Tag Archive: endurance


2,014 in 2014…….?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy

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Shoulda…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Er no, WRONG!

Woulda…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comparison timings 2011, 12 & 13

Comparison timings 2011, 12 & 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coulda….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

See you on the 25th!!!

Ultimate Direction or Ultimate Perfection……

Ultimate Direction PB (Peter Bawkin) Adventure Vest 12ltr

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

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

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

Ultimate Direction PB Vest – Fully Loaded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Think the records below speak for themselves eh…

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

Features:

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

Sizing At Chest (Unisex):

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

Materials/Design:

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

 

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

Its a bit of an odd one this week.

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

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

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

Up, down, over she goes!

Up, down, over she goes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wahey in, June 25th

Wahey in, June 25th

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

Stay tuned peeps, still a chance to catch him.

 

Going social…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A recce of two halves…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SECOND HALF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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  

 

 

Marathon des Sables – Instalment 4 – Stage 2

strapping the 'injury'

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'I can't do this'

‘I can’t do this’

strapping the 'injury'Quick word of thanks before the blog entry. Devinder Bains has corrected my dates (unsure how i messed up on it!), so they don’t follow on from the last blog entry – cheers Dee!

Monday 9th April – Stage 2, 38.5km or 24 miles
Same routine as previous day, but with added complications. Running through my head all night was doubt. I can’t do this. It’s too far. It’s too hot. The rucksack is too heavy. I feel sick. Is my leg sore? Ash awoke around 5:10 and started making his breakfast. Paul did the same shortly after. Tony was still asleep in the corner, expecting to go. I committed to myself that if he left, I was going with him. I got up, got my breakfast on, and started packing my kit into my bag, sorting feet and shoes out, got water from the centre of the camp, filled water bottles, all the time with the thought running round my head ‘I’m going to quit, I’m going to quit’. Bit of light relief when Mark R decided to ‘enjoy’ the Bodyglide experience and I was well amused by him for long enough to get a great picture which is unpublishable!
Mark D took a picture of me that morning that demonstrates perfectly the way I was feeling. It looks like I’m having an argument with my rucksack. I’ve posted it onto facebook with the following words ‘What misery looks like – morning of Day 2, i want to go home, i can’t do this, it’s too hot, my bag’s too heavy, why am I doing this, I’ve got another SIX days of this, what am I doing, repeat (close to tears). Stand up, grit teeth, rucksack on, get to start, only 22 miles today. At least I don’t have cancer….’. It’s probably not far from what happened with the conversation going over and over in my head, all the time I was preparing myself and making my way to the start line. After the event, the guys in the tent were to say to me that they had no idea how I did this, how I got up on Day 2, let alone start, let alone finish the day. I think it’s testament to what people are actually capable of, albeit in a small way I think I’ve demonstrated what we can each achieve. Liz and Mum were due to fly out on Thursday to see me, and I was rehearsing the phone call I would make to them from the hotel. All the while, I was stood on the start line, half listening to The Pope talking about standings after day 1, the route ahead, cut off times, those who had birthdays that day… and then Highway to Hell started, and I moved my feet, and I crossed the start line for Stage 2. Only 12.3km until CP1…. One foot in front of the other….
I don’t remember much of that morning between the start and CP2, apart from the next paragraph, but i think i was alone for much of it. I think even if i was accompanied, i would have been alone with selfish thoughts of quitting, all the while plodding away. Anyway, i got to CP1, then only another 7km to CP2. Easy.
Part way to CP2, the front of my leg started hurting. Last year in the Lakeland 50, I’d tied my shoe laces too tight and had done some damage to tendons/ligaments. My not-so-little sister Kerry had given me treatment and told me what it was (didn’t pay much attention sorry Kez) at the time, but this felt like the same thing again. It got progressively worse and was all i could focus on which was bad news. There was a 4×4 going past when i pulled up – and an English voice (i think it was Steve, soon to become my guardian angel) asked if i was ok. Not really, was my response, and the medic hopped out. I explained my story, Steve translated, and the medic pulled my Skins up to look at my leg while saying something like “je veux strapper?” – “shall i strap it?”. Translation happened with me saying yes, and her getting some tape out. The tape wouldn’t stick to my extremely sweaty leg, so medic said to get it done at CP2. She then gave me a pill the size of a baby’s head, stamped my medical card and then looked at me. I looked back at her. Steve said, ‘go on then’. And i stood up. And moved on. To this day, i’m not sure there was anything wrong with my leg, but think i was looking for an excuse to give up. Except Doc Trotter and the Commissaires don’t allow you the luxury (escape/easy way out?) of an excuse, unless you’re really in trouble. I trogged on to CP2 and went to the Doc Trotter tent. I rolled my Skins up, and got strapped up, ready to go.

