Category: Events


Dragon’s Back 2015 – Ras Cefn Y Ddraig

Something’s not right…

I’ll get the negative one out of the way first and look at what went wrong… there is much to say thats positive about this incredible event/experience but i’ll post that separately.

It was early on that i started getting indications that something was up. I’d teamed up with Lou at the start as we had done Joe’s nav training together recently and had a similar pace. Except that wasn’t to be the case today.

Going up one of the first major (!) climbs of Conwy mountain (not major, its a lump)  i couldnt get my breathing together. In my head, this should have been a warm up, get into a rhythm and then start to enjoy myself. But i couldn’t keep up with Lou as my legs wouldnt move. Joe Faulkner and Mark Rawlinson went past us and Lou was keen to keep up with them but i couldn’t and she slowly started to drift away from me. As did everyone else. Over time and into the clag, i settled in to being on my own.

As i climbed i still couldn’t get moving so i got my poles out and settled into walking. I couldn’t get any rhythm going uphill and kept having to pause to breathe and sort myself out. The flatter stuff was ok though and i could move marginally quicker. The higher i got, the more the wind picked up and the murkier it became. Then the hail and rain came in and i started shivering. Out with the hat, buff, waterproof trousers and merino gloves. Still cold. On with the Montane Prism mitts. Still cold. Get the food down – 9-bar, 2 babybel, 4 Shotbloks. Still cold. Try and move a bit quicker. Where’s the path gone. Check the bearing. There’s a steep drop off to the left so keep it there! Casting around for checkpoints felt like i was walking around in circles in the murk. And every now and then the sky got darker which didn’t help my mood. Then the icing on the cake – i look back at my compass and there’s a huge air bubble in it and the needle is spinning (or so i thought at the time).

I’ll leave the moaning there but all of the above added up for me and then i saw the re-supply point in the valley below me. And the climb up Tryfan on the other side. I think that’s when it was over for me (if it wasn’t before!)

I was asked a number of times what was wrong and i think i repeated the same thing over and over ‘something’s not right’. I do recall being confused a fair bit between checkpoints 6 and 9. And my recollection is hazy.

Liz has shown me my gps track which looks like i was doing pretty well on the nav. But this wasn’t the case in my head or on the ground.

I’ve learnt much from the experience. And my confidence in navigation has improved dramatically now, or it will once i get a new compass.

Next blog will be about the amazing experience that i had, as despite the above, and my disappointment, it has been an amazing few days in Wales.

www.dragonsbackrace.com

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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 – 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.

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!!

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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!

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

See you on the 25th!!!

Lakeland 50, the tale of the tape…..

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.
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……

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

 

 

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.

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!

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150254743142638.325142.593137637&l=6b4c16545d&type=1

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

After the MdS – recovery and post-race reflection

Sunday 15th April – Presentation Day

After one of the most incredible nights sleep ever, i awoke with a hunger i’d never had before.  Breakfast time.  Lots of it.  On top of more food, followed by more.  This was to become a theme for the following few days, and possibly weeks, as my body re-stocked and replenished.  I’d become incredibly lean over the course of the MdS, probably as a result of not eating enough.  Eventually we finished breakfast, and it was to be a wander down to the Hotel Cos to pick up our race t-shirts and have a wander round buying goodies from the MdS boutique.

We got to the Hotel Cos and joined the queue, which was out of the door, and looked like it was going to mean a long wait.  I don’t think it’s worth spending a load of time on the ‘queue incident’, other than to say our British patience was tested one last time by the French organisation, which i truly believe almost resulted in a riot as the boutique was closed to encourage us to go and watch the awards ceremony.

We eventually got our goodies, including the incredible, bright yellow, finishers t-shirt, which i wouldn’t take off for some time, and the grey MDS tshirt i bought, which often ends up stinking as i refuse to wear a great deal else.

I went down to the awards with Beavis and mum and we sampled the fruit juices that were on offer (incredible) and the Sultan mint tea which had been on offer throughout the week.  We spent a bit of time at the awards ceremony before getting bored and deciding to have a wander round the shops to buy some bits for the kids and ourselves.

The shopping was to be almost as much of an adventure as the race, with bartering, negotiation and being blatantly ripped off all being part of the fun. There were some real characters in the shops around the Cos, and it was a great experience to spend time in their shops, although Beavis and mum felt a bit threatened and overwhelmed a couple of times.  It came to the point that my stomach decided i needed further refuelling, so off we went to find somewhere to eat.

I could labour the story here, and it has felt like i have a bit.  But there are a few things more to tell.  Without going into loads of detail….

