Running Blog

Kurdistan – Around the compound in 80 ways

Here i am in Kurdistan, some great looking countryside around – mountains and great rolling hills, great weather and interesting work, although the operations are yet to get going.

I am restricted to running round the camp permiter, inside the berm walls, which is a 0.4 mile circuit on gravel, sometimes firm, oft times a bit loose and hard work.

The views however are unsurpassed and I think this week ( I have yet to finish the weeks mileage) I will manage around 75km of varied running, so nearly 80  kms…

Steady 10km, 10km with some 10m sprint intervals in the middle, some 200 metre speed endurance sessions slipped into a 10km steady  pace and then the classic one fast lap one recovery lap, then hare and hounds stuf as I chased Paul Dickson round the compound today.

Plenty of the guys are out power wlaking, Paul and a few others are inot the running, although Paul is by far the fittest and kenest here, so thats plenty of motivation , and when we are out running we motivate each other, making the arbitrary laps disappear fairly painlessly.

A gradual development of a zen like mindset is required to run round in circles endlessly, I am generally no good at it as I love linear runs or runs n the hills so this is a bit torturous. however, the views are unsurpassed from the camp, and our Northern camp, to which I may move next hitch is on a kind of elevated fortress like hill with plenty of tarmac around the place.

Even tho security guidelines mean we are all stuck in camp, the views are good for exercising. I am also pushing our contractor to replace the running and exercise bike machines with ones that work and are of decent quality…..

head torch on tonight and off for a few more circuits, maybe an audio book if I get bored as I run….

Photos to follow as the upload speed is proper slow here. Looking forward to field operations beginning in earnest and then at least I can march up some hills too…

Keen to batter the legs to try and maintain fitness………

PS:- My 3rd pair of Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes from V12 Outdoor feel great on this gravelly rocky stuff, and the light weight road shoes – Adizero Adios are a good change of shoe from this now and again just to vary whats on my feet….

Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri – Pictures. Trail Running and Elephants

here are a few pics of the first week or so on the Elephant Valley Project, running in the morning before heading to work on the project in the afternoon.

The temperature has been rising since i got here and is around 36C to 38C in the afternoons now, and around 26C first thing in the morning. It soon warms up, and the humidity, despite no rain is quite omnipresent as ever..

Looking back towards the starting point

Our accomodation - a finky wooden hut pretty much open to the air is behind the white building in the distance. A typical Sen monorom view

Gee Noll and Easy enjoying the river on a warm afternoon. The Elephant Valley Project

A tri down to visit Gee-Noll and Easy in the afternoon in the project forest rented from the Pnong People. The Elies are so happy down here. Awesome to be involved. Nothing better thhan visiting these guys after a hot mmorning run

Adidas Trail Response 20's doing great, Hot day. exploring the trails

Above Sen Monorom. Exploring the tracks and trails, no one around as usual, hot, great single tracks. All part of my scouting runs to work out a Tour of Sen Monorom Route

I managed to work out a great circuit which nly involves about 5km of tarmac on the Eastern side of Sen Monorom. The circuit takes in somme good hills and some awesome tracks and trails along wiith plenty of dirt roads and worked out at around 30km… Need to research a bit more to get a full off road experience……Watch this space, or maybe next time…

Dirt SIngle track on the way to Sen m\onorom Mountain (a smallish hill in fact)

Early morning classic trails - dirt tracks, super dry and hard packed iin the middle of the dry season here. all makes for great running, even down in the valley bottoms in what would normally be boggy. Great tracks that stand out especially after the annual burning of nearly everything brown that occurs here in prep for the wet season and re-growth. This is about 12km into a 17km round trip

Out on a morning run, Adidas Trail Response 20's getting a battering. Great views

So much dry hard packed soil and the trails are great. Gets really dusty late in the day in town and on the dirt roads with the traaffic but in the mornings iits so quiet out of town and the views are great from above the town. Sen Monorom Mountaiin or Sunset Hill plas Sea Forest View Point. All connected by singletrack discoveries . Everything from open trails to ones hidden below bamboo forest....

