Late last week, myself and my good running buddy, Ash, heading up to Wales once again for some more Berghaus Dragon's Back Race recce'ing and training. We were excited as this was the section we'd been looking forward to the most, day one of the race, 30 miles of mountains across Snowdonia, finishing with Crib Goch and Snowdon itself.
We arrived in Snowdon to strong winds, and snow capped mountains. We managed to find some shelter to put our tent up out the wind and rushed to the pub for warmth, food and planning.
It had become apparent very quickly, that Crib Goch is unlikely to be an option, the mountain rescue teams were suggesting the need for crampons and ice axes if attempting it in these conditions, that's not to mention the wind. We decided that we would take the Pyg track instead, should weather allow, meaning we can still summit Snowdon at the end of a long 30 mile day, and we could at least take a good look at Crib Goch.
The next morning we woke up, and the weather seemed relatively calm! We were excited to get going and our taxi took us to Conwy Castle, for the start of our adventure. We knew time wasn't on our side due to the shorter days, so we had a plan B which would allow us to get back to the campsite and do Snowdon the following morning if we ran out of time, but we were confident we could give it a good go in one day, as always there was one rule...no faffing!
We started well, the sun even came out briefly, and we hit the first set of hills. All was going well and we starting getting higher, at around 400m (altitude) the rain started and the wind began to make itself known, but it wasn't too bad. We kept going, making decent enough time.
We got to Tal Y Fan at 600m and the wind was getting stronger, thankfully we had the benefit of a stone wall protecting us, so we cracked on...enjoying the mountains and relatively easy terrain.
Then things started to go against us...we started climbing even further up towards Carnedd Y Ddelw (how the hell do you say that?) and then Drum (easier!) and we lost our wall! We were hitting the snow line and the wind was ferocious, whipping hail and snow into our faces and against our bodies. I shouted at Ash that we simply needed to get our heads down and churn the section out, keep moving, then we could reconvene a make see assess our situation when we momentarily dropped down to a road and (hopefully) more shelter. We cracked on...
We didn't get far, at the peak of Drum we were now soaked through, getting battered by the wind and snow and we were both starting to get cold, we sheltered behind some rocks and had a chat.
Me: "What are we gaining out of this?"
Ash: "Not much, maybe hyperthermia?"
Ash: "We've gotta get off this mountain..."
I'd started to lose feeling in my fingers, we hammered down the hill to where the wind was slightly calmer and we were back into rain rather than snow. We'd abandoned our adventure, totally gutted, we'd barely made 10 miles out of 30!
We made our way down a valley to the nearest village.
It was this moment that we realised neither of us had any money or bank cards on us! We ALWAYS make a point of having both on us incase of emergency, and the one time we BOTH forget, we need them!!
We then spent an hour chatting to village folk about how we might be able to get back to our camp with no money, thankfully a nice lady in a pub (one of those pubs that you walk into and think you'll instantly get stabbed! Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that!) called us a taxi, we could pay him when we got back to the tent.
We were cold, disappointed, soaked and had spent a fortune on taxis! We were safe though, and you can't put a price on safety!
Many will be reading this and thinking 'what a bunch of wimps, it's hardly Everest', but you have to make the right call on these things, we were in minimal running kit, we had waterproofs but the wind had started to cut right through us. The last thing we wanted to do was bail, we'd driven 5 hours to get there, but many in the village who we spoke to told us stories of mountain rescue going up that very mountain every weekend to rescue people in our situation. We did the right thing.
What's more, it turns out there was an avalanche on the Pyg track at the EXACT time we should have been there, so if we'd cracked on, then I probably wouldn't be sitting here in my warm office writing this blog today!
So whats the point of this blog post???
Well I guess it's simply to encourage people to always put personal safety first, yes we take risks by running in the mountains, but always have an eye on an escape route, and always carry a frigging bank card!
It's disappointing when things don't work out, but disappointment is better than a mountain rescue team giving up their time to hoist you out with hyperthermia.
Stay safe out there folks.
The Virgin Money London Marathon is now ONLY 7 weeks away! A lot of people will be wondering about where they should realistically be with their training at this stage.
A lot of people will also read this and FREAK OUT about their training, if you are slightly behind, DON'T PANIC and suddenly up your mileage, otherwise you risk injury. Maybe consider one of my marathon training plans, together we can get you to the start line feeling ready, confident and focused. Don't leave it much longer though, time is running out.
Here are a few thoughts about where you should be with your preparation at this stage...
It's not as bad as it sounds, with a bit of planning and focus, you can make sure you are on track for an epic day, and maybe even a PB!?
I'll be there on the day, I don't generally do road marathons but you don't turn down the chance to run London do you!?
See you there.
If you read my blog, follow me online or ever actually speak to me, you will know that I am training for the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race in May.
