Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Hexham Hobble, 1st December 2013 (10.4 miles, 1,243ft)

I last competed in the Hexhamshire Hobble fell race in 2011 on a wintry day in Allendale.  There were blizzards, ice and a bitterly cold wind.  This year’s event was held in probably the best conditions for a number of years.  No wind, sunny spells and a toasty 8 degrees.  There was no alternative but to get the legs out on display.  The long sleeved Helly Hansen baselayer with the sleeves rolled up even turned out to be too warm!

There was a fantastic turn out this year with mutterings of an appearance by a certain Mr Ricky Lightfoot.  What a coup!

Given the conditions, it was highly likely that the course record would be smashed.  I paid my seven groats and made sure my bum bag had the necessary mandatory kit.

The start was prompt and I found myself in the top 10-15 on the first climb out of Allendale town.  Mr L was off like a rabbit, bounding up the hill and off into the distance.  I settled into my own pace keeping in touch with Andy Blackett (winner of the event the last two years).  The terrain was very runnable with the odd bog littered about, some of which I had no option but to plough through and get a soaking.  There was some to-ing and fro-ing between Andy and myself for a couple of miles then Lee Bennett stormed past.  Andy attached himself to Lee which helped pull me along, barely keeping in touch but certainly in sight.

By half way I was feeling quite strong, thinking the past couple of months of swimming sessions were perhaps paying off.  Even my dodgy achilles was niggle free.  I passed Andy on the long downhill road section from 8km to 11km, Lee was off into the distance.  I had no chance of catching him with only one climb and the ultimate descent to Allendale school to come.  There was some welcome encouragement on the last climb from Steph S, (thanks for that Steph).  I ploughed on trying to consolidate my position, conscious that I may be caught.  I made sure I didn’t look behind me just in case!

After the fast downhill road finish I was pleased with my run, and picked up my 20th anniversary race mug! 6th position in 01:10:49. I shook Mr Lightfoot’s hand and found out that he had indeed stormed to a new course record of 1:02:31 (previously Morgan Donnelly’s 01:05:19).

A great turnout from NFR, who picked up the team prize, based on the top 4 finishers from each club and also based on total time.  Emma Bain picked up a combination of 1st lady and 1st V40, great result.

A big thanks goes to Allen Valley striders. The organisation,marshalls and tea and cake were fantastic.  A cracking event.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

British FRA fell relays, Llanberis 25th October 2013

When I was asked if I wanted to participate in the British FRA relays I jumped at the chance.  Not only to represent my club (NFR), but to experience my first fell relay event in a place I'd never been to before.  The team was kind of cobbled together through the hard work of the team captain as there were runners injured and had other commitments which is fair enough.  It was a long way to go.

I'd been struggling with niggles, most prominently being the achilles but had a period of decent training so I knew I'd be able to do a reasonable job.  I reached Wales on the Friday night thanks to fellow team mate Emma Bain who did all the driving.  As this was my first time in the Snowdonia area she was kind enough to detour up Pen-y-pass to give me an idea of what i've been missing.  It didn't disappoint, fantastic views of the rugged mountains. Needless to say it was wet!
They're off on leg 1

After little sleep during the Friday night (thanks to drunken louts staying in the same hostel), we arrived at the start in Llanberis.  Weather was cool with heavy downpours and strong winds.  I was on leg 4 which was just shy of 9k with 2,000ft of ascent.  Basically up Moel Eilio and back down.  I prepared myself for a long wait as the approximate time for the first 3 legs would be around 4 hours.  I kept warm and dry in the marquee chatting to a few other competitors.  What a great turn out, around 200 teams from all over the country.

My leg went pretty well.  I was wary of perhaps having to do some navigation as the field was pretty spread out by this time and with the quickly changing weather it was likely that visibility could be pretty low.  It turned out ok in the end, thankfully.  I really must brush up on the map/compass thing.

The ascent was quite tough going with some steep sections but some areas were very runnable. The rain stayed off for me but the wind was strong.  The descent was fantastic, great views and the terrain wasn't too bad, although near the bottom it was becoming a bit of a quagmire.  I got back in around 55 minutes.

