A short story

Jings, it seems like ages since I’ve written something on my blog. I’ve been busy. Sorry blog! But….I have been writing, in fact, I’ve been scratching my head, getting the old creaky brain cells oiled and doing an online writing course with Gotham Writers. The class I did was ‘Creative Writing 101‘ described as …a great entry point for all prose writing – fiction or non-fiction. It was very good and very worthwhile….I’d definitely consider doing another of their classes.

One of the little pieces I wrote was a short story and seeing it ended up being about running I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone by making it material for my blog. How’s that for being efficient! Ha ha!

But before that, something far more interesting, a cool video! I wrote about my adventures at the Glen Coe Skyline. This wonderful event was filmed by the BBC no less! It’s about to be aired on The Adventure Show, (on the 15th December) and I came across this preview video which I wanted to share.

 

Last time I checked, the BBC iplayer had got the better of VPNs. Sadly that means I won’t get to see the programme.

Finally, here’s the short story. The gig was to write a 500 word piece of fiction beginning…  Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip …. The last time I wrote any fiction was in an English class at high school thirty-five years ago!

#trysomethingnew!

 

A Short Story

Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip. Hadn’t he already questioned it? His body’s sense of time, usually spot-on, must have stopped working because the light was dim, it seemed like evening. Wasn’t it supposed to be morning? Pushing with his hands on the rock that was his seat, he stood up. The tips of his fingers found their way to his forehead, and to a swelling.  He flinched. He gagged as he tasted blood. An unbearable cold was eating away at him, his body shuddered and at the same time the trees and the rocks that were all around him pulsed and swayed. Shaking his head, he hoped his thoughts would clear, he couldn’t work out what was happening and he felt his heart beat violently and his breath come out in frantic gasps of fear.

He sat back down, finding a flat spot in the rubble. He folded himself, knees to chin, shrouding his escaping body heat. He put all his focus into his breath, like he’d learned. His breath and heart-beat slowed.

Looking upward with half-shut eyes, his neck stiff and painful, he saw rocks and rubble, then a steep slope in shadow. A chill shadow. Black rocky ridges were high above him.

His head hurt. He gathered together the jumbled thoughts that were whirling around inside his head. This felt like hell.

Gradually, he remembered. Images came back to him from the morning. A barely-there stony trail, an animal track maybe, cutting into a steep slope of scree, the slope falling far into the valley below. His easy stride, belying his anxiety, moving his runner’s body along, confident on the trail. Lost in his thoughts, mindlessly running far away into the mountains to ease his angst. Then blackness.

His heart-beat picked up again, he was in a scary situation. He was cold and he was in the middle of nowhere, injured. His back-pack. Moving his arm behind his back, he felt it and was relieved. Of course he would have emergency supplies, at the very least a jacket. He moved his stiff joints and struggled with the pack until it was off. Unzipping it, he pulled out his orange jacket, some water and a good-sized bag of trail-mix. There was a small head-torch too. Good. He relaxed just a little.

He’d eaten something and that had cleared his head just a little. Enough to make him feel it was worth trying to get out of his predicament, even though it was now dark. The beam of his torch led the way. The slope was steep and hellish; he was clawing at it with his hands. The broken rocks under his feet moved backwards, trying to pull him back down. Tiny balls of stone spilled inside his shoes, pushing forward under his feet. More discomfort. He would stop and empty his shoes when he reached the trail high above.

He fought with the moving slope, exhausted, his head still pounding. He found strength from somewhere to push on. He knew how to push on. The freezing cold he felt, barely kept out by his flimsy jacket, was the drive to keep going up this never-ending, energy-sapping slope. His thoughts were ricocheting about inside his head. What was he doing on this mountain-side in the blackness? If he’d stayed at the bottom of the rubbly chute, waiting for morning, he could have died with the cold and a head injury. That terrifying thought was with him as he battled up the ugly slope. He wondered who would miss him if he didn’t get home. Not Julie, she was gone, but his mum and Joe would soon start to worry. He’d made the mistake of not telling anyone where he was going that morning. After seeing Julie’s text, he’d fled to the sanctuary of the mountains, to his running.

