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, 28 August 2012

This is what Bank Holidays are for!

Saturday...
So, this weekend was the inaugural “Big Running Weekend”. The event started on Saturday night (for me anyway , some people had been there setting up pretty much all week!) when I gave a talk about the Big Alps Run and then was part of a panel to answer some audience questions. I was in illustrious company, Nicky Spinks gave a great talk about all her achievements despite huge personal setbacks, and Darryl Watton talked about his brilliant 35th place finish on the Marathon des Sables.

The panel - photo borrowed from Accelerate Photography

All the talks seemed to go down pretty well, so thanks if you came along! For the panel we were also joined by Marcus Scotney (GB 100km Ultra runner), Julian Lings (English Duathlon champion), and Jason Ward (GB 10k runner) and answered some interesting questions from the floor. It was very interesting to hear a range of thoughts on things like training, kit and drugs testing from the elite to the make-it-up-as-you-go-along-ers (me).

Sunday...
There were three races taking place over the weekend, as well as some orienteering events. The first ever New Balance Ultra Tour of the Peak District would start at 8am on Sunday, followed by the 12 mile trail race later in the day, and then a hilly 10k on Monday. In pretty good weather on Sunday morning about 50 of us set off from Whirlow Hall Farm to run the 56 mile Ultra course. The route took us around some of the best bits of the Dark Peak, linking them together in ways which had never occurred to me! I knew it would be a fast race, with guys like Marcus Scotney and Dan Gay running. I had decided to run my own race and try not to get too swept up in it all if one of these guys shot off!

This is actually the start of the 12.12, but we went the same way!
Away from the start we took the same twiddly route through woods and across a couple of roads as the other two races, and despite the first section being signed three of us at the front managed to take a wrong turn! We quickly caught up all but one of the places we had lost, then gradually gained on the leader on the way up Porter Clough. We ran up, which may not have been a great idea but we were all feeling strong at that point... The three of us (Marcus, Dan and I) pushed on at a decent pace around Lady Canning’s then up to the first CP at Burbage Rocks. From here we were navigating, no more flags! The route took us on to the end of Stanage, then via the Pole to Redmires Reservoirs. It felt really good to be running a proper Ultra on the same paths I run on from home!

By this point I couldn’t see anyone behind the three of us, and as we climbed up onto the road at Hollow Meadows Dan had a bit of a lead. I was having slight stomach trouble so had a brief stop, at which point Marcus ran past singing “weeeee know what you’re doooooing”. Anyway, by the time we reached the checkpoint / feed station at Moscar we were back together. We were there in 2:10 which was a bit quicker than anticipated, and our feed station bags hadn’t actually arrived yet, but there were plenty of Clif bars, gels and Shot blocks (these are amazing, going to get more of these!) so no worries. We would be back through the feed station later anyway. Just after the CP I saw Lorna and the dog waiting for us on a corner, it was nice to see them and they gave us a good cheer!

The Moscar loop was one area I had recced, so it was quite novel for me to actually know where I was going! When we got up onto Derwent Edge I felt Marcus really lifted the pace, possibly trying to get rid of us. I just about clung on, it was fast but manageable. Around Lost Lad, then a slightly tricky bit of navigation to make sure we didn’t end up in Far Deep Clough, then back down to the reservoir. After the CP there (unfortunately there were some dibber issues, and this was one that didn’t work) was a sharp climb back up to Derwent Edge. I felt we relaxed here again which was a relief, and I chatted to Marcus about the honour of running for Team GB (he has, I would like to) as we climbed. From there it wasn’t far back into Moscar, I didn’t have much in my drop bag so grabbed it quickly and got out in front, with the other two close behind. Marcus caught me on the way up the climb but Dan had dropped back slightly. After the finish we learnt that he had stomach problems and had dropped out later on, around 45 miles I think.

From my Kinder recce
Up onto Stanage again then, and a long gentle-ish climb up to High Neb. Here Marcus again pushed on and I started to struggle to stay with him, I think I only caught him as he waited to check whether there was supposed to be a checkpoint at the junction before the descent. Perhaps it hadn’t arrived yet, but we saw no sign of it. I stopped for another quick trip into the hedge on the descent to feed station 2 but caught up at the checkpoint and we left at the same time, running up the road towards Ladybower and our eventual destination of Win Hill. The climb up Parkin Clough from Yorkshire Bridge was hot and tough and I was glad to emerge from the trees as we climbed the last bit up to the top. From there we headed down and along above Ladybower, joining the Roman Road to take us past Hope Cross and onto another section I had recced along the edge of Kinder.

