Running up Mont Blanc…?

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Don’t risk your life, or endanger others, by going up Mont Blanc without the right equipment. Simple eh?

If you need someone to explain what the right equipment is for going up a 4810m, glacier topped mountain then you’re not experienced enough to go up without a guide.

Nats and I have been in Chamonix for 2.5 years now and still haven’t been to the top of Western Europe. It’s not for the want of experience, Nats has climbed the Matterhorn & various other 4000m peaks and I’ve crossed glaciers in Arctic Norway. We’ve even climbed Mont Blanc de Tacul (4,248m), but we did it with with boots, crampons, axes, rope, helmets, full length trousers, goggles, etc.

One way or another it just hasn’t been the right time, be it down to races, rocks spitting from the Grand Couloir or the weather, it’s a serious undertaking, even travelling with the right gear and trying to go up and down in a day .

So if you’re coming out for UTMB or just visiting Chamonix for a holiday and you’re thinking of “running” up Mont Blanc (the altitude will mean that you won’t actually be running if you’re wondering) then please think twice.

Just this Thursday a 28 year old Traileur slipped at 4500m and fell 300m to his death whilst “running” Mont Blanc in his trail running gear. The runner Matthieu Craff, from Brittany, was “sans équipement d’alpinisme” and fell from the Bosse Ridge on the normal route many take each day to the top.

This death comes just days after the Mayor of St. Gervais said fines would be payable by those disrespecting the route with inadequate kit, but many questioned how this could be implemented. Mont Blanc, and the rest of the massif, claim multiple lives each year and the mountains are no joke up high.

We’ve seen Brits coming out and think that adding an ice axe and some micro spikes to a pair of trail shoes makes them safe in the mountains. Trust me, you’re not and the fact you’re still here has an element of luck involved.

Ultimately it’s down to the individual to decide what they are willing to risk, but if you are coming to Chamonix this Summer then don’t be a fool. Going up Mont Blanc without the correct equipment not only endangers you, but also those around and the others that have to go searching for lost traileurs and those in danger.

You don’t have to be a trail runner to make these mistakes, but we will get the brunt of the blame so why not set an example, rather than be one.

The mountain will always be there, so if your experience isn’t quite right, you don’t have the right gear or if the weather isn’t spot on then just wait. If you want to go lightweight then don’t be ridiculous. A couple of extra kilograms might slow you down, but it might also save your life.

There are plenty of Guides in Chamonix, plenty of experienced mountaineers and plenty of risk. If you are going up lightweight then still be safe and be a responsible Tweeter.

You don’t know who’s watching and who will follow you to their death.

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The last two years in one blog.

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So a lot has happened since the Tarawera 100k in 2015 and I probably should have blogged a little more. Well, a lot more.

To get this ball rolling again here’s a summary of some the best (and worst) moments of the last two years that have been written about elsewhere.

2015 World & European 24hr Champs 3rd place with 261km and Team Gold. Before and after I also managed to piss off Nike for protesting against their sponsorship of twice convicted and unrepentant drug cheat Justin Gatlin.

2015 UTMB – My first DNF at 130km after a Summer chasing my dreams in Chamonix, France. One Summer doesn’t make a mountain runner, but I’m still here trying harder every day.

2015 – My first naked photo shoot since University. The first official one, rather than just me being drunk and naked. Unfortunately the brilliant Sport magazine no longer exists, but to feature in there twice was an honour.

2016 Ice Ultra in Arctic Sweden. My first actual win in a while, a piece in the Independent and plenty of Q & A’s about running about in the snow.

2016 Trail du Velan – Winning a load of Swiss Cheese (9kg to be exact) and getting ready for the 2016 UTMB CCC and an 11th place. I actually thought I was top 10 when I crossed the line, but close enough.

2016 European 24hr Champs and knee surgery just afterwards was disappointing but has only strengthened the desire to win 24hr races.

2017 saw a sensible rehab and steady build up to the 2017 World 24hr Champs, but another disappointing performance. It really demonstrated how tough the 24hr format is. A bit of time in the mountains to recover now!

2017 also sees the start of the TrainAsONE team where I have been given the opportunity by TAO to support a select few deserving athletes to achieve their goals. Exciting times ahead for that project too.

