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!

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