Tag Archive: Running


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

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

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

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

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

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0800 – REVERSE

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

‘please hold while we connect your call’

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

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.

Lakeland 50 – tough on the mind and body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lakes loom…..

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

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

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

The Mountain Weather Information Service is the one to watch!

 

Ultimate Direction PB Vest - Fully Loaded

Ultimate Direction PB Vest – Fully Loaded

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

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

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

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

Hold up, weight a minute……..

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

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

Its ridiculously close and the standings look like this:

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder why some of us come back heavier!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Mikes the one in the fetching yellow t-shirt!

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

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

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

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

 

 

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!!

Solo but not too slow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final pic of the run back into edale

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

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

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

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

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

 

Be sure to subscribe for future instalments and updates on our goings on……

 

 

Hey, weight up……………..and down!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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…….. so on we go to next week.

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

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

Till next time……

Worth weighting for………

Well apologies to those sitting on the edge of your seats yearning for the latest results of our weekly weigh-in. What with the Easter holidays and people being away etc it meant that we weren’t able to all weigh in at the same time.

Anyway now were all back and the results are terrible!!!!

Wayne and Glyn, despite valiant training’ish efforts, have gained a lb or two. Chadders, he’s maintained the equilibrium and posted a zero loss/gain. I on the other hand after two thirsty back to back weddings and a week indulging in Cream teas etc courtesy of Devon have posted a loss!

So the standings are as below:

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Chadders is still (quality) streets ahead and hopes to maintain this thru to the finish. I’ve managed to open up a touch of daylight from Glyn and Wayne who are currently battling it out for the chocolate spoon!

Keep watching as we’ve a few recces and events lined up over the coming weeks so things could start to close up!

The long one – Day 2

For the next however many hours, Peter and i chased the laser across the sky, with it always on our left.    I’m not going to tell any of what we discussed as it was quite personal, and was probably mostly gibberish at times anyway (particularly from me).  Suffice to say that you learn an incredible amount about a person when you’ve got nothing to do but talk and help each other through the dark places.  And believe me, in the middle of the Saharan night, you find some truly dark places.

I can’t remember what made me feel the Buff on the back of my head at 4am, but i did, and it was wet.  Why is my Buff wet?  I turned around.  Oh, it’s raining.  It’s 4am, I’m in the Sahara, on top of a massive sand dune, and it’s raining?!  Wow.  This made me glad i’d followed my mate’s advice and ‘packed a cagoule’ in the form of the jacket that Montane had sent me.  I’d worn it overnight to keep me warm and also to protect me from the wind and sand combination, and now it was keeping my dry from the rain too.   We were slowly descending from the dunes now, and every now and then i turned around to see the head torches behind us picking their way through the darkness.  After a while, we started passing people lying in their sleeping bags on the sand, obviously too exhausted to continue to the next checkpoint.  It was at this time that i realised that it was slowly starting to get light, and in the distance i could see a large shape, with a laser on it’s back.  This turned out to be a large Moroccan army truck that was carrying the laser.  As we passed by, a shape moved towards us, and i saw a young female photographer stood in her sleeping bag as protection from the wind and sand that were battering us by then.  ‘ca va?’ i said, which was met with a shrug of the shoulders and she turned to take pictures of the runners coming in behind us.  Shortly after we saw CP5 and we made our way in to pick up water before continuing.  Peter took a pic of me in the checkpoint, which shows how knackered i was looking by then.  At this point it was about 6am, and it started raining again briefly, but it had stopped by the time we departed

We left the checkpoint, and i noticed that Peter was really struggling as he was shuffling along on his feet and was obviously in agony.  I gave him my walking poles to help and he moved with confidence for a short while so I carried on.  I kept turning around to check that Peter was ok, and realised i was slowly moving away from him.  I stopped a couple of times and he caught up, but then a long period passed before i looked around, and i reckon i’d moved up to a kilometre ahead of him.  I was struggling mentally at this point, and if i’d waited i wasn’t sure how i would get going again.  I figured that he’d be ok with the help of the poles, so with regret, i turned and headed off along the track.

At some point, i looked down at my leg, and thought that the Tag Heur chip that was velcro’ed to my leg would make a cool photo, so i took a pic.  Then i wondered what i looked like, so i took a pic, then another, then another.  Then i stood having a look around for a bit.  Then i thought to myself ‘what am i doing here’  Oh yeah, MdS, best get a move on then.

