Archive for the ‘Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race’ Category

The Steyning Stinger Half Marathon 2016

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
The Steyning Stinger Team - Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

The Steyning Stinger Team – Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

6th March 2016

It is cold and grey with hail pounding heavily against the window as I write this on the afternoon of the Steyning Stinger but this morning conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for the event. It was cold but the sun was out and there was just a gentle breeze. Underfoot it was muddy in parts but hey who would want to do the Stinger without a bit of mud? On the Downs the views were breath taking!
I think I am willing to stick my neck out and say this is the perfect ever race.
There is a community feel about it and it is very inclusive. If you are not a runner, you can start at about 7am and walk the half marathon course. If you are a runner but a little bit slow then you can start early and still get a time. If you are mega fit then you can even enter the full marathon course – which must be really gruelling. You can even change your mind half way through, but I wonder if any “Halfers” decide to upgrade! You can join the mass starts, or run the race peacefully by yourself.

There is no commercial feeling about this event, it cost less than £30.00 to enter and you get an organisation which is simply the best I have ever encountered. At the end you get a decent looking medal, free photos by Sussex Photography and to cap it all a free full English breakfast served to your table by the local cheery schoolchildren.

As for the run itself it is wonderful especially if you like hills! It is 90% a trail run with just the odd quiet stretch along tarmac road. It is a run you need to train for as the ascents are quite taxing although they are all runnable. That said many runners take the sensible decision to fast walk the steeper parts without really losing any time. I know they didn’t lose any time because I decided to run the whole thing and couldn’t gain on the walkers on the steep inclines. The route takes you on a long uphill path onto the South Downs where it joins the South Downs Way in parts. There are some fast stretches along the top (not for me though) with long views to the sea on one side and inland to the north. The descents are interesting and require some technique. One downhill through the woods follows a chalky hollowed out path which is rutted and covered occasionally in slippy chalk slime, occasionally in leaf mould and sometime loose flint boulders. I would be interested to know how many get injured on these paths. Maybe St Johns Ambulance have some figures. I suspect the tired marathon runners must find these descents even trickier.
I ran the race with my nephew Alex and his partner Kerry who confidently overhauled me after a few miles and finished in about 2 hours 7 minutes. Grit, John and myself all fell in behind. It is not a race for PB’s and you would need to be pretty fit to get in under 2 hours.

During breakfast we clocked a large contingent of German runners and wondered if they had come especially for the run. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves washing down their breakfast with Strongbow Cider!

We were doing it as part of our training for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race at the end of May. Next up is the Three Forts Race.
Will we do the Stinger again? Of course we will!

 

Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoes

Saturday, February 27th, 2016
My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don't they look lovely!

My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don’t they look lovely!

I’ve signed up for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race on the good ship Brimble so some panic training is needed. Next week we are running the dreaded Steyning Stinger, one of my favourite races. My old Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes are unbelievably still quite serviceable although I fear they will clap out just before the race so I decided to buy some more. This time I decided to buy Speedcross 3. I hate buying online but none of the London shops had size 12.5. I don’t normally take size 12.5 but my old ones were this size and I tried size 11.5 and they were too tight. After a three week wait it transpires the shoes were left in a local sweet shop but no one bothered to tell me. I never have a smooth ride with online purchases. I picked them up this morning and decided to give them a go in Oxleas Woods. The new shoes have the treads moulded to fit the shoes whereas the old ones the tread was cut from a regular pattern sheet resulting in nobbles very close to the edge. They both have a great lace system. It looks fragile but it is really tough. You just pull on the clip to tighten then tuck the excess into a little pouch. The shoes are really well padded, I reckon you could run a half marathon in them from new without any trouble. They are really light and grippy. During the last Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race my running partner was wearing Inov8 shoes which lost all their nobbles on one scree slope! These Salomons will be good for several years. Highly recommended but take care on the sizing.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.