The whole team did fantastically well.  Emma Bain, Will Horsley (captain), David Armstrong, Paul Hainsworth and Steve Minnikin.  Top half finish and 45th out of 99 in the Open category.

Looking forward to putting my name forward next year, also for the Ian Hodgson relays!!
5 of the team of 6

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Powering through

I've had a good couple of weeks training under my belt after a bad period with virus and persistent achilles problems.  Virus gone and able to manage achilles in such a way that it isn't anywhere near as bad as it was.  I have introduced some swimming into my schedule which I think is helping my all round fitness, working muscles I never knew were there!

British Fell Running relays next weekend in Snowdonia, looking forward to my first visit to Wales!

A few photo's from some recent off road jaunts below.

Bothal Castle

Alnham Moor


Friday, 6 September 2013


No running for the forseeable future. 

Finally bitten the bullet and seeing a chap about my progressively worsening Achilles problem next week. I'm taking the opportunity due to an enforced sidelining with a viral infection. 

It has to be done, I'd love to remember what it's like to get out of bed in the morning without hobbling around like an old man.

Cycling only which isn't a bad thing.

Doodled a little chart while watching the boring football. I've had a good year with some great results. Time to rejuvenate and sort the injury out.

I have plans for next year. Important plans...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lakeland 50 27th July 2013

View from tent at finish
We arrived in Coniston on Friday afternoon greeted with glorious sunshine and warm temperatures.  Not exactly what I wished for – cool with cloud cover would have been perfection.  We headed to the main field at the John Ruskin school to pitch the tents which we would be falling into after the race on Saturday.  Friday night was intended to get a good kip at the local hostel... if only!

We met up with John M and checked in at the hostel then returned to the school to watch the start of the L100 and get ourselves registered.  I watched with admiration as the L100 runners got underway, what an epic journey they were about to embark upon.  Massive respect.

I got weighed and had my mandatory kit check – all the boxes ticked.  We had plenty of time to relax and get some food before turning in.  The hostel itself was adequate enough but some of us didn’t get a great amount of sleep with the amount of snoring going on.

I was up early for a quick shower, change then a quick pot of porridge.  I thankfully got a lift to the start at Dalemain rather than spending an hour on a full bus.  The weather at Dalemain was very warm and humid with the sun blazing down.  There were L100 runners coming through to a well-deserved round of applause.  I tried to get under some shade to cool down before the start at 11:30am, a little stretching of the niggling Achilles to warm it up.

All the L50 runners congregated at the start having dibbed in and the butterflies began to start.  A 4 mile loop around the Dalemain estate the off on the adventure to Coniston.  We were off at a brisk pace around the fields surrounding the estate and back through the crowds at the start.  I was already starting on the water bottle at this point, why the heck didn’t I wear a white t-shirt to deflect the sun! 

We passed through Pooley bridge and then climbed up above Ullswater taking in the cracking views on a beautiful day.  John and I unintentionally found ourselves running around the same pace. It was good to have the company.  The first checkpoint was at Howtown at 11 miles.  Bottles topped up and a bite of flapjack and then off up Fusedale.  This section up to High Kop was tough and involved lots of hiking but once at the top (the highest point of the route) it was good running along to Low Kop and descending to Haweswater.  The heat was sapping and found myself constantly taking on liquid. I remember from the recce a couple of months ago that the section along Haweswater to Mardale Head went on and on.  I tried to block that out and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  I was glad to reach Mardale for some refreshments and an attempt at having a pee. (only one pee all race was a little worrying).

The next section headed up Gatesgarth pass, another hike but I knew the descent was nice and steady pretty much all the way to Kentmere.  I ploughed on passing a few L100 runners offering my best wishes.  Only 20+ miles to go.  John and I had parted company at this stage as he was having some stomach issues at the top of Gatesgarth. All of the checkpoints were fantastic with a wide variety of food and drink and the support was brilliant.  I thought Kentmere was my favourite after necking a banana and apple smoothie.  Delicious at just over half way.

which way now

By this point runners were few and far between so I whipped out the road book to make sure I wouldn't go wrong.  Sadly that didn't work out as planned, in the wood section before Ambleside I went off track and came out onto the main road about a mile further out of Ambleside. Bummer.  