Trail Running in Sen Monorom and the elephants

Great to be back on the Elephant Valley Project and catching up with Helen.

I spent a week in Phnom Penh all told until I caught up with H and we both spent some fun time there.

Phnom Penh is a bonkers city – swamped with people during the day but at around 0500hrs one has the strets to oneself and shares the boulevards and waterfront with  many groups of Tai Chi’ers, dancers, runners, walkers, jogers, arm wavers, you name it they are upto it. Its a great time to be out and out we went plentifully , hitting the streets with some really good places t run – past the Royal Palace, and off the the national monument , crossing onto the Russian Theatre Island, its good fun before the traffic  arives in force…..We even had a couple of great bike rides, one out to a distant mound ( locally known as Udoung Mountain but is a wee bump, the fine site of ancient Phnom Penh) . Another day we crossed the Mekong river by fery and fereted about the islands and farmlands of the area, a great day out too, and good exercise, breath of fresh air away from Phnom Penh, amazing how close rural Cambodia is to the mad metropolis, and you can see the high rise constantly in the distance to remind you…

So anyway, out to Sen Monorom, mondulkiri province, way to the East in Cambodia and about 50km from the Vietnamese border, the Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through here apparently…

It is great to see everyone again out here and to see the dedication to the Elephant project, plus the guys with WCS and WWF fighting th good fight to save the forests and wildlif from the incessant onslaught of corrupt government officials and Chinese timber theiving, rubber plantations and the rest. The elephants are great and its good to be back.

I have been running plenty and working on the project in the afternoons, rediscovering tracks from last years visits and finding some really great trails that I didn’t see last time.

Its really dusty right now, everything is covered in a fine red powder, but its great. The sun shines, its the dry season, trails are in great condition, and its not quite too hot yet, probably around 34 mid afternoon, maybe a bit more….

I am working on a Tour De Sen Monorom circuit that may work out at around 40km I hope and have had some good moto trips around with Helen to scout the trails too.

Ready for another week of fun and running, working with the elephants and generally living the life in the bush…..

Photos to follow

The Trail Delights of Hong Kong Island

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.

Am I really here, so cool to be getting a chance tto check this place out

An Urban/Rural Trail - Amazing views and so close to downtown HK!

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 .

Plenty of paved and un paved sections, plenty of steps but it rolls really nicely

Brendan rolling down above Aberdeen, we followed a storm drain for a while after this, dodging into it and a low tunnel section to bypass a crowd or two

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 ).

Aberdeen Harbour - a typhoon refuge for many a ship

Aberdeen. Great views and a great trail on the hillside above the urbanity

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.

The views were rather intermittent, but mean that the feeling of being away from the city was increased

A brief view between the clouds

one minute Bush the next minute Urban - Cool

Brendan and Steph on a roll

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

Getting back into it after the enforced break.

Hong Kong

Sitting in the hotel and I am heading out shortly into Hong Kongs busy metropolis to catch up with a mate I met on a job in Egypt a few years back.

I am looking forward to getting out on the trails with him for a few hours – running this morning and a more leisurely afternoon marching in the hills and forests on out the edge of town.

I know only that Hong Kong is reknowned for its paths tracks, trails and steps . There are some famous ultra events here, and so many trails on the different islands…..

Spoilt for choice after not being alowed to run at work for the last few weeks, it may be a shock. Plan on 20km or so I think…

Arrived last night around 10pm after a 6.5 hr flight from POrtmoresby, I havve so far seen nothing of the city so looking forward to that.. Its  a 20 minute ride on the train into town from Lantau Island where the airport is ( Lantau has a couple of the bigest hills around here, just a bit smaller than Snowdon….

