Making It Up

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!

Enjoying himself playing “come on catch up”

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.

Through Southerndown and looping back towards home

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

Happy?

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.

Woods being Murphs favourite place to find furries

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.

This is the face of a dog who has had a good day!

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

What a tangled web we run

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 …

Seems like its monthly now

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.

So far it looks like this with the yellwo lines as completed footpaths

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.

If you want to see his vids go to

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwjERA57Av8_6_iwHv7hKtA

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!

The truth is we did it all for the biscuits

7.52AM on a dim sunday morning in October it was complete. 2000 miles in a calender year for the Murph and I. The murphometer is full.

292 days. 2000 miles. 1 packet of cheese biscuits to celebrate. And then we ran on. What else was there to do?

Coming and Going

Again it’s been a long time since i last posted, been busy busy busy, Well when I say more too lazy to post to the blog. If it’s a choice between writing about doing things or actually doing things its no choice at all. So we spent the summer running at dawn before the sun kicked in and then strolling through the fields once it did. It works well for us, neither of us particulary likes running in heat and I always feel its my choice if I do so but Murph would just follow me until he collapsed and thats not fair.

Between all that running and walking we’ve seen a bit of an increase on the old Murphometer.

Thats right we are around 1800 miles – which means I think we’re going to be done with 2000 miles this year a few months in advance – I’m sure we’ll keep it ticking over though. I’ve been pondering it and I think next year I’ll forget about logging mileage – it’s an interesting thing to do but I want to also just wander without having the numbers clicking through my brain. After all that the reason I don’t train with a watch anymore.

We also started exploring the Brecon beacons again now we can go back out there in preperation for some plans I have a long way down the line and of course it’s always great to get out there with murph for a day.

And some sad news is that we lost little Trouble the cat after 21 years. The little dude just got too old in the end. Weird to spend almost half your life with an animal and then he’s gone. I still look for him waddling about in his old routine and find myself still saying morning to him first thing as he headed for his food bowl.

However onwards and upwards. The sadness fades and there are always happy memories and many more memories to make with Murph. It just brings it more into focus.

And so on with the photos!

Doing it our way

Over the years I think I’ve read about, listened to and absorbed a vast amount of information about running. How to do this, how to get better at that, 2500 simple tips to improve your stride length etc etc and if I’m honest the vast majority of it has been meaningless waffle. Running clickbait in the main. Of course there have been many useful articles and books but how many can be applied to my very amateur level of running?

I think I’ve belaboured this point before but training plans don’t work for me – I’m sure they do for others who like the structure and like to see the metrics of progress. Having to do this or that on a certain day may well increase performance but to my mind it decreases enjoyment. I’m only revisiting this because I thought about it while running earlier.

The thought process went something like this. I was reading a book regarding the central governor theory and how the brain judges percieved effort based on how far you still have to go and regulates effort so you get to the end with something in reserve. Whether it’s scientific fact or not isn’t the point here but it got me thinking as we tootled along the beach that three times this week I have set out for a run with Murph and had no idea how far we would go and how long we would be out. The only determining factor being the weather as I don’t run murph when it get’s too hot.

I was musing that therefore my brain has no idea whether I have another mile, 3, 5, 7 or 10 miles to go and also has no clue how much longer I will have to maintain the effort for. So does that mean my central governor is off or muted. Who knows? It’s certainly a way of thinking that appeals to the way I train. I simply go out to have fun with Murph and before we know it we are a dozen miles into another adventure, tired and happy.

In the name of unstructured training we have expanded our lack of planning to include direction … thus

The pebble of chance – Get to the beach, flip a pebble and it determines whether we go left or right – either way is fine by us.

What is failure?

I had a plan. It was a good plan. I tried to execute the plan. I failed. Maybe.

The plan was to run overnight on the solstice weekend between dusk and dawn, so from 9.34 PM to 4.57AM. I would do it mainly on the beach as the tides were right for most of it.

