmin chargers at the ready. Otherwise they are as follows:

  • Putting on my running gear on and running first thing on a Saturday morning for one mile or more = a run
  • Running to catch a bus on my way home = not a run
  • Running to and from work, separated by a day in the office = two runs
  • Running to the cafe, enjoying a brew for 10 minutes, running home = one run
  • And of course, only runs allowed so no cycling, swimming, hikes or strolls into town!

So with all that in mind and some large events lined up you’d think running 3 half marathons a week quite easy, well lets find out shall we!

Andy

Nav? I’ll just follow the person in front…

… that was my strategy for the MdS, and it worked. I didnt die, or even get mildly lost, despite my ‘drip under the tree’ incident. However, I had a thought that the Spine Challenger would be a different story, particularly as there’s no mention of support from helicopters, or gimassive green lasers to guide the way, or indeed another 1000 runners on the course to follow.

Nav refresher it is then…

Thankfully we’ve recently got to know Charlie Sproson from Mountain Run really well (he’s also doing the full Spine coincidentally), and he agreed to help us out with the skills we’d need to prevent deathbybadnav in Yorkshire come January

So that’s how we ended up at Mountain Run’s nerve centre in Watermillock, drinking brews and eating over-priced chocolate hob-nobs (they saw Glyn coming, again). We had a great couple of hours chatting about kitting choices, and nutrition and hydration, getting some good tips in the process, and also reinforcing some of the decision we’d made. Glyn’s face made me chuckle a number of times as he went from glee to ‘oh crap i’m going to die’.

We then got our kit together, and piled into Chadderseses van for the trip to Dufton near Appleby in Cumbria, and the Pennine Way. Took us a bit longer to get there than expected, but I’ll not go into that, and we were out of the van and sorting ourselves out. It was like a Montane catalogue shoot with all the kit that we’ve got, and Charlie is another who’s getting support from them – not sure any of us will ever get a modelling contract though. Then we were off up the road chuntering away to each other.  We rounded a corner and Charlie kicked in to gear – right where are we, how long do we expect to be on this path for, when will we be turning a corner.  Glyn and Chads confidently answered the questions, I disagreed with them. Show me where you are Wayne…. Ah, that’s the problem, I’m going down the wrong path, starting in the wrong place.  I was off to a bad start as I’d got lost within half a mile of the van!

We got some experience in recognising our surroundings as we made our way slowly uphill, checking out where we were in the daylight to a pretty accurate degree.  And then hit the snowline!  And boy, was there a lot of it, which surprised me. This was pretty exciting, it was soon going to be dark, and finding landmarks was becoming more difficult in the snow, and then we looked around and saw the clouds moving in too. AWESOME!!

We hit a cairn on Green Fell and the wind hit us.  Flipping heck it was cold!  We were fairly well kitted out between us, and had been gradually pulling on buffs, gloves and hats on as we ascended the fellside, but the wind went through me.  The other guys started putting waterproof trousers on to get some wind protection to their legs, but I thought I’d be ok as I had Skins and walking trousers on – Lesson Number 1!!

Charlie asked me to verify where we were by finding a sheep fold that should have been around 50 metres or so away.  I put my head torch on and trotted over.  Nope, no sheep pen. Some massive boulders, but they’re too big.  Charlie used this as an excercise for us.  Use the compass, measure the distance, pace it out.  Nope, no sheep pen still.  Phew, it’s not just me then (I’ll be back when the snow’s gone to find that bloody sheep pen).

Darkness was now well and truly upon us, and we were into the bubbles of light on our headtorches and not much else.  Talking through buffs muffling our voices.  My finger tips were getting proper cold despite my gloves, so Charlie had us doing actions to get circulation going. Brilliant, they were warm again and Lesson 2.  Now it was my toes, and snow was up inside my trousers and down into my goretex boots – wet cold feet – need gaiters – Lesson 3!  These lessons were coming thick and fast now.

Back to the cairn.  Measure the distance to the next cairn. Take a bearing – bloody hell I got it right!  Then it’s ‘two hundred metres, two hundred paces, off we go…. how’s everyone feeling’ says Charlie, ‘Bricking myself’said I.  Good was the response, and off we went, off the edge of the earth (or so it felt).  Two hundred and two paces later, and a cairn emerged from the darkness and I was bloody delighted.  I couldnt get over the fact that I’d managed not to lose myself on the fell, although the other three had taken the same bearing and were walking alongside me counting too.  At the cairn, we did the same again, with a longer count, but did the same again! Awesome!  I was feeling comfortable and confident now as we took another bearing from cairn to cairn.  On the downside, I could feel the cold leaching warmth from my legs and arms now, and I was getting really cold.  I had a spare down jacket in my pack, which I was contemplating putting on, but then we made it to the final cairn and then agreed to get off the fell down a road and back home.  We took a bearing to the road end, where it met the path, and off we trogged through the snow.

We had a great wander back to Dufton by the road, which had some incredibly drifting snow across, which seems a bit surreal now.  Chadders and I were chuntering away for most of the trip, with Glyn and Charlie chatting away further back as we wandered through Knock, then Dufton back to the van and the rest of the chocolate hob nobs

As always, we had a great day on the fells, and it was good to introduce Charlie to some of our ‘banter’, which was at least 50% down due to the absence of Andy.  All in all the day was fantastic, and I feel much happier about being in the darkness somewhere on the Pennine Way come Yorkshire.  However, I’ll feel less confident in Chadwick, after the needle on his compass decided to reverse direction with North facing South, but that’s another story.

Top Tiler!

Our awesome Ultramadness colleague and boss man at Chris Chadwick Ltd (tilers extraordinaire), has got us some AWESOME Montane tshirts branded with our website so we all look nice and posh when we get lost on the Spine in January.
He’s done it in exchange for some (more) free publicity here on the Ultramadness blog, as he understands that we ultra athletes are all discerning individuals on the tiling front, whether it’s for slate in your lounge, or vinyl in your bathroom – he’s your man.  That’s Chris Chadwick Limited – tilers.  Owned by our very own (you guessed it) – Chris Chadwick

Restoring the equilibrium

I’ll start at the end with this one too….

‘OK Wayne’ said Andy Mouncey
I think I just nodded
‘Just restoring the equilibrium’?
I think I just nodded
‘Do you need anything? Tea, Chips?’
I think I nearly vomited (again)
‘Tea would be great mate thanks’ I said
‘Great, you just lie back and rest’ he said
I closed my eyes and lay back on the floor in the Stickle Barn Inn, contemplating what lay ahead. It was 3am, and we’d been on the move for around 21 hours. The end of the Ultimate Trails 100k was so close now, but we were moving so slowly, I knew it would be between four and six hours before we finished the final section between us and Brockhole where the finish was. Added to this, was the state of Liz’s feet, which was causing her to cry with pain. I looked up and she was trying to wrap some tape round them to hold compeed in place to give her a bit of cushioning. Added to that, was the fact that I had been retching consistently since the top of Stake Pass. Oh, and I could apparently no longer walk forward in a straight line. Which was a novelty I could well do without.
I looked up at Liz who was eating a chip butty. She asked if I was ok. I shook my head. We’d already discussed pulling out, and I was done. This was very different from the Lakeland 50 though. I felt that I’d put in a shedload of effort, and was just exhausted by it all, as well as the issue about being unable to walk forward.
We got a lift back to Brockhole from one of the marshalls, which was a nightmare. He seemed determined to crash, or make us barf in the car. We got out in the car park, and the few chips I had eaten, along with two cups of tea, made their way out of my stomach in a lovely spray. Then we went and found our tent….
Back to the start, and this event couldn’t have been more different to the Lakeland 50 for many, many reasons. I felt really comfortable on the start line in comparison, and the atmosphere for me felt less competitive (not that I ever compete against anyone other than myself!). It’s hard to remember all of the details of the 21 hours, but there’s a few real highlights for me, of one of the most incredible days I’ve spent on the fells with my mates (with one noticeable absentee – Chadders hadn’t made it to the start line following the Ring of Fire withdrawal)
We had a great time moving out of Brockhole, in the darkness, and up the fells on to the path that leads down into Troutbeck. It was starting to get light, and it was already looking like it was to be a truly stunning day. I was taking a few pictures of the views as we went, and was chatting to a few of the other competitors as we went along – the likelihood was that we would be seeing each other regularly throughout the day anyway. Going over Garburn pass, one of my neighbours Richard was on the top in his Mountain Rescue capacity, and his wife Zoe was there taking pictures of us all as we passed. The sun had just risen and was warming our faces as we descended into the Kentmere valley and Checkpoint 1 at Kentmere Institute. I took a picture of the cursed phone box outside the Institute, and shouted that I wouldn’t be need it today. There was a bit of a group of around 10 of us moving along together including Andy, Glyn, Liz, Ruxers and Sue at this stage, as well as some others we’d acquired. Andy was on his usual form, and we were introducing the ladies to some of our usual banter, most of which is unrepeatable. We carried on up the valley towards Nan Beild pass, with regular breaks, mostly because, as Sue said ‘ we couldn’t laugh, breathe, and walk uphill at the same time’. This section between Kentmere and Mardale Head still feels like the most enjoyable part of the day for me, and the Lake District was truly on display for us. We got to the top of Nan Beild Pass, said cheers to the marshall on top, and started the descent to Mardale Head. On the way down, we passed a runner who’d had a bit of a fall, every single person who passed asked if they were ok, despite the two walkers stood with him. I think this is one of the things that really stands out for me in ultra distance races, if you’re in the crap, you’ll have no shortage of assistance if you want it.
We made it down to Mardale Head, and then it got a bit boring for a while in my view. I always find it hard going down alongside Haweswater, and today was a bit of an exception. It was quite different running the ‘wrong’ way down, in comparison to the Lakeland 50 route that we were all so used to. The banter was still continuing, and Andy was ‘chatting up’ Liz in an attempt to encourage me to murder him and throw his body in the lake. We got to the end of the lake, and a pretty horrific road section into Bampton commenced, which was incredibly tough on legs and feet. We got into the Bampton checkpoint, where there were bacon butty’s (the very last of them!), porridge, and noodles. Coming out of Bampton and more road was starting to wear on the nerves, then we made it off-road onto Askam Fell and a bit of happiness re-appeared in the world! It’s a really good section there to Howtown and feels mostly downhill, so the banter continued. I had a pork pie, and it really got the engine turning, so I flew into the next Checkpoint and all was feeling good in the world.
We had a bit of scoff at Howtown, and carried on. The next checkpoint was at Patterdale and we would already be at the halfway point. We were making good time, well within the cut-off points, and we were looking good to make it to Dunmail before the cut-off which meant we would have to wait for a guide to take us over the tops to Watendlath. All was going peachy. We started moving up the road, following the flags that marked the route. Then more road, and more road, and it was looking like road all the way up towards Boredale Hause. This was turning a bit grim, and wasn’t much of a trail race. I was with Liz, Andy and Glyn now, and I was struggling to keep up for some reason. It was similar to the feeling I’d had at the Lakeland 50 and I couldn’t get it. I was eating plenty so that couldn’t be it. I was chugging loads of liquid in the checkpoints and drinking regularly in between too. I think that, on reflection, I could only put it down to carb/sugar hangover, but more on this later on.
I carried on slogging away keeping up with the others who seemed more than happy with the pace that we were setting, and I thought I’d get through this bad patch at some point. Then I looked up and saw the climb up to Boredale Hause for the first time and my heart sank. That was the last time I looked up until we reached the top! One foot in front of the other and slog it out. The sun was shining right into our faces now, and it was quite a hot day, but nothing in comparison to the Lakeland50 earlier in the year. I got to the top, and started descending to Patterdale along with Liz, Ruxers and Sue. I felt pretty good going down, if a bit sluggish still, and it felt really good when we got to the playing fields at Patterdale to see Andy’s partner Sarah, along with her mum and dad, and the legendary hound that is Dibble (or fat head as I affectionately call him).
We got into the tent which was the checkpoint, and grabbed our ‘drop bags’ which had turned out to be plastic bags. Fresh socks, compeed, bit of lubrication on my undercarriage, and I was ready to feed and water. We needed to get out quickly to make it to Dunmail Raise before 6:30pm or we’d have to wait half an hour for a guided run to the next checkpoint. None of us were keen on a half hour wait so we got a wriggle on. Out of the checkpoint and feeling good, but I struggled to run at all, then I started slowing again, and slowly fell off the back of my friends. Increasingly I was getting negative about missing the cut-off, and wasn’t bothered about my pace. I moved with Glyn for a while, then we got to a steeper section and he took off so I was on my own for a while until I noticed Andy waiting for me. He helped me keep moving through this bad stage and we got to the top of Grizedale Hause. I got a bit of nagging off Liz, Glyn and Andy, who persuaded me to have a shotblok to buck me up. It had the desired effect and we moved off down towards Dunmail Raise. Checking my watch constantly, I realised that we could still make it before 6:30pm if we got a wriggle on. I was keen to set the pace, even if it was just a fast walk, so we moved on down the rocky path.
As we came down the path, we could see the A591 that ran down to Grasmere ahead of us. I was fully expecting the checkpoint to be in the field right at the bottom of the path but it wasn’t there. We trotted a bit along the trail, and still couldn’t see it. I realised that it must be down in the wooded area between us and the road/Thirlmere and my heart sank a bit. I thought it was another mile, and we were running out of time. Nothing to do but carry on plodding. As we got through a gate and into the woods, we met Geoff coming up the track, who was one of the marshalls, and the guide that would take us on if we missed the cut-off. He indicated that it wasn’t far, and we soon saw the tent that marked the checkpoint. No time to wait as we were inside the cutoff by minutes, so we grabbed crisps and handfuls of jelly babies before moving off quickly across the road and alongside Thirlmere.
The next section is a bit weird. We relaxed a bit as we’d hit the cutoff, and would easily make the next one at Watendlath, despite the climb that was ahead of us over Watendlath Fell. You go through some pretty varied terrain on this section – very steep rocky climbs up bridleway, then on wide forest trails, then you emerge from woods and it’s bog and moor. We got on to the tops and two marshalls pointed the way to follow the flags and fluorescent markers, advising that itwas ‘pretty wet’ ahead. No kidding. It was rank. It was starting to get dark, and it was a stunning evening with the moon coming up. We got our head torches out eventually. I lost count of the number of times that Liz fell over, and she got a good soaking as the ground was very wet. I think all of us put our foot down a rabbit hole, or into a ditch or another hole at some point, and it was quite frustrating all round. I think that this is where Liz really started to have issues with her feet as it was soaking underfoot for a long while. It seemed to take quite a while until we were descending and saw the lights of the National Trust building at Watendlath where the next checkpoint was. Disappointly the checkpoint had run out of milk so we couldn’t have a decent brew. It was getting cold now too, so after a short refuel, we went back into the darkness
I’m not sure exactly what time it was when we left Watendlath, but it was pitch black. And things generally get a bit weird in the night on ultras anyway (see any of our other posts, but particularly my MdS experience!). We were chatting away still, but a bit subdued now I think, and it was around 14 kilometres to the next checkpoint at Stickle Barn Tavern in Langdale, with a chunk of climb up Stake Pass in between. Liz and I were walking together, and before long we realised that Glyn and Andy had disappeared and we couldn’t see any other headtorches anywhere. We thought at this stage that they’d taken a wrong turn and gone through a gate we’d passed some time before. With no way of knowing where they could be, we decided to carry on and hope that they found the track. It felt like a very long way in the darkness, and I thought that it was a shame we couldn’t take advantage of the stunning scenery around Rosthwaite and Stonethwaite. There’s an incentive to move a bit faster next time!
We had a few issues getting mislaid at the bottom of Stake Pass, partly due to confusion and partly due to lack of glow sticks to guide the way fully but we eventually got there. I was surprised again at how easy it was to get up Stake Pass on the whole, as it’s just a serious of zig-zags which help cut out a lot of steep climb. We got to the top and saw the two marshalls tucked up cosy in sleeping bags. I think it was about now that I barfed for the first time. And retched a bit. Then barfed again. And this was to carry on all the way down the Pass into Langdale. Liz was really starting to have problems with her feet, a mixture of the earlier bog and wet, compounded by some rocky trails from Watendlath. We set off down the track at the bottom of the pass, after saying hi to the marshall stood there. Liz was increasingly yelping with pain in her feet and eventually had a cry. She seemed determined to take it out on the Herdwick sheep that were lying in the path, and managed to pole a few of them, much to both of their surprise. Things were a little trippy now, with big rocks, and sheep merging into one. With glow sticks and sheep eyes becoming the same. I was staggering off diagonally to the left every time I tried to walk forwards now, and it was tough going to keep shuffling back to the right of the track and try all over again. I was still throwing up, and it was becoming increasingly tiresome. I’d had the same trouble in the first year of the Lakeland 50 after a bad reaction to ibuprofen on an empty stomach so it wasn’t new, but it’s still not pleasant!
The final couple of kilometres to me were a killer. There were a few unexpected climbs which were draining, and then we were behind the next checkpoint. We’d already agreed to pull out, but then I thought it would be a shame after coming so far, so thought we should wait and see. As we walked into the bright lights of the Tavern, it was all a bit of a shock. Then I saw a couple of friendly faces in Andy Mouncey, and our neighbour Richard were there and it felt safe again.
I’m not sure what happened to make me want to pull out at this point, but it still doesn’t feel like the wrong decision. After the event, people have said that the distance turned out to be around 112k rather than 100k, so we had a fair way to go still after Stickle Barn. Depending on who we listen to, we made it to either 56 or 59 miles, of what should have been 62 or thereabouts. This is the furthest I have ever been in one event, so I can’t be too unhappy. Both Liz and I have discussed our ‘DNF’ a number of times and both feel comfortable with our decision to withdraw, and I definitely have no regrets about it being the right thing to do.
As we came into Stickle Barn, Richard told us that Glyn and Andy had already been in, and had waited a while for us to arrive but had started getting cold so had moved on. They eventually finished the event early on the Sunday morning, and we were awake back at Brockhole when they arrived.
I mentioned earlier that I think I suffered a bit from carb/sugar hangovers. It was only well after the event that I recognised we have been training heavily which a mixture of peperami and pork pies, but on the event i barely touched them. The only time I had a pork pie, was coming into Howtown and it had (on reflection) an incredible effect on me. I do wonder whether this can explain my slowing down, and an inability to keep up with everyone. It’ll be one to watch out for in the upcoming training for the Spine Challenger!

Our friend TIm Taylor from runningfood.co.uk is trying to raise some cash for new products through Kickstarter. He already makes the amazing Chia Charge flapjack which we love scoffing during training runs on the Pennine Way, so any support our supporters can offer would be awesome! Even if you buy some flapjack or chia seeds off him….

Kickstarter is a way of funding creative projects, it is one of a number of crowdfunding sites that have become popular recently, its a way of small businesses getting funds , marketing themselves to new consumers and generally raising awareness of their ideas.

Tim’s project only has 24 days to run, so there is lots of built in jeopardy!!!
The funding is all or nothing, meaning if he doesn’t raise 100% of target then he wont gain any funding at all.

As you know I’ve been supplying chia charge for just over a year, in that time we have supplied over 10,000 bars through a very small number of outlets in the UK, everyone seems to like the concept of real food for outdoor endurance athletes, and it is all going well enough.

This project, provides an opportunity to gain a bigger audience and attract attention from outside of ultra running potentially. There is a lot more information, to see at the link below:Chia charge flapjacks

0800 – REVERSE

0….8…0…0…R….R….R…..R….E…V….E…R…..R…..R….R…..R….R…S…..S (oh for gods sake why does the 7 key not work)….S…..S…..E…..

