Ultra Tales Issue 11

Ultra Tales Issue 11 includes UK event reports from Hardmoors 30, Spine Race, Spine Challenger, Winter Tanners, Country to Capital, Wilmot Wander, Darkstar River Marathon, Pilgrim Challenge, Thames Trot, South Devon Ultra, High Peaks Marathon, St Peters Way, Canalathon and Black Mountains Ultra.

In addition it includes reports from overseas races on the Rodgau 50k, Frostskade 500 and the Ice Ultra.

The issue contains runners profiles for Deborah Pitt, Edwina Sutton, Mark Griffiths, Rob Pinnington and Scott Harris.
Finally, we an update from the British Trail Running Podcast Team, interviews with Mimi Anderson and Ryan Sandes along with articles on Ultra Training from Centurion Coach James Elson, the Social Ultra Website along with a couple of Social Ultra reports and an extract from James Adam’s new book “Running and Stuff”.

American College of Sports Medicine – ‘Selecting Running Shoes’

The American College of Sports Medicine has recently published the paper ‘Selecting Running Shoes’, which supports the discussion for minimalist and barefoot footwear, emphasising minimal heel to toe drop, a wide toe box, and no stability components.

“A running shoe should protect the feet against injury, but should not do the work of the foot by providing excessive cushioning and lots of extra support in the arch. A shoe should complement a strong foot.”

Characteristics of a good, safe running shoe include:

  • Minimal heel-to-toe drop
  • Neutral
  • Light in weight

Shoe Qualities to Avoid:

  • High, thick cushioning
  • Shoes that have a high heel cushion and low forefoot cushion (a ‘high profile shoe’, or a high heel to toe drop)
  • Extra arch support inserts or store based orthotics

Just 3 years ago, the ACSM recommended footwear based on arch type so this is quite a change in direction.

New Vivobarefoot Product – The Trail Freak & The Evo Pure

I’ve had a chance to try out the Vivobarefoot Trail Freak over the weekend and I’m loving the convenience of the lock lace/toggle lacing system – no more laces coming undone, pretty much my only gripe about the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail. Plenty of testing to do but, from walks and runs out on the trail over the weekend, really good connection, excellent traction, and super light!

If road and/or gym is your thing, then it might be worthwhile checking out another new release from Vivobarefoot – the Evo Pure.

I hope to have a review of both products in the not too distant future.

Evo Pure

“The purest on-road/in-gym barefoot performance shoe we have ever made. We removed everything your foot doesn’t need to create a shoe with less material, ensuring less friction thanks to new, lightweight upper cage technology. The EVO PURE retains the hexagon upper structure for superb breathability with superior control and underfoot sensory clarity.”

  1. Outsole construction: Road: Hexagonal two tone ultimate barefoot sole. Tuned for the road and treadmill this flexable, soft and wet/dry slip resistant sole lets your foot do its thing with pure sensory clarity.
  2. Outsole thickness: 3mm; Outsole material: V-sense TPU
  3. Removable insole: 3mm Poliyou Insole for additional thermal protection when necessary.
  4. Collar/Panel & Lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining with lycra: Lightweight, performance lining for moisture wicking and superior comfort.
  5. Upper: PU cage with thin mesh for maximum breathability, lycra lining
  6. Lace-up System: Fasten securely with classic tieup lace.
  7. Eco-Credentials: 100% Vegan
  8. Weight: Mens 210g / Ladies 190g

Trail Freak

“Vivobarefoot launch the Trail Freak, the next step in the brand’s performance range of shoes for trail running.

Scheduled for release in Spring 2014, Vivobarefoot’s most advanced trail shoe offers the ultimate off-road running aesthetic supported by the brand’s dominance in pure barefoot technology and performance.

Worn by trail running star A J Calitz (2 x Red Bull LionHeart Winner, 2012 and 2013), the Trail Freak is a lightweight, breathable shoe with a natural wide fore-sole design which allows toes to splay as nature intended, optimizing barefoot feeling and sensory feedback.

Featuring ‘V Trek’ outsole construction designed for maximum surface contact on off-road surfaces, a duo reflective mesh and printed structure giving a more comfortable and secure ‘second skin’ fit with maximum breathability, the Trail Freak is designed to allow your feet and shoes to move as one, no matter what nature throws at them.”

