Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tech rehearsals...

So, just time for one last-minute pre-Juneathon shake-down and 'tech rehearsal' before the whole shebang kicks off, everything goes to pot, and I find myself lacking the energy, the inclination and the mental capacity to fix it. The tech I'm rehearsing is part attire and part gadgetry, and I'll cover both in this pile of waffle, along with the route, just to make sure everything's working and I know where I am, you know where I am, and everyone knows their positions, cues and lines. Okay? Okay...

The gadgetry first: I'm attempting to log Juneathon on a different GPS device - or at least, a different GPS-enabled mobile phone -  than I did for Janathon. The shiny Nokia N86 at least has the capacity to connect to my computer, which will (hopefully) make logging the routes to RunningFree a darn sight simpler. It could have been even simpler if Nokia hadn't discontinued their own SportTracker software and web service, as RF could have picked my uploads up directly from that and logged them automatically. But they've dropped it and the aftermarket company that have nabbed the software created their own service but failed to keep the integrations so I'm just going to have to transfer GPX files from the phone itself. (Makes mental note to remember data transfer cable if going anywhere...)

So far, so strange. Attire next. The short run-out tonight was a chance to start wearing in a few new bits of kit that will be aiding me through Juneathon and beyong, to the GRP in August.

Wave Harrier 3! And my ankles.
First off are the new shoes, a spangly pair of Mizuno Wave Harrier 3s. These came out tops after a fairly intensive 2-hour shoe shopping session with Stu and the team at Accelerate down in Sheffield. Stu helped fit me out for my last pair of trail shoes, the Saucony Xodus that saw me through Janathon, and will be helping me through Juneathon too. The Harriers are an addition, with a bit more grip for fell running, and to work with the fact that my gait has changed - quite a lot - since the start of the year. The first run out seemed fine, a bit of tweaking and wearing in needed to balance the tension in the laces between 'not moving at the heel' and 'not squeezing the life out of my foot'. But for a first run out, damn comfortable, grippy as a really quite grippy thing, and very easy to run in.

Toesocks! And my ankles...
Along with those is a pair of the wonderfully strange but also, from first feel, just plain wonderful Injinji toe socks. Yep, that's right, toe socks. Imagine gloves for your feet. That's the badger. The better half's first comment on seeing these was "Eugh. You look like your feet have died" (I assume that was a reference to the khaki green-ish colour rather than the shape...) After getting over the initial 'slight-oddness' when pulling them on, these are damn comfy, and should reduce the time spent picking bits of grit, dirt etc out from under and between my toes. They're also Coolmax, so should help keep my (very warm) feet from getting too sweaty on the run, a problem I would certainly be having if I ran Juneathon in the wooly Karrimor socks I used in January.

So, the run itself was uneventful, just a short spin down from the house, across Oxley and into the Hollies - I like the Hollies as a testing ground because it's got a bit of everything, ups, downs, gravel, tarmac, mud, wooden bridges, tight singletrack and open fire-road. A lap down some tight stuff and back up some rocky stuff, around some tarmac-y bits and back over the pitches (all with little bits of faff, shoe-tying and stopping for a drink involved) meant a pleasant little 28min 4km bimble. Just right for a shake-down and loosen out before the mile-munching starts in earnest tomorrow. Bring on the Juneathon!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amo Amas Ah'm at it again...

(Yes, my Latin is that damn bad...)

So, after 155-ish miles, countless (well, you could count them if you're bored, there should be around 31) blog posts, hours of poring over maps, a bunch of new trig pillars and some new friends, Janathon came to an end. I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to pottering about as I normally do, and not running very much. Some, but not very much.And I thought lots about how I needed to run more often and still failed to do much about it.

Well, now it's back on. 155 miles to beat. JUNEATHON here we come.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Higher Ground

So, it's been a while. Sorry.

What's going on: Not a lot. Nothing much different to when I last posted, anyway. Still working for the NHS, getting back into paddling (cracking weekend at the Tryweryn last weekend helped the confidence a lot) and doing the odd bit, though not as much, biking. Still running, though not with as great a frequency. The Deerstalker was a fantastic race, way back in March (Oops, meant to write that up...). Knocked 17 minutes off the PB to bring it down to 2:12, and could have been maybe five minutes faster if I hadn't started at the back of the field - early queueing, though I managed to cut past some of it, was a major sapper.

I'm still prepping for the Grand Raid des Pyrenees, and this is where this latest little story comes in.

