Running is never beige

I have a friend who refers to days when nothing happen much as beige. I was about to describe todays run as beige when I thought woah there no run is ever beige. Something is always different, something is usually learned. I think beacuse I only did a quick trip to the beach which I’ve done dozens of times it felt nothing out of the ordinary. The tide was in so no beach adventure.

So what gave this run colour?

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No matter how grey the sky and sea its still beautiful
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Driftwood (shoe for scale) – Which I ran back with (bloody heavy too) Yet another piece I have no idea what to do with.
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Random graffiti – Now normally I would abhor this but it will be completely gone by the end of the next hight tide. As for the message – Well Im presuming its by someone called bean. Mast is used as a name around here instead of mate “Alright mast we going to the pub?” and for some reason he or she didnt just write 2016.

So kids remember – Look outside the beige and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.

A journey into nosebreathing

It had recently come to my attention through the efforts of my personal training advisors  (you know who you are) that by breathing through the nose will prevent going over the heartrate threshold (or something like that, at least it acts a a bit of a regulator) so I set off for the beach last night to try it out.

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Gratuitous beach shot

First impressions – felt a bit odd, I’m clearly an inveterate mouthbreather when I run, usually in some sort of gasping fish out of water style. After I while I got more used to it, I think I should have been counting steps and breaths or something but I’d forgotten what I was meant to count and how much I should be counting to anyway so I just made it up.

It does actually seem to work, if I was finding it hard to breathe through the nose and felt like I needed a gulp from my mouth then I knew I was pushing too hard. Mainly the uphill bits it seemed as I could happily cruise at around 10 min per mile pace on sand while nosebreathing.  In fact the hardest part was remembering to do it once I got into the zone and started enjoying the scenery and terrain.

I actually covered seven and a half miles and it didn’t feel like I was putting out too much effort. Maybe this slow/chi/noserunning technique has plenty going for it. It was kind of a definite comeback run for me. Every day as I travel to work I pass at a distance the hill of Witches Point at Southerndown and I can just make out the wall on the side of it. Throughout my injury it has teased me with its presence and every time I’ve gone past I’ve sworn my revenge on it.

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Who’s in charge now then wall?

Yesterday that time came and when I reached the wall I took a photo of my vanquished foe, gave it the two fingered salute and pranced around it just to demonstrate my return and put this completely inanimate object back in its place – I’m king of the hill again!

Instead of the beach on the way back I ran the cliff route which means lots of hills to test out the nosebreathing. I have to admit to switching to my mouth a few times before remembering why I’m doing this in the first place.  Gob shut I continued slower.

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View from the clifftop

Once again for those that reached the end of the post I give you the brave … I don’t care that you are photographing me …. lamb

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I swear if that little face doesn’t make you vegetarian then I don’t know what would

Getting back there … slowly

First run with only days rest in between yesterday but the sun was shining with a lovely breeze and the tide was out. I was a little concerned but it all worked out fine (was that a spoiler?)

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You can see why I wanted to get out – Low low low tide means big big big playground

I was determined to keep it slow and keep the heartrate below 140(ish) which isn’t as hard as it sounds if you’re not wearing a heart monitor as you can cheat a little – I think I might actually have to invest in a watch soon with one though. Any recommendations?

The hardest part at the moment is remembering that I’m keeping it slow. It’s easy on the sand and paths as I don’t have much else to think about but as soon as I hit technical sections I seem to revert back to how I used to run them – hard and taking too many risks – To be fair sometimes it’s actually necessary to take some of these at a higher pace. Doesn’t make sense? I’ll try to explain (which probably won’t make sense)

The rocks in the photo above aren’t a great example as they are more like a pavement anyway but if you imagine a long stretch like this but with fewer rocks and more gaps – ok got that?  Then at a slower pace you are limited to where you can land. You need rocks within a smaller area and when you come to a gap it halts you as you cant leap them so easily. At a quicker pace your potential landing area is larger and you can cross bigger gaps making for a smoother and less disjointed run.  Did I manage to explain?  Anyway I think I can cover rocks while keeping the heartrate reasonably low and can let it fall way back on sand.

SRG has been an invaluable source of information on slow running (It’s so much easier when someone does all the reading for you then condenses it so if you’re interested in it and for faaaar more insight from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about check her blog out)  and in a recent post talked about flow. I kind of understand what she means.  Slowing the pace down (and by slow I find thats 10.30-11 min per mile on the sand and 11-13 on technical sections (lets not talk about climbs, I need to learn to walk more)) I can feel that the running is not straining me at all, it’s easy to breathe and everything above the hips feels like it could go all day. Thats not the case for my legs at the moment which are the bit of me protesting. I think after basically 3 months out it’s going to take a while to get the conditioning back to where it was. Which is fine by me, I’m learning to take it all much more slowly.

Arghhhh wall of text – sorry guys

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More rocks!

