36 Days Of Rest

Hi everybody it has been 36 days since my last run.

During that time I have gone from feeling deflated, angry, hopeful, accepting, calm, excited, surprised, self-pitying, stubborn and a whole host of other emotions that quite frankly have made this period of non running extremely challenging in ways that make me feel like I am battling some sort of addiction.

OK..so addict is strong word and I cannot compare what the last 5 weeks have been like to someone who faces real "life" issues. It's funny though because as the weeks have gone by the mental need to run is not burning strong, it feels almost dormant, like a volcano that is asleep. Despite the desire to to run bubbling underneath the surface the actual act is not forthcoming. Also of note is that actual running is going to be tough and a little scary due to the fitness lost with each passing day.

Some people have said why have I not done any cross training to maintain that fitness and to be frank but I haven't wanted too which is not like me to be honest. The desire is just not there full stop. Perhaps though it's just simply I do not find enjoyment in cross training despite the benefits it may have. So perhaps due to this I have used this period of downtime as "recharging the body" if want for a better phrase.

Don't get me wrong I love running and exercise but sometimes we get so caught up in our training and racing experiences that we forget to re-balance things. No matter who you are everyone needs rest. This is all relative to the individual but I see this time I have had as nothing more than a lesson to remember that no runner is invincible. Whether you are a elite, hobbyist, run streaker etc everyone must find time to rest (whatever that phrase means to you) before you get to thinking you are invincible because the second you do then you are addicted and you ignore the signs and other stresses around you telling you loudly that your are not listening. Rest before your body let's you know that you didn't listen i.e. INJURY!!!!

This week has been a good week and with the strength work I have done it's probably fair to say that I am reaching the end of this chapter once I visit the physio on Tuesday. So tomorrow I am getting back in the gym to start on some body strength work over the winter and with the potential to start running some time this week once again there is optimism that this Volcano will wake up!

End In Sight

Well it was follow up appointment today with the physio and I was actually looking forward to this as my calf has come on leaps and bounds during the past week.

The overall pain levels have come down quite a lot and I am walking OK but I know we are not out of the woods yet. I was advised by the physio not to stretch the calf this past week so that it would have time to heal. Apart from going for a handful of nice walks over the past week I have done zero cross training as well which I know is not a good thing but I am just damn right lazy when it comes to that stuff.

So as I lay there on the physio bench (think it's called that) trying not to relax too much as I wanted to know every detail the physio echoed my view that a lot of the scar tissue I had the previous week had been successfully dealt with and I had far more mobility my ankle and leg in general terms.

After finding a handful of pinch points in my calf which were probably about 4-5 out of 10 on the pain scale the physio (Dan's his name by the way) said that we can start introducing some stretching this week to help the mobility of my ankle and calf as all the scar tissue should be now dealt with.

Following this he then casually mentioned that next week will most likely be the last session and that we will introduce some strengthening and running!

Did I just hear that right? "Yes you must be itching to run and if all being well try a short very easy jog at the end of the week with some walking mixed in should be something to explore if it feels right". Strangely enough I felt calm and relaxed upon hearing that news or was it the fact my leg had been worked on a fair bit and the blood flow to my brain was restricted ? Either way a win win.

Now of course I still have to be patient with things but I am coming to the end of learning am important lesson and one that Arthur Lydiard a legendary coach who's methods I have been learning and adapting to for the past 12 months uses to approach each run

“How you run should be governed by how you feel on the day and by the simple catch-phrase I invented years ago, “train, don’t strain” -- Arthur Lydiard

I don't regret the hard run I did that triggered the injury but not to ignore the warning signs that the body is flirting with injury when you approach a peak. I had signs but I ignored them and the basic strength and flexibility routines that facilitate and help support a healthy / strong body.

We live and learn eh.

More Rehab

Well things have changed a whole bunch in the last week since my sports massage. It seems that the physio didn't identify nor treat a secondary problem on my leg. WTF!!

I had felt both pain in my shin and in the back of the calf previously which had been tackled however what had been masked was pain in my peroneal tendons on the side of my leg. This manifested itself by Monday this week and I could tell that there was some resistance in my calf from stretching out the ankle as it was god awful tight. With this I decided it best to try and get this looked at again as I know from leaving it during the first week these things don't resolve themselves.

I managed to book in for a last minute appointment on Tuesday with a physio local to me who I have used before. After talking with him for 10 minutes about the last 2 weeks he performed some tests on my legs he could tell that this issue had been overlooked. He said that the other problems had pretty much been resolved in my shin and back of my calf so that was good news .

Still he explained that it might still be at least 1-2 weeks before I could go for a run due to this peroneal muscle issue. In rushing back from a calf injury I could relapse quite quickly due to the amount of stress the calves go through during running.

I didn't expect to react the way I did but I calmly accepted that this, how could I not my leg was screwed still.. He advised also to not even deliberately stretch the leg out over the next week and to just let it heal. After a couple days of mild soreness my leg feels 100% improved.

I have a follow appointment booked in for Tuesday next week where some more work will be done on the leg and then a plan put in place to get back to running. I fully expect to be doing this in November. I hope for the sake of my physio and family it's sooner rather than later as I have been a little grumpy :-)


It's been a long week and even longer one without the ability to run at all.

After the disappointment of not racing at Chelmsford I have pretty much focused 100% on getting the calf back to 100% normal. The obvious answer is that I should book a sports massage but where ever I tried locally the answer was about 7 days wait. The pain in my calf was bad enough that I couldn't wait that long.

Fortunately a work friend told me about a walk in centre around the corner to our building so I walked into the place yesterday morning and straight away I got lucky with an immediate appointment at lunchtime for 60 minutes.  After arriving back at lunchtime I explained to the physio what was wrong, no problem he said!

Well what can I say the pain emanating from my leg was bordering on excruciating..I clenched my teeth more than once and I just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. Doesn't sound good right then again I don't think you can enjoy the pain.

After 60 minutes of smashing my legs to pieces I felt light, relaxed. After sitting up the physio advised me to ice and soak the leg for the next day or so and then after 3-5 days do a short very easy run to see how it feels. As soon as put my foot on the floor I could immediately tell my leg was in much much better shape. Hallejuah!!

I often think about booking in a sports massage regularly but these are always a luxury however with my "Beast" roller I am sure that I won't repeat the same mistakes twice. I am looking forward to just plodding along my local park trails and then start building up for next year.

It's so true you don't know what your missing until you lose it. OK OK it's only been nearly 2 weeks of no running so I should stop being dramatic!

