Sunday, 7 August 2016

Last of the back to back days in the mountains before the feet come off the pedal (or rock). The CCC is fast approaching and training has been consistent and productive. Here are some of the comments made by Joe Public as a trail runner passes on a busy Snowdon's Llanberris path:

"she's stupid or mad"
"they should carry bells"
"I keep getting paranoid that a runner is coming up behind me"
"where are your ski's"

Here's what you hear on the way up to Yr Aron:

Press here

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Scafell Pike Trail Marathon

It's the height of British summer time, so the weekend weather of constant rain, blustery winds and grim grey weather was of no surprise. I'd entered the Scarfell Pike Trail Marathon ad hoc and consequently had no expectations. Over the previous couple of weeks, I was still feeling Zugspitz in my legs and so treating the Trail Marathon as a training run seem pretty sensible. 

It's a 27 mile race with approximately 1700m of ascent in the Lake District. In fact, Scafell Pike is England's highest mountain and I was excited to be racing to the summit and back down.

 There was plenty of chance to warm up as the first few miles are flat following the trails along Derwent water and a chance to find and settle into you pace, just before a change in tempo as the climbing starts through Borrowdale. A short taster to get the calves working and ready for Scafell. The weather proved testing, causing the rocks to be greasy and every opportunity to slip and slide your way to the summit. Anyone who is familiar with Scarfell Pike, will know of the corridor route with the boulders and the technical terrain nearer the top which is pretty incessant. I took a total of four falls during the course of the race, the most epic being on the drop off the summit in the boulder field. It shook my confidence on the rock and in the shoes that I was wearing, so I gingerly limped my way off the mountain for 15 mins before the pain and fear subsided. I managed, eventually, to get into my groove again, yet I had lost a lot of time. It is a difficult descent passing broad crag and heading for Esk Hause and Sty head. The difficulty is with the changing terrain and simply not being able to get complacent or take your eye off the ground. It's the English mountains at their best, there is nothing manicured about the tracks and limited obvious path at times. The race requires some navigation on the way up, over and off the summit, however the marshals had helpfully put a few flags en route as the clag was down which meant some of the mental work alleviated and folk could concentrate on staying upright in the wind, up on feet on the boulders and move quick enough so as not to develop hypothermia. Ok Ok, I may be being dramatic here! 

I believed I'd lost so much time that I was soon to be caught by the ladies behind, so I resigned myself to my fate and was happy to have not sustained any serious injuries, reminded myself it was a training run and enjoyed the rest of my time on the course. Beautiful forest, running alongside waters edges, paths, roads, tracks and grateful that I was feeling fresh enough to keep plodding on wards. 

There is a sting in the tail in this race up to Watendlath so if you've left it all on Scafell then you'll struggle over the last hour or so on the approach to the finish. I think my time lost earlier through superficial injuries had in fact, ensured that I didn't push it too hard too early and found that I had plenty left to push on over the latter stages. 

I was shocked to have finished first lady given my attitude to it being a training race and certainly had not expected to win. I'm not going to complain, the trophy is amazing, it's a firm reminder of the rocks that I had been breaking my neck on all day long. 

Super race High Terrain events
Thanks Raidlight UK for supplying my trusty kit
And a special thanks to My coach Martin for your wise and trusted knowledge

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Comedy in Ultrarunning

I first met Nadeem in 2013, at the IAU world championships in Wales UK. Who is this guy? Well, he's a member of the committee for the International Association of Ultra Runners (IAU). His primary role is the director of communications (among others) and he's certainly a character to spend some time communicating with as he's a warm, welcoming and modest individual. He's also knows a think or two about ultra running given that he's ran twice for Canada in the 24 hour World Championships (Taipei in 2006 and Drummondville in 2007).  I was lucky to catch him during his visit to Manchester in the UK this weekend as he's usually based in Canada.

So, what is the IAU?
Simply put, it's an association that is focused on developing Ultradistance running internationally within the IAAF rules and regulations. It aims to promote and develop long distance running world wide.

There is no doubt that ultra running has experienced a BOOM and more and more folk are discovering the beauty of the sport, particularly the trail running within the sport. For what is 'hot', races, news and general up to date what's occurring in the international world of the sport, then it's certainly worth a visit to the site and peruse at your leisure. International Association of Ultra Runners

We spend some time at the local comedy club, Ultra runners share a wonderful mentality, no matter your individuality and diversity there is a knowing and understanding that only UR share, Joe Blogs struggles to 'get it' at best. I'm wasn't sure if the crude (and funny for us locals) Manchester comedy scene is ready for the USA sense of humor, however, it was great to see Nadeem enjoying some nostalgic comedy and enjoying his experience.