‘please hold while we connect your call’

Mum, it’s Wayne, I’m at Kentmere, can you come and get me and Glyn?
22 seconds i was on the phone. Cost £7.10 it did. And there ended my Lakeland 50 this year. As we walked down the valley, away from Kentmere Institute, in a bit of a sulk, we agreed that there were two good things about the 0800 REVERSE advert – it was catchy, and Holly Valance (that was Glyn that last bit, nowt to do with me). Shortly after, my dad came racing up the road followed by a boy racer and nearly ran us over, and there started a long night trying to get back to Coniston via Kendal!
I’m still a bit devastated that I was so lame in the 50, and i won’t go into it in too much detail, but there’s a few lowlights to go over I think and it will help me. I love the word catharsis, and this is probably an appropriate time to use it, as i vent a bit of emotion.
I set off from the start of the Lakeland 50 feeling pretty confident and hoping for a finish of between 12 and 15 hours, after finishing my first one in short of 19 hours. I was running with the other lads from ultramadness.co.uk but something wasn’t right. I was incredibly well hydrated, as evidenced by the peeing before the start. I’d had a few bits to eat before the race, which was unusual for me, so i was pleased. I’d had a fair nights sleep. I’d done a fair amount of training. But my chuffing legs just wouldn’t move. We were having a bit of banter as we trotted along, and i was quite enjoying it. But my chuffing legs wouldn’t move. And as we moved round the Dalemain estate I started to struggle keeping up with the other lads so I just let them go, and resolved that it would get better, and I should enjoy chatting away to the other runners.
Next bit of memory, is getting up to the cock pit between Pooley Bridge and Howtown. I’d been chuntering away to a Welsh lass coming out of Pooley Bridge, who was entertaining me greatly, and then I saw Glyn stood on the path. He’d got a bit hot so had taken off his Skins, then saw me coming and had waited. We continued together for a bit, and then my partner Liz came bounding up the hill behind us, chatted for a bit, and then bounded off like a bloody deer into the distance. I knew this would happen sooner or later, but this was a bit sooner than later! Needless to say, this didn’t help my state of mind.
Fast forward to Fusedale and a guy I’d met at the start from City of Lancaster Triathlon (COLT), coming back down the hill after giving up. Too much he said. Youre an Ironman I said. Yeah, he said, and carried on walking, back down the hill to Howtown.
Half way up Fusedale, and another person we knew was on the phone to his wife. How far to the next CP, he barked at us. 6, I responded. Miles or k’s he said. Miles I said. Great, he replied.
Top of Fusedale, and Ruxers is lying by the side of the path barfing (sorry Ruxers). You need anything mate? No, she said, and waved us on
It was so humid, that every time I drank, I could feel the water immediately being extracted through my forehead. I had resorted to spraying Elete straight under my tongue to help salt get in my system, then chugging water. The only down side to my new Ultimate Direction pack, was the bottles, they just weren’t big enough for a gimassive plodder like me, so I was running out of water fast.
We made it along Haweswater, and started the last climb before Mardale Head, to see some of the Delamere Spartans from the next checkpoint, stood talking into a satphone around a guy with half of his body lying in the bushes. Not good. And starting to hammer home a really negative voice in my head. This just isn’t worth it. I don’t need to do this. I’ve done it before. I don’t have to put myself through this torment. It’s going to take me over 20 hours to finish, and the rain is coming. But my chuffing legs wouldn’t move
We made it into Mardale Head, and there were a fair few that had pulled out there. We had some soup, butties, sweets, rola-cola, and started moving again just as the rain started. Massive splodges of rain. Ruxers was there too, and we’d passed Sue coming in to the CP, so we had more friendly faces around to chat to. Glyn started pulling away from me going up Gatescarth Pass, and the rain was still splodging down and getting heavier. Then there was a flash of lightning. Great. Then there was a deep rumble that started a while away, and echoed up the valley or over the fells towards us all plodding up the pass. Then there was a different sort of thudding, and I turned, and so did everyone else on the pass. And we saw the yellow speck of an air ambulance getting bigger, and then it turned towards us, and started descending towards Haweswater. Crap. That guy was having a seriously bad day out. And that was the nail in the coffin for this year’s Lakeland 50 for me.
I’m still convinced that Glyn dropped out because of my negative attitude, and I’m convinced that I got to him with my whining (sorry mate). I could have continued physically, and it probably would have got better, but I would have been a long time on the fells. The only saving grace for me really was that so many people that I know pulled out that day, including some top ten contenders. It seems that a fair few of us threw our toys out of the pram as our race strategy went out the window!
We got into Kentmere Institute, and I went to see Paul Cosgrave and Jo Allen from Montane, and thanked them for the continued support they’re showing to us at Ultramadness. I ate a load of food, smoothies and had some pop. Then I went and rang my mum.
It was only to be a few weeks later that I was in the Ultimate Trails 100k, with the Ultramadness boys, my partner Liz, and a growing number of good friends including Ruxers, Sue Dowker, Jon Fletcher (who didn’t actually start as he’s too old now). That’s another story though, and I’ll tell it soon.

Boom the lights are on and Ring of Fire blasts out ….. It’s 5am Sunday morning and although I fell asleep quickly the morning has come round even quicker !!!
Laid in my sleeping bad I do a quick top to toe check
Head – Tired and full of thoughts
Shoulders- A bit achey from carrying pack for two days but ok overall
Back – Stiff as hell from been laid on the village hall floor all night
Hips – Achey but will be ok when moving
Quads – Tired and Sore
Calfs – Tired and Sore
Feet – Oh bloody hell my feet !!!!!!

Day 3 and I’m still here and in the game… Technically I’m out but I’m still able to take part in day 3….. My mind keeps drifting off thinking about my family, Karen and the kids put up with so much, between all the day and night runs, weekend reccies and days away I’m always aware they sacrifice things to allow me to run as much as I do, there support is always amazing so I have to start Day 3 for them !!!!!

I manage to get completely dressed without standing up, theory been if I’m dressed and ready no matter what my feet say I’m ready to go !
Looking at the condition of my taped up feet I’d cause more damage taking the old tape off so decide to leave it on and re-tape what bits need to be re-taped, although I’ve still not stood up yet my feet feel too sore for my Inov8 shoes so decide I have to wear the Hoka’s again.
Getting my swollen feet into my shoes it’s time to stand up which having watched several other people try and fail at the first attempt I opt to turn over and achieve the hands and knees position first then with the help of a near by chair and gritted teeth I stand for the first time.

Holy Shit !!!!!
Burn Burn Burn these Burning Feet!!!!!!

Right time to man up and try to walk like Im not a tin man, several steps and muscle memory takes over joints ease up and it’s time to sort my porridge and grab a hot sweet coffee.
Feed and watered I again pack my bed and bags up ready for them to be taken back to Holyhead today’s finish point, I talk to Mark as I pack up, he’s still not looking great but tells me he does feel much better, further apologies for the previous day and more thanks for use of my spare kit, I feel sorry for the guy it’s his first big ultra and it’s not finished well but as we all do he’ll learn from it and come back stronger.
Bing one of the race directors is doing the rounds making sure everyone is ok and asking if we’ve placed our sandwich order, today’s first checkpoint is at a cafe and there’s a free sandwich of our choice waiting for us …. Awesome just the incentive I need…. A Bacon Butty !!!!

Outside in the dark again for race brief and there’s no changes to the route today, my minds wondering and thinking about Karen again, after yesterday’s late phone conversation I’m guessing she’s probably not had a great night herself so I step aside and text her to let her know I’m ok (not convinced of it myself) and I’m starting day 3, and will text to let her know how I’m doing through out the day, I’ve been doing this over the past two days as she’s been updating family and friend plus Facebook ect.
As the countdown begins Ring of Fire blasts out …3 2 1 and were off .. Well I’m walking forward, I have no intention of doing anything other then finishing today and that means a constant minimum 20min mile for all of today’s 33.4miles, easy I think to myself.

Leaving the village and on a slight down hill I break into a steady jog, to my amazement it actually hurts less then walking, I guess it’s because my feet are I’m contact with pavement for less time, were almost straight onto the beach and the sand is very very hard work , I’ve dropped back from the main group and aware that there’s only a few people behind me, heading off the beach I can still see a couple of guys ahead so keep an eye on them as the less thought I have to out into navigation today the better !!
Reaching the edge of the beach I climb a grass and sandy dune thinking how nice it will be to get onto the firmer coastal path again.
OH NO…. SAND DUNES ….BLOODY SAND DUNES EVERWHERE….. I’m not in the desert in Bloody Wales why are there sand dunes in Wales ….. Soft golden sand fills my shoes within a few steps, it’s pointless emptying them as from the top of the next dune I can see I’ve a fair way to go before I get out of the sand, trudging on I keep catching a glimpse of the guys in front but there are plenty of coastal signs about to keep me right.
It seems I’ve been in the dunes for miles but realistically it’s probably only about a mile before I eventually leave them, by now my feet are in bits !

I’ve got an Injinji liner sock with a pair of standard running socks on top of them, a combination I’ve been using without any problems for months but today the sand feels like it’s inside my socks and rubbing like sandpaper on every part of my feet,
I find a place to sit down and empty my shoe and dust my socks off as best I can.
Jogging into the first checkpoint I’ve caught up to the guys in front and I’m looking forward to that sandwich, whoops and cheers greet us as always as we give our race numbers to be checked in and I’m about 10 min ahead of cut off. Sandwich in hand I grab a seat and take a bite, it tastes great but I’m having trouble chewing and swallowing it, I’ve been looking forward to this for miles and now I’m not enjoying it at all, infact it’s making me feel quiet sick, trying not to look ungrateful I fold what’s left into a napkin and drop it in the bin, no need to fill bottles as I’ve not drank a great deal up to now so leave and head off with the two guys I’d caught up to, out onto the coastal path were all plodding along nicely and walking anything slightly up hill, not long and were back on the beach, another long crossing that today seems to be even longer and even the firmer sand is hurting my ever worsening feet, eventually off the beach and back on firmer ground I’m finding it hard to think of anything apart from the pain coming from feet, my soles feel like there blistered badly and moving on flat or uphill ground is getting harder with every step, downhills are transferring the pain into my toes that feel like the nails are lifting on each toe, I’m forced to walk and even that’s painful.
For the first time in 3 days I’m NOT enjoying this and don’t want to feel like this, I’ve slowed to over a 20 min mile and loosing what little cut off advantage I had quickly.

I don’t want to quit but this is ridiculous, I don’t want to let my family down but this is ridiculous, I don’t want to wreck my feet and not be able to run for weeks which is exactly what I’m doing and that is ridiculous !!!

In a bit of a haze I realise I can see the second checkpoint about 100 meters up the road and start to jog in but have to stop and walk as running is unbearable, reaching the checkpoint I look at my watch and realise I’m 1min ahead of cut off, I’ve lost 9min over the last section, there’s no way I can go another 8 miles to checkpoint 3 at my current pace and not be timed out !
I quickly realise there no point in putting my feet through another 8 miles to be timed out and tell the checkpoint staff that after 15 miles today I’m done !!!!

With a feeling of relief I sit down to call Karen but find I can’t, the thought of not finishing and letting them down fills me with regret and probably tears if I spoke to her now I need 10 min to sort myself out before making that call !!!!
I text to let her know where I am and it’s all over for me :-(
Eventually I make the call and as always she says exactly the right things I need to hear, transported back to Holyhead with another guy who’s dropped I see Bing and Q who express there regret at me not finishing and wish me well hoping to see me again next year, I collect my bags and move away from the finish area making my way back to my car, bags in the boot I sit in the passenger seat and rest my legs on the dashboard, before I know it I’ve fallen asleep and wake nearly 2hrs later.

Knowing I’d be in no fit state to drive home today I’ve booked a room back at the pub I stayed on Thursday night, a good soak in the bath and a painful hobble to the bar and I order enough food for two people and demolish the lot with ease !!!!!
A good nights sleep in a proper bed and a full cooked breakfast and I’m on the way, back home removal of my shoes brings several gasps and ouch’s from Karen and I’m soon in her car on the way to the health centre to get my feet looked at before I start to get any sort of infection going on !!
Several bandaged toes later I’m back home and eating again lol

So Ring of Fire’s over and I didn’t finish, ok I was never going to be classed as a “Finisher” after day 2 but I really wanted to finish day 3 and feel disappointed I didn’t.

Would I stop to help a fellow competitor in trouble again, of course I would some things are more important then finishing a race !!!!
Would I go back and run this event again …Hell Yes it’s an amazing route that one day I will finish !

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Forced to Cross Train

For those of you that follow the blog you’ll know I’m not running at the moment after having surgery on my shoulder, for those of you that are new to the blog I dislocated my shoulder whilst out running in the Lake District back in January.
The fall resulted in surgery 17 days ago for a repair to my Rotator Cuff and re-attachment of my Suraspinatus tendon.

I’m pleased to report that an ultra sound scan at out patients today showed everything is still in the right place and starting to repair, I’ve been told I’ve still to keep my arm in the sling I left hospital in until my next appointment in 3-4 weeks and to be careful as it’s usually weeks 3and4 that people start think its feeling good and begin to do more which often results in a poor out come or damage to the repairs made.
Having been off work for almost 3 weeks I certainly can’t afford any steps in the wrong direction so need to listen to the advise given!!!

I’ve had my first physio appointment and have some very specific exercise to do which are making a big difference already to my ever stiffening elbow and easing the annoying shoulder pain.

I’m pleased to report my ever suffering family are bearing up well to my constant moaning and boredom, whilst I’m getting good at one handed hovering and dusting I’m still not able to wash up much to Karen’s annoyance ;-)

I’ve joined a gym this week, I’m not able to do much just yet but I’m keeping up with a bit of cardio on the exercise bikes and stair climber, I’m not sure what the gym staff think when I’m using the equipment one handed but there always asking if I’m ok or need any help.
I’m also enjoying the pool, it’s all one depth of 1.4m and with not been able to swim at the moment I’m able to walk lengths, again I guess I’m quite a sight walking up and down performing high knees with each stride but hey it feels like I’m doing something, gym sessions are usually finished off in the Sauna, Steamroom, Jacuzzi and a relaxing visit to the coffee lounge before walking home, between walking there and back I’m averaging 5 miles a day plus my workout, probably most important it’s getting me out the house for the morning which is great for the mind.

There’s only so much Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women a man can take !!!!!

Ring O Fire Day 2

After a restless night with not much sleep I’m up dressed and sorting my porridge breakfast at 4.30am, surprisingly I really enjoy it although I’m sure that’s still a bit of hunger from the previous day, a cup of sweet coffee (I normally don’t have sugar but I’m craving the stuff today ) and I’m ready for the day.
Most people are up by now as there’s a compulsory pre-start meeting at 5.45 ready for a 6am start, I’m just sorting my pack out for the day when all the gym lights flash on and music blasts out …. You’ve probably guessed already but yep it was that bloke Johnny Cash and his “Burn Burn Burn the ring of fire” this brought a smile and laugh to me but for a few others still in there sleeping bags didn’t seem quiet so amused, bag packed I set about my feet, right foots ok but I tape my heals ready for a long day out, same on the left foot but I also tape my full big toe resisting the urge to pop the blister I leaving it alone but it’s quite clear I’ve dislodged the nail from the whole toe and I’m gonna have trouble with this one, been unsure of the terrain I ran day 1 in my Inov8 295′s but today I choose to run in my Hoka’s there a lot more cushioned which does help my feet but I also feel a lot of benefit in my knees and quads and with today been a bit over 65 miles I need all the help I can get !!!

Bed and bags packed I leave my overnight and drop bag in the required areas and head out ready for the meeting, it was here I see Brian again and pass comment on him having a great day on Friday as I’d tried to catch up but not seen him again, turns out he’d stopped to make his own call of nature in the woods shortly after I had and he’d seen me pass but couldn’t catch me !!!!
I finished just over an hour ahead of him !!!

Outside it’s still dark but it’ll be light very soon so no need for a head torch, meeting starts and an area of today’s course has been altered due to a landslide other then that there’s a few stats shouted out regarding today’s starters, I’m here and that’s all I’m bothered about so take the next two min to re-check my gear before the countdown starts again 3 2 1 were off

Again I start the day with Brian trotting off slower then the day before, there’s a 22hr cut off today to reach the finishing point and I intend to make it in around 20hrs giving myself a 2hr buffer incase things go tits up !!!
I know I need to keep a constant 18 min mile to hit my target and don’t want to push it much under this, the group seems to split and stretch out much quicker today and a quick check shows in doing 12min miles…… WHY THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THIS…. I shout at myself and slow to a more then comfortable pace of 16 min …. Still ahead of where I need to be but much slower and I’ll be walking and don’t need to do that just yet, consequently Brian and the group I’m with slowly drift off ahead and I’m on my own, I’m happy with that this morning as I don’t want to be dragged along with the group.
Today starts with quiet a few short sharp rocky climbs that I’m more then comfortable with and enjoy the fell like terrain again, steady on the ups pushing a little on the downs to keep my average right and I’m absolutely loving it……. It’s warm and clear today, you can see for miles along the coast and even spot the occasional seal bobbing and playing about in the surf, I always think there something quite special about trail running, those moments when there’s just you and the outdoors, no stress’s or worries just fresh air pushing through your lungs clearing your mind, a feeling of almost floating along with no effort as the miles are ticking away !!!!
Check points one and two pass with no drama and I’m starting to see people ahead a quick check and I’m keeping my stead pace so I guess there beginning to slow a bit, I’ve done a few beach sections already today and on another one I think to myself the floating has gone and the sand / shale is back….. I’m in a head down trudge it out mode heading towards checkpoint 3 when I realise I can see Brian and a couple of others ahead, I make the checkpoint just as there leaving and chat for a min before they leave, today as yesterday my stops are short and as quick as possible, make sure I’m leaving with full bottles every stop as it’s very hot now with little cloud cover, I don’t need anything significant to eat yet just a few pretzels and a couple of sweets to eat as I walk out the checkpoint.
It’s not long before I’m back on the sand and not enjoying the feeling of this leg sapping two step forward one slide back soft sand, I weave about trying to find a firmer footing but it’s tough going as the sandy beach turns to shale and it feels like I’m trying to move forward on marbles !!!!!
As with many of the beach crossing you can see your destination ahead but it’s just not seeming to get any closer, by now I’m beginning to hate the bloody beach as my feet are starting to feel sore from the pebbles/stones beneth.
I can see the group ahead so push on to catch them, by the time I reach them were almost off the beach and I realise it’s Brian and a couple of other chaps who all seem to be feeling the distance and slowed a fair bit, I tag along with them for a bit chatting for a while but realise I’m dropping my pace a bit so slowly pull away from them, it’s not long before having to stop as I’m getting a hot spot on my left heal, finding a spot to sit I realise I’ve got quite a blister on my heal and was surprised I’d not felt it earlier ! I stick on a couple of blister plasters and get ready to continue, it’s here I’m coming to the detour bit so I check my map, i just catch sight of the group I’d passed disappearing over the next hill as I set off trying to catch them again, I see the coastal path sign but ignore it as that’s the area to miss and continue onto a road, trotting along I come to a junction that I wasn’t expecting but keep going convincing myself it must be right, after a while through a clearing I spot the coast only problem is it’s on my right hand side and with this been a clockwise route round the island the sea should always be on my left !!!!!
I’m obviously going the wrong bloody way !!!!
I stop and look at the map and have to admit I don’t know where I am ? Other then the single track road I’m on there’s no visible landmarks to give me a clue where I am ???
Oh Shit what do I do now ?
Panic ?
No point in that so take a minuet and look at the map again I trace what I think is my route up to the sign I ignored and realise I should have followed the sign and ignored the next one !!!
So I know were I went wrong but where am I now, I follow the road but can’t see the junction I turned at so take a guess at which way I went, looking at it if I continue forward I should see some buildings ahead and from there be able to work out a route back on to where I should be….. Knowing I’m going the wrong way but trying to confirm where I am I continue forward and can’t believe my luck when a post van rounds the corner and stops as I flag him down, a quick explanation and he tells me I’m somewhere different to where I thought I was and to keep going in the direction I am and take a right at the next junction I’ll hit the coast again !!!
Great maybe my map reading isn’t as good as I think so I plough on forward….. Eventually I see some buildings ahead which I wasn’t expecting as I should be almost at the coast according to the postman…. I’m now beginning to worry as I’m not sure where the hell I am or where I’m going !!!!
I spot a guy in his drive way at the first building and stop to ask him my location, it turns out that I’ve been going even further away from where I should be and shouldn’t have taken the last turn…… Thanks Mr Postman you’ve sent me completely the wrong way you Prat !!!!
Thankfully this chap pinpoints my exact location and shows me exactly how to get back on course….. I’m now boiling mad and running hard to get back on to the route, I’ve got a long slow uphill road to tackle before I can see a large mast that I should have gone around the back of on the proper route, I’m aware my feet are sore but been so mad i run up the full length of the road to get back to where I should be, eventually back on the coastal path I take two min to check I know where I am and where I’m going , looking at it I’ve missed about two miles of the route off but covered a good five miles to get here !
Knowing im well ahead on time I’m still a bit pissed with my stupid mistake but know I’m still ok so concentrate on my map and route all the way to the next checkpoint the half way point, it’s a long jog along a seafront promenade before reaching the checkpoint and my halfway drop bag my feet are hurting as I jog along the Tarmac promenade path and I’m looking forward to a ten minuet sit down and a change into clean dry socks.
As always the checkpoint people are cheering and clapping me in shouting your going great you’ve got half way !!!
There firing a dozen questions all at once… What do you want to drink ? Can I get you something to eat ? What’s your drop bag number ?
Drop bag thrust in my hand I find a space on a bench and start to take my shoes off … I’d not noticed but Brian was here and had called it a day and withdrawn , I tried getting him to continue with me at least to the next CP but his feet had had enough and it was game over for him.
Shoes and socks off and I’m looking at what use to be my feet. !! I was aware they were sore but I’ve not got blisters on nearly every toe and several loose and bloody nails, what to do ? Stop ? NO WAY

