Archive for : September, 2015

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Cliff Bar 10 Peaks ultra

A familiar thought came to mind as i drove towards the start line of the Brecon 10 Peaks Ultra… ‘i am getting too old for this’ swiftly followed by lamentations for the warmth of the bed I had left behind.  I promised myself this will be the last endurance running event that I will do before retiring to take up more sedentary pursuits.

It was 5am and as I approached the Race HQ a procession of head torches was moving in the other direction.  These were runners on the Long Course, the understated title given to a 90km journey through the Brecon Beacons to the Black Mountain and back again (it almost sounds like a passage from JRR Tolkein novel).  My challenge for the day was the less onerous task of completing the Short Course, a 58km loop with 3000m of ascent which bags 10 peaks including the iconic Pen-y-Fan (see below).

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The Race HQ set the tone for the rest of the day with a well organised and friendly community of runners and race stewards making sure everyone set off with a spring in their step.

The route starts with a steady trot for a mile before the first climb starts towards the first checkpoint at Carn Pica.  My weapon, or rather shoe, of choice with the Inov8 X-talon 212 which has a tread that ideally suited to the mixture of mud and rock that characterises the going around the Brecon Beacons.  This turned out to be an inspired choice and I felt confident to ‘open up’ on the descents as the trainers offered plenty of stability.  The X-Talons also drain quickly after being plunged in to bogs and rivers, transitioning the feet from being saturated to comfortably damp!  A battle winning bonus when you are on your feet for a number of hours.  To assist with the climbing I wore compression calf socks to help stave off fatigue in the powerhouse climbing muscles.

The other noteworthy piece of apparel was the bright orange t-shirt that was kindly provided by Brocket Gear.  The weather conditions can change from benign to inhospitable in a matter of moments in the Brecon Beacons, so it was comforting for me (and those around) to be wearing what equates to a heli-marking panel throughout the race 😉 (whilst looking awesome the editor notes)

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Two hours in to the race the morning cloud cleared, leaving the runners to take in the most stunning of settings.  The route is well designed to take in the most spectacular parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  My buddy and I made steady progress fueled by a pouch full of Chia Charge flapjacks.  Nutrition is key to success in endurance events, however, I often find the usual offerings of energy bars a little too sickly.  These flap jacks provided a high energy yield and were pretty moorish (I have a guilty confession that I actually ate my spare one on the drive home that evening); perfect those moments when you can’t face the thought of another gel or decapitating another jelly baby!

The Storey Arms car park at the foot of the climb to the Corn Du peak represented the half-way point and a great point to ‘fuel-up’ on a cheeseburger from the local burger van.  Although over halfway in terms of distance, we had still only bagged 5 / 10 Peaks.  The next 5 would follow in swifter succession but only after a good deal more climbing as this section of the route contains 4 out of the  highest peaks on the route.  The route now runs along some of the more popular walking routes and the encouragement of the weekend rambling brigade was much appreciated.  After Pen-y-Fan (peak 6) the route becomes a series of short sharp climbs and descents before the final long descent back down to where it all began over 9 hours before.  As the Race HQ came back in to view, with the sun shining upon ‘God’s country’, I began to reconsider my earlier earlier promise to make this the last ultra; may be there are a few more events in the legs yet…and the Long Course does sound like a good one to get in to the CV…

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The Unknown: Now I know!

If my preview blog post for Judgement Day: The Unknown was tough to write due to writers’ block, this is the exact opposite. Three days on and my head is still swirling with details, experiences and life changing moments all to share. I signed up for this as a birthday present to myself, and what a present it turned out to be. It has however left me with a dilemma; For me, this event was so good and with such bonds made with my fellow competitors and the organisers, that there is no possible way of articulating the full experience in a blog article. You had to be there. You had to experience it for yourself.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to recall the bits that have stuck with me at this point in time. I won’t cover everything that went on during the 36 hours as some simply wouldn’t make sense, and some parts, for me, were an intimate experience between me and what I will remember forever as the Judgement Day: The Unknown 2015 Family. I say ‘Family’ because we forged bonds in the sands of southern Wales that went well beyond normal teamwork and friendships.

