I only found out about the event a few days before it was being staged but I only live a few miles away so was eager to get involved on my local trails, and to raise some money for charity. The route was originally from Start Point to Bantham but due to the yellow weather warnings for wind the organisers decided to shorten the route to 20 miles and make it an out and back from Bantham to Salcombe.
As it was an ‘event’ not a race there was no mass start and you had to pick up your runners card and set off. The race organiser made provisions for people to only complete the first leg to Salcombe because the weather was due to get worse later in the day so if you were slower your return journey would of been in the worst of the weather. I tried to run it hard and treat it as a race for training purposes, but after struggling up the first ascent from Bantham I soon realised looking at my watch to check my pace was pointless as I was scrabbling around in a gorse bush looking for my Buff that had been blown off.
The area from Hope Cove to East Soar was particularly exposed and slow going although on the way to Salcombe every now and then a gust would come from behind and you’d end up nearly sprinting trying to keep your footing whilst making forward progress. I started to get into the rhythm of running at an angle battling the wind and was beginning to enjoy myself. The descent to the turn around point at the Winking Prawn was sheltered and a much needed respite from the elements.
I turned around and set off back the way I came, all was going smoothly until I rounded Bolt Head and realised the organisers were right and the wind was much worse on the way back, almost grinding me to a halt at times. One runner carrying an anemometer recorded 100kmh gusts on the way out and 165 kmh gusts on the return, 100 mph gusts! No wonder I was completely immobile at one point, swinging my arms and legs at the wind to try to keep moving. I was enjoying it less at this point I must admit and just wanted to get back and out of the relentless elements. On the trails that bordered beaches the sand was being blasted into your face, it was part exhilarating and part infuriating. Eventually I climbed up from Thurlestone and began the descent back to the life guards station where our battle with Brian started. My watch read 2hrs 56mins, I picked up my beautiful medal and headed home for some food and a warm bath.
Congratulations to everyone one who completed the event and thanks to the organiser who resisted the advice to cancel the event. I believe that was the right call, I was never in danger just moved a bit slower.
Two peices of kit I found invaluable in the wind was my Buff which kept me free of ear ache and my aptly named INOV-8 Stormshell jacket which kept the elements on the outside.
I started running around 18 months ago and soon established that I wasn’t driven by fast 10k times or trying to run a sub 3 hour marathon. I was inspired to run because it allowed me to explore new beautiful places and push my body in ways I didn’t know it was capable of. This inevitably led me to the world of trail running, and living in South Devon I am spoilt for choice, surrounded by countryside and buffeted by the coast path and moor. I was driven by distance. After completing and winning the South Devon edition of Endurance lifes coastal marathon series in February I searched for a 50k to work towards. I settled on Keswick mountain festival and that became my goal. Even though my training was interrupted by a stress fracture from an accident at work I managed to hit my target of a top ten finish and a time of under 5 and a half hours. I am sure most runners can relate to the feeling of elation that comes after a target race and the hunt for another one. I wanted to do my first 50 miler and began my search.
I found Pure Trails big day out. They were staging 3 races on Dartmoor on August bank holiday weekend. A half marathon which crossed half the moor, the crossing (34 miles) which was from one side of the moor to the other and the extreme crossing (53 miles) which was the standard crossing route but with two additional loops that added 20 miles and increased the Tor-yield per mile. I haven’t explored the northern part of Dartmoor much so the race appealed to me in that respect and I have run the second half which I thought would aid me when I was struggling.
I left my car in South Brent where the race would finish and boarded a bus at 5:15 in the morning that would take us to Belstone to the start of the race. I felt prepared and had done training runs up to 40 miles to streamline my kit and nutrition. There were only 10 competitors, which was disappointing, I thought there would be more, the crossing and half attract nearly 200 each, but it was the first time the extreme crossing was staged and 50 miles is a long way so maybe people felt more comfortable doing the standard crossing. The registration and transport were well organised and stress free which is an important factor when you are getting up in the dark to run all day.
