Running in the Alps (redux)

 

Last month I went for a week of running in the Alps (on my own). I based myself in a basic hotel room in Chamonix, got up early each morning, went running before the weather turned (which it did with clockwork regularity at about 2pm each day) and then took a nap most afternoons before heading out for a wander and some food each evening.

That might not sound like your idea of fun but for me it was absolute heaven and I returned feeling properly refreshed and rested.

Anyway, it was fucking great, and here are some photos

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Running the 3 Peaks

The path petered out ahead of me, I’d been following footprints in the snow with the odd check of the route on my watch for the past 15 minutes. In an ideal world a map would’ve been involved but the howling wind made any attempt to get anything out of my bag, let alone something that was a potential sail, almost impossible.

We were heading to the top of Ben Nevis, the first of the three summits that make up the UK 3 Peaks, from about 400m up we’d been firmly surrounded by cloud and the visibility had become increasingly rubbish as we got nearer the top. By now I could see about 5-10 metres in front of me and beyond that everything was enveloped in in edgeless whiteness.

ben-nevis-ashTaken about 15 mins before I decided to turn back…whilst taking a photo was still a viable task

I’d spent most of the previous few days reading about the hills we were running up and it had been difficult to avoid the warnings that kept cropping up about the top of Ben Nevis, with the summit of the mountain enjoying close proximity to some pretty serious gullies and cliffs. The presence of late-winter snow would make it difficult to spot the edges of these hazards, and the terrible visibility further exacerbated this heady mix.

As I stopped to check my compass and was nearly knocked sideways by the wind I decided to turn back, I didn’t want to be one of those people who had pressed on regardless of the elements and for no real reason other than ‘to get to the top’. I’d reached (my watch later told me) 3,862ft, which was more than enough for the day.

About 10 minutes after I’d turned back I caught up with Stu who agreed with the decision, the slippy, wet, windy conditions weren’t enjoyable in any way and the prospect of 2 more hills over the next 20 hours (along with a significant amount of time sitting in the car) didn’t make either of us any more determined to get any wetter than we were.

I clenched my fist as tightly as I could to try and wring some of the water out of my drenched gloves. Then Stu pointed out my lace was undone. Trying to do wet laces up with gloves on is impossible so I took them off; my wet, cold, stiff fingers were almost useless but I eventually managed to fasten them with a sort of cackhanded triple knot.

As we made our way back down the mountain we passed a few other bedraggled groups of walkers heading towards the top. A few of them were woefully underdressed for the conditions (shorts, tshirt and gym shoes) but didn’t really pay any attention to us trying to describe how difficult the conditions were nearer the top. One group seemed to be blasting Jerusalem out of a small, tinny speaker strapped to one of their backpacks. I don’t know if it helped, we didn’t see them again.

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We drove through the night to the Lake District and our next hill, Scafell Pike. Stu and I dozed as much as we could whilst Alex drove non-stop.

We arrived at Seathwaite at about 2am, it was total darkness and as I got out of the car to stretch my already-tired legs I looked up to see a sky spattered with stars, it was beautiful, and silent.

Our plan was to start out for Scafell at dawn which gave us the chance for a few hours sleep. Sleeping in a car is never the most comfortable experience but almost immediately I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep only waking when my alarm went off at 4.45.

I clambered into my running gear feeling strangely awake and energised, given we’d had about 3 hours sleep, and had a breakfast of a slightly squished banana and an energy bar.

It was a clear, still morning and as we looked around us at the sheep and silent fields we stood under mostly cloudless skies. It looked like we had left the terrible weather behind us in Scotland and as dawn began to break over the surrounding hills it looked like it could be an absolutely beautiful day. The only potential problem was that the hill we were heading towards was still wreathed in cloud, the only summit that was. Hoping that the cloud might lift as the sun rose we trotted along the slowly rising path from Seathwaite Farm towards Great End, with Glaramara on our left.

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We were soon run-walking through a cloud (again) and I began to worry that we weren’t going to enjoy any good weather. Much as I love running in the hills it’s far more enjoyable when you’re a bit dry and can see some of the surrounding scenery!