 

The Final Leg – Arran to Troon

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Gordon Baird Greets us in Troon

Poor Sumara was about a day behind the rest of the fleet but we were determined to finish. We had heard that about 13 yachts had retired and three did not start so although we were definately going to be last at least we were going to finish! We had all booked tickets on the overnight sleeper back to London and some of the crew had to get back to work or other arrangements. It was going to be a very tight call. The sail across is about 13 miles (I think – this is from memory). We ghosted out of the northern channel from Lamlash. From the top of Goat Fell we saw ripples of wind on the water further out to sea, so we were hopefull of a fair sail. It was a slow start and the oars almost came out but eventually we caught a bit of wind and Sumara got under way. Now things were looking promising. We booked a cab to greet us at Troon to get us to the station. However soon I could see a smooth area near to the coast and sure enough when we were two miles off the wind died. A short blast of the motor would have got us there in time to catch the train but there was no way after all this effort that we were going to spoil things so out came the oars. We rowed in desperation to try to catch the train but soon we realised it wasn’t going to happen. We were only a mile off. The engine was a big temptation but instead we decided to call the cab firm and get a quote for Troon to London. Gulp! Oh well, it had to be. We rowed on and the harbour entrance loomed. It was dark now. We rowed towards the marina entrance and pumped up the dinghy. A large fishing boat swung around the corner and was surprised to see us. Grit and Rick rowed on ahead and ran to the Marina Office where a slightly bemused member of the staff was surprised to see us. He thought the race had finished yesterday. Not for Sumara!

It was a shame not to be able to celebrate as Sarah, Charlotte and Rick had to jump in the cab. Grit and I stayed behind to clear up the boat. The following day whilst walking down the pontoon we were enthusiastically greeted by Gordon Baird. Gordon gave us a heros welcome although we came last and Gordon came first! We had a lovely chat and coffee onboard his huge catarmaran called Obedient.  After sorting the boat Grit and I had a tasty meal in the Marina Restaurant and caught the train back to London. The big adventure was over.

We were the smallest boat in the race and we came last. However we did finish. There were 50 boats due to start the race. Three did not make it to the start start leaving 47 competitors but only 29 finished. Obedient came first in 40 hrs and 44 minutes 22 seconds. We took a little bit longer at 106 hrs 57 minutes. We didn’t bother about the seconds!

Rick has done a nice write up in his local mountaineering newletter. Here is the link.

http://www.shrewsburymc.com/pdf/newsletter/SMC_Newsletter_Jul_2012.pdf

 

 

 

Goat Fell

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Alasdair Grit and Rick on Goat Fell

Sumara was so late arriving at Lamlash on Arran that the organisers had to leave so they asked us to time ourselves in and out. It was a hot day and we were not going to be running in the dark but we stuck to the rules and ran with the full kit including extra thermals, torches and spare batteries. Grit, Rick and I were the runners this time. I was pretty tired after the week’s hectic activity and slowed the team down a bit. Grit was very perky. Rick described her as a metronome. The run in to Goat Fell is a long trek from Lamlash but the climb is very straight forward with a path to the top. On this sunny day it was crowded with tourists. We reached the summit and immediately turned to descend. Rick flew down in his usual style quickly followed by Grit. I was still taking these downhill runs cautiously to avoid stressing my recovering knee. The long run back to Lamlash exhausted me but for some strange reason, as usual, I sped up towards the end. I’m never sure why that happens. I don’t have the timings with me right now but I think it was around 6 hours. We rowed back to Sumara for the final sail to Troon.

Well it wasn’t as long as six hours! It was 5hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds. The average speed of ascent was 500m/hr with a maximum of 890m/hr. The average speed of descent was 830m/hr with a max of 1830m/hr. The total ascent was 1224m and the highest point according to my £29.00 Decathlon watch was 878m.

The Mull of Kintyre

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Chart Plotter off Kintyre!

