Reading back through some of this blog I’m never quite sure of any time when I don’t have an injury! Somehow though I still manage to heal just in time for the next race, only to break myself again in pusuit of adventure. Thankfully the season is drawing to a close with only a few more races in October to go and then a chance to spend a winter in the gyma nd on the bike and doing the first proper training since back in 2002. Before that I have to master a new art…inline skating!At the end of August I joined Cotswold Outdoor for the inaugural Wilderness ARC World Series adventure race in Lochaber, starting in Fort William and lasting 5 days continuously over a 400km course. During the course of this week I had the most amazing experiences and adventures of my life so far and made some solid new friends. Unfortunately the weather was appalling during the first night after a glorious first day which took in a paddle down Loch Linnhe and traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe. The cold and wet led to many teams pulling out due to moving too slowly or having insufficient clothing for the conditions, as was the case with the rest of my squad. Luckily the decision to bail out was made before it got silly cold and one of the guys ended up going down with food poisoning so it was quite fortuitous in the end.
However, myself and Fred Yong combined with a couple of other guys including Peter from Denmark and were reinserted into the race at a kayak stage after only missing one mountain bike stage. This was followed by a 23 hour trek through the wilderness of Moidart, where I got to know Peter’s Danish friends including Thure who has now invited me across to Denmark to compete in a race in Copenhagen at the beginning of October. (Hence the inline skating!). The trek was followed by a 130km mountain bike ride out to the Ardnamurchan lighthouse, the most westerly point on the British mainland, where the angels of the light looked after us with tea, curry and a lighthouse living room floor! Ask me sometime and I’ll explain more! A further 6 hour kayak up Loch Sheil to the finish at Glenfinnan was all that remained to cap and incredible week, with so many funny and scary anecdotes.
Thankfully I was pretty much injury free for the whole event but am now suffering with hamstring tendonitis with only a week to go until the Mourne Mountain Marathon with Tim Lenton…One of these days I’m going to begin and finish a race injury free! Maybe.
I guess it’s been a while since I updated this but I do have some good excuses for once! A week spent in the Hebrides at the Heb Challenge, followed by a week spent in the Hebrides relaxing and taking in the Heb Celt Festival, followed by the phenomenal Edinburgh Rat Race.
Before it all was a few days in the hills with Tim Lenton attempting to relax and take in the Ramsay Round at a more leisurely pace, just to get round the thing this year. Alas I think I may be jinxed because after a gorgeous day up on the Ben, Aonachs and Grey Corries, my old Illiotibial Band problems returned and my knee grew excruciatingly painful, forcing me to pretty much bail out after day one. Ho hum. Not ideal preparation for a five day adventure race the following week!
The Heb went bloody well again, with so many stories that I will only refer you to the article I wrote for sleepmonsters here. We finished third again but must have won any and every sing-while-your-running karaoke contest going, much to the annoyance of the sheep and the puzzlement of the other racers!
The Rat Race in Edinburgh was the big breakthrough we’ve been working towards for so long. After running about 18 miles or so on the Saturday night ‘prologue’ we were sitting in 3rd place, mostly because I’d stuffed up the climbing checkpoint, but we’d still pipped Saab Salomon and knew we’d be fast on the bike the next day. And so it was. It was Iona, Andy and myself again and it just worked so well. Not one wrong turn, one cross word or disagreement, just a superb team effort. We went hard when we were racing and refuelled, adjusted maps, etc in the time outs, which saw us coming in an hour behind Saab Salomon. However, they had shot through all the timeouts and when the electronic timings came in an hour after the finish, we were pounced upon in the hot tub by the TV crew to tell us that we had won! The first thing I’ve won since the Fair play award when I played football at primary school! Absolutely stoked, just a shame we can’t sue our prize of a trip to Stockholm to do a race there, as I’m doing the far bigger Wilderness ARC… Can’t have my cake and eat it, it would seem.
Last weekend was the Bristol Rat Race, undoubtedly the maddest most fun race ever. The result was with out doubt the best yet too, considering the quality of opposition that we were up against we were absolutely thrilled with our second place behind Saab Salomon. The team was Iona Robertson, Andy Simpson and myself and we just worked so well together. The race report is on Sleepmonsters as usual, but there were some real moments for me. In particular when Iona went over on her ankle that it made an awful sound, we thought it was game over, only half way through Saturday night. I gave her a strong painkiller and the miracle girl ran through the pain to put us in 4th place overnight, after bagging all the checkpoints on the way. Crucial stage it seems was the traverse we had to do of Bristol Grammar School’s climbing wall, as one slip off was curtains for the points total and the time penalty was harsh. Thankfully I made it although it was bloody hard as the holds were grimy as hell by the time we got there. Another moment was when my hydration bladder burst just before we had to go into the Royal Navy local HQ to do a surprise drill stage. I was stood there with this Navy officer shouting marching orders at us and my shorts were dripping away like he’d put the fear of God into me!
