Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Lakeland 50 2012 Race report.


I remember smoking a fag half way through a cross country race in senior school. I was 14 years old. You see, I had potential, it was recognised by my sports tutor, Mrs Mountford, the thing was, I had to run like crazy to catch up again during the race for two reasons: 1 So that Mrs Mountford didn't suspect I’d been smoking and 2: In order that she didn't lose that belief in me. Then I discovered make up and dresses and my pumps got a little dusty. Until two and a half years ago that is.


This is hardly the time to talk about my very limited running career however it's safe to say, that it's amazing what you can achieve when you believe in your capacity.



The Lakeland 100 came on the radar last year when I was introduced to an ultra runner Gaynor Prior  She told me all about the race and that she would need some familiar faces there for when she finished. A fell running friend of hers (and mine) Anthony Bethell and myself accompanied her offering moral support post race and drove her home after her remarkable win of 28.24.12 hours. She didn't just win however, she smashed the ladies course record and I feel privileged to have watched an amazing athlete do her thing. So there it was, the Lakeland, raw and incomprehensible to me at that stage. Until that is, said 'Prior' decided to make a suggestion about the Lakeland 50 'enter it Fairy' she said. Now those of you that know Ms Prior, will understand her assertiveness means business, so it was entered (she calls me 'Fairy', she says I run like one). My training increased in increments over the next year until I was totally consumed with running and training for the Lakeland. I felt ready. I knew the course like the back of my hand, only better. I embraced every part of it, every stone and rock, every turn, every hill, every climb, blade of grass waters edge and stream. Everywhere I’d taken a pee (and more), everywhere I’d fallen, twisted ankles, doubted and believed, every face I’d met during recce's it was all there, I’d fallen in love and I wanted to win!

I arrived in Coniston on Thursday with the intention to hook up with Gaynor and some folks I’d met along the way, most of whom I’ll mention later however, Paul Tierney is a chap that I first met on a recce of the Lakeland Course in April. He finished joint third last year in the 100. Gaynor and I had offered to crew his Bob Graham round in May after his appeal in March for support. It was coincidence that he emerged from under the wooden bridge over Measand Beck after filling his bottle with water. It was the first time we had all met and the friendships strengthened thereafter. Paul had an amazing round and completed in 17 hours and 59 minutes. He's a strong athlete and a privilege to have ran with on occasions. I've nicknamed him 'Reesh' you may be able to work out why!






George Bates and Anthony Bethell who'd entered the Lakeland 50 as a male team, 'Fell Ponies Elite' arrived on Friday afternoon. These two chaps are awesome fell runners. George had a bash at the 100 last year,and completed, however there was a residual feeling of 'unfinished business' with the lakes and George. Gaynor was helping with the general behind the scenes escapades this year with Marc and his team, so she was off to embark on a three day frenzy of no sleep, lots of running around, marshalling, ordering, fetching and carrying and eating chips!


After seeing the lads get started on the 100 and Gaynor off organising and sorting, George, Ant and I spent the night in a Youth Hostel in Ambleside in an attempt to have a good night sleep.... hahahahahahaha. After two hours of snoozing, I lay awake visioning the race over and over, pre empting, imagining, recalling, excited and fearful, but I was going to win I told myself. I had a time in mind based on how I’d faired over the recce's and so I knew all things being well, that I could run between 9 hours 45 and 10 hours. That was in my control, out of my control was what other competitors did, so I remained focused on my race and again told myself 'but you are going to win'. This may of course sound arrogant and it's the risk I take with displaying my honesty here, yet you could choose to understand that it's my strategy for self belief that paid off, which is probably closer to the truth.


The morning of the race was a mixture of excitement, injected with moments of calm and focus. By the time I lined up in Dalemain, I was focused and scared to death. People were telling me I was going to win, I was telling me I was going to win.. what if I didn't, well 'it'll serve me right for verbalising my intention to 'do well' I was saying. This report takes the flavour of two concepts, the head and the heart. The racer, achiever, focused aspect where I’d preconceived split times, a winners mentality and nothing was going to' stand in my way' attitude, coloured with my love affair with the lakes and mountains and the emotional element of wanting to prove to myself that I was deserving of doing well. It was all very confusing, so I decided there and then just to run …. and run well.

