Tuesday, 29 June 2010

w/e 27/6 - I'm Not Singing For the Future, I'm Not Praying for the Past...

Less than four weeks to go now, and the nerves kicked in a wee bit this week. I've started playing each leg through in my mind in those quiet moments when no other thoughts are occupying me. Imagining myself heading up each climb, concentrating on the downhills, sensing the tiredness in my body but willing myself to push through it. I just need to work on that and make sure I visualise it right through to the Moot Hall and under 24 hours.

I've been reading Andy Kirkpatrick's book this last week (thanks for the pressie Kirsten!) and he talks a lot about the fear he faces and how, in the end, the fear of NOT doing things and always wishing he had outweighs the fear of doing them. I hope to conjour up some of that feeling ready for the day.

The week was a great training one. I've settled into a pattern now of long weekend days followed by more resting up in the week than I've done in the past, and it seems to be helping.

Tuesday night I went out for a leg-stretching jog. But by the time I came down off Scout Road, I was feeling more up for it, and decided hill reps were the order of the day. So I pushed myself to do 8 running reps of the hill, the legs straining, the lungs bursting, but the head feeling good.

On Wednesday I headed over to Stoodley Pike for the first time in a while and did 4 reps of the hill. The interesting thing was, although I felt fairly slow, the watch said differently. I was 30-45secs under the time I used to ascend in, and whereas the descent used to take 4+ minutes, I was now doing it in 3.30ish with no perceived increase in effort. That's a good sign I think.

And then it was time to head off for the Lakes for the weekend and support Dawsy's BG. I drove straight to Keswick and saw him off at 7pm at the Moot Hall. Then I went over to Honister and tried to grab a few hours sleep, despite the whine of the generator and the crowing of a cockerel all night!!!

Then, at 3.30am, I was awoken from my fitful sleep by the alarm and, in the darkness, I prepared myself for a big day out. 15 minutes later, I set off to climb Grey Knotts, then Brandreth and the Gables before heading down to Sty Head, and across up to Esk Hause. A wee bit of breakfast there, and a "good morning" to the first BG group of the day, then I wandered up to Scafell Pike, which was teeming with 3-Peakers. I could say a lot, but I'll keep it short - something has to be done to ensure that people who are coming on the mountains for such "events" at least show the place some respect, in terms of having the right kit, acting properly and not leaving their rubbish strewn all over the highest point in England.

I quickly dropped down to Mickledore and watched the BG group going up Broad Stand, re-affirming my belief that there is NO way I'm going up there! Instead, I went and had a look at Lords Rake (Karl insisting that it's the way to go) and it looks do-able. I want to go back before 24th July and go all the way up.

From there, I dropped down to Wasdale and met Jan, Jackie and Pauline who were doing the wonderful support for Dawsy. They fed and watered me superbly as we waited. After a wee while, figures were spotted coming down the scree, and "operation Mercia" went into action!! Simon was doing well, up on time, and feeling pretty good.

After his rest, we set off up Yewbarrow, a good bunch of folks to keep the banter going and help him ignore the pain. Fact was, he was still climbing superbly. Yewbarrow was ticked under schedule, and Red Pike was near enough. As the leg went on, he struggled on the downhills due to the state of his feet, but his uphill pace had us all working hard to keep up.

I was pleased with how I was going as well though, with a heavy pack on and 3.5 hours in the legs from earlier, I felt strong. And, having done the leg several times recently, I was leading the navigation for several sections, picking up those little short-cuts and trods which make a difference. And, where I was at all unsure, I was able to pick up hints and tips from Andy Davies - learn from the best!

As we descended into a warm Honister, Dawsy was well up on schedule and it was certain he'd do it...he was now going for a time. I had planned to stop here, but decided I needed to push on and finish with him. So I got some food and drink inside me and headed off up Dale Head with the rest of them. Dawsy continued to climb stongly, in perfect conditions, making time up on each of the 2 summits.

We decided to go along Hign Snab Bank before descending, which certainly makes for a more gentle route. I think I might use it. A quick change of shoes for Dawsy at Little Town and we were off on the tarmac, with him getting stronger all the time and really making us work hard to keep up. Soon enough, the buildings of Keswick were in view, and he trotted up the main square to touch the Moot Hall in 22.14, a superb efffort.

