Trail Running
Mountain Biking

Winter Weekend in the Lake District

19th – 22nd January 2018

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The 3rd weekend in January has seen me organise a Winter Running Weekend in the Lake District. This is the best time to go for an escape as it is officially the quietest weekend of the year for them up there. Many shops and pubs go through a refit but we were not up there for all that. We wanted to get out in to the mountains and go play in the snow! So, this year’s choice of accommodation was the Thorney How Bunkhouse in Grasmere.

11 intrepid ‘Chasers’ (Members of Clapham Chasers, my running Club down South) headed up on what was a glorious fab weekend. It had snowed all week but not been cold enough for it to freeze yet not be warm enough for it to melt away. That with it being a windless Saturday made for perfect running conditions and a very memorable weekend.  We covered 15 miles on the Saturday, taking in the Fairfield Horseshoe and afterwards returning to Grasmere from Ambleside via the coffin route. Great fun was had by all and I hope to put on more weekends in the future full of Adventure.

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London to Paris Run

168 miles over 4 days

IMG 1599 265x199 London to Paris RunIMG 2078 265x199 London to Paris RunOpen Tracking Map 256x265 London to Paris RunDecember 27th – 30th 2017

The week between Christmas and New Year can be a bit unfulfilling after all the eating over the Christmas period.  So, when a fellow adventure/running friend, Carla Molinaro mentioned that she was planning to run from London to Paris over the 4 days and asked if I was interested, hell yeh! and I jumped straight in.

With the wealth of ultra running experience between us it was a straightforward job preparing from such a feat. Carla took it on her self to organise all the logistics of this 4 day adventure and to reach out and see if anyone else was interested. She roped in her dad to offer some crew support en route.  I did as much research as I could to learn about the route and what it would involve.  A big 60M first day from London to Newhaven in time to catch an 23:00 night ferry across to Dieppe in France to continue our journey.  There is a lot of information on-line about the cycle route that is popular in the Summer, but funny enough, not so much about running the 168 miles.  In France there is the ‘Avenue Verte’, the green route, which is an off-road, tarmaced old railway route used by the cyclists to complete the challenge.

We had allowed ourselves 3 days on the continent to cover the remainder of the distance to Paris. I was happy to tick this challenge off as a bit of a jolly before the New Year despite my open focus being on running a fast 2h45m Marathon time in London in April. I knew keeping pacing sensible while getting the miles in, and looking after myself would not harm the progress I had made so far or prevent me continuing where I left off on my return.

Next we had to come up with a Start and Finish point to mark the journey. Something like Tower Bridge to the Eiffel Tower, or Temple to Temple as these are both Underground/Metro station names shared between the cities. In the end we settled with Arch to Arc, which would see myself and Carla start at Marble Arch in London on the 27th Dec and finish at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris 30th Dec. We were all set.

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I would like to thank Alton Sports, for their continues support for my running adventures by having me as one of their running ambassadors and also for partnering with Tri-Adventure. It was great to run in my new kit which helped protect me from the elements en route.

Day 1 – Marble Arch to Newhaven – 60 miles

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In December, 8am is dawn, which was the time we had arranged to meet and start our journey. It was a chilly and damp morning. Since I was heading in from Watford on the train, I arrived 30 mins early to allow time to take a couple of photos before we got started. I soon got cold and went underground to warm up as I was waiting for Carla to arrive. We were off at 8am and soon settled into a nice steady pace leaving a very quiet London as many head away over this period. The weather wasn’t going to change and we soon found ourselves in very wet and cold conditions heading into the wind. Carla’s gloves were wet and not keeping her hands warm anymore, so, a quick stop in a passing Decathlon sorted that out. I was carrying a live tracker so our progress could be monitored en route. This proved useful as half way along our route to Newhaven, Carla’s dad arrived in his car to offer his support the rest of the way to Paris.  The tracker allowed him to see where we were so he could plan a suitable rest stop accordingly every 7/8 miles or so. We were also spotted from a car on the dual carriageway by an Ultra Running friend of mine, Cat Simpson. She was being dropped off at the station, but her dad then came and caught up with us for a brief chat and this pic.

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Heading up and over the North downs, we were greeted with snow and sleet, a well deserved hot chocolate break was on the cards in the next town, Godstone. After a brief break by a fire, Carla swapped her heavy pack she had been carrying for a much lighter race vest and from then on there was no stopping her. We both settled into our own pace and I caught up at various stops as we progressed to Newhaven.  We still had a long way ahead of us and I was keen to keep the pace steady.

