Petestack Blog

29 April 2017

Long way to Leum Uilleim

Filed under: Running — admin @ 8:08 pm

Last time I did Leum Uilleim (yes, the ‘Trainspotting’ hill!), I took the train from Fort William to Corrour. But today I did the ‘intégrale’ from my own door…

It’s a route I’d had my eye on for years with Leum Uilleim’s bulky presence looming large in so many expeditions to the east and me liking to join all the local dots, but I’d never decided exactly where to go and was still deciding on my way round! So I took the new hydro track up to Loch Eilde Mor, along the initially muddy path which becomes so much nicer as it climbs away from the Loch between Meall na Duibhe and Meall Beag to Meall na Cruaidhe, past the Ciaran Bothy, round the three tops of my peak, down across the foot of Coir’ a’ Bhric Mòr on a long, pathless section back to the monument, and home by the Blackwater Dam and Ciaran Path. At 21.8 miles of mostly runnable ground and easy gradients it’s not a huge outing, but still quite a meaty one where the terrain’s rarely properly ‘fast’. The short leg from Leum Uilleim’s summit to the South Top is a little more gnarly than the carefree ground before, with the highest point of this last top (approached in clag which limited my views from when I left the first summit till I was descending) apparently a kind of unmarked fin/micro ridge north of the only visible (but tiny) cairn, but the long, pathless section was (despite occasional bobbly and/or wet bits) mostly pretty decent going. Despite the exaggerated size of the Ciaran Water as mapped, all fords could be paddled at no more than ankle depth and, apart from a pair of ‘Corrour’ walkers on Beinn a’ Bhric (the West Top), I met no-one between Loch Eilde Mor and the Blackwater Dam.

22 April 2017

What I already knew about shoes and insoles

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:18 pm

It’s common sense really, with long experience and the generally good judgement that comes with same not providing magic immunity from the simple facts… the proper place for discarded running shoes and tired insoles is the bin, not a rack in the porch in case they still prove ‘useful’ sometime! So I’ve just spent weeks (or is that months?) squeezing a bit more ‘life’ from various shoes I’d stopped using years ago while I considered what to get next… should I be surprised that I’ve had to work round a couple of ankle/foot injury niggles? No, of course not, and, having finally got some strong, supportive, new trail shoes with good sole thickness and made up some more of the magic insoles, things are rapidly becoming clear in a what-I-already-knew kind of way!

So what did I get and why did it take me so long? Answers: Mizuno Wave Mujins and I was unsure about size. I used to take size 46.5 in the (sadly now discontinued) Wave Harriers, but necessarily moved up to 47 for the last two pairs I bought and have been carefully hoarding, having just broken out the first of those two quite recently. But I don’t want to trash the irreplaceable Harriers on runs that don’t need them (they’re basically the ‘hilliest’ shoe I still use), so still wanted something for more ‘everyday’ courses. The Mujins looked the ticket at attractive online prices, but (without being able to try on) what size? 47 because I now need a 47 Harrier, or 46.5 because an old pair of 46.5 Ascends I should have chucked long ago still fits just as well? So I ordered the 47s, had doubts, thought I’d better try the 46.5s (which came yesterday), spent some time comparing indoors then finally thought I’m committing to at least one pair of 46.5s and kicked myself out to run in them hoping I was right. And I was. So I ordered a second pair and arranged return of the 47s (not normal behaviour for me because I basically only buy online when I’m sure) when I got in, then wore them again today for a longer run to Luibeilt with spontaneous return over Glas Bheinn finishing down the steep new hydro track to test those toes. (The differences between 46.5 and 47 were quite subtle, but both felt ample in the toes where 47 seemed just that tad overlong in the heel, and I was right!) So there’s an old pair of Ascends in the bin, another old pair of something got chucked a week or two back, with two more old pairs (Hokas and Asics road shoes) due to join the Ascends out there, and the remaining niggles are already subsiding fast. But we’re not surprised, are we? Hence the subject, ‘What I already knew about shoes and insoles’!

