Petestack Blog

24 June 2010

To ‘Ramsay’ or not?

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:44 pm

So let’s get one thing straight right at the start of this post… we’re talking about an absolutely elite hill-running challenge in Ramsay’s Round, and one that’s maybe beyond me even at the top of my game. It’s certainly something I’d regarded firmly as the preserve of altogether better runners before reading a few years ago of Richard Askwith’s long battle with the Bob Graham in Feet in the Clouds. But that got me thinking that maybe these things are just about possible for the more average of us (NB Richard finished immediately behind me in my first Ben Nevis Race) and, despite Ramsay’s generally being regarded as the harder challenge, concluding that perhaps I could do it if he could!

Now, in case you’re wondering why I’m talking about it here, it’s because I’ve been guilty of some speculation in the run-up to this year’s West Highland Way Race that I may never have a better chance at it (see all those months of rough hill and trail miles in the bank?) if I can arrange a swift recovery and some more good training for a mid/late July attempt. But of course it’s not as simple as that, so let’s look at some of the factors that might influence my chances either way…

For a start, I’d need to maintain something like the pace that took me briskly over the Mamores on my 2005 Tranter’s Round without the later loss of time over the Grey Corries (attributable to night running with an inadequate headtorch), descending from Ben Nevis (for which we can blame the tortuous descent to Achriabhach that forms no part of Ramsay’s Round) or, perhaps most significantly, just general, cumulative fatigue. To put all of that another way, an 18 hour Tranter’s is no way good enough for Ramsay’s and you’d really need to be looking at no worse than the 16 hour round I should have done as a marker for the bigger challenge. But then again, my 2005 Tranter’s came just 20 months or so after saying goodbye to my overweight thirties and before I’d run two decent West Highland Way Races, a good Cateran Trail and (my first really big distance) a quadruple Lairig Mor.

To continue balancing negatives against positives, I’m well aware that the great sextuple Ramsay’s completion of 25 June 2005 (in times ranging from 23:30 to 23:58) includes Mick James (who I’m not sure I’ve ever raced anywhere but has a significantly quicker WHW time), Olly Stephenson and Jamie Thin (both significantly quicker in any normal hill race but with slower WHW times than either of mine). So make of that what you will… to me it means I’m maybe out of my depth and maybe not! And, to keep musing in a similar vein, hardly any of our good Lochaber hill runners have done it (or even tried it to my knowledge), but it’s probably also true that equally few have done the big ultra trail races that I’ve done. So who knows?

To look on the bright side for a moment, covering c.60 miles with 28,500 ft of ascent (it’s always the ascent that tells in the end) in 24 hours surely requires good pace judgement rather than outright speed and I’m supposed to be good at that (or was before this year’s WHW!). So let’s take 18 hours to triple this year’s greater traverse of Cruachan (with its similar severity of terrain), give myself the remaining 6 hours to let the pace slow and consider whether it sounds possible?

To conclude the rationalisation on a fairly positive note, I’ve done all the hills before (most of them multiple times), know the route from Luibeilt to Corrour well and would only really be needing to recce the optimum route over Beinn na Lap and its neighbours round the north of Loch Treig to the Easains (likely to be done at night with the long eastern section being the most obvious place to be during the hours of darkness) to be sure of where I’m going. But then I’d still be needing that swift recovery from the WHW (looking reasonably likely after surviving a premature 2.9 mile jog last night and easier 4.6 mile walk up to the Penstock and back tonight) and some help from running friends to provide the pacing, support points and backup now regarded as both legitimate and highly desirable for this particular challenge.

So what to do, and how soon to start actively seeking assistance when I might just be wasting everyone’s time if I’m not fit to go? Anyone want to consider the case for and against before trying to talk me into or out of it? :-/

The new WHW pics below are from Angus…


  1. Go for it Peter!

    I’m not too familiar with the Ramsay round. I’ll follow your link next but challenges are what makes life so interesting. Yes you could rationally decide you couldn’t make it and so don’t try or you could go for it – fail but then you know you’re tried or succeed and the joy at accomplishing something you thought wasn’t possible would be tremendous!

    So go for it … you only live once.

    If I can help at all I will.

    Comment by John Kynaston — 25 June 2010 @ 6:53 am

  2. I say go for it too Peter.

    As John says “challenges are what makes life interesting”
    Just don’t rush your recovery from the WHW.

    If you need any help then let me know.


    Comment by Marco — 25 June 2010 @ 10:14 am

  3. Some more rationalisation from another jog last night and walk today (yes, I’m always thinking on the hoof)…

    While some might think me delusional for considering a Ramsay’s attempt when successful completions are rare beasts indeed and we’re not even hearing of many failed ones, perhaps not that many of those (and there are many!) I’d consider more likely candidates for their basic hill speed also have the big ultra experience that I’ve now got? And that’s where it starts to get really interesting re. pace judgement, because I’m thinking 3 mph will take you 60 miles in 20 hours (NB dealing with simple numbers here and not suggesting a 20 hour completion!), you’re going to be reduced to <= 1.5 mph on some ascents and rocky descents and will need to be running for the same time at (say) 5 mph to compensate, but probably rarely want to be going much quicker than that when letting rip at 8, 9 or 10 mph on the easier downhills is surely going to cost the quads dear? So it's all about sustaining the relatively modest pace that's maybe going to get you round without developing the fatigue that's going to stop you, and that's where I'm thinking I might just have a chance. Whatever, perhaps I am deluding myself, but I want to give it a go!

