‘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.

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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!

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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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CCC (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix)

 

THE NORTH FACE® ULTRA-TRAIL DU MONT-BLANC – CCC

 

Two years of training & it was finally here.

I’d managed to train as hard as i could for this race & could only hope it was enough, as i’d never tackled anything quite like this before. As it turned out i think i got the training bang on, getting up at 5am most mornings for a full year beforehand & going out no matter what the weather threw at you definitely helps build a spot of stamina & a summer of Munro bagging is certainly what’s needed to complete a race like this.

I’d had the usual aches & pains & plenty of trips to the physio, including a trip the day before flying out thanks to several weeks of back & neck pain! I have to admit i was starting to worry about standing on the start line a week before.

2014 CCC Training Plan – This was my 17 week record of training runs, basically a weekish time off after the Highland Fling & then get some hills in for the CCC.

When we arrived at Chamonix (Ally from the shop had come along to help support), it was Monday afternoon & with the race starting on Friday morning, it meant i could relax, register & try not to get stressed. This worked out ideally, Tuesday was a total downpour on a biblical scale so it was stay indoors & catch up with Breaking Bad (typically it was in the 20’s back in Aviemore with wall to wall sunshine!) I did make it out on Tuesday & Wednesday for a couple of 3 milers just to keep ticking over, but mainly sat on my arse resting for the remaining days. Ally was making full use of being in Chamonix & heading straight up the nearest mountains & once Tuesday was over we had some great weather. Wednesday was also registration day, were you have to stand in a queue for about 90 mins waiting to find out if your kit met the requirements & you were given your race number.

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Restaurant on the right was pretty bloody rubbish but had not too bad a view! Rivers were raging after the Tuesday downpour. One of many folk flying on a glorious morning & the eventual finish line.

Tuesday night we were out to meet a few other Brits who were in the UTMB & we watched the winners come through for the TDS, this was an amazing experience with the floodlights on & cowbells being rung. I definitely left feeling on a high after watching that finish & was itching to get going myself.

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Bit of Ultra runner star spotting went down -With Luis Alberto Hernando (top left), Xavier Thevenard winning the TDS & With Mike Wardian.

Well Friday morning arrived & the alarm went off at 5am, a last minute check of my bag & kit which i’d already checked about 20 times, then a spot of breakfast & we headed off to get the coach that was laid on to get to Courmayeur. Ally was checking out his bus map, so he could get to as many checkpoints as possible & that looked like a feat in itself! He was going to be up all night trying to stay awake, just to give me some encouragement for the few minutes i’d see him! Once we got to Courmayeur it was time to find the toilets, we found the queue 1st & after standing still with the queue not moving for about 40 minutes, i gave up & ran around a sports center trying to find another one! I’d left Ally with my bag at the entrance & with only minutes to get to the start line i’d come back to the entrance to find no Ally & no bag!! Panic was now kicking in, i thought i’d done the training & got to Courmayeur only to be beaten by a sodding toilet queue! Thankfully Ally turned round the corner & off we went to the start. It turned out there were 3 start waves & you went into the pen according to your bib number, mines was the last pen, but i thought nothing of it & didn’t mind starting almost right at the back, i was just enjoying the experience whilst wishing we’d get going.

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You start running through the streets of Courmayeur with the crowds cheering you on & within about a mile you start going up, nothing too mental just yet but you knew this up was just the start of things to come. Soon enough you’re on single track going through the trees & you realize the pace is dictated by the people in front of you & there’s no room to overtake. I didn’t think too much of this to start with as i knew going off too quick is the worst thing you can do, so i just got on with it thinking it’s a long way & there’s no hurry yet. Pretty soon i was starting to regret starting at the back, especially when i reached a clearing with what must have been several hundred people trying to get down a steep narrow path.