I'd had a great day, and an uplifting one for me. Not just in terms of seeing Dawsy do so well (and catching up with various people I hadn't seen for a while) but also how strong I felt having effectively done over 2.5 legs on the day. This augers well I think.

And, whereas last weekend I was too tired to do much on the Sunday, this time me and Kirsten had a proper day out in the mountains! Despite her bad knee, she was really keen to go up some of the bigger fells, having never done them before.

So I devised a plan (which changed during the day!) to park at Seathwaite, going up Ruddy Gill, then to Esk Hause. From there we dropped to Angle Tarn, nipped up Rossett Pike, then took the BG trod to Bowfell (which she thoroughly enjoyed), over Esk Pike, out to Great End, then Ill Crag and Broad Crag before heading up to a deserted Scafell Pike (everyone was watching the football!!). Deserted, that is, except for all the rubbish left behind...disgusting!

From there, we took the corridor route down to Esk Hause (having decided we didn't have enough time to nip up Lingmell) and back to the car. Kirsten climbed strongly all day, but struggled on the downhills because of her knee :-(

I felt pretty good considering, still climbing well, feet a bit sore, mainly because of a huge blister on one toe....but I kept going at a decent pace and loved the day out on big fells with Kirsten :-)

So, all in all, a cracking week and one which has given me confidence.

And I'm off up there again tomorrow (Thursday), with plans to recce Leg 2 (for navigating a BG in the dark in a couple of weeks!) then go and do Lords Rake/West Wall Traverse. And then, onFriday night, meet up with Kirsten at Wet Sledale ready for the Saunders!! We're going to have to drop some classes because of K's knee, which is a shame 'cause I was really going to push her this weekend. Ahhh well, at least we should be at midway camp in time for beer and milk! :-)

Total for the week - 53mls & 19,600ft

We the People Are Getting Tired of Your Lies...

A quick non-BG post, just because I still can't believe what I heard on the news yesterday and it has me seething, generally at the state of modern life and specifically at anyone who could have voted Conservative at the elections and expected anything new or different about them.

The scary thing is, having heard this story on the radio, I've tried to look it up on the internet and there is nothing, anywhere, about it. As though it's a minor little item that can be hidden, doesn't need to be discussed, and has no implications.

I'm just hoping at some point that my faith will be restored and once I can get behind the "headline" news, the detail will show it's not as told yesterday.

And the news story was this:

The government is to look at a scheme whereby local residents will be given council tax rebates if they agree to new developments in their area and don't put in objections.

I had to highlight it. Is it just me or is that the most unbelievable thing you could ever read from a British government?

What it equates to, it seems to me, is a government offering a bribe to the people on behalf of their multinational, blue-chip mates. Is that not it? Am I missing something? And, of course, as an example of where the "policy" (read "bribe") would apply, they cited the development of wind-farms. Fancy that!

The fact that's being kept quiet (one of many!) is that, in order to meet the current targets for production of energy from wind-farms, every hill and moor in places such as Calderdale, mid-Wales etc will have to be covered by one of these developments, ruining the countryside forever for the sake of a disproved technology.

And who has just taken up a board role with one of the largest provider of wind-farms, a company currently targeting the UK? Step forward the deputy prime minister's wife!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

w/e 20/6 - And All We Do Is Multiply, Subtract and Divide....

Time's slipping by very quickly all of a sudden. A couple of weeks ago, the BG seemed a long way off. But now, it's fast approaching and the time for training is running out. And helping on other BGs, and seeing attempts out on the fells brings home exactly what I have to do and sets the nerves on edge and fills me with a mixture of excitement, impatience and trepidation.

And it all starts coming down to the numbers.

Every long day out in the Lakes now is checked against the watch. What's the allowed split time? What was my actual time? Take into account tired legs on the day....where can I make up time....where do I need to have extra allowance....which bits suit me.....which bits don't.

