Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 5

Stage 5 of the 2021 Pyrenees Stage Run may well just be the ‘best’ one. Of course, it’s all subjective and when all stage have their highlights, it’s hard to choose. However, if you love tough mountain days, stage 5 is a doozy!

The predicted bad weather came early with persistent rain and at times, strong winds. However, it didn’t deter from the type 2 fun, actually, it added to it!

Leaving Arinsal, it was straight climb all the way to the Refugi Compadreose (2260m) and the first aid station. It was here the rain came and the temperature dropped with just 5km covered.

A short flat section and then the climb to Portella de Baiau at 2756m and the highest point of the PSR. The terrain was challenging, slippery and difficult – just perfect! The lakes providing some visual splendour in the great wet mist.

The scree descent was a highlight of the day, however, for some, it would be terrifying… It’s like skiing on rocks!

Rolling terrain, technical single-track and finally the next aid station at La Molinassa (1806m) with 16km covered. The elapsed time on watches reflecting how difficult the run so far had been.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES

Now easy running all the way to Àreu aid station and 24.7km.

From here, the Coll de Tudela beckoned at 2240m, a straight VK (vertical kilometre) in 5km. Just perfect at 25kmm in a 40km day.

From the summit the run down to Boldís Sobirà at 1488m was non-technical and arguably some of the easiest running of the day. Over the next 4km, there was some small rollercoaster terrain before the sharp, steep and technical drop to the line at Tavascan (1140m) – what a day!

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

Tomorrow, stage 6 is 26.34km with 1635m+ crossing the Natural Park of Alt Pirineu in the middle of magnificent forests, and ending up to Esterri d’Aneu, close to the National Park of Aigüestortes i Sant Maurici.

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active Wear, Garmin, Puigcerdà, Encamp (And) Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and bifree sports.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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WINTER RUNNING – Hints ‘n’ Tips

Winter running, day or night, is special that provides a very different experience to running in the hopefully warm, dry, sunny and balmy days of Spring, Summer and Autumn. In all honesty, winter running for me and many others is often preferable, just a shame we can’t have the same amount of daylight hours as Summer brings.

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risk from many aspects and this article is designed to help you make the correct decisions even before you start any running adventure.

EXPERIENCE

No two runners are the same and experience and knowledge are a key bonus when it comes to any running, especially in challenging conditions. So, firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. This will make your enjoyment and comfort on any adventure enhanced. As tip, start with short days and as your experience, knowledge and understanding increases, you can then venture farther and longer. Even contemplating multi-day/ fast packing adventures. Read an article HERE.

Ask:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. In winter the changes can often be far more extreme, a cold dry day can suddenly become wet, windy with sub-zero temperatures. Hypothermia can hit in minutes. Understand this and prepare accordingly.

It’s possible to run across frozen lakes in certain parts of the world.

Solo adventures are invigorating; however, risks are increased significantly in this scenario. Sprain an ankle (or worse) and become immobilized in bad weather and this becomes a high-alert scenario. So, not only should you have equipment and apparel that will help you survive a situation like this, but you should also have technology to make you safe. A mobile phone (with enough battery) is compulsory and a tracking device, such as a Garmin InReach would be a perfect all-scenario safety device that with the press of a button can obtain SOS support. But remember, at all costs, emergency services are not a comfort blanket that allows you to cut corners. Prepare properly.

Running with a friend adds safety and a natural back-up scenario, so consider this. Women in particular may feel far more secure running in company.

When planning routes, think of short cuts, options to deviate to reduce distance/ time and never push on or let ego dictate. The trails and mountains will always be there. Turning back is a strength not a weakness.

Winter playgrounds are fantastic.

Pace, particularly on longer adventures, will typically be slower in winter due to underfoot conditions and weather conditions. In cold, icy and sub-zero temperatures, sweating is not a friend, particularly should you be forced to move slower or stop, so, think about this and regulate pace to help minimize sweat rates.

Finally, it’s always wise telling family or friends when you are going on adventure, where you are going with proposed route and when you will return. This is a great back-up to have others looking out for you. Of course, this doesn’t need to happen for a daily 5 or 10km run.

EQUIPMENT

The equipment you will use and how much equipment you will take will depend on the type of adventure you are undertaking and how long that adventure will take. This harks back to the ‘experience’ as outlined above. Needless to say, winter will almost always require you to carry more. If running on the road and in public places, make sure you can be seen with reflective items.

Read an article on ‘Getting Layered’ HERE

CORE

Keeping your core warm is essential and without doubt using a merino wool base layer (or similar) with an optional small zip neck for your body is key. Merino wool in particular has an ability to retain warmth, even when wet or damp. Top tip: Take a spare base layer in your pack on runs.

PROTECTION and WARMTH

As mentioned in the ‘Getting Layered’ article, you will need to adapt the body layers for the weather you will run in and the weather that you ‘may’ encounter. A mid-layer will provide warm and this can be made of a product like Polartec, Primaloft or Down. Consider balancing warmth, size and weight. On a personal note, I use a Polartec layer as my standard warmth layer and then carry a ‘treated’ Down jacket (this can get wet and still be warm) in my pack as an essential warmth layer. The final layer will be a waterproof with taped seams, this layer will protect from extreme wind and rain. Zips on mid and outer layers add weight but they are essential for being able to regulate temperature.

