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Wish Me Luck

Friday, April 26, 2013

By Paul Willgoss

Luck is intangible, but not insubstantial—please give me a smidgeon, for both my next big event and for something that could help ACHDers.

Last year I mainly concentrated on running, and I had a hellishly good year of it. This year is a bit different. With the distances for events I’m looking at being so long, or the terrain so extreme that my normal training routines aren’t up to scratch, my normal thinking just won’t cut the mustard.

The next event, at the end of April, is one of the great challenge walks in the U.K., the Fellsman—61 miles, 11,000 feet of ascent and time cut-off points to beat or you’re out of the event. Although this a walk, the participants are known as hikers, even if they are mad enough to run it—and some do, as it gains them entry points to the great Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The course record is just under 12 hours—trust me, I won’t be threatening that.

In fact, I’m not in any way sure I’m going to make the time cut-offs, which is an odd place to be. I’ve known on almost every other event I’ve done I can finish it. Now I face one where for the safety of others (the checkpoints are manned through the night by a variety of voluntary organisations), I may be asked to step off the course. And of course, there are the usual issues of injury, exhaustion and navigation.

And yes, you read the correctly. This is a straight-through event. If it gets dark, you get put into a group of four and keep walking, making navigation a little more difficult. The route is also over private land, so you can’t recce it beforehand.

Sounding fun yet?

I’ve done walks overnight before and marathons on roads. I’ve done night navigation both as part of walks and been trained in it. I’ve even done fell runs in the dark, so I know the head torch is a good one (as is the backup, and the ultra-lightweight emergency backup). I have a mandatory kit list, as well as waterproofs and spare layers. It also means that I have to carry a specific weight of emergency food, which I can’t eat until after the event. They have provided a menu for each of the checkpoints, so I won’t be starving—or worse, carrying all of the calories I’ll need for the day.

Rather than run recently I’ve walked, and walked… My big training weekend involved crisscrossing one of our national parks—5 miles and 1,400 feet (after a morning at work) from the train station to the youth hostel, then the big day of 21 miles and just under 4,000 feet, then the stretch out the next day to a different train station (10 miles and 1,400 feet). That big day is here.

The heart is doing its thing, beating, and as is my usual operating method I’ve let the organisers know I’ve got a congenital heart condition. I’ll carry my SOS talisman and my phone will have a PDF of my details. Me being me, I know the congenital cardiologists at the local centre, and they know me. So if something does go horribly wrong the safety net is ready.

Which is where I’ll stop talking about my physical insanities, and mention something I’ve been involved in (with a cardiologist from the centre closest to the Fellsman). We’ve been working up draft guidelines for what the service us ACHDers should look like (the model of care) and what services we should get (standards). I’m one of the patient representatives on this national group, and have been helping making these standards patient-orientated. They’re currently open for comments from people in the U.K., but might make interesting reading for others.

So, the ego is in the backpack for The Fellsman, as this is a test of body and mind that I may not finish, and something I’m proud of has been published (to be criticised, hopefully constructively)…

As I said at the top, please wish me luck. I may just need it this month!


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The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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