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

 

Hoka Trail Half (ish) completed!

I now know the meaning of bittersweet. It’s been a bittersweet kind of weekend. Around an hour or so after I posted yesterday, my eldest cat Spoon had his food and then a short while later lay down and simply passed away. He was 18 so a good run, I guess old age finally got him. At least he died peacefully and with me here with him.  This didn’t really put me in any mood to run, I get so attached to my animals I’m heartbroken but I figured as with everything in life it’s the setbacks that make you stronger when you overcome them.

So this morning I buried him and then laced up and got ready to run my first event – The Hoka Trail half marathon at Margam park.  The weather was still atrocious with gusting winds, cold and miserable drizzle. I got there about 45 minutes before the start not knowing what to expect and there didn’t seem to be much direction to anything so I just sort of hung around and kept warm. There were still large queues of people registering as we got close to the start time of 10 and the time hanging around dragged but I didn’t feel nervy.  Hey after burying your cat first thing in the morning a trail half is easy :p

In fact we got going pretty much on time although no-one could really hear the tannoy announcements (unless you were at the line I guess) everything seemed to be done by general consensus of the crowd following each other like sheep. Once we were underway though I felt fine. I didnt know really what to expect from the course or myself so I decided to keep it fairly easy and just ran the pace I normally would by myself.  After a few miles I was still at 10 min per mile pace which was fine by me. I knew i wasn’t pushing too hard. Then the hills started, though the first was a single track with hardly any opportunity to pass, as it was still early in the race and I’m used to hills I wanted to run it but knew I couldn’t waste the energy slowing and stopping continously to pass people, without my usual even hill climbing stride I figured I’d screw myself so I just walked it with the others.

After that the track widened and I really started to enjoy myself. I won’t bore you with details of the whole thing but I felt fine and under control all the way, in fact the more painful parts were me were the downhills which caused me some knee pain because of the impacts. I did enjoy flying the downhills though …. until what’s this?  The leaders coming past going uphill!  At this point the realisation that I was going to have to come back up the hill I was currently enjoying was a sobering moment.

In fact the long slog back up wasn’t so bad, I picked a lady in front of me who seemed to be doing the same metronomic pace and stride as myself and simply followed her up. Apologies to the lady in question, I just needed a pacer at that point to keep the legs turning over.

Once we were back on the downhills I knew there were around 3 miles to go and opened up the legs to see what I could do. I was pleasantly surprised at myself. I hadn’t been out of breath at any point and the legs felt fine so at this point I felt like I was flying and could run all day …. but to my surprise we appeared to be reaching the end of the race early. Someone on the side called outonly 400 yards to go and I figured they were trying to give us a boost … but it really was 400 yards.  Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone it seemed the course had been shortened by almost 2 miles (I’m presuming due to the weather conditions at the top (The mist meant visibility was down to 10 metres or so in places)

So with plenty left in the tank I motored on in for a time of 1.49.21 which meant a dead on pace of 10 minutes a mile which i’m really pleased with!  I’m obviously disappointed by the short course but I do know that i had loads left to give and would have easily finished in a good time.

Unfortunately not everyone is as easy going as me it seems as many of the more serious runners were annoyed by the short course and it’s taken no time for the complaints to start on the internet – why they can’t just talk to the organisers I don’t know.

I must admit there were a few things apart from the short course that bothered me. There were no facilities to change whatsoever and no bag drop so I had to leave everything at risk (we all did to be fair) and the organisation overall at the start left a little to be desired.

On the flip side this was a first trail event of this scale for the organisers and they did well to get it going at all in these weather conditions. The people I spoke to on the course seemed to be enjoying it and I did thoroughly and can’t wait to do another. I’ve already dropped a quick email to the organisers thanking them for their time and efforts, i’m sure as with everything it’s a learning curve for them and teething problems can be remedied.

So yeah it’s been a strange weekend, veering between sadness and exhilaration. I’m proud I have this event under my belt and look forward to the next.

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Pretty much my only photo – I went back out to support the runners still coming in after I finished – It was cold but seemed the right thing to do!

Free Stuff! Not for you … for me!

Registered today for the Hoka Trail Half so I can have an extra half hour in bed tomorrow. It’s only a half hour drive so no rush anyway but it settled a few nerves anyway. By now you’ll know (as I’ve been banging on about it forever it seems) it’s my first event of any description so now it’s real.

The bad news is the utterly atrocious Welsh weather – What, did we think we would get away with a trail half marathon in Wales in February without getting wet? it’s not only raining it’s positively evil out there a solid wall of drizzle and gusting winds too.