I ran through Ambleside with cheers from the pub gardens and random folk on the street, a great motivator.  I sat down in the Ambleside checkpoint and John walks in thankfully feeling better.  I gave my folks a wave and continued on with John to Chapel Stile.  It was so helpful having someone running with you to give you that encouragement and I thank John for that.  We helped each other for the last 15 miles.  I was also grateful he was there when I took a tumble on the way to Chapel Stile, a lapse of concentration and I was over on my side.  Knee,hip and hand got a bit of a hammering but was fine to continue.  The hand is currently multicoloured and fat!

From Chapel Stile we went on to Langdale and the running was becoming more comfortable. The banter was good and helped the miles tick over.  We reached the last checkpoint at Tilberthwaite and we had one a final push to the end. 3.5 miles to go - not easy by any means with the climb and descent.  We didn't think we would make sub 10 hours but plugged away and had a storming last mile into Coniston.  No headtorches needed.  The cheers from the pubs and the spectators was a huge lift all the way to the finish.  We finished in 9 hours 58 minutes and 7 seconds.  Fantastic!

My folks and Mike S were at the finish and it was good to see them, they must have had a long day.  It was a great race and fabulous organisation and support throughout.  It was brutal and challenging but we made it.  Joint 21st place.

I had no sleep that night as the rain started soon after we finished and I was in the tent.  I was up early passing the finish gantry and surprised to see Fergus' wife there.  Fergus was running as a team of four and was still out - due in at 8:15am.  He'd been out all night in the rain.  Unbelieveable.  If he'd ran the race on his own he would have been top 20.

A great event, now looking forward to a few days off before getting some short stuff under my belt.  I have the points to enter the CCC at UTMB in 2014, just need to picked out of the hat now!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Chevy Chase Fell Race 6th July 2013 20 miles, 4,000ft

This classic Northumberland race was perfect timing in preparation for the Lakeland 50 on the 27th July.   This was very much coincidental - I was always going to do this race, as I have done the previous two years.  The route, the challenge, the runners, the organisation and the volunteers make this race one for the diary year after year – hence the rush to apply for a place back at the beginning of February.  The limit is around 200 runners, and fills up quick sharp.  Three weeks to the day before embarking on the Lakeland 50, the Chevy would give me my last big training run in terms of distance, time on feet and ascent for conditioning.  Back in April I had similar preparation for the Highland Fling by running the Allendale Challenge three weeks before.
Chillaxed before the race

The forecast was to be very warm with little wind.  We arrived at Wooler for registration and got “dibbed” up.  The mandatory kit check stated that water had to be carried due to the hot weather with limited refreshments at the checkpoints.  Luckily I had my donut bottle in the car.  It was great to see so many NFR’s at this race and to get a chance to be in the team photo. 

We set off bang on 10:30am at a steady, relaxed pace.  The intention was to enjoy the race and use it as training, not being concerned about where I finished.  The first few miles are easy running, some road, trail and a couple of steady inclines.  At this point I had no idea where I was in the field as I chose not to look too far into the distance.  It was steady going, I was enjoying the scenery and trying to remain relaxed with a clear head.  This works for me, I should use it more often.  Thinking back to the Allendale challenge and the Fling, I adopted this approach there too and the results exceeded my expectations.  It makes such a difference when you are enjoying running rather than having outside influences and pressure get to you.  At shorter road races like 10k’s there seems to be a completely different ethos where runners are in the zone and worried about getting PB’s.

After the first checkpoint at Broadstruther, I was sitting in a group of five letting the others do the work.  The next two sections were going to be tough eventually ending up on the top of the Cheviot, so I was conserving energy.  The heat was having an effect by this time, although there was a nice breeze.  I reached the Cheviot summit after a little “hands on knees” action and scoffed a gel.  The descent from the Cheviot is quite sharp and it takes more effort to stop tumbling down (although this would be quicker!).  With this in mind I was worried about my quads getting a bashing so eased up a little.  This allowed a couple of runners to pass me but I wasn’t overly concerned. 