(Vivobarefoot Press Release)


  1. Outsole construction: V Trek Rubber outsole specifically designed for off road surfaces with multi-directional lugs to maximize surface contact for superior barefoot traction
  2. Outsole thickness: 2.5mm with 4.5mm lugs. Outsole material: V-grip Rubber
  3. Removable insole: 3mm Poliyou Insole for additional thermal protection when necessary
  4. Lining: Dri-Lex Performance lining with lycra: Lightweight, performance lining for moisture wicking and superior comfort
  5. Upper: Reflective Mesh. Thick, dual layer mesh with a reflective thread
  6. Upper: Printed Structure. Flexible yet strong printed upper gives a natural and secure fit
  7. Lacing: Toggle. Fasten securely with strong wire-like laces and toggle
  8. Eco-Credentials: 100% Vegan
  9. Weight: Mens 260g / Ladies 210g

Available in:

  • Mens: sizes 40-47 Red/Orange Navy/Sulphur
  • Ladies: sizes 35-42 Blue/Turquoise Pink/Teal

More information at: http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk

Darkness: How Ultrarunning Can Strip Away Our Emotional Barriers

Thanks to Colin Knox for posting a link to ‘Darkness: How Ultrarunning Can Strip Away Our Emotional Barriers’ on Facebook. A profound video, well worth watching. The spoken element from the video is contained below:

“Deciding to run an ultra for the first time is understandable. It’s a big challenge. While the personal reasons underlying the decision might not be readily apparent, even to the runner, it’s really not that difficult to communicate the essence of the challenge: to prove, to ourselves or others, that we have the fortitude to push through the limitations we once imagined, defy the odds and endure hardship.

Once the challenge has been met, signing up a second time is a different matter entirely. The repeat offender likely has a pre-disposition to binging. Or addiction. While by no means an inviolate law, there’s no question that a large number of our fellow ultra runners have felt the symptoms of withdrawal and agitation after a big event. I find it unlikely that 10 to 20 hours of hormones coursing through our body leaves us with only DOMS to show for our efforts.

I love the feeling of strength, independence and fluid freedom I get from trail running and ultras. Yet the more events I run the more I come to fear the comedown. Knowing the Black Dog is waiting at the front gate for you is intimidating.

Other than drugs and surrounding ourselves with loving distractions, often the only thing that helps us cope is going out for another run. Mind boggling and incredibly frustrating for an injured runner.

I ran the Northburn100 a few months ago, a 100mile race in the mountains of New Zealand. It was tough. I crossed the finish line after 34hrs, physically fine but emotionally desolate. The RD calls it a “look of Anguish”. I’d say Anguish is too energetic.

Thinking back on Northburn, and other gruelling Ultras I’ve run, I’ve became increasingly aware that this post-event emotional roller coaster is just as much a part of running Ultras as are the training, camaraderie, palate fatigue and physical endurance. Even when we smash the goals we set for ourselves, the feeling can be bittersweet.

It’s exhausting work exploring the depths of our darkest emotions. When they’re freshest, thoughts smash around our skulls like possessed plant equipment. We feel like there’s a broken record playing up there, our thoughts playing some sick game of psycho-somatic Hide and Seek with our clenched and twisted guts.

Coming out of an Ultra, it’s safe to say we’re fatigued. The exhaustion lingering from the event washes away our self-defences and this conscious scraping-back of the Soul further erodes our reserves allowing unbidden thoughts and feelings to threaten the already threadbare fabric of our sanity.

But what becomes of us if we shy away from the introspection? Does denial simply buy us time while these emotions ferment in our subconscious? Or am I being melodramatic? Maybe spending a day or two ignoring these things is just what they need – dismissal, pure and simple.

Then again, perhaps the real benefit of endurance sport isn’t physical, but spiritual; that enduring the ceremony and imbibing the potion of hormones our body releases puts us into a state so receptive to self exploration that it would be damn near sacrilegious to ignore it. There’s certainly been no shortage of writers, poets, artists and musicians who’ve found the Black Dog to be their greatest muse.