15 April 2017

Ignore, monitor, stop!

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:45 pm

It’s something most experienced runners probably develop a kind of sixth sense for… we all get (injury) niggles, but what matters and what doesn’t? Can I just keep running blithely on (today, tomorrow, next week), do I need to watch this or should I stop now? I’ve basically developed my own three-point scale (ignore, monitor, stop) and it’s worked for years. Of the three categories, ‘monitor’ is possibly the most interesting because ‘ignore’ and ‘stop’ are pretty clear-cut self-explanatory! Twelve days ago I followed several weeks of five-days-on, two-days-off, increased mileage with five consecutive rest days to give a front-of-ankle niggle (irritated tendon or tendon sheath?) more time to settle. So this was a classic ‘monitor’ case, which I then put to the test last Saturday on a planned 10-miler to Lairigmòr and back which somehow became a 13-mile hill run with a spontaneous diversion to ‘return’ over Mam na Gualainn and Beinn na Caillich… a change that was both tempting on a gorgeous April late afternoon and I felt justified as largely slower, more time on feet than pounding. And pleased to say it was fine, with the ankle feeling great and nothing to monitor or ignore, but then that niggle in one ankle was replaced by a different one in the other foot on a short village run the very next day. So another day off, three days on (with respectable mileage) and another rest day yesterday because I’d arranged to run with someone today and was prepared for another longer rest period afterwards if necessary. And, while I felt said niggle at times running through Glen Coe and over the Devil’s Staircase with Angus Mehan today, it actually feels better tonight than it did yesterday. So another case of play-it-by-ear, listen-to-your-body, but I’m confident it’s just ‘monitor’, not serious and can be properly dismissed by listening to said body as necessary…

Oh yes, and I enjoyed running with Angus. He’s the son of a friend, training for the Glencoe Marathon and really running on this class of rough trails for the first time, so it was great to be able to help by guiding him over ground I know well and hopefully trying to get across some useful stuff. :-)

3 January 2017


Filed under: Running — admin @ 5:23 pm

It didn’t start as a plan to run 372 consecutive days. But salvaging just over 50% mostly ‘token’ running days from a busy final two months of 2015 seemed like pretty poor show, so I set about chasing a January ‘streak’ to make up. Then continued into the start of February for good measure before realising it was a leap year and starting to get further silly ideas…

So how often do you get the chance to run the whole of a calendar leap year? Unless you’re expecting to live through the year 2100, just once every four years, and, if you are, not quite even that! So you’ve been running daily since 29 December and haven’t ‘wasted’ much pre-2016 streak… what could be more natural than targetting the calendar 2016? Except that you also need three days of 2017 to balance the three from 2015, making a total of 3 + 366 + 3 = 372. It’s irrefutable ‘Peter logic’, so don’t argue with it!

The rules? Basically at least three miles and (later) half an hour a day, but I’ve accepted over 25 minutes and under three miles (same as ‘Marcothon’ rules) on some occasions. Personally I’d be looking for at least three miles on the road, but normally only run on roads to get to hills and trails, so have counted some 2.6-to-3.0-milers (less than 1% of the total, and mostly back in January and February) involving steep/rough trail, of which there is plenty round here to slow you down. Most of my runs have met the dual criteria of being at least three miles and at least half an hour, and I’d insist on that if starting again knowing I was going for the year.

What about illnesses or injuries? You just have to keep going! I’ve had to run a few days with leg injury niggles, one with probable food poisoning, a couple with a stinking cough/cold and a couple of weeks with significant upper-body discomfort after I fell over a trestle outside my workshop door in pitch dark! The leg injury niggles were mainly my own fault. Back in March we had one-mile Sport Relief walk/run at the school and I was out supervising. Walked the first half-mile lap of pavement in my regular working clothes (including soft leather shoes), then stupidly ran the second, caught a lot of kids and finished with very tight hams. So might have wrecked the whole thing just two-and-a-half months in, but thought I might as well try my daily run because I’d blown it anyway if I couldn’t, so forced myself to jog one of my shorter courses that evening and managed to run it off over a few (?) days. The food-poisoned and other health-compromised runs weren’t a lot of fun, but I was far enough into the year for all of them not to take no for an answer!