So I packed a drop bag and set off with Murph last night at 9.34 on the dot. We left the bag hidden on the beach as dusk set in and off we went. It was fun, it was different but something was off. I didn’t feel like the running was right, once it was totally dark it was harder than I thought to keep going over the rocks with a headtorch only – and to do it safely I was slow – which was fine by me. but something was off. Just a feeling. We covered 14 miles or so with a few rest breaks at the bag. but something was off. The ankle played up worse than normal and I think the battering it took on the rocks, the stumbles and incorrent foot placements had blown it. It was no excuse I’ve run through much worse pain than that.

After I while I realised that I wasn’t going to do the full seven and a half hours and once I came to terms with that then the pressure – albeit pressure only I had placed on myself – lifted and for the last few miles and the trip home through the fields and woods I was refreshed. I took the time to think about the whole experience and realised that in failure I had learned a lot more. Once we were off the beach I could turn my headlamp off and just move without having to cooncentrate fully on every step. I no longer had to worry about Murph (in his led collar) as the fields hold comparitively few dangers compared to the beach. I realised that much of my stress on the beach was worrying about him in the dark, I couldnt see what he was doing or exactly where he was. It struck me that in the total darkness I couldnt see him enjoying himself – Thats why i love to walk and run him – And in the dark I couldnt.

It was a good plan and it failed not because I failed but because it was a plan I came to realise didn’t matter. The failure would have been to not try in the first place. We got home around half two, I could I suppose have stuck it out for two and a half more hours in the fields but I would have done that just to make up numbers. It didn’t matter anymore. We woke at 7 and walked to the beach – and I could see him loving it, having fun and because I could see that it made all the difference.

I may have failed at one thing but I suceeded at a lot more last night.

Dusk at the path to the beach
Its the sandy bit … before the rocks
The lighthouse at Nash hoves into view – Look up – fall over
Worlds worst photo of a lighthouse
Met this little dude when i nearly put my hand on im climbing a rock
The best bit of the whole night – sharing a huge packet of cheese biscuits with Murph
What the hell are we doing said the green eyed goblin
No excuses but hours of running over these with just a headlamp drains your mind (and rolls the ankles)
No stopping – heading home on the last leg – when i say it was dark — its dark out there

Lessons learned

Last few weeks have been a holding pattern – for much of the world I think. I was musing on the run the other day – last week was my birthday and that morning I planned to get up early and do a long run. I didn’t have much of a plan, it was more a case of throw some food and water in a pack and head out with Murph to enjoy the day before anyone else was awake.  As it turned out we did 17 miles and were out for 4 hours plus – which I was happy with, much of the route was beach and much of it was rocky so progress was slow but we loved every minute. Even when with an hour to go the heavens opened and the chill cut in.

I digress – I was musing about the lockdown and how I felt about it. I have friends who are frustrated, depressed and can’t wait until its over – Which is understandable. So I was trying to work out why I feel so relaxed about it all, of course I can get out with the dog that helps but I genuinely am content to sit and wait and sit and wait and sit and wait. You can’t rush this thing, you can’t fight it, you might as well punch fog. No point in being angry it just needs riding out.

And then I figured perhaps I cope because it’s similar in a way to ultrarunning. You grind through it, you chop it down to step by step, you don’t look at the ending, you can’t look at the ending because it’s so far away and that distance is overwhelming. So perhaps ultrarunning has taught me patience and how to deal with living in the moment and taking one step at a time. The goal will come, we will get through this, you can’t rush it, the finish line comes when it comes. You might as well do what you can to enjoy the ride. In last years 50 miler there were moments I wished for the end, 10 miles out I was praying for the line to come, it couldn’t come fast enough. I look back and I see the mistake I made. I concentrated on the end not the journey. It’s inconceviable to me now I did that, I would give anything to be out there right now 40 miles into a race but out in the mountains and in pain. To try to enjoy that last 10 miles instead of wishing them to end.

No those last 10 miles weren’t pretty but they could have been if I’d chosen to embrace them not hate them.  It might be a poor anology with people dying out there and losing jobs but times pass and we get one shot, embrace it all, even the shit bits.

