Posted by: Bruce Duncan | December 8, 2011

Winter Arrives

Following on from the Kendal Mountain Festival my life has calmed down a bit, which has been brilliant.  As much as I like flying all over the place having lots of mini adventures, it has been great to get into a settled plan of training and planning of what is to come.

I have got right into my winter training, a few niggles are hanging around, but with some stretching and rolling on a bottle of water (to self massage), I have been going well.  The ride over to Scotch Corner to get my car was the start, and since then I have been out almost everyday.

The weather hasn’t exactly been overly pleasant though, howling wind and rain on many days, with the odd bit of sleet and hail thrown in for good measure, but so far I have managed to get out either in the dry patches, or thrown all my clothes on and had loads of washing to do on my return!

When I’ve been sheltering from the weather, I came up with my top 10 adventure races in the UK and Ireland for Planetfear, you can check out the list here.  There is some bias, as I’ve been involved in some of them, but I do think they are some of the best races out there you can do.

Loch Garten

The highlight of the past few weeks was a mountain bike trip to Scotland, organised by my good friend Peter Strong.  I’m not sure how many years it has been going on for, but this was my 3rd time up to the Aviemore area with a whole bunch of hardcore mountain bikers from Cumbria and Matlock.  Last years trip was postponed due to snow, and the rescheduled trip got hit by snow too!  This time the forecast was looking alright.

We all arrived up at the Lagganlia outdoor centre, and Saturday started ok, but after a few minutes a sleety snow shower blew through.  On the whole the weather was great, and we got a cracking 90km of riding in, heading up towards Carrbridge, and back over the Ryvoan pass.  We had a heavy snow shower as we rode up to the pass, but once that had passed it was gorgeous riding in the fresh snow, and we almost didn’t need lights.

We were pretty tired as we rode the last sections of single track back to the lodge, but we’d all had an amazing day, it was now time to warm up and refuel for Sunday’s ride.

It snowed a lot more overnight, luckily not too much to necessitate anyone trying to leave early, and we set out on a 4hr classic ride up Glenfeshie.  Singletrack almost from the word go through Inshriach forest, up the glen in glorious sunshine with the odd shower blasting us.

It was an awesome weekend, the mountain biking up there is amazing, with single track all over the place, and we were all lucky enough to have Pete Strong and Bryan Singleton to guide us around.

I stopped off near Perth on the way south to catch up with Mark Beaumont, who was fresh back from a small speaking tour in China, and about to head off to row the Atlantic Ocean.  It was good to see him and his fiancé, and we had a great afternoon of mountain biking, well mountain bike pushing for quite a lot due to the deep snow!

Back in Kendal and the wintry weather continues, but more with strong winds, sleet and rain at the moment, not very appealing for getting outside and training, but this weather toughens you up, and come race day when its like this it makes things much easier.  I’m off to Ravenglass and Eskdale this weekend to do a run with Trail Running Magazine.  I love Eskdale, so will be a pleasure to be over there whatever the weather, and the best thing, we are coming back on L’al Ratty! Awesome.

The next event for me is the Tour de Helvellyn, which on the 17th December could be a wild day out, a 38mile ultra run, with all your own navigation.  It’s going to be a great day out, and will be perfect training for other upcoming races.  A few of us got out and did a training run on the loop around Helvellyn section a few weeks back, it was another wild day, but was good to get out and get a blasting from the weather so we could enjoy our tea and cake afterwards even more!

Lets hope that the rain and wind disappear and we get a load more snow on the hills for some great winter running, and maybe even some skiing…

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Posted by: Bruce Duncan | November 21, 2011

Non stop November

This month has already been really busy, I have hardly had chance to settle into the house I’m staying in in Kendal at all.  Sometimes I wish it was a bit less hectic, but so far everything I have done this month has been brilliant.

Walking along the beach surrounded by kites

I headed off to Morocco with my girlfriend and her sisters for an intro week of Kite surfing.  It was a sport I’d fancied having a go at for a while, so with Maz wanting to go, her sister Mel being really good and Selena fancying trying to master the skill it seemed like it would be a brilliant week, along with the prospect of some lovely November sunshine.

Almost looking like I know what I am doing!

Kite surfing is a tough sport, get it wrong and you are drinking half the ocean as the kite drags you through the water, but get it right and it’s a real thrill as you zoom across the water at fast speed.

Mel showing us how it should be done.

We stayed in an amazing centre near Dhakla, and along with kite surfing we got some normal surfing in on the days when the wind wasn’t out to play.  At the end of the week I think I am able to say that I can kite surf, but it will be a while before I am able to do any form of tricks!

I arrived back home, and the next day managed to land a great bit of work for Across the Divide, working as the lead cyclist on the Matt Baker Rickshaw ride from Edinburgh to London in aid of Children in Need.

But before I could join the team I was the guest speaker at my old school’s Senior Prize giving, presenting all the awards, and then giving a short talk on what I spend my time doing.  It was a great evening, catching up with my old teachers, and I love showing all my pictures to new audiences, it really makes it sink in to me just how much fun I have doing the races that I do.  As soon as it was over though I raced north to Edinburgh, to get set for the next event which would start only a few hours after I got to bed.

Matt (former Blue Peter presenter and BBC One Show/countryfile presenter) was cycling an 80kg rickshaw over 8 days down the country, giving people lifts along the way, and raising over £1.3million pounds in the process.

