TDS – A Tour of Savoy.

The wild alternative to the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) starting in Courmayeur, Italy heading towards Bourg St Maurice, Cormet de Roseland, Contamines-Montjoie, Les Houches and finishing in Chamonix. 

122km ~7000m +/- Wednesday 29th August 2018

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Just before 01:00 on Thursday morning I shuffle into the quiet streets of Chamonix with just a few late night revellers, Robbie Britton and  Sam Hill (my support crew) to witness my arrival at the finish line. I ‘m neither elated nor disappointed but have an inner glow which beams across my face. With two years of disappointment and failure (CCC 2016 and UTMB 2017), it means a lot to collect the prized finishers gilet which will represent all the memories of an unforgettable arduous adventure. 

What is it about the UTMB festival that captures my imagination and brings me back year after year? 

  • The European hype and razzmatazz which builds you up for the journey to be taken. Music, announcers, cheering residents, cameras, helicopters and passionate spectators. 
  • The huge amounts of time you spend in isolation in the alpine wilderness with majestic views of mountain peaks, diminishing glaciers, walls of rock, lush green valleys and miles of trails. 
  • The level of competition across the events with top class athletes from across the globe all with lofty ambitions of what success looks like. 
  • Challenges in the form of many obstacles to overcome, plenty of time for highs and lows.

Ambition and competitiveness combined with the altitude, unpredictable weather, terrain, ascent, descent and duration make the chance of failure high; if you make the finish line you know you have had an adventure which will make you smile. 

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Start – Photo: Pascal Tournaire

My race plan is a play on Damian Hall’s ambition to be the ‘Fastest Tortoise’; apparently smiling will help you to overcome challenges (I’m very good at this). The plan is  split into three parts and reflect my reputation of going off too fast at the start.

  1. Happy Tortoise 
  2. Happy Tortoise
  3. Grimace Tortoise 

The evening before the race a notification was received; “TDS tough weather. Decision: Start 08 00 normal route except Passeur de Pralognan”. The positives were I get a lie in and may avoid getting struck by lightening. However on the negative, based on a 16 hours schedule, Chamonix will be quiet for the finish (unless I win) and I miss the only part I have recced; on balance, the positives do outweigh the negatives.

After breakfast I’m off to Courmayeur on the 06:00 bus for the start; trying to remember to be a happy tortoise. I love the anticipation of the fight ahead and, however calm I try to remain, the organisers do their best to build my adrenaline before the gun goes, and how am I suppose to remain a tortoise? Finally the music starts and then 5,4,3,2,1 Allez. 

I try to use my HR monitor to gauge my pace on the first climb and I think I’m doing a good job and the plan is working. As I look up the views of Mont Blanc hit me and I even took a photo (I never take photos while racing); I feel the plan is working. Somewhere on the way to Mont Farve I switch from happy tortoise to a happy hare and this continues to Lac Combal and over Col Chavannes. I then hit a long runnable track, and find myself pushing too hard but the heart is telling me to run fast. I start the climb to Col Petit St Bernard and begin to feel the pace, the happy tortoise is now grimacing early into the race. I know this is not good and I need to slow down so my focus moves to trying to eat more and regulate my pace so hopefully I will come good again. At the top I get a huge lift from enthusiastic cheering from Clare Archbold and family, then one minute later I catch my toe and I fall down on my front like a ton of bricks, this certainly silences the cheering crowd. I get up and going again as, luckily, the bloody knee is only superficial but my running gait has tightened.

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On the descent down to Bourg St. Maurice I’m surprised to see Tom Owens having a tough day (Tom rallied and survived a hard day to finish). I run in to aid  station felling like the plan is blown but I have Chamonix in my sights. It is awesome to see my support crew as they give me the morale boost I need. I focus on getting savoury food in at the aid station, together with changing bottles and picking up more more food for the trail. Something a little different, which I find works well ,is taking a bottle of Mountain Fuel Chocolate Recovery with me for the next section; thanks to Rupert for this tip. I leave the comfort of the aid station to start the crawl up the alternative route towards the Comet de Roseland via Les Chapieux. This is the dullest part of the course with too much road, especially in such nice weather, but I force myself to run and keep my head up. 