I've had to nurse the body through the last couple of weeks as well. The niggle in the knee wasn't going away. I did the exercises the osteo had showed me, to "open up" the knee. I massaged it and put anti-inflamm gel on at night. And I felt some improvement, within a few days.

Due to the knee, and the need to protect my aging body a little, I only got out for one run during the week....a fairly gentle run around the valley. I have to admit as well....part of the problem is a lack of interest in running around Calderdale now. I'm spoilt by trips to the Lakes and Scotland. I want big mountains. I want huge slopes which require 30+ mins of hard effort to get up. That's a good sign I'd have thought? But the gentle slopes and boggy plateaux of Calderdale are just not doing it for me right now.

Anyway, I had biggish plans for the weekend, so no harm in resting up a bit this week.

Friday saw us back on the M6 again, our 13th weekend in a row away from home! Back up to Langdale with a good plan in place for the Saturday.

At 9am, I was off and heading up past the New Dungeon Ghyll, up the path by the waterfall and out to the right of Pavey Ark on a glorious morning to pick up the path to Sargeant Man. From there onwards, it was time to check the split times and see whether I could handle leg 3, which is the key for me, then put in a good effort on leg 4.

Just as I neared the summit, along came a BG attempt...and it was Darren doing the navigating/supporting/pacing (on his own!) with a contender. So I settled in with them over the Langdales so that I could check the route across to Rossett Pike.

Mark was struggling with his stomach, and losing a wee bit of time on each split at this stage. But he descended well and it was a great line across to Rossett Pike on a faint trod, and I know where to turn off the main path now!

Once at the top of Rossett Ghyll, I decided to push on, putting in a decent climb up to Bowfell, way up on split time, picking up minutes all the way to Broad Crag (what a difference dry rock makes!!), then on time to the Pike.

By now, I was running with the stragglers in the Great Lakes Run, and I knew they were heading for Foxes Tarn gully, as was I. What I didn't know was that, whereas I was planning to find my "secret" grassy gully down to avoid the screes, that was where the race route actually went!! So much for "secret"!

Still, it's a great way down, saves much slipping and sliding and, in no time at all, I was in the gully pulling myself up the rocks. The next bit of the race was flagged, turning right up steep grassy slopes at the top of the gully, avoiding the scree path and emerging near the top of the ridge...definitely the way up on BG day!!

I've ruled out Broad Stand, have yet to recce Lords Rake, and have worried about the loss of time going Foxes Tarn....but in fact it took me 35 minutes including stopping to talk to a race marshall.....that's fine!

From there, it's the 3,000ft descent down to Wasdale. I'd intended to recce the scree descent. But that grassy path that keeps descending is, to be honest, perfect for me and, without really pushing it, I was down in Wasdale in 30mins, which is fine. I may have a look at the scree, but then again, I may not!

Down in Wasdale there was lots of activity and it was nice to see Nick, who informed me that Clare was not far ahead supporting an attempt. But first I headed into the campsite to fill up with water, and got some food down me ready for the climb.

Yewbarrow and Red Pike get no easier! Both climbs were tough in the warmth. Both were done up on time though, which is a reasonable sign. And once on top of Red Pike, it was a joy from there, to be out on such a beautiful day, enjoying a high promenade above the Lakes.

I found the trods off Pillar, taking time to chat to another BG contender who was suffering but going to complete in sub-24, went up Joss's gully which was quicker than the nose seemingly, and climbed Gable at what I thought was a very slow speed, but which was actually a fair bit quicker than split (and, yes, I know it'll be very different after 20+ hours!).

I need some help in finding a good route off Gable, I tried to take the grass but got it wrong and ended up scrambling down rocks. Green Gable to Brandreth has more of a climb than I remember, then it was a quick trot out to Grey Knotts and down to Honister, at a decent enough pace, to finish the 2 legs in 9.51 of running time. I reckon I missed about 20 mins by the different start point, but about the same climb....so 10.10 for the 2 legs would have been around my time...add on 20mins at Wasdale, gives 10.30 hours. that'll do nicely!!