HEAD

A hat is essential for retaining heat within the body, *“even if the rest of your body is nicely wrapped up, if your head is uncovered, you’ll lose lots of body heat — potentially up to 50% of it — in certain cold-weather conditions.” You can regulate temperature while running by simply adding and removing a hat. Wear a Buff or similar around your neck.

SUNGLASSES

Protect your eyes, particularly in snow. You can get specific lenses designed to enhance vision in winter conditions.

EXTREMETIES

Hands and feet are a huge problem area in winter, particularly if you suffer with Raynaud’s. Keeping your core warm immediately helps keep extremities warmer as the body naturally abandons extremities (hands and feet) to protect vital organs. For feet, just like the core, merino socks are superb starting point for warmth, even if wet. However, if you anticipate feet to get wet repeatedly and in sub-zero temperatures, you will need to think about other options. A good example being neoprene socks that are warm when dry and should you get feet wet, they are designed to retain warmth when wet by insulating the water between foot and sock. You need to be careful of trench foot should feet remain wet for too long. For hands, a merino liner sock is ideal as a starting point and then a mitt over the top adds warmth and insulation. Mitts are always warmer than gloves and if you do not require finger dexterity, they are always preferable for warmth. Consider having multiple mitts of different warmth levels to that you can adapt to the weather. Also consider longer socks that come higher than the ankle, especially important if running in snow. Top tip: Take spare gloves and socks on any run.

LEGS

Shorts are not a good idea in winter, keeping leg muscles warm is essential for comfort and the ability to function properly, so, use tights. Ultimately, you may require multiple tight options starting with a simple Lycra product and moving up to insulated tights with wind blocker. Of course, carrying a waterproof pant with taped seams is also an essential for winter. Add them to your pack and do not compromise, you may not require them for over 90% of your runs, but when you need them you need them.

SHOES

inov-8 Arctic Talon studded winter shoes.

There is no definitive winter shoe and, in many scenarios, the shoe you usually run in will work fine. However, if you have snow and ice, you will almost certainly need to consider other options. There is an in-depth article HERE but for me, a winter ‘stud’ shoe is my go-to for all my runs. In simple terms, it is often a conventional run shoe with metal studs added to provide grip in ice and challenging conditions. They are a game changer. Winter shoes are often insulated so as to keep feet warmer. Top tip: Consider socks and consider that you may wear multiple socks or thicker socks, this may require that you a larger shoe but be careful, particularly in the propulsive phase as this can make the shoe bend differently behind the metatarsals.

PACK

You will almost certainly require a larger pack for winter runs. A 12-15 ltr is probably ideal for long days and if fastpacking, 20-30 ltr would be normal. Top tip: Use dry bags inside to protect key layers and where possible use several that are different coloured, so you know which is an insulating layer and which is an outer layer.

FOOD and HYDRATION

Just like on any run, calories and hydration are essential. Winter and in particular the cold can easily make you forget to drink, make it a habit. Cold and extreme weather will also burn more calories, so, keep the fire stoked. Plan runs that take in a cafe, hut or lodge stop. If you do the latter, you need to balance losing hard earn warmth and then going back out in the cold. This is where carrying a spare base layer can be a great idea. If in remote locations, you need to consider re-supplying. Importantly, streams that provide water in summer may well be frozen in winter. Also, bottles may well freeze if exposed to sub-zero conditions, so, consider insulated bottles, using warm water and maybe keeping bottles in a pack, wrapped in clothing to retain warmth and reduce freezing possibilities.

OTHER ITEMS

The more experience you have, the greater your winter challenge may be. Always have the correct equipment, for example, ice axe, crampons, rope, harness, hand spikes, snowshoes and so on. A Bivvy bag is an essential when in remote locations for safety, in addition, always carry a head torch as a just in case scenario should a run take longer than anticipated.

Read about a winter expedition to the Atlas Mountains HERE

Equipment with tent and sleeping bag.

EXAMPLE EQUIPMENT LIST

  • As a start point, you will be wearing the following applicable to the conditions:
  • Base layer.
  • Mid layer.
  • Hat
  • Gloves.
  • Glasses.
  • Socks
  • Appropriate shoes.

In the pack:

  • Spare base layer.
  • Spare socks.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Insulating layer (down or primaloft)
  • Waterproof layers, top and bottom.
  • Headtorch and spare batteries.
  • Phone.
  • Tracking device.
  • First aid.
  • Bivvy bag/ space blanket.
  • Food.
  • Drink.
  • Battery back-up.
  • Heat pads for hands and feet.

FINALLY

Embrace winter. It’s a great time of year to explore. Respect the conditions and if you follow the above, you will almost certainly have safer and more enjoyable outings. Accidents do happen at any time of the year, in winter, risks do increase so respect the conditions. Accept that you will go slower in winter.

References:

health.harvard

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Embrace Winter for New Adventures

The passing of September and the arrival of October can signify dread and a sense of despair in many as daylight disappears and the weather changes. However, one of the secrets of ‘surviving’ this new season is to embrace it. Don’t look at the negatives, on the contrary, the perceived negatives are actually positives. Seasons exist for a reason.

