Petestack Blog

22 July 2014

Not exactly ‘Cluanie’!

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 9:15 pm

It’s known as the ‘Cluanie Horseshoe’, but what a daft name for a circuit that’s only really a horseshoe when taken from the north, with many miles of road separating the logical starting point up Glen Affric from Cluanie just a short crow’s flight to the south and no remotely tidy way to link its Munros and Tops from its ‘named’ side! So perhaps it might be better termed the ‘Cralaig Horseshoe’ when it’s readily identifiable with A’ Chralaig as its dominant (highest) peak and you’ve also got Coire na Cralaig and Lochan na Cralaig in there? But (call it what you will) post the question on Facebook…

dig out the bike to cycle in by Loch Affric or take the shorter drive to mount a bloody-minded assault from the south?

And you get the answer from Marie Meldrum…

Bike in, with me… TOMORROW!!!

So that’s exactly what we did. Except that tomorrow’s now yesterday and we had to chuck in a bonus Corbett as well (!) to give a day’s total of not quite 12 miles cycling and nearly 21 miles on foot, with c.1,500 and 9,000ft of ascent respectively for the two modes of transport…

2014-07-21map1 2014-07-21map2

But, since it would take me pretty well the 10 hours 38 minutes that took us (including a good couple of hours for bike stashing/recovery and leisurely food/camera stops) to describe the day in terms that do it justice, I’m just going to leave a selection of photos to speak largely for themselves with a few quick observations to get going. Like…

  • Total midge hell as we unloaded the van in an alternating flurry of semi-preparation and sweary ‘dancing’.
  • That lovely, atmospheric start (once midge-free!) to the traverse with morning mist drifting in and out of our space.
  • Marie’s belatedly-discovered, slow-burning lobster impersonation after declining the sunscreen she didn’t need but insisted I needed now.
  • Multiple ridge-crossing deer with young apparently (initially) oblivious of our presence on the rise up to Drochaid an Tuill Easaich.
  • Those lovely, broad, runnable ridges that don’t feel like the rugged ‘West Coast’ hills we know and love at all (perhaps because they’re not really?).
  • Stunning views from Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries to Torridon and beyond.
  • And Marie’s prolonged encounter with that too-cool-to-run mountain hare pair.

2014-07-21marie1 2014-07-21pete1

2014-07-21pete2 2014-07-21ridge1

2014-07-21deer1 2014-07-21deer2

2014-07-21marie2 2014-07-21ridge2

2014-07-21ridge3 2014-07-21ridge4

2014-07-21marie3 2014-07-21marie4

2014-07-21pete3 2014-07-21ridge5

2014-07-21ridge6 2014-07-21ruin1

2014-07-21ruin2 2014-07-21corbett1

2014-07-21corbett2 2014-07-21corbett3

2014-07-21marie5 2014-07-21pete4

2014-07-21marie6 2014-07-21corbett4

2014-07-21corbett5 2014-07-21marie7

2014-07-21marie8 2014-07-21bikes

28 July 2013

Back of beyond

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 11:58 am

Mullach na Dheiragain’s not the sort of hill you climb by accident. Being a long way from anywhere, you have to really want it, and I did!

Having made a complete traverse of the Carn Eige range from Toll Creagach to the twin tops of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan one big winter weekend in 2008, I was left wanting this single awkward Munro and the remaining Tops of Gleann Sithidh till it finally dawned on me that they were appropriately accessible from the west by cycling into Iron Lodge. So that’s what I did yesterday, with just two points of real note to report:

  1. When leaving the main road at Ardelve (opposite side of Loch Long from Dornie), don’t do as I did and drive as far as you can to Camas-luinie because that puts some tortuously overgrown single-track with multiple gates between you and the main track up Glen Elchaig. Far better to go in by the Inverinate Estate sign for Killilan a mile-and-a-half earlier (good track all the way), which is how I came back out again!
  2. Not even in ‘The Year of the Cleg’ 2013 have I experienced continuous cleg torture to match the Iron Lodge afternoon shift, with 10% action to 90% swatting and attempted evasion probably a generous estimate of my usable time as I struggled to pack my camera, throw on my helmet and cycle off without even stopping to dig out my gloves!

