Trail running team 2014

Life starts with a pair of trail shoes

As I put on my favourite running shoes to venture out for a run in the cold, crisp December air, what were once a brand new pair of Berghaus vapor claws are now a pair of well worn,well travelled trail shoes that can tell a good story or two.

Spring this year brought with it a chance in a lifetime for me to experience a year that I will never forget.

Myself and five others were chosen to be part of an amazing team of runners for trail team 2014 who were kindly kitted out with brand new gear from Berghaus, provided with products and nutrition advise from Torq fitness to keep us fuelled and given a top notch head torch from LED Lenser so we could train morning, day or night.

In the summer we were whisked off to the outdoor paradise that is Chamonix and spent three days running around the mountains of France, Italy and Switzerland meeting amazing people and sharing our passions for trail running.

It’s safe to say that every one of us took something magical away from that trip that would inject our training and goals for the rest of the year!

I have truly been blown away by everyone’s achievements following that trip and I think when people can get together, learn from and inspire each other, something really special happens!

We are all capable of achieving more than we think and being in the mountains and pushing those boundaries for me is a constant challenge that makes me happy and fulfilled.

Trail team 2014 has shown me that anyone, no matter how experienced, can achieve great things and I think the way people can simply talk about their experiences and inspire so many is a wonderful thing!

I’m really excited to see those lucky souls who get to experience this chance of a lifetime in 2015 and look forward to hearing more inspiring stories and achievements.

Life starts with a pair of trail shoes, just put them on and see where they can take you!

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Glencoe mountain marathon

Standing at the start line with my brother Jon listening to the pre race briefing, my emotions were running high.. Nerves, fear, doubt.. “This is not a road race, this is the hardest off road marathon in Scotland”
Graham from the trail team was racing too and it was nice to meet up again briefly at the start and share our pre-race excitement.
Graham set off in the first wave and myself and my brother in the second. We quickly lost each other in the mass of runners who seemed to be off like a shot.

This was 26.2 miles & 1600m of ascent I was reiterating to myself, trying not to get caught up with the rush.
I slowed down to a speed I knew I could maintain and managed to keep myself under control.

Passing the Clachaig inn, crowds of supporters were cheering us all on and the climb up the side of the A82 began.

A narrow, slightly boggy path led the way for the first 5 miles. I had to stop briefly to take my jacket off as I’d over dressed thinking It was extremely cold but I think that was just pre-race nerves.
Not wanting to be a sweaty mess and be struggling in the first 5 miles I packed away my vapour storm jacket and just ran from there in my Berghaus base layer which was perfect.

I think I got to the first 5 mile check point in just under the hour.
I grabbed a cup of water, handful of jelly babies and took to the bog.
There was no longer a nice defined path from this point to the start of the devils stair case.
It was a bog fest – An every man for himself moment.

After the tough mudder there was a small section of running alongside the road
until the start of the devils stair case.

I looked up to see what looked like colourful human ants, zig zagging their way up the steep climb.
I ran upwards one step at a time until the steepness forced me to power walk. A man playing bagpipes was a welcome sight at around the half way mark and again my emotions started to run high. This was an awesome race and what an amazing country I live in! 🙂
I pushed myself onwards and upwards as fast as I could until I reached the top of the devils stair case.
There was no false summit, the top was actually the top and I looked onwards to the amazing sight of a long downhill section straight ahead.
The kind MRT marshall who offered me a few sweets at the cairn was my new found best friend.

8 miles in the bag and thoughts of the Goat fell race crossed my mind..
“that would be that race almost finished right now” I was thinking..

I forced myself to focus on the mission ahead and battered on towards Kinlochleven taking in the breathtaking views of the Aonach Eagach and surrounding peaks – spectacular!

10miles, 12miles.. The miles were flying by on this section and I was enjoying every second.
Before reaching Kinlochleven a marshal shouted to me that I was 10th female over all at this stage.
I got really emotional after that, trying my best to hold back the tears as I knew i still had another half marathon and a few more mammoth climbs still to go.
I reached Kinlochleven and the half way mark in under 2.5 hours and was happy to be met by my family here who were great support!
I didn’t stop here for fuel and decided to keep going to the next stop.