Travel, visitors, busy days, other activities and/or nasty weather? Still no excuse! Had to suss out tiresome logistics like running after (non-running) winter hill days or running first thing before supervising DofE Bronze day 1 and evening after return from day 2. So, with other trips away, courses, meetings, concerts, heavy works in the garden etc., a fair number of runs overall at times (or in states) that weren’t exactly convenient. Likewise the weather… plenty of foul, wet and/or dark runs endured as well as the odd storm (e.g. Barbara and Conor over Christmas 2016) braved. It’s really not practical, this every-day-come-what-may lark, but (while acknowledging that others have achieved far longer streaks that are not for me) good to have done it once!

So how do I feel? Tired. Strong but slow. It’s a completely different challenge than training for and/or completing an ultra run, and goes on even longer! I’ve probably notched up one of my lowest-mileage years through the preponderance of shorter runs in this restless daily programme, but still find myself creaking in a few places and (literally?) miles from my fittest, fastest or lightest shape. Also thought ongoing Achilles and under-heel niggles might be a problem earlier in the year, but curiously seemed to eventually run them off months ago. Does this mean some bits have actually come out stronger despite the daily, no-rest bashing? Dunno, but certainly interested to see how they respond as well as what happens re. general performance/fluidity with the normality of running most days restored after a short break.

Would I recommend it? Well, I’m neither going to say try it nor don’t! Having some concerns even about the 31-day ‘Marcothon’ (which I’ve just completed by accident) as a popular challenge, I’d have to say that pig-headed continuous streaks may do you more harm than good and pig-headed continuous years may do you more harm than pig-headed continuous months. If you’re a regular runner with the experience to classify your own injury niggles as ‘ignore’, ‘take care’ or ‘stop’, I wouldn’t try to stop you any more than I’d want you to try stopping me. But I don’t think you’ll perform at your best on a continuous streak. I really don’t. While I have the undoubted satisfaction of having set a daft target and stuck to it, whether I’ve come out of it (despite current tiredness) with a stronger-than-otherwise base for a more-sensibly-maintainable programme of whatever mileage remains to be seen…

1 January 2017

Light streaming from the hill

Filed under: Running — admin @ 2:34 pm

A striking moment on this first day of 2017… I’d run up past the Grey Mare’s waterfall to the marble bench, then along to the cattle grid from where I can see the big pinnacle of the Aonach Eagach where I’d scattered part of my father’s ashes to wish him a Happy New Year. And then, just as I’d started back and was coming to the point at which that pinnacle’s lost from view, the corrie and glen my side of the pinnacles were lit up by streaming rays from the low sun behind the ridge to the south. Now perhaps it was just serendipitous timing, but still enough to stop me briefly to tell him again that I loved him. And then that magic light was gone, but you can see why folk have wanted to interpret natural phenomena as ‘signs’ since time immemorial! :-)

12 December 2016

The Amazing Grace of Running

Filed under: Running — admin @ 11:50 pm

Make of the title what you will — an elegance I’ve admired in others but never had, a quasi-religious reference to the ‘soul-saving’ properties of a physical activity, a nonsensical attempt to compare said activity to a tune in triple time — but here are some thoughts about intangible things set down in something approaching tangible form…

Having just spent a weekend with runners (for the FBU London Pirate’s 50th) and talked at breakfast yesterday of the essential simplicity of running (meaning both its essential simplicity and indispensability), I was driving back up the road from Strathaven listing to a discussion about Amazing Grace on Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross on Radio Scotland. Now here’s a song (and this was discussed) with resonance beyond its more obvious religious overtones… loved, admired and inspiring people the world over for its ‘universality’, memorable sincerity and (despite its association with the tune New Britain we now call Amazing Grace coming 28 years after its author’s death) perfect marriage of powerfully economical words and music. Ask me what other songs I can think of with these qualities and I might say A Man’s a Man for a’ That, Auld Lang Syne (to its original, rather than most popular, tune), Over the Rainbow (yes, to me truly a perfect song!) and… I’m sure there are more but I’d really have to start thinking!

