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By Andy Mouncey, Apr 20 2018 01:38PM

‘Bloody hell, it’s turning purple!’

Now I know what some of you are thinking – and this is not that kind of blog. It’s this:

I’m back in the treatment room with Phil who has looked after my aches and pains for years and knows my posterior and superior aspects and distal end probably way better than is healthy.

And we’re watching my right foot turn a deep shade of red right before our eyes.

Amazing things, bodies - even when they’re off-message: Which is right where bits of mine are at the moment.

Four weeks ago and it all felt like shin splints – except that didn’t entirely stack up because:

I’m not exactly new at this game

I’d not done anything new

Or stupid

But it bloody felt like it and it HURT.

So we held an inquest and retained an open verdict – something didn’t stack up.

But it still bloody hurt and training had come to a juddering halt – and that wasn’t fair ‘cos I’m on a Project here, dammit!!

Getting dizzy so headed for a different physical therapist and different opinion and different direction. Not completely convinced but I could follow the reasoning so I went with it. And it felt like a breakthrough – for a short time. Heck, I even got complemented on my running style by a passing walker one outing and in 35 years of doing this thing I can’t EVER recall that happening. I felt free, easy and light…

And then came crashing back down again.

‘Time for the Nuclear Option then.

Symptoms to this point had been what I would describe as ‘guerilla warfare’ - not enough to completely kill me but enough to generate almost constant discomfort at rest and play. Technically, it’s the ‘Now I’m Just Really Pissed Off ‘ stage.

Escalation was called for and this meant re-visiting an approach that eventually got me out of two years of injury back in 2014 (Stuck-and-Slipping)

If resting the running and rehab had not worked, it was time to just run without any attempt at rehab ‘cos I knew that there were only ever going to be two outcomes here:

1. Symptoms would settle

2. Symptoms would flare horribly

Either way I’d get the certainty that was proving so damn elusive – and Phil would have some screaming symptoms to play with as opposed to the slippery elusive ones I was presenting him with.

So I gave myself a four day window, gritted my teeth and hobbled off:

Day 1: 90mins

Day 2: 2 hours

Day 3: 2.5 hours

Day 4: 3 hours

And just to be sure on Day 5 I went out for an hour before I saw Phil and … here we are watching my foot turn purple: Escalation achieved – result!

Time to try join the dots and figure Cause-Effect then – and after comparing notes we come up with the following:

There’s been a pattern of symptoms going back to 2014-5 and first onset of severe maceration on the soles of my feet – otherwise known as ‘trench foot’ - that have all been related to poor circulation in my lower legs. (How much this is a consequence of multiple winters preparing for the damn Spine Race is probably a moot question. Let’s just say the timing is suspicious and leave it at that).

And once again a key feature is the pooling of fluid / inflammation in the lower leg: It’s not a structural problem ‘cos I can run – as the 4 day escalation experiment proved - but it’s painful and not pretty. All of which points to s systemic problem: Most of the sabotage is happening when at rest – ‘cos I’m heading out already gritting my teeth - and that points to the lymphatic drainage system not doing it’s job properly.

All of which leaves us with the following:


Settle these latest symptoms down now - and turning the circulation in my legs up to Number 11 will be key to that.


Figure out a way to proactively and reactively manage temperature and moisture build up in/around my feet and keep the drain happening even when at rest.

So we have a project within a project – and rather more of this:

And somewhat less of this:

By Andy Mouncey, Feb 22 2018 10:15AM

Silverdale Circuit with 20 mins to go: trying hard on a big hill!
Silverdale Circuit with 20 mins to go: trying hard on a big hill!

Competitive Bloke comes with me to races. He’s usually there at key training sessions as well. Sometimes I let him out just before the fun starts and sometimes he’s jumping up and down in his vault days beforehand, dribbling evilly at the prospect. We’re on intimate terms but I wouldn’t want to sit down for another pint with him because, well, he’s just not very…nice.

Saturday was a case in point. He knew he was going to be let out to play and was like a small manic child sedated for his own safety: Fine until the dose wore off but then leaping up and down in a froth-filled fantasy of anticipation at the prospect of THE RACE – until I put him under again.

It was like doing Jekyll & Hyde all week.

Ascend Events Silverdale Circuit was 21 miles of twisty coast-woods-limestone scars with frequent quagmires thrown in for good measure. A new event for me and so I’d been round it the week before taking my time to get the route nailed in strong winds and snow showers and it was still beautiful – and it confirmed what I suspected: Navigation was going to be crucial.

So I’ve done my homework, I know I’m in shape and I fancy my chances. Competitive Bloke knows it too – and he’s turned all the way up to Number 11.

800 yards in and three of us are off the front. The guy on my shoulder turns and gives Competitive Bloke his first opening:

‘Do you know where you’re going then?’

Oh dear.

‘Guess we’ll find out, wont we?’ A sideways look and an evil grin get thrown across the gap for good measure.

Competitive Bloke isn’t giving anything away because:

1. This guy has just telegraphed he doesn’t know the route and /or has no confidence in his navigation.

2. Odds-on he’s looking for a free ride

His third sin is failing to take responsibility for all aspects of his race – and Coach Mouncey is real pissed at that one.

