Petestack Blog

25 April 2010

Tired run to Kings House

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:23 pm

Not much to say about today, really, but I’ve got another nice 900x900px map to go with yesterday’s and thought I might as well post it. So my expectations of this week were fairly low after losing Monday and Tuesday to a troublesome cough/cold (still maybe not entirely gone if tonight’s slightly raw throat is anything to go by) but, with yesterday’s hill run bringing up 46 miles since Wednesday, 14 or more today would give me 60 for the week and a trip to Kings House and back looked tempting at 18. Thought it might be a run too far because I was tired and it took me a while to get going, but how I wanted those miles and seemed strong enough in the end despite starting to get a bit light-headed/hypoglycemic round about the bridge over the Allt a’ Choire Odhair-mhoir on the way back. Which meant taking some extra care on the remaining rocky path to the Penstock and would be my fault for setting off on a banana instead of lunch again, carrying just two 92 calorie cereal bars (both scoffed at Kings House) to keep me going. Which those who’ve read my Bonking on Rannoch Moor post might well question, leaving me with no real answer/defence except to point to interested experimentation in running tired/empty and an assurance that I won’t be tackling the ultras on just cereal bars and water! For all that, I enjoyed the run (in hotter/thirstier conditions than expected) and am well pleased to have salvaged 64 miles of good off-road stuff from a week when I might reasonably have been satisfied with 40.

Broadband connection is running like a dog tonight (also the reason for yesterday’s post only appearing this morning), but that’s another matter (and has been reported to my provider)! :-/

Wave Harrier day

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:16 am

Time to try the Mizuno Wave Harriers, and a nice wee outing up Binnein Beag looked like some good ground to give them a whirl… but I swear that my subsequent ascent of Sgurr Eilde Mor and descent to Luibeilt (what, Luibeilt, again?) formed no part of the original plan!

Now, Binnein Beag is a great wee peak, but surprisingly far from anywhere with a lengthy approach on (mostly) good paths from Kinlochleven and a shorter, but tortuously rough, alternative from the top car park in Glen Nevis. So I took the Wave Harriers, popped in my newest orthotics, laced them up and set off up the killer climb to An Cumhann (northern flank of Meall an Doire Dharaich), surprising myself by running it all (which I’ve done before, but is neither as quick nor as efficient as walking the worst bits). And then a wee voice told me if I could do that I could probably keep running all the way up to Coire an Lochain. So I did. And then a wee voice told me if I could do that I might be able to run all the way to the summit of Binnein Beag. So I did, although I was struggling up the steepest parts of the final cone. Not the quickest or most efficient way to get there but, as good self-discipline in training and an interesting test of fitness (passed!), all good fun. Then I stopped to refuel (92 calorie cereal bar + water), recover and adjust my laces to get a really tidy fit at the heels before starting to pick my way down the rocky summit cone at a pace that might well have been slower than my ascent.

So what to do next? Well, I’d given some thought to extending the mileage through the circular tour round Sgurr Eilde Mor and was still considering just returning by my outward route when a wee voice told me that I’m supposed to be training for a big ultra, not going for a picnic, and climbing Sgurr Eilde Mor to pick up the circular path on the way down might be more appropriate. So off I went, although (feeling virtuously wasted by my run up Binnein Beag) I did let myself walk a fair bit of the ascent this time. And then I set off quite gently down the long north-east ridge (still some snow here, though not in anything like the quantities Binnein Mor’s still holding) with a clear view of Luibeilt to set that wee voice nagging again… ‘you’d like to do this whole ridge, wouldn’t you, but don’t want to go all the way to Luibeilt again… not when that means running seven miles of track to get home?’ So, guess what, the wee voice got its way and I was soon plodding through the bog to Luibeilt, after which I thought I’d better pick up the pace and started working a bit harder (see those arrows on the map stretching out?) to get that seven-mile track bash out of the way. A good afternoon’s work at 19 miles and c.5,700 ft of ascent, with some hard running, some jogging and some (whisper it softly!) just ambling along.

And what of the Wave Harriers (main reason for taking some proper hill ground this time out)? Well, on the basis that I’ve just put 19 miles on them out of the box with no problems, I’d have to give them the thumbs up. Thought when I set out that the heels might be just a tad sloppy when everything else seemed perfect, but my feet soon expanded to fill them (no way I could go down half a size) and the relacing on Binnein Beag got them really secure. Might have expected my bunion to rub when there’s reinforcing webbing over the mesh uppers just where it’s pushing against the side of the shoe, but the skin’s still intact there. And the studded soles seemed to cope with most steeper grass and heather (took a couple of slides on some very wet stuff) without being too sensitive for bashing along rough landrover track, so that’s good. Would I run a Tranter’s Round in them? Yes, I think they’d be well suited to that. And a Ben Nevis Race? Very possibly, if I ever get a place again. Are there still alternatives I might like to try sometime? For sure, but these suit me better than most of the hill/trail shoes I’ve tried. And will I be buying any more Inov-8s? Hmmm, never say never, but I’m not seeing that right now.

