Monday, 17 November 2014

Ultra nutrition study weekend.

I saw a post on facebook and decided to sign up. Matt, my son, had done a Sports Science degree and I knew how hard it was for him to get willing volunteers. I met Joe at the SLMM briefly and confirmed I was in. Over the early autumn he sorted a route and a base etc and then some initial data from food and exercise diaries. We even met for a bleep test although this was abandoned for several reasons.

I left work on the dot and fled down the side alley still dressed as Spiderman as I jumped into the van and we raced to Broughton lights to beat the worst of the traffic. (it had been Children in Need fancy dress day!). We had an easy journey and were at Stair village hall before dark. Joe was out marking the course so we sat and chatted to another runner, Phil the chef. Joe eventually reappeared and we set up the hall and he took our skin fold measurements again- I think he just likes painting dots on our bodies. A few other runners arrived but there were tales of woe and many phone calls. The M6 was shut and people were having serious delays of 4-6 hours. It was going to be a late night for some and so not ideal preparation for a 5am start. I had forgotten school also had 3 coach loads of pupils driving back from Birmingham. Being stuck in traffic with your own kids is bad but with 40+ others. Urgh! Bob and I retired to the van, ate our spag bol and turned in for an early night. Joe had been tempting us with pics of group 3 food and all the others to arrive before bed were group 3. I joked that Group 1 were not coming!

 As Bob was doing the Si he would be up early too. Joe had divided us into 3 groups and I really thought I had drawn the short straw. I was in Group 1 and expected to fuel for 16 hours of running from 3 torq gels and hour. As I usually eat little and only use gels as emergency food it was going to be a tough ask. Once I had got over my upset  decided to look on it as a chance to experiment and see how it went. I had tried the gels a couple of times in the last week and discovered that some flavours were not so bad and as they are quite small it is not such a big facing as my usual source. I slept well, ate porridge and was in the hall by 5am. After briefing, stocking up with gels, meeting the others, dishing out Si cards and maps we were finally ready and set off together at about 6am.

Joe had marked a course across fields to Uzzicar and then up over Causey Pike. We then cut NW to High Moss, climbed a bit on the big track before heading north towards the mine works before picking up the muddy trod on the north face of Outerside all the way to Little Braithwaite and then back to Uzzicar and Stair.

 About 11km with about 650m of climb. The challenge was to do as many laps as you could, in the best time that you could and stick to the food intake Joe had decided for us.

 I had not met Beth or Laura before and I only knew Natasha and Jo to say hello to. I knew Forest, Janson and Adnan would be faster than me and did not know the other  guys at all.  We stayed together across the fields and got the hang of the route.

Joe came out to meet us as we dropped onto the road for the climb up the Pike and was relieved we had all found it OK. Forest, Janson and Adnan disappeared uphill now along with Pete and I think Phil. It was a tough climb and certainly I was not running much of it! In the dark and damp some rocks were greasy and I did not want a fall to end my day early. I could not face gels this early in the am and did not feel the need to eat for the first 90 mins or so.
Causey Pike
Back at Stair the sun was rising and I dropped my torch off. We had blood tests for glucose and lactate, were weighed and answered some brief perception questionnaires. I set off on lap 2 determined to try to eat gels and more confident now it was light and I knew the route. I managed 2 gels which was less than Joe wanted but more than I would usually eat. Lap 2 was faster.

Around this point I realised that Beth and I were a similar speed and so if I could edge ahead then I was pushing and treating it a bit like a race. on the next laps I managed to up the gel intake and although it was an effort as I did not really want them they did not make me sick and they did give me energy.

