Sunday, 20 December 2015

One final ounce of suffering!

It's with a sense of relief, but also slight disappointment, that I sit down to write this blog.  It's been a whirlwind year; full of great memories and plenty of high points, although not without a few disappointments and lows to accompany it.

Yesterday could be seen as another low; another unsuccessful challenge!  I tried to run the Tour De Helvellyn; a tough 38mile ultra-marathon that circumnavigates Helvellyn; on the shortest Saturday of the year; in rather sub-optimal conditions.

I love the Lake District, Ullswater in particular, having spent plenty of time up here with my husband and his parents.  His Dad and partner live in the valley; as I type I can see out of the kitchen window and down to the lake.  My idea of heaven!  Mountains to climb, lakes to swim in, nice roads to bike on; what more could you want in life??

After swimming the length of Ullswater in October, I decided I needed a final challenge to finish the year off with; when I heard about the TdH (after checking with Tom) I quickly entered; we're up here for a long weekend of family Christmas celebrations anyway.  How tough could it be??  It didn't go over Helvellyn, only around it!

I came up a few weeks ago to recce the route, and ran the middle section (with most of the hills), finishing in the dark, and thoroughly enjoying the solitude and clear starry skies.  I was feeling nervous but hopeful.

Yesterday morning, after a fitful night of sleep, I was driven around to Askham by Tom and his Dad, ready for an early start.  7am, and after a kit-check, I was to of the door, and off into the dark, in heavy rain and gusting winds.  Fortunately Will was running with me over Askham Fell; definitely appreciated as I hadn't recce-ed this (was due to when the floods happened), and the nav would have been tricky in the dark, made worse by cowering inside my hood.  Within an hour it was getting light and head torches went off.  As we descended towards Howtown it was impressive (not in a good way) to see the mudslide from flooding which had blocked the road and completely covered the path in deep mud.

Leaving Askham with the father-in-law!

Dark & wet in Askhm at 7am!
I left Will behind after Howtown ("I'm jiggered" he said!  Apparently shortly after this he fell over face first; shame I missed it!).  My legs felt good and I was warm enough as I headed past Martindale church (the first check point), and then along Boardale and up over Boardale Hause.  You can start the race any time between 7 and 9am, but the second check point doesn't open until 9.30am.  You don't want to arrive early, so faster runners set off later.  Because of staggered starts, I had Boardale to myself, which was beautiful.  The fields were waterlogged and the river overflowing, but what a stunning bit of the Lake District in visit in almost complete solitude.  After climbing up onto Boardale Hause, it was a rocky, slippery descent down into Patterdale, and Side Farm; check point (CP) no.2.  Fortunately half way down the descent someone haired past me; this meant I could follow them in to the CP, as I wasn't completely sure which building was the CP.  A quick bite to eat and a bottle re-fill, then I was back on my way, into Patterdale, then round to Glenridding.  Glenridding was hit hard by the recent floods, but the clear-up job looks to have been amazing.  It was quite depressing to see the large village Christmas tree on it's side on top of a pile of rubbish.

After Glenridding it was an uphill slog up and over Stick's Pass, the biggest climb of the route.  This was in snow last time I had been here, but now it was just very, very wet!  I passed CP3 in reasonable time, but was moving slower than when I had recce-ed this part of the course.  I was feeling pretty bad, and was debating whether to turn around and head back to Patterdale, or keep going; if I kept going I would have to get around the 16 mile loop back to Patterdale.  I decided to keep plodding.  Reaching the top of the pass, I managed to tag on to the back of a couple of girls and followed their footing downhill into Thirlmere, managing to descend 10 minutes faster than when I had last been here!  As we descended the rain stopped and the clouds parted, revealing Thirlmere.  Absolutely stunning!  In Thirlmere I headed south to CP4 in Swirl How car park, arriving just as Tom and Will pulled up, a surprise visit, but quite a relief!  30km done, in 5hours.

I had a pounding headache (possibly a migraine), and was feeling rather rough.  I had been drinking well, but had messed up with food, and had not eaten enough for the 5 hours of running I'd already done, or the 5+ hours I still had to go.  I made what I think was a sensible decision to stop; the preceding hour of vomiting confirmed I'd made the right decision (and that I probably had a migraine).  I headed home disappointed, and cold, in soaking wet clothes.  A shower, then a bath, and then into bed, and I was feeling much better by the evening (in time to go and see Star Wars with Tom!).

So another unsuccessful challenge; 19 miles in wet, windy, rather grim weather!  I'm not too achy today so clearly didn't try hard enough! Ha!  I won't be rushing to enter next year's race, unless I can seriously focus on running over the next year.  But it's not all negatives; it's always good to have a reason to get out in the mountains, and despite the weather, that was still great!  I've spent a few sessions with Pippa, one of the A&E nurses who ran along the Thames Path with me in November, trying a bit of hypnotherapy to be more positive and have more self-belief!  I've also learnt I need to sort out my nutrition!

I'm now looking forward to a couple of weeks of rest, and a chance to do some reading about nutrition and training, before kick-starting the training in late January.  Next year we're moving to Chamonix for 6 months (from February to July), and I'm having a much-desired break from work!  Apart from lots of ski-ing (whoop!!!), I'll be trying to focus much more on triathlon, and be a bit more dedicated with my training.  Hopefully that should be a bit easier without working the 65- 70 hour weeks I have been will my current rotation!!

To finish, I'll just remind you all that I've been fund raising for Orchid, a male cancer charity!  So many of you have already been so so generous in sponsoring me; thank you!!!  If you still haven't (and have any pennies to spare to Christmas time; I know how expensive it can get!) and would like to you can at thank you :).

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