South Downs Way 100

Well where to start? Chris, John & myself were all to make the journey down south from Aviemore to take on our 1st 100 miler in the south of England. John was support crew, whilst Chris & i were to attempt to run it.

Travelling down started at 5am on the Friday & a trip to Inverness airport with a quick flight to Gatwick. Once we boarded the plane & the doors shut we found out that there was to be an hours delay before we took off due to Gatwick being busy, surely Gatwick is always busy?? We eventually arrived down in the big smoke & made our way to the car hire place which ended up being a dodgy back street portacabin with some of Del boys cousins running it. After a lengthy time & having to agree to pay an extra £50 for some ridiculous reason of bringing the car up to European standards we got on our way. We loaded the in car Sat Nav with directions to Southampton & after an unexpected trip to Morrison’s car park (thanks sat nav) we arrived at our hotel. John being the driver quickly nipped to the toilet whilst Chris & myself got out of the car, closed the doors only to find out it automatically locks, so we spent the next few minutes looking at all of our running gear in the locked car & hoping John actually had the key with him?? Thankfully he did & the mini panic could now end.

The following morning started with the alarm going off at 4am, showers, porridge pots & bananas & last minute repacking of race vests. Then a short 15 min journey to the start. We’d already registered the evening before, so it was just a matter of hanging about & soaking up the atmosphere.

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GPS’s enabled, race brief done, good lucks to each other & from John & a see you on the other side & we were off!! As with all races the 1st mile gets carried away with all the excitement & come the 2nd mile you need to reign it in a little as it’s going to be a long day. My plan was & always had been to finish in under 24hrs & i knew various pacing strategies to make this happen, so walk the ups & run the flats & downs at a conservative pace was the plan. After a few miles i heard a familiar voice from behind, it was John Samways who was also running, i had hoped to meet up & run some of the race with John so this was a good start to the day meeting so early. We had a good waffle about training,life,races,work etc etc & we both had a similar race tactic & time goal so we kept together until mile 24. I’d been feeling that the pace we were running was just a little quicker than i wanted to go & the temperature was slowly rising & i was beginning to feel it, so i warned John i’d probably fall back pretty soon, we wished each other well & off he went slowly into the distance.

At this point i was thinking, you’re doing well, keeping an eye on the pace & conscious of the heat & slowing slightly to account for it. I’d meet John at certain checkpoints & as time went on i’d mention the heat more & more to him, i was really wanting to see a river on the side of the trail & jump in! When i’d get chance i’d be soaking my buff & pouring water over my head. I’d plastered myself in sun cream at the last check point only to find a tap just afterwards & try & have a shower in it to cool down then realize i’d just washed off all the sun cream! Doh!! Coming from Aviemore you do most of your running in cold weather & throughout the winter mostly in minus temps, so running in the mid twenties with what seemed an off the scale humidity was causing me some issues & did i bring that cap i thought about bringing? No of course i didn’t! I brought about 4 of everything else but didn’t bother with a cap to keep the sun off did i??

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Pace wise i was still well on track even though i’d been struggling with the heat. I seemed to have a system for the aid stations – fill bottles, 1 with water, 1 with Tailwind, drink a mug of coke, eat some fruit & savoury food as quick as possible, don’t sit down & get going. This was working ok & you’d leave & for the next couple of miles feel good but as the race went on the feeling good time would get shorter & more of a gradual what’s going on with my stomach? would take over. By the mid 40’s miles i was eating less at the stations due to my stomach feeling worse & worse.

I arrived at Washington (mile 54) in 11hrs 19mins which was certainly on the slower end of my schedule. Forced down some pasta that i wasn’t enjoying eating in the slightest, which was a bit of a down moment as i’d originally been looking forward to this checkpoint as it was going to be serving hot food & i like to eat food!! I met John there & was hoping to change my top & sort a couple of things but he didn’t have what i wanted with him & i was starting to get agitated. We met again shortly afterwards at a crew point & by now i was getting paranoid of meeting him at points that aren’t allowed as you can get disqualified for this. So i find myself saying to him i can’t see him at that point as it’s not a designated area (the heat & lack of food were obviously starting to make me not think straight), John points out the 2 marshall’s stood right next to him & 2 others about 10 meters away & they assure me all is good. So i change my top, get my poles & cables for charging my watch on the go, say thanks & head off up a hill.

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I’d been looking forward to getting the poles for some time now as i felt i was going to need as much help as possible. As i’m going up the hill i’m trying to take some food on board as i know i’ve not been eating or drinking enough, but my stomach is in knots, i want to throw up but can’t & every time i try & put anything in my mouth even on the 1st chew i can’t stomach it & stop eating, the same went for the water, as soon as i had even a sip my stomach would be yelling at me saying it didn’t want anything. For some time now as well, when i start to run my stomach gets worse & after a couple of miles from Washington i see a bench, sit on it, work out how far i’ve got to go (44 miles) & work out if i walk a 20 min mile from that point to the finish i’d still have plenty of time before the cut offs. Walking was easier on the stomach than the pain i was feeling when attempting to run. This did mean me accepting that my sub 24 hr was probably out of reach but maybe just walking for a few miles my stomach might calm down & i’d be able to eat & drink again??

