Low Tide – High Spirits

After taking four days off running with just some biking to keep fresh in order to let my body recover from the efforts of last week (Yes Sergei I showed common sense!) I waited today until a very low tide to get back out for a 9 mile run. Was out for around two hours but managed to do some rock scrambling at Witches Point and took a look around at the different features which can only be seen at the lowest tides.

SAM_0718.JPG
Low tide between Monknash and Wick Beach
SAM_0722.JPG
Thee rocks are covered much of the time – The erosion makes for interesting formations and a fun scramble
SAM_0725.JPG
More rocks!
SAM_0728.JPG
These slabs were fun to cross
SAM_0733.JPG
Rock!
SAM_0736.JPG
Low tide exposes …… sea stuff (TM)
SAM_0740.JPG
Im not saying the snails here are slow but they even have mini limpets growing on them!
SAM_0742.JPG
Coral type sea stuff (TM) – Not actually sure what it is – some sort of organisms building homes I think
SAM_0744.JPG
The usual gratuitous shot of my playground

You’re going for a what now?

DSC_0179-PANO

Is it just a Welsh thing? Adding superflous words to sentances. You’re going for a what now? Is exactly the same as You’re going for a what? Yet we feel the need to add the now. We also have a habit of saying nonsensical things such as “I’ll be there now in a minute”

I digress.

Was off camping in Pembrokeshire in West Wales with some friends over the weekend. Haven’t been in a tent for years and now twice in a week!

Woke up saturday morning feeling a little tired and clearly so did everyone else – I had the cure though – “I’m going for a run, anyone coming?”  to which the incredulous reply came “You’re going for a what now?”

Clearly no-one was coming so I did around 8 miles of the coastal path and was so glad I did – Stunning views and although the first few miles were hard I hit my usual mile 3 groove and all was good in the world.

DSC_0183.jpg
Skomer Island
DSC_0199.jpg
It feels easy when you get views like this
DSC_0201.jpg
Destination – Sand!
DSC_0206.jpg
The sea is properly blue here!
DSC_0194.jpg
Skomer from a different angle
DSC_0178.jpg
#spottedtheship
DSC_0172
Pre run meeting with Ramsey the dog (at around four in the morning)

When I got back a few hours later there had been very little movement at the campsite. I however felt great and proceeded to tell everyone how great I felt. I had to stop telling everyone how great I felt as I was in danger of being nailed to the nearest tree.

Did I tell you that running makes you feel great?

I feel great.

Evolution & Natural Selection

I went for a recovery run yesterday – Legs still feeling the efforts in Snowdonia but after a few miles they sorted themselves out again. Toes healing …. again.

What was interesting to me wasn’t so much the run but an example of both evolution and natural selection and how nature gets it right an humans get it wrong.

Evolution – I found these little dudes everywhere

SAM_0689.JPG
Jellyfish with sail on back allowing them to drift with the wind – Amazing when you think how creatures evolve to fit their ecological niche.

Natural Selection – I took a photo of this dude

SAM_0698.JPG
As I ran the length of the beach he spent at least 30 mins or so right under the cliffs – Amongst all the angular rocks which have clearly just fallen and not been eroded. He was with his family so at least they could see him get squished from a great height. He wouldn’t be the first to get killed around here. I was going to warn him but then thought nahh I’ve been told to mind my own business enough times by idiots I’d rather see natural selection take its course and weed out the gene pool.

So I concentrated on the view

SAM_0694.JPG
Where did the mountains go?

Snowdonia day 2

Sadly for you lot day 2 wasn’t as exciting as day 1 – mainly because I’d already run up Snowdon itself – see post here

However I got up bright and early (I was also touched to get an email from Sergei checking I was still alive as I hadn’t posted in a while – We have a great community going here and this nice touch brought that home to me – thanks SRG) and the legs needed a quick run to get moving so I did a bit of local exploring before going back for some food. Then drove up the Llanberis pass looking for likely spots to run.  The best thing about this area is that there are so many trails you can follow – spoilt for choice! I pulled up at a junction of three valleys and decided to just run a path and see where it led.

SAM_0633.JPG
At first it led up again! Oh my legs were loving me this morning – They protested for the first few miles – Hadn’t they been beaten eenough yesterday? As with yesterday the views made it all worthwhile.
SAM_0635.JPG
Then near the peak a path led back off downwards in another direction – It looked narrow, technical and fun – Of course I took it =)
SAM_0640.JPG
There were some fantastic drystone walls – Not sure why they are in this shape – Wall builders on the local mushrooms maybe?
SAM_0642.JPG
Crossed a babbling brook
SAM_0657.JPG
The valley bottomed out and eventually i reached this beautiful lake – Note the seagulls – Everywhere I go it’s seagulls – These weren’t attack seagulls like the ones at home though
SAM_0672.JPG
As we all know in this game what goes down must go back up and I crossed to the other side of the valley for a good few miles of constant ascent – Now my legs were really really loving me. What was great was that I wasn’t breathing hard or really putting out much effort – Just grinding happily along
SAM_0675.JPG
I did of course see “wildlife” #spotted the sheep
SAM_0677.JPG
Its sunny! Then cloudy …. then sunny!

