Adderbury ‘Three Spires’ 10k 2013

I’ve fancied running the Adderbury Three Spires trail half for a few years now but after suffering a lot of arm pain during the back end of Otmoor I think 13 miles is just too long for comfort at the moment, however slow I run it. So spotting that fellow VRUK member Sarah had entered the 10k version I submitted a late entry and 9am Saturday morning was to be found driving down a farm track to the allocated parking on what promised to be another blazing hot day. I was knackered as usual with maybe five hours sleep if you add the bits up and an extra dose of ibuprofen to shut my arm up so I could enjoy the run – nothing new there then 🙁

The farmer asked that we line the cars up in just half the field so there was plenty of room left for the sheep we were sharing with, I notice he’d left them the shady half – good man. We cut through down the side of a house and then crossed the road to follow signs to the start. I kept my eyes on the couple up ahead which maybe wasn’t the best idea as we ended up somewhat lost. After a bit, guided by the sound of race preparations, four of us followed a narrow path over a disused railway embankment and found ourselves at the wrong end of the start field. Youth races were already in motion and already warm runners queuing to collect their numbers, I grabbed mine then sat about on the grass till I caught sight of another Vegan Runners vest and introduced myself to Sarah. As we were chatting one of the half marathoners came and said hello – also vegan but running for Witney Road Runners.

Sarah said she hoped to get under the hour, I made the usual excuses about bad arm, lack of sleep, lack of training and lined up right near the back. We all set off together with the half runners doing a lap of the field but us lot heading straight for the exit at the other end of the field. I positioned myself right near the back so I wouldn’t get dragged along in the heat.

Adderbury 10k start As usual I’d done my homework and checked the route profile based on a route gpx I’d downloaded so was expecting small hill at 1.5 miles, bigger bump at 2.5 then another small one about 5. Unfortunately the route had been changed rather late in proceedings due to some other event so instead we had gently rolling on farm and field tracks after we’d left Adderbury with a visit to Bloxham about halfway. It was nice but I’d no idea where I was going 🙂

It was really, very hot. I was glad it was a morning event and even gladder I wasn’t attempting the half marathon. I passed a few early on and was passed by many of the half marathoners as they caught us. What with stiles and gates and narrow paths it was never going to be a fast course which suited me fine. There was water after a couple of kilometres and I made sure a full cup went down, more water at Bodicote by which time some around me were noticeably wilting and I was quite glad I was obliged to take it easy. We joked with the marshals that the queue to cross a stile was really just an excuse to have a walk in the shade. Glancing at my Garmin showing time of day only it seemed from the distance markers that I was 10 minute miling or thereabouts which was fine by me.

Adderbury 10k meAround mile 5 I took a short walk in the shade as I was beginning to feel just a little faint and sick. I was yoyoing with a couple of walk/run guys and I think we were all keeping our eye out for each other in case there was any serious heat problems. Fortunately I didn’t see any. I wasn’t expecting more water but really appreciated it when it arrived near where we split from the half marathoners. Nearly done and glad of it we passed a gang armed with powerful water guns and three good squirts left me dripping and in much better condition for a not too slow finish.

Back through Adderbury, no idea where I was heading, it did seem to be going on a bit. Then a marshal says next left and your on the finish field. I heard footsteps behind and felt an unusual urge to speed up a bit and hang onto my position. A bottle of water handed to me as soon as I crossed the line, a medal (which I had to untangle from the bunch as the young lad was struggling to separate them). I was pointed to the goodie bags which contained more water, a welcome banana and an interesting water bag type thing. I’d enjoyed myself and didn’t feel too overheated as I sat and drank my water. Someone asked me what distance I made it and I realised I’d not bother to check the Garmin so saved the run and the data suggested a bit over 6.6 miles in agreement with other runners so we’d had a bit extra at no additional cost. Got lost trying to find my way back to the car afterwards but it was a nice day for an extra tour of Adderbury.