A voice shouted ‘Hi Wayne, fancy joining us’ and i looked up to see Mia there, along with Rose. I nodded my acknowledgement and we made ready to move after sorting water, electrolyte, and taking salt. It was just short of 10km from CP2 to CP3. Across a dried up lake bed. With no cover. And plenty of wind and heat. We were later to discover that the temperature in the camp/bivouac had got up to 52 centigrade. Just about the time i was moving across the lake bed then!
Mia, Rose, and I moved out of CP2 and started the long, straight trek across to CP3. I felt like a desert version of Shackleton – goggles on, buff over face to cover from sand blasting, Foreign Legion-style hat to cover head and neck. The world was seen through the frame of darkened goggles and i was plodding along with the weight of the world on my shoulders…. except i wasn’t… i was ENJOYING IT! I suddenly realised how amazing this was – i’d trained hard to be here. I’d cried from exhaustion, exhilaration and frustration during training. I’d been through incredibly poor weather including gales, hail, pounding rain and snow in the depth of the Great British winter. I could do this. Ashley’s words came back to me ‘stick with it, it’ll click, you’ll start enjoying it’ and I realised he’d been right. I didn’t want to quit, this was an amazing experience, i was doing it for an amazing cause. And I felt proud of myself. Only 10k to the next CP, only 6 miles. Around two hours walking. Easy.
About halfway across the lake, Mia stopped to sort something, and we carried on walking slowly. Rose and I chatted away a little, but conversation was challenging due to the wind, sandblasting, and the buffs we had across our faces as protection. Then Rose pulled up dead and said ‘i feel sick’. She tried to move, and managed a few steps, before stopping again and looking around in a daze. 4×4 appeared in the distance and drove up, the driver shouting ‘ca va?’ out of the window. ‘Yes’ shouted Rose. ‘NO’ shouted yours truly. Medic hopped out and said ‘what’s the matter’. I explained about Rose, and the medic asked her to sit down – in the direct sunlight and sand-blasting, so i suggested we move round the other side of the truck where there was protection from the sun and wind. The medic took Rose’s water bottle off her and tipped in some rehydration salts, handed it back to her and said ‘drink’. Rose drank, and retched, then drank, then retched, then the medic gave her a pill for the nausea, then Rose drank, and drank…. Then Mia walked by and shouted over ‘i can’t leave you for a minute can I’ and came over to see what was occurring. I filled Mia in on the situation, while Rose carried on drinking and slowly started feeling better. Meanwhile, i ligged out on the sand with a couple of the other medics that had turned up, one of which Mia was particularly pleased with as he looked George Clooney-esque. He was an interesting bloke and i think was a heart specialist (and I found out later he was the Medical Director for the event). He said that Doc Trotter was an amazing organisation, and we were very lucky as they had better equipment than the hospitals of many small towns (cardiologists, surgeons, even a dentist). After a full 1.5 litres (i think) of water, Rose felt better and we got up and plodded on. This experience watching Rose was to come in handy for me the next day. The medics kept driving past us, then pulling up by the route markers and waiting for us to pass. After a short while, i realised that they were pulling up the markers as we passed, and the realisation that we were the back markers sunk in.
I think we were silent again for a long while due to the wind, and i became introspective, but for the first time this was positive. I came to enjoy the time to think, and remembered the Depeche Mode song “Enjoy the Silence” and tried desperately for a while to remember the words, before my brain skipped to the theme from ‘the littlest hobo’, then skipped to ‘Star spangled banner’ before being reminded of Winston Churchill’s words ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’. All of this entertained me greatly, and i was pleased to be enjoying my experience. This was one of the first times through the MdS experience that i realised that my head was starting to empty, and i came to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of what we were doing. Wake up, eat, run (walk!), finish, eat, remember to drink throughout….
Towards the edge of the lake, we began to see large animals in the distance and realised that they were herds of camels – HUNDREDS of camels. I’d never expected to see so many, and didn’t realise that camels came in loads of different colours, most of the ones we saw were a dark brown. Then we saw herds of goats too and i was snapping away at all the wildlife, enjoying the experience even more as the camels were amusing me greatly. Mia and Rose gave me some strange looks as i chuckled at one of the camels in particular that had crossed the trail in front of me.

