Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

Offroad

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. (more…)


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. (more…)


Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) at UTMB – report 2012

The “beautiful” UTMB race by all accounts……

‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.

….sounds like a stroll. Although doesn’t look it:

BRUTAL is how I’d describe it. Don’t let the pitiful 2 qualifying points or the fact it’s ‘only 70+ miles’ give you the impression that this is the ‘easy one’. Nothing at UTMB is easy. (more…)


Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) at UTMB

We’re taking this racing thing International! Plane leaves very early tomorrow morning and I’ll be on it raring to go.

The TDS is part of the UTMB event in Chamonix and is…

‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.
A mountainous event, including numerous sections at altitude (>2,500m), in weather conditions which can be very difficult (night, wind, cold, rain or snow), requiring a very good level of fitness, the appropriate equipment and a real capacity for personal autonomy.’ (more…)


Character building…..

That’s what you call it right? When you’re looking to put some gloss on the latest failure?

Well, since the West Highland Way race end of June, my character has come on leaps and bounds.

Number 1

First up was a Bob Graham Round attempt on the 6th July, 2 weeks after the race. So, no real time for resting, training or tapering. My fault – I knew it was tight but really wanted to try as I had the opportunity to do it with a friend and some other fantastic runners and support. For anyone not familiar with a BGR it’s pretty straightforward: you have 42 Lake District peaks to top in 24 hrs. You set out from Keswick and tackle each of the fells in a specific order, ensuring you return to Keswick not a minute over the 24hrs – doing so is classed as a success. There’s no race, no fanfare just a daunting 26,000ft of ascent along 66 miles of Lakeland terrain (amongst other things). One of those being the weather. Turns out the 6th was one of the worst days I remember from any summer. We had planned a 6pm start and looking back, the signs were all there – it was wet, it was windy and looked ominous. (more…)


West Highland Way Race Report – 2012

The ‘Big One’

Can’t believe I’m writing my report already. It’s done. It’s gone for another year and already I’m dreading the long wait for its return. I love the West Highland Way race. There, I said it. There is always a drama, there are times when you’d choose to be anywhere else in the world but for now at least, it feels like a home-race.

I won’t go in to all the details – there are a lot of other reports for you to get through and you’ve probably heard most of the same stuff from me for a while. In short, training had been good, taper was pretty straightforward and I was more organised than the year before thanks to all we had learned on my first WHW race. I arrived in Milngavie feeling good but perhaps not as confident as I had hoped having pulled out of the Cateran Ultra after 20 miles or so due to stomach problems. It was an emotional exit having won it the year before and had been extra stoked by the fantastic line-up of talent on the day. It wasn’t to be though – so had to try to put it to the back of my mind.

(more…)


Kit of the Month – March (more minimal shoes!)

The New Balance Minimus MT-00

I’ve been a fan of the Minimus MT-10 for a while. From the first time I ditched the socks and took off onto a Lakeland trail I had a really good feeling about them. Yeah, that day the trails were smooth, the ground was dry and I was basking in an unexpected week of British sunshine before the official start of winter. Good times. Since then I have had them back home on some rougher (and wetter) Scottish trails where they’ve performed well although with a couple of small issues (details to follow).

Overall the MT-00 is lighter and a touch more ‘minimal’ than its older brother.  As the name suggests, it’s a zero-drop shoe vs. the previous 4mm drop on the MT-10. Not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things – it’s the weight difference that feels more drastic than the differential balancing.The NB designers have clearly gone crazy with a scalpel and removed most of the rubber from between the circular pods making the sole not only lighter but much more flexible. As the pods appear much more pronounced as a result of the cut-back’s, they feel grippier too – the MT-10’s had very little on wet grass / mud. The rubber compound also feels different – they’re definitely stickier, making them at home over rocks and hard trails. They also feel decent on the road although I think they’d wear super-quick vs some of the other barefoot road shoes (like the New Balance MR-00). (more…)


The Wasdale Warriors – running in the Lakes

Well, it’s been a while. It’s February already so I guess it’s time to crawl out of my cardboard box, escape the warm corner of the shed and dust off those well worked 2011 reptilian running legs.

2011 was a cracker. 2012 is gonna be even better!

Last weekend I met up with some fine people in the Lakes to run over some hills, eat, sleep and run some more. That was the plan anyway, and that’s pretty much what happened. (more…)


It stayed dry on the West Highland Way

….and it wasn’t even Highland Fling Day!