Sunday saw us take it easy, on a much hotter day. We had Rufus with us, so we headed to Grasmere and parked up and then went up Stone Arthur in relays. Stone Arthur is one of those hills you end up not doing if you're not careful. It's off the main Fairfield ridge, a drop of about 850 from it. Instead, from the road, it's a steep pull up of around 1400ft in not much more than a mile. The legs were understandably tired at first, but I got going in the end, and loved the views up there.

Back down, tea and cake in Bilbo's cafe (what a great place!), then back home reasonably early for a pint in the Fox to end another great weekend.

Not many to go now. This weekend, I'm heading up for a trot on Friday, leg 4 support on Saturday and then another day out on Sunday. This will be my "big" final weekend I think. The weekend after is the Saunders with Kirsten, then the one after that I'll support Andy...otherwise it'll be time to rest.

So, back to the schedule......checking the numbers.

Total for the week - 34mls & 14,500ft

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

w/e 13/6 - Waiting in my Corner, Waiting on the Bell...........

Another solid week of training, upping it slowly but surely to ensure I hit peak fitness at the right time. There's no doubt that over the last couple of years, I've hit the training too hard too early and ending up peaking somewhere around April/May and then be past my best by June/July. This time, I hope I'm getting it right.

The body's holding up. Or at least I'm putting to the back of my mind all the niggles and aches and pains which would normally worry me and affect my running.

This week was a good one. It started out with a Tuesday club run on tired legs, which turned into more of a run/walk as I stayed with Kirsten who was suffering with a right knee problem (thankfully now diagnosed to be not too serious).

On Wednesday, I watched the rain lashing down against the windows at home....and decided to head out!! A 9.5 mile run up onto a wild and windy Midgley Moor, as far as High Brown Knoll, getting soaked and windswept in the process. I'm determined to head out in rough weather now...let's face it, it could be like that on the day!! The run ended on a slightly down note as I tweaked the ankle coming down towards Midgley. But in the current spirit of things, I'm ignoring the pain from that!!

Friday saw me head over to Stoodley for the first time in ages and do 3 reps, saving myself for the weekend. The twingy ITB was there, but I still felt I climbed ok.

Saturday was the big day of the week. Another weekend in the Lakes, and the Achille Ratti hut was a bit quieter than the last few weekends up there!! At 10.30, I met up with Andy Kitts and the legendary Bob Wightman....the man who provides the facts and figures and information which inspire so many of us to give the BG a go.

Kirsten dropped us in Keswick and we set off on Leg 1. The pace was steady, the weather warmish but nice. Skiddaw was reached in 81 minutes of "running"time (there were a few short clothing etc stops, but I stopped the watch on these). The descent over HAre Crag was obvious, the climb up Calva as fun as ever, and the top reached in 40 minutes without pushing it....allowance is 50!

From there, Bob led us a direct route through the heather to cross the Caldew and climb. I think I'll stick to the fence route, there's a path and it's easier underfoot although a little longer. We climbed steadily to the scree beneath Blencathra and then across it to the summit, which was reached in under 69 leisurely minutes.

From there we went down Doddick, which Bob hadn't done before. Conditions were perfect, with a little bit of give in the ground and, again, without pushing too hard, I was down to the car in under 27 minutes against a 31 minute allowance. Overall, our running time on the leg had been 3.38 and it was all at a pace sustainable on the day. Good stuff!!

At this point, Andy and Bob headed off for Yorkshire, but I carried on over Leg 2, steadily climbing Clough Head in 50 minutes, 25 minutes to Great Dodd (which is the best I've done yet), then picking up a few more minutes on schedule as far as Raise, at which point I doubled back then down Sticks Pass to the waiting Kirsten at Stanah. All told, 5.51 of running, 22 miles and 8,400ft.....a great day.

A big confidence boost as well. I hadn't felt liked I'd been climbing the steeper slopes well recently, but the times up Skiddaw, Blencathra and Clough Head in particular showed that I am climbing well. This, as I said, was sustainable pace. That's pleasing.

On Sunday, the weather changed!! Having packed up, we drove up to Dunmail Raise and sat in the car contemplating heading out into the rain and wind....we almost didn't!! But we're tougher than that, oh yes!! ;-) We got out and headed up Raise Gill, soaked through by the time we got to Grisedale Tarn.

