The doubt

5 Days to go

I’ve just got back from a hectic few days in Norway, where I was invited to race with Hydra Sailing in the Fæder Race on board their just launched Owen/Clarke Class 40.

Maybe it was crazy to agree to this just one week before our double handed attempt at the 3 Peaks race, but I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity and so flew on Thursday night to Oslo for a race start on Friday.

The Fæder race is incredible. It’s an overnight version of the British Round the Island race, on steroids.  This year around 700 boats started in very light breeze resulting in a good few hours of intense manoeuvrings as boats of all different speeds, types and sizes vied for the limited patches of breeze, often resulting in gentle and very well-mannered bumper cars.  The Norwegians don’t seem to get half as excited as we Brits during close quarters situations.

The race continued through the night mixing, strong tides, tiny channels between islands, thunder, torrential down pours, gusty, shifty winds and boats everywhere.  Navigating this course in a boat designed for offshore and ocean racing was tough.  We changed headsails endlessly and at times were gybing every 3 or 4 minutes.  Hydra, though just launched was fast and well set up, we pushed hard and were the first Class 40 to cross the finish line.

My mind has been on the 3 peaks race almost constantly for the last few months and though I was able to switch off and focus solely on Hydra for the duration of the race, I quickly reverted to thinking about mountains on our spinnaker run back to Central Oslo.

I had been awake all night racing, the need for sleep was creeping up on me and I started to consider how I might feel approaching Whitehaven having sailed for the previous 24 hours and knowing I had a tough 9 hours of exercise ahead.

At that precise moment sailing back to Oslo I knew my body would not be capable of running up a mountain. I was already in a state of mind over matter which I am used to employing in extreme situations when single handing – each physical task is broken down mentally and I have an inner dialogue telling my body what to do as at this level of exhaustion I have limited supply of spontaneous actions.  Was this how I would feel on arrival to ScaFell?  The first seeds of doubt started to creep into my head.

But I had been awake for around 30 hours in one stretch and the day before had flown out to Norway in the evening and only made it to bed at 1 in the morning. I knew I was dehydrated and hadn’t drunk enough during the race – I had not planned to run after the Fæder race, I had used all the energy I had to keep awake and keep driving the boat overnight with the knowledge I could collapse after the finish with a job well done.

Last week I had tired legs, I ran a training half marathon distance at the beginning of the week, did some hill training following that and then worked on hill sprints on my bike.  I spoke to Charles mid week and told him I had low energy and was struggling to feel the joy even on short runs and he told me to stop training.  The dice have been rolled, there is no more to do, I can’t get any fitter now so it is time to rest and just let it happen.

I am not a natural athlete.  I love most sports but have always had to work really hard to achieve any sort of results I am proud of.  I have been training for the running sections of the 3 peaks race for just under a year and it has been tough to maintain any sort of form when the programme has been interspersed with Atlantic deliveries and offshore events where I sometimes don’t run or even walk for weeks at a time.  The recces have given me the confidence to know I can run up and down the mountains but what is in question is whether I will have the energy after sailing as well.

The 3 peaks race is going to be a long game but the ScaFell leg will be make or break. I know how I don’t want to feel when I arrive in Whitehaven and mine and Charles’ job is going to be to manage our nutrition, hydration and sleep to such an extent that we arrive as fresh as possible. That will  mean sleeping regardless of my inner niggles telling me to get on deck and sail that boat fast.  The tidal gate at Whitehaven is significant to overall performance but one might argue if we arrive on the first tide but too exhausted to run up the mountain it might be game over anyway. These are decisions to be made along the way – as a team Charles and I are going to have to constantly monitor our levels of fatigue and make good strategic calls along the way about how we as a team are going to succeed.

And finally a gentle reminder that we will be using the event to raise money for the Fairlight School Big Playground Adventure which is a project giving under privileged children a much needed outdoor space in which to Play and Learn; this will be the only opportunity some of these young children have to be outside.  You can find out more about the project through my blog here; and you can donate to the Big Playground Adventure through our just giving page.  A big Thank You to those who have already donated.

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