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Be Happy!

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Dawn at the start of a long run on your birthday  … does it get any better

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On the way home and hunting wabbits

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We found new rockfalls

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And we spent around 8 miles running up and down this stuff – blew my quads out

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There were pretty forests too with bluebells

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And even crowds cheering us on

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No dog is an island

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For mum and dad – these are this years blooms on Trepit Road seeing as you cant get out there at the mo!

A little bit of this …

A little bit of that.  Where does the time go? I swear it was only a week since I last posted and its more like 2 or 3.  In between we’ve been covering some miles – walking and running. I was being so careful this time to not rush back and just continue the injury cycle – and then i go and roll my ankle in a field anyway.  But one of the joys of owning a dog is that you don’t get to really rest up – you always get to do active recovery. So whatever the weather or how the body feels I make sure Murph gets his exercise. Injuries are frustrating but I’ve learned a lot about coping with them. Mainly by signing up for more races.  Well i couldn’t not sign up ofr the Preseli Ultrabeast – I had to reluctantly pass on it last year as I was just a little too injured with the 50 miler I had planned but this year I’m aiming to start a race uninjured (some hope)

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Morning struts and a camouflaged dog

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Like two ships passing in the … err afternoon

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Just glad to be out – When i look back at the photos I cant even remember the day or whether we were running or walking.

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The path back from the beach at dusk

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These are our favourite fields – In winter they are muddy and kinda meh but we’ve made our own path around teh edges so we can keep going – In spring and summer they are the best place ever for zoomies

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We headed off into the wilds – well it was a few miles from home but we know places where no-one else goes and we can get some hill training done without interruptions

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Plus our secret riverbank is somewhere to get some play done

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X marks the dog – I aint moving my butt until you promise to take me with you – wherever it is

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Sunsets at the beach

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Sunset sans dog

Zoomies

I wasnt intending to run much this weekend, y’know the old let things heal thing but it was just so glorious out what else could I do?  Those crisp mornings at dawn are irresistable and not just for me they seemed to entice Murph into a world consisting of zooming around like an idiot. I was happy for him to zoom while I plodded, 5 miles on saturday and 10 today and I feel fine. Sometimes all you need is zoomies (and a plod)

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Blurry zoom followed by charging leap – trick is to stand your ground and he will deviate at last second, if you move either side he will take you out without mercy

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Happy zoomies

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Still zooming

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Ok i’ve slowed down a bit but i could go mental at any second

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Hmmm day 2 of zoom? It’s still frosty

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When the stream floods we ound a new way of crossing – he does it so gracefully compared to me. No-one as fallen in … yet

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Getting ready to zoom – Fuel stop – 1 treat equals 10 minutes zoom

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Just trotting trying to look photogenic

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Prepare the zoomster!

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And go!

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The usual views

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Back inland and heading home through the lanes

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Chilling out on the afternoon cool-down walk (which unsurprisingly included zooming)

Always a pleasure

We rocked out this morning at dawn as I was under the impression it was going to be a really hot day (it wasn’t really) and I wanted to get a good run in with murph before it got too hot for him. I don;t mind a bit of sufefring in the heat but i wouldn’t want to inflict it on him, its just not fair.  So off we went on an adventure which as I am lazy i will recount in photo form. It was a great run, we were out for around 3 hours and it’s time on feet in innterested in these days not distance – plus im not wearing a watch but im guessing 11 or 12 miles over cliffs, fields, roads and forests ….

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Dawn in the Grange – heading for the beach

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On the lead due to big cliffs and idiot dog

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Happy runner – technically going the wrong way

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We even did roads – well lanes – as you can see not used much

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A filter here a filter there

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Happy up on the common as the temperature starts to rise – we actually ended up in the hottest part of the day anyway but it was never oo bad and we know where water is

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As evidenced by Murph crossing the giant stepping stones

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More lanes – note designer grass growing through

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I always love the views from up here

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Yay! We are out and about!