 

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The Glen Coe Skyline… a back-of-the-pack story. Race review

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline, in the majestic mountains of Glen Coe, was the most amazing event on the most brutal but beautiful course ever. I’m saying that now, but two weeks ago I was cursing the course. After 33.8 km and about 3000 m of ascent I’d missed the cut-off time. I was too slow. I was a duffer. My spirits were as damp as the weather. I had so badly wanted to be strong and finish. It was too hard and I’d failed. No way was I doing this again….

 

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The race course tattoo! I made it to the deep V two-thirds of the way along!

 

Why did I run this race? I love running in the mountains and I love scrambling. The sport of Skyrunning has fascinated me for the last few years. When I heard about the Glen Coe Skyline I knew I had to try and get an entry and make it my first ever real mountain running race. Glen Coe holds a special place in my heart. It’s close to where I was born and brought up in Dumbarton. Decades ago, when I was a Munro bagger I sought out its peaks in the snow and the rain; these adventures are etched in my memory. The first time I ever remember being aware of the awesomeness of a mountain landscape was in Glen Coe. I was a kid in the car on the A82 with my mum, dad and twin brother Graeme. A moment in time— gazing out the car window up towards the Glen Coe mountains and thinking “wow”— has stayed with me for forty years or more.

The Glen Coe Skyline—it drew me more than any other race I’ve done or read about.

And so, earlier this year the minute entries opened I was at my computer with my answers prepared for the vetting questions. It was the dead of night. These days I live in Canada so with the time difference I had set my alarm, I think for 2 am. I had the necessary climbing, scrambling and running experience, I filled out the entry, then waited. I got a spot. I was over the moon!

The Glen Coe Skyline is one of three races in the Extreme Skyrunner world series. The other two are Tromso and Trofeo Kima. To give you an idea of the nature of the Glen Coe course, I’ve copied and pasted part of the website description:

The course is designed to challenge the most experienced and competent mountain runners. The proposed race route traverses high and remote mountainous terrain. Once committed to many sections it is impossible to retreat. The entire race route is subject to rapidly changing and extremely severe weather. For this reason, competitors must be capable of ‘robust completion’ of the route in all but the most serious weather conditions. The route is very rough underfoot with long sections of rock and scree-covered terrain. There will be an enormous amount of ascent and descent. Experienced but slower competitors are very welcome at the race but please note that the cut-offs will be strictly enforced.

The stats: 55 km and 4700 m of elevation gain

Get the idea?

I wasn’t daunted by the terrain or the distance: I’ve scrambled and climbed for years and I’ve run a good number of ultras. What scared the living daylights out of me was “the enormous amount of ascent and descent”. As race day approached I knew I hadn’t managed to do enough training for the vertical and I knew I would be one of the slower runners chasing the cut-offs. I hoped I’d be able to pull it off with the training that I had been able to do.

So, back to the race! It started in Kinlochleven. On race morning I didn’t feel great. Nothing new! But, when I saw everybody milling about in the start area I felt really nervous and wanted to run away. All I could see were lean mean mountain-running machines: the athletes I hear about and admire when I listen to Talk Ultra podcast. There weren’t many women and even fewer veteran/masters women like me. I started wondering why I was there and my mind went into a downward spiral of doubts and worries. But negative thoughts will be the death of you and with a few deep breaths, I put aside those destructive thoughts. Breath!! I visualised images of happiness and joy. The mountain spirits would carry me round. It was going to be amazing to be part of this scary event. Yeah!

 

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The race start

 

I stood at the back of the pack. I was carrying the mandatory gear, water and enough calories for eight hours of hard effort. There was no aid available until checkpoint 11. My pack felt heavy! Then, to the sound of bagpipes, we were off!

For the first 10 km or so we followed the West Highland Way out of Kinlochleven and up and down The Devil’s staircase to checkpoint 1 at Altnafeadh. I felt crappy! To be suffering from the off was not good!

We hopped over the A82 and from there we traversed across and up a hillside heading straight for Curved Ridge. Curved Ridge is a Grade III scramble and the most technical part of the course. I was one of the stragglers near the back. The front-runners had long since bounded up. The scramble was airy and it was exhilarating! I focused on every move and forgot about my tiredness. Mountain instructors were on the route pointing out the handholds. At the top of the scramble, there was an amazing view of Rannoch Moor, desolate and beautiful, stretching far into the distance. I looked back at it and was absolutely awe-struck.

