Yearly Archives: 2013

I need some trail shoes

The title says it all!

Back along I wrote about my shoe lust list, and as training for Hope24 kicks into gear and I run more trails I am trying to narrow down my choices for ultra distance training and racing shoes.

I have been refining that list a little – based on the last few months of running.

It is quite hard to figure out which ones, the basic criteria are simple

  • min 18mm cushion,
  • not too firm
  • 6mm or less drop
  • good value (this generally rules out Salamon!)
  • durable (ideally good for at least 500 miles!)

The Altra Lone Peak stays, as it is a great looking shoe and I hear and read great reports about it…



But, with a bit of rethinking the list now looks like this

  • Skechers GoRun Ultra
  • Altra Lone Peak
  • Pearl Izumi Trail N1 or maybe the N2 (hard to find I’m my size, not sure about 2014 line yet)
  • Salamon Sense Mantra

These are sort of in the order of preference.

The Skecher GoRun Ultra


By all accounts, this is also a great shoe. Pete Larson over at RunBlogger endorses it and Robert Youngren helped with the design, but offers up a really honest review of the shoe. I am a fan of Skechers Performance shoes, the GoBionic is my regular run shoe at the moment, and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy any others in the Performance line up.

So, here’s my list, does anyone have any other suggestions, just to confuse me a little more?


2013 in (p)review (of 2014)

It is that time of the year when the world is full of reviews, and this will be the second or third year I have done it.

2013 has been a year full of ups and downs, revelations and surprises and finally a coming together and a settling down. Some of things that have stood out are:

Building a new bit of house

So, it used to look like this, and it was pretty grim…


So some men turned up after committing to spend vast sums of money and it started to look like this.

Timing is everything, spring was meant to be warm, but the day the builders did this, we then endured the coldest March for 50 years…


Well, I say men, but from time to time we did have helpers…


After what seemed like an age, it started to come together, and I did a lot of the non-construction jobs myself, such as general labouring, the plumbing, and laying the underfloor heating…


And laying a sedum roof…



and the floor – finest bamboo…


and then… it was almost done, so we filled it with friends for a celebratory breakfast!




No photos of this one, you will be glad. I do have one of my small intestines and fascinating as it is, this is probably not the place to post it!

I have fully adjusted to what turned out to be the answer to around 18 months to two years of feeling shit. Let the good times roll.

Greenbelt 2013

I had a lot of fun at Greenbelt, and while we ended up heading home a day early due to sickness, we did manage to perplex people by using informal street art as “an act of worship



In 2012 I was the production manager. In 2013 I assisted in this, but way more stressful was being given a 3 minute slot to talk…

so I spoke, on how to be a revolutionary – how to save the world in three minutes


And, it seems that no blog post now is complete without a reference to running. I am close to closing the year with 1000 miles run, and I am very please with that. I ran my first half marathon, with more plans to run more events.


Well, this is going to be a big year. Big expectations, big targets, a big birthday…

A 24-hour run challenge, please sponsor me. I am in the early stages of a training plan that should take me to 100 mile fitness, so perhaps this is a target. I do need to figure out nutrition, clothing, footwear, and a support crew.

And I think my running target for 2014 will be 2014 miles. This is around 50 miles a week, with enough flex to take a couple of weeks off here and there.

Oh, and I need to finish the extension, build a patio, paint things, look after my family…

I think 2014 is going to be awesome, and I look forward to documenting it.



some numbers

by way of a quick update…

Now the running is in full swing it is encouraging to see the numbers ticking by

week 48 saw 48.23 miles run, including an almost 22 miler on Saturday morning

This brought November’s total to 181 and the year to date up to 841.

I might even make 1000+ by the end of the year.

My GoBionics have clocked 290 miles, and I am hardly running in my Inov-8 233s at all. In fact the GoBionics are so good, I have bought 2 more pairs, and will keep an eye out for any further price drops.

I am also looking forward to some trail miles over the next couple of weeks as well.

Training wise, I am now on my last easy week of the this current cycle of 2 weeks hard, 1 week easy. The next block is a 3 hard and 1 easy pattern. The past two weeks have been hard, and my legs have been really tired, I guess that is to be expected running 30 or so miles at the weekend. I really had to push myself on Sunday morning to go. BUT, I was so glad I did. After Saturday’s 21.6 miles, my legs felt surprisingly good! Good enough to be a functioning parent and weekend chef anyway!