Had a cracking run last Friday. Weather (from nowhere) turned, and it was a fantastic blue-sky day for running across some familiar but inspiring trails.

I parked up in Drymen, and took the WHW over Conic Hill to Balmaha. From there it was on to my most dreaded section of WHW to Rowardennan. I don’t really know why – the trail itself is good, the views are great. It just always feels much longer than it is whenever I’ve run it (and particularly in a race).

At Rowardennan there was something missing (other than the wee toilets – what happened to them?). Took me a while to work it out…..Midges! No midges and the sun was out – all very strange. From there I headed up Ben Lomond.

Being a Friday the Ben wasn’t too busy, passing only a few walkers on the way up. Being the closest Munro to Glasgow it does get it’s fair share of visitors ‘fae the toon’. On a clear day though it does have some spectacular views from the top. (more…)


Running in Lake District – Coledale Horseshoe

After the River Ayr Way race, it was home for a bath and some food, then pack some stuff for a few days in the Lake District with family.

We were so lucky with the weather and managed a few decent walks as well as some time relaxing and reading.

I also managed to get few runs in. The Coledale Horseshoe looked good on paper and didn’t disappoint. The route starts in Braithwaite. You can park beside the school easy enough (particularly if it’s before sun-up!).

Follow the road towards Cockermouth, passing a couple of paths both sides of the road to a small car park on the left (I guess you might be able to park there – it’s small though and probably fills up quick). The Grisedale path is marked and immediately starts with some fairly steep steps. Me being me, I blindly took the other path for a mile until I realised I’d gone the wrong way.  Turns out it was worth it anyway as the sun delivered a morning treat.

Grisedale Pike is pretty runnable although steep in parts and rocky underfoot, making a mis-judged step a potential sore-one. Near the top it’s hands on thighs stuff for a while.

From there I headed on over an ‘unamed peak’ (according to the guidebook) to Hopegill Head – again all runnable.

Then a quick left over Sand Hill and onto the saddle of Coledale Hause. From there it’s a really pleasant trail until you reach a junction. I chose to go right first and head up onto Grassmoor for some amazing views over Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere. (more…)


Last of the SUMS – River Ayr Way Ultra

Well, I can’t believe it’s the September weekend already! It’s crazy just how quick this year has passed. We haven’t exactly had a summer to remember in Scotland but I guess we’re used to it.

Tomorrow is the final race in the Scottish Ultra Marathon series (SUMS) – The River Ayr Way Challenge (RAW). 41ish miles (more…)


The Speyside Way Ultra – Race Report 2011

Tummy trouble

I was supposed to race the Devil ‘o the Highlands a few weeks before this but stomach problems meant that I couldn’t start. Was pretty gutted. Felt like I’d run out of luck as I’d had gastroenteritis just before GEDM earlier in the year.

So, next thing to focus on was the Speyside Ultra (part of the SUMS series). My folks had booked a cottage up in Buckie so we were all looking forward to a mini-break. My training since missing the Devil had gone pretty well and into race week I tapered and increased the carb intake from the middle of the week. On Thursday it appeared to strike again and I had the worst stomach (I won’t go into details) and the realisation that as well as an underlying issue I must be doing this to myself. I think I know what it is now so if anything, that’s a step forward (and another post). I couldn’t drive up on the Thursday as planned as I needed to be near a toilet so I set out on the 4.5hr drive on Friday with a decent supply of immodium.

The rest of the day was spent trying to get sorted – boiled rice, bananas, trip to the chemist. It wasn’t great and the stress of trying to get myself fit for the race probably wasn’t helping. (more…)


Running in Good Company

A pleasant change.

On Sunday I did something I haven’t really done before. I ran with someone! Well, not just ‘someone’, but the one and only John Kynaston. We live only a few minutes apart and arranged to meet up early Sunday morning. We headed up onto the Braes (Gleniffer) chatting our way through 11miles of up’s and down’s. John has such an obvious passion for running and his ultra experience is remarkable. It was a real pleasure to listen to some of his stories and his general thoughts on running. I was just disappointed when it was over.

It was a fitting end to a hard week of training and hope to do it again soon.

If you don’t already follow it, check out John’s blog here – it’s one of the best.

Taper-time now. Have a good week.

