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Cosmics skiing in Dalseter 2018

April 17th, 2018

Cosmics in Dalseter with GB Nordic, March, 2018

9 0′clock in the morning. Off to Norway.
The train glided through the snowy landscape on the way to Vinstra and from there we took a minibus through snow and ice covered roads to the Dalseter Hoyfjellhotell. Always ready for some cross-training a group of Cosmics went to Norway in March 2018 for a week of Cross-country skiing.

This was my third time at Dalseter, the first was an overnight stay in March 2016 with a smaller group of Cosmics at the start of a week long tour called the Peer Gynt Loipe. The second time was the following year when I spent five days there with the GB Nordic team. GB Nordic is a group of qualified instructors who base themselves at Dalseter Hotel for about a month each year and offer various levels and types of skiing.

The set-up seemed ideal for the various levels of prior experience to be found in the Cosmics. And so it proved, with two of our number joining a beginners/returners track skiing group, two going with the full on off-piste group, and the rest of us doing a mix of introductory off-piste and harder track skiing. The hotel is superbly suited to skiing of all types; it even has its own tow and downhill slope on which expert telemarkers can strut their stuff. It is surrounded by over 100k of well-cut tracks and limitless off-piste opportunities.

Steve and Colin were the main off-pisters and they made the most of the brilliant weather that lasted all week by going out with two of the off-piste instructors – Pete and Tom – up the big mountains that surround the hotel.

Richard (beginner) and Margaret (returner) were well pleased with both the quality and price of their instruction available from Pam and they went out with her small group most days, making it as far as one of the remote warmed huts out on the fjell that the hotel provides. (the piste machine man goes up there most days and puts the fire on).

Smurfs picnic site

Sue and Pauline teamed up with a couple from Boat of Garten and had some brilliant days out on tours around the area.

I played the field and did both track skiing with Dagmar the instructor and off-piste with John Mordue or Tom. I finally managed to summit Ruten, the biggest local mountain, with Tom on back-country skis, apart for the last couple of hundred metres which involved taking off the skis and picking a way to the stony summit. The day was a triumph for Duct Tape (or is it Duck Tape?) as my ski baskets disintegrated – not what you want to happen on the top of a 1500m mountain in Norway. Another day with John involved skiing up to a col below Ruten and then
skiing down the lovely powder snow bowls back to the tree-line and then tree-bashing through to a lovely glide down the piste back to the hotel for afternoon tea.

A “must do” track-ski challenge is Dalseter to Fefor Hotel and back.(40k) The Fefor hotel is where Captain Scott of Antarctica fame tested the snow tractor and tried to learn to ski. It serves wonderful waffles and coffee – a great incentive. I was so incentivised I did it twice.!
Myself, Pauline, Colin, Sue and Elaine all completed the trip, Elaine doing very well considering it was her first time on skinny skis.

Dalseter to Fefor and return 1st group

Dalseter is nice hotel run by xc enthusiasts with all the facilities including ski-hire and ski prep room. Food is excellent and plentiful and you can make your lunch pack from your breakfast in the normal Norwegian way. Rooms are not too expensive. (Full board with GB Nordic is £70+ per day at that time of year). Everyone meets up with the GB Nordic team every evening to discuss the next day’s options and there was even a ceilidh. These weeks are suitable for skiers with some experience on snow. I would recommend that you try them out. Book GB Nordic through the hotel: http://www.dalseter.no/norsk-web/hotellet.html

Rod Campbell, April 2018

Dobbiaco February 2015 – Rod Campbell

April 20th, 2015

“We’ve found some seats together in the other carriage” Sue reluctantly disengaged herself from her conversation with the handsome distinguished foreigner and followed us, protesting all the way to our new seating. We were on our way by train to Innsbruck after a week in Dobbiaco in the Dolomites where we had “competed” in the Dobbiaco to Cortina race. This race is also known as the Toblach to Cortina race as most places in the area also have German names. This is because the South Tyrol, previously Austrian, was “given” to Italy following the First World War when Italy was on the winning side. Most of the local inhabitants seem to have doggedly stuck to their original language and now the area is a shining example of “devo max” with all three language groups (Italian, German and Ladin) having to agree on everything.

On the way out we flew from Aberdeen to Innsbruck via Frankfurt Airport and then by taxi ( there were four of us) to Dobbiaco and the Hotel Dolomiten. Before tea we had time for a quick ski as the loipe was only a hundred metres from the hotel. In typical Cosmics fashion Colin would have been up the mountain if we hadn’t stopped him whilst Pauline shot off up the stadium roof and descended with whoops of joy.