That long run was pretty flat, so I am looking forward to heading back to the secret mountain soon.

Have a great week and run well.


10K Challenge Runs and a mini #strava review

As a recent ‘convert’ to Strava I have to say how impressed I am with it. I wasn’t sure at first, I mean, I am a long time fan of TrailrunnerX, and have been using it to log runs since 2008, but a month or so in and I have to say I like it.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 11.05.23

One thing I like about Strava is how it makes (almost) every effort look fantastic. It always finds a way to make achievements look great (possibly because they are?), elevation profiles look like near vertical assents were tackled, and even if you don’t feature in an overall ranking, best efforts get flagged in a way that really reinforces that every activity was a great effort.

I like this, and the social side of things is really good too. Being able to connect to runners across the country / world, to share their progress, the highs and in some cases the lows as well is helping me to build a really good virtual support group for my running.

I have not used Strava via an app, and I have noticed some odd GPS tracks and segment results wen running with people who do use it this way – I am happy to run with my trusty Garmin 410 and import the data.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 11.05.48

This month I signed up to a couple of Strava challenges, “Find Your Way” where I am currently ranked 758th out of 17000+ participants (see, I told you it can make you look good) and the “10K Challenge”

In my eagerness to run a good 10K I hadn’t clocked that the start date wasn’t when I signed up to the challenge, oh well, my all time PB of 42:26 (average pace 6:50 for whole run) will be a hard one to beat. It was a flat course along Bournemouth Sea Front…

Still, now the challenge has officially started, I need to see what I can do, and I will be leased with a 43 minute time. Who knows though, if I can find the right course, I might be able to crack 40 minutes!

Wish me luck!

a good weekend

The weekend was a good mix of birthday celebrations and running.

Bethan was 9 and got a new bike  – here she is cruising the park.


Not wishing to miss out, her sister spent the time perfecting her skating tricks


Meanwhile the little boy had sneaked off to rescue a damsel in distress and stomp in some muddy somewhere…

[sorry, no photo, he sneaked off]

The weekend runs were awesome

a happy pre-dawn 10 miles at a steady pace

And on Saturday Andy and I ran an 18 mile loop at a comfortable / slow pace

The sunrise was fantastic, it makes getting up and running at that time of the day worth it


Part of our route took us through somewhere I now refer to as “the Stoke Valley Basin”, named as an act of homage to Death Valley. The Stoke Valley Basin shares nothing remotely in common with Death Valley. It is however very low altitude (!), and as such is prone to flooding.

The flood markers made a welcome sight on Sunday, mostly because they were still visible despite the recent rain.


So, winter training is going well, and I am looking forward to an easier week as part of my current training cycle (last week’s run stats were 45 miles ran with an average pace range of 7:04/mile and 8:53/mile)

And, don’t forget – there is hope please consider sponsoring me to run for 24 hours

Children are not for sale

1.2 Million Children are trafficked every year

1,200,000 children

that is simply


1,200,000 children bought, sold, exploited, abused, forced to work, hope destroyed, unable to run.

unable to run

And its not just about poor and developing countries, no, it is happening everywhere.

And it has to END

Sometimes people ask why I run. The answer is complex, but part of it is “I run because others can’t”

And as part of my 2014 running challenges I have decided to run the Hope24 race in Plymouth (Its in Newnham Park, how could I resist?) and raise money for the charity Hope For Children

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 14.34.13

Hope for Children is a great charity, and they don’t just work with child exploitation, but more generally towards a world where children’s rights are realised and they can reach their full potential. They actively identify disadvantaged children and communities by working with local partners. This means the work they do results in life long and sustained good.

So I have entered the Hope24Run and have set up a sponsors page – all I ask is that as I set about training over the next 6 months you might think about the issues of child exploitation and as a response donate to Hope for Children via my giving page. If you do this, you can be confident that this money will directly contribute to improving the lives of children and their communities. That’s not much to ask is it? Thanks.