It took me 2 & 1/2 hrs to do the 7 miles to the next checkpoint Botolphs & when i got there all i could do was sit on a chair, pour water over my head & ask everyone i saw if they had anything for upset stomachs? Nobody did. I had brought Imodium & paracetamol with me but i’d tried the Imodium & it wasn’t really the right thing. So i’d start popping paracetamol in the hope that might work? The Marshall’s asked if i wanted any food or drink but again i couldn’t face it, so off i went looking at my timing sheet checking the distance to the next checkpoint. It was all about just reaching the next checkpoint by now. I started up the next hill trying to phone John to ask him to get me something, anything to settle my stomach, but either he had no signal or i didn’t. I was weak & swaying side to side trying to get up that hill with only my poles keeping me upright.

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I meet John on top of a hill somewhere, i don’t really know where? I don’t really know what’s happening anymore. He asks me with a serious voice how do i feel as i’m not looking good, i think i tell him i feel like crap. He’d bought me a sandwich from a garage which i force 1/2 of it down before putting on my headtorch & swaying off into the distance. We’d agree to meet at the next checkpoint & i remember saying to John he’d have time for some sleep as it was going to take me a while. Well between Botolphs & Housedean Farm (15 miles) it took me 5 hrs 40 mins to get there. I was a stumbling sideways shuffling wreak at this point. Now somewhere at this stage of having the time of my life an old foot injury decided to come back & say hello. The same injury that stopped me from running for 18 months a couple of years ago, oh the joys!! So it’s pitch black, your’e on your own running on uneven ground in a place you’ve never been before, you haven’t really eaten or drank properly for the past god knows how many hours? You’ve been moving forward for the past 17/18 hrs, so what’s a sensible thing to do? I’ll tell you what isn’t, see a field off to your right go & lie down in it & try & go to sleep! I was totally exhausted, i’d been running on empty for hrs, i hadn’t been able to walk in a straight line for ages, my stomach was still going crazy & now i was limping badly with my right foot swaying to the side & sreeching at me in pain with every step i take, so of course going to sleep for 20 mins in a field in the middle of nowhere will solve everything, won’t it? I lay there for what i think is no more than 10 mins but could have been any amount of time really? I couldn’t get comfortable for some reason & when i decided that this was actually a rubbish idea, i get up feeling really cold & what’s that? I can’t open my left eye! I’ve either been bitten by something or have taken a reaction to whatever i was lying on!! I stumble forward a few hundred meters before stopping to get out some warmer layers from my pack. Some runners go past asking if i’m ok? Yeah i’m fine, just a bit cold, do you have anything for a bad stomach? No? No problem, bye now.

I know how to have a good time eh?

At some point during the evening/night but i can’t remember when? I get invited into a very posh house that’s having a wine tasting evening! It’s a bit bizarre but some very friendly folk invited me in & gave me an Alka Seltzer!

Housedean Farm (i think? though it could have been another checkpoint?) eventually comes into sight, i sit in a seat listen to a very chirpy marshall ask me what can he do to help me? I ask for anything that might settle my stomach but again no. I sit in a seat & watch 2 other runners get loaded into an ambulance & told they aren’t fit to continue. So i try & look as positive as i can eat a small amount & drink a cup of tea before they tell me the same! There’s no way on earth i’m going through all of this not to finish!

I continue on, I’ve now come to look at pacing in a different light, I was working as hard as i possibly could to crack out a 20 min mile & this felt quick!! This goes on for some time, daylight breaks, i wait for the power of the sunrise to give me some extra life, it doesn’t.

I finally make it to the checkpoint with the YHA where i meet John, i tell him about the foot & ask for the deep heat, off comes the shoe & on goes the deep heat & in go more paracetamol & off i go again, i’m just wanting to get this done & not hang about.

Up another hill, down another hill both as slowly as each other, i’ve continued with my sideways shuffle with the foot swaying to one side, my left hip joined in the fun ages ago due to me trying to keep the weight off my right foot. I think it was at this point i started having a conversation/argument with my feet! ‘Why can’t you be like the left foot?? That just does what it’s supposed to do! But no you’ve got to be a pain in the arse & play up again haven’t you??’ This went on for some time…

I’ve started swearing to myself quite a lot by this point ‘keep f***ing moving’ & other such phrases that kept me moving in a forward direction. I’m getting closer now, albeit slowly but i know i’m getting closer to the finish. It’s properly light by now, probably about 8am? I’m doing my shuffle downhill steadying myself with my poles & i see a group of girls obviously on some sort of hike or D of E? They’d stopped to get something out of their packs & i glance across whilst shuffling past & realize I’ve slever dripping out of my mouth as i stumble past!! Oh my god! What must i look like???

The last couple of checkpoints come & go, i keep going past them, i’m on a mission to get to the finish as soon as i possibly can, i’ve lasted this long without food & drink, i don’t need anything now to slow me down! I’m getting a bit emotional at this point, trying to fight back some tears, ‘don’t do it it’s a waste of energy, keep going!!!’