Lethargy, low mood and the perceived feel to hibernate are all characteristics we feel during the winter months and first off, don’t fight it, accept that winter brings an opportunity to recharge, relax, read a book, catch up on some movies, light a fire, get a blanket and yes curl up on the sofa and relax. There is no harm or guilt in this.

SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) is something we all can feel and yes, some feel it considerably more than others, particularly if Serotonin is reduced and this is often treated with drugs. But light, or the lack of it, is a great contributor. Top tip – Look at changing the bulbs on your lights to ‘daylight’ balanced and when required, adjust brightness throughout the day to help simulate the natural passing of light. It’s a great and easy way to help simulate the variable light intensity changes in one normal day.

Mindset is a key factor to a successful winter and once you get the mind tuned, you will soon appreciate and embrace the possibilities that the winter season can bring, especially as a runner or someone who enjoys outdoor life and activity.

As in all things, we are individuals and as such, we all treat circumstances and changes in different ways. I personally see winter as an opportunity to do things I could not do in spring and summer. I see the challenges that winter will bring as a test, both physical and mental and I look upon it as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Resources and circumstances do go a long way in making my ability to adapt successful, so, to start off, look at these aspects and put yourself in a good place before the cold, wet and dark hits.

In a discussion with a friend over a glass of wine, I was surprised to hear our discussion begin to deteriorate…

“I just hate this time of year. The daylight is leaving us earlier and earlier each day, the light is already arriving so late in the morning and I can feel the damp starting to creep into my body. It will be only a matter of weeks before I am in perpetual cold and dark, I cannot wait for spring!”

It is easy to see from the above quote that before winter has begun, my friend is defeated. I smiled and laughed with him and turned the conversation around.

“Yes, the darkness is coming as is the cold, the wet, the snow and the ice,” I replied. “But what a remarkable opportunity this brings. Just think about it. Cozy nights at home with candles and a movie. Adventures in the snow. Running with a head torch. Learning a new skill. Reading and yes, I could go on and on. Winter for me is just a wonderful opportunity and I cannot wait for it to begin.”

I already felt like a winner as mentally I was prepared and excited for the opportunity, whereas my friend, was already starting the hibernation process.

EMBRACE THE WINTER

I strongly believe that embracing winter and making the most of the season starts with mindset. With a good mindset as outlined above, you will already be in a great place to start.

Marino Giacometti, founder of skyrunning also made the summit on race day – ‘for fun!’

As runner’s and outdoor enthusiasts, we are all at different abilities and yes, we all have different reasons why we do what we do. A great example being an elite runner may well look at winter as an opportunity to address weaknesses and maybe spend more time in a gym working on strength and core.

Monte Rosa Skymarathon

A running enthusiast may well just want to tick over, keep fit and maintain a healthy weight during winter months. And then there is the outdoor enthusiast who may well accept that running is something that will go on a back burner for the coming months and accept that walking, indoor cycling, skiing, gym work and so on is the way forward. Whatever group you fall in, take a couple of hours with a pen and paper and self asses how the last year has been and what you want to achieve the following year, this will help provide some specific goals over the winter to keep focused. This planning and assessment can be as simple as complicated as you wish.

As an example, mine is to embrace the season and the weather and to seize every opportunity. I will hone my head torch running. I will practice my ice and snow running. I will experience my first snow shoeing and I look forward to multi-day snow adventures that will carry me from one point to another in a self-sufficient way. But I also want to write more. I want to read a couple of books that I have never found the time for and I also want to embrace the downtime to rest and recover. My connection with nature and breaking from the digital world is integral to a healthy existence and that cannot stop just because the season has changed.

CLOTHING

We have all heard it before, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” It’s true I am afraid. Clothing is one of the key essentials that makes any winter adventure not only bearable and enjoyable. As outdoor people, we have never been as lucky. Technology in apparel has now progressed to a level that we can be warm and dry in super-light products. The downside of course is cost and yes, gearing up for winter can be expensive.

Layering is key with apparel, starting with warm layers against the skin, insulating layers on top and then waterproof and windproof layers as the final touch that will protect from the elements. Merino is great as a base layer and I have a long sleeve top and legs as a starting point. Now of course, I may or may not use them as this depends on the outdoor exercise I am doing. As an example, I would wear the top if running but not the legs. A mid-layer is more often than not either Primaloft, down or synthetic. Each has its place but if you could only choose one, Primaloft (or similar) would be the most versatile due to its ability to retain warmth when wet and still be lightweight. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof with taped seams and again, it is essential to have jacket and trousers.

The above looks at the core, but if you are like me, the extremities are my most vulnerable in winter and after getting frost nip both in my toes and fingers on the summit of Monte Rosa several years ago, I know need to ensure that I have multiple options for keeping my feet and hands warm. I use Merino base layer socks and gloves which are very thin. For my feet, I then add thicker Merino socks over and inn certain scenarios I have even used Gore-Tex or Neoprene over socks. For my hands, mitts always provide the most warmth and I will use them as first choice. If I need finger dexterity, I often purchase gloves several sizes too big that will allow for multiple layers to retain warmth.

