Archive for the ‘Uncatagorized’ Category
Possibly the best 3.5km loop of tarmac I have come across with around a 100m heigh difference and a few diferent hills on a single lap. Telly Tubby style bridges, a couple of short grass tracks and great views means its actualy pretty inspiring to run here, depsite the fact that one is not going anywhere.
Combined with the very hospitable Kurds and our friendly OPF, a bunch of Asaish and lots of holiday makers, its quite an experience. These pictures are all from the quiet end of the camp near the gorge behind Rowanduz Village. This place is surrounded in trails and climbing opportunities. Might have to come back on holiday!!
So its happened again . After 10 days of some relatively free but still confined running, on the best quality short tarmac circuit I have ever encountered, I am back to running in the virtual hamster wheel that comprises my camp in Hajiawah, Kurdistan.
The last 10 days has bbeen a blast at work with good trips out oon the hills to inspect check out work crews, interspersed with some of the best qualtiy tarmac road running oone could wish for in a small area. Steep roads, lots bends and views to die for ( in fact if you ran off the road in a couple of places you could end up a few hundred metres lower pretty quickly!!! One can notch up 300m of vertical in a 10km session whch is good hill training in anyones book I think ( at least thats what I tell myself whilst surrounded by these amazing mountains just begging to be run up / over/ between and around!)
I have notched up just about 80km this week so far with a lot of vertical, which is great news.
However the last 2 days have been back to my flat gravel 0.7km circuit.The joy of joys and I need to develop the fortitude of caged hammsters to keep myself going round and round on the crunchy slightly loose gravel that really works the lower legs.. I had forgotten how hard it is, after the hilly flowing tarmac itts a shock but with a few more days of it, I will develop the speed again on the stuff……
Here are a few picture sof the last weeks views and mountains and hopefuly they capture the beauty of this place along with its amazing potential for adventure sports. All the pictures are taken in and around the Rowanduz Gorge area, between Rowanduz and Hajiawa/Raniyah in Northern Kurdistan, only 2.5 hrs from Erbil International airport. One day the whole Rowanduz area in Northern Kurdistan will be a really hot destination for climbing, trail running, adventure mountain biking, mountaineering, ski mountaineering in winter, rafting, base jumping etc etc…
I just wish I was free to run these trails. The best I have managed outside of my camps are some quality descents ahead of my vehicle on grreat tracks from cols to valley, faster to run than to sit in the car, even if I am in my walking boots…
So after a month of work and being confined to the camp and running in circles ( got the camp circuit down to 2mins and 5 seconds, segment on Strava. Paul Dickson has matched the time so need to smash it when I get back to work…. However:-
Back in Wales Weather has been great, I am feeling really good, the flat circuits have kept me in reasonable form I reckon and what a good week of trips out:-
For all the runs this week i am back in my pair of Adidas Adizero XT4’s. They are as ever great grip and superemely comfortable whilst minimal enough to give a great feel for the trail but stil protecting the sole of the foot from battering. They are light, dry fast and never seem to smell bad… my 3rd pair and they last for ages. the last pair I bought slightly small and I have passed them on to Duncan whilst there is still some life left in them. I am in size 46 not 45 now, and this is perfect for me , locking my foot into place with enough toe box room so i dont stub. Really locked onto my feet and super comfy.. ( I am a size 44.5 in a normal shoe and have decided that 46 suits me best in most trail running and road shoes, especially Adidas.
Wednesday 16th April – 17km 1087m ascent
Arrived back at 1315hrs and then by 140hrs met duncan and headed out up through the quarries onto Elidir Fach, then Fawr, my favourite ascent, tons of steps and steep, more of a power march than a run, but runnable sometimes… headed over to Y Garn with a chily Breeze and a very excitable Sam the Dog, and then managed to convince Duncan that the descent via Pen Dinas would be fun. Possibly the steepest bit of grass in the pas and annualy used for the Pen Dinas Fell race – a vertical thrash u and down….
A great day out finished by continuing back into Llanberis along the road from Nant.