So it’s time to patch them up and crack on I’m still mentally strong and my feet don’t hurt enough to stop me.
It’s at this point I realise I’ve not put my zinc oxide tape in my drop bag oh SHIT I can’t continue without taping them up or It’ll be very painful, thankfully the guy next to me asks if I need some help, I explain the situation and he pulls a roll of tape from his drop bag and says “I’ve quit and from the state of your feet your gonna need this to carry on, have my tape and good luck mate” I couldn’t thank him enough :-)

Feet patched up and dry socks, several cups of coke and a couple of cheese sandwiches and I’m good to go, it’s a short sharp up hill road out of the checkpoint giving me time to walk and eat my pretzels and jelly babies before turning off into a wood, the softer ground encourages me to jog onwards been careful to watch for the coastal path signs that are quite hidden in the woods but after my earlier mistake I’m happy to slow the pace a little and make sure I hit the right line out, exiting the wood it’s not long before in back on the beach which with the tide coming up I’m forced to walk on the boulders/shale which I’m slowly beginning to hate !!

I’m soon back into another town and moving well on the Tarmac heading towards the Menai bridge, it’s here I meet up with Mark another competitor who’s jogging along, it’s not long before we’re chatting away which is taking my mind of the aches and pains that I’m starting to feel, we’re moving at the same sort of pace and I’m happy to have some company having spent the majority of the day alone.
It’s not long before we’re passing under the Menai bridge and heading to the next check point, A Quick water refill and another sandwich and I’m ready to leave, I’m pleased to see Marks not hanging about either and we leave the checkpoint together, it was just as we left I realised there’s only two more checkpoints and the second one is the finish point for the day ! This spares me on as I work out we are in for a predicted finish time of around 19hrs which I’d be more then happy with, we agree that two heads are better then one when navigating in the dark and with us moving at the same pace it makes sense to stick together from here on.

We’re heading away from the coast now but still following the coastal path signs as we cross a couple of fields before coming to a single track stoney road it was here I realised Mark had gone a bit quite and had slowed the pace a bit, I ask if he’s ok and try to encourage him on but he’s not looking to good, we all have bad patches so I try to encourage him a but more, it’s starting to get dark so we stop to get head torches out and mark puts his thin waterproof on as he’s feeling the cold, I’m ok after it been so hot during the the quite enjoying the cooler temperature at the moment.
Not much further and we need to take a left turn in to a field so I’m concentrating on not missing the sign post in the dark, spotting the sign I turn to tell Mark and find he’s knelt down in the road a few meters back shaking uncontrollably

I go back to see he’s ok but tells me he feel rough and really cold, with a bit of help I shuffle him to the road side and tell him to put some more layers on to warm up, I’m happy to take 10 min to get sorted then carry on…. It’s now he tells me he’s not got any spare clothing with him !!!!
Knowing how the weather can change I never go for a long run be it training or event without the basic kit needed, so out comes my spare merino will base layer and hand it over for him to put beneath his waterproof, better but still shaking I give him my thermal hat and get his legs inside my emergency foil bivvy bag and cover his top half as best I can.
I realise that there’s no way he can continue in this condition and I can’t leave the guy so tell him to stay put and wait for me to come back, I head back to a farm we passed to see if I can get somr help, seeing my head torch coming up his drive the farmer had a window open asking what I wanted before I could knock on the door, I explain what’s happened and ask if he could take us to the next checkpoint, the guy was great and said if I go back he’ll get sorted and come find us in his car as it was he passed me jogging back and was with mark getting him into the car by the time I arrived.

By now the temperature was certainly beginning to drop and I was feeling the cold myself, knowing I now have no spare kit as Marks wearing it I knew there’s a good chance I’d end up in the same state if I was to carry on, I’d also be back on my own making the risk even bigger and realise it’s game over for me as I’m not prepared to put myself at risk so I jump into the car and take a lift to the checkpoint.

It’s not long before get to the check point and I explain to them what’s happened, Marks but straight into one is the CP peoples car and were taken to the finish point for the day….. Sat in back of the car I’m not in a happy place knowing Ive disqualified myself from the event by accepting a lift, I was only around 12miles from the finish point meaning I’d covered at least 53 miles, the only consolation is in knowing I’ve helped a fellow runner but it’s still tough feeling like id quit !!!!!
Back at the village hall Marks taken in and wrapped in blankets and given warm food and drink, it takes a good hour before he start to pick up and come round, poor guy couldn’t thank me or apologise enough for wrecking my race.

Shortly after Q one of the race directors come to talk and asks what’s happened, I relay the story and offer some constructive criticism regarding there compulsory kit or lack if it, sorry Q I was stewing over the nights events when you came to speak to me and was partly blaming you for my DQ having not made others carry basic essential kit, I ask if I can continue the last day as I’d like to see it to the end and the organisers want me to continue, eventually I set about cleaning myself up and setting my bed up for the night, I daren’t remove anything from my feet as they are incredibly painful, I crawl into my sleeping bag feeling quite emotional over the days events and lay there thinking about what should have been, I’m not quite sure how but between the leg cramps and foot pain I somehow fall asleep…… BANG. The lights are on and “Ring of Fire ” blasts out its 5am and Day 3……. To be continued !!!!!!

Ring O Fire

As always it’s taken a while to get round to writing my Ring O Fire blog but as with the other ultramadness guys family life, work and running takes up much of our time.
I’ve currently got the time (too much bloody time) after having surgery on my shoulder, a dislocation back in January resulted in a full thickness tear of my right rotator cuff and detachment of the supraspinatus, surgery 10 days ago has got the ball rolling on the road to recovery, 6 weeks in a sling 24/7 with no working, driving, lifting ect has got me fighting the boredom demons a battle I’m not winning at the moment but at least I have time to write a blog, been a multi day event I’ll write up in three blogs giving each day it’s own well deserved entry.

So back to the Ring O Fire, this is an epic 3 day 135 mile circular run around the coastal path on island of Anglesey in Wales, starting on Friday 30th August finishing Sunday 1st September

Day 1 35.7 miles from the start point in Holyhead to Amlwch in 11hrs
Day 2. 65.9 miles from Amlwch to Aberffraw in 22hrs
Day3. 33.4 miles frm Aberffraw back to Holyhead in 11.5 hrs

Having had a pretty arduous run at the Lakeland 50 just four weeks previous the RoF start date came around all to soon considering my feet were still not 100% recovered but after having to withdraw from this race in 2012 after been injured there was no way I wasn’t starting it this year.
An overnight stay in a local pub and I was well rested and ready to go on Friday, with a 131place limit this was always going to be a fairly low key event, that was until it was announced Prince William and his beautiful wife Kate were to be the official starters !!!!
To make it all a little interesting the first days start time is 1pm making it a late finish for us Mid to Back of the pack runners and with a 6am start for the next two days I’m sure there isn’t going to be a great deal of sleeping going on for the coming weekend !!!!

With the royal party due the organisers and competitors were not allowed to leave vehicles in the main car park at he Breakwater Country Park our starting point in Holyhead but a separate area a good half mile away had been arranged as safe storage for all vehicle for the weekend, parked and carrying my 3 bags to the registration area gave me time for the usual ” what am I doing here” “everybody else look thin, fit, fast” “IM NONE OF THE PREVIOUS” thoughts that tend to creep into my head at these events but registration soon put those thoughts out if my head.
Not a lot of people here yet so no waiting around, a quick check on the list for my name and im handed My event t-shirt, disclaimer to sign and two tags, one tag for my over night bag that will be transported to the finish point on each day and a tag for my drop bag, on day 2 the long day we have a drop bag at the halfway point to fill with whatever we want.
I’m all done and sorted with an hour to spare so lots of nervous waiting about by everyone, I bump into Brian Roberts a Guy I’ve meet through Facebook, Brian took part last year but had to pull out on the first day after getting injured, he’s back and taking part again, chatting to him and his wife takes my mind off the pending start which helps.
Royal greetings over with (yes Kate is just as beautiful as she looks on the tv) and we’re ushered towards the starting line, all of a sudden Johnny Cash Ring of Fire blasts out over the pa system and the count down begins…… 3 2 1 were off a few good lucks pass between us all….. Part of what’s great about the ultra community … And we’re off 35.7 miles to go !

As usual I’ve secured my normal position two thirds back from the start line and feeling a little nervous but moving along nicely keeping up with the people around and chatting to Brian as we go, we’re soon heading toward Holyhead town, a quick call of nature and ive dropped back from the group to a position on my own, not wanting to spend to much time along I up the pace a little.

Through Holyhead and back onto the coastal path still feeling good, after passing a few from the earlier group I’ve not caught Brian back up but guess he’s pushing ahead and making good time while he can, the route so far has been great mostly along well trodden soil paths , through some woods and I’ve even finished the first of what was to be many beach crossing, I’ve been through the first checkpoint and fallen I to a good rythum, not too hard but I’m aware I’m working, a quick glance at the garmin shows in working too hard or harder then I’d planned as I was averaging a touch over 9min mile pace…… Wowwwwww there I’ve a long way to go in the next three days and this is far to fast time to pull the rains in and slow down if I’m to make the end.

Second check point soon comes into view so I glug what remaining fluid I have to ensure I’m leaving with two full bottles, it’s still very warm and I’m drinking a good litre between checkpoints, eating well from the choice of sweet and savoury snakes available and moving well, I’ve caught up with a few people and chatted with them for a while, the usual where you from, done much of this sort of stuff before questions before slowly plodding off back with my own now happy thoughts.

Third checkpoint and I’m way ahead of my planned time so I make the decision to walk the rest of the way to ensure I’m not too tired or over worked for the next long day, it soon became apparent I’d have been walking wanting to or not as the next section became very hilly with lots of steps, the accents and descents weren’t long but very steep, most had steps cut into the hill side, I say steps they were wooden boards holding what had a one point been a step but were now a flattened piece of soil sometimes several inchs lower then the board making parts of the downhills quiet treacherous, time to watch my footing and remain upright, the next few miles seemed to float by up and down in and around coves with some stunning view to stop and admire before flattening out again just as the last town came into sight, head torch on as it’s getting dark just as I catch two guys trotting along, I drop in behind them and enjoy the last few miles of the coastal path as we round a caravan park before leaving the coast to head inland to the Amlwch leisure centre for the night, I’m smiling to myself as I’m thinking how the paths suddenly turned very rocky and is very similar to been on the Lakeland fells which was quite nice for a change after been on a mainly flat trail for most of the day, a quick look on my map to check I’m following the right path and WHAM i kick a bloody great big boulder and I’m instantly brought to a holt with a intense burning pain in my left big toe !!!!!!
A quick wiggle and everything’s moving but a few choice words are said about the incident, a bit of a shuffle going on but back to moving forward onto the last checkpoint, Sod’s law says the leisure centre would be on the far side of the town and sure enough it was, passing the local take aways I’m tempted to stop and collect some food but I decide to carry on and get checked in for the day and hope to get something to eat at the centre.

So 9hrs 14min after starting I’m checked in as finished on day 1…… I’d intended to finish around 10hrs so a little quicker then intended but after been nearly 2 1/2 hrs ahead at the last check point I think the decision to walk and enjoy the last section saving my legs was a wise choice, after all I’m here to Complete and not Compete, others around are removing shoes and having showers but I decide to eat and drink first so head to the canteen, this turned out to be a wise choice as I manage to get the last food left, a baked potato covered in beans and cheese, I could have eaten it twice but unlike quite a few others who after the canteen shut were left to prepare there own food at least I had a easy hot meal which was a bonus.

Shower and foot care reveals an ever growing blood blister right along the base of my left toe nail, it’s very tender across the nail and surrounding area but I can deal with that in the morning, over all my feet are tired but in good order , same for the legs and mentally I feel great at finishing strong and ready to continue, time to roll out the sleep mat and sleeping bag, hit the gym floor and get some sleep as it’s going to be an early start !!!!!

To be continued ……..

Cracking The Spine…..

As many of you know the Ultramadness team are attempting the Montane Spine Challenger in January next year. The Challenger is the 108 mile winter Ultra along the Pennine Way, baby brother to the Montane Spine, the 268 mile 7 day epic!!!

Friend of Ultramadness and supportive face on last weekend Ultimate Lakeland Trail 100km event Andy Mouncey is the mind behind the new project Cracking the Spine.

In a nut shell Cracking the Spine is a film project with experienced Ultra Runner, Coach, Author and Father Andy Mouncey.

In January 2013 he took part in The Spine Race, the most brutal winter non-stop 268 mile foot race the UK has to offer. After just over 100 miles Andy had to stop. In January 2014 Andy will be back, more prepared, fitter and ready to face a challenge of epic proportions.

Cracking The Spine is designed to engage YOU. Everyone’s lives would be a little brighter, a little more fun if they took the courage to take that step so we’re giving you the shoes and the push to get you out there and face the impossible. Funded via Kickstarter (our page will be live next Tuesday 16th September) which is a crowd funding website you will be able to contribute to the creation of the film, in return there will be a whole host of things on offer!

Part of the project is to get kids moving too, as a Father, Andy knows the importance of ensuring the people of tomorrow have the skills to make it a bright, shiny place. Schools and youth groups all the way along the Pennine Way will be running and walking the 268miles as classes and teams to raise money for Sports Relief and to show them that impossible is just a made up word grown-ups use when they think they can’t.

Everyone that watches this film will walk away feeling empowered to try the thing they never thought they could. It’s time to show the world what running can do, so join Summit Fever and Andy Mouncey on a journey of a lifetime.

Shoulda…..

The Lakeland 50, a momentous event of 2013 for me.

I’d done more fitness training through running with Harrogate Harriers AC in routinely doing interval training sessions, I’ve done Park Runs throughout the year knocking out 5  PB’s and slowly moving myself up the finishers table. My 10k PB has dropped by 5 mins so things were looking good.

Even better was on the recces this year id knocked a near 2hrs off of my Pooley Bridge – Ambleside time and also ran my fastest Ambleside – Consiton leg with miles in my legs from the day before. So all in all things were looking REALLY good!

My weight was also the lightest its been all year and the lightest of my previous 2 Lakeland 50 finishes! All in all i was in pretty good shape.

2011 had been my first Lakeland 50 attempt, my 1st Ultra proper, breaking 20 hours was the target. 19hr 20 mins was my time, I was ecstatic and immediately wanted to return in 2012 and significantly beat my time.

I did, by 3hrs 40 mins, clocking a time of 15hrs 40 mins. Job done and the gauntlet had been thrown for 2013.

So, 2013 was all about getting a faster time as i’ve done it before, got the t-shirts n all that, right?

Er no, WRONG!

Woulda…..

Wow, 27th July 2013 was hot hot hot!!! In the 2011 the event was also blessed with great sunshine and i coped quite well. 2012 was wet, and id coped quite well. 2013, it started hot and was to end very very wet!

I started quick thru the Dalemain Estate and made good progress via Pooley Bridge and once again the amazing support of Sarah, Isabelle, Rach, Phil, Chris, James & of course Oscar (the dog) It was then on to Howtown and  beyond to the climb of Fusedale. 1st attempt up here in 2011 was tough, 2012 was a breeze by comparison hastily leading a trail of competitors over the top, however 2013 was one of THE hardest ascents of Fuesdale I’ve ever had!

I’d had to stop on too numerous occasions to mention, swapping places time and time again with fellow runners who were suffering like i was. This wasn’t an enjoyable ascent and in reaching the top, the cool breeze and able to move more easily it was here things were to pick up.

My speed picked up across High Kop and on down to Haweswater. Progress along to Mardale Head was swifter than ever and the CP appeared sooner than expected. Id taken on lots of liquid and was making sure i was fueled up on electrolytes and of course the Pork Pies and Peperamis!

I was in and out at Mardale, same as at Howtown and my regime at CP’s was to be as quick as possible. Onwards to Gatesgarth my progress was good though i started to feel cramp on the inside of my knees. This is new to me and ive never experienced this or cramp of any kind so this was new territory for me.

With every step the cramp was worsening, only up hill, which was a bit of an issue half way up Gatesgarth. No option here tho, crack on. Descending into Sadgil was a tad easier but on the steeper descents the cramp wasnt letting up.

In the valley things eased up but this was soon to be put to the test an the ascent up, over and on to Kentmere. The rain had started here, heavy too but stopped as soon as it started, the started again. After this went on for a while i left my jacket off as it was still very warm.

On the short road section before two high wall crossing the pain was the worse it had been, could i carry this over Garburn let alone Tilberthwaite!!!

I made the Kentmere CP but i wasn’t really with it. I headed for the legendary smoothies to be greeted by the words “hi Andy, how you doing?” “I feel like shit, who are you” was my considered reply. It was Jo, amazing Marketing Officer from Montane, apologies Jo!!!

Montane have been a great support to Ultramadness and continue to be so and it was the first time id met Jo, plus i was a tad wobbly, massively lacking in magnesium and potassium as i simply wasn’t getting enough electrolytes in! I needed a bit of direction filling my water bottles!!

I shoved three smoothies down my neck, 4 cokes and a fist full of biscuits and jelly babies. I stuck my head in and thanked Jo and Paul Cosgrove who were now working hard in the kitchen and headed out onward to Ambleside.

Immediately on the lane to Garburn the cramps returned and it was a slow painful slog up to the top. The descent to Troutbeck eased a little and it was around here i was thinking this is getting worse and i cant make it like this. I knew the weather was coming in as from Garburn you can see the Langdales and across to the Consiton range.

Once on the lane thru Troutbeck the cramps eased again and i thought maybe some of the nutrients from the smoothies may have been kicking in.  This buoyed me somewhat as id text ahead to Sarah and co to let them know i was struggling and felt like i was behind on time.

