Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Tag: trail running

January Training

…And all of a sudden, it was February! Who else is baffled that a month of the year is gone already?! I’ve been so busy at work, at home, and in training that the weeks have slipped by at an alarming pace.

Training is going very well and I was pleased to only miss one run in the whole month of my plan. This was the day after Kynon’s birthday on the 26th, where whilst my head was a little tender, my excuse was that the weather was utterly catastrophic and the wind coming off the sea was so bad you could barely stand up. There was a dry window in the day when I could have done the run but by then I was busy doing other things so just wrote it off as a casualty of a busy lifestyle.

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Other than that I have been consistently knocking out my sessions during the week and enjoying long runs on the weekends. I would love to have some beautiful wintery photographs from Scotland to share with you like last year, but the weather has been so bad that my phone camera has stayed safe in a ziplock bag in my rucksack away from the rain. This winter has been unusually mild, so unlike last year when we were spending Saturday mornings skating around on ice, instead we’ve been battling pouring rain and harsh winds which has made things less than pleasant at times.

I ran 186 miles in the month which is the highest I’ve ran since July 2012, when I hit 202 miles when training for my second marathon. If I continue to be consistent and do all my sessions, this February will be my biggest month ever. It was around this time last year that the wheels started to come off my training and I was getting exhausted, so I am remembering how awful I felt then and if necessary will deploy the patented Mike Raffan ‘Don’t Be A Dick’ tactic and veto some sessions if I end up running myself in to the ground again (literally).

The other good news is that by sensible diet and hard training I managed to gently shift the spare half stone which was lingering around after an easy end to 2013 and a fortnight of Christmas indulgence. My goal now is to actually maintain my body shape as if I lose any more fat weight I will be in danger of having a wedding dress which does not fit. With increasing effort and mileage on the cards until the D33 this may actually be somewhat of a challenge. I’ve already been warned by my seamstress that most brides lose some weight whether they mean to or not in the weeks before the wedding – usually due to stress. Add 50 – 60 mile weeks, hill running and circuit training on to that and it could be interesting. Doughnut, anyone?!

Tomorrow is my first race of the year – the Forfar Multiterrain half marathon. I did 17 miles this morning so it will be a great back to back. The weather looks dry enough but it’s forecast to be very windy; my memories of last year’s race include a very exposed hill so I will be taking a lot of layers. Kynon is supposed to be running too, but he’s managed to pick up a very nasty tummy bug/food poisoning so I doubt he’ll be joining me judged on how he looks currently but you never know.

I’d like to interact more with you guys this year, so allow me to launch some questions at you:

– How is your training going so far this year? Did you hit your goals for January?

– Married ladies; did you accidentally lose weight before your wedding? I’m not sure my seamstress is telling the truth…
– Are you racing tomorrow? What are you doing?

 

REVIEW: Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoes

In my three years of running so far I have changed my mind on many subjects – examples such as my favourite distance, my preferred shorts and my tastes in fuel and gels come to mind. One thing that has always been certain is that I prefer running on trails to running on roads. You would then think that I would have found the perfect trail shoe, but this most elusive of creatures has until now evaded me.

In a market saturated with choice, the modern trail runner is bombarded with options. Do you go minimal and strip your footwear right back to the basics with Inov8s? Or do you indulge in the exact opposite and buy yourself a pair of Hokas? The problem is that this exercise in trial and error is an expensive one, and two different pairs of trail shoes later I am still not satisfied with what I own.