I nearly paid 135 Euros for three pizzas and three drinks

We went and had some beers by the pool (not allowed in the pool due to manky feet though)

I felt incredibly sad as Beavis and mum left me to go home.  It was a really weird sense of loss, and i don’t think i got to spend enough time with them in Morocco, mostly due to circumstance.  It was very weird having family there, but i’d recommend it to everyone to have someone share that experience

After they left I had another pizza

I sat for a while in the sun, then it was time for dinner, lots of it.  We also had beer, only a couple

 

Monday 16th April – Homeward Bound

The last leg of the adventure, or so i thought at the time, was the journey home.  We were up horrendously early, and hopped on the first bus, which meant front of the queue, as we’d been warned it could be a nightmare.  Turned out that our plan was a good one, as we got to lounge around the airport, while everyone else milled around stood up trying to get checked in.

I caused a bit of a worry for the guy in the cafe after i asked for a tea, rather than everyone else who was wanting coffee.  I got personal waiter service, by a guy who brought me traditional mint tea which was amazing.  As we sat waiting to board, the only entertainment was the flood of coffee that was emerging from under the counter of the cafe and spreading its way gradually across the floor of the ‘lounge’.

As i boarded, i sat down and said hi to the guy next me.  I noticed that he was wearing a Lakeland 50 t-shirt from 2011, so we had a chat about that experience as well as the MdS.  We both commented on how small the ultra-running community was.

I again made the most of the time to snooze on the way back as always, emerging from sleep only to adjust in the seat and try my best not to let my legs go numb.  As the flight went by, it was both entertaining and disturbing to see the cripples passing by on the way to the toilet.  This didn’t bode well for what was to come

We eventually got diverted to Luton, as a Virgin plane had been evacuated at Gatwick and the runway had been closed.  It turned out we weren’t the only ones to have been diverted though and the queues for immigration were quite something.  There was much banter going on as we stood waiting, and all the holiday makers were looking at us strangely, most of us wearing our finishers t-shirts.  Again, there were mini adventures at the airport, but the important story has been told now, so:

Ash and I got a taxi to Milton Keynes, which cost £60 – i just wanted to get home

I hopped on a train to Crewe, not knowing if my ticket was actually valid, but not particularly caring by then – turned out all was fine

I got to Crewe and sat around for a while, not particularly enjoying the experience. It was bloody freezing after Morocco

I got home, to what felt like a hero’s welcome.  It’s true what they say, there’s no place like home, and was good to be there.

I’m not sure i unpacked as soon as i got home, but when i did, everything stank of the stuff used to clean our feet in the desert.  Some of my kit still stinks of it now.  I wasn’t sure that some of the kit would be useable again, but most of it has survived and has been cleaned!

And i ate. A lot. And had some drinks

Tuesday 24th April and onwards – return to ‘normality’

It’s been pretty weird since returning.  Some of the people i’d spoken to who’d done the MdS before, said to prepare for feeling depressed.  I’m not sure that i’ve been depressed, but it has been different that’s for sure.

I’ve felt empty, but not in a bad way, just at peace.  It was as though all the thoughts i had, had been thought through, leaving my head empty.  It’s been a very cool experience feeling like that and has gradually faded.  I think that this might be the reason people return to the desert or feel that their souls have been cleansed.  Another phrase that i’ve heard used is that they’ve been re-set by the experience, which i think could be true also.  This all seems a bit like spiritual toss, but I’ve spoken to a few people who understand so i guess you can’t know until you’ve experienced it

I’ve felt incredibly proud of what i’ve achieved, but at the same time can’t understand some of the awe from people i’ve spoken to about what I’ve done.  I don’t feel anything other than normal and truly believe that anyone can do what i have done.  You just have to want to do it enough.  If you want to do something like this, you will

I’ve had nightmares about being back in the desert.  In the weeks following my return, i awoke a couple of times, bolt upright, with my heart pounding, screaming inside NO, I CAN’T DO ANOTHER STAGE.

Recovering has been something else.  Within a week of returning i felt that i could have run again, but i didn’t.  Indeed it took me too long to return to running properly for a number of reasons.  It did feel good to run without purpose, and without HAVING to train, and without crying with exhaustion.  This feeling hasn’t lasted though, and i have struggled with my running mojo and lacking direction

I ate like a horse for quite a while, putting on all of the weight that i lost, and too much besides.  It’s a fine balance between replenishing and becoming a chubber

I have been reminded of what we take for granted and what are the simple things in life – shower, rain, colours, a toilet.  I still love all of these things, particularly rain.  I dreamt and wished for Cumbrian rain for a full week in the desert, and i love it for that reason and many others.

I miss the silence!  The biggest thing i miss from the desert is the silence.  There was rarely any noise except wind and the talking of fellow runners.  It’s incredible how noisy our lives are every day, from things like PC’s, TV’s, phones, cars, air conditioning.  All of these things make constant noise, and it’s unusual that we ever escape from these things in our normal lives now.  I found it difficult to deal with noise on a good few occasions, and found refuge on the fells far away from traffic.  Over the summer following the MdS, i found that closing my eyes while facing the sun, particularly on a breezy day, helped me return to the desert and on a few occasions helped calm down feelings of claustrophobia.  It’s strange that it’s only as i type this that i’ve realised that what i’ve actually been doing.