We reached CP3 and it was only 9.2km to go, along with 1.7km of ‘dunettes’ ahead. It was here that i realised the French were particularly inventive with their descriptions of the sand we went through. These were ‘small dunes’, up to the height of around the first storey of a building, but we managed to weave our way through them, being drained by the terrain with every step. After the dunes was ‘sand bumps’, ‘sandy terrain’ then 0.7km, followed by ‘small line of dunes for 200m’ after which was the finish. We made our way slowly through this and could see the start in the distance. We could see a lot of people at the finish gesticulating, then some began running towards us jabbing their arms in the air. Then i heard ‘FOUR MINUTES, YOU’VE GOT FOUR MINUTES TO CUT OFF’, and realised they were showing us four fingers. Shit, we started running, using the last of our reserves, and managed to get over the line without being disqualified. I’m still not sure that we had only four minutes, as the sweeper camels weren’t anywhere in sight. The camels were the cut off, if they caught up with you, then you could get disqualified (they were led by Berber’s, they weren’t just wandering the desert). Crossing the line, i grabbed a cup of the almost-mandatory Sultan tea – and i loved it – minty, hot, sweet and maybe a little salty, it revived me and i realised i’d loved the day. Hobbling past the finish area, i went to get my nightly issue of 4.5 litres of water, and wondered if i had enough energy to carry it to the tent. On the way to our tent, i passed many other runners eating their tea, and experienced many moments of pride as they were clapping, shouting ‘Well done mate’, or ‘Bravo’, ‘magnifique’, ‘courage’ (from the French tents on my right). I realised that they were respecting me for being out so long, and i felt honoured that all these people who were so much faster than i was, realised how difficult it can be at the back of the pack. Another example of the amazing support between competitors in this event.

Back at the tent, my colleagues were sorting themselves out, and i dumped my bag, and we relived the days events. Again, i was enjoying the experience. I got emotional as i said thanks to all, but Ash in particular for his words the previous day. Tony was still in the tent, as he’d not managed to get transport back to Ouarzazete. It was good to see him, even if i couldn’t understand a great deal of what he said due to his strong Midlands accent. We received e-mails at some point, and i’d got more tonight than last night. I also decided that my pack was too heavy and decided to either bin or give away a load of Frusli bars and some flapjack. One of the most memorable comments was from Dean who asked me what i would do for food during the day. It wasn’t until Friday that this sunk in, and part of the reason for my slowness at the end of each stage started sinking in. That said this was the night for me that the banter really started in the tent, and i remember having a good crack and enjoying what remained of the evening before the sun sank dramatically at around 7pm, and we climbed into our sleeping bags

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