I was surprised to find my 1:04:07 had got me 33rd of 76 runners, I think this probably reflected my coping with the exceptional heat better than some as I’m not able to run flat out. Sarah was much more impressive, 4th lady and 10th overall. I must return and run the half marathon sometime – a great local event and very impressed with how well Adderbury Running Club kept us comfortable in that heat!



Feeding The Vegan Welsh 3000s

So, having failed to actually get up even one Welsh 3000 but still wanting to be part of the Vegan Welsh 3000s adventure, Jane and I were to be found at 7:45am on Saturday the 15th June trying to erect a tent in a very windy car park next to Llyn Ogwen which lives between the Glyderau and the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia. I’d volunteered us as a food stop where the hardy ultra runners could rest and refuel with strictly vegan calories before tackling the last stage of the race.

We had already been staying in a B&B near Llanberis for a couple of days and had enjoyed a bit of wet but pleasant walking plus a visit to Caernarfon. The veggie/vegan B&B, Graianfryn, was brilliant and did us home-made, exciting, nutritious breakfasts and evening meals complete with vegan wine or beer options. I’d had a couple of fair nights sleep for a change but Friday I’d been arm achy and knackered so I wasn’t that fresh.

The grassy area we were trying to pitch in only actually had about an inch of grass under which was stone so we tried to pin the tent down pushing the pegs in sideways. It was gusting really strongly and despite assistance from Rachel who had volunteered to help us I was beginning to despair of getting the thing to stay put even before the first runner arrived. We managed to untangle and attach a few extra guy ropes that had never been needed before and I eventually sussed that by tucking the pegs under the edge of the various boulders sharing the grassy bit I could get them to stay put. The side of the tent still blew in so far it almost pushed the table over but it would have to do.

Ogwen food stationMeanwhile food supplies and runners bags arrived from the previous food station at Nant Peris and we added vegan pizza and sausage rolls to the supply of sandwiches, cake, bananas, dried fruit, crisps nuts, 9bars, flapjacks, tea, coffee and energy drinks we were offering. It seemed like a lot of food for around 30 starters but while the faster runners just stuffed their faces, downed a coffee, filled their pockets then were off as the day went on the less hurried participants took the chance to unwind, have a decent sit down and  have a proper picnic.

Boris Gaspar, our first runner, approached from the Carneddau as he was one of only two attempting the 84k extreme event which amounted to running all the 3000s then turning round and running them again. He had started an hour late after getting a puncture so by the time he arrived around 9:30 we were ready for him. He was looking fresh despite 14 miles already done and after a munch sprung up the rocky path towards Tryfan like he’d only just started.

Boris heads for TryfanCharlie Sharpe was with us for his first visit half an hour later also attempting the 84k version but starting at the other end so he’d already covered the Snowdon Massif and the Glyderau. A super fit member of team 9bar Charlie looked in better shape than I usually do after a 5k parkrun and was soon on his way up the Carneddau.

Charlie heads for Pen y Ole WenThings were getting busy for us now with Dan Page, who went on to win the 55k in 8hr 45m, followed by a steady flow of faster runners. Vegan Karl Garside had acquired a rather purple looking swollen ankle but the tape applied to support it seemed to work as he went on to finish in 4th place. A minor cock-up meant a couple of the runners drop bags had gone AWOL resulting in a disappointing end to the dream of dry socks. The excitement and feel good vibe was almost visible.

The day had turned out pretty dry and sunny despite a foul forecast and the start of the race having been greeted with a hail storm on the way up Snowdon and poor visibility on the tops. We were told it was really windy on the summits though and the organiser’s switch to an alternative route avoiding the arête of Crib Goch was a good call. Down in the valley we were still struggling to keep the tent up in the strong gusts and any spare minute found me trying to rescue another guy rope from the impossible tangle they’d become. The side of the tent would blow right in and it later turned out a couple of the poles had split. We tucked the camping stove right into a corner behind a wall and it worked well enough to keep a couple of flasks topped up with boiling water for tea and coffee. When things calmed down a bit we got the frying pan out and started a production line for vegan bacon sarnies which found appreciative consumers amongst many of the not- usually-vegan participants.

