Course profile

Course profile
What lies in wait on 2nd July - The 110k course profile

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Post ultra reflections

A week ago today I was somewhere along the course of the Ultimate Trails 110k race. It seems longer than that, but it's long enough to reflect on the whole slightly surreal experience. (warning: This makes for a bit of an epic blog entry ....).

My parents arrived on Friday and after doing all the pre race preparations mentioned in my last entry we all had a (very) early night at 18:00 in an attempt to get a few hours kip before the race. At 10:30, after no kip at all we all got back up, had a bit of breakfast (weird at that time) and headed off to Ambleside where I had a compulsory safety briefing at 11:30 to attend.

Rothay park was busy with excited chatter, nervous faces and blinding headtorches. There was quite a lot of random milling around before we were summoned into the big tent for the briefing, where a rather quite voiced man (made even harder to hear by the heavy rain that started drumming on the tent roof) ran over the rules and regulations for those who hadn't bothered to read the information sent out to us.

After this it was back outside for more milling in front of the start line until finally, at about 10 past midnight, there was a countdown and we were off past the shouts of well wishers, through the park and onto the streets of Ambleside. It was quite exciting really, but I adopted the same tactic as for the Coniston marathon and hung back near the rear of the field to prevent getting carried away and going too fast in these early stages.

The first 12k to check point one passed through the woods around Wansfell and took in the first big climb of the route, over Garburn Pass. I ran with a man who said he'd tried this last year with a friend, but had to pull out just before the first check point with a twisted ankle, which he unexpectedly got on a road section. His friend had stopped with him, but unfortunately this year had had to pull out before we even got out of Ambleside as he was ill and felt he couldn't breathe properly ... what a run of bad luck!

These first few kilometres were characterised by a cautious pace and lots of chatter. Saw another runner with the weediest head light (surely you'd check this before you set off?) and shared a chuckle with some others over the way we were optimistically avoiding puddles despite the fact we knew wet feet were inevitable in the end.

Check point one was Kentmere Institute, where I had some tea and cake (sounds very relaxing) and set off with a handful of crisps. I'd already become aware that I am a lot more comfortable on rough and steep ground than most of the other runners I saw, as I overtook many people on the descent here - something that continued on the long run up the Kentmere valley and the big climb up to the top of Nan Bield pass, the highest of the route.

The final pull to the top of the pass are a series of tight zig-zags and it was a memorable sight looking back down the valley to see the snaking head torches weaving their way up the valley towards me, a sight that was repeated on the descent.

By the time I got to checkpoint two, 22km in at a tent at Mardale head, it was 3:30 and light was already showing in the sky. While I was looking forward to turning the torch off, I was sort of sad that this initial atmospheric part of the race was almost over - it definitely felt that the character of the day was about to change.
Dawn over Haweswater

Maybe it was due to the coke and super sweet flapjack I had at the last checkpoint, but I started to feel a little queasy on the long run along the side of Haweswater. I settled my stomach a bit with a piece of the Spanish omelette I'd cooked on Friday, but by the time I reached the road at the end of Haweswater I was feeling a little light headed and tired and my legs had started to ache, which was worrying at such a relatively early stage.

Janet and my parents had driven round to check point three (35km, Bampton village hall) and looked a little concerned at my rather pale appearance when I arrived at 05:00. I'd run much further than this and on the actual course a few times in training, so it was a shock to feel I was struggling already. However, a bit of a sit down with a cup of tea and a small portion of porridge seemed to revive me and by the time I left 10 minutes later I felt a lot better.

It was a good job too, as the next stretch differed from the route I'd run in training (I think a last minute change due to land owner's permissions), heading along the road for another few miles instead of the nice grassy riverside path I'd been expecting. I found all this tarmac hard to run on and was overtaken by a fair few runners as I eventually started walking, but this isn't the sort of thing you worry about on a race like this.

The support team (Janet and mum and dad) had driven past me on the road, cheering out of the window Tour de France style, heading to the planned rendevous at Askham. I caught up with them after a few miles though as they'd spotted the signs for the run sending us up onto Askham Moor before getting to the village so were waiting for me. It was lucky they had seen them too as they had some more supplies for me to pick up. We'd been told in the pre race briefing that you were only allowed extra supplies if they were in your drop bags, or if you carried them with you - fair enough, but it was a bit late to tell me that 10 minutes before the race started when all my extras were in the car. And no, that wasn't in the pre race notes ....

