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.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wuthering Hike / Haworth Hobble

Firstly, I have no idea why the race has two names! Last saturday I ran the first race in the 2013 Ultra series: Wuthering Hike. After the HPM I had felt good and decided on about Tuesday that I was ready to race again. I dug out my rather scratty map from last year and spent a good few hours on Friday night applying laminating film to it...

Ready for action, I travelled up to Haworth from Sheffield early saturday morning. The race starts at 8am so it was a 5 o'clock start. As I drove over the weather was pretty claggy, the hill tops were shrouded in cloud, it looked like the navigation would be fun!

It was great to see lots of my ultra friends again before the start, as ever at this race a number of people missed the start since they were in the queue for the portaloos, but this year I was well organised and I was on the startline with a few minutes before 8 - phase one complete!

So off we went! We jogged off up Cemetry Road then joined the path out towards Bronte Bridge. I was running at the front with Kim Collison, Jim Mann, Duncan Harris (who I hadn't seen before the start - I hoped he wasn't there!) and a few other guys. As we climbed up to Top Withins I tried to lead everyone off the wrong way but Duncan kept us right, perhaps I couldn't quite remember the route, as would become apparent shortly.

I really enjoyed the first two hours of the race, the tops were clearing a bit and the conditions were really nice. We ran along the edge of the reservoirs on the Pennine Way, then dropped down to the road and checkpoint 1 at Widdop. The next reservoirs (Hardhurst and Cant Clough) arrived pretty quickly, I was now running with Kim and another guy I didn't know (Matt?), the three of us were trotting along well. After checkpoint 4 we began a section of the route that I thought I knew - the drop down the Pennine Way to Todmorden Golf Course, then down the little ginnel past the church and down to the main road. This, however, is where it all went wrong...

I'm not sure exactly where we went wrong, but somewhere we turned SW off the track and never made it to the Golf Course. We ended up in the middle of Todmorden, and followed a main road for a while until we knew we were certainly off course. We had a quick discussion and confirmed that we were all on the same page - we're lost. After confirming with a local that the road we were on headed to Bacup (ie. bad), we turned around and charged off back through the town. I lost touch at this point so was on my own. I finally found my way back to the right route and arrived at the Mankinholes Youth Hostel checkpoint just as Kim and Matt were leaving.

The next bit was the ascent of Stoodley Pike which I actually quite enjoyed, but basically I was angry. I spent the next hour and a half trying to catch people up. Frustratingly I actually remembered the route all the way from Mankinholes to the ctrossing of Penistone Park just before the finish. I messed this up again and after catching Jim Mann (who had also had a bit of a nightmare, due to being knackered from training) on the climb to Top O' Stairs I saw him pass me by taking a better line. I caught him again on the final run in and we finished together.

I had caught a fair few people but only managed to get myself back up to 19th place. I finished in just under 5 hours. Kim had got away from Matt and finished 4th in 4:38. Duncan won in 4:22, but only by a few seconds from 2nd!

So, not a great start to 2013. In fact, I can't remember the last race I didn't mess up the nav on. I was pretty pissed off, but as Kim, Jim and I agreed afterwards, it's only racing... We still get to run, and that's what it's all about :-)

Friday, 8 March 2013

High Peak Marathon

As I said in my previous post, the traditional start to the season of silliness was last weekend. I ran the HPM with Martin Beale, Tim Laney, and Martin Indge (who was a last minute stand-in for Martin Humphries), as the "Avon Mountain Athletes"... Having finished third last year we started at a few minutes to midnight, closely followed by Flippers Gang as last year's second place team did not start.

It was good to be underway as we ran out onto the road, then turned right and into the farmyard, where we immediately got our feet covered in, er, slurry. We trotted on up towards Hollins Cross, soon after which we were passed by Flipper and his gang. This was expected and has happened every year I've done this race, I wondered if we should be hanging on to them but its a long race and anything could happen.

I won't describe every step of the race, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Some who have completed this race (Wil) might disagree but the conditions and weather on Friday night were fantastic - much of the really boggy bits were frozen and the night was clear and bright. As a team we ran well, there were of course the expected low moments for all of us, but our navigation was again perfect thanks to Tim and Martin B. 

I learnt one important lesson - for a race like this I need to take a bigger pack! A Laser tent does not fit in my little racing rucksack! Martin gave me the tent at Moscar and I spent a few minutes struggling to get it in the pack before giving up and leaving it dangling...  I then charged down the road to catch them up and spent another 10 minutes trying to get it in, before having to give up and ask Martin to carry my waterproof trousers in return...

Tim, followed by Martin B and me

As the sun rose on saturday morning we were treated to a fantastic sight, captured by a checkpointer here. It was a beautiful morning and all the pain from the night before seemed to fade away. We all became a bit more likely and plodded on well. It soon got quite warm and I was again reminded that my pack was too small - hence I'm still wearing my waterproof in the photo above!

We were getting close to the end now and started to see a couple of teams approaching us from behind. We tried to keep them at bay but as we climbed Brown Knoll the Carnethy ladies team were among us... They were working well as a team, carrying each others packs and looked strong. We knew we'd started a while after them so if we kept going well we could probably beat them. We knew we were in 6th position, a bit disappointing after the last couple of years but it had been a brilliant night out.

The last stretch passed quickly and soon we were descending the rocky path down from Hollins Cross, through the slurry farm yard again and we noticed the other team behind us were getting close... Here I am sorry to say I resorted to dirty tactics. After our team had passed through each of the little gates on the final path in I made sure they were as fully closed and locked behind us as possible, just to give us an extra few seconds! I think the team behind were a little upset by this so if any of them are reading I apologise - a racing incident!

We held them off, just, and ran into Edale village hall in 9:33. Another fantastic HPM, thanks to Martin, Martin and Tim, it was a pleasure as always. Congratulations must go to Flippers Gang for a new record of 7:52, and also to Mountain Hardwear for pushing them. Speaking of Mountain Hardwear, talking to a certain Mr. Collison after the event it seems he's running Wuthering Hike this weekend too... Oh good.