A number of people have asked what next.  I don’t know.  I don’t think i need to do anything else after pushing myself through this incredible adventure, it’ll be whether i want to do anything else.

 

 

MdS kit checklist – this is the kit that i took with me, and the checklist to confirm i had it all.  Took FAR too much food!  Particularly the sweet stuff, which I ended up binning – some after day 1, the remainder on day 2

Rucksack – Aarn Marathon Magic 33l   Sunscreen  
Sleeping bag – Mountain Equipment Xero   Ibuprofen  
Sleeping mat –   Ibuprofen gel  
Walking poles – Leki   Immodium – around 3 pills per day  
Signal mirror   Paracetomol  
Whistle   Zinc Oxide tape  
Knife   Blister plasters  
Hexy blocks (ordered)   Electrolyte tablets (Nuun)  
Titanium Stove   Chapstick  
Titanium Kettle   Towel  
Spork      
Goggles      
Tyvek suit (binned before starting)      
Anti-venom pump      
Sun hat – Mammut nubian      
Water bottles x 2 – Raidlight 750ml   Toilet roll  
Skins   Toothpaste  
Shorts – Montane Terra   Toothbrush  
Base Layer – Montane Bionic   Wet wipes/wash wipes  
T-shirt – Macmillan charity shirt   Trail mix  
Injinji sock   Pen/?paper/diary  
Cushioned/compression sock – Asics      
Trainers (Inov8 Roclite 295) half size too big   Powdered Milk?  
Gaiters – Raidlight   Tea?  
Montane Oryx jacket   Sugar sachets  
Slippers      
Headtorch with fresh batteries – Alpkit   dessert x 6 – apples and custard, rice pudding with cinnamon  
Spare batteries for camera      
Matches   Dinner food x 6.  Chicken korma, pasta with chicken and vegetables, med veg pasta  
Compass   Breakfast food x 6, porridge with strawberries, porridge with sultanas  
Camera   Frusli x 14? Or flapjack  

 

 

This is what its all about..!!!

The focus behind all our training is to compete in the Dragon Back Race taking place in 2015, and the pre-registration opened on Monday 1st April.

For those who haven’t heard of it before, its a 5 days of Welsh mountain running. Check out there website for further information http://www.dragonsbackrace.com or see it through the eyes of last years competitors and purchase the DVD, featuring a local lad Charlie Sproson, a keen runner & owner of the http://www.outdoorwarehouse.co.uk A one stop shop for all your outdoor mountain, running gear and much more. Check out his website and his great gear reviews.

Anyway, to enter the event, competitors have to express an interest through a web site called sientries. This event uses a pre-selection lists to allocate entries. To get a pre-selection list entry i just entered as normal. No payment is required at this stage as there is no guarantee of being offered a place. If the Event Organiser is able to offer me a place they will send an email inviting me to enter. I would then be asked to come back to this site and make a payment £750.00 to confirm my entry. I think this is a bargain compaired to some other 5 day multiday events that are out there.

This is what sientries have to day about it The legendary Dragon’s Back Race follows the mountainous spine of Wales from Conwy Castle to Carreg Cennen Castle. This incredible 5-day journey is approximately 300 kilometres long with 17,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is not a trail race”.
So on Monday, with a little voice in the back of my mind saying “you must be mad” and a crap internet connection, i log on, then got kicked off, this happened several times, but eventually i was able to express my interest by completing a pre selection list form. This involved naming three Ultra race that i have competed in, three Multiday Races and/ or three Mountain Running Experience races. Also i had to confirm that i am confident travelling through the mountains using a map and compass to navigate. The Dragon’s Back is like the OMM Mountian Marathon (not in distance) in that its not a marked course and it is my responsibility to visit each checkpoint in the correct order. Between now and the 8th September 2014 i can update my race experiences at any point. There is no limit to the number of times i can do this, but after the 8th September 2014 my application will be frozen and it will not be possible to amend it further. Although ive got experience of competing in ultra running races my aim is to compete in more multiday/ mountain running races like The Saunder http://www.slmm.org.uk OMM http://www.theomm.com LAMM http://www.lamm.co.uk & the GL3D http://www.greatlakeland3day.com all fantastic events and worth checking out.
Being as some of these are held in my own backyard it would be rude not to do them. Ill aim to do some of these event between now and Sep 2014, giving updates of my progress as and when.

I would also like to hear your suggestions of other races, whether Ultra, or MM that are taking place around the county that i could check out and maybe put on my list/ enter.