Everything was going so well

Well, the last time I wrote anything about my training was some time ago. Since then it's been a roller coaster of a summer with building works at my house, work being busy  and somehow squeezing in a fair amount of training.

Thing's hadn't started so well back in the early summer but during August and September things started to flow really well. The past few weeks I have been averaging solid mileage for me and consistently hitting good speed sessions whilst being able to recover day to day from the increasing work load.

I certainly have felt that I was on the verge of another breakthrough with my upcoming marathon. A new PB was something that looked more and more achievable with every week that passed. On Saturday last week I had scheduled a 5km or 10km time trial. I chose to do the 5km, During the previous week I had picked up a niggle that I monitored coming off some fast downhill runs but it didn't turn into anything major.

The target was to hit around 20:10-20:30 at 95% effort. This is a good workout to do prior to the marathon to see whether I am lacking in speed or stamina. Maybe with 7 days to go this is more like a tune up.

The top of this range was about 45 seconds faster than my 5km PB but then again I don't really race over this distance. I warmed up with a good 3 miles before getting into the 5km. The sudden change in pace to around 6:30 was a little uncomfortable and I almost wanted to jack it in after the first mile.

Well it was definitely a good workout and I absolutely ran it the way I wanted to. The splits for the 5km were 6:29, 6:33, 6:32 and 41 seconds for the last bit. I ended up with 20:15 for the 5km. I slowed down to catch my breath and I really was puffing hard but I wasn't completely spent so that was good. It was during the cool down phase I noticed the top of my calf was a little sore.

I hadn't noticed it at all during this run and it didn't hurt as such yet. When I got home I got cleaned up and had a good lunch. It was then the pain hit me. My calf was immediately sore. What the hell had I done!! Then I remembered that I had a niggle in my calf during the week, it was entirely possible that this had manifested into something a little more serious. I soaked my calf and put on compression socks for the day.

The next day the legs didn't feel tired but the right calf felt painful. I could feel a nice lump of pain in the back of my calf about 2-3 inches down from the knee. Over the past 4-5 days I have self-massaged, had cold soaks and foam rolling. The problem still persists and it's firmly in my shin now.

This is making walking quite difficult at the moment and yet any physio I have spoken to says that I will need to wait at least a week to be seen! That is ridiculous and it's making me feel somewhat pissed off.

This weekend it is the Chelmsford marathon and I have had to withdraw due to the reasons above. I feel pretty gutted to have picked up a niggle that turned into a full blown problem the week before it. Alas there is nothing I can do except get myself sorted out as quickly as possible before looking at slowly coming back.

That means of course I need to get to see the physio. Time to start dialling buttons and not give up without an appointment booked ASAP.

Ticking along

Well it's been another dismal start to the Premier league football season for my team West Ham United and although I hope things turn around quickly the writing seems to be on the wall based on their performance that we are in for a very long and drawn out season.

Training wise things have going along nicely and during the past few weeks I seem to have found some fitness again. Resting heart rate has plummeted to on average 41, pace of easy runs is around 8:15-8:30 while the HR has been averaging in the low 140's. Mileage wise things have crept up to the low 50's per week and although the legs still need some but I have introduced some harder sessions that the legs seem to be coping with quite nicely.

So with just under 9 weeks to go until Chelmsford Marathon everything seems to be going in the right direction. Being off work has made time management that much easier and of course getting some longer runs in without feeling like a zombie for the whole day is always a plus :-)

So with training going in the right direction getting some sharpening races including 10k and half-marathons booked in would be very useful but finding races close to home and on the right days according to my scheduling is proving difficult. Never the less I am determined to chop another chunk of time off my Marathon PB before focusing next year on ultras.

With that in mind I already need to start putting a structure around races for next year as entries have already opened for a lot of races and they do sell out super fast. Not sure what races I will be entering but aiming for having four key races next year is definitely something I want to have on the calendar.

Fri 15 Aug
     15 miles - 1:58:23 (8 miles @7:40) -, 7:53 pace, avg HR 161

Sat 16 Aug
    7 miles - 59:31, 8:31 pace, avg HR 142

Sun 17 Aug
    6.5 miles - 57:05, 8.47 pace, avg HR 140

Mon 18 Aug
   4.5 miles - 38:30, 8:34 pace avg HR 137


Wow..9 weeks since the Halstead marathon and I have hardly written a post and my running frequency took a huge hit. 

Since Halstead I took some time out from running as my knee / thigh issue hadn't cleared up. The niggle first developed about 3 weeks before the marathon but didn't hinder the last few weeks up to the race. After  taking a traditional recovery week after the marathon I got out 3 times a week for a couple of weeks with some really easy running but my leg didn't get any better . So I took a week off then another week by which time it was the middle of June. This wasn't good at all.

I had been going down the gym a fair bit but I had let myself go diet wise and packed on quite a few pounds (small amount of muscle). Having weighed myself I had the shock of my life when I weight myself and could see that I had put on 10 pounds since Halstead. I really wasn't happy of course but on the flip side my leg had pretty much repaired itself with the complete rest from running

There and then I set myself the target of getting back in shape and putting an autumn marathon in the calendar to focus on. Getting back in shape and being mentally focused on setting new goals to achieve was all that was needed. So I booked the Chelmsford Parks marathon which is relatively local to me and a brand new race. I am very results driven of course and a new PB is the target but I am thinking of adding a few other races around it to at least add a bit of variety to this training cycle but I haven't decided 100% yet as this could impact me pushing for another big PB.

The immediate goal is of course to drop body fat, lose some overall body weight (be at least where I was pre-Halstead 178 pounds), rebuild my base mileage and focus on recovering between workouts. So far during the last 3 weeks it's been very painful getting back into a regular cadence but there has been progress. This week I ran just under 40 miles over 5 days with the target being everyday for the upcoming week. The pace has been embarrassingly slow but my resting heart rate has come down quite dramatically and is almost back to where it was pre-Halstead.

From tomorrow I am cutting out all the crap I have indulged in the past few weeks on a regular basis that should also aid in losing weight. I am treating tonight as a kind of farewell party for the crap by eating the  Tortilla chips and salsa dip I have left before I this stuff from my diet for the next couple of months. I don't like going 100% free of indulgence because that's just stupid but I am focused here on a challenge I haven't had to think about for quite some time.

So with around 14 weeks until the race there is lots to do and it will be another great challenge however  knowing that I want to be in better shape than last time I know that if I commit myself to this with great discipline I will again come out on top.

Time to start feeling like a runner again!

So where to next..

The sun is shining the rain has gone and it suddenly feels like summer is almost here yet I haven't stepped foot outside the door for a run since Sundays marathon.

