The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Speyside Way Ultra

Around five o'clock I began to stir, aware of the noise, soft at first but getting louder, I realised it wasn't a dream. The noise even drowned out the sound of a nearby burn I'd fallen asleep to. "Oh no!" I thought, memories of the whw raced through my mind, "not again!". Rain hammered off the roof of the static as I tip toed round the caravan and got ready for the day ahead. Coach appeared "your not running in that are you?" she asked. Admittedly, for a micro second I thought about pulling out, but I put on the hardest face I could muster and replied "wimping out is not an option". 

A short drive to Buckie, registration and a nervous wait before we boarded the bus at half seven. I chatted to a fellow runner doing his first ultra which passed the time. Rain continued to fall, the bus threw walls of water as we made our way to Ballindaloch. At half eight it was time to leave the comfort and warmth of the bus and step into the rain. With half an hour before race start, everyone tried to seek shelter under the trees. Unfortunately, even the trees couldn't offer solace as my weatherproof jacket gave up and let the water through. I was getting cold and just wanted to get going.

Nine o'clock and we were off. My strategy was try and average 10 minute miles for as long as possible and hopefully finish around 6 hours later, a tall order considering the lack of high mile training since the whw.
I start at the back of the field and am surprised at just how flooded the disused railway line is. There's absolutely no point in trying to avoid the mud and floods so I quickly employ the straight through method.
A bit later I refine this strategy further by realising I have a choice of surfaces to run on. The soft grass verge and mud which saps my energy or the hard compacted footpath mostly under water. I choose the water and take great delight splashing through deep puddles without a care in the world. The only downside is I can't see whats under the water but it's a good strategy where I splash past a few runners.

Twelve miles later and the first checkpoint. I'm doing another strategy where I collect my drop bag and continue without stopping. On leaving the checkpoint I'm cheered as I run through the deepest water pool of the day, great!! Across the road and an uphill section where I eat my sausage roll and have a strawberry milk shake. I'm passed by one runner on the uphill but soon catch up once I've finished the food. A few other runners catch up before hitting Ben Aigan but I hold my own, alternating between power walking and running before reaching the top and being rewarded with the view towards the Moray Firth. Downhill now and we're guided off the forest by a marshal onto a steep washed out stony track. I take it easy here not wanting to go over an ankle. I'm still holding position here and averaging 10 min miles but I start to feel a bit tired, time for Mrs Tilly's tablet. It's quite a long road section to Fochabers including a quad busting downhill section just before the second checkpoint at around 25 miles.

I grab my bag and carry on, eating the contents. It's here where the wheels fall off my pacing strategy and the minutes per mile start to head up. I'm beginning to suffer and resist the urge to walk as I run through Fochabers, under the road bridge and head towards Spey Bay. I take a walking break here and am immediately passed by a runner going strong which irks me. I run as much as possible but get passed by another two runners. This time I have a talk to myself, I must not get carried away with other runners, I must run my own race against the clock. At Spey Bay I lose time trying to phone coach, my fickle phone is playing up and I can't see it in the strong sunlight. I eventually get through and give an eta at Buckie then start running as much as possible again. I manage to pass a few runners before reaching Portgordon and make a mental note to come back and photograph the seals here in the future. It's all road now and I am alone running through Buckpool and Buckie, guided all the way by the excellent marshaling we have had for the duration of the race. Uphill and follow the flags across the line, 6 hours 24 minutes 46 seconds, 45th place.

Thank you to Sarah-Louise Grigor and the marshals for organising a cracking ultra race and giving what the Deer Runner thinks is one of the coolest medals yet.

So, one more ultra for 2012, Glen Ogle 33 on the 3rd of November which just happens to be entry month for WHW 2013.......

Saturday, 18 August 2012


This was my last run in France before heading back home. The village of Serignan is a few miles from the Med and surrounded by vineyards. The Orb flows through on it's way to Valras. No hills here so a flat run following the river to Serignan Plage was on the cards. From there a three mile barefoot jaunt along the beach was completed before getting shod and heading back to Serignan.

 I departed from the square at Serignan where the market was setting up.

 Like many times during this holiday I cross the Orb.

 Sunrise over the vineyards.

 Road follows the route of the river.

 The Orb is still and quiet here, reflecting on it's journey from the mountains.

 Dingy on it's way to the coast.


 Beziers in the distance, a backdrop of the mountains where I previously ran.

 The harbour at Valras.

The Orb finally meets the Mediterranean.

 Serignan Plage on the Golfe Du Lion.

 Running on the slope at the beach can cause joint pain, particularly if running one way and not turning round. I walked back the way a few times to give the ankles a break.

 After three miles its time to turn inland and head back to Serignan.

 This is the commercial part of the beach, plenty of camping around these parts.

 Feeding time at one of the two ranches.

 Murals catch my eye by the road side on the way back.
Back at the square where the market is in full swing.

So in the space of a week I go from wine country to whiskey country, the Speyside Way Ultra.
I'm not sure where my fitness is for taking on over 36 miles as I have not put in high miles during training. When I have run it's been mostly on the hills and trails so hopefully I'll stand in good stead for this Ultra.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Its difficult to fit running around a family holiday, particularly when the climate is hot. I squeezed an evening run in even though the temperature was still over 30 deg. I stayed in the valley this time, crossing the Orb to Vieussan, a picturesque village perched on the hillside with a dramatic back drop where a trail hugs the side of the mountain.
 A view of the destination from our terrace.

 Cross the Orb on a concrete footbridge.

 Cross the road and up past the town house.

 Up the hill and through alleyways of Vieussan.

The trail is quite hard to find at the village.

 Brilliant views of the Orb valley.

 I had to carefully negotiate the scree slope as I didn't want rocks to fall on the road far below.

 This was a quick run so I turned around at a forest on the hillside.
 A view of the road below and the footbridge I crossed earlier.

 On the return I cross a road bridge over the Orb.

Back up the other side and one of my favourite views of Vieussan.

Soon we leave the mountains for the Mediterranean coast where I hope to get one more run done before heading home.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Wine Country

Boissezon, the Orb Valley, South France, 0600 on the 08th August. The Deer Runner has been on vacation for almost a week without putting in a decent run. Good food and red wine has made him idle in the high temperatures experienced in this region of France but this is about to change. He quietly puts on running gear, fills a two litre plastic bottle with water and pockets two brioche breads. On the doorstep is some of the most beautiful scenery he has ever run. These mountains have miles and miles of tracks snaking their way through vineyards, peaks and valleys. Today the destination is Naudech, a peak he has run in the past and where plenty of water needs to be carried.
 The trail leaving Boissezon.

Cross the road and climb a steep rocky scree slope.

 Up into vineyards and a view of the destination.

 The Deer Runners favourite part, a trail above the valley floor where the smell of pine wafts up in the heat.


 The destination, golden in the morning sunshine.

 A view of the Orb.

 The sun peaks over the mountains, its going to get hot.

 A view of where he has been, a water storage tank.

 Caroux mountain range.

 The track zig zags up towards the summit.

 The sun makes it's presence felt.

 Armstrongs footprints are directly above.

 Olargues with the bridge built by Eiffel.

 Target practise for the hunters.

 Miles of trail through the hills, this area would make a great ultra.

 The highest peak is not the most scenic, you have to double back and make your way to a rocky outcrop.


A cracking run and one of my all time favourites. Happy holidays.