Fortunately it was pretty warm and there wasn’t much of a breeze but going uphill in a cloud means that everything quickly gets totally soaked.

However as we started through the edge of the boulder field at Ill Crag the sun began to stream through the cloud and we were soon striding across the top of the fell, above the clouds under a bright blue sky. It was glorious and there wasn’t another soul in sight (the fact that it was about 6.30am probably helped).

scafell-clouds-01Above the clouds

As we began to clamber the final section towards the top of Scafell Pike a few blokes passed us having come from the opposite direction but as we reached the top we were completely on our own.

On our way back down a Mountain Rescue helicopter buzzed overhead, taking off and landing at the top of Great End. We passed the Rescue team, who looked like they were out on a training exercise, before we left the sunshine and back into the cloud which still wrapped the lower slopes of the mountain in a damp blanket of fog.

I was feeling pretty good as we came down so had a nice, mostly unbroken, run back to the car passing a growing number of people heading up the hill we’d just been at the top of. Alex was waiting for us still wearing his slightly ridiculous outfit of fleece everything that he’d slept in.

scafell-alexFleece trousers, fleece fleece (possibly another fleece under his fleece). It’s the fleeceman

2 Peaks down. 1 Peak to go.

As we drove out of the Lake District we passed an endless stream of vehicles, cyclists, walkers and runners heading the other way. It was shaping up to be a beautiful, hot, sunny weekend.

We drove down towards Snowdon, we were going to do the Snowdon Ranger route up from ‘behind’ the mountain (in comparison with most of the more popular routes) which I had hoped would be a little quieter in case it was a nice day (as it turned out to be). It’s also supposed to be one of the easier routes, and after 2 hills in under a day and lots of sitting around in the car an easy route seemed like a really, really good idea.

En route I realised I hadn’t brought enough dry socks with me (pair #1 had become sodden on Nevis and pair #2 hadn’t really stayed dry in the clouds on Scafell). Alex suggested hanging them out of the window and letting the sun and the wind do their thing. If you ever need to dry some socks whilst driving down the motorway I can report that this method is very effective.

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We drove along the north Wales coast with everything looking so green, the countryside seemed to have exploded into Spring. To our right the sea stretched into the distance, flat and waveless. As we passed Llandudno a weird fog enveloped the horizon, it was so thick and localised that we thought it must be smoke but there was no obvious source. It was strange, with the beautiful weather all around us, to stare at this thick smudge on the horizon.

We turned into northern Snowdonia and the landscape changed again, the hills all got bigger and bigger but at the same time seemed softer and more rounded than those in the Highlands and Lake District.

We parked up by Llyn Cwellyn, Alex made plans to go and dip his feet in the water whilst we went to slog up the final hill.

The path zig-zagged up the steep sloper behind the Snowdon Ranger Hostel, it was ace to see so many families out enjoying the good weather. Much like the route we’d taken up Scafell the initial couple of miles (after the first steep bit) of the path was a pretty gradual, forgiving incline and was quite runnable.

However once we hit the slopes of Snowdon proper we slowed to a crawl, partly because of the streams of people coming in the opposite direction but mainly because, by now, our legs had turned to lead and no amount of gels, jelly babies and energy bars could coax our bodies into anything faster than a trudge. In the distance you could see the Snowdon train slowly winching its way up the side of the mountain to the top .

But the views were incredible. You could see for miles, across the rooftop of Wales, in the distance a pointed peak was poking through a nest of clouds, a plane flew overhead, the sun glinted off lakes in every direction. Despite the fact my body felt like it was weighed down and moving through treacle I was grinning to myself, grinning as much as I had as we run up above the clouds on Scafell, grinning in the way that only running up a very big hill on a very nice day can make you grin.

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As we neared the top, the Rangers Path (the route we’d been following) joined the other (much more popular) paths for the last section up to the summit. Suddenly we were surrounded by loads more people, it was noisy, it was crowded, and the glorious isolation we’d been enjoying evaporated as we became just another part of the bank holiday traffic.