There are even a handful of groups around the peripheries of more mainstream cultures that have taken this metaphor literally. The Marathon monks of Mount Hiei are known to seek enlightenment through extreme ascetism and physical endurance in running. In their quest for enlightenment they will run 40km a day for a 100days before requesting permission to continue their quest for another 900 days, the whole project taking them 7 years.

The Lung-Gom-Pa runners of Tibet likewise achieve enlightenment and a connection with god through running as a form of meditation. While the connection between physical and spiritual is here quite apparent, there are countless other cultures that extol the virtues of endurance, fortitude and a tolerance for both adversity and hardship. While these may seem physical in nature, they are most definitely spiritual.

While I’m far too familiar with the darker end of our emotional spectrum to suggest that the Dog might be Man’s Best Friend, rather than being a downside – something to fear and dread – perhaps the come-down should be appreciated, if not welcomed. As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, The deeper that Sorrow carves into your being, the More Joy you can contain.”

Patrick Watson – Lighthouse
Band of Horses – The Funeral

Footage was shot using a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition provided by www.highlytunedathletes.com

web: wildplans.com
flickr: flickr.com/wildplans
youtube: youtube.com/wildplans

Links Roundup, 7th April 2014

Dean Karnazes’ 3 Tips For Injury-Proofing Your Body

running.competitor.com 04 April 2014

“This past August was a milestone of 20 years since a mild-mannered (and successful) marketing executive named Dean Karnazes had a few cocktails at a jazz bar in the Marina district of San Francisco when he inexplicably slipped out the back, went home, peeled down to his boxer shorts and ran to Half Moon Bay. Karnazes had given up running in his teen years but with his impromptu all-nighter of a 30-mile run he took a skydive-like plunge into ultrarunning.”

Metabolic Efficiency: Who Needs It?

running.competitor.com 04 April 2014

“As a sports dietitian and an endurance athlete (triathlete and marathoner) who struggles to lose weight, I often find myself frustrated with the low response my body has to my consistent training and very disciplined eating habits. I also have many athletic clients who struggle with the same dynamic.

Thus, I began to research the concept of metabolic efficiency, defined as “Energy intake based on body weight that is required to maintain current weight.” I even went as far as having a basal metabolic rate test done, only to discover mine was off the charts (low).”

The Moment Sheffield Half Marathon Was Cancelled

bbc.co.uk 06 April 2014

“Runners in Sheffield were left aghast and angry after the city’s half marathon was cancelled due to a lack of drinking water on the route.

One of its organisers Margaret Lilley was filmed putting her head in her hands as an announcer told the crowd the race would not be able to go ahead.

There were chaotic scenes at the starting point as a ‘significant number’ of the 5,000 runners decided to run the route regardless.”

Drone Hits Runner During Australian Triathlon

runningmagazine.ca/ 06 April 2014

“Unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly referred to as drones – are becoming an increasingly common sight at sporting events. Drones are being used both for entertainment and security. But at a Australian triathlon a drone became a hazard when it fell out of the sky and onto a runner.”

Barefoot Running Magazine – Issue 11 (Spring 2014)

The latest Barefoot Running Magazine is now available. Issue 11, Spring 2014, includes:

  • Products of the year awards 2013
  • David Weir & his fighting spirit
  • How to create efficient forward momentum
  • And much more!

Issue 11 also includes my Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail and OMM Sonic Smock reviews.


The addition of walking and cycling sections to www.pixelscotland.com got me thinking back to perhaps the pinnacle of all the time I have spent on a bike, our time spent in the mountain bike mecca – Whistler.

“Whistler is a Canadian resort town in the southern Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains in the province of British Columbia, Canada, approximately 125 km (78 mi) north of Vancouver and 36 km (22 mi) south of the town of Pemberton. Incorporated as the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), it has a permanent population of approximately 9,965, plus a larger but rotating “transient” population of workers, typically younger people from beyond BC, notably from Australia and Europe. Over two million people visit Whistler annually, primarily for alpine skiing and snowboarding and, in summer, mountain biking at Whistler-Blackcomb.”