The next checkpoint would be Hedgehope at halfway, after another long drag.  A bit more walking/hiking on this section but managed to get back the two places I lost on the Cheviot descent.  The Hedgehope descent is more manageable, but still quite acute.  Once this was out the way it should be relatively plain sailing to the finish….

I somehow lost a place between Hedgehope and Langlee Crags; I obviously took a different (and longer) line.  I was still in a good place and feeling comfortable with my pace and nutrition/hydration.  I ran with Bruce Crombie from Alnwick Harriers and Andy Blackett for a while up until Brands Corner which helped pull me along.  The section along Carey Burn seemed to last forever up until the dreaded Hell’s path (and final) checkpoint.  I dibbed my dibber and was told I was in third place – what!!!!  How did this happen?  Did I miss a checkpoint? Are you sure? I clambered up Hell’s path and took a last cup of water ready for the last couple of miles.  I went from not being worried about position to “get a move on, you’re in third!  How often does this happen!”.

The pace quickened and I made sure I didn’t look behind me.  I passed a walker who muttered something about 250 metres – what? I had 250 metres gap?  I ploughed on and dug deep, the legs were suffering now.  I crossed the finish line with relief.  In the end I had quite a gap between myself and fourth.  I found out later that I wasn’t far off second. 

Huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers – fantastic as usual.  There were some great performances, I know Phil G and John T were well chuffed with their times.  It was a shame to see Chris W DNF.  He’s had a period of some rotten luck.  I hope he recovers well to do the 100k he has planned in the Lakes in September.

Had a great chin wag with a certain Mr Tim Bateson, producer of the Great British Trail Running podcast (check it out, it's fantastic!).  It was good to finally get this opportunity having followed his activities on Strava and to quiz him on his Hardmoors exploits - great run Tim.

I’m now looking forward to a gentle taper down for the Lakes 50.  It’s going to be a great weekend.

19 days to go.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Humbleton Fell race and final Lakeland 50 recce

Since the Highland Fling, training has been very much up and down due to a combination of a three week old cold and achilles issues. This has interrupted my training and preparation for the Lakeland 50 on July 27th. The achilles has not been happy for some time now, some days are better than others but if it gets irritated it lets me know.
One of many treatments for the achilles - B&Q bucket

 Waking up in the morning like an old bloke hobbling out of bed is becoming the norm. I have been trying all sorts of stretching and exercises to try and relieve the little blighter with some icing and massage but I'm pretty much hoping that it will just go away. The first time I had developed achilles tendinitis was after the Great North Run in 2011. It eased after a few months but has always been slightly tender to the touch. Fingers crossed it'll sort itself out with regular stretching. As I type this I have had a good day of zero pain

Fellow NFR's at Duddon Valley - courtesy of  Andy Russell
I entered the long Duddon Fell race back at the beginning of June as it was a Northumberland Fell Runners Championship race. I wanted to give the champs a good crack this year after 2012 was blighted with anaemia and injuries. I thought it would be tough with being a lakes classic but found it much tougher than Borrowdale the previous year.

18 miles with 6,000 ft of climb, with a 3 week old phlegmy cold and a sore achilles, was not ideal and I did suffer after about 12 miles. Let's just say I wasn't the happiest when runners began to stream past me. What rounded the day off was when I fell into a bog literally 400m from the finish. A hot summer dry day and I hobble in dripping with mud. I chose to write off the race, but happy that I had some points on the board.

This week I was contemplating the Humbleton Fell race, bearing in mind I had a Lakes 50 recce to do the next day. I took the decision and went for it. The race is held at Haydon Bridge and this 5 miler is a little gem. Just short of 800ft of climb and it's pretty fast, especially the downhill finish! I rocked up in my soon to be sold Mini Cooper and paid my six quid for the pleasure. It was a warm night with little wind. A great turn out, around 60 runners and quite a few from NFR. I was around 4th/5th after the first mile and conscious that I should ease into it.