It was difficult to feel any real sense of achievement amongst all these people. Although, I’ve often felt this weird…nothing feeling at the end of a big challenge (maybe this says something deeply troubling about me). I guess it’s because I enjoy the planning and the doing more than the finishing and the completing. Maybe it’s a sort of sadness that the thing is finished.

We headed back down the mountain and once we’d left the summit behind us we were once again, more-or-less, on our own.

As we rejoined the flatter, final stretch I tripped over and took a fairly heavy tumble (directly in front of a group of walkers). I hit the dirt, and skidded along on my front. Without thinking too much about it I tried to bounce back onto my feet and carry on running. Fortunately there didn’t be too much complaining from my legs but my hands and forearms (which had taken the brunt of the fall) were really sore. I looked down to see a brown crust of blood and direct smeared across the knuckles of my left hand and my right palm was pink and raw. I’d also chosen this run to wear my white vest which was now similarly filthy and, on closer inspection, my legs hadn’t survived unscathed and there was blood dribbling down my shin.

As I ran past a family a small boy turned, pointed and said “eurgh, what has that man done!? he’s all dirty”. And it’s true, I was all dirty.

I arrived back at the car slightly ahead of Stu, Alex was sat there basking in the sun. Whilst we had been running he’d been a good samaritan and had shuttled a father and son who had come down the ‘wrong’ side of the mountain back to Llanberis, he’s nice like that.

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So that was it, 3 Peaks, in a little over 24 hours. The weather, after a horrendous start, couldn’t have been better. It was really good fun, I’d totally recommend it. We couldn’t have done it without Alex agreeing to do the driving. And I’m not sure it would’ve been much fun on my own, so you need a good running buddy – thanks to Stu for filling that role.

So, what next? I’ve always fancied giving the Yorkshire 3 Peaks a go, and I’m off to the French Alps at the end of May.

If you’d like to donate some money, I was raising cash for Cancer Research: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ashmann 

Cycling the Highlands

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A while ago I read something about the North Coast 500, weirdly marketed as ‘Scotland’s answer to Route 66′ or something. A Scottish Route 66 wasn’t really a thing that appealed but a continuous 500 mile loop around the Highlands did. Ever since I did the end-to-end in 2011 I’ve been looking for an excuse to go back and cycle in the Highlands – it is, if you forced me to have an opinion – probably the most beautiful landscape in Britain and the roads are (mostly) surprisingly good so it’s a fun place to cycle.

I managed to convince Alex – my eternally cheerful cycling buddy – that he wanted to do it too (despite the fact that our Wales ride last summer utterly broke him, the poor lad). So we got the 11.5 hour train from Euston to Inverness (proTip: if you do this make sure you book a bunk, we didn’t book bunks and 11.5hrs spent trying to make yourself comfortable in an airline-style seat is precisely 0% fun).

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However, the Highlands proved themselves to be just as beautiful as I’d remembered. The only thing that was a slight ‘challenge’ was the weather. Wind, hail, sun, rain, all within the space of an hour – it was constantly changing and coming off the top of a 5-mile climb with winds that felt strong enough to take the bike from under you and horizontal hail was one of the less enjoyable moments.

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Alex and I also both caught a rather nasty stomach bug which meant we had to cut the trip short (we only did day 1, 2 and then half of day 3) so we didn’t quite get up to the north coast.

He ended up looking like this (asleep in a tiny train station):

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If you fancy doing the route this is how we broke it down, once you’re out of Inverness the roads are really quiet and pretty good quality (aside from day 1 which is a bit shitty).