Bleak! Heading across Askham Moor, string of runners in the distance
Spanish omelette supplies replenished, I headed up onto the third climb over Askham Moor. We'd got away without any rain during the night, but now the weather really put it's back into it with the wind getting up and some stinging rain blowing in across the bleak expanse of the moor. I distracted myself from the unpleasantness by chatting to a fellow runner, asking him if he'd done anything like this before. 'Only the Lakeland 10 peaks' he said, a 73 kilometre 24 hour race with 5600 metres of ascent up the 10 highest peaks in the Lake District. 'When was this?' I asked. 'Last Saturday .... my legs are suffering a bit'!

This surprising answer gave me plenty to muse on as I headed to check point four (50km, Howtown Bobbin Mill). I arrived at this rather homely feeling little room with a group of other runners at about 07:00, all of us agreeing that it was a bad idea to sit down but then promptly plonking ourselves down on the array of comfy chairs irresistibly lined up around the tables within. Everyone was starting to look a bit bedraggled now, with some worried they were going to have to stop due to injuries flaring up, others shovelling noodles down in quiet urgency and some just staring into the middle distance. I felt sort of ok, especially after some more porridge, but was aware that after this I'd be running further than I ever had before so also felt, for the first time, a little nervous.

The nerves soon faded as I headed out for another stretch of road along the Boredale valley. I was now really noticing how my definition of what constitutes 'up hill' had changed. An ultra marathon maxim has it that you 'Walk the uphills, run the downhills and some of the flats' but by now even the slightest gradient was proving enough to get everyone slowing to a brisk march.

I tackled the fourth climb to Boredale Hause alongside a girl who surprised me with her really strong Bristol accent. She'd done a few Ultras before, even 100 mile races, but really didn't like hills or rough ground so was wondering if she'd entered quite the right race ... but did say she liked a challenge ....

The descent from the top of the pass to checkpoint five at Glenridding (60km) at 09:00 was where things really started to hurt, so by the time I arrived at the village hall I was ready for a bit of a rest. Luckily this was the location of the drop bags and the 'support team' were there, so with chatting and changing socks I had plenty to while away half and hour. It was a nice big hall, but unfortunately the toilets were down a flight of stairs - an extra little bit of descent and ascent that myself and many other groaning runners could have done without!

A big climb over Grisedale Hause came next, round Grisedale Tarn and down the rough and steep Raise Beck. The weather took a turn for the worse again here, so I was surprised to see Fix the Fells volunteer Charlotte and a friend waiting at the top of the pass with an illicit drop of brownies - this was planned, but not expected given the rough conditions. As with meeting Janet and my parents at the checkpoints I was finding these meetings were giving me a nice little boost, taking my mind off of the increasing difficulty of actually running.

The next check point was another one with just a tent, down by Thirlmere and at 72km, which I made by about 12:30, feeling pleased to have conquered the second really big pass of the run. There was no let up in the climbing though as from here it was a very boggy route past Blea Tarn and down to Watendlath. This stage had been squishy enough in my relatively dry training runs, but today was a different matter altogether with the saturated ground capable of swallowing runners whole. Well, maybe not, but by the time I got to Watendlath (after an unexpected meeting with some more of the Fix the Fells lengthsmen on the path down) for another meeting with Janet and co they'd seen plenty of runners go past with mud caked right up their legs and occasionally their backs where they'd taken a tumble. I think my experience with this type of ground once more paid off as I got through relatively unscathed.

From here there was another short climb back up, much to the disappointment of a fellow runner who was searching around for a feed station, before the descent to Rosthwaite and check point 7 (Borrowdale institute, 83km) where our other drop bags with spare shoes were waiting. I almost didn't bother changing mine as my feet were not uncomfortable, but the lure of having dry feet for a bit proved too tempting. It was a real pleasure getting my shoes off and sitting down for 10 minutes with my feet in the open, eating about 10 pieces of the cold pizza provided. I was also pleased to note that despite my pre race concerns my feet didn't seem to have swelled up at all.

But it couldn't last and all to soon I felt I should force myself from this comfortable refuge and push on towards the last big climb, over Stake Pass. I walked the first half mile from the check point alongside another runner, both of us marvelling at how hard it had become to make the transition from walking to running, before forcing myself into a slow jog. The journey up Langstrath over quite rough ground seemed especially testing, but nothing like the pain of the climb up to the top of the pass - a proper gruelling hands on knees slog.