 

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Happy scrambler. Photo thanks to Zoe Procter

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Curved Ridge. Photo thanks to Zoe Procter

 

The steep face of the scramble gave way to flatter, rocky ground and then checkpoint 2 on the summit of Stob Dearg. I still wasn’t feeling great and felt a bit woozy. I checked in by beeper and asked the marshal “what way?” It must’ve been a silly question! She asked me if I was OK? Had I fallen? Crumbs, I must have looked bad! I was fine I said, just slow, and I went on my merry way from there, over the rocky vastness of Buachaille Etive Mor. It was spectacular. The clouds had gently rolled in and I was seeing the last of the sun but the visibility was still good. I looked all around for other runners. I saw only one person far behind and one person far in front. Peace and solitude. Quietness, I’m always searching for that rare thing. Here it was and I was storing it up and relishing it.

After this high ground, we dropped down to checkpoint 4 in Lairig Gartain and hopped on boulders to cross the River Coupall. That led to a good path and a steady trundle up the valley, then the next steep ascent, this one grassy. Up and up and up we went heading towards a pass, Mam Buidhe on Buachaille Etive Beag. It was here that I met another runner, Scott from Manchester. It was great to have his company. Up and over the pass we went, then we had a quick, steep descent on a rocky trail to checkpoint 5 in Lairig Eilde.

This next valley section was just about runnable. There weren’t too many places you could run on this course! The clouds had been thickening and half-way up the valley the rain appeared and stayed for the day. Stopping to put on my jacket I could see the next tough, steep climb ahead of me disappearing into the clouds. I trundled on up the valley and reached the climb. Here goes…

I hiked up the steep grass into the mist and a miracle happened: I started to feel better. Those mischievous mountain spirits were finally giving me some help! I caught up to and passed some runners. On the upper, steepest section I was with Scott and an Irish guy and we breathed a sigh of relief when we topped out. But, instead of picking up speed after the near vertical grassy slope we had to stop to look for the route. Ahead we could see only rocks and mist. Nothing else! The little red flags we had been following all day had become invisible.

Time passed slowly and the next couple of hours saw us crossing rocky ground peering into the wet mist looking for flags. The flags would appear out of nowhere if you stared hard enough. Thankfully we didn’t get lost and finally we found the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach and checkpoint 7.

The stretch to the next summit didn’t look far on the map but it was! It was also rocky, wet and foggy. I lost track of time but it took me forever get over the difficult ground and reach the next marshals with their blue jackets and encouragement on the summit of Bidean nam Bian (checkpoints 8 and 10). I’d last been there maybe 20 years ago. Today it was unrecognisable in the Scotch mist. I said a quick hello and got checked in with my beep.

Throughout these long misty sections of high summits, I had been chasing my dream of reaching the finish line in Kinlochleven. It had been tantalising me in my mind’s eye. In a foggy vision, I saw myself cross the line, drop to my knees and kiss the ground. If only! Reaching Bidean, I knew time had run out and it would be impossible to get to checkpoint 11 by the cutoff at 3pm. My daft vision disappeared with a puff into the cloud and rain.

With a heavy heart, I did the next section, an out-and-back to Stob Coire Lochan (checkpoint 9). As I was going out to that summit over a rocky, gravelly, down then up trail I was thankful to see and say hello to a few runners coming back on it. I consoled myself. There were people not too far ahead of me. I wasn’t miles and miles behind everyone. I reached the marshal at checkpoint 9 on the summit and another beep. The race blurb described this out-and-back ridge as “another stunning mountain spur into Glen Coe”. Today there was a grand view of mist.

Heading back to Bidean and checkpoint 10, I saw a girl who I had played leapfrog with earlier in the day. She was on her way out to checkpoint 9 and looked strong and determined. While going past each other she asked me if I thought we would make the cut-off. I said I didn’t think so. She was truly devastated. Geez, I should have kept my mouth shut so she could enjoy it all for a wee while longer. (We met up again on the merry bus-ride for the DNF’ers from checkpoint 11 to Kinlochleven).

So it was back up to the summit of Bidean and checkpoint 10; to another wonderful marshal and another beep. He pointed and said straight down there to checkpoint 11. Ha ha! This descent was something else. First, there was more expansive, rocky ground and playing the game of trying to spot little red flags while trying not to get lost in the nothingness. Then, finally, there was an obvious trail. Yeah! But it was no ordinary trail! I’ve run a lot of descents in my time. This was one of the trickiest ever: long, steep and treacherous! The zillions of rocky steps were wet and very slippery. A fall would take you on a nasty tumble for sure. Slowly, my tired legs took me down.