Works pretty well! The leader from NFR was out of sight by this time but I plugged away sticking with 3rd and 4th. We reached the top and went straight on, little did I know it was the wrong way! I heard a shout from behind, they turned left. "oh hell!" This was a shock to the system so immediately turned around and increased the pace to try and get back on track. I was in 4th at this point. I got my number slashed with a red felt tip at the checkpoint, turned and ran hard downhill for the last couple of miles. There was a lot of too-ing and fro-ing with positions on the descent and when we reached the road I thought I was in 4th with the NFR a convincing winner. I crossed the finish line and was told I was third (1st for NFR) as the leader failed to reach the checkpoint. This boosted my confidence after the Duddon race. A great little race and superbly organised. A bottle of red for third place and a bottle of beer for first team.

On Thursday, after a nettle stinged sleep, I was off to the Lakes to do the final recce of the Lakes 50 route taking in Howtown to Mardale Head (9 miles). I met up with a mate at Mardale Head car park and discussed the route. We decided to hop up a few Wainwrights while we were there so headed up to High Street. The weather at home was clear and sunny but in the Lakes it was hazy and cloudy. At least it wasn't torrential rain. I really enjoyed the climbing and the run to the start of the L50 leg. Quite a bit of hillage and good company.
Mardale head car park

We reached Howtown with a few thousand feet in our legs and headed up Fusedale valley. The weather was quite sticky and a lot of moisture in the air. The climb up to High Kop was pretty relentless, climbing on and on. Pretty sure at this point during the race it'll be more of a hike than a run. The descent to Haweswater was a tricky one to make sure we get it right on race day. We negotiated this quite well and headed along the shore of Haweswater for the next 6k or so. It went on and on and on! It was probably the amount of climbing we did before the section but the legs were very heavy at this point. Midges were attacking every bit of exposed flesh. I'm still paying the price! The view and the area were serene. You could hear a pin drop.

The lake was like glass. Perfection. We reached Mardale Head car park after around 5 hours with a sense of achievement but also aware what awaits from this checkpoint. Gatesgarth Pass. Bring it on...... 5 weeks to go.

18+ miles with 5,000ft of ascent, quality training for L50.

 P.S. Giving Windy Gyle a miss - quads are still stiff so easy run it is!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Highland Fling 53 mile Ultra Marathon 27th April 2013

Four months of preparation and finally the day came for the Hoka Highland Fling Ultra marathon. I have been looking forward to the challenge of this race and running the equivalent of back to back marathons on a fantastic trail from Milngavie to Tyndrum - the first half of the West Highland Way.

Journey's start
I set off on Friday morning, reaching Milngavie at around 2pm after a couple of train journeys. The weather was fantastic, a cool and clear day.

I had a wander around town waiting for John, Mark and Simon to check into the hotel, mainly trying to relax and not think too much about the race the next day.  We registered for our timing chips in the evening followed by a carb-load meal and an early night. 

I had pre-prepared my drop bags at home to save any last minute stress. Not having done a race of this kind before, I was experimenting with the types of food I would need on the course so I packed a good mix of sweet/savoury/gels/flat coke etc. Better to be over prepared.  As these were already sorted it did make things a lot easier.

OTT on the bags
After a terrible night's sleep thinking about every possible scenario that could happen during the race, I was up, changed, packed and munching on a porridge pot/banana combo within a matter of minutes.

Immediately after checkout from the hotel it dawned on me "where's my timing chip?". I had forgotten all about it.  Where could it possibly have gone?  I rushed back into the hotel checking the room while a mate checked my bags.  No sign of it.  There was no option but to run to the start and try and get a spare.  It completely took my mind off the race.

I managed to get a spare chip and with John's help got my drop bags packed into the awaiting vehicles.  Within 5 minutes we were being briefed for the 6am start.

