Digested read: I’m still scheming in preparation for the Dig Deep. Learning the hard way about navigation, nutrition and kit, and benevolently offering up some unsolicited and potentially unhelpful and counter-productive but hard won top tips here. However, I have been getting lucky on the trails. Yay! Are you coming too? Might be fun…
Given how long it is since I last posted about my Dig Deep recce progress, I’m a little disappointed nobody has checked in with me to see if I made it back ok from my last run out. I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the person to whom I’d delegated the responsibility of rolling me off the trail if I died out there, has selfishly smashed up her shoulder and hence reneged on her offer, claiming she is no longer available to fulfill that task*. It’s a worry. I need to feel the running community are looking out for their own, if only to ensure the obstacle created by my decomposing corpse somewhere on the path below Carl Wark does not become a hazard to other trail users. Plus, now I come to think of it, it would be good to upload my run on strava if I’ve got my tomtom on. Would be a shame for that last effort to count for nothing, so if you’re passing if you would? Cheers. All and any help gratefully received.
So, back to dispensing my pearls of running wisdom. My regular reader will be delighted to know I’ve been making heaps of rookie errors over the past few weeks, which translates into learning the hard way about running strategies. Unfortunately, I’ve really only got as far as the ‘what not to do‘ and not entirely cracked the ‘why not try this instead‘ side of things. Still, work in progress is still progress right? This is what I like to think.
Since my last post about the Dig Deep, I’ve had a few further outings. I have decided that I’m never going to pick up speed, certainly not between now and the 20th August which is when the 12.12 is taking place. With hindsight, I wish I’d entered the children’s 1.6 and/or 2.3km trail race instead, that sounds way more enjoyable and doable, but possibly not technically in the spirit of the Smiley Championship races. Although in my defence, they only specify that you should do one of the Dig Deep series without explicitly ruling out the Felly Fun Run as such… Anyways, rather than pretend I can run continuously and doing flat-out shorter runs, adding 10% a week to build up the distance, I’m just trying to get out and do longer routes of about 10 – 12 miles of walk/run cycles and increasing the percentage time I spend running based entirely on how I feel. This may not be scientific, but seems to work for me. Astonishingly, I am getting a bit speedier, I mean not exactly breaking the sound barrier granted, but definitely breaking a sweat. Part of this is due to not getting quite so lost and faffing about on the top of Higger Tor for ages, part of it is just feeling more confident on the terrain and part of it may even be that against all odds my stamina is improving. Another factor is advice given and lessons learned along the way, which I shall now share. Lucky you!
They say you should never be above asking for advice, but I’ve never had a problem that end of the continuum, I’m more at the ‘too embarrassed to ask for advice’ end of that sliding scale, though I’m overcoming it and becoming more brazen. My local running shop are most insistent that there are no stupid questions and I’m welcome to ask whatever I like, whenever I like. I am going to test that claim to breaking point, I’m not sure I’m going to get them to agree to a personal paging system, which would be my preferred option, but I reckon a bat phone type communication device would do the job pretty well and indisputably look incredibly cool on any running shop counter to boot. Should be able to get that past them. I might go and look on Ebay in a bit, see if I can put in a bulk order, I can think of a range of experts I’d love to have on standby ready to give me advice when needed… Naturally, if they are serious about wanting to retain my custom I’d require them to wear the appropriate gear, but as it’s clearly both fetching in style and practical for running purposes I can’t see any cynical naysayers putting unnecessary obstacles in the way there. Super cool running tights and briefs in evidence here! Frankly I don’t know why they don’t make that the staff uniform anyway, bat phone or not.
So, my top tips for running the 12.12 are in three disctint areas, specifically: navigation, nutrition and kit.
This has been a real problem for me, just couldn’t fathom the route for the 12.12. I still maintain the map supplied was rubbish. However, Strava has come to my aid in the form of more knowledgeable running buddies, who have spotted my errors and endeavoured to point me in the literal as well as metaphorical right direction. For ages, I was constantly thwarted coming off Higger Tor, because many had told me the 12.12 follows clear paths throughout. This advice has now been amended too ‘oh, well, yes, apart from coming off Higger Tor itself, obviously, there’s no path there!’ So all those hours I spent traversing the top of the Tor seeking a path were indeed in vain. The nice man at Front Runner brough up a picture of the Tor on Google Earth (a surprisingly good top tip that seemed blindingly obvious once he’d done so) and you see from above how a very clear path just disappears into a pile of rocks, boulders and vertiginous edges. You can either scramble down, or step off and hope you fly, whatever works for you. I got the photo from the interweb, thanks Fran Hansall, I added the quote. Cheesy perhaps, but apt all the same. Squirm if you must.
