Sunday 21 May 2017

Hope24 2017 - Tale of two halves

The weather forecast weeks prior for the start of Hope24 wasn't positive. It was constantly changing but bad weather was going to play it's part. Unlike the previous years where the weather has been pretty good, this year was deemed to be not as lucky according to the weather gods. So I was planning ahead in regards to kit selection and game plan. Last thing I wanted was my own planning to let me down.
Setting up my base for the event
I wasn't setting myself a target to hit, as I had no need I already have a place in AoA18 and I wanted to use this as a training session for the big adventure in August.

I would be happy enough if I hit at least 60 miles in the 24 hour period, but I wouldn't get upset if I didn't. I also planned on not clock watching . My watch would be on my pack and not my wrist so I wouldn't be checking pace or time.

All registered and ready to go
The morning of the event arrived, and the sun was out and getting unexpectedly warm. I already knew the course lay out as I was out helping set up on the Friday morning, and knew how stunning the course was.

My son was running the 2.4km kids race before the main event so I was running with him. Last year he was ill so this year I had no doubt he's smash it. He was quite excited about it all. Smashed it, he did! I was so proud of him.

Me and my boy before his race.
It wasn't long after we were called for a safety brief prior to the start of the main event. We gathered around to listen to Pete Drummond well given brief and then positioned ourselves on the start line. For the first time ever both myself and my wife stood on the same start line for the same event. My in laws were looking after our son so we both could run our race. With the sun shining and the temperature very warm we were off. The course was changed so it wasn't the same as previous years. The course was probably the best one for scenery so far. It really made the run far more enjoyable!
Stunning Bluebell trails
Seeing so many familiar faces along the course was fantastic, having brief chats as we passed along the way. The beauty of these types of events is that you are never along for too long on the course. I think the longest period was probably about 6pm ish when it was a couple of miles into a lap before some one passed me. I think it appeared to be the break period for most.

Random stuffed toys nailed to the trees that have been there a fair while
As the event went on the weather changed and the rain started. It was off and on a lot. It was heavy too when it was on. I go to take my jacket off and it was start again. Soon as time went on it was relentless. I started to see some runners still in road shoes slipping and sliding all over the place along the trails. It was funny at first but soon got worrying.

I was doing well enough for myself. Happy to take it easy as it darkened and the rain got worse. I was still moving forward and the Saucony Peregrines were handling the terrain well enough.

As it got darker it was head torches on for the runners, the rain didn't give up either. I was waiting for a good spell in the weather window to change my wet clothes. Alas that wasn't to come yet.

Snacking on the go just as the rain started again into the night -Pic agimages
The next two laps I helped guide some runners. During one lap I came across a friend Fiona, who I had met through Escape from Meriden, on the course. Her head torch had failed, and despite trail shoes she wasn't confident in the conditions. So I pointed out the rocks, the tree roots and other hazards as we made our way round.

We made it to the end of the lap around 10.50pm and we were greeted by Pete and marshals saying they had postponed the event at 10.15pm until further notice. It was for the safety of the masses they said, and it was the right decision. After waiting for about an hour my wife told me to get some kip as I was starting to get cold. During this kip we heard it was re starting at 5am. A forced kip was not going to be turned down.

I woke to Pete saying it was due to start and I was close to not wanting to get out of bed. I did and I managed to get back out just after the restart. Soon enough I was back around the course. Getting the legs going again was something but it was good practice for the big adventure as I will have to do it over and over again.

I put in some more laps as it warmed up and eventually it was time for the last lap. I was joined by my wife for the first time. She has slipped during her first lap and hurt her ankle and only managed another one since til our last lap. She was determined to get round. It was probably the best finish to a race I have had.

Me and the wife
As went round I caught up with Sarah Booker, a fellow blogger and runner. She's brilliant! She was supporting her husband on his solo quest. We had a chat and hug and they went on.

Then Luke from my club who for the first time had run 50 miles joined us for the remainder. He too had hurt his ankle so was happy to take it easy. I am so pleased for Luke. He is brill and he did great.