I have finally found a flaw in the Altras – When it comes to sections with rock “steps” as in the photo above, sometimes you can’t leap the whole step and so I tend to look for a ledge half way up the step and hit that to propel myself up. Some of these ledges will be quite narrow and the width of the Altras caused me a problem yesterday. I landed on a ledge with the outer half of my foot (And i wondered how I got a foot injury) and pushed off but as the Altras are so wide there wasn’t enough of my foot on the ledge to push properly leading to me slipping down some lovely barnacles and taking the skin off my leg. Something else to remember!

Arrghhhh too much text again

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The changing seasons – In winter this is a waterfall. In summer the algae grow and it becomes quite a beautiful feature.

All in all I managed six and a half miles at around 13 minute pace. The foot felt good (though ached last night) and it felt great to be back out running the whole stetch of the beach down to witches point. I knew the conditions were perfect for a photo op of the beach so I did the climb up Witches (lets not talk about heartrate at this bit, I may have failed) as I knew just where I could get a good photo.

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Was definitely worth the climb. The far headland is my way back home.

So for anyone who has waded through this you get a bonus jellyfish!

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Altra Lone Peak 2- A coastal review

As you know I spend the vast majority of my runs on the coast or getting to and from the coast through fields and paths. As I felt my foot has improved enough and because it was low tide I felt like giving the Altras a proper test over all my favourite terrains. It turned out to be a five mile run which is the longest I’ve done since my injury so I’m really happy with that (excluding the 11 mile fell race I accidentally did)

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The Altra Lone Peak 2 – Before I got them muddy – So yellow!
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The paths are your usual dirt with various rocks, roots, mud and small streams. The Altras handle this kind of thing nicely feeling stable and the cushioning is great but you can still feel the trails nuances underfoot.
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Rocks – Its really important for me to have grip and lateral stability on the rocks as my feet are landing at different angles and gradients. I don’t want to be losing grip as often my foot lands at forty five degrees. The Altras actually surprised me with the grip, I use Adidas Kanadias if I’m planning on a lot of rock running because of the good feel on rock but I found the Altras held on just as well. I didn’t find them quite as stable laterally though, sometimes feeling that my foot was about to turn sideways. This might be something I need to adjust to due to the wider toebox and zero degree drop.
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These kind of rocks are an absolute bastard to run over as you have so few landing spots or margin for error. The Atras coped well and the extra cushioning lessened the impact thankfully.
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Sand – Awesome! Simply felt so comfortable and the cushioning felt great. Then again everything feels great on sand!
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Water – If you like dry feet then the Altras aren’t for you as they let in water easily but more importantly let it out just as easily. In this respect they tick the box for me as I don’t mind wet feet at all and would rather it drain than squish. Just as importantly they regain their yellowness (Is that even a word?) when you splash through water (Little things please little minds)

Overall I’ve been incredibly impressed by the Altra. It was a risk spending so much on a shoe I hadn’t even tried (sadly it’s hard to find stockists in the UK – Even the internet shops have limited range too) but having heard what the makes had to say and through some research I’m glad I convinced myself to take the punt. The show feels extremely comfortable and grips superbly. I think I haven’t done enough miles to really get used to them but I can safely say I’m going to enjoy learning to.

I can’t wait to do some longer runs to really test their comfort and durability. I’ll be sure to let you know.

And if you stuck it out and read this far then you get a bonus cuttlefish!

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Badgers, bees and beheadings

Now before you get too excited I actually only saw one of these on my run today.  However I did get four and a half miles done in the dunes at Merthyr Mawr. We also had mizzle – which wasn’t as bad as it sounds as it was kind of cooling. I was taking the pace slow and today that felt a bit more natural. However this may be because running through soft and damp sand is much harder than i’d anticipated right now. I’m not sure how long it takes to recover from injury and get the fitness back but while the rest of my body was going wheeeeeeeeee! the legs were going fuuuuuuuuuck!

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Soft sand uphill is the leg killer

So badgers ……. If you’ve followed this post a little while you may remember my last visit to Merthy Mawr and the killer badgers

Which admittedly don’t exist but …. tracks!

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Badger or dog …. you decide!

Bees! Ok lose the plural

Bee!

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Big, buzzing bugger

Beheadings ….. Ok so you need a little imagination on this one. While running I came across this …

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Chopping block

Which reminded me of those blocks you see in medeavil films for chopping heads off etc and then I noticed the arrangement of logs creating a small semi circle facing the block.

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Log seating for the executions!

Ok so I admit I have a vivid imagination but it’s still kinda intriguing. They must have been placed here for a reason and the ground is worn in the area.

I moved on (as I was now scared of both badgers and axe murderers)

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View of the Bristol Channel from the top of the dunes – The chopping block is down there somewhere.
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Looking across to Ogmore by Sea

I was delighted to find the tide was out and so I managed a circuit of the very sandy beach here. And when i say sandy I mean soft and sandy!