Day 1 – Inverness to Lochcarron
Distance: 65 miles
Ascent: 2,259 ft
Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/921603097
Accommodation: Loch Dubh b&b (absolutely lovely, would totally recommend)

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Day 2 – Lochcarron to Drumchork
Distance: 90 miles
Ascent: 8,340 ft (however you can, as we did, cut out the Bealach Na Ba if the weather is bad/you don’t fancy it)
Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/921606773
Accommodation: Drumchork Hotel (basic but friendly and fine – they have a distillery next door)

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Day 3 – Drumchork to Drumbeg
Distance: 92 miles
Ascent: 7,347 ft
Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/921608879
Accommodation: We were booked into the Drumbeg Hotel (we didn’t make it, we went to Garve and got the train back to Inverness cos Alex was so ill by this point)

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Day 4 – Drumbeg to Bettyhill
Distance: 86 miles
Ascent: 7,628 ft
Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/921611669
Accommodation: We were booked into the Farr Bay Inn (again, we didn’t make it but it looked really nice!)

Day 5 – Bettyhill to Inverness
Distance: 97 miles
Ascent: 4,381 ft
Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/921614219
Accommodation: We stayed in the Glen Mhor Hotel, totally nice and fine.

On the whole though, when it was good it was amazing, there’s nothing better than cycling on empty roads in a beautiful part of the world. If you’re thinking about doing it, go! It always blows my mind that there’s somewhere this beautiful in the UK, who needs the Alps (although I am off to the Alps later this year…)

Running above the clouds

switzerland

I was visiting a friend in St Gallen, Switzerland in 2012. St Gallen is situated relatively near the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and seemingly every time I have been there seems to enjoy some pretty apocalyptic fog, whether or not that is actually due to the proximity of the (massive) lake, I’m not sure, but it felt like it might be.

When I visited I was training for the Chester marathon, I was in that point of training where you have become a near-hermit and the entire concept of doing a marathon has turned into something you are beginning to resent, but have spent too much time on it to give up.

I was only going for a short visit, but I had taken my running stuff anyway – more as a prop than with any intention of doing any actual running. However one morning I figured I may as well head out for a few miles, I was feeling slightly nervous that I hadn’t done enough training so any extra miles I could fit in felt like they were probably worth doing.

When I go running I always leave my glasses behind and rarely replace them with contacts, this has the effect of turning the world into the 3 feet immediately surrounding and not much beyond that. I am very short-sighted.

I headed out into the fog, it was really foggy, it was also pretty cold. I don’t know my way around St Gallen so decided to simply head out of town on a road that we had taken the tram up the day before, at least I wouldn’t get lost – my theory being that I could simply follow the tramtracks back into town. The road pretty quickly began to head uphill, “excellent” I thought, this is going to make the most of the few miles I can fit in. I don’t know whether it was because I had gone out particularly early, or maybe it was a public holiday, or simply that people were staying indoors because the weather was pretty rubbish but the streets seemed almost deserted. That, combined with the fog, the lack of glasses and the general sense of not knowing where I was all combined to make this a fairly surreal experience.

I chugged uphill, it was incredibly tiring and I was getting worried that I wasn’t in quite as good shape as I probably should have been…I mean…it was really difficult. It wasn’t even a particularly steep hill, it was just quite long. And I was beginning to get cold. I had assumed my usual running outfit of a vest and shorts which is fine for 90% of the time…I stupidly never make concessions for that other 10% and suffer accordingly (usually with the cold).

The further I ran up the hill, the thicker the fog seemed to get. I had the sense that I was running into a cloud, at least this was what I imagined running into a cloud would probably feel like, I couldn’t see anything, I was wet and cold and – thanks to the hill – knackered.

I began the mental cycle of berating myself into continuing for just a bit longer, I thought at least the return leg would be all downhill but I was feeling thoroughly demoralised, and tired…did I mention I was feeling tired?

Anyway, you may now be thinking, why is this person telling me about an unenjoyable run he went on 3 years ago, in the fog, in Switzerland? Which is a perfectly valid question. I am telling you because of what happened when I got to the top of the hill.

