Shoes for testing – Salewa Speed Ascent and Hoka OneOne Rapanui 2S Trail

Firstly I must thank both Hoka OneOne and Salewa for providing a pair of shoes each for me to test out and review. V12 are planning to stock both these brands of shoes and it is great to get a chance to try them out in advance of this ( Salewa Speed Ascent is already in the shop in fact.#

Hoka OneOne testing - so far so good - briliant grip and actually felt really dialled in and positive on the feet. Super cushy but still with ground feel

Looking towards Moelwyn Bach from a cracking little track that runs below Moelwyn Mawr and behind the Stwlan Dam above Tan Y grisiau – this is on the Paddy Buckley round route and it was good to refresh myself with the lay of the land. The climb up from the quarries behind Croesor is wet and rough then gives onto great grass and trail running onto the Moelwyns and the track is fairly level, running well before the steep climb up a zig zag track the face in the shade on Moelwyn Bach. These shoes are the Hoka OneOne Rapanui and are getting a good test

 

Salewa Speed trail - they come with another pair of laces in case you want to custome lace them - hence the other eyelets on the shoe but to be honest I find the configuration out of the box well sufficient to lock ones fot in a treat

Salewa Speed trail – they come with another pair of laces in case you want to custome lace them – hence the other eyelets on the shoe but to be honest I find the configuration out of the box well sufficient to lock ones foot in a treat. These shoes are alos being given a thorough work out so I can

The shoes themselves are quite different in design, the Salewa Speed Ascent is quite a minimalist feeling shoe with a hard sole and a built in rocker to generate speed on mixed terrain. The Hoka One One is a super cushioned very grippy fell running shoe that boasts ground feel and grip despite loads of cushioning.

Both shoes so far feel great in their respective uses:- I am using the Salewa Speed ascent for fast hard pack and mixed terrain runs, whereas on the off trail mountain bog and gras trips the Hoka OneOne Rapanui is the goto shoe. They fulfil these purposes very well and I will give a review for each of them after I have racked up some more km in them. So Far so good, I like both shoes even though they seem very different. They are both positive on the trail and both seem to suit a neutral mainly forefoot striking running style that I have worked on for a while now… Here are a few pics of both shoes to whet the appetite.

(Just for reference, the actual Hoka Shoes that V12 will stock will be the Meltzer Speedgoat shoe, which is really a great looking and very well dialled in shoe for the UK fell running market – they have a lighter weight upper and also more laces in the speed lacing system.. The Rapanui is definitely a US / trail style shoe and having seen the Meltzer shoe, the tweaks and design changes that it has will really mean its a great shoe ( at the time of writing the Rep for Hoka OneOne rep could’t get me a pair of the new  ones as they have yet to be released to the public – they will be in the shop soon )

Salewa Speed Ascent Mens Trail shoe - not goretex - i prefer to have them draining quickly rather than waterproof

Salewa Speed Ascent Top View – A Test Pair from the Salewa Rep and courtesy of V12

Salewa Speed Ascent

Salewa Speed Ascent Sole – good all round sole Vibram and built in rocker to help propel you on the trail – They feel very positive and definitely encourage a forefoot style running technique and thus feel quick underfoot. Currently Undergoing a testing and wil be reviewed by me soon. First impressions are that they run well on mixed trails and are very positive, if a little firm underfoot, very locked in feel and good ground feel – a neutral shoe with minimal padding and great to run in..They may however feel a bit firm for 20 miles plus, but will be a great all day shoe for fast hiking long distances. We shall see and I will review shortly..

Looking towards Moelwyn Mawr from the descent from Moelwyn Bach - I contoured round above the lake on the way to here and am heading along the ridge in middle picture next..

Testing the Hoka OneOne courtesy of the Hoka OneOne Rep and V12 Outdoor. These are remarkabe shoes and will be fully reviewed when I have put some miles into them. So far they are plush, dialed in, good ground feel and super cushioned with great grip for wet grass and mud . Remarkable shoes indeed.

On Moelwyns with Hoka OneOne plus funky Terrex shorts, Easter sunday

The new super lightweight and super comfortable Adidas Terrex Shorts made out of super light ripstop Pertex. These are incredible and almost feel as if you are wearing nothing, they dry super fast are super comfy, with a zip pocket at the rear for a key and a stretchy mini pouch at the back to take a gel if u need. These are now in stock at V12 too, and just in time for the spring and summer out in the hills or in the races. These would be great for road or trail in fact, lightest shorts I have ever worn and they also look hard wearing. A review to follow later…..

All this shoe testing is also helping me in my quest for Fellsman preparation, my trail speed work stuff will be mostly carried out in the Salewa shoes for sure, with the Hoka OneOne Rapanui’s being used in the Fellsman itself due to nature of the boggy terrain and grip requirements. A rest day tomorrow (Tuesday) then a 15 mile planned over the Glyders from Capel back to the village and a speed session later in the week. The overall mileage will now drop as I begin final preparations for the Fellsman….


Fellsman Scouting and other fun adventures to 3rd April

The Fellsman Race is on 25th April and as part of the preparation and for training I arranged a trip with Duncan to scout a couple of sections – The reason being that a) its less intimidating if you know some of the route and b0 saves time with navigation in the bad weather or dark at  a late stage in the race ( day out on the hill I should say as we don’t really plan to race it as such, merely survive the experience in a fairly reasonable time – hoping for around 14 hours).