From there, we were up the wall and onto the Helvellyn ridge, out to Nethermost, then back taking in Dollywagon. It was cold, wet and miserable up there...no views to be had!! From Dollywagon, we dropped down through the zig-zags to the tarn then, undecided whether to go on, decided to head straight up the front path on Fairfield,as the mist started to clear a little. It's a steep, great path that brings you out just to the west of Cofa Pike.

A little scramble out onto the pike, then back up to Fairfield, where it seemed much warmer. A slide down the scree escalator to the hause, then a scramble up to Seat Sandal...before dropping down on the clear BG trod to the corner above Dunmail Raise then shooting down through the bracken to the car. A smashing day in the end, and we were both pleased with ourselves for getting out of the car on a foul weather day and pushing on regardless. Smashing!!

Kirsten's knee was bothering her on the descents, but on the plus side, she climbed really well. My knee was twingy, but never really affected me, so all is good there. All in all, it was a real confidence-boosting, excellent weekend.

Total for the week - 48.5mls & 16,649ft

A quick look through the figures, and the last 4 weeks has seen me do 214mls & 55,865ft!! That's good, with more to come. I have to be a wee bit careful not to overdo it, but resting up during the week more and pushing it at the weekends should see me ok. In some ways, I feel ready for it now, and with decent weather forecast this week, I was partly regretting not going for it this weekend after all. But the hills will still be the same in July, I'll be a wee bit more rested for the couple of weeks beforehand, and the head will be in the right place.

Monday, 14 June 2010

w/e 7/6 - It's So Funny, I Never Thought I'd Feel Like This Again....

The week following the 100 was one of ups and downs, which is to be expected. The disappointment was there, along with the "what ifs" and the "could I have gone on?". Pain is such a temporary thing and if there is something to be learned along the way in these long distance events it is this.....you only get one chance to pack it in! Those were Big Steve's words of wisdom to me last year at Grisedale Tarn and, whilst I'd let it slip too much by then to get back on track, they propelled me up Fairfield when all I wanted to do was stop.

It's something you only learn through doing and going through the pain barrier (the physical and mental one). You push further all the time, as Kirsten will no doubt do in future.

The irony of the weekend was that Sunday and Monday were glorious! If that weather had persisted through Saturday night....well who knows.

Instead, we slept most of Sunday, then on Monday, I headed up the three munros that form Beinn a Ghlo. A glorious day under a clear blue sky. Wonderful mountains, airy, runnable, rough and wild. A stop to talk with the man behind the Mourne Seven Sevens, a chat to a munroist with less than 20 left to go. Fabulous.

Kirsten walked Rufus up a nearby hill then waited in the sun at the car. I trotted in and we sat in the bright sun, surrounded by beauty, feeling most content with our lives and the world.

And it seemed like the ideal place and time to ask a question which I never thought I'd ask anyone again ;-)

And as if to prove that the Gods of fate approved of my actions, we took a drive up to Newtonmore and Kingussie the next day. A chance stop at a lovely cafe/pottery shop, where we got talking to the owner who has ambitious plans and who is looking for like-minded people to help with that, and help bring visitors into the area.....and who also assured us that there's lots of work in the area already. Someone we're going to be keeping in touch with and who knows where that might lead? Initially it led us on a drive down a wonderful, unspoilt valley which turns into the Corrieyarrack Pass....a real hidden gem of the Highlands.

After that, it was back to the gloom of Calderdale and "real life", but with the prospect of heading straight back up to the Lakes for the weekend and supporting Mark Jackson's BG. I said I'd head over to Wasdale from Honister and do Leg 4. It was a warm day but not too bad, I ran over to Honister in just over an hour and a half. Support crew were waiting, Mark was doing well against schedule. He came in looking tired but still smiling.