    Comment by admin — 26 June 2010 @ 11:51 pm

  4. Go for it Peter, no reason why you shouldn’t be as successful as any other, some of your previous event times show that!

    Life would be no fun if we only ever pitted ourselves against that which we know we can achieve!


    Comment by Alistair Olsen — 27 June 2010 @ 11:37 am

  5. Yes Peter, go for it. That’s probably something better for than the WHW Race since it is more climb. And it is on home soil.
    You can do this. Go Ramsey!

    Comment by Thomas — 27 June 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  6. Hi Peter, I don’t know much about the Ramsay, but I’ve reccied all the BG and a lot of the Paddy Buckley which I guess are similar in some ways. But as you know all these are different from the WHW, which needs a different kind of skill and fitness. The WHW is an event for runners, because there are no real climbs and the ground underfoot is very easy, but of course that means most people (from elite to average and probably further) will go much faster. The mountain rounds are for people who can climb well, descend rapidly, and travel over rough ground efficiently, all of which I’m sure you can do. All the successful BG people that I’ve talked to stress that it is vital to have a plan that you are pretty sure you can do, then keep to the times. Lose 20 minutes in the WHW and you can probably make it up because there are plenty of places where you can forget about where to put your feet and concentrate on grinding out some time; lose that much in one of the mountain rounds and the ground won’t let you catch up because it will be dictating your speed much more, and the mental stress of controlling each footfall gets at you. I think if you can cover individual sections (don’t know how many in the Ramsay but there are 5 in the BG) at the moment in the required time feeling pretty easy, then your WHW fitness should make it worth a go.

    If it’s any help, knowing that your WHW time is far better than mine, I think I could do a BG but not a Paddy Buckley (although the latter is shorter the climbs and ground underfoot are much more arduous) – I won’t have a shot this year (too much on) but may try next year. Also in my experience I think you recover from a long outing faster than a lot of people think (I guess age might help a bit with this?)- I would see how you feel on the sections a couple of weeks after the WHW and make a decision then.

    Very best of luck whatever your decision!

    Comment by Andy Cole — 27 June 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Andy, because it all helps!

    Re. relative difficulties of the three rounds, my understanding is probably (hardest first) Ramsay’s, Paddy Buckley and Bob Graham (interesting reversal of the raw mileage!), but doubt there can be much in it between Ramsay’s and the PB. Was also unaware before double-checking this tonight that no time limit appears to be specified for the PB, although surely anyone attempting it is going to be looking for sub-24?

    Appreciate your suggestion about giving it a couple of weeks, but need to get the word out to put a team together! So have now scheduled the attempt for the weekend of 24/25 July (suitable distance from WHW, nearly full moon, as clash-free from support point of view as I’m going to get) and am actively seeking pacers etc.

    Comment by admin — 27 June 2010 @ 11:03 pm

  8. Great stuff, all the best. I’ll be engaged in the Lakeland 100 the same weekend, so let’s hope for some good weather!

    Comment by Andy Cole — 28 June 2010 @ 12:43 pm

  9. Hi Pete

    I’ve done both the BG and the PB. Just retired on Am Bodach this weekend with 3:15h left but unable to make up time in 70mph winds.

    My times for the BG and Paddy were around 23:40 so I don’t think you’ve got to be an elite athlete to get round the Ramsay just a bit of luck with the weather.

    This is the second time I’ve had to retire because of the weather, with the Ramsay being much more exposed than other rounds bad weather can have a greater affect on your times.

    Good luck

    Comment by Bill — 6 July 2010 @ 11:30 am

  10. […] Chris ‘haven’t you had enough?’ Ellis, to whom I then confessed to planning the Ramsay’s attempt. And it was while I was out today, enjoying this section of the WHW that many runners seem to hate […]

    Pingback by Waiting for the weather to deliver? « Petestack Blog — 6 July 2010 @ 11:27 pm

  11. […] this morning), today didn’t look like a good bet to check out the Loch Treig hills for my Ramsay’s Round. So Jon came down from the Fort to discuss some detailed routing options for the whole round and […]

    Pingback by New tricks for old dogs « Petestack Blog — 10 July 2010 @ 9:41 pm

  12. […] this pretty well had to be the last big hill day before next weekend’s planned Ramsay’s Round attempt, and the original plan was to take the train from Spean Bridge to Corrour, run the five Munros […]

    Pingback by Loch Treig round « Petestack Blog — 18 July 2010 @ 1:11 pm

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