Friday, 17 February 2017

LEJoG 2017 - Filling in the blanks

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I learned how to use a map and compass. I was intending to do a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award and went on a course to learn how to navigate. I have no idea why it never went any further than that and I never ended up using those navigation skills in anger. I didn't end up going on expedition and I didn't get a Duke of Edinburgh award.

That was 30ish years ago (ow. that sounds like a long time!). And with various races across unmarked trails or off my comfort zone with three various barriers to navigation I've tended to stick to races or routes that are marked in some way; either by race organisation or it's a National Trail and had those lovely acorn signs all the way along.

Now I have a Very Long Way(TM) to run later this year, on a route of my own design that is not marked in any way. I don't want to get lost. I don't want to waste time and energy on taking wrong turns or missing right turns. I need to be able to navigate and not fall apart if my technology fails. Errors add up and I've only got 6 weeks to get the job done!

So I'm off to Cumbria to take a basic navigation course; map, compass and the landmarks of the countryside. I'm hoping to learn a bit also on rough navigation without map and compass, just general geographical direction. Let's see how I do!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

LEJoG 2017 - starting to plan


With 120 days or so to go, planning is kicking off now!

Things to plan:

  • Route
  • Kit
  • Emergencies
  • Training
  • Sponsorhip?
Kit - I've had an initial think about kit. I'll need the flexibility of camping and sometimes camping not at a camp site, so that will appreciably add to my pack weight. This could get tricky and it'll mean getting used to a decent pack weight carefully without injuring myself.  I'll also need to figure out how to put my tent up (paved garden means I can't do it at home) and try it out a good few times.

Route - I want it to be as off-road as possible, but not being stupid about taking a trail route that's 25%+ longer and way more difficult than roads in places like the South West. e.g. I *could* take the South West Coast Path, but that's really difficult and appreciably longer than going inland a bit, staying North of the A30, and taking some back roads in between footpaths & bridleways.  Ideally I'd like to be on National Trails where practical as they're generally scenic and well-marked, so navigation is easy. I see the Pennine Way and Offa's Dyke or maybe the Cotswold Way featuring at least in part.

Training - I'm chatting with my coach this coming weekend, about the shape of this year and how we did a good job for Thames Path and North Downs Way the last two times.  In some ways, you can't really train for 40+ days on your feet, but you can sure make it easier at the start.

Emergencies - will depend on routing as to what provisions I'll need.  More thinking once the approximate route is taking shape.  Suggestions and recommendations welcome when that happens!

Sponsorship - I've been considering whether to raise money for a cause and/or ask for help from outdoors companies.  Though I generally sit on the side of doing sport for the love of it, I'm leaning on the side of choosing to raise money for PHCuk.org through this challenge. Public Health Collaboration is doing stuff I really care about and I'd like to support that.  LEJoG will be a genuine challenge for me - previous events and races I've been pretty sure of completing, but this is a different game altogether.  If I decide to go through with that, I'll set up a JustGiving page for it.

It's also going to be expensive to do this run. 4ish weeks of unpaid time off work (after I've used up my holiday allowance for the year), plus kit and consumables adds up.  I've no experience asking for help from companies, so no idea how that might go.  It'd really help to get a few items covered though and there are some companies products I already love and swear by that I'd love to evangelise (Icebreaker, Petzl, Garmin, Haglofs...).  If anyone can help with that, please let me know!





Sunday, 15 January 2017

Race Report: Country to Capital 2017


Country to Capital is a landmark in the race calendar to kick off the year. Starting in Wendover, winding through woods, back lanes and fields to Uxbridge then on canals from there to Little Venice,. 43-ish miles in total, there's a lot on tarmac in the first section,;the rest can be muddy and slippery and the unrelenting flatness of the last 23-ish miles pretty harsh.

It was awesome to know the course pretty well.  Having run the race twice previously (2014 and 2016) and gone for a recce run of the first 13 miles on Christmas Day, there was no need to worry about route finding at all.  Yes, the route isn't marked, but if you know it already that doesn't matter.