Dalemain to Howtown
Standing on the start line I'd like to say I was focused, you know, like the Olympians. I wasn't, I had butterflies and moments of panic. Annie Conway and I exchanged a few words about how we might perform, however my desire to win never waned. Moments later and we're OFF. I pounded up that field like I was in a 100m sprint, 'calm down missy' so I eased back and settled into a slightly slower pace which was, incidentally, faster than I’d ever ran 4 miles In my life. 'You've another forty five plus to go yet Linford', so I carried on, fast, too fast. We were paced by a very nice gentleman, who, when he 'misjudged' his lines, 'herded' us back across the field and over a fence. This is the first time I chose to be annoyed, during the race, 'this is not very good is it' I said to myself as I clambered over the fence  with no dignity, and then ran faster to make up for the twenty seconds that I’d just lost! You see I've a competitive nature, and that manifests itself as a headless chicken sometimes. When Annie came skipping effortlessly past (she's very light footed and super consistent with her pace), I though what am I doing here, these are amazingly experienced runners you are trying to compete with. And yet, I was on familiar ground and as the front runners were taken off for a second time by the pacer, the wrong way, I continued straight ahead over the stile, the right way and I knew I’d be alright.

The first time I eased off my running pace and walked was at Roehead farm after Pooley bridge. I had a little chat with myself 'you're going too fast you're going too fast'. The weather was perfect, breezy with a little cloud, pleasant. Folk started to pass which motivated me to have a a little trot. George and Anthony 'Fell Ponies Elite' appeared on the approach to the gate.



I've trained in mountains with these guys (and many others) for the past two years, they have dragged me around and made me work hard to get strong. How can you ever show your gratitude enough for that? I am forever endebted. The chaps powered on, in fact, sprinted on, through the gate and I walked up the track to the cross roads. I'd not met Lizzy before, in fact given that this was my first Ultra I had no idea of who would be a strong competitor. We said 'hi' and exchanged pleasantries, I thought 'cricky she looks strong as an ox'. Both Lizzy and Annie past me, both running, I wobbled slightly, yet I knew I'd soon be seeing them again at some point. I got excited as I approached the Cairn indicating a right turn. Now I adore the run down to the Bobbin Mill, it's fast, the terrain is easy under foot and I knew I would have fun flying over it. I wasn't wrong. Perhaps I should control my pace a little better, you know, be consistent and mindful and all of that, yet I was out to enjoy my day too. I passed Lizzy, passed Annie, past the toilet.. haha, yes, I'd been to the toilet several times on recce's in the same place and I’m not telling you where it is. I smiled an embarrassed smile as I ran past it and legged it to the checkpoint. It was nice to see Marc Laithwaite there, he gave encouragement and was beaming his grand smile (he's always smiling Marc). Ant and George had arrived just in front of me, they were having a feast and clearly selecting one of all the sweets, cakes and goodies that were on offer, I grabbed flapjack and a bag of jelly babies, took a sip of water, whooped and ran off. I think I spent around 30 seconds there





Howtown to Mardale Head
What a beautiful country we live in. This section is, for me, the epitome of the Lakeland 50. I adore every inch of it. It's testing, with tough climbs, bogs, technical descents, lung burning ascents, exposed fell, and the most beautiful run along Haweswater. Walking back up the lane from the Bobbin Mill, I tucked into my flapjack as I watched both Lizzy and Annie hurl down the tarmac heading for the CP. I knew I couldn't afford the time to dine with style here, so I shoved all of the flapjack into my mouth and ran, choking as I did so. It's a long steady climb that starts from the stone bridge crossing the beck. I was going to pace this section more wisely. The climb up Wether Hill is my second most favourite climb of the 50 route. I knew I'd be strong on it. As I past 'Groove Gill' and headed towards the ruined buildings Ant appeared. George was a few hundred feet behind. Ant said that George was 'struggling'. I learnt later that Ant had been running a 'fast pace' and that had taken it's toll on George and in fact George was ill for the rest of the race. To have carried on was remarkable, however, not only that, but they also went on to win the male pairs category. Good work chaps. Now these two buddies have a bit of a reputation in the fell running world as the guys with 'all gear and no idea'. To see them on the hill heading for High Kop, with their Hoka's, their poles, Buff, Salomon, compression, odour eating, toe protecting, eye covering, all angles covered, gear, I felt proud to know them. Ahem! I asked Ant to take the jelly babies off of me. They were 'weighing me down' and I knew he would eat them. 'I don't know why I’d picked them up in the first instance' I was chuntering. I said goodbye with an explanation that second lady was pushing on and didn't see these two chaps again.