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I had plenty to time to consider my prep on the drive up to Wales. I was late out of work and traffic was a nightmare, causing quite a few delays. The forecast of rain due to begin around 2000 was spot on, and as soon as I crossed into Wales the heavens opened. I arrived about 2040 and straight away the usual sense of anticipation was heightened seeing the tent village, parade ground and marshal tents, all set on sand. I promptly registered and, mindful of the 2200 briefing time, began ferrying my two small tents out of the car to setup for the weekend. The choice of tent was one of my biggest concerns from the kit list. Would we need to carry it with us for the weekend? No-one knew for sure, so just in case I took a small pop-up and my normal 1-2 man tunnel tent. After looking around the village, it seemed others had not had the same concerns as their were several 8-10 man tents and one massive teepee. I was, it’s far to say, a little jealous as I was sure the luxury of having more room away from the wind and rain over the weekend could provide.

The Welsh rain was coming in sideways and my tent and most of my kit was soaked through. Not a great start. I decided to pitch both tents that I bought and used one as a kit tent and the other for sleeping (ha ha!). This at least let me organise my space well enough so that I knew where everything was. The skies were pitch black for the 10pm briefing and walking down with all mandatory kit to what we would know as the ‘Parade Ground’ (A large circle in the sand marked with thick battling rope), you could tell we were in for something special. The atmosphere was electric. We lined up around the circle for the briefing in our number order which we were given on registration on large red bibs, and were promptly told that this was the only way we would be known for the duration of the event. No more names and punishment for anyone using names. I am now #79 and all JD Staff and Volunteers would only be referred to as ‘Staff’.

We went through mandatory kit checks in several formats culminating in our food being put in black bin liners, and us burying it in the sand. Once buried, we were then made to crawl over the area so that there were no markings for any of us that could identify where our food was. For someone who is used to consuming a lot of calories on a standard day, this did not bode well. We were sent back to get some sleep before a 6am start. But of course, if you really believed that, you would believe anything.

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Sure enough, 2am came and the flash-bang grenades went off, music played and Staff shouting at us to get to The Parade Ground through megaphones within 2 minutes. What followed was a short beasting (Extreme physical exercise) session at the parade ground and then off for a ~2 mile trail run to the shore via head torch. Just before we set off, Staff made an example of one number who decided to adorn his bib with something other than his number. I won’t name names, but then addition of #MKRUCKLEY to a bib had us all doing more exercise, except him. The rules were being set, and examples being made of those who stepped out of line. The run was the first real opportunity for most of us to experience the terrain where we would be spending the next day and a half and there is simply only one word for it: Sand. Sand, sand, sand. All of the trails leading our of the parade ground were sand, right to the beach with dunes and hills of varying sizes leading to the beach. Sand drains your energy and tests your calves and Achilles at the best of times and  was sure that this would be causing a few aches and pains by the end of the weekend.  When we got to the shore, we obviously got in and got wet, with various exercises and sprints completed in the sea before heading back. We were given rules of communication and teamwork throughout and we started to learn very quickly that we needed to look out for each other as much as ourselves by not only following the rules, but looking out for anyone struggling and spurring them on.

We got back to our tents at around 0320 and at 0330 we were up again for another quick beasting. This pretty much set the tone for the weekend. Have an open mind and be ready at a minutes’ notice to train, and train hard.

I couldn’t sleep after the second beasting, still high on adrenaline, so when my 0520 alarm went off I had plenty of time for admin before being ready on The Parade Ground. We headed back over the trails to a JD flag on the top on a high sand hill a few hundred meters from the beach, designated checkpoint one. From here we were shown another four checkpoints and instructed to memorise them well as they would be integral to the weekend both individually and as teams. We headed back for another beasting and were then sent to an almighty sand hill (affectionately known as ‘Claire’). Claire Hill was a few hundred meters of pure sand and we were informed that we would be hitting the summit some 70 times in the next few hours, making a rough estimate of 22,000m of assent.