I finally get to the outskirts of Eastbourne, it’s like running through someones back garden down a slim path with nettles everywhere, the path is too slim for me to do my shuffle & i have to put more weight on my foot, ahhhhhh.  You reach the roadside & i see another runner who passed me waiting at the crossing, i think if i cross now i won’t have to wait at the lights, so off i go across what was an empty road only to find a car coming towards me & me having to break into a 3 meter sprint! Ow! Eventually you round the hospital & find the athletics track, there’s people cheering you on & i find myself smiling for the 1st time in ages. The finish did feel pretty special, the whistles & cheers, i was going as quickly as i possibly could right to the line (last mile pace was 22:17 pace but felt like a good 8 seconds quicker!).

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I collected my buckle, my t shirt, shook some hands, had some hugs, met with John, asked how Chris was doing? How did John do? What was his time? Went inside & phoned Ingrid but had to cut the call short as i suddenly felt dreadful. Time to visit the Ambulance dudes waiting in the corner, next thing i’m getting all sorts checked & lying on the floor with my feet raised!

A few days down the line & the foots still bad, but it was all worth it. It’s amazing at what you’re capable of even when everything is against you.

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Bring on the Ring O Fire!!

Chris made it with minutes to spare, & overtook last place with 1/2 mile to go! Well done Chris 🙂

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A decent start to the year.

Well that’s January over with & thankfully after an age of building up the miles & mixing up the training, it looks like the running’s going well (touch wood!).

After a super gradual 2017, 2018’s plans of getting outside loads is working. More mobility exercises, skipping before runs, a bit of homemade yoga funnily enough at home, ski touring (it’s all about the up), swimming & a large dose of determination to get out in some truly horrific weather conditions!

I really need to get back to more regular blogs, as it’s taking me an age to figure out how to insert a picture!!! Finally!

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The winter so far has been Snow, cold temps (-9 in the picture), ice, more ice, bit more snow, slight thaw, 10 ton of ice, eventual total thaw & repeat process for months. On the plus side i’m out running, just dents your enthusiasm when you need to turn into Torvill & Dean whilst wearing a headtorch at 6 in the morning.

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My trusty Inov-8 Roclite 305’s along with some Sealskinz socks and the occasional pair of Kahtoola Microspikes have been the footwear choice for most of the winter. Just a thin long sleeved top & a windshirt have been enough on top, it’s amazing how hot you get even when it’s bloody baltic.

I managed 172 miles of running in January & over 5,000 meters of ascent. Throw in the skiing/swimming etc then it was around about 40 hrs of exercise for the month.

Races planned for the year are the South Downs Way 100 in June, followed by the Ring of Fire beginning of September. The build up will be gradual increase in volume/speed/height etc, a load of Munro’s & generally continuing to mix up the training to help prevent any set backs.

Last September i ran the Grand Tour of Skiddaw, just to see how the progress was going? I finished not particularly quickly but the goal was get to the end, not be injured & be able to drive home! Job done 🙂

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‘To reach my end goal, i need to reassess my short term goal’

.Well it’s been a year since i last blogged on here & about 21 months since i picked up an injury that was to last far longer than i ever expected!

A quick zoom back in time & how the things have gone – 4th July 2015 injured my right foot whilst running the ‘Great Glen’ ultra 70ish miles. Couldn’t walk or stand on it for a while, tried resting/elevating/icing all the usual stuff. Next race i had to pull out of 1/2 way, really shouldn’t have started it but Ultra runners can be a determined bunch of folk. Common sense prevailed & i called it a day after 12 hrs, the thought of continuing for another 12 hrs crossed my mind but i was thinking the potential for long term damage would increase, so my 1st dnf arrived but was to be expected. After not much improvement, a month later a visit to the Dr’s was called for, an x-ray followed coming up with a blank, ‘keep resting it’ was the advise & i was put on a waiting list to see the Orthopaedic dude at the hospital. At this point i’m starting to climb the walls at not getting better. More time went by along with more resting stretching etc etc & no improvement, so another visit to the Dr’s to ask about an MRI? That’ll be an 18 month waiting list for the NHS he said, so unwilling to wait i decide on seeing someone privately, she assessed me & did an Ultrasound scan but couldn’t see anything so suggested an MRI & refers me privately, within about 10 days I’ve had an MRI & become considerably poorer. Results say i have great bone structure & no problems with the muscles, just what you don’t want to hear! I wanted ‘holy crap your foots hanging off, we’ll fix it by doing x, y & z’, not there’s bugger all wrong with it! So more trips to Physio’s, Massages etc & back to the quacks. The Dr this time said ‘you’ll not be able to run to the same level again’ due to the ‘overuse injury’, this didn’t go down too well! I felt like lamping him one! All i’d done was pick up an injury on a run, i’d not stepped on a land mine! Folk get better from far worse things than an ‘overuse injury’!

12 months on the waiting list & i finally get an appointment with Mr Orthopaedic, i’m thinking ‘at last an answer as to what’s actually wrong & how to fix it’ & all i get is ‘your running 3 miles at a time? That’s more than 95% of the population does, you’ll have to be satisfied with that, no more long distances for you’!!! This was the straw that broke the camels back.  To say i’d been feeling a bit shit for some time & struggling with straight forward day to day things was an understatement. Earlier in the year my brother had died & 18 months before that my dad had died, my escape from reality & way of dealing with things (running) had been taken away through an injury that no one could tell me exactly what it was & how to address it. I felt like i was ridiculously frustrated all the time! Another trip to the Dr’s to say i’d not been feeling too great for a while & was told i was suffering from Depression. Well that explained a lot but bloody hell i didn’t have a clue about what i was meant to do? The Dr suggested medication or counselling, i’m not the sort for taking medication if i can help it so reluctantly agreed to counselling. I’d never done anything like this before and really wasn’t looking forward to it, but can honestly say to anyone out there that talking about things really does help & thankfully i feel much much better now for it.

