Hello, I'm Stuart and I like to run a long way.
Welcome to my blog, here I'll try to keep you up to date with my challenges, adventures and training.

I competing in Ultra distance running, adventure racing, and a variety of other events. I hold a few records in the UK, and in 2012 ran 1100 miles over the Alps, from Vienna to Nice.

I am raising funds for Water for Kids, a small charity with the simple purpose of ensuring that the world's poorest communities have clean water.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Parklife...

Sunday was the catchily titled “UKA 100km championships, incorporating Scottish 100km championships and Anglo-Celtic Plate”. This essentially meant that I spent the day running around a park in Perth quite a long way behind the owners of some lovely tracksuits. It was the first 100km road race I had done, and the first lap race. It was very different to off road ultras in a few ways...
On Saturday night we had a race briefing by a man from Scottish Athletics, telling us about the course and how the day would work. This man was obviously important in this sort of circle, and knew everyone’s name but mine! As the teams dispersed I set my tent up on the startline (in order to confuse them), and went to sleep feeling a bit scared.

Sunday morning started an hour earlier than planned due to clever mobile phone / BST issues, but eventually the national teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England arrived and set up their tents and flags. I had some beans and put my shiny new shoes on ready for the 7am start.
It was cold at the start but just about fully light. It was really foggy on the first few laps so we couldn’t see much, but each lap the fog rose slightly and more of the park around the course revealed itself. North Inch Park was really nice, with the River Tay at the far side of the oval course, and a golf course in the middle. The course was definitely flat though, with one climb of about three feet each lap, making somewhere around 120 ft vertical ascent for the race!


We would run 42 laps of a 2.4km loop, meaning that each lap we passed through the finish area and could get drinks, food, toilet, etc. This was a new experience for me, and quite soon I realised one of the potential problems with it... It’s tempting to stop each lap! I was having some stomach issues (two days at a wedding perhaps not the best preparation?) but had to tell myself to only stop every two laps at the most. The plan had been to aim for 10 hours, meaning around 14 minute laps, so four and a bit laps an hour. During the first two hours I did ten laps so was a bit ahead of schedule, but at the end of the second hour and with continuing stomach issues I decided to back off a bit.

This helped and by 15 laps I was feeling better. It was now a bit after ten in the morning, and starting to get warmer. At 11 o’clock the 50km race started so it became really difficult (rather than just quite difficult) to work out who was lapping you, being lapped, overtaking, or what. So I gave up, it was clear there would be no giant killing of national runners today so I focused on the ten hour target. I passed 21 laps at about half past one, leaving some but not loads of leeway on the target.
After that it gets slightly hazy, but I remember it got hot, I started listening to music, and my feet hurt. All of which are illustrated in this picture:


7 hours after the start I passed through the start/finish at the end of my 32nd lap, and a couple of minutes later Craig Stewart of Scotland won the race in 7:01:36. Inside the UKA ‘A’ standard for a guaranteed place on the Commonwealth games team, and winning him both the UK and Scottish 100km championships.

So, by the time he was washed, changed, had a sleep, eaten, probably read a book and whatever else he did in three hours, had I finished?

Yep... 9:33:51. As I passed through the S/F to start my last lap I was announced as doing so, but shortly after I heard someone else being announced as also starting their last lap, and decided that whatever position I was in I wanted to stay there! Consequently I’m pretty sure my last lap will be my fastest of the day, and I even managed a sprint finish (looked back, confused flag with chasing runner, etc...). 

So, positives: I wasn’t last, and first and second half splits were pretty even. But I was 34th of 39 and although under my target, feel like I was pretty slow in the present company! A good experience though to have a go at an ultra on the road and the (very) flat.

Pictures with thanks from www.roadrunpics.com
Results from http://www.scottishathletics.org.uk/index.php?p=80&itemType=fixtures&itemId=12894

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Into the unknown...

Tomorrow I'm off towards (via a few other places) Perth, where on sunday I am taking part in the UKA 100km championships. The format is 42 laps of a 2.4 km course, so a new type of race for me! I'm a bit nervous of that distance on flat road but it will be exciting, especially with national teams in the same race. Before that though, something altogether scarier - a best man speech...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wuthering Hobble

Apart from the last-minute HPM last weekend, yesterday was my first ultra of the year... Haworth Hobble / Wuthering Hike. My first race for a while for Pudsey Pacers, and it was great to see two other Pacers (Russell and Darryl Stead) taking on their first ultras (and both running well!). Lucy Harris from Accelerate also ran, going from none to two ultras in two weeks!

I nearly missed the start as there was a loooong queue for the toilet. I was running towards the startline when I heard the clock strike and hundreds of runners set off towards me! I quickly got to where they had started, turned around and we we're off! As everyone knew, the pace was high. For 32 miles the guys at the front went off FAST! I stuck in a group just behind them, something around 15 - 20th. I recognised Duncan Harris and a couple of others at the front, and Martin Beale was in the same group as me.


I won't write a huge long report, but the race went pretty well. I had a bad patch just before the climb up Stoodley Pike but after reaching the top and having some food I was better. Into the last 8 - 10 miles I was feeling tired, last weekend catching up with me perhaps! After the New Bridge checkpoint we climbed a long drag, one of those where you have to keep running or lose loads of time walking. I passed a guy from Bingley on the way up but was pretty slow and was caught by Martin and someone else. They had had a small navigational mistake somewhere so I had got past them without realising. Down the next descent and getting closer to the finish, I was able to push on and pulled away from them a bit, but I knew the last little bit around Penistone hill might lose me some time, so wanted to get a bit of a gap to beat them.