Grace and peace





the secret mountain

My part of the world is not exactly flat, but it is not exactly hilly either. There are hills, and some are pretty steep, but nothing with more than a mile of ascent. Still, as I blogged last week, I have found a hill to run up that is a bit of a monster! 650f of ascent over 1.6 miles: a 7.6% average gradient. Not really much, but for this part of the world I will class it as a mountain!

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 14.00.38

Andy and me (sporting my beard)

I tackled it again yesterday (with Andy) as part of a 16 mile loop (strava here) and it was a lot of fun. It didn’t hurt as much as last week, but it still hurt, and I was still pretty slow. I think walking would have been quicker at one point…

We set out at just before 6am (which with the recent clock change means it is not so dark at that time) so there is not really much time for breakfast. That said, I had a banana, an avocado and a 33shake chia gel.

I made a couple of gels up the night before and left them in the fridge. This was a significant improvement on my earlier experiments with these gels, where I made them up and only left them for 10 minutes to so.

I am quite new to using gels of any description, I guess I have never really needed them, and that they are sugar based has really put me off. So the 33Shake ethos are ingredients work well for me, a small amount of coconut palm sugar is all the sugar you get.

Using them on the run has taken a bit of getting used to – but they are nowhere near as hard as a conventional gel to swallow. The Chia Gel actually tastes good, I mean really good. And from a power / energy point of view they got me through a long run and I still had plenty in my legs, so I think they are doing what I need them to do.

As my distances start to creep up, I need to continue to work out a balance of real food and easy and quick to eat real food (I class the Chia Gel as an easy food, but its a very easy and quick to eat real food).

I also need to find a rich and or generous benefactor to help fund my running habit (that or find some things to sell!)

Running Stats update

In October I ran 125 miles (38 down on September)

In Week 44 I ran 38.39 miles over 5 runs. Quickest average pace 7:26/mile, slowest average pace 8:54/mile

Events entered: 1, the Hope24 run in May 2014 (a new page will be coming for this event…)


Week 43 running stats and other musings

Week 43, according to TrailrunnerX shows I have run 4 runs with a total distance of a little over 33 miles. This is up on weeks 39 – 42 although to be fair, they were really two taper weeks, my first ever half marathon, and a week of taking it easy!.

I have mostly run roads, and used the GoBionics. Although my Saturday long run was in my Inov 8’s and involved a new adventure… a 15 mile loop out to through Shillingford Abbot up to Haldon Hill and back via Dunchidiock. Total ascent was around 1900 feet, which is pretty impressive because although Exeter is hilly, nothing is that big.

The elevation profile looks like this:

I love how running apps always seem to over emphasise your achievements! Still that climb, all 17 minutes of it nearly broke me, forcing me to walk. If it wasn’t all the wildlife, deer, owls, and so on, I may have slowed quite considerably.

(I loved this route and am looking at how I can safely extend it to build up the milage, and keeping the hills in. It is almost all road running – no pavement – and while it is generally early, and I am well lit, I need to make sure I stay safe.)


The view from the top of the hill.

Before running I had a banana, and took a Nakd Gluten Free bar. It was a cocoa orange bar. I ate it at around mile 9 and it did the trick. In fact it was perfect, and it tasted nice. not something I can say about gels!

I am going to experiment more with their bars when running, They are a mix of dates and cashew nuts with other flavourings, and provide around 20g of carbs and 2-5g of protein per bar. I am also looking at experimenting with Chia seeds. Has anyone had any experience of these?

Week 44 of running starts a 20 week programme I have scheduled. Not with any particular goal, but one that should build fitness and endurance up to the 50 mile mark. At least that is the plan, but my ankle is feeling a little odd at the moment, a strain perhaps, so I need to monitor that and try to take it easy through this next week.

I am also almost at tipping point when it comes to entering the Hope 24 Challenge in Plymouth next may. It’s a local-ish event, on a private estate I knew really well. I need to see if I can find a crew to support me before making the final decision though. I might enter on a sponsorship place, as part of the incentive to commit to it – I think I could raise £250+ of sponsorship money… feel free to indicate your support in the comments.

So onwards, through the storm and in to week 44.