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Once i got moving again albeit very slowly i could see that i’d be stuck in a queue for flamin ages. If you zoom on this picture you can see a winding queue of frustrated wanabe runners all the way over the top. I was now looking at my watch more often whilst thinking of my checkpoint times i’d set myself, each time i’d look at my watch i’d be thinking ‘right i’ve got 40 mins to get over the top here’, ‘ok it looks like i’m going to be a little behind on the 1st checkpoint’, ‘ now if i get there in 10 mins i’ll be bang on an hour behind’. By the time i got to the 1st checkpoint i was about 1hr 50mins behind on my schedule! (Note to self, get in the 1st wave next time!!).

The route itself looked like this:

1st checkpoint i was in 1743rd placeFin

I made a point of every approx 30ish minutes to eat a chew bar of some sorts & take some water on board, i did this right from the start. When i got to checkpoints i’d refill my 2 x 500ml soft flasks with water (even if they were only 1/2 empty), i wanted to leave each checkpoint with full water supplies, not knowing what lay ahead. I’d also eat whatever they had on offer at checkpoints, not tons (initially) just enough to make sure i was constantly fueling. Foods ranged from bits of salted crackers/chocolate/oranges/salty noodle soup at the smaller checkpoints to full on spag bol/more soup/sandwiches/coffee etc at the bigger checkpoints. Feeding wasn’t pretty, i’d ram about 5 bits of cut oranges down my throat, soup & some biscuits in about 90 seconds flat! Oh cheese, can’t forget the cheese, oh & salami, in fact its worth doing the race just for the food!!

Mmm Food!!

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The picture on the left is up some hill somewhere in the alps! On the right is chatting to someone that had done the ‘fling’ earlier this year as we approached ‘La Fouly’ & my 1st sign of Ally, spotting a friendly face whilst running through 3 countries in the rain certainly does help give you a lift, i was coping fairly well anyway but after a few words with Ally i was certainly smiling & running slightly faster. As you can see, i was making full use of my poles, in fact i’d say i used them every step of the race bar the 1st & last few hundred meters. I’d thought from the 1st moment of going up hill that if i can use anything to my advantage i’d be stupid not too. Almost everyone else i saw only used poles going up & some whilst going down, i’m pretty sure i was the only person (at my end of the field) that used them going up, on the seldom flatish sections & on the downs. I’m convinced they helped keep me fresher for longer (that sounds like an Ad for something!). Poles are awesome to run with, but you have to practice beforehand, i’d been using them a fair bit in the 6 month lead up.

Since i’d reached the top of the 1st climb & there were opportunities to overtake, i managed to keep overtaking people, in fact that was all i seemed to be doing & that feels pretty good, i just seemed to keep a fairly even pace on the flats, work slightly harder than folk around me on the ups & discovered much to my surprise that i was pretty quick going down, especially on the twisty techy single track downs that others were being hesitant on, i just seemed to be a little more fearless (or possibly stupid). I’d meet Ally at certain checkpoints & he’d say ‘do you know how many folk you’ve overtaken in the last section?’ & he’d tell me some figure that sounded pretty good, but i was feeling pretty good, others around were stating to look pretty beaten up but thankfully i was still ok.

By the time i’d reached Champex-Lac i’d overtaken 551 people since the 1st checkpoint. It was also dark & i’d resisted stopping & putting on my headtorch because i didn’t want to lose any places, so the last few miles to Champex were pretty tricky running on trails trying to gauge the ground from other runners lights. This was a major checkpoint & pretty busy, i’d been running for 11 hr 30 mins at this point & was fairly hungry, i got myself a 3 course meal (yes that’s right 3 courses), found a seat & started wolfing food down my neck, it was at this point Ally appeared & thankfully got me the best tasting coffee i think i’ve ever had! I sorted out my Petzl Nao headtorch, gave Ally my sunglasses/sunhat & ipod that i hadn’t used & headed out into the night & the pouring rain.

I knew i had 3 mountains coming up in the dark & set about passing anyone that came into my view, the ups on these hills (they are of course bloody big mountains, but hills sound nicer to me) went on for a lonnngg time, but my spirits were kept high as i’d march past another headtorch then another, you don’t run up these things, its a solid walk & just keep going. I’d pass a few folk that were just standing still, trying to get their breath back. On that note i’d best mention the altitude, the air is noticeable thinner & at points its a little tricky breathing if you’re pushing yourself. I found taking water on board particularly hard, as every time i did whilst high up, i’d be gasping for air for the next minute, so i ended up paying attention & trying to drink on a flat section & not when i was breathing out my arse!

