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, 25 February 2016

Being vaguely sensible for once.

There are a few reasons for this post... Firstly, it's been ages - though looking at most running blogs, most posts start with the immortal words "It's been a while since I've written anything", so that's maybe not a surprise! Secondly, I'm feeling slightly smug today after a great run out in the mountains around the Belleville valley. The reason I'm smug is that I, for once, was slightly sensible and turned back when the conditions told me to, rather than getting into the sort of situation I described here. Must be getting old.

As I've mentioned, Lorna and I are currently running a ski chalet in the Belleville valley. It's a fantastic place to live and work, but it is sometimes hard work and the days are often long, with running and skiing stuck in wherever possible. Thursday, however, is our day off, so inevitably this has become my "long run" day. A normal Thursday begins with a mental battle between taking the opportunity for a sleep-in vs. getting out to play, which the latter tends to win, then after some breakfast I head out for a run or ski tour while Lorna goes proper skiing. Then later we rendevous for beer and Fondue / Raclette / Other meatcheesebread dinner.

We live in a beautiful world... yeahwe dooo yeah we doooo...

The weather often plays a part in the run vs ski decision, with running preferable on sunny days, but today I felt I wanted to run despite the fog which meant we couldn't even see across the valley this morning! We drove to St Martin and went our seperate ways. My plan was to run my well-worn route to le Chatelard then down to Villarenger, then to head across the valley where I've not been yet, with the aim of climbing to Pointe de Diallait (2045m), then descending the other side to drop back towards home. It was a great run, the recent rain had washed lots of snow off the tracks meaning that conditions were more like spring than February until above the summer village of La Gittaz (1496m). After that I was reduced to a run/walk for the climb to the last settlement at Lechaux (1613m). Above that I couldn't really see anything! Occasional breaks in the cloud showed the ridge I was climbing but other than that I just plodded on up, using my poles to test whether the snow in front of me was flat or about to disappear - if you've skied in "flat light" you'll know what I mean!

Visibility and the lack thereof
After threatening to clear a few times, at about 1950m the fog seemed to get even thicker and I began to think it might be sensible to call it a day. The combination of this and a tricky section (narrow ridge, with lots of holes and little slopes steep enough to avalanche) eventually persuaded me to turn around, leading to my current alive and smug status.

Smugly (Smug but flippin' ugly)
The alternative to running over the top wasn't bad either! I descended Pointe de Diallait exactly the same way as I'd climbed, through the little villages to St Martin, then back home over the other side of the valley. The final stats for today are 1600m ascent in 30km, not a long way for nearly 4 and a half hours but the climb has taken it's toll - my legs feel like they've done 50!

Finally, if anyone is interested, here's the kit I take with me on long runs in the alps...
In my little Scott backpack goes normal running stuff like map and compass, waterproofs, Buff, gloves, spare top and a couple of gels, but also an avalanche transceiver, ice axe, Kahtoola running crampons, SOL emergency bivvy, and a first aid kit. I took poles with me today too which were pretty useful. Today's run is on Strava here.

Right, the raclette is calling!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Ski touring is my new favourite sport

I've been living here in La Combe, in the Trois Vallees in the French alps, since November. To be honest, in skiing terms, it's been (so far) a horrible season - there has really not been very much snow! Things that should've been white since December are still green, the locals are grumpy, and the Marmots are confused.

Amazing for running, crap for skiing
However, I've been having a brilliant time! Yes, it's fair to say I haven't become the skier I hoped I might, but I've managed to keep running a lot more than I thought I might, and have started doing some ski touring. Which brings me to the point of this little post...

Ski touring is an awesome sport. It reminds me of a combination of running in the high mountains and road biking. For the unfamiliar, ski touring involves the use of skis with "skins" on the bottom, which grip one way and stick the other, allowing you to push them uphill. In combination with lightweight boots with a free heel and a pivot at the toe, we are now able to basically walk up the mountains, then remove the skins and lock our heels before skiing down. In summary...

See summary point 1.
- It takes place in beautiful locations
- It allows the participant to get away from the crowds and lifts normally involved in skiing
- It has an element of danger and possibility of death
- It involves the use of complicated, expensive and beautifully-engineered equipment

- And like any sport done properly, it allows the participant to use every ounce of energy they have and keep going until they collapse into a heap on the floor, should they choose to do so. Perfect.

New skis = happy man.
Over the last few weeks I've had some fantastic times out on my touring skis, and have just upgraded my second hand 1980s gear to some lovely new Scott Superguide 88 skis and Cosmos boots, which immediately made me feel like a ski mountaineering hero. Thanks again Scott and Accelerate for continuing to support me! Today I completed my longest and greatest climb tour up to now, from St Martin to Meribel and then La Tania, and it's given me an idea for an epic adventure which I hope to have a crack at before the end of the season.

Ooooh shiny. See summary point 4.