Our weekend runs always include a visit to see Murphs friends now. Today we saw them first and then headed for the fields and the beach.
As the sun rose the day just got better and better. It was one of those runs where you never want to go home. 9 miles later we eventually finished – mainly so we could eat, drink and go out again later.
Another day another injury – not me this time but the Murph who had a cut on his paw. No idea how he does it, theres just a lot of sharp stuff out there and when you have an active dog in nature it’s gonna happen.
So the decision then becomes do I run without him? And I can’t bring myself to leave him at home and go out and enjoy myself without him so therefore how do we make the best of the situation? So I dialled up the mobility and strength part of the training. Ok so it’s not running in nature but it’s going to help in the long run. So stretching and weights it was.
And yesterday and today we are back to running – keeping it short and sweet while I keep an eye on his paw – to be honest it wasn’t even making him limp and I only noticed it because he was playing on the floor next to me while I stretched so I am probably being over cautious but hey look at me being all responsible!
So thats been the last week or so – but now we are back! It’s not like we haven’t been out.
On Sunday we trotted out for a few miles of running, I wasn’t intending too much as it was midday and on fine weekends the coast gets busy and we don’t like busy. But as we sped down the lane after a quick parents visit it just felt too soon to head for home. It was just too nice out and the legs were feeling like they had many more miles in them so we set off towards the clifftops. In the distance I could already see people walking the coastal path but hey ho in for a penny and so we turned right instead of left which led us along the cliffs away from home so we could drop down at Witches Point to do the full stretch of the beach where hopefully there would be less people.
Along the cliffs we passed a number of walkers and you know what? Murph coped. He wasn’t happy about them but he coped. He didn’t growl, bark or pull too hard to get past them.He just put his thousand yard stare on and bravely (for him) just got past them without a fuss. On the beach I let him off the lead and he stayed right with me, we ran within 50 metres of people and he plain ignored them and stuck to my heels. I didn’t even need to put him on the lead until we hit the singletrack path off the beach and even then he behaved impeccably. Pulling slightly as if under tension but controlling his fear.
For those that don’t know Murph was a mess when i got him. Scared of his own shadow, he had obviously been mistreated and no way could he have got past all these people like this back then. He used to panic and run in the opposite direction to people. Eventually he found his voice and learned to bark at them to stay away but he has always been so scared it’s been heartbreaking sometimes.
But on Sunday I was so proud of him, I could tell at times he wasn’t happy about being close to strangers (once he knows you he is fine) but he soldiered on, gritted his dog teeth and kept going. I told him so in the last field on the way home, he got a 10/10 mark from me on Sunday – never happened before.
It’s taken over three years and maybe we have reached peak Murph rehabilitation but even if it is then it warms my heart to know I’ve made a difference to his life, replacing fear with love.
Not the golf club three wood but rather our small three woods challenge. On our regular runs there are three seperate woods that we visit just not on the same run. Murph loves woods as there are furries to hunt and things to sniff. So I figured why not do a run that links up all three so he gets to visit them all in the same day. I had a vague idea it would be around half marathon length and would mean we could take in the fields, woods, cliffs, beach and the lanes.
Plus it was an excuse to take sandwiches and extra dog treats. Of course everything is easier in phot form so here goes the story of the day (spoiler its not that exciting)
You wait for ages for one but you just want to get off it as soon as possible. Luckily the runs aren’t like that these days. With it being half term we have a full week to get out and about and so after waiting for the rain to stop we headed out for a bit of variety. We hit the beach, followed by the forest then ended up in the lanes where Murph was most pleased to meet his best friend by pure chance. In fact his friend was so happy to see him he ran off with us instead of his owner and we had to backtrack a bit to return him
10 miles of dog joy and things feel just right at the moment, the only injuries are nary but niggles and the cardio side of things is just fine. More miles in the legs and some hillwork and we’ll be ready for more mountains.
It’s odd, it might be 6 months away but just having an ultra to train for it giving me unexpected motivation
I shared this blog with someone the other day and realised I haven’t posted in six months. Which kinda makes me sad as it used to be daily. I havent lost my love of running. I think I’ve just transitioned into a different phase of it. At the end of the day how many times can you write about the same runs over and over. And I’ve progressed from worrying about progression to just running by feel. Just as I can tell the time on the run without a watch I can feel my effort and distance.