It was with a real sense of elation I reached the top, to be greeted by a cheering Abi and Simon who had made the hike up there in horrible conditions to support me. Again, this helped pull me out of myself a little which was a real help as I was really starting to feel very weary indeed by now, although increasingly confident I could complete the challenge with 'only' about 20km to go.

Feeling guilty at spending so little time with them after they'd walked all the way up here I set off down to Langdale Coombe and the last big descent. I knew this path very well, having spent a summer season working on it so was able to distract myself from the agonies of the downhill by examining some of my past handiworks - all holding up well!
Fleeing the rain at a moderate pace down Mickleden

I met up with with Janet, Mud and Dad again halfway up Mickleden. By now I was down to a walk, but did feel slightly disappointed that just before I saw them I had managed to squeeze out a few hundred metres of running. They all looked very wet and said they'd had to retreat from their original spectator point with a view further up the valley due to the driving rain, something that made me realise how tired I was getting as I'd not really registered it (although I did have my back to it).

The last 9 miles/15k or so were torture. I'd was on my last legs (now I really know what that means!) and only managed a few more hundred metres of running. A particularly difficult point came just after the New Dungeon Ghyll pub, where I started to be overtaken by loads of runners who were all actually running. I couldn't understand where they found the energy from when I was reduced to a walk and was even more bugged when they all went past patting me on the back and saying 'well done', almost as if they were taking the mick. Luckily, I soon realised that my race had merged with the 55km one and it was those runners that were springing past me like they were on a 10k fun run. What a relief!
A special effort required here to smile and run for the official race photographer!

I met Janet and my parents once more at the final checkpoint at Chapel Stile (98k), where I failed to get a drink and something to eat, due to the room being tiny, very hot and packed with 55k runners. A short video taken by Janet there shows me mumbling and with my eyes half closed and I really felt quite desperate to just get to the finish. There was one last climb up to High Close, nowhere near as big as the others but still tough at this stage. I struggled up this and round Loughrigg, fighting a very strong temptation to sit down on every wall and log I went past 'just for five minutes', before the final steep descent down the small road leading to the back of Rothay Park and the finish.

My main memories of the last few kilometres are telling myself I mustn't forget that it really hurt, although I can't remember the actual physical sensation itself any more. I was met at the bottom of the hill by a marshall, who gave a cheery greeting before her tone changed to a more worried 'are you alright?'. Janet, Mum and Dad, Abi and Simon and Sarah from the upland path team were also there and it was flanked by this escort that I made my shuffling way into the park before a final 'sprint' finish across the line. Apparently I got a louder welcome than most runners as I think the state I was in was now obvious to all.

I've never felt the need for a chair so strongly as in the immediate aftermath, but luckily Lakeland Trails know this and there were plenty in the finishing area. The marshall had been considering referring me to the medics, but with a change into some warm clothes and a bit of a sit down I was soon feeling (and looking) much better. I'd finished in 19 hours and 44 minutes, longer than I'd anticipated but I'd not taken into account the time spent in the checkpoints when I'd tried to estimate it beforehand.

More importantly, at the time of writing this my sponsorship page total is up to £2413.75 (£2900.95 with gift aid). Although I am dead chuffed to have completed an Ultramarathon, there's no way I would have attempted it in the first place if it wasn't for what happened to my sister and it makes me feel she would have been proud that I went through all this to honour and remember her. I've also had so many messages of support and encouragement throughout this whole thing that it's really helped my on my way, I think people have appreciated the level of challenge involved and I'm glad I decided to do something properly difficult and worthy of sponsoring.
Probably the only time I'll wear a medal! T-shirt might get a few trips out though ...
So I've done my first Ultramarathon, something I can never do again now I am experienced. Would I do another one? Well, give me a bit of time, I've only had a week to think about it  - but I did find myself looking at the Montane Lakeland 100 miler website the other day, just out of interest ......

Friday, 1 July 2016

No turning back!

In my first blog entry back in early October I posted the question asked me by Janet - 'Are you feeling fit yet?'. Nine months later and I honestly still don't know the answer. I don't really feel any different in myself, but I can certainly run a lot further so I'll have to be content with that.

It's been a funny last few weeks. I've not liked 'the taper' that much as I've got so used to all the training running that it's just felt plain wrong to be doing so little. But, that's the advice and that's what I put on my training program all those months ago and it's got me this far so I'm not going against it now.

101 - Cool number!