The excellent evening meal was 5 courses including “lamb spit” which turned out to be quite nice and not spitty. Over the week we were treated  to “roast cattle”, “boiled sheep” etc. Fortunately the quality of the meals far exceeded the quality of translation. They were served by a very smart Slovenian waiter in full regalia including striped apron, waistcoat and bow tie.

The webcams had been showing poor snow conditions low down  and the result was that large areas of loipe were closed.  The final race programme decided by the organisers was two courses shortened from the original 42K; a skate course of 30K from Fiames (5k short of Cortina) to Dobbiaco on Saturday and the same course as the classic on Sunday in the opposite direction. Some  loops in the Val Pusteria were removed and a circuit of the FIS loipen near to the Nordic Arena in Dobbiaco was added.  The new classic route took  you round the FIS loipe then through the towering Dolomite scenery on a lovely track gradually upwards for about 20k past the Lago Di Dobbiaco and  Drei Zinnen Blick to the col at Cimabanche at over 1500m then down through the old railway tunnels and then a steeper descent to Fiames. The FIS section used was not the Olympic Black but nevertheless was a bit technical for the start. Conditions on our practice day were very good with a nice icy tracks for a fast schuss down, almost to the finish. Unfortunately the piste men were still making the race track so we had a bumpy walk to reach the very end. Near the top of the climb we bumped into (well not quite) some of the  Huntly Nordic Ski Club who were assessing the long ascent from Fiames. The question was whether to do both races on consecutive days or just one and which one – classic or skate. Colin and Pauline took a skate lesson at and perhaps this helped them to decide to play safe like the oldies and just do the classic on the Sunday.

Next day, using the Mobil Card (issued by the hotel which provides free transport throughout the Pustertal) we took the bus to the Val Fiscalina for a slightly easier day. This area is slightly higher than Dobbiaco and the snow conditions were perfect and a good choice as verified by Eric Woolley who was there with his Exodus skating group. He recommended another high area; the Platzweise plateau (2000m) but we never made it there as it is a long bus journey with several changes and also would have been very cold.

Another day out was the Prags valley when we caught the bus to the Pragsersee Hotel, had a walk round the frozen lake, a strong coffee and Apfelstrudel and then skied down the long valley. Towards the end we decided to lengthen the day by climbing up to Altprags where we encountered an extremely steep almost vertical section. Later, I realised that my failing eyesight had not spotted the short black section on the loipe map. It would probably be alright in descent but we opted for the bus back to Neiderdorf and Dobbiaco.

Much time was spent on the FIS loipe especially by Colin, sometimes well into the evening whilst Pauline and the oldies were having a rest.

Race weekend arrived. We were in the last block of starters and soon the melee started with many falls and entanglements as we headed out of the stadium for the FIS loipe. Colin fell foul of this but managed to extricate himself from the knitting of sticks, skis and bodies and headed off up the hill. At some point during the race he must have passed me as I noticed him at the bridges before the tunnels. In the dark in the tunnels I‘m afraid I was bumper to bumper with him. I managed to pass him on the next section but the tracks (or my skis) were not as fast as the time before . I feared he was catching up and decided to change tracks to what appeared to be a faster one and in doing so tripped on ice and fell at speed. As I was struggling to get back up Colin shot past (I’m sure I heard a whoop ). As we entered the stadium, with a large crowd of one person politely applauding, the snow storm came in and we battled against an icy headwind for what seemed ages to the finish. We were just in time to catch the end of the prize ceremony. The Cosmic s Ladies appeared sometime after having braved the storm for much longer. The finale for my event was losing my ski boots in the mass of debris left in the male changing room – a good excuse to buy new kit for the next race which is the Birkebeiner in March.


Cosmics Results:

LARMOUR Colin -M50 768/863, 3:18:23:2

CAMPBELL Roderick -M70 769/863 3:18:47.6

LARMOUR Pauline -F50 853/863 4:01:30

TAYLOR Susan -F60 861/863  4:22:41

Lakes In A Day Race, Why Bother? – Simon Pearce

October 20th, 2014

A normal running year for me tends to be: pick an interesting race or challenge; get enthusiastic about running, enter a few races along the way; tick off the objective. Then… lose motivation, lose the fitness and repeat. Typically I’m done “training” by July, feeling out of shape by September, guilty by October and back into it by December.

I know this cycle of motivation doesn’t affect everyone but having chatted to a few Cosmics, some might recognise the signs. So, at the beginning of March, in an attempt to stave off the inevitable, I put an entry into the inaugural Lakes in Day Race.

http://www.lakesinaday.co.uk – An ultra marathon which runs from Caldbeck in the North Lake District, 48 miles, to Cartmell in the South.

For those that know me, it won’t come as a great surprise to note that having hardly run in the preceding month, I found myself contemplating the 5 hour drive to the registration with some reluctance. Fate intervened… Before I had cancelled my place, I was contacted by Richard, a friend of Kev Harper’s, who was keen to share a lift.