2013-07-27ironlodge1 2013-07-27ironlodge2

2013-07-27ironlodge3 2013-07-27gleannsithidh

2013-07-27mullach 2013-07-27ceathreamhnanwest

2013-07-27ceathreamhnan 2013-07-27southwest

2013-07-27stucbheag 2013-07-27mullardoch

2013-07-27ironlodge4 2013-07-27map

31 October 2011

October blog post

Filed under: Cycling,Running,Walking — admin @ 6:42 pm

So it’s nearly two months since my last post, my last chance to add an October 2011 link to the blog archive, and I’m just dashing off a brief report of a pretty momentous weekend involving a trip to Culra bothy for Carn Dearg as Jamie Bankhead’s last Munro…

Now Culra’s really quite a long way from anywhere, so I’ve chopped out a larger area/smaller scale map than usual to show that, with our MTB tracks in blue, Saturday walk in red and my Sunday morning run in green (NB all drawn since I wasn’t carrying a GPS). And we had an ‘interesting’ bike ride into Culra in deteriorating conditions late Friday (arriving c.midnight) followed by a wild Saturday afternoon on Carn Dearg, for which congrats to Jamie of course! Then, having survived the post-compleation [sic] party in good shape after the remaining half bottle of my malt whisky went AWOL (ie not drunk by me), I ran up Sron Coire na h-Iolaire and Beinn Bheoil on Sunday morning to make good my negligence in narrowly bypassing the cairn of the former on a previous Ben Alder/Beinn Bheoil circuit without realising it was a counting ‘Top’ (the things you sometimes have to do to claim a hill you’ve to all intents and purposes already climbed!). But at least I got rather better (‘improving’) conditions for this despite nearly getting blown off my feet descending north off Beinn Bheoil, and we enjoyed an altogether more pleasant cycle out (with some carrying where the track disappeared into Loch Pattack) in the afternoon before the weather turned again (deteriorating later and as horrible as Saturday today).

16 October 2010

Tour of Tractorland

Filed under: Climbing,Cycling,Walking — admin @ 2:10 pm

Just back from a wee trip east with Jamie B, with some contrasting climbing at Dunkeld and Ley Quarry sandwiching an ascent of eastmost Munro Mount Keen…

Stopped off at Polney Crag on Thursday to climb Kestrel Crack (Severe), Consolation Corner (V Diff), an approximation to Beech Wall (HS) compromised by wet streaks (the top corner was dripping) and the steeply delightful little gem of Ivy Crack (VS), which I fortunately managed to lead quite nicely under the scrutiny of Graeme Watson and partner, who’d done it just before we got to it.

Next stop Mount Keen, but how to get there when it wasn’t our originally-planned hill day, the 28-year-old map we dug out of my glove compartment neither shows the current main road nor extends far enough north and we were looking for the wrong glen? Try just driving round and round Angus in the dark, marvelling at the number of tractors with trailers on the road (yes, it’s prime farming country) and trying to reconcile the signage with the map till the penny drops and you’re heading up the right glen! After which we dossed for the night before cycling up Glen Mark from the Glen Esk road end, stashing the bikes somewhat prematurely above the Ladder Burn when we started to run into a few gravel traps (turns out we could quite easily have taken them most of the way to the summit) and continuing into the mist and chilly breeze by foot.

Quite a few folk making their way up as we got back to a much busier car park by lunchtime with Jamie determined to squeeze some more climbing out of the journey home. So tried phoning my mate Campbell in Kirriemuir re. a guide to/possible company at the quarry there (too recently developed to make North-East Outcrops?), but decided to skip it when he turned out to be heading home from Yorkshire and thought we’d have to go to Dundee to get one. So off to Ley Quarry instead, eventually finding this hole in the ground (which Jamie seemed to quite like!) after a few more little diversions with many more tractors and stopping to play on the few ‘easy’ routes there. Of which Jamie did three and I did one (twice!), repeating the corner of Cat Scratch Fever and finding its innocuous-sounding F4 (a first outdoor bolt route for this sport-climbing sceptic!) pretty well equivalent to full-on, pumpy VS. But all good things come to an end (or maybe all holes in the ground come to a good end?) and we were back on the road not too much later and home by a pretty reasonable 8:30pm.

