A happy failure
A regular blog as I work my way back to the UTMB. This is the 4th blog post.
For this blog post I’m going to do my general training recap combined with the actual premise of the post, which is all about failure. Part of the reason I’m going back to the UTMB is because I failed at it the first (and only) time I’ve tried. That was quite a devastating blow back then, and it took my quite a while to recover from it, mainly because it was the first time I’d ever DNF’d. Well, 8 years later and I’m much more used to failure!
The Teesdale Way
In October 2020, me and a friend took on a long distance trail near us, called the Teesdale Way. It’s 96 miles in length running from Dufton in Cumbria, all the way to South Gare in Redcar. It follows the river (more or less) the whole way. We chose probably the worst day ever; it rained constantly, and I mean constantly for some 16 hours. The ground was sodden, we were soaked to the bone through multiple different waterproofs, and the vegetation was so overgrown it made some of the paths completely inaccessible. We still completed 71, but failed to finish — DNF.
In May 2021 we had another go. We went earlier in the year to avoid the vegetation, we chose a day with better weather, and we had a slightly better support plan. It didn’t go perfectly, but we finished and set a Fastest Known Time — 26 hours. Success. We’d learned a lot from the first failure, we adjusted and used that knowledge to succeed…probably a lesson in there….
About 2 months ago my friend asked if it bothered me that we didn’t do a sub 24, and honestly it didn’t. He asked if I wanted to have another go, I responded that I’d rather have a go at something, anything else. But he was determined to do it, and I’m a sucker for just doing stuff, so eventually I said yes. So yesterday we set off at 5am to break our own record and do a sub 24 FKT.
We put together a better support plan, I worked out a pacing strategy that would get us there and through the various stops, and off we went. The goal was sub 24 or bust. It wasn’t about finishing, we’d already done that. So we had to push, even when uncomfortable. The first 30 miles went well, and we were absolutely bang on the pacing strategy.
Then the heat hit. From midday until 6 the heat was draining, the sun beat down and sapped energy. We were dehydrated, and struggling to get food down. So the pace slowed. We were still just on pace, but needed to keep pushing.
Look after your feet and they will look after you.
Unfortunately for me, my biggest issue was my feet. The heat and the dirt and the hard ground wrecked my feet. Combined with the dehydration and lack of fuel, it made it tough.
At mile 73 I made the mental calculation. The pace we were going was not going to cut it. We needed to push. My friend was looking stronger than me, so I spoke to him and a support runner who had joined us. I knew that the pace we needed was probably more than my feet could take. I had blisters on multiple toes, every step was like stepping on razor blades. But it’s 24 or bust.
“We’ve got to push the pace. It’s now or never. I’ll push as hard as I can, but If I drop you’ve got to keep going. “
After a bit of back and forth and lots of swearing, we agreed.
We pushed on, upped the pace. It hurt. I kept with them for 6–7 miles, but it wasn’t enough. They pulled away. Good on them.
I dropped at 82 miles, 14 miles from the finish. I would have beaten my previous time by probably 2 hours, but I didn’t have enough time to break the 24. Sub 24 or bust. My friend pushed on, and cracked it. Setting a new record of 23:35. Bloody epic.
So another DNF and a failure, but this one doesn’t hurt (apart from my feet). This one is a happy failure. I got the pacing strategy right. I made the right call at 75 miles. My brain was still working perfectly to make a rational decision. My ego didn’t get in the way. And my friend bloody did it.
Still, lots to learn. I’ve never really had issues with my feet like that, so it’s something to figure out. I have about a million packets of compeed in the house, but because I’ve never had an issue, I just didn’t bring any with me. One to remember.
April went well. I did the lakes mountain 40 which is a lovely route. I did some hilly running in gran canaria. I did some hilly miles near home. It’s been a good 6 weeks despite the DNF!
In the last 6 weeks I’ve done 385 km with 7800m of elevation. Decent