Well …. That was unexpected

I’m proud to say i’ve just completed my first half marathon distance. I didn’t actually mean to. The tide was out the beach was perfect, little wind and weather was fine. I ran from home to Witches Point near Southerndown and back and would normally turn to run the path back home – around a 6 mile run but I felt great. The legs felt fantastic, no stitches and my breathing was fine.

So I kept going, halfway towards Marcross beach the rain started and the wind picked up. No matter, its beach running, it’s a bit of water. On I went! Past Marcross – Now I’ve never run past here before as I know its all rock and no sand but I wanted to take a look. It is indeed all rock but almost paved in places so not too bad. But then the real rock hopping started. I’m not sure I realised how much it was taking out of my legs, I was just enjoying bouncing around the beach, concentrating hard and picking paths. If you were to ask me how I do it I wouldn’t be able to say. It seems to be an ability to flick your eyes up to see which way you’re going for a split second then back down to watch your feet and pick the rocks you’re going to run on next.

It was around the 7 or 8 mile mark (I wasn’t really looking at the distance) I thought to myself “hang on i feel great, just keep going and see what happens” And so I reached Atlantic College, checked my distance and it was around 8 and a half miles. Pretty much perfect for 13 miles by the time I got home as long as I added a small loop of around half a mile.

So off for home I set, now with the wind and rain at my back. I was getting pretty cold by now though despite the running effort. I’m not sure if this had an effect but not far after the turnaround I started to tire. I could almost feel the energy draining away. I had an energy get but it was probably too late by then. Had I known I was going to try a half marathon I would have taken 2 or 3. My spontaneity was now starting to cost me. The journey home was more of a struggle than i’d anticipated. The sand stretch wasn’t too bad but it was taking more and more effort to spring up onto rocks at the Nash end of the beach.

Despite feeling tired I was determined to do 13 so I added a small loop around the rocky part of Cwm Nash and headed for home. Now one drawback of beach running is that you can’t escape the fact that going home is always going to be uphill and as I started the first uphill part I started to crash badly. My energy levels plummeted and I was almost falling over at parts. It was incredibly difficult to run at all and I was almost doubting my ability to get home at all. Even at a walking pace. I’m not sure if this is what marathon runners refer to as “the wall” I honestly felt like I could pass out and running was extremely difficult.

Each field on the way back was a huge challenge, not helped by the sticky mud pulling my legs down, I was literally staggering in places. To be honest it was lucky this hadn’t happened further from home. A lesson learned indeed, be prepared and if i’m going to do a longer distance plan it, don’t just do it on a whim. Still as with everything in life its a lesson learned and an exprience I won’t forget.

Forgetting that last mile though it feels fantastic that i’ve actually achieved a half marathon over difficult terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Today i’m proud of myself and I feel I deserve that feeling for a while. Six months ago I couldn’t have dreamed of todays achievement and while i’m proud of todays particular effort i’m mostly proud of sticking at it and the hundred other efforts it took to get this far.

The route

Outward bound toward Witches – These rocks require some concentration at any speed

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Traeth Mawr – Sandy stretch between Cwm Nash and Cwm Mawr. Beautiful scenery and lovely sand to run on

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Rained a bit lately – Waterfall at Cwm Mawr

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Cave at Cwm Mawr – Inside and out (Kids do not enter caves or go under cliffs like these – its very dangerous. I’m an idiot)

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  Chimney stack near Cwm Mawr

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Undercut rock at Witches Point – Only exposed at low tide

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Marcross Lighthouse from the beach

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Turning Point – Atlantic College lifeboat ramp

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Around 11 miles in these rock steps felt more like a ladder

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Limpets in a line – At this point I may have been hallucinating and willing to take photos of anything

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Second field of hell – Hey cheers horses for really making it as muddy as possible

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13 Miles and i’d like to say “Never Give Way” is more appropriate

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Of runs and rockfalls

Today was another get home from work and get out there epic. Slightly earlier tonight so no haunted woods tonight just a slightly dim woods. The route was exactly the same as yesterday – down to Cwm Nash beach for high tide and back.

I felt great while running today, some days you feel like you’re flying, the muscles weren’t aching or twinging and I concentrated on my breathing. I flew down there despite wanting to make today an easy run, it was just a great feeling to bounce down the rocky trail, I felt in control of my movements. It made me feel happy I guess =) This running lark is certainly good for the mind!

On the way back and uphill I found myself pushing the pace along without consciously doing it. I was making sure my breathing stayed even and I was almost sprinting at one point. When I decided enough was enough I slowed it down and managed my breathing back to a good level with no issues.  Looks like i’m learning about my body every day.