Paul


Keen? A lightweight minimalist trail runner – Review

Like many other runners I have a somewhat unhealthy interest in shoes. My casual trainer ‘collection’ for years has been spilling out of the wardrobe. Whilst I don’t own lots of running shoes I am obsessed with finding the perfect shoe as well as having options for various conditions, distances and terrain for both racing and training. (more…)


West Highland Way Race Report – 2011

The West Highland Way Race 2011

Where to start? It’s such a long race, and so much happens over 95 miles (or more). This was my first long ultra in my first season racing. It wasn’t  in the plan for this year but I couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose.

Anyway – get on with it.

We arrived at Milngavie just after 11.00pm and the car-park was almost full. It had rained in Glasgow all day. Heavily. But as we walked up to register in the church hall it stopped and almost felt warm. There was an atmosphere around the place of nervousness, excitement and anticipation – what would lie ahead for all runners and support teams?

I registered without any hassle – “enjoy it” was the parting remark. Hmmmm. Off to be weighed and within minutes we were back in the car with almost 2 hours to kill. This was tough. I was desperate to just get going. To finally forget about the tedious planning and prep of food, drinks, times, meeting points, sleep times, clothes, blah, blah, blah. I was desperate to get on with the running bit – to finally feel my legs moving under me and some wind in my face after a week-long taper. I hadn’t run more than 5 miles at a time over the last week and wanted to be reassured that I’d still remember how!

I sat in the front seat of the car – my crew left me alone with my thoughts. They sat on some deck-chairs and drank tea in a carpark close to midnight – the whole thing was bizarre. I felt pretty confident, just ached for the clock to get closer to 12.30 and I could commence the pre-race sock / running shoe ritual.

There was a race briefing 20 mins before the start. There were so many people around I couldn’t really hear what was being said. Next thing I knew I was saying my goodbye’s to my Support and making my way to the front of the startline. It was quite a sight – 150 or so runners all ready to do battle with whatever the WHW would throw at them over the next day. (more…)


West Highland Way Race – it’s here!

Well, can’t believe it. The #WHWrace is actually here! In about 11hours, 160 or so runners will leave Milngavie in the hope of conquering Scotland’s famous trail all the way to Fort William.

It’s looking like it’s going to be a wet race. It hasn’t really stopped all day, so another clothes change might be required! I guess that’s the beauty of a challenge like this – you could know the course like the back of your hand, have trained impeccably, prepared 15 food options but ultimately there’s a huge “Unknown” on the trail for most people……a stomach that gives up holding food, a trip and fall, blistering, a tendon snap….the “Unknown” can strike at any time – and that’s part of the buzz. Getting through it.

Despite being a very late entrant I’ve been keen to get going for the last few days. Yes, I would have changed my training, yes I could be better prepared but I’m feeling good and (so far) am glad to be part of it.

Good luck to all the runners and support teams – it’s such a commitment from everyone and I hope you find what you’re looking for from it.

My sister will be doing twitter updates as usual (@lilacswizzle). Heck, she might even pass on some messages if you keep them clean!  My sister is heading up my support crew with my folks so if you see them have a chat – they like to talk!


The support of an ultra runner

GUEST POST by my sister Nicola!!!

A day in the life of an ultra marathon support person……

On Saturday 21st May my brother raced his third ever ultra marathon, The Cateran Trail 55 and until a few months ago I must admit I had never really heard much about ultras, SUMS,  Jezz Bragg etc etc. I mean it was only last year that the boy actually starting running seriously (and did a few 10k races). (more…)


The Cateran Ultramarathon – race report

This was a race I had never planned to do. It was only a few days after the Highland Fling that my sister asked me what the next race was going to be “there’s the Cateran run but I guess it’s only a few weeks away – too soon probably.”

Without meaning it, a small seed had been planted and as I started to recover from the Fling I looked into the race details…. (more…)


The night before – Cateran Trail ultramarathon race

Just a quick post. All settled in Hotel, about 20mins drive away. Registered already and can’t wait to get started.

My sis will be tweeting updates @lilacswizzle

Thanks for all your support.


My first Highland Fling (2011 Ultra)

I had run / cycled / walked quite a bit of the West Highland Way in the past and on the Saturday before the Fling I wanted to get one final long run in. As some of you will know I had to miss the GEDM race a few weeks before due to sickness and it had knocked my confidence quite a bit, especially as the training had suffered. So I decided I needed a decent long run and a week before the race seemed a good time to try out some of the course. It would hopefully (read on)