Old to New

Time to semi-retire my Inov8 xtalon 200’s I think. They can go in the back of the van for impromptu runs.  I think probably the best recommendation for running shoes is that I bought exactly the same pair to replace them. I find them that comfortable (for a stripped down shoe) and wouldnt run in anything else if I know I’m doing technical stuff. The grip is utterly fantastic and I love that I can really feel the rocks under my feet. I feel confident in my foot placement so much more in the 200’s.

But after around 3-400 miles I can see materials starting to tear and I want to run Cornwall in them – or the same model at least so I’ve got a new pair to break in ready.

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This is what hundreds of miles of battering on all sorts of terrain does to a shoe. Im mystified as to how they appear to have shrunk but both old and new shoes fit me perfectly well (they are both size 11) Its a testament i think to the quality of Inov8 shoes that they have lasted this long and to be honest there are miles left in them.

To be honest the new ones don’t even take any breaking in, I did 7 miles in them yesterday and felt perfect from the off.

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We did seaweed and rocks
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We did more rocks and revelled in the grip
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We did sand in lovely patterns
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We did forest trails

Welcome to the world new shoes – I’m gonna wreck you!

 

 

Preseli Beast – What I done learned

Ok so in the aftermath of the Preseli Beast last weekend I promised to follow up on a few of the thoughts I had.  This might not be as interesting as I’ve used up all my photos of the day (well mostly) but will act as a useful reminder next time I’m running this event or similar so bear with me.

Kit

I used my Inov8 Xtalon 212s and they worked superbly – I was pondering which way to go with shoes as they don’t have the most cushioning but I love them for the grip and stability they provide – They turned out to be comfortable all day and the grip while climbing and descending was fantastic. I always trust these if I want to do a technical run and they never let me down.

I used an Inov8 10 Raceultra pack with soft flasks at the front. I was originally going to use my Inov8 Racepak but at 4L capacity it couldn’t hold all the kit required for fellrunning plus enough food and water so this was an investment for the future. It’s an extremely comfortable pack, I didn’t even notice it was there most of the time and it didn’t chafe or bounce at all. My only gripe with it is that the softflasks come with long drinking tubes which can slip out of their shoulder holders while on descents and bounce around in your face but I just slotted them under the chest strap and no further issues.

The rest of the kit was standard stuff, asics tech shirt, sturridge baselayer shorts (although I cricket manufacturer in the main I find their shorts are super comfy) and hilly monoskin socks (no blisters no chafing)

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Hydration and nutrition

As noted earlier I took 2 inov8 500ml softflasks with me, normally I run with a bladder in the back but I preferred this as the weight of the water felt better off my back and didn’t contribute to pack movement. Plus i was able to judge how much I was drinking and was able to refill easily at water stations without removing the pack.  I remembered to keep drinking all the way which was easy when it was hot lower down but once up on the peaks it was much colder with some wind so I was happy I remembered to keep sipping away.

I took a fair amount of my homemade energy bars with me which always seem to do the trick and tucked into the jelly babies on offer at the aid stations – after all why not!  As with hydration I judged this pretty well I think, probably could have eaten a little more and need to teach myself to eat when feeling shit on climbs.

Pacing

I had a plan which I was determined to stick to and it worked out pretty well in the most. I started out deliberately near the back and just hung around there so I didn’t get caught up in the excitement and hare off too fast. I knew there was single track through the forest after a mile or so and moved up in front of the slowest runners so not to get bottlenecked there. This left me around two thirds of the way up the field which I stayed around most of the day.  After around 5 or 6 miles I was chatting to a few guys around me and they were also there just to finish and I almost just stuck with them but realised it was just a mental comfort zone I didn’t really need and struck out at my own quicker chosen pace.

I read somewhere some great advice – Never run something at the start that you wouldn’t run at the end. I had to modify this slightly as otherwise I wouldn’t have run anything over a 1% incline but its solid advice and keeping it in my mind meant that I didn’t overexert on the ascents.

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Descending

Descending gets a section of its own as it could well have been where the race was nearly over for me and was a major cause of pain and slowing down later on. I love descending, just as I love running quickly over rocks on the beach, it’s a thrill and a joy to speed along just at the edge of what my reactions and body can cope with.  However I’m not used to descents that last over a mile over rough terrain and so although it felt fine to fly down (And trust me I made up a lot of time and places doing this in the first 10 miles or so, everyone who went past me going up was caught going down) and it was sooooo much fun to descend quickly at the limits my quads simply weren’t used to this sort of extended pummeling. By about 10 miles I had a pain in my left quad that was making me start to alter my stride and the longish descent into the town suddenly switched to tarmac and I couldn’t sustain any sort of pace without serious pain in my legs.  This was then repeated for the next 14 miles – every descent was as painful as the climb. No rest for the wicked!