Here is a link to Jez Braggs blog about his preparations – this guy is a heck of a dude with some serious ultra wins under his belt and also a North to South New Zealand mission accomplished including a kayak between the 2 islands.

I have started to feel a lot stronger and more confident recently after a couple of higher mileage weeks in the mountains/fells back in the UK and I think that running in the heat and humidity in Cambodia/Malaysia has definitely helped my stamina some how, along with physical work on the Elephant Valley Project too. I and Duncan have been trying to get a big couple of weeks in and  I seem to have now managed 1 week over 90km fell running plus a 90km bike then the last week a 124km fell running week with an 84 km bike in the middle to stretch the legs out. I feel better about chances of success now on the Fellsman ( ie getting round it in good shape and a reasonable pace) and also feel better weather acclimatized to UK stuff – lets see what the event day will throw at us – rain/snow/fog/wind/scorching..Who knows…

We were both in Adidas XT4 trail shoes

High on Buckden Pike on some great paved slabs that avoids sinking into boggy stuff. Freezing cold and windswept. Day one scouting was 21 miles, day 2 was 17..

So the scouting trip consisted of day one being a trip out of Ingleton, over Ingleborough, to Whernside on ground that I know well from my childhood, then dropping off the back of Whernside into Kingsdale then up onto Gragareth, which is basically the first part of the Fellsman before it heads over towards Dentdale. We cut back to the South and skirted round to Ingleton for a 21 mile day out.

It must be said though that most of this day was properly shocking weather, with lashing gales, hail storms and at one point on Whernside perhaps the worst weather I have momentarily encountered on a hill – 80mph storm wind with blasting snow and hail and zero viz for a moment or two, sufficient to give us the momentary fear that if it didn’t stop we would freeze in short shrift… Actually the whole day out was a brilliant adventure style day and the terrain and tracks were brilliant fun and the weather just added to the whole great sense of adventure.

Heading up from Bucked , for Cray then on up towards Buckden Pike for our second days scouting the Fellsman . Temperature just above freezing and sleet and snow showers all day with low cloud meant we had plenty of Nav training

Heading up from Bucked , for Cray then on up towards Buckden Pike for our second days scouting the Fellsman . Temperature just above freezing and sleet and snow showers all day with low cloud meant we had plenty of Nav training

Day 2 of our scout started in Buckden after a fine evening camping and having a couple of fine pints in the Buck Inn ( the drive over from Ingleton helps to get a perspective for the bleakness of the Fellsman route and the remote nature of this part of the Dales, again somewhere I remember from when I was  youth and later when I lived in Grassington for a year or so…

Snow through the night and into the morning, with plenty of low cloud and wind made for another mad day up high , well wrapped and running in a balaclava all day with waterproofs etc, very chilly indeed and up in the clouds. Plenty of navigation required to orient ourselves and this will stand us in good stead on race day when we will be crossing this area late in the day and possible when its dark or getting that way……

 

Duncan in the Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail shoes, ideal on this terrain - plenty grip and very positive on the feet

Heading up onto Great Whernside above Wharfedale on our scout of some of the Fellsman. Some areas one is not allowed to go onto before race day due to access restrictions. This is Duncan, wrapped for the conditions prior to it becoming really awful.I remember it was only raining just here with a bit of a gale..

 

2nd days scouting on Fellsman Route, another stormy blizzard day high up and freezing cold

Descending from Great Whernside below Capplestone gate heading in the direction of Grassington on the last section of the Fellsman. Descending from Whernside negotiating some crazy bogland, I had managed to sink upto my waist at one pint whilst trying to leap a bog, most amusing as i tried to extricate myself. It just added to the fun of the day and served to show us that  a particular short cut was not going to be an option on race day… stick to fence lines is the best option for this late section……

The day consisted of a boggy and snowy travers of Buckden Pike, across to Great Whernside then down to Capplestone gate, whereby we cut off along the Dalesway track to head back to Kettlewell where we had left one of the vehicles to take us back to Buckden. I have some fun memories of this part of the Dalesway from my attempt the other year – by this point I was staggering and dithering after being sick loads on route and was forced to abandon in Grassington ( save it for another year hey)

Anyway with healthy legs and lots of optimism we wrapped up our scouting trip and headed back to North wales where a couple of days later (after a good long bike ride) we were up in the storm clouds and high winds of the Glyders before descending the red dot route  / painted path ( with the Pedol Peris special gully short cut)  to Pen Y pass then bashing down the road back to the village for another good day out in awful conditions…

Since then, the weather has improved, the running continues and the legs are gradually getting used to some increased mileage. For the next couple of weeks the focus will be on some speedier trips out generally with 1 more long run, and will include some interval training to get the legs turning over quickly. Just this morning we ran a tempo session over Clegir, up the Fachwen road and down through the quarries to Nant Peris and back to the village which certainly got the legs going, as we included a few fartlek hill sections and some speed endurance work…Hopefully this will work towards improving our general cruising pace for the Fellsman and beyond…


March Update – and the start again of more regular blog posts

Adidas Trail XT4 in action in jungles below Kinabalu, Malaysia

Exploring the trails below Kinabalu, hot and humid

 

Righto, back to it. What have I been doing since before Christmas and apologies for being so slack in inputting updates first of all.

I had an odd month of being super motivated then demotivated through Christmas but then my mojo came back and we had some great trips out on the mountains around North Wales and began to lay in the miles and height gain again. At that point I had no immediate race goals to aim for but just wanted to be out in the mountains building a base of fitness in preparation for later in the year when the weather improves and I have a clearer idea of actual goals etc.