Yay! To be honest, I was a bit slow on the uptake working this out for myself. I should have got an inkling that time I scrambled over some boulders down onto what I thought was a path but turned out to be just a random shelf. I found myself sharing the space with some pathologically enthusiastic and helpful climbers with ropes and helmets and all the gear. I figured they’d know the lie of the land and asked them if there was a safe route down from whence they’d come. ‘Yeah, sure there is, you’ll be fine‘ they said confidently. I think I am being generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt when I say perhaps they just didn’t notice I lacked similar skill and attire. An alternative explanation is clearly that they wanted me to die. I did make it down, but not without seeing my life flash before me en route. Still, all’s well that ends well eh?
Another buddy offered more practical assistance, first showing me the secret weapon of outdoorgps.com. The usefulness of this depends on others having uploaded routes, but there was indeed a outdoorgps version of the 12.12 from a previous year, you can zoom right in and the route became way clearer. This is a genius tool, it opens up all sorts of other trailing opportunities. Then she took me out under supervision. This was great actually (thank you Special Agent Smiley) as we actually went from behind Fox House, and now I’ve finally worked out how to join up some of the myriad of paths I’ve been gallumphing along without any sense of how they all inter-connected. So my top tips for navigation are as follows:
- Get a decent map
- Make sure the map is the right way up when you are looking at it
- Ask lots of people so you have contradictory advice, it’s good fun trying to triangulate it all
- Get a trusted friend to show you
- Ask random strangers as you romp round your recce
- Keep uploading your strava route and try to compare and contrast with the feeble route map you have already in your possession
- Try google earth up close
- Try outdoorgps.com
- Get a personalised ad-hoc advice session from a GB triathlete through a car window, pre shoulder injury for preference
- Befriend fellow Smilies (running club buddies from Smiley Paces) who go to woodrun and who have let slip that they are marshaling on Higger Tor on the day, if they aren’t able to point you the right way, they can at least scrape you up afterwards
- Feel the fear and do it anyway
- Maybe don’t hold out for the bat phone to rescue you, nice idea, but, well, you know. I’m not saying they’d deliberately ignore my calls (perish the thought) but mobile reception is not guaranteed out on the moors.
Mix all these ingredients and then just head out in hope more than expectation, and voila! Route sorted, sort of, which is probably good enough. Tenacity not talent is what is most needed at the end of the day.
Armed with all this expertise, I have since done further romping, and it’s been grand. I have sussed the boggy bits, had a bash at boulder bouncing, and been swallowed up by bracken taller than I am (which might not be saying much but is still pretty extraordinary to experience out in them there hills). Every time I go out I am in awe of the Peak District, I’ve barely scratched the surface, and as I up my distances I hope more and more of it will fall within my reach. All the muddy, moody gloriousness is out there just waiting to be discovered.
In all seriousness, I am risk averse when I go out on my own, but this whole recceing thing (is that a word, not ‘thing’ – ‘recceing’, anyway, you know what I mean) has made me so much more confident out and about. Those tops look miles away, but they really aren’t, and you can’t really get lost. I mean, I get so I don’t know where I am exactly, but I know how to get home and/or to the nearest road, which is good enough. I’m further up the navigational competency chain than the first time me and Cheetah Buddy went out from the Norfolk Arms on what was supposed to be a 5k trail run. Darkness fell – impressive, as it was May, even though we had gone for an evening run, we didn’t expect our 5k route to take 6 hours. We ended up covering over 18km because we got so lost. Ultimately we found our way home by pausing in the heather and waiting until we saw some car headlights, moving towards them til they faded and waiting again, until we finally made it onto a road we recognised. Not our finest hour. It taught me to respect the hills a great deal more, and to take seriously advice about going out with a head torch etc as you just never know do you. Subsequently, my running buddy uploaded our route on some tracking thing she had (this was pre our ‘proper’ running watch gizmos) and we could see we’d repeatedly crossed our paths and double backed on ourselves, but we were so disorientated we didn’t recognise where we were. Scary really. To be fair, we were caught out by inexperience, but better runners than me (I know, hard to believe) have been caught out by over confidence. Hypothermia on the hills anyone? Still, it wasn’t all bad, it was great for team building, and we had a hoot trying to take selfies before we realised we were so lost we would probably die. We’ve improved our selfie taking skills since this shot was taken I’m pleased to say, and in my defence I wasn’t deliberately channeling the Jedward look, I’m sadly just a natural at it. This was 2014 according to Facebook, my how time flies… It’s me and Cheetah Buddy on the left, just to be clear.