So I was driving back up the road thinking about the ‘running’ conversation… how running is one of the simplest of all activities (requiring less kit and therefore being more spontaneous than, for example, sailing, climbing or even cycling), how I can just grab my shoes and run, how running can be just running while I’m out no matter what kind of mess my house/work/life has been left behind in, how it provides the clearest thinking time because (I suppose) you’re both benefitting from the exercise/environment and free of these other normally unavoidable things… and then it came to me… ‘the Amazing Grace of Running’. It’s been ‘saving’ me for years and will doubtless continue to do so; I’ve said before that ‘running is the solution, not the problem’, so let’s just tweak that a little to suggest that, in running, ‘I once was lost, but now am found’, and in thinking while running, ‘was blind but now I see.’ But then you might also wonder what I’m playing at by entering another big race having said (in the same blog!) ‘while running is still the solution, racing is part of the problem’ and that’s ‘why you’ll *never* see me grace the starting line of that race again’? To which I can only plead that life changes, water flows under bridges and, in wanting to join the only race that could still do this to me once more, I’m ‘racing to run’ rather than ‘running to race’ so absolutely not returning to racing per se. It’s all going to be kept low-key and you’re not going to hear me talking about my goals because I don’t yet know what they are and don’t want to make rods for my own back by broadcasting them even if/when I do.

26 September 2016

Magic numbers

Filed under: Running — admin @ 8:01 pm

Today’s (great) odd numbers are 273 and 99. That’s 273 consecutive days running, 99 to get my three-day 2015/2017 overlaps, 96 to complete the calendar leap year of 2016 and 93 for the year from my start date, so sub-100 no matter how you look at it! :-)

1 September 2016

Two-thirds streak

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:44 pm

When you like balanced, even numbers, 248 and 124 has to be the best pair yet! :-)

8 July 2016

East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust

Filed under: Climbing,Cycling,Kinlochleven,Running,Walking — admin @ 10:55 am

Something potentially huge for this area, so please try to get to one of the meetings, folks!

From Andrew Baxter on Facebook:

Some really important meetings coming up next week to discuss how local residents can get involved in a bid for the community to own the Rio Tinto estates, so that the land is owned by the people who live here, not by a multinational company with remote shareholders.

The new East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust has been set up in response to Rio Tinto Aluminium’s announcement that they would review the Lochaber smelter. The Trust is very keen to see the smelter continuing, if at all possible, and sees an opportunity to work with parties that might run the power stations in Kinlochleven and Fort William, and others that could operate the smelter and/or develop other employment options in the area.

The role of the community trust would be to own the estate, stretching from Kinlochleven across to Laggan. The Trust will be community led, appointing unpaid voluntary directors. We need to demonstrate widespread community support, so please come along to one of our meetings to find out more:

Monday 11th July 7 p.m. Inverlochy Village Hall
Tuesday 12th July 7 p.m. The Leven Centre, Kinlochleven
Wednesday 13th July 7 p.m Caol Community Centre
Wednesday 13th July 8 p.m Kilmallie Hall
Thursday 14th July 7 p.m. Spean Bridge Community Hall

Please share.

1 July 2016

Half streak

Filed under: Running — admin @ 6:50 pm

(3 + 366 + 3) ÷ 2 = 186 = Friday 1 July, and still my extended ‘January’ plods on! I’ve been faster, fitter, lighter and done more miles at other times, but running every day is a different challenge…

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