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.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Final preparations for Big Alps Run - Shoes and Socks

In this, the second of my final preparation blog posts, I'll quickly talk about what I'm going to wear on my feet...

Shoes and socks aren't the most interesting thing in the world, but feet will be fairly important on the Big Alps Run! I expect looking after my feet to be one of the biggest challenges, and I've certainly learnt the hard way the consequences of not doing so, particularly on the Pennine Way when this happened:
There will be some short road sections, but the vast majority of the run is off road, so I'll be wearing off road shoes. After spending a while running on the treadmill and trying a few pairs of shoes at Accelerate, I've chosen to wear New Balance 101s. These are called a minimalist trail shoe, they are really lightweight and don't have much cushioning to them but I'm told that this suits my feet, and they felt nice when I ran in them. 

New Balance have very generously agreed to give me four pairs of these, which is very nice of them. This means that I'll be able to wear a pair and carry a second pair, and when I meet my brother at halfway I'll switch to another two pairs. I hope 250 miles a pair should mean they stay in pretty good condition.

New Balance and Injinji - thank you very much!
Sock-wise, I will be wearing Injinji toe socks. If you're not familiar, these are socks with individual bits for your toes, like foot-gloves if you like. A few people I know have been running in them for a while but I've only just started using them. The idea is that you don't get blisters as your toes are not rubbing together. Having worn them at the Fellsman on Saturday without any blisters, I'd have to agree!

Injinji socks - the warmer ones
Injinji have supplied me with six pairs of socks, in a mixture of styles. Some are the thinner lightweight ones, and some the thicker Coolmax style. I've also got another few pairs which I'll take with me, and again re-stock at the halfway point.

So that's shoes and socks... Not interesting but important! I'll do a write up on the Fellsman over the next day or two, then the final final preparations blog will be on my navigation and maps, sometime next week. Till then, DONATIONS PLEASE!! www.justgiving.com/bigalpsrun

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Final preparations for Big Alps Run - Kit

So, here we go... It's just a couple of weeks till I set off now, so I'll be writing a few "final preparations" blogs, talking about kit, shoes, and route. Today, what am I going to carry?

For the majority of the challenge I will be unsupported and camping, so I'll have a fair bit of kit to carry. Most of it is currently spread out in the spare room:

(click for larger version)
Most of it is, I guess, pretty obvious. There are a few things which are to be added (Shoes being a major one!), but some things are just not there because I'm not taking them... Spare clothes fall into that category. I'd rather stink than carry any more! The total pack weight, with water and having just bought a couple of days' food, will be about 9kg.

So, a quick description of the main stuff...

Camping kit:
Tent - Coleman Rigel X2, single skin tiny wee tent. Weighs about 800g, quick to put up, and stays upright if the wind blows! I could take a Laser or Sup Air, but experience tells me these fall down on the last two points.
Sleeping Bag - Very thin one. I'm taking the thinnest lightest bag I own. If it's cold I'll wear the down gillet, and any other clothes as necessary.
Cooking stuff - MSR Pocket rocket, an aluminium mug to cook in and a spork. The only issue here is that I'll have to find places to buy gas as needed, or eat cold food when I run out!

Using the tent during the British Isles Challenge
On the trail:
Shoes & Socks - There will be a seperate blog on these later, but I'll be wearing Injinji toe socks inside New Balance 101s. Thanks to both for their generous support.
Clothes - Skins 3/4s or normal running shorts, with tights over the top if necessary. On top, depending on the weather either a vest, t-shirt, long sleeved base layer, or all three!
Extras - Leki trekking poles and Kahtoola Microspikes, I'm expecting to encounter snow higher up and these will hopefully allow me to keep going without slowing down too much.

Food and Drink:
Water - I'm taking four water bottles, one of which has a built in purification filter, so I can use this one if I have to drink dirty hill water. I'd probably normally risk it in the Alps, but having this should avoid any problems.
Food - I'll be buying food as I go. The route descends into a town or village roughly once every 3 days, so I intend to stock up and carry food for a few days. I'll also carry a few things with me all the way, such as Xero tablets, and some sachets of coffee (luxury item!)

Other stuff:
Camera, mobile phone and GPS - I'm still undecided about the GPS as I don't anticipate needing it all the time, and battery charging will be an issue. The video camera will mean I can take stills and a video "blog" as I go, and the phone is useful in an emergency as well as to keep you all up to date with my progress...
Battery Charger - I'm taking a solar powered battery charger, which will be strapped onto my pack during the day, then can be used to charge the camera and phone at night.

Personal Hygiene & Grooming:
Erm... I'm thinking of taking a toothbrush!

So, that's basically what I'm going to carry for a month. The next final preparation blog will be... Shoes and socks! Don't touch that dial...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Not 4th for once!

There was much confusion over the past week about yesterdays racing - the fast fellrunners went to Coledale Horseshoe, whilst the plodders amongst us went to Calderdale Hike. I was running the long race (37 miles - there's also a 26 mile option). Calderdale routes are used for three years before changing, and this year was the first on a new route...

One thing about Calderdale, compared to some other races, the time between registering and starting is pretty short... Even registering at the earliest time possible, you've only got 45 minutes! So there was slight panic from a few of us on the start line, but I managed to be ready before the start and had a moment's calm...