A hat, buff and glasses add the finishing touches. A good hat is one of the easiest ways to retain heat inside the body. A Buff is perfect for around the neck, pulled over one’s nose and mouth to keep out cold air or you can use as a hat. Glasses are an essential to keep out the elements from my eyes and particularly essential if doing any outdoor activity in snow.

Finally, footwear is an absolutely key element to make any outdoor activity successful. There is no one-stop solution here and as a runner, your everyday trail shoes may be ideal for a bulk of your runs, however, specific conditions require specific shoes.

Mud/ Wet – You need an aggressive outsole that will grip and gain traction not only of sloppy wet mud but also on tree routes, rocks, gravel and a multitude of other surfaces. Top recommendations are VJ Sport and inov-8 who have been producing shoes to handle the elements for years. Personal favorites are the XTRM (here) and X-Talon(here.)

Snow/ Ice – In soft snow, the shoes that you use for mud/wet will usually work fine providing adequate grip. However, ice brings new challenges and many runner’s avoid ice at all costs. However, products exist that allow for running in such conditions. Firstly, you can micro-crampons (Snowline or Nortec as examples) that simply adapt any running shoe for ice.

I personally prefer a specific shoe, such as the VJ Sport Xante (here) which as all the attributes of my favorite trail shoes and the added grip from 20 studs. Or the Arctic Talon (here) by inov-8.

Xante

Arctic Talon

As a final note on footwear, I use boots and more substantial crampons when venturing in to more alpine and challenging terrain. Read about a trip to the Atlas Mountains here. There is no one answer here but if moving fast and light, the new inov-8 Rocltite Pro G 400 (here) is a great cross over and then I use two specific mountain boots, La Sportiva G5 (here) or the Trango Extreme (here.)

There is no one solution here and having the options to adjust clothing based on weather conditions is key.

Top Tips:

  • Carry a pack that will allow you to carry options of clothing. For example, it may well be dry when you leave but rain could come at any time, make sure you have waterproof layers with you.
  • Take off and add clothing as you exercise. When it’s cold, we often start with many layers as the first 15 min can feel uncomfortable. However, our core soon warms up. Take the layers off early to avoid sweating. Sweating is not your friend in cold climates. Be prepared to add and take off as required. One of the many reasons many people do not, is because it can disrupt the flow of exercise, however, a little time stopping pays dividends in the long term.
  • Avoid getting base or mid layers wet.
  • Carry an extra base layer.
  • Protect extremities – hands, feet, nose, ears and lips.
  • Protect skin with sun block as and when required and post-exercise use a moisturizer – winter is hard on exposed skin.
  • Start easy and build into any outdoor activity allowing for a gradual warm up.
  • Have appropriate footwear.
  • Don’t forget to drink.
  • Take snacks/ food and even a flask or consider the option to obtain hot drinks.

SAFETY

Even at the most basic level, winter brings extra challenges and risk. A simple road run has increased danger due to increased challenges not only for you as a runner, but for those who are sharing the outdoors with you – drivers! Reduced visibility, challenging conditions under foot and on the road can make that simple road run feel like an assault course, so, accept that sometimes staying indoors and or going to the gym is a better option. But we don’t want to be forced to stay indoors and why should we? If you have the correct apparel and footwear, all is good, yes? Well, nearly… Running on the road and I would most definitely consider adding the following:

  • Wear bright clothes or wear a reflective vest such as the Ultra Performance (here) which is minimal and light.
  • Add a flashing light to your arm and ankle. Example here.
  • Use a head torch.
  • Take a phone.

Moving from road to trail and the risk from traffic is reduced greatly especially if one can start immediately on trail with no road running involved. Therefore, the need to wear reflective clothing can be reduced. But the risk of falling is greatly reduced and depending on where you are, that risk can be potentially life threatening. So, adjust safety measures based on:

  • When you are running.
  • Where you are running.
  • The duration of the run.
  • If running alone.

Running for 1-hour on a local trail is very different than a multi-hour adventure. I personally have a standard kit list and I take the basic on every run. It’s an overkill for the 1-hour runs and for the longer sessions, I add to it as required and dictated to by location and conditions.

  • Spare Merino base layer.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket.
  • Lightweight waterproof pants.
  • Space blanket.
  • Head torch.
  • Mobile phone.
  • First aid.
  • 500ml water.
  • Snack

The above, is my absolute basic kit that will go in a lightweight pack.

I then add equipment based on:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

The above is a great start point. Even a local run has great risk if one is alone. Imagine running in the forest with snow on the ground, the temperature is just below zero and you are at least 30-minutes from anyone else. If you hit the deck, sprain an ankle, break a bone or whatever, you are suddenly stationary in subzero temperature. This is high risk.

Adapting to the environment, conditions and challenges is not something to be feared. It is actually fun! I go back to the mindset approach at the beginning, I see this as an opportunity, an experience to learn and a great potential to be taken out of my comfort zone.

What equipment/ advice can make a run/ adventure safer and address the list of questions above?