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We stopped for an Italian lunch in East Grinstead where I had a lovely Risotto.  The route directed us on country roads and as I approached the South Downs, I was greeted with the most beautiful sunset during a break in the clouds before entering the dark stage. Day 1 finished at Newhaven Port at 19:45 with plenty of time to catch the 23:00 ferry from there.  I actually finished with a bit of a bad stomach and struggled to eat my carbonara that evening. I had lost my appetite, but I wasn’t too worried. I felt fine and thought the rest/sleep on the ferry would sort me out.

Day 2 – Dieppe to Dampierre – 45 miles

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The ferry crossing was a quick 4 hours. Carla had organised a cabin for the 3 of us to maximise the rest we could get before starting on our second leg of the run off of the ferry at 5am. Another long tough day which started at sea level and kept going up all day! The original plan was to stick on the ‘Avenue Vert’ cycleway (disused railway) which I initially did, but the going was tough in the pitch black and I was away from the support. Carla had the better idea to stay on the lit D1 and made faster progress. I soon diverted back on to the road.

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It was all uphill and to add there was snow in some pretty cold conditions. Had to keep moving to keep warm. After the early start, we pushed on through for the 45 miles to reach the Gite in the early afternoon to get our first proper well earned rest before dinner was served at 7pm.

Day 3 – Clergy to Boismont – 50 miles

The forecast for us today was not looking good. Strong headwinds, rain and freezing temperatures was going to make the planned 50 miles we had ahead of us tough. On top of that we had the pressure to get to the next Gite in time for evening meal at 7pm, pretty much before it gets dark.  After a good nights sleep and some time to recover, we were out of that door back on it after breakfast at 07:30, It was going to be running in the dark for the first hour. To cover 50 miles in 11:30 hours was no holiday!

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Breakfast was bread and coffee at the family kitchen table.

The forecast was correct and it was a very wet day and the decision was made to use google and take a more direct route towards Paris than to follow the Avenue Verte, which saw us on busy trick roads in wet and windy conditions but allowed us to make good progress towards our next Gite.

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Google maps threw up some surprises, it took me off the roads and through muddy fields and tracks. Luckly these trails were not busy as I managed to drop my iphone out of my pocket (my only form of navigating and communication) and noticed 5 minutes later when I needed to check my direction. Luckly upon retracing my steps, I found it face down in a big muddy puddle and can confirm that the 7+ is waterproof. The trails actually came as a welcome break from all the road pounding we had done and I only discovered afterwards that Google had taken me and Carla on different routes, but we still managed to arrive within 5 minutes of each other after many slippery miles in the mud.

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Arrived the end of day 3 before nightfall which was a great relief. Big day done.

Day 4 – to Arc de Triomphe – 18 miles

After another 7am alarm call for breakfast, it chose another early start to capitalise on the nice weather forecast the morning had to offer. Only 18 miles to do on this last day and we were keen to get them done. The goal was in sight as the initial muddy trails developed in to sub-urban towns and highways. It was interesting to see that the route would see us cross the Seine 4 times before hitting the Arc de Triomphe. We set off together at quite a pace, neither showing the effects of the miles we ad done. Once the route took us out of the farmers fields we bumped into Carla’s Dad again. Carla made the wise decision to change into some dry socks and trainers for the remaining road section and waved me on to continue. I entered the maze of roads that made up Paris with Google as my guide, keep me going in the rough direction.

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Arriving in Urban Paris

I was counting down the Ks as physically I couldn’t see the end goal. It wasn’t until the last 2 mins I saw the big Arc de Triomphe at the top of the road as it bent round. It was such a relief to see and I noticed on my watch that today’s run time was on 2h54m! my brain took over as it shouted out to me to finish under 3 hours for the 18 mile run in. Having not been to the Arc de Triomphe before, I was unaware of the tunnel under the 25 lane roundabout that circles it. Instead I ran straight across this busy roundabout dodging cars from the left and jumped over some crown barriers to the safety inside the middle. I continued to run and touch the Arc as a symbol of completing the challenge fully expecting Carla to have already been there having taken a different route in. My actions had raised alarm to the local armed police who came over to see what was going on. Fortunately by now I was having a photo taken by a tourist with my light box message and I think the police chose to not get involved and left me alone even though I had ended up jumping in a paid for area. I learnt this as Carla’s Dad was in there having bought a ticket and believe Carla was queing up for a ticket below.