'Claire Hill'

‘Claire Hill’

We dug in as we were asked to rep the hill in various formats; Sometimes as teams altogether helping each other up, sometimes the stronger runners while then others held squat position at the bottom, sometimes carrying objects as a group. This hill was relentless and the fact that it was pure sand made it all the tougher. We finished by running up it backwards and then hot-dog rolling down it. I was pretty quick on the descent but managed to go all over the place and made a trail like a pinball. When I reached the bottom, I can honestly say I’ve never been so dizzy. I was all over the place and couldn’t work out who was talking to me or what direction they were coming from. The heavens opened as we finished up which was a pretty common theme on the Saturday: The training was tough, and the small bit of downtime that we had was spent trying to dry kit out while not getting more wet.

'Claire Hill' from the bottom. Squat position held whilst others completed a hill rep

‘Claire Hill’ from the bottom. Squat position held whilst others completed a hill rep

On return to basecamp, we were told to dig up our food. I was lucky to locate mine pretty quickly and began to fuel up and change for the next session. Again another common theme throughout the weekend was that you could get more admin time when you completed things faster. It took some people a long time to find their food and they therefore only had a few minutes to be able to change, fill up water bottles, eat, etc. Before heading back out I checked the time. It felt like it should have been 2pm. In reality, it was just past 10am. My heart sunk a bit. This was going to be a long weekend!

Another beasting and then back to the checkpoints, this time in teams with some of the carry kit that was used frequently throughout the weekend: A heavy (~75kg) metal stretcher, sandbag, ammo tins, tyre and weighted bergans. We carried these in various combinations around the checkpoints, at one point stopping off between checkpoints one and three for a compass point drill consisting of 4 hill sprints (in sand, obvs!) with five ‘JD Burpees’ over two rounds. For this, first to finish meant that everyone finished, so the more capable people could spend some of their energy finishing faster and helping out those who were struggling. Being someone who likes short distances and burpees, I decided to get rid of a bit of energy and ‘take one for the team’, finishing up as quickly as I could to stop the beasting for everyone else. We then did a similar exercise in pairs and I was lucky enough to team up with fellow Brocket Gear Race Team member Jason, and between us we made short work of the next session.

Now at this point what I’m describing may sound easy. You may be thinking: “A few burpees and some hill sprints, I do that at my bootcamp three times a week”. This comes back to how difficult this is to describe. There is so much extra that I simply can’t cover; The crawling, leopard crawling, duck walking, bear crawling between sections, the constant grind of sand everywhere not only testing your muscles but rubbing away at your skin (Think about taking sandpaper to your genitals while trying to work out ;-)), the small amounts of food, the smaller amounts of sleep. This was not an easy ride.

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The day continued with various team challenges involving weights and the checkpoints, along with a brutal sandbag session in the sea. I was convinced that the only thing that would/could stop me this weekend would be hypothermia and the slow pace of the jog back to basecamp from the shore with the sandbags via some very high checkpoints in the wind, and I started to shiver. A few were in the same position, but my brothers and sisters huddled in together to share body heat and I was soon back on track.

'Penguining' together to share body heat

‘Penguining’ together to share body heat

After getting back to basecamp, the mind games continued whereby, as a group that was down to approx 35 people, we were asked to volunteer or vote for 5 people to exit from the process. The bonds that we had formed along with our own desire to see the process through to the end left us in gridlock. In the end, we were threatened with more beastings before coming back to do it again. A tactic of voting for the person to your left was put forward, and the first five people to do this were automatically exited by the Staff. The atmosphere dropped. The remaining competitors had the wind taken out of them. We proceeded with the next task as a group to checkpoint one with some heavy kit, trying to keep morale and the team spirit up where we were greeted by the five competitors who were just ‘exited’. They were still with us, and it was simply another tactic by the JD Staff to mess with our heads. As we knew before, this would be a showing of mental and well as physical toughness.

Moving forward to the Saturday evening, we were called to the Parade Square with our skipping ropes. The Duct tape and safety goggles had already been given to the Staff earlier in the experience and the skipping ropes were one of the final objects left to use. After another beasting (obviously), we were asking to empty our sandbags and place them on the floor behind us. The mood changed: It was very quiet and we were asked to tie ourselves to the person next to use by the forearm using skipping ropes. The sandbags were then promptly over our heads and secured tightly with the safety goggles so that we could barely see with sand and Hessian being pressed against our lips and noses. All lights were cut and we were lead into ‘The box’ where we were subjected to an hour of incredibly loud white noise, screaming baby sounds, random bangs and various other interrogation tactics. It was a surreal experience and I won’t go into all of the details, but one that I am very glad to have had the opportunity to take part in.

