Posts Tagged ‘Paul Barbier’

All the fun of The Fellsman 2015

The Fellsman 2015

Having had such a great time on the Fellsman on 25th March with Duncan and Dave, I thought it about time to write up a short review of the great day that was had by all of us. The Fellsman has been running for 53yrs and has somewhat of a reputation for being over rough terrain and in generally poor weather for some reason, the 61 miles of it – 100km being over the Northern and Western Yorkshire Dales over rough ground, bogs and only faint tracks when you are lucky..

The weather forecast for the 25th was terrible after a week of solid good weather before it, typical apparently and we all met up the night before the event in Threshfield, sleeping in vans in a field next door to the Finish line which would be handy at the end of a long day.. Buses were arranged to take us to the start in the morning but due to our relaxed approach to registering, we were biletted onto a particularly early bus to the start, and after a good feed and a kit check the 3 of us retired to sleep, waking at 0430 hrs so we had enough time for breakfast and to cook the spectacular Bacon Avocado and Mushroom Pittas that Duncan suggested we take on the bus with us.. Genius food to start the day…

Anyways, after no sleep on the bus we dragged ourselves into the start, in various levels of dread/excitement and wrapped up against the foul weather outside. My TNF  Waterproof Jacket was straight on, as well as extra layers to keep warm in and a last cup of coffee nailed before we poured outside into the starter field and a “Ready,Set,Go” type of start that was refreshingly old school..

Steady away was the order of the day as we jogged and power marched out and up towards Ingleborough feeling great although full of suspense as we were all first timers, and Duncan hadn’t run further than 21 miles in training and this was his first ultra event. Feeding and hydration ( apart from the rain wetting us) is the way to keep going on the long ones so we were prepared with a plethora of snacks,gels and bars for the jolly that lay ahead.

We were creaming along happily until descending from Ingleborough towards The Hill Inn in thick cloud and instead of following our own knowledge of the route, carried on after around 20 people heading way to far East for a km or so until we ground to a halt, checked the maps and headed back on to the route – a salutary lesson in using ones common sense and not just following the pack – I hope the 20 odd people found their way back on route at some point, a bit disheartening to stray so early on….

Through rain and cloud and with some quality humour we rumbled on over whernside in much better weather than when we scouted it, even though the weather was dire anyway – cloud low and chilly wind with soothing drizzle…Wwe were all wel wrapped as we cracked onto Kingsdale, Gragareth ( a steep little climb) then rolled over to Great Coum and down to Dent for some welcome refreshments of sausage rolls, cheese rolls, hot beans and tea and coffee, the snacks at the aid stations all the way round were manned by cool and helpful people and great snackage…(Thanks everyone by the way- awesome)..

20 miles plus in and feeling OK we climbed out of the valley back up towards Whernside to engage in bog trotting again with tussock wrestling to pootle our way over to Blea (Bleak!?) Moor by which time the weather had improved and it was snowing, 4 seasons in a day. We thrashed it down into Stone House back in Dent Dale to check in and feast again at the half way station and a long climb ahead.

Duncan was feeling the burn and the distance in his legs due to a bash on the leg he sustained on Great Coum and personally I always find the few km up to the half way mark  of any big trip out pretty hard psychologically, despite feeling Ok with forward movement..The lighter skies and  crossing of the half way point drove us forward for a long section over a weave of hills and bogs again with back tracking, chilliness, bogs and tussocks with some great views back over the Dales as the weather cleared..

Checkpoints and bogs rolled on , we were now hyper aware of our bodies – alert for hunger, dehydration, cold, fatigue, psychological doubts, too fast too slow, night fall imminent, one foot going in front of the other in relentless forward progress with lashings of dry humour as we approached what we perceived as the key section of the route, across  the dreaded Fleet Moss!!!……

In fact after a fine feast and some very hander insider knowledge we headed out onto what looks like impenetrable peat bogs, and skirted sneakily along the edge of them on a really sweet little trail for miles (a long section this one, until we found a quad bike trail to contour round to a hidden checkpoint then a direct line off the feels and down to the Cray checkpoint by the road after a nifty check in at Hells Gap ahead of a large group of folks we had overtaken on our bog traverse of joy and marvel. There is nothing like a load of tussocks and bog to encourage a good sense of humour and all sorts of strange leg sensations when you are 40 plus miles into a run… Marvellous stuff …