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We had made it to the Arc de Triomphe after 168 miles of running

Carla is a phenomenally strong athlete setting such a pressing pace day after day. Amazing to see and a big thank you to her for suggesting and organising this challenge to make it possible. Also, a thanks to the super support on the ground by Carla’s Dad, Alfie. Alphie also drove us back home to the UK afterwards. Thanks so much!  Also, thanks for all the comments coming through on Social media while we were en route. They made a great read and motivator in the evenings while we were drying out.  Looking back, this was a tough challenge, a real adventure in the winter conditions we experienced. It was extremely fun (type 2 fun), and a great sense of achievement experiencing the ultra buzz again.

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Proud to have packed the Chasers Flag to have at the end.
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A classic! in front of the Eiffel Tower afterwards.

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Again, I would also like to thank Alton Sports, for their continues support for my running adventures by having me as one of their ambassadors and partnering with Tri-Adventure. Alton Sports have 4 shops in and around Surrey. Check them out as they have a fab range of gear which is all available on-line. The comfortable gear I ran in to Paris was all from them, bar my Tri-Adventure Top of course.

Link to fly-by routes on Strava.

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Paddington 2 Popup Trail #PaddingtonsPopUp

Monday 13th November  2017

I met up with Carla at 7am at North Greenwich Station with the plan to run between the 5 Paddingtons. This is a Half Marathon (Just over 13 miles) journey visiting the 5 Paddington locations. It took me 2h35m.

Here is our story in a short youtube film, please remember to subscribe.

More information about the trail can be found on the Visit London website here: Visit London

Enjoy and happy trails…   #PaddingtonsPopUp

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50th OMM Elite Course – 8th with team mate Dave

OMM Elite Course – October 2017

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Photo: Joe Faulkner

The end of October is often associated with Halloween and when the clocks go back… for a hardy few, it marks the annual staging of the OMM Mountain Marathon, a notorious two day team navigation challenge in a mountainous environment in often tough and challenging conditions. Competitors are completely self sufficient, carrying everything on their backs. This was a special bumper year and attracted a strong field as OMM was celebrating its 50th edition of this event by returning to the Langdales in the Lake District.

The first challenge is to find someone willing enough to team up with; someone who is of equal standard, and used to the harsh environment and terrain, so that you can work together and efficiently navigate through the course. There are 2 types of events at the OMM, which attracts 2000 competitors. A short, medium and long Score event, where competitors have to maximise points from the checkpoints visited within a set time, and those with the highest points are the winners (a bit like our Tri-Adventure events). Then there are the Linear courses increasing in the degree  of difficulty – C, B, A, and Elite. These see competitors visiting the Checkpoints in a set order with the quickest being the winner.

I was keen to tackle the OMM Elite course again, as I believed the potential was there for me to achieve a top 10 place, having been placed 14th with Kev Honeysett a decade ago, at the 40th OMM. This time, I paired up with a long standing mate from my Adventure Racing days, Dave Spence.  I was pleased with this pairing as I had raced with Dave before about 8 years ago and it had worked very well then.  Dave is also based up in the Lakes, which made it easy to convince him to get involved with another OMM.  I caught the train up from London during the day on the Friday to go through final prep and get registered ahead of our start window early on the Saturday morning. We stayed in the van at the venue the night before the event.

Saturday morning, we were greeted with strong northerly polar winds and low level cloud, making for some claggy hills, with some rain  thrown in there as well for good measure. Most would say typical OMM weather, with low visibility and definitely one for the navigators. Those who are fast Mountain Runners, or those who struggle with navigation would prefer clearer and brighter conditions.

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At 08:30 we were off on our Elite Adventure and, in true OMM form, we were sent straight up a steep hill to the first of 14 checkpoints. We soon settled into our rhythm and pretty much maintained that during the course of the day. There were faster teams around us, but we kept bumping into them as they made navigation errors in the conditions. We carefully navigated ourselves through the course. The only pressure was to make it to the overnight camp by the 20:00 cut-off. There were some challenging features to find where the checkpoints had been placed which took all of our navigation skills to locate. As we neared the end of the course, it became clear that we would not make it to camp before dark.  I think all competitors in the Elite Course had a tough day with many throwing the towel in, knowing they could not make the cut-offs in these conditions.  Even the leaders were 2 hours slower than an average OMM day 1. The course planners had really set a high mark which saw 78% of Elite teams, and 90% of A class, not complete day 1. I put this down to the constant ascent and descent everyone had to endure to cover the distance over some very tough uneven Lake District terrain. We were, however, still in it and arrived at camp an hour after dark having spent 10h36m on the hill.  Much to our surprise, and thanks to our efforts, we found that we were in 9th position out of 10 finishers!