Sandbags strapped to our faces, just before all the lights were cut

Sandbags strapped to our faces, just before all the lights were cut

The Sunday had a different feel to it, with our space hoppers being used for the first time. A run to the shore with no walking at all permitted (Tough with a group of fatigued individuals, all at differing fitness levels with bottlenecking opportunities on every thin-trailed hill) with a 50m space hopper race to the water. Last five to finish had to sit in the water while the others went again. This continued until there was a winner, when all could then finish.

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We then headed back to the base camp and began another team task with the five checkpoints, this time with a Lego set to build before we could head off. Finally, something that fell within my skill set :-) We did well in the challenge, heading out in fourth position but coming back second which we were pretty happy with.

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There were a few more challenges before the final stint; A 1km loop with our bergans on, containing 8kg of weight to start off with, and carrying our shovels. We had to complete 10 laps of the course, which included scaling the back of Claire Hill. At the beginning of each lap, we had to fill two 500ml bottles with sand using our teaspoons and add them to the bag. This meant that every lap with did not only did we get more tired, but the bags got heavier. To add to it, Sunday midday was quite warm and we were given water rations for the whole group (not allowed to take our own, or any food). We were given a 2 hour deadline, which only a few hit. We all had to finish though and we did. As time went on, we were permitted to share the load of those who wanted or needed it, with several of us putting in extra laps to help our brothers and sisters.

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And with that, we were done. From 2200 Friday to 1430 Sunday, this had been the inaugural ‘The Unknown’. We lined up around the Parade Square for a final speech from Dean, and medals/tees for the finishers. Anyone who took part from the beginning of the event was invited to have one; You had to judge for yourself if you thought you had done enough to earn one.

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So there you have it, a small glimpse of what I and 90 odd others went through at The Unknown. It was tough, really tough. There was no room for faking it, or trying to get by with a half-arsed effort. No matter what the fitness level and ability of the people who took part, they all gave it their all, which is exactly what this event demanded from us. I took on approx 10,000 calories from start to finish, and still lost 2.5kg of weight in doing it. I injured my foot, I got cold and I got tired. But I did not quit. 100% all the way through and with the encouragement and support from The Unknown family and Staff, I’ve taken away far more from this event than just a medal.

Things that I learnt from The Unknown:

  • I can survive on far less food than I thought I could.
  • I *suck* at using a Space Hopper.
  • I’m still good at running up hills.
  • It is outstanding just how difficult a group of 90 adults can find it to count to 20, four and a half times over without saying 21… (We started four times in Welsh and failed. We then tried three time in English and also failed!)
  • Sand on a beach for 8 hours during the summer is fun. Running, carrying, crawling, lifting, eating and sleeping in sand is not so much.
  • Waterproof and windproof running jackets stop hypothermia so well.
  • Mark Buller is simply one of the nicest men on Earth. I’ve never been told to ‘Get an effing move on’ in such a polite way before.
  • Judgement Day just raised the bar.

This event is 100% on my must do list now for every year that they decide to run it. I’m honestly torn between wanting to come back as a competitor or a volunteer, as the volunteers seemed to give so much and take away great memories as well. I urge you to sign up now and let the mind games begin. Registration is open already, here.

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A huge thank you to Dean, Mark, Gary, Adam and all of the JD staff for making this such an awesome experience. And to my fellow numbers, #79 will see you next year :-)

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The Icebug Xperience – 2015

The Icebug Xperience is a 3-day event on the West Coast of Sweden, there are options to run or hike the 3 days. I was invited to take part as part of Team IcebugUK.

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Travelling out on Thursday to Gothenburg it was an early start to the day arriving at Heathrow for 6:15 ready for the 7:40 flight. Arriving in Gothenburg I met up with the rest of Team Icebug UK members and we headed into Gothenburg for the day where we visited Icebug HQ to drop off bags before heading into town for a spot of lunch to get to know the 2 competition winners Martin and Craig along with Jim who travelled with the team, after some sight seeing we all met up again ready for the coach transfer up to Ramsvik where we would be based for the next 3 days.