22 April 2010

More shoes and orthotics

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:49 pm

So I bought all these sale-price shoes a few weeks ago, but the Flyrocs were a mistake and I doubt I’ll be buying any more Inov-8s. Fortunately, however, I’ve found a buyer for the unused Flyrocs and got myself a pair of Mizuno Wave Harrier 2s instead. A shoe that I thought worth trying after hearing good things from Iain Ridgway before tracking down a solitary sale pair in (last year’s?) yellow at £40 + P&P from Achilles Heel in Glasgow. And, when I say a solitary pair, I mean that the only available pair at that price just happened to be my size (11.5 UK/46.5 Euro, which luckily appears to be a perfect match for my 11 UK/46.5 Euro Asics when Iain tells me he takes a 10 UK in both and I’d probably have been looking for an 11 if I’d been thinking straight!). So they arrived today, fit comfortably out of the box, take my custom orthotics very nicely and appear to suit my broad, ugly and congenitally abnormal feet better than any Inov-8 or Walsh. Meaning that, for the first time in ages, I’ve actually got some serious off-road shoes I might prefer to my Asics for the kind of terrain where I’m needing serious off-road soles!

So that’s the shoes, and I’m looking forward to trying these ASAP. But I was also going to talk about my orthotics, because I just got a new pair to supplement my now well-worn original two with this year’s ultras in mind, and can get another if I order the insoles myself (which I’ve been attempting to do, but not yet found available to non ‘healthcare professionals’) and give them to the podiatrist for modification. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that, with the crucial 7° (might even be 8°) wedges on the existing pairs holding up remarkably well but the rest of the insoles starting to go after a good couple of years, I did discuss the possibility of me reusing said wedges on stock insoles and wasn’t told not to (just that I’d lose some of the advantages of the medical ones if I did). Something else I’d never noticed before lining up all the insoles to photograph tonight is that the grey and beige components of the wedges on my existing pairs have been layered the opposite way round, but can truthfully say after so many miles on both pairs that I’ve never noticed a difference in performance between them. What’s potentially most significant of all to me, however, is whether they’re going to spare me the injury problems I had both before and (for a long time) after the 2007 WHW Race when I never had them and didn’t even know I needed them. And, you know what, something’s telling me they might just!

healthcare professionals

21 April 2010

Nine mile loop

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:08 pm

Most of my regular runs have names, or at least labels I use to identify them for logging purposes. But I don’t really know what to call tonight’s (to Loch Eilde Mor by Leitir Bo Fionn and back by the big hairpin, Mamore Lodge, mast and West Highland Way) except ‘nine mile loop’… because it’s measuring exactly nine miles door-to-door and none of those features actually distinguish it from several other circuits I’ve already got named for them. However (whatever it’s called), it was just good to get out when I never got out Monday (combination of feeling lousy and heavy rain) or Tuesday (feeling worse) and, while one rest day might be desirable and two tolerable for a good reason (like picking up an annoying cold), three’s starting to sound a bit worrying! So happy to report that I’m feeling a bit better now (despite coughing a bit when I got in) after covering the nine mile loop (with c.2,000 ft ascent) in under 87 mins, which doesn’t feel like hanging about on that terrain.

17 April 2010

Luibeilt by Glas Bheinn

Filed under: Running — admin @ 6:42 pm

Wanting a good run this afternoon but not sure what to make of a strange day (alternating sunshine and heavy showers), I settled on a fine-looking scenic route to Luibeilt over the isolated Corbett of Glas Bheinn (which I’m afraid to say I’d only been up once long before my serious running days) and back by the track. And how inexplicably I’ve neglected Glas Bheinn when its otherwise undistinguished profile makes for gloriously carefree hill running, with gentle gradients and accommodating surfaces combining to keep the ascent, continuation north-east over Carn Dearg and descent from Ceann Caol na Glas-bheinne all very, very runnable. So the final approach to Luibeilt might be as soggy as anyone who knows this area would expect, but it’s still an absolute peach of a run and one that I’m sure to be doing again!

