Pure Trail’s Deep River Trail race half marathon report

The race began at Piddledown common just off the drive way to Castle Drogo at the top of the steep Teign valley. The race would take us down to the river where we would then snake through the beautiful wooded hillside in a loop before returning to where the pain began. 7 of the 14 miles have positive ascent and 7 have more descent then ascent. This equated to around 2,400ft of elevation gain for the course. I actually enjoy a hill usually but the length and severity of what we were faced with really took the power from your legs, then your thighs got thrashed on the mad dash down. Unfortunately it takes twice as long to get up them, so the feeling of forever running up hill couldn’t be descended from.

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Elevation profile

I had this race scheduled months ago but due to the whole tree falling on my leg fiasco I cancelled as I didn’t think I would recover in time. However I managed to start running again, albeit gingerly 2 weeks ago so decided to reenter and run anyway with no expectations. Having said that I also felt good on the start line so thought I would try to hang onto whoever was in the lead for as long as possible. This turned out to be a great tactic until we reached the first hill and the eventual winner Lucy Mcalister stormed on, with two other men in toe and I  knew then that they were beyond me. After that realisation I just tried to concentrate on putting in some serious effort and to just assess how I felt. Where the tree landed on me is sore when I run and to a much greater extent when I race, it feels like someone has kneed me really hard in the side of my calf, but I don’t think it limits me much, that came purely from not being in the same class as Lucy and the others. IMG_20170319_173643_024

The whole Fingle woods area is truly stunning, and if you are going to suffer for a few hours blowing out of your arse running up and down hills it does soften the blow substantially when you are surrounded by such natural beauty. I finished in 6th place in 1:54 with the winner finishing 5 minutes ahead of second in 1:43. When considering the less then ideal build up to this race I was happy on reflection of my time. I found my major weakness to be speed. I kept overtaking the guy who finished 5th on the uphills and would always be overtaken on the down and unable to keep pace on the flatter fast sections. So I need to start to incorporate some speed work into my training if I want to compete at these events.

Me running up one of the never ending hills

It was a very well organised event. The registration was seamless and the marshals who are so integral to these events were encouraging and ensured I didn’t run down any wrong paths. And for those who like these things the medal was a bespoke little number that is one of the nicest  I have seen.

Kit used

Salomon skinpro 10

Inov 8 Roclite 290’s

North Face better then naked shorts

Drymax socks

Inov 8 tee

Buff

Clif shot bloks

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Medal

Back in the game

So I managed one week of marathon training before a tree got dropped on my leg and I strained my medial collateral ligament. I needed three weeks of rest before I could attempt to run again. This was a pretty disappointing setback, I have had problems with injuries before but after my 1st place in the Endurance life marathon I felt invigorated and determined to push on with my training. So on the 6th of March I finally put my shorts and trainers back on and headed out. I tried to be sensible so only did a 4 mile fairly flat route to gauge how my leg was feeling. And although where the tree hit me could be felt whilst running there was no pain and I felt good so this was a positive first run back. I then did another short 3.5 mi run on Thursday with the idea that if I still felt ok I would head out on Saturday and try my leg on a longer more challenging run.

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Saturdays 14 mile route. 1,600ft elevation gain

The run was stunning, I ran through woodlands, over an estuary, crossed a beach and followed some of the SW coast path, it really was an example of all that is brilliant about trail running. And thankfully although my legs felt heavy and I wasn’t ‘flowing’ like I would have liked, there was minimal discomfort and I enjoyed myself. This is now hopefully the beginning of a period of quality training and most importantly being injury free. I will try to build upon this weeks modest mileage of 21 miles and keep my sights set on the Keswick Mountain Festival 50k in June.

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Me just about to tuck into my Tribe bar

A trail running holiday in Gran Canaria

My friend Oli and I are both passionate runners and both of the companies that we work for shut down over the Christmas period. We thought that as we had enforced holiday over this period we should use the time to head to warmer more mountainous climes to get in some quality runs before we began our training plans for our 2017 races. We had a quick think and I suggested Gran Canaria, primarily because I knew it would be warm and I assumed if Transgrancanaria was such a popular ultra, contested by some of the best runners in the world then there must be some epic running to be found.

