With the Green Man Midnight (yes it starts at midnight!) Ultra fast approaching and a deep need to have another multi-day adventure I’ve once again started listing lightweight gear, getting the maps out, perusing various trails and routes, and trying to find myself a new challenge.
Last year I covered the circa 195 mile (Wainwright’s) Coast to Coast route in just under 4 days. This was predominantly a solo challenge, except for the final day where I was joined by a couple of friends. I carried all the gear I required on my back and stayed at various forms of accommodation. It was a few weeks before my Hernia Op so I was quite pleased to have completed the challenge without issue. See report HERE.
I was hoping to be healthy this year which would enable me to get back to the form I had a few years ago and build my running to have a crack at a sub 2 day Coast to Coast and get a little closer to the FKT (Fastest Known Time). Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, this year has been even worse. I questioned what I was trying to achieve and if it was worth the grind. I have really enjoyed the races and challenges over the years and achieved most of what I wanted to, so the decision to quit competitive racing was not a hard one. I will still continue to coach athletes and provide support, but apart from light training in all three sports (maybe a local 5km Parkrun) on my own time and the occasional multi-day hike, I don’t intend to push myself over crazy distances and heavy training weeks as I have done to date.
The Green Man Midnight Ultra is a 45 Mile loop around Bristol starting on Friday 22nd August. I’ve cycled and run through the night before and although usually quite tired (and in some cases very cold and wet!) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experiences in double ironmans and 100 mile runs. My first attempt to run overnight was along the Offas Dyke national Trail in 2009. This was also my first experience of ultra running and being self sufficient. I can still remember running through forests, over hills, golf courses, along streams and through farms with a full moon in the sky and catching a rest in churches . It was both exhilarating and liberating, and perhaps the catalyst for future ultra running races and solo challenges.
On 12 July I made an attempt at the 12 Labours of Hercules Ultra. I was carrying the health issues and along with a lack of training I certainly was not in the right frame of mind to cover 76 miles up and down (12 times) the hills of the Long Mynd in Church Stretton. But a good time in a recent 5km Parkrun of 17:16 showed I still had some speed in the legs. I managed around 35 miles in total at a decent speed, but my lack of endurance training caught up with me and I knew I’d be walking the rest of the race if I continued. For me it’s no longer race if you have to walk, so I decided to save myself.
After a break and a small Op. I was left with three weeks until the 45 mile Green Man race. Most of the time has been spent finding my feet and battling the weight gain. Running for more than six miles is a problem, but I should hopefully be able to line up and enjoy the experience of night running once again. Actually, the fact that it is run at night means the navigational checks and errors will buffer my efforts and hopefully allow me to get around in a reasonable time. I will be trialling a couple of tracker applications for this event, so that my family are able to see my live whereabouts on an online map. My favourite is Followmee which allows the user to alter the time difference between updates. This in turn will save (phone) battery power. I will also try this out for future hikes and solo challenges.
As long as I recover well in the week following the Green Man Ultra, I would like to recce the 195 Mile Coast to Coast again and maybe even make an attempt at under 3 days. The 4 day challenge was achieved with a decent amount of ‘running’, but during daylight and with a good 12 hours of recovery and sleep (and large breakfasts) at various accommodation spots. This will be a more of a non-stop attempt. So rather than trying to run at all times, I will run/hike from the start to try and cover as much of the Lakes as possible before dark, before hiking through the night with perhaps one 90min sleep (a full sleep cycle) in a lightweight tent or bivvy. Then continue through the following day with perhaps the odd run if the legs are willing. Best case scenario would be to reach a camping barn just past Richmond (120 miles) by the second night (c.31 hrs). But there are a number of campsite and barn options a lot earlier (Keld, Reeth) should I falter, particularly as I may have to carry a lot more weight this time with basic camping gear (6kg+).
After a break I will try and continue through to sub 3 days, balancing out my efforts. As I said, a lot will depend on my fitness/health as well as weather, navigation. The main aim above all else is to have a bit of fun and adventure and learn a little more. Hiking through the night will not only take the pressure off the body but also allow me to take in my surroundings a little more, even if its just mist and sheep sh*t. I have no idea what will happen over the following months, but it’s quite nice to take an extended break and get on with other things in life. Who knows what next year will bring :)