Once we were off I settled in to an easy trot, holding myself back from going out too quick.  This is a long, long race!  The conditions were cool with the sun slowly making an appearance in the distant hills.  Beautiful.  I had no idea how many people were in front of me at the start and wasn't concerned about the runners going past me for the first 5-10 miles.  I was focussed on what I wanted to do and trying to live in the moment, to try and enjoy every minute of it.

Descent from Conic Hill
The first section to Drymen (12.6m) was easy running and made more relaxed by exchanging a few words with other runners.  I was carrying two small holster bottles from the start then picking up a handheld bottle from John at Drymen.  First loo break followed soon after, a good sign that I was hydrated enough.  Just keep it flowing, small amounts but regularly.

At the top of Conic Hill we passed the bagpipes and were welcomed with spectacular views of Loch Lomond.  I couldn't help but get a photo or two before the descent down to Balmaha.

First drop bag was collected very quickly at Balmaha (19.7m).  I grabbed a couple of gels, a bag of mini cheddars, the rest went in the bin.  Water bottles were topped up and I was off along the shore of the Loch towards Rowardennan.  The trail became a little more technical and undulating but it reminded me of my local route through Bothal woods - just much longer!  At this stage I was feeling good, legs were strong.

I think I stayed too long at the next checkpoint at Rowardennan (27m) and lost a few minutes faffing about not really convinced about what I wanted to eat.  I inhaled a banana and again grabbed some gels and mini cheddars.  The banana went down really well, but gels were becoming sickly and unappealing!

I carried on for the next couple of miles with very heavy legs.  This was the first time I had gone past 28 miles and from this point on it was new territory.  I walked the climbs and ran the flat and downhills.  Another runner caught up to me who I recognised and began to have a chat.  This took my mind off the bad spell I was having and after a couple of miles my legs were back to normal.  Still tired of course but felt much easier.  Thank you Dave T for that 20 minutes or so, it really helped.

Mile 40-ish courtesy of Chris W
The trail from Inversnaid (34m) was very tricky in places with some rock scrambling, carefully negotiating each step.  It would be so easy to get injured, concentration was key. At around mile 40, just before Beinglas Farm checkpoint, I thought I was hallucinating.  Chris W, my coach from Morpeth Harriers appeared from nowhere!  I couldn't believe my eyes, it was a great boost - thanks Chris!

Beinglas Farm (40.9m) was the last checkpoint.  I picked up my drop bag not really sure what I was looking for.  Unfortunately Simon had dropped out at this stage with calf issues.  I gave him my cheese sandwich, drank the flat coke, took out a bag of salted crisps and binned the rest.  12 miles to go. I had a few gels left and full bottles.  The next 12 miles were going to be very long.

A walking section

The walk/run strategy came into play here, hiking the uphills and running the rest - albeit slowly. I was passed by a female runner who complemented my running style - it may have looked effortless but believe me it wasn't! The forest section at 47-49 miles was relentless.  It was at this point when could feel myself getting light headed. One gel left in the pack, straight down, no messing about!

I saw John with 1 mile to go and gave me some encouragement.  (The dirty look wasn't aimed at you John, I was just shattered!)  He took my bumbag which gave some relief.  Knowing I had less than a mile to go gave me a boost.  Turning into the last straight to the finish the atmosphere was great.  I even put in a sprint.  The sense of achievement after crossing the finish line was overwhelming.  9 hours 22 minutes of running (mostly).  A canny shift.

Finishing straight

A big thanks to everyone! Especially my wife for putting up with me during the ups and downs of the past 4 months.

Things I have didn't work:
Carried too much stuff
Took too much food
Try some different gels
Spend less time at checkpoints
1 hand held bottle is suffice

Things that worked:
Training (obviously)
Shoes (inov8 trailroc)
Socks (hilly x-static - excellent comfort throughout)
Bananas and mini cheddars
No injuries, no blisters!

For my first ultra, I'm very happy. 39th out of 416 finishers.  It's true about how so much of it is mental. It would be so easy to throw the towel in when it gets tough but if you can grind it out through the bad spells you're well on the way to success.

