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!

2434

No 2434 isn’t a date in the future when life on earth ceases to be – though I might as well make it a bold prediction as I won’t be around.

2434 is the final number of miles Murph and I walked and ran this year. 2000 was the target so we beat that by quite some way. I’m actually impressed I managed to keep a log every single day for a year. When I think about how much I enjoy being out with him, even when its cold or raining thats a lot of distance and time to be happy.

We averaged 6.65 miles a day, I can take a wile stab in the dark and say our average speed was 3 and a half miles and hour (averaged out between walking, running and idle ambling) which makes around 700 hours outside with my dog – no wonder I enjoyed 2020 more than most. That’s 30 whole days of pleasure. A month – We spent a whole month of our year wandering through the fields and beaches. Happy dog, happy owner.

I’ve thought about it and I wont be logging the miles this year, my curiousity is sated and despite everything above numbers are pretty meaningless when you can’t measure happiness. We have other projects to be getting on with anyway.

When I think of all the sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen it does make me feel truly blessed

Always live to run another day

It’s been an odd few weeks (probably more than a month I admit) since my last post. At the end of November training and pretty much everything else came to a juddering halt as I caught covid from one of my schools. Them’s the breaks and the risk was always there so you have to be philosophical about things. To be honest it could have been much worse and the part I struggled most with was the removal of my outside world and exercise.

But there are many worse off than me and although I was rough for a while at least I survived and recovered quickly and am back running again. Not quite back where I was but it’s coming. So since we were allowed back out we’ve been off covering some lost ground. And twice our plans have been thwarted by nature. Firstly we headed off to a cove which you reach by a set of steep steps which we discovered had been removed by a landslide!

I swear there were steps here not long ago
Murph explores the area searching for lost steps

What can you do? No point crying over spilt milk and landslides, Murph was happy to navigate the fall but I didn’t fancy plunging to a painful death so we adjusted our afternoon plans and headed off on a different path which meant we got to spend time on a different part of the beach and found a cool new rockfall. Survive and adapt.

Rockfall discovery – as close as we got as the cliffs are lethal this time of year – especially with the amount of rainfall lately

The rain lately has been pretty incessant and yesterday we decided to dodge the showers and get some miles in on the road by navigating the back lanes, we can get some good hill work in too as a bonus. However at one point we need ot cross the river via some stepping stones which had … disappeared

Murph would have made it but maybe not me

Never fear I know another crossing I informed Murph and we trotted onwards …

Ok so now the road has gone too

Only to find that the ford inclusing the stepping stones was completely underwater. Maybe we could have made it, probably not, I’ve been in there before and it’s slippery and the current is surprisingly strong. After a bried discussion we decided Murph would have a treat and we would retrace our steps. He who doesn’t drown and runs away lives to run another day.

So no, things haven’t gone to plan. Plans never survive first contact with the enemy anyway so they say. Who cares, make new plans. As lomng as you live to run another day eh

The difference a day makes

So on saturday it was raining, windy, cold and generally meh. However it’s never a waste if you’re out on the run. I try to learn new things, the general advice with effort and running is that you should be able to hold a conversation while running, if you cant then the effort level is too high. Bollocks I say, I have amended it to if you can run uphill into a gale while singing songs to your dog the effort level is not too high. I have an entire catalog of songs I sing to him, I make them up and then forget them and then make them up again, it makes the miles fly by trust me. What he thinks of it i’m not sure but he does tend to ignore me a lot so I think thats’s probably a clue.

Then on sunday we set out at dawn and what a difference, calm, still and so warm by the end of the run I was shirtless. It was one of those I could run forever mornings so I just kept tagging bits on so we didn’t have to go home so soon. And then we had been back an hour and it was just too nice to be indoors so we ran a few more miles up to see mum and dad (where I had to eat biscuits as I was bonking from not eating – I fed the dog but not me at home)

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 a difference a week makes

A week after the solstice night run goit cut short the ankle felt good enough to run again and it made me realise how much more I enjoy running without a watch, free and able to see Murph having a whale of a time. It was one of those, I’ll see how it feels runs – and then it feels good and 8 miles later we both have a huge smile. the only thing missing was mini cheddars!

The grass is cut – I’m waiting for someting
Time to play in it
Bale day! Bale day is the best day of the whole year – I love bales – This is me being excited and possibly an idiot too
Best of all I love posing on them
Happy to be back running in daylight Murph? You bet he is
And this kids is why you dont walk under the cliffs – this wasn’t here yesterday and it can only can have come from up! (he says while takking a photo near the cliffs. To be fair we were there for a few seconds but people sit here for hours ….)

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