Ultra Tales Issue 12

Ultra Tales Issue 12 contains event reports from the following races Zion 100, Cotswold Ultra, Evesham Ultra, Iznik Ultra, South Downs Way 50, Marathon Des Sables, CTS Exmoor Ultra, Highland Fling, National 50/100km, The Oner, Thames Path 100, T60 Night Race, Brecon Summer Ultra, TNF 100 Australia, North Downs Way 50, Hardmoors 110, Weald Ultra, Grand Union Canal Race, Enduroman 50, The Severn Challenge, Northants Ultra, Comrades, South Downs Way 100, Endure 24 and The Wall.

In addition, there are runners profiles from Chris Baynham-Hughes, Ewan Dunlop and Ellen Cottom.

There are interviews with Paul Navesey and Edwina Sutton after the SDW50 wins and Mark Perkins after his SDW100 win and interview with Elite US runner Mike Wardian, a Paddy Buckley Round report and the usual Marathon report section.

Tolquhon Castle And The Drove Road To Tarves

Tolquhon Castle has to be one of the most picturesque of ruins. It’s one of our favourites and, with the sun beating down, we decided on a picnic in the ample grounds of the castle. Loads of space for Harris to run around and totally enclosed, perfect in terms of safety. Harris loved exploring the ruins, climbing the large steps, with myself or Leanne close at hand just in case!

On leaving, we had intended to head to Prop of Ythsie for a walk. However, I noticed a sign at the far end of the castle car park and decided to check it out. The sign indicated that an old drove road existed, leading to the nearby village of Tarves. Harris was in need of a sleep so I strapped on the carrier and we set off on the route.

With the temperature in the mid 20s, it was hot work, especially with the extra weight of Harris strapped to my front, but we soon arrived in Tarves, stopping off at the Post Office for refreshment, before heading back towards the castle.

Had I known in advance the terrain underfoot, I would likely have changed out of flip flops as the path was quite overgrown and rough in places. However, it was a lovely scenic route, surrounded by butterflies for most of our journey.

Don’t be put off by the ‘path’ that takes you out of the castle car park. It soon improves and you will find yourself on a considerably better trail.

Definitely one to return to and, from online investigation afterwards, I discovered that there are a number of old routes in Aberdeenshire that I had previously never heard of.

Forvie Beach

The forecast this weekend was for torrential rain and it did eventually come, but in all honesty, I was expecting far, far worse. Anyway, with that forecast in mind, we decided to keep it local, and to get out and about really early.

Forvie fitted the bill perfectly and it’s been a short while since our last visit so it would make for a nice change of scenery. From the utter lack of people at Forvie, it would appear that most people had decided against venturing out.

Had I remembered that it was Tern mating season earlier, I doubt I would have opted for the Croozer. No other buggy would have coped and, even with the Croozer, we had our work cut out. Had we been able to stick to the beach route that we normally use things wouldn’t have been quite so bad. However, with nesting season upon us, you are forced to take a short-cut, cutting off a chunk of our normal route, that involves a considerable amount of time in the dunes.

At one point Leanne was pushing me while I pushed Harris! It certainly made for a good workout! I don’t know if it was the undulating terrain or the beautiful scenery but Harris decided not to fall asleep until the very end of the walk. As such, I opted to walk to Newburgh, along the handy path with connects Newburgh to Forvie, meeting up with Leanne (& the car) again at the far end of Newburgh.

A useful discovery was that the Croozer fitted assembled and upright, with the exception of the handlebar, into the back of our Alhambra. Handy to know that we can leave it assembled when moving between locations, providing there’s not much else in the back of our Seat Alhambra.

Within minutes of loading up the car with the Croozer and a newly awakened Harris, the skies opened up. Talk about perfect timing :o)



The North Face Enduro 13 On Sale

Update 21st July 2014: looks like the stock of The North Face Enduro 13 packs has gone already as the link no longer works. Hardly surprising they sold out at that bargain price!

A quick posting from me. Have just spotted The North Face Enduro 13 on sale at Blacks, down from an RRP of £65.00 to £45.00. An excellent pack for long distance/ultra runners with easy access to two rear mounted bottles and ample storage space.

Highland flings: Paul Giblin And The West Highland Way Race

Paul Giblin has done it again, with yet another article in the mainstream press. This time, it’s The Guardian’s ‘The Running Blog‘, with an article entitled ‘Highland flings: Paul Giblin And The West Highland Way Race’.

“The West Highland Way race represents an ultra-running challenge in the beauty of the Highlands, and for Paul Giblin it was one he embraced, by breaking the course record.”