The legs aren't too bad today (Monday), much better than I thought they would be.  Quads are quite sore but other than that, no problems.  Having a few days off running, maybe a cycle or two this week to get the legs moving again.  12 weeks until the Lakes 50. Back to training in no time!

A top weekend

Results etc here: http://www.highlandflingrace.org
Route here: http://app.strava.com/activities/51176587

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Allendale Challenge 6th April 2013

The Allendale Challenge fitted in very nicely as part of my training plan for the Highland Fling on 27th April. This is an event which I have never competed in but it had the right distance and more importantly would be the right amount of time on feet (around 4 hours).

It was a beautiful day in Allendale, clear blue skies, bright sunshine, very little wind and a moderately balmy 5 degrees! I duly registered and was notified that the route had to be altered due to 7 foot snow drifts. Instead of 25 miles it would be approximately 23 with over 3,000 feet of ascent.

We set off at 10am, 2 hours after the walkers. The first few hundred yards were downhill from the town square but it wasn't long until we began the climbing! The next few miles were pretty much uphill. I settled in to a group of three at the front of the field and felt quite good. Pace was ok bearing in mind the amount of ascent and the distance we had to cover. At about 5 miles I pulled away and for the next 15 miles I was on my own - apart from weaving in and out of the walkers once I'd caught up to them. The walkers were sticking to a trail of compacted snow which made life a little more difficult for me as I was side stepping into a fair few inches of soft snow. This was energy sapping and would prove costly. Great support from the marshalls and also some words of encouragement from the walkers.

In hindsight I should have probably kept with the other front runners, but I was going my own pace. If I had held back maybe I would have had something at the end. Pretty lonely as the lead runner always thinking that I was going to be caught at some point.

After the last checkpoint and around 20-21 miles I was eventually caught. I had nothing left, I bonked big style. Obviously I didn't eat/drink enough and I think the snow was so heavy going in places it just drained me. Runner number 2 passed me with about 1 mile to go. I dug deep and began to run again. Aided by the downhill into Allendale. I made it to the town hall finish light headed and yearning for a seat! 3rd place in 3 hours 24 minutes, a good day's work. Garmin stated 23.4 miles.

I'd like to thank the organiser's for a very well organised event and hope there will be a good turnout next year as it's the 25th anniversary. Results here 2013 results

3 weeks until the Fling, need to work on nutrition!

Happy to be finished!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Brough Law fell race 10th March 2013 5m 1240'

Headed off to the Breamish valley this morning for my third attempt at the Brough Law fell race. Having had a very busy few weeks of heavy mileage training for my first Ultra marathon I was aiming to treat this as a training run. 3 hours and 22 miles of off road running yesterday made my legs quite heavy, hobbling out of bed yearning for a lie-in.

The forecast for the North East wasn't great reading with the prospect of wintry showers, wind and a chill in the air. The sun was shining en route to Ingram, the Cheviots white in the distance. The terrain would hopefully be firm. I reached the start area early for a 30 minute warm up taking a few snaps on the way. Collected my number (number 4) and got prepared.

the long first climb
The race has a very sharp start immediately climbing from step 1 for approximately a mile. I set off steady keeping the lactic acid in check, lungs working overtime. Reaching the top of the first climb I found myself around 8th or 9th spot. "Champion" I thought. I pushed on at a steady canter and moved up the field to 4th. "What am I doing here" I kept asking myself. "Focus and just enjoy", I kept telling myself as I closed in on 3rd. There was a canny chill on the tops with a few flurries of hailstone, quite nippy. Reaching the last descent, the guy in 3rd had enough of a gap just to bolt down to the finish.

I was most pleased with 4th, training is paying off at last, knocking 5 minutes off my previous best time. Now for another 75 mile week! Allendale challenge next.

The start ascent and finish descent

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Lakeland 50 recce, Mardale to Ambleside via Kentmere

Met a few lads over in the Lakes to do another recce of the Lakeland 50 route. Having done the Ambleside to Coniston section back in December, we aimed to complete Mardale to Ambleside via Kentmere on a cold, snowy day. Around 14 miles on the actual route, but we had to get to the start first. In total the navigation experts calculated around 18-19 miles in total.