Next up is Nats’ Xmas present of the Kom-Emine trail in Bulgaria. We’ll be supported by the wonderful Zhivko and teaming up with friend Ry Webb to run the 300-700km (depending on where you look) trail across the Balkans. We think it’s probably in the middle around 500km.

Well, thats a quick round up and I’m sure I’ve missed plenty but I’ll make sure the gap isn’t quite two years next time.

Easy now,

Robbie

Tarawera 100k 2015

Tarawera 100k 2015

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When you fly to the other side of the world to run a 100k trail race that you have to give it a go right? Well, 
that's what I've been telling myself since race day and it was all going so well until three quarters of the way 
through the race until I started my usual party trick of vomiting everywhere. Nothing has changed that much from 
my nights out at university really? 

When I got an email in December from the Ultra Trail World Tour asking if I would like elite athlete support I
thought it was a little bit too good to be true, especially when they agreed to fund a trip to run one of my
bucket list races in New Zealand.
Running around for some photos in forbidden locations pre-race. Lyndon Marceau

Running around for some photos in forbidden locations pre-race. Lyndon Marceau

It's the biggest thing I've got out of this running lark so far and I was really excited. Training went well for
January and three big weeks got me in good shape before my taper and thirty two hour set of flights. I had a good
 mix of hills, speed-work and mileage that had knackered me out but, with some good rest in my taper, I was happy
 with how the legs were spinning over. 

The level of competition was getting stronger and stronger as the race got closer, with international athletes
such as Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla, Yun Yan-qiao, Pao Bartolo, Mike Wardian and Vajin Armstrong lining up at
 the start with a twenty four hour running inspiration Yoshikazu Hara, who had run 285km in December toeing the
 line as well, I knew that if I raced sensibly and finished strong, like I know I can, I could maybe break the
top 5 or hit the podium. 

With a rousing Haka at the start, whilst I was hidden in the bushes for a final pitstop, the race got underway
amongst the great redwood forests of Rotorua, with some sick single track trails ahead for us to enjoy. Pockets
 full of homemade rice cakes and some CLIF shot bloks, the legs and mind were feeling good and I felt like I
belonged on the front of the thousand runners lining up for an adventure.
Lining up at the start facing an adrenaline pumping haka amongst some top ultrarunners.

Lining up at the start facing an adrenaline pumping haka amongst some top ultrarunners. Lyndon Marceau.

When discussing the race beforehand with the other nippy chaps they had all hinted towards an easy paced start
for the first twenty or thirty kilometres to ease us into this early season race. Unfortunately no one had
mentioned this to Yun, who was dead set on an improvement on his second place finish last year.

Expecting Bowman and co to mark such a strong move from this omni-smiling North Face runner I just settled in
behind him and trotted along. It felt a little quick but I figured he'd settle down when he realised the chaps
ahead were only racing the 60k race.

No such luck, as I let Yun race Moritz just ahead as I knew he was planning on a slightly shorter day than us. I
settled into a rhythm and enjoyed the wonderful crowds and volunteers at the aid stations and chowed down on my
food every half hour. Bryon Powell was pretty shocked to see me in second early in the race, a little wary that
he might actually have to interview this cheeky little British chap for his website irunfar.com one day. One day
 you will have to Bryon and I know you'll enjoy it. 

Mr. Bowman, a fan of the game of darts and a dedicated Phil "the Power" Taylor fan, came past at about 50k into
the race and moved very strongly uphill, so much so that I just had to let him go straight past. He was having a
great run and would smash the course record in a wee while. Then I went past Yun & Moritz after we all took a
slight wrong turn into some bush and I was to have the pleasure of Yun's company for a few kilometres after that.
Majell joined at 55k & 2nd Place, yet we finished in 7th... What's going on there Maj? Kurt Matthews.

Majell joined at 55k & 2nd Place, yet we finished in 7th… What’s going on there Maj? Kurt Matthews.

From 55k onwards I was joined by Majell Backhausen, pronounced My-Elle I learnt two years too late, to pace me
through to the finish. He was in town for a wedding so it seemed like a good chance to catch up with a friend who 
lived on the other side of the world. 

Yun and I were having a great little ding-dong battle along the trails, both struggling over fallen tress due to
our less than giant frames and sneaking underneath some that I'm sure Bowman and Maravilla, now ahead, would have 
hurdled. Good things come in small packages eh?