Just when I decided I had had enough of being cold and wet and tired and not being able to see anything the road started to curve to the right, I thought I’d just see what was around the corner and then I’d turn around and go back to my friend’s apartment and go to eat Rösti or fondue or something else suitably Swiss. As I turned the corner the road kicked up very slightly and I finally reached the top of the hill, the yellowish glow that had been getting slightly stronger for the last 15 minutes finally turned into actual sunlight and the fog all seemed to melt away. I was no longer cold. I stopped for a breather, because that’s what the top of hills are designed for, and turned around to see if I could see where I’d come from, I hoped that the hill looked something close to as impressive to run up as it had felt whilst I was doing it.

The view…was incredible. I had run through a cloud, or at least I was now stood overlooking what seemed to be clouds, they stretched thick and white and impenetrable for as far as I could see – punctured by the odd hilltop – and the sun shone in a completely clear, blue sky, in the distance I think I could make out the edge of the lake. I felt a sense of elation beyond anything I can put down in words, perhaps it was because I was tired, perhaps it was because I was cold, perhaps it was simply because I hadn’t seen anything apart from a white haze for the past half an hour and had been running, seemingly on my own, up a never-ending hill. Instead of turning around and going back down the hill I ran on, to the next town, in the warm sunlight above the clouds, or fog, or whatever it was, I felt like laughing out loud, I had a huge smile on my face, I ran and I ran and I ran until I was too tired to run any more.

I can’t really remember a single one of the other runs I did in preparation for that marathon, I don’t even remember the actual marathon all that clearly. But what I do remember, with a clarity that surprises me even now (I don’t have a particularly accurate memory), is that run in St Gallen, up the hill, into the clouds.

Cycling 100 miles

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So that we didn’t feel totally unprepared for the all-of-Wales ride we’re doing in a couple of weeks, the bloke I’m doing that ride with and I decided to get at least 100 miles in the legs with a trip down to Hastings and along the south coast. The weather couldn’t have been better (comedy tanlines all-round) and noone had too horrible-a-time (nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a fistful of jelly babies or a snickers).

The route was absolutely great, bodged together from a few club routes I’d seen and general avoid-all-the-big-roads sensibilities, totally recommended if you’re heading down that way. You’ll want to work out a different way through Hastings as we ended up carrying our bikes up what the map insisted was a cycle path but what was, in reality, about 200 steps…

Cycling across Wales – the plan

Ever since I did John O’Groats to Land’s End I’ve been on the lookout for other long-distance UK rides to do. My favourite part of “JOGLE” was the first section through the Scottish highlands, the scenery was absolutely incredible but what I really enjoyed was the almost total isolation, you could cycle all day and see about 10 other people, it was glorious. Unfortunately the fact is the UK is a relatively small place and that isolation has proven a bit hard to find.

HOWEVER I then stumbled across a blog that mentioned the Lôn Las Cymru (or to give it its slightly more boring official name National Cycle Route 8). This is a 250(ish) mile route from Holyhead to Chepstow (or Cardiff) that basically smashes across the middle of Wales, which is a very empty, mountainous place by all accounts. So, using that existing route as a basis, I plotted a slightly more rural, slightly longer version (which clocks in at about 280 miles) and in a couple of weeks a friend and I will be getting on a train to Holyhead so that we can spend 3 days cycling to Bristol in what will, at least in parts, hopefully be something approaching glorious isolation.

Photos/too many stats/etc to follow. Route(s) below

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

And then, this http://www.northcoast500.com/home.aspx

Hanging out at Derek Jarman’s and the nuclear power station

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Yesterday I fulfilled a long-held ambition to go and check out the weirdness that is Dungeness – 2 lighthouses, Derek Jarman’s house, a nuclear power station and one of the strangest landscapes I’ve ever seen in this country.

I reckon by bike is pretty much the perfect way to do this, especially if you’re blessed with good weather like we were. The route is below

Tour du Mont Blanc

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A couple of weeks ago I went to do the Tour du Mont Blanc which is, as the guidebook says, “one of the most popular long distance walks in Europe. It circles the Mont Blanc Massif covering a distance of roughly 170 km with 10 km of ascent/descent and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy and France. It is considered one of the classic long distance walking trails“.

It was completely incredible.