By now we were pretty spread out around the course so there was no queue for tests or download. As the laps started and finished across the fields we met each other and were able to pass on supportive comments. Jo retired sick and Natasha stopped with a bad ankle. Adnan had a lie down after the gels but recovered. I changed my shoes and had a cup of tea but was surprised to find how well I was doing.
Down towards the mines
By lap 4 the muddy trod on the far side of Outerside was in a real state and the camber meant it was a struggle to stay upright. It was a joy to get onto the wide grassy paths that trend towards Braithwaite.
It's a long way up!
By the middle of the day walkers and fell runners staying at the activity centre were wise to what was going on and also joined in the support. On lap 5 I hit the target of 4 gels. Part of the problem was not wanting to eat climbing the Pike and not daring to take my eyes off some of the rocky or muddy paths. I promised myself that if I did eat 4 gels then I would steal some real food at Stair. As I crossed the final field Phil appeared and told me cold pizza had just been served. It was the inspiration I needed. Pizza and another cup of tea.

The laps were starting to get a bit monotonous, how on earth do people cope running round and round a track for 24 hours? I told myself 2, maybe 3, more laps. I was starting to dislike the idea of another gel but managed two but sicked one back up on lap 6. Still I had tried and stuck to gels longer than I thought possible. I finished that lap in the dusk and scared some peasants in bushes which nearly made me jump off the path. I refuelled in the hall with 2 pieces of pizza and another cup of tea. I set out again in the dark knowing that regardless of time this would probably be my last lap. The Pike was getting very slightly dangerous and I hated the muddy sloping trod.  I ate nothing on this last lap and just wanted to get back, stop and have real food. Knowing the end was close I pushed hard and dared to run the mud in the dark. I tripped several times but stayed upright, just. I arrived back at the hall to find Forest and Pete had both stopped. A cheer went up as I too said enough! I had time for another lap but not the motivation.

I guess in a race I would have gone out again. Forest ran the first 5/6 of his laps with a big pack as he is training for the Spine. Phil had already stopped, Gordon thought it was too risky in the dark and laura was bombed. Janson was out and a lap ahead as was Adnan I think. Beth completed her 7th lap and finished as I was getting changed. After more tests and some food we chatted and changed. Forest felt ill and was trying to sleep. Adnan craved spicy food. Bob and I retired to the van for beer and curry. Great recovery food. My achilles and heel bones were sore but otherwise I felt OK. I had learned that Torq gels are not so bad, that eating to a plan might actually work, that tea is better than cold water but some water on the go is best....

We slept well and were off by 7ish to drive to Borrowdale for another adventure.
Bob has reduced the reamining Wainwrights to 25 and the plan today was to collect 4 from Rosthwaite. We parked with no bother and sat eating breakfast and drinking coffee. I did not feel too bad but putting my shoes on realised just how sore by heel bones and achilles were.

 I wanted to wear the Salamon shoes as they are goretex and I knew I would otherwise have wet feet all day. It was a slow and desperate looking hobble as I left the van and wandered up the lane through the farm yard. As we left the Seathwaite valley and climbed up towards Rosthwaite Fell I was really struggling, espcially on the steeper ground.

 Reaching the top meant a break in the terrain and my tendons were loosening up a bit. Some real food helped too. It was a gorgeous day and great to be out with Bob. I feel bad now that I must have been so grumpy but it was just so sore.

Things improved as we headed forGlaramara and I was pleased to have put up with the high heel tabs on the shoes because it was a swamp fest and the goretex shoes were great.

 After soom indecision we reached the top and soaked in the views.

The cloud was higher than yesterday and Gable etc looked superb.We continued south and cut round the side of Allen crags to reach the main tourist path. I was hungry again so more food before we headed out to Seathwaite Fell.

I think I had been here before but actually am now not sure. The tarns were flat as mill ponds so the reflections were superb. We made it a quick out and back before dropping to Styhead Pass.

This always reminds me of the Borrowdale OMM as it was on the stepping stones here that Rowena and I first realsied that conditions were getting atrocious and we were not safe on the tops.Today was totally different. Bob had picked up a faint trod line on the hillside.

 If it worked it would mean we did not have to climb Green Gable nor would we have to drop along the main path and then climb back up.  Despite my misgivings the trod was perfect as it first crossed Aaron Slack and then headed up ot the col before Base Brown.