As me and the wife entered the final arena bit we enjoyed the atmosphere as we made it round til we decided to have a sprint finish together. I am so proud of my wife, and having run with her and my son in the same event was definitely a highlight of my running journey. They were brilliant!

My boy, wife and myself with our well earnt bling!
That brings me to end really. Although not on pace compared to last year, I am still pleased with how things went. Yes it could've gone better but I am not worried. Despite missing out on 7 hours I still felt good to go again and again. So I knew I had more laps in me and having hit 1 short of my minimum for 24 hours I am not going to complain.

The event is pretty special, the atmosphere, organisation is brilliant. The community feel is outstanding and the fact I get to run it with so many friends is great. If you've not run this event before I suggest you put in your future calendar.
This race was for a friend who sadly passed away through mental illness.
Thanks to Tailwind Nutrition UK for their continued support.

Until next time!!

"We'll never truly find our limits until we try something we can't do"

Tuesday 2 May 2017

There is no Map in Hell Blog Tour - Day 3

Anyone who's into endurance running, fell running, trail running will have heard something about the Wainright Round. 214 fells in England's Lake District with 36,000m ascent over 515km is pretty epic in itself, now imagine running that in a specific time! In 1986 Joss Naylor a legend in fell running, set a new record of 7 days and 1 hour to cover all 214 fells. Fast forward 19 years and Steve Birkinshaw an endurance runner with a background in elite orienteering and endurance running made his attempt to break what was deemed a record impossible to break. 

Steve smashed the record covering the 214 fells, 515km and 36,000m of ascent in 6 days and 13 hours. That's just incredible! 

Now Steve has written a fantastic book There is no Map in Hell which opens by setting out how this man got into the world of fell running and the account of the amazing Wainright Round performance. His book goes on sale this week in the UK. A book which I didn't want to put down.

The publisher invited Ultra Running Matelot to take part in Steve's Blog Tour which will be published on various blogs over 9 days. I feel really humbled to be able to publish Day 3 of the tour for There is no Map in Hell and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. You can find the links and dates to the other blogs below.

So here is Day 3's tour blog.

Best and worst moments of the Wainwright round
By Steve Birkinshaw

Throughout the seven days of my Wainwright round, I went through some extreme physical and emotional highs and lows. This was exhausting, and my years of experience definitely helped immensely to prepare me for these radical ups and downs. I was thinking about including my summary of the personal highs and lows in my book There is no Map in Hell, but chose not to. However I think it helps to demonstrate the intensity of the week, so I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to publish it on Owain’s blog.

Day 1 (Keswick – Ennerdale):
HIGH – Setting off on my epic journey with a small group of family and friends watching.
HIGH – Climbing to the top of Latrigg – one Wainwright down 213 to go.
LOW – Getting very hot on the tussocks around Armboth Fell.
LOW – Climbing Glaramara whilst feeling dehydrated and tired. I have only been going for six hours.
HIGH– A bit of rain on Allen Crags and I immediately feel a bit better.
BIG LOW – Being violently sick towards the end of the first day and wondering if it is only going to get worse.
BIG LOW – Lying down unable to sleep after the first day.

Day 1 - Approaching the summit of Castle Crag at the end of the first section
Day 2 (Ennerdale - Duddon):
HIGH – A lovely sunrise and then cooler cloudy day and I am feeling OK.
HIGH – On top of Scafell Pike (25% done!) and no injuries or blisters.
LOW – My first blister approaching Hard Knott Pass.
HIGH – The toughest, highest rockiest sections completed. Better running from now on.
LOW – The midges at the Duddow, the worst I have known in England.
BIG LOW – Four more hours' lying down unable to sleep as my knees throb with extreme pain.