Cheers for now.
Glyn

Ps why not register for regular updates

Instalment 5 – where it goes a LITTLE bit wrong…

Tuesday 10th April – Stage 3, 35 km or 21.7 miles

Same ritual, up at 5ish, try and slumber for another hour while Ash and Paul get their breakfast.  Wake up, sort breakfast.  Big difference today though, i feel that i can do this.  We’ve only got 22 miles to do today, nice easy day in advance of the long one.  I had some blistering on my feet, that i hadn’t had time to sort the evening before due to my late arrival.  I decided i’d make a visit to Doc Trotter at CP1, as it was only 12k and was pretty easy terrain to there, although the words ‘false flat ascent’ in the route book were to become apparent and a bit of an understatement.  Mark D and I said we’d walk together to start off with and did this to CP1.  I popped to Doc Trotter and got my socks off.  Medic asked me to wash my feet with a mix of water and TCP (or similar), which i did, then i showed him what i had – a blister on my right big toe and another on my left big toe.  While he was looking at my feet, he pointed out that i had blisters on both little toes too, as well as one under the ankle of my left foot.  Standard procedure for Doc Trotter with blisters mid-stage – slit blisters with razor blade, drain, inject zinc oxide after looking in your eyes and stating ‘this might burn’, then dress, then nod to runner and said ‘bonne chance’ or ‘bon courage’ or similar.  Runner says thanks, puts socks on, grimaces when putting shoes on, then off you trot.  Mark and I made our way from CP1 to the top of Zireg and saw a dune field ahead or, as the route book describes ‘succession of sandy rises and dips to Km 17’.  We descended from Zireg and down to the dune field and started crossing.  The heat rose as we made our way through the sand.  Mark turned to me and said ‘OK Wayne? I can’t f***ing hear you, as I’ve got my ipod in’, and off he went.  I whispered ‘no mate, i don’t feel well’, and tried desperately to catch up. Five minutes later, Mark turned and shouted ‘Ok Wayne?’ then turned and went on. ‘No mate’ i said to myself, and watched him slowly disappear into the distance.  I didn’t feel right.  And i remembered Rose’s face the previous day on the dried up lake.  It didn’t sink in at the time what was wrong but i knew i needed help.  In the distance was a 4×4 with the medic stood outside, watching competitors go past.  I put some effort into getting to them in order to ask for help.  I got within 100 meters or so, and the medic turned, opened the door, hopped in the truck, and they drove off.  Marvellous.  They stopped again about a half mile away, so i gritted my teeth and dug in, and trudged on.  As i was approaching, the medic turned again, to get into the vehicle, crap. ‘STOP!’, the medic turned round and walked towards me.  ‘are you ok’? she said, ‘no, i don’t feel well’ i said.  She led me round to the sheltered side of the truck and sat me down, taking hold of my arm to support me.  What’s the matter, she asked.  I just don’t feel very well was my response.  She took my water bottle from my hand (one of the 1.5 litre ones, from the last CP), and tipped some diarolyte in it.  Drink, she said as she handed it back.  So i drank a little. Quicker, she said. So i drank a little, and a little more, then retched. More, she said. More i drank, then i retched.  Here, she said, and gave me a little pill.  For the nausea, said another medic that had just arrived.  I took the pill, and drank a little, then retched. More, said medic number two, you need to drink quicker she said. So i took a good glug, then retched again.  One medic under each arm, and i was being marched/dragged towards the only tree visible in the sahara (that’s my story and i’m sticking to it).  By this time, another vehicle had arrived, and the medic (a dentist?!) was attending to the tree, moving bits out of the way, as these ones were bristly, spiky beasts that could do some injury. My two escorts asked me to lie under the tree, then one of them said ‘this will scratch and sting’. What will dammit?!  Ah, the needle in your hand, that’s now in my arm…

Then needle was in arm, bag hung in tree, tube from bag to needle, and i was having an intravenous drip.  I decided it might be a good time for a snooze…

When i opened my eyes, the angel that is Steve was stood there, with a halo (sun behind his head) ‘what the f**k’s happened Wayne’ (not sure he swore, but it adds to the story).

‘I dunno Steve, i just feel ill, can i go home?’.

‘you’ll feel better after this mate’ (exchange in French) ‘you’re having three bags of salt and two of sugar, after that you’ll feel better, you’ll probably start feeling better on bag number four, you’re on three now, when we’re done you’ll probably want to pee a lot as it’s five bags straight where it counts, and you need to think about what you want to eat, you wont want to eat at the moment, but you need to, when you’re done here, you’ll feel great, you’ll fly to the finish’, and, sleep….

