Friday, 23 November 2012

And now for something completely different...

Forgive me lord for I have sinned. I haven't run on the fells for over a month, I have run a track race and 3 road races in the last few weeks, and worst of all..... I really enjoyed all of them!!

My routine over the last few years has been to race and run the fells from Feburary until October and then hibernate for the winter and get fat! This year though I am going to try something different to spice things up a bit. I will be running the Blackpool marathon on April 7th next year and this means lots of hard road miles for the next few months. Running a marathon has always been in the back of my mind but I could never get motivated for a long winter of road miles that would be needed to ensure I could do the distance justice. Since starting Uni i have been training on the track once or twice a week and I have realised what real training is! I feel like I am only scratching the surface of my potential and over the last few weeks I have been thinking of what I could achieve If I really start training properly and stop dicking around like I have for the last few years.

Going forward I can see myself racing and running on the fells and mountains alot less than I have been doing and really focusing my attention on getting quicker on the road. That said, I think its important not to pigeon hole myself as there are so many differnt things I want to try its good to keep your eyes open.

I think the reason I have started to really enjoy road and track running is that it really lets you know how bad or good you are running. Sometimes on the fells or mountains you can make excuses and hide, not on the road or track. The time never lies!

After running 35:40 at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k last weekend without really feeling like I was extending myself too much, I think I can safely say this is the fittest I have ever been, and its winter time! Its such a good feeling to be heading into the new year with this kind of fitness and I have never been as excited or optimistic about my running before. Next year will be very exciting!

Monday, 29 October 2012


Life is a funny old thing sometimes. You can be drifting through the days and weeks with only a minimal amount of emotions present. Then at other times you can saturated by the sheer brutality or beauty of the world and life itself. This year, and the last couple of months especially so, have been a rollercoaster of highs and lows that I have never really experienced before. After working towards going to University and starting a new career in physiotherapy for so long, every day is great at the moment and its so good to be learning new things and meeting so many new and interesting people every single day.

I have never felt as deep a passion for life as I have at the moment. I feel I am just getting to understand the sheer amount of things that can be possible not only in work and general life but also in running and climbing aswell. I have started to see that life is pretty simple really, find things that you love and spend alot of time doing them. You see people getting stressed and angry about things that don't really matter much at all, we all do it and its really quite pointless.

The passing of my good friend Darren Holloway earlier this month hit me quite hard. But seeing the impact that he had on so many peoples lifes, in the running world and in other aspects of his life really put things into perspective for me and many others. Darren did things properly, no half measures. He did what he loved and he did it well. I dont think there is anything else I could possibly want out of life. Do what you love and do it well, spend time with people you love and treat them well.

There is loads of stuff to do out there and not much time, so lets get cracking!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Touching the Sky

I was in northern Italy last weekend to run in the Dolomites Skyrace, a 13 mile route with 6000ft of ascent from the town of Canazei at 1450m altitude to the summit of the Piz Boe at 3152m and back by a slightly different route. The race was a counter in the Skyrunner world series, which takes in a rather tough set of races all over the world. They alternate the races every year to ensure the worlds top mountain athletes, and fools like me, can suffer in new places. The concept of Skyrunning is very simple, they official skyrunning federation describes it as follows.....

“Skyrunning” has been around for some time. Hundreds, even thousands of years ago mountains were negotiated out of necessity: war, religious persecution, hunting, smuggling, or just out of plain old curiosity. The concept of running up and down mountains for fun is much newer. Take for example the Ben Nevis Race which goes back to 1903, or the Pikes Peak Marathon which began as a bet in 1954 among smokers and non smokers.

The idea of creating a sports discipline however was the brainchild of Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti, who, with a handful of fellow climbers, pioneered records and races on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps in the early ‘90’s. In 1993, with the support of the multinational Fila as sponsor, skyrunning took off across the world’s mountain ranges with a circuit of awe inspiring races stretching from the Himalayas to the Rockies, from Mount Kenya to the Mexican volcanoes. After all, Giacometti’s term skyrunning*, as the name suggests, is where earth and sky meet.

Giacometti’s vision didn’t stop there and in 1995 he founded the Federation for Sport at Altitude to address the need for rules to govern the sport and generally manage this fast-growing discipline which today counts some 200 races worldwide with around 30,000 participants from 54 countries.

Today, the sport is managed by the International Skyrunning Federation which took over from the FSA in 2008. The principal aims of the ISF are the direction, regulation, promotion, development and furtherance of skyrunning and similar multisport activities on a worldwide basis.

So really its just fell running on steroids!!