Main bag's kit for the run, minus some more snacks and my camera
So I've got through the months of training without copping out. I've packed my bags: The one I'm carrying, the drop bag to be delivered to the half way point and the shoe bag for a checkpoint nearer the end. I've got my number and my timing chip. I've done my best to get some good rest this week and will attempt a couple of hours this evening before setting off. Janet and my parents are primed and ready to act as support crew, with the rather tough job of driving round to various points to meet me. Other freinds are hopefully going to be at other spots on the route. I've made a Spanish omlette to take with me. I've checked the weather forecast (not good). It is now just 7.5 hours until I set off on my attempt to run 110km.
Weather forecast .... At least heat stroke is out of the question .....

I genuinely don't think I could have done any more but after all this can I complete it? I still don't know. I'm plagued with doubts, my latest being that I just found out that the second pair of shoes that a lot of runners have in the shoe drop bags are a half size bigger than normal as your feet can swell up with these sort of distances. Mine aren't - I thought it was just so you could have the pleasure of dry shoes for a bit .... What if my feet swell up ....?
Drop off bags. Spare clothes for the first one, exactly the same size shoes for the second one

It's funny where you find solace though. Whilst walking to the bag drop vans today I was chatting to a fellow runner who told me the longest training run he'd done was from Dunmail Raise to the finish. I've done this, plus the bit from Glenridding to Dunmail, which is a good 6 miles and a mountain pass extra. If he'd done 40 or 50 miles in training I know I'd be feeling I'd not done enough, but I got a weird last minute psychological boost from this entirely meaningless comparison.

Like I've been saying, it's all in the mind. I'll need to keep telling myself that over the next 24 hours ...

Friday, 17 June 2016

The final countdown begins!

I've been looking forward to this. For the last three weeks of training, which I entered a few days ago, I am in 'the taper'. It's a commonly (but not universally) accepted way to prepare yourself for the big run, counter intuitively by doing less. It’s not a sudden stop of training, but a gradual reduction over the three weeks until for the last 4 or 5 days you actually do no running at all. The thinking is that you have time to let your body recover after the many months beforehand, repair any minor injuries and niggles that might have been building up and get properly rested for the big day. There’s also something about eating lots of the right kind of food, but I have to look into that.

So I’ve made it to the taper, but it was the weekend before it that I was worried about. This was planned as my peak training weekend and it’s been looming almost as large as the ultra itself – especially after getting heat stroke on the Coniston marathon the week before.

Smiling but nervous in Glenridding at the start of Saturday's run
My main concern wasn’t physical though, but mental. Ever since I started this I’ve been reading and getting advice about how completing an ultra marathon relies as much on your mind as your body, something that I couldn’t really believe at first but that has become increasingly apparent. It’s back to my big spreadsheet, with the whole training programme mapped out. I know that I’d have struggled with the last nine months if it wasn’t for that and as the date has approached it has become more and more important to me that I stick to it.

The last bit of the course I'd not run, up the valley towards Grisedale Tarn
If I’d have been so weakened by my few days of illness after the marathon that I was unable to complete this last big weekend of training, it would have been a great psychological blow that would have knocked my confidence right down. And it’s not particularly up anyway …..
Murky conditions at Grisedale tarn

So it was with some considerable trepidation that I set off on Saturday morning for my planned 7 hour run, following the final 30 miles of the course. And it was with some considerable pleasure that I found myself meeting Janet in Ambleside at the end of this (admittedly 8 hours later rather than 7, but I did stop for a cup of tea in Watendlath) and still functioning. Even better was heading out on Sunday and running a further 20 miles over 5 hours and actually feeling better when I finished than when I started.
A very welcome break in Watendlath

I’ve still got no real idea if I can complete the 68 miles, but getting past this day and starting on the taper at least makes me feel I’ve done all I can and if I fail then it won’t be because I ducked out of things or didn’t take it seriously. That’s very important to me as this is something I’m doing to remember my sister and I’d feel I’d let her down as well if I’d not put the work in. All these questions will be answered in a few week’s time though. Then I can have a proper rest.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Tough lessons on the Coniston marathon

As I write this I'm recovering at home, two days after completing my first 'official' marathon, the Lakeland Trails Coniston. I'd gone into the race with a feeling of quiet confidence - after all, I've run over a marathon in training now - but, as I'd hoped really, the whole experience taught me quite a lot. But not in the most pleasant way.

The weather has been warming up steadily for weeks now and by the time it was race day was forecast wall to wall sunshine and high twenties. No great shakes for lots of the world but for us Brits and especially those who've done all their training over a Cumbrian winter, quite a shock to the system.