Not sure if that was a wise move looking back now as the hill out of Kinlochleven was a beast!

I ran as far as I could but I was reminded at this point of Chamonix and the famous ” alpine flats” I was back there, lungs bursting, hands on knees, pushing myself up as quickly as I could.

My energy was draining and I had to remind myself to fuel and not get carried away.
I had eaten a torq bar and a few gels but was craving something savoury.
Sea salt pretzels seemed like a good idea at the time but chewing them got muddled with inhaling so that was a non starter.

A nice man I’d caught up with gave me some Kendal mint cake and after 10 mins or so that had kicked in nicely, sugar is best I thought!

After this horrendously steep section, the path opened out revealing incredible views of the mamores.
My mint cake had ran out again and I was craving all sorts of food I didn’t possess.

I remembered my bag of jelly babies and after popping a few managed to focus on reaching set points ahead.
A runner just in front had been with me for a while and when I slowed down or speeded up so seemed did he.
I thought if I could catch up with him, maybe he would also like a jelly baby and maybe we could spur each other on a bit.
I reached him and he happily took a few jelly babies and we got chatting.
Jim was his name, a keen runner who had done a few marathons and ultras but nothing this hard he said.
We came across a fuel stop at 17 miles in the middle of nowhere. What a blessing! I grabbed a cup of water and a banana and Jim did the same.
We carried on running together until the 19 mile mark , talking about races, our jobs, dogs, life and how good a cup of tea was going to taste at the end.
Things were seeming better and I could nearly allow myself to say ” only another 10k to go”
Coming out the glen the wind had picked up and was gusting quite hard.
We had been extremely lucky with the weather with only light drizzle. Perfect running conditions compared to
the imminent storm that was due to arrive later in the day!

I looked up and recognised what looked like my brother in the distance.
I looked down at my garmin and that was it – Only another 10km to go!
That is just a lunch time run I thought..

I pushed on with Jim and caught up with my brother Jon. Jim by this time had got a second wind so he pushed on away from us after a few miles or so.

The last 10km were tough, lots of small steep sections and rocky ground.
Cramp was threatening both of us and thankfully we had each other to keep each other going.
The last food stop, 5 miles from the finish was the most amazing of all!
Hot fruit punch, love hearts and dry roasted peanuts.. Maybe we had actually died and were in food stop heaven..?

With a well needed boost, off we headed. The sight of the mighty Ben came into view and we were nearing the last few miles.
Thoughts of Steve Birkinshaw and other incredible feats of endurance were spoke about! This was only one marathon, Folk do way more extreme stuff than this…
An unexpected climb before the final descend through the forestry was a cruel reminder of how brutal this race was.
We pushed as hard as we could to the top and finally reached the forestry track to the entrance of Glen Nevis.
What a welcome sight.
Even the down hill sections were proving challenging at this point but we were nearly there!
Every corner seemed never ending but after a few more the event marquees came into view and we knew we were nearly there.
0.3 of a mile..
0.2
0.1
5hrs 18mins
This was it.. This was the end.. We had done it!
A proud moment and it was incredible to share those last miles and finish with my brother.
Our very first marathon and one I don’t think either of us will forget in a hurray!
A superb race and a brilliantly organised event.

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Gear review – Berghaus Vapour storm and HyperTherm

Over the past month I’ve been putting my Berghaus vapour storm and HyperTherm jackets to the test.

The temperature in Scotland seems to have plummeted over the past few weeks and I have had the opportunity to really see how the Vapour light HyperTherm jacket does in these conditions.

The weather has also been fairly unsettled with lots of rain and wind so I have been using my Vapour storm jacket to shield me from the elements and keep me dry.

I’m finding the two jackets to be a great edition to my mountain/trail running kit and both items have been proving very handy and efficient.