Day 3 (Duddon – Rydal)
HIGH – A lovely morning over the Coniston Fells.
LOW – The tracker shows we have missed Dow Crag and my wife (Emma) rings us up at 6am to see what has happened.
HIGH –We can confirm to Emma that the tracker is wrong and we went the correct way.
HIGH – A hot shower at the Great Langdale Bunkhouse.
LOW – The section to Silver Howe seems to take forever and the climb to Loughrigg is extremely hot.
BIG LOW – More lying down unable to sleep, until I finally drift off after some physio from Phil Davies.

Day 4 (Rydal – Howtown)
HIGH – A night section over Fairfield which is nice and cool.
HIGH – Red Screes … the half way point!
LOW – Tendonitis at the front of my ankle in my right leg.
LOW – A hot day and feeling shattered as I climb out of Kentmere.
LOW – In agony from my blisters as we approach High Street.
HIGH – My support team manage to drain the blisters and I start to move better again.
HIGH – Finally reach Howtown after nearly twenty-four hours on my feet.
HIGH – Finally I get a good four hours sleep.

Day 4 - Climbing Mardale Ill Bell without his shoes on due to blister pain
Day 5 (Howtown – Troutbeck):
BIG LOW – My blisters and tendonitis are really sore. I walk up Hallin Fell without shoes on and come down very slowly. I begin to doubt if I can achieve this.
HIGH – Climb The Nab really strongly and I can manage to jog downhill on rocky paths.
HIGH – Two hot showers and houses as support points during the day.
LOW – Extremely hot and draining as we climb out of Glenridding.
HIGH – Lots of people out to see me including a family with children of a similar age to mine.
HIGH – Clough Head (three-quarters complete!) and a nice view of my house.
BIG LOW – The steep descent off of Great Mell Fell is agony on my tendonitis.
HIGH – Another good four hours sleep.

Day 5 - Looking tired on the final approach to Helvellyn
Day 6 (Troutbeck – Pheasant Inn, Wythop):
BIG LOW – More agonising treatment on my blisters and then I hobble out of the campervan barely able to walk.
HIGH – I climb strongly up Souther Fell and I am moving better again.
LOW – I start to feel sick and bloated again. I take it easy and don’t eat or drink much for a while.
HIGH – Emma comes with me up Carrock Fell.
HIGH – Loads of people come out to see me over the northern fells. There is an England flag up for me at Longlands Fell and I am given an ice cream at Lonscale Fell.
LOW – I go through a really tired spell and need a five-minute power nap on the summit of Great Cockup.
LOW – If I place my foot down slightly twisted I scream in agony as the shoe presses on my blister.
HIGH – My supporters find a nice route off Ullock Pike avoiding the rough descent.
LOW – I try to hide from my children how painful the blister treatment is.
LOW– The road out and back to Binsey is as horrible as I expect and I am unable to run much as I am feeling sick and tired.
BIG LOW – My whole body feels like it is gradually disintegrating. I have a bad cough, I feel sick most of the time, I am struggling to hold a conversation and concentrate for more than short periods at any time. The end is in sight but I am still doubting that I can make it.
HIGH – Another good four hours’ sleep.

Day 7 (Pheasant Inn- Keswick)
BIG LOW – Wake up feeling awful and burst into tears at the thought of running all day on painful blisters.
HIGH – We make holes in my shoes to relieve the pressure on my blisters.
HIGH – I am still climbing strongly.
LOW – Descents are still extremely painful.
BIG HIGH – it gets to 4 p.m. and people start appearing from all directions to join me.
BIG HIGH – A brilliant atmosphere as I arrive at Newlands.
BIG HIGH – Loads of people on the last leg with me, many of whom have helped me on the way around.
BIG HIGH – Even more people are waiting on my final peak, Cat Bells.
BIG BIG HIGH – The final run into Keswick is absolutely amazing and really emotional. There are loads of people clapping and cheering me as my journey comes to an end. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. - Steve Birkinshaw

Day 7 - Celebrations all round as Steve completes the Wainright Round in record time

The book is a great read a surely must be on a runners wish list. If you liked this blog, please visit the other blogs listed above and enjoy.


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