We started at 7am and the conditions were absolutely perfect. I do not think I have ever seen the moor so clear. You could see to the horizon and your vision was filled with the rolling tors and valleys of Dartmoor, with nothing but grazing livestock for company.
I set into a steady rhythm and was soon in the front with Lyndon Cooper. We ran close together until the first aid station at Postbridge, where we deviated off the standard crossing route for an additional loop taking in Lower white tor, Higher white tor and Longaford tor. We descended into Bellever forest and back to the Postbridge aid station. After leaving the aid station I had lost Cooper and the course took us over Bellever tor down through Hexworthy before getting onto the open moor again and making our way toward Princetown. This was the first time I started to struggle. My groin and hips especially were beginning to get painful and I was slowing down. I realised that I had made a big oversight in my training. I had thought that by chasing the ascent I would be able to cope easier with the relatively small amount (5500ft) of the race. But I overlooked the amount of damage the constant uneven boggy, rutted and stony tracks would inflict. I arrived into the Princetown checkpoint still in first place thinking I had a good lead, however as I was hoovering up Haribo and refilling my water I turned around and Cooper was right behind me looking much better then I felt.
I ran out panicking that he was so close behind me and embarked on the second additional loop. This was a much flatter section that should have been very runnable but the rocky track sent pain through my joints with every step. I was soon overtaken and was doing all I could to keep him in sight as we ran around Burrator reservoir and back to Princetown. I was losing ground and losing my mind. I knew I could push through it but couldn’t summon up the mental power to make myself and started accepting that I was now running for second. After dibbing at the Princetown checkpoint again we only had 13 miles to the finish, and after running the half marathon last year as my first trail race I knew this section well, and it had large sections of flat and downhill running.
My friends met me at this point and gave me a massive lift. I started to pretend that this was just a half marathon and that I could hammer it to the finish. The pain started to be pushed to the back of my mind and I was speeding up. Eventually 1st place came into view and now it was a mental game to will myself to maintain my pace to keep closing the gap. With 10 miles to go at a water station I finally caught and passed Cooper and started my charge to the finish. My frame of mind had completely changed and I was enjoying the race and the suffering again, in the knowledge that it was in my hands to win the race.
I crossed the finish line in 8hrs 47mins securing first place. The race was organised well and I was happy with my time as I was aiming for 9hrs. We were extremely lucky with the weather, it was warm and clear all day which reduced the bogs and made following the markings straight forward. My nutrition plan worked. I used tailwind and supplemented that with Clif bloks and whatever I could grab from the aid stations and had no lulls in energy. My main learning point was not to overlook the terrain. I should of done more of my long runs on the moor to get my legs used to running on uneven terrain for hours on end, because the jarring of every step became really painful by halfway.
I have been aware of the On brand for a while and was very interested in their shoes. I had the opportunity to try on a pair when I visited runners need in Exeter and resolved that when my Nike Vomero’s finally needed to be retired I would splash out on a pair of Cloudsurfer’s. They felt beautifully crafted in the hand and although they feel a little odd when you first walk around in a pair they fit like a slipper, and feel much more like an extension of your leg then a big bit of rubber and foam on the end of it.
The biggest difference between On and other brands is their ‘cloudtec’, the shock-absorbing cushioning system that lines the bottom of the sole. The 13 ‘clouds’ are designed to close and lock for a natural transition for a faster takeoff, which should allow you to spend more time in the air. The ‘clouds’ also absorb the shock of the impact of running when you land. As someone who has battled shin splints since I have been running I was slightly apprehensive that they wouldn’t provide enough cushioning and I would soon be in pain. In fact the opposite has happened, previously when trying to run some fast miles the increased speed would always irritate my shins. This has not happened with the Cloudsurfer’s to any great extent and they give me the confidence to really stretched my legs when I want to without worrying about any debilitating repercussions.