Matt and I setting off from Peterborough ((c) Matt Morten)

It was an amazing journey, the crowds that lined the streets of every town and village we passed were truly amazing, and really did shock us all. Matt was blown away by people’s generosity, and it couldn’t help but raise a smile about society after all the negative things you hear in the press and on TV about the state the world is in.

I was cycling alongside Matt, keeping him fed and watered, and mentally on track to make it to the end.  The experience I have gained from my many expedition adventure races was invaluable, and I was able to guide him through the process I have been through so many times, to ensure he came out the other side in the right place.

Matt and I in Cambridge, where I left the journey

Sadly I wasn’t able to ride all the way to London with him, and I was really gutted about this.  Not only had I enjoyed the ride, but I had formed a good friendship with Matt, so it was sad that I wasn’t able to help him on the last day to finish off his epic ride.

The reason I couldn’t be there though was that I was presenting, along with Ant Emmet, The Epic Tri Film at the Kendal Mountain Festival.

adidasTERREX were sponsoring the new Endurance night, which featured Tom Gibbs, Ben Bardsley and a few short films from Kilian Jornet along with the first ever screening of the Epic Tri film that Dave Macfarlane had made.

It was a fantastic night, and the whole evening got a great reception, but the comments we all got about the Epic Tri were fantastic, Dave had done an amazing job piecing together the accidental movie that came out of our journey, and the story around it worked so well.  Many people over the weekend heard about the film and wished they had come along to see it, and it would have been brilliant if it had got into the main festival and been voted on, maybe next year…

Ant, James Thurlow and I on stage at the KMF Endurance Night

There is talk of making the film a downloadable affair with the cost of downloading going towards Cancer Research UK, I’ll keep you updated when I know what is happening.  We would also like to get the film out to a  wider audience, so will send it to more film festivals, and if anyone knows where else it could be seen, do get in touch.

After a hectic start to the month, hopefully now its all a bit calmer, and I can get my training going with a bit more of a routine.  Today I have to cycle to get my car which is in Scotch Corner, as I left it there during the event last week.  The weather isn’t quite what I was hoping, but still should be a good day out.  I need to get miles in on the bike though as at the start of December I am off to Aviemore for a weekend with 20 very fit mountain bikers for a full on weekend of biking, so hope I can keep up with my lack of mountain biking this year.

Time to get the bike shorts on again and get out along the dales.

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | October 22, 2011

Back to the Lake District

So after a long time of hanging around the big London Village, I’m back up in the Lakes.  I moved back up on Thursday, bringing a full car of kit and bikes from the big smoke to my new place in Kendal, living with some good friends.

Maz enjoying the sunshine on the top of Dartmoor

London has been fun, especially the last few months, where I have purposely not been doing much training, more hanging out with friends, going out for dinner a lot, and having some much needed rest and relaxation after a busy few months racing.  But now its time to get back into my training, and London is not the place for that, well not for me at least.  I just can’t get the motivation to run around another park or up and down the river.

A lone surfer at Sour Mill Cove

To warm up for the Lakes I had a great 4 day trip to Devon with Maz.

We got some surfing in on Woolacombe beach, followed by some tough road riding over Dartmoor, it really threw some steep hills at us.

This was then followed by some great walking along the coastal path from Thurlstone to Salcombe with a run back for me, and then some fun kiteflying inbetween searching out some great scones and clotted cream.

I have only been up here a few days, and already its been non stop.  I was out first thing yesterday morning for a run up and around the Fairfield Horseshoe with Sally Ozanne.  The weather was pretty awful, strong winds and rain, however it was brilliant to be out running over the hills again, whatever was thrown at us.  We followed that up with a mountain bike ride from my dads in Portinscale around Glenderattera, one of the best short rides I think there is in the Lakes, a 90 minute blast that has everything in it, a social start on the railway line, a tough long climb up to the Blencathra Centre, a fast track decent, a few technical climbs followed by beautiful flowing single track and a super quick decent back to Keswick, perfect.

Quick outline of the Glenderaterra Loop

Last night a whole load of us headed out into Kendal for some beers, its magical to be able to get 3 beers for less than £10, and really good ones too!  So while around the table Matt invited me along to a ride from The Mill Yard in Stavely today.  It was to be a long one, 6+hours, heading all the way over to Coniston.  8 of us showed up to set of riding, and after the initial section over towards Troutbeck I was then onto unknown tracks.  It was great fun, the sun was shining and the lakes and mountains were looking amazing in the autumnal light.

Matt and Max riding through the woods above Low Wray

It was very wet and muddy under wheel, but that added to the fun.  We dropped into Ambleside, and then up around Loughrigg fell before heading over to Claife Heights.  Sadly, 2 ½ hours in I had to leave them.  My bike decided to start playing up, and my freehub is no longer free, seizing up frequently, making riding very difficult.  I left the others to head West still, and I dropped back to the ferry over Windermere and then up the steep climb back on the Crook road to Stavely, to a earned (well I think so) tea cake and rarebit at Wilfs Café.

I’m feeling the exercise in my legs, but this is exactly what I need to get back into my training, to be out enjoying the stunning scenery with great friends.