Part of my prep for this epic race is to recce as much of the route as I can, the race involves self navigating so doing recces isn't just good training, but is a great way to learn the route, minimising the risk of messing up and running in the wrong direction during the race. Something you don't really want to do in a race that already involves 300km and 16,000m of ascent over 5 days.
This past weekend saw me and my running buddy Ash, joined by fellow Dragon's Back hopefuls Eoan and Lisa, as we took on day 5 of the race, the final day.
We struck lucky, as the weather was incredible! The mountains were snow covered but the sun was breaking through the clouds, warming our smiles as we enjoyed some epic running. The recce was a success and we didn't get lost once, which is certainly an improvement on our last recce. Thankfully, the route is a bit easier going than other days on the race, although we still have to cover 34 miles and 2313m of ascent, not for the faint hearted!
Below, you can see some pics from the weekend, and watch a little video.
Now what are you waiting for...go hit those mountains.
What do you do with a spare day, a thirst for adventure with a couple of mates, and £30!?
Why not fly to Northern Ireland, and hit up the spectacular Mourne Mountains?
Myself, Adventure Photographer James Carnegie and Discovery Channel's very own endurance hero; Sean Conway decided to go and have some fun. We grabbed return flights into Belfast at £25 each and hired the crappiest, cheapest, little car we could find for £15. We drove the short drive to the foot of the Mourne Mountains, quickly kitted ourselves up and we were off.
We expected freezing winter conditions on this trip, what we got was a balmy mild day, more like spring than winter, and this made for an even better day out. We worked our way along any trail that went up! Finally we hit the wall...no, we weren't tired, but we hit the spectacular wall that winds it's way through these mountains. To our delight, you could run ON the wall, a few of the slabs were wobbly, but for the most part it offered a brilliant way to ascend to the peaks.
The best thing about a trip like this, is being spontaneous. The route plan we had went out the window when James left the map on the plane, so we simply went from peak to peak, deciding our next step with the aid of the amazing visibility. Thankfully we were able to keep an eye on where the valley leading to our car was at all times because before we knew, it was getting dark and we had to hammer it back across the mountains to get back to the airport.
The Mourne Mountains did not disappoint and apart from the odd hiker, we had the whole place to ourselves! They are super easy to get to and I would encourage anyone with a spare day or two to go and explore.
It's amazing what you can do in a day if you really want to. Keep an eye out for the full feature in March's issue of Men's Running, out now.
Last night saw much of the UK hit by a 'huge snow storm', panic ensued as people desperately rushed to supermarkets to buy food, drink and blankets, preparing to be stuck in their homes for at least 4 months...in reality it was a bit of a dusting in most areas, now I've got 100 cans of Baked Beans to use if anyone fancies popping round for a Beans on toast party!?
All joking aside, it DID snow, and there are certainly some icy patches out there. As a result, I felt the sudden urge to share with you my top 5 tips for running in such conditions. You don't need to cancel any scheduled runs due to these conditions, but you do need to be careful. So here we go...
1. Run SLOWLY...these conditions are not ideal for your 7min/mile tempo run, that's just asking for trouble. If you insist on running fast, maybe consider a helmet?
2. Don't make any sudden directional changes, or take corners too fast, you'll simply end up flat on your face! Take the corners REALLY slowly unless you are 100% sure they are safe.
3. Avoid pavements and smooth services where black ice may be present. If there is snow on the ground, then aim for that for more grip. If the pavement has a grassy verge, run along that.
4. Run on trails if you can, they will offer better grip (although avoid notoriously wet trails like the picture of me this morning included in this post). If you absolutely have to run on roads, then try and stick to main roads which are more likely to have had treatment and the increased footfall and traffic will likely mean that the ice and snow has disappeared anyway.
5. Finally...embrace it, don't get upset that your training is being disrupted, it's nice to experience different conditions and before you know it, the roads will be back to sludgy wet rubbishness anyway!
Be careful...be safe...have fun.
Yesterday (9 January) saw Running Adventures pop 3 more ultra running cherries on the North Downs Way Ultra Run.
The longest run that I currently offer, this run is the perfect opportunity for first timers to try their hand at ultra running, as well as more experienced runners getting the chance to explore trails without having to worry about where they are going.
It was an overcast and dreary day as far as the weather was concerned, but that didn't hamper spirits as we spent the day chatting about not only running but travels, food and the prospect of falling head first into the river at the bottom of Box Hill (no one did!)
Well done to Todd, Annabelle, Jess, Jamie and Gareth for some great running. I'm sure that, like me, you are still finding mud in places that you shouldn't be!
If you fancy joining me for a guided trail ultra run, then new dates have been added to website. The next 3 dates will be 30 miles and cover a brand new route.
A long while ago I was asked to do an online Q&A about training for, and preparing for, a marathon. I though that now we are in January, a lot of people will be thinking about their training for marathons such as the Virgin Money London Marathon, Paris Marathon and Brighton Marathon.