I had run the race in 2010 but due to bad weather the race was shortened and we did not summit the Piz Boe and instead dropped down at a lower altitude. So this year I was very excited to be running the full route. We arrived in town on the friday with the race being on the sunday so we had to two days to get anxious and drink copious amounts of fine coffee and wine. The picture below is the view from our apartment!

By the time the race morning came around I was very excited about the race and couldn't wait to get going. We awoke to a perfect morning although it was very chilly at 8:30 am , far too early to start a race in my opinion. I had a quick glass of juice and a double espresso and jogged down to the square
where the race starts and finishes for a warm up and tried to see any if any other Brits that I knew were running were around but there was a mass of people being herded into the start gate and I just followed suit after i had paid a visit to the portable little boys room. I must have been in about the 20th row and couldn't get any further forward so just stood patiently while the organisers blasted out Blink 182 and Offspring songs on the loudspeakers, you don't get that at Ben Nevis!  After standing around for what seemed like ages,without a word of warning the race director began counting down from five and we were very suddenly on our way out of the square and on the road out of town. Due to starting a bit further down the field than I would have liked I put on a bit of a spurt on the roads out of town and then settled into a steady pace as the climb began very quickly once we hit the ski slopes. Once you leave Canazei the race climbs up the ski slopes adjacent to the pordoi pass before you reach the summit of the road after 3 miles and nearly 2800ft ascent. I managed to keep a fairly steady pace running most of this section and reached the road feeling pretty strong. This, of course is where the fun really begins! The pictures below shows the route you take from the pass up onto the mountain
proper. The zigzags are as painful as they look. The car park at the Pordoi pass on the second photo looks along way down, and I can confirm that it is! That is after already climbing up from town aswell!

After taking a swig of water from the aid station at the pass I settled into a nice hiking pace up the zigzags being overtaken by a few people but not losing too many places. As you climb higher into the gully between the two butresses the sounds of shouting and cheering from the aid station at the top gradually got louder and louder and this was such a great little boost and part of the reason why i love these european races. The ground here was very loose and you had to put alot of effort in to avoid sliding back down the way you came! Once you reach the aid station you have a very brief flat run along some technical trails until you reach the final climb up the summit of the Piz Boe. Two of my club mates on holiday were at the aid station and the support was needed as i was starting to feel the altitude a bit and my legs were tiring aswell. The last bit of the climb is very steep and technical and the rocks were covered with thin layer of ice which made things very interesting, the chains helped alot. The long descent down to Canazei then began, 6000ft in just over 6 miles, leg shattering! The inital section off the Piz Boe is very steep and technical, again with chains and ropes to grab onto so you didn't do plummeting down the steep limestone. I was holding my own on this steep technical part but once it levelled out after a couple of miles my shoes began to fill with scree and it was getting very uncomfortable, about 10 people came past me whilst i was messing around. Eventually I stopped to empty them but by then the damage was done and some fine blisters were forming! This slowed me somewhat in the final miles and the sheer steepness of the descent just sapped my legs, it was then a case of damage limitation. I was very relieved to be back on the road and crossed the line in a bit of a state in 103rd postition (over 600 ran) in a time 2 hours 39 minutes, 38 minutes behind superman Kilian Jornet! I learn't a few lessons in this race, you cant expect to run well on a 6000ft climb and descent by just training in the Peak District, you need more climbing and descending in the mountains, and also tape the feet and wear some decent shoes if you dont want burning heels! I have to say though, over the last few years coming out to these races in Europe and running against the best in the business, I have come to realise that these races for me are what its all about. Much as i love a short low key fell race on a midweek evening, where i can come in the top 5 and think that i'm a decent runner, I just love the pomp of these sky and mountain races and they really put you in your place. I love the fact that no matter where you go in the world there is a shared love of the mountains and these really hard courses. I cant wait for Zinal in 2 weeks, and i'm sure i will be back out there trying some new races next year, but more that that, it just makes me realise how much i love pushing myself in the mountains, I have no real interest in short low key races at the moment, I will hopefully be trying some longer harder races next year and getting more and more outside my comfort zone, at the end of the day, its great to try new things. I'd recommend this race for anyone, get it done!

Monday, 9 July 2012


Today was a day of strange emotions. After five years working at the same place I have just resigned. Now although I have known for the last two and a half years that this day would come, it still came as a bit of a shock. I have spent the last two years redoing my GCSE's that I failed at school and in the last year have put alot of effort into my Access Science course with the aim of getting into University to study Physiotherapy. Only in the last couple of months have I realised how much I have actually put into this course. It has taken quite a bit out of me without me realising it. But the satisfaction that I feel now, as everything is finally coming together, far outweighs all the stress that I felt on those long weekends writing assignments. I was never one of the bright ones at school, I never even broached the subject of going to university. I thought it was beyond me. But I now realise that it doesn't matter what level you are at, in any aspect of life. The last couple of years has taught me a vital lesson, that whatever you want to do, whatever it may be and whatever level you find yourself starting at, there is always the chance to improve and progress. Its having the bollocks and commitment to go for something, be bold, go big or go home. You only fail if you don't try something. I start University in september, something I never thought I'd do, but I gave it a poke and it came off, and I'm so excited about all the challenges and new experiences ahead. I feel like this will also allow me to improve in other aspects of my life, my running being one of them.