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Leaving Comet de Roseland still smiling- Photo: Andy Jackson

Although my race plan is now focused on finishing rather than racing, I’m still pushing myself, eating well and trying to be efficient through aid stations. The section between Comet de Roseland and Contamines-Montjoie proves to be my favourite part of the race. It is rougher and wilder, with amazing views and a stunning gorge; I also have a fleeting chat with Rory Bosio as she powers past. It starts to hail and thunder, and a lightening storm started as I pass over exposed ground before Col Joly, reminding me of why the route changed with safety in mind. I keep moving, glad of the decision made by the organisers. Descending down to Notre Dame des Gorges my quads are starting to go and light is fading fast through the trees with darkness closing in (my good torch waiting for me at the next aid station). 

I’m so happy to see Brian Melia cheering me on in Contamines followed by an upbeat Sam in the aid station. I’m clearly suffering but focus on the goal to get to Chamonix. My Altra Superior had done a fine job to this point with with no foot issues but it is time for them to go to shoe heaven with the course having taken its toll. Leaving Contamines I’m cheered on by an old work colleague Bruno, which is a nice surprise.

The last climb is steady to Chalet Truc, I’m starting to go backwards rather than holding firm and can see a bright star in the sky; except it is not a star but the checkpoint at Col Tricot! My lungs are feeling the effects of the altitude and legs powerless, but I just keep plugging away. Eventually after zig zag after zig zag the light gets brighter until I arrive at the checkpoint  From the look of the checkpoint station I must not be looking very fresh! I enjoyed using my new Raidlight poles on the climbs but know my quads are going as I started using them on the descents. The descent is rough, tough and slippery, and normally I love this type of downhill, but not tonight as every time I try to push on I soon slip back into a shuffle.

Reaching Le Houches is a relief with some flatter terrain. Although I know the run to Chamonix would drag, the ever positive Dan Lawson tries to give me a target of catching the runner ahead but I know he is going better than me. I do set myself a new goal of sub 17 hours to keep me pushing all the way to Chamonix. I cross under the finish line in 16 hours 55 mins and 31st place. 

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Although I had dreamed of a sub 16 hour finish and a top 20 place more importantly I had reached the finish and given it my best on the day. The smile has grown as I reflect on the race but the ambition is burning bigger than ever and there is no doubt I will be back next year.

Thank you to my support crew, Mountain Fuel for easy to consume jellies and the recovery drink, Raidlight for the most comfortable clothing, packs and poles, and Northern Runner for the Altra shoes.

www.kimcollison.co.uk

 

 

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9 things I learnt from Zegama 2018

1. The race starts with a sprint around the streets of Zegama, for 500m before hitting the climb where before you know it you are easily above threshold heart rate and still only just in the top 100.

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The day before Zegama starts

2. The Basque region of Spain is surprisingly green. The thunderstorms on the days preceding the race meant there was lots of glorious mud. Luckily I loved the mud and thrived in it. This was mainly due to my confidence in my descending skill and my new favourite fell running shoes the VJSports Irocs2; the grip in the mud and on the rocks of Zegama was brilliant. But Don’t get me wrong there was so much mud at times any amount of grip would not been enough. Then it comes down to good route choice; choosing when to go with the flow and when to put the brakes on.

3. The crowds of Zegama make the race. Tunnels of support at various locations on the course who are cheering, encouraging, shouting your name and pushing you to go faster than you really should. Until you are in the tunnel of people at Sancti Spiritu you can’t appreciate how loud and passionate the support is (actually even better than the videos portray). I could not help but smile and go harder; I felt like a champion. My ears will forever ring from the sounds of Zegama.

4. The Aizkorri (1528m) ridge line is a technical limestone ridge where you need to be very cautious; especially with wobbly legs from all the hard climbing. If you do get a chance to look up, briefly to avoid a trip, the views are pretty good. 

5. There is also a lovely meadow section which must be a welcome break for some from all the technical terrain, although I enjoyed the technical parts.

6. I’m glad I saved something for the last long descent and able to run hard, picking off several places on my way to the finish. This even included a sprint finish on the road, overtaking a place!

7. The level of competition is insane and you want to do well at Zegama you need to train for Zegma. This is the mountain marathon race to do.

8. There are something like 11 aid stations in 42 km with 2700m of climbing, so a great opportunity to run light. I only carried a small flask of Raw Energy Mountain Fuel  in my Raidlight bumbag and gels stuffed into my various pockets of my Raidlight vest and shorts.