As it turned out i was around 17 mins down on my previous years time which equated to only around a mile. As the 2012 event had two miles missed off at the start loop at Dalemain this actually put me ahead!!! Sadly I didn’t have the nouse about me to appreciate this tho!

Comparison timings 2011, 12 & 13

Comparison timings 2011, 12 & 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So feeling good coming out of Troutbeck, making reasonable pace i made it onto Robin Lane. Immediately tho the pain came back, this broke me and the realisation that id really struggle to tackle the Langadale valley and Tilberthwaite just filled me with dread. Id simply be putting myself into no mans land.

I’d also started getting cold here. I was in a t shirt and had my waterproof and mandatory base layers, gloves and hat etc. What I didn’t have was another top to put on and as base layers are only to be used in an emergency i couldn’t use this.

Coming down the lane and entering Skelghyll Woods each stride was excruciating, especially down the rocks and in the fading light. I’d made my mind up, my 2013 Lakeland 50 event was over!

I descended and appeared on the Road into Ambleside. Once on the flat again i was much better and managed a run into the town where the reception was amazing. People were huddled in doorways cheering and clapping you through. Those whod had a tad more to drink didnt care and were stood in the rain.

I turned thru the arch and down to Church lane where Sarah was waiting with Isabelle outside Zefirellies. I ran straight into her arms and burst into tears!!

photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coulda….

I made it into Ambleside CP, just, given the steps and my legs! I immediately presented my dibber to be removed! Fair play to the marshal he wouldn’t take it, said grab some food and a drink and take 5. Reluctantly i made my way into the CP, grabbed some coke and a bit to eat but almost immediately turned round a re presented my dibber. “sure?” he said, “yup” i replied and he cut it off! That was it, done, OVER!!

I was so relieved as now i knew i didn’t have to climb out of Ambleside and Langdale valley nor Tilberthwaite steps were waiting for me. The issue of only pulling out further along the valley at Chapel Style or worse Tilberthwaite and sitting around waiting for the broom wagon to collect me. It was almost certain to have happened and it made perfect sense to pull here.

I also knew i wasn’t prepared for the weather with my kit. Had i worn my spare base layer id have felt i was cheating not to mention putting myself in significant danger out on the fells. Had i used the kit and been kit check id have been DQ’d!!!

Had i used my kit and taken a tumble in the middle of nowhere and had no spare warm, dry kit to put on whilst i waited for help then id have been in serious trouble or worse. I made a sound on the hill decision not to put myself at anymore risk than i needed to.

I know many will read this who used their spare base layers and put themselves at risk, in my mind that was a foolish decision that came good.

Bad planning on my part for sure but i wasn’t about to start bending the rules for a finish at all costs.

Fellow Ultramadder Chris appeared as i loitered at the CP and looked in great shape with Liz. They went onto complete the 50 and hats off to them as the weather took a horrendous turn. Chris was outside his 2012 time i had completed with him but a finish in those conditions was remarkable for them both.

Its taken me a while to come to terms with my DNF at an event i’ve completed twice before especially when i had such high expectations for this year.

I felt id failed, cracked to early and could have carried on. Ive since decided i made a seriously good sensible decision and didn’t take a risk i hadn’t needed to.

Shoulda? – Yes i should have but nothings given in the world of Ultras!!!

Woulda? – I might have had i been better prepared and had the right kit. Rules is rules, id have cheated myself!

Coulda? – Of course i could, but i didnt, nor did i have to, plus it make me hungrier for 2014!!!

The Lakalend is an event that continues to grow, as does my experience of running Ultras. I’ve learnt from my 2013 DNF and will use that knowledge to return and be able to tackle it again, and again, and again i suspect! I knew what the risks were, i didnt need these to be confirmed!

The Lakeland event is turning into a bit of an institution, an annual gathering of friends and fellow competitors. Some we see regularly, others less so yet we all migrate to Consiton on the last weekend on July and push ourselves as far as we see fit in the pursuit of beating a time or gremlin from previous years.

Excellently run, supported wonderfully at the CP’s, road side and by runners families and friends.

2013 taught me something. It certainly taught me to revise my kit but i can also be strong enough to know when i’m beat or putting myself in a place i dont need to be and risking too much.

My family don’t need me to be taking that risk either!

photo (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in 2014, no chance, well mebbe, YOU BETCHA!!!!!

See you on the 25th!!!

Doing big and scary…..

This week i spent 2.5 packed hours with Andy Mouncey discussing feet, fuel, hills and general ‘am I doing the right stuff?’

The session was filled with questions – and half of which a was hands-on practical skills session on the hill that with practice will be close to transformational.

Hugely enjoyable and I’m already thinking and doing some things differently: In ultras the small stuff really makes a big difference.

For further information and full details on Andys coaching and training services and check out http://bigandscaryrunning.com/

Lakeland 50 – tough on the mind and body

It’s taken some time after the event to work out what went wrong and right for me during Lakeland but in time I’ve come to terms with the ups and downs so here’s my story of an amazing race !

I’d been very aware that I’ve not done as much training as I have on previous years for the L50 and think with this been my third attempt I’ve become a little complacent with it, as 27th July got closer I became more and more concerned at my lack of training and dark thoughts of been unable to complete started to raise there ugly heads, the other ultramadness chaps all appeared very positive with talk of smashing last years times and even the mention of a 12hr finish all of which cast a darker cloud through my mind.
Last year and again this year we made the L50 part of a family holiday and rented a cottage for the week after the race, its great when the family can be part in my running events, after a steady ride to the lakes we made our way to the school and I passed through kit check, weigh-in and registration with no hic-ups or problems, I now have a ‘dibber’ attached to my wrist, this is a little plastic tag that you place into a small box at each checkpoint, it’s automatically updates on a live tracker so family and event organisers can track and see where everybody is on the route. There’s a very special and positive buzz around the school as all the 100′ers prepare for there race starting at 5.30pm …. Yes that’s right there’s a 100 mile( actually 105) Race going on as well, thoughts of I’m only doing the small run fill my head and ease the nerves somewhat.
Meeting up with the other chaps there some great banter flying around after our final weigh-in and were all enjoying the late afternoon sunshine as we watch the 100mile hero’s start there journey of the circular route around the lakes, these guys and girls have 40hrs to make it back to Coniston so some of them will be out and competing for two nights before they finish there journey!!!!
More fun as we watch and cheered on all the kids taking part in the Lakeland 1, a kids 1mile event, again another great event to keep the family included, my son Daniel took part again this been his second year, he ran an amazing race and finished 3rd in a time of 5min 15 sec for the mile !!!!
For a 9yr old that’s pretty impressive and I know I couldn’t have kept up with him!!!
A couple of beers to calm the nerves and its soon bed time, after a restless night the alarm sounds at 7am and I’m nervously dressing for a long day ahead, a hearty breakfast and drive back to the school sees us all herded into the main hall for compulsory briefing, it’s very hot and sticky, there’s an air of nervousness filling the room but after a short time were all outside and readying ourselves for the trip to our starting point Dalemain.
Pulling into Dalemain and parking up I exit van feeling very very nervous of what lay ahead, trying to push thoughts of DNF’ing out of my head I wonder if I’d be better DNS’ing (Did Not Start)!!!
The opportunity of 5min alone came with a small walk with the dog, a stern talking to myself and looking around thinking how lucky I was to be able to take place in something like the Lakeland puts my into a better place mentally and I think I’m ready to go, all to soon were saying good bye to family and friends and walking into the starting pen, by now its incredible warm with the midday sun beating down, I’m already hot wearing a compression skin and t-shirt but its a combination I always use that works for me.
5-4-3-2-1 were off…… Oh shit will i make it !!!! pass’s through my mind as i cross the line !!!!!
It’s a nice gentle start with a 4mile loop around Dalemain before heading out on the main route back to Coniston. A couple of miles in and I’m aware that I’m working a little to hard to keep up with Andy and Glyn so I slow my pace to what’s comfortable for me and relax a bit more knowing that Wayne’s stayed with me and not pushed on with the others, a few gates to pass through always has us queuing patiently and at one particularly long queue I turn to talk to Wayne only to realise he’s nowhere in sight, I look back along the que but still can’t see him ? Did he pass me and I didn’t see him? I spot Andy and Glyn quite a bit up in front but still can’t see Wayne ? By the time I’ve got through the gate Andy and Glyn are well out of sight and it’s not long before I’m running back past the start area about to exit onto the main route, one last wave and good luck from the family and I’m fighting back the emotions as I realise I’m still unsure about my ability to finish and I’m now on my own !!!!!
Not long before I’m passing through Pooley Bridge and cheers from the crowds and amazing support from Sarah (Andy’s partner) and her parents lift my spirits and send me off towards the first section of open fell, not long and I spot a familiar figure ahead, it’s Glyn he’s slowed a bit after realising he too was working a bit too hard in the early stages to keep up with Andy, I should say at this point Andy has worked incredibly hard this year to increase his speed and fitness and all the effort was certainly showing today as he powered on looking very comfortable.
Great to be with a mate instead of my on own with my ever changing thoughts, chatting to Glyn soon pass’s the time and we’ve made it to the top of the long steady climb out of Pooley, Glyn stops to remove a layer and we agree that he’ll catch me up as I slowly trot on, I’m soon into the first checkpoint and feeling good but pretty hot, I quickly Dib in and re-fill both my water bottles before heading back out towards checkpoint two, I did think Glyn should have caught me by now and wondered where he was… Oh well I’m back on my own and heading out toward what I find the toughest section of the whole route, there are plenty of people both in front and behind me but I strangely still feel alone ! Onward and upward I head as I climb over Fusedale the longest and highest climb of the whole route, i usually make this climb in one go without having to stop as the ground underfoot is good, but today starting low in the bottom of the valley I’m very aware of it been very very humid in the now overpowering heat, the grassy ascent has me stopping several time to catch my breath and it feels like I’m in a sauna working very hard and making very slow progress but progress all the same.
After what feels like an age I eventually make the top feeling absolutely shocking, I’d passed and been passed by others on the way up all of whom looked better or worse then I feel, I spot a familier face sat at the top, Sam Blackburn had also struggled a bit on the ascent and had stopped to take a two min break, he suggests I do the same but i know that stopping now might see the end of my race, we exchange a few choice words about the previous climb and I carry on out towards High cop feeling very sick, Sam soon joins me and we walk for a bit chatting before he jogs off, by now I’m having serious doubts about finishing, suddenly the overwhelming feeling of sickness overtakes my thoughts and before I can do anything about it I’m vomiting the full contents of my stomach everywhere…… This is the first time I’ve ever done this whilst running and it’s not an experience I want to repeat, I’m feeling awful, very drained and very very hot, thankfully there’s a slight breeze and a bit of cloud cover so I take off my cap and t-shirt to cool, thoughts of returning to the first check point rush into my head but the thought of passing others on the way back is unbearable so I decide to walk onwards toward checkpoint 2 at Mardale head, by now I’m questioning why I do these ridiculous ultra event !!! In never doing another or come to think of it I’m never going running again !!!!!
After a long walk over High Cop in the breeze I started to feel a bit better, while puttimg my t-shirrt back on i initially missed the turn off down to Hawes water but quickly realised my mistake and tracked back to the correct point, here I started to feel thirsty and took the kill or cure opinion drinking all the last litre of fluid I had, I did this knowing there was at least two points further along the route that I could safely fill with clean water from the streams, almost instantly I started to feel a lot better and began steadily jogging down the decent, 10 mins later and I’m moving along nicely starting to overtake a few other 50 and now some 100 competitors, my mind was in a much better place then I dared to think after been in such a dark place and I was beginning to enjoy myself, this was probably helped by joining up with a couple of people I knew from last year and a couple of the reccie runs I’d completed, chatting to them really brought me round and by reaching checkpoint 2 at Mardale I was in a better mood, again I’d planned a quick turnaround here so Dibbed refilled water bottles and was leaving as I bumped into Liz (Wayne’s Partner)….. Liz was on a quick turnaround so I waited a minuet and we left the checkpoint together, I’d now realised I’d lost any chance of beating my previous time but after going through such a bad patch I was now in it to complete and not compete.
So off we set onward and upward, that’s right upward again this time straight up Gatesgarth pass, this is one hell of a technical rocky/loose scree climb that’s not as long as the previous one but certainly steeper,together we made very good time up to the top and before I know what’s going on we were running down the other side, this is a tough decent it’s not to steep but very rough underfoot and with 24ish miles already covered my feet are starting to feel the strain and I was cramping in my quads fairly frequently, a quick mental evaluation and I’m feeling good, not 100% but good, quads are a bit crampy, calfs are fine feet are sore but I guess there a bit swollen for the relentless heat, after the decent it flats out a bit all the way down towards Sadgill farm it was here that we had our first taste of the oncoming weather, a large crack of thunder and a quick downpour of marble size rain that was very refreshing, not heavy enough to stop and put my Montane waterproof on but just long enough to be quiet refreshing although its stayed very warm and humid, a few miles and a couple of awkward climbs over walls and styles and were depending the grass field toward checkpoint 3 at Kentmere.
I rate kentmere as the best checkpoint on the L50, your over half way and mentally im now on the homeward stretch. there’s always tasty pasta and fresh fruit smoothies the thought of these push me on to the checkpoint in a great time, Liz and I Dib in and I head straight for some pasta, I notice Liz pouring the contents of a small sachet into her mouth and ask what it is…… Table salt comes the reply, Liz had also been feeling a touch of cramp and was swallowing table salt to replace lost salts, I’d never thought of this as an option so I added a couple of sachets to my pasta and swallowed another sachet after my smoothie….. Whilst it tasted disgusting I was prepared to give it a try !!!
After a quick break we put waterproof jackets on and headed out into the now pouring rain…. 100 meters and there was some truly disgusting sounds coming out of me and a slight sickly feeling felt by us both, I put this down to a combination of food, drink and salt on my still unsettled guts, as ever after a checkpoint its an upward climb this time over Garbon Pass this allowing time for the guts to settle by the time we reach the top, another quick stop half way up to remove my waterproof as I was getting very hot again, it was lightly raining nowvbut still very warm, as we reach the top Liz sets off and were running the nice decent down and through to the village before a gentle climb to skegwell woods, were moving well and have picked up another 50 and a 100 runner on our way and all run through the woods heading to Ambleside, I’m feeling quite positive now and really enjoy this section, it’s beginning to get dark but we make it through the wood and into Ambleside before we need our head torch’s, it was around here that Liz received a text from Wayne telling her she was doing great and informing her he and Glyn had retired at Kentmere, this was received with short lived sympathy and then a fair amount of name calling from us both, i wondered if we’d see Sarah and her parents in Ambleside, knowing there were going to be there to see Andy through and knowing he was running well I was unsure if they’d still be there or already left as I assumed he’d be a fair way ahead, just as we reached checkpoint 4 in Ambleside I spotted Sarah’s parents and went over to ask how Andy was doing and how far ahead he was, to my amazement he was stood with them, a quick explanation of his cramping and now missed target time had seen him retire here.
Into the checkpoint and dibber Dibbed I moved into the large room been used…..it was really uncomfortable in here with lots of people in varying states, it was obvious quite a few we’re retiring here and the room felt very down, we obviously both noticed this as we agreed on a quick cup of warm tea before moving on quickly (another sachet of salt ! Not had cramp since the last one so I’m convinced it working)….. A quick good bye to Andy, Sarah and crew and were on our way out of Ambleside, I felt really sorry for andy here and wished he’d held off retiring and had continued with us but no time for negative thoughts after my earlier episode…. Leaving Ambleside we were joined by John a 50 contestant who was unsure on the route and Annie a 100 contestant, after a short climb out of Ambleside we cross the open fell quickly and are making good time on the decent towards Skelwith Bridge even running at times, I’m aware that John keeps pushing ahead a little and is obviously wanting to crack on but Liz is sticking with Annie at her slightly slower pace, she’s over 90 miles in by now and I’m happy to stick at her pace and help a little if needed, it’s a smooth good track forbthe next few miles along the river towards Troutbeck before a rocky section through to the campsite location of checkpoint 5 Chaplestyle.
We stay together through to the checkpoint and there’s a little wait to Dib in and get into the tent, it’s now torrential rain and cooling quickly and my patience is been tested stood out in the rain, a quick bowl of warm vegetable stew and a cup of warm tea and I’m warmed up, Liz and I choose to stay standing and not be tempted to site down here, this was a wise choice as we didn’t stay long here, waterproofs back on and were out into the awful weather as a group of four again.
The next section out towards Blea tarn is quiet difficult to navigate in the dark with the path been unrecognisable in places even in daylight, I’m confident on my ability to get this right and set out at the front to lead the way, there’s a couple of 6ft tall styles on this section and in the rain there a bit tough to get over but we all cross safely, hit the right line through the boggy section and come out bang on the corner that we need to hit (bonus)….. A short sharp climb and were at the road crossing heading to the tarn, a group of 3 others had joined us after seeing us higher up on the previous section they joined us after realising they weren’t quite right,
Across the road and down towards Blea moss on a good track, the other 3 moved ahead at a slightly better pace and were soon making good ground on us, John still wanting to get on left us and joined the other three, didn’t see him again but hope he finished ok, I must add by now I’m still in a good place mentally and feeling good but I was a little annoyed he left without so much as a good luck, thanks or a see you at the end I’m sure this wasn’t intentional and just a combination of our joint tiredness and as I said I hope he finished, we crossed Blea moss on the high line that’s needed to stay out of the very boggy area and found the onlybself Dib point on the 50 course.
One last rocky climb up towardsvTilbethwaite farm and there’s so much rain coming down that it feels like we’re walking up a riverbed, it was here that my feet started to feel very wet which was a surprise as I was wearing my inov8 298 Gortex boots and I couldn’t work out why my feet were wet !!! A short road section from the farm and were at checkpoint 6 Tilbetwaite.
Just 3 1/2 mile to the finish from here and we know we’re going to finish for sure, a quick drink of warm tea and LIz suggests a change into a dry top before the final ascent, it took a while to sink in with me but it made sense knowing the weather would be awful over the very exposed last top section and it was now very cold and I was starting to shiver, a quick strip down to a bare chest and on with my Haglog merino wool long sleeve top and I was instantly warmer, back on with my waterproof and Liz Annie and I start the final section, this starts with large stone irregular height steps before continuing the ascent on a stoney path up and over towards Coniston, there’s a scrambley section here that you have to climb using you hands and feet and again it’s like ascending a waterfall, we pass with out incident but have caught upto a couple of slower people who we can’t get past due to the narrow path, we bide our time and stay in line across the stream crossing that’s now a raging torrent and takes some care to cross over the final ascent and on a wider section I take the opportunity to get past them, by now I can see the lights down below at the cottages on the miners road into Coniston just the rocky decent to tackle….. Now I’m extra careful here in daylight and in the dry but tonight it’s absolutely treacherous and I slip a couple of times but stop myself from fully falling, I turned to see how Liz and Annie are doing and realise there still behind the other two and hadn’t made it past them, I make the decision to get myself down to the miners road and take shelter under a tree while they catch up, after been together so long there’s no way were not finishing together, it’s only a couple of minuets and they appear , Liz is looking at her watch and works out we can still make sub 16hrs if we run the last section into and through Coniston to the school, we agree to try and Annie who’s now around 104miles starts running and we keep to her pace, this truly humbled me and I still don’t know how she did it !!!!
Past the pub and over the bridge we pass the the deserted village and take the final turn down the school road, you can see head torch lights at the finish and the marshals are looking for runners coming in, we break into a proper run and head for the lights….. Now it’s here that my biggest challange comes as I know Karen and kids will be waiting for me , I spot Karen and Lauren stood in the rain waiting and run to them for a finish line kiss, Daniel is waiting for me inside as he’s feeling cold, I Dib in for one last time and its over I’ve done it again 3 out of 3 finish’s and this one feels by far the hardest.
Were escorted into the hall and I get a massive hug from Dan as I see him … the marshals are shouting “50 Finisher” another moment to fight the emotions as all your fellow finishers stop to applauded everybody in another humbling moment, through to the hall and the dibbers cut off and you given you final finishing statistics on a small print out,I finished in 15hrs 59min 35 seconds, your then handed you medal and finishers t-shirt, a few pics and a quick 2 min sit down before its time to head to the cottage for a sleep of what’s left of the night, food and drinks are available for finishers but with it been nearly 4am I feel guilty keeping the family up while I stuff my face so say my goodbyes and head to bed.

