With the race being my focus this year I thought it would be good to capture some of the build-up in the form of moving pictures on the old YouTuber.
Let me know what you think – this is the first episode. More on my YouTube channel. Please subscribe there if you fancy seeing some more as race day gets closer.
Join me as I meet the locals, discover unmarked trails, run some mountains, rest, recover and train again.
I was nervous. But I wasn’t scared.
I ran hard. But I didn’t ‘best’ people.
I won. But I didn’t crush others.
That’s where I differ. I don’t think I’m the greatest. I’m no bullet train. and I don’t walk across fire. (more…)
It’s been a while.
It was a race I hadn’t really planned to do with the IAU WorldTrail Champs being only a few weeks earlier. Lots of sensible reasons not to. But racing isn’t as cold as that for me. Things aren’t black and white.
I don’t race to strict heart rate zones. Sometimes I run sections hard because it feels good. Sometimes I slow because I feel like it, and I can (or simply that I have to). Sometimes I make mistakes. Other times it comes good. It’s a race. Not a time trial. And sometimes you make racing decisions that you’ll live with, good or bad. (more…)
4.00am and I’m leaving a hotel in the dark on an island off the coast of Holland. It was pretty chilly and my stomach was at its limit after the food assault that commenced from 2.15am when my alarm woke me from that familiar disturbed pre-race sleep. I was in Texel to race 120KM around the island and back – an event that’s been running for over 25 years and one of the best in Holland.
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, 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. (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.
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…)
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. (more…)
There are loads of great blogs written already about this year’s race and hundreds more from earlier races so rather than cover most of the same I thought I’d be better just trying to answer the actual questions I’ve been asked most often since I made it to Fort William……..and…….won the WHW race (still feel slightly awkward saying that). The other bit is even more awkward! (more…)
The Anglo Celtic Plate was a race I enjoyed more than I thought I would. The recovery however took longer than I expected. I took a few days off then started running again. I was desperate to get back into the hills after a month or so of training mostly on road (a challenge in itself). Less than a week after the race I took my chance and hit a fairly rough trail for a 25-miler. By mile 22 I had developed a serious pain in my knee and had to walk / shuffle the last few miles. I was worried but thought it was probably just a strain from the uneven surfaces after the relentless pounding of a road ultra. In short, I had done some kind of ligament damage probably just from doing too much and not allowing enough recovery time. So I was worried about the Fling as I couldn’t commit to much training before it. It was only weeks away. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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.
First race of the season was the D33 in Aberdeen (March 17th). Just 12 months before, it was the first ultra I’d ever run and I was excited to see if I was now running better after a full season of racing. Turns out the second time at the race was no less significant but for different reasons entirely. As the title suggests this is the first race I’ve DNF’d. The dreaded stomach issues were with me the night before and didn’t get much better after breakfast. I thought I’d be fine when I started running so stuck very much with the plan and set out at a decent pace. The pressure / pain in my stomach wouldn’t shift however and after 20 miles or so, I couldn’t race any longer – I couldn’t chase the 2 in front and I couldn’t hold off those behind. (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…)
Weather – perfect
Turnout – excellent
Scenery – stunning
Pretty much all the ingredients were there for a great race through the Glen and back. Due to the higher than expected numbers the route was changed at the start which meant a couple of extra up’s and down’s on some forest track. Better than the planned road start any day!
I have a place at the Beacons Ultra on the 19th November if anyone fancies it? Entry closed weeks ago as it’s a pretty popular race. I’m not going to be able to make it now. Looks like a cracking race. Entry was £40 – yours for £35. Just give me a shout if you fancy it. Go on!!
Nice way to finish the season.
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.
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…)
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…)
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!
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…)
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…)