Sunday was mostly biking with a lot of familiar trails to me including sections of the Bristol to Bath Bike path and the River Avon Trail, as well as Ashton Court and the like. In between we had three abseils off the Bristol & West HQ, a massive one in the Avon Gorge, and finally one off the cranes in the Floating Harbour.
We race as Macpac Anatom, who provide us with some outstanding kit. Please click on the names to visit their sites.
What a phenomenal weekend! For once it wasn’t about the racing, it was about the good time shared with friends, old and new. Time spent on the bike was part of it, but only as a means to an end that involved the pub. Had a cracking bbq on Saturday with all the peeps I’ve known in Bath. The boys from the MTB club presented me with a beautiful Scotland Saltire riding jersey as a leaving gift. I nearly came over all emotional, it was a really appreciated gesture. Thanks again guys!
Took my three new South African friends down to Cheddar Gorge and had the funniest day in a long, long time. Cider and Cheddar fest so it was. Bank Holiday BBQ in Tetbury with the Clan Casey was a really nice finish to a thoroughly relaxing weekend. It was just such a massive relief to get the final year project in at long last, even if it didn’t all go as planned…Still not quite finished yet, roll on 24th June.
The infamous Man of Porage race at the weekend was definetly a highlight of the year so far. The Heading brothers, Jonathan Edwards and other Polaris veterans put on a great route for us to ride, totalling about 125km on the bike, plus 10km or so of foot orienteering, which all linked together as if it was just one of their favourite Sunday rides; which it turned out to be. The weather was perfect, although a little hot to sustain the blistering pace I set off at that saw me in the lead for the first hour or so. John Houlihan, Gary T, and Killian Lomas, all GB MTB-Orienteering team members eventually caught me and we rode together for a good while until Killian and I simultaneously seemed to blow our tops and we had to stop to take some layers off, by which time John and Gaz had disappeared over the horizon. A shortage of water in the heat forced me to just slow it down a bit and in the end I cruised home into 6th place, although if I hadn’t got lazy with the map and forgotten how to read the bloody thing at one stage I could have held on to 3rd. Ho hum, it was all about the spirit of the race, which was great and I hope that next years event, rumoured to be heading to the South West can be as good. Definetly one that can be won in the future…I hope…
Just back from an unexpected race at Coed y Brenin, Mid Wales and getting the kit through the machine for the third wash already. The week had started off with me in bed with some virus/cold/bug thing and a blank weekend ahead with which to catch up on missed work, but when word came through the grapevine that there were places going begging in teams for the weekend’s ACE race, I couldn’t resist. After a bit of to and fro-ing that almost had me racing for The North Face, I ended up in the wonderful Total Adventure team. Despite almost being old enough to be my parents (sorry guys if you read this, although most folks in UK AR are in that position!), they are a strong team with lots of good banter, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend covered head to toe in sheep shit, mud, rain, river water and snot! Story of the weekend I think was the chap that The North Face persuaded to stand in for them, and who worked so hard that he collapsed in a jibbering heap close to the end of a long run and had to be carried by his team mates to the finish line! Fair play, he gave it his all and you can’t ask fairer than that.
Next up is Porage in the Peaks on 14th May… Should really do some training if I didn’t have so much work to do…
The first big race of the season kicked off in style with the ACE XXX on 5th/6th March. It made for a rather anti-climatic birthday spent travelling North to the Lakes, but our hosts Pyro’s parents along with Iona pulled it out of the bag with a great meal and birthday cake! Cheers guys. The race was awesome and we came a very pleasing 3rd, although we lead for half of it. It came down to experience in the end and the other two teams had it in spades, and we acquired it in bucketfuls! What a wonderful race it was with some really beautiful, funny, tiring, scary, inspiring and fun moments. Well done Phil Humphries and all the hardy marshals.
Tom Gibbs was putting on the annual Quantocks fell race in Somerset at the weekend, and we made it down to have a bash. Not counting mountain marathons then this was my first proper fell race, but I didn’t think it was going to go too well as I lay on the sofa the night before, sure that I was coming down with the lurgy. A good nights sleep later and I still felt not quite right, but gave the race a go anyway. Was therefore very pleasantly surprised to be holding onto Gareth’s coat tails for the first climb and eventually held on for 5th place, while G won the thing. It’s looking good for the coming XXX if I can feel that bad and still manage a good result…. It looks few of the ‘big’ teams are racing so it could well be the race where we make our breakthrough. Here’s hoping…