Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

Urban-dwelling, hill seeker with a thirst for endurance. This is just a record of my day-to-day training, the gear I've been using and the inspiration I've found on this year's ultra quest.

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First week in Flagstaff AZ

After a fairly lengthy journey via Philadelphia and an overnight in Phoenix I arrived at Flagstaff ‘basecamp’ this time last week. Not really a holiday believe it or not but a chance to get away from everything and train for a few weeks in new surroundings and maybe with some other runners.

Flagstaff is in Northern Arizona so much cooler than the likes of Phoenix. It sits near the southwestern edge of the Colorado plateau and is home to the biggest Ponderosa Forest in the US (so they tell me). I can confirm there are a lot of trees! The town itself sits at over 2,100m above sea-level, something that the locals seem proud of and I imagine helps to attract a lot of athletes to the area for training. Read the rest of this page »

Refuge in Chamonix

So, you run all the time? If you’re not working you’re normally training or planning races and adventures? So what exactly do you do when it comes to taking a holiday? Well if you’re anything like me you’ll probably want a chance to relax a little, run a little and find some inspiration for the next block of training.

In April that’s exactly what fell into my lap. Nathan had sorted out a booking at the Runners Refuge in Chamonix for a week of trails, nice food and inspiration. It was exactly what I needed at that time, having been through a busy period of work and the same repetitive training routes. I had a few key races coming up and hoped that I’d find something to give me that extra spring in my stride. Read the rest of this page »

UTMB 2014 – heartache and pain

Hi guys, UTMB 2014 was a painful one for me in more ways than one. Loads of you tuned in, wished me luck, tweeted etc and I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down. I’m sorry for that. Anyway, here’s the truth of it. Make up your own mind.

On the first climb of the race the nagging doubts in my head were confirmed. I was tired and my legs were empty. No real strength or response to my demands. I knew then for sure I hadn’t really recovered from the most stressful and busy period of my life at work. Since the WHW race towards the end of June my work at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games went into overdrive. It was all-consuming. I was still determined to train and I made the necessary sacrifices (mostly sleep), squeezing in runs at crazy times (morning marathons at 4am etc) whenever I could. As the Games got closer I was lucky to have any time at all and Games Time itself was almost a complete write off other than the few hours off we got each week (when the last thing you wanted to do was run). By early august I was exhausted and undertrained. I just hoped I’d have enough in the tank and maybe the lack of training might somehow work in my favour. Read the rest of this page »

West Highland Way Race – 2014 (report)

I’ll keep it brief, since it’s been a while since the race.

This time it felt different. Circumstances meant I couldn’t focus so much on the race due to work, certainly not at the same level as the year before. That said, when I could finally confirm I was doing it (last minute) I had trained well and was feeling strong.

Chat before the race was all about Robbie Britton – ‘2013 Ultra-runner of the Year’ in the @ukrunrambles initiative. He’d be fast. He’d run the first sections at record pace and I’d never be able to stick with him. In truth I was happy to hear those statements and to get the chance to see up-close what the hype was all about. Talent and potential don’t account for everything that’s needed in a 100 mile race and where I may be lacking in those I make up in other ways. Read the rest of this page »

British 100K Championships / Anglo Celtic Plate (race review)

I’ll keep it brief.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be racing for my country at the Anglo Celtic Plate 100K and British National Championships in Gravesend.

The 100K road race is a funny one on today’s ultra scene but if you look into the history books (or speak to the human athletics wikipedia A. Stott) it’s a bit of a legendary format – the longest distance road race recognised by British Athletics (sadly). It’s far from my normal cup of tea and if I’m honest I didn’t feel hugely excited about the thought of nearly 50 laps on a 2K tarmac loop coming off the back of an amazing week in the Alps at the Runners Refuge (blog to follow). Don’t get me wrong – it was an honour to represent my country and I wasn’t going to go at it half-heartedly.

UTMB – 2013 (Race review)

Yep, I know. The race was the end of August. But time has just flown past with training, racing and work. So here it is – some words about UTMB 2013.

For anyone who doesn’t know anything about the race it’s probably the premier mountain ultra in the world. Certainly Europe’s most prestigious. All the best ultra-runners normally attend and this year was no different. UTMB is made up of 4 x separate races, 3 of which are solo events: The CCC (just over 50 miles), the TDS (just over 70 miles) and UTMB (just over 100 miles). No fun-runs or relays here. Read the rest of this page »

The Altra Zero Drop – Lone Peak 1.5 (review)

Kit Review

So, the dark nights are actually drawing in. Scrap that. They’ve already drawn in. It’ll be dark, cold and wet runs for the foreseeable future. Not all doom and gloom though, it’s a chance to dig out those merino baselayers, re-proof the gore-tex and get muddy / snowy. Maybe even squeeze in some time to write up some kit reviews! So, let’s start with some footwear.

Altra have recently launched their zero drop shoes in the UK. Read the rest of this page »

24-hour ultra support – the real hard work

NicolaYou asked…..so here it is. The view from the support team on what turned out to be one of the toughest races of my year. In her own words….my sister, Nicola (Vadar). Read the rest of this page »

A Winter WHW trial (08.11.2013)

On Friday I set out on a challenge that was never really meant to be. I had other plans that had been scuppered by circumstances and bad timing’s (a recurring theme for me of late). So rather than do nothing and waste the ambition I decided on a double WHW. Yep, I know, off-the-cuff like that doesn’t quite give that particular challenge enough respect. A fair accusation I guess, but I do know what’s involved in a WHW both in summer and in winter. Read the rest of this page »

Thunder Run 24 – race report (July 2013)

Ok, so I can finally talk about the worst race of my life.

Yep, the Thunder Run 24.

I was actually pretty excited about it as things had been going well after wins at the Kintyre Way and West Highland Way races. This was to be my first ever 24 hour race. I’d really wanted to run the Glenmore 24 the previous year but it clashed with UTMB.

The Thunder Run is an off-road 10K loop with around 150m of ascent per lap. The start / finish area was in the middle of some fields with runners and support crews all camping on-site. When we arrived it felt a lot like a festival without the booze and music. Read the rest of this page »

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