Archive for the ‘Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race’ Category

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!

For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.

Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.

However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.

Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.

Well forget all that!

To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.

Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.

We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.

John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!

However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!

It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times.  I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.

The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.

Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!

Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.

It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates

 

 

 

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!

We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.

Getting Sumara ready for the sailing season

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

The Arthur Beale project has been zapping up all my spare time so some things are being neglected. Most of all I’m not getting to see all my buddies so that certainly needs to be rectified soon! But I realised the Good Ship wasn’t going to get all the love that she would normally get so I decided to ask Harry Kings Boatyard to help out. I’ve had some pretty mixed quality work done in the past when I have called in the professionals so I was a bit nervous about getting work that I’d normally do done by a boatyard. However I went to the boat last weekend and was very pleased with the quality of the work that Lee had done. So now I can relax knowing everything is in safe hands.
I am partaking in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks race on Brimble at the end of May so I won’t be sailing until June but I like to get her afloat before things heat up on land. Hopefully she will be bobbing up and down on her buoy in the River Orwell in the next few weeks. I still need to varnish the mast. She is all sanded and ready but I need that rare thing a dry still day before I start to varnish. I’m replacing the runners this year too due to finding a loose strand during the annual inspection.
One little job I have proudly finished is the renovation of my 20 year old Aerogen 4 wind generator. The bearings had gone and I managed to snap the hub when attempting to get it off the shaft so I relegated it to the boat jumble. When I was offered £20.00 for it I refused and decided to mend her myself. Now she has new bearings, newly tapped fin holes, a new hub, and a repaint job. I feel very proud, as she looks like new and I reckon fit for another 20 years. The great thing about the Aerogen generators is that they are virtually silent.
Tomorrow we are running the Three Forts Race with the Brimble Team. It will be a team bonding session and a chance to see how fit we are so we can pair up for the Scottish Islands Race. Better get some pasta on the boil!

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!