I am off to the Dolomites next weekend for the Skyrace, and then a week later off out to the Swiss Alps for the Sierre - Zinal race and some climbing before finishing my racing off for the year at Ben Nevis. I feel a new buzz about everything, its pretty good to be honest! My main aim everyday is to be content and happy, and that is just what I am right now.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Eddies Revenge Fell Race

This was to be my first race since spraining my ankle at Saddleworth nearly four weeks ago and I was really looking forward to it. Feeling strong on the warm up I knew I should run okay and this turned out to be the case. I have a had a pretty solid two weeks and knew that the hills on the course would suit me, I just had to hang in there at the start! The race starts up a tarmac road for about 200-300 meters before heading off up the first climb. The start was as frantic as ever and although I have been running I haven't done as much racing this year as I usually do so was a little bit shocked by the pace! I was probably in about 10th place at the top of the climb. The race then flattens out for a few hundred meters and descends steeply for about 400 meters before the long climb up to the summit of the race at the transmitter. I managed to pass three people on the descent and one more on the climb and assumed I was in about 5th or 6th place. I managed to hold on to that position for the descent but then comes the sting in the tail. You actually run past the finish and do the first climb again before dropping back down and by now I was absolutely hanging out of my arse! I could see two other runners chasing me down and thought I had better get my arse in gear and get to the finish. It turned out that one runner had gone off course and I ended up finishing fourth. Very pleasing result and that was the quickest  I've run that race by 30 seconds. A confidence boost just at the right time, off to Italy for the Dolomites Skyrace in three weeks and I'm feeling good again.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

I love where I Live!

Been a bit hit and miss on the running front since the champs race in Northern Ireland. The two weeks after the race i felt very tired and run down and had a lot of work to get on with for college and the running was the part of my life  that suffered most. Everything caught up with me. Then whilst running the Saddleworth fell race on the 27th May i sprained my ankle quite badly and this has stopped me running a step for the last ten days. But my experience of injuries over the last few years has shown that sometimes its good to slow things down for a bit and that sometimes not being able to run is a blessing in disguise.

Over the last ten days i have been out climbing, cycling or hiking everyday and its been great to get out and see things from a different perspective and do something a little different. This injury has also coincided with the release of the new Moorland Grit  climbing guidebook which covers Kinder, Bleaklow, and my local crags of the Chew Valley and Marsden. It's been great to get out and move over my local rock and have a a real adventure just 20 minutes from my front door with good friends. Its also nice to scare the shit out of myself aswell, which is quite often the case when i go climbing. But more than anything else, when i get out into my local hills, whatever i am doing, i feel a deep sense of satisfaction and belonging. I have been spending time in these hills for 18 years now and i still get excited about the place. I love where I live and I feel that wherever i go in the world that something about this place will always drag me back, its where i feel at home, in this wonderful little corner of England. Everytime i get out there i feel refreshed and content, and i hope that i never lose that feeling.

Anyway.....67 days before Sierre - Zinal...... let the training commence!

Home sweet home!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Summer Plans

It doesn't seem two minutes ago that it was new year and i was planning what i was going to this summer, well it is june in two weeks so i had better get my act together!

I'm pretty happy with the shape i'm in at the moment and its now that my summer racing plans are falling into place. I will be running my favourite local fell race this sunday at Saddleworth and then have a few long races to get round that will hopefully set me up for Sierre - Zinal in August. I will be running the Ennerdale and Duddon Valley races on consecutive weekends at the beginning of June, this could be interesting! Following this i am planning to run the Kinder Trog race at the end of June and then the Arrochar Alps race on the 7th July. Then its off for a brief trip to the Dolomites to run in the Dolomites Skyrace before Zinal on the 12th August. Then its onto bonny Scotland again for the season finale at Ben Nevis, which will be my last race of the year.

My intention between these races is to just keep the legs ticking over and get out climbing alot more aswell, i don't really see the point in putting any serious running in between these races as experience tells me that it will just leave me stale and tired. So really the plan is to keep up the cycling to and from work and college with some extened trips on the way home to turn the legs over and some easy 30-60 minute runs when i feel like it.

I'm getting excited now!