The course was still open for another 20 minutes, during which time another team, who started behind us, could have bumped us down, but we couldn’t wait around as we had camp to set up in a cold boggy field.  We put up our small Terra Nova Photon tent, which would protect us from the elements overnight and allow us to dry out, change into our spare kit and cook a hot meal before sleeping and resting. With mountain marathons, weight is a key part of a team’s efficiency, so, lightweight balloon beds are used to insulate ourselves from the ground (see the youtube link below), and 1 season sleeping bags are used, offering marginal insulation from the cold air. The OMM is never sold as the most comfortable night’s sleep on a Mountain Marathon, but I did actually sleep straight through to the Camp Alarm call at 6am the next morning, bearing in mind that the clocks went back during the night, giving us that very welcome extra hour.

Day 2 was a complete contrast to the conditions experienced on Saturday.  Sunny blue skies greeted us, which was a great relief, as it allowed for faster movement over the dryer ground than the day before.  A new map was handed out at the start, with a course plotted to take us through 10 CPs, one of which was the Charnley Crag Cairn, a memorial cairn to Gerry Charnley, the original founder of the Mountain Marathon. We found ourselves still in 9th position out of the 10 remaining teams and, with the better conditions, we could see the other teams around us, which was uplifting, as we jostled for position and route choice throughout the day. The time pressure had not eased though, as there was a tight 16:00 course closure in place, which kept us pushing right to the end. It was a bitter cold day, the type where your fingers stop working. This made it difficult to get into the zips to get at the food on the go. We knew, however, that if we could finish day 2 before the cut-off, we would have earned a well deserved top 10 spot!  We arrived at the finish drained and exhausted after another long 7h51m on the hill, to finish with 30 mins to spare.  The picture below was taken just after we had crossed the finish line and just before we had found out that we had gained a place to finish in an astonishing 8th position in the Elite field.

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Dave and I worked really well as a team. It is an important quality to have a partner who is able to look after themselves in the tough conditions. This includes a sound clothing layering system and staying fed and watered.  There was plenty of drinking out of streams en route to minimize the weight carried on our backs. Also, the ability for us to both navigate at a high level in the clag allowed for discussion on route choice and each of us able to keep tabs on where we were. It was a pleasure to race with Dave in, what I believe, to be my best result to date.

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There was a lot of discussion on various platforms afterwards about whether the 50th OMM Linear courses (Elite,A,B,C) had been set beyond most people’s abilities. There are bad weather options available to the the organisers to adopt, if necessary, but these were not implemented.

In my opinion – The OMM has a reputation for being extremely tough, set at the end of October in mountainous environments. We know what we are letting ourselves in for. As strong navigators, and perhaps not the fastest of mountain goats, clag and low visibility is our dream ticket. Yes, the course was tough this year and noticeably longer over tough terrain, made worse by the weather we encountered.  But this suited only a small handful of competitors who rose to the challenge. Some teams perhaps stepped up a class for this 50th edition or returned after some absence and found it really tough going to then reach the camp within the time cut-off. Not forgetting, OMM is a business and in this social media world, I am sure they would have liked to have seen more happy completers who will be back for more, rather than the large proportion of DNF’s in their linear courses. I hope they don’t make the courses easier in future years to improve the ratios. Given the conditions at hand, a choice of a shorter linear course option, at the start line may have tempted many to go for a safer option to complete the OMM. Those who were psyched up to take on the full course could go and battle it out.  I am sure I will be back for more as I love these type of events.

YOUTUBE Film of what we were carrying

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Kit support from Alton Sports as a Running Ambassadoralton7 50th OMM Elite Course   8th with team mate Dave

Website: OMM
Results: OMM 2017 Results
Link to my Strava Route Day 1
Link to my Strava Route Day 2 to where my battery went low

Running Pack – OMM 20L
Torch – Petzl E-Lite
Shorts – Blue Skins
Compression Calf Guards – 2XU White
Running Shorts – Blue 2003 London Marathon Shorts!
Tri-Adventure Running Top
Trainers – Inov-8 X-Talons
Thermal Buff hat
Arm warmers – Skins
Spare layer – Skins top and bottoms

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Can Virtual Reality Provide an Authentic Biking Experience?

Can Virtual Reality Provide an Authentic Biking Experience?

It is fair to say that many of the technologies we only dreamt about 20 years ago are now becoming a reality. Take for example the box office success Tron. How many people thought it would be cool to ride a virtual reality computer bike? Now you can, and not only ride one, but ride a bike that replicates a mountain bike travelling across varying terrains.

