Thursday, 30 September 2010
Saturday, 11 September 2010
The Eagle Isle Ultra is a 3 day race across Isle of Mull in the West of Scotland involving forest tracks, open hillside and mountain running covering a distance of 130k. This race is arranged by Sandbaggers the team that arranged the Gobi Challenge which I completed in 2009. On entering this race I know it would be a real tough race and that the route that Dave and Phil would have in place would be a real challenge.
Day 1 :- 43K.
Eleven hardy soles took to the start line at 8am on the Saturday morning. The forecast was for a few showers and strong winds. The standard of runner in this one varied from the very good in the likes of Andy Murray and Jo Kilkenny to five lads who had never taking part in a staged race before and of which some will take part in next years Marathon De Sables.
The race starts in the stunning grounds of Duarts Castle and heads out along country roads for around 10k before meeting the first marshal who shows the way forward out onto the open hillside and over rough ground for the next 6k. The group stretches out and Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell set the early pace with Jo Kilkenny and Rab Lee giving a good chase.
The next 15k seen runners head downhill off the open hill, along country roads and forestry tracks before heading off over some of the boggiest and wild ground that Mull has to offer. After around 8k myself, Michael and John (2 Irish lads) catch Jo and Rab. Jo has injured her lower back going over the rough ground and is down to a walk/run. On rejoining the forestry track John and Michael push on and as Jo, Rab and I are in a team we all stick together to give support to Jo. On meeting the next marshal we are informed there is 5k to the finish and the end of day 1. Jo finishes strong but will decide at the start of day 2 if she is fit to carry on. Stuart Hamilton withdraws.
Day 2 :- 42K.
Rab & Me
Day 2 starts with the news that Jo Kilkenny has withdrawn from the race due to the previous day’s injury. With only nine now in the race there was some bragging rights to be had. Due to the remoteness of some of the checkpoints the race would start at 9am to give marshals time to get in position. Once again the same format is set Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell setting the early pace with Rab Lee now looking good for 3rd spot with the rest fighting for pride. I once again I do my normal and start slow known there is a big day ahead. After 8k of road, track and rough ground we begin the long 1300ft climb up the corrie at the back of Ben More to meet Dave Scott marshalling the check point. We then head out over rough hillside and down to the next checkpoint its noticed that the Irish lads have taking the wrong route which will make a long day even longer and on heading downhill I come across Ian and Jonathan who are also finding it hard to find the next check point and the 3 of us work together to follow the correct route down. On coming off the hill we head along country roads and tracks to the next checkpoint and notice we have to climb the 1300ft back up to Dave Scott at the mountain checkpoint. Ian and Jonathan now about 15mins in front of me and the Irish lads off on the wrong route, I could feel that with a bit of effort I could push for 4th place on the day. On leaving Dave Scott I worked hard downhill and arrived at the next checkpoint at the same time as Ian and Jonathan who stop to take on water sensing a chance I pushed on and headed for the next checkpoint at the head of the loch which was an out and back section of the route. At the turn I was about half mile ahead of Ian and Jonathan with about 8k to go I meet the Irish lads heading out on the out and back route giving them about 12k to finish with a strong wind and the sun shinning I pushed on and finished the day in 4th place.
Andy Murray, Rab Lee, Donnie Campbell
Day 3 :- 43k
Having taken a tumble down the mountain side the day previously my ankle remained swollen and bruised. We start the last day at 8am with the forecast showing a very hot day in store and it didn’t disappoint. The first 10k was along rolling country roads to the first checkpoint and the normal format resumed with Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell setting the pace and Rab Lee now looking good for 3rd place overall was going well. After 10k the marshals pointed the way onto the first forestry track of the day with myself the 2 Irish lads and the hero of the race Martin Myers all together. I begin to push on and begin to move away from the other 3 and now see Jonathan just up ahead who was now down to a walk with a knee problem picked up from the previous day, Ian Hall who had been running with Jonathan had pushed on sensing a 4th place finish for the day and 4th overall . On arriving at the 22k checkpoint Jonathan and I stop to take on water and food and with the 2 Irish lads and Martin arriving not long after. One of the Irish lads John was now down to a walk also due to a foot injury, it was agreed that we would all work together to get to finish. Once again we head off down the country roads then off into the forest tracks with twist, turns uphill and downs we all found ourselves at Big Als checkpoint on the coastal path and been told 8k to go. On leaving Als checkpoint we climb back up onto the forestry track which we had left 5k previously and on out of the forest onto the country road above Tobermory with one final push we all arrive in the main street of Tobermory and the last 100m along the pier front to the finish.