A chance visit to a specialist in Manchester gave some much needed answers, he filmed me on a tread mill, had me doing various exercises & told me all my problems are coming from a weak hip & glute. Sort them & the other issues will sort themselves! Great news at last, though sorting the hip & glute then caused back issues, nothing’s ever simple is it?

What do i want to be able to do? Go for long runs pain free & enter a few races. How do i make that happen? Change my routine.

I thought how to change my running habits. What did i used to do? I’d get up about 5:30am & go for a run most mornings & then longer runs on days off & that was about it. So I’ve stopped that totally. I’ve started running back from work to get some short miles in. I’ll go swimming, a med run & a yoga class on one day off & a longer run on my other day off (still not overly long though at the moment). I still get up early but now i’ll do a mixture of yoga/stretching/strengthening whilst watching TV. Regular trips for a sports massage/physio & i’m definitely feeling as though i’m on the right track. There’s still issues & i’m a bit paranoid about upping my mileage too much but some positive thinking, keep doing what i’m doing & with a bit of luck i might even come back stronger!

Well here’s hoping!!

 

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Here’s for a hopeful April

The start of February started promisingly with 20 miles for the 1st week followed by 30 a week for the next couple of weeks, i was thinking that the slow building of miles was going to lead into ‘normal running’ again. But in mid February i received the news that my brother had died after suffering a long illness with Parkinson’s & Dementia. At the same time i was full of a cold & the injury in my foot seemed to be getting worse again. All of these events led to a reduction in my running, just as i thought i was getting somewhere. I ended up with a total 95 miles for February, which was even less than January! I had been running in Hoka’s for the past month & even though i was surprisingly enjoying them much more than i thought i would, i think the reduction in drop from 8mm to 4mm had aggravated my Achilles & i was experiencing a burning pain where the Achilles attaches at the heel.

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Loch an Eilein

The start of March & i went back to my North Face Ultra Cardiacs & Ultra MT’s both with the 8mm drop, hoping that my Achilles would ease?  1st couple of weeks i ran 25 miles followed by 26 miles but was very conscious that i was still getting pain in the foot, a stiffness over the top were i’d had tendon damage & my Achilles was still painful. I’d started with a personnel trainer at the beginning of March & the plan is to strengthen areas that are weak to reduce the injury’s. I visited the podiatrist & had a cast made of my feet & i’m waiting on some custom footbeds that should help. I also paid for a couple of trips to the physio to see whats what. It appears as if the tendon is still repairing & i’ve picked up Insertional Achilles Tendinopathy. I made the decision to take the next 14 days off running & carried on with the personal trainer & went for mountain bike rides with Jake 🙂 I also cancelled my entry for the Glen Lyon 30 mile race at the beginning of May. March mileage was 74 miles (i’m going backwards!)

I’ve gone for 3 short runs at the beginning of April & i’m feeling fitter than earlier in the year but the stiffness & Achilles are still giving me jip. The footbeds can’t come soon enough. It feels great when i’m out on a run & that’s all i want to do, go for a run! How long is it going to take to get rid of these bloody issues?? It’ll be July again soon enough & that’ll be a year of either no running or consistently interrupted running. Come on April, be kind 🙂

 

 

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January 2016

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Top of Craigellachie

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Top of Craigellachie

After having been laid off with two torn tendons for the 2nd half of 2015, January has been about getting out again, forget times, just get out. Thankfully it’s meant more runs with Jake than ever before & we’ve been hitting the hills.

Week 1 : 3 Runs, 17.2 miles, 848 meters of ascent.

We started the year off with a few trips up Craigellachie (Aviemore) which is a nice 5.7 mile run with 320 meter of ascent (above pictures).

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Top of Carn na h easgainn

Week 2 : 3 runs, 20 miles, 1,286 meters of ascent.

We took a trip up to Moy, to do a circuit of ‘Carn na h easgainn’. We walked anything steep as this is the plan on my gradual comeback, take it easy it’s only January. Getting to the top & back down was straight forward, but when we hit a small road section at the bottom, Jake let it be known road running is not for him, so we took the 1st left over a fence & made our own route, which included fences,streams,deer fences & much discussion as to where we’d left the car! A standard run ended up as a great adventure 🙂

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Jake trying to avoid a huge bog!

Week 3 : 3 runs, 25 miles, 1,077 meters of ascent.

A couple of slippy runs up High Burnside (Aviemore) & a Sunday adventure up Creggan Gorm & Craiggowrie. The snow had certainly arrived & it was just below the waist in places. We managed a couple of pictures before the windchill became too much for my fingers!! -26 Deg windchill up Cairngorm that morning, so it wouldn’t have been much lower where we were, Jake was fine, whereas i was not enjoying the fact i couldn’t feel anything!! Too much trudging but another adventure with Jake to look back on.