After watching Yun grin wildly at every obstacle so far, even when we interrupted his pit stop on the side of the
trail, it wasn't good to see him slump down into a chair at the 70k checkpoint. We had been pushing each other,
racing for third now, for 70k and now he just had nothing left.

Powering out of the 70k checkpoint, happy that I was leaving Yun behind, it wasn't long before my body decided
that I was trying just a little too hard. The racing had meant that it was happy to run or digest food, but not
both, and I chundered everywhere on the loop of despair, as Hara literally jumped, skipped and hopped up a gnarly
looking incline I was stumbling up.
Determined to keep moving but feeling empty at 85k

Determined to keep moving but feeling empty at 85k

This was not unusual territory. I knew I had to get fluids, electrolytes and energy into my body before it chucked 
them out again so I continued eating as much as I could, but energy levels were real low. Flat and downhill were 
fine but any type of incline just sapped me and I slowed to a crawl. Armstrong passed at 85k, Wardian at 95k and 
Bartolo around 97k, all with encouragement and good will. There really are so many nice blokes in ultra racing 
and they'd all been there.

My pre race aim was sub 9 hours so coming through the finish at 8:45:11 was something I might have taken at the
start, but on race day I had to make a decision in the thick of the action. I could have eased off, let Yun go
and tried my best to finish in the top 5 or I could try for the win. It's a decision I'll make the same way every
time but if you don't go you'll never win. One day they'll not seem me again until the finish line.
Crossing the finish line with good friend Majell, even if I can't say his name. Lyndon Marceau

Crossing the finish line with good friend Majell, even if I can’t say his name. Lyndon Marceau

Overall New Zealand was a great experience, a country full of beautiful, green trails, super friendly people and 
enough mountains to keep you entertained for months on end!Majel and I explored the North Island afterwards,
tramping over Maungatautari, running up Te Aroha and sitting atop the Pinnacles on the Coromandel Peninsula, all
great adventures in their own right. I think I'll need to go back for the South Island. Maybe Tarawera needs
another crack too eh?
Dusty: Our trusted car/hotel/kitchen/wardobe for the North Island Tour. Majell Backhausen.

Dusty: Our trusted car/hotel/kitchen/wardobe for the North Island Tour & post run fizzy pop! Majell Backhausen.


A huge thank you to the UTWT, Paul, Tim and everyone at Tarawera Ultra, Majel, The Byrne family for looking after
me in Auckland and Lynn & the Tylees for being my co-adventurers around Waikato. Inov-8, Julbo and Petzl made
sure I didn't have to run naked, the sun didn't get in my eyes too much and I didn't have to run in the dark at
the start. The X-Talon 212s were awesome on the single track and I didn't smash my face into the ground once.
Hot Geysers and a mistimed jump seemingly make for a great photo. Alexis Berg.

Hot Geysers and a mistimed jump seemingly make for a great photo. Alexis Berg.

2015 is looking real nice.

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After my first year as a Team inov-8 Runner spent running around the mountains, 2015 is another fantastic looking year with a mix of mountains and running around in circles in a GB vest!

Inov8 on HelvellynTo start things off I’ll be running at Tarawera 100k in New Zealand, a beautiful course along the woodland single-track and lake side course out of Rotorua. I can’t wait to get into the thick of it and smash it down some hills in my X-talon 212s.

April see’s another opportunity to put on the hallowed GB vest and run around a loop in Turin to try and better my previous 239km best for 24 hours. We have a great squad going out there and I cannot wait to be part of it!

After Turin I’ll have some down time before heading to Portugal with Danny Kendall as a British pair at the Carlos Sa Geres Trail adventure. 4 days of beautiful mountain running trying to keep up with the quickest Brit at MDS ever. Should be fun racing friends Jo Meek & Holly Rush too!

So UTMB is the main focus for the year and after a reasonable 26:48 last year I know that to step up to the next level I have to be in the mountains to train for them so Paul Navesey, Majel Backhausen and I will be shacking up in Les Houches to give ourselves the best chance to compete in those massive hills!

There are also other possibilities about the year and an an awesome adventure with fellow Centurion Ultra Team runner James Elson, but more of that later in the year when we have the ball rolling.