By now we knew we were the last boat to leave Jura for Arran. Barbara, who was one of the organisers had politely asked if we were still competing. “Of course we are” was Chatlottes reply. To get to Lamlash on Arran we would have to round the Mull of Kintyre – a notorious headland with fierce tides and overfalls. The wind was now coming from the south east and we couldn’t lay off the course. We eventually had to tack to avoid contravening the shipping lane regulations. Tim had told me how one year a yacht ended up nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland. How I laughed, but guess what? The wind became very light and the tide turned and the good ship Sumara found herself nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland! Of course eventually the tide would become fair and we were able to tack in towards Arran. Rick and I thought it best to grab a couple of hours sleep while Sarah, Grit and Charlotte took the last short watch into Lamlash. Sadly it wasn’t to be so easy. The wind turned and headed them and soon they were closer to Ailsa Craig than Arran. We ended up with everyone rowing as hard as they could. I tried pulling in the dinghy. It took a long old time but we finally picked up a buoy in Lamlash ready for the last run – up Goat Fell.

The Paps of Jura

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Alasdair and Rick on the Paps of Jura

 

Alasdair on the Paps of Jura

Having been sailing for 26 hours means you are not necessarily in tip top race condition at the start of the run but somehow the adrenalin kicks in and the energy comes from somewhere. Harris, from the nice yellow yacht in Dunstaffnage, had made us a specially decorated tub of nourishing energy giving food and kindly given it to us as a present before we left the marina. Even with Harris’ nosh I wasn’t sure quite how we would pull this one off. At least we were running in daylight. Rick and I cleared the thorough kit inspection and jogged off to the foothills of the Paps. With a combined age of 114 years we were probably the oldest team to run this section, but maybe not.

The cumulative ascent was to be 1740m. Our maximum speed of ascent was 1010m an hour and our maximum speed of descent was 1930m an hour. The Paps are quite steep sided and when you’ve got to the top you need to descend to climb another one and then do it all again. I was beginning to flake out on the second ascent but just managed to continue the top. After that it wasn’t so bad.

My fear of my knee playing up didn’t happen but I was trying to be kind to it on the downhill runs. It was good being with Rick, who was much faster and more experienced than me. I learnt a lot of little techniques and loved running down the scree slopes.
The scree is tough on the shoes. Mine held up fine (Salamon Speed Cross SCS) but Rick’s Inov Mudroc’s really took a bashing. About a third of the studs were torn off the sole and others were about to break loose. He will be taking them back as they were pretty new. I never liked my shoes when I bought them but now I think they are the bees knees.
After 6 hours and 51 minutes we arrived back at the check point, a little worn but not injured, and we were collected by Charlotte in the dinghy ready for the next section.

Rowing Past the Corryvreckan

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I confess that we had been a little worried on-board the ship as the runners had taken longer than we expected. We knew one runner from another team had to be air lifted off and we were much relieved when a text arrived from Charlotte saying they were on the road back. Once the tired but very cheery runners were safely onboard at 7am we heaved up the hefty anchor, got the sails filled and made way back down the Sound of Mull.
The big tidal gateway en route to Craighouse on Jura is the Sound of Luing. The organisers had conveniently chosen a weekend with a new moon so it was to be powerful spring tides (and no moonlight!). The tides can whizz through the sound at 7 or 8 knots so there was no chance if we missed the fair tide. Time was however ticking away and the wind was already slacking off. If we were to arrive too late then we would need to head to the Sound of Islay at the southern tip of the island – but that added miles.
We did eventually arrive at the Sound of Luing in time for the tide but the wind had now slackened of to a very light vesper. We needed to man the oars for although we were travelling at 8 knots we had no steerage and if we took too long the Corryvreckan would suck us in and spit us out the other side.
After a while a breeze returned and the female watch even had to change down sails only to find the wind died again and they had to change back up. Rick and I were snoozing below trying to catch some sleep before running the Paps of Jura.
After 26 long hours and 20 minutes we arrived at Jura at 0839.
Charlotte rowed Rick and me ashore. The dreaded Paps awaited!

The Mighty Ben More

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Charlotte Kit Check Salen

Grit and Charlotte on Ben More

Grit on the run in to Ben More

(Written by Grit Eckert)

Our team set off in good spirit to complete the run that out of all of them was the longest. On studying the map we learnt that it ll be 22 miles.
Charlotte, Rick and I were defiantly up for it. Half an hour into the run we bumped into the first team but they were on their way back.