And off we went, 6 of us in total, heading up an increasinly warm Yewbarrow. Tony was the life and soul of the party, cracking jokes and promising Mark food stops if he just kept going on certain climbs. Time was dropped on Yewbarrow and Red Pike, but it wasn't critical. With those out of the way, Mark picked up and we kept a good pace thereafter. I nipped underneath Kirk Fell to fill numerous water bottles (which we never used after all that!!), and we trotted on in beautiful late afternoon light, until we were charging down off Grey Knotts and into Honister. He'd done it. Over 3 and a half hours left, he could walk it from here. In fact, he was picking up pace as the day's heat relented and he sensed "victory". I joined them for the climb up Dale Head, then ran down at race pace to meet Kirsten and drive to Keswick to see him home. A great effort, he really kept at it and showed me what I need to do.

The next day, we both headed up Doddick Fell ridge to do the Blencathra descent (and have a look at Yiannis's line). Taking it very easy, stopping to talk to someone and stopping to feel a twinge in my knee a couple of times....we still did 33 minutes. That'll do nicely. Doddick Fell it is.

Total for the week - 36mls & 14,716ft

After the disappointment of the previous weekend, this week had really picked us both up and filled us with excitement for the future :-)

And You Rewrote My Life and Showed Me A Happy End...............................

w/e 30/5 - Across The Moorlands, Past the Mountains

Across the moorlands, past the mountains
O'er the rivers beside the new stream
Something tells me that I'm going home.....................

Following on from my trials and tribulations of the previous week, it was Kirsten's turn to face those long-distance demons this week, to find out how deep she could dig, and to gain valuable experience, grit and toughness in the art of "keeping going when you don't want to"!

We headed up to Scotland on the Tuesday, to camp at Bridge of Orchy. Kirsten was under strict instructions to do nothing but take it easy!! Rufus was with us, so dog-walking was the order of the day for her!!

No such restrictions for me though!!! So, with the weather glorious when we arrived at 5pm, I headed straight over the road and straight up Beinn Dorain. And I mean straight up!!! No path to the col, I took a direct line 2,500ft upwards to head through the crags and emerge pretty much at the summit. Exhilirating is the word that springs to mind!! I've been up that mountain 4 times now, but I don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful clear view from it. Snowy mountains in every direction, the Ben standing majestically above them all. A quick run back down (down the path!) and tea and midges to end a lovely day.

Wednesday and Thursday saw me doing some running on the West Highland Way and meeting up with some folks who were walking it for charity. A good combination of fast, hard running on the trail, followed by long, gentle walking, chatting and absorbing the wonderful views across the Rannoch Moor...all done in glorious weather. Thursday saw some rain as I ran over the Devil's Staircase to Kinlochleven then ran back up to the top again to meet the rest of them. The views of the Buchaille were awesome!!

And then we headed off to Aberfeldy to set up camp and prepare. The weather forecast was looking a bit iffy for the Saturday...but at least it wasn't going to be 80 degrees like the previous weekend!!

In fact, it was an overcast but pleasant morning as the masses assembled in Dunkeld. Kirsten was a bag of nerves (to be expected) and desperate to get going. The group were piped out of the town, as I headed a few miles up the route to go and take Rufus to kennels for the weekend, before watching Kirsten come through, looking very relaxed and quite near the front.

I zoomed over to Kirkmichael and joined some other folks from Yorkshire in heading up onto the hill to watch the first few appear...then Kirsten appeared, and I ran in with her to the checkpoint at 12-ish miles. She was going really well, and smiling!!

As I left her here, I knew it would be some time before I saw her again, as she headed out into the "wilds" towards Glen Tilt. I parked up at Blair Atholl and headed back to the checkpoint at Shinagag, then back again on the path where I'd suffered from near-frostbitten toes back in February.

And soon enough, along she came, trotting well and looking good for someone who'd done a fair few miles by now!! We ran together and were joined by Norman, also looking very comfortable. As we reached the road section down into Blair Atholl, I nipped ahead in the car to meet her at the checkpoint, where it became apparent her feet were starting to hurt a bit. No surprise really.

I left her then, to do the 6 miles up to Calvine School, where I took a look at her blistering feet, and did the best I could to patch them up. Not what she wanted with a 6-mile stretch of tarmac cycle path ahead, and the rain starting to fall quite heavily.