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Jake wading through a drift.

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Almost at the top. Loch Morlich in the background.

Week 4 : 4 runs, 27.2 miles, 1,394 meters of ascent.

Jake was either ill or busy with biathlon this week, so i upped the miles a little & headed up High Burnside through deep snow again. I did a run i’d done last week & with the extra snow, the same run took 1hr 15mins longer! Living in Aviemore does mean you have some pretty treacherous conditions to deal with through the winter.

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Fallen trees cover the path.

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Great view.

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Picture postcard.

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Path turning into a river.

A troublesome black toenail finally came off at the end of the month, it was becoming a pain in the backside (not literally!) every time you put a pair of socks on!

It’s been good to be back running, but i’m certainly wary about doing too much too soon, so i’ll continue with a gradual build up in February & hopefully Jake will join me for some more adventures 🙂

January totals : 15 runs, 100 miles & 5,163 meters of ascent.

 

 

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#UTMB CCC (Courmayeur, Champex, Chamonix) 2015

As previously mentioned, training had been non existent due to an injury in the lead up to this race.
I can confirm that a 2 mile run through Chamonix on the Tuesday before the race is surprisingly enough not the best preparation. I was determined to give it a go & see what would happen, after all it’s a long way to go & flights & accommodation were all sorted, so what the hell, get me to the start line!

Registration Queue

Registration Queue

The Shed Sale looking towards Mont Blanc

The Shed Sale looking towards Mont Blanc

Arrived on the Monday with Ally to support again. I’d say Monday to Monday is right amount of time, so you can be as stress free as possible.You get plenty of time to unpack, register, visit the expo & spot a few famous runners. Having done it last year, things ran pretty smoothly & nothing unexpected happened, until we got an email the day before saying there was a weather warning & to expect temps up to 35 degrees! We were advised to carry an extra litre of water, i opted for an extra 500ml & wished i’d listened to the advise. It was insanely hot & i ended up drinking way more than usual. Mental note – listen to the organizers, they know what they’re on about.

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I was in pen 2 at the start, which was better than at the back of pen 3 last year. I used my enormous CCC starting experience & got right to the front of the group & aimed to run quickly until we hit the single track a couple of miles in. The 1st 1/2 mile i’d say i actually ran & didn’t fall too far behind, then it slowly started to go uphill & every man & his dog seemed to pass with ease, i was a little surprised, but thought they were probably a bunch of crazy Europeans who run up hills every day, so just press on & get to the single track. At about mile 2.5 where you leave the tarmac & get to the good stuff, i noticed the pain in my foot (an injury i’d had for almost 2 months & had led to bugger all training in the hope it’d gone away). That’s a little earlier than i was hoping before i thought i might feel it & was glad i’d packed a small chemist shop in my pack to relieve the pain. We got to a small clearing that i remembered from last year, where loads of folk queue & jostle to get down a narrow path, unlike last year where i was very British & waited in line, i just went straight to the front & pushed in (it must have been all the coffee & croissants i’d been eating the days before).

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After a long hard slog with my right foot screaming at me, i got to the top of Tete de la Tronche 23 mins quicker than last year, even though i’d had to stop several times to ease the pain. The lesson there is get to the front of your starting pen & don’t hang around taking it all in, you’ll have plenty of time to ‘take it all in’ later on in the race. Get your arse in gear & make the queues on the single track less populated. It was still busy going up but a marked improvement on being towards the back. Once at the top i discovered i’d forgotten how to run! All i could do was move slowly forward & let folk pass.

The 2nd checkpoint Refuge Bertone, i was 13 minutes ahead of last year, the gap was getting smaller & i knew it wouldn’t last long.

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Things weren’t going as i’d hoped, but i suppose were going as i semi expected. I reached Refuge Bonatti at the same time as last year. I was keeping it consistent, slowing but not massively. I had it in my head at this point ‘you can finish, it’ll just be slower’. At this point there had only been one serious climb & a bit of up & down. It was bloody roasting with the temps between 30-35 degrees, each time you’d pass a stream it would be hat off & put it under the water & splash as much water over your face as you could, hat back on & good to go, if they’d been a pool or river big enough to jump in, then i’m sure it would have been full of sweaty runners.

Not sure how many paracetamol i’d taken at this point, but it was more than i’ve had before in this time scale. Next was the descent to Arnuva, it was at this point that my quads thought they’d make themselves heard, i couldn’t believe it, i was moving like a snail that had been shot & was amazed that so many areas of my body were complaining! I couldn’t tighten my laces as much as i’d like due to the pain across my foot & this meant my toes were banging into the front of my shoes! Bloody hell what is going on!! I got to Arnuva but there was no timing matt & nobody ‘dibbed me’, so i don’t have a time to compare with last year, but i have not doubt it was getting considerably slower.