The vapour storm jacket is nice and light and doesn’t allow in any drafts due to its contoured fit.
The fish scale type vents at the front of the jacket are water tight for the conditions I’ve experienced so far and seem to help aid breathability.
I also really like the thumb loops at the cuffs which keep the jacket in place keeping your arms and hands cosy.
There’s enough room in the sleeves to roll them up if the weather is showery but warm and you require a wee bit of air around your arms.
I’ve also had comments about how bright & colourful the vapour storm is on the hill which is great as I’m sure if I ever needed rescued (god forbid) I’d be easily spotted.

My Vapour light HyperTherm is a very handy layer.
I have not been using it so much for the wet days yet as it’s still quite mild outside to wear under my vapour storm but I have certainly been waring it on my evening runs home from work when it’s dry but cool.
I’ve also been finding it very useful to pop on after a run to warm me up a bit.

Both the Vapour storm and HyperTherm jackets are ideal items to have in a trail runners back pack.
The HyperTherm is a very light and versatile extra layer and the vapour storm jacket, a reliable, outer shell protection against the elements which us runners need when we’re out running in the mountains. 20140824-180237-64957347.jpg

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Where do I get my motivation?

This is a question I get asked quite a lot. I’m the same as everyone else!
It’s a miserable day outside..I’ve been working 12 hour shifts all week..I’m tired..I feel selfish leaving the family..

All these thoughts go through my head the same as everyone else and sometimes, like over the past few weeks for me, these things do effect my everyday running but the only way to get through it and back on track is not to let these things take over your mind in a long lasting way.

As I look at my runkeeper/strava feed from the past couple of weeks, I feel disappointed in myself that after all my regular training, building up my leg strength and milage that I have let it slip a bit.
More important things in life take over sometimes but it’s how you pick things up again and keep going.

I have set myself a goal, a challenge that I will run and complete a mountain marathon on the 4th of October this year. This is my main motivation.

When I’m feeling like I need a bit of a lift I go and find inspiring people who share my passion in life and I get so inspired reading what they’ve done that it’s like an injection of adrenaline and I want to just run out my front door and challenge myself to do something great!
This is a great blog for inspiration – Challenge Sophie

I try really hard not to allow myself to get engulfed in negative thoughts when I can’t get out, it’s a downward spiral.
If you can’t stick to an exact training programme due to work etc, you just need to keep going the best you can, even if it’s just something small each day.

I have exactly seven weeks until my mountain marathon and this week I have been looking at what I can do next.

Life is too short to spend time dwelling on what you haven’t done, just get outside and get on with it the best you can!(that’s my daily kick in the butt)

“Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.”

– Sarah Condor
Runner/Author

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Back to Back

This week I have had three consecutive days off work so I decided to Max them and challenge myself to a back to back hard session to see how my body coped.

Day one was a lucky run up one of my favourites and highest spot on the island – Goat fell – 2750ft – 11km.

With the weather being heavy rain for most of the morning, I packed my full waterproof gear and enough fuel to keep me going for a few hours plus a bit extra ” just incase”
Running in the rain can be really wonderful in the summer, I really enjoy the freedom and freshness of it and tend to run in shorts with a light,long sleeve base layer and a waterproof jacket if it’s torrential.

At the moment I am continuing to use and test my kit kindly supplied by Berghaus which consists of the following..

Vapour storm jacket
Hyper 22 backpack
Vapour light claw shoes
Vapour light shorts
VapourLight HyperTherm reversible jacket
Vapour short sleeve,zip neck T-shirt (base layer)

I am enjoying wearing it all and you know it does it’s job well when all that you are thinking about when you are out is your running technique, next challenge, food and of course the scenery.
Everything is so comfortable and light weight that I just haven’t had to think about changing anything.

As I set off the weather had improved dramatically and the sun was beaming through the clouds.
There was still that freshness in the air and I had a wonderful run up to the summit cairn.

Keeping in mind all of what we were taught in the alps by Julia of Tracksandtrails, I tried to stay light on my feet, keep my body relaxed and as upright as possible and power walk the very steep sections.
I also kept my energy up by topping up with fuel every 45 mins, thank you Torq fitness

Interestingly I was reading a post today that Torq have redesigned the opening tab of the gels to help prevent littering!
new design
This is an ace idea as I have been paranoid of losing the wee bits whilst footering around with stuff in my pack.

