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, 23 February 2014

Not quite what I had in mind...

As I mentioned last time, this weekend was supposed to see my Ski Mountaineering racing debut, but thanks to some proper Scottish weather, I am still yet to stand on a Skimo startline!

Late last week I spoke to Mum and Dad, who had been hoping to try out Scottish skiing for some time and had a free weekend. We decided to drive up together, and I upgraded my planned nights in the van to the Onich hotel neat Fort William. We arrived at the hotel at around 9pm, it was awesome to be back in the highlands, it had been far too long!

Saturday: Skimo Scotland Glencoe race
Saturday morning dawned wet. After some breakfast Haggis we headed up the road to the Glencoe ski area. There looked to be plenty of snow high up, but it didn't look like any lifts would run due to the high winds. No worries said the organisers, we'll race from the bottom! The plan was to have a foot section first to get us to the snow, then race up to the original start, and ski down to the finish.

Glencoe Mountain
However... The ground was so wet it was apparently not possible to even do this, ski patrol informed us that we would just sink straight into the ground! So there it was, the race was cancelled. After milling about for a while we decided to make the most of being in the highlands, and set off on a bit of a tour!

We drove to Tyndrum, Dalmally, then Lochgilped and finally to Tavyallich. After an hour or so on the village we headed north again, this time via Seil island, accessed by the famous "bridge over the Atlantic".

Bridge over the Atlantic
Once on the island we drove to the tiny village of Easedale. It's an amazing place, connected with Easedale island by a tiny ferry, and by the looks of things, a bridge... Once!

Easedale village
After the trip around we headed home to Onich and I managed a quick run to relieve my frustration. Up the road a bit in the rain and wind I found a bike track through some woods. It was a bit eerie in the dark and the wind was so strong on the way back I had to hang onto a fencepost for a minute! After some tasty salmon at the hotel I went to sleep hoping for less wind in the morning.

Sunday: Skimo Scotland Nevis Vertical race
Sadly things did not improve overnight, and the view of white horses and bending trees this morning didn't fill me with optimism! If the Nevis gondola was running we would be racing, if not, we wouldn't. Looking over Loch Linhe from my room this morning I suspected not...

The race was cancelled. I'm a bit gutted not to have been able to race at all this weekend, of course I understand that the organisers had to cancel the races but after looking forward to it for so long it is a bit disappointing... Ah well, there's always next year!

I can't sit around feeling sorry for myself for too long anyway, it's the High Peak Marathon on Friday night... The entry list is quite daunting, it could be a fast race.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Back to Samoens

Last week I returned to a place I have spent many a happy day... Samoens in the French Alps. If you don't know it, Samoens is a little (though growing!) village close to the town of Taninges, and the city of Cluses, just over the Col de Joux Plane from Morzine. From the village there is a lift which takes you up into the Grand Massif ski area, and I have skied there with my family for the last few years. It's a great place to ski from, but also a proper village with a square, bars and a really good proper Savoyard restaurant. I also spent a night there on the Big Alps Run, so for all these reasons it has a special place in my heart.

Samoens village square
This year I am planning to have a go at a new type of racing, so during my time in Samoens I also hoped to have my first proper go at it: Ski Mountaineering. Well, my first training days were a lot more like very tame Ski Touring, but the basic principle is the same... So I spent most mornings taking the lifts up and skiing down like most other people, and the afternoons skinning up the side of runs, then practicing taking the skins off, packing them away and heading back downhill! I had a few good training sessions and though I am by no means experienced, I'm now looking forward to my first Skimo races - in Scotland next weekend. I am well aware that I've committed to jumping in at the deep end and I expect to finish last, but I'm looking forward to the experience and hope I can learn a lot from it. The snow conditions in Scotland look great so far too!

Samoens Skimo training
One day we woke up to heavy rain so I decided to give skiing a miss and headed off for a run. I often get out for a run or two while skiing but this was one of the best snowy runs I've had. I ran alongside the river Giffre from Samoens to Sixt, then up through tiny villages and hamlets, then through forest to finally emerge at the Lac de Gers. The rain had turned to snow and the little mountain hut was open! I had a coke, turned around and ran back down. A good 1000m ascent / descent, but the best bit of the run was seeing an Ibex really close up on the way, he watched me for quite a while before deciding to head back up to the top of his hill.

En route to the Lac de Gers
Since returning to the UK I've been busy with normal work and boring stuff, but two really exciting things have happened: Firstly I gave a talk to Sheffield Riverdale 41 club about the Big Alps Run. 41 club is a club for former members of Round Table (who have to leave at age 40, hence 41 club) and they were a great audience. I was given dinner two which was brilliant! My coach Stu Hale also attended, and was amazed to see me wearing a tie! I can't remember the last time I did so, so here is the moment recorded for posterity:

The other exciting thing is the arrival of a new member of our family, albeit a temporary one. We're helping Labrador Welfare with one of their dogs, so Acer will be living with us for a while, hopefully until he can walk on the lead nicely and find a permanent home! He's 9 years old but has the energy and excitement of a puppy, we've already had lots of good walks and I reckon he can be a runner yet!

Acer has arrived!
So that's all for now, watch this space to hear about how Skimo Scotland goes next weekend!