A night recce by a solo plodder ! Ambleside to ConistonI can't believe that we are here again meeting up to recce the UTLD50/100 routes or that I have indeed signed up again!! it really gets under your skin this race (in a good way) and I swore blind I'm not doing this event again!! move on Maxine.
Sooooo... here I am in Ambleside meeting up with some old friends and new ones; ready to listen to the talks on training for ultra events, choosing a headtorch and navigation. Even though this will be the 4th time I have entered the UTLD 50 I still pick up useful information at the recces and you can never cover the course enough.
Marc Laithwaite gave an insightful talk about our (Ultra Runner's) approach to training and how some of us are plodders - yep the slower ones of us that can get round and maintain an even pace no matter what race and the burners - speedy people. Marc got the plodders to stand on one side of the room and the burners on the other and asked people to place themselves with in this running spectrum.
PLODDERS V BURNERS
I am quiet clearly and was a proud plodder and firmly placed myself by the left hand wall to watch people spread across the room. Judging by the case studies presented by Marc of Sarah the plodder and Tom the burner I technically should have been stood outside the building, behind Sarah but then I would have missed the rest of the talk.
I learn the prognosis for a plodder is not good according to our knowledgable speaker especially for an old one who came into running whilst having a mid life crisis like me. My tendons are loosing their elasticity, I have rubbish running technique, I know you think its just a case of placing one foot in front of the other fast -think again; I lack coordination and my body doesn't understand speed. Apparently it is difficult to improve a plodder, I'm now gutted I'll never make Team GB.
My dreams/delusions of being an elite runner are dying whilst I listen to Marc who challenges us to focus on speed work, drills and good technique, for distance junkies who love a good mountain to climb this is indeed asking us to go cold turkey, you can sense the panic in the room and he tries to reassure us you won't loose your fitness if you change your approach to training, more twitching in the seats, I sense people wanting to run to Coniston NOW just to check not fitness has been lost listening to good advice.
This great talk makes me realise I have a lot to do to recaputure my deluded dreams, and plays to my own insecurities, (emphasis here) mine not imposed by others or Marc for that matter. I am now uncertain about the night recce I'm so slow they'll be waiting for me all night and to top it all off I learn I also have the naff headtorch as well. I recieve some comfort from the navigation overview - yep understand my map, contours, keep compass work simple etc.
|Reminder slide from my talk this year|
So recognising I really haven't felt great for quiet a few weeks I decide to set out early on the night recce. I ran most of the race this year on my own including the night sections and know the course well; so all I have to deal with for this recce is rain, mist and my decreasing confidence.
I inform the event organisers of my plans and will check in with the team and then call my partner telling them my route and contingency routes as I am out there on my own; off I trot it's pouring down.
There is something quiet special about running on your own out on the hills I have done this route so many times yet still the Langdale valley can take my breath away with its beauty, and I love the sense of climbing and covering the rough ground, it's still pouring down.
I soon, don't hold me to times, reach Chapel Stile and continue to where the checkpoint will be, the rain has eased for a moment and I can take my jacket off. The dusk is starting to drop and the mountains around the valley still look fantastic in their black silhouette, as I finish the climb to Side Pike cattle grid at the road to cross for Blea tarn and Blea Moss it is totally dark I stop for a second and get out naff head torches and re-group it is cold and wet I decide to wear all waterproofs and have a chewy bar.
I start off and I really enjoy this section it's rocky and water is running down the path, a head I see a couple of headtorches and wonder of others have set off early as well? I splash my way up to the headtorch wearers to meet a group of walkers and say hello to be greated by 'Mr Walker' with "hello; you came up there so quick I thought you were on a bike" I reply "no just training for a race next year have a good evening" whilst thrilled at this compliment I do realise if they thought I was quick the proper runners are just behind me imitating motor bikes.
As I get near to the top of this moderate climb the mist swirls in and out it's quiet fast moving but in small patches. At the top my phone jumps into signal and rings, a number I don't recognise - note to self don't bring a smart phone on a soggy recce fingers slide on the screen but the phone doesn't respond. The problem with the type of depression (see black mountains posting) I have is it comes with a complete panic attack package which I have learnt (CBT) to control but when I'm not feeling good I am conscious of, mine are mostly triggered by telephones? I know bonkers. Whilst pondering on who could of rung and I rationalised it's probably work (self employed) the mist has dropped to all around me and eaten the footpath! where are Mr & Mrs Walker now - not climbing fast enough. Ahhh ha navigation I take a quick compass bearing whilst thinking 'do I have to test myself all the time'?, 'what the hell am I doing here' etc as the compass points the way the mist moves on to scare someone else.
I plod on to be caught up by Sarah & Tom Burner and friends who by the way are also wearing head torches with losts of lumins, luxes, watts and candle power and jog passed me with the ease of a park run whilst saying hello - another note to self for Christmas list " Dear Santa please can I have a bag of confidence for descending the slippy stoney stuff" how do they do that?
I reach the haven of Tilberthwaite checkpoint and Clare with chocci biscuits, fortified by chocolate I decide I'm not going to do last climb, laziness and close encounters with a phone and the mist I decide its not worth going over Tilberthwaite my own, even though I have taken a competitors over each time I have done the race, they couldn't navigate, and take my continency route of road and forest. I let Clare know where I am going and rang my partner to meet me at Coniston.
Spooky forest at night oohh... actually it was ok as I know the path so well, the mist is even drifting in at this low level and swirls around the trees. At last the miners road in to Coniston and I check in with Terry safe and sound. The phone call was from Jon (of Jon & Otto fame) who were manning checkpoint 1 who I missed as I set out early, checking I was Ok. I text and call Jon to thank him for looking out for me.
Recces are all about learning not only the route but our responses to it and how we test ourselves, especially experiencing the hills at night.
A Massive thank you to Marc, Terry, Clare & Jon for not making a fuss when I ventured out on my own and trusting me to have the skills to do so and for still keeping an eye out for my safety.
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves" Edmund Hillary