We stayed in a town called Moya in the north of the island situated in the mountains. We organised an Airbnb and this was the perfect spot to be the base for our trip. We had to hire a car so travelling around the national park would be easier, and it also gave us more flexibility in our route choices. We did four runs whilst we were there and covered around 40 miles and 14,000ft of ascent. As previously stated on the blog I struggled for the last few months of 2016 with shin splints so didn’t enter the holiday at the fitness level I would have liked. I found every run we did challenging but not unmanageable, and really felt like I got some great training in. Living in Devon my experience of running lots of ascent is from Dartmoor and the South West coast path and although you can achieve lots of elevation, (such as the Endurance life marathon that came in at over 4,600ft) it is usually accumulated through lots of undulation. Gran Canaria though was a different beast. The run pictured below had over 2,000ft of ascent in the first two miles, there aren’t many places in the UK where you can replicate that. And we both won our first races of 2017 on the 4th of February so all that running up mountains must have done us some good.

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One of the runs we did, 10 miles and 5,000ft ascent

We used the Gran Canaria tour and trail map, including the rambling roger routes to plan and navigate our runs. I would say that being used to OS maps I don’t think it is quite as accurate, and for one of our runs we planned to park near La Culata and follow a narrow ridge path marked on the map up to the highest point on the Island Pico de Las Nieves, but after climbing through sharp bushes and scrambling for 1000ft up the side of the mountain we had to concede there wasn’t a track there and aborted, got back to the car and parked on the other side of the mountain so that we could finally run up Pico de Las Nieves.  I have to admit that although getting lost and having your legs scratched to pieces is never fun, when you are on holiday with no time constraints and the day stretched out in front of you to explore and run until your heart is content it is the most enjoyable way to get lost.

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Me at the top of Pico de Las Nieves

To all my non running friends and family, the idea of spending the money to go on holiday to run around in the mountains is absurd. But hopefully if you are reading this blog you too have a love for running and a keen sense of adventure. As a destination Gran Canaria was pretty perfect. The island has lots of opportunities for beautiful challenging runs and also has the infrastructure to make accessing them easy, because it is a popular holiday destination. If you stay away from the main hubs such as Las Palmas and Playa del ingles then you will be amongst the locals and be able to find some great places to replenish your energy of an evening such as Locanda el Roque, where the food and service was amazing and is the perfect antidote to a day running in the mountains.

Conclusion 

Overall it was a really relaxed trip that incorporated the perfect amount of physically testing mountain running with the relaxation required to push yourself again on the next run and to also feel re energised for the new year back at work. For anyone wanting a running holiday in the sun during winter I would definitely recommend Gran Canaria and believe  you will not be disappointed with the views, and the opportunity to push yourself up some great peaks.

Runs we did and would recommend

  • Agaete to Mount Tamadaba and back 15mi 4,500ft elevation
  • Cuevas Caidas up to Roque Nublo and back in a circular route 11mi 3,300ft elevation
  • Presa de Los Hornas reservoir to Pico de Las Nieves and back in a circular route 7mi 2,000ft ascent
  • San Pedro to Montana de las Presa and back circular route 10mi 5,000ft elevatio

Gear I used

  • Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s
  • North Face better than naked shorts
  • Patagonia Nine trails shirt
  • Salomon Skin Pro10 hydration pack
  • Clif bar Bloks
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Oli at Roque Nublo

 

First week of marathon training

I completed and won the Endurance life CTS marathon on the 4th February, which was my first race over a half. I managed to do that without completing a dedicated marathon training plan. This was mainly because I suffered badly for months with shin splints so running 40 miles or so a week was impossible. I am hoping though that I can keep the debilitating injuries from the proverbial door and complete 15 solid weeks of training in the build up to the Pure trail Race the tide marathon on May 27th. I am going to use a plan from Advanced marathoning by Pfitzinger & Douglas as my Base. I selected their plan of up to 55 miles a week because I have never ran consistently high mileage weeks and that was as high as I imagined I’d be able to accomplish. I’m excited to see how my running will improve if I stick to a plan for 4 months, and after already completing a marathon I will be able to compare my performance and how I felt throughout the second race as opposed to the first.

So this week I ran 9 miles on Tuesday, this was ran at an aerobic pace and because most of it was on the South West Coast Path it had 1000ft of ascent. On Wednesday I hurt my foot at work spiking a tree. I didn’t think it was too bad but after Saturdays run I realised it hurt so much because it was swollen and covered in a massive bruise. I did however still run 3 miles on Wednesday and followed that with a tough run on Thursday. For Thursday’s workout I ran 9 miles, the first five were to be ran at a comfortable pace, which was handy because there was 1000ft of ascent  in those first few miles and the last 4 were faster around half marathon pace. Friday was a rest day before Saturdays slightly longer 13 miler. It was a real struggle on Saturday because of the pain in my foot, which I shouldn’t of ran on, but the route I chose was fairly flat and I was treated to some magnificent views and weather, which always helps when you are struggling. I was supposed to run another 6 miles to take my weekly total to 40 but after having actually inspected my injury I realised that was a ridiculous idea. I do  now have two non running days to try to heal but being a tree surgeon you don’t get much actual rest.