SO what have I been doing and where have I been doing it?

Well after Christmas a ski trip to La Thuile was fantastic and I managed to get out on 4 out of 6 evenings to put some miles into the legs on the roads and snowy trails in and around the village. Brilliant running and we plan to come back to this area agaiin in spring to spend some time. The mountains are so accessible here and amazing views, and despite it being a ski resort it has preserved its mountain village charm completely. A great spot in northern Italy and handy for travel to a pile of inspiring places to run too….

At the end of February it was off to Malaysia for a UAV flying course and a 10 day explore around the area of Northern Borneo. The course itself was fantastic and I look forward to using the skills gained on it later in the year.

I also managed to find some great running whilst I was there. OK to be fair its super hot and super humid but there are some really notable fun things to run round on a trip to this part of the world.

I was based for my course in Sandakan, Sabah, and at Mile8 which is the main bit of business district where i was staying there was access to Sandakan Forest Reserve, just 1.5 kkm from my hotel which had some brilliant trails and concrete roads through thick rainforest environment with plenty of steep climbs and descents.

Sandakan Forest Park

This became my early morning work out before the course and during the week I managed to notch up over 80km in the heat. A word of warning, the trails off the main routes are pretty dodgily marked and I got lost one morning after launching off and losing my bearings. My 30 minute run turned into a dehydrated 90 minute trip out….. Take plenty water, lol…. Favourite shoes for this were my Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail shoes as ever – fast drying and nice and light even when wet. Unfortunately I am not a fan of my Inov8 Ultra Trail shoes, as they are a bit clumpy and weigh twice as much when they are wet due to really absorbent uppers. They also dry slowly which is a pain.

There is a good road circuit out of Mile8 south towards the coast over some hills too which gives amazing views out to sea and along the Borneo coast but this is definitely an early morning blast – 0530 hrs and back by 0700 hrs to avoid the traffic is recommended.

After the course I stayed in a couple of other spots that were great for running:-

Rain forest Discovery Centre – Sepilok

A great place to stay as its where the Orang Utan Rehabilitation centre is and also where the Borneo Sun Bear centre is. These are well worth a visit and do some amazing work.

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68m high Dipterocarpus in The Rainforest Discovery Centre, on one of the trails. Amazing trees all over the place

The trails are great, but again be prepared to be running in 36 degrees c and totally humid windless sweatyness!!

The RDC has a great network of trails that can be explored for about $2 dollars for a day and also a canopy walkway so evening time there are flying squirrels and all sorts of birds to be seen. The Kabili Trail is particularly fine as an out and back run, very broken terrain through primary rainforest, u need to buy a ticket for special access to this trail.

The trail starts from the RDC and finishes at the coast, so one runs over ridges and valleys past waterfalls and eventually down to mangrove swamps where there is a boat jetty where allegedly you can arrange a boat to Sandakan but much more sense is to retrace ones route through the forest for a classy 16km sweaty jungle adventure in total

Kinabalu National Park

plenty of trails in and around the park itself even though you can't run to the summit. There are a myriad of forest trails below the summit trail itself and I managed a couple of 20km plus days exploring inside the park with a trip to 3000m included...

Mt Kinabalu from my accommodation, great view when the cloud is gone – this is early morning….

I headed out here with the aim of running up Mt Kinabalu at just over 4000m but in fact this can only be achieved at certain times of year – just before the Mt Kinabalu Climbathon race and only for competitors in the event. I was rather disappointed to find this out and met with a number of officials to see if it might be possible but alas to no avail…

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MOre views of KInabalu and the forest environs. There are some great dirt roads and trails outside the park area too but no maps so you have to be prepared to explore. All part of the fun….

However, it is possible to run up to around 3000m – about halfway distance wise by purchasing day acces passes which are not expensive and I did this a couple of times in 2 days, good climb training for the legs and spectacular views.  The first day I saw nothing as it was thick with cloud and visibility was about 100m bt on day two the weather had broken and early morning usually meant clear skies around the mountain – a stunning spot.

Map for Kinabalu Park Trails

There are a myriad of forest trails where I saw no one leading from the forest park entrance to the summit path of Kinabalu and I spent a fine couple of days running 20km plus on these with the ascent up to 3000m too. A ticket can be purchased at the entrance to the park with a photocopy map and then another ticket for about $4 can be bought at the park gate for the summit path up towards Kinabalu. Well worth it.. The climbing to where one is stopped by the authorities is great – steep relentless steps and dirt track winding along ridges and through forest groves with spectacular views out, between clouds and trees. Very cool indeed.

Cambodia 2015

So after my Malaysia fix it was off to the Elephant Valley Project In Mondulkiri Province to see Helen and catch yup with the elephants after a year away from them. Helen is there for 3 months, I just dropped in for a moth visit, to help volunteer with physical work around the project site and help develop some HSE stuff for the project.

Elephant Valley Project

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Hanging out with the elephants in the Forest at EVP, Sen Monourom, awesome experience. Running in the mornings, volunteering in the afternoon and some chill time with elephants. Great

 

 

It was full dry season and pretty hot when I got there and along with visiting elephants, manual work and some HSE stuff I really managed to do some great exploratory running in the area again, finding my way through a remote area of forest back to the main town, Sen Monourom by way of hit and miss trail running / finding adventures over a period of days. The trails were in great shape here and my memory helped from previous visits. Building on my previous knowledge I suspect that I have possibly the greatest knowledge of the trails in and around  the town and the project now. Loads of km in the heat , loads of work on the project and some really high quality time spent with the elephants, roaming the jungle, a fine trip overall. Now back to the UK, Helen is out at the Project for another month and I am in full training with Duncan for The Fellsman in April

 


Back in the zone!