  • If possible, share any trip with another person. It’s more social and you have a backup.
  • Check weather conditions.
  • Tell a friend/ family member where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Have a phone and if necessary, an additional charger. It’s worth considering purchasing a phone that is not a smartphone – battery life is usually amazing.
  • Carry a tracker such as Garmin InReach or Spot.
  • Think layers and have base layer, warm layers, waterproof layers, hat, gloves and buff. On a personal note, I take spare gloves, socks and a base layer should I get wet and need the comfort and warmth of dry layers.
  • Know where you are going and have a map and compass. A GPX file is also a great option for watch/ smartphone.

Specific equipment:

  • Carry micro-crampons if you think snow/ ice is high risk.
  • Carry a bivvy bag which can be a life saver if stuck in a remote location with an inability to move.
  • Goggles are better than glasses if you are in a blizzard or strong winds.
  • Carry an ice axe if venturing anywhere with winter conditions.
  • Hand spikes for ice (more details below).
  • Snowshoes (more details below).

In many scenarios, common sense comes in to play and quite simply, a little extra weight and safety is far better than the alternative. Accept in winter that you will move slower and in a different way.

WHAT OPTIONS EXIST IN WINTER

This question can be asked in two ways, firstly, one’s head can be lowered, shoulders dropped, hands below the waste, a look of desperation on the face and, “What options exist in winter…?” The person asking this question has already decided that the answer is none!

For me, the way to ask this question is standing upright, huge smile on my face and the question, “What options exist in winter?” Already has me ready and primed to list a plethora of activities to keep even the most hardened sport enthusiast occupied for quite some time.

  • Night running.
  • Snow running.
  • Ice running.
  • Road running.
  • Climbing
  • Ice climbing.
  • Hiking
  • Fastpacking
  • Snow shoeing.
  • Learn something new.
  • Spend time with family and friends.

And the list goes on! Location, finances and available time all have a bearing on what is and what is not possible. One thing is for sure, possibilities are endless.

Night Running.

Quite simply, you need your run apparel and appropriate equipment as listed above. Importantly you need a head torch. Not all head torches are the same and an investment in the right kit early on saves money later. If you are running in the city with a great deal of ambient light and just the odd foray on trail, you may well get away with a budget torch and something around 200 lumens would work. However, if you are heading into the pitch black, running in forest, venturing into the mountains and pushing the darkness envelope, you are going to need a specific tool for the job. As an example, Norwegian lighting company Moonlight (here) provide head torches from 700 to 7000 lumens. Be specific on your needs and requirements and importantly consider autonomy, beam direction and spread, options for spare batteries and the option to keep the battery in apparel while still using the head torch, especially important in very cold environment when warmth will make the battery last longer.

Snow Running.

Layer up so that you have the flexibility to reduce heat and get warm as required. In many scenarios, particularly soft snow, a good aggressive trail shoe will work. However, consider the risk of ice so carry micro spikes. If in the mountains, knowledge and experience of snow conditions would be advisable. Be prepared with additional equipment such as poles and ice axe. Needless to say, gloves are really important.

Ice Running.

Use micro spikes for specific shoes as mentioned previously to ensure that you have grip and traction. In some places, Norway and Canada a good example, summer lakes freeze over and they become an incredible playground. Caution, safety and experience is required and if you have never run this way before, take advice from those that have. Importantly run with hand spikes (pictured below) available at all times should a disaster happen – these help you get out of a situation.

  • Measure the ice.
  • What is a safe thickness? 4 inches or more is ideal.
  • Check the ice colour – clear blue or green is good.
  • Fresh ice is best.
  • Know rescue techniques.

Climbing.

Mountains in winter offer an incredible playground and if you are new or inexperienced, the first option would be to sign up for a weekend trip with experienced professionals. The equipment requirements, techniques and safety measures vary considerably.

Ice Climbing.

No need to venture outside. In 2019 as an example, I started on a series of indoor ice climbing lessons which has now set me up for experiencing ice climbing outdoors. There is obviously a need for specific equipment: helmet, glasses, harness, ice axes, boots and crampons. However, most places, indoor or outdoor, offer the option to hire equipment as part of the lessons.

Snow Shoeing.

Fimbulvetr Hikr-X

A great winter exercise that provides an alternative to skiing or snowboarding that is an extension of running. Snowshoes basically allow you to float and not sink in the snow. But there is a difference to snow hiking and snow running, both in the shoe used and the type of snow. Run snowshoes are smaller, allow for a more natural gait and require the snow to be har packed. Whereas in soft snow, you need a much larger snowshoe to stop you sinking in the ground. Either option provides a great challenge and workout. Of course, races exist that require snow running both with and without snowshoes, so, if you are signed up or plan to race like this in the future, seize the opportunity. Abelone Lyng (here), winner of the Ice Ultra does winter snow shoeing trips in Norway.

Fast Packing.

Peak Design Field Pouch attached to a Montane Pack when Fastpacking in Nepal.

Snow, ice and cold weather doesn’t mean that multi-day adventures need to stop, on the contrary. Find a route, plan accordingly, have the correct equipment and off you go. These adventures can involve winter camping (you need a 4-season tent, appropriate matt and sleeping bag) or you can run/ hike form hut-to-hut or hotel-to-hotel. You are only limited by your imagination. Accept that you will move slower. Nepal is a magical playground for winter adventures.

Hiking.

