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.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Fourth time lucky?? The Long Tour of Bradwell 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday was the Long Tour of Bradwell. After a disastrous Wuthering Hike and an enjoyable Fellsman this would be my third counter in the UK ultra champs this year.

It's a fantastic route around an area I run through regularly, but it's a race in which I have had mixed results before - actually not really mixed, mainly just bad!

- 2010: The first year I ran the race and right at the beginning of my running, I was amazed at the speed at which Jon Morgan shot off. He knew the route a lot better than anyone else and ran on to a clear win. I finished 14th in 6:02.

- 2011: The following year my stomach caused me problems - I felt really sick and struggled to run much from Cavedale to Aston, but after some nifty hunchback running I did beat my previous time and finished 6th in 5:47.

- 2012: Last year I went out fast for the first few checkpoints, then failed spectacularly to find the Druid Stone checkpoint and lost a lot of time, eventually finishing 14th in 6:26.

- - - - - - - - - -

So, what would happen in 2013? I had been training well and was looking forward to the race. Lorna and Dolly (the dog) were coming to support, and we left home to arrive in plenty of time to register and get ready for the race. Once this was sorted and after the inevitable waiting around, 9 o'clock arrived and we were off! It was good to see Jim Mann and Ian Symington (complete with new small child) at the start, and there were a few other speedy guys around, so it looked like a good race.

After a few recces I was pretty confident of the route and soon found myself leading as we ran up the bridleway out of Bradwell. The pace was quite fast but I felt good. Over the first couple of kilometres through the quarry we gradually spread out and soon it was Jim and I at the front. It stayed this way up Pindale and down Cavedale, where Jim descended better than I did and pulled out a bit of a gap, so we arrived in Castleton a few seconds apart.

From Castleton we quickly climbed to Hollins Cross then descended to Edale. After the checkpoint we ran out of the village and started up towards Ringing Roger... This was the last time I saw Jim! He continued straight on as I turned up through the Edale Skyline start field. Being a fan of direct routes up hills I thought he would continue along the valley then cut straight up to Ringing Roger, but it turned out he took a rather more imaginative route and ended up inventing the Super-long tour of Bradwell! I'm sure he will explain one day, but it involved visiting Grindsbrook, a bit of a tour of Kinder, and a few more extra sections later on.

Anyway, I ran up the zigzags and (despite my recceing) slightly messed up the route to the Druid Stone, not too significantly but enough that I could see Chris Perry on the lower track as I ran along the high track to the checkpoint. But I was pleased to have got there without losing the lead, and set off downwards as fast as I could... At the bottom of the descent there's a section on a private drive, but when I got there I saw an arrow sign pointing straight on towards Edale youth hostel. This wasn't the route on my map, but being a couple of years out of date I assumed the sign was correct and followed it on the longer loop around, via the hostel and the road before starting the Back Tor climb. Chris (who took what turned out to be the correct route down the drive) was therefore in front of me as we climbed up. We had a quick chat, his ankle was hurting but he was going well. I moved past and continued on up to Back Tor and on to the summit of Lose Hill, now in-among the half tour runners.

From there I was basically on my own for the rest of the race... Down through Hope, through Aston and on up to checkpoint 8 on the edge of Ladybower. It was really nice to see LJ and Dolly here. They had climbed up Parkin Clough and I got a good cheer and a bark. After the control the route joins the Thornhill trail and I was having a few stomach problems. Along here I had my one and only stop of the race which seemed to sort things out.

Paragliders from the finish
After the slight tedium of the Thornhill trail I descended to Bamford, quickly through the village and on to one of the steepest climbs on the course up Bamford Clough. I was very pleased to feel OK and ran nearly all of it without heart rate going too high (all on Movescount) and felt really comfortable on this part of the course. Running up to and along Stanage and Burbage felt like a training run - I regularly run these trails and felt quite comfortable, though I did occasionally glance back, half expecting to see Ian Symington charging up behind me!

From CP13 at Toad's mouth I knew I had one more tricky section of navigation, a bit more climb, then a run in to the finish... Maybe I could actually do it! I found the checkpoint up above Grindleford railway station without too much trouble, though I did again ignore my own advice from a recce last week and lose a couple of minutes clambering over rocks. The steep descent down through the quarry was taped but steep, my quads were burning now, but eventually I was on the long run along the river to the Leadmill checkpoint. After what felt like a long way but was actually about 2km, I was there. The guys at the control seemed surprised at the time I was there. Another quick hello to wife and dog gave me a boost and I set off up the road...