Shortly after this, the Wretch32 track – Traktor popped into my head.  Well, what i think was the song anyway.  Over and over in my head ‘i go peep, peep, peep like a tractor, i go peep peep peep like a traiiiiiiiiin, a choo choo your hardcore factor’ and repeat, over and over and over. Turns out the actual lyrics are absolutely nothing like this. Strange what happens in your head after about 20 hours on the move.

I think I started to catch a couple of groups of people coming into CP6.  I didn’t want to hang around, so i got my water and off i trotted down the dried up river bed.  From this point it was only just over 10k to the finish, but boy did it seem further than that..  The ground underfoot for most of this section was horrendous, really sandy, and gritty in some places, very fine sand that seemed to fill my shoes in no time.  By this point i’d had enough of the gaiters and wasn’t bothering to fix them, or indeed to empty my shoes of sand.  All my energy was needed to keep moving.

Crossing what was to be the last section of dried up river bed, i was struggling and kept stopping to rest with my hands on my legs.  After a while a Frenchman passed me just as i’d stopped to rest again ‘don’t worry, it’s not far, take it easy now friend’ were his words.  I was really grateful and it gave me a bit of a lease of life – i could see the final ‘dunettes’ or ‘small dunes’ which were to be at 79.6k, so i trogged on.  This last bit was horrendous and i had to weave my way through the dunettes, struggling with the slippery sand that had been churned up by other runners and the Doc Trotter trucks that were roaming around ensuring we were all ok.  I emerged from the dunettes to see the finish, about a kilometre in the distance across a flat expanse.  There were a couple of British runners ahead of me that i’d passed in CP6, who’d then passed me, and i was determined to beat them.  So i started running!  I’ve no idea how, but i managed to run the last kilometre and passed them just before the finish line and that was the end of the long one.

Customary Sultan tea, grab water, wander round to the tent to the welcoming smiles of everyone else who’d already arrived – some of them many hours before me it would seem.  The wind was starting to get up and sand was starting to fly.  Moments later it was a little sandstorm (little compared to what we’d seen previously), and it was time to hunker down with buffs on again, pulling some of the tent props (sticks) down to allow less sand in.  Then the wind stopped, and it started raining – absolutely hammering it down, and the tent was soaked and dripping inside where anything touched the material.  Thankfully then the rain stopped, but the hail started.  This was unreal – hailstones that were slightly larger than peas were bouncing off the tents and the desert floor.  Then we heard the thunder start, and we were peeking out of the tent to see if we could see any lightning.  Then someone said ‘there’s still people out there’, and we realised that in all that grimness, people would still be struggling to make their way in to the finish.

After the weather calmed down, and everything had dried out a bit, we emptied the tent of our kit, piled it up outside, and dragged the floor mat outside to give it a shake.  After that, we gave all our kit a shake to remove all the sand that had blown in and reassembled the tent.  It was time for me to get some food as i hadn’t eaten for over 24 hours (except a solitary peperami for breakfast at CP5).  I had some scoff and laid down with my feet up.  I guess I slumbered for a couple of hours, but there was loads of activity as people cooked, went to send e-mails, cheered new returners to the camp so I can’t be sure.  There was a lot of noise from near the finish line, and then people started to say that the last man was about to come in.  Most of the guys from the tent went to cheer him in, but i just had no energy left and could barely move to drink, let alone return to the finish line.  From a distance, i could hear the sounds of celebration as everyone cheered and clapped the last man in.

Later on that afternoon, there was more chatter and someone said that we were receiving cans of coke!  After a week of having no treats or sugary goodness, this would be unbelievable.  I can’t remember who i begged to get mine for me, but i was still struggling for any energy and therefore struggling to move.  Whoever it was (Rich?) agreed and returned shortly after with an ice cold can of Coke, which was the most amazing tasting thing ever.  I was a bit worried about the effect of the sugar and caffeine hitting my stomach after a week without, but my sweet tooth won the day and i chugged it down, with appreciative belch to follow.

At some point, i thought i’d better make sure that Peter had got back ok, as well as retrieve my walking poles from him.  I wandered round to find him ensconsed in his tent and he welcomed me with a massive smile.  We exchanged thanks for each others support during the night, and it was good to see he’d made it ok.  He said that his feet were stuffed though and i think he mentioned that the bottoms were falling off.  His strategy for the next day was to tape them up, put his trainers on, then leave it all held together until the finish line.

The usual night-time ritual of dinner, then sleep followed.ImageImageImage

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

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

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2013

Highlight of the festival has to be the premier of the Dragons Back on Saturday (2nd March) evening

One of the world’s toughest running events, 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. Tracing 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.  Follow the exploits of those who dared take on the even tougher 2012 course including all the 3,000 ft Welsh mountains on day one.

http://www.shaff.co.uk

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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