One of the beauties of ultrarunning and I guess life is that you live and learn. And they say you learn as much of not more from failure than success. And I think I agree.
Yesterday was the run “over the other side” for a 40 odd mile run along the south west coastal path in Devon. It was all planned, I had my friend Claire as my support crew, the two dogs were going to spend the day traveling with her to various support points. All that could go wrong would be my legs giving up, or I could fall off a cliff or something.
The landscape was beautiful and so much fun to run through. As I had never been there before it was like exploring as I went. The photos below really don’t capture the scene.
I set off around seven and was in a groove much sooner than I expected. I was expecting hilly and I certainly got hilly, with a mix of long drawn out drags and really steep stuff. It was all technical and I was loving all of it. I was alternating between shirtless down in the wooded valleys and a waterproof jacket up on the highest hills as it was drizzling up there.
Then the derail began. Not with the legs, not the heart or the head but upon reaching combe martin to meet Claire and pick up more food and water it was clear murph was an unhappy dog. He’s been on crew before and was fine but yesterday he wanted none of it. He was crying and whining all morning while I was gone. He was barking at people when parked up. He is a nervous dog because of his rescue past and it displays in ferocious displays of false bravado which to the outside world can be quite intimidating and frightening.
I continued on and at the next stop they met me on the path so he was happy to be away from people but as I stocked up and then moved on his crying broke my heart. Suddenly the joy of running where I was became joyless. I turned it all over through the next section which as it turned out got me near halfway. This was because Claire couldn’t get the van near enough the path which stressed her further. I was oblivious as there is no mobile signal. It seemed like a long leg but as I pulled into the next stop I could hear murph barking before I saw him and the decision was made. It was over there and then
The time to think on the last leg brought me to the only possible conclusion. I could continue in my own world and selfishly push for the 40 mile achievement I wanted so badly but only at the cost of the happiness of the others.
It was a no brainer. I checked how they all were and climbed in the back with the dogs and called it a day. I’m not going to lie it was disappointing. I was having the day of my life as far as running goes. It was all clicking along. I had a few back issues with the downhills but not enough to stop things. I was driving the uphills hard, too hard perhaps and who knows if the wheels would have fallen off eventually. It doesn’t matter because in the end it turned out not to be a day about running. Ultrarunning is about making decisions, hundreds of tiny decisions throughout the day all leading to success or failure.
In the end I only had to make one decision yesterday. And even if today I feel like a failure I know deep down making the right decision was the only way to really win.
We were pinned at home by the storms over the weekend, nothing long was really possible so we made do the best we could. Sunday was utterly dreadful and it doesnt take long for cabin fever to set in. But this week is half term and so we took our chance on monday. Although we didnt mean to – I have a slightly dodgy back at the moment, I felt it pull while lifting but I figured a few miles to see the folks and back wouldnt hurt.
So off we went and although the wind was still strong it was just fine. We extended a little and then some more and then figured well we might as well go a little further which led to us covering around 10 miles or so and we got to see the damage to our forest – which turned out to be surprisingly little just a few trees here and there.
I’ve never run with consistency, if I was to be honest it tends to be boom and bust. Periods of high milage and then injuries so I’m trying for some consistency this year – And right now i’m on a 14 day running streak. Some of those days are only 3 or 4 miles and I have this thing in my head that tells me it’s not far enough – and this time I’m going to listen to the other voice that tells me that if I am consistent then it is plenty.
Back to work tomorrow and the streak will end soon enough but let’s see how it goes as once again I have plans for this year – all to be revealed soon. But if I can stay healthy and get a decent winter training block in then all will be good.
So I hope everyone had a good xmas and all that stuff. Always remember that the days grow longer now, imperceptibly but they do and spring will be on the way soon enough so things are on the up even when they don’t seem like they are.
I got to thinking after xmas. My nephew brought a virtual reality headset with him on boxing day and it started me thinking about reality. I can see the use of VR in education – you can fire pupil’s imaginations like nothing else with it. But what concerns me is the disconnect from the real world and actually experiencing things.
I thought about this while running this morning, it was still semi dark, the wind was howling and then it started to hammer down rain too. And as I ran through it all I thought about how although some may consider it a miserable experience to me me it wasn’t. I could feel the lash of the rain on my face, feel the water running down my face and mingling with sweat and stinging my eyes. I could feel the salt in my mouth as I sucked in air. I could smell the wet earth beneath my feet, the aroma of wet grass. I could sense the freshness of the storm, the wind blasting over and around me, pushing me this way and that, making me drive into it.
I looked down to see Murphy trotting alongside me, as usual when i transfer attention to him he looks up at me and seems to grin. I know deep down it’s just the way we percieve and anthropomorphalise animals but it seems like he grins and smiles at me, sometimes its almost as if he looks up to agree how utterly ridiculous the situation is, why are we running ankle deep through streams of water into a biting wind anyway? Not that he cares because I know at that moment he feels alive, no matter the weather he is out doing something he loves with someone he loves – and so am I. Because right now we are alive.
And can VR give this? Of course not. But corporations will tell you it can. Because they want to sell it to you. And all the attendant “experiences” they can sell you too. They want you at home, sat in your lounge where you are comfortable, malleable and ready to part with cash. How can they sell things to someone stood ankle deep in mud in a field? So they will tell you be comfortable. There is no need to leave your home. Be safe. We can bring the world to you.
I say no thanks, I’d rather be cold, wet, tired … and alive.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.