Looking over towards Windermere from Loughrigg Fell

I hope to be out most days over the next few months, running, biking and kayaking (both flat and whitewater) so its going to be a fun time.  I also plan to try and make some videos, I’d love to see what I can do with a GoPro camera while out training, it might lead to a new computer too, dare I enter the world of the Apple??

The Lakes are amazing at this time of year, getting quieter, (expect its half term next week!), with amazing colours in all the woods and on the fell sides, and crisp days to get out and enjoy all the brilliant trails and mountains.

Bring on the training.

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | October 9, 2011

Back into Winter, Back into Training

September has been a lot of fun for me.  I finished racing at the end of August, and I have had a big chill out, of no racing, little training, and lots of fun, out with friends, enjoying time doing things that won’t improve my racing, but its great to have a go at.

Maz enjoying the evening sunshine in Cornwall

Early morning surf in Polzeath

Up above 'Pulpit Rock' 600m vertical drop to the fjord

The weather was also pretty good, at last! Meaning that I was able to really enjoy my blowout month, from cycling around to see my girlfriend when she was working on the David Walliams Thames Swim, to learning to surf in Cornwall on a fantastic work weekend away, to having a great time in Norway visiting my brother and his family.

Now we are into October, and despite a short burst of amazing heat and sunshine, it is all normal again, damp dreich weather, drizzle outside, and cold bone chilling winds blowing in from the North, just how it should be.

I have had a fun start to the month though.  A number of months ago, a sports psychologist contacted me as he was writing a book on ‘Be World Class’. He had interviewed a number of different people, sportsmen, business people, chefs, soldiers, and other people at the top of their chosen field.

It had been very interesting when I first spoke to Simon back in May, and we had had numerous emails back and forth, and then he asked me to speak at a conference he was organising in Newcastle in October.  It sounded interesting and a bit different, so I said yes.

Travelling up with Simon from London on Wednesday we had a great chat about all sorts of things, and he told me about some of the other speakers, I was really looking forward to meeting them, a group of people that would rarely have any reason to get together.

On the list was Chris Cook, a retired GB 100m breaststroke swimmer, with plenty of medals to his name, James Hoffman, the world barista champion 2007, Kenny Atkinson, a 2 time Michelin Star winning chef, Kier Worth, head of performance at England Squash, and myself.  I was excited to hear about how the others got to where they are now, and what their job really entails.

We had a great dinner the evening before the conference, and it was great to get to know the guys, to chat about where we all come from, and to see the similarities we all shared to be as good as we possibly can be at what we do.

James was a very interesting guy, as keen as you could imagine on coffee.  I really enjoyed listening to the intricacies of coffee, something I’d thought was fairly straight forward.  He had gone to huge lengths to get that small bit better than everyone else in the world to win his title, and I am dying to try a cup of James’ coffee and see how good it really can be.

The day itself was great fun, I enjoyed being on the stage, Simon did a great job of steering us all in the right direction to get the most out of what we all had to say, ensuring the attendees got plenty from their day.  I got the usual gasps of breaths as I regaled the stats of our Epic Tri, and other huge races I have done.

This weekend I am in the Lake District for the Bob Graham dinner, which is held every 2 years at the Shap Wells Hotel.  It was a great night, to be presented with the certificate, in front of so many other people was great, and with a small impromptu speech about what we did, the applause was really good to receive. It was good to see Eddie, who had been such a great support for us on the BG, by doing all our timings, and registering our attempt.

There were many other friends there that had either completed their BG, or were there as part of a support group, so it was a brilliant social.  Many people congratulated us on what we had done, and many more asked us what was next!

That’s a big question, and at the moment, I really am not sure.  I am planning on doing some small races next year, so nothing extravagant as this year held.  But one of the conversations I had last night was talking about Alaska, so we will see…

So now it’s really time to get my head down and into training for the winter.  It’s not easy to get motivated though when the wind is howling outside, and you can hardly see the hills only a few hundred metres away.  Anyway, time to get out for a run, up and over Latrigg, even though I can’t see it.

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | September 2, 2011

adidasTERREX Coast to Coast 2011

Driving back from Robin Hoods Bay to Keswick seems to take forever, and it is then that you really realise how far it actually is to race from Whitehaven in the West to Robin Hoods Bay in the East.  It allows for plenty of time for reflection on the journey that we had just undertaken over the previous 4 days, the good bits, the bad bits, and where you could have done better.

This year I was racing as a team, back for another go at the C2C route, racing with my long term team mate Nicola MacLeod, and also with James Cracknell, who in his new life as an adventurer wanted to give a multiday stage race a go.

Team adidasTERREX, Willow, Nicola, Bruce, Maz, Emma, James

The race had been fast and tough with the times  being almost 3 hours faster than 2 years ago.  I’m not sure how everyone was racing so quickly compared to last time, the route was the same, the first stage was even longer this year, and still we all went quicker.

So back to the start.  The weather was kind enough to allow us to complete the sea kayak leg from Whitehaven to St Bees.  This made for a spectacular sight, all the teams and solos racing out of the harbour at full pace, and then down along the sea cliffs.  The paddle was great, maybe a little too benign for us as a team to make a significant inroad into other teams, but anyhow, we were the first team out of the water, landing not overly gracefully on the pebbles, before lumping the kayak up the beach.