Then we were off! I ran at the front with Martin Beale and Jim Mann, with Ian Shrimpton and Jason Stevens just behind us. I felt quite comfortable with the pace, as the three of us took turns to lead along the roads and tracks through CP1, up above Mytholmroyd and eventually round towards Stoodley Pike. Martin, Jim and I carried on along the path a bit then cut up towards the monument, where we saw Ian who had taken the longer shallower route to the top.

Stoodley Pike (not taken yesterday!)
From Stoodley I followed Martin down across the moor, and we met the other three guys at the bottom. They had come along the path and gained on us a bit. I won't complain about Martin's lines though, as without him I would have messed up in a few places! From Stoodley, the next CP was at Lumbutts church. After this one Martin and I moved past the other guys and took a little lead. I think this meant that they couldn't see us on the cut up to the church (reverse of Wuthering Hike route) which I think got us a bit more time... We trotted along nicely through the Todmorden golf club CP, once we found the marshalls hiding in their car!

I led along the next section, as the weather turned and we got hailed on. I didn't bother to put my jacket on as I decided it was a shower and would eventually pass... Just after CP6 I saw some more runners, presumably on the short course, being filmed by a man with a very posh looking camera from the back of a car! Calderdale Hike: The Movie - out soon...

The next section was one I was a bit apprehensive about, I guess I could've waited for Martin and followed him but that wouldn't have been very sporting. So I set off across Black Hambleton on my own, found CP7 at the trig pretty easily, then set off across the long moist boggyness. I have no idea why I took the line I did, but basically my route to Widdop reservoir had lots of climb, was either wet or tussocky underfoot, and about a mile longer than it could have been! Needless to say, as I joined the Pennine Bridleway close to Widdop, I was back behind Martin, Jason and Jim.

Widdop - don't follow me!
This made me angry! So I pushed hard along the next section and by CP9 at Withins I was back in second, just behind Martin. We cut up East and joined a track at Harbour Lodge, then down the track into CP10 at Tom Sell's Seat. From there we went around the pointy side of the reservoir, across the moor to the track at Deep Nitch. We cut across to rejoin the main track, where to our horror, we saw Ian! By the time we got over the stile he had 50m or so on us, and was running FAST!

Here I had to make a decision, the safe option (stay with Martin, navigation should be OK and probably end up 3rd) or the racing option (run after Ian, try to catch him whilst navigating). Well it's a race isn't it? So I dug in and set off after Ian up the track from CP11. A few minutes later I looked down at my map and regretted this decision: Falling in a bog on my adventures near Widdop had soaked my map, and the bit I needed to get round the tricky section through CPs 12 and 13 was now just a brownish blur! I managed to find the checkpoint at the New Bridge car park, then basically headed east and hoped for the best! Occasionally I'd catch a flash of Ian's blue jacket in the distance which would give me a boost for a few minutes.

I finally lost touch with Ian just before CP14, when I hesitated at a junction to make sure I was in the right place. I think I knew even before this that Ian was going too well to catch, so now I had to concentrate on not losing 2nd. I started counting the map lines, just 5 kilometers to go... From 14 to 15 felt like one of my best sections of the race, I navigated along the road, ticking off every building, footpath and feature as I passed them until I reached the canal. Last checkpoint! I knew that there was an option to run along the road, but decided to use the canal. I struggled to find the features on the map here but somehow found my way over the canal, river and railway line and up a steep track through some farms to the road. I thought I'd been slow along the canal so half expected to look left and see some other guys in front of me, but there was no-one in sight... They were either behind or at the finish!

I ran up the drive to the finishline, and stumbled up the steps into the Cricket Club to finish. I could only see Ian but wanted to check... "How many here?" I asked, and was told "Just him".

The finishline...

Ian had finished in about 5:28, I came in 5:33, Martin 5:39, followed by Jim, then Jason. My best result ever, and it felt like a real race all the way (not often you run for over 5 hours without stopping for a wee)!

Congratulations to Ian on a brilliantly paced race and a strong finish, and thanks to Martin for the times we ran together. Congratulations also to Helen Skelton on winning the ladies' race. Yesterday was the first race that I've worn Injinji toe socks for, and they were great despite tarmac, wetness and bogs! Excellent news, as I won another pair (and a box of Clif bars) for 2nd place.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The final Open5 of the season...

Well as my shorts and T-shirt from the weekend hang covered in snow on the washing line, the beautiful weather we had in Dovedale on Sunday seems a long way away!

I'll keep this blog pretty short because I have no pictures to make it interesting, but for once I had a reasonable (if not brilliant) Open 5. I decided to bike first, and really enjoyed the bike course. It wasn't too technical which suited me, and there were a fair few controls accessible by road and decent bridleways, which made it pretty fast. After getting all of the high point controls in a loop I found myself over at the eastern end of the map, so decided to crack on and clear a course for the first time!

Having done all the bike I got back to transition after about 3:40, so set off for a pretty short run. For once I was sensible, and just collected to controls on the top half of the map... As usual, there was a strong urge to head off to the most obscure, difficult and low scoring controls in the bottom corner, but for once I managed to resist! Towards the end I messed up a bit, ending up going to control 8, then 5, then back to 8 for no good reason, but found a bit of energy towards the end and made it back in 4 hours 57, with 515 points. This was good enough for 10th place on the day, with the same points but a slower time than 8th and 9th.

So I finished the series on a relative high, and pulled my overall position up to 26th despite a shocking result in the Quantocks! Congratulations to Lucy for second place on the day and overall in the series (blog).