It rained a fair bit during the night & the course resembled a ‘Tough Mudder’ at points, it didn’t matter how much grip you had on your soles, when they’re clogged up they’re clogged up, you just have to adjust the way you move. Other points were like running through streams, being fairly steep & it raining the fastest way for the rain to come down the mountain is down the path. I didn’t mind this too much as i just thought it’s the same conditions for everyone & just got on with it.

The last time i met Ally was at Vallorcine (i had seen him at Trient as well, he’d been busy getting about!). Vallorcine was the last checkpoint before the final mountain. I’d been going for 18hr 25 mins at this point, but still felt reasonable. I changed my socks to a fresh pair, gazed at the person lying on the ground on a drip with lots of people rushing around them, had a bite to eat & drink & said fair well to Ally with a ‘see you in Chamonix’. I left feeling tired but nothing too bad, had a wee chat with a guy from Edinburgh that was walking & then pushed on. As i approached the climb, i began to feel very tired all of a sudden & i’d developed a really sore stomach, things were getting grim. I started to imagine things like i had liver damage due to the paracetamol i’d taken earlier to ease my back pain. I was struggling to keep my pace & before long the people i’d been passing at the bottom & had caught me, i felt like i was holding them up & became one of the many i’d passed by having to sit on a rock for a few minutes & try & sort my head (which seemed to be somewhere else) & my stomach out. I could hear ambulances in the valley below that were obviously ferrying runners backwards & forwards. I was thinking how long would it take for medical help to reach me 3/4 of the way up a mountain with a steep climb, i decided it would take bloody ages & i should just get my arse into gear & stop feeling sorry for myself & get to the top of this bitch of a mountain!

I reached the top of Tete aux vents after 21hr 10min, pretty much around dawn. I still felt like crap but i was at the top & i was feeling slightly better knowing it was just downhill from here. As i went down i started overtaking again & a new lease of life came over me. They say it’s ‘darkest before dawn’ & that couldn’t have rang truer for me, now it was back into there’s someone ahead ‘let’s av em’, i started running like a lunatic coming down, i’d be passing people like i was in a 10k race, i was flying! I kept this up for a fair while then started to think if i keep going like this i’ll end up crawling through Chamonix, so i applied the brakes & made sure i would have a strong finish through the town. I entered Chamonix & had some small crowds cheer me on, this was feeling pretty good, crowds already, albeit small but they’ll be huge at the end. There’s Ally waving me on, there’s another runner ahead, he’s mine, there’s the final couple of turns, hold on where is everyone? Ahh it’s 8:25am they’re all having breakfast!!!!!!!!!

IMG_164428305852427 IMG_29532488463942 20140830_083429 20140830_083425 Entering the finish straight & having a beer for breakfast.

I finished feeling surprisingly good, able to walk ok & no real injury worries. Fin 1st

My time was 23 hr 2 mins (my goal time was 23hr) & i ended up in 765th place meaning i overtook 978 people from the 1st checkpoint at the top of ‘Bottleneck Mountain’. 1900 people started & 1423 finished.

125CCC Notes

 

On the left are my splits & on the right are notes i made afterwards on what i carried/ate, what i needed & what i could have done without.

Would i do it again? Hell yes, i’d make sure i stared further up the field & i’d make sure i had plenty of hill training & 8-10hr training days including hiking & get using those poles 🙂

I’d taken some Go Pro footage, but it was pretty much a last minute decision, so i’d had no practice using it, so apologies for the crap footage & even worse editing!

 

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‘The Highland Fling’

fling

Well where to start?

I suppose my training plan is a good a place as any 2014 Fling Training Plan For 17 weeks i’d been building what would hopefully be a solid start to the years running, with the Fling as the 1st real test. The training had gone relatively well with only a couple of minor hiccups along the way (& a cold right at the end, that cleared with about a day spare!).