At the next checkpoint (run by the Marches in a marquee!), the rain really started. As Kirsten headed out into the dark for a 2-mile uphill stretch on road, I drove up to Errochty Dam where I'd promised to navigate her through the night. The rain was bouncing off the road now, turning it into a river, with the bizarre site of frogs of all shapes and sizes hopping across it.

I parked the car as best I could by the roadside, donned 5 layers and the waterproof and sat, not relishing the prospect of leaving the car. Somehow, I missed Kirsten going by (probably the fact that I could only pick out the odd torchlight through the downpour!) but saw Norman and quickly nipped out and into a wild Scottish night.

The checkpoint at the dam was full of wet, miserable-looking people. Cold people as well, with quite a few already shivering. We gathered a group of 6, as I led them off into the gloom and a relatively straightforward first few miles on a wet track by the side of the loch. But thereafter, it deteriorated badly, heading across boggy, tussocky, pathless, flat ground to a sel-clip checkpoint in the middle of the bog, before a pointless climb up slippy peat alongside a deer-fence, then a traverse along the top of the deer fence, before my navigation was tested in the first light of dawn on a pathless descent to the hillside above Kinloch Rannoch. Somehow I got it spot on!!

I'd tried to be cheerful early on and keep spirits up, but after over 4 hours of bog-trotting, conversation was at a premium, there were some miserable faces, and Kirsten and Norman's friend were struggling at the back, both having incredibly painful feet, blistered beyond comprehension by the mix of hard trails then wet boggy ground, causing them to limp on the sides of their feet.

We got into the checkpoint with Kirsten feeling she'd had enough. I persuaded her to take her time, have her breakfast and see how she felt then. Which she did, but she clearly wasn't coming round to a sufficient degree to allow her to head out and into another steep, pathless, boggy area on the shoulder of Schiehallion. When Norman's friend said he was stopping here, that, I think, was the nail in the coffin and the decision was made (rightly, in my view and in retrospect).

We checked to see if she could get a lift back to Errochty...nope! Which meant I'd got to run back to the car!!! Strangely, I decided to take the tarmac route!! No idea why now, apart from the fact it got me back in just over 2 hours. I jumped in, drove back....to find Kirsten fast asleep in the gym hall at the school!!! I woke her and she limped into the car, feeling a bit low.

A couple of painful, sore days thereafter....both physically and mentally. It hits you hard when you don't complete something you've trained for....I should know!! But, as time passes, you get perspective and realise how much you've gained from that very experience. Kirsten completed 62 really tough miles in 18 hours. The conditions were awful overnight, just when she didn't need it to be like that. She's been running for just a year and, as I've pointed out many times since, it takes YEARS to build up the mental side, let alone the physical one.

And, in retrospect, stopping was the right thing to do. She's a bit crocked right now with what may be an ITB problem, caused I suspect by running on the sides of her feet for the last x miles at the 100. We've got a lot on during these summer months, far too much to look forward to to wreck herself on one run. She'll bounce back better next year and complete the Shropshire 100 if she wants to...although I partly sense focus turning towards a medium-term 2 to 3 year plan to go a BG. Whatever she does, I'm really proud of her and for her for an astonishing year of long-distance training and running, for getting as far as she did, in such a good time and, most of all, for keeping that lovely smile on her face at all times (oh, ok, ALMOST all of the time!!).

I realised afterwards just how many miles I'd done myself on the day. About 35 I reckon, albeit at a slow-ish pace. But it was a big mileage week again, and my body has complained a little since. I'm not cut out for much more than 50 miles in a week these days I think.

Total for the week - 74mls & 11,000ft

w/e 23/5 - In These Mirror Images of Myself, There Are No Secrets...

About time I got up to date, after a whirlwind 4 weeks, full of ups and downs, high and lows, disappointment (never regret), new hope, fresh ideas, some fear but mostly excitement about life in general and what the future holds.

But back to the week in question, and a race that really made me stare into the mirror, see my mortal reflection staring meekly back at me.....but choose to ignore it and press on through the pain. This was a week that I hope and believe I'll look back on as THE run which symbolised my mental preparation for the BG this time.

