Monday, 24 August 2009

Sunday 23 August. The best fellrunner in Rossett?

Great Gable from Wasdale - will I make it here in the light on the big day?

It's a bit of a stretch to conceive of a winter round in August. Right now, i'm just trying to get fit. But sooner or later, I need to think hard about how I'm going to approach the logistics of getting round this magnificent round mostly in the dark.

I'm no stranger to nights of the fells, in fact I'm getting rather typecast as a 'night leg' runner on Bob Grahams and Paddy Buckleys. I like the navigation and judgement elements for sure, but what i love most is watching the sun come up whilst moving along my beloved fells.

But deep into my long run on Friday on Wasdale to Honister leg I started to question what I was doing. After all, i've done the BGR so why do it again? Why do a round that's mostly in the dark? Why ask people to help you at a time when they are building up to Christmas and could probably do without the weekend before being spent on the fells in the dark helping someone with their indulgences? I started to have doubts about this whole enterprise, which seems born out of the fact i've got time to train hard all of a sudden. I mean, why do a winter round? Sure I'll be the first person in my running club to have done a winter round, but so what? That's like puffing my chest at being the best fellrunner in Rossett (my village).

Of course, the answer lies in your own head and not in how the achivement may or may not be perceived by others. The fact is that my recent experiences of working hard in a poisonous and intergrity-testing environment before taking redundancy has severely damaged my confidence and I need a boost. I need this year to contain an achivement that outweighs the failure that characterises 2009 to date. I got out of that place with my integrity intact, which I'm kind of proud of, but it hurts nonetheless, and did throughout all of my time there. This winter round is a salve for my shattered confidence, and whether I get round or not, it's a chance to get back to a level of fitness that brings confidence and pleasure gained from long hard days in the hills.

I had such a day on Friday, with a jaunt around leg four (clockwise) of the BGR with some extra climbing thrown in for good measure. It was a superb run, starting at Honister, running easily to Wasdale over the beautuful Moses Trod and then back along those lofty leg four fells including the steep and testing Yewbarrow, the mighty Pillar and Great Gable and the pain in the ass Kirk Fell which always seems tougher than it looks.

Lingmell and Broad Crag from slopes of Great Gable

Great and Green Gable from Moses Trod

Buttermere from Moses Trod

The weather was kind until Gable, when the clag dropped very quickly and i had to get the compass out. I was well inside the BGR 23 hour splits without busting a gut, apart from the trip from Yewbarrow where a fall and some sitting arond meant i did that split dead on the scheduled 50 mins. Still, the cut and bruise on my thigh justifies the whinge.


The swelling has gone down but it's still real sore. The slip had me fully in mid air before my whole bodyweight landed on a sharp flake of rock through my poor thigh. Descending was painful after this, but it could have been worse. It did mean staying off it for a couple of days but i'd got enough climbing in the bank this week already - 14000' to be precise!

Last week I was lamenting the lack of obvious improvements to my fitness after three weeks of hard training. Well i needn't have worried, this week has seen some much better, faster runs and much faster recovery from them - it's working!

I've been doing two particular runs each week as a measure of progress, and i'll do at least one of them every week right up until the taper to see where i'm at. This week, my 'twice up Moel Famau' run, which is over 7 miles and climbs and descends 2300' took 1:18. The three previous weeks saw times of 1:23, 1:33 and 1:34. When i did the BG in summer 2007, i got this run down to 1:15. Hopefully next week will see me hit this landmark. The other litmus-paper run is the Moel y Gamelin ridge run, which is an out and back from Llangollen's horseshoe pass. It's 7.5 miles and climbs 3000' on some steep but entirely runnable paths. Last week i ran this in 1:36, this week I felt strong and ran 1:27! I was delighted with this as i was feeling a little leg weary and know there's more there. My pre-BGR form has me doing this in 1:24 so again, after four weeks of tough training, i'm getting there...

I like monitoring the times of my training runs, something i don;t normally do. One lesson is to get into that habit in all my training. It makes you run harder and helps you to concentrate. It makes for really stimulating running.

Things are going well then. Being the best fellrunner in Rossett might not be anything to write home about, but great runs on the fells are and i'm thankful that i'm getting plenty of them in.

Week summary:

Mon - MF*2 run, 7M, 2300' - 1:18 - cracking run
Tues - MF from bottom car park, 1000' up in 15:28 - a record for me on that short run
Weds - Moel y Gamelin ridge, 7.5M, 3000' - 1:27
Thurs - speed session with Trev's group at club - sprinting hurts!
Fri - BGR leg four+ circular run from Honister - 19M, 8000'

Total - 14,300' climbing, @45 miles

Tune in head - A mixture this week, some AC/DC in there (Back in Black, resisted air guitar mid-climb!), some Pink Floyd too (plodding to the 7/8 of 'Money' works on big climbs i find!) and various 80's bilge filtering in and out, oddly....

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Sunday 16 August. I think I'm getting fitter?