I will quote On’s listed features and give my verdict on whether I think they are true. On describe their features as:
‘Uniquely engineered mesh places breathability and support exactly where they’re needed on the foot. Knitted from one single layer to enhance the fit’ I agree with this, I have not notice my feet getting hot and even when running fast down hill, where in the past I have felt the sole of my foot warming up due to the friction in the On’s it hasn’t occured
‘Second layer sock construction brings ultimate in shoe comfort. It adapts to your foot for a unique fit’ The fit of the Cloudsurfer’s I have found to be perfect, no discomfort and they make you feel like you want to keep running.
‘Newly developed arrow pattern provides outstanding grip and traction. The open cloud construction makes saves weight to make the Cloudsurfer lighter then ever’ I haven’t lost grip in them but definitely think traction can be improved in the wet. It has been most noticeable when running up a greasy hill.
So far I have not ran any more then 10 miles in them in a single run. This is because I mainly run on trails but use the lanes around my home to get in some mileage when I just want to get straight out the door after work. I feel completely confident though that if I wanted to do a road half or marathon then they would perform just as well. It has also made me want to try On’s trail shoes because I have been so impressed with these.
I found their sizing spot on and have had zero hotspots or any hint of a blister or foot issues
Although subjective I find them a very aesthetically pleasing shoe
Cushioning feels just right for me, the Cloudsurfer’s are said to be for anyone wanting to run 6-8 minute miles in them which is what I do on my average training runs. On make a range of shoes with more or less cushioning depending on what you want, so you can find something suitable
They are at the more expensive end of the market and I couldn’t find last seasons anywhere for a discount
I find when running up hills when the ground is greasy they don’t provide the best grip
I have been very impressed so far. They are lovely to run in and have benefited my shin splints which I didn’t even consider as a possibility. The only question mark I have about the shoes is how durable they are, but after over 50 miles there are no signs of wear yet. If they prove their durability, which for around £120 you would hope they do, then I would definitely buy other On shoes and would especially like to try the Cloudventure.
I have been fortunate enough to have never had to deal with any genuine mental health issues, but like most people there have been incidents in life that have left me not feeling myself, and recently has been one of those times. I find when I am feeling anxious or mildly depressed I lose my appetite and feel exhausted. All I want to do is get in my bed and close my eyes and hope that I will feel myself soon. Unfortunately as much as that is all my mind and body want to do I don’t find it helps, and arguably exasperates my feelings as I then start to berate myself for feeling so weak and hiding like a child under the duvet.
So how does running help? NHS Choices website has exercise alongside cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling as a proven, effective alternative to antidepressants. But as anyone who has been depressed can attest to, getting your kit on and going out feels like a huge hurdle. I do not have the answer on how to take the first step to exercising when you are feeling like this, and my experience of anxiety and depression is very minor, and I have still found myself unable to get out the door. On Sunday for example I had scheduled in a long morning run, I got home, ate, did my usual pre run routine and was immobilised by my mind until 4pm. The irony of this situation is I know that once I am running I will feel much better and that feeling will last long after I have refuelled and washed and yet I still lie there struggling to conquer my thoughts. I am by no means well versed on the field of mental health. This is just a personal account of my own struggles during times of anxiety to get out there and do the one activity that I know will help me.
Kelly Jayne Jackson was diagnosed with severe depression and generalised anxiety disorder. Kelly suffered with poor mental health from a fairly young age. But it was only in her late twenties that a full blown breakdown occurred and she was heavily medicated. For her the medications prescribed did nothing to actually help the state her brain was in, they only served to cease any feeling at all. Nothing. Which when dealing with suicidal intentions and anxiety, that was slowly manifesting itself in obsessive compulsive behaviours, isn’t actually a bad thing. Somewhere inside of her she knew this wasn’t a life, especially one that was shared with two children. So began the journey to find a cure, her cure. What followed was eighteen long months of intense weekly therapy sessions. Each week building on new skills on how to handle her ‘poor’ mental health using talking therapies, nutrition and exercise. It was in these three mighty things that she found a way out of the pit she was in. The days when even her body hurt from the burden of the thoughts in her mind, she still got up, put on her gear and went to the gym in hungry search of those elusive endorphin’s. Eventually she found them everywhere.