It’s also been another good week, with 50 miles of running and 30 of mountain biking (all proper off-road stuff demanding some serious effort) so far making a very satisfactory follow-up to last week’s 90 running miles with a day still to go (fancy the bike again tomorrow if it’s nice). Not going to pretend I’m never tired or haven’t been falling asleep at some odd times (which I’m quite capable of anyway!) but, once I get out there and (usually) through the first big climb, I’m still generally feeling strong and able to push myself quite hard. :-)

14 April 2010

Great conditions for hill running

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:48 pm

Must be about a week of dry, spring weather we’ve had now, and those hill tracks and paths below the retreating snowline all seem to be in just about optimum running condition. So tonight I headed up to Loch Eilde Mor via the Grey Mare’s, then over Meall na Cruaidhe to the Dam and back by the Ciaran Path to give me a very runnable 11.9 mile circuit with great views all round but especially towards the Grey Corries (still holding fair quantities of snow), two Buachailles and more distant Schiehallion. Also noted that I was feeling strong after a rest day followed by two evenings mountain biking, so won’t hesitate to mix some more cycling into the ‘programme’ when I’m needing a change or simply feel like some fun. :-)

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)!

7 April 2010

Bonking on Rannoch Moor

Filed under: Running — admin @ 9:55 pm

To the non-runners among you, it’s not what you think! A runners’ bonk (aka hitting the wall) is basically grinding to a halt when you run out of fuel, as might happen when you’re nearly finished that afternoon double crossing of Rannoch Moor you set out to do without any lunch, in which case you probably deserve it…

So I’m on my second week of holiday and (freed by the forecast from imminent climbing or walking plans) chasing a 70 mile target for the week. Which starts well with 30 miles salvaged from the rain over Monday and Tuesday, and continues with this daft notion of breaking the back of it by running another 25 miles over the Moor from Kings House to Rannoch Station and back (which I might have saved for Thursday or Friday to give myself a rest and let the ground dry out a bit, but decided to chance on a fine-looking Wednesday afternoon). All well and good but for the 1:16pm start with just a banana eaten since breakfast, but I’m feeling strong at Rannoch (where I drink my bottle of water and eat my two cereal bars before turning for home) and most of the way back before hitting a bit of a wall with just two or three miles to go. And the reason? Not enough fuel, I guess, but I’m partially revived by thoughts of more liquid and another two bananas in the van and get there in the end. 4hrs 40mins for the 25 miles, which doesn’t sound that fast but really isn’t too bad at all when the central section of ‘path’ between the good tracks at either end is heavy going (tip… if you lose the path, as I did on the way out, make for the telegraph poles to locate it again). So that’s that, I did it and can afford to take the rest of the week a little easier now. Except that I’m now thinking of 80 miles, but can’t see another 25 in four days being that much harder than another 15!

4 April 2010

Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich

Filed under: Walking — admin @ 11:33 pm

So I was planning to go running today then mix and match with some winter walking during the week, but a quick look at the forecast for Monday and beyond (big gales and sustained snow melt, with the MWIS now threatening 100mph gusts on the highest summits!) had me thinking ‘carpe diem’ and heading up the road to pick up my ‘missing’ Loch Quoich Munro of Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich. And it was a good walk with plenty of soft snow, some icier stuff higher up, a little (optional) snow/rock scrambling along the slight pinnacles of the east ridge above Sgurr Coire nan Eiricheallach, and great views westwards to Knoydart, Beinn Sgritheall and Skye further opened up by continuing over Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich Beag and Am Bathaich before dropping back by Glen Quoich.

Now I’m going to have to pay for it with some decent runs this week regardless of weather, but I’m OK with that when things like Friday’s climbing and today’s walking (as sustained, active time on my feet) should all count towards good ‘ultra’ training. But another big week’s running (away from those windy summits) to match the last but one would still be good!

3 April 2010

Long day on North-East Buttress

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 12:05 pm

Yesterday I climbed North-East Buttress (IV,4, and one of the great classic ridges) on Ben Nevis with Isi Oakley in glorious late-season conditions.

Got overtaken early on by Steve Kennedy and Bob Hamilton, who disappeared soloing quickly up the gully above the First Platform, and spent much of the day catching another pair (Richard and Eva) and their 50m rope at stances before they finally lost us high up, but still can’t account for the length of time we were out on what was (bar my brief fight with the Mantrap) basically a straightforward ascent…

So we swung leads most of the day although Isi asked me to take the lead on one or two pitches and I got the gnarliest bits including an awkward rightward exit from that early gully (following Richard and Eva, who subsequently confirmed that I’d seen what I thought I’d seen when I said Steve and Bob had moved left there), the Mantrap (failed, and turned by the Tough-Brown Variant) and the 40ft Corner (OK, but protected by two marginal screws with no sign of the pegs I didn’t know were there). As for that Mantrap, I did try, but it’s an undeniably awkward obstacle in a mixed style I’m not that au fait with, better climbers than me have been repulsed by it and I thought it technically harder (some say tech 6!) than anything on the Grade Vs I did this season. However, it was still a great day out and (apart from a temporary deterioration to near-whiteout conditions in a chilly, rising wind as we topped out) memorable for the unusually good views as well as the great climbing.

To the eagle-eyed studying the photos, yes, we were consciously treating my light half ropes as twins! :-)

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