You might think from my silhouette that I eat all the time, but in fact, I never eat when I’m out running, I’ve only recently started to carry water. I guess I’m quite good at carrying my own supplies as subcutaneous fat. However, as I up my distances, and in accordance with FRA regs, I recognise it is probably a good idea to find out what I can eat to help me run. The conventional wisdom is to refuel before you need it – some say every 45 minutes. This feels very alien to me. Even so, I have found that now I’m running a greater proportion of the route, as opposed to power walking, I do notice I tire after about 90 minutes and if I want to build up to marathons, and I do, then clearly I’m going to have to eat something. I did try a gel once, literally, one sip (it was free in a goodie bag somewhere) and it made me retch instantly. Too sweet and too alien. Not trying that again. On the Round Sheffield Run I’ve indulged in banana (stomach cramps) and jelly babies, but I felt guilty about that because they aren’t veggie but I hadn’t planned and did need something. I took fudge on the Sheffield half-marathon, bit sweet, but did the job. Lots of people have recommended clif shot bloks they are vegetarian, and described to me as being ‘like soft jelly babies’. As I lack imagination and am susceptible to peer pressure, I decided to give them a go. I took one out on a recce, and once I’d heave-hoed up Porter Clough and past Lady Cannings plantation I thought I’d tuck in.
Now, I don’t claim to be much of a food critic, and I might be wrong, but essentially for me the berry choc blok was like accidentally stuffing my mouth with glucose infused super-glue. Not in a good way. It was so sweet it made my whole jaw vibrate whilst simultaneously coating my teeth with a seemingly irremoveable clingy ectoplasm. This was not for me. FAIL. I gulped down water afterwards, which wasn’t the best idea, you are supposed to sip water at the same time as having a shot blok it’s true. However, I was rather trying to flush out my whole system in a futile attempt to rid my mouth of the weird sweet mucous that had claimed my teeth and was threatening to set. I got hiccups, then I got pissed off. This alas, was not to be my magic nutrition solution of choice.
On a subsequent run I tried an alternative clif product donated by Cheetah buddy who likes them for cycling. Peanut Butter Clif bar –
That sounds delightful, and to be fair it was a significant improvement on the bloc. It’s sort of solid biscuity/ flap-jackyish. Tastes functional rather than fun though, and this does rather raises the question of why not eat an actual flapjack, which would be a lot nicer. I can’t see the clif bar as being any quicker to digest (the benefit of gels is that you can access the fuel instantly). An actual flapjack might be more palatable, and possibly cheaper – though granted scrounging off your friends is cheaper still, as long as you don’t mind too much ending up friendless and alone, screaming into a void as you rage at the futility of life and the mistakes you’d made along the way, and no-one hearing.
Next time I was in my local running shop – which was today, I went in to get some of my favourite monoskin socks as the bat phone isn’t yet operational I thought I’d ask in person for some nutrition advice. ‘So‘ I enquired, ‘if I can’t have a gel because it makes me heave, and a clif bar is basically like eating a flapjack anyway, why can’t I just have a marathon instead, that can’t be that much slower to digest surely?‘ Well, guess what. ‘You can!‘ the other nice man in Front Runner said. (Regardig ‘the nice man in the shop’ I think they must take it in turns, to be there I mean, not to be nice, they do that all the time.) Anyway, don’t distract me, the point is, it turns out, it is true that gels and blocs are easier for the body to access because (and if I didn’t like the idea of gels before I’m so never trying again with them now) they are designed to hit your stomach ready for instant use. This was cheerily explained to me as being ‘sort of like they’ve already been partially digested‘. What the? How do they achieve that? Do they have whole armies of house flies regurgitating their stomach enzymes onto the raw product and then just scrape it away and pump it into sachets before the poor insect has a chance to suck it all up again, it’s proboscis waving all in vain? Quite aside from being animal exploitation, that’s seriously gross. Have these food technologist product development specialists never seen The Fly?