Spey Bay

I’ve yet to see dolphins other than in the far distance while visiting Spey Bay and Sunday’s visit didn’t do anything to rectify that! However, it has to be one of the most chilled places to visit, especially when the sun is beating down. Sitting on the pebbles, close to the shore, on this, Harris’s first visit to Spey Bay, I couldn’t believe just how many people ended up standing on the pebble dunes behind us, all looking for the elusive dolphins! Despite the numbers, it retained its tranquility, aided by the sound of the tide on the pebbles. Maybe next time I will finally see some dolphin action!

Spey Bay is also familiar to me as a location on the Speyside Way long-distance footpath, and I have run past it on numerous occasions while running the Speyside Way Race ultramarathon, part of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series.  It’s a welcome sight as the right turn taken at Spey Bay signals the final stretch of the race as runners then head on to their final destination in Buckie.

“Spey Bay is the largest shingle beach in Scotland. Constant erosion and deposition by the river creates a range of habitats from bare shingle to reed beds, freshwater marsh and brackish saltmarsh. Breeding birds, a rich flora and diverse invertebrate communities all make their home here.” (http://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/spey-bay/)

“Spey Bay is a small settlement in Moray, Scotland. It is situated at the eastern side of the mouth of the River Spey on the coast of the Moray Firth between the village of Kingston on the western side of the Spey, and the fishing port of Buckie to the east.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spey_Bay)



Saturday afternoon was spent exploring the forests and beach at Roseisle on the Moray Coast. With the remnants of wartime coastal defences, miles of sandy beach and miles of forest trails, there was plenty to do and see. The parking area even contained purpose-built barbeques, lots of picnic tables and an excellent play area. Definitely one to return to.

The coastal defences include concrete anti-tank blocks and pillboxes.

“Due to coastal erosion and the movement of the sand, some of these defences have been lost or moved. For example, a few pillboxes have tipped over due to the movement of the sand.” (http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/activities/heritage/world-war-two-sites/roseisle-ww2-defences)

Located on the Burghead bay, between Findhorn and Burghead, Roseisle can be reached as follows:

  • From Forres, travel through Kinloss past RAF Kinloss. Roseisle Forest beach is signposted left
  • From Elgin, travel towards Inverness. Turn right towards Burghead and left at College of Roseisle. Continue along and the beach is signposted right

We spent the afternoon mostly on the bikes, with Harris riding up front in his WeeRide (occasionally attempting to take control of the steering!), cycling the numerous trails and following the ‘Burma Road’ as far as Burghead.

There are also a number of different route options for walks:

Millie Bothy: Easy, 1.7m/2.6km

“An easy stroll through this lovely coastal pineforest, taking in an old fishermen’s bothy and the sparkling Millie Burn.”

Ice House Trail: Easy, 1.3m/2.0km

“A gentle meander through the forest to the Bessie Burn for great views of the Moray Firth.”

Wildlife Walk Trail: Easy, 2.7m/4.2km

“An easy circuit that takes in forest and foreshore, with a chance to spot seals, red squirrels and woodland birds.”


Inov-8 Race Ultra 290

I’ve been a fan of Inov-8 trail shoes for many years now, and rate the Roclite 305 as one of my all-time favourite shoes. The 305s saw me through the majority of my ultramarathons between 2010 and 2013 and I went through 5 pairs, logging some serious training and racing miles before they eventually went out of production.

I moved to the Roclite 315 following this and, despite liking the shoe, never quite developed the same affinity to it as I did with the 305.

As such, I was most intrigued to see the news that Inov-8 have launched their first ultra running specific shoe, the Inov-8 Ultra Race 290, available soon from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com.

“Inov-8’s first ever ultra running shoe. Race Ultra 290 shoes offer optimal cushioning and comfort for the long distance athlete. A flatter outsole ensures a stable ride when fatigue sets in. A dedicated Inov-8 gaiter (available separately) can be clipped on to the on-the-shoe attachment system to sensure all debris is kept at bay. The addition of an X-Static footbed, means that bacteria which feed on human sweat and cause foot odours is kept at bay.”

The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 has already picked up awards, including an ISPO award for 2014/15.

“The ultimate in comfort and grip, this off-road ultra running shoe oozes innovation and meets the needs of this rapidly growing tribe. Be it on trails or mountains, this highly durable, lightweight shoe delivers industry-leading grip, courtesy of the Tri-C endurance outsole, which boasts three different rubber compounds. It also has a unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment system and an X-STATIC footbed to keep both debris and odors at bay.”

With a Tri-C endurance outsole, with softer, sticky rubber on the edges for greater traction, high abrasion rubber at the heel for improved durability, and sticky rubber cleats for outstanding mid-foot grip, a fusion compound midsole to deliver sensory feedback from the trail while still providing protection over ultra distances, an 8mm drop, 3rd generation meta-shank, and minimum friction upper with gaiter attachments, the Race Ultra 290 certainly sounds like a shoe that will be of interest to ultra runners.