Normally when I line up to start these longer races there is a sense of nervous excitement. Am I fit enough? Am I well enough rested? Will I finish the race? It all washes away when the race kicks off and tension is replaced by the thrill of being part of the race.

This time was different, with a sense of weariness, I was also wandering whether I could really be bothered… Needless to say, not the best mindset to start a 48 mile race with.

14 or so hours later I’d had plenty of time to ponder the question and despite the rain, darkness and turned ankle, I concluded that there were a bunch of great reasons to take part.

Whether you were in the top 5 (under 11 hours) or last to beat the cut off (almost 24 hours) stepping onto the start line and then finishing is a great achievement! I am not sure whose achievement is the greater or whether it matters. On that day we were all in “the club”.

This 5 minute animation tells a bit of a story:



Sweden Sky Race 24, by Colin Russell

July 25th, 2014

Oslo. Bodø. Narvik. Necessary pit-stops en-route to Sweden, a land of good memories, old friends and the inaugural Sweden Sky Race 24. Bjorkliden Fjällby hosted nearly 200 runners for either one or two laps of the 57km/3000m course.

The 6pm start ensures everyone gets to experience the midnight sun – head torches superfluous here. For a place that has 300 days a year with temperatures below zero, the 25°C heat was unexpected for everyone.

First off it’s up to a mountain hut, where the traditional waffles are ignored before continuing up to a 1400m summit. The first descent is thoroughly enjoyed. Passing people, in full-on racing mode only 20km into the two-lap effort. Racing one-lap runners, this can’t be a good idea.

Near-vertical climb up from Troll lake. Stunning vista – pictures can wait till lap two. Steep technical descent follows, good fun again. Very rocky, shoe choice possibly a touch aggressive (X Talon 190s). Lake-side run then a third big, gentler, climb and 12km descent to finish. Got to ease-off, still a long way to go – must not stop after one lap. Allow some one-lappers to pass, yes that’s sensible.

Quick pit-stop at finish, dry socks and new shoes. Lap two begins with an energy low. Can’t turn back, suffering is part of the game. Keep going, slowly. Sit down, eat something, listen to music, take pictures. Move again, still oh-so-slow. A few runners pass, how easy it looks. Waiting for improvement, but nothing ever comes. Get to first summit and hope descent will be different. Nope, even worse, legs are stiff and sore. Resolve to drop-out at next aid station unless something magic happens. It doesn’t, get there 50% slower than first lap. Easy decision to quit with no simple exits after this one and not having stopped as early as I could have.

Awful race strategy, poor shoe choice, what exactly was I thinking? Nothing, apparently, except that it was good fun to compete with people doing a different race. No regrets about stopping though, and you always learn more when things don’t go so well.

Still a great and worthwhile trip, I won’t wait 9 years before visiting Sweden again. That’s two Swedish DNFs in a row now though (previous was Stockholm Marathon 2005), a streak that needs amended.

Short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNoGkNPSabg&feature=youtu.be

Salomon Xreid 4th July 2014. Simon Pearce

July 13th, 2014

In the spirit of taking on new adventures, this year’s target has been the Salomon Xreid (www.xreid.com). It is a 123km multi terrain race over the Norwegian Hardangervidda. The race is also sponsored by Red Bull and so the blurb tends to be a little Xtreme, the best claim I found on the website was: “This is the landscape that played the role of ice planet in the Star Wars film “The Empire Strikes Back”.

For those of a less sensationalist nature I would describe the race as a single push, run/trot/walk in an area a bit like the Cairngorms but much bigger and with some pretty remote (but well serviced) mountain huts. There were check points every 20-30km and drop bags were transported to two locations along the route. The course could be described as undulating for the first 110km followed by a decent of 1000m into the village of Rjuken and a steep 1800m climb to finish on the summit of Gaustatoppen.

Source: www.xreid.com

And so it was after a several days of travel I pitched up with my Norwegian friend Frode to take part. Katie (my wife) was along to support too with a cow bell for good measure – which we never tired of hearing along the route!

The race was very well organised and the efforts by the sponsors was obvious to see: Journalists from local papers and several camera crews were there. Out with the Ronhills and tatty thermal tops and in with the pristine shoes and long white compression socks.

The race was started at midday by the blast of a shotgun and the 120 or so runners pushed over the start line at a pace that obviously wouldn’t be sustained for more than a few kilometres. Despite the prospect of multiple river crossings throughout the race, the crowd backed up when the first puddle crossed the path and the white compression socks were no more.

Frode and I pushed relatively hard for the first 73 km (fast walk up hill, run on the flats and downhill) on what was, in the most part, lovely mountain single track. We arrived at the first bag drop at Kalhovd and changed from fell shoes to road shoes.