Arriving in the Ramsvik holiday village we were allocated rooms, this was very efficient with envelopes being ready with keys and all the details we would need. Registration and race pack pick up was completed quick and easy, the race pack received containing race number, dibber, race t shirt (high quality merino wool) and a head over.

As part of the race package everyone receives breakfast, lunch after each stage and an evening meal along with accommodation, this was in the form of chalet’s with a living area downstairs and beds on the 1st floor accessed by a small ladder which was pretty cool.

The first evenings food consisted of a buffet of pulled pork, salad and potato wedges, all food for the event is locally produced and organic giving a great chance to sample Swedish food. After a look around the holiday village it was off to bed for an early night.

 

Day 1 – Woods and Islands

Up for breakfast at 7:00 which was a great mix of traditional Swedish food including smoked elk!!! As the first day didn’t start until 12:00 we were able to spend some time taking in the amazing scenery around the Ramsvik area. Coach pickup was at 9:50 to travel to the ferry to take us to the start lane

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Stage 1 started at 12:00 on the island of Bohus-Malmön, after a run along the harbour area, along pontoons we headed up into the rocky area where fun really started, this was around 6k of very technical running across rocks and boulders, having never ran on this terrain before found this hard going. The ferries run every half an hour back to the main land where stage 2 would start, I soon realised it was going to be tight to make the 13:00 ferry back due to the terrain being run over, turning the last corner could see the ferry was being loaded up ready to go, finished the 6.5 miles of stage 1 in 59:23, so just making the ferry, quick grab of a cinnamon roll which was heavenly along with a sports drink from the fuel station after dibbing in, it was on to the ferry.

On landing back on the main land we had a short wait before all the runners started off on the next 18k, straight up a hill!!! The 2nd stage was a mix of more rocks, woodland and along the coast. Again the scenery was incredible, with the next 2 days in mind I was trying to keep a fairly steady pace but with the heat of the day and the tough terrain this caught up with me at around 9 miles, turning off a short road section to run up a trail both inner quads cramped which made the climb up the hill an interesting walk/hobble. From here on in it was a case of run then walk/ hobble and try and stretch off the cramp. Between miles 10 and 11 I started feeling very dehydrated despite taking on a lot of water and sports drink at the water stations, found myself having to dig deep to keep going and the run/walk swayed more towards walk with small bits of running. Another runner came past me and shouted out come on keep going there’s around 250 meters left to go, not sure I have been so glad to here how far there is left in a race before and kicked on to run the final section onto the harbour area at Kungshamn.

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The evenings meal was locally sourced fish, not being a great lover of fish I’ll admit to not being overly keen but enjoyed trying different fish I’d never heard of let alone eaten. Rounded off the evening with a massage, clean bill of health given just some tightness which he worked away.

Summary of day 1, far harder than I had anticipated with the added heat which was not expected made this a challenging but great days running (and walking in places). Beautiful scenery and great atmosphere. Finished the day in 46th/118 runners with a time of 3:16:08 and 3rd Brit out of 13

 

Day 2 – Ramsvik Rocks 

How different a start to the day today was, we woke up to heavy rain and thunder storms which were forecast for the day. Breakfast slightly later than Friday so as to be fuelled nearer to race start, added in some of the smoked elk for extra fuel, very tasty.

Today’s race started in Ramsvik holiday village, luckily the rain had moved out and we were presented with perfect conditions for running. A last minute decision not to run in a rain jacket was made which was a great decision. The race started off by heading off to the reddish granite rocks around the Ramsvik area which after the mornings rain were quite slippery so a steady pace was needed, a few people were slipping but no such problems thanks to the IceBug Anima3’s. As the race progressed we moved through wooded areas with the type of trail running I love and very Brutal10 like, narrow wet and muddy trails, more rocky areas and some road with a climb up and over a bridge before heading down into the harbour area and to the finish. Finished the race feeling a lot fresher than the previous day and with a big smile on my face after a great mornings run seeing yet more amazing scenery.