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Next target, Grand Col Ferret. I set off with 1 1/2 lt of water & i’d eaten whatever was on offer at the aid station. It was baking hot & my foot didn’t like going uphill at all 😦  I’d walked a few hundred meters uphill & stopped & seriously considered going back to the checkpoint & calling it a day, that lasted about 30 seconds & i thought bugger that keep bloody going. I had to stop lots of times to rest the foot going up that hill & even managed to talk a Belgium guy into carrying on, he was literally just about to turn round & head back to Arnuva, but i told him to stick at it & see how he felt at La Fouly, hopefully he made it? I got to the top of Grand Col Ferret 42 mins slower than last year & i was down to 1/2 lt of water. You couldn’t refill any water here & i knew La Fouly was a lot further than the 4km the marshal told me. I started on the down but again couldn’t really run, toes were banging at the front, quads were screaming & my the foot wasn’t playing ball. The regular routine of needing to stop, and have a wee bite to eat & drink was becoming a problem as i was now out of water & ages from La Fouly, no sign of any streams coming down here & i was overheating big time. I ended up sitting by the side, waiting for a UK runner to come by & see if they had any water to spare? One lady did & i managed to get a 100ml off her (thank you!), that went down instantly & i was out of water again. It was at this point i realised this was definitely not going to be my day. I sat there for 10 mins & told myself to get to Champex Lac & stop before i do any long term damage. I didn’t want to stop at La Fouly, i still wanted to push myself but not damage myself for the rest of the year! So with a game plan in mind off i went to La Fouly & arrived 1hr 5min slower than last year. I was surprised but glad to see Ally there & i told him of the plan & that he would actually get some sleep tonight & not have to be on his little bus adventure to various checkpoints.

The moment the decision was made i wasn't going to finish.

The moment the decision was made i wasn’t going to finish.

One of the reasons i wanted to get to Champex Lac was that i’d pass through Praz de Fort, which has got to be one of the most picturesque Swiss villages you could imagine! I loved going through there last year with the unofficial aid stations of locals offering coffee etc & again it was a highlight 🙂 Another reason for destination Champex Lac was that its a major checkpoint with loads of food! I thought if i’m stopping anywhere i’m going to damm well make sure i get my spag bol as soon as i’m done!! The journey from La Fouly to Champex, i took my time, walked lots of it, stopped & took in the fact that i am where i am & savored the moment. I tried to call home & explain to the family what was happening, but typically there was no reception. I didn’t feel too bad with my decision, i was disappointed but having completed it last year, i knew i can do it with the right training & without an injury, this Was the right thing to do.

The last climb up to Champex took ages, each step trying to land my foot flat & not flex it. It was dark & i was glad i got to use my headtorch, i’d carried it far enough & it felt like more of an journey entering the night & not just a disappointing race. I finally reached Champex Lac 2hrs 5mins slower than last year, met Ally & headed straight to the marshal’s to withdraw. It wasn’t a good feeling but it’s one i’d accepted to myself. It would be stupid to carry on through the night putting myself at risk & needlessly causing the organizers a headache with me needing assistance in the middle of nowhere.

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My UTMB dream for next year is over, falling 1 point short due to not finishing, but others doors will open instead & in 2017 i’m going to be better prepared than ever!

After visiting the Dr’s since being back, it looks like i’ve Tendon damage or the foots fractured. Just waiting on x ray results, but hopefully once i know what’s wrong, i can do something positive about fixing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Road to Chamonix

Two weeks to go before the CCC, my A race of the year & a lot hinging on it.

My foot seems to be getting better at an incredibly slow rate! It’s been the most frustrating experience i’ve had since i started running.

Basically this race gets me the final points i need to run the UTMB next year & that’s been my long term goal for the past 3 years. On the 4th of July whilst running the Great Glen Ultra, i injured my right foot. It was bloody sore at the time & i took the following 3 weeks off running to rest it. I did 3 short easy runs with a days gap between them as my 1st runs back, thinking i’d left it long enough. The day after my 3rd run my foot was giving me a fair bit of pain again, but not as bad as when i injured it at the Great Glen. This was a fairly major setback with the CCC looming the following month. That was 3 weeks ago, so i’ve rested it for another 3 weeks & it feels better than it did when i tried running again last time. I’m hoping giving it another week of no running, it might be pain free & i can test a couple of short runs? Or do i wait until a few days before the race & see how it feels?? I’m thinking its probably going to be the later, this would give the foot as much time as i can give it before i run through 3 countries in the alps for probably over 24hrs. The fact i’ll have done no specific training for an incredibly hard race & my foot might explode at any time & i know what’s coming (as i did the race last year), is somewhat playing on my mind. I’ve never not started a race & i’ve never dnf’d either & i don’t want to start now. But things couldn’t really have gone much worse in preparation.

Things were going really well up until the 4th July. My miles & elevation were both up on last year (not massively, but up all the same). I had had a few niggles but the foot wasn’t one of them. I’ve seen a few physios & it sounds like an overuse injury, well it hasn’t had much bloody use lately, so hurry the fuck up & get better!!

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One week to go & i’m now at a stage of no pain walking about for most of the day (can feel it by late afternoon), but if i move my foot in certain directions its noticeable. Iv’e another Physio appointment tomorrow as my last ditch attempt to be as ready as i can be in these circumstances. I’m thinking no running until its either totally pain free even when moving it around or race day, which ever comes 1st! I’m expecting as my best case scenario to hopefully finish albeit in a slower time than last year, but if i was somehow to manage that, then it’ll feel like a huge victory, as long as i don’t cripple myself in the process.

