Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dry Run

We've done a fair amount of running in the past couple of years and recently had the idea that a running holiday would be a great idea. A kind of hut to hut type thing, somewhere on the continent. Places have been looked at and discussed as have logistics. But perhaps the question for Lynne and I was is it actually possible and feasable for us to consider a number of days strung together in the mountains, carrying all the stuff we need.

Lynne showing no fear on Striding. Very proud. 
Neither of us has any experience with Mountain Marathoning (a glaring omission from our parcours, I know, but life is like that), so this was something that is a little outside of our knowledge base. We thought that it might be an idea to have a bit of a dry run in our own country, going from YHA to YHA in the Lake district just to get a bit of a taster to see if this kind of holiday would be a goer for us.

Route deciding was the first thing on our minds. Originally it was going to be a start on one side of the Lakes, run to another YHA across a few hills, about 20 km or so, and then run back the next day on a slightly different route. In the meantime, we would do a little bit of work on Lynnes head for heights, ideally taking in Striding edge on one day, and the Swirral on the other.
After looking at routes, and, more importantly, Yha's that were either not totally booked, or not completely ridiculous prices, we decided to start at Glenridding, do a circular route back to the hostel, ignore the fact we had a car outside, and then do another circuit as a second day. It would take a bit of willpower not to jump in the car or drop stuff off on the morning of the second day, but in case of any unforseen difficulty, it was probably the best plan.

Off up Swirral
Packing was fairly simple. Emergency waterproof stuff - we certainly wouldn't be going without that. Evening clothes (no, not Black Tie... just a spare t-shirt and lightweight trousers), Ultratherm, spare pants and socks, a toothbrush, charger for phones and watches, first aid kit (some plasters), a camera, some bars for food during the day, a torch and a couple of water bottles, one of which is a filter bottle, just in case we needed to drink from a dodgy water source.

All of that, wrapped up in waterproof bags, fit quite happily into my 35 litre OMM Jirishaenca, (and Lynne had pretty much the same in the OMM Adventure 20). Putting it on, it felt a bit heavy, but not really excessive.

We set off on the run, straight up to Striding edge. When I say run, we figured it would be good to just take it easy and see how it went, so very little running was actually done on the way up. The weight of the bags
and the gradient of the hill kyboshed any attempt at moving faster than walking. The day went pretty well, up Striding, and following the BG line to Dollywagon/Seat sandal (but missing out Fairfield). Then we took a somewhat rubbish line off Seat sandal to Dunmail Raise, where I have to confess to beginning to feel really quite tired.

The food that I had packed was probably enough to sustain me for a run this long under race conditions, but we were moving a lot slower than I had anticipated. Not only that, but it was a lot hotter, and the heaviness
of the bags was weighing on my shoulders a lot lot more than I had ever thought it could. In short, I wasn't in great spirits, and my energy levels were pretty low.

Lesson Learned.
A couple of Geobars and snickers bars are not enough to keep me going for a day when carrying a rucksack with a fair amount of gear in it.

Still, we had quite a way left to go. Up Steel fell, and back off it again down to Grasmere, then up the OCT line to the saddle between Fairfield and Seat Sandal, up Fairfield, and across to St Sunday, then down and around back to the Hostel.
So much for running, the majority of the day had passed at a walk, maybe a bit of a run, but we seriously weren't prepared for the weight of the bags. We can run all day with bumbags and light rucksacks, but put a bit of weight in them, and our speed was seriously compromised. The distances we think we can travel over a certain time will need to be re thought.
Not only that, but the day to day energy expenditure and amount of food that we need to eat also need to be re thought.
Collapsing at the hostel, we ordered food, showered, dozed and then ate. A lot.

I really didn't feel like doing anything the next day. The fact the car was outside the hostel was really quite a big draw, and it was discussed that as this was just a dry run, we should consider everything we had learned so far, dump the bags and take a really easy day, just to stretch the legs. My right leg was giving me a little pain as I got up and had breakfast, and it would just be silly to injure myself on something that wasn't even a training run.

Having said that, after a decent amount of breakfast, we packed up, strapped on the shoes, and just got going. No problem. Again the long walk up to Swirral across the ridge, to Helvellyn, then back in reverse BG to Raise, and off back down to the Hostel. not a long day by any means, but it was a day with the rucksacks on again. It felt a whole lot easier. Maybe it was legs and bodies getting used to carrying that much weight, maybe it was the heroic amounts of breakfast that morning, but as the day went on spirits continued to be high.
It may well have been because we knew it was going to be a short day. Had there been another 20k and 1700m of ascent still to do when we got back to the car, it could have been a very different matter.

All that being said, we at least now have a much better idea of what might be involved in a longer running expedition. Perhaps the most important point being that if we want an actual "running" holiday, it will be best to do it from a base, and go on day long expeditions, rather than attempt to run hut to hut.
If we do attempt to go from hut to hut, even light weight, speed will be massively curtailed, and it will be more of a lightweight walking holiday rather than a running holiday.
Food is massively important. We knew that anyway, but a long, slow day of nutrition has a bit of a different
strategy to a long running day of nutrition. Something a little more substantial than bars needs to be thought of. A couple of bagels, or something like that. Or more Feedzones.

Oh, and get stronger. The stronger we are, the lighter the packs will feel, and the easier it will be.
Simple, useful stuff, which it has been good to learn over a couple of days in the Lakes, rather than somewhere farther afield where it isn't as easy to bail should anything go wrong.
Next time, we'll have to adapt routes and expectations a little bit, and see how we can make things more comfortable.
I couldn't take a picture of how knackered my legs felt, so I thought a picture of what is left of the grip on my Mudclaws would be a good illustration. If I could have taken a picture of how my legs felt, they would have looked like this. 

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