Date30 June 2013 Map of Start Location
Start LocationBraemar Police Station
End LocationAviemore Police Station
WeatherDry but windy
(Min./Max.: 11.1 °C/14.9 °C; Pressure: 1007.5 mbar; Humidity: 79.1%; Dew point: 7.4 °C; Wind Speed: 56.7 km/h)
Distance43.18 km
Time Taken4 Hours 44 Minutes
Ascent651 metres
Race Position74 /181
Pre race photo

Pre Race Photo

The Lairig Ghru is a category C Long Hill Race run over 43km between the police stations of Braemar and Aviemore. A classic in the hill racing calendar, it is run annually every June. Graeme had ran this a couple of years back and rated it highly. Not that it needed selling to me. The Lairig Ghru is an amazing place and having hiked and ran in the area before I knew how spectacular a location it is.

I was fortunate that Emma was on hand to do support duties. In other words, she would drop me off in Braemar before the race start and then drive round to Aviemore and collect me later on. All the talk at work during the preceding week was the awful weather forecast. MWIS predicting that any motion would be severely inhibited, even at low level. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound!

In addition to myself, Derek and another colleague from work were also running the race. Derek wanted to get round in about five and a half hours. Myself? I just wanted to run a steady race without running out of steam at the end and having to walk. Secretly I fancied a sub five hour finish. I had put in some decent long runs recently so I was confident there would be no issues stamina wise. The only downside being I had not done much speedwork although weeks of smashing plyometric stuff in Body Attack should be beneficial for the hills. Continue reading »
Date4th June 2013 Map of Start Location
Start LocationBampton
WeatherClear Skies, Hot and Sunny
(Min./Max.: 16.8 °C/20.3 °C; Pressure: 1029.2 mbar; Humidity: 46.9%; Dew point: 8.1 °C; Wind Speed: 8.4 km/h; Precipitation: 0.0mm)
Distance36.26km
Time Taken6 Hours
Ascent1173 metres
Descent1130 metres
Accompanied byNo one
Running down to Howtown

Running down to Howtown

Unfortunately Emma could not join me for this second recee and with the car at Watendlath car park from the previous day’s excursion there was no option of me giving it a miss. Not that I had any thoughts of abstaining anyway. There was no clouds and the sunshine was out. Perfect running conditions. There was one good thing about Emma not be able to run and that was that we would not have to faff about leaving a car at the start so I could recee the road section from Bampton to Askham Fell in the comfort of the passenger seat!

It was just gone 11am by the time I was dropped off just near Widewath and already the sun was beating down. I set off across Asksam Fell and picked up (what I assumed) was the correct path. After crossing the minor road which links up Scales Farm with Helton I was on a minor trod on open moorland. As I continued, I got the feeling that I was heading to the west and after a little deliberation I stopped to consult Memory Map on my iPhone. My feelings were confirmed, I had drifted off course. Oh well this is the whole purpose of a recee. I corrected my course and picked up the path near the stone circle and followed this to the cross-roads. From here it was onto the amazing path that heads down into Howtown. i knew this section well as this path is also used by the Lakeland 50/100 was I was able to relax for a few kilometres and drop into Howtown. Continue reading »
Date Monday 3rd June 2013 Map of Start Location
Start LocationWatendlath NT Car Park
WeatherClear Skies and Sunny
(Min./Max.: 13.1 °C/17.3 °C; Pressure: 1032.5 mbar; Humidity: 66.8%; Dew point: 10.3 °C; Wind Speed: 3.6 km/h; Precipitation: 0.0mm)
Distance33.3km
Time Taken6.5 Hours
Ascent1193 metres
Descent1409 metres
Accompanied byEmma and Milo

Ultimate Trails 100K When it comes to off road running you will struggle to find a better place in the British Isles than the Lake District. With some fantastic peaks, awesome mountain passes and a good network of roads making for easy access it is an ideal fit for endurance events. In fact, it is fair to say that the Montane Lakeland 100 is the premier one hundred mile ultra in the UK. My first venture into ultra-running was in 2011 when Scott and I entered the fifty mile little sister of the Montane Lakeland 100. A year later I ran the Highland Fling, a fifty five mile race along the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum.