Of other note today was a “rockfall” at the beach. Its more of a soft chalk slide to be honest. Where the Cwm meets the beach the cliffs go very low and consist of a very soft chalk. Interestingly there are very old graves situated here. This section of the coast is notorious for shipwrecks (Including ships lured to the rocks by wreckers) and the Nash Sandbar which sits out in the Bristol Channel has doomed its fair share of vessels.

So the remains that have been found are either that of sailors or monks who formed the monastery further inland (near my home) at Monknash. In fact I run through the ruins of the Monastery every time I head for the beach. More info on the graves can be found here Telegraph report on Monknash

Chalkfall!

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I had a look along to see what else the erosion had uncovered and noticed a piece of what appears to be wooden planking jutting out, perhaps something to do with burials, i’m not sure.

Worlds worst archaeological photo

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From above its just as unspectacular, though the artistically balanced pebble is nice

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When I see things like this I wonder about the lives of the people who lived around here all those hundreds of years ago. What did they think? What drove them on?  So many stories that could be told but we will never know.

I may write more about the monastery again, this post might remind me. I used to be fascinated with the ruins and then life took over when I ran the pub next door to them …. Another story for another day.

Short but Sweet

I didn’t intend to run today, the weather was horrendous so I wrote it off. Then the sun peeked out and I was itching to get out even though I had a fair bit to get done in work I wanted to get home and straight out for a quick run. So I burned through my workload at an alarming rate (I’ll pick up the pieces later) I swear and motored on home at a rate of knots just in time to get out of the door before dusk. For some reason I dont mind coming back in the dark, it’s going out in it that I don’t do… go figure, some psychological shennanigans going on there.

So I managed to fit in a single run to the beach and back – Route here

As I was short on time (I’m going to admit I hardly warmed up – My warmups … meh I’ll talk about those another time) I left my phone at home, no music and no gps tracking. Usually I run with music, especially longer runs but sometimes it’s good to hear the waves on the beach so i’ll remove headphones for much of the time.  Today all I could hear was the wind blasting into my face as I ran down to the beach, I swear it picked up as soon as I got home. Then of course instead of a tailwind on the way home it subverted into an evil crosswind. The wind does this to runners intentionally I believe, its probably karma for challenging nature.

At the beach the tide was right in so I had a quick scout for any interesting driftwood (another foible of mine) but there was nothing that caught my eye and turned to go back and realised that it was now gone twilight and i’d be running through the supposedly haunted woods in the dark (Woooooooooo scary – Actually it’s easy to laugh sat here in the warm in front of the computer but running this trail in the dark does give me goosebumps i’ll admit)

I also realised that without my phone I had no way of contacting anyone if I was to trip or break an ankle while on the beach or trail.  One of the drawbacks of living and running alone is that no-one is going to notice if you don’t come home. Unless my cats work out how to call emergency services and then rapidly develop human speech i’m pretty screwed and lets face it they’re going to devote 100% of their energies to opening the food cupboard.

So i’ll have to either drag myself to civilisation on broken limbs or wait until I’m found by a random fisherman or runner. Maybe i’ll be eaten by demented sheep or horse. Perhaps this is the trail runners equivalent of being eaten by alsations.

I’ll take my phone in future I think no matter how short the run. I digress.

I deliberately ran a quicker pace than usual today due to the shortened distance which was interesting. I found it far more difficult to control my breathing.  In fact I completely let my breathing get out of control until I forced myself to calm it down. A strange sensation. I don’t usually focus on breathing at all. At the pace I usually go it doesn’t seem to concern me unless it’s a long drawn out uphill.  It’s certainly something i’m going to do a bit of research into. Not that pace really bothers me but I must admit running quickly over technical sections was quite fun.

Soooo … short run = long random post it seems

Not today and not a demented sheep but the only animals I seem to have photographed on my runs – I bet they would nibble me a bit if I was helpless!

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Back to it …

Work and running that is. I don’t mind my job, in fact I actually quite like it. However I must admit I do prefer the freedom to run when I like. At this time of year the early dusk means that runs must be squeezed in. Luckily I was home early enough to get out for a while.

The last two days the rain has been torrential so it was a good time to rest the legs and let them recover anyway. Apparently its a good idea to rest them every other day. I’m not sure, run when you can I think because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe it’ll rain, maybe you’ll be stuck in work, maybe you’ll get run over by a bus (make sure you’re wearing underwear apparently)  Well the running when possible seems to work for me anyway, I can tell when my body is saying no, it said no at the start of this week – probably due to last weekends milage and mud – the muscles were a little tight i’ll admit.