This edge had been the scene of my disaster in the Long Tour of Bradwell a couple of weeks ago and I was keen for it not to happen again. I pushed on a bit here and had a small gap as we made our way up onto the edge and along towards Ringing Roger. I was hot and working quite hard along here, but could see the gap growing slightly. I knew Marcus was very quick on the flatter sections so thought this might be my only chance, with the climbs to Hollins Cross then Cavedale to come. I think it was about here it started to rain, and I was certainly wet by the time I saw Ian Winterburn at the Ringing Roger CP. Then down the rocky track (Ow!), down the Nab, through Edale, over the fields and under the railway, over the road and off up towards Hollins Cross. The Accelerate guys (Stu, Ben and Al) had come out to support and it was great to see them at the road crossing.

Full of encouragement and still with a gap I headed up to Hollins Cross. I held the gap up the climb, down into Castleton and on up Cavedale but could feel the distance in my legs now. I walked up Cavedale and stopped for toilet another couple of times. I think Marcus was having similar issues slightly lower down the hill! By the time I got to the top of the Limestone way climb he had caught me, and to be honest I knew I didn’t have much left. From there into Bradwell I felt awful, and when I got to the feed station Marcus was just leaving. I tried to be quick and get out, and had some good encouragement from the Accelerate guys again, but I didn’t see him again after that.

Marcus cracking on to win
I felt really bad now and put all my focus into holding on for second. I didn’t know how far Dan was behind (not knowing he had stopped) but I knew I would be gutted if I was caught. After Bradwell and Shatton we joined the River Derwent. It was hot again and I hated the flat running, but forced myself to run it all as quickly as I could. Through the edge of Hathersage and off up Ringinglow road I felt slightly better, then came the awkward cut across from the road to the path. It would have been better to stick on the road a bit further then cut straight, but I took the advised route. I found the path though, theoretically the last bit of tricky nav done...

At the Carl Wark checkpoint the marshall said Marcus was about 10 minutes ahead, but he didn’t think I would be caught from behind. I wasn’t sure how he knew this so chose not to believe him (sorry)! From there I messed up the nav and cut up too early, through Burbage Rocks so I ended up joining Houndkirk Road not much after the outdoor centre. I was angry with myself which helped pass the run over Houndkirk a bit, which I had suspected would be horrible. Eventually though I was alongside Lady Cannings, and started to count the kilometres to the end... Then the end of the plantation, the little bit of tarmac, across the road to the marshall, 15 minutes to go he reckons (Marcus has probably finished), down the Limb Valley like last weekend, along the track looking for the cut up left... Then I saw the track up, and soon after that saw Tom Saville and Rob Little waiting for me. Up the hill and across the final field and I could see the big inflatable finish line. Tom had phoned Stu Hale so they were all waiting for me, fantastic! ...And stop.


I finished in 9:41, I think Marcus did 9:19 so he took a lot out of me in the last quarter of the race. He was stronger throughout really, and those fast bursts early on had taken all my energy. It was a brilliant race though, a tough one and longer than we all thought at 59.7 miles. The ladies winner was Sally Fawcet in 11:36.

After the race I had a massage from Holywell, which was VERY painful at the time but has made a big difference since, I was able to jog back from marshalling the 10k yesterday and ride my bike today (neither very well, but still...). Lorna ran the 10k in a massive PB of 1:09 and looked like she hadn’t done anything at the end!
Chaos at the end of the 12.12!
Congratulations also to the winners of the other races, Rob Little won the 12 miler after a sprint finish and Oli 
Johnson the 10k. Sorry I couldn’t go one better to make it a Dark Peak full house!
Thanks to Whirlow Hall Farm, Eight Point Two, Accelerate and New Balance for a great race.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Long Tour of Bradwell - Fail to prepare...

...and prepare to fail!

Unfortunately that's what I did at the LTB on saturday. I had hoped to recce the course, but just didn't have time, though having run it twice before I should have known my way! Anyway, at the start I wasn't sure how fit I was, with fairly haphazard training since the Alps, but I was looking forward to it!