Thursday 17th – MTB 25km – plenty of climbs and some awesome descents, Trail Run 8km with 40m ascent
Battered legs – quads particularly tender due to the steep descent off Y garn via Pen Dinas. The flat lands of camp dont prepare the legs for this realy so some pain is inevitable! but its good stuff and clears away once the legs get moving..
Trip to Coed Y Brenin and a great ride round the Dragons Back, havent been here in quite some time and unusual not to have Helen with me as Mountain Biking is one of our things … Plenty of it lined up for when she returns from Cambodia.
Biking was great and helped the legs recover, weather was ace again.
After the bike ride I decided to try out a short trail in the forest – The Sarn helen Long route – 8km and 400m ascent, a great little spin out and legs felt beter and beter as the run went on. There are a load of trails marked up in Coed y Brenin, including the trail Half Marathon Course which would be a great run, save it for next time. I have done the marathon course a couple of years ago at the inaugral event and the race goes from strength to strength each year…
Friday 18th Road Bike ride 60km
Headed out with tired legs over towards Waunfawr, then round via Beddgelert and up the Nant Gwynant to Capel Curig, along the Ogwen valley and down through Tregarth , and picked up the van from my mate duncans. Excellent ride and legs actualy felt ok climbing the Gwynant but knackered later on. tried to keep the pace reasonable and maaged about 3hrs ride including half an hour stop at the magnificent Nant Gwynant Cafe. Once again, great weather , and its just so good to be out when its like this!
Saturday 19th Mountain run 21km 1770m ascent
Once again an awesome day weather wise and out early ish to seek a parking spot in Nant Peris (couldn’t face running down the tarmac to Nant).
Picked a cold damp and shady route up onto Glyder Fawr to avoid the easter crowds, via Bryants gully, actually pretty slippery and awkward at this time of year as there is still afair bit of water running down it. Its a steep steep way onto the glyders and the higher part of the gulley features a short steep wall which can be a bit lethal in the wet so this was side stepped by ploughing on up the scree hillside to the right of the gully to keep it safe and sound today.
Onto Glyder fawr the towards Glyder fach to the top of the Cneifion Arete, above Clogwyn Ddu. I descended the ridge to Llyn Idwal after wondering if I could face it – it loked a long way down and my legs were tired…However once the decision was made, I was feeling great and loking forward to the climb back out from Idwal lake. Steeply down to the lake then crossing at the outflow, i head directly up towards Y Garn , a long a step stren ridge ascent with not much horizontal terain between the lake and the summit. A great way up and legs felt OK, tho I took it steady.
From Y Garn it was onwards via the crowded summit towards Elidir Fawr – most of which is quite runnable on tired legs even when one is feeling lazy – then descended to Elidir Fach and cut off the top to join the tarmac road to the surge pool and then down through the quary on the zig zags, al the way back to Nant Peris via the small path that breaks off about 3 or 4 bends above the lake, across the hillside, a great variation.. Awesome few hours out.
I took Sunday off for paperwork and a break, just to keep me keen, and then Monday had a plan to run with Duncan and Brian
Monday 21st April 27km 1646m Ascent
Great route that was chosen for the decent weather. we had planned a round snowdon Jaunt but decided instead to go high and do a vatiant of round Snowdon.
Met up with Duncan, Brian plus Sam the dog who is always bonkers keen, and unaware of the distance he may end running of course!! Wish I had the metabolism of a dog for energy - he seems to go on forever!
So we headed off up Bwlch Maesgwm ( Telegraph Valley) then followed the left fork after the gate on the descent towards the Snowdon Ranger path, then headed through a gate and leftwards towards the old quarries blocking the way between us and Rhyd Ddu. Great trails, tho at times boggy lead one around the hilside and across a great summer bathing spot at a stream, to the railway behind Rhyd Ddu. 100m along the railway you can jump the fence leftwards where there is a pile of breizeblocks for just such a purpose and cut over to join the Rhyd Ddu path towards Snowdon summit. Breaking right , we take the rough track towards Bwlch Cwm Llan and head up the South ridge towards the Summit. Its alternately hot and chill windy and a steep ascent that keep us huffing and power marching before a wel earned cup of tea in the summit cafe,( Thanks Jonathan!)