View from campsite.
This is a very tough 3days race over some very rough ground which will sort the men out from the boys. It’s set in a stunning part of the West Coast of Scotland which at times can throw up some very harsh weather. A special mention must go to Martin Myers taking part in his first multi-stage race in preparation for the Marathon De Sable in 2011. Great effort by all who took part.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
The West Highland Way Race was to be my big event this year and it didn’t disappoint. This race is a monster, 95 miles with 15,000ft of ascent between Milngavie in Glasgow and Fort William in the Highlands. I was coming into this race with some doubts having had a DNF at this years Highland Fling (53miles) which covers the first half of the West Highland Way to Tyndrum.
Its only 8 weeks between the Highland Fling and the West Highland Way Race so not a lot of time to try , test and change anything that might get you over the finishing line of the West Highland Way Race.
I had previously completed the Highland Fling so when you pull out of a race that you are running for a second time you must ask “what did I change” on looking back my nutrition/fluids were all wrong during the Highland Fling.
Having met up with some friends after the Highland Fling more experienced and better ultra runners than me. I was able to get some pointers in how I might be able to complete the West Highland Way Race. It was suggested to me to use Succeed Capsules a bit of advice that I have found priceless and secondly Perinon trail food shakes. I continued my training for the West Highland Way Race and introduced the Succeed Capsules and Perinon into my long runs and found an instant benefit. Now with 6weeks to the West Highland Way Race I was feeling a lot more confident that if I stick with my game plan and the nutrition works as tested I would have a chance of completing the race.
Registration opened at 9pm with the race starting at 1am it was my intention to get there early register and head home again as I only stay 15mins from the start so as to stay as relaxed as possible.
I returned at 12.15am for pre-race briefing at 12.30am. This year’s race was to be special for a few reasons. The race is now in it 25th year and the two men Bobby Shields and Duncan Watson who first ran between Milngavie and Fort William were returning to take there place at the start line and most notably the race was in memory of Dario Melaragni who was the race director for many years and who past away 2 weeks after 2009 race aged 46.
There was 164 starters in this years race and at 1am with the shout of “GO” by Dario wife Gillian we were off. I was running the first 27mile to Rowardennan unsupported and carried everything that I need in a small back pack and bun bag. The sight of 164 runners heading into the night with head torches on was an amazing thing to see and with the pubs and bars emptying in Milngavie we were meet with “your feckin running to where” “feckin loonies”. Having already run the Highland Fling I know were I should be and at what time. I made sure that I was eating every 7 miles and snacking in between with trail food. On reaching Balmaha in 4hrs everything was feeling good I was at 19mile with my target of covering 4mph going well so I was 45mins up. Balmaha to Rowardennan is a real roller coaster section and I began running with some old faces that I have come to know in doing ultra running which help with this section of the route. I checked in at Rowardennan in 6hrs still ahead of time. I was met be my support crew who were a bit rough looking having spent the night there and watched the England-Algeria game in the pub but they carried out the job very well and sent me on my way to Auchtertyre which is the official 2nd checkpoint.
There are 2 unofficial stops along this part of the route were drop bags can be used at Inversnaid and Beinn Ghlas. I arranged a drop bag for each which meant my support crew had plenty of time for the long 2hrs drive to check point 2. On reaching Inversnaid I was still feeling very good and that the Succeed capsule and Perinon were doing there job very well as the sun was up and very hot. Taking a couple of minutes to refuel, I notice Bobby Shields seating and nursing a badly cut hand, turned out that he and Duncan Watson had taken a tumble in the dark at different stages with Duncan pulling out at Drymen and later been told he had broken 2 ribs after falling into a ditch in the dark. Bobby was not as bad but took the decision to pull out at Beinn Ghlas (41miles). On arriving at Beinn Ghlas I was met by 2 friends from my running club who had come along to offer some moral support. Once again I refuelled and set off for Auctertyre this part of the route is very open with no shade from the mid day sun but still feeling strong with the big climb at Crainlarich I was still walking the hills and running the flats and downhill sections if it was not to steep. I arrived at the crossing of the A82 which was very busy to which point I had to wait 10mins for a break in the traffic to cross the road. I arrive at 49miles a little over 13hrs. I took the opportunity to have a massage to loosen off the legs for the next section which was great and has a great ice cream cone also…mmmmm. I once again refuelled and set off for Bridge of Orchy at 60miles.
