Oooh it’s all gone a bit technical

Or as technical as it will ever get with me! I was listening to a podcast earlier  and the guest was Matt Fitzgerald (who I’d never heard of before admittedly) and the subject was about motivation and percieved effort in running. How can athletes push themselves further than they thought they could. It centres (it seems to me) around the old mind over matter theory, that it’s our minds ability to endure that snaps first not the body. I really enjoyed the podcast even though I guess its principally based on elite athletes or those looking for race wins or great times.  I couldnt do it justice explaining it as I think i’ll have to give it another listen just to fully comprehend it. Its at this site anyway and called “How bad do you want it?”

This led to me thinking (not always a good thing) about what is motivating me with running right now?  I’ve done a half marathon, I’ve run up to 15 miles off road so I guess its the full trail marathon next?  I swear I never got into this “to do a marathon” it’s not a bucket list thing (I have no buckets or lists) but it seems the next natural progression. I probably haven’t really considered it before as it seemed completely impossible six months ago. But there we go, as long as I go at it all at my own pace so it doesn’t consume me or become a chore I’m happy to give it a go …. Is that enough motivation? I think it is for me, perhaps not for others. To try to do something just to see if you can seems a legitimate way to live to me.

So two days off and champing at the bit today after work. Had a few things I wanted to try, I knew the tide was in so it would have to be the cliffs – I say have to be, it’s hardly a chore to run anywhere around here.

I wanted to slightly modify my form again towards the chi running technique of leaning forward and getting away from my heel striking and had a good practice at it. It’s really hard though to change ingrained technique though because as soon as I stop concentrating my body slips back to its natural form.  However I do think it’s worth persevering with because I swear the knee ache dimmed. A further complication is that front foot striking does lead to me increasing my pace which I’m sure many would argue is no bad thing but I do know that endurance is more important to me than speed and increased pace = decreased distance at my current level of fitness.  Conclusion … I shall sleep on all this!

I did manage four and a half miles without exploding my ventricles or falling flat on my face and was surprised to see a near 10 minute pace – However this does include a mile or so of road running which is a bit like cheating in my rather weird little brain.

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Moody clouds on the cliffs
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Looking back to the cliff top from the road
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Arrghhhgh the birds!

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From one slipway to another

Saturday runs – I just love them. I was lying in bed last night and was actually excited about getting up and getting out there. Like a kid at xmas! The sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning to head out so I packed my rucksack and off I trotted.  I decided to switch it up a little and at the beach headed left towards Marcross along the cliffs.

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Today is a lovely day to run (coyright Eels)

It was a pure joy to be outside, I removed the headphones and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors. My legs felt good and I felt good. At Marcross I stuck to the cliff path and went past the lighthouse (this is not the lighthouse – well it’s like a mini lighthouse – I duon’t actually know what it is)

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Mini lighthouse thingy

Then I went past the foghorns

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If these go off when you’re nearby it A) makes you leap out of your skin and B) deafens you for the next five minutes. I could hear these from my house when i was growing up. The sound of them in the far distance while I lay in bed was always comforting to me as a kid.

Then the lighthouse proper!

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It doesn’t actually lean, that’s my awesome camera work shining through yet again

And onwads along the cliff path, down through the woods at Atlantic College until I reached slipway number one.

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Slipway at Atlantic College used for launching lifeboats (not sure they still do though)

I turned here and retraced my steps back towards Monknash but this time on the beach – I say beach but it’s rocks from here to back past Marcross. I noticed a few runners approaching from the other way and heading for the cliff path. Despite being on the rocks I managed to keep pace with them to Marcross – I’m not that competitive but sometimes it’s good to take your mind off the miles with a little game eh?

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I call this the “pavement” – Its a smoothish stretch of rock you can pick pace up on – though you still have to have eyes down watching for the cracks
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The lighthouse from the beach. You know what? Perhaps it does lean, surely even I can’t take two photos on the wonk of the same thing can I? (Answers on a postcard but I think the answer is yes I can)
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Now this must have been a job and a half! Below the lighthouse the cliff has been shored up with stonework – I can only imagine how hard it is to do this kind of work between the tides with nary a cement mixer in sight plus the danger of falling rocks ever present – I tip my (hard) hat to whoever managed this!

I kept going along the beach and back towards Monknash, I could have turned for home up the Cwm but decided to keep going as I felt fine.  Onwards with the sun occasionally popping out to warm me which was appreciated due to a biting headwind. By the time I reached Witches Point at Southerndown the rock hopping had taken some of the juice from my legs. Luckily I had remembered to hydrate and fuel at the right times (despite my Garmin going mental and stopping without me noticing) and I climbed up and onto the cliffs above Dunraven bay.