We'd agreed we'd run this one together as a "nice day out". Unfortunately it wasn't that nice really. The forecast of overcast then sunny and dry didn't pan out. It started off chilly and breezy, then it started raining, which turned into snow. The cold set in early. We zipped through CP1 without stopping, only slowing to get our timing chips checked in. The checkpoints at this race are pretty limited in terms of food choices (which is good, as my strategy is in-out-gone): mainly cake and jelly babies, but some savoury at CP3 and the end (mini pastry snacks - pork pies, cheese and onion things etc.). They're really good at checking runners through and helping to fill bottles, but beyond that it's pretty minimal and nothing hot, which is hard on a day like this.

I noticed my breathing wasn't quite right early on - breathing too hard for the effort level.  Then my right hamstring got niggly and my brain wasn't being supportive of running well. I got a bit whiney, but MrTOTKat stayed mostly within earshot and waited every now and then for me to catch up. Darkness in the brain was telling me to give up, but that's actually quite hard to do on this route. Checkpoints are far from any useful transport options and as it's point to point, once you're beyond a certain distance you may as well get to the end anyway for the time it would take.

From well before hitting the canal at Uxbridge, I was finding it hard to run the flats all that much. So we were run/walking already before 20 miles in.  Compared with the 2 previous runnings of this race I've done, I was in much worse shape at this stage. Food didn't help and the cold was causing difficulties with my hamstrings. Even when it stopped snowing, it was still really chilly.


MrTOTKat was awesome. I was whingey and petulant even at time, but he was encouraging and supportive; if he'd not been with me, the last 23 miles of the race (and in particular the last 12 or so) would have been miserable instead of just difficult. We jog/walked until the last checkpoint, where it turned out we were 65 mins or so ahead of the cut-off time so we could walk the rest in if we really needed to.

We crossed the line together, freezing cold and in the pitch black. Almost last, but together and in good spirits. It took warm food, many hours and an additional 3 layers to stop shivering hard with the cold. The medal was nicer than last year's, but I think I might have finally realised after three times with this race, that I simply don't enjoy the route. I need to remember that when I'm next tempted to sign up for it.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

LEJoG 2017 - a 1,000 mile training run

[Not the actual route as all on road would be miserable.  More off road is appreciably longer!]
I've wanted to traverse the length of Britain on foot for quite some time and a couple of years ago a window of opportunity almost came up, but then I got a job again so it didn't even get to the planning stage.

Due to an extremely flexible and accommodating employer, I have the opportunity to do it this year.  Starting in May-ish, through June into early July-ish (depending on unforeseen circumstances and work schedule in May).  I've got 44 days to get to Land's End, run to John O'Groats and get home again, and that's including contingency.  It'll take a day to get to the start and a day to get home afterwards, so that's 42 days to cover something around 950-1100 miles, depending on the route I end up with, and a lot of elevation.  And carrying all my own stuff.

Of course, finding a route is the hard part.  I've already spent a day getting really frustrated with trying to get out of the South West using trails and avoiding the South West Coast Path (because it's really super hard!).   It turns out most of the roads in the area have no pedestrian facility either (thanks Streetview!).  So I now have OS Landrangers 203 and 204, up to 182 (thanks to a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer), which I will be laying out on the lounge floor to try to get a much higher level view of where the trails/off-road paths are in relation to each other and have another go.  Once I'm out of the South West, routing gets a whole lot easier with some good other National Trails in Offa's Dyke, the Pennine Way etc.

It's all an elaborate training run for Deadwater at the end of July though!  And an excuse to blog a bit more in the planning and the running of it, and take a bajillion photos.

 Vote for me!


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Deadwater: A Goal in 2017


I like multi-days :o)  With a 50 runner limit, by submitting an application that doesn't guarantee entry I was pleased to be accepted into this race: "235 miles, over six stages. It starts in Deadwater on the Scottish border, and it ends at Flint Castle in Wales. Getting an entry today is not an automatic acceptance. We will take only runners that we believe have sufficient endurance experience to take on the challenge. We will notify you either way."  And the image above is what arrives in your email to let you know you've been accepted once your application has been assessed.