Fell race routes website

This is a useful little list of gps tracks of various races.


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Scottish 6 Days – reviewing my style

After 6 days of tough orienteering at the Scottish 6 Days it is time to review my orienteering style and decide what I need to work on.

I’m going to use my maps and Splitsbrowser as my main tools.  I spent some of each evening reviewing my day with Rob Lee, who came 3rd in my class (M50L), so I have already thought about route choices etc.

Day 1 – Lossie 48th 65.54, 18.36 behind the leader

There are too many cliffs on my Splitsbrowser graph, showing too many mistakes, and the angle is too steep, showing a lack of speed (which I knew about).

For the first few controls I was nipping on and off the path, usually quite well.  The first significant error came at 9 when I overshot as I wasn’t distance judging, but relying on seeing some vegetation to my left.   The next difficulty came when I ran into 13 and 14 in torrential rain.  It was dark and the contour detail so fine I couldn’t read it.  Even with my glasses on now I can’t read the detail.   Workon  Improve sight

Day 2 – Ardesier  31st 65.59, 15.11 behind

The contours were easier for me to read.  I was hesitant on the first 2 controls, turning the wrong way on the ridge at number 2.  I was hesitant on occasion up to 17, especially on 14 where I wanted to make sure I hit a knoll in a flat area.  18,19 and 20 went well in the open.  From there back I was steady, but not fast, probably making little errors on most legs.  These were probably due to poor running on a bearing.  There were far fewer opportunities to path run, but there were lots of elephant tracks.  Workon  Running on a bearing

Day 3 – Culbin  75th 75.51, 28.46 behind

I spent too much time struggling through the terrain today.  Shouldn’t have listened to Rob!  The paths had to be the better option.  It also took too long to realise that the yellow rides were indistinct and I should rely on them (mistakes at 13 and 20 because of this).  The contours were easier to read than Lossie.

Day 4 – Loch of Boath  35th 70.26, 15.40 behind

Off the dunes and into “normal forest”.  1:10000, 5m contours.  Lulled into a false sense of security by 1, so messed up 2.  Then OK for much of the rest of it, but off bearing some of the time.  I was much more able to run in the right general direction, keeping contact with the major features.  Sometimes hesitant in the circle (as with the previous courses) Workon Running on a bearing

Day 5 – Roseisle  47th 77.36, 25.05 behind

This was an awful first half.  I couldn’t visualise or run on an accurate bearing for the first half (up to about 13 I was in 71st).  After this the shapes became clearer and I was able to pick out the shapes as I was running.  I would expect to be able to work all this out quite easily if I was walking, so should probably have slowed down when getting close to make sure I didn’t mess up in the circle.  Workon Running at the speed I can navigate at

Day 6 – Coulmony  30th 83.02, 25.06 behind

I really enjoyed the block before the road crossing.  Even so, there were a few mistakes due to my compass work and a route choice mistake going to 11 (path would have been quicker).  29th at the road crosing I then slowed a little, but only dropped one place by the finish.  The long legs, 20 and 22 were challenging physically and demanded different tactics.  20 I was just too sluggish running and got confused on distance, checking out a control much earlier on (wishful thinking).  22 I didn’t read the contours and ended staying too high, relocating on the boundary fence corner.  25 I executed poorly, coming out of 24 too far to the right and not using my compass from the marsh.  All in all a run that suit my closer contact style more than the dune areas as I could read the details and the contour shapes were bigger.  I was pleased to come in not too tired on the day, although my running time was long (as was the winners).  Even the M21E times were longer than they should have been.


So, I am happiest when running in areas with more obvious, and more readable contours.  I like to run with reasonable map contact, orientating mainly by features.  I struggle when the features are very detailed, partly because of my poor eyesight and partly as I am trying to go too fast.  If I was walking I am sure I could navigate without too many problems.  My fitness needs to improve, especially running through rough heather and undergrowth.  My workons are:

  • Improve sight
  • Running on a bearing
  • Running at the speed I can navigate at
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IOF Control Descriptions

There is a nice A4 version of the IOF Control Description available here.

This is on the http://www.maprunner.co.uk/ website run by Simon Errington.

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Seiko DPU-3445 Printer and SportIdent

LOC have a couple of these Seiko DPU-3445 printers. They usually work pretty well, but typically, one of them stopped working just at the wrong time.

The printer would feed and print out the printer settings sheet (with the printer off, hold down both keys and release the power one first). It just wouldn’t print out results.

The settings sheet showed Data Input as IrDA and the Data Input mode as Auto Select.