I am a strong believer of “leave the hills as you find them” so this is just proof that these products don’t just taste great and work well but the company are caring about the environment too which is brilliant!

My run on Goat fell was just one of those special unexpected days.
I only passed a few folk coming off as I was heading up and I had the summit all to myself in the sunshine whilst the rain clouds covered the majority of the surrounding hills- magic!

I wasn’t pushing it too much on Goat fell but I felt strong and more confident on my descending than my previous run up there and am enjoying thinking about and practicing all the things we learnt In the Alps.

Day 2 -The Ross – 2459ft – 29km

After an amazing day up Goat fell the previous day tackling some technical terrain, I thought I’d give my legs/mind a wee test of endurance and chose to run the Ross and back.

The Ross is a picturesque single track road which climbs steeply out of the village of Lamlash to its highest point (just over 900ft) then heads down the other side, eventually spitting you out on the other side of the island.
Basically once you reach the other side you just turn around and do the same again but the opposite way.

Knowing I had 18 miles to conquer and with the weather being a scorcher, I loaded up my pack with extra fuel and 2 litres of water/electrolyte/energy mix.
I also took an extra TORQ bottle with me as I knew there were a few steams along the way to fill up from.

Running on the road isn’t something I do a lot of but it was a nice change to test my speed a bit and I’ve always wanted to complete the entire Ross road and back in one go!

After a very hot 18 miles and some fairly substantial climbs I was pleased to have completed it in under three hours after yesterday’s mountain run.

I’m trying to focus more so on time on my feet at moment and really enjoying just being out for hours at a time, training myself to fuel efficiently and concentrating more on my running form and where I can improve.

“Anybody can be a runner… We were meant to move. We were meant to run. It’s the easiest sport”.

Bill Rodgers

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Chamonix and beyond

Well, where do I begin…
I’ve been back on my lovely wee island for three days now and I’m still feeling overwhelmed by the whole experience of running in the alps with Trail team 2014

I went out there as a trail runner whose longest run equated to 26km and came back with having completed 93km and 3600m of ascent.

I’m still coming to terms with the amazing experience we all had!
This trip has honestly changed my life and I am more excited than ever to get on with my lifetime goals and challenge myself to do things I may not have thought I was ready for before this trip.

The inspiration and determination of everyone in the trail team shone throughout and I think we are a strong team who can motivate each other to do great things in the future as well as helping to motivate others in the process.

Our fantastic guide Julia from Track and trail was an inspiration throughout and kept us going to meet our targets throughout the whole journey.
She led us on some amazing mountain trails through Chamonix, Italy and Switzerland and gave us top tips and advise along the way.

Meeting and running with legendary adventurers Phillipe & Anna Gatta and hearing their advice and stories was just amazing, it’s just brilliant to see people living life to the full and not being scared to go for it and take on these amazing challenges.

We are all human at the end of the day but some push the boundaries of what is classed as normal and reap the joys of achievement.

I feel like I’m ready to push a little higher than the previous boundaries I had given myself and take on things that before this trip I would have thought were outside my capabilities .

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Happy feet

After three full on days running through France, Italy and Switzerland you could say that would be a good test for a pair of trail shoes!

With some technical accents and descents thrown in and a mixed day weather wise on day two( very wet under foot) I’d say that a pair of shoes that were comfortable, super light, breathable and grippy would be ideal to support a pair of feet for the journey ahead.

I chose to wear my Berghaus Vapour light claw shoes for the duration.

We had a very fast,steep technical decent on the first day and I felt they weren’t quite supportive enough around the sides of my feet for that but for the rest of the trip they were fantastic and the fact I have no blisters at all after 93km in the heat is amazing.

My conclusion on the woman’s vapour light claws is that they are a fantastic overall shoe for mostly all trails except for the very steep, technical descents.

3 days of running, 93km, 3500m of accent and a pair of vapour claws = a happy pair of feet!

Thank you Berghaus!