A quick transition (good work support team!), we flew out onto the open road heading towards the Lakeland fells.  Hitting the tarmac on the bike was my first experience for riding with James.  I was out of breath from the kayak and had to really keep on it to navigate and keep onto James’ back wheel as we sped along the cycle way towards Kirkland and Loweswater.  Coming around one corner a dog moved into the path, and whilst James’ managed to miss the dog, he hit some wet grass and wiped out onto the path, a nasty bang and almost had Andy Mitchell riding over the top of him.

We arrived at the Crummock Water transition without any other exciting incidents, and having past many coast to coast cyclists at breakneck speed.  James jumped off the bike, changed into his running kit (in preparation for the final stage), and sped off with Nicola into the kayak, or ‘Devils Craft; as James calls it.  (I think it comes from his rowing days)

Nic and James paddled well, and arrived very quickly at the end of Buttermere, where we began to do some serious climbing on foot, up to the top of Robinson.  It was a tough climb, and trying to haul 90+kgs up a hill isn’t easy.  As we climbed steadily up the hill, Dan and Mat Halliday caught us up, and sadly they made it look easy, skipping up like mountain goats!  We clung on to the top, but as soon as we begun to descend they flew away from us.  James has never done any fell running, and I suddenly realised how much I took it for granted running down a hill.  I, and most of the other competitors, have been doing it for years and it is just second nature, but for someone who has never done it, it clearly is a very practiced skill, especially at the speed we wanted to travel.

Suffering horrific cramp while putting shoes on after swim

The run from Buttermere over Robinson, Dalehead, Maiden Moor and Catbells is a long one, and with lots of up and down it is tough on the legs. The final flat run to Nichol End doesn’t hold much reprieve, before a cold swim across Derwent Water.  The swim was good to start with but then my legs started to cramp a little. Trying to get my shoes on at the other side both James and myself suffered bad cramps, but soon managed to run them off as we chased Ant Emmet down before crossing the line on day 1, after almost 5 ½ hours of racing.

Having my Dad live just outside Keswick was very useful, so we all piled home and had showers before sorting all our kit for day 2. We ate, we drank (water), and slept in a real bed; it makes a huge difference compared to sleeping in a tent.

Day 2 started with a fast cycle to Thirlmere.  The climb up Chestnut Hill out of Keswick seems to be relentless, and with little warm up it really hits home.  However, once over the top you fly down to the end of the reservoir along the dam looking at the calm water stretching away down the valley.  Nicola was all set to go, and James jumped off the bike, quickly changed shoes and was off.  The water was like a mirror, and as we drove along the side of the water we cheered on all the other racers paddling.

Dropping down into Patterdale after crossing Helvellyn

As soon as James was out of the kayak and had his trail shoes on we were away up and over Helvellyn.  We knew we had gone well over the first few stages, so had time on Accelerate (the Halliday boys).  We wanted to make sure we kept ahead of them for as long as possible on the hill, and we managed to make it to the top only overtaking teams, rather than anyone passing us.

It was misty and cloudy on the top, and some teams struggled to find the way down.  As soon as we began to descend James struggled a bit, and very quickly people began to come past us, building the frustration in James’ head as these mountain goats flew down the steep rocky edge and path towards Red Tarn and beyond to Patterdale.

Finishing the kayak of Ullswater

Reaching the sunshine in Patterdale, I swiftly got my kayak kit on and set off down the river.  The one upside from coming down the hill a little slower was that Nicola could see how the other teams went down the shallow river section.  Due to this we didn’t have to get out at all, and powered down the length of Ullswater; again in benign conditions, meaning we couldn’t take advantage of our superior kayaking skills.

We had hoped to pull back Accelerate, but hadn’t seen them on the water, so we needed a slick transition at Pooley Bridge.  With plenty of cheering going on I changed as fast as I could and began to head out of transition.  Then all of a sudden Maz was running alongside me shouting ‘BIB’ at me. I soon realised I’d forgotten to put it on, so quickly donned it and caught up with James.

Chasing James on the exit from transition at Pooley Bridge

It’s a tough climb up from Pooley Bridge, over the nose of High Street then onto the tarmac to Kirkby Stephen.  It was heads down and pedal hard, eating the hills up as they came.  I fell off the back of James’ wheel at one point, and my legs were really tired, so getting back was hard work, so as I dug as deep as possible to pull him back in I had to think of the time we were taking back from the other teams to help drive me forwards.

On the final big downhill towards Kirkby Stephen I lost the map, and had to rely on map memory and road signs to get to the town. Luckily I remembered the route from last time and we made it to the finish with no problems.  It had been a hard day again, losing too much time to Accelerate on the mountain section, and not taken enough back on the other stages. On paper,  we had won 4 out of the 5 sections, but had lost so much time on the other that it hardly seemed like the other sections made any difference.

After another evening of relaxing, refuelling, socialising, it was off to the tent for a good nights sleep.  We had got all our kit sorted for the next day already, so in the morning we only had to get up into running kit.

Nine Standards Rigg is a line of cairns sat atop of an escarpment, the date of their construction is unknown, but they are seen on 18th Century maps.  The run to the top is of the gradient where you can just run all of it. Walking is out of the question, especially when people start running past you.