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Pre race kit

9. Lastly I was racing hard, smiling from ear to ear with my heart pounding in my chest and, although it feels strange, extremely happy with 4h40m and 53rd place.

Results – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1y1HVLVLBEPKmK86CRISUgkpCrnOVc8As/view?usp=sharing

https://www.strava.com/activities/1600323822/embed/b0050b9812bc3095fac28a3a27b56836ea93ffc5

A big thank you to the Sky Running  team for making this dream possible.

http://www.kimcollison.co.uk

 

Bringing back the smile – My psychological strategies used to finish the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 2018

MIUT Summit 2018

Reaching the summit of Aeerio 1800m and nearly twelve hours into MIUT

Saturday 28th April 2018 at 16.57 my smile was back on my face as I ran down the finish chute of the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) a 115km 7200m race which was part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT). 

Sometimes the journey to the finish line is relatively plain sailing, everything works out to plan and you hit your best possible goal. However this is often not the case and you have to ride the low points to reach the destination. I often find when I have had to show resilience, determination and strength of character  to just reach the finish line, I still get a big smile on my face. Reaching the finish of the MIUT was the second of these and represented progress from a tough 2017 and trying to find positives from my DNF which should of been a DNS at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) in August 2017, due to an ongoing injury.

Over the course of a few months I had rehabilitated enough to complete a winter Bob Graham in deep snow. I knew the change (including strength and conditioning sessions) in my training plan was working and I started planning my goal races for 2018.  MIUT looked right up my street with big mountains, technical trails and a new destination. With a race selected I set my training plan to try to peak my form perfectly and dream big, aiming for a top 10 finish. The reality was my fitness was not the same as in 2015 and the goal was overambitious. However it is these ambitious goals which drive me to push out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and make the little steps needed to reach a bigger goal given enough time. 

A key part of ultra running is the ability to manage the stress deliberately sought; in order to feel you have overcome a challenge and get the reward of a finish line feeling. I might complete all my my training sessions accurately leading up to an event, which I find gives me the confidence to perform to the best of my ability, is only part of the preparation as another key component to running ultras is developing psychological strategies to cope with adversity. 

Flexibility and ability to change are characteristics which have helped humans thrive, with this awareness you can develop a solution focused approach to problems. Three weeks before MIUT I was at the end of a good block of training and I was putting in my last long run before starting to taper. An hour into the run, running along a narrow path, my left foot slid off the path and I landed hard on my right quad. I lay there breathing deeply, accessing the damage, slowly I stand back to my feet with an extremely sore quad and managed to carry on my run. I thought I had been lucky but over the next couple of days I develop a sore left calf. The pain in the calf was getting worse, I could not bury my head in the sand and hope the problem would disappear.  The first part of finding a solution is often working out what is the problem, after consulting the Physio, the problem was a slight calf tear. Sometimes I feel the emotion building up when I receive bad news or I’m put under unexpected stress. A simple first step to calm the nerves is to take a big deep breath, maybe two or three. I could now start to think logically about what  I could do with the resources and time available before the race and make a new plan. In this case it was more rest, easier sessions, self massage and no running for six days before the race.  

With the less than perfect taper, at least I thought I would arrive fresh for the start line by flying out Monday afternoon, four days prior, to relax on Madeira with a nice pre race holiday. “Sorry the wind is too strong to land we have been diverted to Porto” followed a few hours later with “your flight is cancelled and we will be flying back to Manchester”. Eleven hours later the plane landed in Manchester. Stress and fatigue was written all over my face.

A way to control stress can be through a technique of anchoring a physical action like crossed fingers to trigger an experience from your past which is connected to a desired mood state. In moments of stress I sometimes use this technique to help change my mood to a calm state where hopefully I can make a rational plan. I often connect back to a time when I was lying in a hammock on a sandy beach and scuba diving in coral seas.

By the time I worked out I needed to rebook my own flights, the best option was a flight to Madeira via Lisbon and a sleepless night at Porto airport. On arrival I drove straight up to the summit of Aeerio, 1800m, where there is a spectacular viewpoint and the daunting task of reality struck. I was nervous about the calf and would it hold up to the rigours of over 7000m of  descending; time had run out and it would either be okay or not. Rather than worry about the uncontrollable factors and let stress build up, I tried to focus on the controllable factors in the time available. The first priority was sleep followed by relaxation, imagining the route, and preparation of food and drop bags.