AUCTERTYRE-BRIDGE OF ORCHY
On leaving Auchtertyre I was told there were already 18 people that had pulled out. I had allocated 3hrs for this section a section which is also a very exposed with no cover from the sun. All along the route there was very little water coming off the hills to which you would normally wet your buff to keep you cool. Having climbed out of Tyndrum I began with a run/walk down the hill trying to save my quads from any more damage than necessary on arriving at the bottom of the hill I was met by Ada and Shirley from my running club who ran with me for the 3miles into Bridge of Orchy . The most notable thing was that I was there in 2hrs40 some 20mins quicker than I had allowed. Bridge o Orchy was busy with runners take on food and changing clothes for the next section across Rannoch Moor which can be very harsh if weather was bad but not today there was a cooling northly wind blowing but the sun was still warm which made for a pleasant evenings running.
Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe.
As I was leaving Bridge of Orchy word came through that Ritchie Cunningham had win in a time of 16hrs 44mins not bad I said to myself I am only 35mile behind.. I was still moving well and still doing more running than walking and once again began play cat and mouse with runners that I had past all day with them passing me at checkpoints. I passed another 6 runners going over Rannoch Moor some were down to a slow walk but still making progress. I had allowed 3hr30min for this section but once again arrived in Glencoe ahead of time in 2hrs50mins. I now had been on the go for over 20hrs and with the last 25miles to come I know it was going to be hard. I changed clothes with the knowledge that it would be dark by the time I got to Kinlochleven.
There’s a 3mile flattish section before the climb up the Devils Staircase by this time I was joined by my support runner as you are not allowed to be out for a second night without been paired up with someone maybe a follow runner. We arrive at the bottom of the Devil Staircase as the sun was dipping down behind the mountains and with that the temperature drop from a pleasant +18c to a barmy +5c. I had now been on the go for 44hrs with been at work and starting the race and in that time I had managed 2hrs sleep pre-race. Now in the dark a very tired the my eye began to play tricks from seen people sitting around the hill to seeing ice cream vans, am also sure I had 2 pairs of feet. The incredible need to sleep at this stage is very difficult to fight off and on one occasion my support runner Jamie turned I find my curled up sleeping on the track. The section down the off the Devil Staircase it is very steep in places a puts a lot of pressure on already painful and tired legs with this my right knee began to hurt like hell and became very swollen. On arriving at the Kinlochleven checkpoint I thought it would be a good idea to see the race Doc. after a quick check and 20min icing he said I was ok to carry on but was still having great pain in bending my knee. I took the decision to withdraw from the race with still 10hrs on the clock and 13miles to the finish line.
This is a monster of a race and one I would recommend it to anyone looking for a real challenge. Having introduced Succeed Capsules and Perinon into my running I would say that these 2 things help me get to 82mile of this race.
THINGS I WOULD CHANGE.
Not a lot. I would take the day off before the race to ensure plenty of sleep. Maybe look at something like Pro+ or some other caffine drink to ward off the sleep demons.
SEE YOU AT THE START LINE IN 2011.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
Highland Fling 2010.(53miles)
My target in this years race was to take about an hour off my time.
Everything was going ok till about 18mile and it all started to go wrong, struggling to run and once again as the previous year the weather was going to play a big factor on people feinishing.
Reaching the halfway point I was 10mins slower than the year before this is when you know things are going wrong. After some food I headed off for what must be the hardess part of the WHW. Rowardennan to Inversnaid went well and then once again up to Beinn Ghlas was a slog. Tempertures were now nudging 22c and people were dropping out all the way up the route even a passed winner drop out at 41mile due to the weather. 343 started and 271 finished. I arrived at Beinn Ghlas still 10mins down on last years time so no PB this year and with legs of lead the last 12miles were going to be hard. Heading off again I got to 47mile and the wheels came off big style, bad cramp in right calf wouldnt free off which put pay to my race for the day and with the main event for the year only 8 weeks away I wasnt wanting to take any chances. Having a DNF against your name can be a bit of a bummer but its what you learn from not completing a race that makes you stronger for the next one. I have now changed a few things for the full WHW Race with a week to go things are very positive. So at 1am on the 19th June it will be a trip into the unknown 95mile in 35hrs so happy days.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Its now five weeks to the HF and trainings going well. The last 2wesks having seen high mileage and very hilly courses. This week seen a crazy training run from Balmaha to Rowardennan a climb up Ben Lomond and return trip to Balmaha 23miles and 5500ft of climbing..legs sore today. I had arranged to climb Ben Lomond with two friends Mahria and Assunta and as I was late they set off before me so had some catching up to do, great day out on the hill.