After a refuel it was off over too Cryb Y Ddysgl/Garneddd Ugain, tthen down diagonally to the Snowdon Ranger descent and the steep leg busting climb upto Moel cynghorion, before the classic descent down to the top of Bwlch Maesgwm and then down to Llanberis, legs feeling great and my Adidas Adizero XT4;s feeling great all the way. A great day out again and a fine week of exercise..
Having escaped from the clutches of work I was most keen to get my legs and mind liberated by a bit of wholesome trail running. Actually I was desperate!!
Fortunately for me at the last minute, an opportunity arose to spend a couple of nights in Hong Kong, meaning that I would be able to meet an old mate and partake of some trail fun, as well as good food while I was there.
The islands are suprisingly rural outside of the city limits which are actually quite confined to the lowlands. I think 60% of the landmass is designated as National Park, and trails and forest brush up against high rise and downtown locations right the way through what I saw of the islands. The trails are endless, and Lantau Island – one of the remoter trail destinations here, with some of the larger hills and epic trails is very close to the airport and is most convenient.
I chose to run on Hong Kong Island itself, as I could meet Brendan there and check out his office / downtown HK and have a potter along the Hong Kong Trail.
The views are supposed to be legendary, but of course during my visit the cloud was really low and made for just occasional spectacles along the way but the trail itself was fantastic.
Having caught the futuristic train into HK station I met Brendan and after a spot of breakfast with Brendan and his girlfriend Steph ( my 2nd breakfast of the day) we headed up onto The Peak and the official start of the Hong Kong Trail, just above the centre of town, a short taxi ride uphill, after arranging to meet Steph later in the day to to continue running with us.
The legendary views of the HK harbour from The Peak were nowhere to be seen and it was damp and chilly which was a shock, but the trail kicks off with a lovely rolling downhill section to warm the legs up. We intended to do about half of the trail – the whole thing is a 50km trip and looks great .
The cool thing about HK too and the area generally is whenever you hit a road you can flag down a taxi which are cheap too use, so however far you get , you will always find your way back to your hotel / starting point.
Brendan regaled me with information about the New Territories trails and so many other places to visit that it was a shame to be visiting only for a day!! A return visit for a longer spell is definitely required.
The Hong Kong Trail is a great rolling trip contouring, climbing and descending around the island on a variety of tracks from tarmac paths and stone concrete steps to tree rooted and rocky tracks, a great variety and the kilometers slip under ones feet almost effortlessly ( surprising as this is my first run in 3 weeks ).
After 20 km and some awsome trail we catch up with Steph, and run jog to a garage in the middle of a posh residential area, just off the wild trails to stock up on water and snack, before heading off on another trail through Tai Tam Park down to the coast involving plenty of steps and a fine ridge with no doubt amazing views to finish in Repulse bay.
A walk through thee market and a bit of sight seeing led us to a fine vietnamese restaurant in an old colonial building ( moved here stone by stone apparently and rebuilt on the spot ) where they didnt mind at all that we were sweaty and dressed in trail running clothing a la European style – (compresssion this that and the other etc…)
A great day out and a thoroughly whetted apetite.
The land of many long distance events, here is a fine challenge that has just been completed – the 4 main trails in 4 days:- Check this link out – a great multi day event no doubt and quite insane
For us, our running day was complete so it was a tourist trip taxi ride across HK Island to see the sights and then a wander through downtown HK later, plus a very fine Moroccan restaurant, then an epic foot massage – Reflexology – where we all suffered some pain as our Chi channels were unblocked and the day was finished….
I bid farewell to me mates and headed back on the futuristic train to arrive around 2330hrs back at the hotel ready for the flight to Cambodia in the morning.