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The Start of MIUT 2018 in Port Moniz, Madeira

Standing on the start line in Porto Moniz I realised my attitude to win was back, I was on the front row and not playing to lose. The competitive drive which wants me to do the best I could had kicked in. I knew in reality, I was far from going to be able to win the race but the important thing was my mindset was there to perform and achieve my goals. I think this is a key strategy whether your goal is to win a World Championship or to finish your first ultra. I find with the added motivation, I overcome more obstacles in the way to reach the goal. 

The hype surrounding European races builds and the race finally starts, I am off racing to win and in the top ten. I was soon over the first hill and started climbing the second hill when it dawned on me that I had let my competitive drive outweigh my current fitness. Rather than pack in the towel and sulk I referred back to my revised goals of finish and enjoy the journey. I parked the problem, to reflect on later and focused on the future. I eased off the gas to a sustainable pace, kept eating or drinking every 20 mins and forced a smile every time some one else came past. Eventually after 4 hours I noticed I was no longer forcing the smile and I was really enjoying the moment; I had passed through this low point. The trail was interesting, views fantastic, weather rather Cumbrian and I was starting to overtake competitors. The key strategy here was to focus on myself and what I could control; eating and smiling.  

MIUT 2018

Working hard out of Curral Das Freiras 60km into MIUT.

There sometimes comes a point where your body just starts to shut down and the legs stiffen; no matter how hard you try to shift your mental state somewhere else the body soon shifts you back to thinking about the pain. I often think why am I doing this silly sport? In Madeira I hit this point with about 25 km to go. My legs were sore and head mentallyweary, everything was screaming at me to throw in the towel. It is at times like this when I use a couple of techniques, the first is I imagine the finish line banner and how it will feel to make it. The second is self talk, including the classic “shut up legs” or just shouting encouragement at yourself. This could also be the time for distraction through music or conversation.

The finish line arrived and I was relived with a big rewarding smile on my face. I had succeed in my goals of finishing, enjoying the journey and the top 10 ambition is rekindled for next time. 

 

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Joy and relief on reaching the finish of the Madeira Island Ultra 2018

‘Kim Collison is a British International Ultra Runner and UK Athletics Level 2 Coach. If you wish Kim to help you run faster or further then contact him through his website …..’

www.kimcollison.co.uk

A WINTER Bob Graham Round

Why would I want to run round 42 rugged Lake District Fells totalling 105km 8700m ascent/descent in Winter?

I was missing something this last year. I hadn’t felt that huge sense of pride and achievement you get when you really test yourself and overcome a challenge; especially when the outcome is uncertain. My 2017 running year had been an injury disaster going round in circles to try and fix myself, ending up in a big disappointment at UTMB (which at the time was the only real outcome). The real positive to come from this DNF was that I needed to change what I was doing. I reflected on what was different from 2015 and then using this to learn and develop; it is not in my nature to give up.

Throughout the year I received plenty of helpful advice, support and ideas and, post UTMB, I reflected and developed a multifaceted plan to rehabilitate. My first test of the success of the plan was in the middle of November at the Tour of Pendle. It was an overwhelming success and I was moving in the right direction at last. I ran hard, raced without significant reaction and had the excitement of fell racing again.

After the Tour of Pendle the idea of a Winter Bob Graham reemerged in my brain while listening to James Elson & Dan Lawson on the British Ultra running podcast interviewing the legendary fell man Bill Williamson about the Bob Graham Round. I was inspired to try again as a few years back I set off on a winters night on a solo unsupported Bob Graham from Keswick; which ended before I had even reached Threlkeld and I then ran home to Penrith with the tail between my legs. At last it was again on the agenda but I could not commit completely until I had the confidence of another block of training. I had identified a weekend that fitted the training and could be fresh. A week out the long range forecast was suggesting sunshine but more importantly low winds, however the forecast also highlighted their could be a fresh dump of snow on the mountains midweek but this made it more exciting; this was going to be an adventure.