I signed my name on the dotted line (I exaggerate – the guy crossed me off his list with a highlighter pen) picked up my goodie bag and strolled back off into the rain. Inside my bag was a t-shirt and sun visor! Yes indeed they will come in handy tomorrow!  Nah only joking, I didn’t expect anything at all so it’s a nice touch by Hoka.

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Yay for free stuff!

The event itself is at Margam Park which I haven’t been to for many years (maybe since our sixth form party ended in a riot over 20 years ago) so it was nice to have a quick look around.

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Margam Castle itself is quite pretty (But not what i’d call a castle to be honest – Where’s the battlements, arrow slits and murder holes?)  Spot the mist hanging above it …

 

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That mist is hiding the forested hills of the park itself which i’m going to be going up and over tomorrow!

Oh and of course I nearly forgot my bib number!  So if you happen to be freezing to death at Margam park tomorrow and see number 656 then give me some encouragement – I think i’ll need it!

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Will catch you on the flipside tomorrow for celebrations (I hope)

 

Last trails and hills before the half

A beautiful day to get out today, had things to do this morning so had to run when tide was in (grrrrrrrr) but as I’m learning every cloud has a silver lining and all that. I decided to run along the cliffs so I could get a few hills under my belt.  It was so lovely I couldn’t resist taking my camera as well as my phone to see if I could get better resolution photos. I quite like the way some have turned out, feels much more natural than using phone filters.  As for the run it was just under 5 miles and at a steady pace for the terrain. I started in the usual place at Cmw Nash

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Blue skies at Cwm Nash – First hill done
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Looking from Cwm Nash to Marcross. Keep an eye on the cliffs at the far end of the bay – I shall appear there in a few photos time.
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Arriving at Marcross – The lighthouse is in the distance. I believe these are Iron Age barrow mounds. Great to run on and around.
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Here I am at the other end of the bay from photo 2! It’s a beautiful run along these cliffs but you need a head for heights to come up here to take this photo.
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Oh and to get up there to take the photo you have to climb this beast – I managed to run the whole thing, well sort of run, more of a powerhike
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Hey look at the amateur photographer with his shadow in the photo :p  Anyway thats the forest I get to run through on the way back. Much fun on a narrow slippery trail =)

So all in all a great run, everything felt fine so now some rest until sunday – To be honest I’m glad the forcast is for rain tomorrow otherwise I’d be itching to be back out there

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Just a quickie

Wasn’t going to go out today, it’s rained non-stop for about 18 hours but it’s half term and I’m therefore off work (the joys of working in schools) and I just couldn’t sit around inside anymore. Just a couple of miles through the fields now converted to streams. Felt heavy on the legs but also felt like it worked out some stiffness too.  Good news is sunshine tomorrow – I hope!

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More grey than blue today
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Angry seas

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When Trail Running goes a bit Blair Witch

Thought I’d have a change of scenery today so I ran the trails around St Brides common (St Brides being the next village to us). I used to walk Soak up here a bit so I knew a little of the area but not that much, today was as much about getting out into different conditions, finding a few hills and just going where the trail took me.  It turned into an 8 mile jaunt which I didn’t really intend to do but I felt fresh and the way i’m feeling at the moment i’m not too worried about the legs for the half on sunday so while the weathers good why not do a little more?

So my journey in photos

 

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Nice easy trail to kick off with some sand to get the muscles working
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Looking down on the River Ogmore
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I ran floodplains
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And saw some geese (Possibly Canadian Geese I don’t know, I’m no avian expert)
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However I know a swan when I see one
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My phone kindly made a panorama for me without being asked
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Climbed a hill – ended up on a golf course. Variation is the spice of life and all that
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First lamb of the year spotted!
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Ok so when is a left turn not the right turn?  When the trail stops and you end up in the woods running along a 45 degree slant with no path.
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Still lost in the woods and it’s all going Blair Witch (Ok I’m using some poetic licence here, I sort of knew where I was I just couldn’t be sure. We used to play around here as kids but it looks different now)
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Success! This is where I was trying to find. the old quarry at Castle Upon Alun.  Scarily we used to happily climb these cliffs as kids with no safety gear whatsoever. Ahhh the feeling of being an indestrucible young un.
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It actually gave me chills realising how steep these things actually are
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Took the scenic route back – All uphill it seemed
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I pass this tree everyday on the way home from work. I call it the “fuck you tree” For some reason it was felled years ago but in defiance it is determined to sprout again and keeps growing year on year.  Can you draw inspiration from a tree?  I do, it reminds me that whenever life beats you down you don’t give up. You get up, dust yourself off, say “fuck you” and grow again.

So all in all a great run which put a smile on my face, especially the ending with my inspiring tree which i’ve wanted to take a photo of for a while and today serendipity happened.

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