Six months – a whole summer has passed and summer for us tends to be our off-season, I don’t like to run Murph when the mercury rises, he tends to overheat fast despite being Portuguese. Drawback of a black dog perhaps. So runs gravitate towards early mornings.
But now as the countryside cools we are back at it again and it does feel good to move more and quickly. I have raced once since Covid, back in August when the Preseli Beast Bach (small beast) was rearranged. It was a shame there was no Beast (24 miles) or Ultrabeast (32 miles) this year but I can totally understand why and it was good to be invited to the Beast Bach and no way was I turning that down – I love that part of the country.
As it’s only an 11 mile race (though the elevation is tough) I decided beforehand that I would just go all out and leave nothing in reserve. Which I did. And I was happy with the effort and results. I wanted under 2 hours and I got 1.54 and I was comfortably in the top half of the field and top 50. Can’t ask for much more than that really.
Mostly I was happy with the effort I put in, it was a staggered start and you don’t know if the runner you are chasing started before or after you, all you can do is your best and I felt I couldn’t have given much more. Especially as I chose to race without a watch too – risky if you have set yourself a time goal. But I figured knowing the time wasn’t going to make me go faster if I was at full effort anyway and so it proved. I’m not sure I would want to run without a watch on ultras just for the sake of timing food and cutoffs but we shall see, it’s something I’d like to try.
Apart from Preseli it’s just been a case of Murph and I starting to rack up the miles on a consistent basis again. He’s loving it as much as I do. It’s something I cherish now as I know it won’t last forever so every run is special in some way.
Update – not sure I can update something I didn’t actually post but i’m updating anyway. Looks like the Preseli Ultrabeast is back in May – six months is a long time but something to train and focus on. I love that race and will be good to stretch my legs for the full 32 mile version again. It’s so beautiful up there.
Last saturday we marked the spring equinox with a run. An ultra in fact. Due to pandemics etc I hadn’t run one since the 50 miler back in 2019 so I figured it was time to get back on the horse and why not do it by marking the beginning of my favourite season. I’ve learned that a bit of preperation goes a long way in running ultras even in your own local area so although I didn’t plan a route I left a drop bag at my parents and left gear and food at home so I had two “aid stations” to visit when I needed.
Now I was pretty sure Murph could do the whole 32 miles but I didn’t want him to. After all I get the choice to stop if I have to, I can call it quits but he can’t or won’t. I know he will just go as long as he can and that may be too far, he has no real way of communicating that. So the plan was to drop him off for a few hours rest and then I could pick him up for the end.
We set off at 6.30 on our adventure!
As usual the first miles fly by. Murph did his usual run about like a lunatic thing, probably covering twice the distance I do. We raced the tide along the beach and were having a whale of a time.
Our plan went perfectly, as we looped back into Wick at around 9 miles we met our friends who go walking their dogs every morning. Murph loves a blast with his friends so it works out perfectly if we hit the field at the right time. It was also a chance to grab some food and water from my parents
After a while spent playing with his pals we set off again in the opposite direction making up the route as we went along. We found ourselves in the woods around Atlantic College and followed the new footpath through the college and back around toward home.
By the time we hit home for the first time it was 17 miles in and after a quick break for sustenance it was time to distract Murph with some treats and set up on my own for a few hours. He was probably doing better than me at this point as the legs were finally showing signs of tireness but he seemed raring to go still. The next 11 miles were …. ok I guess. I was at that point where things were starting to hurt so it was a case of grinding out miles plus I was missing Murphs company. Although its easier and faster to run without him as you dont have to constantly monitor him it was kinda sad to not have him there for part of the journey. But part of ultrarunning is just the mentality of “getting it done” and I certainly was going to get it done no matter what.
It was odd to run an ultra without the normal race setting, no people, no other runners, no defined course, no finishing line and I admit there were “why am I doing this to myself moments?” but I knew there would be those moments and I had prepared myself for them. You get them in every ultra but it’s just easier to drop out when there’s no-one else around. So if I thought about dropping I thought about something else instead. Like picking up Murph at 28 miles!
Although things were certainly starting to fall apart in the legs (and oddly back spasms) releasing the hound certainly gave me a boost for the final miles. As did stopping briefly at my parents house a few times where I could have a chat and get some food and water down me. Where would we be witout aid stations!