I deliberately planned in 4 days of nothing but eating loads, sleep lots (I wish) and reflect on what was a very satisfying performance. It's the first time I planned in some proper downtime and I think it has really helped me mentally as well as physically. Although I was a little surprised to find that my calves, hamstrings and ankles felt absolutely normal on Monday my quads more than made up for it. Going downstairs wasn't straightforward but it wasn't so painful I had to sit down. The DOM's resided mostly after the third day and by today my legs feel like they did shortly before the race.

I was meaning to get out for a short run today but didn't wake up in time this morning (better stop that right now) but I'm sure the extra day won't harm anyway. Well the question most people are asking me is what's next on the schedule. To be honest I haven't made my mind up. Of course it would be great to target a faster marathon, sub 3:10 is definitely a good stretch goal on a flat marathon course and there are plenty to choose from in September/October. The thought of racing a shorter ultra is good as well and there are some possibilities early summer. Either way I need to work out my next training cycle and decide soon what challenge to set.

In the meantime I cannot wait to get out running in the sunshine. Bring on Summer.

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

One year ago, I was recovering from a very disappointing performance at my first official marathon race. After the event I was very honest with myself that you cannot fake racing hard over the marathon distance i.e. you have to put in the mileage, hard sessions, the long runs in order to give yourself the best chance of achieving your goal time.

Last year the goal was 3:30 and I had a very rude awakening during the last 10 miles of the race and ended up running 3:53. Following that experience I descended into a downward spiral with my running. I didn't want to run, I didn't want to go out daily getting my fix around my local park trails or the quiet roads early in the morning and it took me a while to understand that I was suffering a loss of motivation on a scale I hadn't experienced before. I had set a goal but my plan to achieve it was built on a wing and a prayer and I had no plan or desire to race again after that.

Fast forward to 2014 and I have changed my whole running philosophy and approach to this matter. Back in January I decided to commit to a running program again namely structuring my training using "Arthur Lydiard principles" so that I could avenge my performance from last year at Halstead. What followed during the16 week build up I have documented somewhat already on this blog but during the training cycle I have changed completely from the runner and person I was last year.

Marathon day didn't start out too well as the rain was pouring and driving 45 miles in that weather was not ideal. The temperature was not too cold around 12 degrees and I was always going to wear a singlet rain or no rain. I don't mind the rain but the 20-25 mph winds was something that I could do without. As we were gathering outside getting drenched the Race Director announced that a gentleman named Andy Wilmot was starting us off and that he would be running his 600th marathon! Absolutely incredible. I would be happy getting to 100.

The gun went and we set off. As with every marathon everybody sprints off at what feels like 100 mph. I had my game plan and I know not to go out like a sprinter down the first downhill especially because within 400m were we would be going straight back up the hill!

The Halstead course is full of undulation with lots of sharp little uphills and downhills and is certainly not what you would call a flat fast marathon course. Couple this with the blowing wind it was always going to be a massive challenge to achieve the goal time I set out - 3:10. Pretty quickly during the start of the race I knew 3:10 was out of reach today but I had a plan B which was sub 3:15 and plan C 3:15-3:20. After the initial surge I settled into a 7:20-7:30 minute/mile pace, again the undulation was making it a challenge to find a consistent pace but I felt reasonably comfortable  so now it was going to be a question of how long I could keep this going and focus on the road ahead.

5 miles - 37:15, avg HR 162

I was feeling very good, the legs felt strong and I was very much in control. I decided before the race that I was going to make a conscious effort not to keep staring at my Garmin and to run based on feel. Of course being obsessed with stats this is difficult at the best of times. The rain started to ease off and the wind was causing a problem yet. I knew though that this would change as we started to hit the back roads and the course changes direction.

Mile 11 
10 miles - 1:14:50, avg HR 163

Between 5-10 miles the field usually spreads out and runners that set off too fast start get pulled back. I have learnt quickly that the race doesn't start until the last 10km so it's all about focusing on your pace, pace and pace. I was so focused in fact that I didn't really look at anything but the runners and the course ahead. This is very different to ultras where I tend to let my mind drift. Of course a lot of runners like doing this at any time but I was here to crush my marathon PB so there was no room for letting my mind drift. I started to feel a little thirsty around 6-7 miles and I was always going to ensure even in these wet conditions not to dehydrate (i tend to sweat a lot). I made sure I got enough water at the aid station giving the supporters a big smile and be courteous at all times. At miles 9 and 10 the wind was suddenly in my face and my pace slowed by a good 10 seconds per mile. I didn't panic though and tried to relax and keep the pace at 7:30 min/mile. Focus Focus Focus!

13.1 miles - 1:38:13, avg HR 162

One thing I didn't want to do was go out to fast for the first half of the race. So when I arrived at the halfway point I glimpsed at my watch and could see that I was around the 1hr38mins mark. This was a little slower than I was looking for and 1hr37mins or there about would have been ideal but with the weather and course it was still pretty good but I knew then that Plan B was going to be an uphill battle as a negative split for sub 3:15.

15 miles - 1:52:28, avg HR 161

I was still drinking sufficiently but hadn't eaten anything. In fact I didn't bring any gels for that matter. I usually don't eat on runs but appreciated that I was pushing myself to the limit today so i grabbed a few jelly babies from road side supporters washed down with water, I am a man of simple tastes after all. Just 3 or 4 were enough and fortunately I didn't choke on them. I had been running for almost 2 hours and the legs still felt good, my upper body felt relaxed. I was really having a great time but knew this couldn't last forever could it?

20 miles - 2:29:57, avg HR 164

At mile 16 I had my quickest mile of the day (7:13 effort) and I was feeling good but again I kept reminding myself just to keep ticking the miles off and focus on the next one. Heading back into the wind at mile 17 my pace dropped back to slightly more than 7:30. There was only the odd runner at this point ahead of me and that nobody really had passed me since the 10 mile mark. There was however one guy in a white long sleeved top who surged ahead of me periodically but I caught him up on the uphills and soon passed him at the 18 mile mark. After 30km I knew that the tough miles were immediately ahead of me. The wind was still blowing strongly and I could feel that the pace had become ever so slightly slower. It was at this point last year I hit the wall badly but I didn't this time. Having looked at my Garmin results the splits from 18-20 miles were - 7:34, 7:35, 7:37. With the wind gusting up and me trying to maintain the pace I set earlier becoming increasingly difficult I knew my body must be at some point getting ready to stop me. Then my right quad started to hurt!