So rocking into Cray meant another fine feast and also a standby whilst we were grouped into bunches of a minimum of 4 and also required to don full length leg coverings for night on the hills – rules are rules, but actually i t was nice to change into my compression tights and swap into a dry pair of socks ( at least they were for about 20 minutes)… Heading out with Richard to make our we group into a 4 the light began to fail on Buckden Pike as we piled up the front in as direct a line as possible once again, leaving our torches turned off for the whole travers to Park Rash bar the last 2 0r 3 km so that following teams wouldn’t see our track – we were heading again in straight lines across bogs whilst keeping in mind the restricted areas on route that must be respected..

A last feast at Park Rash and we prepared for the final hill, legs aching with every step forward to be honest but at least by now they have reached an even level whereby the get no worse and the aching is tolerable as long as you just keep moving forward….

A heavy Frost, beautiful starry night and great views back across the Dales fells awaited, with a distance string of torch light beams dotted hither and thither across the fells to remind us of the other people who were going to be out for way longer than us … Hard core indeed!!

Descending from Great Whernside brought with it the usual spills and thrills of frosted bogs and waist deep mud at times , all great on fully battered legs – not at all a struggle – but the end is calling one onwards now and we all new that we would make it as a team…

Epic track from Capplestone Gate that just went on forever following mysterious flashing orange beacons to guide one across the empty and quite featureless moorland  until one rocks up to Yarnbury behind Grassington… Ans is it all over  – Not Yet – There is a load of tarmac which by now was playing havoc with legs and providing much entertainment for us as we hopped and skipped slowly down on delicate quads into Grassington, maintaining our fine sense of humour until all of  a sudden ( actually another hour or so later) we rolled up towards the Finish Line at Threshfield School and Daves Partner Mel awaiting to lead us into the finish – Awesome day out in a great place, with good mates and great views, lovely weather and a simple task to occupy us for the day:-

Start at A and Get to B via such and such… Simple and elegant and such fun to complete the trip. A great mision and I am really pleased that we all made it together…. Looking forward to more of these type of adventures this summer and glad that I have got a 100km trip into my legs early season to hopefully set me up for some more adventures both in races and just out in the hills…

Goals for the Summer:-

The Paddy Buckley Round

Gran Trail Courmayeur

Royal Ultra Sky Marathon – Gran Paradiso – Piemonte Italy

And to have loads of fun, run and bike lots and make the most of life generally.

Keep pushing on and enjoying the mountains….


Review – Hoka OneOne Rapanui 2S Fell running / Trail Shoe

Hoka OneOne Rapanui 2S trail shoe - light nimble and plush with great grip

I gave the Rapanui 2S a good testing when I headed out with Brian Wills, from Capel back to Llanberis over the Glyders, a real broad mix of terrain from bogs to tussocks then good rocky terrain across the tops of the glyders, onto rolling singletrack across Y Garn and Elidir, with a grass descent running onto hard packed slate chippings track descent through the Dinorwic quarries

First of all I must thank the Hoka Rep for providing me with these shoes to test out and also thanks to V12 for getting him over to the shop to check out the range of shoes. V12 are planning to have  a number of the shoes in stock, both mens and womens, technical trail fell running shoes and some more all rounder trail running shoes , and so I was keen to be able to test a pair of Rapanui 2S shoes out and give some feedback.

The shoes are something I would not ordinarily have considered as I prefer generally more minimalist shoes, but the fact that these were pure cushioning and still low heel to toe differential meant I was ken to try them out as theoretically they would be great for long distance stuff…

The actual super technical fell shoe that will be stocked by V12 will be the Karl Meltzer signature Speedgoat Shoe which is an amped up version with more stability on technical terain than the shoe I tested. It will be a lower profile upper and really dialed into the UK Technical fell running market… There is a Youtube video here to check them out….