John BatesonSeveral members of Vegan Runners UK were taking part including Simon Dally, John Bateson (above with organiser Kirsch Bowker), Kate Fitzgibbon and Roger Mills. Runners families, volunteers and supporters from Sea Shepherd cheered in participants as well as welcoming various walkers and runners who were nothing to do with our event. A few people dropped out, another 14 miles starting with a 600m climb was just too much, and I forwarded on their race numbers to marshals down the line. Time flew and around 2:40pm we greeted the last 5 who had got lost and missed out Tryfan while adding on a few miles, 3 of these decided to call it a day but 2 decided to carry on after a feed and a rest.

The mountain marshals who had been stationed for many hours on the surrounding peaks in some pretty hairy winds made their way down to us – another Boris, Jake, Jeannie and Joe. A tired Te had arrived with van and we knew Charlie would be with us soon on his return leg, he was refuelled and on his way back up Tryfan about 4:30pm.

Arrival timings were obviously rather vague at this stage 12 hours after the start and we had one of several comedy moments. We set food – cold bacon sarnie, banana, 9bar, water etc etc – aside for Boris so we could leave Te and Rachel to look after him and get ourselves decamped. The hastily arranged support for Charlie’s next Nant Perris stop hadn’t arrived for his drop bag at the unrealistically early time agreed so Te went off to wait for him and when Kirsch did arrive we packed all the remaining food along with the Vegan 3000s flag etc in her car so we didn’t need to take our knackered selves to Rowen. (They were having a fine party there but I was only fit for my bed.) Boris arrived about 6pm and we realised all his supplies had somehow been taken away in Te’s van. Oh no! Jane and Rachel raided their lunch boxes and water bottles and succeeded in feeding him a feast of oatcakes and grapes and stuff which did the job.

Meanwhile I was desperately trying to stem the flow of blood from a small but unstoppable cut on my thumb I’d somehow got from a sharp end on the flagpole. Double plasters were washed off in the red flow, the finger bandage saturated in minutes – I ended up applying the eye bandage from the first aid kit with the eye pad positioned to staunch the flow. Marshal Boris and Rachel headed for Rowen then Jane and I started to take the tent down just as the wind really got going and, tent by now uninhabitable, it started to piss it down – first proper rain we’d had all day and came too quick to get the waterproof trousers on. Think I was back in my bed at the B&B before the last runners had even finished I was so knackered!

Of course we were just a place on the way for these mountain runners – the real event was going on hundreds of metres above us in sunshine and wind and sometimes cloud. This photo by Patrick Lewis gives you a better idea of what it’s all about, click on it to visit Flickr and see many more.

Up On Top


Pen yr Ole Wen 1 – Vegan 0

With 6 weeks to go to the Vegan Carneddau and no real improvement in my shoulder it seemed about time to try myself out, I’ve never actually walked or run to the top of a mountain before. We had already booked a couple of nights B&B in Betws y Coed for a break and had been jammy enough to get some wonderful sunny weather. So after a long mornings drive then vegan pastie and chips at the Alpine Coffee Shop Jane dropped me at the east end of Llyn Ogwen with instructions to pick me up in 3 hours allowing me time to find my way up Pen yr Ole Wen and back, maybe with a leg out to Carnedd Dafydd thrown in if I was making good time. I had brought a choice of trail shoes and light showerproof or boots and proper coat, it was warm at the bottom but I could see a couple of patches of remaining snow up there so went for the boots and coat.

East of Pen yr Ole Wen

The way up

I’d plotted on Garmin and map what I understood to be the easier but longer way up, following Afon Lloer up the east of Pen yr Ole Wen then following a path left round to the south to reach the summit. It turned out to be pretty boggy by Afon Lloer with no clear path but marking posts and steps over walls showed the way quite clearly at first. It was of course all uphill and pretty soon I was regretting bringing my coat as the sweat flowed. I took it off and carried it under my good arm, tied my fleece round my waist and slowed the pace reminding myself that the hard work was yet to come.