After that final downhill adventure, I was at the A82 and checkpoint 11—the end of my race. It was almost 4pm and fifty-seven minutes over the cut-off. I was sad and happy at the same time. It had been an amazing mountain journey. Over the next hour, a few more runners arrived from the misty descent and joined in the damp party under the awning; where the marshals were so caring, making sure we didn’t get too cold and giving us tea, crisps and bananas while we waited for the bus.

We found out that the Jonathan Albon had won the race in six and a half hours. Six and a half hours! That is unbelievable; so amazing; so inspiring. Jasmin Paris was the first female in just over eight hours. Amazing and inspiring too.

While waiting I looked upwards into the clouds and the next section of the race, the section that wasn’t to be—the Aonach Eagach, that legendary mountain ridge. The rain was still coming down, the clouds were thick and I thought to myself it must be treacherous for the runners, way up there hidden in the damp mountain greyness.

And so, the warm bus took us back to Kinlochleven. The bus of shame! I’d got cold waiting and I was glad to have all the mandatory gear. Better to have to use it on a bus than lost in a white-out on a mountain top! I wrapped myself in my emergency bivvy bag and was as warm as toast. Everybody on the bus chatted as we headed to Kinlochleven and the race finish. I handed in my spotter and beeper, ate some wonderfully delicious hot food and headed back to the  campsite and my little tent and dry clothes. I made use of the extra time afforded by not finishing by snuggling up in my sleeping bag with a cup of tea listening to the birds chirping around Loch Leven. Relaxation and post-race celebrations Mandy-style!

My tale’s not quite finished. The next day when I was driving down the A82 to Dumbarton I made my usual stop in Tyndrum at the Green Welly Stop. Sitting with my cuppa and scone, iPad perched on the table, a fellow Glen Coe Skyliner sat down beside me. He had noticed I was looking for the results on the race webpage and asked me how I had got on. His name was Paul. We chatted about the race, about that slippery descent to checkpoint 11; about the Aonach Eagach. He was one of the runners on the Aonach Eagach around the time I was gazing at it, hidden in cloud and rain. He said the footing was treacherous; also, he’d caught up to a Polish runner who was struggling and was very cold, maybe hypothermic. Paul said he helped the cold runner, making him put on his extra clothes, and staying with him. They both made it to the finish line in under thirteen hours. The final cut off was fourteen hours. So inspiring, Paul. Well done!

The scrambling and the mountains, my memories and my roots—these are what brought me to this race. In the end, it didn’t go right but it was epic. This was my second enormous challenge of the year. The finish line eluded me in both but I had two truly unforgettable experiences, met amazing people, saw beautiful places and learned a hell of a lot. I’m happily planning on returning to them both next year, using what I’ve learned, getting better and finishing! How amazing that would be. That’s assuming I can get in!

 

What I learned in this race:

I’m sure nobody else did what I’m about to describe and this is a tip to my self: Don’t start with 2 l of water in your race pack! Talk about “carrying coals to Newcastle”. Knowing the one and only aid station was going to be about 8 hours into my race I automatically filled up my 2 l bladder. That’s what I would normally do. You see, most of my ultras have been done in Canada and USA on very different terrain. So, I carried all that water, but as you can guess, there was tonnes of water on the route—in crystal clear mountain streams—probably the same stuff you find in bottles on the shelves in Tesco.  Duh!

I felt out of sorts before I started. I’d been busy with stuff. Of course, we run better when relaxed, with no stress, and this race clearly showed me that. Other than being tired and slow, I didn’t struggle. I think I gained 15 places between checkpoint 1 and checkpoint 10.

But to make things go better next time the biggest thing I need to do is more uphill training. The ascents were what I found most difficult. I wasn’t fit enough and maybe that’s the only reason I felt tired. Maybe it was nothing to do with being busy. We all like to look for excuses!

Next time I would download the GPS file. I think the most time-efficient way of staying out of trouble in a whiteout is to follow a GPS line on your device.

Cheers!

Trail running, encounters of a fun kind, and my next race – Glencoe Skyline…

Good afternoon!!

