Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Man vs Mountain

Where to start? Already I am forgetting the details etc but here goes.


Back In March this year I took part in the Haldon Heartbeat trail running race. A short local trail race put on by Haldon Trail Runners.about 8.5 miles. The first running race I had taken part in since cross country running at middle school (25+ years ago).

I got into doing it as part of a challenge laid down by my friends friend. So at Christmas 2013 I started to try out running and get training.

Come April 2014 and its time to race. Had a great time with my mates Sam and James and also Klara and triathlete husband Tom (who laid down the challenge of doing it in her time plus a half. ).

We smashed the time and I was very happy with 109th (of 197 runners) and a time of 1: 16:12, not bad for a first attempt and 13. 7km.

The trail running kept up but only for fun and not regular.  Move forward in time to the late May bank holiday. A team and supporters gathering at Dewerstone HQ on the SW corner of Dartmoor meant  getting together with lots of like minded outdoor fun kind of folks and my mate Ben (of the big kind see Cornish Biathlon further down the blog ).

A few ales were consumed and the talk drifted to things to do this summer etc.
The Rat Race Man vs Mountain was mentioned along with the Scottish coast to coast race and some others. I thought, 20 miles and over 5000ft of elevation up a mountain, no way. can barely run 10.

More beers and oh dear, might have committed to doing it. I am a man of my word if nothing else.
So that gave me June, July and August to get training!

So training started, little runs from home, Circuits and continuing my shoulder rehab training with Ozzie at Fitness Matters.
Trail running training was in local woods and on Dartmoor with Ben and his girlfriend Mel who were to be my team mates (although not in a team the plan was to run together for moral support) and with the  person I know who runs the most and has done a couple of Ultra marathons Mr Ed Cornfield.
Ed took me on some great runs on the moor starting with some shorter 8-10 mile runs (looking back on it all and saying 8-10 miles for a shorter run is pretty funny) moving on to  the longest training run I did at 16 miles (2: 47:00) with plenty of elevation including Widecombe hill, a real beast that tests even seasoned runners and cyclists. This was 2 weeks before the race and in a pair of shoes straight out of the box (not recommended but the Salomon Speed cross 3's were just great). A big thanks to Bob Noakes for the loan/ gift of a nice Osprey bum bag to train and to run the event in. Once I was used to it bouncing I much preferred it to a rucsack.

A shoulder dislocation at the end of August just before that training run was not on the books and definitely slowed training down in the gym and rehab started all over again. Other than that I had been pretty injury free for 3 months which was nice.

That was pretty much it really and all that was left was to prep any last kit, keep the muscles loose and rest up for a week.


Snowdonia, North Wales.

We arrived on the Friday night and got registered in Caernarforn. The jitters started, lots of very fit looking people in serious outdoor kit. Did I have everything? Am I ready?.....

Signed in, got the t-shirt and race number. Its happening. Off to Llanberis for some food and a night in the van. Not a brilliant sleep, too much nervous energy.


Race day!

4.30 am start for egg noodles and Peanut butter breakfast.  
Back to Caernarfon to park and get sorted and make our way to the start at Caernarfon Castle. We were in the 2nd wave to leave at 8.30am, so a bit of waiting around in the mist shrouded Castle chatting to other competitors. Some who had done it the year before telling us it was very very had and some first times like us getting all nervous. Well, I was anyway.

The music and the mic start up with a briefing, no cheating, eat, drink and look out for each other was basically it.



Quick team selfie and GO GO GO!   Actually it was a very slow start, it takes 5 mins for the group to exit the castle and get the timing chip activated as you go through the gates into the streets. The sun came out. This was it.


The next 5 miles took us out of town and into the foot hills on the road. Pretty much up hill all the way. Stick to the plan and start slowly, try not to get caught up in the moment and follow those going past you. (we will meet again...).

Even on fresh legs the long drag uphill soon started to sort folks out and our steady pace saw us moving up a few spaces. As we got to the foot hills the weather closed in with some persistent but not heavy rain. Coat or not to coat? I put my coat on. Its stayed on most of the way to the summit of Snowdon. I didn't fancy getting soaked through so early on.

The first food  and drink station came with the first time check at about 8 miles. My knee which I had battered during a road run a few weeks before was already rearing its ugly head so we whacked on a support bandage. Cue lots of concerned " everything ok mate?" comment from fellow runners. Nice to have the support. Nice to have a paramedic and GP as my team mates!

Ok, lets get moving a bit more. Too much dawdling. The next section was up and over a pass to get to the bottom of Snowdon on the North Western side past the Llyn Ffynnon - y- Gwas lake.