Heading down from Elilio towards the vilage, a great afternoon blast.

Cool singletrack to avoid some of the tarmac descent to the village, great for the legs and pretty slippy - Cloud just sitting on top of Y Garn and Elidir Fawr. It was patchy on top of Elio too and made for a great atmosphere. So refreshing to get up on the hills again. What a relief.

At Last,

Back at home back in the mountains of North Wales and catching up with everyone again after a bit of a long trip away.

Suffice to say that its great to be back, the weather has been great and so far this week I have managed to get out on the hills and on the road bike and mountain bike.

A bit like a kid in a candy shop as they say, and my legs are readjusting to the inclined plane again…

So this week I have had a great quick blast up Eilio and back, the ascent was actually my fastest to date which was well pleasing and the quads didn’t feel too bad afterwards.

On 25th November I set off with Duncan from Pen Y Pass after a plan to head up the ridge out of Nant Peris to Crib Y Ddysgyl was aborted due to rain starting.. The Pyg Track was amazing and as we got higher the snow started, with an inch underfoot as we topped out and it was seriously chilly – big flakes of blowing snow and clouds enveloping us as we lurked very briefly on the summit… It was great to be out at night, and we had the mountain to ourselves…

Bit chilly but super happy to be out in the hills and back home

Atmospheric day on top of Eilio. We headed up the left ridge and descended the normal route, my favourite way

Earlier in the day a great spin on the mountain bike with H, up to the surge pool and down to Nant was great to readjust to mountain biking, and just the day before we had taken a good spin around the pass and the Ogwen on road bikes…..

Mountain biking at Coed Y Brenin yesterday was great and a hill run tonight… Its alll just great!!


The End Is Nigh

Increasingly the last few weeks my mind has been drifting back towards the mountains, and increasingly, as the time since I was in any of them increases I have been feeling a sense of almost exile with regards to my disconnection with them.

The heady days of summer seem such a long time ago now when I felt like I could move endlessly over whatever terrain I chose and felt strong and confident doing so.

I have been maintaining my fitness out here in the flat lands as best I can , even though the longest run I have had since the Bucharest Marathon is about 16 km. Its just nigh on impossible to justify spending longer away from the work environment……

The trails are pleasant and I continue to see some lovely sights as the sunsets, with deer, hares, foxes and all manner of birds of prey presenting themselves as I pass through the landscape, empty but for the odd tractor cutting a late corn field or harrowing a rich brown plowed field…

I can turn the legs over pretty quickly now and feel ok, but increasingly I suffer from a bit of a motivation issue – The closer I get to arriving home, the less inclined I am to worry about squeezing another run in here, except that without the day to day runs here I will lose fitness for the days I want to spend up high somewhere else.

This has been keeping me going and within a week now I am going to be at home…Fantastic indeed and I can’t wait to traverse the hils again with a sense of freedom that a snatched hour here or there cannot quite deliver..

When you have only an hour to run, one is aware of a particular end point and how long it will take to get there. At home by comparison, I think about where to go on a run , not really how long it will take me to get back and that is liberating. The same with our cycle trips, its all about the journey …….

So I am ready for Wales again. From early August til now I have not set a foot on the hills there….Bring it on, they lok great on the webcams I have been viewing the last day or so….


Romania so far…..Farmland, animals and tradition… And a Marathon

Well here I am in Romania where I have been based since late August. What was supposed to be a 6 to 8 week job has stretched into probably a 12 week trip and I will be home around mid to late November… Bit of a shock to the system and goes against my usual principles of rotations and work, but hey one must adapt to the times……

Clasic local scenery and great horse and cart

I love the horses and carts used around here. This is the number one means of transport for these dirt roads, I imagine in winter that this is the best way to travel. I so want a go on one of these!

Its work again, so time for running has been pretty limited.

The area I am in is up in the North West of Romania, Satu Mare County in a place called Tasnad, fairly close to the Hungarian border. This area apparently used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after WW1.

Classic  villages

A regular visit to Silwas as its on one of my 12km circuits. A cute place with loads of geese,ducks,horses and churches, alongside old style cottages and water wells.Cool

The area reminds me a bit of East Yorkshire where I grew up, its a mix of flat agricultural land – corn and sunflowers plus some pasture land, with some low ( 100m ) rolling hills along the edge where Tasnad town is and I am staying in a small hotel with a thermal water pool…

Silwas Vilage

Very Eastern Yorkshire, UK prior to the Agricultural Act and the ripping out of anything that impeded progress for tractors ( and mechanization of British agriculture, depopulation of the rural areas and destruction of wildlife habitats) - There are wild boar here, any number of birds of prey, Hares, Foxes etc etc.

The running is certainly not mountainous but is cool nevertheless. Its really different to anywhere I have spent time recently and as such its a pleasant spot. Admittedly I miss the mountains – Alps and N wales home but there are lots of subtler things around that help to compensate for the lack of mountains here.

