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…)

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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…)