A bit of road, pleased to still be running uphill, through some woods, descend down to the last control. Dib. Back up again, feeling pretty tired now but must keep going, feels like a long drag to Abney but get there eventually. Another long climb up the road, but it's the last one... Keep going! Left onto the track and a good chance to look back: Can't see anyone, lots of paragliders to take my mind off the legs! Over the stile, OOOOOWWWW CRAMP but can see the village, down the steep hill, cyclist in the way, off the hill and onto the road - down the steps, main road through the village...

About the Co-Op in Bradwell is where I started to believe I was going to win the race. The memory of a sprint against Kevin Perry a few years ago (which I lost) came vividly back as I ran past the start and on towards the sports centre. I was glad not to have to race into the finish again!

Some people at the pub opposite shouted to the organisers as I ran round the corner, and Lorna was there again. I ran around the side of the building, to the table and dibbed for the last time.

It had been hard but a really enjoyable race, and my first outright win! I jointly won the Hardmoors 60 last year but this felt a lot more satisfying as I had been on my own at the front for so much of the race. My time was 4:53, which we later realised was also a course record (just beating Jon Morgan's 4:55 from 2010). I'm really pleased to have beaten the record as this shows I ran a good race compared to previous years, as well as this year.

A few minutes later Ian arrived (5:08) followed by Chris in 5:12. Helen Skelton had a great run to finish first lady in 6:17. Jim was the sole finisher and winner of the inaugural Super-long tour, coming home in 6:40.

Fellow Accelerate runner Chris Hough beat his PB to finish in 6:29, despite a nasty fall over a stile very early on which left him with a big bloody mess of an eye. A great effort to even finish! I'm sure Chris will have a blog up soon.

Thanks very much to the organisers, Bradda Dads, and to Dark and White / Richard Patton. All the marshals were brilliant and we are very grateful for your hard work!

Finally, thanks Lorna and Dolly for the great support, and as ever thanks to Stu Hale and Accelerate for all your help and encouragement!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Last week, next week, and the next BIG one...

Last Wednesday, Lorna and I were at a wedding in Skipton, then at the Coniston Cold Hotel. I've driven past this place on my way to the Dales and Lakes many times, but never been in... Well I can confirm it's very nice! After the wedding we headed over to Malham for a couple of days camping...
Campsite below Malham Cove
The Dales is one of my favourite places in the world, and did not disappoint this time. The weather was mostly great (and occasionally spectacular) - I went out for a couple of amazing evening runs, up onto the Limestone pavement after all the walkers had gone home; as the sun set I had the place to myself! We spent Friday walking around Malhamdale, taking in the Cove, Tarn, Goredale Scar and Janet's Foss then had a fantastic dinner at The Angel in Hetton. It was on the way back that the spectacular weather occured, with sheet lightning illuminating the sky as we tried to avoid all the little hedgehogs on the road!

Goredale Scar
After returning to reality and a very busy week I'm quite grateful of a taper week this week, because on Saturday I'm running the Long Tour of Bradwell! It's a race I really like, but has not gone well in the past... In 2011 I had stomach problems and had to run part of the race hunched over, and in 2012 I felt good, shot off in the lead, then ran a few miles extra looking for the Druid Stone checkpoint and spend the rest of the race trying to catch up. Who knows what will happen this weekend, but I have done some decent recceing and if I'm careful I should be OK with the route, so we'll see what my legs do!

The big news though, is that later this year I will be taking part in the Adventure Racing World Championship, in Costa Rica! I was asked if I would like to join a team with Dave Spence and two other guys, since their fourth member was unable to train sufficiently. The race looks utterly amazing, a true once in a lifetime opportunity. I'll let the organisers describe where we're going in their own words (their video is also below). More info to follow on this as November gets closer...

The course will go across the country, from coast to coast: Pacific to Atlantic, and from border to border: from Nicaragua to Panama. There will be a wide variety of terrains, from long beach walks to ascents of more than 1,000 mts, going up to 3,800 mts of rugged rocky hills.  The temperature will vary from 5°C in cool nights, to 37°C in very hot and rainy days.  There will be several micro climate zones, with some very rainy and very dry areas during the race.