So I had good reason to be glad I'd entered the 'Challenge' version of the marathon. It follows the same course but with much more generous cut off times than the more competitive 'Race' and crucially, starts 2 hours earlier at 07:00. Even so, it was already pretty warm by the time the fairly low key and rather sudden start was announced and we were off, jogging through the flat meadows towards Coniston village.
Lovely gentle start towards Coniston village

This early part of the race was crucial. Part of the reason I'd entered this event was to get some experience of running my own race and not getting carried away trying to keep up with much faster runners. So I was very happy to spend the first 7 or 8 miles up to Tarn Hows meandering along, walking the uphills and chatting to fellow runners. Many of them had the same idea as me as almost everyone I spoke to had also entered the ultra in a months time, albeit the 55km version, and were using this as a training run.

I saw Janet again at Tarn Hows (she'd been on the Yewdale bridleway to cheer me on, then walked up for this second rendevous) who had a surprise bonus of some grapes for me, very welcome. After this I realised that I'd started to overtake quite a lot of runners, not really deliberately but just through settling in to a natural pace. This continued up into Grizedale forest, along the wide tracks and through a lovely shady singletrack until we suddenly popped out of the trees high above Coniston water. This moment stopped most runners in their tracks, partly because of the view and partly because of the sudden exposure to the day's oven like heat.
Runners rather distracted by the view ...

It really was properly hot now but I felt fine and kept pushing on through the pack. I really noticed all the training I've been doing on trails paying off on the downhills, where I was able to fly down at full pelt while most of the other runners were picking their way down very gingerly. Past another feed station (there were four with snacks and a further two with just water) and I was on to the final climb to Beacon Tarn. During this I started to develop that all over glowing feeling you get when you're really too hot, so was only too pleased to dunk my head in the tarn at the top. To my surprise the marshalls there said I was one of the first to do this!
Beacon tarn - refreshing!

The marshalls also said that I'd 'reel quite a few more in at that pace' so by now all thoughts of running this at the same pace as a normal long training run had gone out of the window. After the rough descent to the last road crossing for the final few miles back along the lakeshore some spectators informed me that I could be in the top ten if I could pass 5 more people, so I carried on pushing on, pleased to discover I could still run up as well as down the many undulations in the path.

I did pass more people, all of whom were walking, and it was only within sight of the finish arena I started to feel quite odd. Pins and needles in my hands and a dizzy head led me to realize I'd not really eaten anything all race, except crisps at the feed stations and an early bit of home made flapjack. It felt wrong to stop now, but I didn't want to pass out on the finish line, so I got myself a bar out of my bag and scoffed it down with literally 500 metres to go.

Hot and bothered - coming in to the finish line

It worked, and I was able to complete the unexpected loop of the finishing area, now packed with people, in reasonable style. The results showed I came in 14th, with a time of 4hrs 53mins. To put this in perspective, the winning time was 4hrs 20mins but last year's winning time was 3hrs 37mins - a difference I'd put down entirely to the heat.

I think pretty much every runner ended up in here ...
At this moment I felt fine. Ten minutes to sit down, a quick leg soak in the lake and I was ready for a falafel and an ice cream, after which we settled down for the afternoon to cheer on all the other finishers making their way in. I don't know if the damage was already done when I finished, or whether it was the further sessions of sitting round in the sun, but it was later on after getting home and having my tea that I started to feel pretty awful. A night of vommitting and diarrhoea saw me in a very miserable state the next morning, something I'm only just recovering from now after two days off work.

So all in all a very positive experience - the run itself that is. I was pleased that I held up very well during the running, pleased that I kept to my own pace and especially pleased to do so unexpectedly well. But it's really taught me a good lesson about looking after yourself (I didn't have any hat, sunglasses or suncream on), something that will be especially important in the upcoming ultra marathon. I've seen a quote about ultras saying they're really 'just eating and drinking competitions with a little light exercise thrown in' and while I'd quibble the lightness of the exercise this whole experience has drummed home the importance of this other side of things. Get that wrong on the day and I'm toast, especially if it's as hot as this was .....

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Come run with me - my first 30 miles ...

Another week, another milestone. Set out last weekend to cover the first 30 odd miles of the course, starting at Ambleside and finishing in Howtown. Didn't know if I was up to it, but hoped I would be after the week before.

How did I get on? Well, why don't you come along and see - Here's a short video I made with my new action camera. It gets a bit smudgy places, but I think I haven't got a fast enough memory card. Anyway, technical nit picking aside, enjoy the film!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

My first marathon ... a long time coming

Throughout my training there have been plenty of milestones, mostly centred around running for a certain amount of time. But one has been about distance - when would I finally run a marathon?