31 July 2010

Weight and ‘Racing Weight’

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 9:27 pm

So you’re an ‘endurance athlete’ and lean is mean, but it’s not always easy to stay lean and mean when you’re built like a 5’11” brick and naturally greedy! Losing the weight once is easy because a simple rule like just saying no to everything is easy enough to understand, but keeping it all off when you start to realise you can still get away with greed if you’re active enough (to quote John L Parker Jr from Once A Runner, ‘If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything’) is much, much harder.

So what can you do when the greed’s taken over and you’re training for something important? Well, apart from the obvious ‘don’t be greedy’ (and I do try, succeed in, and even enjoy the discipline of that aim much of the time), I have various strategies to deploy depending on the scale of my fall from grace. The most drastic (so reserved for the very last resort) is to weigh absolutely everything I eat, calculate the calories and record it all. As I did throughout June 2006, when a pretty active month saw me losing a stone off an average of 2,750 calories a day (suggesting that I must have been burning well over 4,000)! Next up is writing down what I eat (still a pain) but not actually weighing it. But my preferred method (for when I need such a thing) of dealing with the problem is simply to track my weight, as I started doing this April with the West Highland Way Race in mind and have carried through to the end of July to maintain the discipline for my recent Ramsay’s Round…

Now, while I’d think that most of this graph is pretty self-explanatory, it might help to clarify a few points:

  • Since all weights were taken before breakfast with my SECA electronic scale (which I believe to be close to medically accurate and resolves to 0.2lb), all those interesting daily ups and downs (sometimes clearly influenced by hydration or lack of it) are genuine!
  • There are no readings for two days when I was camping with the school (the D of E expeditions), two days when I’d already been out running for hours by ‘breakfast time’ (WHW Race and Ramsay’s Round) and two days when I was away for the Cateran Trail Race (when I could have taken the scale but didn’t think of it in time).
  • While the obvious low point (158.6lb) of 23 May also marked was no surprise to me (being the day after getting cooked on the greater traverse of Cruachan), its companion a few days later (following a pleasant night run from Milngavie to Balmaha) is a little harder to grasp.

So that’s ‘weight’, but how about ‘Racing Weight’? That’s the title of a recent book (and website) by renowned sports nutritionist and triathlete Matt Fitzgerald that I’ve just bought and read. It’s primarily aimed at endurance athletes (not such a bad reason for me to be reading it, then?), but surely both readable and relevant enough to be of interest way beyond its target audience. Now, perhaps (like me) you’re naturally wary of something billed as a ‘5-step plan’ to anything (in this case ‘optimal body composition and better performance’), but there’s no need to be because it’s really good stuff and, as always with proposed ‘systems’, you can weigh things up (metaphorically speaking!) before making up your own mind how much of it to adopt. So I’ve got started with this lying toad of a hand-held Omron body-fat monitor (no ‘athlete’ mode, see?) trying to tell me I’m currently 16–17% body-fat (hope not!), which would place me roughly on the 75th to 80th percentile of 40–49 year old men as tabulated on p32 and probably make my initial target for improvement or estimated ‘optimal performance weight’ about 156lb. Which you might correctly deduce that I’d find tough to get to and even harder to maintain (although you should also know about the 8 Percent Rule… sorry, original web link now dead), but perhaps isn’t really so very far (lying ‘toad’ or not!) from my gut feeling that anything below 160lb would be a pretty lean, mean weight for me to make for big races and challenges. Except that I’m thinking of weighing in kilos in future (despite 72.7kg being sufficiently uninspiring to make targeting 72.0kg sound almost attractive!) because it makes cross-checking various references so much easier (have I lost you all yet?)…

Must also stress that this book is about so much more than just weight (like eating and training and all kinds of things), but I’d be struggling to sum it all up concisely here. So perhaps the simplest, strongest endorsement I can give it is just to say that I liked it so much (finding it so consistently interesting and illuminating) that, despite the stacks of running books already in the house, I’ve just ordered two more (Brain Training for Runners and Run) by the same author.

