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Training Log Archive: Mark3

In the 7 days ending May 26:

activity # timemileskm+m
  Running - Fell1 14:13:32 52.43(16:17) 84.38(10:07) 3790
  Running - Trail2 2:13:19 14.73(9:03) 23.7(5:37) 963
  Total3 16:26:51 67.16(14:42) 108.08(9:08) 4752
  [1-5]3 15:17:09
averages - weight:64.1kg

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Sunday May 26 #

4 AM

Running - Fell long (3/4 Wicklow Round) 14:13:32 intensity: (1:07:31 @0) + (6:35:27 @1) + (4:45:52 @2) + (1:37:37 @3) + (7:05 @4) 84.38 km (10:07 / km) +3790m 8:16 / km
ahr:115 max:171 shoes: VJ Maxx (10.5)

Bit of a come down after the high of last weekend. This was meant to be the 5/5, English/Irish Rounds complete, what now? kind of thing, but it hasn't turned out as hoped.

Basically: mixture of weather and overconfidence when scheduling.

All travel logistics worked out, travel to Dublin Friday night, staying in a nice cabin 5 mins drive from the start, Saturday to recce. That was the first mistake really - the weather on Saturday was much nicer than that forecast for Sunday but it wasn't until about 11am we thought hey, maybe I should have gone for it today instead. But it was such an ingrained plan, having a lazy relaxing Saturday with the chance to recce a few sections, that I didn't consider any variation until it was too late.

It was useful though to recce the three places we did: Kippure to see how viable the corner cut was (nope: use the road) and how boggy it was (fine); right at the end on the 9th leg scoping if the way down through the forest was passable (yep: right on the road a few metres from the CP; vague trod through the steep part, down to the forest; diagonally to fence/stream then cross river at corner - didn't actually do this but very close to required path at that point) and Ballinagee Bridge (over the bridge and around the paths required since straight line involved awkward fences/trespassing).

All set for the 4am start the next day. Which started as forecast: rain and fog. It wasn't that cold which was lucky, otherwise it would have been a very miserable day indeed. As it was - the rain wasn't that heavy, just relentless. I'd never started a round with a forecast this bad before (constant rain; thunderstorms later in the day) and didn't expect to make it more than a couple of legs. But the first leg was pretty short and so I wanted to make it at least 2 legs for it to be a justifiable recce and to count as a training run.

L1 - target 1:14, actual 1:26
The first few km were along a gravelly track which presented no problems other than holding the torch at waist height to avoid illuminating just the fog. After that though, the track abruptly ended and turned into a vague trod. This was a bit of a surprise since on the map it looked a pretty good path. Given all the rain overnight it was pretty boggy; ground similar to the Peak District's peat. This was a taste of things to come. As I got nearer the summit the peat hags became more and more pronounced. I lost the trod a couple of times but just kept heading uphill - I knew it was a straight path and I didn't want to get the map out (no GPS allowed on this round) as it was a bit cold for that. I had a on a long-sleeve, a thermashell, gloves and a coat, and full waterproof trousers. I wasn't cold but neither was I overheating. I glanced at the top when I reached the summit, the massive TV mast invisible in the fog, and saw I was already 9 mins down. It was at that point I thought that, certainly in the conditions, my 19 hour schedule was going to be too optimistic. I'd based it on the Denis Rankin Round, but it seemed like this might be a bit different. At the time I didn't think the schedule made much difference since Em was tracking me - the ramifications only made themselves apparent much later in the day.

6k-ish of road all in one go now - warmed up a bit on this section but not enough to remove my waterproof winter gloves. Easy running, mostly downhill. Met a shivering Em at Sally Gap and picked up my poles, some KMC, and left the torch. Swapped the map for the delicately prepared L2 section. Off into the fog again.

L2 - target 2:39, actual 3:26
Convinced for a while I must be on the wrong trod, because it was so indistinct as to be almost impossible to follow. Again, very hard to follow in the foggy rain. Trying to avoid looking at the map since it's awkward to hold with poles, especially with gloves. Near the (vague) summit the peat hags started again... and from that point the next summits all passed in a boggy, foggy blur. There was no trod to speak of, no big climbs, just undulating bog. Nearly missed the Gravale summit but noticed just in time. None of the summits noteworthy. It was basically Bleaklow but higher; and it didn't even feel higher. Mullaghcleevaun was a brief highlight (ie, it was grassy for a bit) and I was optimistic the peat was over, but then far too soon, back to peat again. The rain on the surface meant it was very difficult to tell if the peat was an inch deep or several feet deep, and I experienced both scenarios. This made progress pretty slow as I had to keep taking circuitous deviations for caution.