I’m back in Scotland 😀 … visiting my brother and sister … but also, my next exciting race is on the horizon. It’s this weekend! More later…(it’s in the mountains 😀)

But first, a wee training story.

A couple of days ago I went on my first run since getting here. I parked at Lomond Shores on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The start of my route was up a steep rickety country road. I was heading for the hills 😀.

As I was puffing up the tree-lined road feeling hot and sweaty – it was a muggy afternoon – I saw ahead of me a funny sight. An elderly man with a very large blue suitcase on wheels was perched at the top of the road looking down at me.

“Do you think I’m lost?” he shouted to me.

I laughed to myself. Have you seen the movie “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared”? I’d seen it recently and also read the book of the same name. That story came to mind when I saw the gent and his very big suitcase ahead of me.

“I think you are” I shouted up.

I ran up to him smiling. He said he had just got off the bus from Skye. Now, the bus stop was on the main trunk road and, as he had discovered, it was a bit of a hike from the bus stop into Balloch, to where he said he was headed. As he was speaking I couldn’t help but notice a badge on his jacket. It had the words Yukon Legion printed under the Canadian maple leaf. I asked him if he was from Canada and he was. He’d lived in Ontario for more than 60 years (in Wayne Gretzky’s home town he proudly told me)

But here’s the thing, 84 years ago he was born in Alexandria, a mile or two from where we were now standing. Well!! That was that! My mum was born in Alexandria too. So, this man and I were both Scottish and Canadian and we both had roots in the same Scottish town a stones throw away. How amazing!!

His name was James “Jimmy” Taylor and he was on a trip in his birth country, travelling by bus, finding hotels or B&Bs on spec. He had gone to Skye to buy some Harris tweed and had been astonished at the cost of his hotel in Portree (£125). (I guess it’s more expensive if you arrive on spec instead of using hotels.com!) He told me he had a brother in Balloch, close to where we were standing. I asked him if I could phone his brother so that he could come and pick him up. “Oh no I can’t do that” he said. Love it! That reply is so Scottish, we don’t like to bother others even kinsfolk.

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James Taylor. Nice to meet you!

We chatted about shared things Scottish and Canadian. I’ve mentioned in other posts how I often meet runners with Scottish connections while doing races on Canadian trails. This leads to long conversations about Scotland and Canada and their connections. Today was no different!

Anyway, I wheeled his heavy suitcase down the steep country road retracing my steps (he said it was too steep for him to take the suitcase himself) and pointed him in the direction of the nearest hotel.

I waved bye and headed back up the road to the hills.

I ran up onto Stoneymollan Muir on the John Muir Way and Three Lochs Way. Loch Lomond and its surrounding mountains were partly hidden by clouds but still, it was so beautiful to be out there breathing the pristine air. My high point was Ben Bowie and from there I headed back to the car and thought about Jimmy hoping he had found a room for the night.

Here’s some pictures of my run!

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Follow the waymarks!

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John Muir Way signposts

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View to Loch Lomond

The race I’m down to do this weekend is The Glencoe Skyline. Woo hoo, a real mountain race. It’s 55 km and 4700 m of elevation gain and it’s the final race of the Skyrunning extreme series.

Here’s a description of the race taken from the website …

The third and final 2016 Skyrunner® World Series EXTREME race, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™, will be held in Scotland on Sunday 18th September. The course is widely regarded as the most challenging mountain running race in the world, which features long sections of exposed scrambling including the famous Aonach Eagach and Curved Ridge.

Yikes!! What am I doing!!  Can’t wait!!!

Sky Pilot, solo, trip report… and… Icebug Anima3 Bugrip shoe review

 

Sky Pilot is a fantastic and deservedly popular peak located fairly close to Vancouver. Despite its proximity to such a major city, the dramatic rock walls, pocket glaciers and craggy summits give this area a remote alpine feel – Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn

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Near the summit of Sky Pilot

I signed up for the Icebug Ambassador programme at the Sinister 7 last month. The programme allowed runners to buy a pair of Anima3 BUgrips for only $79. In return we were asked to post feedback from three runs on the Icebug Canada Facebook page. I had previously used Icebug Zeals and was enthusiastic about trying another pair of Icebugs. I can tell you the Ambassador programme is turning out to be a lot of fun!