Over the top the fell is very flat, and incredibly boggy.  James had been struggling on the steep rocky descents, so I thought this one would be ok, gentle and soft underfoot for his London feet!  However again, this was another time I’d taken running on this type of terrain for granted.  James struggled again, and there was nothing I could do to help, but keep pushing on, trying to keep the speed up where we could, and prepare for the transition as much as possible.  This meant almost stripping off to get ready to put bike kit on, taking the tracker out of the pack and into my bib shorts, and eating as much as I could before I got to the transition at Keld.

Maz getting me into my bike kit and fed and watered at Keld

Jumping onto the mountain bike after a speedy transition was great.  The ride is brilliant fun, some steep climbs but great rocky descents, and Nicola and I had huge smiles on our face all the way along the route.  The final drop to Castle Bolton is a grassy bumpy track, and Nicola on her full suspension bike was really enjoying herself as we rode past loads of water bottles that had been shaken off people’s bikes.

A wheel change was needed in Castle Bolton, from my off road wheels to road wheels for the 50km road ride across the Vale of York to Northallerton.  After a steep climb up from Castle Bolton the ride was pretty flat all the way to the finish line.  I was in a tuck position sat behind James once again.  We were flying along, zooming past other competitors; James was taking his frustration of his running out on the road ride and boy could I feel it!  At one point we were clocked at 35mph on the flats.

Flying along the 'Tank Road' to Northallerton, clinging onto James' wheel

Nic and James reflect on day 3

Day 3 had been a tough one for us, losing a lot of time on the hill, and the cycling sections not long enough for us to make a real impact on the deficit.  The afternoon was spent refuelling in Bettys Tea Room followed by a curry, getting set for the final day to Robin Hoods Bay.

A short road ride to Swainby got the legs and lungs going, and with a 23second transition I was off running with Nicola up and over the Cleveland way to Clay Bank.  Nicola had pretty fresh legs so was moving very swiftly up along the Carlton Bank, and we past Ant Emmet quickly, but couldn’t catch Kim Collinson who was on a mission on the final 2 days, and took the King of the Mountains title on this day too.

Dropping down the bottom of Clay Bank I was directed around the transition area by our fantastic support crew, and was out on my bike before I even knew it.  James and I then had to climb all the way back on the road to the top of Clay Bank, then a short hike-a-bike to the plateau of the Cleveland Hills.

This was James’ first mountain bike test, and he was flying along on the climbs and the disused railway line, before hitting some muddy sections of short bridleway sections connecting tarmac.

The final bridleway section was quite rocky, and James got a pinch flat, (very annoying!), but we changed it in less than 2 minutes.  Sadly this was enough for the Accelerate boys to overtake us.  We jumped back on the bikes, and chased after them, zooming down the gravel track to Glaisdale.  We caught them at the bottom, and both teams flew into the transition at the same time; the bit between our teeth, wanting to keep racing.

Over the finish line

A double wheel change was done in just over a minute. I wasn’t keen on setting off as I knew that straight out of transition was the steepest hill of the entire race.  Leaving at the same time as Accelerate gave us the added boost to get up the hill, and we never looked back, pushing on hard when on the flat.  Stu Lynch stuck with us well, and when we hit the short off road track he came flying past on his off road wheels. After a short bit of tricky navigation we reached the railway path, and followed this all the way to Robin Hoods Bay, dropping the bikes in a field, donning trainers and running the final 400m to the finish line just above the East coast.

It had been a tough 4 days, sadly we’d not been able to match Accelerate on the hill running stages, and because of that they’d simply run away with the win, so hats off to Dan and Mat for being so swift on foot.

2nd place on the podium behind a well deserved Team Accelerate

It had been great racing with James, someone of such notoriety and an impressive athletic background, to show him my sport, and to work with him to get the best result possible.  Nicola had been very strong in the kayak, on the mountain bike and on the foot leg.

We had a fantastic support team, Emma, Willow, Maz and Tony (my dad) had been great, with super smooth transitions and never missing a beat, looking after us morning and night and keeping us fully fuelled up, thank you.

We had some great kit for the race as well, our adidasTERREX clothing was fantastic, and kept us warm/cool/dry all the time, as well as the trail shoes providing excellent grip when on foot.  The adidas Evil Eye glasses also provided perfect protection from the sun and the flying mud when on bike, foot, and kayak.

All photos courtesy of James Kirby

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | August 24, 2011

adidasTERREX Coast to Coast 2011

So Friday morning sees the start of the 2011 adidasTERREX Coast to Coast, a 4 daystage race from Whitehaven in Cumbria across the country to Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire, combining running, kayaking, mountain biking and road biking.

C2C Sign at the harbours edge - Whitehaven

This is the 2nd time the event has been run after a very successful event 2 years ago.  Its a full on fast and furious race too, about 5 to 6 hours of racing each day, with plenty of rest overnight to recover for the next day.  So the racing usually takes place between 9am and 3pm each day, with the rest of the time filled with bike tinkering, eating, resting and socialising with the other teams.

I did this race 2 years ago as a solo athlete
, narrowly missing out on first place after spending too long eating pies in transition!  This year however I am racing in a team, with strict rules on super speedy transitions all the way.  The team race is a bit different, with only 2 of the 3 racing at any one time, but each team member having to make sure they do do at least 1 leg per day.  This brings in lots of tactical planning as to who is best to do which leg, and how best to make the most of any advantage we may have over other teams.