Wrap up and include the family. Sport and our pursuit of it can often be selfish, not purposely, but we can get engrossed in challenge and adventure and often exclude the ones we love. Share the journey.

Training Camp.

Consider a training camp, maybe this could be something in warm weather to break up the winter months. I have been organizing a warm weather camp every January in Lanzarote for over 10-years, info here.

Other options:

  • Sign up for a challenge.
  • Make it social.
  • Add variety.
  • Train in the home.
  • Rest.
  • Learn something new.
  • Enroll in a class.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, don’t letter winter get you in a spiral of mood swings, depression and locked indoors. It’s all about the mind and understanding that the variety winter brings is actually far more exciting and challenging than good weather and dry predictable trails.

Seize the conditions. Plan accordingly. Have the correct equipment. Test yourself with something new and trust me, by the time Spring comes around you may well be a little disappointed.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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#IRunAtHome April 18 2020 – summary

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April 18th, 2020, amid a worldwide lockdown due to Covid-19, a global run community came together between the hours of 9am to 9pm with one purpose.

Run at home.

Raise funds for the NHS who are fighting Covid-19.

I could literally write and write about the experience. To see young and old, runners and non-runners globally come together to test themselves #athome was truly mind-blowing and I am still coming to terms with the emotion of the day.

From seeing a 2-year old cover 1-mile to a pro-runner covering 131km on a treadmill, there was no experience too small or large.

A community came together, encouraged, supported, applauded and cheered on as donations flooded in.

I set the goal to raise £10,000 for the NHS and as I write, donations are at £12.222.46 and with Gift Aid £14.131.07. I am leaving the donation page open and I am quietly confident with a little rallying, funds will increase.

So, if you are reading this and have not donated, please go HERE.

I personally did the best I could monitoring all that went on for the 12-hours and I ‘tried’ to message everyone, encourage and support. I am sure I failed as at times, it really was difficult to keep up. Especially when I did my own challenge of a 1000m vertical and descent up and down the staircase in our apartment block.

So, if I did miss commenting, accept my apologies. I am going to try and backtrack and go through all the posts and hit a ‘like’ and make a comment.

Needless to say it has been a magical experience and one that I would like to repeat… Maybe when all this nasty Coronavirus is over, we can celebrate on Apr 18 2021 with a reunion…?

FOR NOW, A HUGE THANK YOU FOR COMING TOGETHER.

As one lady said, ‘I have spent 4-weeks alone and isolated. Today, I was alone once again but virtually I made friends around the world. I shared a mutual experience, did some good and felt loved and wanted.’

Families came together, mum ran with dad, dad ran with mum and the kids did their bit. I know from my end, we had a ball creating something fun and different and in the process, many of us had an art lesson with the bibs.

Below is a collated summary of the day. I have tried to capture as much as possible.

THANK YOU ALL

The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 6

Leaving Tengboche the race retraces elements of stage-5 to Phakding but as opposed to previous year’s, at Sensa the runners did not go right to the Kumjung Valley. Instead they followed the main route Namche Bazaar the ETR then re-traces stage 5 all the way to Phakding and then as the trail heads back to Kharikhola, a left turn leads to the final climb and the swinish line in Lukla.

The stage is mostly downhill with 3183m of descent in comparison to 2105m of ascent over the 30km course. It’s a tough way to finish a race, but the rewards are worth it! After the high elevation from the previous day, the additional oxygen made the km’s easier.

Both Suman and Anna have been on fire all week and on the final day, it was no difference. The duo pushed and pushed but at all times looked in control and relaxed. Suman actually just looked to be having fun… Playing in the mountains. The pace of them both was quite ridiculous.

Behind Anna, Manuela and Nuria once again traded blows, pushing each other and in doing so, found greater individual performances.

For the men, it was a real battle with Hans, Miguel and Gerard not taking things easy and all fighting for the 2nd and 3rd places on the overall podium.

At the finish line, Manuela beat Nuria, 4:10:45 to 4:19:22 and in doing so, secured her overall 2nd place just as in 2018.

Hans was the first home after Suman, then Miguel and Gerard together. Suman crossed the tape in an incredible 2:46:25 and then the respective times were 3:01:24 and 3:06:39. 

Suman Kulung and Anna Comet are crowned the 2019 Elements Everest Trail Race champions but all credit goes to each and every finisher. At 170km, this race may not be the longest but it is surely one of the toughest! The combination of tough technical terrain, relentless climbing and descending and of course altitude, all combine to make the ETR a race to do!

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 6 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 2:46:25

Hans Smedsrod 3:01:24

Miguel Heras and Gerard Morales 3:06:39

Anna Comet 3:45:33

Nuria Dominguez 4:10:45

Manuela Vilaseca 4:19:22

The 2019 Elements Everest Trail Race final classification

Suman Kulung Rai 20:51:36

Gerard Morales 23:28:29

Hans Smedsrod 23:54:13

 

Anna Comet 26:20:56

Manuela Vilaseca 29:29:05

Nuria Dominguez 30:03:47

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 5

EPIC was all the runner’s had to say as they finished stage 5 of The Elements Everest Trail Race at  the Monastery at Tengboche, the Himalayan backdrop of Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam providing context to the journey undertaken.