Over the last week I've done 5 runs and climbed a total of 11,400', meaning that's three weeks of over 11,000' of climbing. I don't feel any fitter though, there's no obvious evidence that i'm getting anything out of this. Those I run with have only ever seen me running knackered. My times on familiar routes are nothing to write home about and i feel sluggish and slow.

That's probably because all my runs are sluggish and slow, with little quality. Now you're not really supposed to do quality work when biulding up for a round, and improvements are supposed to come slowly but very surely, but i;ve had months of frustratingly slow running i'd love to see some improvements soon.

This coming week i'm going to still focus on getting the climbing in. I remember during my summer round being thankful during legs 4 and 5 that I was climbing so well and that i'd done so much climbing in my training. I mustn't forget that because it really is the bedrock of a mountain round. But i'm also going to run harder. Usually, i consider the 'big' day to be the most important run of the week. This week, i'll still go long on one or maybe two days, but i'm going to hit one of my shorter fellruns hard and see just whatshape i'm in.

I'll focus on my regular moel famau run which climbs the hill twice and does quite a bit of the summit ridge. I;ve done this run al three weeks and have clocked 1:34, 1:33 and 1:23. I've done this run before in 1:15. Let's see what i can do this week...

Week summary:

Monday - Moel Famau run, 1:23, felt ok, a bit tired 7M, 2300'
Tuesday - Moel y Gamelin ridge run, out and back 1:36. 9M 3000'
Weds - Tattenhall railways * 4, 1200' - really slow, felt shattered
Thursday - Club run, hilly efforts, only 400' or so. Also tired.
Fri - no running, swam 500m
Sat - Half Peris route in grim weather, very wet, 10M and 4500'
Sun - rest, much needed.

Total - 11,400' climbing, @42M

Tune in head - Queen - A kind of magic (shouldn't have watched 'Highlander'!)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Sunday 9 August. 11,400' of therapy.

I wondered how on earth I was going to get anything of any consequence done this week after such a big week last week, including the mighty Borrowdale race. As it turned out I had a corking week's training, with 11,400' feet of climbing and some glorious runs.

It was hard going though, and my legs were really heavy. I remember from my summer round that the early training weeks are done on tired legs, you just have to get through it. It's frustrating because you expect to start feeling faster and stronger, but the thing to remember is that's to come.

Maybe even this coming week? I ran Monday to Friday last week and have had the weekend off to recover. It seems to have worked. For the first time in a couple of weeks nothing is sore, so perhaps this week will see faster times and freer running?

It's fair to say that it's not just the prospect of a winter BGR that presents a need for such consistent training. I'm still coming to terms with redundancy and not quite knowing what i'm going to do next. The running is really helping, I'm doing the job research between runs and each run usually ends up with more ideas to explore. I've got a few months grace to sort something out and so I should be grateful in getting such a good deal, especially as running provides such good therapy. I'm not sure how I'd be without it.

The highlight of the week was a cracking day out on Friday, a superb outing on the Carneddau. It wasn't a long day, just the Paddy Buckley leg with a run back to the car - 4000 feet of climbing and about 13 miles in just over three hours all in. As well as it being sunny, and as well as managing to run well within the PBR 23 hour splits without too much effort, it was really good to explore somewhere new. I know the main summits well but the two outliers were new to me. It made me realise that it's been years since I did a new summit and I'm keen a explore a bit during this time off.

New summit for me, Pen Y Helgi Du

I'm looking forward to another week's therapy, with the prospect of a Peris Horseshoe recce at the weekend...

Week summary:

11,400 feet of climbing, 46M

Monday - 4 Tattenhall railways with Andy Blair, 1300' ascent
Tuesday - Moel Famau run 6M and 2300', same as last Tuesday but a little quicker (1:33, very heavy legs), then 2 more railways in the evening with the club (700')
Weds - Clwydian Hills race route, 9M, 3100' - 2 hours, very heavy legs. A stunning evening.
Thurs - 8M easy running on the flat with the club. Felt awful, just light headed and just wanted to run alone, so I left the group. Was OK by the end.
Friday - 13M, 4000' climbing - Carneddau PBR leg, really lovely 3 and a bit hours.
Sat/Sun - Harry's christening in Peterborough, so no running. Ate lots of crap!

Tune in head - Cornflake Girl, Tori Amos - a belter!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Sunday 2 August. Bringing it all back...

It's only taken one week of training to get back that contentment that only comes from being focussed on something and knackered.

This was been a tough week in many ways. It's first week of my 'gardening leave' that has seen me at home whilst the world goes to work. You can't help but feel a second class citizen. The shock of leaving the job so suddenly hit me hard and it's been tough to adjust. I shouldn't moan because I'm on full pay and i can't contractually start working again until November. They're paying me to train (oh, and keep the house in order, very much a secondary priority).

And train i did! My calves were very very tight from the Gritstone Tryal and were all week, meaning nothing was done at pace and I was forever wearing tubigrips and the like. But I got out there for 5 of the 7 days and clocked up 15,200 feet of ascent, including the mighty Borrowdale fell race.