Lizzy stuck close behind me. We had a chat and I concluded that she is a remarkable runner. She also didn't know the route! She'd not had the opportunity to recce it and was using her road book to help her. Ordinarily I adore sharing information with people, just looking at the length of this report demonstrates that, however I was slightly aggrieved that Lizzy could potentially be using me as her guide today. I struggle with this because I want to be 'helpful' and 'nice', and yet the competitive side of me wants to win the bloody race and use every advantage I have to do so. So I decided there and then that I was not going to stick around too long under these circumstances. The descent from Low Kop to the wooden foot bridge was awesome, soft under foot and as I ran, I could see the trail of the 100 guys laid out on the ground,. As I fly over their footprints, I wished them well and hoped that they were all doing ok. The run into Mardale, I adore, for two reasons:

  1. I always get hungry at this point and eat real food.
I pulled out the first of two 'Staffordshire Oatcakes' I eat them with bacon and cheese, protein, fat and carb. Awesome.







  1. My legs have now warmed up.
When I first Gaynor and ran with her, three hours into the run she said 'I’m just starting to warm up' I thought, she's clearly mad... I eat my words in shame. I was now just warmed up.

I ran all of the section, getting excited when the rocks became more technical, 'jeez I heart this stuff'. I bumped into John Kynaston who was competing in the 100, he was forthcoming in explaining that he was not doing as well has he would have liked, yet, he was doing more than even I can comprehend. Remarkable man. I ducked under a tree branch that was hanging low, I'd ran into it every single time during recce's,causing a bump on my head. Today, I timed it perfectly. Not today tree branch, oh no, today everything was coming together.




My one and only drama princess moment occurred at the second checkpoint where the really helpful and lovely marshals tried their best to interpret my ramblings about mixing me a Kinetica. I made demands about putting just half in (I’d not used it before, I didn't know if it was going to suit me) thanks you all for being so accommodating to a frantic Fairy who was fretting a little. Lizzy came in within a minute. I spent about a minute and half here.



Mardale head to Kentmere
My favourite climb is up to Gatesgarth Pass. Lizzy soon followed and came jogging past. 'Ooooo good effort' I thought, 'see you later' I said. I believed that if she can run up here then she deserves a victory. 'I'll probably see you when you descend' she said. Ten seconds later as I walked past her she was humble in saying 'now I know why you were walking'. I pondered the conditions of all weathers that I’d seen on this hill side before, bitterly cold snow and ice, pouring rain, scorching sunshine and today, perfect. I chatted with a chap one of the 100 guys who I’d been fell running in Wales with as I passed him, so so friendly, and I couldn't remember his name, and I still cant now.. silly Fairy. I couldn't wait to dance down the descent, I knew some fast lines down here and realised that I'd left Lizzy on the ascent and would open the gap further now on the descent. I adore fast descending over technical terrain, I’ve no fear, I don't fret if I fall, it will hurt if I do and I will then get straight back up and carry on running, the hurt will subside and I’ll still be going. As I approached Sadgill I knew that Lizzy would still  be close so pushed on with Grant (2nd place male finisher) playing cat and mouse. He is a far stronger runner than I am, if he wasn't reliant on his road book the whole race would have looked different at the end. He missed the stone style, I shouted him back, we ran together, he slipped over in the mud, I laughed, I slipped over in the mud, he repaid the laugh! Then he was off again and I remember that 'I had a job to do' and flew into CP 11 Kentmere Institute.