Following on from Emma's outstanding success, I headed out on Monday and Wednesday evenings, determined to start pushing myself harder as I build up in these final weeks of trainings. Hill reps were sweated out, adding an extra one when I felt I could do no more. I went up Tod and had a club run with the medium group. And then, on the Thursday, I headed out for a wonderful pleasant evening around the Luddenden Valley with a few Calder Valley folk, including Kirsten.

The weather was warm, and warmer was predicted. Not exactly a rest week in preparation for the Old County Tops, and not my sort of weather either. 37 miles and 10,000ft in the heat....it was unthinkable!!

Race day dawned hot. I met up with Chris, topped up the water, added the nuun tablets and chatted to various folks outside the Dungeon Ghyll. Then at 8am, we were off! A steady pace, but as we headed up and over to Grasmere, the heat was already building and it was clear this was going to be a "special" day!

I walked up towards Grisedale Tarn with Colin D, both of us bemoaning the fact that we're not warm-weather people. The sweat was dripping off us already, but we weren't the only ones. The climb up to the ridge was never-ending, although I was climbing ok. But the time to Helvellyn (and the smiley face of Dave Makin!) was the slowest I've done it yet.

The descent down to Wythburn was great and I overtook quite a few, including Rick and Dawsy. And we rolled into the checkpoint, drinks of water and a bit of food before heading out and up the valley and into "the Bog", where the heat radiated from the ground. As we climbed up Greenup Edge, I realised I was following Yiannis and his partner on a slightly different line from the rest, and we followed them from the top all the way across to Angle Tarn on a very direct and fast line.

Various Toddies were at the Tarn, as well as the beaming smile of Kirsten, and it was a chance to have a sit-down and recover slightly. The hat was being dipped in every pool of water we found to try and keep cool. The climb out to Scafell was hot! But, to be fair, athe rocks were dry and it made quite a difference in speed over there. We dropped down Little Narrowcove...and again, the heat in that bowl hit. It was a dry cauldron, compared to the usual boggy mess. Moasdale was no better, although I managed a decent trot down there, 6 of us heading down together including old friends from Shropshire.

As I staggered into Cockley Beck, I remember Chrispy saying "get him a chair quickly" as I pretty much fell into it and watched the world spin. We must have taken 15 minutes there. It became apparent that a lot had already dropped out due to the heat, and more were going to be timed out because of it. Chrispy suggested I should think about stopping.....AS IF!!!!

The mind was determined. I stared into that mirror of self-reflection and saw so clearly that if I had any real hope or intention of completing the BG this year, I HAD to get up and get myself to the end. And, along with the Shropshire lads, that's what I did. I felt wretched on the climb, but no more so than several others, including Mark Jackson who was attempting his BG 2 weeks later. Once up on the ridge, the breeze kicked in and I felt slightly better.

We trotted the way back from Coniston, descended gingerly from Wet Side Edge to see Kirsten again at the Three Shires Stone, then walked (yes, really!) the road section before putting in a bit of effort as we saw the Newport lads just ahead. A bit of a race (if you can call it that) ensued across those last fields, but I didn't have it in me to catch them.

As we turned onto the road, with 100yds to go, Chris, who'd been the stronger all day, threw up, to make an excellent spectacle for the watching crowd! We crossed the line in a ridiculously slow 11.06 but WE'D FINISHED!!! It turned out that 27 pairs out of 80-ish hadn't!!

But the fun was only just starting. I sat in a chair trying to get salty egg sandwiches inside me, feeling a bit strange....then collapsed onto the floor as the world went spinning!! In total, I think I spent about half an hour down there, wrapped in a space blanket, being looked after by Kirsten, Jeff, Dave and Chris, before the nuun drink kicked in and I came round. As soon as I tried to get up though, my whole body went into cramp, and eventually, Jeff and Dave lifted me up onto my feet and I was ok.

With the benefit of reflection and hindsight, I'm so, SO pleased with the fact I continued. For my head, I had to. For my body, it might have been better not to, although I feel I'm pretty much recovered now (4 weeks later!).

A couple of weeks afterwards, I told Mark J that the Old County Tops was the day that he proved HE could do the BG. I hope the same applies to me in a few weeks.

Total for the week - 55.5mls & 13,500ft