The following few days I have plenty of time to reflect on the weekends events and there’s a few things I’ve learnt.
Firstly I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished so strongly or quickly without Liz, we helped each other on the ascents and descents and having someone to talk to just makes it a whole lot better, I’m sure I talked some nonsense at times but it keeps your mind occupied and stops you thinking about what hurts.
Secondly I don’t think I could have done anything to have stopped the awful events up and on the top of Fusedale, I was well hydrated and not over-hydrated, id not started to fast so wasn’t burning out, i think the shear heat and humidity just got to me and I don’t know of anything I could do differently.
Thirdly Gortex boots are great until you get water in them, once it’s in it’s not coming out and a combination of very hot swollen feet been suddenly very wet and cold makes for a few good blisters, I should have put my waterproof trousers on that would have stopped my legs and socks getting soaked and running into my boots filling them with water, lesson learnt.

And finally it’s all worth it for the pride of wearing a very hard earnt but well deserved finishers t-shirt that was worn and washed continuously through the weeks holiday.

A big thanks to the amazing organisers, marshals and checkpoint people, many of who are now good friends, there too many to list and in fear of missing someone ill group you all and again class you as amazing !!!!!

Whilst I struggled more then ever at the beginning of this race I was amazed at how I managed to pull it round and finish feeling strong and very happy, i’ll remember and use this as a tool to get through future tough patches.

Plenty of other events to complete yet this year so that’s it for now ….. Hopefully I’ll make the start line for the upcoming Ring of Fire and be able to ramble my way though another blog post !!!

And THE Biggest Loser is…………..

Well, I can now reveal that the weight is finally over.

The winner of the Ultramadness Wahey-In is ……………………. ME, Andy, with a loss of 8.85% of total starting body weight since our journey began in January.

You, the public, have spoken and 63% of you said the Lakeland 50 weigh in scales should be used for the final weigh in.

So with the poll closed the final standings look like this:

  1. Andy = 8.85%
  2. Chris = 8.33%
  3. Wayne = 3.31%
  4. Glyn = 1.79%

At one point Chris had what looked like an unassailable lead of over 4% but like Ultra Running weight loss is a pacing game. Wayne managed to sneak in with a leap over Glyn at the end who takes the wooden spoon!

So now, we need a new challenge as we’ve a lot of races lined up. Glyn and I are competing in the Grand Tour of Skiddaw  the 44 mile circular on August Bank Holiday weekend. Chris has the enormous challenge that is The Ring O Fire, the 131 mile Ultra to compete in which is being held at the end of August. This is then followed by the team competing at the 100km Ultimate Trails Ultra Marathon only a few weeks later mid September.

Its then only 3 months until the Spine Challenge so we’ve a lot of work to do, especially following the rest of our performances last weekend!

So if you’ve any ideas for a suitable challenge for the team to keep us motivated and pit ourselves against one another please let us know!

Thanks for your interest so far and be sure to stay tuned for news, views and the odd muse over the next few weeks!

Well, the Ultramadness weigh in has reached its finale, or has it???

The rules stated that we were to use the Lakeland 50 official weigh in as THE last weigh in of the competition and not the home scales we’d been using since the beginning of our challenge.

Now this gave us a bit of a situation as our home scales are calibrated differently, on carpet, less clothes than at the 50 weigh in etc etc so may not replicate the ‘home’ weight we’ve been recording against.

Home Scales Weigh In:

????? 10.53%
????? 9.13%
Glyn 2.00%
Wayne 1.86%

Lakeland 50 Weigh-In

????? 8.85%
????? 8.33%
Glyn 2.00%
Wayne 1.86%

So what to do, well you decide!!!

Well as luck would have it we have our first Ultramadness Family Funday (UMFFD) on the 1st August where we’re paying back some of the sacrifices our families make  to allow us to not only take part in these amazing events but also the training, kit, the kit, the other kit, that other kit and of course THE essential kit that’s just been released etc etc. Its a small token of our appreciation to them all.

So myself, Sarah and Isabelle along with Chris, Karen, Dan and Lauren plus Glyn, Kerry, Will and Ben and of course Wayne, Liz, Ally, Archie, Reece and Eleanor will meet on the shores of Consiton at an undisclosed location (for security) for a good family day out where no mention of running is allowed, well by the boys anyway.

Oh yeah, plus Dibble, Molly, Jake and Joss the dogs!!!

So how do you decide? Well here is a very simple poll, you choose which weigh in we use as to who wins the competition. We’ll take the votes at 10pm on Wednesday 31st July and reveal the winner then!

You’ll see that it was a 2 horse race at the sharp end but we’ve omitted the names of who was in which position. All you have to do is simply choose if we continue to use our home weigh in or the Lakeland 50 weigh in as per the rules.

Use the poll below:

(please excuse the unprofessional poll but its a free one)

It’ll only take a second and if you can share amongst as many of your friends as possible to give a tru representation of the nation that would be much appreciated.

Remember, its your voice, your votes count!

Well yesterday saw the Ultramadness team start the Lakeland 50 and the day started in the super hot Dalemain Estate, continued into late afternoon and once darkness fell it was to take a dramatic turn.

The results are below and there will be further reports on how we got to where we got to and the trials and tribulations along the way:

FINISHER – Chris Chadwick, 50.0miles to Coniston = 15:59.35

RETIRED – Andy Holohan, 34.4 miles to Ambleside = 9:48.53
RETIRED – Glyn Rose, 27.1 miles to Kentmere = 9:38.34
RETIRED – Wayne Singleton, 27.1 miles to Kentmere = 9:38.38

An extra special note in dispatches has to go to Liz, Wayne’s partner, who after a DNF at Howtown in 2011 and unable to compete in 2012 as pregnant with Eleanor had an awesome day and as a determined pair from Ambleside with Chris pushed and pulled each other to the finish line.

FINISHER – Liz Beavis, 50.0 miles to Consiton = 15:59.30

I think given the conditions all round and what seemed like an incredible number of retirements amongst our running buddies this was a gargantuan effort.

Well done everyone, for surviving and making sensible on the hill decisions.

Safety first, fun later!!!!!

The Lakes loom…..

Its here, it’s Lakeland weekend and we’re all ready to go, well almost!

Babies are being babysat, dogs are being farmed out to relatives and kennels, supporting groupies are assembled from the North/South/East/West!

Our kits are packed, water bottles filled and carbs loaded! The weather is looking great, warm but not too hot and some showers forecast which may well be welcomed.

The Mountain Weather Information Service is the one to watch!

 

Ultimate Direction PB Vest - Fully Loaded

Ultimate Direction PB Vest – Fully Loaded

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Personally i cant wait to get going and will have all on to make sure i dont start too fast (as usual) but pace myself for my target time of finishing the same day we start!!! Lets see shall we.

To be able to track us at the event this weekend and see how we all go you can do so by visiting the SPORTident website.

Our numbers (or simply search on the surname) are below:

  • Andy Holohan is # 539
  • Wayne Singleton is # 744
  • Chris Chadwick is # 402
  • Glyn Rose is # 716
Click here for for the Lakeland 50 Results and we’ll see you on the other side!
Take care y’all.

Hold up, weight a minute……..

Well, who would of thought its be this close at both ends of the table after such a storming start.

We’ve all weighed in today bar Chris who’s working away in that there McScotland and their lbs are different up there so it’d be unfair for him to have a disadvantage!

Its ridiculously close and the standings look like this:

Chris 9.09%
Andy 8.65%
Glyn 2.00%
Wayne 1.86%

This actually equates to me being only 1lb behind Chris in overall weight loss and I could nip it if his carb loading for this weekends Lakeland 50 event goes well.  : )

Wayne and Glyn are virtually neck and neck so this could go either way.

The weigh in is Friday evening at the registration and kit check and network dependant we’ll be sure to share who is the biggest loser!!!

Ultimate Direction or Ultimate Perfection……

Ultimate Direction PB (Peter Bawkin) Adventure Vest 12ltr

I was in two minds on getting this pack, I’d seen it on racing snakes and I AM NOT a racing snake. Traditionally I’ve been a mid packer but across the boards from club runs to Ultras I’m steadily making my way up the field.

So the pack arrived from www.outdoorwarehouse.co.uk and weighed a mere 500g with the two supplied bottles. Today I packed mine with my full waterproof kit, spare base layer, L50 maps & road book, hat, gloves, 1st aid kit, food, 1500ml of water, trekking poles and two head torches and my Leatherman Style CS multi tool.

This lot came in a 4120 grams.
Ultimate Direction PB Vest - Fully Loaded

Ultimate Direction PB Vest – Fully Loaded

The pack has two chest straps, one lower than the other and as you add kit in this makes these tighter. I’m not built in the way these straps are meant to be worn but whilst running I played around with them and there seemed little difference irrespective to how I wore them. They slide up and down to micro adjust as to how you want it to fit but I felt little bounce with two or just one done up.

The bottles on the chest are great for easy access, the water sloshes around a bit but I’m used to this from the iGammy on my OMM packs. This also makes re filling on the go so much easier and administration of things like elete or High5 tablets. I tend to carry one water bottle & one laced with electrolyte!

I didn’t experience it as I wasn’t out long enough but you may want to watch the weight distribution as you drink your water. I took from the right all the time which put all the weight on the left. Might be an issue but that’d be the same with all systems of this type.

There are also many other front pockets as well as the bottle pouches that make grabbing food easy on the go. Additionally there are a number of little pockets for my electrolytes, cash and others for iPhone, compass and GPS etc. iPhone 4S fits, be surprised if the iPhone 5 goes in!

On the ‘wings’ there a couple of zipped pockets which likely i’ll use for more food and the are also a pair of velcro fastening bellows pockets that took an extra bottle of water today. These would take a waterproof or other items you may want to be taking on and off without removing the pack, hats/gloves etc.

On the rear are two pockets, one that took my waterproof pants, maps, 1st aid kit and hat, gloves and base layers. There was still plenty of room for more food and can also take a bladder if you wanted and can be secured by the internal compression. This is partly made from a cuben fibre material that’s very very light and almost impenetrable. It’s the material used on sails for modern day racing yachts and you’ll find this on the front pouches and another couple of pockets too.

The other pocket is an expanding mesh and seemingly you can just keep stuffing items in here. My waterproof smock went in and head torch (unlikely as i was to require this on a Friday afternoon) and also had more room if required.

Further to this was the webbing bungee where I fixed my mountain king trekking poles. I didn’t need to use the specific pole loops nor did I take my ice axe on this occasion so this loop wasn’t used either. There was zero movement or rattle from the poles and until I was confident I kept checking to make sure these hadn’t fallen off. They didn’t fall off and nor are they ever likely to!!!

There are plenty of other elastic loops (4+) to pull buffs through or rolled maps etc. you won’t be short of where to stash stuff and actually be able to use it!!

The pack once on can be compressed by the internal bungee which has a single pull on the right shoulder which helps stabilise further. There are two additional bungees to pull closer still above the wing pockets too.

The Test:
I ran on an off road trails, some hard packed and also some road. I tried some fast paced intervals and bolted down some sharp descents to try and get the pack to roll or rock around. It didn’t, wouldn’t and likely never will!!!

I didn’t get any rub from the wide shoulder straps nor any back rubbing which given the temperature and amount of sweat being produced I was very pleased with for its first go. I also didn’t get the irritating T-shirt rise either like I have with other packs.

Having plenty of high vis points and a fixed whistle the pack is sure to keep you safe on trail and road too.

This really is fantastic piece of equipment and if I was half a stone lighter or more then it would be better still. Despite my build for endurance and not for speed I felt the benefits of this regardless of my frame. It will only get better!

The pack has been designed by a chap called Peter Bawkin, he himself is not one to brag but he’s won a bit and he’s been there, done that. In his own words  ”I don’t care about running.  I just love to do it.”


Think the records below speak for themselves eh…

  • Winner of the Tuscarora Trail 6-day, 250-mile race (2003)
  • First person to run the 223 mile John Muir trail in less than 4 days,
  • 94h04m (2003)
  • Current speed record holder for the 141 mile Kokopelli Trail, 32h47m (2004)
  • Cascades Trifecta:  Rainier, Hood & Adams in 28 hours (2005)
  • Double Hardrock Hundred, 200 miles with 68,000 feet of climbing, in
  • 90h50m (2006)
  • Current record holder on the 100 mile White Rim Trail, 18h43m (2006)
  • Current record holder on Gannett Peak, the highest summit in Wyoming (2009)
  • Mosquito-Tenmile Traverse:  The longest ridge traverse entirely above
  • 13,000 feet (28 miles) in the contiguous USA (2011)
The sciencey bit:
Specifications:
  • Volume Capacity: 61 in.3 / 12L
  • Fluid Capacity: 2 x 20 oz. bottles / 2 x 591 mL
  • Weight: 12 oz. (17.5 oz. with bottles) / 340 g (496 g with bottles)
  • Height: 16 in. / 41 cm
  • Width: 9 in. / 23 cm
  • Depth: 4.5 in. / 11 cm

Features:

  • GPS Pouch (buttons accessible)
  • Bottle holsters can carry 26 oz.
  • Gel or bar pouches (4)
  • Electrolyte or valuables pocket (2)
  • Fully adjustable Sternum Straps (2)
  • Emergency whistle
  • Features (Back):
  • Cuben Fiber bellows for large or small loads
  • Secure Lat Pockets, with full pocket behind (2)
  • Two sizes main compartments
  • Single pull bungee compresses entire pack
  • Trekking pole (2) and Ice Axe loop (1)

Sizing At Chest (Unisex):

  • S/M: 28 – 36 in. / 71.1 – 91.4 cm
  • M/L: 36 – 40 in. / 91.4 – 101.6 cm
  • Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear
  • A vest full of gear will fit smaller

Materials/Design:

  • Cuben Fiber: Used for the sails of America’s Cup racing yachts, this non-woven fabric is 15 times stronger than steel and 40% stronger than Aramid fibers, and is extremely resistant to moisture, UV, and chemicals
  • Velvetex: The edge banding is very soft for greater comfort
  • Power Mesh: All pockets and super stretchy, so small loads won’t
  • bounce and the vest expands as you need it to.

 

 Want one, then speak to Charlie at the Outdoorwarehouse to get your pack shipped….

Nice shiny logos…..

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Well we’ve only a couple more weigh ins to go and who’d have thought it would have been so close at the business end of the competition and those battling for the chocolate spoon at the other!!!

Chris went off in a blaze of amazing glory at the beginning but his wonderfully talented daughter Lauren since found a fantastic new art in baking and scuppered his domination over the latter weeks of the competition. (Is it bad that the rest of us kept giving her money for ingredients!!)

So currently the % lost standings currently look like this:

photo

 

 

 

 

 

  • Chris – 9.09%
  • Andy – 8.17%
  • Glyn – 3%
  • Wayne – 2.33%

So hows it gonna finish up, find out next week when the comptition (this time round) concludes at the Lakeland 50 registration weigh in!

 

 

 

Worth the weight…….?

Well I’m a little late this week but the results are in and the gaps are closing again.

Bigger gains on Chris could have been made this week as Chris has had another ‘large’ one to match his gains the week before.

Wayne & Glyn maintain the status quo and I’ve added a couple but still made ground on Chris.

So, we’re entering the final couple of weeks now, can we catch him……

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Stay tuned for the latest as we start our taper for the Lakeland 50 & the final weigh in at the end of July!!

June 22/23rd Montane Lakeland Recce Weekend.

So, what’s on the gimassive menu for 2013?
The table below shows you foods which can be accessed at each of the checkpoints, on the Lakeland 100 and 50 course. It has the following cautionary notes:
1. Anything else you require should be carried from the start.
2. It’s not possible to have personal food delivered to checkpoints
3. The one exception to this rule is for Lakeland 100 competitors only, who can leave personal food in their drop bag to be collected at Dalemain
4. Taking food from supporters or spectators is considered to be ‘outside the spirit of the event’, this is your personal challenge…
5. Stashing food on the course beforehand is strictly against the rules and may result in DQ, drinking stream water is allowed
6. The event rules are very simple and fair for everyone: carry it from the start or take it from a checkpoint
7. Dropping any litter on the course will not be tolerated, this will result in an immediate DQ
8. It is impossible for us to enforce these rules, we rely on your good will to support and adhere to them
You can see a list of checkpoints and food supplied below, the specific flavours of soups, gels, bars and energy drinks are not yet known and the table will be updated when supplied.
CP Location Food SIS Gels SIS Bars SIS Drink Water & Cordial Tea & Coffee
1 Seathwaite Cake, biscuits YES YES
2 Boot Flapjack, biscuits YES YES YES YES
3 Wasdale Soup, bread/sandwiches, cola YES YES YES
4 Buttermere Soup, bread, biscuits, YES YES YES YES
5 Braithwaite Pasta meal, rice pudding, biscuits, cola YES YES YES
6 Blencathra Cake, biscuits YES YES YES YES YES
7 Dockray Soup, bread/sandwiches, biscuits, YES YES YES YES
8 Dalemain Meat / veg stew, bread, pudding & custard, cola YES YES YES
9 Howtown Flapjack, biscuits YES YES YES YES
10 Mardale Soup, bread/sandwiches, cola YES YES YES YES
11 Kentmere Pasta meal, smoothie, biscuits YES YES YES YES
12 Ambleside Soup, bread/sandwiches, cake, cola YES YES YES YES
13 Langdale Meat / veg stew, bread, biscuits, cola YES YES YES YES
14 Tilberthwaite Flapjack, cola, biscuits YES YES YES YES

Wonder why some of us come back heavier!!!

In this event in 2011 i burnt over 10,00 calories and just under 7, 000 in 2012 so were making plenty of room for the fare thats on offer at this excellent event!

Cant see any of Chadders amazing Granola on there tho……

If your looking for somewhere to maximise your summer training and at altitude, then look no further than Pyrenean Trails

Jenny and Mike Rhodes will offer you a superb warm welcome. Its a family owned business which operates in the French Ski resort of Les Angles, catering for both Winter & Summer activities plus a whole range of extra leisure activities available for families, couples or groups of friends.​

Mike, who was part of the successful team who conquered Everest’s South West face in 1975 led by Chris Bonington, used his 50 years walking and climbing experience and gained qualifications as an International Mountain Leader and rock climbing instructor to be able to take out clients into the mountains.

Mikes the one in the fetching yellow t-shirt!

Pyrenean Trails is so well located its often frequented by international Triathlon Teams as their training base.

With the numerous trails based from the property this is an excellent base to get conditioned for the Lakeland events, The Spine, UTMB and others. In fact Mike regularly take tours on the Ultra Trail of Mont Blanc so can provide a valuable insight into the course.

photo 1Visit their website or email mike.rhodes@free.fr and be sure to mention www.ultramadness.co.uk for a warm welcome!

Its a bit of an odd one this week.

We’ve got a man down with a damaged ankle and three of us did arguably the biggest weekend of our training so far this year. So how is it the guy not training is the only one not to gain weight this week???

Well it may seem odd but actually it makes perfect sense. Wayne, Chris and I trashed ourselves this weekend with over 28 miles from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside on Saturday and Chris and I did another 15 miles from Ambleside to Consiton on Sunday.

The ascent was over 3,000m, nearly 10,000ft, which means lots of descending too meaning smashed quads as well as other muscles.

Up, down, over she goes!

Up, down, over she goes!