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Icebug Anima3 BUGrips

The Icebug Anima3 Bugrip is billed as a lightweight running shoe that can handle any terrain. BUGrip is the name of Icebug’s grip technology for the most slippery conditions. The sole is made of a special rubber compound and has 19 integrated steel studs. Icebug say these shoes provide the best possible traction on anything from dry asphalt to pure ice.

With their steel studs, my first impression was these shoes were most definitely meant for snow or ice. The sole looked like grippy winter tyres! But, not wanting to wait for the seasons to change I put my Anima 3 Bugrips to the test for the first time on a hot August day!

I took them on a popular BC scramble – Sky Pilot near Squamish. I knew there would be plenty of different types of terrain to try them on. What a fantastic day!

The approach to Sky Pilot is pretty easy. You hop on the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish. From the top of the gondola it’s a nice hike into an alpine bowl where you cross a non-crevassed snow field on the lower section of Stadium Glacier to reach the fun scrambles.

If you’re interested viewing the route here’s a link to my Strava of the day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/686866126/embed/e6618b44b86fee2fe9e3ba0c62e4dda9c624b795

So, how were the shoes? In summary, super comfortable and they handled all the terrain of this trip really well.

Some details…

First, the most fun part! The route I took on Sky Pilot (I think it’s the most popular route) has two crux sections of difficult exposed scrambling (one is class 4 and the other class 3). (Just so you know I’ve had plenty of experience scrambling and climbing so I wasn’t being reckless doing this on my own)

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The pink ribbons show the route!

I just have to rave about how much I loved the grip of these shoes on rock slab. I had no idea how they would perform and I took my trusty approach shoes as backup; they stayed in my pack!. The soles and metal studs on the Animas were fantastic. I would say their grip and confidence I felt wearing them on the rock was equal to that of approach shoes with their sticky rubber.

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The soles gripped this rock slab – class 4 scramble – really well

The shoes also felt great and grippy on the steep loose talus of which there was lots, and narrow ledges and gullies.

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Near the summit

The snowfield lower down was pretty soft with sun cups and the shoes performed as well as any other shoes on this. When the snowfield became steep and a hazard, I put on my Yaktrax.

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The snowfield of Stadium Glacier

Also, before the snow field there is a long, steep section of loose scree. The Animas gripped this stuff with confidence. Zero slipping and sliding!

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They were also great for boulder hopping.

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As for the fit, the shoes felt comfortable straight out the box. They felt flexible and cushioned. I didn’t have any hotspots after 7 hours of wearing them. I couldn’t get the women’s shoes in my size so I have the men’s version but they fitted my feet well. The only thing I didn’t like – as expected the studs made a bit of a noise on rocks but I soon stopped noticing that.

I didn’t use the shoes for running on this day. I was recovering from an ultramarathon. and just wanted to hike and enjoy the slower pace. But, I look forward to running in these shoes soon.

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A selfie at the summit!

While writing this, my thoughts turned to a friend I used to climb with. Years ago, I remember him telling me of his early climbing days in Scotland in the 1950s. He and his buddy wore nailed boots. They climbed stiff grades using nails or studs for grip on the rock. Footwear looks very different today. But the technology might resemble that used by the pioneers of climbing! I wouldn’t be able to climb in these shoes but for scrambling they are great. I’m hoping they will work really well for mountain running too.

Are any of you mountain runners? What shoes do you use?

The Hamster Endurance Run 24 hour. Race review

It was 3 am on a hot, humid night and I was at a picnic shelter at Lake Padden in Bellingham, WA. The day had been cooking hot.  I was wiped out and barely able to walk having been on the go for 19 hours, running the 24 hour race at the Hamster Endurance Run. I was running as many 2.6 mile loops of the lake as I could in 24 hours and didn’t think I could do any more. I wondered how many laps I’d done. My fried brain couldn’t work it out but I knew somebody had told me a couple of laps back that I’d reached 100 km. My feet were killing me. I  was very, very tired and hot and just wanted to stop and rest. So I did.

I lay down on my back on the parched grass. I was half in, half out a sleeping bag lying next to Peter who was snuggled up sleeping, resting, having crewed all day for me.I  tried to sleep but couldn’t so I looked up at the stars. The sky was so lovely and clear. My eyes searched between the stars for the meteor showers that I’d been told would very likely be visible that night. The stars twinkled and jumped. Lying there stargazing my body slowly relaxed. I gazed. I thought. I relaxed a bit more. I thought a bit more: about my mum and dad, also my brother Callum. Surely they must be up there in the black, twinkly infinity with all the other souls who have gone before us.