Inov8_Flyroc_310_Unisex_Running_Shoes1Three years down the line and I am still on the search for the perfect trail shoe. I currently own two pairs of Inov8s – one pair of sturdy and hefty Flyrocs (above), and one pair of lightweight and colourful Trailrocs (below). Neither are quite right; the Flyrocs have a thick hard sole and no cushioning which ruined my feet during 53 miles of the Fling, and the Trailrocs are too lightweight for anything technical and are far too minimal for any great distance for me.

in0v8sSome of my friends wear trail shoes all the time but I can’t bear to run on tarmac in either of the above shoes. I live very close to some amazing trails, hills and forests to tear about in, but I hate having to choose between taking the car or enduring 3 – 4 miles of tarmac in trail shoes before reaching more suitable terrain. The Inov8s are great for certain stuff but they are not a good all-round shoe and lately I’ve been spending more time in my road shoes, even when running on trails.salomon-speedcross-3-review-300x300A while ago I was contacted by Salomon who were keen to talk to runners about trail running this summer. They did a series of City Trail events around the country where runners could come along and be introduced to the joys of trail running and try out some new kit. Since I live in the back of beyond the nearest event to me was well over 100 miles away in Edinburgh, but Salomon kindly offered to send me some of their new shoes to test and review on the blog. Given my recent difficulties with finding the perfect trail shoe I jumped at the opportunity, and for the last three weeks I’ve been testing a pair of the Salomon Speedcross 3 from the S-LAB Collection.

20130923_190924I was really excited to unwrap the shoes, which came wrapped inside a box inside a box.

20130928_155051I left an even more excited Saskia to play with the boxes, and quickly got some sensible socks on so that I could check the fit.

20130923_191055I take a UK9 in my running shoes, which depending on the manufacturer can be a EU42 or a 43. Salomon sent a 43 and the fit for me is perfect ***SEE UPDATE ON SIZING AT BOTTOM, DECEMBER 2014***.

Here’s what Salomon have to say:

“S-LAB Collection – Designed with the world’s best trail runners. Lightweight minimal uppers for a superior fit, and the precision, protection and traction necessary to be a proven winner at the world’s toughest mountain and trail races. The Speedcross 3 W is an update to the iconic, lightweight, aggressive profile, trail racing shoe.”

The shoe is sturdy but light to lift. It has a thick rubber sole and sturdy instep cushioning with lots of padding around ankles, like a road shoe. The toe box is quite wide with plenty of wiggle room for the toes and the material on top is light and quick to dry.

20130926_182611The laces are pull-tie strings. This is a new thing for me and I was quite wary at first as they seem flimsy, but the grip is solid and you can tighten/loosen right down to the toes if required. The spare strings tuck neatly in the pocket in the tongue leaving everything tight – there is no room for twigs, leaves, or other trail miscellany to get wedged under the laces. Incidentally the strings are actually made of kevlar so they are really not going to snap easily, but if they do, you can get a replacement from Salomon.

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When I first pulled the shoes on they felt just like a familiar and comfortable road shoe which I found very promising. When I left my front door to head to the forest it felt just like a normal road shoe when I was running on the pavement; secure, but cushioned.

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As soon as I got to the trails however the shoe’s true purpose quickly shone through. As you can see from the image above, the grip is ferocious and the Speedcross’ sole is designed for traction on wet and slippery surfaces. As I changed from gravel to leaves and mud I felt complete control over my feet. The lugs on the sole face both forward and backwards so you can anchor your foot safely regardless of whether you’re heading up or down a hill.

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Winter is approaching and the snow will be here soon. With the D33, the Highland Fling and more to train for next Spring I am facing another tough winters running and I can’t wait to see how this shoe will perform in shoe and on ice.

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I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but this shoe and I are already getting on very well. We’ve had two more dates with the trails and I think it could be getting serious. I was actually considering an act of total lunacy and wearing them for the Kielder Trail Marathon last weekend since they’ve been so comfy, but I’ve not been out in them for more than an hour yet so that would have been a risky move. It does show the levels of confidence I have in the shoes though, and I am going to wear them for a trail 10k race I’m doing on Saturday.

So thank you, Salomon, for showing me that there is still a world of comfort to be had on the trails. These shoes have most definitely earned both mine, and Saskia’s, complete approval.

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The Speedcross 3 retails between £70ish and all the way up to £110 online depending on where you shop.

Disclosure: I was provided these shoes in exchange for my honest thoughts and review. As ever, all opinions are my own (and Saskia’s).