In conclusion I am happy to have managed 34 miles this week, especially considering the pain I was in for 25 of them, and apart from that physically I felt good on my runs and the idea of running around 40 – 55 miles a week for the next 15 weeks doesn’t seem so daunting. Hopefully a couple of days rest will sort me out and I can really crack on from Tuesday. I got 22 miles in the new Roclite 290’s this week as well and so far I am very impressed.

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Splits and route of Thursday nights run

INOV-8 AT/C Storm shell jacket review

 

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Picture of the jacket

If you are a dedicated runner in Britain then you will have to run in the rain, wind, snow and whatever else this islands gloriously unpredictable weather throws at you. This is even more applicable if you enjoy running the trails of the British uplands. I live near Dartmoor which is notorious for its bad weather and it experiences around double the average precipitation per month then other lowland areas of Devon. As I enjoy running on the moor, I felt that buying a fully waterproof lightweight jacket would be a sound investment. Many races also stipulate that a waterproof is carried regardless of the forecast or conditions and therefore a quality lightweight jacket is a necessity for anyone who wants to race longer distances. When you have the correct gear it also a real incentive to get out and train, no excuses then.

After researching different products and brands I decided to buy an INOV-8 AT/C storm shell jacket. I use INOV-8 shoes and have always found their products to be comfortable and made to a high standard. INOV-8’s website states that

‘This men’s lightweight, waterproof running jacket weighs just 150g and boasts 20,0000 B-1 breathability. The AT/C STORMSHELL HZ features taped seams, adjustable hood & half zip. It has Lycra bound cuffs with integrated thumb holes and includes a stuff sac’

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Me running on the South West coast path wearing the stormshell

So how have I found the jacket after running in the winter on Dartmoor and the South West coast path? Firstly I like the cut, I am 5ft’9 and bought a small, the arms are long enough to keep you fully covered and crucially the back is long enough so that it doesn’t ride up, which is something to check when buying lightweight clothing, that there is still enough of it to do its intended job. The thumb loops are a great feature when it is really hammering it down to keep you as sealed as possible and the wire in the hood ensures that when it is really blowing a gale and the rain is coming at you from all angles you can still see. Crucially the weight and size when in the sac means that it is great in any situation and not just running, it can be put in a bag and forgotten about until the heavens open, this means it really gets a lot of use and is perfect for many situations. I bought the jacket in red which to come might be a bit garish but I really like the look of the jacket, which as we all know still plays a part in gear choice. I have found it to be completely waterproof thanks to the taped seams and 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with 20,000 HH, it also hasn’t wetted out from sweat when I have been slogging up a hill or running fast, and the mid chest zip allows for more aeration if you are getting hot.

Conclusion

I am a big fan of this jacket. So far I have no complaints and can’t find a single negative. It is comfortable and crucially fully waterproof, with some well thought out design features and style. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for a lightweight waterproof for running, racing, hiking or just about any outdoor activity.

A microadventure within an adventure

This is a piece written about a hike Oli and I accomplished in August 2016

Myself and six of my friends embarked on a road trip this summer across Europe from London to attend Dimensions musical festival. I had little input in the planning of the trip and was relishing going into it without any preconceived ideas and spending two weeks with good friends, drinking wine and exploring a bit of Europe. However since the start of 2016 I have begun to involve myself with the things I have enjoyed as a child a bit more in depth. That is spending time in nature. So now I am supposedly an adult and can drive myself around, afford to buy my own equipment and do as I please with my time I have reconnected with one of the things that makes me happiest, being active outside.

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Oli striking a pose on the ascent of Triglav

Alastair Humphreys and his fantastic book microadventures really reaffirmed to me how an adventure is a state of mind and also solely dependent on your ability and circumstances. As in a two mile walk up to the highest point near your house to watch the sunset may be quite a challenge to some people, whereas for others a challenge might not really begin until mile 70 of UTMB. So I started small, bought a little tent and went up to Dartmoor and wild camped, started trail running to become fitter and see outdoor spaces through a different perspective. I’ve done two little weekend trips so far this year, the first me and my good friend Oli who was on the road trip with me, went to Snowdonia and hiked and camped and felt free and full of the good vibes an active time in the outdoors gives you. A successful trip also gives you confidence. So for our next weekend away we decided to meander across Dartmoor from Oakhampton to Ivybridge and clocked up 40 miles in the process, it was challenging and rewarding and we were blessed with great weather, and found we were both really relishing these outdoor challenges we would make up.