The next 37km was along an unending gravel track (think Linn of Dee to Derry Lodge) and with the light fading so did our eye of the tiger. We slowed considerably on this section but somehow managed to maintain a reasonable position at the end of the leg.  The 1000m decent into Rjuken was not comfortable and the climb out of the valley was not much better!

We climbed 900m to the compulsory medical check point prior to the final ascent. After some confusion, it was clarified that the doctor didn’t need me to drop my shorts and Frode and I were passed as fit. We then headed off with more gusto through the wind and rain to the final summit passing a few silent souls along the way.  The breakfast finish was somewhat anticlimactic and the TV cameras were nowhere to be seen.

Given Frode and I hadn’t trained together (he lives in Norway) we were very well matched and it was nice to have raced the event as a team rather than take part as individuals. The snow had all but melted on the route and despite complaints from some of the competitors about the wind and rain, on balance; the weather compared favourably with a middling day in the Scottish mountains.

So, if you fancy a well organised race, with a fantastic atmosphere, in beautiful surroundings this might be the race for you. If you like keeping your white socks pristine… then perhaps not!

A short video made by one of the competitors can be found here: http://vimeo.com/100070747

Running on the Deeside watershed, Steve Helmore and Colin Russell

June 24th, 2014

Our route around the Upper Deeside Watershed June 14-15th 2014

The challenge

Anyone studying the OS 1:50000 maps of Deeside can’t miss the long dash-dot line which defines the county boundaries in upper Deeside and marks the watershed between the Dee and other river catchments.

In the North the Dee/Don watershed is well defined at Hill of Fare and westwards, but coincides with the county boundary at the tops Ben Avon, and along a series of Munros and tops into the heart of the Cairngorms.  At Braeriach and the Pools of Dee, the line turns south with the LairigGhru to the East and the high plateaus above Glen Feshie to the West. 

The southern watershed runs eastwards from the remote Munro of Carn an Fhidhleir, linking a series of further Munros, ridges and tops, to Glenshee, Broad Cairn, Mount Keen, finally becoming less obvious south east of Mount Battock.

In the 100 miles from Morvern to Mount Battock, the watershed line only crosses the road twice: the A939 just west of Morven, and at the top of Glenshee.

And so, the running challenge! Many hours spent pondering what that might be, and many days spent in the hills checking the conditions underfoot. Over the last 20 years I have spent many a day walking, running or biking miles into the hills to spend a few hours on the watershed line, and wondered what a determined effort round the whole lot might be like. 

Much of the high ground in the Cairngorms proved to be fine running territory, grassy or rocky with only short peat bog or heather sections. The lower altitudes east of Broad Cairn in particular are however less attractive. It seems that the western half in the higher mountains offers the best running.

Invercaud car park 7am

And so Colin and I found ourselves at Invercaud car park one damp early Saturday morning, another car parked strategically at Glenshee, and 100km of what we hoped would be runnable watershed ahead of us. After 2 1/2 hours of gentle jog and walk, we were on top of the 1172m summit tor of Ben Avon in blustery drizzle, our first top.

Part of the plan was to see if a complete ’round’ back to Invercaud might be a candidate for a 24 hour challenge. This would involve another 20km between Glenshee and InvercaudBridge via GlasMaol, mostly runnable except for a few km of heather in the middle. The ‘Upper Deeside watershed’ round.

As we were uncertain of our speed over the ground, we decided to take bivi gear and enough food for two days. Kit was carefully selected, all excess weight rejected, and we were down to a base weight of 3kg each. This proved to be comfortable to run with, but marginal in the wet weather!

Progress was good through Saturday, mostly good conditions underfoot across the Munros and tops. Apart from a couple of DofE campers early on, we met no-one until Ben Macdui. The watershed is not for everyone! The first tricky section was the March Burn descent into the LairigGhru: steep, wet and loose. After Braeriach the country noticeably opens up – instead of looking a few 100m ahead for changes in the run, distances seemed to be in km.

The bivi
By early evening we were beginning to tire, and reached the 5km section of peat bog on the flatter ground of the watershed between the Geldie burn and the Feshie. This proved hard going, and in worsening weather we started looking for a place to stop. Instead of the idyllic grassy ledge with superb vista, it ended up as an anonymous piece of rain soaked heathery ground in the mist! Day 1:  13.5 hours, 62km, 3500m ascent. Dinner: Soup, pasta, one brownie and a cup of tea.

The next few hours highlighted the downsides of ‘going light’. We were using 500gm sleeping bags and fully dressed to keep warm.The bivi bags and lightweight mats were just enough, so the night was not completely sleepless. However I would recommend a bag with a hood for a biviin the rain! It did not need much motivation to get up early in the thick mist and drizzle all we could do was take a bearing on the next summit, and start Day 2.