For the first time in ETR history, the race went beyond Tengboche taking a stunning high route to Pangboche and return to the iconic Monastery finish line.

Starting in Phakding the runners climbed to Namche at 3402m, proceeded to Syangboche at 3760m passed through Kumjung, Mong La, Phortse and then took a high pass at 4000m to reach Pangboche at 4100m. Finally the finish 3875m, 32km later with 2850m of ascent and 1650m of descent – beyond epic!

It was a feared day, everyone was aware of the challenge and under taking!

It may sound a similar story, but Suman and Anna was at another level. The Nepali completing the journey in just over 4-hours….!

Racing was hard and relentless and today Miguel Heras placed 2nd fighting off injury with a stunning performance making the podium battle once again exciting.

Hans and Gerard once again battled each other hard and the duo were separated by just minutes.

 

Behind Anna in the women, Nuria Dominguez once again fought hard for 2nd ahead of Manuela.

 

Today though, the race was all about the route and the best of what the Himalayas have to offer. It was a brave move to re-vamp stage 5 of the ETR with added distance, a new route and extended period at elevation. It’s a decision that the runners loved despite how hard and difficult the journey was.

Tomorrow, the runners return to Lukla via Namche and Phading in the final finish line of the 2019 ETR.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 5 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 4:04:35

Miguel Heras 4:27:03

Hans Smedsrod 4:43:01

 

Anna Comet 5:17:11

Nuria Dominguez 5:47:42

Manuela Vilaseca 5:50:23

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 4

Day 4 of the 2019 The Elements Everest Trail Race was the same as all previous editions, starting at the stunning Kharikola Monastery and concluding in Phakding 27.5km away and in the process gaining 2423m of positive incline and losing 1907m.

Along the route, runners pass through Kari La (2820m), Paiya, Choutok La, Surke (2310m), Chaurikharka, Cheplung and finally Phakding.

In comparison to the previous day’s, day-4 is a low altitude day allowing the runner’s some recovery from the intense 3000m+ day’s. However, the course is relentless with a rollercoaster of up and downs on mostly technical rocky trail. Here the route now has Yak’s and Mules and that in itself brings its own challenges.

It is a stunning day that finally leaves the remoteness of the first three day’s and slowly introduces the competitors the main trekking routes that lead people to Namche, Tengboche and the EBC routes.

It may come as no surprise that once again, Suman and Anna showed the race a clean pair of heels as they both set a pace that could not be followed. In the early stages, Miguel Heras fought hard to the first highpoint at Kari La, he was only seconds behind the Nepali. But when the descending started, Miguel could not maintain the pace with his injury and relinquished his place to Gerard Morales and Hans Smedsrod.

Gerard was pushing hard and looked motivated to gain time and secure his top podium place. Hans in comparison to the previous three days looked a little more tired and this was reflected at the finish line with Gerard 2nd and Hans 3rd.

 

Anna as in the previous day placed 4th overall. Her performance this year has been off the scale! Manuela ran a solid day no doubt using her 2018 experience to run a smart day, she placed 2nd but the 1st place of Anna was well out of her reach.

Nuria Dominguez showed great consistency placing 3rd once again.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 4 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:32:20

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 3:56:04

Hans Smedsrod 4:10:50

 

Anna Comet 4:13:09 (4th overall)

Manuela Vilaseca 4:44:09

Nuria Dominguez 4:59:52

Day 5 Preview

What an epic day lies ahead. For the first time in ETR history, the race will go beyond Tengboche with a stunning loop of 32km reaching a highpoint of 4100m at Pangboche and stunning views of Ama Dablam. With 2850m of positive gain and 1650m of negative gain, day-5 will be a stunning and tough day.

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 3

At 30km with 2232m of vertical gain and 3164m of vertical loss, the day was all be about energy management. The relentless downhill today pounding tired legs. Technical and relentless as one runner said on the finish line.

After the start in 5km the runners reached 3400m, from here they drop down and climb to Taksindu La at 3071m. Chhulemu follows, Hewa, Jubing and then the final tough climb to Kharikola at 2100m.

The day was all about Suman Kulung Rai and Anna Comet who today put on masterclass performances. 

Suman covered the distance in a ridiculous 3:49:53, 25-minutes quicker than Hans Smedsrod who ran a great race to close the gap on the overall podium places and place himself in contention for a top-3 at the finish line in Lukla.

Gerard Morales realised the risk and marked the move finishing in 4:17:46 to Hans’ 4:15:58.

Unfortunately, the injury woes of Miguel Heras plagued him today and he finished in 6th losing his grasp on the top-3 overall.

Anna Comet is relentless and strong this year. She finished the stage in 4:41:54 and placed 4th on the stage. Manuela Vilaseca once again fought hard today to finish 2nd woman in 5:17:29 to Nuria Domguez who placed 3rd in 5:28:43.

With the three stages covered and three to go, although nothing is guaranteed, it certainly looks like Suman and Anna have leads that will be impossible to beat. However, the 2nd and 3rd placed for both women and men is all to fight for.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 2 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:49:53

Hans Smedsrod 4:15:58

Gerard Morales4:17:46

 

Anna Comet 4:41:54

Manuela Vilaseca 45:17:29

Nuria Dominguez 5:28:43

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 2

At 26km with 1916m of vertical gain and 1819m of vertical loss, day 2 of The Elements Everest Trail Race was a tough one.