25 miles - 3:10:13, avg HR 163

At mile 21 my right quad was telling me, this hurts Mr Stewart slow down! I hadn't noticed any problems before except for a dull feeling but with the constant undulation and downhills on the oad my quads had taken a battering . I knew that the last 5 miles were going to be painful but this pain was more muscle tightness related. I had run so strong and comfortable up to this point and had made sure I took on board enough water but I hadn't catered for the pounding of the downhills and the windy conditions over the course of time. The pace for this mile 7:55. I knew having looked at my Garmin average pace (yes I was looking  at my watch all the time now) that I was now in danger of missing my plan C goal of sub 3:20. I attempted to power on into the wind but it was proving to be a real beast of a challenge this late in the race. Mile 22 - 7:47, the miles were now proving lonely as there were almost zero runners ahead to focus on.

It really was about grit and determination now to get to the finish. The support on the course was amazing and with the sun fully out I cracked a smile when passing through every drink station and never once did I not say "thank you" for the drinks. The wind was punishing yet my focus now unrelenting but i couldn't raise the pace. Mile 23 - 8:10 and Mile 24 - 8:19 were slow. I had to do something. I had slipped so far back pacing wise. Was I going to miss my times completely!

Between mile 24 and 25 I got this surge of mental energy from somewhere deep down that just pushed me forward. I was not going to let the clock time me out! Mile 25 - 8:02. Just before you reach the final mile I had completely forgotten that the course diverts up a grass bank onto the mud. Suddenly from out of what seemed nowhere the guy in the long sleeved white top passed me going up the grass bank.

I kept him in my sights but he was slowly edging away. My legs were shot at this point as we made our way through the field onto the main road. I guy in the white shirt was about 10 seconds ahead of me. We passed the 26 mile marker - I had 3:18:21 on my Garmin! Was I going to make 3:20!!!!!!

I picked up the pace with everything I had left and as I turned the corner for the final 50 meter sprint I could see the clock ticking. I could feel the burn in my legs and lungs as I crossed the finish line.

The clock said 3:20:00. I had done it. 

If you had been at the finish line you would have seen a 6ft 2in man sprinting like a lunatic across the line, trying to punch his fist in the air. It was not a pretty sight!

I picked up and guzzled down a two cans of full sugar coke plus a couple of bananas which made me feel so much better. After getting my medal and goody bag I headed inside the leisure centre to pick up my bag and shower up. My quads were going to be sore for sure especially the right one as it felt tight so I decided to get a quick 10 min post race massage that was being offered. It was worth every penny.

Well earned post race beer

As I lay back on the massage table I thought to myself that the day had been bitter sweet. I hadn't hit my plan A or B goals but I had delivered on crushing my PB by 33 minutes and achieving 3:20:00 finish. This is a great time on that course and with the weather conditions as well I couldn't help but smile and soak up the occasion.

Having drove home and settled down to enjoy a post race meal and beer (got free one in the goody bag woo hoo!) with the family I felt like all the hard work had been worth it.

The rain had dried up, the sun had come out and in doing so I felt like the black clouds have now passed over from last years disappointment. Time to heal and move forward.

Net: 3:20:00
HM1: 1:38:31
HM2: 1:41:29
Rank: 53rd out of 535
avg HR 163


It's almost time for my first real race of the year. Tomorrow I will be driving the short journey to Halstead, get my race number, and after a somewhat good sleep hope to smash my PB. The unanswered question really is what is the target. I'm reasonably confident I can deliver a sub 3:15-3:20 but have trained with the specific aim to break 3:10.

There are a few hills on the course that could certainly test my pacing our there and as always I have still have not learnt to run sensibly at the start as race fever grips you. I will be wearing my Garmin and although I don't intend to be a slave to it during the race and try to run based on feel but I certainly will be keeping an eye on my average pace as the race progresses but not glue myself to mile tracking due to the fact markers are never where your gadget tells you. I will go out with a plan to run at 3:10 pace and then adjust based o how I feel.

I have had the tapering madness all week with both niggles, aches and worries but nothing that will stop me tomorrow. The last 16 weeks has been the most consistent training block I have ever put in. My average weekly mileage works out at 47 miles, although that is not a lot for many that is the most consistent I have been since I started trying to run in the last 5 years. I have learnt a great deal about using a periodization approach to training and understanding exactly what the purpose of each run is, run pretty much at least 6  and learnt to adapt the plan based on how I feel rather than blindly follow the schedule.

I have already started thing about the next race and I have thought either a shorter ultra in the next 3-4 months or another early autumn marathon would be good with perhaps some shorter faster stuff thrown in. With the training approach I have embraced I know what works for me and it has made me more disciplined and more satisfied in my running than ever before, now it's a case of executing on the work done.

"It's just a matter of understanding what's necessary and discipline yourself to do it." - Arthur Lydiard

Taper Time upon us

Oh dear I have not been could at keeping this diary up to date so this is long over due.

Well training and life have been busy busy but that is no excuse to talk about things. So without further ado where are we. March was a good month overall but not a great month.

Training wise I was hitting 2-3 quality anaerobic workouts per week with many of them bang on target pace for the sessions set. I had a few short tempo runs as well and although I did miss a few midweek medium runs (9-11 miles) I was really beginning to feel fitness like never before to be honest.

As March closed with 216 miles for the month I was regretting missing at those easy runs which would have boosted mileage to around 250-260. But given this was the second month in a row of 200+ miles I was not looking at this negatively.

As we moved into April things have been more focused on sharpening and some longer tempo runs (13-15 mile range). I have missed some runs but averaged 50 miles a week over the past 4 weeks off 6 runs and really focused on sleeping well and actively monitoring resting heart rate (this has become automatic as soon as I wake up now) to ensure that recovery wise I am picking up on any issues before they happen with fatigue. Fortunately I have not suffered any illness during the last 14 weeks and amazingly the more I have run the better I have felt. One reason = lots of easy running!!

This weekend marks the last two weeks before Halstead marathon and to be honest I let the recurring issue in my head about getting enough long runs skew my thinking. After yesterdays 10 miles which went disastrously wrong as the effort of trying to hit 7:30 minute miles was proving so hard that I couldn't get my head around it. Then I realised today that earlier in the week I had a cracking workout on Monday with 9 miles at 7:05 average (6:36 last mile) which was not my prescribed workout. So perhaps this coupled with the running load of other workouts has affected me somehow. I don't know though.