We were quite lucky with the weather only a little drizzle when we landed.
After about four miles we left the main road to enter the rougher paths that would lead us up the summit. One must always be cautious not to fall into the trap of following other teams however tempting that might be. On that note we made the right decision not to follow a team that had been ahead of us and seemed to be heading up the wrong way.

The higher up ones gets the better the view and on a clear sunny day it is quite breathtaking. However, there is always that risk of danger and as we ascended we made out a loud noise in the distant which turned out to be a mountain rescue helicopter that had to rescue a runner who cracked his ribs while trying to get to the top…oh dear.

As we progressed we were slowly running out of day light, luckily we did made it to the summit with a little left. On descending night fall and we switched on our head torches and another chapter began as navigating became a little harder. We weren’t the only ones struggling, there were other teams in a very similar position. The good thing about darkness is one can see these little ray of lights wondering around in the wild which gives an indicator on the general direction. We struggled on and luckily Rick was brilliant at finding the check points in the dark.

After almost thirteen hours we made it back to Salen where we were greeted by the rest of the team…and for the record we weren’t the last ones to leave the island.

Oban to Salen on the Isle of Mull

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The Salen Anchorage on the Isle of Mull

We weren’t last in the running race but we were almost the last boat over the sailing start line. We had a fair wind and the tide was with us and it was a lovely day so everyone was very happy. The main fleet were pulling ahead but still in sight, albeit they were at Lismore and we were just leaving Oban. The problem with being a bit slower is the tide starts to slack off and then wind dies in the evening so it took us 5hrs 20min 29 seconds to get our runners to Salen, the anchorage on Mull. We arrived at 1720 already second to last. Oh dear! The runners rowed ashore in the dingy and Sarah and I anchored Sumara on a relatively short scope of chain with a 15kg Rocna on the end. The anchor bit in well. We kept the scope short so we didn’t range around the anchorage. Some of the yachts anchored on long rope warps were blowing about in the light wind at slack tide but otherwise we had a quiet time and set our alarm for 11pm and grabbed a few hours sleep. This was a bit of an error as it happened………………

The Start

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Kit Check at Oban Sailing Club

The Race starts with a run over Pulpit Hill near Oban. It’s about 6 miles I think. Grit and I ran it on Wednesday night as a trial but got lost! That was pathetic really but we just missed one turning. We sailed Sumara down from Dunstaffnage to Oban Bay Marina early on Thursday morning and picked up a buoy. Charlotte and Sarah arrived on the 1130 train and booked into a hostel for the night. Sumara only has three berths and there were to be five of us onboard. We still had to do the provisioning and meet our new crew member Rick Robson who was arriving at 1530. I met Rick at the station and he looked just the ticket! A big smile and a Basque berry with a soft bag slung over his shoulder. Rick looked like a real fell runner – well he was a real fell runner! At 1600 we trundled down to Oban Yacht Club for the full kit inspection and registration. They are pretty thorough on this and every item is carefully ticked off. They make sure the torches actually work and no one has filed the studs of their shoes. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that. Mind you I will give a pretty dammimg report on the studs on one make of shoe later. We all passed the inspection, were given our race numbers (41) and we queued up for the ferry back to the boat. There was still a long list of tasks needing to be done.  In the morning Sarah and Charlotte would sail the boat up towards the start area and Grit would row ashore to collect Rick and me who were doing the first running race.

The race briefing was at 0900 outside the clubhouse. Rick and I went off for breakfast. The race start was to be at 1200. On this race there was no requirement to carry full kit. I was still a bit worried about my knee so I wore an elastic bandage and a bit of Ibuprofen Gel.

At noon about 120 runners were lined up for the start. Some of these runners are the top dogs of the fell running world, and then there was me at the other end.  However we did our best and were certainly not last back. After running through the finish line we met Grit and rowed as fast as we could back to Sumara ready for the sail to the start line.

We were underway. After all the stress of the preparations, it was a great feeling.