The weather on Wednesday and Thursday laid additional snow down; Mountain Run’s winter report highlighting what we were in store “Striding Edge, Helvellyn and Swirral Edge, 14th December 2017 Conditions reports for runners, skiers and climbers. Observed condition: snow starts around 350m, wet until 500m. At this height it is around 10cm in depth. At Red Tarn we experienced drifts over knee deep, well compacted wind blown snow. Ascent to Striding Edge fine, but knee deep and hard work. Snow well bonded to old layer underneath with crusty snow on final 100m. Striding Edge in perfect winter condition. Crampons and axe used from half way along Ridge. Poles a bonus on the ascent. Exit from Striding Edge was very deep with snow, thigh deep in places. Felt well bonded. Summit plateau south of summit shelter over 30cm deep in wind blown snow, similar north of shelter but icy layer of ground evident in places. Swirral Edge great fun to descend, snow extremely deep in places. Full winter equipment and knowledge necessary fit safe travel. Skiing looks great, running was tough, mountaineering great fun right now, Climbing on the Crags would most likely be more like swimming. Stay safe, have fun!

Friday had finally arrived and James Thurlow very kindly dropped off a Tracker. I must thank everyone for the messages of good luck; it definitely helped spur me on. I’d printed out a schedule for Jim Mann’s winter record of 18:18, I knew this was unrealistic given the conditions but this didn’t stop me chasing the schedule at least to Dunmail.

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Standing at the Moot Hall I knew that I wanted to give it my best and was going to go relatively hard from the gun. I had Martin Mikellson-Barron on Leg 1 with Andy Thompson, Jim Scott & Rob Brown from Outward Bound escorting me up the slopes of Skiddaw. At midnight the epic adventure began full of enthusiasm and a bounce back in my stride. I got half way up Latrigg before the Katoola micro spikes went on; where they stayed for 90 % of the day.  By the top of Skiddaw it dawned on me how much snow there was on the fell. I found the stile off the back of Skiddaw bang on but drifted a little bit on the descent to Hare Crag and I had waves of the same mistake as last time. This time it was a minor deviation which was quickly corrected and I was soon back on track. By the top of Blencathra Martin and I were glad we were in the footsteps of Matt Reedy who very kindly set off at 7pm leaving a reassuring trail for us, for most of the day. The descents were fun with a nice glissading action but the uphill was slow going, sinking into soft snow.

One of my question marks was which route off Blencathra? In the end I chose Halls Fell Ridge and it was one of my highlights of the round; there was so much snow covering the rock it made it a lot easier and fun. Sticking to the ridge was the safest way down and I could bounce  like Tigger down to Threlkeld and, to my surprise, I was 5 min up on schedule. 2hrs 57 min.

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A quick cup of coffee and I was on to Leg 2 with my new support runners, Steve Birkinshaw and Anthony Meanwell. This was probably the coldest point but I was warm, happy and still full of enthusiasm. The spikes were on by the end of the road, hiking well up the steep climb to Clough Head but this was going to be a lot of effort in the snow. The Dodds to Raise normally can be quick going without expending too much energy but not this time with large accumulations of snow to wade through. I was starting to see the schedule slip yet still working really hard; this was fine because I was giving my best and clearly doing well as Steve and Anthony were struggling at times. Then heading over Helvellyn the first of the early morning snow showers made things more interesting. I picked up the summits of Nethermost Pike and Dollwagon Pike as my pacers skirted the summits. Before descending to Grisdale Tarn I collected a few gels off Steve because Fairfield was going to be a solo affair. Meeting Steve and Anthony at the saddle the final climb was Seat Sandal, on the way up we lost Steve.  At the summit without getting my compass out I headed off in what I thought was the right direction with Anthony in tow. You should of heard my expletive when I hit the wall and gate and realised what I had done. It could be worse, like missing a summit, but added on some extra road on the way back up to Dunmail, curse and carry on. The schedule was starting to slip but I was still going incredibly well without no issues.

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Leg 3 was the first time I had fully met my support runner Mike Barron and I’m extremely  pleased he volunteered for this. My road support for legs 2 and 3 was Jon Tombs, my thanks goes to him; particularly for sleeping in a car in the snow at Dunmail. It was still snowing as we weave our way up Seat Sandal, pop out on top and start the trudge. It was slow going with mist, snow, drizzle, thawing snow and difficult terrain with plenty of hollows to gather snow but we kept moving. Mike does a brilliant job of keeping me fed and my spirits high, trying to find the easiest route between the summits but there is no easy route. My focus changed I was behind schedule and now just wanted to complete in the best possible spirit. A big low point was scrambling up Pike of Stickle, when the only option was to sit down suck on a gel and head off again.