So I know I need to really work on my downhills to build up the muscles there that tend to get neglected. The next race in August also has a lot of climbing and descending though its coastal nature means shorter bouts of it.  I intend to identify places where I can do repeat hillwork – And everytime I get fed up of it then remember the pain and problems my quads caused last weekend and do it again. If I hadn’t suffered so badly with the quads I could have knocked a fair amount off my time and although the mission was simply to finish it’s always nice to give it a real go!

Mentality

I will quite happily admit I was nervous going into the race. I hadn’t run 24 miles before and certainly not in a fellrunning environment.  However I was coming in with a gameplan and a goal – finishing. The race had cutoffs too which was new to me and they added a little to the stress but in the end were happily immaterial. There were many times, especially once the quads were hurting, that I thought “I cant do this for many more miles” and each time I told myself to suck it up and keep going.  I cramped badly in my calves after the penultimate climb because it was so steep I was constantly on my toes and at that point I thought I was done (I’m not used to cramps) but I didn’t panic and just slowed to an amble and figured I could get by with a weird shuffle step until it passed – If it didnt pass I was on top of a bloody mountain so I was coming down one way or another anyway.  People passed me at this point and it didn’t matter, it was me versus my legs and the mountain. After a while and a bit of stretching the cramps faded and I could pick up pace again.

So if theres one thing I learned its DONT PANIC. Things will hurt, things will feel like they are so broken that you cant possibly finish. Get the pain under control until its managable, if you cant run then walk a bit.  At one point I had to sit on a rock to remove stones from my shoes, I sat for less than a minute. When I got up my quads were miraculously cured – for a short distance but it took a while before they reached def con fucking arghghghghhhh again.

Its a long day – its a long race and at the end of the day when you look at it time and places are immaterial. If you need to stop to regroup do so. There are no medals for running every step, there are no medals for breaking yourself to achieve a time or placing.

I hope I remember to read this and remember it before the next race. If I can do that plus add some hillwork I might just get away with pain instead of agony

 

 

Long beach & cliff run plus news!

How do you keep an idiot in suspense goes the old joke. I’ll tell you later.

Anyway today it was time to see exactly how much fitness I’d lost through injury, there was a reason for this test but first the run. As I knew I was likely to be going at least 10 miles I knew I’d need water and fuel so I cracked out the salomon squishy bottles and made myself some new fuel – I hereby announce to the running world the invention of the Honey Bomb!

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Working on the principle that you don’t eat with your eyes I present the first batch of Honey Bombs. I swear they taste so much better than they look … honest

Ingredients – all chucked in a bowl with no measuring.

Raisins, dates, flax and chia seeds and a dollop of honey all mixed together and placed carefully in scientific manner on a baking tray and then wanged in the freezer.

Result? I have discovered purest energy! Well I ate three of them on my run and they certainly kept my energy levels topped up. The only drawback being their incredible stickiosity. I wrapped them in silver foil so when unwrapping them I must have looked like the worlds healthiest junkie.

I was also glad to have taken a litre of water too as it started to get hot towards the end although I did actually hydrate myself all the way through which I’m disproportionately proud of. All this I packed away in my Inov8 race pack 4 which is just so comfortable I don’t even notice it’s there. The salomon soft flasks work great as once you’ve had a gurgle out of them they fold up and can be carried in a pocket until empty.

Anyway I managed just over 12 miles which didn’t feel like a struggle until the hill into Wick to my folks (another shout out to the folks) near the end which just felt like it was going on forever, plus it was half road and as we all know I hate roads. My body felt fine above the waist, the legs simply haven’t got the miles back in them yet but I’m sure that will come.

The beach was as usual beautiful even though I was going into a headwind on the way out and I managed to remember to breathe through my nose pretty much for the whole thing. This is becoming second nature which I’m especially pleased with as I know I’m no longer blowing myslf to bits early on.

Enough text they cry! Where are the photos?

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Outward bound – I tried to capture the headwind but failed :p
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Cliff stack – I’m waiting for this one to come down (as long as I’m not under it at the time) Also spot my superb accidental capture of a seagull
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Green! I knew I’d get some green in for CeeJayKay. This is actually a very rare phenonemon called cliff snot
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View from the cliffs again plus some green
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WARNING! Rockpool ahead!
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View running back along the cliffs (more green plus fluffy clouds for SRG)
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Foresty bit (included for its greeniosity)
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Field of unripened corn – Note colour!