I felt refreshed and cleansed of work, and really keen to visit again… Next stop Cambodia and Phnom Penh first befor eheading North to Mondulkir and the Elephant Valley Project
Since my return from Kazakhstan, I have done only a small amount of running, with more biking and skiing thrown in. This is all mostly to do with a stomach bug on my return from Kazakhstan before Christmas and then a bit of a savage cold after Christmas that dragged on a bit – I have heard it called Manthrax by some….
Fortunatey it had cleared by new year and I got some good running on the roads and ttrails round here and also a good blast up to the surge pool from the vilage and back in my best time yet of 1 hr dor to door, but from the Slate Museum Car Park and back I made it in 47 minutes, so prety pleased with that. I followed that later the same day with a road bike blast upto the top of Llanberis Pass in a respectable 27 min from home, and back in 40 minutes overall, with a big head wind on the ascent…
It was great to get up high again on Elidir as it has been a while on the flat lands, and it also put paid to the last remnants of my cold…
A Brenta Dolimtes ski trip with our family went down very well, and we have just got back, however I am nursing a bad back – suffered during the frst day skiing – no idea what happened but it has rquired a certain degree of pain management and groaning to get moving in the mornings before long days out on the slopes… Roll on Monday, when I will get it treated…Hopefully fixed properly and back onto the running mission..
I managed one spin out in the evening whilst skiing but decided to avoid extra back stress and concentrate on ski fun instead..
It now seems as though I have only a few days before I head out to work in Papua New Guinea so need to make the most of the time now….Biking tody then a run later hopefuly and I really want to get a tour of Snowdon run in before I go to work – maybe Tuesday night… Be fun in the dark..
After the first stint of work in PNG, I will be heading to Cambodia to catch up with Helen at the Elephant Valley Project for a month, and hope to spend some good time running there as well as volunteering on the project, as I did last year..
More details later..
I am also hoping to enter the Tor des Geants ths year – a 330km run around the Aosta valley with 24000m ascent, and with a time limit of 150hrs, which will be the big running goal for the year as long as work fits around it.. Part of the plan is also to do a solo run round the Grand Combin on the trail of the same name, probably whilst Helen is at work at some point – its a 6 day walk but I reckon a 3 day run would make it a great trip…
The pair I have now are my second pair of these shoes and are doing great, as did the last ones.
As I sit in my trailer in Kazakhstan, somewhere between The Aral Sea and The Caspian, miles from any hills or even slight bumps, I thought it a good time to reflect on what it is that I liek about my shoes and whether there are any things that could be improved on them too.. I have the XT4’s in my bag and am just waiting for the opportunity for a run in the dusty steppe landscape that surounds me. There are apparently wolves here ( saw a paw print of a wild dog / possible wolf just earlier this afternoon) and gofers/marmots and apparently this part of the world has a bit of a reputation for outbreaks of the bubonic plague….Fortunately the weather is getting cold so I reckon the likelihood of outbreaks of any disease is well diminished, and things like ticks, fleas and snakes and other biting creatures are lessened in numbers – hiding in holes etc..
Anyway I digress:-
These shoes look light and feel light at first glance and first touch, and sort of lok like they may well wear out pretty quickly. However from the pounding that they get on a variety of surfaces, and the amount of we, sandy, dusty, rocky terrain they travel through, the appear to be super resilient..
Dont let the bright colours put you off. if they are not your thing, then there is a choice some twin coloured or single coloured. These bright materials are superlight synthetic uppers that seem to drain water out of themselves a treat and dont soak it up. The mud soon covers any visual disturbance and the great fit and feel of the shoes soon washes away any colour issues you may have had
The upside of the super draining materials is that even on a 6 hour run recently, the shoes remained really light feeling and comfortable for the day despite geting soaked through within the first 10 minutes of starting out – I crossed a bog on the way up towards Moel Hebog on a scouting trip along part of the Paddy Buckley Round from Aberglaslyn back to Llanberis.
Time after time, bog after bog the shoes shake off the wet and don’t stretch, so once the laces are adjusted in the first place they don’t need fiddling with to adjust the fit on the shoe as the stretch is totally minimal.