In previous year’s Pikey Peak at 4100mm had appeared late in stage 2 with a loom and relentless climb to its summit. This year, with the course changes, the high summit would occupy the first 8km of the day – a tough way to start any day!

The change in direction brought the runners from the complete opposite direction and the usual magical vista visible at the summit and on the way to the summit was even more spectacular. Everest was mo longer hidden and clearly visible.

From the summit a technical descent that twists and turns to Jase Bhanjyang, here in previous editions, camp 2 would be located. Not today, the runners split to the left and then encountered new terrain that few people visit. It was technical with relentless boulder fields not allowing any opportunity to relax.

From Lamjura La and 8km decsnt, again technical until the final km would lead to Jumbesi and the final checkpoint. With just 4km left, the runners I am sure they were home and dry with just 4km to go… It was all uphill on steep narrow trails all the way to Pungmucheat at just over 3000m.

With two starts, 0700 and 0800 (faster runners starting later) the ascent to Pikey Peak was littered with runners of varying ability, but Suman Kulung Rai  and Miguel Heras made easy work of the climb arriving at CP1 in under 50-minutes. Suman taking time to point out the mountains to Miguel. They left at pace make the altitude and gradient look easy. Gerard Morales followed and then Hans from Norway.

For the women, once again Anna Comet set the pace chased by Manuela Vilaseca and then Nuria Dominguez.

At the summit it was all to fight for with 18km’s still to go, considerable technical trail, long hard descents and tough climbs.

Unfortunately disaster struck for Miguel with an injury forcing hime to ease off the pace opening the door for Gerard and Hans. Miguel would eventually finish 4th. Suman though was relentless making a tough stage look easy.

The women’s race took a twist from the previous day with Anna winning once again and Nuria finishing ahead of Manuela.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 2 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:34:03

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 4:09:46

Hans Smedsrod 4:21:44

 

Anna Comet 4:37:46

Nuria Dominguez 5:13:04

Manuela Vilaseca 4:15:57

Day 3 Preview

At 30km with 2232m of vertical gain and 3164m of vertical loss, the day will all be about management. In 5km the runners reach 3400m then drop and climb to Taksindu La at 3071m.m From here Chhulemu follows. Hewa, Jubing and then the final tough climb to Kharikola at 2100m

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 1

A damp and chilly night soon passed to greet the runners with spectacular views of the Himalayas – Everest and so many more completely visible from camp.

Day 1 of The Elements 2019 Everest Trail Race was a new route after eaving Patale, the journey would encompass Lakap, Kerung, Chyangsar, Meranding, Bhittakharaka, Khoriya, Kunikhop and conclude at Dimise. The distance of 24.9km starts at 2800m, drops to just above 2000m and then climbs again over 14km to 2906m. 

For the runners it was a day of excitement and nervous anticipation. Kathmandu is located just over 1300m, so, to suddenly be at 2800 and have to run is a big ask. Gladly, the runners dropped down to 2000m after a slightly uphill start. However, the long final climb to the finish was a real test.

Sumun Kulung Rai, a previous participant of the Everest Trail Race set the early pace pulling away over the early km’s. However, Spain’s Miguel Heras was not allowing the Nepali to gain any advantage and the duo marked each other throughout the day. It was Sumun who took the tape with a late charge to beat Miguel with a handful of seconds.

Gerard ‘Blacky’ Morales placed third with a solid race and pacing.

Anna Comet, also a previous finisher of the Everest Trail Race ran a strong and solid race pulling away from Mauela Vilaseca who placed 2nd at the 2018 ETR. Anna was very strong, and even in the closing km’s looked well in control with plenty of energy left.

Manuela knows how challenging the ETR is and was no doubt respecting the race, the distance and the altitude on day 1 finishing a very strong second ahead of Nuria Dominguez.

Day 1 will no doubt be remembered for the new track, the isolation, the complete lack of any tourists and local life that seems unaffected by the crazy world around it. One got a feeling that for some, we were the first non Nepali people they had seen.

News in the local area had got out about the race and some had walked up to an hour to experience the start – the buzz of the helicopter not doubt adding to the fascination.

One cannot emphasise enough, that no matter how majestic the trails are, no matter how stunning the mountains are, that without the people, Nepal would miss a really integral element that makes this place so special. This new route once again introduced us to a raw people who were only too welcome to open their arms and welcome us in to their home – now that is special.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 1 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:03:40

Miguel Heras 3:03:56

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 4:15:04

 

Anna Comet 3:45:23

Manuela Vilaseca 4:10:22

Nuria Dominguez 4:24:18

Please check online via the Everest Trail Race Facebook page for full Results.

Day 2 Preview

At 26km with 1916m of vertical gain and 1819m of vertical loss, it will be a tough day, particularly in the first 7km the runners will pass over Pikey Peak at 4100m. Passing through Jase Bhanjyang, Lamjura La, Jumbesi, the route will conclude at Pungmucheat just over 3000m.

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