You could also read this as...
A long while ago I was asked to do an online Q&A about training for, and preparing for, a marathon. I though that rather than trying to write a clever new blog, i'd be lazy and simply copy and paste!!
So here you are...
Q What would you say is the best training plan for a first marathon?
A One written by me! Seriously though, a personalised plan is best so that it is achievable and realistic around your other commitments.
Q I get to around 20 miles in a marathon and then lose energy and need to be sick. My training to 20 miles is ok and I’ve been managing my fuelling ok. I managed my fuelling much better at Paris marathon and it helped but I still needed to stop and heave. Perhaps it is partly psychological? Do you think running a longer distance in training might help?
A Are you definitely managing your fuelling ok? It sounds like you are getting low on fuel to me. Are you expecting ‘the wall’? There could be a psychological element happening as well. If you are ok up to 20 miles I would definitely consider trying longer in training, try 22 miles and see how that goes.
Q Can you do marathon training on 2/3 runs per week with 1 PT session and 1 or 2 bootcamp sessions? My marathon is in 20 weeks time.
A For sure as long as one of those runs is a long run to build your endurance.
Q I am a hungry runner and struggle with anything over 2 hours. I use gels but what else would you suggest eating?
A Gels are great if you can continuously take them throughout a whole marathon without feeling sick or getting stomach issue (I can’t!), shot bloks are a good alternative, as well as jelly babies, bananas, nuts.
Q I would like to try my first ultra marathon next summer. Would that be ok after a spring marathon? I’m nervous.
A A marathon in April is perfectly timed for building training for a summer ultra (distance wise). Just go for it. Any ultra up to 50km is achievable from marathon training.
Q What is the most effective way to improve my endurance for marathon running?
A Your long runs are vital for building your endurance up slowly. Never skip these sessions, without them, you’ll struggle to build the required endurance for a marathon.
Q Can you do too many miles training for a marathon?
A Many people do over train and it can be a big problem. A max of 40 miles per week is usually high enough for most people. The long runs are the most important.
Q I have VLM in April, my 3rd marathon. What is the best pre-hab stengthener for hip flexors please?
A There is a great article with exercises here.
Q I want to ask about speed. How do I increase my speed for a 26.2?
A There are a few ways – tempo runs, intervals and hill sessions will all be hugely beneficial. Make all your sessions count and mix it up a bit to keep it interesting.
Q Back to back marathons – How close is too close together?
A This depends on your training plan, your fitness levels and your goals. I would recommend a good month of taking it easier after a tough marathon.
Clever new blog may follow soon, watch this space!
If you are interested in Marathon coaching, check out the options here.
For anyone that follows me on twitter, you will know that i'm currently training for the infamous Berghaus Dragon's Back Race. For those that don't know what the Dragon's Back Race is...here is the description lifted straight from the website:
The legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ follows the mountainous spine of Wales from north to south. This incredible 5-day journey is approximately 300 kilometres long with 16,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is not a trail race!
The original Dragon’s Back Race™ happened in September 1992, and ever since it has been whispered about with a mixture of awe and trepidation. Its reputation had reached legendary status with fell, mountain and ultra runners the world over by September 2012 when the second race took place. With a third race in 2015, the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race™ is respected internationally for both its bulletproof organisation and 'toughest race' status.
The Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ is the toughest 5-day mountain running race in the world.
It's going to be a tough one! There's a great quote from the excellent Damian Hall's blog which sums it up.
"...none of us needed reminding what a daunting task awaited us the next morning. But race director Shane Ohly thoughtfully delivered one anyway. “I have 60 finisher medals,” he tells the room of 139 competitors."
That's not a mistake, this race has a less than 50% success rate!
After a navigation disaster in a race in the Lake District, myself and Ash (training partner and fellow DBR hopeful) headed to Wales for a weekend of recce'ing and training. We decided to recce the Rhinogs and the Cadair Idris area. The thing that was apparent very quickly is that it is near impossible to move fast in this terrain, I don't know how the front guys do it! If you're not scrambling over rocks, then you are knee deep in bogs or wading through the dreaded tussocks grass. Both myself and Ash fell waist deep into a boggy hole on numerous occasions, with Ash hilariously shouting that he thought he was getting dragged into the 'upside down'!
We need to work on our speed, that is for sure. I can happily run a 6:00 min/mile on road, on a good day. Here we were averaging 20 min/miles!!!
My plan is to considerably increase my training load in the new year, hills are already a regular session for me, but they will be every other day come January. My leg strength needs to improve and I need to spend more time moving through mountains, working not only on my fitness, but on my navigation too.
There is a lot of hard work ahead, and i'll keep you updated on here as to how we are progressing. Wish me luck!
I own Running Adventures.