The laces themsleves do take a bit of geting used to – they are fairly old style lace eyelets and require a bit of work to adjust, but once sorted at the start they keep the shoe firmly on the foot and with a reliable pressure..The thin tongue on the shoe obviously saves some weight and despite being skeptical of the lack of padding I m always surprised at the comfort levels of the shoe.
The non stretch uppers also mean that the shoes remain feeling fast , precise and stable all day – The last few weeks have seen a good number of forays onto the hills that re-confirm this, and the XT4’s don’t rol on the ball of the foot when traversing sloping ground.
Some of the superlight and more minimalist aimed shoes have left my feet feeling slightly delicate at the end of a good few hours on the hills. However, time and again, the Adizero XT4 sems to keep my feet feeling good, without any of the bruised feeling that I occasionally get on the balls of my feet with other shoes. After 3.5 hrs on the Moel Hebog/Nantlle section of the Paddy Buckley, and the climb up onto Craig Wen and Yr Aran on the way up Snowdon, my feet felt great as i hit the hard rock steps and trails on Snowdon itself. Through all this the shoes maintain a good ground feel and really grip well on mixed rocky/muddy/ loose stones and grass trails.
I guess the Adiprene and other cushioning materials in the shoe are responsible for this great protection and superb ground feel and I am well happy with the shoes on any terrain for any length of time.
The outer sole has some pretty good lugs poking out of it and my first thoughts of this were that perhaps there are not enough of them ( some of the Inov8 shoes bristle by comparison) and that they may also wear quickly.
In both these cases I have found that the lugs are great and sufficient for sure. They maintain traction at speed and on descents, and the shape of the shoe seems to help one run on the forefoot on descents, particularly improving speed and control, and lessening impact on the legs, despite the minimal heel cushioning.
The sole and upper combination just seems to lend itself to light and faster feeling more effortless descending, allowing great foot placement and encouraging / generating lighter footwork without one thinking about it.. quite impressive for a shoe i think…
The insole of the shoes stays firmly in place too and doesn’t creep towards the front of the shoe, even on steep and wet descents. I have a few pairs of other makes of shoe that have this problem, but not these..
I have a couple of ideas about how to potentially improve / extend the use of the shoes to a wider audience:-
One would be to increase the number of aggressive studs on it to appeal to the super steep and super short genre of fell racers out there for a short blast and who are usually convinced that only their Inov8 Talon shoes will do what they need – If they tried the XT4 as is they would find that the XT4 is great for this as it is but a few more lugs woud tempt them further and also add some grip although this would compromise weight a little.
I personally would love a pair of XT4 style adidas shoes with a flatter sole, with a lower profile tread for the more buffed trail days out or when there is more of a road and trail mixture, I think this would complement the XT4’s I currently have , extending the life of them and giving an option in the shoe range tht would be more of competitor to the likes of the Salomon Sense… I know my shoes feel great on the roads but I am sure they will wear faster with some extended road running miles in them that one needs when getting to the climbs out of the pass and in other valleys that necessitate tarmac miles
All in all I am well happy with theAdidas Adizero XT4 shoes and will be having a few more pairs I am sure, they really are great…. I wonder if Adidas can improve on such a brilliant shoe still further?
These are going to remin my favourite shoe for my longer mountain days and for Paddy Buckley Route scouting trips where I need to be on my feet for 6 hrs plus at a time… They are definitely going to be my choice for a PBR attempt when I can get it sorted, and also for some of the long things that I have planned for 2014…
First things first though, I need to get some speed sessions and a few flat runs in, here in Kazakhstan….
I havee beeen rather slack with keeping on top of the blog for the last couple of weeks but I have been up to all sorts locally (North Wales) so I shall recap below:-
At the end of October I ran the Snowdonia Marathon, unfortunately I had left it too late to enter myself but my mate Anthony had an entry and couldn’t run so I stepped iin and ran under his name… A bit naughty I know but I just had to be a part of the event seeing as how I was in the village at the time and its a home race.