I did get a gap of a few hundred yards, but missed the quickest route around Penistone Hill... See picture below! Basically Martin, Andy Mouncey and someone else got past me and I couldn't quite catch them by the end. Anyway, it wouldn't make much difference for points in the Ultra series, just annoying to lose places so near the end! I finished 14th in 4:41. Duncan Harris did win in 4:05, a great time and quicker than has been done for a few years.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Jon's Challenge

One of the guys I'm racing the Fastnet with in August has his own charity challenge, sailing a dinghy from Cowes to Cherbourg... 85 miles for the Sail4Cancer charity. More details here.

Jon Burgess and "Serene Affair"

Monday, 7 March 2011

Sleep when you're dead?

FRIDAY
On friday afternoon I was listening to a man talk about the most suitable materials for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells when I was awakened by a vibration in my right leg. At the end of the lecture I checked to see what this vibration had been caused by, and 6 hours and a lot of food later found myself with Martin Beale, Tim Laney and Martin Humphreys running out of Edale village hall to start the High Peak Marathon...

The HPM is a 42 mile fell race run by members of the Sheffield University High Peak Club. Start times for running teams are from 11pm, with the fastest teams starting last. Martin, Martin, Tim and another Martin (Indge) had run well last year and finished second, so only "Flippers Gang" were left in the hall as we set off. We were soon catching slower teams as we climbed up to Hollins Cross, over Lose and Win hills and off towards Moscar. At this point we were third but still had quite a few teams ahead of us. We were running well and the weather was pretty good...


SATURDAY
On and past halfway, we prepared ourselves for the most infamous section of the route, over the bogs of Bleaklow. Here (as throughout) Tim's route knowledge and navigation were brilliant, especially as it was now foggy and visibility was pretty short. All did not go perfectly though, both Tim and I were swallowed up to our waists by the bog monster a couple of times and a few other teams were going well, particularly Team Krypton who passed us at one point. After the bogs we reached the Snake road crossing and around 12 miles to go. I think we were now second, and went well up Mill Hill but were getting tired and worried about teams catching us. Looking behind more and more often we passed the checkpoints at Edale Cross and Rushup Edge, then around Mam Tor and back to Hollins Cross. Descending the rocks towards the final road to the finish I remembered climbing up this way 9 hours earlier. It had been a great race and had passed very quickly, I was very pleased to have kept up with these guys and really glad I was able to join them.

We finished in 9:17 for second place. Flipper's Gang won in a new course record of 8:24, and third were the High Peak Rollerbladers in 9:57. Team Accelerate (Kev, Dave, JC and Nick) were 8th in 10:19 and Lucy and Wil's (even more last minute!) team came in 13:34.

So, that was Friday night and Saturday morning. When I got home I changed a few bits of clothes and headed out to our Accelerate Mountain Bike skills session with Jon Heaton. I was late but met Alasdair in the car park, and we managed to track down a tired looking Accelerate team (as above) practicing manuals in Ecclesall woods. We joined in and learned some useful stuff... Front and rear wheel lifts the proper way (not just yanking the bars!), weight shifting and trackstands. Plenty of useful stuff to practice so thanks Jon and sorry if we were a little slow on the uptake, if there's ever a gang of Zombies that need a bike lesson I think you're the man!


SUNDAY
Yesterday was the final act, the Open 5 at Bakewell. George has unfortantely injured his leg, but as Alasdair and I would both have been racing solo we decided to team up for the race. I was feeling knackered and Al had raced a duathlon before the bike session yesterday too, so we decided just to go out for experience, having not raced together before.

The weather was good but chilly before the start. We decided to run first and the sun soon came out, this wasn't too bad after all! After a few miles the legs seemed to wake up a bit, although the quads still did not enjoy descending hills or steps!

We decided to run for two hours and planned a route to get as many controls as possible. This went pretty well, mainly due to Al's excellent navigation, and we transitioned after 1hr 48, having got all but one run controls. I was pleasently surprised by this, but given Al's triathlon background and clearly fresher legs was a little scared of the bicycling...

With good reason. The swinging elastic towline hanging off the back of Al's bike was the centre of my world for the next three hours. We never used it but quite a few times I convinced myself we were doing, which helped me up some hills. A fair few of the bike controls were accessible by road so there was some fast riding, but still some areas where we could practice the skills Jon taught us on saturday! We had a good bike leg, I can't tell you much about the route except that it was expertly navigated and swiftly executed by one team member, with another desperately hanging on. I think the picture of us finishing illustrates this quite nicely!

Anyway, we finished with nine minutes to spare, having got all the bike controls. Whether this would have been enough to get the final run control is a good question! This event was unusual in that one pair and three individuals scored a perfect 600 points, and lots of placings were decided on time. In the male pairs, David Lawrance and Warren Mason cleared everything to win, second place got 595 (missed a five-pointer on the bike), and third place got 590 points in 4:48. We also scored 590, but took three minutes longer (although that does include two punctures!). A much much more enjoyable race than I was expecting, and big thanks to Alasdair for dragging me round. Lucy had a great race and finished 4th in the female solo category on a day when nearly all the big guns were out!

There endeth a long weekend, and possibly the longest post ever...

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