Back in 2010, we scheduled a few days in Whistler as part of our Canadian wedding & honeymoon adventure, staying in an excellent hotel overlooking the bike trails. Once we had had enough for the day, we could retreat to our room, to the pool or sauna, and watch riders far more competent than ourselves complete their runs.

The trails there really are something to be experienced, not just for their technical nature, but for the length of runs, far exceeding anything cycled in Scotland, and for the sheer volume of different options.

It’s not everywhere that you get to share the trails with ‘mamma bear’ and her cubs. Fortunately, sightings were restricted to passing overhead on the gondolas or seeing them off in the distance. I hate to think how meeting a protective bear on the trails might turn out!

Hopefully somewhere we will return to in the not too distant future – happy days :o)

And Then There Were 11

This New Year I was fortunate enough to be in the Cairngorms, surrounded by family and enjoying a week there in the aftermath of Harris’s first Christmas. The weather wasn’t too bad for the time of year and I was able to enjoy long early morning walks on The Speyside Way with Harris, albeit in the dark for a lot of the time! The days were spent, as every day should be, walking lots, making the most of the opportunities afforded by our location, and drinking hot chocolate, eating cake and dining well. Perfect!

Unfortunately, I was feeling considerably below par, taking everything at a reduced pace, and tiring far quicker than normal.

An emergency appointment at the local surgery on New Year’s Eve resulted in a diagnosis of a chest infection and appropriate medication was dispensed.

When The D33 entries opened on 1st January, I immediately applied, determined to keep up my record as one of the 12 ‘ever presents’, those with 100% attendance at the event. It also gave me something to aim for, a return to ultras, with approximately 3 months in which to get my mileage back up to something sensible for participating in this kind of event.

There would be no turning up at the start line with ‘long run’ training of only 11 miles this year, unlike 2012 when home improvements, baby preparations, and the arrival of Harris put paid to serious ultra mileage.

Positive thoughts to start the year.

What followed was weeks of illness, including some 3 weeks signed off work, as I went from chest infection to flu to viral infection to, well, basically whatever appeared to be on the go, much of it ‘kindly’ passed on by my son, encountering many of these ailments for the first time himself! Oh, and did I mention an infected big toe? Something that was also diagnosed that New Year’s Eve in Aviemore!

As so commonly happens, the month of March snuck up on me at alarming speed, all without anything remotely resembling serious training taking place.

The decision to withdraw from The D33 was a painful one but, under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. I could perhaps, as I did in 2013, have ground out a finish, but at what cost to my body and overall health? Also, there was the nagging doubt in my mind that, when I did finish in 2013, it was admittedly with reduced training, but was also with 3 years of solid running in the legs. In 2013/14, injury, illness, work and family commitments decimated my running. Would I have been able to pull it off? We will just never know!

The D33 will also be a special race for me. Like so many others, it was my first ultramarathon. Further, I like to be there for RD George Reid, and Karen Donaghue, as a thank you for their efforts and encouragement over the years. It’s admittedly not the most scenic of the ultras that I run and it’s certainly far from hilly, but what else would you expect from a race held on an old railway line!

I may have lost my 100% attendance record, but I will be back!

Update: 7th April 2014

This article was originally titled, ‘And Then There Were 10‘ but, as I found out just after posting it, there are still 11 ever presents who have now completed all 5 D33 events. The 11 are listed below in order of total time taken to complete the 5 races:

  • Mike Raffan
  • Graham Nash
  • Norry Mcneill
  • Michael Dick
  • Ian Minty
  • Victoria Shanks
  • Colin Knox
  • Jo Thom
  • Neil Macritchie
  • Iain Shanks
  • Ray McCurdy

I had to laugh when, shortly after posting this, the following appeared on The D33 Facebook page:

“This ikea bag has secret stuff in it to go somewhere secret to get secret stuff done to it for the 11 ever presents who have ran all 5 D33’s. Hope to have them to you all in a few weeks.”

How typical to have missed out – Wonder what’s inside the bag!