Registration Queue

Registration Queue

It’s the day before race day. I’ve been in Chamonix since Monday & i went for a 20 minute run (1st in over a month) on Tuesday to test the foot out. It felt fine to start with, then a wee niggle mid way through, then i forgot about it. So i’m hoping that’s a good sign? I did contemplate a wee run on Wednesday but was a little too conscious of a slight stiffness from the day before. So i’ve opted for slapping on the deep heat today, then i’m going to tape it up, so it’s as ready as it can be for the morning. Being in Chamonix has taken my mind off my foot thankfully, and i just want to get to the start line & see what happens.

The Shed Sale looking towards Mont Blanc

The Shed Sale looking towards Mont Blanc

We’ve been emailed a weather warning by the organizers. That to me would usually make me think of cold/windy/snowy conditions, but no this ones the opposite! Temps of 35 deg & little wind through the day & cold at night mean they are recommending that everyone carry an extra liter of water, i’ve talked to loads of runners & just about everyone is planning on just carrying the original 1 liter & refilling as often as possible. Decisions decisions, carry an extra liter & have to carry the extra kilo & reorganize how i carry my kit, or go with the flow & make sure i keep my liter topped up? I’m thinking the later due to the 35 deg is going to be at 1000m & i’m going to be much higher than that for most of the time, but i think the sun cream will be layered on & my Lawrence of Arabia hat will be making an appearance again.

The start of the year i was planning on smashing my time from last year, now it’s all about the finish line……

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Take a look at @inov_8’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/inov_8/status/624610434524381184?s=09

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North Face Ultra MT Review

Ultra MT

The 1st things that came to mind when I tried on the new Ultra MT’s were – Protection, Stiff Sole, Tough Upper, Steep Muddy Terrain & a roomy fit with a generous toe box.

I’ve only been for a handful of runs in them so far but I’ve made sure they’ve been tested in the right conditions, they’ve been up through the trees totally off path with a steep incline & they made me smile because it was a route I’d not normally do and they handled it no bother. Next few runs have been up Corbetts, some with a mile or so on well-defined path, then up steep rocky paths, followed by a pure bogfest that leads over boulders & more bogs! Great fun!!

I had thought they’d feel a little clumpy on the flat easy paths, but they were fine & I didn’t have an issue. Going up over rocky terrain they really impressed me, I used to love the older North Face Ultra Guides but my main gripe was when running Munros I’d trash the toes as there wasn’t enough protection from rocks & boulders, well with the new MT’s that’s been addressed & the protection they offer is superb, mainly at the toe & heel areas, but you also get a pretty water resistant ripstop mesh outer that looks & feels as if its built to last, not like on certain other shoes that end up splitting in the upper after just a bit of punishment. When you look inside the shoe you can see they have built lighter mesh panels at the sides of the tongue which will help with breathability. They have incorporated ‘FlashDry’ technology into the shoe which again will help with moisture management.

Feet 2

The laces are pretty thin & made from a tough cord, but as long as you double knot them they don’t work loose.

The overall fit of the shoe is quite roomy, but I prefer having extra room by my toes so when coming downhill my toes don’t bash the front. I have to lace the shoes pretty tight but when I do, there’s no movement inside.

The tongue comes up a little short in length compared to my other shoes but does have a nice padded backer to it.

They have an 8mm drop on the shoe (18mm/10mm) which is quickly becoming the norm nowadays.

Size 8.5 comes in at 300grams per shoe, which isn’t the lightest shoe out there but it’s certainly not heavy & I’d prefer the extra protection this offers & have an extra few grams on my feet, than going all out lightweight & them falling apart too quickly.

The sole itself is a Vibram MegaGrip sole. If you look at the picture above you’ll notice that they have changed the direction of the lugs under the rear of the foot to offer fantastic grip when going up & down in muddy conditions & I can confirm that they love mud!

Feet 1

So as a summary, this is the shoe you need if you are heading into the hills & mountains where you need extra protection. They’ll handle rocks & mud with steep technical terrain till the cows come home! This isn’t for well-groomed easy trails, they want to get off & explore the places where you’ll need the features this shoe offers.

My advice – try them on, if they fit & this is the sort of shoe you’re looking for? Buy them & get out & enjoy them!

Suunto Ambit 3 Peak movie of a run that the North Face Ultra MT took in its stride.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbGBtr-YRo8

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Highland Fling 2015

I’d had a good solid start to the year’s training, getting in more miles/time on feet/elevation than last year & with the fact that i’d done the Fling last year meant i was fairly confident i could get a PB. I had been suffering from certain aches & pains for a while (back/neck & groin) & had visited the Physio a good few times to try & reduce any problems, but i’ve learn’t that one of the best things you can do to help yourself is to be mentally positive & when you need to dig deep, being able to draw on past experiences can get you through anything.

20150424_10494020150424_10450820150424_110131 Kit for this year was only carry things i might need & don’t carry cross over items, so i only took a waterproof, as the forecast was dire (& thankfully wrong) & didn’t take a windshell. I’d moved on to soft flasks rather the bladder that i used last year, i just find them easier to use & refill, but you just have to work out what works best for you. I added an extra dropbag this year, just to give myself options. I didn’t put much in the way of sweet stuff in them (i planned on grabbing anything sweet left at an aid station if i needed it), but did have 500ml bottles of pre made protein shakes ready to fill one of my soft flasks with, as i’d found this to be helpful in the past (sometimes you get fed up with Electrolyte tabs in water).