These needed changing to:

DIP Switch 1

Data Input: Serial

Baud rate: 4800bps

Bit length: 8 bit

Parity: None

Stop Bit: 1 bit

Data Control: Busy

DIP Switch 2

Data Input Mode  :  Serial

The way to do this is a little complex, but the manual is available here.

DIP Switch 1 should show 11001010

DIP Switch 2 should show 11111101

No need to change DIP Switch 3.

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Marathon des Sables – starting your training

You’ve entered the 2014 MdS and you need to start training.  How do you begin?
First think – how do I want to do?

  1. Just get round
  2. Get round but feel good
  3. Get round and do well
  4. Win

Then think – what do I know about how it feels to run day after day?

  1. I’ve never run
  2. I’ve run but never those distances
  3. I’ve run that far, but only for a day or I’ve done multiple days, but walking or biking
  4. I’ve done multiple running days at these distances

Finally think – how much time can I commit to training?

  1. I’m busy all the time and have no time for training
  2. I can fit in some training at the weekend
  3. I can fit in training during the week and at the weekend
  4. I’ll fit everything else around the training I need to do

These three questions should form the basis of your training schedule.

If you are answering 4s to all these then you probably don’t need my help.

If you have answered 1s then you should consider whether the challenge may be too much for you.  If you haven’t any experience and haven’t got the time to train, then it is going to be a very unpleasant few days.

If you said all 2s, then you will need to build up your running to the point that you can run the distances and then put in some multiple days, running shorter days to start with.  Mentally, you need to know when you start that you can make the distance on the first day and that you can do that for the next couple of days.  Always include some speed work to start with, as the faster you can run, the shorter the days will become.  The other thing to do is try to give yourself more time to train.

All 3s, this could get interesting.  If you have run marathons or single day ultras, then you know your body can cope with the distances.  So, mentally, you need to prepare for the multi-day aspects.  First, you need to build up to being able to run the distances again (assuming you aren’t already there).  Next, you can lower the training lengths, but spread the time over 2 then 3 days.  Then build the lengths back up over those 3 days.  Keep the speed work in, because you want to do it all quicker!

If you have done multiple long days, but not running, then, mentally, you need to prepare yourself to be able to run for those distances.  You will need a long and steady build up for your running.  Include speedwork, but start to increase the single long days over a few months.  Include the form of exercise you are used to in your training so that you start to exercise on multiple consecutive days.  But, by the end of your training, you need to run for three consecutive days and these runs need to be several hours and you need to have done at least one run that is long enough that you know you can complete the 75km stage.  It will be up to you to decide how long that needs to be!

If you are in the 2s, 3s or even 4s and you would like my help in planning your training, please contact me on lecky@223coaching.co.uk



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Core training video

There is a good core training video from pponline here.

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Thierry on using his compass

This is worth a read for everyone that orienteers.  Thierry talks about how and why to use a compass.


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Broughton Runners Summer sessions

We had a rethink at Broughton Runners and decided that we would try out using the same set of three sessions over the summer, repeating the sessions twice over six weeks, following these with our hilly time trial.  Our aims were to simplify our planning; to focus on three key aspects of training and to ensure that the runners get a hard session each time they come.

Session 1 – Long, continuous hills

The session is 3 x 4 x 1′ up 70% 1′ down (same pace) [2′ rest] using a steady, long climb.

The runners have a cone each on the first rep, which they drop when the whistle blows after 1′.  They then run back down to the start aiming to be there when the whistle goes for the start of the next rep.  This is the same pace up and down.

The coaching points are to encourage reasonable pacing; high cadence, short strides; use the arms to control cadence.

Session 2 – Short hill sprints

The session is 4 x 3 x 10″ up (85%) 50″ down [2′ rest] using a short, steep climb.

The runners have two cones each on the first rep.  They start at the first cone which they drop when the whistle blows after 10′.  They then walk back down to the start aiming to be there when the whistle goes for the start of the next rep.  This allows a reasonable, but not complete, recovery.  They aim to reach their top cone each time.

The coaching points are to encourage high cadence, short strides; high knee drive; use the arms to control cadence.

Session 3 – Long flat new intervals

The session is 3 x 3 x 2′ (70%) 1′ (50%)  [4′ rest] using a flat circuit.

Simply start when the whistle goes, slow to 50% next whistle, back up to 70% on subsequent whistle.  Finish set with 1′ at 50% before walking back to recover.

The coaching points are to encourage sensible pacing; good basic upright body position; high cadence; use the arms to control cadence.