Kit preparation consisted of stuff i needed & stuff i shouldn’t have bothered with. I always seem to take more than i need, it’s good to be prepared for any conditions (the forecast was grimm), but did i really need to take a waterproof, windshirt & windvest? No not really seeing as though i started in my Inov 8 waterproof expecting the heavens to open & after about mile 4, ran the remaining 49 miles with just a t shirt.

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My choice of kit was : Shoes : North Face Hyper Track Guides – great shoes that i can run for miles in with no problems at all. Socks : I normally wear Icebreaker or Smartwool but due to the heavy rain in the preceding days i opted for Drymax which worked well.  Shorts : North Face Better Than Naked – super light, breathable & comfy (very important!). T Shirt : Marathon Talk 26.2 – just because. Waterproof : Inov 8 Race Elite 150 Stormshell – nice & light with a big zip for venting, but not needed in the end due to the weather forecasters being about as much use as a chocolate teacup! Pack : Salomon Skin Pro 10 + 3 – i like to run with a bladder & this pack is hardly noticeable when on & doesn’t bounce about & you can fit plenty of gear in it (too much in my case). Watch : Suunto Ambit 2S – great watch & tells you everything you need to know, but make sure you change the settings before a LONG run or like me you’ll find the battery dying before you’ve finished (my fault but i had had a lot on my mind in the days before the race).

I’d booked a room at the Premier Inn Bearsden for the night before & after, which was ideal. Right next to the Burnbrae which is where you needed to register & only a short walk to the start (thankfully the coach driver on return went out of his way to drop us off opposite the Burnbrae, as that short walk would have seemed a LOT further had we had to walk it after the race).

Race morning started with my alarm going off at 4am, duly followed by me eating my porridge in a pot along with a banana, not my usual pre long run fueling but i doubted i’d talk anyone into cooking me a full English at 4am. En Route to the start i followed a small group of fellow runners, they then stopped looking around as to which way to go & i thought ‘i hope this isn’t a sign of things to come’, as we hadn’t made the start line yet, but we soon figured it out. I met up with Des Rhule at the start line, who also works for Ellis Brigham, but in the Covent Garden store. We wished each other luck & got ready to go.20140426_053256

 

Drop Bags : I’d chosen to use 2 drop bags at Rowardennan (27 miles) & Beinglas (41 miles). I think i got this spot on, i skipped the 1st drop point at Balmaha & munched on the snacks i was carrying (trail mix). By Rowardennan i was in need of some variety of food & needed to sit for a few minutes. Inversnaid i refilled with water (again sat for a few minutes) & grabbed a Milky Way & by the time i got to Beinglas i was in need of my mix of food & a greatly appreciated coffee from a marshal.

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My plan for the race was #Finish #Enjoy it #Don’t get an injury. I’d given myself split times for completing it in 11hr 55mins, having never done the race or any of the sections before i’d worked out that this time should be possible for the shape i’m in.

So i started with the aim of getting to Drymen in 1hr 58. After about 4 miles i spotted Keith Ainslie up ahead, i’d never met Keith before but i recognized him from Facebook posts & thought ‘he’s done this race before & knows what he’s doing so don’t bloody pass him!’ At about mile 6 Des passed us (somewhere near the distillery). Keith pointed out a few points on the route & gave some good tips, run 50/walk 50 amongst others.

Conic Hill Drymen

 

He nailed his ‘Fling Kick’ (courtesy of ‘Monument Photo’s) at the top of Conic Hill. Other Photo approaching Drymen, which we reached in 1hr 55. Keith had mentioned that last year he’s finished just over the 11hr mark & i thought it best if i stick to my plan & race my race, so at mile 21 i watched him slowly disappear into the distance. At mile 24 i was surprised to catch up with Des who was obviously going through a bad spell, i tried a few words of encouragement & he said keep going, so off i went, i hoped he was ok & could continue but i was also slightly buoyed by the the fact i’d passed him & it gave me an extra spring in my step. (He pulled through his bad spell & persevered to a good finish, well done Des).