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

One of the marker posts had fallen so I stuck it back in it’s hole. They ran out after 40 minutes or so but I could make out a sort of path leading to the rocky bit below the summit and was still on the course I’d loaded the Garmin with. I wasn’t in sight of the small lake, Ffynnon Lloer, snuggled near the top yet but remembered a route description had cryptically stated the need to bear left before you could see the lake. I continued on to the start of the rocks where it was fortunately a bit cooler with altitude as I had to put my coat back on to free up my good arm.

Still looks like a path

Still looks like a path

I picked my way up what seemed to be a steep path over rocks and grassy bits but soon found my way blocked by some larger slabs resting at a quite steep angle. I thought I could see a level bit not far up that could well be the path but there was no way I was going to get past these without a bit of what’s know as a scramble and that wasn’t going to happen with my lack of experience and only one arm working properly. Turning round to retrace I was reminded that I don’t like heights, particularly where the footing is not secure – I pushed that phobia back into it’s hiding place where it was quickly forgotten as I took in the view.

Pen yr Ole Wen view eastI retraced a bit but couldn’t see any obvious path further south so decided to ignore the Garmin and continue towards Ffynnon Lloer to look for a way up I could manage. Perhaps that hadn’t been the correct path and it was a little further on, there were no shortage of false tracks. It was an hour since I set off and I’d not seen anyone since leaving tarmac – not exactly a multitude of walkers to tread a clear path. The little lake was pretty and it was a great place to have to myself. The continual wall of loose rocks towering to my left didn’t offer much promise though. I tried a couple of possible paths but they tapered to nothing, one got so steep that I ended up sliding part way back down on my bum as the vertigo gremlin tried to crawl back out his hole.

A week and a bit of research later and it seems I’d failed to find the proper route though looking at a couple of videos of the scramble I still wouldn’t have got up there without 2 good arms.

Ffynnon Lloer

Ffynnon Lloer


Not that way either

Not that way either

I continued round the lake to the shallower looking slopes below Carnedd Fach but really knew it was time to admit defeat. If I couldn’t gain the first summit walking in perfect conditions I wasn’t going to be up to running the Vegan Carneddau with a further 6 peaks. I reckoned I had another 30 minutes maximum before I needed to start back down so decided to follow a clear path up from the lake to a big rock I could see a bit before what looked like another yet more loose rock. Getting closer I could see that with sufficient skill, strength and limbs it might be possible to gain the ridge this way but it wasn’t for me. Time to give up!

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Time to go back down

Time to go back down

Download from Garmin

Where I actually went – download from Garmin




Goring and Woodcote 10k 2013

The forecast predicted a cold but dry morning for the Goring and Woodcote 10k, similar to last year. I decided to cop out of cycling to the start and drive, partly due to the risk of ice, partly due to not wanting to get up so early but mostly because I wanted to get back quickly afterwards to be with our new house mates Molly and Honey who arrived from the sanctuary the day before. More of them in another post.

I met Matt at the start, this was to be his first 10k race and what with it’s undulations not the easiest to pace. Gun to chip timing this year, we placed ourselves nearer the back than the front then off we went. Flat for most of the first mile then down, down and down to Goring. Feeling good and (over) dressed against the wind chill I let go down here and passed quite a few runners. I was later told by one of the front bunch that there was still the odd icy patch on the road when they’d descended but I reckon all those busy feet had cleared it by the time I got there.

We started climbing at about the halfway point so I slowed down while reminding myself this was not the main climb, just a bump in the middle. I skipped the water station. My Garmin download later showed a bit under 24 minutes for the first 5km. A short descent and we were out in the open with the cold wind making itself felt though I was fine with all my layers on. We passed through a wet and muddy bit of road we’d been warned about and could soon see the junction ahead where the race turned right and gently climbed for most of the last 2 miles.

My strategy was to hold an easy but consistent pace all the way up while taking note of those who passed and seeing how many fell back behind when they realised they couldn’t keep it up. This, though unambitious, worked and I reckon I made a net gain of at least 5 places on the way up. About mile 5 and Matt caught and passed me looking comfortable and steady, I reminded him the hill went on and on but he looked fresh as a daisy as he passed a few in front and vanished round a corner to finish about a minute, and 13 places, ahead of me.