Links Roundup, 3rd April 2014

Some of the interesting articles and web sites that I have come across this week:

Fridge Raider: Dean Karnazes

edge.si.com 28 March 2014

“Dean Karnazes’ fridge didn’t always look like a hijacked Whole Foods warehouse. In fact, if you’d looked inside the ultrarunner’s icebox five years ago, you would have discovered a very different inventory than the wild-caught fish, organic fruits and vegetables, and natural energy bars that crowd his shelves now. “I used to eat horribly,” says Karnazes, ticking off a menu that includes pizza, Cheetos, Doritos, and other self-described “crap” he once used to fuel his 145-pound frame through races ranging from 50 miles to 350.”

Jogging Can Be Harmful, Scientists Claim

The Independent, 03 April 2014

“People who sweat and slave in extreme workouts in the hope that they will live longer may be unwittingly harming themselves, according to US researchers.”

“If you want to run a marathon, run one and cross it off your bucket list.” (Dr James O’Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid-American Heart Institute in Kansas City)

Canadian Race Guide

For anyone considering an event in Canada:

New Salomon Product

Salomon have been busy, sharing posts on the Sense Mantra 2, the Sense Pro, the X-Tour, the X-Wind Pro, the S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra and the X-Scream over on their SalomonUK Google+ channel:

Barefoot Running: The Pros And Cons


“Over the last few years barefoot and minimalist shoe running has become very popular. In the distant past, top GB runners such as Bruce Tulloh, Ron Hill and Zola Budd discarded their shoes and the legendary Abebe Bikila went barefoot in the 1960 Olympic marathon and won! Nowadays many African runners tend to do their running miles to and from school unshod.”

City Vs. Suburb: Walking One Mile In Streets Or Culs-de-Sac

weburbanist.com, 29 March 2014

“A tale of two neighborhoods”, an interesting look at how much further you can get on foot when you take a walk (run) through an urban grid versus the suburban sprawl.

Not The West Highland Way Race

Back at the beginning of March, a post in in The West Highland Way Race Facebook group by Gavin Durston alerted West Highland Way Race Family members to the emergence of another event, The West Highland Way Challenge, to be held on the same day as the original event.

The 240+ comments that followed made for interesting reading.

I’m not going to go into too much detail with regard to what happened at the 2013 West Highland Way Race other than to say that a highly respected member of The West Highland Way Race, with a remarkable number of race finishes to his name, was pulled from the race when he failed to meet a stipulated check-point cut-off.

Whatever your thoughts on these check point cut-off points, they are imposed for the safety of the runners, are intended to prevent runners from continuing when it becomes apparent that they will most likely not complete the full 95 mile distance in the time available, and, perhaps most pertinently in this particular case, are clearly stipulated in The West Highland Way Race rules where it clearly states that any runner failing to meet a cut-off will be pulled from the race.

The runner in question proceeded to finish the race on his own, within the permitted 35 hour time limit, but with no official time allocated, given that he had officially been pulled from the race.

An independent enquiry held in the wake of the event upheld the decision to pull the runner from the race.

The runner in question has, for 2014, set up The West Highland Way Challenge, to be held on the exact same day as the original West Highland Way Race, starting and finishing an hour earlier.

There are a number of concerns arising from this, from the impact on the original event and the potential for congestion should this alternative event prove popular, through to the safety considerations that are enshrined in the rules of the original West Highland Way Race. Most notably, the West Highland Way Challenge states that there are ‘no irregular and unfair cut-offs’ and that no support is required.

To quote from The West Highland Way Challenge web site:

“Other WHW races are ‘staged races’ where the runner/walker is timed out due to baseless ‘cut-off’ times, when the competitor could easily complete the WHW course in well under 35 hours. These unrealistic cut-off times place a great deal of stress on the competitor and result in a high incidence of withdrawals, or competitors being ‘timed-out’ early on in the race.” 

It’s plain to see from the language used above, and throughout the site, that the Race Director of the Challenge obviously has issues with what happened at the 2013 West Highland Way Race.

Only time will tell whether the new event is a success and, further, whether it impacts in any way on the well established West Highland Way Race, held for the 1st time back in 1985 with only two competitors.

Hopefully anyone wishing to run The West Highland Way will not mistake the new event for the more established West Highland Way Race.

Hopefully it will not become the race of choice for those who fail to make the start list of the West Highland Way Race.

Finally, hopefully the event, if it does indeed go ahead, passes without any safety issues and without impact on the established West Highland Way Race.