Day 2

The country on the southern half of the watershed proved less runnable with long sections of peat bog and deeper heather on the tops in between the Munro tops of An Sgarsoch and BeinnLutharnMhor. We weaved our way through the worst sections, trying to find grass but not stray too far from the true watershed line. This had the feeling of ‘big country’, with long views and only the occasional hill walker.

Approaching the summit of remote BeinnLutharnMhor

By mid-afternoon we were wearily approaching the end at Glenshee, the sun was out and people started to appear. The watershed ridge line could be seen beyond, eastwards towards GlasMoal, Broad Cairn and Mount Keen, but we had completed our mission. Day 2: 9.5 hours, 39km, 2400m.

So what did we think afterwards?

Well it’s a fine line and a possible 24 hour challenge, but some of the going is wet and slow. There are many sections with no paths, but navigation was mostly straightforward, as the basic line is well defined on the map. It has a great feeling of remoteness, and indeed there are few opportunities for support or quick exits.

Any takers?

Nearing Glenshee at the end of Day 2

Double Cateran, by Mike Raffan

May 28th, 2014

The week after the fling went to brew at the bog which is a small music festival near Inverness sponsored by Brewdog. Whilst standing in the queue I was approached by someone called Steve (and he girlfriend Robin) who was a runner and had also just done the fling. *waves* Hi Steve and Robin. My friend that I was with at the time was couldn’t understand how a random person knew who I was. I told him “Running fame is hard work you know”. We had a great chat an it was really good to hear that he included me with the like of Paul Giblin and we were an inspiration. My wife say you give me a big head! Anyone else that wasnt to say hello at random please do.