My team are meeting up at my dads in Portinscale on Thursday, and will set out early doors on Friday to register and get set for day 1.  But before then I have some kit to sort out, food to buy and get in order, and logistics plans to write up for the support team to ensure everything goes smoothly.  With such a fast race, it really could come down to minutes, and I don’t want a repeat of last time.

To follow the race over the weekend there is tracking available here, and we are team 37, Team adidasTERREX. News reports, photos and daily results should also come up on that link, or just be a quick click away.

I’ll pop a report up next week after I have recovered from what will be another mad exercise filled bank holiday weekend for me!

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | August 23, 2011

Gaelforce West

I have just returned from a brilliant weekend in Westport, on the Atlantic Coast of Ireland.  A beautiful small town nestled under the stunning Croagh Patrick mountain, with the glorious Clew Bay full of amazing islands right in front of the town.

I flew over on Thursday and had a quiet evening, getting my bike back together and finding that the baggage handlers had dropped it,

Damaged chain ring

and despite good padding, had managed to bend a few teeth! Not a good start, so with a wee spanner I bent them back, and took the bike out for a test ride, just a short one to Westport Quay to recce the finish of the race.  It had been an amazing day, and the sunset was fantastic over the bay.

Friday morning I set off with Brian Keogh to register and then recce the course.  Brian had very kindly offered to show me the route, and to point out all the tricky and interesting parts of the course.  With such a short fast race it was crucial to me to know all the ins and outs of the route, where to go hard on the bike, and where to take it very easy.  The weather was atrocious, driving horizontal rain, cold and windy, perfect for me to be out racing, but the forecast for Saturday was to improve.

At the base of a very cloudy Croagh Patrick Brian pointed out the route, and then very kindly, the cloud lifted to show the full peak, a striking cone of loose rock at the top that I would have to race up and down.

After checking out the final short off-road section, which I’d be riding on a road bike, I thought I’d probably run it, depending on the situation, as it was slightly daunting and it would reduce the chance of a puncture, but also because with a very sore thumb sustained from a fall a few weeks ago, the task of holding the bars would be very painful.

After a pasta feed, getting my kit sorted and setting my alarm for 4a.m. (!!), I went to sleep.

The alarm call was not overly pleasant.  But I jumped up, got dressed and joined with some other racers in the breakfast room, all bleary eyed, but excited about the race.  Jumping on the bus with about 100 other people we drove to the start at Glassilaun Beach.  It was a lovely morning, and the views along the road were great.

Finally standing on the beach, eyeing up all the opposition, was nerve wracking.  I knew the race was going to be fast, especially after being introduced to some of the whippet looking triathletes, and I said quick hello to last years winner Padraig Marrey (who I’d met at the Ballyhoora Beast).

As the gun went, people took off at a heck of a pace, I knew this would happen, and I sat in at as comfortable a pace as I could and hung on for the first road section.  We soon hit the rough off road section.  It was here that I started to pass a lot of people, lapping up the rough boggy section.  However as soon as we hit the tarmac again people began to catch up and pass me again.

After a tough hour of running we arrived at the kayaks, I was slightly confused by the instructions due to my fatigue from the run, and put on a buoyancy aid before I got to the kayak, only to find one there for me, oh well.  I jumped into the boat and instantly overtook a bunch of people, and paddled as fast as you can in a sit on top.  I began to pull back the leading pack, and after the very short paddle I had pulled up to 5th after entering the water in about 20th place.

The run to the road was perfect for me, baby heads and boggy ground, I again pulled ahead of other people, only for them to come back to me on the tarmac, but I stayed with Niall this time, and entered the bike transition in 5th place.

A superfast transition enabled me to get out with Tom O’Dowd in first place.  I stuck to his wheel, as I knew I’d be a bit slower on the bike, I just don’t have the speed in my legs for the short distances at the moment.  The cycle started well, Niall caught up and then we worked together till the first hill.  I was dropped straight away, and couldn’t get back to either of them after the tight tricky descent.  I rode on my own for a good section, and then Padraig and Peter came past at pace, I gave it everything and got onto their wheel, and again worked with them to catch the 2 leaders.

Croagh Patrick - The tough mountain climb near the end of Gaelforce West

I was dropped again on the fire road climb, but kept in touch as best I could before we hit the mountain.  I was a minute down getting off the bike, but struggled to catch up on the hill side.  The top section of Croagh Patrick is really steep and loose, and I didn’t enjoy it much.  Pushing on as fast as I could, knowing that there was still a chance to get into the top 3.

The top was almost in sight when Peter came running towards me followed by Tom then Padraig, I would have to give it everything on the decent. Taking in the stunning view from the chapel for a split second I turned and ran as fast and in as much control as I could on a technical loose descent.  I overtook Niall quickly, but lost sight of the others.  Not knowing the hill I had no idea of the best line down, so I just ran back the way I came up, following the line of folks coming up the hill.  I couldn’t see the others at all on the way down, concentrating on my line and staying on my feet, but kept going as fast as possible.  I knew I had to get to the bottom very close to them to have any chance of making the top 3.

Sadly I couldn’t take enough time off them on the way down, but knew I was well clear of Niall now in 5thplace, so I took the last cycle a bit more cautiously than I might have done.  I ran the really rough section, mainly to not puncture, but also as my thumb was very sore when holding tightly on the bumpy ground.  The tarmac road was pretty rough too, with tight corners and gravel to keep you focused at the end of a very tough race.