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UPDATE: Randomly, of all the posts I’ve written in this blog, this post gets consistently the most hits every single month. A lot of people want to know about these shoes, it seems. So here’s a brief note on where I’m at with them now a year later: I still love them, but they are way too small in the toe-box for anything longer than 20 miles. I ran the 53 mile Highland Fling in them in 13.5 hours, and the 55 mile Cateran Trail ultra in 13 hours, and in both races my little toes were in absolute agony from being crushed in the toe-box as my feet swole up in the latter half, and I had huge blisters in between my toes. After the Cateran, I realised that the toes had actually worn holes in the Gore-Tex upper where they were desperate to get out… The mileage on the shoes at that point was about 250 miles.

So, if you are into long ultras I would absolutely recommend going up a size in these shoes. I will be buying a new pair shortly for next season but will likely purchase a pair of mens shoes as the toe-box is made wider.

Meall a’ Bhuachaille

Hello there!

I’m recently back from a wonderful 10 night stay in Mallorca where I was able to relax, recover and recharge from the Fling and the year’s hard grafting so far. My intention for my post today was to share some of the wonderful stuff we got up to whilst we were over there, but it would appear that the holiday gremlins have stolen my camera cable in my absence. Annoying when that happens, so that will need to wait until they decide to return it – or I find it. Whichever comes first…

Anyway, this weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with two bloggers and frequent commenters around these parts, Jemma and Iona, and two of my friends from the club, Kate and Ali, to do some running in the Cairngorms. We were all set to do a race called ‘Race The Steam Train’ on Sunday morning, so we decided to come up a day early and fit in some trail running.

The weather was well and truly on our side and Ali could not have picked a better route for us – a circuit incorporating an ascent of Meall a’Bhuchaille, which is a Corbett East of Aviemore next to Glenmore Forest. We went right over the hill, past Ryvoan Bothy and down to the Green Lochan which was breathtaking. The mix of snow and intense sunshine made it feel like we were in the Alps!

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Looking down to the Green Lochan.

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A quick breather after a heart-stopping descent!

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Cooling down in the icy water!

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A beautiful inscription on a memorial bench:
“And again in the dusk of evening I shall find once more alone the dark water of the green loch, and the pass beyond Ryvoan…”

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All in all it was a day to be truly grateful to be alive and live where we do, and to be able to do what we do.

Happy running,

~ Rwr

Sunday Long Run

When your training gets you down, usually it just takes one great run to top your happiness levels right back up again. I’ve only been running three years but in my time training so far I’ve learned that in EVERY cycle there’s a period where everything just sucks and you can’t be arsed. It’s almost inevitable; in fact it’s as inevitable as the breaking point which comes just before you start to taper, when you feel like you just can’t train any harder.

So training, like life, has it’s ups and downs which is no huge surprise. I knew that after the running blues descended upon me last week, there was one thing guaranteed to fix everything right up again – and that’s a day in the hills with friends.

A group of us were mustered by Mike to run around the five Munroes of Lochnagar in the Caringorms – an approximate 18 mile run with thousands of feet of ascent but worth it for the views alone. In the end some concerns about weather, personal safety an experience made the group split into two, but a wonderful day was had by all regardless.

I ran the ‘low’ route with my friends Iain, John, Dave and Minty, which saw us circumnavigate Loch Muick and do some snowy exploring for about 12.5 miles. I’ve ran this once before as part of a race in the Spring, but the terrain was very different this time and we were up to our thighs in snow on many occasions.

Here are some pictures from the day. Last week I was asking why I do this again? Well here’s the answer.

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In the end when the weather cleared and the sun came out, it became clear that our concerns about going up into the mountains were unfounded for that day, but I’m still happy with the decision I made. I am not an experienced hill-walker or mountaineer and I would not like to put myself in a position that I am not trained for. The people I would have been with may have known everything that was required to be safe and navigate if a storm descended, but it is not up to me to rely on others for my own safety and I believe that everyone has to be responsible for themselves when in the great outdoors.

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Looking up to a clear Lochnagar

We shall return in the Spring when the weather is less volatile.

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