I lay there for half an hour. I didn’t see any meteor showers but the stars and the thoughts of my family moved me to get up.

And then, I could walk! I walked. It felt easy. Yeah!

I set off again into the night round and round Lake Padden with a few other runners and some bunny rabbits for company.

I managed a few more laps running into the dawn and another hot day. At 6.30 am I stopped. Once more I was spent. I’d done 31 laps and thought my race was complete. But, you never know what’s round the corner! Half an hour later, after a nice rest, the sight of  2 fast guys (Neil and Scott) fighting out their final laps spurred me on to do another lap. I don’t know how I managed but I ran that final lap. I didn’t shuffle or walk-I ran! So, I finished my first ever 24 hour event. My total was 83 miles-32 laps. I was first female! I was 2nd overall! A huge surprise.

The Hamster Endurance Run was another wonderful ultra-running experience with new-found friends and tremendous volunteers. The organisation was 10 out of 10. I entered this race after my DNF at my first 100 miler in July. My goal for it was not to give up, to keep going through the night when things got tough, to practice for another 100 mile attempt sometime. I am so happy I succeeded and more. Thanks again to Peter. He was there with me crewing again, maintaining his vigil through the night. A star!

Some photos from the event 🙂

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The female 24 hour podium

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The female 12 hour podium

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The male 12 hour podium

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The aid station/lap counters

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Nap and lap!

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Kelly the RD cooking dinner

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2 runners resting!

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A summer day at the Lake

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I saw this trail 32 times

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Near the beginning. I’m on the left.

 

Backpacking long weekend to Russet Lake near Whistler

A photo post!

Gnarly hiking is great training for ultra-running.  Add a heavy rucksack to your back and you have some great strength training too!

With this in mind, Peter and I headed out backpacking into the lovely mountains for a long weekend. Monday was BC day: a holiday! On Saturday we took the Whistler gondola and from the top hiked the musical bumps to Russet Lake. There’s a little backcountry campsite there at the water’s edge. It’s beautiful. Stunning mountains and glaciers surround it.

Here are a few photos of our wonderful weekend. (The “featured image” at the top is a classic Whistler view. It’s taken on our way back to the gondola on Monday, on High Note Trail looking down to Cheakamus Lake. Beautiful!)

 

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Strength training with a heavy pack. I’ve still to suss out the “fast and light” way!

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Our view of the campsite at Russet Lake: about a four hour hike from the gondola with a heavy pack. That’s Peter! There’s a little backcountry hut which you can just see in the distance.

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Sunday was spent meandering in the alpine

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Alpine flowers: Indian paintbrush

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More strength training! Doing push-ups in an alpine meadow.

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Can you spot the marmot!

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Homeward bound!

Zika and the Olympics

This post is a resurrection of my blog’s “Science” (Geek) category. It’s loosely related to running!

So, drinking my tea today and browsing some medical sites, I found myself perusing the news article headlines in the British Medical Journal. A headline-“Sixty seconds on…..Zika at the Olympics” caught my eye.

This topical subject is of interest to many and I thought I would share some facts from this interesting wee article.

  • Infectious disease specialists estimate that 3 to 37 of the 500 000 people travelling to Rio for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will take the Zika virus back to their home countries.
  • Zika is transmitted by mosquitos, by sex and from pregnant women to their foetus. Prevention means avoiding mosquito bites in the usual manner (covering yourself, bed nets, DEET etc), practicing safe sex and avoiding conception during the games and for 8 weeks after.
  • Advice is to take small bottles of insect repellant if you’re going to the games. Olympic venues will have airport-style security with limits on the volume of liquids allowed in.
  • The big one. Don’t go to Rio if you are pregnant or planning to conceive in the near future.
  • Recent research suggested that malaria transmitting mosquitos actively avoid chickens; some people say you might try having a chicken next to your bed to prevent mosquito bites! That was news to me. Here’s the link to that particular article.

Zika’s scary if you are pregnant but if that’s not you then be reassured: food poisoning is more likely to inflict you in Brazil than contracting Zika.

Have a great weekend!