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.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The last few ticks

At the end of March, there were still a few things on my "to do this season" list, so in the last few weeks of the season I've been busy ticking most of them off. We're now back in the UK, so it will soon be time to start a new list for the summer season. I'm really excited about the summer - we're going to be working for Alpine Quests, helping to run three chalets in Chatel, in the Portes du Soleil area. The area is probably the most famous mountain biking region in the Alps so I'm planning to do plenty of riding as well as running. We should have plenty of time off so I can hopefully get really fit and also do some racing. Team Accelerate-Scott are continuing to support me which is fantastic, I aim to pay back their generosity with some good results and publicity over the summer season!

So, for now, here are a few photos of the last few "ticks"...

10th April: "Do a race"

I ran the Defi la Olympe race, from Brides les Bains to Meribel Les Allues. The race follows the route of the Olympe ski lift, hence the name, and was a pretty unrelenting uphill-only blast of 26 minutes or so! I had a good race with another guy and we pulled out a good gap on those behind us, but in the end after swapping the lead a few times on the way up, he pulled away over the last third of the race and eventaully had about 30 seconds on me. A great race and a beautiful day, but sadly I had to leave before prizegiving so missed out on a hamper of Savoyard goodies.

14th April: "Ski the Grand Couloir"

We had a little late snowfall in our final official week of the season, so with Lorna and her Dad I headed up to the top of the Saulire lift and we skied down the famous Grand Couloir. It was covered in huge moguls but was nonetheless good fun, though some of the other off piste runs we did that day were at least equally as good and probably more challenging, if not as famous in name.

19th April: "Ride Moutiers - VT"

The ride from Moutiers (432m) to Val Thorens (2342m) has only featured in the Tour de France once, in 1994 I think, but it is well known by local cyclists as a bit of a beast. The distance in one direction is 37km, so my ride in total was about 74kms. I started at the chalet, rode disconcertingly up for a while (the only section of downhill on the climb is just below La Combe) then down to Moutiers to start the climb. Just less than 2 and a half hours later I was 1900 metres higher up in the centre of Val Thorens.  With the little hump the total climb was over 2000m. On a mountain bike I was quite happy with my time, which turned out to be only 36 seconds behind multiple Adventure Racing world champion Richard Ussher according to Strava... Though it is entirely possible that he was also on a mountian bike, in winter, at night, with a headwind, after 8 days of racing, or something.

21st April: "Eat at La Bouite"

With 3 Michelin stars, La Bouite is one of the best restaurants in the world. It's excruciatingly expensive, but having worked hard and saved money in a little box all season Lorna and I decided we should try it. It didn't dissapoint. We had the four surprise menu, which once complete with amuse bouches, pre-starters, palette cleansers, pre-desserts and petit fours constituted a fantastic three hours of eating. Everything was amazing, but the roasted pigeon breast was probably the best thing I have ever eaten. The meal was a fitting end to a fantastic season, and the next morning we packed the van to the brim and set off home...

Friday, 8 April 2016

Ticks in boxes

When we arrived in La Combe I was quickly inspired by the mountains around us and made lots of little plans in my head - I wanted to run up all the peaks around us, and then what about a "La Combe Skyline", or a long one up the valley from Moutiers, and lots more plans...

The season started and the early lack of snow meant I did manage to get up quite a few of the nearby summits, but there were two that always evaded me, and after a few weeks, when snow did eventually arrive, they were unfortunately too dangerous to try. Since January I have been unable to look at these two mountains, Creve Tete and Pointe de Diallant, without wondering whether I would be able to get up them before we leave La Combe. I should point out that in summer neither is particularly challenging, yes they both involve about 1500m of ascent each and the summit ridges are a slightly precipitous, but we're not talking mountaineering and I'm sure they are regularly climbed in summer!

In winter they are slightly more tricky, but after a failed attempt (which I wrote about) a few weeks earlier, a fortnight ago I finally did make it up Pointe de Diallant. It was a beautiful sunny day in contrast to the zero visibility on the first attempt, and a fantastic run. There was still a fair bit of snow around and the ridge from the summit which would've allowed me to drop directly back home still looked like it wanted to kill me, so I turned around at the top, but it was a perfect few hours.

Looking up to the top 

The summit! 
Ridge from summit (no thanks)

Yesterday I again had a day off and the weather looked OK, so I decided it was time to give Creve Tete a second go... I left home at 9 and started with the now familiar track up the hillside towards the little village of Flachere. I dropped back down to the main road before the village and ran along to St Jean de Belleville. From there I could see that the top half of the mountain was in cloud, but I decided I'd go up in the hope it would clear as forecast. The climb from St Jean takes you through some great tiny little villages, namely Granges and Novarlly, then up past a few more deralict farms and finally up onto the open mountainside towards the Col de Gollet at about 2000m.

By the time I got to the col the visibility was zero. I stopped twice and debated turning around as I was not 100% sure I was heading up the best route - I was following a compass bearing and though the slope I was climbing did not feel steep I was still not certain it was below the crucial 30 degree angle for avalanche risk. Not being able to see how much snow was above me didn't help settle the nerves! However, I reached the col and the slightly bizzare sight of the top of the highest ski lift in the Valmorel ski area. It wasn't running but I could hear skiers on the lower slopes through the gloom!

It looked like I'd have to turn around, but I decided to have a look at the climb up the ridge to the summit, and as I set off up the weather began to clear slightly. So, to cut a long story short, after another 30 minutes or so and some slightly scary rock climbing to avoid traversing steep snowy slopes, I made it to the top.

Looking up towards the summit
Hmm... not sure where this is. Sample weather photo!

Get in!
As I climbed I did wonder about the descent, the conditions were dodgy and the fact I'd had to climb up rocks to avoid traversing dangerous-looking snow made me a bit nervous, but it wasn't actually that bad. The cloud did clear slightly and I was able to find a better way down the very top section, then the path from the col rather than the snow slope I'd climbed on the way up. The key was not to slip off the ridge, which at the time led me to the thought that it would be really bad to be here with shoes you didn't trust, so a quick thank you to Scott for making good ones :)

So, that's another thing crossed off the "To do by end of season" list! Next, "try all the bars in St Martin"...

PS. The runs are here on Strava if anyone wants to head the same way!
Pointe de Diallant
Creve Tete