So back to the review of the Rapanui 2S:-

Technical details first – the Rapanui has a 6mm heel to toe drop, which is comparable to the technical fell running / trail running shoes of Salomon ( Sense SG and Sense etc) and the Adidas Adizero Trail XT4. The low heel drop means that they are good on technical terrain and encourage a natural rolling running style. The overall shoe is of a neutral design but the amount of cushioning / padding in the shoe would compensate for a small amount of over pronation it seems.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S - Big stack height but the heel to toe drop for these beauties is only 5mm meaning the shoes still feel natural to run in and are great in rough terrain. They feel dialled in and nimble whilst being super plush and are wicked for straight line descending on steep terrain - the heel to toe drop is similar to the Salomon Sense SG at 6mm. The uppers are lightweight and don't stretch in the wet, draining quickly on the run and maintaining support.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S – Big stack height but the heel to toe drop for these beauties is only 5mm meaning the shoes still feel natural to run in and are great in rough terrain. They feel dialled in and nimble whilst being super plush and are wicked for straight line descending on steep terrain – the heel to toe drop is similar to the Salomon Sense SG at 6mm. The uppers are lightweight and don’t stretch in the wet, draining quickly on the run and maintaining support.

The front of the shoe has 29mmm of cushioning and the heel area has 35mm so the shoe is well cushioned up. These are what seem to be termed as maximalist shoes rather than minimalist, but are still designed with technical trail, fast movement and long distance in mind.

 

The weight of the shoes is still low and surprising (given that they look kind of big and heavy) – a pair of  size 8 – 43 European size comes in at 292g per shoe  – they feel very nimble/ agile and precise in use too and any weight issue is offset by the premium amounts of cushioning and the way ones feet feel great even after hours on the go….

The lacing system is god and the speed lacing system works very well, being secure and clog free during hours of bogs and mud on the recent Fellsman I completed ( 101km, 16hrs 48 minutes ) – the shoes remained securely fastened . There is an elastic strap halfway down the tongue where one can tuck the extra laces when they are cinched up, and this works well, especially if you fed the end all the way through this and back up to the top elastic right by the speed lace system.

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S - V12 will be stocking the Karl Meltzer Speedgoat Shoe which is an amped up lower profile upper version of this shoe which is even more tuned for the UK fell running market..

Close up of the speed lacing system on the Hoka One One Rapanui 2S. This seems to work well, and doesn’t slip during long runs, once tightened they stay put and seem to keep free of clogging mud on boggier ground. Simple but effective. On the new Karl Meltzer Signature shoes that will be ariving to V12, there are more eyelets for the laces and I would expect an even more dialed in fit with a slightly lower profile upper to really dial the shoe in to a UK style of fell running terrain. There are another pair of eyelets above where the laces go, that could be utilised. This would entail cutting the laces and re threading them through the eyelets but to be honest I found that this was not necessary.

If ou really want to lock yr heels into the shoe then there are an extra pair of eyelets that you could further thread the laces through after cutting then rethreading the speed system, but I felt this was unnecessary. Again a surprise as I usually like my feet truly locked in at the heel. The shoes fit well enough not to require any fiddling like this…

The soles feature a set of 6mm lugs well spaced out over the generally flat and wide profile sole with some indentations, the rationale being that this will shed mud and debris easily, avoid clogging on poor terrain and maintain grip. The spacing of the lugs also seems to allow the shoe to grip brilliantly on uneven rock surfaces too . The lugs seem to be hardwearing so far, on other shoes with similar lugs, I have seen more wear than that which I see on the shoes so far for equivalent amounts of use.

Being that these are a continental / US style shoe I was concerned that the grip on them may be substandard even with the lugs on, but I was definitely wrong about that. So far I can’t fault the grip in a wide range of terrain and technical situations – super steep wet grass descents and traverses, they definitely compare with the Salomon SG Sense series and the Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes which I rate highly for grip and have spent many a mile in on all sorts of terrain….

Hoka One One Rapanui 2S Review - Tread Pattern

Open Tread with great lugs on the Rapanui 2S, the lugs are brilliant on all the different terrain I have tested them on so far. I was very surprised at the good grip and seemingly hard wearing tread so far after probably 230km use in a few weeks.