We arranged to meet up at Kirkstone Pass early doors, hoping to bag a few hills on the way to the start at Mardale. Had plenty kit but inadequate gloves let me down especially on the tops where the wind chill factor must have been -10. Numb, painful fingers for a good hour or so. Not pleasant. There was a covering of snow on the hills, several inches in places but due to the cold temperatures the snow had formed a crust and was quite firm to run on. Climbing wasn't too bad but the descents were quite tricky having to negotiate carefully to avoid any injury. I was grateful that a few of the lads were clued up on the map reading front, a skill I need to work on.

We reached the start of the section at Mardale after two hours of climbing and descending, thankfully the fingers warmed up quite quickly as soon as we reached the valley bottom.
The route was undulating as expected but was akin to running on a dry river bed, rock and more rock. Going to be hard on the feet and the quads. We passed some remote areas and areas I'd never been before which was refreshing.

We reached Ambleside after around 5 hours, great training for the Fling (8 weeks and counting).

Saturday, 9 February 2013


Over the past few weeks I've had lots of people asking "why are you running an ultra marathon?" and "don't you get bored training so much?".

Firstly, I have a long term target and I'm training towards that target. We all have our own targets whether it's running or not. My training hasn't changed a great deal apart from the weekend back to back long runs. I'm still training with my club mates on a Monday (long reps) and a Thursday (track work) and fitting in some short easy runs in between. This hasn't changed for a long time (barring injury breaks :o( ). That's the bread and butter for regular races. What makes the difference and takes it to the next level is the steady build up of the back to back long weekend runs and some regular core work. Time on feet rather than distance is key. It seems to be a constant battle to try and explain this over and over. I run and train because I love what I do and I have things I want to achieve. Selfish? Probably, but running is selfish.

If you have a personal target, in my opinion you need to focus on it and achieve it no matter what. Friends and family understand that and their support is invaluable. Yes, it may irk some people now and again but in the end if and when I complete my first ultra I can say I have achieved something and worked hard to do so.

Enough of the serious stuff. I have a couple of fell races coming up and have also entered the Allendale challenge at the beginning of April as a perfectly timed training run. Looking forward to a Lakeland 50 recce in 2 weeks time with a few experienced ultra runners, should be good fun.

11 weeks to go until the Highland Fling and I'm feeling in good shape. 11 weeks doesn't sound too long at all!

Highland Fling elevation profile

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ultra training

3 weeks into my 16 week training plan for the Highland fling ultra marathon and all is going well. Two quality sessions at the club per week and back to back long runs at the weekend with some sort ones in-between mean I'm on schedule. The long runs are going to get longer. Need to read up on nutrition and what to plan for during the race.
I'm really enjoying the club sessions, especially the track. I'm maintaing some speed but it's a shame it's out of action at the moment with all the white stuff coming down recently.
I should probably get a race in soon before my form plummets!

Not even going to mention a certain football club performing like an already relegated team. Surely not....

Looking forward to a long run tomorrow, like running on candy floss! Hope it doesn't freeze overnight.

Chapel wood (19/01/2013)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Hillforts and Headaches 1st January 2013, 3 miles, 1020'

Had a grand New Year's day race this morning over in Rothbury at the Hillforts and Headaches annual race.

A bit of a breezy affair with a definite cold snap in the air so I was expecting to get a battering on the top.

I checked in at registration in the Newcastle Hotel and passed over 4 groats for the pleasure. A couple of miles warm up on part of the route helped loosen the legs and acclimatise to the hills somewhat.

We set off at a steady pace which was most welcome as I have a tendency to shoot off and spend all my energy early doors. I moved up the field concentrating on my own running and not worrying about other runners. I felt quite good and maintained my position after the first mile right through to the end.

It was blowing a hoolie on top but I was well chuffed with a 7th place finish winning me a bottle of ale. Now that's a proper prize! A great start to the year, have a good one!