The rough off road section on the final bike - fun on a road bike!

The last section was lovely, passing by the clear sea water, and finally seeing the finish line.  It was tough passing right by the line, especially as Peter was just coming in to cross it as I went past!  The last run was tough, tired legs on rocky ground is always fun, but I took it easy and was very happy to cross the line in 4th place, only 5 minutes behind the winner.

It had been a fantastic race.  Very fast and full on, but great to be so close, and the lead chopping and changing all the way to the finish.  I was incredibly happy with how I had got on, if someone had offered me 4th place on the start line I’d have more than happily taken it.  It was nice to see that I could battle right up at the front, but not surprising that I couldn’t quite topple the top 3, all very experienced in this race, and the shorter distance.  For me, it really was a bit of a sprint race, I’d have liked it to be 4 days longer!!

I have had a brilliant weekend over in Westport with Gaelforce West as my hosts.  It is a stunning location for a multisport race, very dramatic and rugged.  The town really does embrace the sport which is so great to see.

The event was brilliantly run, all the transitions were really smooth and slick, and the course was signed very clearly.  A fantastic effort from the team to put on a race that not only really tests the elite, but is achievable by all the competitors.

A huge thank you to Ciara and all the team at Gaelforce Events for inviting me over for the weekend.  I loved the race and the fantastic hospitality, it was great to meet a bunch of new people, and hopefully I’ll be back over to Ireland soon to enjoy some more of the fantastic events on offer.

A big thank you to all my sponsors for my top class kit too, my adidas bike shorts, arm warmers and gillet were spot on for a chilly start, and my adidasTERREX trainers for being the perfect combination of grip and comfort for the mixture of road and muddy off road running.

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | August 17, 2011

2 Big Weekends

Tomorrow I am off to Westport on the West coast of Ireland for the Gaelforce West race, a 70km trail run, kayak and road bike race.  Its a fast one, the winners time last year was a little over 3 1/2 hrs!  I’ve been looking forward to it for a few months now, and can’t believe its upon me already.

Having popped over to Ireland a few weeks ago for the Ballyhoora race I met some of the guys who have competed in Gaelforce West a number of times, including last years winner, Padraig Marrey, who is a fast fella for sure.  It is going to be a very tough race, and I’ll give it my all, but I am worried about the lack of course knowledge, the guys who race it regulalry know every step along the way, a huge advantage in a short race.

I fly tomorrow morning, so I am spending today getting all my kit together, sorting out my flat pedals, with such a short race it is faster to use flats with power straps than to change shoes, and have to carry your trainers.

Running over Carlton Bank in the C2C 2009

I come back on Sunday, and then its a quick turnaround as I get all my kit together for the adidasTERREX Coast to Coast.  This is a 4 day stage race, about 5 to 6 hours racing each day, kayaking, running and road and off road cycling.  Whereas Gaelforce West is a solo event, the adidasTERREX C2C is a team event (it can be done solo too), and I am racing with Nicola MacLeod and James Cracknell.  Its set to be a great race, with Accelerate putting out a strong team too.

The race starts on Friday from Whitehaven, finishing in Robin Hoods Bay on Monday afternoon.  The inaugral race 2 years ago was a great success, and served as a brilliant social occasion too, so I am looking forward to that side of the event again, along with 4 top quality days of tough racing.

Its going to be a tough week and a half, but I am looking forward to it, and to testing myself over both courses.  After that I plan on having a bit of a rest too, so can’t wait for that either!

I’ll pop results up as soon as I can, but check out more info on both events here

Gaelforce West

adidasTERREX Coast to Coast

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | August 3, 2011

The Beast – Updated results

So, it turns out that a wee error had crept into the Results, and it turns out that our team did win afterall!

Always good to be on this side of an error!

Posted by: Bruce Duncan | August 2, 2011

The Beast of Ballyhoora

I have just returned from a great weekend in Ireland, where I raced in the Beast of Ballyhoora 36hour adventure race with my long time team-mate Nicola MacLeod and some of her Army colleagues.

I’d never been to the Republic of Ireland before, and had it all set up to go for my first time in another 3weeks for the Gaelforce West event in Westport, but just over a week ago Nicola rang my up and asked if I could join them as they had a last minute drop out.  It sounded like fun, and luckily I was free, so I headed on over.

We arrived on Thursday night, and were made instantly very welcome by Ivan Park, the organiser, and the other marshalls, it was a great wee place we were staying, Blackwater Castle, about an hour north of Cork. Arriving early meant we could get plenty of sleep in, and get our kit sorted without any stress.  Mark and Billy, the other 2 team members arrived around friday afternoon, and we set about getting everything ready for our adventurous weekend.

The race maps were given out at 6pm, and as we got marking up and trying to get our heads around the bonus sections we were working out where we might be at what time.  It was looking like we wouldn’t be able to get all the bonus cp’s, and as it turned out, that is what Ivan had planned.

3am came round too fast, and we were up and onto a bus up to the start, a gorgeous wee lake, Lough Gur.  Here we were to do a short kayak, then a run, then off on the mountain bikes for 26km following an arrowed route.  The start was a little chaotic and we managed to lose a paddle in the mud, and had to head off with the one paddle on the sit on tops! A bit of a killer, but we didn’t lose too much, and took this as our only mistake in the race.