With plenty of long mountain running and just a small amount of sprinty work, I knew I was lacking on the tempo run training department. Last timee I ran it, I hhad done a lot of 4.5minute to 5 minute km long run training to get used to sustained effort, and managed 3hrs 26 finishing time… This time I managed 3hrs 27minuttes and was well pleased, I stopped at aid stations to drink and recover each time so must have run generally a bit quicker than last time, even though I was slower on the ascent of the Llanberis Pass due to wind and a hheadwind doown the Gwynant.. So even tho’ I was a minute slower, well pleased with my result and generally swift recovery afterwards..
Afteer the marathonn, I ran a 95km week all told, with Eilio horseshoe , a few laps of the lake and a couple of hits going up from the slate museum to the surge pool directly.
Adding onto that some good bikinng trips, both road and mountain and it was a good 10 days for exercise..
The mountainns have been wet and windy, my legs have been alternatively sluggish and very peppy. My energy levels have been a bit haywire too, post marathon recovery issues I suspect… A few days back I woke up with such heavy legs and energy failure that I did nothhing for 2 days physically speaking, and this as ever rechrged my batteries. It has become a common feature and can happen any time, almost irrespecttiive oof whether or not I have done a lot or a little in the preceding weeks. It only occurs every couple of months and so it is a useful recovery….
Earlier this week I headed late uup onto Snowdon and then down over Moel CYnghorion. As evr my legs felt empty on the way up the Llanberis path. I find this ascent so difficult as it should be so runnable, but always takes lomger than I think it ought… Tired legs or not warmed up properly who kknow’s… The legs were great however heading down the Snowdon Ranger patth and up Cynghorion and I knoocked a minute off my previous best time to the top.
With the clouds boiling around below me and snow on the ground on top, the trip out was great and I raced the darkness back into the village ( Ihad a head torch but I din’t want to stop to get it out. A great 2hrs 20 mins spin out…
This was our 2nd stop on our Italian Alps trip, having decided that due to low cloud and chillyness we needed a change of scene from Ponte Di Legno in Lombardia.
Travelling through Bormio and up onto the Passo Di Stelvio, one cannot help but feel totally inspired, with such trail running potential and great biking, both road and mountain… The mountains are stunning, and of course combined with great food, one cannot fail to be inspired and energised…
The North side where we were to stay is old Austro-Hungarian territory, now Italy and has a mix of Italian and German/Austrian cooking.
After crossing the pass, including an overheating van and a great temperature inversion we descended the 48 hairpins from 2750m down to Stelvio village and booked into a small hotel for a change….
The next week, apart from a van breakdown recovery thing, was characterised by amazing road biking and mountain biking with Helen in the mornings and fantastic mountain running in the afternoons, with a general aim of getting around 1000m of vertical into my legs wherever possible.
So many trails and so many varieties of surface, from buffed single track, grassy meadows, old cart tracks and rocky technical trails, the place is another mecca for encouraging one up into the mountains again and again..
The mountains energise me, I feel like I draw strength from them and some how tiredness doesn’t seem to feature.
Perhaps the amazing road bike rides, including the STelvio pass and its 48 hairpins, with 1600m of ascent stretch my legs and dissipate the running tightness, but I found myself repeatedly rearing to go… On a couple of occasoins that the weather was poor or time was running low, I did a 10 x 30 second sprint interval session to try and maintain my leg turnover, in the face of all the steady steep climbing.
The long steep and fast descents have hopefully conditioned my Quads too, as they were constantly battered. I tried to interval some of the descents rather than run steady, to maximise the benefits, and on top of the Swiss leg of my trip, before I met up with Helen, I think my quads got into good shape too.
We also spent a day up high walking, where I scampered briefly along another fine ridge from Pic Chavalatsch, see the above picture, great views and also another insight into the network of high level paths up here that beg to be run across. Fells like you are on top of Europe, just brilliant. My Odlo clothing, mt Better than Naked North Face Shorts, The Adidas Adizero XT4’s and The North Face Trail Guide running shoes were all brilliant and reviews will follow….
Here we go, not running but hey it was great…