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Lunch was served in the harbour area which was some locally sourced chicken and vegetables, tasted really good, after seeing in the rest of the Team IcebugUK runners we headed back to Ramsvik by coach. Tonight’s meal was a meat feast consisting of neck of pork, sirloin steak and slow cooked lamb with locally produced vegetables, like the previous night the food was very good. Ending a great day with a well needed massage it was off to bed for some rest before the last day.

Summary of Day 2, a great trail run, although tough not as tough as the previous day, amazing scenery yet again. Finished in 18th place on the day and first Brit home, overall standings moved up 16 places into 30th and clawed back 11 minutes on the top Brit from day 1, 7 minutes 30 seconds to make up on day 3…..

 

Day 3 – Hunnebo Haut Route

A very windy start to day 3 and feeling a lot colder than the previous day’. Not having had a great nights sleep due to achy legs, I walked around and used a roller stick and Tiger Balm to ease the legs ready for the start at 11:30.

To get to the start line today there was a short ferry trip across to Hunnebostrand, assembling at the start line I was still in 2 minds as to whether to try and claw back the 7 minutes 30 seconds needed to finish top Brit, looking at the course for today pretty soon after the start we would be presented with a steep climb, decided to give it my all and see how much time I could pull back, legs were still feeling pretty tired at the start but after the first 1km started to loosen up and was able to run at a steady pace, as we climbed the rocks out of the harbour area I was just behind the leading pack and around runners who I had been near the previous day so felt comfortable tucking in with these guys, once over the top of the rocks the wind dropped and left a pleasant temperature to run in, today’s run was another great mix of rocks, trails and small road sections, after around 10k I was feeling strong so moved ahead of the 2 guys I was running near, we swapped positions again for around 5k until going across the bridge which left around 4 to 5k left, decided to give it one last push and moved ahead and away from the 2 guys, a final section across rocks and trail lead to the road leading in to the Ramsvik holiday village, being aware every second could count today I pushed hard right to the end and finished feeling I really had given every I could which is always a great feeling.

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After seeing in the rest of the team I headed off for a shower and to pack final items ready for coach pick up at 16:00. Lunch today was grilled chicken with roast veg and potato, enjoyed with a beer with the team before watching the prize giving and closing of the event.

During the coach journey back to the airport, the final results were published and found I had made up 8 minutes 7 seconds to finish 37 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed Brit and 25th out of 118 starters, this was a real bonus given the 46th place finish on day one, 16th on day 3. Met up for a farewell beer at the airport before heading off for our flights.

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Summary

 

The Icebug Xperience really lived up to being a one of a kind event, amazing scenery, tough yet great running, lovely food, great people and a very friendly atmosphere all mixed together to make this a must do event for all trail runners with the bonus of a few days away thrown in. Packages for next year are due to be released soon which are great value with race entry, accommodation, food, transfers to each stage and coaches from and back to Gothenburg included. I’ll be booking up to go back next year as soon as I can.

 

Thanks to John Ovenden of Icebug UK and Jonas Fernström of Icebug for making it possible for me to attend and have such a great time.

Phillip Young

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Heading into The Unknown

I thought that this would be a good time to reflect on the upcoming 36+ hour mental and physical endurance event ‘The Unknown’ bought to us by one of our favourite OCR organisations, Judgement Day. It’s 2128 on Sunday evening, and while I watch friends Martlew, Miller, Lacey and Hellard on BBC 2’s Hell Week, my mind is focused on the fact that by this time next week, my personal weekend of hell will be out of the way.

Judgement Day: The Unknown promises to test us mentally and physically over a period of 36+ hours, starting next weekend. We have been given a kit list to take alongside food and water, including 20 empty water bottles, a teaspoon, a space hopper and various other weird and wonderful objects. From the moment the list arrived, the mind has been racing: What will they be used for? Are some of them red herrings? There’s been a lot of theories on the Facebook group setup to help the competitors chat. I1ve got my own theories, but keeping them to myself for now.

There’s about 30 of us doing it, and I’m glad to be joined by fellow Brocket Gear Race Team members Jason and Phill, along with a host of good friends from the OCR community. While I’ve no doubt at this point that this will be a very personal journey, I’m sure there will be an abundance of team spirit throughout.