More views

More rural views on my runs around the area. I am getting to know all the little paths and tracks. I love it when you begin to build up a mental image of the network of trails and tracks in an area, and everything starts to fit together somehow

The place is riddled with agricultural tracks and quiet country roads ( a lot of the roads here are still gravel and dirt and get almos

Workplace

Out at work one day... I have run through this place a few times and was suddenly taken with the light over the stream and the bridge. No mountains of course but it has a certain charm...

t impassable in wet weather – and very little tarmac), hedgerows, ditches and old style villages.

Horses and carts are common here too, the main form of transport for a lot of people and produce and its great to see so many of them.

Old communist barns with pigs lurking inside, quintessentially rural villages with churches, ducks, geese, hens and all the crucial ingredients for classic olde worlde charm, dilapidated hen farms, rustic built hay barns and friendly people.

These have to be licenced and all have a number plate of sorts to go on the main road

This is in Santau, one of the villages where we are working..

Occasionally one gets a glimpse of the edges of the Carpathian mountains in the distance…

So what am I up to? Well my runs until the last couple of weeks have focused on around  45 to 90 minutes in length ( as much time as can be taken off during the work) and I have been working on building some pace into my general running turn over speed so some interval sessions have been incorporated – 80m x 8 reps, trying to keep a pace of under 3 mins per rep ( around 2 min 50 s in fact), with some shorter 200 m rep sessions. In between these its been 1 or 2 runs to get around 10 to 6km in on the flat farmland tracks or on the rolling hills, and really been exploring all these quiet villages and small valleys and farmland that surround us here.

I have a quality 10km race track on a road out to a spot called Saucas, its got some small climbs, and I have in fact managed a 39min 21 second 10km on this so I feel as though I am definitely speeding up..

Out and about there are some cool sights and again, different to the usual. On my jaunts out, the peace away from work is really appreciated, and I have found Foxes, Hares, loads of birds of prey , from Buzzards to Kites, Kestrels, Sparrow hawks, marsh and hen harriers.

There is the added fun of a huge number of seemingly mental dogs, basically every building seems to have at least one in it which love to run up behind and bark at ones calves, which are well exposed to a bite should they fancy it! However, the technique is to stop running , crouch down as one turns around and these seemingly deranged dogs either quieten down and wag tails or charge off in fear, most amusing…..

Sheep dogs and cattle dogs everywhere

All these dogs look a bit mad when you first see them, barking and running at you but then they chil out as soon as you say hello. Nte the dangling stick to stop them running too quickly... seems a bit harsh..

Watching the seasons change is cool, as harvests are gathered and fields are getting ploughed turning dark earth browns under the plough blade. The rich green that enveloped the area when I arrived is well on the way to its rich golden and yellow autumn coat as the temperature drops and the nights begin to draw in… I remember this time last year in the Alps was spectacular…

Anyway despite all this working is not the same as being on break and I miss the mountains!!!

I did manage a weekend off last week courtesy of my employers, and I headed to Bucharest to have a bash at the Bucharest Marathon , which turned out to be a great event, albeit almost pan flat…

Ceaucescu's old residence where the Marathon started and finished

A great and grand setting for the Marathon Start/Finish Line. Ceaucescu's Palace 2nd argest building in the world after the Pentagon apparently...Bonkers

I was not really prepared to try and run a PB due to all the hill time and not too much speed training, but I was well pleased to manage a 3hrs 11 minute race, coming 60th overall, well chuffed with a spur of the moment excursion. I have knocked off 15 min from my previous PB on the Snowdon Marathon and well chuffed.  I am proper convinced that with a few more paced runs and some tempo things I could actually break 3hrs……Maybe I will try and enter the Barcelona Marathon in March, or something equally flat around that time when the weather is still a bit mingy for long mountain runs and out of season races are few and far between on the fells…

These are my favouritest Road Shoes ever - Adidas Adios Boost - Awesome

Found these in Adidas shop in Bucharest. So hard to find the size for me. They are awesome - Adidas Adios Boost, they are so light and so springy, super comfy neutral and just make you want to try and run faster. Oh and by the way these were the shoes that were worn when the world marathon record was broken 2 weeks ago in Berlin

The atmosphere was great, loads of crowds watching, cheering, music, friendly aid stations and the start and finish were in the lee of the old Ceaucescu Palace, the 2nd largest building in the world ( pentagon is 1st)

Watching the prize giving. I am not usually back in time for this sort of thing. Cool

Great atmosphere at the BUcharest Marathon, sunny and warm and watching the prize giving at the end. A fun race, I well enjoyed the experience despite it being not hilly and not in the countrysde... It was cool


Last bit of our Alps trip

Its a bit late for posting it but I decided to pop a few pictures in and summarise the last few weeks of our trip to the alps before I was dragged off to work in Romania, where I am now…… It is a stark contrast and I will post some pics and give a bit of a review of the area I am staying in. Unfortunately its not the mountains, neither Carpathian or Transylvanian, but an especially flat bit in the North East near the Romanian border…

Of course as usual, all the plans I had to take part in the Tor Des Geants were dashed due to work coming up.. Hey Ho, all part of the fun. Best try again next year!!

Anyway I digress:-

The last couple of weeks of the alps trip ( The van is still hiding away in Geneva airport somewhere) were spent in the amazing region of Bardonecchia and then back over to Courmayeur, where we camped below the Grandes Jorasses in the Val Ferret  again, a really stunning spot..

Bardonecchia was chosen due to dodgy weather threatening the area we were in – Around the Grand St Bernard again and what a place it was. Beautiful valleys and stunning mountains. The Peaks are prety rocky and big limestone, albeit smaller than the main alps area to the North but stunning. The main valley out of Turin is a fine spot and surrounded by great mountains, although there are not many camping spots.. We spent a few days here then headed over to the area around Sestriere and Fenestrelle, a truly stunning spot, and after this, over to Melezets just up a side valey above Bardoneccia town itself.