Since I was in Inverness area anyway I thought I might as well go for a run in the Cairngorms. I had a 23 mile route planned but I had to retrace my steps a few times due to weather conditions, clag whiteout on a few of the peaks it ended up being 28miles. Here are some photos including a heard of reindeer the roams them hills.
On to the task in hand The Double Cateran 110mile Ultramarathon. This race came about one night in the pub when Karen agreed she might think about doing a double one year as a one off event. After saying that, she had no choice but make it happen. Karen wanted to keep it small scale with a max of 25 entrants. This was due to the original race the Cateran 55 being run at the same time and we have to think about environmental impact and keeping the land owners happy
Looking at the names on the start list the names that I was checking out were:
Sean Maley – An unknown, most of the races I could find that he had done were ones I didn’t know much about
Keith Mabbott – a bit of an unknown with a top class support crew. We did a night recce a few weeks previous and he convinced me that he wasn’t going to be fast.
Stephen Bell – Sub 20 for Wes Highland Way and 10hours for the Cateran 55.
That left Morgan Windram-Geddes she had history with several long races in USA. But she was female and although racing at the same time I convinced myself that the male and female race was a different thing.
Registration was the usual know almost everyone in the room. I picked up my goodie bag which was a new Cartan kit bag filled with chia charge goodies and a race t-shirt with a picture on the back that I had drawn, I didn’t know Karen was using it. I had a chat with Howard Seal who told me his times were based on my times from last year. I told him it is all runnable but I struggle to run up the last hill. He was now off to recce it.
6pm was soon upon us. On the start line we didn’t know where the start line was. George told us back beside the hotel door behind the cones which turns out to the finish line as well. That meant there was a gate about 20 meters from the start that only allowed 1 through at a time. That’s when the“red mist” hit, I was getting to that gate first. I was getting to the top of the hill first. I was running to win!
Stuart Mills is quoted quite a bit for saying his tactics for races are “run as fast as you can for as long as you can”, but I think he is often misunderstood and is quite happy not to correct people. What he actually means is run as fast as you think you can for the distance of the race right from the start. His reasoning is everyone is going to slow down so why not be as far on a possible before that happens. My tactics were a modified version of this, “run as fast as you need to for as long as you need to”.
First to the gate gate, done!
Half way up the hill Sandra was taking photos and comically shouted “not far to go”, nope only another 109.5miles
The hill gets steeper as you approach the top and I was well aware that this was not the time in the race to be wasting my legs so I power walked. I looked back to see where everyone else was, I could see someone in blue a few minutes back.
First to the top of the hill, done! 17min. Polka dot jersey is mine!
Howard was there having recced the other side for tomorrow race.
All the way to Enochdu was much drier than it had been a few months ago, this was good that I was able to keep my feet dry but it also meant the ground was not as comfortable to run on.
Enochdu – 51 min,
George told me after the race he was worried that I was through the 10km mark in 51min, I though why that’s not that fast is it. Oh wait there was 1000ft climb and there is still 104miles to go.
10miles down 10% done. Wait no it’s not.
11miles down 10% done that’s more like it.
By Bridge of Cally I had opened up a 10min lead. I was told Morgan had gone off course. I knew that 10min was nothing when there was still 93miles to go. I only found out after the race the reason Annette was right at the other end of the car park was because she only arrived 2 minutes before I did and it was the only space left. I have told her to double park the next time so that she can get a front space. As long as the person she is blocking is support for a slower runner than me I am sure they wont mind. Her response was you had 110miles to run why are you complaining about having to go an extra 20meters.
The woods after Blairgowrie were pretty dark but by the time I bothered to look for my torch then get it out, turn it on, I was out the other side and could see again. It was getting dark so I kept the torch out but turned off. My ITB on both legs hard started hurting by this point, by I told myself to MTFU this does not hurt, focus on technique and the pain went away, or at least it wasn’t as sore.
Coming into Glen Isla we had to follow a slightly different route than normal round the other side of a farm. This was marked by post that the race had put up and Stan met the runners at the start telling up just to follow the markers. As I waded though the bog almost knee deep following the route that I didn’t have on my GPS as it was different then before I was able to see the posts then eventually I saw a normal Cateran marker so a followed it then crossed a fence and I could see a head torch. It was Stan again???? WTF??!!? How did that happen? I had gone round in a circle. Quick off the mark Stan guided me through the knee deep bog again and soon I was back on track. Thanks Stan! Looking back on my GPS tracking now I still not sure what I did wrong but I had run an extra ¾ mile and a section that should have taken me 2 minutes took me 14. That would have eaten into my lead. Morgan was only 5 min behind now I time to push on again. That gap was confirmed when I could see a head torch in the distance behind me. Time to push on!
At about 3 miles before the end of the first lap I saw someone running down the road towards me telling me to “turnaround you are going the wrong way!” errrr no! It was Morgans support crew they were convinced that the route went the other way down the track. Luckily for me and probably also for Morgan who was following I knew where I was going and showed them where the Cateran style was. It was a genuine mistake on their part, but just goes to show that knowing the route can be much more valuable than looking at the map. That style leads into a field of cows and the quickest was though is past the feeder and though the swamp of cows shit. There were calfs in the field, and proper Cateran cows with big pointy horns, but at that time of morning they didn’t seem to care that I was running through them.
Back to the Spital this was the turnaround point, the point everyone seemed to think would be difficult having to run past the finish line and set going again. For me it wasn’t difficult at all, it was the same feeling passing Tyndrum during the west highland way race, you know that this is where you would be finishing if this were a different race but part of the challenge is to keep going. This race we were only at half way. 55miles in. It was light enough to see again so I left my head torch with Annette. Setting off again was also the opportunity to see for myself where everyone else in the field was. I was told I had pulled back my lead again and it was 22 minutes at the last checkpoint. Given that I had spent 5minutes at The Spital I expected to see Morgan about 10-15min after I left but it was 35min later before I saw her, and she was two fields away, off route. I could have put my head down and powered on knowing that that would extend my lead. But I didn’t, I stopped and shouted her over, she could hear me but not see me, I shouted again and eventually she was coming over. I pointed her to the gate that I had just come through and we were both on our way again.
I started to see other runners again around the cow shit swamp. This time they looked a little more awake(the cows not the runners), still not moving though. Hands up in the air to make myself look big and power walk straight through the middle. I heard a snort, I looked around and there was a pair of horns right behind me. OH FUCK! Time to run! The cow stayed where it was and luckily so did my bowels, I for one did not, I was out of there!
Back to the new route beside Glenisla I missed the marker and once again Stan had to save me, I had seen the Cateran marker just after the diversion marker and headed for that. With 70miles in my head not just my legs you tend to do stupid things like that. Stan also showed me that he moved the diversion slightly further out but after I had gone through the knee deep bog the first time he realise there was a dry route about 10feet away, that meant nobody else got the joy of having to run through that bog.
Every check point I was told that my lead was just over an hour and not getting any smaller. By Den of Alyth I realised that I “only” had 30 miles to go. I didn’t need to run it that fast, Just stay ahead. Anyone else not only had to catch me but then pass me as well. I had run as fast as I needed to for as long as I needed to now I could ease off a bit. When I say ease off I still wanted a decent time. It was here I realise that my ITB still sore I had just forgotten about them. A couple of paracetamol and telling myself to MTFU again and it was soon forgotten.
Bridge of Cally saw the first of the 55milers catching me, people seemed to think I was racing them trying not to get beaten by them, but I had no intentions of doing this I was just using them as pacers to try to pull me along. The funniest thing that I saw as Paul Hart passing me, that in itself wasn’t funny, but him passing again, and a third time was amusing. He may have lost a place on the podium because he got lost so much.
Kirkmichael is a handy point on route for supporters and this year it had some friendly faces. The Shanksies were there with some welcome news that Morgan had pulled out. I never mean ill on another runner but, from a purely selfish point of view that finally felt like the race was won.
First ever race win in sight and all I had to do was jog it home. Keith who was now in 2nd place was 2hour 13minutes behind. So I powered on last split in 1hour 31min. To show that I wasn’t taking it that easy the average split time for the 55milers was 1hour 32min.
Top of the hill and 1.5miles downhill to go. WIN!!