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Thankfully halfway up Bowfell we found harder snow and the going became slightly easier. The mind started to pick up and I start to try and shift again, the top of England is not far away. I saw the first walkers of the day on Scafell Pike and then for the part Mike and I had been most nervous about, the climb up Lords Rake. The snow was deep, not icy and we could climb steadily to the top. A nip up to the top of Scafell then it was down towards Wasdale. What an epic leg and in my head now realised I was going to do this! I changed thermals in Wasdale and ate well before heading out on leg 4; I had been pushing hard. Mike did an amazing job and thanks to Sam Ware for covering the road support at Wasdale.

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Leg 4 support runner was Andy Thompson and we found the first climb up Yewbarrow was slow; I was lacking energy again. On reaching the top the spikes go on and I get back on with the job in hand. This was probably the nicest leg with patches of clear sky and cracking views and we kept on rolling along with Andy feeding the machine. Climbing up Kirk Fell with the red sky was stunning although this meant darkness would come along too quickly. Great Gable is always tough and from the top I knew we needed to take a bearing as I don’t want to end up at Sty head tarn! We set off me ahead leading the way but it didn’t feel right and we were heading towards Sty Head but fortunately it was not too late to easily solve the problem. We soon tick off the last three tops and roll into Honister Leg 4 complete. Thank you Andy I couldn’t have done leg 4 without you.

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There was a mini crowd to join me on Leg 5. Becx Carter was there on road support, having made it up Honister in the wintery conditions (and then safely down again). Thank you Becx. Jim Mann joined me, having already run the Tour de Helvellyn and still has bounce, Martin is back and Scoffer even turned up to help. I was mentally stuck in no man’s land with no incentive to push extremely hard; I’m grinding it out and starting to struggle with a painful hip flexor (not a surprise with all the stabilisation needed in the snow). I came off the fell on to the final road section and reflected that eight years ago it was a breeze, however this time round it was mentally and physically tough, and my body was shutting down. I had to shout at myself a few times but Keswick arrived and the glorious view of the Moot Hall. A crowd had turned up to see me finish. Thank you for making it a special occasion. The smile on my face is the why I wanted to run a winter Bob Graham Round

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I’m extremely happy with 20.36 for a full winter Bob Graham round and to have performed again. A great Christmas present.

If you are considering a Bob Graham Round and want a guide for recce runs or support on the day please contact me.

Kit:

Raidlight Waterproofs, Leggings, Thermal base layers, Beanie Hat, Responsiv vest and the winner of the day carbon poles.

Petzl Nao head torch, Ice axe ride and Ayup torch on last leg

Buff Thermonet

Katoola Microspikes

LCF socks

Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watch

Neoprene Socks warm feet all day but needed bigger shoe size by end of day!

Open adventure tracker

Survival bag, Emergency Phone.

Warm Mountain Fuel, Energy Gels, Energy Bars

5 reasons my UTMB DNF was a success.

1. I made this start line after not being able to walk on two separate occasions in June. @UTMB start An incredible experience to be part of 2300 runners; including the best 100 mile field ever? All being hyped up for the journey ahead.
2. For the first time I managed to stick to a plan and start easy. Yes I cannot believe it myself. Having way too much fun!

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3. These  socks from LCF were awesome. They were so comfy when I tried them on, they came highly recommended so I decided to try them on race day. A risk not to be normally recommended but they were far superior in quality to what I had. I choose a warm pair given the forecast and had no cause to give my feet a thought during the 9 hours I was moving.  I even tried them this week for 7 hours hiking, I might just put them on again tomorrow!? I will be racing in them again.
4. Running from Chamonix to St Gervais making the most of the incredible support and enjoying every minute with plenty of high fives.
5. The Raidlight Waterproof trousers  and Over gloves  did the job in a blizzard when I was in a big unshakable low on top of Bonhomme!

IAU World Trail Championship 2015

Pulling on the Vest
It was a real honour to have the opportunity to pull on the GB&NI vest and to represent the country at the IAU World Trail Championship in Annecy, France. Despite all the politics leading up to the race, I had worked hard to achieve this dream and was not going to let it dampen my spirit. I would enjoy the experience of running a truly stunning mountain course.