The Speedgoat shoe that V12 will actually stocking has a more shaped sole with some cut outs along the front foot area and in the back heel, to give the shoe more adaptability on steep side traverses and really uneven ground, and I suspect this will be a really good – I did find on a couple of occasions, especially early on in a run, that on a steep side traverse the she felt a little unforgiving and slid around the foot, pushing into the ankle. However with use and further running this seemed to lessen and I didn’t notice it at all on the Fellsman, where my feet remained feeling great through bogs, tussocks, rocky and grassy trails and non trails….

My legs seem to have recovered better than I would have thought too and I have no where near the amount of Muscle soreness I would usually associate with a long run like the Fellsman.

 

So to summarise:-

I was originally skeptical but fascinated by the concept and after having doubts about the shoes I am pleased and surprised to report that I really like these Rapanui’s and am really looking forward to getting my hands on a pair of the Speedgoat 2015 shoes when V12 get them in – This years version of the Rapanui will be an amazing dialled in version of the shoe, ideal for UK fels and trails.

The ground feel is still good, the stability on technical terrain is great and the nimbleness and lightness is really a surprise to me. I really am liking these shoes, contrary to all my original ideas and I am looking forward to getting more miles out of them on a wide variety of terrain. The way they feel when descending is great and they climb well too.

I have some more races lined up for the summer – The Cadair Idris Race, the Courmayeur Gran Trail 90km ( 5400m ascent), Royal Ultra on Gran Paradiso Northern Italy ( 54km 400m ascent) and hey who knows, even the Paddy Buckley is still under consideration as I am beginning to feel stronger and confident currently… Non of these will be done in anywhere near winning times etc but hey its about having fun out there, and as such the Hoka OneOne’s are going to be a large part of those fun times I reckon. I would recommend giving them a go – it may well be a hugely positive surprise….

Oh and by the way V12 are also going to be stocking a more trail oriented version than a techincal fell shoe, more suitable for mixing it up on roads and trails, and also 2 womens versions of the shoes, which all look amazing….

Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Y Garn in the distance - Hoka One One Rapanui Tread view

Done about 250 plus km in these shoes now and although at first I was skeptical due to the thought of the thick cushioning, I’m well pleased with how they feel. I was concerned also that they may rub on my outer ankle on a long run but having completed the Fellsman last weekend in them (101km and 16hrs 48 minutes later) I can attest to my feet feeling great at the end and also the Delayed onset muscle fatigue pain that I expected has failed really to materialise again a positive result of the cushioning in the shoe. Living the Dream as ever………..

 

 

 


Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles 2015 Review

I completed the Fellsman this weekend ( 25th April) and was lucky enough to have got my hands on a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles – Ultra Light Fast Packing / Trail Running Poles that are made by a British Company.

The Camera got wet hence a bit of a bur in the midle - The Trail Blaze Poles were great

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles at Fleet Moss Checkpoint on Felsman 2015 with Dunc and Dave. A wet windy cold day that included snow, turning to clear skies with frost later. The majority of the route is on boggy ground or tussocks, with minimal amounts of hard paths and trails..

I have previously had a pair of BD Ultra Distance Poles so it was going to be interesting to  test these Mountain King Trail Blaze ones out (I snapped my BD ones a few weeks back whilst scouting for the Fellsman event)

The poles are certainly minimalist. They have a small but comfortable cushioned hand grip with a non adjustable wrist loop, again comfortable on the wrist. A small cord runs through the centre of the 4 sections and when pulled hard out of the top of the poles allows the poles to slot together then locked in place by slipping the manufacturers pre fitted knot into the little groove at the top of the pole. The Poles come with 2 detachable baskets (screw fitting so don’t just try to rive them off), and also 2 rubber type covers for the carborundum/tungsten tips of the poles if you dont want to click on rocky terrain. Personally I leave the rubber tips of all the time but would be likely to use the baskets on the poles in winter or in the alps.

Trail Blaze Pole Mountain King 2015 Review

Metal tips showing detail of the screw fitting thread for the light weight but effective and sturdily attachable baskets in case you require them

The poles are made up as an aluminium centre overlaid with a wrap of carbon fibre, and I imagine that this is what has given them their strength without compromising on weight – especially at the joins between the sections on poles

120cm long - weight 250gms the pair - 40gm lighter than the BD Ultra Distance Poles at 120cm

Trail Blaze Poles folded up with velcro straps in view, tidy and compact and very light

The poles arrive with a small mesh bag to hold them in and they are both fitted with a small but ideally sized velcro loop to keep the poles under control when they are folded away and stashed on or in your bag.