Thank you Comedy Store Manchester for a great evening and IAU for supporting and promoting the Sport.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Rain Run

Completed my first long run since Zugspitz today. There were no mountains and it was a pretty uneventful flat and easy canal towpath for an easy 80 min run.

What I adored about this run was the rain! Why? Well, there are a few great reasons for enjoying rain runs. Firstly, the rain clears all the public places outdoors of folk who would rather stay dry in comfort of their homes. Which means there is less people dodging and a more peaceful run. Secondly, once wet, I don't notice the rain, it spices the run up and I stay cooler. I loved this run, just over 9 and half miles, an easy recovery, happy run. Keep at it folks.


Zugspitz stands a proud 2962m and is the highest peak in the Wesserstein mountains in Germany, in fact, it's the highest Mountain in Germany. I was looking forward to my first visit to the country and to running in the Salomon Supertrail XL, one of 5 races organised by Plan B events on the 18th June 2016. The Supertrail XL is 81.4 (ish) km with 4131m (ish) of ascent.

 It was an early start getting from Oberau to Ehwald. However all went well and I was standing on the start line with minutes to spare. I had an objective, it was to run as well as I could under the circumstances. The circumstances were that I was barely a week after catching a cold which had rendered me to my bed for three days in the previous days and further the death of my grandfather., I couldn't put either of these factors on hold and so it was with a heavy, stuffy head and chest and a heavy heart that I was waiting for the countdown at the start.

Never encountered before, writing race numbers on the food you carry including gels etc, so any litter dropping and you can be identified as the litter bug, brilliant (albeit, there are the odd occasions when it's an oblivious accident (accepted)).

The race panned out ok, there are three big climbs, two at the beginning and the last at the end with a period of rest-bite in the middle where there was the opportunity for some faster running alongside a river for about 10k. I had one pace when climbing and so using poles I hiked my climbs with some gusto and then steadily tackled the descents on the first two climbs. The two leading ladies had proved consistently steady and consistently travelling slightly faster than myself. They maintained that pace and it wasn't long (about two hours in) that I never saw them again. I held on to the belief however, that anything can happen in a race and it's right to focus on how I was feeling and not concern myself with who was in front or behind.

The weather was perfect and to be fair, I felt ok throughout in between the clearing of mucus. Some stomach issues as I was drinking more fluid that usual, so that was sitting heavy on the stomach. The variety of savory checkpoint fodder was great (as usual in these European races) so there was no issue with feeling sickly from eating jelly babies or flapjack. I maintained a steady pace and on the approach to the last climb I wanted to leave everything I had left on that last mountain. However, I still held back, I am unsure why, I was telling myself that I'd save it for the descent, and yet, on the descent there was still some tentativeness, as a result I finished the race fresher than I would have liked. I can't complain nonetheless, I made a podium finish in third place in spite of the adversity pre race, and i know my grandfather would have been so so proud of me. I am going to miss the old man.

My time was 11 hours and 50 mins (59 secs) pretty ok for someone who ticks over on canal tow path in Stoke. I used superlight and technical kit provided by Raidlight UK, including:

Gilet responsive 8l race vest
Cuissard Easy Trail Shorts
Raidlight Made in France T shirt
Raidlight cup (you carry your own quite rightly)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

It's a Grand day in the Pyrenees.

I've been anchoring over the last year to get some European mountain experience and certainly been having a turbulent journey in doing so. Not least is that I've found that these mountains highlight all inadequacy's that the mountains in the UK can hide. Yet, in spite of the knocks I'm enjoying every lousy, hard, pretty, painful, revealing adventure along the way. With three ultras in France over the last three months I'd say I'm finally starting to learn a few things.

This weekend I embarked upon the Les Grand Raid Pyrenees race, encouraged and supported by team Raidlight UK (thanks Team Raidlight). The GRP course boasts 10,000 metres of total ascent over 160 km, my 100 mile debut, whahay, small problem, I'd not been near a hill for six weeks, since Mont Blanc 80km. How arrogant to think I could get away with that.

But get away with it I did, for about 10hrs. I had a stormer, pacing well, fuelling great and in spite of sizzling sun, under the circumstances I managed to keep hydrated (see earlier comments about learning along the way) and kept any stomach issues at bay.

