Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday 11 December - And relax.....

Well, maybe not relax but the time has come to stop training.

It's at this time before any big race or event that you start to ask yourself whether it has been enough. Am I fit and strong enough physically to keep going for 66 miles, climbing 27,000 feet over 42 mountains? Am i mentally ready to keep going? Have I done enough to prepare for the darkness and the cold? Have I got enough support? Do I want this enough? Have I missed anything?

Training wise, I think I'm there. It's been a pretty solid four and half months of training, with every week (bar two) seeing 10,000 feet of climbing, usually more. I've not had the mammonth days out such as the Fellsman which I had for my summer BGR in 2007, but I've had a few days of 10ish hours, and one 13.5 hour day so that'll be ok. I've spent many many hours on the fells this autumn, more than last time so the legs and lungs are strong enough - if i rest from now that is...

On Wednesday this week I got my warning to rest and not run. I did my last pre-midwinter BGR run - an 18 mile outing in the Yorkshire Dales. I decided to run there as I had a job interview in Leeds on Thursday morning (went well, second interview promised in January) and wanted to be in that area on Wednesday night. I also wanted to go easy and pack less climbing in which made what Mike Harding refers to as 'the Striding Dales' a perfect choice with the peaks seperated by miles of rolling moorland. Of course, if you're not climbing up steep slopes, you're running and running is something i;ve done far less of than climbing - as i found out!

I ran up Penyghent, running every step and made the top in 40 mins. That's race pace but i did feel like i had another gear. I kept running at that sort of effort level until Ribblehead, making that in just over an hour from Penyghent. That was way too fast. I realised, as i stopped for a bit of food that my training hadn't really included much running. The BGR requires lots of strong climbing, which is fast walking really - lots of it up huge slopes. This is what I've been doing and consequently, I was knackered at Ribblehead and was disappointed at my apparent inability to run. Still, I had just run for 1:45 at race pace on muddy ground with a full pack so what was i expecting? Fed up, I turned left to climb Ingleborough and found myself climbing really quickly up Park Fell, an outlier of Ingleborough. I was relieved - it's important to know I can climb well on tired legs. I reached the summit of Ingleborough and then ran down that long descent to Horton. In all, I was out for 4 hours and covered 18 miles and 4000 feet ascent/descent.

I had planned to run again after this but realised at a stroke that I was really tired out. Not just from the run, not even simply from the 20,000 feet i ascended last week, but from the quarter of a million feet of ascent and descent that i've done since I started training for this in late July. For the first time since i started training, i felt like i'd had enough for now and needed a rest. So, as i sat drinking my chocolate protein shake in the boot of my car outside the Penyghent cafe, i decided that was it for the training. No more running, at all, until 20:00 - 18 December.

That decision still feels right, 2 days later. It's Friday morning and I'm going to spend the rest of the time between now and then getting the prep right.

The following is my to do list:

- Food plan - what i will eat beforehand, on the hill during each of the 5 legs, at each of the road crossings etc.
- Sort out road crossing arrangements - Alison and Tanker Rob are going to need clear instructions - where, when, what to takem what to feed me and the pacers, what to give to my hill support, what to take from them, what gear to have ready for me (down jacket, towel, fresh socks, mug of warm tea etc!)
- Finalise hill support - a few injuries mean a change of plan and some juggling of runners from leg to leg if they are willing to change
- Kit list - the monster list of everything i'll need on the hill, in the hut, the day before, the night afterwards. Don't forget the sleeping bag and fluffy pillow!
- Hill support information - specific instructions for pacers (timings, bearings, route notes, when/what to feed me, what gear of mine to take etc)
- Mega itinerary - single list of who needs to be where and when - including cars, runners starting and finishing, other support (black sail tea stop!, broad stand) - this is the main bit of info
- Shopping list - food and other bits i need to get for everyone else

Struth - good job i've stopped training!

The whole thing is starting to feel real now. Nothing brings that home more than the long range weather forecast which sees rising pressure and a cold week. It's likely the fells are going to be frozen, which is good for the marshy bits (Martcrag Moor, north of Clough Head, Calf Crag, much of leg 1) but is far less good for the rocky bits (second half of leg 3, bits of leg 4) and even less good for exposed sections (Halls Fell - Doddick Fell looking likely now; Broad Stand - really having reservations about this, despite a bloody generous offer to go rig it up). My hope is that the ground conditions allow the tricky bits and the good bits to balance out and that we get gorgeous cold, clear weather. Would it be too much to ask for a temperature inversion with clear air above and warm (relatively) fell tops and cold (absolutely) valleys??? The idea of a stunning cloud filled valley with peaks sticking out the top is a real possibility at this time of year and I'm starting to hope for that now that i've seen the forcast...although it could be banked out with snow rendering a round impossible. We'll see....

So, loads to do, no time to train. Lots of time to bring this event alive and get everything sorted. Hopefully that'll help me feel slightly less nervous and slightly more confident....


  1. I'm getting sooo excited for you :-) Are you struggling support wise or do you have it covered?