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

Pull the cord whilst dangling the sections of the pole and they pull into place, and then clip the knot into the slot on the top of the handle for a light weight locked out pole.. Quick and easy. The handle is well cushioned and is not noticeably les comforrtabe when ts soaking wet (as it was for most of the Fellsman event)

At first glance look and feel very fragile, but after having used them a number of times and trapped them between rocks on trails or had them stuck in a bog and get unfeasibly pressured as I bent them over whilst stopping myself to extricate them, they seem to be robust enough to last – this has dispelled any worries about fragility.

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles - Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

Aluminium ferrule slots into carbon sleeve on each section of the poles – Mountain King Trail Blaze 2015 design change apparently

The joins in the poles feature an aluminium ferrule one end and a carbon sleeve at the other side. As far as I understand it this is a part of the poles redesign since last years model, to improve strength without compromising on weight, and so far so good, no splits or cracks despite rather a lot of abuse in a short time…

I intend to use these poles plenty over the course of the summer, both here in Snowdonia and in the Alps. I plan on a number of longer runs hopefully including the Paddy Buckley Round here and some other Sky Races out in Northern Italy  and have loads of confidence in these poles.

They have proved themselves so far – lightweight, easy to fit together and quick, comfortable hand grip and an perfectly adequate wrist loop that is also comfortable. Very impressed and would recommend them for sure. Oh and by the way as far as lightness goes, they are 40gms lighter per pair for the 120cm length than the BD Ultra Distance Poles – Perfect…..

For future reference and if I would suggest any improvements that could be made then I would suggest a slightly less stretchy or a tighter fit for the centre cord, as a number of times the poles were pulled significantly apart when pulling them out of sticky turf terrain whilst running and this caused me to be a little concerned that they would pop apart.

I would also suggest that the padded section on the handle could be made another 4 cm longer to be really sweet when ones wrists are engaged into the loops and to give a bit more flexibility to hand position and comfort.

However both these issues are minor tweaks and should not put one off these amazing poles

VERDICT:- 9 /10 – EXCELLENT

 

 

 

 

 

 


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…


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


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……


Pank Camp Loop – Best camp location for views and quality loops

Possibly the best 3.5km loop of tarmac I have come across with around a 100m heigh difference and a few diferent hills on a single lap. Telly Tubby style bridges, a couple of short grass tracks and great views means its actualy pretty inspiring to run here, depsite the fact that one is not going anywhere.

Combined with the very hospitable Kurds and our friendly OPF, a bunch of Asaish and lots of holiday makers, its quite an experience. These pictures are all from the quiet end of the camp near the gorge behind Rowanduz Village. This place is surrounded in trails and climbing opportunities. Might have to come back on holiday!!

Paul Dixon flying along at Pank

Soran in the background and Hamiltons Road running up the valley into Iran in the distance

Jim Plaice on the Pank Loop with a great Back Drop

Jim Plaice, one of our gang of four - myself Paul D and Qudrat make up the other 3 - daily battering on the tarmac above Rowanduz. It could be worse?!

Paul D going for it again

Akoyan Valley in the background and the Harmusche ridge. Full of potential routes - biking, running, scrambling or climbing. Rowanduz is such a cool spot. Qudrat,Paul D and Jim P on a mission. 38 degrees C.

Rowanduz, running, Kurdistan

Paul D and Qudrat, more partners in crime on the Pank Loop, steps and sweeping mini paths ad to the fun and stretch the lungs and calf muscles

Rowanduz Gorge behind, Pank Camp super Loops. 38 degrees C. Tired Legs

Pank Loop - Your truly - attacked the steps and the rather fancy red and white paved swoopy paths jioning the tarmac loops, lol


Good work and plenty of exercise in Rowanduz. Next stop Home.

I am due back in Wales on the 11th after a fine hard working month up in Rowanduz, in Eastern Kurdistan on the edge of the Zagros mountains, with distant views of Iranian and Turkish peaks. Its a magic place to be honest and such a great place to work.

