Tag Archives: Avalanche Events

The first post of 2014

My posting has become a bit lacklustre recently and one of my New Year resolutions is to post more frequently.  This is going to prove easier to do as following an injury plagued 2013 I have a good selection of races planned for 2014:

  • 18/01/2014 – Fan Dance Race Winter Edition
  • 16/03/2014 – Leith Hill Half Marathon
  • 17/05/2014 – North Downs Way 50
  • 18/05/2014 – Richmond Park Marathon
  • 21/06/2014 – Trail Half Marathon Wales
  • 25/10/2014 – Snowdonia Marathon

Yes I have the dates right, that is a Marathon the day after the 50 miler. My long-term plan is to run the NDW100 in 2015 and this year is all about building up to that, so a 50 mile followed by 26.4 miles seems to be quite good training (and the idea is quite appealing)

As well as my training progress I am going to try to get some more reviews of various bits of kit posted as I have let this slide as well and I have several items that have had some serious road testing.

The Fan Dance is fast approaching and I have my fingers crossed that the weather improves, I was hoping for snow but this seems unlikely now so I will settle for dry.

That moment when you realise you need to train harder

Gareth, Simon  I had this moment this weekend, our first jaunt into the mountains in preparation for the Avalanche Events Winter Fandance.

It isn’t like we haven’t been training, my running has increased exponentially and I have been running with a min of 3kg and regularly having 8kg during weekday runs and up to 11-12kg at the weekend but going practically race weight, 16kg (35.27 pounds) of weight and kit and 2.5 litres of water meant the combined 18kg (39 pounds) was quite a shock, especially when combined with the route.

Training Hike 23.11.2013 We started at the Storey Arms as this is the start of the event in January and headed up the path, and when I say up I mean up and up and up. The starting elevation is around 445 metres and its a slog up for about half a mile before you start going down again.

Me at the Storey Arms phonebox
Me at the Storey Arms phonebox

As we had set off early there was still ice on the ground so this descent isn’t any form of respite. I had quickly made the decision to get out my walking poles and in this first half a mile I had at least one wobble where had I not had my poles in my hand I would have come crashing down. After crossing the stream its back upwards for the ascent of Corn Du, going from around 550 metres elevation all the way up to 839.

Google Earth image showing the route to Corn Du
Google Earth image showing the route to Corn Du

Reaching Corn Du it is then another small drop and ascent to then reach the summit of Pen Y Fan, all in around 2.2 miles gaining 400+ metres of elevation in that distance. With the weight we were carrying this ascent had taken over an hour, way off our planned pace. The whole thing had come as a bit of a shock to the system and I have to say even after this short distance I was a little despondent.

I didn't build the snowman
I didn’t build the snowman
Shot showing the profile of Corn Du to Pen Y Fan
Shot showing the profile of Corn Du to Pen Y Fan
The view from Pen Y Fan, we couldn't have asked for better weather
The view from Pen Y Fan, we couldn’t have asked for better weather

From Pen Y Fan we had an option, we could follow January’s route exactly or we could take in another peak and ascend Cribyn. We had pretty much decided that we weren’t going to be setting a “race” pace and so decided to deviate from the plan and get some more elevation in by hitting the other peak. Again this meant a descent and another ascent and again the descent was a fairly severe loss of 200 metres in about half a mile, so no chance of gaining any time back.

Pen Y Fan to Criybn
Pen Y Fan to Criybn

What had become apparent was with the weight on our backs, simple things like lowing yourself down a step became an arduous task of balance and control, resulting in very slow deliberate movements. After  Cribyn was ticked off we then descended to pick up the correct route again and enjoyed a fairly easy 2 mile downhill to the turning point. At this point we stopped and took our packs off for a brief respite (a very odd feeling I have to say, almost feels like floating!) before the inevitable slog back uphill. We took the more direct route back up to Pen Y Fan and then retraced our steps over Corn Du and descended back to the Storey Arms, total distance for the day was 11 miles taking  6 hours 5 mins (excluding stops it would have been 04:37:12) .

Pen Y Fan training route hill profile
Pen Y Fan training route hill profile

The race in January is 14 miles and has a cut off at half way of 3 hours 3 minutes so it is clear that we need to step up our game by modifying how we train, less out-and-out running and more walking up with heavy packs. I still think it is achievable but it is a case of being very careful not to go too hard and get injured, it’s always a fine balancing act.

It looks like I will be making more visits to Box Hill in the foreseeable future….


Training Progress

It really does feel like I am getting my running mojo back and in the two weeks since my last post I have probably run more consistently than I have in months.

Last few weeks training

The easiest way to illustrate the change is to use a graph showing the increase since the end of August to now:

Distance weekly from week commencing 26.08.13 to week commencing 28.10.13
Distance weekly from week commencing 26.08.13 to week commencing 28.10.13

Throughout August and September my running was practically non-existent, battling injury and just general lack of motivation following the NDW100 DNF. Then around the beginning of October I was persuaded to enter the Avalanche Events Winter Fan Dance which spurred me on to get up and start running, and it has been going well. The first week was about getting back into the swing of things, after that a solid 31 miles the following week. W/C 21/10/2013 was my Birthday week and I had some time off (DIY and family time) so it dropped again, although I wasn’t unhappy with this as it meant I was allowing recovery. W/C 28th the weighted runs increased with pretty much all of them having me carrying 8kg of weight, culminating with a “run” on Saturday around Box Hill with the objective of getting some good ascent in the bag.