Kentmere to Ambleside.
I burst through the door of the Institute. Found a dibber, dibbed in and beelined for isotonic. Did quite well putting it into my bottle for myself for a change, until that is, I moved my bottle from under the tap of the barrel and it went all over the floor. 'I'm so sorry, I’m so sorry' I said to no one in particular as I don't think anyone noticed, although maybe that's wishful thinking. One quick look around and I was out of that joint. I probably spent about a minute here. The ascent up Garburn Pass I spent run/walking I wanted to conserve some energy as I’ve come to understand that I usually have a bit of a lull and whilst I felt (remarkably) ok I wanted to be sensible and serious like a proper runner so as not to blow my race. I could have some more fun again later. The weather turned and the rain saw me faffing in my waist pack again for my jacket, I think that jacket was on/off about a dozen times throughout. I caught up with Grant again and I danced down the hill side with Grant behind, of course a temporary arrangement as it wasn't long before he was breezing past me.

I turned into the road and over Trout Beck bridge onto the tarmac road. I was pondering, run/walk when I saw Matty. I didn't want to walk, I wanted to run, I 'had a job to do' ringing in my ears. Matty was walking just in front and the sight of him walking was enough to convince me that I could walk here then, fickle! Both Matty and Grant had joined forces and the three of us walked/ran together again. They were both complementary on my running performance thus far, this lifted my confidence as I was left eating their dust up Robin lane. Through the woods, I’d intended to take the lower path as in recce's I personally found it quicker and yet this was my first and only dither on the course. Thank you the 100 man who appeared from nowhere and when I asked which path he confidently pointed me to the higher ground. I'm grateful he did as I was further along the course than I had thought and had I taken the lower path I’d have gone off course! Everything was working out perfectly today. I tried to offer myself an explanation for my wobble of navigation and concluded that I was tired, quickly followed with 'if you want to win this race you'll have to get 'un-tired', so I sped up. Now, there is part of running through a town that now and then appeals to the 'attention seeker' that I can be. I enjoyed running through Ambleside, and as I became Paula Radcliffe I was soon heading through the door into Lakes runner. As I approached I saw a familiar looking face, Ben Abdelnoor, I'd seen his picture many times in the fell running world, what an athlete. Feeling a bit star struck, I gulped a quarter cup of salt soup, dipped in half a round of wholemeal, retrieved my refreshed drink from the very lovely marshal and went outdoors for another peak. As I did so I heard 'Come on Tracy'. It was Matty and I was race focused again. ,We ran together out of Ambleside as he bravely disclosed how difficult it was for him to not get upset when he saw his wife and daughter outside. I liked this man's honesty.

Ambleside to Chapel Stile
Prior to crossing the busy road after the arch Grant appeared, he'd been asking passers by for directions and was pleased to see us. Once through the park on the climb up the bridal-way the two chaps let me get in front for a moment, only to say, 'technically Tracy you are in second place' the two chaps then sped off, ha ha, very funny you two. :) It was the last time I saw them. I absorbed the open fell, before heading down to 'Chester’s by the river'. Some clapping and cheering from two chaps stood on the pavement there, and as I neared I could see it was Terry Conway and his father. I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Terry and the lads over the last few months, he's a funny and genuine chap, he high fived me, told me how I was 'chicken' everyone and I was on my way. His father just as friendly offered some encouragement and my spirits were lifted further. What is remarkable about Terry is that he was obviously there to support his wife Annie, who (unbeknown to me) was very close behind me. For him to offer some motivation and inspiration to me is an indication of a true sportsman and genuine individual. Thanks you Terry. Unlike me, who forgot to ask how he had finished in the 100 and congratulate him, silly Fairy.