‘how you feeling mate’, says Angel Steve

‘well i don’t want to home anymore, so i suppose i’m better’

‘you’re on bag number four now, one more to go’

I looked up and saw the drip hanging in the tree by a contraption cobbled together by some paracord and what looked like a carabiner.  I thought it looked pretty cool, so out came the camera, and i snapped a pic.  Steve asked if i wanted a pic of me, and then Doc Trotter picked the camera from my hand and snapped a couple.  Steve and I were laughing ‘bloody Doc Trotter, stuck needle in my arm, then nicked my camera and took pics of me to add insult to injury’

Then Pablo arrived, the crazy Italian that’s done the Marathon des Sables about 23 times and was very popular with the medics it seemed.  He was trying to get rid of an empty can of Heineken, as he’d just drunk it on top of the jebel.  He asked the medics if they had anything to drink and they began joking about having wine and cheese especially for him.  Bizarrely i think this conversation happened in French and i understood it all.  Then Pablo went and i phased out….

When i woke up, some guy was standing there saying ‘you know it’s a two-hour penalty for having a drip mate’, and Steve responded bluntly with ‘yeah but it’s better than the alternative isn’t it’.  The staff didn’t appear to like this guy much, and i was to find out why a short while later on.  I can’t say i liked him much either, but that story’s to come.

Five minutes later, and my bladder was bursting

‘i need to pee’

‘now?’ said medic

‘no, i can wait until you’re finished’ – bad idea, my bladder nearly exploded by the time the fifth bag had gone in!  Medic took needle out my arm, and strapped some cotton wool on to stop the bleeding.  ‘stand’ said medic #2.  ‘how do you feel’ said Steve.  ‘dizzy. And in dire need of a pee’ i said as i wandered off towards a bush. ‘No’, shouted the medic, ‘other way’.  Then exchange in French, which presumably indicated i was going to urinate, which i promptly did, for about fifteen minutes.  Then i wandered back towards towards the vehicles.  ‘off you go, 18k’, said medic – and pointed down the track. So off i went…

I felt INCREDIBLE, and was rocking along the track.  I caught up with two guys that i found out were called Aaron and Dave and said hi.  I walked alongside them for a while and realised that Aaron was the guy that had helpfully reminded me about the time penalty for the drip.  They were both discussing how, with 18k to go, we couldn’t finish before the cut-off.  I felt really disheartened and disappointed, i couldn’t believe that i would be pulled for being so slow, particularly after having just spent 1.5 hours under a tree with a drip.  But shit happens, nothing i could do about it except trudge on to the next CP.  Then a 4×4 drove up fast behind and slowed down alongside.  The window came down and a head popped out ‘4k guys, we got it wrong, it’s only 4k until the next CP’.  That meant 4k to the next CP, and another 10k to the finish.  I did some quick maths, which is never my strong point, and i figured i could make it, and live to fight another day.  AWESOME!  Aaron said that it didn’t matter, he was going slowly and would wait around at the next checkpoint so they would be pulled/disqualified from the race.  I decided that i couldn’t be bothered with their losing, negative attitude and i got my head down and walked a load quicker, gradually pulling away from them.  I decided that i would put everything into finishing as fast as i could, bearing in mind that the terrain and pack weight mixed with the continued heat, meant that i was doing some fast walking.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being pulled from the race having not put all of my energy and motivation into finishing.  So off i went, with Steve’s words ringing in my ears ‘you’ll fly to the finish’…

Trotting along down the track, then up a mini-jebel, then launching myself off down the sand, i spotted the next CP in the distance.  Then i heard cheering and shouts of ‘Courage’, and ‘Bonne chance’ from above, and looked to see a bunch of staff from the CP cheering me on.  Having a little blub, and feeling incredibly proud, i trotted on to the CP and grabbed my water.  It was across another dried up lake bed then, which was difficult due to the sand being blown across.  Part-way across was Blue, and the pilot was shouting and gesturing ‘gauche, gauche’, so i looked up to see the route markers some way to my left.  I whistled to Pablo, who was around 200m ahead of me.  When he turned his head, i gestured, and he waved to acknowledge me, before moving across to pick up the route.  Shortly after, i passed Pablo and he muttered his thanks.  Next to reel in, were the two guys ahead in pink gaiters – hereafter known as the Pink Gaiter Brigade, who i passed just before the end of the lake.  Then we were onto a ‘road’, and i use the term lightly, which led to an incredible oasis, and an auberge, where the darbaroud staff appeared to be congregating for beers and ice cream (or so i dreamed).

I knew that it wasn’t far to go now, only probably a matter of about three miles, and at least there was plenty of scenery to keep me occupied as i trogged along.  I passed a dilapidated building, with a teddy sat on a ruined wall, and a load of abandoned clothes on the wall.  I wondered what had happened to the people who had once lived there, and stopped to take a couple of pictures before carrying on.  Then i heard a noise behind me and turned to see a three or four year old girl stood in the doorway of the ‘house’.  This was one of the many times that i was struck by the poverty (or apparent poverty) that existed in Morocco, and many of us talked about how people managed to survive or scrape a living in the landscape we were running through.