With all that activity comes DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and your body/muscles swells with excess fluid and blood from those muscles being worked and in some cases damaged.

Our muscles use glycogen (a water/glucose concoction in our muscles) for energy and when we work hard we deplete the glucose leaving behind just the water, which is very heavy.  Some of this water is reused in the body and some is removed via sweat or urine.

So the body needs more energy, produces more glycogen and even more water making us heavier! We also take on lots of water for hydration, likely before, certainly during and more so after the event.

Water, whilst good for you, is also very heavy. 1ltr = 1kg!!!

Now I’m sure I’ve not got this info 100% correct but it gives the general idea of why you’re generally heavier after exercise. Oh and that’s not mention all the goodies on offer at the Lakeland 50 recce checkpoints such as flap jack, jaffa cakes and Swiss bloody roll!!!!

So with all that in mind here’s how this weeks weigh in is looking:

Wahey in, June 25th

Wahey in, June 25th

Chadders still leads the way and by doing nothing Glyns closed the gap on us all!!

Stay tuned peeps, still a chance to catch him.

 

Man down, Man Down

Ok so it’s been a while since my last blog, too long in fact. So what have i been up too?

Well over the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve been keeping most of my runs local to where i live, varying distances, from a quick 3 miler round the block to 13 miles of mostly hills, with a mixture of road and off road, flats and hills, with weight and without.

To get the long runs in at the weekends, it’s simple a case of the sooner I’m out the sooner I’m back to help out with family life. So with this in mind I’ve been abandoning the car in lay-bys at the crack of dawn and running back home. One favourite route is running down the Borrowdale Valley on the Shap road running back to Kendal, a good 17 miler with most of it off road. It has it all – hills, flats, bog in fact it’s got the lot, including options to increase mileage should the mood take you. The best part of this run is it literally takes me to my front door and its 90% off road.

My last big run of around 22 miles was with the Ultramadness crew. Basically we chose a meeting point that is convenient for all, run out and back along the Pennine Way

Due to the hot weather we decided the main focus should be on hydration, hydration. So with this in mind I only carried essential kit, made of the following

·        OMM 20ltr Adventure Light rucksack

·        HH short sleeved base layer

·        Haglofs Barrier vest

·        First aid kit

·        Leki Micro stick poles

·        Buff (don’t leave home without one)

·        3 litres of water, 2 in a bladder, 1ltr in OMM bottles.

·        Klymit Inertia XL weighs next to nothing. Curtesy of www.Klymit.com

All stored in our new Exped Ultra light dry sacks. Courtesy of Exped via www.Lyon.co.uk

 

 

Our last meet was at Gargrave a few weeks ago, dumping the cars and running 11 miles out to Cowling and back. 11 miles of varying terrain, from the flats of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal to the short hills, that took you over to Lothesdale village.

 

So with a few long weekends under my belt and lots of local mileage i want to keep the momentum going. With this in mind I planned to run from Kendal to Carnforth via the old canal path last Saturday. In total around 16 miles and as you can see below not exactly a hilly run for rom start to finish. 

 

Lancaster Canal - Route Profile

 

One of the main reasons for running there is my sister in law lives there and she invited the family for tea. Bonus, i get to run and someone cooks my tea for me, happy days.

So using the same kit as i did for the Gargrave 22 i set off a few hrs before Kerry with an ETA in Carnforth for 5pm with tea being served at 5.15.

I’ve done all the sections of this route plenty of time before either solo or with Wayne and Liz. Liz is Wayne’s partner and a good ultra runner in her own right.

So, off i set, with my iPod charge and playing, the suns shining and I’m smiling away happy with the world. I pick up the old canal path and it feels good to be off road running through the country side. During the first 4 miles the old canal, now filled in, goes through numerous fields. I think there are plans to open it up again at some point in the future all the way to Kendal. Anyway, this section involves going over about 4 stiles. So I’m happily running along when i have thoughts of having to call Kerry to come and collect me because I’ve sprained my ankle. Shaking the bad thoughts out of my head i turning my iPod up and plough on eventually catching up with a group of walkers at a stile. We all smile nicely at each other, being a gentleman; I let them go over first. So I throw my right leg over and place it down on the ground, bringing my left leg over to follow and BAM, man down man down I’ve only gone and twisted my right ankle with a ripping noise that loud i can hear it over my iPod.

The pain makes me feel sick straight away. I rip my headphone out of my ears; i can feel the warm sensation of my foot swelling almost instantly and I’m limping/ hopping. For a few seconds i can’t believe what has just happened, am i dreaming – is this real?

 

There’s no way i could have been this stupid, surely. Twist my ankle going over a stile?

I instantly recall all the runs I’ve done and the terrain I’ve run over in all weathers, I’ve even fell of the cliffs just outside Patterdale inheriting the nick name “Cliff” but I always made it home in one piece to run another day.

But no, this is for real; the pain is telling me that. Two walkers walk past asking “are you alright, how far you going” to which i reply no I’m not alright, I’ve twisted my ankle badly. I reach down to get my phone out to call someone and they must see this as a sign that I’m ok, because they do what walkers do, they walk on and leave me there. The pain is now that bad i can only shuffle/ limp on the ball of my foot.

I call Kerry tell her what I’ve done, she tries not to laugh, not that im injuried but how i did it. She picks me up some 30 mins later armed with ice packs and anti inflammatory tablets.

So as a family we all had tea at 5.15 with the sister in law and i got a 3.5 mile run in.

The next 48 hours was spent applying the RICE technique, once i’d worked out what it meant, and that it didn’t mean boil some up and smother it over your foot. You see, id never heard of RICE before, why would i I’d never seriously injured myself before, which would explain all my texts and messages to “others” asking what do I do with RICE?

Father’s day was spent with plenty of Rest, Ice, Compression and one huge foot Elevated high in cushions. (Getting the hang of this RICE lark now) Not quite the pamper day i had in mind but hey.

 

Early Monday morning resulted in a trip to A&E to get an X-ray. Luckily there is nothing broken, it’s just a really bad sprain. I’ve been referred for physio but i my go private as the waiting list will be very long at my local hospital and time may be against me with.

The A&E Doctor told me a full recovery can take up to 6wks and he advised i get my ankle taped/ strapped for any events that i take part in. To my surprise i get a phone call from my local hospital on the Wednesday asking me to come in for physio that day. This was followed by a further appointment two days later, folowed by weekly sessions.  

With this in mind it’s time to dust off my bike in the garage and start cycle training and possible get some swimming in once the swelling has gone down. Heck i might even enjoy it and who knows might join a tri club like the  one Wayne’s just setting up with the help from Marc Laithwaite at Epic Events (check it out on Twitter @UlverstonTri, or at the Facebook page)

Overall the aim is to try and be on the starting line next to my fellow Ultramadness team members for my 3rd Lakeland 50 event which takes place at the end of July.

 

The rest of Monday morning was spent watching my boy take part in his first sports day event. Luckily there wasn’t a father and son race to take part in, i say luckily, mainly for the other Dads and Sons as me and my boy would have left them on the starting line.

Check at the “foot pictures” on flicker.

Well the team have been luck enough to be invited to take part in the inaugural Grand Tour of Skiddaw that takes place on the August Bank Holiday weekend covering 44 miles and has over 7,000ft of ascent.

Skiddaw logo

With the event being only 4 weeks after the Lakeland 50 it’ll certainly be a challenge to keep the training up in between the two and great practice for The Spine Challenger in 2014.

Take a look here for further details on The Grand Tour of Skiddaw and to enter follow the links.

I’m sure this event will go on to become one of the iconic tours in the Lake District and its be great to take part on the 1st running and visit seldom visited parts of the region.

Thanks to Pure Outdoors Events

 

 

Well this week saw much movement amongst the ultramadness crew, sadly 75% of the movement was in the wrong direction. Its not often im amongst the top 25%, certainly not in anything ultra but this week was to be the exception!

In order of largest gain this week they are:

  • Glyn
  • Chris
  • Wayne

I was able to post a larger than average loss this week closing the gap on Chadders who still remains out in front by a good 3+ %!!!

As we’ve extended the date final weigh in we still have 5 weeks to go there’s still a (outside) chance one of us could catch him and its certainly all to play for amongst the remaining  placings.

So whilst not too much movement the standings look like this:

photo

With a big weekend ahead of us as we’ve a Lakeland 50 Double Recce planned. This covers virtually the whole of the 50 route over two days and starts early Saturday morning at Pooley Bridge finishing in Ambleside which totals around 32 or so miles. This is followed on Sunday with the Ambleside to Coniston leg covering some 14 or so miles.

The recce misses out the required loop at Dalemain to make up the remaining  miles come event day!

With all that mileage and big ascents/descents you’d hope to see some big movements next week.

One exception will be Glyn aka ‘Mandown’ who’s foot/ankle currently looks like that of an elephants following his badly ripped tendon at the weekend.

Having been told today of no running for 4 weeks, which take us up 2 weeks prior to race day, he’ll be pushing things for the Lakeland 50! Given his athlete status, robolike physique and plenty of RICE i’m sure he’ll be back on his foot in no time!

Stay tuned for more updates from ‘mandown’ himself and to see how we go at the biggest weekend of the year for the ultramadness team!

The latest and greatest…..

Well its that time of week already and here’s the current standings for the weigh in challenge.

Wayne and Glyn had great losses this week, Chris maintained the status quo and sadly I added a little bit!

The results look like this….

photo

Chris still leads the way with a whopping loss of over 11%, I’m currently in 2nd place with just over 6%, Wayne is in third with just over 5% lost and Glyn a nice tidy 4%

With the competition extended to use the Lakeland 50 registration as THE official final weigh in on Friday 26th July there are now a good few weeks to close these gaps down!

Stay tuned for the latest scores on the doors and other news from the Ultramadness team.

Going social…..

Well to keep up with all things digital we’ve set up our own Facebook page sharing some of our musings, recce updates, the all important and now extended weigh in competition and other news & views.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/ultramadness and like the page to be kept even further upto date.

Twitter, sure, follow @theultramadness for even more news although they’ll be restricted to just 140 characters!!

Wwaahheeyy, he’s done it again!!!!!

Well Chris has posted yet another tremendous loss and is simply leaving us trailing in his wake!!

Chris is sitting on an amazing loss of nearly 12% since we began at the end of January.

The standings currently are:

20130604-214706.jpg

With only three weigh ins left is it all over????

Stay tuned for the latest next week and we’ve a recce on the Spine Challenger course this weekend and they usually throw up a tale or two…………

How’s it gonna go in the Howgills????

1st proper long run out in the Howgills tomorrow since my disaster in the dales!!

Looking at the map route and profile pic it’s gonna be a great test.

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Stay tuned to see how Chris and I get on.

Wow, well what a week!

We’ve got 2 that gained (Wayne & Chris) one neither gained nor lost (Glyn) and one (me) lost this week so the gap closes again on Chadders who was ultra running away with it, or was he????

See the latest stats below…..

20130523-210527.jpg

So with the weeks counting down is it too little too late?

Stay tuned for the latest, tho with a couple away over the half term it’ll be a full two weeks till the next weigh in!!!

Solo but not too slow

Making the most of an opportunity to skive a day off work on Friday (I work for myself) and with all the other guys busy I decided on a solo out and back run from Edale.
An early start meant I’d be there for around 9am, straight forward enough to get to but with some very narrow and steep roads taking down to the bottom of the vallley my first thoughts were it could even be an issue to make the start line in January if the weather is bad, salt bins by the sides of all roads leading in says a lot!!
Pulling into the car park at 9.10 with the sun trying hard to break through the thinning clouds made conditions great for running all was good, well all was good apart from a little lack in self confidence on my part with the map, I’m ok reading and understanding maps but this was the first time I’d been out somewhere completely unknown and alone, knowing the pennine way route should be reasonably clear on the ground helped to ease my concerns, my confidence issue should be put right with my upcoming Mountain Skills nav course with the guys at http://www.nav4.co.uk !
Leaving the car park and heading out to the start location with my map in hand it wasn’t long before my first challange…… Yep there I am walking along when a couple appear from over a fence and ask if I can set them on the right path as they think they’ve lost there way…… Trying hard not to look as lost as they do we consult my map and there route description booklet and realise they are indeed on the wrong path and need to continue on the road with me a little further, a quick chat about my outing and upcoming Spine Challange and were soon parting ways as they head off on the right path…… Good deed done and almost appeared to know what I was doing Phewwwww.
Head out on the Pennine Way and its a nice incline heading up and out of the valley

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All good on the route / map front and I’m soon at the foot of Jacobs Ladder, a short but fairly steep climb sees me at the top with a magnificent Cain marking a great view back down the valley

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Another short climb and I’ve got an amazing view looking across another valley with Kinder Reservoir out to my left, a quick check on the map and I can see Cluther Rocks ahead which is the next point to head towards, a rough flagstone path easily shows the way and I’m making good time and plodding along nicely, reaching the rocks and suddenly my route has disappeared and I’m faced with a boulder field !!!
Time not to panic check the map and move forward slight traces of footsteps here and there and the sight of another Cain in the distance confirms im right and continue on through the rocks

20130519-120245.jpg

It’s was shortly after that I made my one and only navigation mistake, I’d come to Kinder Downfall and was expecting a good crossing point or bridge to show the crossing of the stream at top of the falls but there was nothing, with the now clear again path continue in along the stream edge I followed the path for what must have been another half a mile, checking the map it showed the crossing as right at the head of the falls and I was now clearly a long way from there so I turned round and went back, checking I’d not missed the crossing I was soon back to the falls and still not seen anything, picking a safe route across keeping dry feet was easy and after a small climb over some rocks I found the path on the other side, lesson learnt don’t always look for a bridge ect but trust the map.

The route from here was well trodden and easy to follow, more ups and down before hitting a crazily steep decent before climbing back up Mill Hill

20130519-121011.jpg

Top of mill hill a quick bite to eat and I’m off running yes running !!!!! Down a flagstone path with Peat Bog either side heading towards the A57, nothing strenuous so far as accent or decent and open moorland on all side is making it a bit of a boring section…. Sometimes we’re spoilt with the views we get when out.
This soon changed when running toward a section of path that was covered by a large black mucky puddle, thinking I’d run to one side to avoid the deep middle bit I’m soon knee deep in the bog and laid face first in the puddle !!!! Yes I’d obviously stepped of the path edge and straight into the thick of it, several loud choice words later and I’m upright dripping wet and covered head to toe !!!

Lesson number two learnt….. Do not step off the path !!!!!!!

This section could be really tough if its thick snow up there in January, with the path been level with the side bogs its gonna be very hard to stay on the path, I had spare layers with me so a five min stop and I was clean and dry again and soon arrived at the A57 with a little over 12 miles under my belt, time to be sensible, turn round and start heading back before i get to far, a better crossing of the puddle of doom and making good time on the flagstones again i was soon back enjoying some great views back towards Cluther Rock this time from the opposite side of the water fall, funny how you don’t seem to be going for long but things look along way off when your heading back towards them, a perfect crossing of the stream at the correct point, a slightly better crossing of the boulder field and I was we’ll on my way back to Edale

Coming back down Jacob’s ladder I was starting to feel very thirsty and the on set of muscle cramps were starting to come fast and strong, after the surgery I’ve had on my legs circulation isn’t great and cramping in both quads is often a big problem for me, I’ve learnt that lots of electrolyte helps massively and started drinking as much as possible when i suddenly realised I’d drank the 1 1/2 litres of fluid I’d taken with me, a quick stop to take my emergency half litre from inside my pack and I was back on my way thinking how poor my hydration could have been with out the emergency bottle….. I’d passed no where that I could have re-filled with water and the one and only stream at the falls was a very yellow/orange colour that I wouldn’t have fancied drinking.

Considering I was now around 20 miles I was wondering how were going to make the one and only checkpoint at 50 miles during the event, certainly shouldn’t be sweating as much in January but I think this could still be an issue ???

Final pic of the run back into edale

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It was a very enjoyable if not a touch lonely day out on my own that totalled a little over 23miles.

So to sum the day up
1. My map reading and confidence in my ability to do so was improved, there really is no substitute for just getting out there and having a go, although knowing it should be an easy to follow route/path double checking and noticing feature on the map and landscape certainly helped.
2. Do NOT to step of the path around very boggy areas.
3. How very valuable emergency supply can be.

Onward and upward as they say, http://www.ultratrail26.com/ultratrail26/howgills.html is my next long trot out and looking forward to my next outing with the full http://www.ultramadness.co.uk chaps

Weighing it all up…….

Well a bit of a Topsy Turvey week this week with one down, 2 up and 1 staying the same!

Chris has posted a loss making up on what he gained last week so maintains a pretty good lead into the last few weeks.

So the current standings are:

20130514-215456.jpg

Stay tuned folks, I feel a step up in training coming on to try and close the gaps…..

Weighting for the star to fall……..

…….and fall he did this week, but is it too late for us to catch him?

Chris managed to undo all his hard work with a massive gain putting him back to where he was 3 weeks ago! Did you see his BBq pic???

I’ve maintained the status quo this week but the shining stars are the Cumbria boys both posting their biggest losses of the competition so far. Well done chaps!

The results make the overall standings look like this:

photo

 

This week has shown that with the number of weigh-ins to the end of the competition reducing rapidly any significant gains could be capitalised on so be sure to subscribe by email for all the latest updates….

OK, it was to be a simple recce this one. Of course we’d be tracking the Pennine Way out of Gargrave where the route quickly picks up and follows the River Aire to its head. Its then onto up and over Malham Cove, around the Eastern shores of Malham Tarn, around Fountains Fell, up onto the summit of Pen-y-Ghent before finally descending into Horton in Ribblesdale.

This time were attempting the 19 mile leg, packs fully laden with the required kit such as a tent, sleeping bag, clothing suitable for the inevitably challenging elements come January, food, 1st aid kits etc etc.

We set of at a reasonable pace, of course come the Challenge we’d have already covered some 70-75 miles or so at this stage so it’s unlikely we’d be moving at not much more that 3-4 mph.

Navigation was pretty straight forward taking us out of the town and onto open fields with indistinguishable paths so it’s worth paying attention on these bits. If were here in the dark or if the weathers closed in then we may need to rely on some hand railing the walls/fences that bordered the fields.

Once down to the river we followed this pretty much all the way to Malham Cove crisscrossing it a couple of times but it was pretty straightforward. Upon reaching the cove we climbed the 400 irregular stone steps that was our route and once we’d ascended these it dropped us on the limestone pavement.

These steps are unlikely to be welcomed on the event proper and will bring back memories of the ‘Tilberthwaite steps’ just after the final checkpoint on the Ultra Tour of the Lake District, although on the Spine Challenge we’ll still have a few over 20 miles to go at this point.

We should have been awarded with amazing views back down the valley at this point but sadly not today! The weather was atrocious and further down the valley a couple of the guys had put on their waterproof trousers.

I donned mine at the top of the cove just out of the wind; much to Wayne annoyance as he’d blasted straight to the top and was now waiting in the wind! I didn’t have my waterproof socks on this section but I was trying my Inov8 268 GTX boots. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of the previous issues id had on the last recce and I knew that now we were on top of the cove the route was to become more and more exposed the further we went.

We headed toward Malham Tarn and right enough the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down hard.

We followed the map closely, there were a few paths crisscrossing our route, and made our way to the Tarn. Just before we arrived we came across a sign post suggesting we’d come the wrong way!

After studying the map since I can see we should have headed right and over the Limestone pavement following Ings Scar toward the tarn, instead we veered of to the left and followed Raven Scar which does bring you out at the same place but isn’t the correct route. Need to make a mental note to be sure we follow this proper!!

It was at this point huddled behind a wall that I put another full waterproof Goretex jacket on so I in total I now had waterproof boots, full length leggings, shorts, waterproof trousers, 2 x base layers, waterproof smock, a jacket and a cap. It was at this point I put my waterproof gloves on too! 