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Marathon des Sables – a coach’s perspective

The end of the journey

Tired, sore and very happy

Tired, sore and very happy

At 11.32:11 on Saturday 13th April 2013 Martin and Angela White crossed the final finishing line of the Marathon des Sables.  They had run and walked 232 Km across the rocks, mountains and dunes of Morocco in an overall time of 46H35’18”.  They were very tired, very sore and very happy.  You can read about their experiences here.


The beginning

Their journey started over a year before, when they entered  the MdS and decided to start training properly.  They were already used to endurance events, but on mountain bikes.  They weren’t really runners.  To start with they used a generic training plan, but this was inflexible and, frankly, boring and unrealistic.  After their first few weeks of this schedule, and an overlong run, they were tired, dispirited and injured.

Then they contacted me, Lecky.  I’m a coach.  At first they were interested in some technique tips.  But, after some discussions they asked me to coach them.  We talked around their experience, commitment and time availability and I wrote their first plan at the end of April 2012.  They both work strange shifts in the NHS, but this was both an issue and an advantage.  They often had time off together during the week, so could be scheduled to do specific harder runs then.  However, they often worked weekends, so the traditional Sunday long run wasn’t always possible.  No two weeks were the same.

Introducing structure

The first thing we had to do was to put some structure into their running, whilst giving enough time to recover.  The strategy was to get them running faster, but starting to build in the longer runs for endurance.  As we got closer to the MdS the quantity of speed work would dip and the length of the long runs would increase.  Initially, each week included a speed endurance session, a tempo run and a long steady run.  As they were keen mountain bikers, we used a MTB ride to build endurance where possible.  The overall schedule was progressive and periodised, with regular easier weeks.

They both had various niggles in the first couple of months.  They were lucky that they could always get these diagnosed quickly, and they started seeing Sue Read, a fantastic Sports Masseuse based in Keswick.  These cleared up and were not serious enough to prevent them getting into a regular, consistent training regime.

We used Skype to talk most weeks, and Garmin Connect so I could see what they had done.  This was particularly helpful when they started do reps.  I was able to see the speed and heart rates and get them to adjust these so the efforts were more consistent across the whole session.  One of Martin and Angela’s greatest strengths was their willingness to take feedback and apply it.

Learning to run downhill

Angela descending

Angela descending

In late July we met on top of a windy Latrigg to have a technical session on uphill and downhill running.  This turned out to be a key turning point for both of them.  When I asked what had been the best part of the training schedule after the MdS they said the hill sessions.  The Latrigg session left them better able to cope with descending on rough ground and the subsequent hill sessions practised this.  At the MdS they were able to use the descents to make up ground without tiring.  This contrasted with many others who found the descents scary, which made them brake, which makes the legs much more tired than is necessary.

Building endurance

We started to increase the long runs, mixing walking and running.  We increased the number of consecutive day’s exercise.  Starting with a mix of long runs and long MTB rides before moving on to two consecutive days of long running.  At this point we cut the length of the days from 3.5 hours down to 2 hours.  September was a hard month, leading to the, mainly off road, Kielder marathon in early October.  For both this was an excellent test and they passed with flying colours.  After a recovery period training set off in earnest again.

Getting sandy

Into the dunes

Into the dunes

At the end of October we met up in a sand dune area near Barrow to have a first go at running in dunes.  We started with some compass work, as they would need to be able to use a compass at the MdS.  They learnt how to take and set bearings, and how easy it is to run off a bearing if you aren’t concentrating.  Then we went for a run in the dunes.  My plan was to show them how best to get up dunes and how easy it is to run down them.  After some trepidation at first they ended up throwing themselves at speed down the steepest dunes.  They reported back after the MdS that there were even marshals trying, and failing, to stop them running down the steepest dunes.  The gist of our session was “you can’t hurt yourself falling down a dune”.

Managing injuries

December was a bad month for Angela.  She developed a strange injury that may have been caused by her walking into something at work.  This took the next couple of months to recover from, although Angela did manage to do some exercise in this period.  Our email exchanges were mainly related to diagnoses and treatments at that point.  Martin also struggled with tiredness through January, perhaps linked to a period of illness around Christmas.  We talked, emailed and texted often and managed their schedules accordingly.  The benefit of having a personal coach is that they could talk through all this and I could reassure them and change the schedule to fit.

We met up again at the end of January.  This time we did an interval session in Fitz Park in Keswick.  This session allowed me to push them harder than they would normally push themselves.  They left with a better understanding of what they are capable of when it comes to running faster and pushing themselves.

The final build up

February was a better month for both.  Even though the long runs weren’t quite as long as I would have hoped, they were able to train consistently.  The weather wasn’t all that helpful.