All this wouldn’t be possible without help from British Athletics & the Ultra Trail World Tour, as well as my partners inov-8, Julbo, Petzl, TomTom, Big Balls Beanies and Lyon Outdoor.

I hope everyone is excited about 2015, I know I am!

 

New Partner Big Balls Beanies

New Partner Big Balls Beanies

 

How to stop the suffering of Ultra Marathons as quickly as possible.

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IMGP4651Whatever your reason for running an ultra marathon, be it a personal challenge, to raise money for charity, get yourself a sub 24hr buckle, enjoy a day in the great outdoors or be competitive, every wants to get a little quicker right?

Maybe quicker isn’t the right word, how about more efficient, more comfortable? I’ve run 100 miles in nearly 28 hours and I know it was a lot more comfortable, dare I say enjoyable, running it a little bit quicker. It just hurt less and I got to sleep sooner. I love sleeping.

I’ve decided to forego my right, by Fijian by-law 573, to an afternoon nap for the next few weeks and I thought I would try do something useful with my time and write a series of blogs about ultra marathon running and how to make it as easy as possible.
Running these races is never going to actually be easy but if you can make it 5% less difficult than “really bloody tough” then you’re going to enjoy your day just that little bit more and there is a bunch of stuff you can do to make it as easy as possible on the day.

Keep goingI’ve teamed up with www.run247.com and I’m going to break it down into five different headings, five things that I think are important to running 30 to 153 miles.

Each week I will write down my thoughts on those matters, hopefully get some ideas from some friends as well and some input from everyone else. 

I’ll keep them brief, light hearted and, fingers crossed, useful. The six things I reckon you can work on to get to that finish line a little speedier are as follows, with a link to the first article that went up yesterday.


The Need for Speed (speedwork & fitness) – 

Making it as easy as possible (Efficiency)

Eat, Drink & be Merry! (Nutrition, Hydration & Electrolytes)

Mind Games (errr…Mind games)

Check yourself before you wreck yourself (Pacing)


Feel free to drop me an email and mention anything else you reckon I could inlcude and I’ll do my utmost to make it readable and beneficial to all the crazy suckers who want to move long distances in a competitive manner.

The Need for Speed

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An article on Run247.com about why speed work isn’t just for 5k runners.

http://www.run247.com/articles/article-4552-ultra-running-and-the-need-for-s/index.html

Run fast, race easy.

Box Hill Xmas Fun Day with Coxy & Robbie.

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December. It’s the season to be jolly, to sit around with family members whilst devouring whole boxes of Celebrations and to drink egg nog (Does anyone even drink that stuff any more, what the hell is it?). 

Well we thought that it would be best to earn that little off season with the family and get some hard work done the weekend before on a lovely hill in wooded Surrey, so Coxyand I are going to dish out some Christmas Joy of our own, painful joy, to those who want to come down to Box Hill on Sunday 22nd December.

Same drill as usual, drop me an email at Robert.britton@live.com with the heading “All I want for Xmas is some suffering” and I will add you to email list with all the details.

It will be 3 hours maximum of hill work, functional exercises, trail running and good fun from 11-2 on the Sunday and afterwards we shall be hitting a local pub for a feed up and some beverages if they allow us.

Think of it as a horrible present from us to you…

Spartathlon. A lot tougher than Cheam Park Run.

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Woah, that was tough. Real tough, like running through treacle for 153 miles tough. That race is a bastard. Roads, uphills, sun, night, cold, downhills and a death bus chasing you along.

I have written a full article to come out in Outdoor Fitness magazine to describe in great detail the beauty/evil of this race so with the risk of sounding like a broken record I’ve attempted to put down a few words here to those that know me about what happened on the streets of Greece.

I won’t lie to you, I set out fast, hitting the first marathon in 3.30 and getting through halfway in 12 hours. I had my eyes set on a sub 24 hour finish and I’d gambled my lot on this working. Basically I underestimated just how tough this race is. The hills are constant, gradual ups and downs that wear down your body, the heat makes you work out of your comfort zone and the strict cut offs force many to look over their back for the Grim Reaper Death bus, picking up all those who falter, if only for a second.