In terms of nutrition and hydration for the race and kept things quite simple. It was mostly plain water, Annette did try mix things up a bit by giving me a flavoured Nuun table at one of the splits but I didn’t like it so back to water again. Electrolyte wise I took salt tablets every few hours. Food wise I got through at least 6 banana chia charge flap jacks and the sea salt one that was in our goodie bags at the start. A packet of chocolate hobnobs, which thinking about it are more of less flapjacks with a thin layer of chocolate. Rice pudding and a handful of SIS gels.
With a 50% dropout rate and at least two people hospitalised here are these that made it to the en.
Mike Raffan 22:35:00 1st MALE
Keith Mabbott 25:06:58 2ND MALE
Sean Maley 25:31:30 3RD MALE
Neil Ambrose 26:32:48  
John Moffat 27:08:35  
John McLean 29:57:53  
Keith tried to tell me in the pub afterwards he didn’t deserve to come second but I told him you cant think like that because he did come second, yes there may be better runners out there but they didn’t enter, they had the same chance to enter but choose not to, you have to be in it to win it and you have to still be in it at the end to get to finish.You did come second Keith and it was well deserved! if you think about it does it matter if you win or come seconds or last in a few months nobody outside your local running community will remember. What is more important than winning is inspiring. Sounds a bit hippyish for my liking but it is the taking part, everyone who was brave enough to try something when nobody knew what was ahead, brave enough to sign up and make it to the start line is an inspiration.Winning feels bloody good also.
Someone in the pub (sorry I didn’t catch your name) told me he saw some half naked guy(Donnie Campbell) with a heart rate monitor then me later on running last year. Seeing some crazy nutters running in the hill he found out what was going on and he ran his first ultra today. That made me happy to know we inspired someone to the world of Ultra and he chose a great race to start with.

Well done to everyone that took part. The Cateran Team, Epic Shit racing and a massive thank you tomy wife Annette who was a my solo support crew for the who race.

There was a lot of chat about the 110 on facebook and thanks for that, but please dont forget a massive congrats to everyone in the 55 as well, especially Howard Seal, and Antonia Wesley the winners. The 110 wouldnt have existed if it wasnt for the 55.
results with a bit of geeky numbers added
One week on I have been for a few runs, other than being a bit jetlagged everything seestobe working fine to the easing off must have worked. time tostart training for the Lakeland 50

Highlander Mountain Marathon, Moidart 2014, by Linda Smith

May 2nd, 2014

A grand troop of Cosmics congregated in the location of Hogwarts Express last weekend to see how good their Expelliarmus spell was at disarming opponents to win prizes in the 2014 Moidart Highlander Mountain. The majority of the classes were covered with most taking part in the score category and clearly Ewen and Mike’s advanced winter spell classes at King’s have been working. The going was reported to be tough especially for those who opted for an earlier start. The low mountain mist lifted toward noon benefiting the late starts or maybe they just had more happy thoughts to help conjure their Expecto Patronum and keep the dementors away.  The clear views over to Eigg and Rhum later in the day certainly helped maintain high spirits.

Route choices were designed and available both north and south of Loch Eilt over the two days with overnight camp in a very civilised, midge free, spot at Lochailort, 11 miles west of Glenfinnan. Terrain seemed to be mainly ‘off piste’ through the usual mix of tussock, bog and stream with very few visible paths. Deer were seen on the horizon but clearly hadn’t done their job and put a few tracks in for the mere mortals of hill runners. However, there were plenty of hills to keep them in their place with a great selection of knolls and cairns in which to search for controls. Thank goodness we could see. The re-entrant made its anticipated reappearance on the control sheet and for once I could actually see it on the ground for what it is.