 So back to road tripping in Europe. We were camped beside Lake Bohinj in Slovenia surrounded by picturesque mountains and postcard villages. One evening we caught the cable car up Mt Vogel to explore and run down. However when we were looking across towards the mountains one peak larger and more picturesque, like a sharks tooth loomed in front of us. Oli and I instantly decided we would spend the next day climbing it. We had no idea at the time it was Triglav the highest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864m and that it usually takes 16 hours over two days to summit and return to your car. We had already decided at this point we would be up and back in time for dinner.

View from the summit

And so the next day after a hearty buffet breakfast from a nearby hotel we parked the car at what we thought was the closet point on the route we had picked (it turned out we could of parked 3 miles closer) and began. Because we actually parked further away than we had to the first few miles were very gentle and we were immersed in trees, however once we got to the end of the road we started going up. The trail was instantly really quite steep and the trail was covered in jagged rocks which meant we spent a large amount of time staring at the ground and watching our footing. However when we did look around it was a stunning forest which eventually broke to provide views to the surrounding peaks. It took us around 5 hours to summit and it was only the second mountain either of us had ever climbed. The scenery was spectacular and the feeling of accomplishing an adventure which was born less than 24 hours before whilst watching the sun go down from the other side of the valley added to the thrill. We picked our way back down and I accidently lead us off the summit via a different route that was even steeper than the one we went up and it was a scary scramble down to Triglavski dom. We stopped for a quick snack and some water and continued our descent, still spellbound by our surroundings and feeling fresh enough to actually run some of the trail. Descending at speed down a mountain is one of the most joyful things I have done in the outdoors, there is an element of regression at the thrill of being free that feels almost childlike, you want to woop as you dodge a boulder and skid to a halt before you go tumbling off the edge. Once we re-entered the forest though the trail got steeper and the ground more treacherous, which is exactly what you don’t want at around 17 miles into your hike. The thighs were feeling the strain now but we consoled ourselves in the knowledge that we were on course to arrive back to the car at 8pm and would make it to the restaurant in time for dinner.

This microadventure for me embodies all that makes a microadventure what it is. Something challenging yet achievable which can be achieved in a relatively small amount of time, leaving a lasting impression in your memories and psyche, providing a bountiful amount of confidence in yourself to keep pushing your limits and seeking adventures.

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Myself on the ascent, still looking fresh and feeling happy

Endurance life CTS South Devon 1st place marathon race report

Me running from Start point to East Portlemouth

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Being from South Devon and wanting to try a marathon distance race, I thought this instalment of the coastal trail series would be ideal. Having not done a specific marathon training plan I thought I would take the safe option and race the first marathon of my life locally so if I blew up I only had to travel a few miles home. It also gave me the opportunity to run on trails I have many of my long runs on so I felt comfortable throughout the race.

The race started and finished in Beesands, a small fishing village. This meant that you could be dropped off, which I was or park in Chillington and use the free shuttle bus to and from the event. Endurance life’s website list the average marathon time as 04hrs, 59mins, and a total ascent of 3,526ft. However of the over 100 runners this year only the top 8 ran under the alleged average time, but this may have something to do with the fact my watch gave the ascent at over 4,600ft and after looking on Strava the ascent from other racers was anywhere between my 4,600ft to 5,200ft so significantly more uphills. So at 27.6 miles and over 4,600ft of ascent on the slippery rocks and mud of the beautiful South West coastal path it was a challenging event. However in my opinion the best way to overcome the pain of a run is to have a magnificent view to inspire you and this race certainly provided that.

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The marathon route

The course is extremely undulating and rated as 4 (severe) by Endurance life. I didn’t find I had to walk any of the hills which many runners did but they were certainly steep and as I approached mile 18 I could feel them leaching the strength from my legs. It was also at this stage of the race that my left knee which I have had issues with before (IT band) decided to really make itself known. I didn’t panic but took two Ibuprofen and at this stage I was in second place so my competitiveness drove me on. Eventually I caught Ben Francis who had been in front of me from the first checkpoint at mile 11 on the straight at Torcross at around 22 miles, this spurred me on and I managed to win in a time of 04hrs, 24. I was extremely happy to win and to run faster than my target time of 04hrs, 30 especially as there was over 1000ft more of ascent then I had anticipated. I was elated to hear at the medal ceremony that my close friend and frequent adventure buddy Oli Thorogood won the half in 01hr, 39.

The race was incredible and the views really do help you to push yourself through your preconceived limts, which are always further then you think. Endurance life put on a very efficient event and I would recommend them as an event organiser to anyone.

Gear used on the run

  • Salomon skin pro10 hydration system
  • Inov8 race ultra 290 trail shoes
  • Patagonia nine trails shorts
  • Injinji socks
  • Smart wool long sleeve top
  • Clif shot bloks

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