Its a long pull up that side, not much running once you hit the steep stuff. More like scrambling and mini boulders to climb over. Saw quite a lot of suffering going up the hill, why did I feel ok? Is this right?  Passing those who came flying past at the start felt good though. Love it when a plan comes together!

Summit the mountain and clock in. Feel ok. Quick Pictures, eat, drink and wait for Ben and Mel. Descend a bit to come back up with them to the summit. Team selfie!

Right, lets crack on. Mostly down hill from here. The summit was 14 miles in but some GPS's were reading a bit more, 14-16 miles. more than 4000 feet of elevation so far including the foot hills and pass we had come over.

The down hill hurt. There's no denying that. My knee hurt like hell. I have always hated running down hill. It just plain hurts my knackered skateboarding knees.

Coming back down the weather cleared in to bright skys and sunshine and energy levels where pretty good. A last nosh on some nuts and fruit bars before the final couple of sections, the Merrell Vertical Kilometre, the abseil, water obsticals, lake swim and finishing obsticals.

The Merrell vertical Kilometre was not quite vertical but a 1000 mtr long climb up steep steeps and paths coving 250 metres in height, that's a 1/4 climb (25%, = steep.) The record stood around 10 mins which is ridiculous this far into the race. I pushed on as best I could with Ben and Mel a little way behind me but keeping on going.
Smile for the photographer half way up. :)

15 mins later I was at the top with burning quads and calves but feeling surprisingly ok. Keep running!
The abseil was not compulsory, and whilst in the spirit it of things I should have done it but with a 15 + minute wait I could not be bothered and kept going, its not timed so I didn't feel guilty and the tactical move paid off in not getting any cramp whilst waiting. It did mean a longer run though but at this point with less than 2 miles to go who cares! Keep on trucking.

Down into the obstical zone. A massive slide into the lake, swim out and back in via some water tubes, I smacked my shin on a rock but didn't really feel it, just a nice trickle of blood down the shin. War wounds!

Swim across the lake for 25mtrs. the water temp was not that cold and a welcome relief on the muscles and into the final straight with a few 6ft wall to climb over, not that easy being a short ass but we did it, a rope climb and a sprint across the line.

We are there. Finished!

Total time 6hrs 33 mins 42 secs.    We always said anywhere between 6- 8hrs would be nice so was pretty happy. I think I could have gone quicker but this did include some stoppage time and the quick down and back up on the summit so I reckon total moving time was more like 5: 45. But hey, who cares I made it!
Again some GPs read a bit different to the advertised route with 22 miles on the clock and 5000+ feet of elevation done.

Massive thanks to Ben and Mel for sticking at it and running with me. Ed for the training help and Ozzie and Oli for other training help and motivation.

So despite the advertising saying its the hardest thing you will ever do, it want. It was really good fun. A very well run event, good vibes all round and you get your moneys worth. Who's in for 2015?

                                               www.ratracemanvsmountain.com/ 




After the Haldon Heartbeat that started it all. L-R James, Me, Sam, Klara, Tom.

Team selfie at the start of Man vs Mountain. Haha its all smiles here!

Out of the gates, 




 The weather changes so fast at the top of Snowdon. I managed to snap a few pics whilst waiting for B+M

 and then it was clear..



Summit selfie! Ben looking happy... great tash though..


Half way up the Vertical KM. Smile for the photog!


Ooff.  Times n that. =198th for the vertical KM out of 700+. Very happy with that. 
Full results here


 Winners! 





The Grand Western Canal.

 I took a trip along the Grand Western Canal with my Dad. Its where I first learnt to paddle more than 25 years ago. 
I had never been the full length so we went end to end and back. 
Lunch at the Globe in Sampford Peverille was nice, a few cheeky beers on the way. A bit of canoe sailing on the return with my Tarp. No other canoes or kayaks on the water (it was mid week though). 





 Foolishly I didn't make any notes so can't remember any of the bridges etc. (this was back in Sept)



 The aqueduct was a lot smaller than I remember it as a kid. Funny that. Crazy that they were still building the canal when the railway was already there. 





 Lots of May flys and Dragon flys. Very clear water in parts and lots of fish. 



 Not sure what this little hut was for. Maintenance I guess. A good history of the Canal can be found here: Tiverton Canal co. 

 Near the far end from Tiverton (Lowdwells) the water got very clear. There must be some fresh water entering at some point. 

 Waytown tunnel. We pulled up just near the tunnel and made camp for the night. A clear night under the trees with a fire and beers. 


Lowdwells basin at the Taunton end of the canal.   A very interesting trip and a very pleasant underrated flat water paddle. Perfect for familys or your first canoe camping trip. The venture prospector 16 we used was the perfect boat. Loads of room for our gear (stowed away in some Ortleib drybags) and a nice easy stable paddle. This was provided by A.S Watersports in Exeter