251 Mountains – the Zen post.

You wait for a post then two come along at the same time. So much has happened since I last wrote that I didnโ€™t know where to start or what to write about to update this highly neglected blog site so I decided here to put down some ‘keeping it real’ thoughts after yesterday passing the 250 mountain mark and 25% completion of the Running the Summits challenge. If this post sounds a bit too touchy feely and you prefer your yang to your yin check out the alternativeย 251 Mountains – The Wahoo post ๐Ÿ‘Š

Right now, the Brecon Beacons are just outside the window. I canโ€™t see them, lost as they are to the clouds, curtains of rain drifting across my view of only the very lowest of the lower slopes. Even the sheep are huddled close into a tree sheltered corner. Itโ€™s the third consecutive day of unfathomably and distinctly eclectic weather – one of deep snow and teeth chattering wind chill, one of warmth and clear sunny skies and today, one of wet, claggy cloud and sheets of rain. I was well overdue in taking some time out to get caught up on those real life chores – refilling water supplies, doing laundry, scraping all the farmland muck off the campervan and responding to weeks of emails. Yet, still, early this morning I peeled on my slightly damp, offensively smelly running gear, eager to be out, hauling my (as yet still not athletically-toned) bum up a mountain or two. I think it has become a mantra.

It is said about the Camino de Santiago – a favourite long distance escape of mine – that there are three stages to the endeavour. Firstly the physical, as our body aches and suffers at the sudden increased demands put upon it until it miraculously adapts and grows stronger.

Free from the physical distractions the second stage is the emotional as our minds gradually move from doubt, fear and questioning to perspective and acceptance. Finally, the third stage is that of the spiritual where, only because we have passed through the first two stages and shed the unnecessary can we now fully experience a total awareness, immersion and gained sense of freedom. While specifically aimed at the experience of the Camino I strongly believe that any adventure, large or small can be a great metaphor for life with many lessons to be learned.

Zen and the Art of Adventurous Living?

Now, I still think my body has some considerable ongoing work at Stage one (as mentioned, I had been expecting to, at least slightly, resemble the streamlined physique of an athlete by this point) and trying to run uphill just doesnโ€™t seem to be getting any easier. To be fair both of these issues could be explained by cake.


Possibly the reason I do NOT look like a finely honed machine!?

But even with a lingering toe or two in stage one I do feel I have made some small progress to the great blue orb of enlightenment. I have indeed discovered that this, as all adventures in life, can best be described using that oft spouted clichรฉd saying ‘It’s been a journeyโ€™ (and is going to continue to be a journey for some considerable time as I still have 749 summits to run). But as well as dipping my toes, usually unintentionally, into bog, rivers, bog and more bog I also feel I have been dipping them into stages 2 and 3 and learning a thing or two. (just not how to avoid bog!). As in life, we do not move cleanly from one stage to the next but there is a blurring of the edges and knock backs when new challenges fall out of a cupboard and smack us in the head (also metaphorical – if I have grasped the correct use of the concept!?)


Patch – The Enlightened One

Super-enthused adventurer Anna McNuff wrote a wonderful poem (1) along a similar vein telling of a journey that begins doing battle with nature – setting out to conquer, before becoming beaten down by nature’s far superior and ambivalent….well, nature! Eventually, this traveller no longer passes through or against but travels with and in this natural environment. This is the journey I have been really hoping and expecting to make and I am already becoming familiar with the elements (literal and metaphorical).

On the 251st Mountain summit, I sat for a long while (as long as was possible before extremities started to go numb) fully absorbing the views, the solitude, the peace, the simplicity and vastness of the landscape around me, calm and happy to be right where I was, unencumbered by concerns or stresses. As the terrain and climatic challenges grow greater it is liberating to gradually become confident and at ease in your surroundings as you learn and use new found skills and understanding. There is still an awful lot to learn but hopefully I am becoming willing and humble enough to listen and appreciate all that the mountains have yet to teach.

On a literal note I am throwing in a reminder that my Mountain Joggist Extravaganza is also in hopes of raising a few well needed squidlies for the amazing volunteers of Mountain Rescue England & Wales, Mountain Rescue Search Dogs(the doggy rescuers formally known as Search and Rescue Dog Association England!) and Fix the Fells.

Please spare a pound to chuck in the bucket if you can HERE๐Ÿ˜ Thank You

It’s also really easy to donate by text too…. just text TOPS50 followed by an amount to 70070 . Thank Youโค

(1) PS. Anna McNuff’s poem is featured in the book Waymaking – an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by women who are inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape.

Happy trails ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ

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First 100 Mountains in the Bag!

After just 18 days officially in the hills traildog Patch and I reached the first milestone (or summitstone) of 100 ‘bagged’ Mountains.

Yes, before you ask, my knees were killing me but after 20 VERTiCAL KILOMETRES (OK, just 19.98 vertical km) it’s hardly surprising! This is shaping up to be quite the adventure which has led me already to meet some amazing new people, run with far more talented runners than myself, spend a day in the fells with a lakeland legend, learn new skills, hang out with super cool Mountain Rescue folk, play chew toy tug of war with Search Dogs in training and really push myself outside my comfort zone. Whew…..what’ll the next 900 bring? Certainly plenty of flapjack!

I have definitely discovered that this challenge will make the 3PeAksRun seem like an absolute stroll in the park. There are many British mountains that are popular ‘honeypot’ summits but it is eye opening just how many others are so rarely visited.