I've been steadily increasing the time on my feet but constantly falling frustratingly just short of the distance. I thought I had it cracked on the day of the London marathon when I headed out from my house for a 5 1/2 hour out and back run on the Dales Way, a popular long distance footpath that finishes in Windermere (well, Bowness actually). With it being comparatively less hilly than the trails I've been training on I imagined this would be the day, but quite a chunk of time wandering around a confusing succession of small fields looking for the path put me back too much and I missed out by .6 of a mile. Bah.

Sheep on the Dales Way but no sign of the path ....

Today though I finally broke that elusive (but entirely arbitrary really) 26.2 miles barrier, but it almost didn't happen yet again. I was due a 6 hour run (my longest yet) and with the weather looking particularly kind surely this would be the one?
The new cyclepath next to the freshly re-opened A591 at Dunamil Raise - look at that for good weather!
 Janet dropped me at the top of Dunmail Raise and I set off to run the last chunk of the course, heading over to Watendlath, up Langstrath, over Stake Pass and along Langdale to Ambleside. I must admit that perhaps if I didn't take so many photos I might get further in my allotted time, but it's a bit of a tactic for me to enforce breaks, distract me from the physical difficulties and ensure I take time to appreciate the surroundings.
It would just be rude to run straight through this landscape without taking a few pictures - heading down to Borrowdale

Anyhow, even with all the snapping away I made it to Ambleside after 5 hours and 45 minutes. Close enough to 6 hours to call it a day, but looking at my GPS watch I had covered only 24 miles. This time I wasn't ready to accept defeat and luckily I was still feeling remarkably good, so decided to carry on following the course (the first few miles now) to Troutbeck, where Janet very kindly met me at the Old Post Office. It worked! I made it to 26.74 miles.

So I've run my first marathon now. Quite pleased to have done this as I've entered a proper marathon race, the Coniston Trail marathon in a few weeks time. I'm looking forward to running this in a familiar area and getting some proper experience of running in an event before the main one at the end of June. It's still strange to think that despite never having run an (official) marathon I'm now entered into one as a training run.

Actually, when I think about it the technical definition of an Ultra is 'anything over a marathon' so I could argue that today I did my first marathon and  my first Ultra .... but I don't think I'll count this ...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Getting the hang of it?

It's now just under two months until I undertake what will undoubtedly be the toughest physical challenge I've ever faced and attempt to complete the ultramarathon. A scary thought for sure, but while out again this last weekend for another couple of back to back long runs a strange thought occurred to me: Am I starting to get the hang of this?

Now, I'm not getting overconfident (or in fact, confident in any way). But I am finding that as I increase my long runs to even longer runs I'm beginning to enjoy it more. It certainly hurts more to keep going, but this keeping going is giving a satisfaction all of it's own. I look forward to my long runs now more than my short ones.

I discovered a while back now that I don't feel warmed up until a couple of hours in and after that I start to settle into a sort of rhythm. Not really so much of a physical rhythm, as I tend to slow down and speed up, stop to take pictures, walk up hills and eat snacks and follow interesting side paths just to see where they go, but more of a mental rhythm. Being out running for 5 hours gives your mind time to wander, then settle into a kind of moving meditation where you're just focussed on the simple act of keeping moving on. One step after the other, the minutes turn to hours and the miles slip by. 

The great curve of the Langdale valley ahead, plenty of time to get into a rhythm here ...
They don't slip by unnoticed though. I'm amazed by just how far it is possible to travel on foot, something I knew as figures - after all, everyone knows a marathon is 26 miles - but hadn't ever actually experienced. 20 odd miles feels very different when you cover ever inch of it on your own two legs. It feels epic, in a very real way.

Epic! I'm in this one, on the track right in the middle near the bottom (photo thanks to Janet)
That epic feel is also helped by the landscape I'm lucky enough to be training in of course. I mentioned in my last blog entry about exploring areas I'd not thought to visit before and exploring feels like just the right word, thanks to being on foot. As opposed to vehicular travel you notice so much more from contact with the ground and this feeling of being embedded in and part of the landscape, seeing it change around you is very addictive. It's a real joy to keep moving on and experience what's around the next corner or over the next hill, even if it's on trails I've run many times before.

So, getting the hang of it then? Well, I don't know about physically (that'll only come out on the day) but if I can keep this interest and delight in the journey this will surely give me a great chance of getting round the course.