What followed was a 153km trail of vomit from 100k onwards and a battle to motivate and push myself to go forwards and not just sit down and give up. It was a different beast to all of my recent races and I was determined to prove I could suffer with the best of them.
I will be back in Greece for this race again, maybe 2014, maybe 2015, but I will be back. Do I regret the gamble, would I do it differently if I could rewind to that Friday morning? Nah, I’d still fly off, chase Mike Morton and go for a sub 24hr finish. I’ll learn much more from vomiting 30 times than if it all went swimmingly and the prize was a pretty cool thing to chase!

Basically I got my ideas a little above my station but I’m not going to change my ambitions, I’ll just have to try a little harder. A lot harder. Finishing that race reminded me why I love this sport and will drive me forward to greater things.

My support crew were invaluable at times in Sparta and were the always laughing, joking and helping me in any way they could, even Mick & Rebecca rubbing my vomit covered legs and then eating some crisps (I don’t know how that helped but they did it anyway). The pros and cons of having a support crew are many but that’s a whole different blog I reckon! 

Anyway that’s my season over, it has been a great one but bring on 2014. It will be better, I promise.

P.s. Thanks to Louis Waterman-Evans here is some evidence that shows how I felt through the race…

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Rest is for the weak…right?

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So there is less than two weeks until my 2nd big race of the year, the Spartathlon, 153 miles across the dry, hot, arid landscape of modern day Greece from Athens to Sparta in homage to an ancient ultra-runner, Pheidippides.

I’m out here early, sitting in the 28 degree heat of the morning, just so I can get used to it a little bit more before race day and relax a little. I’m usually the exception to the rule that everyone starts an ultra marathon with an injury, the irritating chap at the start who says “No, no, I feel great. Really looking forward to this little jolly” and I always mean it.

This last fortnight though it has been a little bit different. Just after the Death run with Mark Woolley and James Adams in Malaga I made an error that I’m not proud of and something I try to push onto all of my coaching clients. I didn’t pay the respect due to running over 150km in the space of 3 days, I didn’t rest properly and I’ve paid the price. It only started as a wee niggle, one little pain on a hard, trail session on the Monday night in Spain, but I ignored the warning signs and cracked on anyway.

When I got up to jog to a track session with Rebecca and her chum Grimmers the following Saturday I thought a couple of days rest would have done me well, even though my legs were tired still. I didn’t even make it to the end of the road.

3 weeks before a 153 mile race and I couldn’t even run 153 metres. Shit. Back home I went, RICE was implemented straight away and I sat on my backside for the rest of the day. A quick email to Simon Lamb (Six Seconds High Sports Massage) and I was looking at all the possibilities.

If it was ligament or cartilage damage then Sparta was out of the window. I could only hope it was due to tired legs and rest was what I needed, so that is what I concentrated on, putting all my efforts into recovering from that. If it is more serious then I would have bigger issues anyway, one being my work with TomTom, which is keeping me fed (as well as a few 9bars).

Simon was great, working on the “knot the size of an orange” and some seriously tight quad muscles. It was possible that the tight quads were pulling up on my knee when I exerted myself, especially on the downhill. If this was the case then Sparta was not out of reach, I would have to rest but everyone loves a taper right?

3 sports massage, nightly self massage and heat treatment on the leg every chance I got this week and I’m feeling better. I managed to pace the 1.50 group at the Bristol Half at the weekend for Tom Tom and the leg felt stronger, not 100% but getting there. With 2 more weeks of rest I am confident, 95% confident, that I will line up at Sparta feeling good and just a wee bit anxious about my knee.

Why am I telling this to everyone who reads my blog? Why not keep an idea that I don’t do injury and am fully fit for the race for any potential competitors? Well at Spartathlon my only competitor will be the race itself and I’m pretty sure Greek roads don’t gain confidence from reading blogs, they’ve stopped enough runners in their time to be very cocky about their destructive ability.

The second reason is because many runners flirt with injury so often and we always forget just what we put our bodies through. We wonder why we feel tired the Sunday after a sub 7 hour 50 miler or a fortnight after winning a 135 mile multiday race (Austin, Rick, that’s you two) and forget that we should feel f**ked some times. Proper f**ked.

Rest is such a key element of ultra running and it is so often over looked and as hard as I like to think I train, I rest even harder. I make it a competition with myself to rest as much as possible and if it was an Olympic sport I’d like to think I’d be quite good (although many Pro Athletes make this an art form).