As we trotted home I checked my watch (I actually wore one for once) and realised I could still break 8 hours which considering the terrain, dog minding and various stops. But to break 8 we would have to put a final charge on. So after 31.5 miles it was time for a sprint – Sprint being a relative term but we gave it all we had down the road and hit our original starting point and 32 miles later in 7′ 59′ 30
All in all the whole day was a success. As with all ultras I’ve run there are parts I hate while im out there and then I look back and say I loved every minute. It was certainly different to run one with just Murph for company and I was so happy that I could motivate myself to stick at it. I wonder if there will be more …
My posting that is, I have plenty of time to write but seemingly it’s more fun doing something than writing about it. So as per usual we’ve been out and about, running here, running there but no longer logging the miles like last year. Which took a litle while to get used to but after having to record every single walk and run I think I do prefer just getting out there and doing it and sod the numbers.
We also have a few projects on the go. First up is Run all the Footpaths which does basically what it says on the tin. There’s a vast network of footpaths and bridleways around here and I want to run them all with murph, which takes us maybe to places we haven’t been before. Hopefully it will turn out to be an ever expanding circle of footpaths on a google map that I’m recording them on. Christ I’ve ended up recording things after all.
We also now have a Go Pro camera and as of yesterday a camera harness for Murph. So we’re been doing some filming and I’ve been playing around with video editing – which I’m not very good at. And Murph now has his own youtube channel where I can store all the finished videos. The lastest is being uploaded as I type and is his first test run with his hardness for a Murphs eye view of a run.
Should be more to come, especially as the weather starts to improve, I don’t really want a harness on him when it’s wet and to be honest I don’t like him wearing one at the best of times but the odd bit of filming won’t hurt I reckon.
We have some more things in the pipeline and for now I leave you with his latest photos!
No 2434 isn’t a date in the future when life on earth ceases to be – though I might as well make it a bold prediction as I won’t be around.
2434 is the final number of miles Murph and I walked and ran this year. 2000 was the target so we beat that by quite some way. I’m actually impressed I managed to keep a log every single day for a year. When I think about how much I enjoy being out with him, even when its cold or raining thats a lot of distance and time to be happy.
We averaged 6.65 miles a day, I can take a wile stab in the dark and say our average speed was 3 and a half miles and hour (averaged out between walking, running and idle ambling) which makes around 700 hours outside with my dog – no wonder I enjoyed 2020 more than most. That’s 30 whole days of pleasure. A month – We spent a whole month of our year wandering through the fields and beaches. Happy dog, happy owner.
I’ve thought about it and I wont be logging the miles this year, my curiousity is sated and despite everything above numbers are pretty meaningless when you can’t measure happiness. We have other projects to be getting on with anyway.
When I think of all the sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen it does make me feel truly blessed
It’s been an odd few weeks (probably more than a month I admit) since my last post. At the end of November training and pretty much everything else came to a juddering halt as I caught covid from one of my schools. Them’s the breaks and the risk was always there so you have to be philosophical about things. To be honest it could have been much worse and the part I struggled most with was the removal of my outside world and exercise.
But there are many worse off than me and although I was rough for a while at least I survived and recovered quickly and am back running again. Not quite back where I was but it’s coming. So since we were allowed back out we’ve been off covering some lost ground. And twice our plans have been thwarted by nature. Firstly we headed off to a cove which you reach by a set of steep steps which we discovered had been removed by a landslide!
What can you do? No point crying over spilt milk and landslides, Murph was happy to navigate the fall but I didn’t fancy plunging to a painful death so we adjusted our afternoon plans and headed off on a different path which meant we got to spend time on a different part of the beach and found a cool new rockfall. Survive and adapt.
The rain lately has been pretty incessant and yesterday we decided to dodge the showers and get some miles in on the road by navigating the back lanes, we can get some good hill work in too as a bonus. However at one point we need ot cross the river via some stepping stones which had … disappeared
Never fear I know another crossing I informed Murph and we trotted onwards …
Only to find that the ford inclusing the stepping stones was completely underwater. Maybe we could have made it, probably not, I’ve been in there before and it’s slippery and the current is surprisingly strong. After a bried discussion we decided Murph would have a treat and we would retrace our steps. He who doesn’t drown and runs away lives to run another day.
So no, things haven’t gone to plan. Plans never survive first contact with the enemy anyway so they say. Who cares, make new plans. As lomng as you live to run another day eh