My next target on my projected splits i’d given myself was to reach Rowardennan in 5hr 11. I arrived in 4hr 49 feeling ok & knowing i was ahead of target sat down for a few minutes & started to devour my drop bag. I had a wee chat with Bill Heirs who was waiting to do his relay section.

The route between Rowadennan & Beinglas was like nothing i’ve ever ran before, from scrambling up narrow paths next to the Lochside to tree routes mixed with boulders & paths that wind up & down & what seemed like round & round! Saying that, i did quite enjoy it! In fact i’d been enjoying the whole race 🙂 Everyone i’d met had a smile on their face, the Marshals at the checkpoints were encouraging everyone & the weather had turned out to be perfect (overcast & the occasional drizzle kept you at the perfect temperature). It was somewhere in this section that my Suunto ran out of battery (thanks to me not changing the settings!) I’d normally get pretty hacked off at this, but for some reason it didn’t bother me, in fact i was quite impressed that instead of totally dying, it had cut the GPS function & saved 3% battery life so the watch function would still last for hrs & knowing when i started, i could easily figure out if i was still roughly on target. At the end of the day, the weather was good & i was out enjoying a nice run, somewhere i’d never been before, i was having a good day!

I arrived at Inversnaid & John Kynaston was at hand to help supply water for my bladder & find me a Milky Way! My legs were certainly feeling tired at this point, but after 34 miles i guess that’s pretty normal?

Inversnaid

So off i set for Beinglas, feeling tired but happy with how things were going, i wasn’t injured, my feet weren’t sore, so onwards & upwards. My projected time for arriving at Beinglas was 8hr 53 & i reached it in 8hr 36. I sat for a few minutes again, ate some of my drop bag & had a welcome cup of coffee from a helpful Marshal who every now & again would slightly deafen me by calling out a runners number as they approached the checkpoint. I set off knowing that i was within my target time & was content with whatever time i got, i didn’t feel a need to push myself to the point of not enjoying my experience (which is a nice feeling). When i set off though i realised my legs had seized up from sitting down, so off i set with a slow walk that slowly turned into a shuffle. As i shuffled along i got chatting to someone i’d sold his running shoes to & as we waffled away, we heard someone call out ‘wrong path’! Thankfully we hadn’t gone too far & we rejoined the correct path before it had gone horribly wrong! I had a good few conversations with fellow runners, one called ‘Stevie’ & another who i didn’t catch his name but every time he put his jacket on it stopped raining, which brought me much amusement 🙂 They both went on to finish before me & good for them, it was good to see people exceeding their personal targets.

The last 3 miles, even though they were relatively flat, were pretty hard going, it was here i wished my GPS was still working so i knew how far i still had to go? Within the last mile i must have asked 6 or 7 people ‘how far to the finish?’, & i got a mixed bag of answers from 700 metres to 3k! I knew i was close but it was tough going. The finish was almost there, just a few more bends & then i was passed by a couple of guys, i thought right stick behind them & nail it down the finish, only problem was i ran out of fuel & the nailing part just wasn’t happening, as i watched them speed up & finish strongly, but good for them, they did well & i was more than happy with what i’d achieved, finishing in 11hr 37 min.

The finish line by the way was fantastic with pipes being played & everyone lined up cheering you on. Before you know it you have a medal round your neck, a goody bag in hand & your’e sat eating baked tattie & some wonderful tomato soup whilst catching up with Bill Heirs listening to tails of wonder with a beer in hand!

Finish

What a race! Fantastic organisation from John Duncan & all of the volunteers. I’ve already worked out my time for next year 🙂 Bring it on!!

2014 Fling ULTRA Results (provisional)

A well deserved feast afterwards & the ‘Goody Bag’

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Why was it there were no streams to run through After ‘Cow Poo Ally’? Yet there were loads before it??

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During the race i drank 1.5lt of water with Electrolytes, 1.5 lt of water mixed as a protein shake, about 250ml of plain water & a cup of coffee. I ate a couple of Babybels, a packet of ready salted crisps, a small packet of Ritz biscuits, 2 small Milky Ways, an Apple, a Banana, 2 small oranges, a small Snickers bar, about 7 shot blocks & approx 200 grams of trail mix.

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