I’m currently starting to panic about the kit. The pre-event mind games have begun already, as the mandatory kit list can be a little open to interpretation. There’s also things to consider like fuel: What should I take to eat? How many calories should I be looking at? How can I get maximum energy with minimum weight? And what about water? It’s enough to drive you mad before you begin!

My home has been overcome with kit now. Everything has arrived, lists have been written and there is barely a floor or work surface that hasn’t be claimed by The Unknown. I think it¹s safe to say that my wife will be happy once it¹s out of the way. I’ve gone with merino and neoprene clothing, with two spare sets in dry fold bags inside the rucksack. I’ve also gone with an emergency hypothermia dry fold bag with full fresh baselayer, neoprene, wraps and my Dirty Dozen bobble hat. My plan is to only use this if I get too cold and feel like hypothermia is getting the better of me. I’ve got a new version of my favourite Smartwool beanie for my head with Darken neoprene gloves for my hands, Inov-8 Stormshell Jacket for outer layer water/wind proofing and some waterproof trousers. In essence, I know that the waterproof outer layers won¹t stop the wet when I’m burpee’ing in the sea at 2am, but hopefully they will stop the wind when I’m trying to warm up again.

For food, I have a selection of the amazing Chia Charge bars, Mountain Fuel and a few thousand calories worth of sweet and savoury sticky rice cakes from the Feed Zone Portables book (Lovingly created by my ever-suffering wife and amazing cook/baker, Ali). I’m also going to take a regular water bottle and my Water-To-Go bottle, which will allow me to purify water on the go.

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Finally, in addition to the required kit, I¹ve got a small selection of survival items that I feel may come in handy at one point or another. Only time will tell! I’m now killing time, waiting for the big day, and trying to remember that I’m doing this for fun :-)

Training for @judgementdayuk #TheUnknown is turning up a notch!

A video posted by Tim Lovett (@timbolovett) on

See you on the other side, providing I make it! :-)

Race the Train

One man … one train! Or, in fact, about 900 racers and two trains. The goal to beat the train(s) over 14 miles, something that should be possible if you can run 14 miles in about 1:48. Easy, right? Well, no actually. It all started quite serenely, I’d looked at the map, worked out when to go for it, when to pace it out and when to be prepared to dig in. Then the ‘poop poop’ of the train sounded to signal the start of the race and it all went a little bit wrong.

The two main main things I blame are the elevation chart on the map, which lied, and my trail shoes, which were uncomfortable and kept coming undone. The rest worked perfectly, the Inov8 base elite kept me a nice temperature (against the surprisingly warm and dry Welsh summer), the Xrace shorts were light and provided no worries (though I would recommend trimming the race number to ensure a more snug fit in the bib), and the 2XU compression kept previous hamstring issues at bay throughout the race. I have already eyed up a nice pair of trail running shoes on the Brocket website for those situations where you need to trust that you have the grip on the slidy hillside.

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The race itself is one i would recommend to anyone interested in dipping their toe in a bit of trail running as the unique aspect of the race adds to its charm and I know that the supporters appreciated going on the steam train. Prior to the race I’d a review that said that it was difficult to beat the train first time out, and I’d agree with that as the middle section provided a lot more gradient than anticipated. In retrospect I should have gone out hard for the first five miles, hung on for the next five (being stuck around the middle of the pack hampers provided slow going on single lane trails and on the steeper hills), and then pushing it for the final four. If like me, you look at the map and believe that you can make up the time in those final four, be aware there was nowhere like the amount of downhill expected.

That being said, I am very much looking to giving it a go next year. It was one of those races where you look up and around and realise what an amazing sport running is, as the chance to challenge yourself against a beautiful backdrop is something to treasure. There was also the chat with a fellow runner about how amazing the cold beer was going to taste at the end of the run, and it did taste so much nicer than a normal pint. Finally, the support for the race was fantastic and kept you going in some of the darker moments.

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For what it’s worth, I was a little over ten minutes behind the train. Other than the nice cold beer, the zero point compression socks gave a nice toasty feeling to the battered calves and pride … next year train … next year.