So going back to the distance question, I haven't really run more than 16-17 miles in training but they have been off the back of good 10+ miles the day before at tempo pace so today I decided to do one last long run of 20 miles more the mental side of things. Well that was a mistake maybe in that although my legs felt ok I just didn't feel right the whole time and again. My heart rate this morning was around 47 (48 yesterday) and normally it has been floating around 42-43 most days so perhaps I am coming down with something but I don't have any symptoms..yet

 I was sweating bucket loads and towards 18 mile mark the legs felt heavy. I was only plodding today at 9 minute mile pace so this was a little concerning but we shall have to wait and see if I am coming down with something.

As I move into the taper period I am looking at whether trying for a 3:10 is now possible based off the training I have done. One way to help measure where I am pace wise is that I am going to do a 5k-10k time trial on Saturday next week to see whether I can hit 20 mins for the 5k or sub 42 minutes for 10k at 95% effort. Learning not to go at 100% effort in training has been a revelation for me so I am hoping that I can get a good indicator of where I am.

Of course these are much shorter distances so they won't reveal everything but keeping healthy in the next 2 weeks is top of the agenda and of course getting some new shorts and shirt to race in as well :-)

Weekly Summary 16/03 and 23/03

16/03 - 22/03 Summary

Sun - 7.1 miles Hill Drills session (8:56m/m)
Mon - 7.6 miles inc 4 x 1 mile reps with 2 mins rest (6.36m/m rep avg)
Tue - 7 miles (8:50m/m)
Wed - Missed run
Thu - 3.5 miles (9:14m/m) am 7.5 miles (inc 5 x 1 km reps avg 4:05k/m)
Fri - 7.1 miles inc 6 x 100m strides (8:30m/m)
Sat - 11.8 miles (inc 9.4 miles at 7:26m/m)

Total Mileage - 51.1 (8:45m/m)

23/03 - 29/03 Summary

Sun - 16 miles (9:08m/m)
Mon - Rest
Tue - 7.7 miles (inc 5 miles at 7:12m/m)  (7:42m/m)
Wed - 8.3 miles (8:29m/m)
Thu - 8 miles (inc 6 x 800km avg 3:10) (7:51m/m)
Fri - Missed run
Sat - 6 miles (inc Hornchurch Park Run 21:47 - 7:01m/m) (7:46m/m)

Total Mileage - 46 (8:24m/m)

Well the first couple of weeks of introducing fast sessions have been a great deal of fun although my volume has taken a 30% hit mainly because of missing a couple of runs and a long run reschedule on 15/03.

It was my first time at a Park run on Saturday as I didn't make time to get out for a schedule 9-10 miles at 7:30 pace. Given I had already done two fast sessions in the week I wasn't expecting a lot. I arrived 20-30 seconds after the runners had set off so I was having to work my way through from the back of the field. The course is 80% XC in nature and the ground was wet in many places which is always fun with road shoes on!

Not knowing the course and never ran a fast 5km I didn't know how hard to push early on. I made a conscious effort to ignore my watch and just concentrate on feel. I was quickly making my way up through the field of runners and really concentrating on breathing, running form and quite frankly running hard! 5km is a sprint!

As I approached the last 200m or so I had tagged onto a runner about 15-20 meters in front of me who I hadn't managed to pass yet so with one final hard effort I was bringing the knees up really high and with my lungs practically on fire pipped him on the line. After collecting my bar code chip and passing it to the organiser I collapsed onto the ground with a feeling of wipe out.

After catching my breath my throat felt quite sore and jogged around for a 3-4 mins to ensure my legs didn't seize up. After watching a few other runners come in I said my goodbyes to some smiling faces and headed off home. I made a decision there an then that i will be back next week.

Little while later I got my result of 13th out of 96 and 21:47 so definitely some room for improvement. By running these more consistently and dropping some weight (static at 179 pounds for the last 6 weeks) I can get this time down. These sessions will certainly help with Halstead coming up in 7 weeks.

Definitely some faster stuff mixed in with the long runs over the next 3-4 weeks will definitely help and probably test me to the limit.

Over the Hill and into the Anaerobic Cave

Saturday marked the end of the Hill phase and Sunday the beginning of the next step in my Halstead Marathon training plan....8 weeks to go.

The weekend was absolutely glorious (at least in the South East) and I intended to fully enjoy every minute of it. I actually thought for a second before heading out the door on Saturday whether I would need sun screen even it was that warm. I made the decision to swap the long run to Saturday as i was heading out for a social event with Tracy so I didn't want to run long the night after. I would do my hill drills on Sunday instead.

One difference to the long run this week was that I had recently treated myself to a new running pack - Salomon Skin-slab 5.
Feels like a second skin

I will be doing a full review of it at some stage but my initial impressions are that is awesome.

My long run was a mixture of my local country park trails and some roads towards the last 5 miles. These runs are about time on feet at the moment and although that will change soon I have been enjoying a lovely relaxing 2.5 hr run each week. I switched off pretty much the whole time until I got around to 14 miles that I decided to increase the pace to see if the legs would respond. Indeed they did and I was coasting at 7:45 and 7:25 minute miles for the last two miles without too much trouble before cooling down. Another solid 16.4 miles in the bag. Good times.

perfect trails (just need more hills)

Perfect blue skies

After getting up on Sunday morning the forecast was for a sunny 19C. It was always going to be tough running during the morning as the kids were dying to get out on their bikes as soon as they come back from grandparents at 8am! I knew I could run later in the day before dinner and it was always going to be more fun playing with them and eating ice cream in the park. It was a great morning and quite relaxing to be honest even with the two kids running and riding around at full speed!

Later on before dinner I headed out to my local "hill" (I call it that at least) for my last hill drills session. As I started my easy warm up I kept thinking to myself that for the past 2 months I had been following a training approach with very little interruption. Both my attitude and results are starting to show so far I am feeling more convinced every week that this approach is working for me and although my ankle had been niggly and stiff on occasion during the hill phase it has not stopped me running pretty much on a daily basis. I have really learnt a great deal about managing myself running wise during the last 2 months and as I enter the next phase of training I am anticipating to peak for a race like never before.

The hill drills session was executed to the best of my ability with 4 x 30 second fast striding, 4 x hill bounding (about 2 -3 mins to the top), 4 x downhill strides, 4 x thigh driving (felt sick on the last one) and then an easy run home. 3 weeks ago I was struggling to do even a quarter of this but now I feel so much stronger and fitter coming off that I cannot wait to see what happens this week as I begin the Anaerobic phase

I am not quite a deer leaping over a fence but I am definitely feel like I have plenty of spring in my step.

We all know Hills are speed work in disguise

Well time is flying by very quickly. One minute I am building base miles the next I am approaching the end of the hill phase.