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Fueling

I’m learning the importance of proper fuelling these days with longer, tougher runs and have been making good use of my TORQ fitness products.

As part of Trail team 2014 I had the chance of pushing my body to the limits around the Alps last week and thanks to the easy system that TORQ have created its so simple to grab a gel,bar and energy drink on the move when you need it and enjoy the delicious flavours, my favourites being the mango bar, raspberry ripple gels & lemon drink!

It’s so important to get the correct fuel into your body when your pushing hard and I’ve found that using TORQ products in between other food delivers that and gives you something to look forward to eating which helps with general focus and helping you to push through when you are feeling fatigued.

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Berghaus branded photograph by our awesome photographer Reuben Tabner

A jaunt up Arran’s highest

This week I’ve been mainly taking to the forestry trails and fitting in a few after work runs along the village of Lamlash.

I’ve been wearing my lovely new kit from Berghaus and using my Torq fitness products to fuel me over the longer runs.

As I had a day off work today I thought I’d head out on some more technical terrain with my new Vapour light claws.

I’ve covered 30 miles in them so far this week and am impressed at how light they are compared with my Salomon’s.
They seemed to be quite wide on my feet to begin with but after a few miles of running in them my feet felt very comfy and light and I’m now enjoying the fit of them.

I also had my new Hyper 22 pack out with me over the week too which I’m finding really comfortable especially today when I was carrying all my extra hill kit.

I set off with my faithful furry friend Cassie this morning and took to Arran’s highest mountain to give my shoes a good test on more technical ground and enjoy the challenge of the mountain.

This was my first time up here since the Goat fell race a month ago so it was nice not to be racing and test out some nice new gear.

The shoes did good and so did the new pack!

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Exploring Glencoe

On Sunday morning myself and partner Mark headed to Glencoe in the Scottish highlands, an area I’ve wished to explore more of for some time and also a great chance to gain more of a feel for the place before the Glencoe mountain marathon in October.

I packed my running stuff too and managed to squeeze in a stunning wee run from the Glencoe mountain resort along the West highland way and back, what a place!

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The weather was completely amazing and we took the opportunity to get some great hill days done throughout the week.

 

Day 1 – Buachaille Etive Mor –  A fine mountain day traversing all four summits( including two Munro’s) with some steep scrambling on the initial ascent. The weather was very hot by mid afternoon and the going was tough with our heavy packs but worth every minute! Special days like this in the mountains are to be treasured!

 

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Day 2 – Buachaille Etive Beag –  Another brilliant forecast and after yesterday, time again to plaster on the suncream, put on the rucksacks and head out for our second challenge .

The Buachaille Etive Beag is smaller in size to its neighbour( Buachaille Etive Mor) but still includes three summits( including two Munro’s) with an interesting, airy ridge to the final summit of Stob Dubh.

 

 

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Day 3 – A day of taking it easy.
After a nice long lie in our hobbit house and a breakfast of kings at the Glencoe mountain resort , we decided to take a drive into Fort William and enjoyed the day relaxing and thinking about possible options for the following day.

 

 

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Day 4 – Meall a Bhuiridh and Creise – After a day in Fort William yesterday and looking up at the Ben from the Ben Nevis inn, we had discussed possibly attempting the CMD Arete to Ben Nevis but with the forecast giving fog for that area in the morning we decided to stick to Glencoe for our final day and do Meall a Bhuiridh and Creise. Another fine day with a great wee scramble on the connecting ridge to Creise.

 

 

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Sitting on the summit of Creise looking out over the great mass of surrounding peaks made me think of  Steve Birkinshaw  and his epic challenge of conquering all the 214 wainwright’s in under seven days ( which he has now finished and smashed the record-WOW!!)

My main goal is to be able to run some big routes in these mountains and with people like Steve to inspire you, anything is possible.

I arrived home from Glencoe yesterday afternoon to two lovely big boxes full of Torq goodies which I can’t wait to try out and help fuel me as I up my training.

 

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With less than two weeks to go until Chamonix, I’m feeling ready to be inspired further and take on the challenges that are to come as part of the Trail team 2014.