The race for me started well before the start, with careful planning enabling me to peak come race day. This planning included nutrition, pre race training and entering the championships with the correct mental approach. I drew on my previous experiences of the three Adventure Race World Championships to help place me in a good position come 03:30am on Saturday 30th May.

I was determined not going to let the stress of the start get to me and in some ways I was more than happy to be some way back in the field for the start line. This allowed me not to get too carried away when the fireworks went off in the early hours. The race pace went off like a rocket, as expected, but I kept my focus on myself; going at a hard pace but comfortably hard. Moving onto the trails for the first big climb I was using my heart rate monitor to keep my pace even and trying not to race too early on. This worked really well for me, although on reflection I wish I had gone five beats a minute lower, which could of helped me attack better later on.

Descending down the first hill was fun in the dark with the mud from the overnight rain. I was enjoying overtaking competitors who were taking it a little more gingerly than me. Then hitting the bottom I caught sight of fellow GB team mate Tom Owens, who went on to finish 4th, and this was the last I would see of him. The next big climb was pretty tough, or maybe it was just the company I was in, and I  felt like I was suffering! However by the time I had made the next checkpoint at Doussard I was shocked to find I was in 16th place.

A this point the American train of Alex Nichols and Dave Laney caught me and soon left me in their wake. I was in need of this pit stop and some instant sugar to pick me back up. Pleased with how I was going I thought it was time to start digging in and use a positive attitude to get me through. The next climb was started steady but determined and I started to get stronger; attacking with a run/ walk strategy. I overtook a couple of competitors, which always helps the confidence, and was moving well, but I made the mistake forgetting to fuel while going strongly. This started to effect me towards the final few hundred metres of the climb along with my chest starting to tighten. I couldn’t really accelerate away from the top and with painful big toes I could not capitalise on the decent, which had been a strength earlier in the day. On a Charge

The third checkpoint came at a good time, I was in need of refreshment and a boost. I choose the wrong drink, a For Goodness Shake, I should of just gone for the classic flat coke as for the next half hour I was struggling with nausea. I managed to keep fighting but it was not a strong finish I had hoped for but I wasn’t crumbling either. With the summit of the final climb over, now for the long way down. With my big toe black and blue I was catching it on what seemed like every stone causing me to wince in agony. I couldn’t attack and was simply free wheeling my way down; a sitting duck to any chasers. I lost three places in the last two km’s, including a flying Irishman Dan. I wasn’t disappointed as I had raced well and competed with some of the best in the world. To finish in the top 20 at a world champs is great and a performance I’m delighted with, but like all performances I will look how I can improve for the next one!Finish. Top 20

I was ecstatic to learn when Lee crossed the line, we had done enough as a team to earn Team Bronze. This was more than my dream. The smile on my face speaks more than words. It was good to use the new Raidlight Responsiv 8L for the race being super comfy and lightweight and Osmo nutrition worked well for me in this race. I loved the x talons for the first half of the race but needed something more cushioned later on. Thank you for all for the incredible support.Mens Team Podium

Time to Focus

While I managed to juggle two sports last year being able to compete in both ultra trail running and adventure racing to a very high standard I have decided it is time to focus on one. Although I love adventure racing and there is nothing quite like getting to the finish line with a team who have shared your journey through extreme environments, it is when I am running freely through the mountains which makes me content.

While I have the opportunity to soon run for my country and later in the year to compete in the UTMB my early season has been geared towards doing the best I can at these events. I had hoped to once again go to the Adventure Race World Champs this year in Brazil in November but I sadly have not made the team this year. The last few days I have been weighing up this decision and it is always hard to give up something you love doing. I have decided it is time to invest all my effort into ultra running to see what I can achieve over the next few years and to run some iconic races around the world.

I have decided it is time to leave Team Adidas Terrex and wish them well in their future races. I would like to thank the team’s sponsors for all their support in helping the team achieve on a world stage. I really enjoyed racing with the team at the highest level and thank you for the opportunity.

With an ending comes a new exciting opportunity to focus on one sport rather than spread my resources too thinly.

My ultra season looks something like this

  • 30th May – IAU World Trail Championships, Annecy, France
  • 27th June – Ultimate Trails 110km, The Lake District
  • 28th August – UTMB, Chamonix, France
  • 10th October – Lakes in a Day, Lake District
  • 24/25th October – OMM

2016 ?????