Being Ultra Prepared

I have been mulling over the whole ultra marathon thing for a few years now. At least the last 10! However, I think the seeds were planted a long time before that. A love of mountains and moors, biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, a little fell running, plenty of fast moor adventures, and three years at college learning to be an outdoor pursuits instructor were all things I did a lot of when I was younger.


Dartmoor really is fantastic. This is one of my favourite photos I have of the moor (do take a look at the whole set on Flickr).

I was a Ten Tors regular and as part of the training I remember one year, probably 1993 or 4, doing the O.A.T.S  Walk on Darrmoor. 29 miles in one day, Ivybridge to Okehampton. The first time I tried this, it took me 10h30 or so. I went back the next year having trained hard and did it in 8h15, one of the fasted walking teams. What really stood out that second time was the fell runners, while my team kept up for the first few miles, they were faster, carried less, and didn’t appear to need to stop. The fastest time was around 5h30.

About 10 years ago I read something in the Sunday papers about a ultra running, tales of events across the world, South Africa, Africa, America, people were achieving great feats of human endurance. I guess this was a cognitive milestone!

This seed germinated and has slowly grown. When, in 2008, I turned 34 I started running again after a 15+ year break, spurred on by a birthday gift of an iPod nano and a nike+ sensor. I actually started logging my runs using TrailRunnerX. I did run mush, according to my running diary around 12-14 miles a week. Over the next few years it got more serious, and then through 2013, notwithstanding the coeliac blip, I have now managed to cover distances I never managed before. Some of this might have been an event focus; signing up to run the Great West Run also meant signing up to my own expectations as well as a training schedule.

The post GWR week has been an easy running week so far, not many miles, but one of a growing sense of excitement that my body is actually capable of doing this kind of thing.

I read about the Dartmoor Discovery a couple of years back and have made a pact with myself that I will run it in 2014. The year I turn 40.

The DD is a 50k road ultra, not much more than a marathon, but those Dartmoor lanes are pretty impressive and have a mighty climbs and descents.

In looking at how I might prep for this, and working out what local events their may be, I have found the Exmoor Ultra. 40m from Minehead to Lynmouth and back. It’s in 23 weeks time. It is mixed road, coast path and trail.

That should be long enough to train up right?

Now, I haven’t done much trail running recently, but I did dig out my old trail shoes and take them with me on a recent overnight training course down in Plymouth. I enjoyed a fab, dark, wet 3 miles on the Roborough Downs. My old trail shoes need replacing though, for something lighter, faster drying and lower to the ground! Three days on and the shoes are still drying out! However, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting out to Haldon to run some more tracks and trails. On Haldon it will be possible to run for 15-20 miles without too much repetition and plenty of hills for good measure.

I have also noted the 100KM Race to the Stones event…

There is a pile of stuff I need to sort out though. Not least to find some funds to do this kind of thing.

On top of event fees, for anything over the 50K mark and for the Exmoor Ultra in March 2015 (a UTMB 2 point qualifier) I need to acquire some equipment!


On top of the list are the following:

A lightweight, breathable, stretchy waterproof coat and trousers – OMM have the fantastic Kamleika Race Jacket and matching trousers and that would certainly tick this box

A pack. there are many to choose: the Inov 8 Race Elite 16 or Race Pro 18, Nathan Sports Vapourwrap look great, but the OMM Ultra 15 looks perfect and is such great value, I checked it out in Runners Need today, very, very impressive.

Some decent trail shoes (and some more road shoes in due course). One of the pairs from this list or indeed, the Merrell Mix Master or Skechers GoBionic Trail would be equally perfect!

If you happen to have an episode of overwhelming generosity and fancy helping me out – please do get in touch!

I also need to work on my nutrition. Just as I experience in my day to day life, most people completely fail to understand gluten free, and most foods seem to contain gluten.

One of the issues with coeliac’s disease is that even a crumb of wheat can trigger an auto immune reaction, so cross contamination is always a worry.

Lots to think about, and when I have worked through some more, I will post up a training plan soon. I have found one I like the look of. Sensible and it seems well reviewed, and would be enough to get 50M fit.

Call for comments:

  • Does anyone have any kit they would never leave behind or any recommendations?
  • Do you have any training advice?