Archive for May, 2012

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.


Fell Running and Invertors

Friday, May 25th, 2012

You may be wondering what happened to my enthusiastic blog. It all started well with lots of posts and then it stopped just as it was going to get exciting. Well my first excuse was that the ship invertor stopped working – it  just tripped the contact breaker. I decided against gaffer taping the breaker on as apparently it is poor form. That meant my lap top went flat so it was bye bye blog.

Trouble is everyone has mobiles but not many people have 12v chargers so it became obvious that the world would simply grind to a halt and collapse if the good ship didn’t have an invertor. Grit and I had a fleeting moment in Oban to try to buy one in the Car Spares Shop. The man behind the counter just couldn’t believe it. He had sold six that morning! He really thought we were winding him up!

It’s a funny old world when you need an invertor to go running but mobiles are fairly important on this race. The runners need to warn the boat crew half an hour before finishing so the anchor and mainsail can be raised ready for the pick up. They are a useful safety device too.

Yippee, we’ve found a new runner!

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Sumara’s New Oars

Once John decided it was really out of the question him partaking in the Race with his chest infection we needed to find a replacement as soon as possible.Tim and Dan did sterling work putting the feelers out and we now have Rick Robson joining the team. Rick is an experienced fell runner although he says he is a bit rusty which sounds perfect as he’ll be running with me. Rick knows the Paps of Jura which could be a help too. We are meeting up with Rick plus Charlotte and Sarah at lunchtime on Thursday.
It’s been all go preparing the Good Ship but we did have time to amuse ourselves with trying out the new oars. I reckon she’ll do about three knots with them!  (Well that didn’t happen! We did eventually get over two knots with these and the small oars) We may even catch up with some of the big boys!

Things aren’t looking so good! Anyone fancy a run?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Poor John has had to pull out because his chest infection hasn’t cleared up yet. We need to find another runner mighty quick as we will not be allowed to enter without five crew. I’ve tried a few people on the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race website. One has found a boat and I am waiting to hear from the other two. Hopefully someone will turn up. The trouble is that they will be running with me and I’m not very quick and the boat will be very cramped. Ideally a slow fell runner who is not very big and knows how to sail. There must be someone out there!

The forecast shows a distinct lack of wind and what little wind there is, is from the north making it even less likely to move the good ship along. The good news is that there is a lot of sun forecast instead of rain. To save space below decks I haven’t got a spinnaker or cruising chute on board but I might need to get one shipped up if it stays as light as the forecast. The new ship oars are all well and good but rowing the whole way would take weeks! Mind you it is still a few days before the start (noon on Friday) so things can easily change.

I did an easy eight mile run yesterday with quite a few hills and the twisted knee seems to be holding up. I can’t really tell until I get out there.

“It’ll be fine!” as Dan would say.

Off to catch the sleeper train now. It’ll be nice to be in Scotland in the morning.


Heavily Loaded

Friday, May 11th, 2012

I seem to have put in two pictures, we certainly don’t have two Baby Blakes. I’m rubbish at this bloggy stuff but I’ll get the hang of it one day. Here is our kit list. I expect there is something crucial missing but even so when you multiply most of it by five you can imagine how tight the little ship will be! We have to lug it up on the train too.

General Personal Kit Always Needed – Date 120511
Item Quantity Needed Purchase Date Replacement Date Notes Checked
Sailing Boots 1 2010 2014 Needs a bit of glue on the top cap
Thick Socks 7
Merrels or deck shoes 1 2011 2013
Romper suit 1 2002 2015
Lofoten Bib and Brace 1 2002 2015
Lofoten top 1 2002 2015
Merino Leggings 3 2010 2014
Underwear 7 1962 2045
Merino Tops 4 2010 2014
Oiled Wool Pullover 1 2009 2030
Belay Waistcoat 1 2011 2016
Belay Jacket 1 2011 2016
Oilskin Trousers 1 2010 2016
Oilskin Top 1 2010 2016
Active Trousers 1 2009 2015
Merino Neck 1 2010 2015
Merino Beanie 1 2010 2015
Thick Bubble Hat 1 2005 2015
Lowe Alpine Hat 1 2010 2017
Mittens 1 2010 2016
Gloves 2 2008 2014
Rescue Knife 1 2008 2020
Lifejacket 1 2009 2015
Lanyard 1 2001 2013
Technical Towel 1 2009 2016
Towel Hand 1 2011 2030
Swimming gear 1 2006 2015
Sleeping Bag 1 2012 2022
Sun glasses 1 2008 2015
Reading Glasses 2 2012 2014
Wash Bag 1 2005 2020
Cut off toothbrush 1 1980 2050
Toothpaste 1 1980 2050
Soap 1 1980 2050
Shampoo 1 1980 2050
Stugeron 1 1980 2050
Sun tan stuff 1 1980 2050
Penecillin 1 2012 2013
Morphine 1 2011 2013
Re-hydration stuff 1 2012 2015
Anti Septic 1 2012 2015
Waterproof Orlieb Bag 1 2011 2020 So it can stay in the cockpit at night

Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race (Compulsory Kit – Being Inspected)

Map of Oban 1 2012 2012 If you are running it
Map of Mull 1 2012 2012 If you are running it
Map of Jura 1 2012 2012 If you are running it
Map of Arran 1 2012 2012 If you are running it
Hat of Balaclava 1 2012 2012
Long sleeved top 1 2012 2012
Thermal tops 2 2012 2012
Gloves or mitts 1 2012 2012
Long trousers 1 2012 2012
Fell running shoes 1 2012 2012
Waterproof jacket 1 2012 2012
Waterproof trousers 1 2012 2012
Head torch 1 2012 2012
Spare set of batteries 1 2012 2012
Blizzard Pack 1 2012 2012
Compass 1 2012 2012
Whistle 1 2012 2012
Emergency Rations-
Min 250gm Chocolate 1 2012 2012
Pencil and paper 1 2012 2012
First aid kit
(one per team) 1 per team 2012 2012 One per team, therefore two for Arran
Triangular bandages 2 2012 2012 One per team, therefore two for Arran
Large wound dressing 1 2012 2012 One per team, therefore two for Arran
Elastic Bandages –
not plasters 3 2012 2012 One per team, therefore two for Arran
Race Number 1 2012 2012
Insurance Documents
for the yacht 1 2012 2012
Non-Compulsory Kit for Race
Copy of Rules 1 2012 2012
Mobile phone 1
Hand torch 1
Spare battery 1
Massive Blister Pack 1
Newspaper for
stuffing shoes 1
Sun block 1
Tissues 1
Knee bandage 2
Iboprofen pills 1
Iboprofen gel 1
Arnaca Gel 1
Water bladders 1
Water 1.5L 1
Running rucksack 1
Marzipan 3 t
Jelly Babies 3
Gels 3
Protein bars 3
Spare Trail Shoes 1
Isotonic additives 3
Clamp on Oar paddles 2
Foam mat for sleeping
on floor 1
Thermorest matress 1
Horseshoe for race 1
Very large Ortlieb bag 1 To get all the gear to Scotland on the train
Personal Mountain
Insurance 1 Austrian Alpine Club

General Gear
Panasonic Camera 1 2010
Canon Camera 1 2010
Panasonic Charger 1 2010
Canon Charger 1 2010
Ipod 1 2009
Radio Transmitter
for Ipod 1 2010
Walking Boots 1 2009
Gaiters 1 2011
Walking Gortex
Trousers 1 2011
Mobile phone and
charger 1 2010
Satelite phone and
charger 1 2011
Phone to laptop leads 1 2010
Mini Laptop 1 2009
Chart List and Charts 1 Various
Idiot Sheets 1 2010
Credit Card 1 2010 2013

A large bucket of optimism.

The Trouble with Running in Pairs

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Firstly it was me with my twisted knee, but now John’s chest infection has got worse and he is on the anti diabolicals. The trouble with running in pairs is that you have four legs to twist, two backs to play up, and two chests to get infected so your chance of being fighting fit is halved. Then when you run you have different paces. I like going up hill, strange but true, John flies along the flatter bits and leaves me in his wake. That’s normally fine on a half marathon because we just meet at the end but when you have to run in constant contact, one of the pair will slow the other, then visa versa. Our main worry now is if John’s chest doesn’t clear up by next week we will have to think hard about a plan B. And we don’t really have one. I bet it’ll be fine. I went for a run last night with Grit and I suppose we clocked about six miles of varied terrain. I thought it went really well – no knee trouble at all – and plenty of reserve energy. We did some good stretching at the end. Looking forward to another run on Friday.