Sunday, 27 December 2009

Post script: Recovery and reflection

I wanted to write the midwinter round up in such a way as to celebrate what we did. and rightly so. I think the write up of the round (the post beneath this one) reflects the difficulties and the spirit of that amazing day.

But I don't want to hide from the fact that I didn't get under 24 hours, nor do I want to miss out on the small-ish window of time where the memory is fresh enough to capture what could have been done differently on that day to perhaps enable me to dip underneath 24 hours.

I also want to finish this blog by reflecting on what I might do next...

So, what did I learn?

Lesson one - Choosing the right shoe when the ground is hard

I did the round in 2 pairs of Innov8 x-talons. One old pair for leg one which I knew were going to be soaked during the Caldew river crossing, and a new pair (worn for one long run only beforehand) for the rest. I chose them for their grip mainly - their sticky rubber being perfect I thought for the likely challenges of ice and snow covered grass and rocks.

What I have learned is that winter conditions like those I had means the ground is hard all the way round. X-talons, even a new pair, offer next to no cushioning and support (that's not what they are designed for) and all the hard ground on the typically downhill runnable sections means that your quads are having to deal with quite a lot more impact on each step than in the summer, when much of the impact is dissipated through the softer ground. All of that extra impact adds up.

I should have worn my Roclites, which are slightly more cushioned and whose grip would have actually been fine. They are a great shoe for longer stuff. In fact I did much of my training in Roclites and should have kept faith with them.

I think this went some way towards my bad patch on the descent from Scafell, something I'm not sure I fully recovered from afterwards.

Lesson Two - The cold just slows you down

I rarely felt cold on the round, despite the minus plenty temperatures. But I was breathing in cold air continuously. The temperature never went above freezing throughout and the cold air you inhale means your body has to work harder to keep you warm. A buff or face mask may have helped but there was never going to be much I could do about this.

Lesson Three - Take warm drinks on the hills, not just at the road crossings

I knew that I'd need more calories on a winter round than a summer round. I like to try and get calories from the drinks as well as the food, and the 4:1 sports drink is something I tend to get on well with. So, I took plenty of it with me on the hills.

On every leg, the bottles started to freeze. This meant that shards of ice were forming inside the bottles and I was drinking them. Not only did this chill me from the inside, it unsettled my stomach, esp on leg 2 and 3 when temperatures were really low. This meant I was reluctant to ingest anything, food or drink, and this is not good news when on a 24 round. I did not eat or drink enough and I felt ill for long periods - and that took its toll.

What I would have loved was a warm cup of tea or soup. I should have ensured we had a half litre flask or two on each leg. It would have been easy to get a pacer to run ahead, pour it out and wait for me to catch up and swig it. It would have been better for mind and body. Seems obvious now but I decided to drink hot drinks at the road crossings only and this was not enough.

Lesson Four - Play to the strengths of your supporters on the hill

Putting your less quick runners (albeit runners with terrific mountain experience) on leg one when you are fresh to ensure you don't go out too fast doesn't work and isn't fair on them. It's leg 5 where you need a steady hand and someone who wouldn't be afraid of telling you straight that you're falling back on schedule but can also encourage you with humour and a bit of compassion. You shouldn't 'waste' them on leg one. Leg one is best for people who are pretty quick and are willing to act as packhorses. Richard and Clive were perfect for leg five and I should not have put them on leg one (as it was, Clive did leg five too and proved my point, he was terrific!).

I also should not have asked clive to run leg one and do broad stand. As it was, he wasn;t feeling great after leg one and i'm so glad he didn;t go and set up BS. But that was too much to ask. I was staggered, in a good way, when Clive arrived at Honister to do leg five. Looking forward to supporting him on his round this summer.

Lesson Five - Plan your rest stops as much as your time on the fells

Alison and Rob were brilliant as road support - they were where i needed them to be, when i needed them to be there and with food and drink to hand. But i hadn't given them a list of exactly what i needed to do. I relied upon myself to remember and sort it myself - silly. I wanted to take pruffen at each one and forgot at all of them which i'm sure would have helped. I wanted to change socks and base layer. I should have had a selection of food that i;d tried, but i didn't. Rob and Alison were great, but i didn;t think enough about what i needed from them to get the most out of their efforts. So they put everything out that i gave to them and I winged it. I should have given them a checklist - take pruffen, change socks/top, replace batteries in torch/GPS, replace gloves/hat if used on previous leg, provide food/drink etc etc. I didn't and the rest stops were more more stressful for me that they should have been.

So, plan your rest stops meticulously.

What next?

I'm still not sure how i feel about those extra 22 minutes. Perhaps I could go again before the end of February to get a winter round in under 24 hours? OK it's not midwinter, but I'm content that I've done a tough mid-winter round. But it's an itch I might have to scratch one day....

Problem is, I don;t want to drag loads of supporters up there again. It could take the pi55 a bit with people. I'm also really taken with the idea of a solo round. I love the idea of having a big, solo day out on the hills.

I like big days out alone, looking after myself. I loved the support i had for both my BGRs but solo seems to be the next step.

On balance, the appeal of doing a solo round is much stronger than re-doing a winter round and finding those 22 mins. I think doing another winter round would potentially detract from the achivement of the mid-winter epic that is still leaving me feeling pleasantly tired of an evening. I loved that day out and wouldn't want to just try and repeat it.

Problem is, if i'm fit, and there's a mild period of benign weather towards the end of February, could I resist the lure of sneaking in a solo sub 24 hour winter round?

Hmmm, not sure...

But why the BGR, again?

I could do the Paddy Buckley, the Ramsey, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc? There's a big wide world out there.

I may well end up doing those things, but i;m a sucker for the lakes. It's always been and will always be my favourite place.

There's Steve Parr's 2500' summits round, a 36 hour epic i like the look of. Maybe i could do that as a build up to something even bigger. For me, the ultimate goal would be to do the Wainwrights in one continuous trip, a la Joss Naylor. I couldn't hold a candle to him of course, but I've always liked the idea of that trip as a multi-day epic.

I'm not sure that's one for 2010 though, i think a number of 24 hour rounds need to be bagged before I can contemplate that.

I do like the idea of the Paddy Buckley, esp as it's closer to home (the Carneddau are an hour from my house). Perhaps I could do a solo BGR in the late winter/spring as part of the build up to a summer PBR. Then maybe the Steve Parr round in 2011 and the Wainwrights in 2012?

That could work....

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