Mindgrub’s Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Bike

Using a combination of a real bike and some smart software that recreates the actual experience of pedalling on rough terrain, a company called Mindgrub has developed an Oculus Rift-ready virtual bike.

The centre of the virtual reality bike is an Arduino board, which is built with reed switches that open and close to recreate actual biking in cyber space. The technology is able to measure how fast the wheels are spinning, which is directly fed back to the screen that the user is viewing.

The experience is made more natural thanks to the magnets that are installed on the physical bike. The magnets make sure that the pedalling motion is in sync with the real movements of the wheel with the timing of the virtual bike.

The Bike’s Steering

Without manipulating the bike, users would be passing through walls or hovering over rivers. Steering Mindgrub’s virtual bike present hazards just like in real life.

In order to make steering realistic, the virtual bike uses micro-switches on the frame to facilitate right and left turns. In addition, pieces of equipment called potentiometer and variable resistors were attached to the handlebars to create friction when braking. An aluminium bracket is responsible for engaging a few rubber bumpers, both of which are attached to the neck of the bike to allow movement for steering while the user is wearing the Oculus Rift headset.

Programming the Virtual Terrain

Unity’s Uniduino, which is commonly used for powering Oculus Rift demos, was a key component for making the VR bike more immersive. It was the same technology used in creating Tomb Raider VR when it was first unveiled in 2016.

The Tomb Raider VR title was a massive success thanks to its seamless integration with the Unity engine. The game’s VR version was a direct result of the global appreciation for the film franchise that made its bow through a videogame back in 1996 and then reached the silver screen in 2001 when Angelina Jolie brought to life Lara Craft for the first time. Since then the franchise has created Tomb Raider slot games as well as a number of other videogames and there will be a new movie out in 2018 starring Alicia Vikander as the fearless Croft. Tomb Raider’s use of the Unity engine is proof that the platform works, and Uniduino helps tremendously with setting the right mood for the games.

After using a pre-constructed city from the Unity 3D Store, Mindgrub was able to create a virtual city modified to give an authentic biking atmosphere.

So can Virtual Reality provide an authentic biking experience? With the recent advancements in VR, there’s probably only a small gap now between what’s real and not. Watch this space…

oculus bike Can Virtual Reality Provide an Authentic Biking Experience? (image credit: Mindgrub)

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NDW 100

North Downs Way 100 – 5th August 2017

Taking on 2 x 100 mile events over 2 consecutive weekends.

The NDW100 is a 103 mile trail run along the North Downs from Farnham in Surrey to Ashford in Kent. 80% of the course is on trails and takes in 3000m of ascent.

To see if my legs had recovered after the Lakeland 100, and if they were up for this challenge, I took on the Battersea Park 5km on the Monday, an event I discovered as I was travelling back down south on the Sunday. I managed 19m50s, which I was really pleased with, and this set me up well for the NDW100. I also went for a Thai massage beforehand, as I am a firm believer that massage aids the recovery after an event.

In preparation for this event, I had downloaded the .gpx route file to my watch and produced my own map on waterproof paper to assist me on this marked course. You can see a low-res version of the maps I used in the links at the bottom.

So, a week after Lakeland, I found myself on the start line of the Centurion NDW100. I was psyched up and felt in good shape to take this on.  No pain killers this time.  The challenge I set myself was to complete the course within the 30 hour cut-off, secretly hoping that I could still manage a sub 24h time.  For those who achieve a sub 24h time, a special belt buckle is up for grabs.

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Monday night 19m50s at the Battersea 5k.
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NDW100 Start

The NDW100 event started at 6am on Saturday morning, and this is the Ultra that is local to my club, the Clapham Chasers. It was a calm, dry start with the sun breaking through the low level clouds. This time i didn’t get carried away by shooting off too quickly, and i found myself in about 28th position out of 230 at the first Checkpoint. It was an early transition to Ultra mode which saw me battling through the wall after about 14 miles.  Once in my Ultra mode, I can just keep plodding on. By Box Hill, more fresh legged ultra runners had passed me, which saw me drop back to 40th position, but I felt OK and happy on the familiar territory of the Surrey Hills. One point I was looking forward to was the 38 mile feed station.  This was being run by the Clapham Chasers and I knew I would get a good cheer there. They did not disappoint! In the warm sunshine, they saw me running up the hill towards them. I was greeted with the offer of ice-cream – a first for me in an ultra!