The last summit (Silsean - the peaks are named in both Irish and English and are totally different; on the map it's Oghill - not confusing at all) came eventually. In theory the last part of the leg was following an old fence downhill - made slightly harder by the fact there's one fence on the map but two on the ground. At the top there wasn't even a trod, but lower down a vague one emerged.

Below about 500m, I dipped out of the fog and suddenly the weather was almost pleasant. The sun made a brief appearence. For the first time I changed my "this is definitely going to be the final leg I do" approach and started thinking that halfway would be an achievable goal. The third leg was forecast to be the longest, c.4 hours, and it also went to the highest point (925m). I hadn't fancied it in terrible weather but it was starting to hold a bit more appeal now.

One small bit of (seemingly standard) trespassing to go before the end of the leg. When I reached the road though, a dog just outside the farm, leadless, noticed me and started barking. It didn't look particularly aggressive so I wasn't worried about the dog per se, but I was a bit worried about it attracting attention to me being somewhere I shouldn't. So, I turned right to try and find somewhere I could cross some walls without being too obvious.

Retrospectively I should have looked at the map rather more here - an 800m detour on paths the whole way, reached by turning left, would have been significantly faster than my actual tactic.

Turning right: after a hundred metres of high wall/fence combos...I reached another farm building and potential notice. I backtracked to somewhere out-of-view of both, and clambered awkwardly over a damp wall/fence. It was one of those point-of-no-return situations as the drop on one side was much greater than the other... still, the field looked nice enough. At the other end of the field though... thick gorse, entirely covering a 10-foot gate, with a 10-foot deer fence to either side. No way through there. Backed out of the gorse and followed the fence a while, but no options - just very high fence with barbed wire on top. No option to retrace steps out of the field - hmm. I probably would have been very frustrated if I had been intending to complete the whole round at this stage, with the loss of time, but at this point I wasn't even contemplating such a thing. Still, I had to get out of this field. I resigned myself to the gorse covered gate - this involved both climbing the gate from a base of gorse and jumping off the other side onto a landing of gorse.

This is not something I recommend.

After that point though - bit of nice running, minor heartbreak when presented with an equivalent fence on the other side, but spirts uplifted when I found a gap in this one I could manoeuvre my way through. Just one more slightly more crossable but still barbed-wire-atop-a-wall fence and I was back to the path; finally! Unsurprisingly this adventure cost a significant amount of time (11 minutes for 200m); but at least I'd avoiding a telling off and significant injuries.

Reached the bridge to a worried Emma since there is no signal at this CP and so no tracker to rely on. She commented that I was bleeding a bit - I said I'd tell her the story later.

It was midge-central in the sunshine. I knew I was way down on schedule but I thought - one more leg, I'll give this one a go at least. Changed clothes, down to tshirt and shorts, added more KMC, nuts and water, grabbed half a honey bagel and it was off again.

L3 - target 3:49, actual 4:13
This was the leg I had expected to be the make-or-break leg of the round. Due to weather worries I packed a proper gore-tex coat and a survival bag just in case. The first section on forest tracks was easy and I was feeling pretty good. However looking at the most direct way steep uphill though the forest, I couldn't see any possibilities at all to get through the recent felling. I turned off to do some more track running - I'd drawn two alternatives on the map so I went to check out the other one. When I got there - it was equally bad; still no obvious way through, but this time I had to take it. Although it wasn't raining I got soaked pushing my way through the damp trees. After I emerged out onto the open fell and started climbing I saw a woman with a dog ahead of me - the same one who'd been behind me on the tracks. So there clearly was a way through!

This ascent was the first one where I felt it would have been far worse later in the year - no real trod and young bracken and bilberry at the moment would be very tough going later in the year.

There was a vague trod along the spur and I temporarily thought it might be getting into proper mountainous terrain - but no, soon after White Hill (little more than a small bump on the spur) then I was back to peat hags once more. As I went up into the fog it started to rain gently once more, and then more heavily, so it was back on with the full waterproofs.

There was a bit of a vague trod, which in fairness is mapped, to avoid some of the worst of the hags. But it soon veers in totally the wrong direction and so it was off-piste again. Just before or just after crossing the river, snapped one of my running poles. Note to self if doing this round again: don't take poles for the first half - they are next to useless in the peat. The baskets are so small they sink right through even when the terrain is solid enough to support a foot. Anyway the nice thing about having one fewer pole (other than having to carry a broken pole around for the rest of the leg) is that it made it easier to hold the map.

The woman with the dog was way right of me now and she stopped at Three Lakes (clearly only two lakes on the map, so maybe there's a story there) whereas I was further South. There was a bit of a ditch to follow all the way to Table Mountain although I've no idea where the actual summit was. Strava says I was at it at some point but there were just different heights of peat hag looming out of the mist.

