Sunday, 4 September 2011

Lochnagar , Lakeland100 &UTMB

Lochnagar , Lakeland100 &UTMB

Lochnagar was just lush. I’m so lucky to have such great friends to show me these places. We did the 18 mile loop with mike R doing a bit more as he flitted to various other hills. Some mountain bikers were hauling their bikes up for some extreme fun.

I fancy some of that. I'll no doubt be back.

and no i didn't run up all the way but i intend having a go...

Near the top we stopped to pay our respects to Dario near the place he passed away. I didn’t get to know Dario well. We only met a couple of times but he was one of those people who could inspire. I didn’t say much here as my thoughts were with those close friends who were on the top when it happened and how the memories must have been overwhelming for them. We had a tot of whisky in his memory. Now I hate whisky, I’m not really keen any spirits tbh but twice it’s tasted good. Once after I finished the whw (you haven’t finished unless your tot is drank) and here today raising a glass to Dario. Enough said.

Later that eve, I had a lovely time in Aberdeen with Mike, Redwinerunner and badger . heck they do some cracking beers. I’ll be back soon :-)

And on the way home I go them Arbroath smokies. And yes they tasted amazing.... helped of course by the brewdog beer :-)


So a few days later and it didn’t matter that my legs were still a bit stiff form the duathlon, the 10 miles of hills running with loon and lintie and Lochnagar as I had decided not to run any of the Lakeland100. To close to UTMB and I’m now captain sensible. Come Thursday evening I was a right grump and even more so Friday morning . at about 9am on Friday I changed my mind and decided to run some of it at least. See I knew the2nd half ,the 50M race was tough but I was intrigued by flanker and others telling me the first half was far tougher . I figured I should find out for next year and promised myself I would not let myself get knackered of hurt finding out.

Of course this meant a bit of a rush. Throw our gear in the car plus the tent and stuff and off we went . I say we, as Anna decided she MAY run the 50 or at least some of it if I was going to run . She was undecided. Yeh right. I knew she would run despite her sore limbs. The car journey over should have been about 2 hours but a broken down lorry, tractor and then following a boat being towed meant we were late. A quick call to Firemanotsam and he had registration sorted for us. Cheers mate. Into Coniston and I was still putting the tent up with 20 minutes to the start.

At 5pm we are off into the hills and sure enough the first half is so much tougher. I’m not going into details but it was amazing. So much bog. So many climbs. How many sharp rocky passes!! .. Don’t get me wrong, these are the things I love the most. Twas Wonderful.

I met up with Anna at the start of the 50 (the 104M starts at 5pm Friday and the 50 at Dalemain at midday Saturday.) promising she would only run some but for me by then my feet were in a bad way. Firemanotsam help me bandage them but I wasn’t that hopeful of them staying in one piece. Also, like many other the heat was getting to me. I managed to get over to Howtown , running all the way from the dirt track into the cp but by then my feet were shredded and I decided to pull out to save them . See I am captain sensible !!

So another 67 miles under my belt and the first half recce’d for next year. I have no right to be running at the mo so that will do me . Anna also ran about 30 miles of the 50 and wasn’t to hurt. :-)

This race is truly amazing . A wonderfully tough race and to be honest it has inspired me. I loved it .It shall be my main target for next year when hopefully given no breaks I will be fit again.


And so to the big one. I flew out on the Monday to acclimatise. Had a lovely time with friends and one or two lovely runs in the mountains. One from the top of the cable car at Les Houches with the others and one on my own after visiting the Aiguille de midi. I’d gone up for the altitude and stayed up a while watching he climbers and stunning scenery. I’d gone up after seeing lorna off in the TDS so it was still pretty quiet and stayed up a good couple of hours before it got busy. The weather as it had been all week was glorious but that high up it was pretty nippy even with my early birthday pressie my insulated North face jacket on.

Cable car over to Italy

I took the cable car down to the 2nd station and from there decided to walk down. After about 5 mins this became a trot then a good easy pace run. And what a fantastic run it was. 3000ft plus of descent hairpinning through pine forest. Just magic.

As the race neared the town is a buzz of runners. It’s a bit like the tour de France but for running centred on this one picturesque little town in the mountains. The weather had been boiling hot all week but now the clouds gathered. Not sure what time it was but we got a message that the start was delayed 5 hours for a storm overhead and the last climb was going to be missed. I was a bit peeved by that but I think with the UTMB now you have take it that the race will change and UTMB years will all be different unless of course they have very good weather.

At 11:30 pm we set off into the rain. The first 10k is along mostly flat trails which gives time for the field to string out. after that and we were through les Houches and my first taste of support. I say first but to be honest the whole route has been lined with people shouting Allez Allez Allez and ringing cowbells but each town was just something else . They must compete with each other to provide the most stuff and have the loudest support. It was magic.

Up the first climb to Delevret. Not a bad climb and I was enjoying myself. The paths were a bit of a mudfest and I noticed a fair few having trouble with what I call cross shoes. You know the type, road shoes with a bit more grip. These are fine for most trail races but today my mudroc’s were the business in this and I climbed fast and descended faster. I was having a ball. Well I say that but I was just starting to have a few problems with my breathing and was coughing a few time. Nothing I was worried about but it was there.