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Clapham Chasers at Mile 38

I was well ahead of time at this point to finish within the 24h. I was still feeling good and kept going. At 15:00, 9 hour in, the sky became dark and there were rumbles of thunder. Then it started; a heavy downpour. Waterproofs on, the temperature dropped and the chalky surface under foot became slippery and muddy.  Still, it is the same for everyone and you just have to crack on.  I got to the 50 mile halfway CP in under 9h 30m which was pretty good going.  That would put me on a 19h schedule with plenty in the bag to duck under the 24h.

You can’t plan too much for the 2nd half, as there was a second downpour, and this is also when the day becomes night and progress becomes tough. The cloudless sky allows the temperature to drop and the way is illuminated by a head torch.  The sun was just setting as I reached 60 miles in 11h 50m and, to my delight, I bumped into another Chaser, Cat, who had been pacing Dale. A quick high 5 and the pic below, and I was soon on my way again.
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At the 60 mile point

I managed to get to 70 miles before it got dark and was really starting to feel the strain. Tom, a Chaser who was at the 38 mile feed station earlier, was waiting at this point to meet me as support crew. I was so pleased to see him and to get my supplies restocked.  I had not been feeling well and was struggling to keep food and fluid down. But it was head torches on and straight into an ascent. Once or twice, I had to break into a walk, and have harsh words with myself to keep going. The struggle really started from here.

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It was a long lonely night ahead.  We were allowed pacers to join us from 50 miles onwards, but I had not made such arrangements as i am 50/50 about the benefit of pacing. I had taken this challenge on myself and was unsure of the outcome because of my previous week’s activity, so to drag someone out overnight may have seemed a bit selfish. I also chose not to use the poles in this event.  The trails were much smoother than the Lakeland, requiring less concentration on foot placement. This did find me falling over twice though as I may have been a little too complacent.

For the last 30 miles I was not able to hold my fluids down.  Tom was great, having completed this event before, so he knew what I was going through, and he met me at another two locations before the 84 mile mark, before heading home as there were no more crewing points before the finish. I was calculating in my head the worst case scenario of resorting to a 20 mins per mile (3mph) walking pace and how long I could get away with this to still finish in under 24 hours.  I was saying to myself that every step is a step closer to the finish and the more effort I put in now, the less pressure i will feel later on to get in under the 24 hours. As I arrived at the penultimate CP at 21h52m, with just 4.5 miles to the finish, I knew I had cracked it; 2 hours to do 4.5 miles.  I cruised to the finish line on my own in a time of 23h04m12s in 30th position, and was so relieved. This had been a tough physical and mental challenge, but I had got the belt buckle, only 1 of 44 to do so!

Read the Centurion Race Report here.

James and Centurion Events put on great races, well organised and supported.  Check out some of their other events Centurion Events.

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Me with my finisher’s ‘Sub24 hour’ belt buckle.

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The end of a 211 mile race week! Lakeland 100 – 105 miles, 6300m of ascent in 28h 51m; Battersea Park 5k in 19m 50s; NDW100 – 103 miles, 3000m of ascent, 23h 04m. That is equal to 8 Marathons over 8 days. Feeling very chuffed!

Link to low res maps I created, 1 2 3 4 5 & 6

Website: NDW 100
Results: NDW 2017 Results
Link to my Strava Route

#NDW100 #centurionrunning #tri4all #ultrarunning



IMG 7850 e1502713717678 265x256 NDW 100

Running Pack – Salomon Adv Skin 12 Nh M-L
Poles – Leki Micro Trail PRO 2017 size 125 – Did not use
Torch – Silva Trail Runner II
Shorts – Blue Skins
Compression Calf Guards – CEP Yellow
Running Shorts – Blue 2003 London Marathon Shorts!
Clapham Chasers Running vest
Trainers – Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 – Black Nightlife
Tri-Adventure Buff hat
Salt stick tablets
Fenix 3 watch
Arm warmers
Spare layer – Skins top and bottoms

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Lakeland 100

Lakeland 100 – Race Report 28th-29th July 2017

This event was celebrating its 10th year and it is a Circular 105 mile run around the Lake District trails from Coniston, taking in 6300m of ascent.

I am not new to the world of Ultra running; in fact, this is about my 15th Ultra since the age of 12. I drove up in the Tri-Adventure van a day before this event, not knowing whom I would bump into. It was great to be back in the Lakes with the fresh smell of mountain air.  The Event HQ was a couple of large marquees in a school’s grounds, making it a great hub for the runners, and it even had a chill out area with sofas and coffee. I collected my entry pack in the afternoon before the event started at 6pm, which is unusual for an Ultra to start off so late into an evening.  The Lakeland 100 also has a 50 mile event which starts the following morning from the 69 mile point of the Lakeland 100. The forecast was for a bit of rain, and after a wet week, the course was already pretty muddy.

