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 www.virginmoneygiving.com/nikkisommers thank you :).

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Great news at Christmas time!

After a year of tough challenges, we've had some really good news this week!  Dad had his first scan last week to see if his cancer had come back or not; this is the first scan since January, where he got the all-clear after finishing chemo.  Thankfully it's great news!!  The scan is clear!  Last Christmas Dad was looking rather rough!  He had no hair, and had his final dose of chemo on Christmas eve.  This year I suspect he'll be looking a bit better!  Phew!

Me & my Dad! :)
It's been a hard year, full of challenges, as I've raised money for Orchid, a male cancer charity.  At the moment I've raised £2,600, but would love it if I would creep a bit closer to £3000!  If you want to sponsor me you can at www.virginmoneygiving.com/nikkisommers thank you!

This weekend I'll be running my final challenge; perhaps my hardest yet!  I'll be trying very hard to finish the Tour de Helvellyn; this is a hilly 38 mile ultra-marathon in the Lake District; currently the weather forecast is for heavy rain.  I'll feeling quite nervous and rather reluctant!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Almost there...

As December speeds away quickly, it's always a good time to reflect on the year gone by.  It has been a fairly epic journey, with challenge after challenge of pain and suffering.  Unfortunately for me, it's not quite over yet!

The idea for this year of suffering started in January after my Dad had the all-clear from metastatic testicular cancer.  On Friday he had his first repeat scan to check things are still ok.  We'll get the results in another week or two; hopefully good news.  It's certainly a stark contrast to last year; he finished his last chemo on Christmas Eve.

After news of bad flooding in the Lake District, I'd been waiting nervously to hear from race organisers.  Next weekend I'm due to run my final challenge; a 38 mile ultra-marathon in the Lake District (the tour de helvellyn).  The roads in Ullswater and Thirlmere have been badly damaged, so I had been expecting (and hoping, if I'm honest!) to find out the race had been cancelled.  On Friday the organisers sent an email out confirming their intentions to run the race still.  GULP!

Well, I'm not one to do things in halves anyway.  It would be sensible when thinking about a first ultra to perhaps run something a bit easy; maybe a nice undulating coastal route on big trails, in nice weather, with a decent amount of daylight.  You certainly don't think of 38 miles of hills in the Lake District, on the shortest Saturday of the year!  I had wanted to do something on the winter solstice, to contrast to my Froggatt Everesting in the summer; I had debated a winter Everesting, but decided against it due to logistics and support the weekend before Christmas.  Instead I'll be dragging myself around the Lakes.

The course runs from Askham to Patterdale; Glenridding to Thirlmere (via Stick's Pass); along Thirlmere and back up to Grisedale Tarn; back down to Patterdale; back over to Askham.  I managed to recce the middle loop around Helvellyn, but haven't managed to recce the out-&-back from Askham to Patterdale (I was due to do this when the floods were bad).  I'll be starting in the dark, and almost certainly finishing in the dark as well (unless I am miraculously quicker than hoped!).

Regardless of how the race goes, it'll be great to have another day spent surrounded by beautiful mountains.  My only aim is to finish; that in itself will be a big accomplishment.  Then I'm looking forward to a few weeks of decent rest!  It's been a long time waiting for the end of the season!