Great mountains , great walking and stunning trail running, both in the valleys and up onto the peaks, I am really excited about getting back to this area. We have only just scratched the surface of. We had some great mountan biking too above Oulx and road biking to Sestriere…..

Where else can one can run up and round a fantastic Circque at around 2500m and be back in 1.5hrs after great ridges and views, or power up to a 2700m col late afternoon in mists and pop out into blue skies…wow. Awesome spot. Biking in the morning, running in the afternoons, great food, wine and cold beers, hot showers…

Here are a few pictures. I am as usual using my North Face Better Than Naked Shorts, which are really lasting well and are so comfortable, plus the Adidas XT4 Trail shoes, although on some of the flatter trails in the dry I have been in my Salomon Sense Mantra’s. The Sense Ultra SG’s I purchased when my older Adidas shoes wore out are only used in super wet conditions and as a change to my XT4’s currently, as they sem to be wearing rather badly. A great shoe the Salomons but not too good on longevity, especially as they are not cheap… The Adidas XT4’s win hands down for lasting well and the fit is super comfortable, and not too dissimilar to the Sense Ultra.

An evening run up from Sestriere Passo Banchetta at 2700m below Punta Rognosa

A wicked run with a great flat start from 2000m then a steep climb below the Rognosa peak in a great setting. The valley catches the evening sun til prety late and once up onto the ridge below the peak, the views just open up outstandingly. I was going to scope out a route from here up the peak itself but that wil have to be saved for another day and possible with company - all I could see was a dodgy goat track barely visible snaking off into a rock field and no apparent line through the rotting scree cliffs.... The next day my self and Helen went up the Punta Rognosa topping out at 3280 metres in bright sunshine, a great day. From the high point of the run where I took this picture you can just about see Sestriere back down at the foot of the valley. A really fine and isolated spot, no one around..

Different Scenery again to the rest of the alps we have visited, lots of limestone and pretty craggy - Bardonecchia and Melezets area. Fantastic as ever

Another quick afternoon run up from Melezets to the obvious cirque of mountains overloking the campsite. This was a spectacular run and as ever, I try and memorize the map and head off so one is always wondering whether one makes the right decision . Usually its easy of course, but I did wonder when I started heading up through the trees low down if I had taken a wrong turning and would miss the traverse by topping out in the wrong place. All went well however after I cut to the right up and through some steep tree covered slopes to emerge into the base of the couloir you can see in this picture, with a fantastic run below the peaks and along a ridge with some old military emplacements and some airy paths above the valley. I cracked on pretty sharpish due to impending rain storms that I could see creeping in from the nearby peaks, and managed to beat them back to the van...

Great rock scenery and nothing but the marmottes. Storm clouds lurking behind drove me on. The Adidas XT4's were brilliant especially on the super rocky descent with the awesome zigzag track , so rooty and rocky..

More stunning scenery on the same run. Alone high on the hills, I love it. The feeling of moving quickly over this sort of terrain is just awesome, free of clutter - I took a couple of gels with me and a gilet... Nice and light. This was taken just after the main climb up from the campsite, and this rail ahead just looks so inviting. A wicked singletrack followed by an airy traverse hanging above the valley floor on a fine ridge with great views, wondering what the descent was going to be like.. I managed to avoid the storm clouds rolling in by about 15 minutes as I descended via the Col de l'echelle on the Italian French Border, with some great cut offs to avoid the road hairpins into the valley, below sweeping crags and across huge flood wash out channels. Very cool indeed

Travelling Light again and having faith in breaking through the clouds. This was about a 1hr 20 minute ascent from 1300m to 2700 followed by a 40 minute return. A 20km round trip

An afternoon run up through thick clouds above Fenestrelle and past Laux into a beautiful valley and a very fine col where the sun came out. Again, this could be connected to the previous run by heading over a 3300m peak to the right as i got to the col, but time didnt allow - this was after all an afternoon fix after a very pleasant morning spent pottering around Fenestrelle, a really old traditional Piemontese village, next to our camp site. Again a nice and quiet spot, and so spectacular as the mist cleared - A great 20km round trip - 1hr 20 up (1400m vert) and a 40 minute return. My quads were pretty battered after that!

High above Val Ferret and out above the UTMB course

Dave Harvey a mate from Manchester came over and met us in Val Ferret for the last few days before work and we had a great run out, heading up over the hilss opposite the mont blanc massif and then returning via the UTMB trail which hangs a ways above the valley botom and rolls pleasantly along. The first time this year I was up here the stream and col were still caked with snow so myself and Dave scampered ( actualy we power marched) up a great zig zag trail into the hanging valley before traversing to where I took this picture from. Another col ahead of us and the descent back to Val Feret await.. another great 20 km trip out and the last one in the mountains for me!! The morning after this, I was off at 0500hrs with Helen to drive to Geneva airport through the Monte Bianco tunnel. It was absolutely chucking it down as we left Dave and Mel asleep in their van and heading off to other adventures, Helen off to Annecy and myself off to Romania....


A summer of fun in the worst Alps weather since 1930’s!!

Typically, whilst Me and Helen spent our summer in the Alps, the UK weather was best for a long time. Despite the worst Alps weather since 1930’s we had an awesome time and managed an awful lot of trips in the hills , on foot, mountain bike or road bike and saw some great areas on the way.