I was quite excited ahead of the run, and a welcome surprise for me was to see an old Adventure Racing friend Sabrina Verjee at the Race Briefing. On the start line, I had not allowed myself to compute the task ahead.  I was simply going to keep running and enjoy my time in the Lakes.

IMG 7864 e1502713512623 199x265 Lakeland 100

Collecting my race pack

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Start 2 Lakeland 100

Setting off with Sabrina

I had not intended to set off quite as fast as I did.  My plan was to cover as much ground in the 4 hours of daylight we had, before then slowing up during this first phase in the dark. There was a great turnout of supporters to see us off in Coniston, and then we were off up into a drizzly fell. The navigation was straightforward from the off, and with other fast starters around me, I found myself hitting CP1 in 2nd place and feeling quite good. By now, the field was spread out, and I was entering into unfamiliar territory, requiring navigation with the maps that were provided. I did have the route .gpx on my watch as a back up but this wasn’t sufficient to navigate off.  Soon, the guys behind who were more familiar with the route caught up, after I had to keep checking the map after making some slight errors.  I wasn’t able to stick with this group who, I guess, had recced the route and could just plough on.  I’d got as far as Wasdale before the night started to draw in, I found myself still in the top 10, but as it got dark, i started falling back in the field with head torches passing me. I wasn’t feeling too good either and struggling to keep down fluids. I put this down to a codeine pain killer I took before the event which played around with my stomach. I am not sure why I took it and this was one of my biggest regrets. It was a long night and I was struggling to maintain any focus. I felt powerless on the hills and it was wet and cold. I longed for a break.  By the time I reached Braithwaite, I was ready for a nap.  Having eaten some cooked pasta and rice pudding, I put my head down on the table and slept for 20 mins. I came round to quite a busy CP as many had caught me up.  I set out for the next leg to Blencathra but was still not feeling on good form. I don’t think the sleep was enough, so at the next CP I had another 15 minutes, by which time it was getting light and I really felt the beneficial effects of Solar power.  I was among people going at a much more steady pace and one I could maintain.  I cracked on along the Coach Road, a long uninspiring track.  I was starting to feel much better and got my act together.  Some hot soup at the next CP saw me back on form having slipped back to 112th position, and I was able to start to claw back places. At one point, I caught up with a group who were moving at a steady rate, and, as I passed, one of the runners decided to joined me.  It was handy as this is someone who had been on the recce hikes and was familiar with the route to Dalemaine, the 59 mile point and theoretical half way.  We arrived here at 10am, 16 hours in.

IMG 7934 265x265 Lakeland 100

I was now feeling great and was pleased to be ahead of the 50 milers starting at 11:30. I wasn’t keen to stop too long here, so I picked up my watch battery charger and some supplies for the next leg and headed off alone towards Pooley Bridge, and again into the drizzly and windy fell.  Waterproofs were essential to maintain any of my body heat.  After the initial hike up, there was a long down hill stretch which was fab and took us down out of the wind.  I was catching other runners ahead, which lifted my spirits. There was another guy I then found myself running with, which again was ideal for a testing navigation part over a fell to Haweswater. I was grateful for the company, and we stuck together right up to the next checkpoint.  By this stage, the faster 50 mile runners were coming through and gave passing comments of support. This was great, and I found myself full of beans by the next checkpoint, which I again sailed through, after having stocked up on supplies and taken in some hot soup.  Over the steep pass, I was motivated by latching onto the 50 milers, which resulted in me catching up with my fellow 100 milers. After the pass, I saw a nice long descent down Longsleddale and I was all go. The weather was drying up and it felt like the back of the course was broken.  I had actually calculated that it was just a marathon to go!

CP9 Lakeland 100

I kept the momentum going through Kentmere CP, and I had a nice surprise seeing an old friend, Carrie, who had come out to run with me into Ambleside.  It was like a breath of fresh air and helped take my mind off the running.  I also bumped into Paul Noble, another Adventure friend, who took a picture and with whom I shared a few words as I came down Garburn Pass.

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Carrie left me in Ambleside to finish the job off.  I was among some quick 50 milers who really were getting the best out of me.  They may have dome 55 miles less by this point, but I was determined to keep up with them. I picked up the pace along the easier running Langdale stint, saying to myself that every step was a step closer, and the more effort I put in now, the easier the pressure will be later on. I was counting off the places i was making up, as I passed broken people with their Lakeland 100 yellow numbers on their backs.  I was flying, probably from the sleeping in the first half of the race. I could not be sure what place I was in, but I kept pushing to get the most out of myself.  The last CP was to go up and out of Tibblethwaite Quarry, up some steps called Stairway to Heaven. Again, after a brief stop, I found myself in a train of 50 mile runners who helped guide me through the second spell of darkness, back to Coniston and the amazing downhill finish. I was over the line 10 minutes before last orders, which was a great feeling. There was sheer relief at making the finish in 50th place, and in a time of 28h51m14s, and I looked forward to putting my feet up.  It had been tough.