Bradwell is only about 20 mins from home so I had the full support crew (Lorna and Dolly) with me at this race which was really nice. After I'd registered we wandered down to the start and caught up with Karen McDonald, as well as Dan Shrimpton and Ian Symington, who I hoped I'd be running with once we got going...
With helpful assistant before the start
We got cracking at 9ish in good weather, and I found myself at the front with Ian, Dan and a few others. It was nice to catch up with the guys and really good to be racing again! Off we went up out of the village, through the quarry (once we found the way through!) and out towards CP2 where we doubled back towards Castleton. About 4 or 5 of us had been together at the first checkpoint, but somewhere between there and the second check Ian and I had pushed on from the others, and after a while longer I got a bit ahead and ended up maybe 20m in front of Ian.

I went through CP3 in Castleton on my own and headed up out of the village on the road towards Hollins Cross feeling fantastic, I was running easily, without too much effort and almost couldn't believe I was "winning". I knew there was a long way to go though, and that I would have to concentrate around the Druid Stone to make sure I got the right line.

Off we go!
Ah, the Druid Stone, CP5. Here I basically made a MASSIVE cock-up, it was foggy and I knew I wouldn't be able to see the stone, so after passing below Ringing Roger I tried to stay on the upper path which would lead me almost to it. Unfortunately I missed it, and carried on past the stone... For a long way! I should've stopped and properly checked my map, but I panicked and frantically ran backwards and fowards along the ridgeline, getting as far as Jaggers Clough before I knew I had gone too far. Anyway, all this lost me 50 minutes on the 5:30 schedule I had been hitting up to that point, so I knew any sort of race for a position was over.

I got very angry and considered dropping out for a while, but decided to carry on and enjoyed catching up and having a quick chat to people throughout the rest of the race, including Karen and Nick Ham. Lorna and Dolly were having an epic walk and I saw them near Ladybower. After finishing I learnt (and smelled) that Dolly had spent most of the day rolling in cow pats! It was pretty hot and muggy by now, and as I crossed the bridge I saw a fellow runner lying in the river with a big grin on his face.

The climb from Bamford to Stanage Edge took a long time and I felt pretty grim as I tried to push on and run up the last climb to the edge. I had been trying to take 5 minutes out of the 50 minute defacit on each leg, and had managed this a couple of times, but this was hard on the long climb legs. By the top of Stanage I think I was 45 mins down on the schedule, still catching people but more slowly now. I did enjoy the run along the ridge though, the descent down to the checkpoint and the run along to CP13. I took the higher (left) path, which is a good runnable line and avoids the bogginess which I imagine exists in the valley.

Dog on edge
Somewhere after CP13 I caught up (to my surprise!) with Dan Shrimpton, who was also having a less than ideal day. He was off on holiday the next day so just seemed to be enjoying the running, and was running with a guy from the Royal Dragoon Guards. The three of us negotiated the tricky nav section near Upper Padley (thanks!), then I pushed on again a bit towards CP15 at Leadmill. From there the route was relatively simple to the end, with lots of runnable hills. I made sure I forced myself to run them, as now I just wanted to finish as soon as possible!

The last section of the route runs through the village of Abney, then along an edge before dropping off towards Bradwell, then through the village and to the Pavillion. Luckily I didn't have a sprint finish as I did with Kevin Perry last year and relaxed a bit on the final run in, although I was annoyed and a bit embarrassed to be 49 minutes slower than 2011!

Nevermind, it's a great route and I will be back to do it justice next year! For now though, I might have to find another race as my final qualifier for the Ultra series, but first there is the small matter of the New Balance Ultra Tour of the Peak District in a couple of weeks...

Ian won in 5:27, and Helen Skelton was the fastest lady in 6:17, congratulations to both!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A busy few months!

Well it's been a while since I last wrote anything! Since returning from the Alps I have been really busy with life in general... I've got married, been on honeymoon, begun a concerted effort on my PhD, been to the Olympics, and started writing a book...
Our Wedding!
This weekend though I'm back to running again, the Fellsman feels like a really long time ago so I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of shape I'm in at the Long Tour of Bradwell on Saturday. Not sure it will be the greatest due to a lack of consistent training over the last few weeks, but I've had a couple of really good runs this week so it will be good to be back to racing and training properly.

I have found the Olympics so inspirational! Every day you can turn on your TV or internet or whatever and see people giving absolutely everything (apart from Badminton cheats) and it's fantastic! We went to London and watched Beach Volleyball last week, the atmosphere was amazing, the only slight disappointment being that you can't get close to the Olympic park without a ticket for events in there.

GB ladies in unfortunately their last match