I’ve done multi-day bike rides and runs before but this was the first multi-day hike thing that I’d attempted (all the legwork of a run plus all the “carrying everything you need” of a bike ride, double fun).

Observations include: my GCSE French hasn’t lasted 12 years of neglect particularly well; glaciers are fucking amazing; being in the mountains for 10 days is an outstanding antidote to living in London; American teenagers are required to shout at all times; walking from one country into another country via a mountain pass is incredibly satisfying; being in a cloud for 3 days is incredibly unsatisfying; it is possible to eat more cheese than you can imagine (or, I suspect, is medically advisable); walking uphill for hours is pretty great; walking downhill for hours is pretty rubbish; cablecars are a mixed blessing, being at 3,842m makes you go weird.

If you like mountains, and cheese, go do the Tour du Mont Blanc. Loads of info here www.walkingthetmb.com

Stuff that may be helpful to know:

  • We did more-or-less the entire thing (started in Les Houches and finished in Chamonix) in 9.5 days, this felt pretty manageable, I think you could probably do it quicker but the time we took allowed us to take a fairly relaxed pace and not end each day exhausted. As a result I think (speaking for myself at least) that we enjoyed the whole thing, as opposed to when I did the end-to-end ride, where by day 6 I was sick of cycling and everything to do with bicycles because we were cycling 100+ miles and around 10 hours a day (not fun).
  • Walking poles are really useful, I know they’re not particularly widely used in the UK but a decent set of walking poles (mine were less than £50 from Cotwolds) makes things so much easier, especially going downhill (and there’s a lot of going downhill). Plus you get some bizarre tanlines thanks to the straps.
  • The weather can make or break your trip. We were really lucky that we enjoyed a heatwave for the first week, not a single cloud in the sky and temperatures pushing 30 degrees (which did feel a bit too hot at points), however then the clouds descended and we didn’t see anything for 3 days which totally changed our enjoyment of things. The views are really what make this route so if the weather is rubbish I’d recommend holding out for a few days if you can til it clears (although I realise that’s not always possible).
  • You can camp pretty much the whole way round, the only places you definitely can’t camp are in Courmayeur and at La Flegere. In Les Chapieux the camping is free, and it was also free at the Rifugio Elisabetta (although apparently it’s not supposed to be allowed there they let you camp anyway). If there aren’t campsites specified then most of the refuges let you camp in their ‘grounds’.
  • Stocking up on food as you go is pretty affordable. We tried to buy bread/cheese/meat/fruit at the beginning of each day from whatever shops we came across, this meant we saved quite a bit as we didn’t need to pay for lunchtime meals at restaurants etc.
  • Switzerland is expensive. I knew this before we went as I’ve been there a few times over the past couple of years but Switzerland really is really expensive so brace yourself – you’ll be in Switzerland 2-3 days (or more if, like us, you take a ‘rest day’) and everything is probably 20% more expensive there.
  • Water is readily available. Almost every refuge had somewhere you could top up your water and you can also top up in some of the streams and rivers you pass.
  • Being able to speak some French is NECESSARY. I stupidly didn’t really brush up on my French before we went because the person I went with speaks really good French…this wasn’t really fair on them and I did make an effort once we were out there. However I wish I’d done some more preparation. Don’t assume anyone speaks English (in fact I’d go so far as to say most people don’t, or won’t), French is the common language and you do feel like a total idiot if you can’t at least speak the basics (by about day 3 my schoolboy-level French had made a reappearance and was almost adequate).
  • Make sure your phone works abroad. I had enabled roaming but for some reason my phone only worked about 20% of the time. However my friend’s phone worked almost all the way round. I have no idea what the issue was but it’s probably worth checking.
  • I had a 75 litre pack and that comfortably fitted all of the stuff I needed, plus our tent, plus a couple of extra bits if necessary (food, etc).

Hansel of Film, running, rain etc

Last Thursday I made my way down to Salisbury to take part in the Hansel of Film, a project organised by the Shetland Film Festival (Screenplay) that saw a relay of short films heading down the country from Shetland to Southampton and back. From each venue the films were taken by ‘runners’ to the next venue. I was one of the runners. The only one actually running.