I'd been planning a big "see where we are" weekend, which just became known as the 'Ultra Weekender', to comprise two long run/trek days and a camp and banter evening in the middle. The optimum date came up when looking at the LDWA events calendar, with the Settle Saunter 26-miler on a Saturday, which meant a good opportunity to camp at Horton-in-Ribblesdale and have a bash round the Yorkshire 3 Peaks on the Sunday to make it a 52 mile weekend. No worries!

Okay. I admit it. I was a bit optimistic.

A few posts on Facebook and forums garnered only one willing recruit for both, with a couple of others saying they'd be up for the 3 Peaks, and one saying she'd be at the Saunter but wasn't sure about doing both. And so yesterday morning, Debs, Steve and I lined up at Settle Victoria Hall to set off on the Saunter.

The route was fairly straightforward - Settle, Feizor, Austwick, Clapham, then a long drag past Ingleborough cave and Gaping Gill to Ingleborough summit, just shy of half way. From the top, down to Slatenber, Cold Cotes, Newby, back to Clapham and Austick, then loop through Oxenber woods to Feizor again, over to Little Stainforth, then down the riverside back to Settle.We trotted off across fields and through the lanes, and I have to say I didn't feel as good as I was hoping. Lots of niggles, back, hips, calves and feet, which I put down to my normal habit of feeling rotten at the start of a run and hoped they'd just fade off as we continued. I dragged behind as Steve and Debs navigated and pushed on, hoping I'd buck up soon and get back on form

We got through Feizor, and with one minor hiccup (read instructions more carefully is the tip. Footpath signs aren't always in plain sight.) we continued on. more field-edge grassy footpaths, I still wasn't feeling any better, and my heels were now starting to hot-spot, which wasn't helping my feeling of wellbeing. When we got to the Clapham checkpoint I taped them up while we checked in and had a bit of food, and we headed out for the long drag up to the top. It soon became obvious that the damage was done, though, and taping the heels had had little effect - I was still in pain, especially while climbing, which we had a good 4 miles of before we summited.

Trio on Ingleborough top - Steve, Debs & the shoeless shortarse
I'd decided on using my Mudclaws because of the recent rain, thinking I might need the grip on grassy descents. I've had them a while and had run Deerstalker in them, without taping, without any issues. I can only assume the new pair of socks I had on contributed, or some other factor has changed since March, but my heels were shot. I know I have odd feet anyway, but haven't normally blistered heels when running. But, as we passed Ingleborough cave, I started trying to think of solutions, and as we neared Gaping Gill I decided to sack it and sort them out. Time for some fairly desperate action...

The first choice was to see how I went in just my socks, but the gravelly track soon put paid to that. The solution for a bit of protection was to put my shoe insoles into my socks and pull them on like that. Fine for a short while, but the insoles slipped around and it didn't really work, so out came the Vulcan tape again and on I trotted, insoles taped to feet, socks over the top. The stony steps as we climbed were a bit of a different challenge, trying to find foot placements than didn't hurt, but we kept moving. On the last short push to the summit plateau, I felt like I could keep the temporary footwear technique up for a while, but wasn't going to complete the day, and I said so to the very patient duo. With the way the wind was going to be on top, the best solution was for us all to check in, the for Steve and Debs to head off ASAP so they could get a decent time for the day, while I made my way carefully to the next manned CP and withdrew - not an option I relished, but the one that seemed sensible in the circumstances. That said, the feet seemed to be bearing up well so we made our way, together, off the end of the Ingleborough plateau and down towards Slatenber.

FEET! - One trashed pair of socks.
Another little overshoot (we should have spent more time navigating and less time yakking) and a quick recorrect and we were nearly there, with a strange decision made: I would try and continue, despite slowing the others down. Steve nearly spat out his cereal bar at the comment "Basically, I want to be able to tell people I did over a half-marathon, in my socks" and so we trotted on, more slowly than I would have liked, as quickly as I could manage. Debs navigating for the day was cracking, and the banter, story-telling and general craic was fantastic. We moved on as best we could until the very end, back into Settle with Steve having his bad patch, and me becoming sore-footed, and Debs leading from he front, chivvying the pair of us along with regular shouts of "Come on boys, keep up!". We finally made it back into the Victoria Hall in 8:52, a lot slower than any of us had been aiming, but having had a fun-if-a-bit-strange day on the hill. I'd jogged and walked 15 miles, or thereabouts, in a fetching socks-and-insoles combination, and while my feet were definitely sore, I was still standing. Not a bad effort.

Needless to say, however, the plan for the 3 Peaks was hastily ditched, and we all headed home to have a day of hardcore grade 5 chilling-out. Tactical retreat, honest.

HUGE HUGE thanks to Steve and Debs for sticking with me in the circumstances, and next time I'll bring different shoes, or socks, or at least a tested combination, I promise!