You aren’t going to “toughen your legs” by running on damaged, tired muscles, you are just more likely to injure them and the joints and bones they work with. Just because we’ve got away with it thus far, don’t forget that if you push your body and smash it up without giving rest the respect it deserves them it is when, not if, you pick an injury.

So with that in mind, I’ll be crossing my fingers, sitting by a pool, reading a stack of books and sleeping for the next two weeks before Spartathlon and I will maybe do a little run or two. Just maybe.

Anyone recommend a good book?

Getting ready for a wee race in Greece

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For Ultra runners the Spartathlon needs no introduction, but for my Mum, the only other person who reads my blogs, here are some links to tell you all about it.

Spartathlon written by British Speed Merchant Ian Sharman.

Spartathlon in the Economist written by 3 & 0 British Spartathlon wrecking ball James Adams.

It’s basically 153 miles, from Athens to Sparta, which was proposed as by the British Military’s Ozzie marathon runner John Foden. Pheidippides was reported (by veritable Ancient Greek Times journalist Herodotus) to have run the distance before the sunset the next day (ie 36 hours). John did it with some chums in 1980, thus proving he really had balls of steel and now there is a yearly race for people to prove they are as tough as John. This year I’m going to have a go at it (but I have removed my balls as they are superfluous to requirements and I must go super lightweight…)

So how do you get ready for a race like this? I kind of knew I could make the distance, having run 149 miles in 24 hours in May and 100 mile in 15:43 in June, I just wanted to make myself a little quicker and learn to deal with the beast that finishes many a Spartathlon attempt, the heat. Easy, if you don’t live in the UK, where summer consists of 4hours 13 minutes of sunshine and 90 days of rain normally.

First point of call was the Heat chamber at Kingston University where ultra runner Chris Howe is a research techy. They let all sorts of nutters jump on the treadmill at 40 degrees centigrade and 40% humidity just to see how much they can sweat in an hour. A good chance to test myself way above expected Spartathlon heats but also to find out what it feels like when you push too hard and your core body temp goes over 39 degrees. You feel shit, much like when you try too hard in any race. Good to know. Get in touch with them here (Kingston Uni Science People) if you want some fun times in there!

That done I felt I needed some practice in a real hot place that was a little bit like Greece and Mr. Mark Woolley, multiple Badwater, UTMB, Spartathlon and breakfast finisher had invited a bunch of people to come out to Malaga for a Spartathlon Boot Camp and his infamous Death Run. Sounds good right? Closest I’m going to get to a relaxing summer holiday I thought!

It turns out it was eventually Mark, James Adams (three time finisher, no time DNF’er of Spartathlon) and myself were the only three foolish enough to sign up for this Boot Camp and Mark had no choice as we were in his house! The idea was to run a cheeky 53km road run on the Thursday, a nice 4hr scramble in the Sierra Nevada on the Friday, some wild camping (5 men sleeping in a car park), the Death Run, then another bit of dogging/wild camping and a rest day before James shot off back to the UK. Simples right?

The first two days went swimmingly, 52km in the heat was nice, less so for James and then the scramble was a nice rest for our wee pins for the Death Run. Then came Saturday. So, why do they call this the Death Run, a name placed upon it by James himself when it ate him up and spat him out 3 years ago?

The run is about 90km, from the coast at Motril to the highest point of Mainland Spain at just under 3500m. That said, it isn’t all up hill, sometimes you lose the precious height you gain and have to start again, with 4500m of ascent during the whole day. The first 60km is mainly road and is great prep for Sparta, dodging cars and, after the first 20km, just jogging uphill. We were joined by two of Mark’s Spanish amigos, whilst Mark was going to crew from the car, due to finishing a particularly hot Badwater and a cheeky Canadian 70 miler already this summer.

For me this was a chance to work out what to eat in the heat, how to stay cool throughout and find a lovely outfit that would make me look pretty in Greece (although not too pretty that I got picked up by a truck driver on route). I set off with a good few Wholebake 9bars and flapjacks attached to some pockets on my arms, a soaked buff round my neck and my “I look like a d**khead” sunglasses on. Excellent. The first 20 k was nice and flat and the 4 of us stuck together, using my pidgin Spanish and, mainly, the Spaniards English to have a chat.