Oh yeah so the news ….

I’ve signed up for a race in August. In Cornwall! It’s a trail run along the Cornish coastal path. A friend of mine and I are going to camp down there for the weekend as there is a bar and DJ and stuff to entertain him while I run on the saturday.

Thing is … the 20 miler I was originally going to do was full so I kind of ….. signed up for the 32 mile option. I have 6 weeks to prepare. I may well die (note to parents this is a lighthearted throwaway line I won’t really die)

Ultra or bust! Probably bust but I’m going to give it my best.

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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Voyages of Discovery

I like discovering things. Hence my beachcombing sorties. This mornings run turned out to be one of discovery although it never gets planned that way.  I was up early – well half seven is early for me on a weekend – and decided today was the day to crack out my “new” running shoes. Why the “? Because technically they aren’t new. I’ve had them months but have never worn them as I’ve been waiting for better weather as they’re minimal – Inov8 Flite 240 – Which arent really trail shoes but I wanted to have a go with less cushioning.

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Inov8 Flite 240’s

Also they technically aren’t new because – And serious runner types look away now in horror – I do buy shoes on ebay. Yes I have a scheme. People often sell nearly new trail shoes on ebay which have been worn only once or a few times as they didnt fit. Now I’m not fussy, I’ll wear other barely used shoes once they’re disinfected and washed. And in this way I’ve picked up good bargains – These inov8s had been used once and the guy didnt like them- I picked them up for £12 – A quick google tells me they’re around £60 new.

Ok I hear you cry, but the fit – the fit is crucial!  Well yes I agree and as they say you have to kiss a lot of frogs.  The shoes I buy (And I set low limits to what I’ll spend – I’m looking for bargains and a way of testing as many brands and styles as I can cheaply) if they dont fit or they aren’t right I simply resell them – The most I lose is a few quid on shipping and I’ve turned over a profit on some. I’m honest in my ebaying, I say I bought them and they don’t fit and I say what the previous owner told me – as in they’ve done 10 miles or been worn twice.

It might be unusual and not to some peoples taste but in this way I’m learning what’s good for me and getting to try out different styles. Just like today. I had no idea what to expect from a more minimal shoe but I really enjoyed it.  The first thing I noticed was that you can really feel the trail underfoot – Not ideal on rocky patches or trails with pokey up stones (technical term there) but on grass and dirt track it was truly lovely to really feel the trail. Every small undulation was apparent, every foothold felt good. I came to hills – I was a little worried about this as the soles didn’t look grippy – Bugger how they look – These things grip like a gorilla holding the last banana! I was like a mountain goat – no a bloody ibex!

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The grip down and up these valley sides was fantastic

I did 10 miles in them this morning and felt comfortable all the way. I can’t wait to see how they perform on the beach and on rocks.  I can’t say I’ll definitely switch to more minimalist for good until I’ve done more testing but they aren’t being sold that’s for sure.

Back to the discoveries though.  At the top of this valley something caught my eye – rubbish. Who would drop litter here? My anger turned to curiousity though, the litter looked like a book in a bag and it turned out to be a geocache!

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Sadly water had got into the book so it was unreadable but I packed it all back as well as I could and left it for the next person

Next up was the top of the waterfall I go past on the beach, it’s a bit tricky to get to the top of it and there’s an easier route that I always take but today something made me scramble down to the cliff edge and I was delighted to find a pond

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I get the feeling the bright green vegetation is going to look great when spring really kicks in – at the moment they appear to be small rushes
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I also discovered I could dangle over the edge of the cliffs here to take photos – Mainly because I’m stupid
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But you get some nice photos of the tide fully in at Cwm Mawr. Strange to think I run here at low tide.

I kept going, enjoying the feel of the shoes, past Southerndown and turned at 5 miles to begin the journey back detouring slightly to take in Dunraven castle – I have run past this loads but never through it. I don’t know why as it’s so pretty and peaceful – I had the place to myself as I was so early.

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Dunraven Castle grounds
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Yeah you can kind of tell solicitors wrote it :p
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Pond!
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Dunraven Castle remains

I also discovered that my knee still hurts no matter what shoes I’m in. However I then discovered after 8 miles it hurts no more than the rest of me at that point so I don’t care!

Final discovery wasn’t really mine – It was these two discovering the world for the first time. I’m kinda glad I’ve moved to a plant based diet these days. Enjoy your weekends everyone!

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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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