I managed 30 mins on arunning machine yesterday morning and a session the day before at the oil refinery I was staying at in Port Moresby, 1hr 30 on running machine and some weights then a jog about the place on some gravel tracks up and down the confines of the enclosed facilities – actually god views out over the Inlet back to Port Moresby…

So today, here starteth my return to regular running…… Tomorrow Phnom Penh in the afternoon via Kuala Lumpur. Anothe plane journey, and then Cambodia for a month.. Meeting Helen in 5 days time in PP, so I will run and bike plenty before then…

Pictures will be posted of todays experiences…

Its good to be away from the cloing confines of the jungle camp and excesive regulation, amidst a general air of exercise creating a bad example…….Bonkers. Yippee I am back in the zone

The Tor Des Geants

Aosta, Early September 2014, 330km, 150 hrs 24 000m ascent…….

I am sat in my tent in PNG, and this is the least running I have done for years over the last couple of months what with one thing and another….. So this means I will be fresh for training to start in earnest when I escape from here and get to Cambodia. The mountains will have to wait for now but my legs need to move!!

I hope the heavy rucsac and step training I have been doing on the bridging in the jungle here ( miles of wooden steps up and down through the forest, will help start me off – although I can’t get out every day due to presssures on helicopters and other work commitments, after all, it is for work that i can go out into the fforest and for work only…

It is also due to work that I am banned from running in camp….. In 4 days time my supervisor leaves and I shall resume pounding my 268 metre circuit, safe in the knowledge that in the great scheme of things this is a tiny distance!!!!!

I am seriously excited to be thinking about this and lucky to enter.. The registration opened at 1200hrs Italy time and by the time I registered, having startedd on the dot, I was number 1131 to sign on!! phew

Check out the website for details, it just looks like such a cool way to have an adventure aand see lots of mountains, wicked

Tor Des Geants


Papua New Guinea and I am banned from running

So it was a quick transition from the slopes of the Brenta Dolomites to the deep jungle of Papua New Guinea.

I have packed 2 pairs of my finest Adidas shoes, including a last minute addition, the Adidas Adizero Response 20, a slightly more built up and cushioned  cross trail track and road shoe, than my Adizero Trail XT4’s which I also have with me.

There is no chance of running in the jungle as its thick and steep mud and primary forest, muddy and rooty, snakes , ants bees etc everywhere, and even a baby cassawary bird the other day….. So at least a couple of times a wek I am getting out into the field by helicopter to visit the operations and get to march up and down the narrow paths built for our seismic work…

To cope with the confinement in our base camp , I had identified a mighty fine 268 metre circuit to run on which included a set of steps, a muddy trail descent and flat section of duck board and mesh, then a small descent to a crek bridge before the steps ascent again, prety intense litle circuit for 268 m I thought..

I discovered a little side track upto a rasied area in another section of the camp that extended it another 250 metres and added some much needed variety and was managing to clock up around 5 miles a go for my run sessions. Pretty pleasing that a) I could deal with the monotony and b0 cope with the heat and humidity – its around 34 to 38 degrees c here and jut the most humid place you can imagine. It makes Uganda seem as tho the air is arid!!! Dripping wet constantly….

So I figured hey I can cope scombined with the hard conditions in the work place (when I can actually escape from camp) I will maintain fitnes….

There are no roads to or from the camp only a boat ride or a helicopter, proper no chance of variation or distance.

So there I was psychologically prepared for the whole approach, a challenge at the best of times and then:-

Boom Bang Slap Kaput!!!!

In one moment all hopes and dreams were shattered by the dictate from our Project Manager “Thou Shalt Not Run. It gives a bad example” – You can run at 1700hrs not 1500hrs he said, knowing full well that this time of day is meetings meetings meetigns then its dark and I really can’t run after dark here, way too many people on this tiny path working at night and too many trip hazards – its  workplace after all etc etc etc… I had picked mid afternoon despite it being the hottest part of the day as its the quietest part of day in camp before the mass of personnel return from field or hang out after work in the camp all over the only walkway in a 50km radius

Absolutely outrageous thing to be told. There is no gym here, no running machine, no exercise bike, no space to do cardio vascular exercise. bugger. I am going to have to get seriously inventive in the short term…

In the short to medium term however I am looking for a new project to go to. Not being banned from running…

Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail Shoes and Kazakh Tank – A cold day on the Steppe

Hmm An Armoured Personnel Carrier we use at work, all terrain vehicle, and a pair of Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes. Couldn’t resist the opportunity to take pictures with shoes and tank, and think about jokes to do with running on tracks , all terrain tank versus all terrain shoe – actually the XT4’s win hands down, I know for  a fact that the tank got stuck in the local salt marsh whereas the shoes just skipped on over…

Adidas XT4 – 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier – o

Super light grippy shoes, super heavy grippy tank

Super light Shoes, super heavy tank. Shoes win.....