Competitive Bloke’s reasons are more clearcut: He just hates freeloaders.

So now it’s two against one and that’s really not fair.

‘Points for persistence though ‘cos a few hundred yards further our man tries again:

‘Done this race before?’


All true.

But I do know the course – it’s just that Competitive Bloke ain’t sharing.

Having killed any prospect of conversation – CB really doesn’t do talking that much when he’s out and he doesn’t invite it either – the plotting starts in earnest:

How to drop him?

Stop for a wee?

How can I mess with his head?

We start with the last one.

I have my route notes to hand and make a show over the next few minutes to periodically refer to them. My pace is all business and CB knows that can be a give-away all on it’s own, so sprinkling seeds of doubt is just good misinformation strategy.

Meanwhile ahead of me there’s a bonus: I spot the leader missing a turn – and while he corrects quickly it’s all fuel for CB’s fire:

Someone else ain’t sure.

Someone else has something we can exploit…

A couple of miles in and the breathing behind me is getting louder. CB decides to test and just squeezes the pace up a notch over the twisty technical ground. And while we come together at the frequent kissing gates – and there’s certainly none of THAT - I can feel the elastic stretching…until I’m through a gate on my own.

Eyes firmly front we squeeze the pace again until I crest a hill and the terrain opens out for a first real open space ahead and – no one in sight. Which either means the leader has flown or gone wrong.

I figure the latter but CB wants to be sure so I drop fast down the hill and then light the burners over what I know will be about 2 miles of fast running over firm ground.

You’re first!’ shout a group of walkers who set off an hour before the runners did. Okayyyy…but I want to be sure and CB figures this is THE MOVE: My flat speed has come on in leaps and bounds over the last six months and I’m fit enough to floor it and settle again. So we shake on it and play the trump card that will open a gap behind and make sure in front.

All of which means after about 45 minutes of fun and games it’s all over as a race.

I co-opt CB to my cause that is now to stay relentlessly On Task all the way to the finish while keeping the flashing lights at bay. For all his psychopathic tendencies he’s good at keeping a bargain when our goals are aligned and after all these years I’ve learned how to stroke him and can recognize the signs of sabotage. This means that brief respites and deliberate leakage are essential pressure releases so I have the energy and wit to lock it all down again.

This time I hold the pattern all the way to the finish.

A win.

Course record.

And no freebies.



By Andy Mouncey, Jan 29 2018 12:35PM

Any fool can be fit. It’s being hard that’s hard.’ Joss Naylor

The cross country race.

You know you’re gonna be blowing out of your backside before the first 200 yards are up – which begs the first set of questions:

Could you blow – and still go (as it were)?

You think you are conditioned enough to handle it?

Do you want to find out?

Back to the short stuff last weekend and I struggled to remember that last time I’d toed the line on anything like this. Throw in a howling gale, snow flurries and lots of folks wearing an identical club vest to mine and we have the ingredients for a fun-filled Test Of Toughness.

Or is that Fitness?

Fitness implies a continuum – something that can be gained or lost – whereas ‘toughness’ has a more innate quality about it: More a static state. Heck – perhaps one feeds into the other…I suspect we can go round and round with this one so I’ll offer some observations instead.

Take Crossfit: The high intensity training format that combines circuit and weight training and a whole host of other requirements that yours truly has been frequenting for the last few years. I see some tough folks come through the door: Athletes, team players, fighters, emergency services and military personnel are among the everyday folks who just refuse to lie down and slow down and are resolved to do something about it.

And invariably that first group workout is a wobble. The ladies tend to come through it better than the men to my eyes – and the trend remains: Folks who are used to challenge, are in at least some shape and perform highly in their chosen field really struggle in the mental and emotional wrestling match. Their toughness is never in doubt – they proved that when they walked through the door the first time – but clearly their fitness needs some work.

Effective coaching, smart adjustments and some sobering and insightful structured reflection means that most get there over time. The new becomes familiar and the extraordinary becomes ordinary. It never gets any easier – I can vouch for that – it’s just that they become familiar with the discomfort and develop strategies to cope and capacity to meet the challenge.

Mental toughness – at least to my eyes – is clearly a quality that is time, place and activity-specific.

Switching back to ultra running mode at this time of year in this country there’s only one event that captures the headlines and triggers jaw-dropping en masse even among seasoned hard bast***s of the hills: The Spine Race 268 miles south to north on The Pennine Way as continuously as possible with just 5 checkpoints for support and all within a mid-winter week. This year the weather threw everything and the kitchen sink at the race which guaranteed another year of high attrition rate. However comprehensive the information to competitors about what the heck they can expect and what they really need to do if they want a hope in hell of seeing the finish, NOTHING can really prepare you for that week. I mean, you’ll understand what the words mean on the page of notes but emotionally it just won't connect.

Until it happens.

And that’s quite remarkable because there is also now 6 years of blogs and race reports, film and photos to color it all in.

As someone once said:

Experience is a hard teacher: You get the kicking first and the lessons after.’

Being tough is never in doubt – but being mentally fit enough for that race is clearly for many – me included – a Work In Progress.

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