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Altras make great footprints!
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Note the wide toebox :p

All in all a great run to ease back into it all. there was a small bit of niggle from the foot which is why I kept it short, slow and sensible (Not like me I know)

Finally Happy Birthday and Fathers Day to my dad who I think will read this at some point! In fact I’d like to say a huge thanks to both of my parents who have always backed me 100% in whatever I’ve done … even when they haven’t been sure its the right thing.

Cheers all! Happy sunday

Land and sea and foam

Despite or maybe because of the rain I really felt like a run after work today. The foot feels ok after a day on my feet (I often walk a few miles during the day and am pretty much on my feet all day) just a bit achey and I was beginning to wonder if I was being a little over-protective of it.

So surely a quick jaunt to the beach was in order! The good news was that it stood up to it well, admittedly on the way back there was a slight dull ache but I guess thats to be expected, what I wasn’t suffering was the OMG someones hacked my foot off at the ankle pain I was experiencing before – This therefore is progress.

I took it really slowly, for example a 12 minute mile to start instead of the 9 or 10 I used to do. I also took the time to warmup and briskly walked the first quarter mile on the road to get the body going. I managed to keep the pace low – It felt really weird and I couldn’t tell whether my hamstrings were hurting from resisting the urge to go at my normal pace or if they just aren’t used to running again. I’m also reading about chi running at the moment and have started to incorporate a little of it into my form – No-one can ever accuse me of not being open-minded (He said, cherishing his mish-mash of the ideas which he likes best) more of that in later posts after a bit more research though.

Oh yeah and the title of the post ….

Its a not so clever use of an old drinking song I’m sure you all know.

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Land
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Sea
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Foam

I’m just hoping the foam isn’t linked to pollution. Will do some investigating into it though.

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My adoring fans were glad to see me back in action too!

West Wales Weekender

I was lucky enough to be invited down to West Wales by a couple of friends who were renting a cottage for a week ( I say cottage, it was huge and could sleep 8) so off I went on friday straight after work , only a couple of hours drive but you forget the beauty of your own country sometimes.

The cottage was in a tiny village called Nolton Haven and it had the most perfect bay for learning to kayak, not much swell and some interesting coves and coastline to explore.

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Nolton Haven beach at low tide

But first things first I woke on saturday and my foot felt fine so I figured I’d go for a gentle run on the beach as the sand was super soft, of course I couldn’t actually stick to my plan and was soon off up the coastal path that runs either side of the bay. The views were fantastic and the foot felt fine. I’ve spent some time considering things while off injured and have come to realise I can’t hammer my body at this age (which does makes me sound old) when it’s not really used to it. If I want to run at all I need to run smarter, lower impact and run slower.

I’ve been serruptitiously reading about slow ruinning and heart rate training and I managed to keep my heartrate easily below 140 despite some extremely vertical terrain – not that I was really monitoring it to be fair as I didnt have my watch as I didnt expect to be running and anyway the watch doesn’t even do heart monitoring. So I simply took my pulse and timed it. Works for me!

I ran around 4 or 5 miles perhaps and as I say took it slowly, expecting my foot to start hurting but apart from near the end where it started to nag a little on the downhill to the beach it was fine and afterwards I felt no pain. I have an appointment at the doctors tomorrow to discuss the xray results ….. so I probably wont mention the run :p

I also had my Altras on and in my admittedly limited experience these are the most comfortable trainers I’ve ever worn. It’s like running in slippers and the grip is utterly fantastic. Some of the descents were on shale and they provided perfect footing with no slippage at all. To say I’m happy with them right now is an understatement.

Some photos from the run

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Overlooking the bay at Nolton Haven
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Cave!
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Headland which probably has some local name which I don’t know
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Close up of stack
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Looking down to Newgale
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I came across this just off the path – Turns out to be the remains of Trefane Colliery – a Mine! – more info if you’re interested here

 

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Beautifully weathered stones
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Mineshafty thing
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Mineshafty hole

So after the run it was time to test the kayak!

Absolutely loved it, spent a good few hours in the water self teaching various techniques – I think the hardest part was launching it! I also learned how not to panic when you ground yourself on a rock and nearly tip out and how to fend off a dead seagull with my paddle. I finished off with a lesson in how to get back on if I ever do actually fall off by mistake.

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I actually look like I know what i’m doing! Note the calm sea though

After kayaking it was chill out, bbq, beers and watching Wales win their opening game in the Euros! Oh and playing with Iolo the labrador puppy – Who had this face on after trying to eat my Altras

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Ummm we may have drunk one or two

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Well running and kayaking is thirsty work!

All in all a fantastic few days. So glad the foot held up and to get a few miles done was the best news plus the kayak is great and gives one hell of a workout to arms, legs and arse!

Hope everyone else had a good weekend too.