So of we went around the tranquil waters of Malham Tarn, er no sadly not! For all we knew we could have been on the shores of the growling Atlantic Ocean on the North West coast of Scotland as the waves were rolling in and we were virtually unable to see the opposite shore less than 700m across from us!

At around only 7 miles in my day started to take a turn.

The guys were trotting on quite well and quite frankly I was hanging, I then started to drop off the back a little. We passed around the back of Malham Tarn Field Centre along the track through the woods that gave us some respite from the weather but then it was back onto open land headed to Fountains Fell.

We pushed on and crossed the road that takes you down to Arncliffe and some more clothing was required from some of the boys. Sam, our honorary Spiner, had long since got his waterproof cover out for his pack but was now layering up with gloves etc. Soaked gloves were exchanged and additional jackets were added by the other boys.

The wind was now fierce and often gusting and causing us problems to stay upright. I was keeping very quiet by my standards and was wrapped up in my gear and thoughts of wanting this to end.

My feet were dry, legs were a touch cold but only because wed stopped temporarily, body was warm because of the layering I’ve finally worked out and my head was nice and warm wrapped up in a couple of hoods! However the issue was my hands, my waterproof gloves had appeared get wet as they were totally saturated, water had penetrated the membrane inside & my hands were already starting to get very cold.

We cracked on and started the ascent with the wind and rain at our side coming across from the West it was awful and the slog seemed never ending. Soon I was lagging and I could see the boys drifting in and out of the clag that had now come down. I knew that some point we would top out but I also knew that we would then be turning directly into the path of the weather, this I wasn’t looking forward to. I’d been guilty of just following the guys at this point, trusting their nav which was pretty flawless. I’d hope that as we traversed the fell we might get some cover from the weather but there was nothing and it was to be unrelenting.

Fair play to Wayne, he dropped back and walked with me encouraging me to look up,” life’s better when you’re looking at it” he said he was right but it wasn’t pretty! He could see I was really struggling and suggested to use my poles. I said I didn’t need them but he kept on and got them out for me. They helped for sure but in all honesty I was losing a lot of energy and taking my pack off seemed too much effort v’s reward to get the poles.

Once at the top we turned and headed straight into the wind and rain and it was terrible. We started descending above the valley called ‘In Sleets’ (very apt) and made our way to the Stainforth road where we would continue along for about a mile before picking the track up and onto Pen-y-Ghent.

I’d already voiced gentle concerns to Wayne and my capability of making Pen-y-Ghent and also the suitability given the wind. My ascent down to the road was slow and clumsy and as such was making my thoughts even stronger as to tackling the last and biggest climb of the day!

Glyn had a few comedy falls in front of us, I hadn’t witnessed them as they’d got a trot on. Sam and I were a fair distance behind but caught up when we joined the road.

Sam had got to the guys before me and suggested we didn’t do the last climb; I’d caught up a few seconds later and categorically confirmed that I would not be attempting it finding a shorter safer route down to Horton. They knew something wasn’t right as id not even commented on the fact Glyn was covered in mud.

We pushed on along the road, still into the weather, by now my fingers tips were frozen, my back was hurting from the pack weight I wasn’t used to and I just wanted to be lower down that the 400m we were at and out of the weather and I didn’t care how.

I saw a camper van coming towards us and it looked like Sarah’s Mum and Dad, I just wanted it to be them so they could stop, let me in, make me a brew and take me home safe and sound. It so looked like them, same van and everything but sadly they drove on. Madness had set in! A range rover came screaming towards us driving far too fast. I swing my poles at the car gesturing to slow down! He waved back, well I think it was a wave, but it might possibly have been some other gesture at this idiot who’d been franticly waving poles in the air and shouting!!!

We came to the point where I was now becoming stupid(er). We met the path that took us off the road for about 3 miles or so which descended into Horton. I was dead against leaving the road professing it’ll be reet, I can walk down here, likely I’ll get a lift of someone and make my way to meet you guys thinking id be sat waiting for them when they arrived.

It was pointed out that the road didn’t actually go to Horton but Malham, I said I didn’t care and just wanted to stay on the road and make my way that way! The boys made a good case and talked me round. Sam offering to carry my pack for me but I stupidly refused, Wayne suggested we stop for 5 minutes at the farm house and get warm, change gloves etc, again I refused. Truth be told all I wanted to happen was to be able to curl up all foetal in a ditch, keep warm and wait for the wind and rain to stop. It had to at some point, right?

This didn’t happen but by now I was slow, very slow and it was a good track. We made out last turn and finally we descended below the weather and could see Horton.

I could see the boys in the distance, maybe half a mile or so, and once again Wayne had hung back to escort me in! Glyn bless him had gone for the car as it was a mile or so into the village and was going to pick me up and save me the last stretch! Turns out we’d missed him and when he finally came into the café and there we were all safe and sound.

Id popped some warm gloves on out of my pack and my insulated jacket but I was shaking uncontrollably like the proverbial crapping dog. Id downed a bottle of coke, had a large slice of fudge cake, a pint of tea full of sugar, a bowl of soup and some bread. Finally the shaking slowed and then stopped; I started to feel normal again!

We finished up, made our way back to Gargrave courtesy of Glyn who dropped us there for the and Chadders then dropped me home safe and sound in Harrogate on his way back to Hull.

It was here the real fun started, nausea, uncontrollable shaking started again, sweats, headaches and it was all I could do to lie down.

My temperature was up slightly at 38.5 but nothing too serious. I slept a bit, woke, slept, woke and this went on all night seeing most hours!

I rose in the morning and got ready for work feeling the worst I’ve felt in a long time and made an appointment to see the Drs that afternoon.

I made sure I drank a lot of liquid throughout the day laced with electrolytes to make sure I wasn’t suffering from dehydration although id eaten and drank steadily throughout the recce, well much better than I usually do for sure.

My blood pressure was a little low, she’d expected that, resting heart rate was healthily in the mid 50’s (Athlete status for my age) and in pretty good shape all-round although I was showing signs of a virus which I think had fully shown itself at about midday mid recce and simply sapped me of everything!

That coupled with 19 miles, a full pack, horrendous weather and some tough climbs to boot it was hardly surprising I ‘performed’ the way I did!

So I’m slowly recovering and getting back to normal, if you call registering the ballot for the London Marathon in 2014 and entering the Ultimate Trail 100km Ultra in September!

Stay tuned and be sure to follow as I think were gonna have some interesting tales to tell as our training progresses….

Well after what was one of THE worst runs out I’ve ever had on Sunday I frankly didn’t care what the results were for this week’s weigh in. (You can See Wayne’s account of the Spine recce from Gargrave – Horton-In-Ribblesdale here)

However we’ve each done our Tuesday morning weigh in and its business as usual, well almost.

Chadders continues to defy science and loses yet more!! With only 8 weigh-ins between now and the end of our competition it’s looking far less likely well catch him.

Despite my disaster on Sunday I posted another good loss proving that running club and regularly powering round Park Run and smashing PB’s is having a great effect.

Glyn, he’s also posted another steady loss this week, small but perfectly formed. Wayne had a tinsy-winsy loss this week too but sadly not enough to effect the figures!

So overall the results stand like this…..

Weigh In 30042013

It’s a pretty amazing overall loss so far from Chris and very respectable from everyone else.

Be sure to stay tuned to see how we progress as the end of the challenge nears…

Training – it’s all about the lessons Part 2!

Wow. It’s probably fair to say that we’ve had an adventure on today’s Spine recce.  I wrote a while ago about how training isn’t just about getting mileage in the legs, or time on feet, and I think that lesson stands for today’s experience.  I’ll start with last night’s packing for today’s excursion….

The ultramadness team had decided we’d all carry ‘race weight’ in our packs for the jaunt today, which meant carrying a load of the mandatory kit.  It was only when we started weighing the packs that we realised what this actually meant.  When I got to 6.5 kg and realised I had still to put water in (which would be around another 1.5kgs), I decided to take the tent out.  Weather conditions in the South Lakes yesterday (Saturday 27th April) were pretty warm on the whole which very nearly prompted me not to pack some of the essential kit i had planned on.  In the end I put the following in my Aarn 30 litre (and 3 Litres in chest pouches):

Pogu ice spikes – crucial after our last outing and some of the pics from facebook

Montane Alpine stretch jacket

First Aid kit with loads of goodies

Dry sack with Montane fleece, Montane Ice Grip gloves

Dry sack with food – pork pies, babybel, peperami, salt & vinegar crisps

Leki walking poles

Montane Punk balaclava (first outing as it only arrived on Friday)

Montane Atomic DT waterproof trousers – in front pouch for easy access

Clif bars, Peperami, Shot Bloks in front pouch for ‘grazing’

MdS buff

Windstopper head wear

Seal Skins Merino wool gloves and windproof overgloves

Sol emergency shelter

Mountain Equipment Xero sleeping bag

Two raidlight 750ml water bottles secured in front pouches

I very nearly didn’t include all of the clothing, but after our last outing on the Pennine Way, I thought it safer to carry it and not need it.

This morning was stunning just south of Kendal in the South of Cumbria.  I was up at half 6 doing final prep before Glyn arrived to pick me up at 7:10am.  I couldn’t decide whether to put on the new INov8 Roclite Gortex boots that the Endurance Store had sorted for us, or the trusty Inov8 295’s, so i took both with me.  Legwear consisted of Injinji liner socks, Skins, Montane Terra shorts, with a Helly base layer, Adidas t-shirt and Berghaus jacket on top.  Messing around putting the recycling out, it felt chilly outside but not too bad.

Glyn arrived to pick me up and off we went to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, where we met the honorary Ultramadness team member – Sammy B, dropped Glyn’s car off, and drove to Gargrave to meet Holohan and Chadders.

Forty minutes or so later and we were all getting our kit (including gloves, hats and buffs) on and off we ambled from Gargrave to Malham.

At a fairly low level, it still felt very chilly, which was to be a good indicator of things to come.  We were having all of the usual banter, most of which is unrepeatable due to bad language or horrendous taste (mostly from Holohan!).  Coming up to Malham, it started to drizzle and Glyn and I put our waterproof trousers on (coats already on for wind protection).  It had been beautiful scenery so far, but as we got closer to Malham Cove, we could see that there was a grey haze obscuring a lot of the view at a higher level.  We got to Malham Cove, and ascended the steps up to the top, and into a slightly different day.  At the top, the wind was fairly howling, and the drizzle got a bit more persistent.  Holohan stopped behind a wall to put his waterproof trousers on, leaving me, Chadders and Sam on top in the wind, prompting some abuse from yours truly.  Once Holohan had sorted himself out, we got moving towards Malham Tarn.  The rain carried on, and my merino gloves started getting very wet and i was slowly getting cold.  Holohan stopped to put another jacket on over the top of his Montane Minimus smock, and then we could see Malham Tarn.  As we circled the tarn on the Pennine Way route, it was getting wetter, windier and colder and the banter was starting to get subdued.  As we saw the waves of rain being blown across the tarn, I was imagining coming along the road in January, with the rain being snow or hail, which was a pretty unpleasant thought.  I think it was at this stage that each of us started getting cold, and we moved into the woods alongside the tarn, grateful of the respite from the wind that this offered.

Having a load of peperami and some of Chadderses awesome granola bar we emerged from the trees and back into the ‘weather’.  Still windy, still raining, and starting to get exposed now as we moved out onto a hillside and out from behind a wall.  With a bit of nav from Chadders, we started moving uphill and into the murk.  Trying desperately to move a bit quicker, with some hefty weights on our back, was becoming an issue.  As we carried on, our hands, amongst other things, were getting colder.  I’d finally decided on wearing my Inov8 295’s and was starting to regret the decision as my feet were now cold and wet, as well as my hands.  As my hands started shaking, I realised I needed to stop and sort out my windproof outers and put them on.  I had to take my merino gloves off, or so I thought, to get in my pack, which proved a mistake, as I couldn’t then get them back on again, and into the windproof ones.  I also put my Montane jacket over the top of my Berghaus one, to try and retain some heat, or at the very least warmth. Glyn had got his Punk balaclava out of his pack as he’d been suffering with the wind on his face, and I think the other guys had sorted a few things out too.  Andy had been struggling for a while with the pack causing his back some grief, and a hot spot on his foot where he had a rub.  We all carried on, uphill, with the wind speed increasing, and the temperature dropping, as well as the rain continuing to hammer down.

I’d noticed Andy was lagging a bit, and remembering how crap it is being miserable at the back, I waited to keep him company, and spent most of the climb together, with Andy being uncharacteristically quiet.  He was grumbling about his hands being cold, his pack being  too heavy, and wondering whether his training was correct.  In fairness, my hands were freezing too, but my pack wasn’t too bad – probably something to do with me removing the tent before i left home!  Andy’s phrase of the day was ‘overloaded and under prepared’. On the training front, it’s still early days in our training plan for the Spine Challenger, and we were expecting to do 20 miles today, give or take.  I offered to get Andy’s poles out of his pack, and then bullied him into agreeing.  I thought it might help take the weight off his back, and give a mental boost.  I think he did start moving faster and before long we were on the top.

We started down the other side, hoping for some respite from the conditions, which wasn’t to happen, and we soon passed large patches of snow, which thankfully weren’t  a sign of  things to come.  Still freezing, Glyn, Chadders and myself started to trot down the hill, which was a bit boggy and subsequently slippery.  Today’s moment of hilarity soon followed as Glyn slipped, sidestepped, slipped, sidestepped, slipped and sidestepped, then did a pirouette of the path and into the marsh grass.  Creased up with laughter I was almost too breathless to shout and ask if he was ok.  Chuckling back, he said he was and trotted off.  Four steps later and he was slipping and ended on his backside.  Cue some more light-hearted banter and more chuckling.  Up Glyn gets and another six steps and there was a thud and off Glyn slid, with some bog surfing action off down the hillside.  No banter or chuckling this time, and Glyn had a serious look on his face but he got up and we carried on.  We were coming down towards a road, before turning left down the road, then after half a mile it was off over Pen-Y-Ghent, which wasn’t a good proposition in these conditions.

We caught up with a guy walking who had a monstrous pack on his back and it turned out he was walking the Pennine Way.  Glyn, Chadders and I had a quick chat about skipping the top at Pen-Y-Ghent and taking an alternative route which was far less exposed.  Sam caught up and shouted ‘ three words “No, Pen-Y-Ghent”.  It wasn’t the time to question whether this was two, or four, words rather than three, so we waited until Andy arrived and explained the plan.

Without labouring the point, we skipped the top, and took a slightly lower level route to get back to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.  All very cold, and very very wet.  It’s amazing how soon you forget how bad you felt things were, and once we were sat in a cafe with a pint of tea, and a bowl of hot soup, the world was a better place.

The realisation for me kicked in once we’d finished our soup.  I imagined how we would feel if we were on the Spine Challenger event in January with 108 miles to complete so I said to Andy, come on then, only another 90 miles to go.  That thought is a tough one.

20130428-202214.jpg

 

 

 

 

Well this week we may have seen a turning point in the comp with Chris posting a zero loss/gain and the rest of the guys all posting losses!

Wayne and I posted a 2lb loss and Glyn just the one but with Chris staying the same it narrows the gap………a little.

A couple or three weeks like this one over the remaining time until the end of the challenge and that gap could shorten further.

See full results below:

iwaheyin 23042013

 

To be kept up-to date on this and other news from the ultramadness team be sure to follow the blog by subscribing at the top of the page!

Till next time, keep on running…….

Here is one of my 1st ever Ultras and write ups! Seems such a long time and many many miles ago but still quite fresh! Enjoy.

July 29th 2011 was here and I found myself pitching my tent on John Ruskins School on the back straight of the 400m running track! It had been around 10 months since I decided to enter the Lakeland 50 Ultra Marathon race and I now had less than 24hrs to wait till the preverbal hit the fan!!!

My registration was done totally on a whim, alone and having ever only run around 21 miles in just over 5hrs on some very flat terrain around my home town of Harrogate. There were lots of gets outs along the route, only ever 3 miles from my house and 3 spaniels to pull me along!!! It was fair to say I was so far out of my league it was beyond comprehension.

On top of this I registered whilst sofa bound recovering from a hernia operation which had me laid up for 2 months!

So my regime took an immediate hit, Christmas came and went with little or no training and my 1st recce and indeed 1st real run was lined up for the end of March, Ambleside to Consiton!

Id previously arranged to do this recce in February with Nick Smith and Deborah Goodall which had been arranged by Anna Barker although sadly Anna had to pull out of the recce and indeed the whole Lakeland event due to illness!

It was with great disappointment that I too was unable to attend that recce. In hindsight his was quite handy as it snowed but due to damaging my back in a mountain bike fall there was no way i could run. I actually spent the following 6 weeks receiving treatment from my Chiropractor around 3 times a week just to get me back in shape.

I think it is fair to say that at this up to this point my preparation really wasn’t going very well!

So from a pretty much standing start and on a beautiful sunny March Sunday morning we set off from the Lakes Runner and headed out of Ambleside. This was the start of my Lakeland 50 journey!

Id noticed that when I 1st arrived in Coniston for that recce and looking at all the other runners I was so the odd one out I was almost reluctant to get out of the car. However my saving grace was my trainers. Id noticed at least two other people had the same ones as me so I at least had something right. It wasn’t much but it was something and out of the car I got!

From the start in Ambleside I arrived in Coniston some 4 and half hours later in disbelief and overwhelming elation that id completed it. My motto around everything i’ve done regarding the Lakeland & other events was to enjoy and not endure.

I didn’t care how long or where i came amongst the other runners, this was about the journey and enjoying the ride! I’d certainly done that on this lovely spring morning.

So my training for the event had begun and a mental target had been set, extended, changed again and finally settled at completing the event between 15 and 20 hours! Now im not built like a runner and certainly carry more weight than your normal runner but i was full of good intentions to train hard and do what i could to prepare myself for 50 long hard miles.

I took part in the recces from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside where I met & laughed far too much with Wayne Singleton and Liz Beavis that constitutes training and Ambleside to Coniston the following day. I finished this section of the recce with Sam Blackburn and Maxine Grimshaw and covering 43 miles in 2 days this was the furthest id travelled on my feet in two days! This recce was an amazing weekend and it  was great to hook up with some good friends along the way!

Id also completed some unofficial recces of our own with great support and fun from Nick & Deborah. These included Howtown as far as Kentmere, I was actually headed toward Ambleside but after running out of water and likely daylight I decided to hitch to the pub with a couple of Brummies instead and had an amazing discussion with a woman on a bus from Staveley to Ambleside. I was to hook up with them back in Ambleside who’d made the full distance and rewarded themselves with treats in Esquires.

My running had come on leaps and bounds but I really struggled with my legs and couldn’t master the downhill’s as well as my running partners had.

We also managed a night recce of Tilberthwaite to Consiton as it was our expectation that we would be doing this section in the dark come the event. Turns out this was a total misestimation for me!! The run was great and I was pleased to keep up with my partners and enjoyed running at night.

Id also completed the Osmotherly Phoenix 17 as a recce of our own with Deborah and my dog Dibble. We managed to cover over 18+ miles which gives an indication of my navigational prowess. Again my running had improved and getting time on my feet and miles under my shoes was proving to be so valuable.

The 17 mile recce was in preparation for the Osmotherley Marathon proper in early July. My 1st ever Marathon!

It was on completion of this in just over 7hrs that I tapered down my training and prepared for the event proper! I managed a few 3-4 miles runs in the weeks running up to the main event but nothing greater.

So here i was and only a few minutes away from watching the Lakeland 100’s setting off in the glorious sunshine. I had made many friends along the way and also had my support in the form of Sarah and Rachel who had fully embraced the experience by booking into a B&B instead of camping with me!