The finish came into sight and we were still climbing as we crossed it. 52:29 197/383 so about 2 minutes slower than last year but much what I expected and I hadn’t put that much effort into it so pleased enough and had fun. A chap who had spotted my Vegan Runners vest came up and introduced himself as Liam Proudlock, also vegan. I asked how he’d done and he said about 37 minutes. The results showed him as 1st MV40 and 5th overall – a rather more impressive performance than mine. I was in the car and on the way home 10 minutes later to spend the afternoon sitting with the cats 🙂


Oxford parkrun 1st Birthday

I refrained from running for 6 days after Abingdon Marathon and then took another 3 days off. Meanwhile I got out on my road bike for a couple of 25 milers which made a nice change though not quite as satisfying as a decent trail run. I kept my running distances short and was pleasantly surprised to find some of my speed coming back. 8:21 min/mile pace on the Saturday, 8:07 on Tuesday then 7:45 for a 3 miler on Thursday – the fastest I’ve run for ages. My foot still hurt a bit and I had a bit of a sore upper left leg muscle, probably what was behind my knee pain at Abingdon, for the 1st couple of runs,  but I don’t think these short, flat runs are making things any worse. In fact today, 24 hours after the parkrun, nothing really seems to hurt.

So it was with a sense of optimism that I cycled to Oxford parkrun’s 1st anniversary event yesterday. To celebrate there was to be cake (well it wouldn’t be vegan so I took something to munch but it was the spirit of the thing that mattered). The Council had been persuaded to open the drinks booth for the first time, from the length of the queue at the finish this was profitable for them and will hopeful become the norm.

And there were to be time pacers: sub 21 minute, 25 min, 30 min, and 35 min I think it was. I’d already spoken to Chris who thought he was the 25 min pacer and said I intended to follow for the first couple of miles and then, if I was feeling good, I might take off for a faster finish. Somewhere along the line Alun became the 25 min pacer instead so after 10 mins of prizes and announcements what turned out to be a record field of 118 parkrunners set out – Alun rather worrying me by flying off nearer 7 min miles than 8 but as he pointed out the start is downhill.

We settled into perfect pace though one young lady in the group seemed to think we were going a bit slow. I chatted away with Alun who had run marathons both the previous weekends with a 3hr 2min PB at one. He’d noticed I’d been taking a few Conquercise zones back off him in the Fetcheveryone website game and I told him how I had been getting back on the bike (which means more zones won) since Abingdon and how the move away from long runs back to regular cycling seemed to be improving my running speed.

Many of our bunch seemed to fall behind but Alun was still keeping correct pace by both our watches. Another Fetchie caught us and turned out to be iPlod who used to be another big zone owner in our area, he (John in the real world) was racing the next day and used Alun’s pace to slow himself down and save his legs. I was huffing and puffing a bit in the cold air and becoming aware that I should shut up and run, after all this was still fast for me.

23 minutes said Alun as we approached the last descent to the finish dead on schedule . I suddenly found myself hiccuping sicky burps in a manner that reminded me of Lala with furballs. Just after our 3rd pass of the marshal it became evident that I had 3 choices: throw up down my front; choke and turn red or stop and recover. I stopped to the surprise of John and Alun who I waved on while I threw up a small amount of breakfast that hadn’t yet been digested despite having had 2 hours to go down. Slightly shocked I started walking, then running, and now feeling fine again I charged towards the finish at what later turned out to be 6:45 pace (alright it was downhill).

No chance of catching back up though and finished in 25:29 49th of 118 runners. Alun’s time was 24:55 – he couldn’t have got much closer. Oh well!

A cup of black tea from the booth (I forgot the planned soya milk); a munch on my Soreen banana loaf and a chat with runners new and old made for a proper parkrun anniversary celebration. We even had indoor space in the pavilion or whatever it is. A chap in a suit who I think may be a City Councillor was in attendance and hopefully got a chance to see what a fine thing Oxford parkrun is.