Admittedly the options to run wild over the mountains are out due to work commitments and HSE rules, but just running around the Pank Holiday resort where I was embedded for a month was stunning due to quality tarmac and great views. Work has also involved a lot of hiking into the hills and 2 out of 4 weeks I have managed 3700 m of ascent, one week 85 km  and another week 106 km, squeezed in to late afternoon tarmac sessions, marching in the hills to check out work teams, and occasionally running on dirt roads at the end of the day with a vehicle following me on the way back to camp… I am sure the photo’s posted give a bit of an idea of the potential here – tha place is ripe for new routing, now ridge running, trail runs, gorge exploring and kayaking, with road biking and mountain biking options a plenty.

an amazing place full of fantastically hospitable people, Kurdistan is an adventure waiting to happen


Back In The UK And Getting Into It Again

Clasic view from the Glyders towards Snowdon, Its great to be back in Wales

Great weather this week, a good welcome back to Wales, Snowdon from Glyders

So after a month of work and being confined to the camp and running in circles ( got the camp circuit down to 2mins and 5 seconds, segment on Strava. Paul Dickson has matched the time so need to smash it when I get back to work…. However:-

Back in Wales Weather has been great, I am feeling really good, the flat circuits have kept me in reasonable form I reckon and what a good week of trips out:-

For all the runs this week i am back in my pair of Adidas Adizero XT4’s. They are as ever great grip and superemely comfortable whilst minimal enough to give a great feel for the trail but stil protecting the sole of the foot from battering. They are light, dry fast and never seem to smell bad… my 3rd pair and they last for ages. the last pair I bought slightly small and I have passed them on to Duncan whilst there is still some life left in them. I am in size 46 not 45 now, and this is perfect for me , locking my foot into place with enough toe box room so i dont stub. Really locked onto my feet and super comfy.. ( I am a size 44.5 in a normal shoe and have decided that 46 suits me best in most trail running and road shoes, especially Adidas.

Looking down into te Ogwen Valley on my first day back from work.

The start of a great week of running and fun, with plenty more to go before I head back to work. Looking down from Y garn into Ogwen, Pen yr Ole Wen on the left, Tryfan to the right

Wednesday 16th April – 17km 1087m ascent

Arrived back at 1315hrs and then by 140hrs met duncan and headed out up through the quarries onto Elidir Fach, then Fawr, my favourite ascent, tons of steps and steep, more of a power march than a run, but runnable sometimes… headed over to Y Garn with a chily Breeze and a very excitable Sam the Dog, and then managed to convince Duncan that the descent via Pen Dinas would be fun. Possibly the steepest bit of grass in the pas and annualy used for the Pen Dinas Fell race – a vertical thrash u and down….

A great day out finished by continuing back into Llanberis along the road from Nant.

Thursday 17th –  MTB 25km – plenty of climbs and some awesome descents, Trail Run 8km with 40m ascent

Battered legs – quads particularly tender due to the steep descent off Y garn via Pen Dinas. The flat lands of camp dont prepare the legs for this realy so some pain is inevitable! but its good stuff and clears away once the legs get moving..

Trip to Coed Y Brenin and a great ride round the Dragons Back, havent been here in quite some time and unusual not to have Helen with me as Mountain Biking is one of our things … Plenty of it lined up for when she returns from Cambodia.

Sam is always super excited to get out with us! I get a great welcome from him every time i turn up.

Duncan and Sam are always keen, and duncans odd work hours means he is available during the day sometimes, in between building his house and family time.

Biking was great and helped the legs recover, weather was ace again.

After the bike ride I decided to try out a short trail in the forest – The Sarn helen Long route – 8km and 400m ascent, a great little spin out and legs felt beter and beter as the run went on. There are a load of trails marked up in Coed y Brenin, including the trail Half Marathon Course which would be a great run, save it for next time. I have done the marathon course a couple of years ago at the inaugral event and the race goes from strength to strength each year…

Friday 18th Road Bike ride 60km

Headed out with tired legs over towards Waunfawr, then round via Beddgelert and up the Nant Gwynant to Capel Curig, along the Ogwen valley and down through Tregarth , and picked up the van from my mate duncans. Excellent ride and legs actualy felt ok climbing the Gwynant but knackered later on. tried to keep the pace reasonable and maaged about 3hrs ride including half an hour stop at the magnificent Nant Gwynant Cafe. Once again, great weather , and its just so good to be out when its like this!