The views off the nose were great but we knew it was still some way back to the van. We returned to the col and took the main path down. I am not a fan of cobbles and they were wet.

At first we avoided them all together but then to drop to Seathwaite next to Sour Milk Gill we had no choice. I grumbled and was too tired to enjoy this bit. Eventually we hot the valley for an easy 3-4km back along the lanes.

I was too tired to contemplate a more interesting route and my feet were better on even and predictable terrain. I had a burst of speed but only because I was desperate for food. What a bonus the van was. Socks and shoes off, heater on, food, hot soup....... I even got inot bed for a cozy rest. Shame we had to drive back but after a coffee part way we were revitialised enough and it wasn't really that late.
So. A great weekend with some brilliant company and Bob is now down to 21 remaining.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Lake District weekend.

After a wet weekend to start November and just a short run on Pendle we were keen to do more. We drove up quite late on Friday and parked in a quiet spot not far from Threlkeld. Bob's mission to do all the Wainwrights needed a kick start. Also because he originally planned just 10 from each book we now have some rather 'odd' ones left. So the plan was a mopping up exercise. First off was High Rigg.

The church centre was full for the weekend but we managed to find a spot for the van. A quick climb up the hill and into the wind reassured us that we should not be on the high tops.

The view was great and we had a lovely run down the grassy paths.

Next stop Raven Crag. The forestry commission had been busy with bulldozers but luckily we only had to cross their path and not follow it. I had never been up here before and it was steep. We arrived at the summit to find low cloud and no view.

We waited and it changed to intermittent view but only of the dam at the end of Thirlmere. The Helvellyn ridge was now lost in cloud despite being covered with blue skies when we got up. We took in Castle Crag too as I had never been there either.
Nice new cag from RAB, shame my eyes are shut!
I tried out some of the Torq gels and bars that Joe is providing for next weekends Ultra nutrition study. There were better than I expected and the gels are so small that they go down in one go which is a plus. A quick check of the map showed we should slot in Walla Crag next.

Parked in the NT car park we set off through the woods and up by the gill. Again a steep short ascent. It was a bit claggy on the tops but we got some views and were back in the van before the rain got going. I should say at this point that we cheated- this was not a Steve Birkinshaw attempt. We used the van to move between these spots!
We moved along the main road, escaped Keswick which was full of shoppers and headed towards Cockermouth. The lanes looked small on google earth but we got the van through Wythop Mill and found a brilliant parking area just where we needed it.

 I missed the trip to orienteer on Sale Fell in the snow and gales a few years ago so it was another first for me. No snow this time but the winds wee strong. Again we got the views and a wonderful grassy descent that I defy anybody not to run down.

 As we headed for Ling Fell the rain drops started. Not heavy but as we had more planned for the afternoon we put over trousers on to stay dry. We opted for the wide path with gentle contours- which was fine except it meant we almost circumnavigated the hill before we reached the top.

Another windy trig point and another lovely descent- albeit a bit warm in full waterproofs. Back to the van for lunch and just in time as the heaviest rain poured down.

We sat with soup and sandwiches listening to the rain and checking the van heater was working well. By the time we had driven to Loweswater the rain had stopped. Two more to go and our pan would be complete. We could not see the path over Darling Fell but found a good trod and headed directly for Low Fell.

It was an interesting area with lots of little sub peaks but the real plus were the views up Buttermere and into Grasmore etc. We carried on north along the edge and went out to inspect some crags before the final peak of the day Fellbarrow.

 The run off this was a little rougher and then boggy and we were starting to notice the fading light. As we hit the old road- now just a rough track the sky over the coast was purple.