Quick, counter that image. Here are some magical trees seen out and about on my recent trail exploits. Phew, sorry about that.
You’ll understand then why that’s me out stepping out of the queue for energy drinks, gels and blocs. I can’t tolerate gels now, and whilst it’s all well and good for those that do, if I ‘m having solid stuff anyway, I might as well have something I know I’ll like. I’m worried about chocolate melting in my bum bag (the mess) but you know what, I can always bung it in the washing machine post race, so I reckon a marathon bar it is. That’s got sugar, protein, probably unhealthy amounts of salt, just the job. I’ll compromise and get a snickers I suppose, to keep up with the times, but my quest for energy gels and semi-solids is for now concluded. I shudder at the thought. If Nicky Spinks can have fish, chips and curry sauce on her double Bob Graham, then that’s a lead I’m willing to follow. Bet she didn’t get her support team to all spit on it before she tucked in.
So the nutrition advice is, do whatever you like, just practise first, and maybe if you are time sensitive I suppose you could take into account the time it takes for your body to get a boost from whatever you are eating when you refuel. Alternatively, to hell with the time, why not take a full on picnic and just enjoy the view from the top whilst you rest your legs before tackling the next stage. It is supposed to be fun after all. I expect the marshal would appreciate the company and a share of your cheese and pickle sandwiches too if asked.
There follows a gratuitous scenic shot. I can’t wait for the heather to be out properly, it’s going to be a.maz.ing!
Well, the good news is I like my socks. I’m really confident about them. I also like my ultimate direction stereo running belt, it can take loads of stuff and doesn’t move at all. It’s not flattering, but it’s genuinely comfy, well worth the investment. The only problem is I keep telling people it’s One Direction and that creates entirely the wrong impression. Strapping a boy band round your midriff would not improve running performance I’m sure. Well, I’ve not tried it, but I’m fairly confident that’s trued. It’s hard being me, you have no idea. Really, none.
I’m going to wear my fellraiser shoes, they are a bit narrow, but super-grippy and I’ve just got used to them even though they aren’t the comfiest and Strava keeps telling me our relationship has run its course and it’s time to move on. I’ll have to wear a Smiley vest, obvs, but with parkrun T-shirt underneath because I’m not confident enough to run bearing all that flesh otherwise. I’ve only got one pair of running tights, so that’s easy, and my runderwear of course. My Achilles heel, is in fact my boobs. Anatomically unlikely in literal terms, but metaphorically, absolutely so. I have ranted about this before, at length, and I know I’m not alone in this, but I cannot get a bra to fit. I feel I’ve tried everything. Googling trots out horror stories of ‘marathon tattoos’ and laments that chafing and bounce are unavoidable alongside upbeat marketing pieces saying PATRONISINGLY ‘any good sports shop will fit you for size’ and claiming with a bit of lube and pert physique and upward thinking running style all will be well. This is a lie. Yesterday I tried a new tack and got a bra fitted at another sports place. To be fair, I was impressed by the woman, who did the fitting, she had assets of her own that suggested she understood the issues, and the bra (a panache sport which very specifically claims an 83% reduction in bounce though less than what I have no idea) seemed plausible at first. It is under wired though, which did go against my better instincts, but I was so desperate I thought I’d give it a go. It was alright when I did a 6 mile or so run yesterday, but I did stop start. Today, I did only 5 miles but at a more consistent though slower pace (It was flat and roady, as opposed to hilly trails – gawd how I loathe running on roads). About 3 miles in, I suddenly had that agonising sting when you know the skin has broken, and oh joy, because it’s a new bra, with a new fit, it was in a previously unscarred area. The underwires separating my boobs had dug in on both sides creating what is basically now an open sore. Nice. Ouch, doesn’t cut it, but the underwire did, both of them. At least my scarring will be symmetrical. Of course running any distance whilst essentially holding your assets in place with a cheese wire carries an inherent risk. I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the fit is so tight (to minimise movement) that the bra also makes me feel like my lungs are being held in a vice. I am not amused. However, my Secret Agent Smiley Buddy has agreed a mission. We shall head to Bravissimo and try on every sports bra in their Leeds shop and surely there will be some joy to be had there. I resent having my running curtailed for lack of a comfy and functional bra, running related injuries should be oh I don’t know, sore Achilles, or plantar fasciatis – I don’t want those, but they equally afflict both sexes, feeling I can’t run because my upper torso is shredded to a pulp by the very bit of kit which is supposed to help improve my performance seems unjust. It’s not chafing, it feels like self harming to head out in such circumstances.