Give me the Adidas XT4 shoes everytime over the APC. Although its funky working with these things... Engine sounds like a controled explosion and super rattly .

Forward to victory

Tank Commander shoes, the local guys think I am deranged taking these pics with my shoes...Never..

The Steppe of Kazakhstan

Here I am somewhere East of the Caspian sea and West (Just) of the edge of the fast shrinking Aral Sea. This little spot is cold and bleak, although not quite Siberian temperatures as yet!!

The ex Russian missile battery camp- comy trailers even tho super old

Old Missile battery trailers for accomodation, look nice in the twilight

It super flat ( Concave ) and I am pining for the mountains again.

12 hour drive from Atyrau including 250km along very rough dirt tracks, and an interesting selection of old vehicles and ex-Russian missile battery accomodation units … All made back in early 60’s and 70’s, including the vehicles.

Chilly sub siberian temperatures in the mornings

Super changeable weather , betwen 5 above and 7 below randomely with rain snow or wind or all 3 in the space of an hour. Coldest so far was a minus 5 morning with 50kph wind..Brrrr....

Work has me pretty busy to be honest but I am managing to get out and run abit, aorund 5 mile s a day just to keep the legs ticking over. Its below zero often and I am not inclined to get into any interval stuff as yet, I am going to wait until I am bored of running along the flat for 10km at a time, on rough dirt tracks and tufty scrub.

Weird sign in middle of nowhere

250km from black top, no one around... Road sign? There are some amazing mountains in Kazakhstan but unfortunately not around here. Me wrapped up and out in the chilly air for a sight seeing run...

The Steppe itself is littered with umpteen Gerbil holes and there are tales of wolves and foxes roaming ( seen some big paw prints in the snow around the camp…

I have been using my ADIDAS ADIZERO XT4 trail shoes, and these have ben great. The terain although very flat is super rough and goes from bogging slippy mud to proper frozen iron hard soil or snow on the groun all in the space of a day – the change is hard to believe…These shoes grip all the way through  the wide range of underfot conditions and are still so comfortable, light and inspiring.. The nimble feel on the cart track rutting and stability of the shoe on my foot is great, no foot slip whatsoever and ever step is a positive enggement with the ground… There is not much to see so you can telll I am thinking about what the shoes feel like a lot!!!

On my runs the highlights are a road sign about 2.4 km from camp, an ancient graveyard about 2.3km from camp, and I discovered the highest point in the area today, its about 8 metres above the plain, and is a climb of about 60 metres…. Drastic stuff indeed…

So anyway, wrapped up in warm gear, the thermal stuff I got from V12 is awesome too. I am  a big fan of the BRINJE range of thermal stuff for arctic conditions ( Long Johns, balaclava and L/S top) and I am also getting some great use out of my ODLO tops and thermals..

My NORTH FACE EVEREST DUVET JACKET and NORTH FACE EXTREME MITTS are amazingly warm. For general wandering and work, I have the NORTH FACE CHILLKATS, these boots are amazingly grippy, super light to wear, commfortable, not like alpine boots – the flexibility is awesome, and they are so toasty warm its a pleasure to be out in the cold in them….

So off to bed. 5hrs ahead of the UK, and an early start for work in the morning. Semolina for breakfast or omelette then chicken, cabbage potatoes and pasta for lunch and tea… voila. Oh and of course now and again some beetroot salad……

Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail Shoes

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:-

The XT4’s

Upper Materials

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.

XT4 Midsole

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.

Outer Sole

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

In Summary:-

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….

Snowdonia Weather