That night i got around 3hours sleep and rose to have some breakfast and get ready for the event. My pack was sorted, around 5-6lbs or about 2.5kg

I boarded the coach after the briefings and last minute check of kit and we set off for Dalemain.  The coach journey seemed to take an age, not great after taking on a LOT of water which resulted in the biggest communal toilets against the fence when we got there.  So finally we reached the estate to see a lot of supporters to see us of and 100’s of runners itching to get started.

Sarah and Rachel had installed themselves to watch the 100 runners come through and see us all off.

It was clear at this point to Sarah that I was incredibly nervous and just wanted to get going. We were late starting by 20 mins or so but the horn blew and we were off on the lap of the estate and away down to Pooley Bridge. The feeling was amazing and i hooked up with some friends i met on the recces. Sam, a great chap, and I ran for a small distance and I passed Maxine who id covered a lot of the double recce weekend with. In fact we all finished the recce weekend together running down the Coppermines to the finish!

I covered the Dalemain estate in much quicker time than I expected to and was doing ok in the amazing weather but tremendous heat! Running down by the river provided some shelter and cooler air.

The support we all got through Pooley Bridge was fantastic, as was to be the support all the way around the event. Sarah, Rachel and new recruit Chris were by the side of the road to scream and cheer us through. This was amazing and really spurred me on, only after stealing a kiss from Sarah to send me on my way toward Howtown.

Id struggled on this section before, especially pulling up Elderbank but i reached the cairn in much better time and enjoyed the run down under the crags into Howtown checkpoint. I had some good cake and a banana and lots of juice. I refilled my water to be greeted by Deborah who asked what the hell i was doing there in front of her! Debs was of much greater pace than i and i was as shocked to be in front of her!

I left the checkpoint to tackle the highest point of the 50 and indeed the 100 route. It was a hard climb up onto Wether Hill to High Kop at over 2,000ft! I eventually scaled this, all be it at a very slow pace and across and down Brampton Common to the banks of Haweswater. I’ve never liked this section of the course as it seems to drag for an age, is tough on my feet and the run down to it always effects my legs terribly and sets the tone for the remainder of the course.

The long pull up to High Kop had taken its toll on my water supplies too and as I made my way beneath Laythwaite Crags toward Flakehow Crag I ran out!

Thankfully I knew how far it was till Mardale check point but didn’t like not having any water, especially in the heat! It was lack of water that had forced me to hitch from Kentmere on the recce in April, this wasn’t about to happen again! Regardless I cracked on as fast as i could and headed toward the Rigg and it was here i had a wobble. The lack of water and my poor food intake, virtually nothing since Howtown, was taking its toll. Before the right turn before the wood i felt very dizzy and nauseous. I was worried i was going to be sick and faint and was worried that if i did id be pulled from the race. I took a few moment to compose myself, reminded myself how far the the checkpoint was and headed for it.

I started to dream of Coca Cola and what i would eat should i arrive victorious back at Coniston before 12 noon on Sunday! This was crazy as I was way less than half way.

When i saw the check point at Mardale Head i knew I was ok, although this was still over a mile or so away. I tried hard not to look up too much at Gatesgarth Pass as i arrived and gulped down the cola and jelly beans which were gratefully received. I took some soup and propped myself on the wall for 10 minutes or so and tried to regain myself.

After the recharge I pulled up from the wall and swung my pack on, thanked the guys for their support and headed up toward the pass. This would be my 3rdtime of tackling Gatesgarth and on my 1st ascent of the 1800ft pass I must have stopped a dozen times! The 2nd time I tackled it only 2 or 3 times & on this, the most important ascent, I was to only stop once!

I made good progress up the Pass the the 1st plateau and upon seeing the 2ndclimb i laughed out loud as id forgotten about this bit! Still, I re gained my rhythm and cranked the steps out. I came across Dave from the Darwen Runner. (It was his running club that manned the CP at Tilberthwaite)

We made the summit together and carried on over the top and down towards Longsdale. Dave’s pace was good, too good for me and I let him go ahead, I was conscious of not wanting to go too fast and burning out.

As I got to the head of Longsdale and the route levelled out I got a 2nd wind and started to run toward Sadgill. To my amazement I felt as fresh as when I was running round Dalemain and was passing a great number of people who had overtaken me on the descent.

I made Sadgill in good time and excellent spirits and headed toward Kentmere.  As I made my way into Kentmere i was caught by Sam whom id last seen at Mardale Head and was a way behind me going up Gatesgarth. Sam too had a great ascent and had made great progress. It was great to see a friendly face as we were also now coming into the night section arriving at Kentmere at 9:30!

As I entered the checkpoint i was greeted by my recce partner Nick, my delight in seeing him turned to horror as I realised he should have been way ahead of me by a good number of hours. He’d had some difficulty on Gatesgarth Pass with being sick and losing a lot of fluid. He’d been well looked after at Kentemere, so much so he spent a couple of hours there! It was about to get worse as I made my way into the checkpoint for fruit smoothies pasta and biscuits I saw another familiar face in Deborah looking very glum in the corner. Again Deborah should have been hours ahead of me but had suffered in the heat and also had been diagnosed with trench foot on what was one of the hottest days of summer in the Lakes! Whilst pleased to see these two I was massively disappointed for them as there races had been shattered!

Whilst i was grabbing some pasta yet another friendly voice shouted there you are, where’ve you been all day you fu%%er! Wayne, who id met on the last recce, was running with Glyn and Liz but sadly Liz had dropped out at Howtown. Id expected to run with them, hence the greeting, but with Liz not being well id made good progress and got ahead. Wayne and Glyn had done extremely well to get to Kentemere in the time they did.

Sam and I had agreed to do the next section together and in doing so followed Nick & Deborah and Glyn and Wayne up and over Garburn and potentially head into Ambleside together as they all set off a little while ahead of us.

We’d left Kentmere with a target of hitting Ambleside at midnight.

Garburn Pass was ok and it was good to have people to talk to, Wes had now joined us and he was struggling with his feet. So much so he dropped out at the next CP. This section was OK, all our feet were hurting, a blister was forming on my right foot and the plates of my feet felt bruised. With every step and twist of my foot the pain was very evident. We negotiated the pass and Skelghyll Wood and descended into Ambleside a little after midnight. It was at this point I realised we’d set off 20mins late at Dalemain so I was in fact just inside my target time!

It was great to see Sarah, Rachel and Chris along with Deborah and Nick. It’s amazing what a huge hug and a rewarding kiss can do in the middle of the night after 36 miles! From Sarah, not Chris!

Sadly it was here that Deborah had to pull out after her gargantuan effort given her feet and issues with the heat etc. Nick on the other hand had been reborn and ran off into the night making excellent progress all the way to finish and claiming his medal! He left around 15 mins ahead of me yet finished hours in front, well done Nick, truly amazing and you SHOULD be doing the 100 next year!!!

So after a good rest at Ambleside and catching up with everyone we set off toward Coniston for the last 16 miles.

The temperature had dropped dramatically and I added a layer or two. We steadily jogged out of Ambleside, through the park, over the river and made our way to Skelwith Bridge.

It was here we took a couple of brief wrong turns towards Elterwater and onward to Chapel Stile. We made the checkpoint around 3am and were greeted with a very warm welcome, juice, soup and a rewarding cup of tea. The chimnea was also very welcomed as the temperature had swung by around 11 degrees from during the day and upon finally leaving id donned my jacket and hat to keep warm.

It wouldn’t be long now before dawn but until then it would remain cold. We made our way along Great Langdale Beck under the Lingmoor Fell and finally made it up to Blea Tarn. We’d seen a few head torches off the main route along the way.

Making our way under Hollin Crag we hugged the fern to avoid the bog, this didn’t work. Down toward Castle Howe my feet were really feeling it and starting to be quite painful. One last pull to Ruestone Quarry up to High Tilberthwaite and down to the checkpoint at Tilberthwaite I knew we were going to make it.

The short walk on the road to the checkpoint was starting to be agony and being able to sit down for ten minutes and have a brew made all the difference.

Sam and I set off to the finish some 3 miles away and began the ascent up them bloody steps to Tilberthwaite Quarry. We followed Crook Beck and made a fantastic pace up to the summit and didn’t break stride all the way, one thing on our minds to get to the top and start the descent to the finish. We completed this section in not much over the time id done on the night recce which was amazing.

We had the descent down to the Coppermines, my feet were burning now, and onto the track into the village. We upped the pace and ran down to the main street where we were met by applause from the people on the streets wh knew what we’d been through. We passed the pubs, over the bridge and toward the school.

Turning into the road to the finish I could see Deborah, Chris, Rachel and Sarah waiting for us which was amazing. We made the finish and dibbed in to stop the clock on 19hrs and 22 mins, inside the 20hrs id targeted and in 342ndposition!

We quickly went inside to be weighed, get our split times and of course our finisher’s medal!

Once wed done all this I made my way outside to Sarah and Rach. It was here the emotion of the whole event and indeed the journey id taken hit me! Trying to hold back the tears over the top of Tilberthwaite had been hard however I wasn’t so fortunate this time the emotion took over!

Sam had made his was out of the hall with his medal and we stood very proudly with the memento of our achievements.

I entered this event to be a challenge of the mind, the body and the soul. The last 50 miles, 19hrs and 22 mins had certainly been a challenge of the body; the time from me entering the event had been a challenge of the mind and soul. My journey was complete!

Had I not met the amazing people along the way, Nick and Deborah, whom id done a lot of my training and recces with and who’d also offered me so much encouragement. Sam who was the 1st person I met on the very 1st recce id taken part in and finally crossed the finish line with. Maxine whom id struggled round with on the double recce weekend and Wayne and Liz who id had such a laugh with also on that weekend this journey would have been very different.

The organisation of this event is second to none, Terry and Marc did an amazing job and of course their team from the recces to the event itself. The undertaking is massive and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Many many thanks to you all for such fun and enjoyment in what was one of the most enjoyable yet painful experiences of my life!

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http://connect.garmin.com/activity/103304196

A recce of two halves…..

Sunday 14th April saw a very early start to meet the rest of the crew at Hawes which we only just made. After a near head on collision with a VW Golf coming toward us  very much on the wrong side of the road was maybe just a sign of things to come……well read on.

We met the boys and ditched the motor at Hawes and made our way to Horton-In-Ribblesdale. The Cumbrian collective at this point were amazed at the value for money car parking charges being only £3.50 for the day.  Half the price than in the Lakes!!! #yorkshire #yorkshire #yorkshire

Upon our arrival at Horton the weather was overcast with a breeze and all was looking good. More astonishment at the car park charges, this time £4.00, but more still more than agreeable for a good day out and a bit like a buy one get one free but across the border.

So which way, amazingly the 1st place we went was to the pub, well the car park of the Crown to where we picked up the Pennine Way. These were to be out first tentative footsteps of what will be our 108 mile epic in January 2014.

We made or way along the Pennine Way and the route which is well signposted and good underfoot all the way to Birkwith Moor and the edge of the forests. We crossed a stream or two and despite having waterproof socks on I was ridiculed for leaping these to ensure I kept my feet dry.

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We’d been doing some good map reading tests along the way following our navigation session with Charlie Sproson, Director of The Outdoor Warehouse, to ensure we knew where we were and paying much needed attention of our surroundings, height and picking up locations across the valley to make sure we worked our timing out from point to point.

We could see the snow capped iconic Yorkshire 3 Peaks, Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside. We were also able to see the weather that was chasing us along our route, it didn’t look good.

Our pace was good and Crossing Sike Moor to join with the Dales Way we made great progress up Oughtershaw Side and on toward Dodd Fell. It was here the Cumbrians made good decisions and donned full waterproofs.

THE SECOND HALF

I was sporting a couple of base layers and my new Montane Minimus Smock (review to follow), full length A400 Skins, waterproof socks with Injini liners and my Inov8 295’s. Despite the fact that the wind had whipped up to what felt like gale force and the rain had started I was still toasty warm and didn’t feel I needed my waterproof trousers which were in my pack.

As we followed the track under the summit of Dodd Fell we had to negotiate to snow drifts that were covering the track. In places we were knee deep and underneath was either ice trying to bring us down or deep freezing puddles.

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I had my Kahtoola spikes in my pack but these wouldn’t have been much use as they would have clogged up with the snow being very wet as now the rain which was near horizontal was turning to hail and was making things pretty miserable.

A couple of slips on the ice jarred a few muscles trying to stay upright, much to the amusement of the rest of the boys, and battling our way through the drifts was using all our muscles. This went on for around 2/3 miles!

Working our way along the track towards Ten End seemed to take and age only to be made much much worse by my lace loops snapping causing my shoe to start working loose. I had spare laces in my 1st aid kit and also as a lanyard for my compass (just in case) but on this occasion this wasn’t the issue and the only thing that would have worked was duct taping my shoe to my foot had it got any worse. Note to self wrap some around my bottle just in case!!!

So the rain, which had now got even harder and colder had run down my jacket sleeves and soaked my gloves, it was also so loud on my hood despite my hat that we were unable to hear one another over the noise.

As we topped out at Ten End and crossed Sleddale Pasture I stopped to put on my Berghaus Vapour Storm jacket. For once id acted before I needed to, more as prevention on this occasion, as I was still quite warm but there was zero let up in the rain and I wanted to make sure I didn’t start to get cold. Wayne reminded me to eat here and I popped another chunk of Chris’s amazing Granola! 

What id noticed was that despite my waterproof socks my feet felt very wet. What I hadn’t noticed is that the fierce rain/hail had saturated my skins and was running down my legs, into my socks and in turn was filling them up! Even worse tho was I had bloody cankles!

Now this is an ongoing discussion amongst the Ultramadness team and I was happy to be proved wrong in saying that the waterproof socks/shoes are great, until you get water in them! Water can get in from crossing a river and going over the top of the socks and it being unable to escape, this can cause all sorts of issues if this is for a period of time.

So now I was running in a loose shoe and  waterproof socks with a pint of water in each that had run down my saturated skins! BRILLIANT!!!

Now had I put my waterproof trousers on there would have been no issue at all but as I wasn’t anywhere near cold I simply didn’t feel the need. Even when I stopped to put my GORE-TEX jacket on putting on my over trousers hadn’t even crossed my mind!

Never would I have thought my socks were going to fill with water in such a fashion so less an error more something to think on for next time!

So on we went descending into Hawes. The pasture was very wet and extremely slippery. Normally a fun trot down but my loose shoe was causing my foot to move in my wet sock and cause an issue. I knew we had maybe 3km to go at this point so we cracked on but any longer would be an issue for sure.

Chris had hit the deck 3 times coming down the descent. Fortunately he was able to control these and not aggravate his dislocated shoulder from a trot in the Lakes earlier in the year where he’d slipped on the ice coming down Red Pike above Buttermere in January!

We hit the road and the slipping in the shoe was starting to takes its toll and I felt some blisters forming. Having run down the hill with less coordination than usual had also started to worsen a lower back issue, thankfully only a dull ache was to be the issue! A trip to my Chiropractor to line me back up before our training starts proper is likely required to make sure this doesn’t get any worse, especially as we’ll be carrying so much more weight on the Spine!

We made it back to the car and changed into some warm clothes. My socks were emptied and a ridiculous amount of water was in them. Jury’s still out on this one boys but ill be giving them another go but im really not sure!

This recce had been really valuable for a number of reasons. My base layers, a Rab AEON  ls t-shirt, Montane Bionic t-shirt and Montane Minimus Smock had worked brilliantly with gloves and hat. I’ve been happy with my Skins and shorts for a while now but I’ve still to sort my socks out yet!

I made a sensible decision in putting on my GORE-TEX jacket before I’d needed too and the rain running into my socks was something id never ad even thought about so this had been a valuable lesson! Would anyone else have expected this?

I also had a spare thermal base layer in my pack had I needed it and my RAB Generator insulated smock so things are looking good as to finalising my kit for the Spine Challenge proper! Spare gloves, waterproof, and a spare hat and im pretty good to go in the clothes department.

We’ve a recce from Edale – Wessenden Head planned for the end of April so more fine tuning im sure but all in all a very eventful but invaluable first recce.

Next time we’re on this leg we hope to be finishing the Spine Challenge. It will be very dark, likely we’ll be ridiculously tired, and I suspect very emotional and willing our bodies the last 14 miles to Hawes!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/297840807

 

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Hey, weight up……………..and down!!!!

Well for this weeks eagerly anticipated weigh in it appears that lbs amongst the Ultramadness team are like corporate shares, they can go up as well as down!

After what was an awesome recce at the weekend covering the Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes section (more to follow) we were all keen to see the effects at today’s weigh in. Especially after Chris’s Ultra Fueling granola experiment!

Well Chadders, hes a getting bit boring now, continues to steam ahead with an amazing 10% loss since we began the challenge and posts yet another loss this week.

I too have managed a small loss which bucks my trend having only gained once in the last 12 weeks. I’m currently posting a total loss of just under 4%

Wayne has maintained equilibrium this week and sits at an overall loss of 1.4% which has Glyn close behind, following a small gain, with an overall loss at a rounded 1%!!!!

16042013

…….. so on we go to next week.

Stay tuned to see if we can catch Chris or if he starts to slip back a little bit.

Better still be sure to follow the blog by entering your email for all the updates as they are posted as we’ve some more recce’s, wild camps and a few races coming up.

Till next time……

Ultra Fueling

Having now had the experience of a few ultras and heading into some longer event its about time I got my act together so far as eating on the hoof.
With all the effort been put into health eating and weight loss, (which I appear to be doing rather well in !!!!) I need to make sure that I’m getting enough to eat on route but without killing all the hard work.
With the upcoming Spine route recci it was the perfect time to see what worked.

Im not a fan of really sweet sugary jelly sweets that give you a quick boost but for me just don’t sustain any prolonger energy, savoury foods work well for me but can be a burden to carry and keep in a good condition, so I decided on having a go at making my own Granola.
A trip to the supermarket and an hour in the kitchen resulted in a tray of Low Fat Granola been removed from the oven.
After cooling It was tested by the whole family with lots of Hmmmm’s all round even from the kids.

Armed with four bags each containing two pieces it was an early morning start to meet the Ultramadness gang out at Hawes, another short drive allowing for car logistics and we were at Horton-in-Ribblesdale with a vehicle back in Hawes for our return journey.

Granola handed out and off we set, a couple miles in and consciously trying to remember to eat a little but often it wasn’t long before we were trudging up hill and the perfect opportunity for tucking into my first piece, WOW sweet enough for that instant hit, chewy but easy to swallow even when breathing a little harder from the uphill effort, tasty and filling enough to feel like I’d eaten something of substance without that overly full feeling.

The noises been made all round seemed to indicate I wasn’t the only one happy with the Granola !!

Todays test was very positive for me, I wasn’t flagging or energy sapped by the end and most importantly my stomach agreed with the contents consumed .

Next I need to have a think and see if there’s health savoury option to be made and tested!!

Low Fat Granola Ingrediants
1 Cup Bran Flakes
1 Cup Multigrain Cherrio’s
1 Cup Rice Crispies
1 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Sugar Free Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Low Fat Peanut Butter

Additional ingredient optional, add to your own taste, I included
Peacan Nuts
Sunflower Seeds
Cranberrys

Place cereals and oats into a large zip lock freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin
Remove from bag and place in a large mixing bowel
Add additional ingrediant and mix thoroughly
Soften peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds and add to to the bowel along with maple syrup, again mix thoroughly

Pre heat oven to 200 C

Spread mixture evenly in a shallow tin and place in centre of oven for 20 min

After 20min remove from oven and cut into bite size or bar size pieces as you require, return to oven for a further 15 min.

If you like your Granola slightly soft and chewy remove it from the oven after 15min and allow to cool naturally, if you like it harder / crunchy switch the oven off after 15min and allow the granola to cool inside the oven.

Tune in for next weeks weigh -in to see the effects of Low Fat Granola !!!!!!!

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