Overall, people seemed to report day one as challenging terrain hampered by the early low mist for some. It must have been tough as the boys in Aberdeen mountain rescue team said so. Or maybe they took their heavy winter packs with them. Day two was perhaps more of a smooth run home to Glenfinnan for most Cosmics. Some who were out late on Saturday night appreciating the stunning scenery returned quickly on day two to pick up first female vet prize in the ‘C’ class. Maybe their late arrival on Saturday was all part of the plan to get other cosmics to put up their tent (again!). A pair of ‘A’ class cosmic boys clearly thought they should be doing an elite course as they set out to run 10km (and back) to their first control but luckily realised they would have been in a class of their own. Seemed the opposite to a pair of ‘B’ class cosmics who were spotted on day two having a picnic by a lochan as two score teams shot past with an hour or so each in which to finish a large distance.

At the end of day one there was a tight pecking order in the score category with Steve Helmore, Colin Russell, Simon Pearce and partner lined up for the usual fight on day two, followed closely by Richard Lang and partner. But somehow Caroline and Linda had got themselves in the mix in 5th position….what were they doing there? Clearly spellbound by their achievement on day one the cosmic girls succumbed to a bad case of over enthusiasm and the desire to go over lots of hills, the result being that which cannot be named. However, they held onto their overall position of first female and first female vets (stealing it from last year’s winners, Katy and Rachel) to gain matching Haglof fleeces (but no cow bells!). Steve and Colin finally achieved the much coveted first position probably due to the synergy between speed and strategy, with Simon and partner moving into third position, and Richard and co gaining fifth. Clearly, the top score male teams had less combined years on their side or just someone else to carry their rucksack. 

The finale run of 900m along the road to the finish was made {slightly} less painful by the appearance of the grand viaduct bridge itself. Instead of stupefying it posed as a stunning end to a grand two days out in a very beautiful part of Scotland. Well done to everyone who took part and thanks once again to the organiser of a very enjoyable event.

Results of Cosmic people are:

A Class: Sean O’sullivan + Andrew McMurtrie (11th)

B Class: Matthew Brettle + Alisdair Shawcross (8th)

                   Ian Hamilton + Colin Larmour (2nd MV; 19th overall)

              Steve Addy + Sarah Lewis (1st mix; 14th overall)

C Class: Gillian Clunas + Elaine Stewart (1st FV; 33rd overall)

                    Brigid Glasgow + Martin Lister (2nd mix & 4th overall)

                Callum More + Kenneth Webster (28th overall)

 Score: Colin Russell + Steven Helmore (1st)

                  Simon Pearce + Andrew Sims (3rd)

                  Richard Lang + Alan Gilkison (5th)

                  Caroline Watt + Linda Smith (1st FV; 10th overall)

                  Katy Boocock + Rachel Provan (2nd FV; 17th overall)

Full reports available at: http://www.handsonevents.co.uk/?page_id=186

First 2014 Tuesday Run – Hill of Fare, by Anita

April 9th, 2014

Too may Cosmics to count for the first “outside” Tuesday run of the year – well more than 25 anyway. Somehow all the cars were squeezed onto the verge or wherever, and everyone rushed off along the track. It was a beautiful sunny evening, lovely for running. Some went straight up Meikle Tap and down, most (including me) took the track past Greymore, round the back and eventually to Meikle Tap, the fast ones went to Blackyduds first then did this. The track through the forest was not as bad as I remembered – though still rutted and muddy with lots of detours round fallen trees, but quite fun dodging about the rough stuff. And I’d forgotten how nice the descent off Meikle Tap is. Stats for the medium route: 11.92K and 374m climb.

Skrunce – 1st April 2014 by Chris Tomlin

April 6th, 2014

Word had spread about the local time trial around Tyrebagger and Elrick, the Skrunce. A record number of 85 runners (83 doing 2 laps, 2 doing 1 lap) turned up for the 12th Skrunce, including some Metro punters and other club members. A good start to the hill running season.
Conditions were ideal for some fast times, slightly chilly at the start and dry underfoot. After a short race briefing by Ewen, the start was abrupt and caught a few people by surprise. Worries about a bottleneck at the bridge saw a frantic start. After some jostling across the bridge and rock garden, things calmed down to a panic. An enthusiastic Willie held on to the lead on the first climb but paid the price later. He can have consolation in having the fastest Strava segment of the night, if anyone is down with that type of thing. (Westerlands even produce a weekly Strava league table, and there’s now a cosmics Strava club. I’ve resisted so far).
After 2 laps Ben Hukins, multiple Baker Hughes 10k winner, came through as a clear winner and smashed the course record in 22:16. Simon Peachey showed that the old magic is still there though, finishing in 2nd place and also just inside the previous course record. Kev Harper followed closely behind in 3rd. The male vets course record was also broken (by moi!) and Moira Davie was 1st female, also in a course record time of 26:04.
Race 2 of this year’s Skrunce series is Tues 6th May, so a quick recovery is needed after Stuc a Chroin. The leader board will then start to take shape, after Ewen’s complicated points system. I’m looking forward to a longer, less intense experience, something like Clachnaben…….