Finally, finally the section near the summit of Camenabologue felt briefly like I was actually in the mountains. But it was short-lived - a lot of the route up until The Sands was very much peaty foggy bog again. But then on the way up to Lugnaquilla, above about 800m, it became gloriously grassy. Still thick fog and rain, but you can't have everything. Saw a man with a race number on running towards me on Cinnow who said hi with an Irish accent, and a woman who said something like "good day" in a very British, home-counties accent that had me wondering what her story was for a while - until reaching the summit @925m. I expected a marshal, given there was a clearly a race, but unless they were around the other side, I didn't see anyone in the mist.

When I got down to about 850m, for the first time on the round (after about 8 hours), the visibility finally opened up and I got some views. Up until this point I had been very firmly thinking that this would be my final leg, but now I wasn't so sure. After all, I was pretty much haflway now, right? I was down on my arbitrary 19 hour schedule but way ahead of 24 hours. Maybe it was all going to be totllay fine from now on. I stripped back down to tshirt and shorts.

I'd taken filter bottles on this leg as I thought I might run out of water, and I definitely would have on a hot day. As it was I eked it out, but filling up after the first climb at the river near Three Lakes would be a must if it was warm for the whole leg (or taking 3 bottles).

The leg between Lugnaquilla and Lough Mountain felt like an actual mountain leg, and the top part of the descent was fine. But then, around the 1992 air crash memorial, it was back to the peat hags again, and the boggy vein continued all the way past Carrawaystick (no idea where this was; part of the spur I guess) to where the trod entered the forest.

4k of paths all the way down to Drumgoff were a bit tedious but it was still glorious weather at this point and I was feeling good. Met Emma at the hotel for a change of clothes and extra food, and removing the more hardcore kit from my back. I knew the next three legs were pretty short so I'd planned just one bottle of water and one KMC for each - I took two bottles on this first one since I'd been so sparing on the prior leg. The owner of the hotel, who had done the round in the distant past, came out for a chat whilst I was changing and faffing. He said there was rain forecast for an hour's time but it was so lovely I didn't really think about it. The memories of the forecast thunderstorms were also a long way from my mind. Basically at this point I was pretty convinced of success and I set off upbeat.

L4 - 1:40 target , actual 1:52
There was a nice trod up the first steep section through the forest and then runnable tracks up to Mullacor. This is the only split on the round where I equalled the 19 hour schedule! It threatened to rain halfway up (coat on) before stopping and getting sunny again (coat off) before pretty much all of a sudden started hailing at the summit (full waterproofs on). The hail turned to rain and it became pretty unpleasant. As I was running toward Braigue Mountain there was a single vivid stab of lightning, at the same time as the thunderclap, about 100m away. I hastily folded up my remaining pole - it felt way too close for comfort and I was acutely conscious that I was running along an exposed ridge. Thankfully, that one single bolt was the only lightning there was, but I remainined nervous for the rest of the leg. It was a shame the weather chose this leg to worsen again, because from there to Derrybawn was the nicest ridge running all day.

By the time I got down to the CP at Glendalough it was torrential rain, and I jumped into the car to change my clothes, dry my feet (constantly wet since the start) change my shoes and apply compeed. Also had another honey bagel - not really in any hurry as I was waiting for the worst of the rain to abate. Which, again, it did. By the time I'd put fresh shoes and socks on and replenished my water it had stopped raining.

L5 - target 1:31, actual 1:54
By the time I was halfway up (by far) the steepest climb of the round, up out of the car park, it was bright sunshine again and I was down to a single layer.

However it was not to continue, before I even reached the single summit on this leg it was back to full waterproofs as the rain set in again. My hands started to get really cold and my waterproof gloves had already got totally socked on leg 2. My remaining gloves were good in the cold but not in the wet. I cursed the fact I'd only bought two pairs whereas I probably had another 3 back in the UK. By the reservoir I was convinced I would have to bail simply because I couldn't feel my fingers. I had assumed the road around the reservoir would be viable but it was actually behind a high fence, and the path on the outside of the fence undulated tediously; seeming to go on for ages. My feet were now soaked through again - this time from above rather than below. The descent to Wicklow was welcome to get out of the weather.

Absolute angel - unbeknownst to me, Emma had found my soggy L2 gloves and had dried them inside out for me in the car, so they were toasty warm. I therefore had no excuses not to set off on the 6th leg. The weather at the CPs always seemed a bit better than the weather on the mountain, but it was getting harder and harder psychologically to set off back up into it. There was also no temporary sunshine this time - the rain continued.