I carried on along the track and saw the camp in the distance through a sand haze and wondered whether we would be experiencing a sand storm later.  I made it to the end, to rapturous applause (or maybe that’s part of my exaggeration again), and went through the usual processing.  Grabbed my cardboard cup of Sultan tea, have a bit of a drink, wander to the truck for my issue of 4.5 litres water, but this time, i asked them to put two bottles into my rucksack for me – such a genius!.  This left me to carry my tea, and another bottle of water back to the tent.  Wandering back, i got a bit overwhelmed again by everyone congratulating me for being such a slow coach, and felt so proud about what i’d achieved despite a rough day.

Back at the tent, and everyone said they’d be concerned again, which was worsened by the story i then told.  I was really unfair about telling everyone that Mark deserted me, and i hope that he’s seen the jest in what has now become my standard story of events!  I think that this was also the day that Mark R had ended up collapsing at the finish line and ended up in the doc trotter tent for a bit.  The start of the “have you ever had a drip, under a tree, in the sahara? No? Then don’t talk to me about hardcore!” story commenced.

Feed time and i had an awesome chicken korma with rice, followed by rice pudding with cinnamon, and a peperami (not together).  Rich started what was to become a long running joke, by complaining that he had spag bol again, and he hated spag bol.  It seemed that he’d not packed much other than spag bol though!

After scoff, we were having a bit of banter and i started to get worried again about the event, and the next day that was looming.  I got a bit overwhelmed by the distance again, and after i’d fucked up so royally by getting dehydrated, everything was bothering me about drinking enough water, and taking enough salt tablets.

As expected when i’d been coming into the finish, the wind started increasing, and the air started filling with sand.  We tucked into our sleeping bags and tried to cover our exposed skin, which included buffs up over our faces.  I tried to take a few pics of the guys in the tent lying there with eyes closed while we got whipped with the sand.  As i was taking the pics, i could see that we were slowly getting covered with a layer of sand, and i could taste it in my mouth,  We hadn’t quite figured out how to pull the tent front and back down by this stage, so the wind was still blasting through

(In the pic shown with us all tucked up, it’s still daytime, and the flecks in the air are sand, as we were slowly coated)

After a while the wind calmed down, and the sand slowly sank, covering us even more, and the taste of sand and dryness in the mouth was incredible.  I needed to drink if only to wash out some of the sand, but it was SO cold it was unreal.  I could see my breath and reckon it was probably down to about 2 degrees C.  During the night i woke up many times feeling really really cold and shivering almost uncontrollably.  The buff now came in useful to try and keep me warm, rather than just protect me from the sand.  Wriggling down into the sleeping bag, i slept fitfully until the sun came up….

As I write this, I am referring to all the stages of the route book as I go along.  As i opened this stage, a small, perfectly pressed and incredibly dead fly fell out of the pages! ImageImageImage

What a difference a day made…….

Saturday saw me take on the Lakeland Trail 18k at Cartmel followed on Sunday with some navigation training in the snow and claggy conditions above Kendal on Ashstead Fell

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Alternative torch relay makes flying visit to Ripon

I’ve just happened across this story from the 10th July last year from the Ripon Gazette!

Hot on the heels of the official Olympic Torch coming through Ripon, an alternative relay inspired by the original has also graced the ancient city’s streets.

The Endurancelife Real Relay is an exciting attempt to follow the entire route of the official Olympic Torch around the British Isles in one continuous non-stop journey – rather than separate stages.

Featuring hundreds of legs of around 10 miles, the event is raising money for Chicks – a charity providing week-long respite breaks for disadvantaged children from across the UK. It started out from Land’s End at midnight on May 28 – ten days behind the official Olympic Torch – on an 8,000-mile mission to reach London in time for the Olympic Games opening ceremony on July 27.

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The relay arrived outside Ripon Cathedral on June 27 at 7.30am, where Andy Holohan, from Harrogate, handed the torch over to Ann Dale. She ran the next leg, finishing in her home village of Little Ouseburn.

2012 was a great year!

http://www.ripongazette.co.uk/news/ripon/alternative-torch-relay-makes-flying-visit-to-ripon-1-4723137

I used to like looking at maps…..

Well my maps and guide book have arrived for the Spine race.

It’s not a nice read and after I’ve uploaded the GPS file the route looks a little, well shall we say, bumpy!!!!

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Wise words of warning from Jon for the Osmotherley Trail half marathon this weekend…..

“What I ask is that you are sensible!! I ran today in windproof running tights, merino wool base layer, Waterproof jacket, liner and windproof gloves, powerstretch hat and 2 buffs, I was bordering on being pretty darn cold! I carried spare gloves, spare merino top, spare hat, buff etc. If I had twisted my ankle then i felt I only had limited time to get off the hill before hypothermia would set in. I haven’t put this down to put you off or frighten you, I have put this down as a recommendation to wear and carry extra warm gear. A good deal of the Marathon course is exposed with no cover for miles. The winds batter the Cleveland Hills like nobodies business. No nearby mountains or hills to buffer the western and northern winds. In fact I was warmer on Scafell Pike last Saturday evening.