I'd not had a lull yet but my legs started to feel heavy I contemplated walking for a moment on the approach to Elterwater. I quickly reminded myself that 'it's flat here' so 'get a move on', 'run Fairy run'. As I past a couple of the 100 guys I heard a familiar voice saying 'well done Tracy' it was Ian Bishop, a chap who I’d met a few moths before. He is the most socially adequate man I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, he's chatty and inclusive, what a lovely lovely man. I relayed my feelings of guilt about Terry and asked how he'd done, When Ian told me that he'd completed in 19.50 I think I may have screamed! I ran off beaming. He didn't know how 'Reesh' was doing. I secretly had Reesh as a really strong competitor for number one, (I’ve ran with this guy, he's gifted), or at least, a very fast second place. I was rooting for him, yet Ian's information had dried up and I was left wondering. On the approach to Chapel Style I became a little anxious, I knew the CP had moved this year, and I understood that there was going to be a 'tent' further along the track just past the camp site. In spite of this understanding I managed to convince myself that I must have run past it . I got my road book out ready to look at the description (again) however, a couple walking along the track shouted, it's just around the corner, 'a drinks station' just around the corner love, you're the only person we've seen running', 'thank you thank you' I said, and low an behold just around the corner the big top. It was like a circus tent, I’d not have missed it that’s for sure. Very pretty, very big it was, bunting and lights, where were the elephants and lions? Importantly however there were the very friendly marshals. I zoomed in, asked again for them to fill up my bottle with kinetica and water, whilst another very accommodating lady checked the position of second lady at my request. This was the first time that I had wanted to know. I was tired and needed to gauge how much I could slack off, put my feet up, have a natter et etc. When she said that Lizzy had  left Ambleside 8 mins behind me I shrieked and whimpered then panicked. I practically dropped the butty I’d picked up, swore and legged it out of the checkpoint... screeching and whooping. They laughed and knew that I had 'work to do' to keep my pace... but I was tired.

Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite
Geoff 4th placed male, appeared again, he'd had a habit of showing his face momentarily throughout the later half of the race. He kept appearing from nowhere. He stopped to stretch his legs as he lent against a wall, he did this several times over the last two legs. It was at those times that I caught up with him, otherwise, I’d not have seen him for clouds of smoke, he was consist in spite of his struggles. Going over the styles through the fields was slow going for me as it was difficult to coordinate bending legs and weight bearing by now. I was tired. I shifted my focus from the uncomfortable niggles and set my sights on Geoff instead. I soon forgot about the tiredness however, I was aware that I was walking more than I would have liked up Side Pike Pass. Contouring on the path around Bleamoss is a technical challenging part of the course. It's difficult to maintain a steady pace and pick your way over the rocks. I spent the section telling myself I’d find my pace any min, however I’d reached the top of the path without ever doing so. In order to compensate, I had a gel. It's funny how gels become the amber nectar when you are flagging, how could I get so excited over a gel, it was the best thing I’d ever tasted in the world on my approach to the gate to dib in. I focused on the light not working and how this would impact on those folk going through the night and before I knew it I was legging it down the road section like I was in a 5k. I had heard my name being shouted earlier as I was contouring past Bleamoss, as I came down the road, I saw two familiar faces, Dale Colclough (an experienced and awesome fell runner who'd had pulled out of the 100 ) and his partner Denise, they were 'rooting' for me, jumping up and down, 'you are home and dry' I heard them shout as I flew passed them. Like I said, I think I’m Paula Radcliffe sometimes and put a familiar face in the mix and I think I’m Super Woman. The weather changed and I faffed about putting my jacket on again, it always seemed to rain when I was coming up the track towards the signpost for Tilberthwaite. The climb has a really slippery rock section, yeah you know the bit I’m talking about, it was wet, I slipped, then for five mins I had to focus on staying upright. I soared down onto the road section and began to smile as I jogged into the CP. Now, I Know I’ve not let go of the thought that I’m going to win, I’ve had to take that view, yet, it was not until this point that I knew wholeheartedly, there was nothing that was going to take that away from me, not now, I am going to win. Less than a min in the CP, with lots of positive comments from the marshals to see me through the final leg.