Kelly’s inspiring story demonstrates how the holistic natural remedies of communication, nutrition and exercise can be implemented to bring about a consistent and reliable aid to your mental health. As a result she is fitter, healthier and mentally happier. And continues this day to battle her mind with her weapons of exercise and the great outdoors.
Ever since getting into off road running and reading Richard Askwith’s brilliant Feet in the clouds I have been longing to visit the area and run. I have been keeping a look out for races in the Lake Disitrict that would be a challenging distance and course profile and would also provide me with some stunning vistas. So when I stumbled across the Keswick Mountain Festival I instantly bought my ticket. It appealed even more to me because the festival would collect likeminded people together for a weekend and they held talks. On Friday I went to Ricky Lightfoot’s followed by Nicky Spinks & Jasmin Paris , Saturday was Donnie Campbell who also ran and won the 50k, so for an aspiring ultra, mountain runner it was perfect.
‘The course is a mixture of wide open trails, single track (fast & technical), big long ascents & fast technical descents, open valley running & very remote feeling trails around the back of the Buttermere/Crummock Water & the Newlands Valley area. It takes in area’s that you will not have run in before. Expect to be blown away by the views of the 4 valleys we take you through & overwhelmed by the quality of running you will be enjoying. This race is not only tough, but is also one of the most scenic routes in the Lake District & takes mountains & lowlands in its stride offering you the best trail running experience in the country’
The alarm went off at 4.30 am to allow me time to devour some Summit to eat porridge which was a freeby from the festival and get myself awake and to the start line which was moved next to the Theatre by the lake for the 6am start time. The weather forecast was for 60mph gusts and rain but the temperature was moderate, and I recently had a 18 mile training run on Dartmoor which blessed us with zero visibility and driving rain so I had confidence in my kit and my ability to grind it out when the weather has other ideas.
I started at a comfortable pace and had to remind myself that although it was flat now I had another 32 miles to go so settled in to enjoying the race and trying to find a pace that was difficult but sustainable. We climbed up through the woods where we appeared above Walla Crag. Early on I tried to manage my ascents by realising there would be large sections where I would be more efficient and faster power hiking then trying to run. This egoless strategy semmed to work because throughout the race I felt good on the hills and was able to up the pace on the more runnable terrain. I was running well in the top twenty and started to pass a few people in the lead up to the Honister mines. I found this the most difficult section. The climb was very steep and difficult and the high winds were really felt here, to the point where any forward progression felt like progress. I consoled myself by thinking of the old adage ‘what goes up must come down’ But the descent via Dubs Quarry round the back of Fleetwith Pike was extremely technical and I didn’t feel like I could gather any speed or flow. Whenever I thought I was cracking this rocky descent business I would stub my toe and nearly fall or kick a rock into myself.
I had managed to find myself in 10th at this stage which is the position I maintained until the end. From the bottom of the descent we ran around the southern shore of Buttermere & then Crummock Water to the 3rd Feed Station (CP 3) of the day at the foot of the lake and follow-on to run back up the north side, utilising the shoreline footpath. This was pretty flat in comparison to the rest of the race and I tried to crank out some faster miles here. The route then enterted the Rannerdale vale which was very wet and boggy leading to a single track hugging Whiteless Pike and Addacombe Beck. This section felt quite deceiving, I thought I should be able to run faster but I found it slower and more technical then I thought it looked. This is the most remote section and it certainly felt it.
Following another rocky technical descent towards the Newlands valley, you are on the home straight back into Keswick, having just ran 32.7 miles and covered 6000ft of elevation gain, I was pleased to finish but felt that I could of continued if necessary which is good to know If I plan on upping the training to tackle greater distances.
Kit and fueling
For the race I used from top to bottom
Inov8 AT/C Stormshell
Salomon long sleeve top
Salomon Skin Pro10
North Face better then naked shorts
Injini trail socks
Inov8 Roclite 290’s
I used all of my own nutrition and drink for the race apart from a few chocolate digestives I picked up at CP4. I didn’t seem to suffer from a lack of energy and I think I attribute that to constantly sipping on my Tailwind which kept the dreaded bonk at bay.