We caught up with the lead teams by the end of the run, and headed off a few minutes behind them on the bike.  This section was strange, we didn’t know where we were, or where we were going, a bit different for an adventure race.  Half way along we stopped at a wee shooting range, and had to shoot an air rifle and do some archery for a time bonus, along with some puzzles. It was then back onto the bike to the start of the trek.

We arrived in 3rd place for the trek, we had been given the cp locations at the shooting, but didn’t know where we would be starting, and this was revealed when we got there following the arrows.   It was a 22km trek, up and over a few hills, it was a good trek, and the legs took a bit of a beating on the hard tracks and road sections.

We overtook one team on this section, as their team captain was being rather sick at the side of the track, he’d begun feeling unwell on friday, and this was rock bottom for him.  He carried on and was towing team members by the end of the race!!

We were off on a bike leg next, riding around the fantastic trails on Ballyhoora Mountain, 35km of amazing singletrack with stunning views.  It was great fun riding, a shame I wasn’t in normal spd’s as I was using flats with toe loops as you are on and off the bike all the time, and it saved having to carry your shoes.  During the 35km+ of riding we had a few runs, 1 orienteering loop and a lot of hooping and hollering as we flew along the trail.  Billy suffered some very bad cramps on this leg though, which cost us a lot of time, but he battled on till he could see a physio at the end of the leg.

Another short road bike leg took us the foot of Temple Hill, a steep mountain now shrouded in cloud and being battered by high winds and rain, it wasn’t too nice up there, but it ensured we went nice and fast.  As the night descended, and we’d been racing for 18hours we had to hand in 2 bikes to get transported to the next transition. This left us with 4 people and 2 bikes.  We ran/cycled to the next transition, with the people on the bikes carrying 2 packs each, cycling for1km and dropping the bikes, then the runners picking them up, overtaking the others and again dropping the bikes, all the way to the transition.  This worked well, and kept us moving smoothly.

More cycling took us to Ballyhass Lakes, an old quarry now flooded and used as an adventure centre.  I had almost fallen alseep on the bike leg getting here at 4am, but now had to swim 1km in the quarry, which did the trick of perking me up and also giving me a good clean!  Half way through the swim we had some more archery before heading back.  A short high ropes challenge was completed and then we were off to the kayak leg.

It had been quite dry recently in the area, which made the running and riding less muddy, but it meant there was very little flow in the river, and all the rapids were very shallow, ensuring a lot of grounding, especially for my boat, as I was a little heavier than the others!  4 1/2hrs later we dragged our selves and boats up a steep slope to get back on our bikes again.  We had a cut off of 12pm here, and we’d only just made it.

We then had some good climbing on the bikes to complete a mountain bike orienteering loop in a nearby forest.  This was tough, and there had been a lot of motorbike and quad vehicles driving everywhere throwing loose stones all over the place which made riding very hard at times.  After getting all the bonus cp’s and thinking we had banked a good lot of time we had an amazing decent on the road which went on for ages.  Another short climb to the penultimate cp which had a potential bonus control which we felt wasn’t worth the effort as we were pretty tired, before heading back towards the finish.

Billy, who was competing in his first ever adventure race was really starting to struggle here, so I threw him on the tow, knowing it was only 8km to the finish, and we drafted behind Mark as we pushed as hard as we could to the line via a ruined Abbey.

Riding over the finish line to a trumpet fanfare in front of Blackwater Castle was a fitting end to a fantastic race. We’d raced hard, really enjoyed the course and the sections Ivan had thrown into it, and the decisions he’d made us make regarding the bonus controls.

After sorting out wet kit we chatted away to the other teams, and tried to work out who had won.  With all the bonus controls and other time out sections it was difficult to know, but we felt we had done very well.  As it turned out we had finished in 2nd place, a very respectable position considering our team and the opposition, but we were still disappointed not to win.  We had fallen foul of not fully understanding some rules, thinking we would get a bonus on some controls, but that wasn’t actually the case, but when you have been racing for 30hours these things are easy to mess up on!

It had been a great weekend, a fitting introduction to Ireland and the amazing opportunities available, and the fantastic hospitality we’d received throughout the weekend. The only thing we’d not had was much sleep, and the drive home on Monday was tough, and involved sleeping for the entire ferry journey and lots of coffee!

I’m now back in a wet soggy Lake District, but am heading to Scotland this afternoon for 2 weeks to do some training and go to a few weddings, which should be great fun.  The plan is to have a bit of a road trip, head to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Pitlochry and then do some more training around Loch Tay before my next race in a few weeks time again back in Ireland.

I met the chap who won Gaelforce West last year at the weekend, and had a good long chat with him about the race, i’m pretty daunted by it, well by the speed I’m going to have to move at, but hopefully I can be right up there.  I think local knowledge will be a big factor, but I’ll certainly be doing all I can to get amongst the top guys.

Hopefully the next 2 weeks training will give me some good speed in my legs!  I’ll let you know how it goes. Then after Ireland I have the adidasTERREX Coast to Coast over the August Bank holiday weekend, a 4 day stage race which this year I am racing in a team with Nicola again, and also James Cracknell, so that should be a great race, and with some good competition we are certainly going to have to be on form for that.

Enjoy your summer, if you don’t get totally washed out!

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