The last couple of weeks have been a definite learning curve both in terms of running and recovery. February's training block went well when looking at in the cold light of day. I clocked up 219 miles and only had 5 days of non running. That is a big improvement on previous years and I have definitely felt the benefit in averaging 50+ miles a week. No doubt concistency and relative high mileage for me is making me a stronger.

In fact within a week of starting the hill phase my heart rate dropped like a stone on average by 10-15 beats for the given pace I was running on an easy day 6 weeks previous. I have definitely gotten more efficient and am not feeling tired after my long runs which although not exceedingly long i can maintain the 8:40 pace and heart rate below 145 beats per minute for up to 2.5hrs.

Along with the hill sessions in this phase I have been doing almost what you would call tempo runs but they are a little bit below that threshold. It's basically a training session that encourages you to run at the top end of your aerobic effort. This for me is around 155 beats per minute. I did a 9 mile run the first week and a 12 mile effort last week. It felt really good to get some faster sessions into the mix. The 9 miler was 158 HR and 7:49 pace while the 12 miles last week was even better at 153 HR and 7:44. Definite progress and feel that I could have gone faster and longer on this one last week.

On the flip side the hill workout sessions have been tough and have caused my calves and ankles to flare up (particularly the right hand side). Hill bounding is a form of plyometric training that can be hard on unconditioned legs with particular focus on the ankles. I did take things easy after the first session but I could feel after a couple of days that my right ankle was agitated. After applying some regular self massage though it's looking like the calves are finally adapting just in time before the real anaerobic work begins next week.

I clipped the long run yesterday to just under 15 miles and today's easy fartlek to 45 minutes to give the legs a break the past couple of days as my daily vitals were a little off due to lack of sleep. I have averaged just under 56 miles the past 6 weeks and am feeling healthy and looking forward to the next block of training.

It's been an interesting journey changing up my training approach and once I come out of this training cycle I have a feeling that I will never go back to another form of training approach. Never say never though eh!

I leave you with this quote from Lydiard about hill training. I hope one day that I will be able to actually do this because at the moment I feel more like deer with a gammy leg!

"Like a deer going over the fence..." - Arthur Lydiard 

Transition to Hill phase

74 days to go until the Halstead marathon argghghgh.

OK I am not that alarmed and actually I am feeling much better about things. I haven't managed to put in a amount of base miles, at least for me anyway over the past few weeks but I definitely have made big strides forward to being more consistent with getting out the door. So with that I am now entering a hill phase for the next 3 weeks. Sounds straightforward but actually it's a little more technical than I first thought.

The basic hill set comprises of

1. Spring up the hill with emphasis on vertical movement (approx 200m in length).
2. Jog until recovered at the top
3. Stride back down the hill in a controlled way.
4. Run a handful of stride outs with full jog recovery

As this is my first time doing this I was going to do only one set and see how I recover. Wow I am glad I only did do one set. Having warmed up for 15 minutes of easy running and a light stretch I got myself ready for the "springing". 

At first the movement felt a little strange but once I was into my vertical stride so to speak I could feel the legs working. By the time I reached the top of the hill I was breathing a little heavily, not uncomfortable but the legs definitely felt like they had been worked through.

I jogged around for a couple of minutes or so before striding back down. Then I went into the stride outs, the pace was around 6.30-6.40 which I imagine is where my 5k pace is. Once I completed the set I then ran home easily (around 15 minutes). 

Now today I went out for a comfortable run and could definitely felt the legs were a a little flat and my ankles and achilles feeling stiff (looks like it worked) with my average HR up about 5 beats above normal for the pace I run at for a standard aerobic run. However things loosened up and I am feeling better than before I ran.

So ultimately I will be building up to 4 sets during this type of session and of course there is an added risk here as the body will be thrown new stresses but I am hopeful it will adapt without problems and I will be monitoring recovery indicators as I normally do for any movement. One things for sure once I come off this phase successfully I should hopefully be somewhat faster than I was before it.

Marathon Racing

Oops it looks like it's been sometime since I last posted, sorry folks but my world has been insanely busy with work, home and training pretty much firing on all cylinders. Note to self to make time for posting.

After much thought about racing for 2014 I decided that I would focus purely on one race for the first half of this year. So I am going back to the Halstead marathon as I have a very soft marathon PB there. I know with solid training and the right mental approach I could obliterate it. My 3:53 at Halstead marathon came off next to nothing training ( < 25 miles a week) and really doesn't justify what achievements I have done in the last 5 years. Therefore it's not a question will I improve upon that time but more of how much will improve it by.

I have 3 goals time wise.

1 - sub 3:15, 2 - sub 3:20, 3 - sub 3:30

I admit it was kind of tough in the first 2-3 weeks getting into a new routine but after getting over that hump I am enjoying training like never before and suddenly I am in the last week of conditioning phase. Eek real work is almost upon me.

Most of these runs are done at 5.45am with the odd few in the evening and that has also taken some adaptation and addition to this I have been transitioning to running pretty much every day. Again I was averaging 4 days a week focusing mainly on fast sessions and the long run. This worked up to a point but I always felt like I was in recovery mode more and worn out due to the high intensity week in week out.

I have seen my aerobic fitness improve substantially with the Lydiard approach. Although I have averaged only around 42 miles a week for the year so far, my average pace for an easy run has dropped by 40 seconds a mile (9.00-8.20) without really trying. I have a much better understanding of training i.e. what each training block and run is meant to accomplish. The bulk of running has me running some medium long runs (around 90 minutes duration), long run of 2-3 hrs and the remainder between 45 minutes to 1hr,

During the last four weeks I have averaged 51 miles per week and last week was a particularly good total clocking in at 61.5 miles. I have only ever been over 60 miles a week once in the past 5 years and that was mainly because the training approach I was following didn't want me to run more than 4 days a week.

Unfortunately 2 days of insane work hours this week put an end to me clocking up another great week however I should still clock in around 55-60 this week before moving into the Hill phase. With 11 weeks left until Goal A race I am getting into a great pattern of daily running and gaining confidence from seeing the results of solid work and I am sure it will only get better.

It's coming around so quick I better start looking beyond May to see what I want to do next or perhaps I should just book some more races as training runs. After all you gotta have fun as well

Fear. part 2!

Following on from my last post here is the conclusion to the saga of my first real experience in the Lakeland fells as told by Matt Beardshall. 

As you will see I am petrified of heights and have little sense of navigational direction!

The escape plan proved our salvation, but not for the expected reason. We set off crawling down a steep stream gully that looked like it would dive kamikaze-style into Langdale. This looked just as dangerous as sitting down and doing nothing. Cogs began to churn inside my weary brain, thoughts somehow gelled into coherence, and that allowed the proverbial penny to drop.