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The dibber print out indicated that I had made the top 50 out of a field of 400 in a time of 28h51m. That meant that i had made up 62 places in the second half of the race. Any time under 30 hours on this course is considered very respectable, with only the top 12 managing under 25 hours. Sabrina managed to finish in 6th position overall and first lady home with a time well under 24h.

In summary, I was very pleased with my achievement as I had not put a lot of prep into this event. The course was technically tough under foot on the Lakeland Trails, and a real test of will power and maintenance of focus.  I am strong minded with a determination to keep going. It turned out that my second half of the race was in fact quicker than the first, much to my surprise.

Link to my Strava Route
ink to Website: Lakeland 100
Link to Results: Results 2017



IMG 7850 e1502713717678 265x256 Lakeland 100

Running Pack – Salomon Adv Skin 12 Nh M-L
Poles – Leki Micro Trail PRO 2017 size 125
Torch – Silva Trail Runner II
Shorts – Blue Skins
Compression Calf Guards – CEP Yellow
Running Shorts – Blue 2003 London Marathon Shorts!
Adidas – Technical T-Shirt
Trainers – Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 – Black Nightlife
Tri-Adventure Buff hat
Salt stick tablets
Fenix 3 watch
Arm warmers
Spare layer – Skins top and bottoms


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Bivi up Scafell Pike

Scafell 265x89 Bivi up Scafell Pike

On the 20th January 2017, I spent the night on the top of Scafell Pike in my Bivibag so that I could enjoy this amazing sunrise above the clouds the next morning.

A selfie taken with my drone

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Learn your compass – Part 3


5 Tips for Beginners

  1. Make sure that the Direction of Travel Arrow is pointing away from your body, and in the direction you want to go.
    Compass 4 Learn your compass   Part 3
    Always make sure that you have the Orienting Arrow aligned with Grid North (the top of the map), irrespective of the direction in which you are heading. It’s easy to make an error if the map is folded.
  2. Remember that the magnetic Compass needle does not point in your intended direction of travel. Stick to where the Direction of Travel Arrow is pointing, once you have taken a bearing.
    cow Learn your compass   Part 3
  3. Make sure that the landmark you choose to head for is a fixed feature that doesn’t move – pick a tree, gate post, or boulder, for example, rather than a cow, sheep, person or bird!
  4. Make sure your compass isn’t near any metal objects when following a bearing, such as a Trig point or a metal gate post, as they may affect the magnetic compass needle.
  5. Make sure your compass isn’t near any metal objects when following a bearing, such as a Trig point or a metal gate post, as they may affect the magnetic compass needle.
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Learn your compass – Part 2

Parts of a Compass

Compasses now come in all shapes, styles and sizes and, as with everything, you get what you pay for. A cheap one is almost guaranteed to let you down – and no one wants to be in a situation when that happens.

The compass I would recommend is the Silva Exhibition 4 as illustrated below.

And, so that you can fully understand the capabilities of your compass, we’ve broken down exactly what each component means

compass v3 265x176 Learn your compass   Part 2

  1. Base plate– this is the clear compass bed, with straight edges to line up your direction of travel.  It also has rulers and map scales on it to help you measure distance.
  2. Compass housing– this rotating bezel, with degrees etched on its perimeter to enable you to take a bearing, also holds the magnetic needle.
  3. Compass needle– the red and white needle floats in a clear liquid so it can rotate freely. The red end always points to Magnetic North.
  4. Orienting arrow– this is the wide red arrow marked on the bed of the compass housing. Align the red part of the compass needle with this arrow when taking a bearing off the map.
  5. Orienting lines– these lines are also marked on the bed of the compass housing, and they are parallel to the Orienting Arrow.  The Orienting lines are used to line up with the Northings on a map to establish a bearing.
  6. Index line– a compass bearing is read off the Index line on the bezel.
  7. Direction of travel arrow– this thin black arrow on the base plate is used to indicate the direction in which you will be travelling after taking your bearing.
  8. Compass Romer – these are marked on the base plate to help you measure distances on a variety of map scales. They are also handy in helping you to accurately work out your six-figure grid reference.
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