The calamity started after about ten hrs. I inadvertently used a boulder as a football, causing too much pain, hematoma, ripped an already loose toe nail and forced it into it's bed, at the first opportunity I managed to get some hillside first aid. Subsequently I was over compensating with foot placement to protect my foot (toe) created no end of blisters etc, boring details. I started with pain relief and sought the assistance of the Podo's at the aid stations. Those crazies were happy to examine, cringe and pad my toe and other ailments of the feet each and every time. Thanks so much for the time that you dedicated to helping get me as far as you did Podo's. Unfortunately the aid that I needed coupled with the pain I was managing meant far too much time in the checkpoints and for me the race was over. Now it was about getting to the end in a relatively ok piece.

Of course it was only a matter of time before it got messy. No more pain relief left me hopping the descents gingerly. No way to finish a debut I guess. I took the decision to pull out after 120km. I'm a light weight and fickle you'll know this by now, I couldn't find the reason to climb the last hill as I know that it would have taken me about six hours to get off it. I simply could not descent with the pain in the toe, well not with any kind of normal walking or running gait that's for sure.

 I simply can't wait to get back out there and get all of the right ingredients in the pot to evidence my determination. In spite of my disappointment at another DNF, on another level, I feel that I am learning and that soon enough my hard work, perseverance and knowledge will come to fruition. What's the rush?

 Huge well done to the British contingency , especially Digby Harris for a perfectly executed and well earned 10th place. What a phenomenal runner you are.

Some things I recall and a few nuggets I've learnt in no particular order other than the first:

1.Laying down in the middle of the night on the side of a mountain, looking up and seeing the most. amazing sea of stars, I couldn't move, didn't want to move.
2. Pacing is everything
3. Eating salty food when dehydrated prolongs re hydration (obvious but difficult when you want soup)
4. Je ne parlez pas Francaise
5. Ca va
6. D'accord
7. I love running in nice weather
8. Lac Bleu is the most colorful body of water I've seen for years.
9. The further the better.
10. I'm a stronger uphill runner than I've been telling myself.
11. Running through the night is the most peaceful experience, until you stumble across someone's turd on the narrow trail.
12. The Pyrenees are breath taking.
13. The support and encouragement by locals around the race course is unmatched.
14. My Raidlight ultra race vest was like a second skin, not a mark anywhere after 28 hrs, genius.
14. You cannot not train on mountains and hills and expect to do well in mountain races.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Raidlight's Olmo5

Olmo 5

At first blush, you may be forgiven in thinking "there's just so much going on with this pack".

There are so many pockets, storage, nooks and crannies. I decided to give it a run for it's money during the Mont Blanc 80k race this weekend. The pack sits rather high however the reasoning becomes clear with you pack your water bottles in the perfectly positioned front pockets on the straps. I don't use bladders, I use soft flasks. Raidlight's 500ml are an example of ones that can be used, however any soft flask will fit as I used an INOV8 one in one pocket and the Raidlight in the other. 

Practically, this little gem meant that at no point did I have to take it off. What? How can this be possible over 20 hours. Well, everything i needed was at the front of the pack or in accessible within reach compartments. My essential kit list was stored in the back,waterproofs, emergency blanket etc, the kind of stuff that you are likely not to use throughout the run unless a change in weather for example. So food, gels, water, head torch, arm warmers and all the little trinkets had been compartmentalised at the front. But not just at the front of this pack. There is a little secret about this pack and it's wonderful. If you reach behind you to the base of the pack, there is a zip, open it, and there is a huge storage compartment enough to fit, jacket, head torch, gloves, it's what sold the product to me. 

Once you have got to grips where you have stored what you begin to realise the other features. Again, there are many little quirks with the Olmo 5. Are you a pole user? Well you have a choice where to pop your poles when not in use. At the front, yeap, that's right at the front, or if you don't think you'll be using them but want to have them with you, how about the traditional, across the back placement. 

The only feature that I struggled with was the zip pocket on the side of the pack. again a spacious storage space, however once open I found that I couldn't reach the zipper again to close the darn thing. Probably need to put something in this pocket that you are not likely to want to be retrieving to often throughout your run. The Olmo5 is packed with other little quirky features, I'll let you discover these.

Importantly, after 20 hours, no chaffing. Not even a red mark or a burn, the kind that you usually only find you have when in the shower post run. A comfortable fit and a thumbs up for this tardis 5 litre pack

Thank you Raidlight.