Yeah, a little late with this one. Still for the sake of consistency, a quick report from the World Trail Champs.
Race start was a pretty awkward time. 3:30am from the lakeside in Annecy. The GB team were staying about a 20 min drive away with a few of the other nations, so it meant a pretty early start (to force down some breakfast) and get on the bus to the start / finish area. It was almost not worth bothering to sleep with the usual nerves and list of things to remember. (more…)
Taking a trip
I’d wanted my first race of the season to be a challenge and it certainly delivered. I somehow had it in my head when I entered months before that it was pretty tough – but maybe just 4,500m ascent tough (with 127KM). I hadn’t fully registered the course profile until much closer to the race – a fairly technical 8,500m of ascent (and returns). (more…)
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.
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.
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…)
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 vivobarefoot Ultra
Now, this is a no-nonsense shoe in terms of build. It has no midsole, no arch support, it’s zero-drop and maybe has 4-6mm of ‘puncture resistant’ material to protect those soft ultra feet. The upper has holes all over and the laces are elastic. So, all in all, not your regular running shoe.
Vivobarefoot pitch this as an ‘amphibious’ off-road barefoot shoe. This I think is what has destined them for the sale rack (not that I’m complaining). It didn’t review particularly well when launched and in my view that’s because it doesn’t really belong anywhere near a trail. (more…)
….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…)
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…)
I’ll keep it short.
Weather turned out pretty decent following the heavy rain on the Friday. Arrived at Glenbuck in plenty of time, registered and chatted to some friendly faces. Got ready to race – warmed up, then just hung about until they finally managed to gather everyone and start the race around 20mins late.
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…)
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…)
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)
Wooohooo, look what arrived tonight – some new road shoes! (Saucony Progrid Kinvara).
I’m a big fan of the Nike Lunaracer but I’ve been getting less than 12 weeks out of them. I normally use them for my morning 10K’s and the longer 50K+’s at the weekend. Never run in Saucony before but after a series of let-downs by a large online sports retailer they offered me a good deal on these. Full review to follow….(is it too late to go for a run now?)
Anyone Saucony fans out there?
I had big plans for Thursday. Needed to use some holiday so thought it would be a good idea to get a tough session in before next weeks race. Would give me plenty time for recovery too.
So throughout Wednesday I formulated a plan. With us now officially in BST and with a week of half-decent weather behind us I thought it would be good to run part of the West Highland Way – the 53-mile Highland Fling route from Milngavie to Tyndrum read on
Well, following my first race on the 19th March – the D33, plan was to have a lighter training week than normal. Whilst I generally run at least those distances at the weekend I did feel pretty tired all week – felt like I was wearing someone else’s legs for a while. It did stress me out a little but I guess it’s another lesson learned – racing is harder than training (doh!).
So, this week, I cut the mileage a little read on
Saturday was meant to be my last long’ish run before Race day 1 next Saturday – a short ultra. So, plan was at least a few hours at a relatively decent pace. It’s been a heavy week of running and that would put a tidy lid on a successful week. Woke up to this however… read on
I’ve been putting in the miles of late in preparation for a few races – averaging between 100 – 150K per week. Body is holding up well – trouble is, I’m going through running shoes fairly quickly, particularly the lightweight shoes that I love to run in. These racing flats are used on the early morning training runs as well as the long weekend slogs.
So, I finally thought it would be wise to also introduce a more ‘traditional’ running shoe into my week. If I could find a reasonably lightweight neutral shoe it might also be better for some of the more straightforward trails (with the more aggressive /grippy sole).
Now, the manufacturers are constantly revising and ‘improving’ their offerings. New soles, new materials, new colourways. BUT, the models that came out 2 or 3 years ago were ‘cutting edge’ so surely they can’t all-of-a-sudden be useless? Can they? Read on