Wear as a minimum, running tights, full sleeved top, carry or wear a waterproof (not just a windproof jacket) gloves, hat and spare kit, no matter how fast you are. if you are super fast have a bad day or injure yourself you are going to be super slow and your body temperature will drop like a pack of cards. if you are mega experienced (really if you are mega experienced, you’ll carry the kit) and don’t think you need warm gear because you have run in the Arctic or Winter Scottish Mountains and its only the North York Moors, think again! underestimate the North York Moors at your peril! Ask any competitor who suffered with hypothermia at the Hardmoors 55 back in 2010 (plenty of very experienced runners experienced the worst weather they had ever ran in)

Okay, so you run on Sunday and you think what the hell was Jon wittering about, its positively tropic here! well I hope you do think that.

I want you to enjoy the race, have an awesome day, happy memories!. I don’t want to see you huddled by the radiator at Osmotherley Village Hall covered in blankets after pulling out of the race at Lords Cafe because you where frozen and close to hypothermia due to running in just shorts a smelly Helly Hansen baselayer and a little bumbag with a binbag as your waterproof and a tatty old pair of gloves. If that’s you by the radiator covered in blankets shivering away, and you ran with just those clothes on in minus figures, then I suggest you hide from me when I come in as I will kick your backside!”

Best pack well, light and run quick then eh……

Hardmoors Osmotherley Trail Half Marathon

That’s it, i’m now in for the Hardmoors Osmotherley Trail Half Marathon running on Sunday with my long time Running pal Deborah!

This will be a gentle trot out, not too fast and get the knees turning again.

Ill be sure to post how we go so be sure to follow our blog by clicking at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MdS 2012 – Instalment 1

Probably best to start the story with the abject terror i felt in the week leading up to the Marathon des Sables, there’s more amusing stories to tell about training for the event, but they’ll wait for later. I’m not sure why i felt so terrified by the event when it came close, but it’s possibly the thought of running 155 miles across the Sahara with a massive rucksack on your back in 40 degree heat (although that was to be a conservative guess!). What follows may be subject to gross exaggeration and may differ mildly from what actually happened – think this is called artistic licence?! On the other hand, most of it as you’ll see, will be graphically truthful (there’s an apology there)

In the end, the event came round incredibly quickly, and the days flew by as i undertook final preparations in blind panic, and tried to ignore last minute ‘advice’ from people on facebook, twitter and friends in person. At this stage, i think that the blind part of blind panic is the best to focus on – ignore everyone and stick with your plan. Unless your plan involves taking debris gaiters to the Sahara rather than sand gaiters of course, in which case (as i did), you’re best to get them sorted pretty sharpish.

The cycle of pack, panic at weight, unpack, try to lose some weight, then repack, went on for a little bit in that final week. Then had to decide which bits of the pack to take as cabin luggage, just in case, as the helpful advice said “hold luggage does go missing”! What? Our luggage might go missing?! Again, best not to think of that.

Thursday 12th April

On the first day i managed to get from the Lakes to Gatwick without a great deal of incident, but then arrived at the check-in desk. ‘sorry sir, we don’t have your details’, says the check-in clerk. ‘Err… what? How’s that possible? I’ve got confirmation details here’ says and panic-stricken Wayne ‘is there another name you could be under’ says he, ‘nope, i’m called Karl Wayne Singleton’ says I, ‘ah, says he, you’re in as Wayne Singleton, not Karl Singleton’ and abruptly beckons me off…. This was to be the start of a bad experience at Gatwick…

Off i trotted to security, and unload my rucksack into one of the trays, along with my belt, money etc, feeling like a good boy. I walked through the gate and went to wait for my rucksack to come through the conveyor, and i waited, and waited, and waited, then a supervisor arrived to speak to the man checking the screen… Then aforementioned supervisor looked round and said ‘who’s this jacket belong to?’, holding up my green berghaus jacket. I could hardly leg it, so i stuck my hand up and said it’s mine. Supervisor said, can you tell me what you think this might be about? With a deep breath i said ‘is it my titanium kettle, that has batteries and shoe laces and my stove inside, and might look a bit bomb-like?’, ‘yes, that might be it’ said supervisor, a few more runners walked past me and shouted ‘you’d best get ready for rubber gloves and lube mate’, to which the security guard responded with ‘we don’t use lube down south mate, it’s only you northerners that get that pleasure’. Good bit of banter from the security team i thought, all things considered. Anyway, they checked my bag with a swab thing, informed me that three other runners had been pulled for carrying knives, checked my medical kit for scissors (rounded ends, so ok), and then let me re-pack my bag.