A photo of me getting a ‘runner-sized’ film canister to carry to the venue in Southampton. No idea why my trousers look like that, apparently I have no legs, or knees, or something.
Mark, Linda, Me

So, anyway, a 5 or so hour train journey down to Salisbury during which I managed to make more mess eating a scone than anyone has, ever. I arrived and it was pissing it down. Unfortunate. I had decided to travel light due to the fact that I’d have to carry everything, on my back, for the 35 or so miles I’d be running between Salisbury and Southampton, this meant that I didn’t have a coat, which meant I got wet. Really wet. After some surreptitious drying of myself (and my clothes) with a hair-dryer at the b&b (which looked ridiculous and was completely ineffective), I met up with some relatives who live locally and we went off to Salisbury Arts Centre for the screening.

The Arts Centre is in a beautiful old church, I made my usual clumsy introductions to the Hansel people and then got introduced to Linda Ruth Williams and Mark Kermode who curate the Film Festival in Shetland. I’m not going to lie, meeting Mark Kermode was ace.

The films themselves were a real mixed bag, in a good way. There was everything from surreal comedy, to creepy vampire stuff, to music videos, documentaries and short animations. I was surprised at how good the quality of everything was, for me the standouts were Ted – about a suicidal teddy bear, absolutely perfectly done and an odd animated piece that I can’t remember the title of but that was absolutely inspired in its weirdness.

The following day involved lots of running for the camera (they were filming a documentary about the project) and then I set off with an assortment of OS maps, computer printouts from my uncle (with helpful annotations – seriously, these were invaluable) and Google Maps (which may be the most helpful thing ever in this sort of situation). The route quite quickly left the horrible A36 and I was suddenly in the middle of nowhere, running down beautiful country lanes, yes it was raining but it was still completely brilliant – there was hardly any traffic, any cars that did pass gave me plenty of room and it did feel a bit like I was on an adventure, I had no real idea where I was going and no idea how long it’d take me to get there so I just trotted along with my gps tracker bleeping at me every kilometre (breaking the silence in a horrible, but useful way).

Salisbury Arts Centre in the background, I’m apparently delighted that people are taking photos…twat

When I’d looked at the route the previous evening I had made the remark ‘oh, there aren’t even any hills’. Of course there were hills, and they weren’t fun. I rattled off the first 15 or so miles relatively quickly and easily, meeting up with the filming guys a couple of times to get footage of me striding majestically across southern England (or something).  However the last 5 miles of the day were really not fun, my legs suddenly felt incredibly heavy and I realised I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat for about 3 hours. Idiot. Anyway, I made it to where I was staying on Friday evening with only a minimal amount of fuss, had a shower and almost immediately fell asleep.

The following day I creaked into action – I need to get much, much better at warming down and stretching and the like – and set off through the New Forest. Almost immediately the heavens opened, the rain was torrential. I briefly tried huddling under a tree, which served absolutely no use whatsoever. It wasn’t that cold, it obviously wasn’t going to stop any time soon and I had 15 miles to run so I figured I was about as wet as I was going to get and set off again – I have never been as soaked as I then became, I think I probably looked like I’d just showered wearing all my clothes. I passed a number of New Forest ponies looking completely miserable but really, it wasn’t that bad. I made it to Southampton in incredibly good time (I got to run over a bridge, I bloody love running and cycling over bridges), the route getting markedly less picturesque with each mile – the last few miles into the city centre were about as uninspiring as it could get, an anonymous, grey ring road. But I’d made it in plenty of time and squelched my way over to the hotel to meet up with the lovely Kathy and Roseanne from Hansel. They then had to go off for some meetings about the screening the following day.

Running into the cinema, desperate not to trip over

I briefly considered how I could celebrate what felt like a bit of an achievement, I had run 35 miles (and not really got lost – well done me), ordering extravagant room service wasn’t really on the cards as I was staying at an Ibis so I wandered around Southampton city centre in search of somewhere to have a steak, then went to the cinema, inadvertently bumping into some Olympic Torch-related celebrations on the way.