Just like Lanzarote

Just like Lanzarote

The final block of training was to be in Lanzarote, finishing three weeks before the start of the MdS.  The schedule included long runs on consecutive days, running in the sand dunes on Fuertaventura and a night run.  All the running was with packs on.  They completed all of this without difficulty and came back ready to go.  Lanzarote is a perfect place for an MdS training camp as there is a range of suitable terrain to run on and access to big dunes using a short ferry.  The only thing we would have changed is the temperature – it wasn’t really hot enough.

Finally they tapered off their training and set off to the MdS.


It is at this point that a coach can do nothing but check the results daily and hope.  When they finished the final stage I was really relieved and very proud of them.  It was their commitment to completing their training schedules that gave them the fitness to complete the MdS.  It was their mental strength that allowed them to finish, despite some pretty serious injuries.  The training gave them the confidence that they could run all day if they needed too, but this only reinforced an amazing inner strength that was already there.

I am very proud to have coached Martin and Angela.  Despite the fact that Martin enjoyed the process of training properly to be a runner, he has decided that cycling is his sport, but still intends to do some running.  I am pleased to say that Angela is going to carry on pushing the boundaries of her running, and that she has asked me to be there to guide her.

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Marathon des Sables training – two competitors’ views

We are writing this trying to process the most intense, insane, painful, joyful week of our lives.  A week in which, both of us finished the 28th Marathon des Sables.

We are confident that in the subconscious of every MdS participant there is a small but very real flicker of doubt. There are questions about whether we have trained enough, do we have the right food, is it enough, are our packs light enough, how/will we cope with the environment and will we get along with our tent mates etc. It is all these factors that, together with the distance, terrain and environment that contribute to make this an extreme event. It is not merely overcoming the physical, but rather conquering the MdS at both a physical and mental level which enables the MdS to be billed as ‘the toughest foot race on earth’.

Our background

We were two complete novices at trail running 18months ago, and we are both in no doubt that our success was determined by one predominant factor:  the consistency of dedicated training and the continued motivation that was brought to the table 12 months ago in the form of a training schedule formatted, adapted and regularly updated to our individual requirements and physiological/physical responses by Lecky.  We opted for the advanced coaching package.  This consisted of weekly Skype consultations with the opportunity to talk/text more frequently if there were any issues.  We also had several face-to-face training sessions during which we were taught technical aspects of trail running.

We felt that the advanced package suited our requirements of dealing with much more than just the physical aspects of training as we also had to learn about efficiency and strategies involved in being successful in a multi-day ultra race.

The physical aspects of the training package

The following is a summary of some of our key training in figures:

·         Average long run – 30km’s

·         Longest run  – 42km’s

·         Greatest distance covered over a 7-day period – 98Km

·         Number of days training per week – 5 days

The efficiency aspect of the training package

Lecky taught us how to pursue efficiency.  We were taught that it is a matter of running when it is relatively effortless to run, and walk when the effort of running outweighs the benefit of running and to seek a way to use our energy as efficiently as possible.

The strategy aspect of the training package

Another important lesson Lecky taught to us, and which went beyond a simple running schedule was how to strategically manage all our actions this meant managing everything, our feet, hydration, heart rate, food intake and racing with a back-pack weighing a minimum of 6.5kgs. The MdS also requires focus and concentration especially important regarding hydration and salt intake, when you are both physically and mentally tired.

The variable terrain aspect of the training package

The MdS is over variable with soft sand, hard & sharp rocks, dried lakes, ridges and Km’s of undulating sand dunes.  Lecky’s training programme enabled us to encounter each of these differing technical terrains with confidence and an adaptable technical approach which allowed for a consistency in our racing pace.  We live in the Lake District so this obviously helped as most of our runs incorporated rocky, undulating terrain.  To gain experience of running on sand and more specifically sand dunes, we took the advice of Lecky and took a two week training holiday to Lanzarote.  This proved invaluable as we encountered the various terrains on the MdS course and it was also an easy day-trip to the neighboring island of Fuerteventura and the sand dunes there which meant that when it came to “running the dunes’ we had the confidence which allowed us to make up a lot of places as other participants gingerly negotiated their ascents and descents.

It is therefore with certainty and humbleness that we both know that our ability to participate in the MdS is not a product of personal greatness but rather, the result of a an intense training programme developed by our trainer whose support made this all possible. It was Lecky’s commitment to our training programme that took us from novice runners and made us both better and competent trail runners with the endurance and stamina needed to compete and complete ‘the toughest footrace on earth’.

We cannot thank you enough.

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