After 20k the route we were taking decided to go uphill, for the next 70k it seems. I plodded off, setting 10k an hour on TomTom and the others didn’t fancy following. Apart from seeing Mark in the car a couple of times before 30k I was now in for a bit of a lonely day, but that’s the price you pay eh?

The local fountains and shops along the way kept me hydrated rather nicely and it wasn’t too long until I run out of road, getting to the National Park with our big mountain. I trotted up the trail to our cars at 2200m and then settled down for a wee kip. We’d promise to tackle the mountain together, just in case the weather came in and I got lost up there.

Everyone got there within a couple of hours and off we set for what was basically a full mountain day, about 5 hours of trekking up and down mainland Spain’s highest mountain. The views were fantastic and it was a rather chilly experience, not something you expect of Southern Spain but this place has so much more to offer than cheap Sangria and Brit filled beaches. This will not be my last visit to the Sierra Nevada (mainly because we spotted a high altitude training centre amongst the trails).

We got back to our camp site/car park about midnight, all a fair bit knackered and it was into sleeping bags and unconscious within a few minutes. Death run done and still alive. Nice.
Back in the UK now and a few hot baths, some heat chamber sessions and running around on a bin bag should keep any acclimatisation I’ve gained ticking over until Greece. Mark and his family were great hosts and hopefully they’ll let me out to stay again soon!

I’m right excited about getting to Sparta now and can’t wait for the great challenge of this historic race. We’ve got a solid British team heading out there, including a few Grand Union Canal Race winners, one of whom is attempting a double Spartathlon and it should be a great atmosphere out there. After a strong showing from the Brits at UTMB and The Grand Slam of Ultra Running, I guess we best put a bit of effort into Spartathlon now too…

Team 9bar Annual Party Time!

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I’ve just returned back from the annual Team 9bar get together and it was a brilliant laugh as ever! ThIs year we assembled at Denzil’s Race to the Castle, a lovely 40 mile jaunt along the Welsh Cambrian Coast and the team of ultra runners, rafters, triathletes, BMXers & cyclists met up with the Wholebake team and the Team 9bar management of Alan and Liz Tucker with plenty of partners present too!

Some opted to run the full 40 miles, including Charlie Sharpe, fresh from an epic run at Lakeland 100 and his 12 Labours of Hercules victory the week before, tootled along in first place, probably only eating 4 polos and half a cup of seawater over the 5 hours it took him. Whilst some of us, myself included, opted for a 15k jolly along the coastal path that was put on for those who never wanted to run 40 miles or simply had wussed out due to a big training week in Malaga coming up. Don’t worry, I got plenty of abuse for this, but gave plenty back as well!

The evening saw everyone meet up for a big dinner all laid on by Mark, the big dawg at 9bar and a lovely meal, with some Musical chairs, ensued. One minute you were sitting next to a member of the GB women’s rafting team, then a top level BMX rider & the politest man in Ultra running and finally, if you were lucky, you got the company of Alan and his excellent array of jokes. One liners they are not, but worth the time you invest!

The bar was hit afterwards and an awards ceremony for prizes such as “Cutest Twin”, “Best Newcomer”, “Weirdest Facebook photo”, as well as a presentation of some funds raised by the team for Richard Kell’s phenomenal Soapathon were presented, which Wholebake had generously doubled. Then people started to sneak back to rooms or hit the bar, depending on whether they had a early morning workout planned or a late evening hydration ambition.

The Sunday brought a great team breakfast, but not until Charlie and I had bumped into each other on out separate outings on two little hills with fantastic views over the bay below. After a wee jog back and a large Welsh feed we were given our leaving goody bags of flapjacks and other Wholebake goodies and I attracted the attention of a beautiful young lady, celebrating her 100th birthday, who wanted to know what was in my bag. Happy to oblige, I left her with a flapjack and a smile on her face and we all went out for a team photo. Another happy 9bar fan I hope!

We all then set off our separate ways, all once again reminded of the great support that we as athletes get from Team 9bar and Wholebake to help us achieve our goals, not matter what sport we’re doing. The camaraderie and friendship of the team members who regularly made it to 9bar events up North was evident and it left me delighted to be part of a great team and even more determined to make it to more events with the team in future. I’d fully recommend getting to an event and trying them yourselves, the Nutty flavour is the best, in my humble opinion. What do I know though, I’ve only eaten a few hundred of them…

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