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From the cliff edge I could see slipway number two at Southerndown beach – Now you get the post title – See I do plan these things!

I turned here and headed back but this time along the cliffs until I reached Traeth Mawr. Normally i would keep going along the cliffs and then turn for home up the usual trail but today I headed inland across the fields and then a lane as I wanted to pop in to see my parents on the way home. They live in Wick and in fact live at the highest point in the Vale of Glamorgan (Not that its exactly a mountainous county to be fair) so the run there was all uphill from the coast which really made the legs ache. I was twinging in my ass (I think the technical term is glutes) but I made it back and when I pieced together my Garmin runs I had covered around twelve and a half miles which over all that terrain I’m very happy with!

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Bonus cloud photo for Slowrunnergirl!
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Part one of run
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Part two – the elevation gain at the end was the issue with my ass!

Pushing on a little further every day

After a good win for Wales over France last night (good not great, we seem to have difficulty crossing the line) I actually left the pub early, not that I wasn’t enjoying myself but I knew I wanted to run today. How times have changed!

I felt good today and planned to do a long run so took my pack (did I mention I love my Inov8 pack) with me. Lucky I did as I ended up doing 15 and a half miles!  Basically it was the half marathon I did before with a trip along the beach to Marcross tagged onto the end. I must admit I felt pretty damn good for all of it up to about mile 12.  At this point i came off the lovely smooth flat sandy stretch back onto rocks and found my legs were stiff and it was difficult to pick them up higher for the rocks.  This did abate after a while, I’m guessing that the low stride of the sand locked them a little.  Will have to remember this – pick those knees up on sand!

Speaking of knees I had very little trouble with them today.  I deliberately set a slower pace as I knew i’d be out longer (not that it was much slower according to the watch by the end) and concentrated on my form. I’ve been looking at chi running, as much because I try to keep an open mind and i’m currently devouring anything running related.  So I was trying to stop myself from leaning back which I tend to do on flat ground. This may have helped the knee or it might have been the slower place or the moon may be in Aquarius or something, all I know is it doesnt hurt.

I was feeling the distance in my legs by the end but I guess no pain no gain and all that malarkey. A good rest day tomorrow should help matters.  I also found a fuelling formula today that worked for me. Start fuelling 45 minutes in and every half hour after that. It seems to be about the right interval to keep me going steadily.

So all in all i’m really happy with today. The distance, the pace, my mood and it really feels like i’m progressing – albeit slowly – but at my own pace and in my own way. Enough burbling, to the photos!

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View from Witches Point – Yes I know i’ve posted similar photos before – I just love this view!
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Southerndown Beach
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Like a millpond as they say!
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Other side of the Ogmore river – Merthyr Mawr dunes – Now theres a thought ….. (Oh and pony trekking)
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I used to sit here for hours just throwing stones for Soak to fetch – She loved that game and would never tire of it.  I stopped here for a moment thinking about her today.
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And as I stopped and thought the sun poked through the smallest gap in the clouds and shone on me – I know i’m a sentimental bugger but I just get the feeling she’s letting me know she’s ok
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Decided to take the narrow route above the cliffs
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Kind of wish I hadn’t as this was the drop if I missed a step
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Twas a police helicopter hovering over the area today – Plus a few rescue boats, not sure if it was an exercise or they were actually looking for someone.
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Waterfalls on the return path home
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Not sure I can eat these….
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Aid station manned by horse – Nope shouldnt have eaten the mushrooms

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Up & Down or Rather Down & Up

Gorgeous day today that had me thinking that perhaps … just perhaps spring is here …. and therefore watch it rain tomorrow.  I pondered whether I should be taking a rest day as I had a niggle in my left ankle to go with the usual dull and faint throb in my right knee. But the weather was just so fantastic I coudn’t do it, I couldn’t resist the run and with views like this can you blame me?

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Rest day – I’ll wait for a rainy day

The tide was rapidly coming in so I hot footed it to the sand and managed to competed Traeth Mawr and back before i got cut off (sounds dramatic, I was easily back in time)

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Sun starting to set at Traeth Mawr

So ok I had run when i probably should have rested so time to go home …. but wait it’s still lovely and warm and the sun hasn’t set ….. and I’ll just go up onto the cliffs …. and run to Marcross and back adding another 3 miles or so.  I’ll rest when it rains I swear!

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Marcross lighthouse at sunset

So a really enjoyable six and a half midweek miler. I’m a bit achey in the knee right now so maybe a rest day tomorrow ….