This was my 5th Borrowdale and the one I'd prepared for the least. The months of very little training meant I was out of shape and low on confidence. My calves were still sore, even to walk on, so this was going to have to be a chance to get 6500' climbing in rather than to race well. And so it began, with my calf hurting from the first step. By the time I reached Esk Hause after 90 mins I was well down the field and people were passing me on the climbs. THe rougher ground of Scafell Pike went better as the Innov8 x-talons were terrific on the rocky stuff. THe calves finally loosened after 2 hours and although i was tired, i was able to speed up a little. I felt great at Honister and ended up finishing strongly, passing people who flew past me on the first climb. I ended up finishing in 4:27, which is equal to my previous best on that course. I was suprised at that and quite pleased until Pete, my clubmate, told me he came in an hour quicker (18th overall, a fantastic run). I was still pleased but my run was quite rightly overshadowed by Pete's superb outing.

Considering a low base, sore calves and that fact i'd already racked up 5,500' that week I was pleased. I think knowing the course helped, but all in all, a great race and a decent run. Perhaps I'm in a little better shape than I thought.

Week Summary:

Mon - 6 Tattenhall railways - 2000' ascent
Tues - Moel Famau *2 run - 2200' ascent, 1:34
Weds - Moel y Gamelin from Rhewl - just one rep as bracken was impossible - 1300'. Had some physio and accupuncture on calves that afternoon. Ouch!
Thurs and Fri - Rest - Sarah's (physio) orders.
Sat - Borrowdale, 17 miles, 6500;, 4:27
Sun - Helvellyn via Striding and Swirral Edges (Inc Catstycam), easy walk, 3200'

Total, @40 miles and 15,200' ascent

Tune in head (during Borrowdale) - Dignity by Deacon Blue, why?????

Sunday 26 July - The first training session, The Gritstone Tryal

I started this blog the day i returned from a 12 day trip to Italy. Less than 24 hours after getting off the plane, my suntan and I turned up at Teggs Nose near Macclesfield to run the Gritstone Tryal - a navigation event as much as a fellrace. It was 15 miles and had about 2000' climbing in it.

The idea was to hit the ground running, as it were, and to get myself working hard after a 12 days of fabulous Italian ice cream, creamy pasta, cheese on everything etc etc. I wasn't expecting much, just to get round.

The weather started foul, with very limited visibility and persistant rain. I got my map and off we all went towards the first checkpoint. I got lost. Fuming with myself, I took real close care of my nav from that point and ran my heart out to catch a group (presumably back markers) and just kept plugging. It was great to be out and I didn't expect to finish high up or anything, just a good workout. I latched onto a group which had one of those guys at the front that speaks loudly about knowing where he is going. They usually don't, and he didn't. Craftily, i studied the map and could see the mistake he was making and let the group of sheep follow. As I dropped off the back, a rather pleasant girl did the same and we sneaked off in the right direction to the finish. Imagine my surprise to find I was 10th and the girl who ran in with me was 1st lady. We were both chuffed with that. If i hadn't had cocked up the first checkpoint, who knows.... One to pot hunt at next year perhaps!!!

All in all, a good start, but my calves are in agony after that...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Saturday 25 July. Time to act.

For the last 7 months I've been working in a job that demanded everything. This meant running once or twice a week if I was lucky, working weekends and evenings and being constantly tired, stressed and pre-occupied. It was a very senior job which paid very well, but it really was not for me, despite the fact I was doing a good job. No balance and no culture that respected the need for balance. I was young for the role, the youngest Head of Service by some distance I think and had a lot to prove, or so it felt. THere was also zero organisational support, apart from within my talented team.

My employer made a huge miscalulation and realised they needed to lose serious headcount some short months after setting up. A voluntary redundancy scheme was launched and I had 11 years service to cash in. I thought long and hard and decided to go for it. I'm glad I did because my role then became under serious threat. They agreed to let me and go and now i've got two months 'gardening leave' and then a decent payoff after that.

Whilst the priority is to find a career i can enjoy, the fellrunner in me sees this time as a great chance to train and achive something during the winter. I've been robbed of so much running, fitness and contentment this year so it's time to redress the balance. A winter round is just the ticket, and where better than my beloved Lake District?

I did the BGR in summer 2007 (the 1363rd person in the BGR club) and just loved it, and the preparation for it. I would like to tackle the Welsh and Scottish rounds someday, but this window points to winter and I know the BGR so very well. It might also prepare for those other rounds in spring/summer 2010...?

So this blog will chronicle the build up from a pretty low level of fitness and a fuzzy state of mind to a chilly, murky, focussed and fantastic day out in December.

Writing a blog was a real help to me in 2007 - it helped me get out the door for a start on those days I just couldn't be arsed. It also helped others who did the round so that would be a nice thing to repeat. Given that I'm down with the kids, i'll be using twitter to log each run and the blog to assess where i'm up to and to capture anything else of note. The twitter will also i don't spend ages racking my brain each weekend trying to remember what I did on the previous Monday :)