Have to say that’s us finished for tonight with the book reviews and history of a distance runner who finds weight tricky, but suppose I might tell you what I did today with yet more Lochaber rain. So, following Wednesday’s little MTB epic and two good, short hill/trail runs Thursday and Friday (not yet running as freely as I was before the Ramsay!), the bike had to get the nod again this afternoon (it’s proving to be really quite rejuvenating sometimes when I’m a bit run-out) and I set off to find out where the interesting-looking forestry track starting just short of Glencoe actually goes. And the answer is currently nowhere, although it appears to be still under construction (top part just rough hardcore awaiting surfacing?) and I might have missed a trick in not checking for connections to the mapped path apparently cutting across this dead end (hmmm, need to go back for that!).

28 July 2010

MTB mini epic

Filed under: Cycling — admin @ 11:32 pm

So here’s one from the lunatic fringe of Ramsay’s Round recoveries…

Three days after your weekend triumph, you’re tired of sitting ‘recovering’ in front of the computer, think you need some exercise and decide to go for a wee bike ride. So off you go up the stony track to Luibeilt (a wee bike ride, aye right!) but, instead of simply turning round when you get there, you decide it might be fun to take the bike through Glen Nevis (take being a more appropriate word than ride when much of the upper glen is unrideable) and come back by the Lairig Mor. Now of course that’s going to require a lot more effort and you didn’t bring anything to eat or drink but, hey, you’re Superman, you can run West Highland Ways and Ramsay’s Rounds, you do endurance and it’s going to be fun (36 miles of fun to be precise)!

So do I know anyone like that and would I tell you if I did? Dunno, but I can tell you that it was exactly what I needed and it was fun! ;-)

12 July 2010

Bikes, dogs and a Devil’s dram for Dario

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 11:56 pm

Today was important. It’s a year to the day since Dario Melaragni died so suddenly on Lochnagar and, by decree of the Subversive Firefighting Pirate (sorry… forum link now defunct), West Highland Way Race followers everywhere were going to be taking a wee dram in his memory at 8:00pm. Now, I’d decided to take mine at the top of the Devil’s Staircase (scene of my own little memorial run last July), but was also out for a ride on the mountain bike earlier…

Not got much to say about the bike ride except that I was working hard (nearly 20 miles round the Loch with an additional 4-mile diversion up and down the forestry track above the mausoleum in under 100 minutes door-to-door) and the main ’round the Loch’ part (three times topping 30mph according to the GPS) taking about 68 mins. Which sounds OK for a MTB, but positively pedestrian compared to our young Olympic hopeful Ben Miller’s recent sub-41 on his road bike (something I somewhat disbelievingly have to believe when he was averaging about my top speed today)! But today’s ride was also noteworthy for me getting ‘bitten’ by a dog, as this wee collie about halfway up the forestry track managed to get a nibble (‘she’s never done that before’) at my lower left leg before her owner could get her on the lead. Fortunately (and unusually for me) I was wearing leggings and with no skin broken there seemed little real intent to take my leg off, but it was still a slightly disconcerting experience for someone who’s naturally scared of dogs and I can still just about feel it hours later.

And so to tonight’s dram up the top of the Devil’s. It was pouring just before I set off (giving myself 80 minutes to jog up the ‘long’ side when I’d normally make it over and down to Altnafeadh in about an hour) so I was somewhat overdressed for summer evening running in leggings (another pair), half-zip top, waterproofs, WHW Race buff (the 2010 one with Dario’s name on it) and gloves, but mindful that I might get cold and wet hanging about up there. And, while it didn’t actually rain again, I was quite tired from the hard bike ride (no coasting when you’re pedalling downhill as well as up!), arrived with 15 minutes to spare (during which some walkers came past heading for Kinloch) and was ultimately quite glad of the extra clothing. Then, at 8:00pm on the dot, I breached the hip-flask (filled with Highland Park), made a silly wee speech (yes, really!) and wandered to-and-fro between the twin cairns for about eight minutes until the flask (bigger than it looks?) was empty. And then I jogged back to Kinloch, passing the walkers just beyond the Allt a’ Choire Odhair-mhoir and getting home just before 9:00pm.