Saturday’s Training Run/Yomp
The route and profile of Saturdays training
The route and profile of Saturdays training

Despite weather warnings it wasn’t raining, although the ground was quite damp. The rucksack had around 8kg of weight in it plus another 2 litres (2kg) of water so it was a decent training weight, although to hit race day weight I need another 10kg in there!

Pace wise it wasn’t too bad, obviously with that sort of weight onboard it’s not going to be quick and ascending a hill weighted is something else entirely, on the Mickleham steps my heart was beating at around 160bpm and I was barely moving! It’s clear that adding an extra 10kg is going to make things even harder so it is all important I get used to going up with weight.

Saturday 02.11.13 stats

To help improve my training I have bought a Kettler 10kg weighted vest which has 8 1.125kg removable bags in it so I can tailor it to suit my needs. Also having these weighted bags means I can load my rucksack up in a balanced fashion, taking up minimal space and hopefully hitting the 20kg target (with kit, food, water etc) for race day.

Kettler Weighted Vest
Kettler Weighted Vest

I will do a review on it once I have had an opportunity to give it a thorough testing, its available on Amazon if your interested: Kettler 10kg Vest

Back to posting, onwards and upwards

It’s been a while since my last post, several months in fact and I still haven’t found the willpower to write the post on the NDW100. As I seem to be suffering writers block when it comes to that particular topic, I am going to distil the event into a few short bullet points so I can move on and start posting properly again.

North Downs Way 100

Good Points

  • I got further than I have ever run before.
  • I met some great guys (Garry, Paul, Nick)
  • Event as always was excellently organised

Bad Points

  • I didn’t finish
  • In terms of training I was wildly under prepared
  • I didn’t finish
  • Nutrition needed work
  • I didn’t finish
  • I didn’t finish

Now that’s put to bed I can move on to making sure that in 2015 I smash that race.

The Next Challenge

So on to focusing on the future, my long term plan for next year is the NDW50 but in the immediate future I (along with garethdaviesPT and another chap) have signed up for the Avalanche Events Winter Fan Dance

Taken from the website: http://www.thefandancerace.com


The event is a gruelling 24km non-navigational race over two sides of Pen Y Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. This infamous route has long been a part of SAS (Special Air Service) and SBS (Special Boat Service) Selection and is considered the yardstick of a candidate’s potential to perform well on Test Week and ultimately pass the Special Forces Selection programme.

Starting at the Storey Arm’s car park, the race goes straight up to the summit checkpoint of Pen Y Fan and, after descending ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, continues along an undulating stone vehicle track (the ‘Roman Road’) to the second checkpoint which also serves as a tea stop and turnaround point. Then, taking the route in reverse, racers climb back up “The Fan” via Jacob’s ladder and pass through the summit checkpoint a second time before legging their way back down to the finish at the Storey Arm’s car park.

The route is a real lung buster that throws everything at you, including the elements. There are steady slopes that allow a solid jogging pace, shocking inclines that have you almost on your hands and knees, loose stone tracks that require cautious foot placements and a forested vehicle track that allows for some rapid going. Even SAS recruits at the height of their physical abilities regard beating the clock in this event as a serious challenge, and all know its capacity to hurt. Aside from the race aspect of this event, just getting to the end is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. The Fan Dance is open to ANYONE looking for a unique challenge: be it personal, competitive, as a sponsored participant in aid of your favourite charity or as part of a team building exercise. As per real Special Forces Selection, the event will be staged in both summer and winter (both load-bearing and clean fatigue).

Now I don’t for one moment think that by doing this event I am in the same league as those that go through Selection, but I have to be honest and say the allure of completing this event which forms part of that process is very appealing and so we do it properly we have entered the load bearing event.

Training has been going well, and I seem to be getting the drive and motivation to run again. On Saturday 12th I ran the Pine Ridge Race 10km which I finished in just under 53 minutes. My ankle which is still giving me issues held out ok and although sore it hasn’t prevented me from running since.

Tuesday it was 5 miles in the morning with a 3kg rucksack (clothes for work etc) and 4.5 miles home again, Wednesday 5 miles in the morning again and Thursday it was 5 and 4.5 again. After my morning runs I have been going to the gym for a weights workout, usually I can cram in about 30 minutes before work.

Saturday was the first real foray into a load bearing run and Gareth and I did 6.7 miles around Box Hill. I had around 11.5 kilos on my back (24.4 pounds) and I have to say I certainly felt it!  I am quite pleased with the pacing that we achieved and we have learnt some lessons already in terms of packing and kit. More training sessions like that in the lead up to Jan 18th are needed.

It’s good to be back,  and as they say “Qui audet adipiscitur”