I put two satchets of Tailwind nutrition in my bladder
Wiggle energy bar
I loved the festival, great food and talks in the adventure tipi were amazing. The town of Keswick itself is also fantastic. It is surrounded by peaks and the views of Derwentwater are great. When it was raining all day on Saturday I went into town and looked around the shops which are a dream for anyone into running and outdoor activities, a special shout out to the guy in needle sports I spoke to and even checked the forecast for Sunday on the computer for me. The race was well organised even with the high winds forcing some last minute changes, the course marking was probably the best I have ever encountered and at no point was I ever concerned about where to go. I also got my most ambitious result of a top ten and 5.30hrs so overall I was very happy. I do not recommend driving back to Devon for 7 hours though immediately after running 33 miles, I have been a bit stiff since.
I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing
‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’
It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.
This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.
Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.
The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.
I am a fan of Inov-8’s line of trail running shoes. The first pair I owned were the X-Talon 212’s. I found them to have almost unbelievable traction and the weight and confidence made me want to run as fast as I could at all times. However I found the precision fit created hotspots when I ran over ten miles, and the 4mm drop wasn’t enough for me when I had to run on hard packed trails. I then purchased a pair of Race Ultra 290’s they provided less grip on the sloppy stuff but had a roomier toebox and 8mm drop. They were perfect for longer runs on the variable coast path and even performed admirably in the Brecon Beacons in the snow and mud in November. But there were limitations particularly the grip when it was wet and boggy. I was clearly finding out that no one shoe is perfect for every run and terrain and living in deepest darkest Devon, I will often encounter various different underfoot conditions on any one run.
This leads me to the new Roclite 290’s. I was on the lookout for a shoe in between the two previously mentioned. I wanted to be able to run long on multi terrain without the lack of comfort I had in the X-Talons on the harder stuff and without the slight lack of confidence on the slippery stuff in the Race Ultra’s. So I went to Runners Need in Exeter and tried a few different shoes on, had a good feel and once again settled on Inov-8 and the Roclites. They state that they are;
‘Designed for running quickly over multi terrains. Delivering a responsive ride and high levels of durability, its perfect for moving fast over everything from wet mountain rock to muddy grass, hard-packed trails and roads’
This eloquently summed up what I was looking for. Specification wise they boasted a standard fit, which is what I thought I required after using the X-Talon’s. A 4mm drop which coupled with 6mm lugs as opposed to 8, I hoped that I wouldn’t find them quite so jarring on my gammy shins once the ground had dried out.
I have had the shoes since January and completed a range of runs. One in particular I thought exemplified their versatility and personified exactly the kind of running I had wanted them for. I ran 14 miles beginning in a village, I climbed up a country lane and from their entered the woods. This was standard woodland running, some really wet areas and I found myself charging through a puddle that came up to my knees. I exited this section of woodland ran down an old road before cutting through a boggy flood plain and entering the woods again. These were dryer hard packed trails which eventually took me to a beach, which I had to cross at low tide through water before running along the South West Coast Path and through a few more lanes to complete my loop. The Roclites performed magnificently throughout. I felt confident on the muddy descents, they drained fast after being fully submerged and were perfectly comfortable for the short road sections. As previously mentioned there is not a perfect one shoe fits all in trail running. The terrain dictates the shoe. But if you do lots of multi terrain running like I have just described then these are really worth considering. I also think that if you are new to trail running then this is a great place to start, and I wish I had these as my first pair of off road shoes.
These are currently my primary running shoe, unless I know I am going quite far, like the Endurance Life marathon then I will be using these, and that is only because I haven’t ran 25 plus miles in them yet. They are one of those pairs of shoes that makes you want to run more and run faster so kudos to Inov-8 for engineering such a brilliant shoe. Rather then getting into the technicality’s of how they achieve this I have included a picture below.
I highly recommend these shoes, they have performed fantastically on every run I have taken them on so far, are highly versatile and look fantastic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.