Originally I wasn’t going to go to the screening in Southampton as the cinema was on one side of the city and the train station on the other, and I had about 20 minutes to get from one to the other -which disagreed with my desire to be incredibly early for everything, all the time. However I got into the whole idea so ended up running into the cinema, handing over the canister, making some useless remarks to the crowd and then running out. The best thing was that everyone cheered me out of the cinema, which was hilarious and brilliant.

Sweaty and knackered I then sat on a train forever to get back to Leeds.

A great few days, with great people, working on a brilliant project. If you can get along to a screening then I’d urge you to do so, it’s free and fantastic.

More info about the Hansel of Film here: http://www.hansel2012.org/about

Oh and if you ever want to run from Salisbury to Southampton then this is more or less the route I took…Day 1,  Day 2

Hansel of film 2012

Tomorrow I’m getting a really, really, really long train ride down to Salisbury (not quite as long as coming back from Penzance to Leeds, but still about 6 hours or something). On Friday and Saturday I’ll be running from Salisbury to Southampton.

Why? As part of this http://hansel2012.org/about/hansel-of-film

The Hansel of Film is part of the Shetland Film Festival and is essentially a series of screenings of short films taking place from Shetland, to Southampton, and back again. Between each venue the films are being couriered in any number of weird and wonderful ways, motorbikes, horses, dancers, etc. I decided that the most straight-forward way would just be to…y’know, run.

As my French bike ride isn’t happening this year there was a ‘foolish idea’ shaped gap in my summer that I’ve aptly filled with this little jaunt. It’s not too far, between 35-40 miles depending on the route I end up taking (still tbc…), so only 17-20 miles each day.

Also this means I get to run through the New Forest, which should be nice.

So, off I go, to the south, to run about a bit. Hopefully I won’t get lost.

This is my route for the first bit (Friday) http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/112284719

Back in the saddle (and…in the trainers?)

So after the falling apart of my original plans due to a mixture of injury, misfortune and laziness I have now managed to organise a few things to keep me busy for the next few months.

First: I will be joining the team from the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s Anniversary Challenge on the 20th and 21st April (Newark – Cambridge then Cambridge – London) as they finish their bike ride from Paris to London. The Challenge is, as usual, a bit ambitious, they are running the Paris Marathon this Sunday (15th), they are then cycling to London via Ze Brugge, Hull, Leeds and Cambridge arriving in London on Saturday 21st, they are then running the London Marathon on the 22nd. Brilliant, amazing and crazy all at the same time. Unsurprisingly they will be joined by people such as Chrissie Wellington (triple women’s ironman world champion). I’ll just be joining them for the last 150 miles so…easy!

Second: I’ll be the ‘runner’ (which will involve actual running) for the Salisbury to Southampton leg of the Hansel of Film 2012 Relay (http://hansel2012.org/about/hansel-of-film) – it’s about 30 miles, which I think I will split over 2 days.

Third: Tris (my brother) and I will be doing the Chester Marathon on Sunday 7th October.

Plans are good.

2012 training – week 2 (w/c 9th Jan)

Work , more punctures and insomnia combined for a bit of a weird week.

Monday

  • Cycle to/from work (10 miles)
  • Free weights (circuits)
  • 4 mile easy run (9 min miles)

Tuesday

  • Cycle to/from work (10 miles)
  • Gym (20 mins bike – intervals, 1 hour treadmill – 45 mins @ 13 km/h then intervals)

Wednesday

  • Cycle to work (5 miles)
  • Free weights (circuits)

Thursday

  • Cycle from work (5 miles)

Friday

  • Cycle to/from work (10 miles)

Saturday

  • Cycle to/from gym (10 miles)
  • Gym (1 hour treadmill – 30 mins @ 13 km/h then 30 mins intervals)

Sunday

  • Nothing because I, as a sign of my age, have hurt my hip. GREAT

Cycling mileage: 50 miles