So, my kit advice here is essentially, drink gin, rage at the injustice in the world, and find a friend to go bra shopping with. It may still not have a happy conclusion, but you can at least have a nice day out and a posh coffee somewhere by way of consolation…. Otherwise, just wear whatever, check it is FRA reg compliant if required, and do other runners a favour by making sure it’s been washed the night before. No pulling it out from the rancid heap at the bottom of the laundry basket on the day of the race. For the Dig Deep 12.12 the kit list is given as follows:
Kit List (mandatory requirements)
- Full body cover (windproof/waterproof)
- Spare water and food
- Mobile Phone
Please note that runners will be disqualified if they are not carrying minimum kit requirements
It sounds sort of scary to me, I’ve never had to carry kit before at an event, which is probably why I’m taking the preparation for this event a bit more seriously than some others I’ve done. On their facebook page they do say they’ll take a ‘common sense’ approach on the day if the weather is good and drop the waterproof requirements. I’m glad they don’t ask you to take a compass, I have no idea how to use one, I might as well bring along a slide rule and some sudoko puzzles quite honestly.
So there you go, them is my top tips in relation to Navigation, Nutrition and Kit, bet you are chuffed you stopped by this blog post to enrich your running knowledge.
There is one other thing though, I want to put in the frame. In praise of luck. Yesterday, when I was doing my first bra-test run I ended up in a hay-field just after heavy rain when bright sun had made the clover and grasses just burst into life. A sea of green clover stood erect, gazing up at me. Now, I have a residual talent. Only one, and one I haven’t utilised in years, but it is an eye for spotting a four-leaved clover in just such circumstances. The secret is to look from above DONT TOUCH just look for a break in the pattern … and there were loads, everywhere I looked. Well, not everywhere, but enough that I kept having to stop to find ‘just one more’ before carrying on. It was like trying to cross the deadly poppy field in the Wizard of Oz, except it wasn’t that I was in danger of falling asleep for eternity, I was in danger of never managing to generate any forward momentum ever again. Eventually, the sound of an approaching runner, pounding the track towards me whilst I was arse up, eyes down for no outwardly apparent reason shamed me into abandoning my task. I had quite a haul though. To keep them perky I stuffed them into my water bottles – another example of why it is a good idea to always have hydration with you, and now I have them home I suppose I’ll get around to pressing them or something. Always good to get lucky on a run. It might happen to you!
So where am I in relation to my Dig Deep prep?
Well, I reckon I know the route. I know I can do the distance albeit it will be a walk/run effort, I am embarrassed at how slow I’ll be, but I’ve often humiliated myself in the public domain so any shame will pass and be more than compensated for by the views and heather. Besides, I’m not alone in this. Came across a blog post from a woman who’s come last at 20 marathons and run over a hundred or something and still feeling the lurve for running, so I’ve a way to go yet to equal that. She favours fancy dress too, so we clearly have much in common. I’ve got nutrition nailed(ish), and in the habit of carrying water. I’ve bought a whistle, and I have waterproofs. The bra, well we shall see. When I am a squillionaire I will have all my bras custom-made out of moulded cooling gel, and if that material doesn’t yet exist, I will have a team of scientists get out there and invent it. In the meantime, my hopes lie in Leeds and Bravissimo’s sports bra selection. We shall see. I’ve not absolutely worked out the finer points of how I’m going to get to be a squillionaire, but I see that as details, I’m more a big picture sort of person, someone else can do the gantt chart. I know, explains a lot doesn’t it.
The painful truth may be there isn’t an easy solution to that one, but the rewards will be worth hitting the trails for anyway. Look at what awaits.
For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you.
*Seriously buddy, get well soon. I know you might not be up to moving my body this time round, but there’s always the next, and it is only you who knows how to recycle my bra appropriately, a weighty responsibility indeed. We have agreed as a slingshot, but I trust your judgement on that one should the situation arise. In the meantime drink gin and be awesome. Thanks for being a super star navigator and motivator even when it was crunch time for you. In return, I’ll look out for any bone fragments from your shoulder whilst I’m out on the hills.