 We stepped up the pace. As we left the road and started down the fields the first drops fell. It became a sprint back to the van to out pace the rain. We made it just! The rain came down in buckets and I was shocked how suddenly it also became dark. Friday night with a full moon never got really dark, even when I got up in the middle of the night for a wee. Tonight was very dark, it was black.  This is when the van comes into it's own. We were cosy. made cups of tea and read then cooked before an early night. We certainly made the most of the day.
Sunday was the Copeland Chase. It was a first for us although I am not really sure why we had never been before. The drive round did not take long and we parked in a layby next to the solitary portaloo. I had entered the long course and knew this meant I would be up against all the fastest men. ie I would not be very competitive but would certainly get a long hard run. The Copeland Chase is a small and relaxed affair, a bit like the Warrior O trial. We paid as promised, got ready and went to collect our map. The short uphill walk to the unmanned start allowed me a chance to glance at the map. The map was A3 and CP1 was on the far right whereas the start was on the far left. It was going to be a hard run and that was without worrying about route choice or navigation. I shamelessly picked out Steve and Martin in the distance and tried to use them to make me run on the slowly rising land. The rain that started as I took my map had stopped and there was a beautiful rainbow.  I wasn't fast but did catch Steve who had raced Dunnderdale the day before. We stormed past Stuart from Nav 4 and then suddenly I was on my own. I aimed for a small col and the control was exactly where I expected, even if it was low on the ground and almost hidden. Leg 2 was almost as long and gave me a real headache for route choice. I decided on down and around which was mostly good running if my legs could be persuaded.I did have to stop and remove my cag and did have a few moments of indecision on the way. On the north side of Carling Knott I followed the fence steeply uphill which was fine until the trod ended and the hillside became more tussocky. Tussocks are not so bad on a downhill but for me are a nightmare on an uphill. The fences made the nav easy and I arrived at the junction to find a lovely grassy slope leading down to the path leading west to Owsen Fell. I knew my control was a cairn and so was a bit surprised to find it missing- until I checked the map and saw there were two cairns! The views were superb and really regretted not leaving my camera in my sack. Yes I know it was a race but a few seconds would not matter much in the wider scheme of 3-4 hours.As I turned to run back to Burnbank Fell I passed Jim Mann and Matt Volkes. I had given up wondering who was on which course after loosing and then finding Martin Skinner.To avoid the top I hopped the fence and contoured but I did not dare to drop and so the level or slightly uphill contour was a mistake over rough ground. Well, it was a mistake for me- Jim seemed to find it OK. Leaving CP3 Jim powered off into the distance but I was pleased to spot the trod he missed and almost caught him up again on the way to Blake Fell. I did wonder about a trod to the east of Blake Fell but was not sure whereas I knew there was a trod to the west as I had used it at the FRA relays back in 2009.  By the time I emerged to the south of the summit Jim had vanished. I aimed for CP4 and although Quentin pointed out that he saw me deviate off to the right for me it was a tiny error of about 60m! The time I lost in that was nothing to the time I lost on the next climb back over Gavel! Quentin disappeared and I flogged uphill. I aimed for the top kowing it would mean a good path once I arrived there. I then repeated some of my route to CP1 and had fun running downhill on a boggy but good path. I was lucky as another runner was at the CP and so I lost no time searching for the very ruined fence line. I had mostly been on my own for the morning especially from 1-2 and 3-4 but now there were more people about and some on my course. As I climbed back out from CP5 I met others going down. I kept ahead while I was on the trod but was soon caught as I hit the tussocks. It did mean that as I left CP6 I was able to chase a guy from WCOC and I am sure it made me run harder. By the time I was on the forest track on the way to CP7 there were half a dozen of us running. This last CP had a mean little climb and then a tricky fence to climb to get to the finish.  Not a bad run in the end at 3 hours 40 mins. I guess there were bits where I could have pushed myself faster but on the whole I was pleased with my run, route choice and nav.  Karen Parker beat me by 20 mins and Shane, Steve B, Quentin and Lewis etc were some way ahead. I was grateful for the cup of tea and cake and also for our van where I changed and then made another brew and sandwich before heading out for the prize giving. Julian was 2nd and 1st vet on the short course and Quentin was first vet on the long so a good day for SROC. Bob had enjoyed his run but kicked himself for his route choice at the very start. We agreed we were too tired to do anything on the way home and anyway the good weather did not last.