My goal is a hundred miler so when the Lakeland Trails team announced a new ultra marathon for 2013, I was interested. Having ran the inaugural Coniston Trail Marathon a couple of years back I knew these guys could host an event. The ultra would be held in September and there is a choice of two distances, 50km and 100km. A 100km ultra is just the step up from the Fling and as an added bonus Emma fancied the 50km race as her first foray into the world of ultra-running.

One lesson I did learn from my first ultra was that running fifty plus miles is tough enough without the stress of navigating, especially late on the race when the chances are it will be dark. So this time I decided to get down to the Lake District and recee the full course. That way, not only would it help with navigating on race day but I would also have an idea of how tough the climbs were and also get some good training under my belt. The plan was to break the route up into three 20ish mile sections and run them over three days.

We decided to run the last section first. The logic being that we could leave one car at Brockhole, drive over to Watendlath and run back to the car at Brockhole. The next day we would drive over to somewhere near Bampton, run to the car at Watendlath and drive back. On the third day we would dump a car at Bampton, drive back to Brockhole, run to Bampton and then drive back to pick the car up at Brockhole. Phew!
Em and Milo  head up from Watendlath Tarn

Em and Milo head up from Watendlath Tarn

We had a really lazy morning (in fact to lazy) and by the time we had sorted food, loaded the car and headed up to the Lake District from my parents in Manchester, it was already mid-afternoon. When we enquired at the visitor centre about parking the car, they told us the gate shuts at 8pm. Hmmm, a little tight. We did not fancy rushing towards a deadline and wanted to just run and take our time. Instead we drove up to Town End and left the car in a layby there. This would mean we would miss a couple of kilometres of the course but this did not seem too big a deal. Continue reading »
DateSaturday 6th April 2013 Map of Start Location
Start LocationStart of Coishavachan track, Glen Lednock
WeatherClear Skies
(Min./Max.: 1.7 °C/6.5 °C; Pressure: 1026.4 mbar; Humidity: 46.7%; Dew point: -4.2 °C; Wind Speed: 7.4 km/h; Precipitation: 0.0mm)
Distance12.85km
Time Taken1 Hour 56 minutes
Ascent715 metres
Accompanied byNo one
Munro Count Ben Chonzie
Peaks ClimbedBen Chonzie
Looking back down to Glen Lednock

Looking back down to Glen Lednock

The entry for Ben Chonzie in ‘The Ultimate Guide to the Munros’ states that Ben Chonzie is a dull mountain in dull country. Not a great endorsement for the closest Munro to my home and with over 150 down still unclimbed. I guess I have been putting this one off for a while although when we climbed Auchnafree Hill back in 2010, there was a decent view across to Ben Chonzie and it did not look that bad at all. It had been left in ‘my back pocket’ for a day like today when I only had a few hours available and was after a quick mountain fix. With snow still prevalent and blue skies it should be a decent outing.

I had to stop briefly to put on my Microspikes

I had to stop briefly to put on my Microspikes

I set off from home late morning and arrived just over an hour later. I was surprised at the amount of cars parked up but it was a decent day and I was a little later than normal. The route up to the top seemed straightforward. On the Walk Highlands website it gave a time of between four and five hours. I intended to run it up and down so was hoping to complete it in sub two hours. An hour there and back in the car would give me a total time of about four hours from home to summit and back. Continue reading »
Date Friday 1st March 2013 Map of Start Location
Start Location Layby 94 on A9 just south of Cuaich
Weather Fine
(Min./Max.: 4.2 °C/5.2 °C; Pressure: 1032.3 mbar; Humidity: 54.8%; Dew point: -4.1 °C; Wind Speed: 7.7 km/h; Precipitation: 0.0mm)
Distance 16.22 km
Time Taken 3 hours 26 Mins
Ascent 643 metres
Accompanied by Emma, Milo and Inca
Munro Count Meall Chuaich
Peaks Climbed Meall Chuaich
Layby 94 on the A9 - The start location

Layby 94 on the A9 – The start location

When we chose the Cairngorms as our honeymoon location I would have been happy if we had managed one decent day in the mountains. By decent i mean not getting blown over but getting some semblance of a view from the tops. Hey, I am not greedy, any kind of view will do and I am not bothered if it is cloudy. Maybe this was a talk ask. The weather had been awful recently but for some unknown reason, we had had the best February weather I can remember. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were perfect; blue skies, no clouds, amazing visibility. We had took full advantage of this, nailing Cairn Gorm, Creagan a’ Chaise and Sgor Gaoith respectively. Thursday was a little overcast but a rest day did no one any harm anyway, but today was business as usual. But it was our last full day (and my birthday :) ) so we decided to take in a peak on the way home. Something close to the A9. A mountain near the Drumochter Pass