Tilberthwaite to Coniston
I can't remember climbing those steps, in fact the last leg was all a little hazy. I was on auto pilot now, something had clicked. Geoff was in front and I seemed to just be following him. 'you are one tough girl' he said, I thanked him. We crossed the stream, with the single tree and then during the climb contouring Wetherlam I stopped. I looked down into the valley and found the track. I saw an elegant figure sprinting over the path in the distance and I knew it was Annie. 'Jeez, she's shifting' I thought and knew that I had a job to do. 'What are you standing and gawping at' I thought, I turned around and turned it on, with all my strength, I 'had a job to do'. I'm not a sprinter, I'm a strong fell runner who loves trail and can keep going, so keep going I did. There was no way that I was going to be pipped on the finish line, I wanted to win. I knew that I would not be caught once I reached the top of the climb and there it was. This pleased me as I was too tired for a 'sprint off' at the finish line. Yesterday, I'd trotted up this path in order to cement this moment. I thanked myself for having done so. I'd checked out the lines, picked my final route and then sat on a rock. As I sat I had contemplated, put the world to rights, you know, those moments of clarity and feel good times. I smiled, now as it ran past that rock, I beamed, a surge of energy from the excitement put the spring in my steps and I bounded down the hill like an excited puppy, flying, skipping, sliding and smiling. Geoff was following and we hit the road at the bottom. We were giving it what we had left, and Geoff pulled away on the lane , 'you go for it Geoff, you deserve it, you're an incredibly strong runner'. As I turned the corner to the school, I could see Terry and Reesh, and then others clapping and high fiving.. cheers Terry, cheers Reesh. No Gaynor, 'where's Gaynor' I was thinking. I learnt later that she'd had to go on an 'errand' and pick up some of the 100 folk who were struggling to get to the finish. I knew she'd be mortified to have not been there and will just have to win another race for her to see it. I was escorted into the school and as I entered the dining area the whole room cheered and clapped, I was overwhelmed, I just stood and looked, like Bambi in head lights. I can't describe that moment adequately enough, thank you every single one of you.


I'm not fortunate enough to be a natural. I have to put 110 percent to achieve to the standards that I set for myself. It is that drive and willingness to push through that struggle that won me the Lakeland 50.

Distance: 50 mile
Course Profile: 3100 m Ascent
Completion Time 8hours 38. 
1st Female
5th Overall

See ye all on the hills and trail. Happy days

Matt Fortes
 Rock Taped
 Adam getting taped by Terry
 Baz Murry
 Trophy.. ahem
 Oh dear.. ahem




16 comments:

  1. Well done. Love the photos. Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan, It's a regret that I'd not taken more pics, however I'm learning to take more pictures when out and about so hopefully will have plenty more to put on here soon.

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  2. Just brilliant! I knew you'd rip it up and you deserved it. You worked bloody hard for that win. Can't wait to see what you do next lil Fairy!

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    1. Why thank you madam, for everything x

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  3. It's funny I kept seeing you in Coniston before the run, had no idea who you were, that's sorted now LOL. Loved the blog, I saw the race from the opposite end of the spectrum so it's so amazing to read how it went for you. Absolutely deserved win, fantastic.

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    1. I'm just a little fairy Susie.. haha Thanks for your comments, your race report is interesting and a brilliant effort to finish over an hour up on your last attempt. Good work.

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  4. Great report Tracey and congratulations again on a superb run.

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  5. Inspiring report Tracy! Really well done. Mrs Mountford would be proud of you. X

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    1. haha, I've no doubt she would. She inspired me to do well in sport and you taught me to write. Thanks you :)

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  6. Great race report Tracy! and a worthy winner! Well done and hope to see you on the start line for the UTLD 100 next year XX

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  7. Nice words Ian, thanks you. UTLD 100 gulp!!!

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  8. pride swellingly amazing achievement and a nice read too

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  9. Hi Tracey,

    fantastic effort at the LL50 and a deserved win.

    I was chatting to you a few times over the weekend, but didn't get chance to congratulate you in person on the Sunday.

    Well done!

    Rich

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    1. Thanks Rich :) Hope to see you there this year too :)

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  10. That is an inspiring read. Thank you.
    I feel inadequate now. Better get out and train some... :)
    Steve

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