For the record, the photos are awful because I took them on my phone and I never take photos with my phone because phones are for phoning and cameras are for photography! But perhaps we can forgive them their awfulness when it’s the spirit (literally in this case!) that matters here. And, more importantly than that, perhaps we can spare another thought for the wee man whose race is still changing lives a year after he left us. On which note I could tell you what I said up at the cairns, but would rather point you towards Keith’s poem (originally posted to his blog on 21 July 2009 but now also to the WHW Race Forum topic linked above), which says it all so succinctly.

13 April 2010

Running and cycling

Filed under: Cycling,Running — admin @ 10:40 pm

Having run 90 miles last week, found that surprisingly straightforward but knowing it’s still a big week by my standards, I thought it might be fun to mix in some mountain biking (something that’s still pretty new to me) to give me a break from the pounding for a day or two. So I’ve been out on the bike these past two evenings, getting to the Dam (via Penstock, at c.12 miles and 2,100 ft of ascent) last night and Blar a’ Chaorainn (aka Lundavra, at c.18 miles and 2,700 ft) tonight… taking nearly as long as I might to run the same courses and discovering just how rough even what I’d normally consider easy ground can be when ridden on a bicycle (except for pure road trips like ’round the Loch’, which I can ride in half the time I can run)! But I’m also thinking I’m starting to handle the bike a bit better, learning to keep steering straighter uphill (it’s not pedal power that’s the limiting factor here) without getting caught in so many gravel/stone traps and riding down some stuff that I might not have taken on before (even if I’m still too much of a wuss to really go for it and took the chicken run of the Mamore Lodge road rather than the path tonight).

Should be running again tomorrow… dunno where yet, but guess I’ll be looking for at least 10 miles (so ‘no rest for the wicked’, although I took a rest day on Sunday)!

24 January 2010

Twisting and turning

Filed under: Climbing,Cycling — admin @ 10:41 pm

Just had a great weekend with my brother Angus when we climbed the classic Twisting Gully (III,4) on Stob Coire nan Lochan yesterday and went mountain biking all round the Torlundy/Leanachan area today.

Had headed to SCNL with Original/Raeburn’s Route in mind, but changed our objective when it became apparent that we’d have to wait some time to get started on that. So lined up behind one other party (not apparent as we left the foot of Raeburn’s) on Twisting, which proved to be a lovely route with the main difficulties concentrated low down and over quite quickly, but quite bold for the grade at the crux on the day with most of the obvious gear well buried. Have to say the Coire was busy with Glen Coe looking the place to be from MWIS and SAIS forecasts, but still good to see most of the more amenable classics getting climbed with Original/Raeburn’s, SC Gully, Moonshadow, Twisting Gully, Twisting Grooves, Dorsal Arete (mobbed as usual, although we could have been first on if we’d wanted it!), Boomerang Gully (+ Arete?) and maybe more seeing ascents. Helicopter also spied buzzing up and down Coire Gabhail as we returned over Stob Coire nan Lochan, but believed to be on exercise?

So that was Twisting, but how about the turning? Well, I’m afraid that’s just some silly alliteration (maybe something to do with pedalling?) that popped into my head while trying to tie today’s mountain bike ride into the same blog post. Which means I can now tell you that I took my nice new bike, we borrowed a bike for Angus (his is in Seattle!) from Noel, and went riding for a good three hours. During which we met some friends at the finish of the Lochaber AC Leanachan Race (on today), I learned a lot (like I’m pretty fit but a novice rider, both of which I already knew) and probably looked like a complete noob except that nobody except Angus was there to see most of the time!

Sorry the MTB photo isn’t even slightly sharp, but the only sharp ‘action’ shot of the batch was also the least dynamic…

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