L6 - target 1:01, actual 1:23
My strategy now was to wear lots of layers (long-sleeve, thermashell, full goretex coat) and hope my body responded by keeping my hands warm for a long as possible. This actually worked, and I was okay for the long ascent up Tonelagee. On the descent though, the weather continually got worse and worse, and it was pretty tough just to be out there. To make it harder, the ground was now very saturated and so it was hard to stay upright.

It was on this leg that I started thinking about where night would fall. On schedule, night would happen halfway through the final leg. Behind by a bit, maybe it would fall somewhere near the end of leg 8. But behind as far as I was - night was going to happen at or before the start of leg 8. Could I do leg 8 in the dark?

I concluded, basically, no. In good conditions yes, if I'd been there before yes, if I hadn't run 50+ miles yes - but in the dark, fog and rain, I concluded that I'd be unlikely to be able to navigate sufficiently well whilst holding a torch at waist level, to be able to maintain sufficient speed to stay warm.

And it's for that reason I decided not to start leg 7 - I knew I wasn't going to get round leg 8, and I decided not to put myself through 7 for the sake of it, because, it just wasn't fun.

I have been very much soul-searching whether this was the right decision. It's the first time I'd quit anything before I had to. I'd stopped things because I was injured, because I was hypothermic, because I was dangerously wet. But at this point on the Wicklow round I was none of those things. I was predicting the future and basing everything on that. If I'd done that at the end of L1 I'd have stopped there. Was it a good call or not?

Retrospectively - it turned out to be a good call. Even as I was getting changed in the car, the rain got heavier and heavier, and it continued well into the night after we were safely back in our cabin. We kept looking at our watches and thinking - I'd still be out there. I'm glad I'm not.

But I couldn't have known that at the time.

Some spreadsheet analysis afterwards suggests that at the pace I was going I would have finished in 22:40. I based the formulae on the averages, so it allows for a slowdown at the end - actually I think I could have finished in more like 22:00. But we'll never know. If I'd have set off at 1am rather than 4am, on a 22:00 hour schedule, and not had the darkness to contend with, then I'd likely have finished (although L2 would have been challenging). So a mixture of overconfidence and weather thwarted me.

There are a lot of positive things to take from the attempt - obviously it's a good recce for another go (although I won't be rushing back), but also,
- I got the nutrition exactly right, no issues there. I planned on one KMC every 90 mins and I ate 5.5 out of the 7 planned, which is good going. I also ate 3 of my 4 planned bags of nuts and 1.5 honey bagels. I had no problems with eating.
- I got the hydration right. After the Ramsay I'm always worried about this. But I drunk 6L of my target 6.5L and stopped for 10+ wees - it's much harder to keep drinking on a wet day so I'm really pleased with this.
- My body was basically fine; I could have carried on. Obviously I didn't feel amazing, it was still 53 miles, over half of which was desperately sliding down and jumping over sections of boggy peat. I was adequately fit, training has paid off and I didn't injure myself

The negative thing is: why didn't the chance of success mean enough to me for me to carry on, when I clearly could have? I didn't think I valued comfort so highly. Would I have carried on if it was a race - was it just the lack of competition that stopped me? It has definitely brought on unexpected self-analysis questions I wasn't expecting!

Very much looking forward to the next challenge so I can forget about this one.

Thursday May 23 #

(sick) (rest day)

Stomach hurting all day - weird. No other symptoms.

Wednesday May 22 #

7 PM

Running - Trail race (Gun Run) 45:43 intensity: (1:02 @0) + (3:00 @1) + (30:45 @2) + (10:56 @3) 10.93 km (4:11 / km) +299m 3:41 / km
ahr:124 max:141 (sick) shoes: Adidas Speed Pro SG (10.5)

Raining all day and throughout the race.

On the fence about whether I was going to come or not, due to the weather... and then quite a lot of yawning before the start, despite sleeping for a good 11 hours yesterday, should have told me I was not quite as better as I thought I was.

Stomach cramps from about a third of the way round made this a distinctly unpleasant race. Given this, and the conditions, only a minute slower than a couple of years ago is actually an extraordinary result.

5th or 6th I think. I imagine Jack Scott won given he was on the start line, although I don't actually know for sure as I left immediately after finishing.

Tuesday May 21 #

(sick) (rest day)

Supposed to be at a race but I think my immune system has taken a bit of a knock - starting to get feverish and decided it was better to take an evening off.

Monday May 20 #

9 AM


6 PM

Running - Trail (MaccH Tegg's ) 1:27:36 intensity: (1:09 @0) + (10:37 @1) + (55:48 @2) + (20:02 @3) 12.78 km (6:51 / km) +663m 5:27 / km
ahr:127 max:152 shoes: Pegasus Trail 4

With Simon and Richard.
Deliberately hilly loop. Lovely evening. Feeling surprisingly good - bit of muscle tenderness but no significant DOMS and no niggles I can feel.

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