Race Ultra 290 for ISPO

Race Ultra 290

The Inov-8 Race Ultra 290 is available in Navy/Lime or Black/Blue (Men’s) and purple/teal or raven/ocean (Women’s) from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com.

Kirkhill Forest & Columbia Gear Testing

“Explore the forest at Kirkhill. There’s plenty of space beneath Kirkhill’s trees for walking, running, cycling and horse riding. This working forest has a mountain bike fun park too, where you can practise those technical skills. There are great views all round from the Tappie Tower, a Victorian folly. See if you can spot the Mither Tap – the hill at Bennachie forest away to the north.” (http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/kirkhill)

“The paths in Kirkhill vary from fast fire-track / land-rover paths to a few testing climbs through the trees as well as a lot of good technical single track sections with various downhill sections as well…

A ‘Fun Park’ has been built next to the Forestry Commission car park for Kirkill Forest. The fun park is a series of small jumps and tabletops which have been constructed in an otherwise smooth ‘kitty-litter’ type surface. This serves as a good introduction to jumping for novice riders, and can still be a bit of fun for more advanced riders, but it doesn’t have the ‘flow’ needed to compare favourably with other similar tracks in Scotland (e.g. Glentress, Laggan, Golspie, etc.).” (MTB Trails Info)

It’s been too long since I last ventured to Kirkhill Forest, for so long an almost weekly destination for me. But then, that was back when I was mountain biking on a regular basis, before ultra running came along and took up all my time, and before Harris came along and took the time back all for himself!

Having done a bit of research about Kirkhill Forest online, I see that the fun park opened way back in 2005, and I was cycling around Kirkhill quite a bit before the park arrived. That just makes me feel old lol!

At 16 months, Harris is of an age where he is more than happy to sit in the Croozer or, as was the case this weekend past, in the WeeRide, giving him an even better view of his surroundings.

Given the precious cargo we were carrying, with Leanne and myself alternating cycling with Harris, we stuck mostly to the wider trails, other than the brief foray to Tappie Tower, right at the top of Kirkhill.

It’s a location best known as ‘Kirkhill Forest’, but it also includes Gorehead Wood, Gueval Wood, and Standingstones Wood, all of which you may cycle through depending on the route options that you take.

Located between Blackburn and Dyce, it offers a variety of route options and a fun park. The following information from Cycle Grampian provides some idea with regard to the kind of routes available:

MTB Fun Park

“Officially opened in March 2005, this short section of trail (about a mile) was purposely built to provide a range of technically challenging features – jumps, bumps, berms, switchbacks and more. It’s designed specifically to help you perfect your offroad biking skills. Be aware however that it is best suited to intermediate and advanced riders as it is tricky in parts.

It begins with an easy uphill ride through mature conifer forest to an open area, from where the descent back to the start takes you through all the classic mountain biking features you would expect. It finishes in the main car park giving you a great chance to show off to your mates and the other riders getting ready to hit the trails.”

Kirkhill Loop

“The 6¾ mile Kirkhill Loop, way marked by a red bike icon, starts from the MTB fun park and climbs steadily along fire break roads to Tappie Tower at the summit of Tyrebagger Hill. Tappie Tower offers good views to Inverurie and Bennachie to the north. From here the trail drops slowly for the remaining 4 or so miles back to the car park. The relatively easy gradients make this trail suitable for all, although the first few hundred yards are uphill.

For the more adventurous there is a choice of 3 single tracks leading from the tower back on to the Kirkhill Loop.”

South Spur

“The short (½ mile) south spur also begins (or ends?) next to the Fun Park and cuts off a corner of the Kirkhill Loop – follow the white markings. This is steep, rough, rocky and criss crossed with roots making it ideal for experienced riders, and adrenalin junkies.”

North Spur

“Its not single track, and its not fire break. It’s the North Spur. This slightly narrow trail, shared by horses, walkers and cyclists leads slightly uphill from the East Woodlands car park to the Kirkhill Loop. White markings guide the way.” (http://www.cyclegrampian.co.uk/mtb/routes/kirkhill.html)

Kirkhill Forest Links

Cycling approx. 10 miles, it was an excellent start to a lovely, sunny Sunday, even if it did feel predominantly uphill, somehow disputed by the GPS! Given the close proximity to Ellon (no more than 30 minutes drive from us, assuming traffic conditions are favourable) and the fact that Harris appeared to enjoy it so much, it looks like Kirkhill will once again become a regular haunt for us :o)


It was also an excellent opportunity for me to put my new Columbia gear to the test, including my Conspiracy II OutDry shoesSilver Ridge Convertible trousers (worn as shorts) and Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt. A review of all of the above, and the Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt, will follow upon my return from the Cairngorms in August.