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Before the start i met up with Frances & Tom from the Cairngorm Runners & we all wished each over luck. Weather wise it was similar to last year with a wee drizzle that didn’t amount to much & within an hour the jacket was off for the day. I managed a quick hello to a few folk at the start & then we were off.

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I ran the 1st section with Ross who was giving his Spiderman out outfit it’s longest test yet in preparation for his West Highland Way Race, he’s raising money for a great cause – https://www.justgiving.com/theultraamazingspiderman.

After Drymen i was looking forward to getting some good views from Conic Hill, as last year it was pretty much in the cloud, this year was much clearer & you could see for miles.

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Coming down Conic Hill

I reached Rowardennan ahead of my projected split time & felt much better than i did at that point last year. This was my first dropbag point & as soon i was given my dropbag by the very efficient & friendly marshal’s, i looked at my watch & made a point of giving myself 5 minutes max to stop, i refilled bottles & ate a selection of food & it was time to go. I split the race into sections in my head, so next stop was Inversnaid in 7 miles, it wasn’t 25.8 miles to go, that never entered my head. I knew it would become more technical and less runable for the next while, but to be honest i enjoyed this section more last year as it was a total surprise to me. I reached Inversnaid 37 minutes up on last years time & seeing as though last year i finished in 11:37 & this year i wanted to break 11, it put me in a confident place. The journey to Beinglas was slow going but i knew it would be & i reached it 56 minutes up on last year. I allowed myself an extra 3 minutes (8 total) to eat & drink, then set off for the final section, i was feeling tired but still better than last year & i’d ran this part of the race in a training run a month or so ago, so what could possibly go wrong? Mile 44 that’s what can go wrong! Boom! All of a sudden i went from understandably tired to hit by a train tired! I had zero energy left & it didn’t matter how many times i’d try to run, within a few meters i’d be walking again. This trip to the ‘Hurt Locker’ lasted for the next 4 miles, physically i was ok, i didn’t have an injury, i was stiff & sore but was suffering from no energy & mentally i was taking a bashing! I didn’t have anything sweet with me to give me a boost, as i’d forgotten to pick anything up at Beinglas as i’d planned. I knew i could finish & i knew i’d beat last years time but i also knew if i walked the rest of the way then sub 11 hrs would be well out of the window. So my next plan was to ask anyone that passed me (of which there were plenty!) if they had any chocolate on them? I just needed to get my energy levels up, i tried eating some of the chew bars i had on me but it was like eating sand & i wasn’t getting the fix i needed. Thankfully ‘Ultra Runners’ are extremely helpful and after receiving a couple of options from a couple of runners i slowly got some energy in the form of little kinder sticks of chocolate, these things are small but it must have taken me 20 mins to eat one! My mouth was so dry even though i had things to drink, it was hard work to eat anything. I was past Cow Poo Ally now & heading up to the highest point, the chocolate started to help a little & i’d told myself to get my arse in gear & get under 11 hrs. The downhills i could handle, i just let gravity do its thing & i even managed to overtake a few folk for the 1st time in ages! But i was still struggling with anything up or flat & i knew the last part was fairly flat. I was back on track if i could just stay away from walking. This is when i gave myself the smallest goals i’d ever given myself. Run to that gate you can do it (tick), run to the sheep, i can’t i’m goosed again, Run to the Fuckin Sheep! (tick), this went on for a while & eventually i’d see the house across the road that means i’m in Tyndrum, then i’d see the gate that leads to the holiday park that leads to the pipers & before you know it you’ve been running non stop for hundreds of meters & you can’t stop now because there’s people clapping & music playing & the red carpet has appeared & you see Tom & friendly faces & you can’t help but smile & soak it all in as you run down the red strip & cross the line 🙂 Screenshot_2015-04-27-10-47-54 11113913_10152820824022215_3717032790340060664_n (1) I finished in 10:48, which was 49 minutes quicker than last year. I was pleased with my time, but know that it could have been better if i could have managed my nutrition better towards the end. It’s all good experience & as long as i learn from it then i can’t ask more than that! Tom & Frances also went on to beat the times they’d set themselves. 10402795_10152820824247215_1236092852704938517_n It’s amazing what journeys you go through with this running m’larky!! This year i’m also running the ‘Great Glen Ultra’ & the ‘CCC’ again & i’m trying to raise money for Parkinson’s UK, this will help lots of people with this disease including my brother – https://www.justgiving.com/Martin-Bell21/ If anyone out there can make even a small donation, it will be greatly appreciated. http://www.movescount.com/moves/move60347203 https://www.strava.com/activities/292809502

10 days after the Fling – recovered well, initially took 6 days off, back to normal running now. Thoughts on race – i think i was affected by the sun later in the race, i was expecting winter but ended up with blue skies & the sun beating down. I was stopping at streams to splash water over my face & head in the last 1/3rd & i don’t think i drank enough electrolytes, maybe worth trying salt tablets?? Also food for thought, have some milky ways for towards the end – a little gooey & should go down ok & Grapes would work really well throughout & more oranges!!

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