Saint-Gervais was awesome. Every food under the sun, all the drinks you could want and a carnival atmosphere right through the town. Just awesome. That said I had decided I would not hang around any of the cp’s too long –far too nice.

Then it was the start of a 8000ft climb to Croix du Bonhomme with 3 cp’s along the way .i think it was here I really started not to feel that good and although I flew down into Les Chapieux I really knew something was up . I was starting to cough a fair bit and just wasn’t feeling good. I thought it might be the Altitude. I hadn’t felt anything on my runs but I was thinking that’s all it can be. After all in Ultra terms I had hardly stated the race.

The next climb was a long one up to the Col de la Seigne and in Italy for the first time. I’m afraid this is where it got really bad. I was not in a good way and could not stop coughing. I’m not a bad climber but I had to stand aside for loads of people and had slowed right down. The climb seemed to last forever. I took my phone out and switched it on and snapped a few shots before sending a text saying I wasn’t doing so well.

I was getting really pissed off and just how poorly I was feeling but there was not much I could do. At the top I was pulled over and asked if I was alright. Of course I said yes but I knew I wasn’t. I ran the long run down into lac Combal only stopping when a photographer with a huge camera was taking pictures . I looked over my shoulder to the left and saw this . I just had to stop and take a snap.

and the first question I asked was about the cut off’s .bit to near for my liking seeing as I was going so slow. I had a quick drink and sat for a few minutes behind a tent out of the wind coming off the glaciers and could not stop coughing. I popped a pill and moved on. I had about 2.5 hours to get to Courmayeur at about halfway. I knew you can actually walk in from here if you wished because the cut offs stop being so tight but I had no fancy for that. The climb from here to Courmayeur was only about 2000ft climb anf then a long run down. I was about halfway up and couching my guts up when I decided this was daft. I just wasn’t well. I turned around and walked back to retire. I had barely been going 14 hours . Nothing in terms of Ultra races .

I lay behind the tent out of the wind looking at the magnificent sights feeling little sorry for myself and coughing my guts up. Still I knew I could not have continued.

Back at the chalet I find Helen (super-fast winner of many races) in her bed dying of flu. She had not made it to the first checkpoint:-0. I lay on the sofa and coughed like a barking dog , ate pizza and drank wine before falling asleep. Later loon came in with much the same symptoms. It seems likely we had all picked up the same bug. More gutting was Lintie who was fine but had been timed out. This was so unfair at she had timed her runs to perfection to get inside the cut off only for the organisers to reduce them for no reason just before the race. Grrr.

Later we all watched the finishers come in in an atmosphere I can’t really describe. Again I can only liken it to the tour de France. Amazing support. The average finishing time btw was 42 hours and only 47% finished.

Our disappointments, tempered by watching our friends(random scottish punters (not all scottish either) come in. Along with John ,mark & bob, john Graeme coming in brought a tear to our eyes. My club mate Tom also finished in a good time.

And this too

Oh well disappointing but from my point of view not the end of the world. Shit happens as they say. I had a great time in Chamonix with great friends. Such an amazing place and amazing race. I’ve said this before, it’s the people who make races. Like the West Highland way, the course is great but it’s the people who make this race. The organises and the runners. I know a few people out there who flit from race to race who never grasp or see this. They have run everything and experienced nothing. This is one of those races. It’s more than just a race.

Next year (all being well - Should I get in and I’ll do the TDS if I don’t ), I know what I will do different in the lead up to the race and what gear to take.

The 1st of this month was eight months since the fourth foot break and her I am still ok. Instead of binning the few big races I had booked in I’ve done what I could of them without risking too much or breaking anything. Ultra cautious I’ve been saying :-)

Even though I’ve been woefully unfit, barely done any consistent running (more than 2 months) for the last 20 months among other things I’ve recce’s both the first half of the Lakeland 100 and the UTMB and both have inspired me. I know some folk just can’t get there head round not finishing a race but would I have really recce’d both these races had not. Better not to run ? I find that sort of thinking laughable. What are you sacred of - what people might think? Like I said, I find that laughable. I’ve had a blast along the way as well.

So now I have 3 seasons of training (fingers crossed) with nothing big or important till I have 3 big summer races . I’m looking forward just to running again. All the local races and fells. Getting fit again and losing so of the lard.
So even though I was still coughing yesterday I did the 9.4 miles of the Derwentwater Trail race, one of the Lakeland trails I love so much. A grand time was had in the rain and bogs and my 46th birthday as well. I’ve missed these races .

More Please :-)


  1. Great stuff flip, onwards and uwards, see you soon superstar :)

  2. Good reading Flip. an expensive set of recc's though. Hope you get to complete them. It's been a tough year for you so here's hoping for better luck in future.

  3. I echo Davie's comment Flip, a tough year and you've racked up some big mileages in very tough events. I agree on you outlook of not worrying about unfinished races - when challenges are that big and tough every mile achieved and 100ft climb is a big thing.

  4. i meant ot comment on davies comment but forgot. maybe i didn't get my point across well in my ramblings. These races were all bought and paid for before the foot broke for the forth time on new years day and although not fit and still coming back ( i haven't really trained consistantly since the first break in November 2009 ) i thought i would just do what i can while being very careful and also recce the course..and have some fun. This doesn't mean to say i don't want to do well in them all next year. I do and i want good times as well ! :-)