Friday, 5 March 2010
Trainings now in full swing for the Highland Fling with The West Highland Way Race to follow.
Recent weeks have seen training runs from Milngavie to Drymen and back with the ladies from the running club who are taken part in the Highland Fling Relay Race. Last week seen my long run cut short due to snow on Conic Hill, I intended to start Drymen to Rowardennan and back but moved to Balmaha to Rowardennan and back with some extra miles gained by running round some of the forestry tracks at the bottom of Ben Lomond. The route from Drymen to Rowardennan is a real roller-coaster section on the WHW. I now need to arrange three more training day for the Relay Team as I still think there is a good chance they will get lost. Ive now printed off each section of maps for them so hopefully they should be Ok....
Monday, 1 February 2010
APRIL 24th 2010.
Once again I will be taken part in the Highland Fling (53miles). Last year I finish in 220th place in 13hrs25mins so am looking to take about an hour off my time in 2010.
JUNE 19th 2010.
I have managed to get a place in the WHW Race (95miles). this is the main challenge for the year and very much a journey into the unknown.
AUGUST 28th/30th 2010.
3day (100miles) race around the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland this race is arranged by the guys at Sandbaggers.com who arranged the Gobi Challenge I took part in 2009, Should be a corker.
Other races to follow..........
The race started at 7am in the dark with runners already wearing head torches for the first hour. The forecast for the day was dry cool morning with rain moving in late afternoon.
After 4mile along the canal banks the first climb was reached a 550m steep climb which allowed the mind games to start known that this hill will require to be climbed again later in the day with a quick drop down onto a country road than back off road and another drop down onto a fire road all the height gained was now lost. We now began the long climb back up to a pass in the mountains locally known as "The Gap" at about 600m. The decent from here was quick but great care was required to avoid injury on the many rock and stones that littered the way down this 6mile section. Having left the mountains behind we make made our way along country lane and through some farmers fields before rejoining the canal bank back to the halfway mark at 23mile in 5hrs10mins.
Stopping for 5mins to take on water and some much needed food. I set off again along the canal bank and at 27miles the first climb of the day was reach again which was turned into a very slow climb. My target of around 11hrs was still within reach but with the weather now heavy rain and strong winds the bad weather seemed to have arrived early. Trying to stay positive I pushed on and headed back up to "The Gap" for a second time with visiblity down to 20m the drop down from "The Gap" would be slow and my intention to be off the mountains before dark was going well.
Winter Darkness was now with us and there was no let up in the rain and wind I continued to push on along the country lanes and over the farmer fields and back onto the canal bank for the final 4miles to the finish. I could see 5 other runners in front of me who I would try to catch but with a failing head torch things were going against me. I had now 10mins to complete 4miles and my head torch had stopped working. I did managed to catch one of the lads in front of me and ask if I could run with him to the finish due to having no head torch but it turned out he was dead on his feet as it was his first 45mile race. Offering each other support we worked together to get over the finish line in 11hrs49mins not a bad effort given the poor weather in the afternoon. Not a great fan of 2 loop routes but this was a good ulta with a great crowd of runners that I know from other races and the Mds Forum and no doubt I will go back at the end of year again.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
We arrived in Dalandzadgad at 6.45am on board what must be the smallest plane that I have ever been on 34 seat in all. Mike Inkster camp manager was our point of contact in Ulan Bator and was chaperion to the 15 athletes on the flight. On arrival we meet up with the other memebers of Sandbaggers, Dave Scott and Phil Briggs and the Mongolian support team lead by the very funny Tomba.
After fuelling up the vehicles it was a 2hr drive to the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains to our first camp site. On settling into camp I was sharing a tent with Al silcock and Alan Goddard and its was announced that the race briefing and kit check would take place around 5pm. Dave Scott took to the stage first to outline that stage 1 had been changed and that we would be doing a 30k cicular loop returning to camp to complete the stage and also outlined what we could expect on the proceeding days. Phil Briggs(Safety Officer) was next up to point out likely hazards(snakes,wild life,etc) that could be encountered during the early morning starts. The medical team was made up of 2 UK doctors, Duncan Goddall and Andy Murray and 2 Mongolian doctors Surena and Thorba. After the race briefing it was time for final kit checks then off to bed for the early rise of 5.30am with the race stage starting at 7.00am