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Sunset over the Nash sandbank

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Cliff run and sunset

Was a beautiful evening and couldn’t wait to get home to run down to the beach, knew the tide was in and wanted to check on the legs before deciding to get up on top of those cliffs! In fact I felt just fine after the weekend and found myself pushing harder than I normally do for most of the run – especially the downhill bits. I decided on sunday that downhill miles are essentially “free” miles and so I need to learn to maximise their potential and save myself some energy. So today I practiced letting gravity take over and increasing the stride length. It can get a bit hairy at times, especially with the steepness of some of the hills coming down from the cliffs but it’s also great fun and a skill I want to improve.

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Tides in so up on the cliffs I go – Between Cwm Nash and Cwm Mawr
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Cwm Mawr – Thats a hill opposite I need to master
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The fields on the way home – I promised you sunsets slowrunnergirl and I do not let down :p
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More sunsets! (Ok so technically the same sunset from a different location)
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Sunset over the stream at the ruins of Monknash Monastory
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Bit close to the edge to be honest but the beach from the Cwm Mawr side
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Sunset as viewed from inside a prickly bush

 

Well …. That was unexpected

I’m proud to say i’ve just completed my first half marathon distance. I didn’t actually mean to. The tide was out the beach was perfect, little wind and weather was fine. I ran from home to Witches Point near Southerndown and back and would normally turn to run the path back home – around a 6 mile run but I felt great. The legs felt fantastic, no stitches and my breathing was fine.

So I kept going, halfway towards Marcross beach the rain started and the wind picked up. No matter, its beach running, it’s a bit of water. On I went! Past Marcross – Now I’ve never run past here before as I know its all rock and no sand but I wanted to take a look. It is indeed all rock but almost paved in places so not too bad. But then the real rock hopping started. I’m not sure I realised how much it was taking out of my legs, I was just enjoying bouncing around the beach, concentrating hard and picking paths. If you were to ask me how I do it I wouldn’t be able to say. It seems to be an ability to flick your eyes up to see which way you’re going for a split second then back down to watch your feet and pick the rocks you’re going to run on next.

It was around the 7 or 8 mile mark (I wasn’t really looking at the distance) I thought to myself “hang on i feel great, just keep going and see what happens” And so I reached Atlantic College, checked my distance and it was around 8 and a half miles. Pretty much perfect for 13 miles by the time I got home as long as I added a small loop of around half a mile.

So off for home I set, now with the wind and rain at my back. I was getting pretty cold by now though despite the running effort. I’m not sure if this had an effect but not far after the turnaround I started to tire. I could almost feel the energy draining away. I had an energy get but it was probably too late by then. Had I known I was going to try a half marathon I would have taken 2 or 3. My spontaneity was now starting to cost me. The journey home was more of a struggle than i’d anticipated. The sand stretch wasn’t too bad but it was taking more and more effort to spring up onto rocks at the Nash end of the beach.

Despite feeling tired I was determined to do 13 so I added a small loop around the rocky part of Cwm Nash and headed for home. Now one drawback of beach running is that you can’t escape the fact that going home is always going to be uphill and as I started the first uphill part I started to crash badly. My energy levels plummeted and I was almost falling over at parts. It was incredibly difficult to run at all and I was almost doubting my ability to get home at all. Even at a walking pace. I’m not sure if this is what marathon runners refer to as “the wall” I honestly felt like I could pass out and running was extremely difficult.

Each field on the way back was a huge challenge, not helped by the sticky mud pulling my legs down, I was literally staggering in places. To be honest it was lucky this hadn’t happened further from home. A lesson learned indeed, be prepared and if i’m going to do a longer distance plan it, don’t just do it on a whim. Still as with everything in life its a lesson learned and an exprience I won’t forget.

Forgetting that last mile though it feels fantastic that i’ve actually achieved a half marathon over difficult terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Today i’m proud of myself and I feel I deserve that feeling for a while. Six months ago I couldn’t have dreamed of todays achievement and while i’m proud of todays particular effort i’m mostly proud of sticking at it and the hundred other efforts it took to get this far.

The route

Outward bound toward Witches – These rocks require some concentration at any speed

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Traeth Mawr – Sandy stretch between Cwm Nash and Cwm Mawr. Beautiful scenery and lovely sand to run on

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Rained a bit lately – Waterfall at Cwm Mawr

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Cave at Cwm Mawr – Inside and out (Kids do not enter caves or go under cliffs like these – its very dangerous. I’m an idiot)

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  Chimney stack near Cwm Mawr

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Undercut rock at Witches Point – Only exposed at low tide

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Marcross Lighthouse from the beach

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Turning Point – Atlantic College lifeboat ramp

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Around 11 miles in these rock steps felt more like a ladder

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Limpets in a line – At this point I may have been hallucinating and willing to take photos of anything

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Second field of hell – Hey cheers horses for really making it as muddy as possible

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13 Miles and i’d like to say “Never Give Way” is more appropriate

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