Another stare at the map demonstrated the tiny gorge we were sliding down. I suddenly realised where we were. I don’t know if it had been lack of concentration or just over confidence, but our error was that in the mist we hadn’t properly ‘summited’ Rossett Pike.

This was a schoolboy error, and one I had made a couple of times previously. If you find yourself lost despite having been following the right path, it is usually because you haven’t gone as far as you think. We had assumed that a ‘false summit’ was the top of Rossett Pike. It wasn’t. What was worrying was the length of time it took me to realise our error.

However I was now certain of our position. This did a marvellous thing to our state of mind. Fear fled, the fires of confidence re-ignited our spirits and the cold was no longer noticeable. We turned back and reached the true summit of Rossett Pike. Then Rich and I had a short chat. Should we still take the safe option and get off the mountain, or should we gamble and go for one more peak, even though the next mountain was the huge beast, Bow Fell, over 900 metres high.

We chose to gamble.

With compass back in hand we set off on a bearing that headed straight for the crags up the north-east face. Immediately the ground shot upwards, and a massive dark shadow loomed over us, more sensed than seen.

The climb was ridiculously steep – more a scramble. The higher we got the steeper it became. Swirling thick mist clouded any view beyond 30 metres. Looking down was terrifying. An alarmingly steep, rocky and slippery mountain side disappeared downwards into the fog. One fall could prove fatal. Upwards the view was identical. We pressed onwards, feeling a little trepidation. Trepidation turned back to fear when we reached snow.

This was mostly patchy, and we could skirt around it, always making sure we returned to the correct compass bearing to continue the climb. But then we reached a snow filled gulley, some twenty feet wide and stretching maybe a hundred feet downwards. With the only alternative being a full-on rock climb up a high crag the gulley had to be crossed. Fear intensified with the prospect of a fatal slip off the mountain.

Thankfully the studded shoes held firm. I crossed slowly and carefully. Rich looked well out of his comfort zone, but followed in my footsteps. This wasn’t fun (but a little exciting) and we endeavoured to avoid any further snow fields.

The fear prompted us to reassess the wisdom of the climb. My altimeter indicated we were at a height of 750 metres. It was shorter to go up than back down, and upwards on such a steep gradient is safer than downwards, so we continued with hearts pounding and adrenaline filling our tiring bodies.

After several more minutes of clinging and climbing I hauled myself onto the summit plateau, and called back to Rich to let him know it was the top. It was like another world up there. The visibility was terrible. The wind howled and hissed through piles of rocks that were tall, sharp and angular, all looking like they had been dropped from space and impaled onto the mountain top. It was as if we had been teleported to a different, hostile world.

The true peak was 500metres to the south, at the other end of the summit plateau. Getting there was difficult. The rocky ground was extremely hard to move over. A few times I pulled ahead of Rich by 20 metres or so and he had to shout loudly to call me back so as not to get separated.

When we reached the cairn at the top we were relieved, but didn’t hang around to savour the victory. It was a scary place to be in those conditions and self preservation instincts were in overdrive. Every sense was screaming at us to get back down to safety.

Our escape route involved taking a tiny path that dived down into Langdale from the summit. The path was completely invisible from our position and we had to take another compass bearing to climb off the right point of the summit, before searching around in the mist until we found some footprints that headed downwards over compacted snow. Once we were confident we were on the trail we set off down it, carefully at first, hoping the valley bottom would come quickly. It didn’t.

The gradient was severe, the rocky ground extremely slippery and the visibility almost non-existent and worsening. The track swung left and dropped less steeply. Rich’s niggling leg injury was slowing his descent, but for too many long, foggy minutes we plodded onwards.

And then a remarkable thing happened. As rapidly as falling through a trap door we dropped below 300 metres and the world was reborn. The air was clear, there was no wind and we could see for miles albeit only downwards or horizontally. It was as if we had suddenly clambered out of a deep pool of water in which we had been drowning. Here, peace and tranquillity abounded. Sheep lay in the fields, quietly chewing grass. Farmers ambled around doing whatever it is that farmers do. But above our heads fear still darted around in the mist, looking for victims. The interface between cloud and valley was so defined you could almost stand with your feet in the clear air and your head in the clouds.

Suddenly feeling safe we breathed a sigh of relief. We could even see the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel in the distance, where the car was parked. After another fifteen minutes we were there, and were greeted by Daft B who was sitting drinking coffee, his dirty bike and biking clothes laid on the ground next to him.

His adventure had been similar to ours. In total Rich and I had made nine summits and (vaguely) learned the route between them. But we had returned safely. We had also learned some important lessons; most notably that bad weather would make the BG extremely difficult.

With hindsight it may have been a good thing that we got lost where we did. Had we ventured further before hitting trouble we might have been floundering around hopelessly on the Scafell massif, and Scafell is not a good place to be lost in the cold and mist, wearing running gear. I’m sure the coroner would agree.

Fear – it’s not a bad thing at all.The escape plan proved our salvation, but not for the expected reason. We set off crawling down a steep stream gully that looked like it would dive kamikaze-style into Langdale. This looked just as dangerous as sitting down and doing nothing. Cogs began to churn inside my weary brain, thoughts somehow gelled into coherence, and that allowed the proverbial penny to drop.

Matt did go on to complete the BGR inside 24 hours in what was an epic journey. It is something that everybody must see or experience for themselves. It's truly magical


Well folks 2013 came to an end and I did think about summing up what I achieved last year which falls in line with what every body else does but frankly I wanted to break that custom because there isn't that much to talk about racing or adventure wise to be honest.

Apart from a half marathon PB and the odd marathon run I didn't break down new barriers and move forward and that for me is why I wanted to run ultras in the first place to see what my limits are.

The main reason I didn't move forward last year was because:

"I was scared and feared of failing to complete what I set out to do"

2014 for me is all about challenging this all consuming thought and once again see where my limits are. Over the Christmas period I reflected on my short time since I started to run (all of 5 minutes) and found something that I had forgotten about almost.

The following post below was written by a friend of mine (Matt Beardshall) back in 2011. At that time I was up for any running challenge and both hastily and irrationally believed that I could tackle the Bob Graham Round (Matt had set this as his goal for 2011). I had zero experience of the mountains / hills and it was a baptism of fire for sure so after speaking to Matt for some time about this I agreed to join him.

I am Rich_S if it wasn't obvious!! Daft_B (Mal Gibb) is our crazy friend who mountain bikes up / down in the mountains :)

This is part one in the series so please look out for part two coming soon after. It's a brilliant account of that amazing day in the mountains and of a mindset I want to get back.