Shortly after, met the first of my to-be-tent brothers – Mark D from Cornwall. We wandered aimlessly for an age, sat down for an age, had some scoff, wandered around, sat down, wandered around and finally headed for the departure gate after an age of nervous waiting, as well as finding out a fair bit about each other and agreeing to be roomies at the hotel in Ouarzazete. On the way to departure gate, met Ian, that i’d got in touch with through facebook – and his mate Dave – both of whom looked (and turned out to be) ‘fastys’. Eventually we made it on to the plane, and i was sat in the window seat, with the middle seat unoccupied (hurrah shouted my long legs), and the aisle seat occupied by Richard. Over the course of the flight, i snoozed and had some great chat with Richard about his experiences trekking to both Poles, amongst many many other things. The banter on the plane in general was pretty good, and the mood was really positive, as you’d expect when it was full of ultra-fit, ultra-athletes who, after three years of preparing, were off for their adventure. Finally arrived in Morocco, to be met by the awesome (heavy sarcasm) border control. Thankfully i spotted that Richard had a pen, so nicked it in order to fill in the forms, and managed to get through to the baggage carousel really quickly, grabbed my bag which has just appeared, then went to sit on the coach and wait for it to fill before going to the hotel. I later found that my moves had been very well executed as some of the runners had gone on to spend almost three hours at the airport before getting to the hotel!

Arriving at hotel, i nicked a pen (pen’s are very valuable in Morocco, particularly during the MdS it seemed) off the concierge, filled something in, then demanded a room of the harassed staff “where is your room mate” was the response “he’s coming” was mine, “what is his surname”, “good question, i don’t know, he’ll be here in a minute, can i take the key and he’ll be here”, exasperated look from the receptionist and he threw the key at me. He got his own back though, as there appear to have been 575 rooms, and ours was 574, which was around three miles away from reception.

I legged it to the room, dumped my kit, and ran back to Reception to find Mark who walked in two minutes after i got there, out of breath (athlete, good start). ‘What’s your surname mate’, ‘Dymond, with a y’ said my roomy, and off we trotted again to the room. Arriving in the room, we realised that there’d be some discussion over who slept in what bed, one was a camp bed, the other was one of the largest beds i think i’ve ever seen (and subsequently slept in!). ‘Well, you arrived first, so you have the big bed’ said Mark valiantly, ‘cool mate, i’ll take the small bed when we get back, as i’m sure we won’t be arsed about what we sleep in by then’ was my response, and how right i would be!

Mark had found a couple of people to share tent with, and Paul and I had been in touch through Twitter, so that made another two (his room-mate Tony, being the other part of the pair), and i’m not sure how we managed to acquire the final two layabouts, but by the end of the evening, we had a tentful. Paul and Tony popped to our room for a quick chat, which proved one of the first linguistic challenges of the week as they are both from the Midlands and have incredibly strong accents (sorry gents, but you do), and Tony in particular was aware of how misunderstood he was. We eventually went off for dinner, and had to restrain ourselves at the dessert table, as well as avoiding some of the ‘hot’ meat dishes on display as the thought of dodgy guts was too much to bear with an 8-hour coach journey to follow the next day. Quite a few of the athletes made the most of the final night in the bar, but i decided to go and move my kit from suitcase to my Aarn rucksack, which was bulging by the time i’d finished. A restless nights sleep followed, with more terror facing me, and a mid-night awakening of sheer panic again.

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UTMB (Ultra Tour Mont Blanc)


Since the first year, it has been called “the race of all the superlatives” A complete tour of the Mont Blanc Massif, passing through 3 countries: France, Switzerland and Italy, the race that every runner should finish at least once in their life.

I made it through the ballot in 2012 to run the CCC, (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix), the smaller event to the full tour.

The CCC is open to 1900 competitors, covers around 100km and climbs over 5,000m! Athletes have just 26 to conquer the course!

However it was not to be as the event was to close for comfort to the birth of Isabelle, my little girl, so had to withdraw.

Is the CCC still on my list, not anymore, the UTMB is!

Dragons Back 2012

The legendary Dragon’s Back Race™ follows the mountainous spine of Wales from Conwy Castle to Carreg Cennen Castle. This incredible 5-day journey is approximately 320 kilometres long with 17,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is not a trail race.

The original Dragon’s Back Race™ happened just once in September 1992 and ever since, it has been whispered about with a mix of awe and trepidation. Its reputation had reached legendary status with fell, mountain and ultra runners the World over by September 2012 when the second Dragon’s Back Race™ happened.

Many had considered the 1992 Dragon’s Back Race™ to be the toughest mountain running event ever organised. However, the 2012 route was harder still and included all the Welsh 3,000ft mountains on the first day, a number of additional summits on the other days and less road running throughout.

The Dragon’s Back Race™ is one of the hardest mountain races in the World and i felt very privileged to be able to take part in only its second running!

The journey has already started toward our full running of the 2015 event, but its a long long road!

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