Columbia Gear

Back in mid 2013, I was sent a Columbia Omni Freeze t-shirt for review and was blown away at just how well it helped me maintain a desirable body temperature, from the extremes of keeping me cool while running on a treadmill in our sun house in 30°C+ temperatures, through to keeping me from freezing while being buffeted by winds at altitude while out on a trail run high in the Cairngorm mountains. It has been, without a doubt, one of the stand-out items of kit for me this past year. Further, as one of my most comfortable t-shirts, I have turned to it on a daily basis as well, not just when I require the technical aspects of the garment.

As such, I was delighted to be presented with the opportunity to review some 2014 Columbia kit, including the Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt,  Silver Ridge Convertible trousers (shorts/trousers), Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt and Conspiracy II OutDry shoes.

Since I received the Columbia product last week, I have made a point of wearing each item as much as possible and have to admit to liking the versatility of being able to turn the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers from trousers to shorts and back again, simply by zipping off the lower leg portion.

I will admit to being a shorts & t-shirt guy outside of work hours, regardless of the weather, to the extent that family and friends are genuinely shocked on the rare occasion when they see me in long trousers!

Unfortunately, when I am out and about, I appear to be the equivalent of a ‘happy meal’ for clegs, midges etc, and I also tend to react badly to any bites, turning red and blotchy and often requiring the use of antihistamines and creams to calm inflammation.

A few years back, a bite to my leg resulted in it swelling to the point where I had no choice but to elevate it for a week. This was bad enough. However, it was also 2 weeks before the 53 mile Highland Fling ultramarathon, hardly ideal race preparation! (I didn’t have the easiest of races but I did make it to the end)

On my most recent trip to the Cairngorms, I found that I appeared to be equally appealing to ticks, ‘helped’ no doubt by my tendency to seek out new routes on pathways that were often fairly overgrown.

As such, it makes sense for me to forego the shorts & t-shirt approach where necessary and to cover up a bit more. With approx. 3 weeks until I next return to the Cairngorms, I am already counting down the days and I am looking forward to putting my new Columbia gear through their paces. Full reviews to follow upon my return from the Cairngorms.

Product Details

Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt

£25, Available at Blacks

A super-cooling tech tee with stretch and sun protection, this soft and lightweight men’s shirt sports Columbia’s industry-leading cooling technology, which reacts with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature and keep you cool during dynamic aerobic activity in the heat.


  • Omni-Freeze ZERO™ sweat-activated super cooling
  • Omni-Wick™
  • Omni-Shade™ UPF 30 sun protection
  • Modern Classic Fit
  • Comfort stretch
  • Antimicrobial treatment protects this product from bacteria growth


  • 100% polyester ZERO interlock

Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

£55, Available at Blacks

These durable, quick-wicking pants feature built-in sun protection and plentiful storage making them the perfect choice for active days in warm weather.


  • Omni-Wick
  • Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
  • Partial elastic at waist
  • Gusset detail
  • Pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Zip-closed security pocket
  • Mesh pocket bags


  • Omni-Shade Main Body
    100% nylon Silver Ridge ripstop
  • Omni-Wick Mesh Panels
    57% recycled polyester/43% polyester mesh

Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt

£50, Available at Snow+Rock

This versatile button up features Insect Blocker™ technology to ward off bugs, UPF 30 wards off harsh UV rays, and Omni-Wick™ advanced evaporation keeps you cool and dry during dynamic activity.


  • Insect Blocker
  • Omni-Wick technology actively breathes and pulls sweat away from your body to keep you dry and cool
  • Omni-Shade UPF 30 provides premium protection from the sun
  • Pocket with hook and loop closure
  • Mesh pocket bags
  • Rollup sleeves with tab holders
  • Sun protection collar
  • Vented


  • Omni-Wick, Omni-Shade 100% Insect Blocker nylon basketweave

Conspiracy II OutDry

£80, Available at Blacks

Superior traction meets waterproof-breathable construction for an ultra-lightweight shoe that will keep you nimble, comfortable and dry during all kinds of outdoor activities. The mesh upper is fortified with a protective rubber screen-print to maximise durability while the Fluidframe midsole provides ideal underfoot support for a lively, responsive ride.


  • Upper
    • Protective rubber screenprint over mesh
    • OutDry waterproof, breathable construction
    • Synthetic toecap
  • Midsole
    • Techlite™ lightweight midsole, superior cushion, high energy return
    • FluidFrame™ multidensity underfoot support
  • Outsole
    • Omni-Grip™ high traction non-marking rubber
  • Weight: US size 9, ½ pair = 10.3 oz/294 g