“Do one thing every day that scares you”. Eleanor Roosevelt

‘Slightly scared’ isn’t a bad state to be in. It sharpens the senses, focuses the mind and gets the adrenaline pumping. Or rather it isn’t a bad state to have been in, once you have escaped with life and limb intact. For several reasons, ‘slightly scared’ sums up the emotions felt both during and after our first recce run checking out one of the tougher sections of the Bob Graham Round.

Daft B and I picked up Rich S from his relative’s house in Lancaster on our way up to the Lake District. The plan that day was for Rich and I to try and get around and learn as much of the third BG leg as possible. Daft B would drop us off at the roadside at Dunmail Raise before driving to Langdale to do a similar thing with his biking route. He would leave the car at The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Langdale. The car would be our lifeline should we need to abandon the mountains, which wasn’t an unlikely outcome.

The weather wasn’t ideal; far from it, in fact. Persistent hill fog was forecast, which appeared stuck above a height of 300 metres. We would be spending nearly all day well above that height. Temperatures didn’t initially seem too bad, however, and we were all wearing shorts, although carrying leggings in our backpacks.

The summit of the first mountain was shrouded in mist, the top half totally unseen as we stepped from the car and trotted our first tentative steps over the softened boggy ground. Steel Fell towered above us; a massive wall 553 metres high and ridiculously steep. Running up it wasn’t an option – we hiked, but fast. After a hundred metres of climbing we plunged into the mist, and the valley below us evaporated away as if it had been a dream.

The pace was good, and we ‘collected’ our first summit after little more than 20 minutes. With maps, compass and guide notes constantly in hand we curved to the West and broke into a steady jog, heading towards Calf Crag. Things felt good. Ok, so we couldn’t see much, but it was a joy to be running free, feeling the soft earth beneath our studs, hearing the wind whistle past our ears as we danced down grassy banks, bounded across rocky outcrops and splashed through soft, peaty bogs. Our feet were wet and our legs dirty. To Rich and me this is freedom, this is running.

A sudden gap in the clouds drifted overhead as we approached the boggy plateau beneath Calf Crag. The mountains, newly exposed via the heavenly fissure, revealed themselves all around. We stopped and stared in awe as they peered down, towering over us from all directions. It was a joyous moment, but with hindsight I know what the mountains were saying to us, “Prove your worth, boys. We are in charge. You run in the palms of our hands, and we can close our fists at any time. We can crush you.”
Respect for the mountains is something I have learned, and something I hope never to forget.

Calf Crag didn’t go without a hitch, but after a brief wander in slightly the wrong direction we hit the summit and dropped off towards Sergeant Man, peak number three. Visibility lessened but remained sufficient for us to make the 250 metre high climb up the rough side of a beck and reach the conical summit of Sergeant Man without problem.

Then things changed. Having dispensed their warning, the mountains cloaked themselves once again, this time for good. A thick, impenetrable mist rapidly and persistently descended. This added immensely to our challenge. Not being able to see the mountain you are supposed to be running towards and up is a major handicap.

We took a compass bearing aiming for High Raise, and started running…..straight into a bog that ripped Rich’s shoe clean off his foot (maybe clean’ isn’t the right word). But High Raise turned out to be an easy summit, the only menace being a curious and hungry sheep that approached and threatened to mug us for our snacks.

Thick mist meant the map was useless without the compass. We could see no further than 30 yards. There were no visible reference points on which to focus. Another compass bearing had us running quickly back down High Raise and towards Thurnacar Knott, which again proved an easy climb. Our confidence was high. We were moving well, navigating well despite worsening weather, and feeling good. Legs were strong and spirits high; just the conditions the mountains were looking for. They bided their time to teach us a lesson.

Neither of us is blessed with a good head for heights, Rich worse than I. So the lack of visibility was a blessing as we scrambled (physically) the final metres onto the pointy, rocky, sky-stabbing summit of Harrison Stickle, 736 metres high. Sight of the dizzy-making near vertical plummet down into Langdale would have given both of us head-spin.

We bounded down the steep north-western edge of this mountain before climbing its equally steep and pointy neighbour, Pike of Stickle, peak number seven. There we sat among the rocks, eating flapjack and energy bars whilst the mist swirled around, shrouding us. We could have been six feet up, or six miles up. We really couldn’t tell.

Snack over; the next target was Rossett Pike, which stood a good running distance away from Pike of Stickle, with a splendid downhill in between. So splendid in fact, that our over-exuberant running across the soft, springy ground resulted in a slight detour and lengthening of our route. But this was no concern. We knew where we were, and we knew where we were going.

And that was the problem. We ‘knew’ too much. But as far as the mountains were concerned, we knew nothing. The descent from Rossett Pike dropped us at the foot of a crag beneath the massive Bow Fell, towering some 903 metres high. Or so we believed. We couldn’t see it. We couldn’t see more than 20 yards. The compass showed us the direction of our ascent and off we went.

But Bow Fell wasn’t there.

Barely ten minutes later we were floundering around on undulating, rocky, unrecognisable, confusing mountainside. The compass lied to us. The map lied to us.
But maps and compasses don’t lie. Bow Fell wasn’t where it should have been. Which could only mean one thing – we weren’t where we should have been. But no need to panic, just find out where we were and get back on track.

My phone beeped in my backpack. I pulled it out and read the text message from Mal. It read, “Can’t see a thing. Very cold. I’m out of here”. Wherever he was, he was getting off the mountain. Wise move, we thought.

Several minutes of blind wandering around proved nothing other than the close presence, seemingly all around, of many crags we really didn’t want to fall down. We reversed our compass bearings and retraced our steps. Several more minutes passed before we were back below the previous climb, still lost but now a bit colder.

Time for Plan B! To try to establish our position we took a bearing towards a tarn that was 200 metres away, and ran obliquely down the mountainside towards it. After 300 metres we had not reached a tarn. Damn! So again we reversed our bearing and headed back up to our previous position, wherever that was. That meant a few more minutes wasted and a few more concerned thoughts.

Now we were cold and lost and the rain began to hit us, driven by the persistent chilling wind. We had wasted forty-five minutes dithering aimlessly, getting more confused and colder. We had been on the fells for several hours and energy levels were dropping. Bodily warmth was rapidly evaporating into the sodden gloominess, and in its place crept a little fear. Not panic, not yet anyway, but certainly a little fear. We were lost, chilled, blinded by fog, and high up a mountain surrounded by crags.

Slightly scared!

We decided we had to get off the hill, and began to work on an emergency escape plan………………………………..