Running along the broad track towards Meall Chuaich

Running along the broad track towards Meall Chuaich

Drumochter is one of those places that feels so barren, even though the busy A9 that dissects is always busy. I have had some memorable trips in this area including an epic ‘white-out’ with Graham on Beinn Udlamain. But there is something about this area that I just do not like. It seems that even when it is sunny, it remains gloomy. None the less, there are ‘easy wins’ in close proximity to the A9 and the fact that it was directly on the route of journey home was an added bonus. We wanted something quick and fast and a peak we could run. We chose Meall Chuaich, a round and featureless hill that if I was honest, did not intill me with much enthusiasm. But the dogs needed some exercise and the weather was yet again amazing so we decided to get involved. Continue reading »
DateTuesday 26th February 2013 Map of Start Location
Start LocationHoliday Cottage
WeatherClear Skies
(Min./Max.: 2.4 °C/6.1 °C; Pressure: 1036.8 mbar; Humidity: 56.0%; Dew point: -4.0 °C; Wind Speed: 2.1 km/h; Precipitation: 0.0mm)
Distance9.07km
Time Taken1 Hour 31 minutes
Ascent496 metres
Accompanied byMilo
Graham Count Creagan a'Chaise
Peaks ClimbedCreagan a’Chaise
Cairn on the summit of Creagan a'Chaise

Cairn on the summit of Creagan a’Chaise

It was not intentional to book our honeymoon cottage directly at the foot of a Graham but I certainly was not going to complain and with the summit only about 4km as the crow flies, it offered the opportunity for a quick smash and grab one afternoon. Arriving back mid-afternoon from a day in Inverness (to sort the stuck handbrake on the car), I decided to have a quick blast up the hill with Milo.

Creagan a’Chaise is the highest point on the long ridge of the Cromdale Hills. The summit looked interesting, there is a huge cairn commemorating Queen Victoria’s jubilee. We left the cottage and headed straight up a track that hugged the Milton Burn. When the track ended, I took a direct line for the summit. With lots of sheep in the area, I left Milo on the harness which was a wise choice because he was certainly on fire and pulling like a steam train.

It was a little rough underfoot but I managed to run most of the ascent and once on the plateau, I picked up a small track that headed straight for the summit. The views from the top were immense and the snow-capped Cairngorms looked amazing. I was even treated to a low flying fighter plane hurtling through Strath Avon. Continue reading »
Date Sunday 19th February 2012 White Coomb Start Location
Start Location Parking Space next to Cattle Grid near The Megget Stone
Weather Sunny and cloud free summits
(5.4°C, 64.3% Humidity, 6.4km/h Wind Speed)
Distance 8.0 km
Time Taken 1 Hours 50 Mins
Ascent 389 metres
Accompanied by Emma, Milo and Inca
Corbett Count White Coomb
Peaks Climbed Broad Law
Emma and Inca run over towards the summit of  Broad Law

Emma and Inca run over towards the summit of Broad Law

A couple of jaunts in the Pentland Hills withstanding, it is hard to believe that it had been close to five months since I had done any fellrunning of note. We awoke to an amazing day in Dunfermline and when Emma suggested some hill action I was keen to get involved especially as a planned trip to the Lake District had been cancelled. With a quick blast in mind I considered some of the Corbetts, Grahams or Donalds, south of Edinburgh. A quick browse on Walk Highlands and I suggested Broad Law. Only an hour or so away by car and the added benefit of an elevated start location, great stuff!

We rustled together some food (well Emma did), piled the dogs in the car and set off south. Once we left the city limits behind the views opened up and with a fresh, cold day, the visibility was awesome. This was going to be a cracker! The starting point was near The Megget Stone at the highest point of the minor road from Tweedsmuir to St Mary’s Loch. Our guide noted there is parking for just one car otherwise it is a 1km trudge up the hill from an alternate, larger parking area. No point in adding any additional work so we drove up the steep hill.

Continue reading »
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