So today was four and a half miles to Nash Point and back via the road. I try to keep from the roads but it seemed sensible today to avoid the worst of the mud and darkness was going to fall so I need to get back fairly sharpish.

Todays Route (Manually edited as Runkeeper had a flipout halfway)

I did discover something interesting on the road, in some of the reading i’ve been doing people talk about runners “form” as in the posture of the body while running. Normally off road my stride is based partially upon terrain – apart from sand. But on roads I found I can increase my stride length and almost bound along at greater speed rather than my usual trail running which requires the constant adjustment of pace and stride length.

It was also easier to concentrate on form on the road as there are no obstacles to negotiate, trail running often requires an eyes down fierce concentration to avoid falling, thus the running is more natural, you run as best you can. In some ways I envy road runners who can bounce serenely from foot to foot with elegance – then again I prefer the technical aspects and sheer dogged endurance for offroad – different strokes and all that.

Mentally today has been better too, my head felt clearer and perhaps knowing i’d be running after work helped a little too.  I’ve been through this enough to know there are good days and bad, enjoy the good and try to keep them coming and not assume that every bad day or setback is the end of the world. Easy to type now, I wont believe it when i’m dipping, even if I read this. But it’s true enough. It’s hard to judge whats level when you dont know how solid the ground you’re standing on is.

 

 

More mud, more aches and shoe thoughts

Woke up this morning to rain but thankfully it brightened and legs felt ok after yesterday. A quick run intended but led to 7 miles along the cliffs to Witches Point near Southerndown beach. I seem to do this more and more. I feel bad for the first few miles and think ah well I’ll just come home a short route and end up feeling fine after three or four and then go mad.  It was fine today until the slog uphill through the worst mud yet from Cwm Mawr (Wich beach ladders) This time I really felt it in the legs, everything was aching and I was worried on the road part of the journey home that I was going to pull a muscle in my arse or hamstring.

Still, having done over 13 miles in the last two days I feel better about going back to work tomorrow. It’s back to trying to squeeze in runs after work until it gets lighter, well at least we’re heading towards spring!

I’ve been trying to work out which of the trail shoes are better in the mud.  I have 3 pairs (One of which I havent been out in yet).  The Adidas Kanadia 6 I bought from Run and Become after they checked out my gait etc and they felt best overall. They aren’t waterproof to any degree at all, they’re designed to let water in and then straight back out so it doesn’t stay in the shoe.  Works fantastically on the beach but when wading through mud they just stay wet anyway.

Today I ran in my Asics Gel Trail tamboura 4 (picked up from ebay but thats another post for another day) which are better at keeping water and mud out – up to a degree but it cant get out as well. Today it wouldn’t have mattered which I wore as the mud and water flowed over the top anyway.

After yesterday when I was slipping and sliding on wet paths which have seen far too much rain and use this xmas, I was hoping the Asics would provide me with more traction but they too left me sliding around. To be fair it would take something special to provide grip with the trails the way they are at the moment. I’m spending a lot of time running alonside them as much as possible to keep going without slipping.

I’ll probably get through to this spring but try and pick up a pair of better lugged shoes like the Inov-8 X Talon 200 which might deal with mud better.

Sun finally peeking through at Wick beach

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Looking back at the path over the cliffs at Dunraven

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View from Dunraven over the three bays I mostly run. The furthest end of this is Cwm nash leading to Monknash and home. These bays cover around 2 miles

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Kicking off the new year…

….. a day late.

Yes indeed, new years eve celebrations went on  a touch too long and yesterday I felt awful and didnt make it outside. No excuses, my bad.

At least I made it out on day two and it felt good.  A 6 and a 1/2 mile jaunt to the beach, to the lighthouse at Marcross and then down to Atlantic College and back through the woods and road home (up that bloody neverending hill).  The paths though are atrocious after all the trippers wading through ankle deep mud on their festive walks. Still it does actually feel good to not bother staying dry and powering through the mud and water.  Technical note here – I discovered that “rock hopping” or jumping from stone to stone over a stream or from dry patch to dry patch is A) not worth the effort, you’re going to get wet anyway and B) You’re more likely to injure yourself. Just wade on in there and embrace it!

Todays route

A misty start with the tide in looking towards Marcross from Monknash side

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Looking back at the Cwm – These hills are killers even though only a mile in

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Mud, glorious mud – I’m sure its doing my legs some sort of good though

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Turnaround point – Atlantic College

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