We spent time in the following areas, visiting some of the placws twice or 3 times:-

Aosta Valley – Courmayeur / Gran San Bernardo

Bardonecchia Region – Piedmonte  Region, Italy

Grand Bornand – Haute Savoie, France

Valloire and Col Du Galibier Area

Switzerland – Valais

Finale Luguria – Italian Mediteranean Coast

An awesome time, and now abruptly halted due to our requirements to go back to work:-

Unfortunately the summer long plan to take part in the Tor Des Geants went down the pan again!! Typical that a job came up to scupper the possibility to take part, I seriously think that I was getting to the point of being able perhaps to complete the thing…. I am feeling on top form even now, sitting in Romania at work………

Beautiful Mountains, beautiful valeys, cloudscapes and snowscapes, jagged peaks, every valley offering something totally different, and on top of that, 2 of the most enjoyable mountain races I have taken part in, with fantastic support from local villages along the way….

Here are a few pictures from the most recent of adventures:-

Chamonix from the Brevent- Halfway through an awesome run from Passy up past the Moede Antenne Hut and up the back of the Brevent

A great 32kn day out in the quiet side of the mountains around Chamonix. I hardly saw anyone until I popped out at the Col DU Brevent. Great trails, loads of ascent, awesome weather and then some great cols along the ridge of the Aiguilles Rouges, until a descent to Argentiere pasing the top of La Flegere lift..

Adidas XT4‘s have been my general companion for this trip to the alps with a trip to the dark side to wear some Salomon Sense Ultra SG , whilst my XT4’s had worn out…. I still prefer the XT4’s to be honest. The grip is slightly better in the ADidas XT4’s, especially in wetter weather, and they last longer that the Salomon Sense Ultra SG ( the salomon uppers are beginning to split around the top of the toe box near big toe/ball of foot area) . The Salomons are a little lighter mind you, but as an all round shoe its the Adidas one for me everytime, high mileage, great grip, positive..

Last 10km featured a super steep descent sloshing muddy in the rain. I missed the worst weather

I absolutely loved this race. Cheese and ham with tarte au framboise at the aid stations, running on awesome ridges at around 2800m, great views of mont blanc massif through clouds, good people and great organisation. Awesome. I wore the Salamon SG Sense, as I h.ad worn out my old pair of Adidas XT4 trail shoes

Cycled over the Col Du Galibier to watch the TDF come through the Col DU lauteret.

A great afternoon spent chiling on a hilside, the rain held off and we had a great view of the race coming through. Then coffee and a great climb back up from the Col Du Lauteret to the Galibier. the wind was behind and we were flying....

A high mountain day after cycling the Galibier the previous day on mountain bikes, a great descent off road down a valley towards Valloire too!!

Beautiful weather, around 3000m. Had a great walk on a funky ridge. SOme wicked evenings spent running in this area too. Wild camper vanning in the valley and running every evening, living the dream....

Not a soul around, high above Valloire, late afternoon. Views all around great and a lovely ridge line to follow, technical but runnable. Nice and hot.

Living the dream. We had been on a via ferrata during the day then running in the evening. Heading down to Valoire and looking forward to a beer...

Bumped into Matthew Roberts from the village at the Sierre Zinal Race. 2 Eryri vests. He was first Welshman, I second...lol

Myself and Janine headed over to the famous Sierre Zinal Race, with Helen driving and crewing for us. What a great day. Warm sunshine, an amazing course with 2500m climbing in it ( first 8km ascends 1500m) . Killian Jornet won it in 2hr 32, I finished around 250th out of 2000, very pleased in a time of 3hrs 46 minutes. I was nervous of the race to be honest at the start and took it fairly easy, gauging my speed to finish well.. Faster next year, lol

Sierre Zinal Finish.Cramps kicking in, due to intense downhill sprint for final 3 km..super steep. The race went uphil forever first!!1

This race was such a well supported event. Oompah bands along the route, cheering villagers everywhere, rattles, cowbells, a bit reminiscent of the Tour De France. In th middle of the woods on the first climb there was an old boy with an accordian playing great tunes and a string of cowbells powered by another aged gentlemen and a piece of string.Brilliant. .Leg pain and in need of cold drinks in this picture as I am 100m away from the finish..!! Helen had an awesome apple strudel lined up for me as i met up with her. No cold beer at the finish, unlike the Gran Trail Courmayeur


Very late update Still in the Alps and feeling good

OK, sorry for no updates, but flakey internet and limited data access plus battery on computer ….blah blah blah….

Whats been happening this last couple of weeks –

Well Lots of running in and around Cournayeur, in fact I was pleased to come 9th overall in the Gran Trail Courmayeur 60km race – very pleased as I felt good all the way through and only started to feel competetive rather than just finishing it at around 35 km… A great race with 4000m ascebt in it and good preparation for stuf to come…

The feeling of being out so high in the mountains above Val Veney and on beautiful ridges is just so energising….