This presents a variety of daily challenges on pathless terrain testing my navigation skills and even on open access land the odd fence or wall that needs to be negotiated without upsetting any farmers or causing any damage ( getting over a dry stone wall is not to be encouraged or even condoned and requires extremely deft movement and yogi master level flexibility in order to avoid tilting a single stone out of place – don’t tell anyone that this ever happened because obviously it didn’t!) And then, don’t even get me started on PEAT HAGS and the good old moorland BOG – two of my particular favourites. On drier, rockier ground there have been some hair raising scrambles and tentative descents which have tested my nerve and the grip of my trail shoes to their sticky limit.

I was very lucky to spend many of those days during the long summer high pressures scooting around over Lake District ridges. Hot enough to invite refreshing river dips at the end of a sweaty run which was such a treat for someone generally a bit wussy about leaping into chilly UK waters! Exceptional views and the navigational confidence of clear skies and miles of perfect visibility made for a uniquely precious time on those fells, the memories of which I am sure I will be channelling many times through the coming late autumn clag and winter chill.

It’s been wonderful to meet other trail runners in their respective back yards to share some summits and pick up some local trail lore and there was that great Kinder ‘downfall’ when the hours we spent picking our way across the Kinder plateau in search of the highest point, Kinder Scout, resulted in a no less impressive but relatively irrelevant discovery of Crowden Head instead. Ooops!

One of the most memorable days didn’t even involve a mountain summit but a fast crossing of the Lake District from Wasdale Head to Brathay, just outside Ambleside with the very nimble fell running legend, Joss Naylor MBE. Joss was tackling a 30 mile run/walk to raise money for the Brathay Trust and many other runners were along to support him. Though no summits were visited on this outing the cumulative elevation for the day was equivalent to climbing three mountains. Joss’ strength, speed and agility over rough terrain and at 82 years of age was truly inspirational. He looks as young, fit and strong now as he did when he ran his 60 lakeland summits at 60 years of age twenty two years ago to the day. To quote his own words, the day was absolutely “magic”.

After 43 consecutive days back at work I suspect it will be quite a different scene when I get back in the hills next week.

The long days and dry trails will be gone and I expect far more of the runs will be shrouded in low cloud, with plentiful drizzle at best. But the advantage of spending so much time in the hills is the increased opportunity of being out in those fleeting yet superlative moments – cloud inversions , crisp frosty mornings and the first dusting of snow under an azure winter’s sky….very poetic.ย  So, packing my toasty gore tex trail shoes and fleecy buff….bring on the winter season!

Happy trails..๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐Ÿพ


Super Support from the Queens of Flapjack!

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WARNING: this post contains copious amounts of made-up adjectives, excessive exclamation marks and gratuitous flapjack photography!!

I am totally flapperjacked to announce the wonderful squishy hearted folk at Flapjackery are as super amazing as their scrumilicious flapjacks and will be supporting me in my Running the Summits quest.ย  As many of you know,ย  flapjack is my go-to fuel of choice so I am very excited to be powered by some the absolutely finest flapjack in the country, nay,ย  the world! ( I have tested a LOT of flapjack…..(Ellen Cattanach and Val Allport- your homemade flapjacks are still totally brilliant!))

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I discovered my new gurus at the inaugural National Running Show at the NEC in January (tickets are now on sale for 2019!) , but heartbreakingly never got to taste their oatilicious wares as no sooner had the show opened than the entire weekend’s stash of gooey, chewy, flapjack goodness had been snaffled by avid runner fans of the mighty oat! But Flapjackery were not to be beaten, travelling a late night round trip from Birmingham to Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor back to their kitchen to stock up with a new batch for runners at the second day of the show where remarkably, once again, just a few oaty crumbs remained by the time I made it through the crowds to their stand!

 

Discovering that runners would happily wade their way through a soggy 10k bog run to get their hands on these proper lush treats, Flapjackery recently had a record weekend fuelling runners and visitors at the 2018 London Marathon Expo.

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Flapjackery founders Carol and Sally, both passionate about flapjack (totally understandable!)ย  took an idea 6 years ago and really ran with it. In their own words…

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We take the humble oat and raise it to a luxury level by adding top quality ingredients and a dash of madness to create our range of luxury Devon flapjacks in interesting flavours in huge chunky pieces, with a range suitable forย vegans and lactose intolerantย now available. British oats, locally sourced West Country butter and fairtrade brown sugar are some of the reasons our flapjacks taste so good.

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What’s not to love?good, wholesome, nutritious and lovingly made ‘real food’ fuel – perfect for outdoor adventures!

I will be chomping away on a piece of Flapjackery heaven on every mountain summit, I’d love you to join me though I’m not sure if I’ll be willing to share๐Ÿ˜

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Now, if you are thinking…

‘Where can I get my hands on these flapjacks of irresistibleness?’

as…obviously, you must be,

check out the Flapjackery website. You can try these uberlush treats for yourself by ordering online or they may be attending a show or exhibition near you soon!

Flapjackery-flavours

But don’t just take my word for it…reviews of Flapjackery flapjacks are full of words likeย  ย  ‘WOW’ย  ‘AMAZING’ย  ‘GORGEOUS’ย  ‘IRRESISTIBLE’.

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Sorry, but I am all out of mouth watering flapjack photos for now but listen out for the next adventure on this Mountain climbing, downhill windmilling arms, running madness challenge as the time gets closer to start…..Running the Summits!

 

P.S. SSShhhhhh…..nobody tell Patch about the flapjack!

 

My #RunningtheSummits Challenge is raising funds for the Mountain Rescue Teams of England and Wales, The Search & Rescue Dog Association England and Fix the Fells. Please support their incredible, selfless work via my fundraising page atย VirginMoneyGiving.com

 

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