Saturday 19th Mountain run 21km 1770m ascent

Great rocky ribs reuire some care as they are pretty rotten but height is gained quickly

I did this route when I was a teenager into scrambling and its one of my favourite ascents onto the glyders. No good in the rain tho . Spot the XT 4 Adidas Adizero's and also Ynys Etws hut in the bottom of the valley.

Once again an awesome day weather wise and out early ish to seek a parking spot in Nant Peris (couldn’t face running down the tarmac to Nant).

A great way up onto the glyders from the Pass- Bryants gully is steep and has some awkward scrambling in it when wetm but its good and steep and relentless to power march/climb

Great views into the pass from high up in the gully, avoiding the wet and slippery awkward wall, steep scree,heather and rocky buttresses

Picked a cold damp and shady route up onto Glyder Fawr to avoid the easter crowds, via Bryants gully, actually pretty slippery and awkward at this time of year as there is still afair bit of water running down it. Its a steep steep way onto the glyders and the higher part of the gulley features a short steep wall which can be a bit lethal in the wet so this was side stepped by ploughing on up the scree hillside to the right of the gully to keep it safe and sound today.

Onto Glyder fawr the towards Glyder fach to the top of the Cneifion Arete, above Clogwyn Ddu. I descended the ridge to Llyn Idwal after wondering if I could face it – it loked a long way down and my legs were tired…However once the decision was made, I was feeling great and loking forward to the climb back out from Idwal lake. Steeply down to the lake then crossing at the outflow, i head directly up towards Y Garn , a long a step stren ridge ascent with not much horizontal terain between the lake and the summit. A great way up and legs felt OK, tho I took it steady.

Tryfan in the distance,looking down the Y Garn ascent with Cneifion Arete in middle distance

A great track up steps and a broad ridge from Llyn Idwal right to the top of Y Garn, lots of ascent. The middle ground behind the ridge is the Cneifion Arete, that I had just descended,

From Y Garn it was onwards via the crowded summit towards  Elidir Fawr – most of which is quite runnable on tired legs even when one is feeling lazy – then descended to Elidir Fach and cut off the top to join the tarmac road  to the surge pool and then down through the quary on the zig zags, al the way back to Nant Peris via the small path that breaks off about 3 or 4 bends above the lake, across the hillside, a great variation.. Awesome few hours out.

I took Sunday off for paperwork and a break, just to keep me keen, and then Monday had a plan to run with Duncan and Brian

Monday 21st April 27km 1646m Ascent

Great route that was chosen for the decent weather. we had planned a round snowdon Jaunt but decided instead to go high and do a vatiant of round Snowdon.

Met up with Duncan, Brian plus Sam the dog who is always bonkers keen, and unaware of the distance he may end running of course!! Wish I had the metabolism of a dog for energy  – he seems to go on forever!

So we headed off up Bwlch Maesgwm ( Telegraph Valley) then followed the left  fork after the gate on the descent towards the Snowdon Ranger path, then headed through a gate and leftwards towards the old quarries blocking the way between us and Rhyd Ddu. Great trails, tho at times boggy lead one around the hilside and across a great summer bathing spot at a stream, to the railway behind Rhyd Ddu. 100m along the railway you can jump the fence leftwards where there is a pile of breizeblocks for just such a purpose and cut over to join the Rhyd Ddu path towards Snowdon summit. Breaking right , we take the rough track towards Bwlch Cwm Llan and head up the South ridge towards the Summit. Its alternately hot and chill  windy and a steep ascent that keep us huffing and power marching before a wel earned cup of tea in the summit cafe,( Thanks Jonathan!)

After a refuel it was off over too Cryb Y Ddysgl/Garneddd Ugain, tthen down diagonally to the Snowdon Ranger descent and the steep leg busting climb upto Moel cynghorion, before the classic descent down to the top of Bwlch Maesgwm and then down to Llanberis, legs feeling great and my Adidas Adizero XT4;s feeling great all the way. A great day out again  and a fine week of exercise..



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