Helen has been out here with me and we have also been hitting the road biking and mountain biking with some good cols trips – Telegraphe and Galibier in a day plus a day watching the Tour De France come over Col de Lauteret, along with a good ride back up and over the Galibier to finish the day off. an awesome descent down to Valloire where we stayed for around a week…

Great running around Valloire too despite some wettish days we had some awesome weather

Oh, I also forgot to mention our trip to Finale Ligure , a fine coastal resort on the Italian Riviera with some fantastic mountain biking trails. We explored for a couple of days and even went for a swim in the sea, as weather had really gone bad in mountains

A trip over to Le Grand Bornand with dodgy weather allowed some more road biking cols and some hour and 2 hour runs for training, I have been generally getting in 1 to 2 hour blasts since the Gran Trail Courmayeur, just to allow my legs to recover…

I reckon I may have a go at the Pady Buckley on my Birthday, 1st August, and on the 10th I am back out in Switzerland for the Sierre Zinal Race, which will be awesome…

I am still on for the Tor Des Geants too in mid September so far… fingers crossed it all goes well….

Photos to folow of some adventures.

I am currently visiting my mate James in Argentiere up the valley from Chamonix and fancy a run over the Aiguille rouges……


Les Hauderes to Col Des Ignes

As the weather forecast was looking reasonable for yesterday, I planned a longish run up high as I suspected the weather today ( Sunday ) would be rubbish ! ( I am currently sat inside in the camp site in rain and low cloud so an ideal time to write up yesterdays trip out.

As there was likely to be snow high up I was equipped with the Kahtoola Micro Spikes and also my Adidas XT4 Trail Shoes, although they are beginning to get worn down with all the mileage I am putting into them….

Despite the high mileage week, I still felt pretty fresh – no aches and pains , just a feeling of fatigued legs…

The day was beautiful as I headed off at 0845 hrs from the campsite in Les Hauderes (Camping Molignon – a great spot with views of mountains all around and great facilities).

Inspiring weather early in the day

Dente Blanche from Les Hauderes - just outside the campsite

The view up the valley towards the Ferpecle glacier and the Dente Blanche in the distance was fantastic, but my goal lay u the valley towards Arolla, and along the valley track instead of the tarmac, to reach La Gouille. Its quite a pull first thing in the morning and I was glad to actually begin the steep ascent towards Lac Bleu and the Aguille Rouge Hut, as I had a good excuse to power march… The valley up to here is such an angle that it feels entirely runnable, but on a long day I try to manage the feeling that I ought to run it all, and just run the flatter sections….

Steep climb up from La Gouille and a snlw slope to cross to get to the Cabane at 2810m

The climb upto the Aguile Rouge hut at 2810 metres is great, I love this and around 2hrs after leaving the van I am 1300m vertical higher up than I started and surrounded by great peaks of around 3200m plus. Pic a’Letoile is upto the right, with the Aguille Rouge behind then various peaks in the direction of the Col Des Ignes and The Pigne D’arolla. Behind the hut across the valley there is the Aguille de La Tsa, the Dente Blanche and hidden in cloud today the Matterhorn is lurking somewhere.

Great views down to the Arolla Valley

Past the Aiguille Rouges Hut and heading for the start of the Col Des Ignes path

Stopping for a coffee at the hut, after crossing yet more steep snowy patches on the way to the hut – some soft and some pretty hard – I get an update on the weather – the Guardian reckons it will be fine all day, which suite my plans for crossing the Col Des Ignes, then running round to the back of the Pas De Chevres / Col De Reidmatten to cross them and descend back via Arolla….

I set off at a cruise from the hut, legs feeling great and traverse the hillside on great singletrack mixed with some rocky sections until a blue and white marker indicates the mountain track uptowards the Col Des Ignes..

Around 2900m weather is a bit dodgy and I dont fancy getting caught on the far side of the col in bad weather

Beginning to rain and I continue only upto the snow slope on the final approach before I turn round. Sense gets the better of my urge to explore the other side...

There’s plenty of snow about and I alternatley seek rocky bits and wade through softish snow to make progress, in a great surrounding. Unfortunately the cloud is building on the far side of the col and as I climb higher I get to the last 100m vertical height to gain the col, and it begins to rain…. The complete snow slope ahead and the thought of getting caught on the far side of the mountains in a thunderstorm ( forecast) is enough to get me to reconsider my goals, and I turn tail and head down…

Fast going through the moraine and snow leads me to the Aiguile Rouge Arolla path which is great running ( although one section is covered in the debris of an old snow/rock avalanche …) I ping down on snappy legs to the dirt road that leads down from the Mayens de Arolla ( a lovely group of old mtn cottages high above the valley floor) feeling spritely, as it sprinkles lightly with rain.

The long descent to Arolla is finished on a great steep singletrack path into the village, where an easier angled Randonne path ( a great MTB descent) leads into the fields below the village then fantastic alpine meadow running alongside the river, just Idyllic!

idyllic running on a mowed singletrack through great flowers

Heading down towards La Gouille along the river banks through alpine meadows, what more could one want...

I am beginning to tire as I get to La Gouile and begin the steep valley descent back to Les Hauderes, realising why in fact it is so hard to run up it ( it looks and feels well steep on the return journey)…

I have some very odd stomach cramps on the descent that I suspect is either hunger and long descent related or glacier water drinking… but once back at the campsite and after a bit of stretching the symptoms are gone and I suspect its just a reaction to the long week of running….

A fantastic day out, despite not getting to cross the col’s planned. Probably around 28km running with around 1600m ascent involved.

This brings the total since last friday to 160 plus KM with around 10000m ascent, including the mid week runs in the Sanetsch Pass area. 2 days rock climbing and a great mountain bike spin out with Graham – a British Mountain Guide – Frost Guiding have made for a great high mileage week / training week, and I am hoping that this is going to go in the bank for a) the Sierre Zinal Race and b) the Tor Des Geants……


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