I would thoroughly recommend coming to Snowdonia to run. There are just so many places you can go.  I hardly saw another soul for the whole of the second day and the views like the ones above were fantastic. There are a lot of walkers on the more popular routes so if you feel more comfortable in numbers around it’s ideal.  If you just want to get out on your own and challenge yourself – it’s ideal – win/win!  I did pack a whistle, foil blanket, phone, food and water too – I wouldn’t recommend running light up here on your own. There were a few rescues made by helicopter while I was up here and this happened on the other side of the mountain I was on

I saw the smoke but wasn’t aware of the situation, I see random smoke all the time in the countryside and assumed there was controlled burning going on. At least they all got out ok =)

I had a great few days, I could have happily spent another day running but I knew I couldn’t really do much more hard milage without risking injury. The foot was hurting and my toe wasn’t happy at being rebroke on Snowdon. My quads were trashed from the descents and my calves extremely tight from the climbs. At least I’ve learned to listen to my body and it was saying enough for now. I’ll be back!

The day I accidentally ran up Snowdon

But let’s start at the beginning. I decided more or less on a whim to drive up to North Wales for a few days to do some running in Snowdonia. A change of scenery and some nice tough terrain to get lost in. So I packed up my camping and running gear and loaded up the Trailmobile. When you need both sets of gear it’s amazing how much you need for a few days – And I still managed to forget stuff!

So I set off early monday morning, the odd thing about Wales is that although it’s a small counry it takes ages to get from the south to the north. You’re pretty much on A roads for the entire distance and most of those are windy and when you get stuck behind trucks or tractors or tourists gawping at the views it takes ages – 5 hours to get up there! However the views through the Brecon Beacons, Mid Wales and then Snowdonia keep it interesting.

So I arrived at the campsite just outside LLanberis which was perfect, just rough grazing land around a farm and pitched the tent.

SAM_0632.JPG
View from the tent in the morning – clouds mainly

So I figured I needed to stretch the legs a bit and got changed into my running gear – couldn’t find my flipbelt which I wanted for my phone and camera as I wasn’t intending going far. So instead I chucked on my hydration pack and threw a jacket in with some of my energy biscuits. Just a run around to find the start of the route up Snowdon which should apparently be joinable from near the campsite …. which I couldn’t find so I trotted into Llanberis itself – walkers everywhere! No chance of feeling a bit odd running around in gear with a pack here. Everyone or every shape and size was kitted out for hiking.

After a mile or so I found the Llanberis railway which actually goes up to the Snowdon summit and right next to it a street leads straight to the start of the Llanberis route up which I knew was the longer ascent favoured by walkers. I hadn’t planned on using this route originally as I didn’t want to run while having to deal with multitudes of hikers. At this point it was well gone four o clock so I decided I’d run a small part of it to see what it was like and to see if I could get a good view of the path up to the summit to get an idea of what to expect as I’d now decided to get up early the next morning and go for it before the masses were out of bed.

And this is where things went wrong – or right. The start of the mountain path is actally tarmac and it is steep – I mean really steep. I figured it didn’t really matter as I wasn’t going far so I blew my legs up a bit just getting up this part, the road leads to the actual path a bit further up and I noticed that everyone was coming down not going up.  I still couldn’t see much of the path up so kept going, determined to get a view of the path and summit.

And kept going … and going. The legs felt great and I wasn’t really labouring at all, there weren’t too many people and they were all going downhill so I didn’t have to wait behind anyone, they could see me coming and the vast majority were kind enough to step aside. It was one of those days – probably as I’d been sat in the car all day that I felt good and at that point I decided I’d give a full run up Snowdon a go right there and then. I think I’ve been running long enough now to know my body and how it’s feeling – You lot know what I mean – some days it’s all a bit of an effort and struggle but today it all felt good and clicking.

The path in most places is a mixture of dirt, rock and gravel. Ok to walk on I guess but for running it meant I couldn’t run with a consistent stride pattern or even out my effort, I was continually having to change stride lengths to make sure of my footing. Plus there were many bigger steps which required effort to leap up.

The views though were stunning – I didn’t take many photos on the way up as I soon discovered that when I did it took considerable effort to get back into the flow.

SAM_0545.JPG
View back towards Llanberis after the first mile or so – sun is shining and I’m sweating!

The gradient wasn’t too severe here but it just seemed to go on forever. I’m not used to long long ascents and was basically pacing it as best I could. My calfs were hurting and I was aware that I was no longer nose breathing (forgive me!).

And on and on.

SAM_0546.JPG
Thats Snowdon in the distance – When I looked at  it from here I was wondering again whether to turn back – looked like a loooong way.

I was a little concerned by the time and the fact that everyone was going down. I hadn’t passed anyone going up.  Nahhhh keep going and see how it pans out.

SAM_0549.JPG
Views were good – bottom left you can see the train tracks running parallel to the path. I think this was the last photo I took going up – The rest were actually taken on the descent.

Did I mention it just went on and on and on?  And on … And then a little train chugged past me with a cheery toot of its whistle, people sat comfortably inside waving cheerfully at the idiot running up the mountain. I did actually wave back in the spirit of the thing and tried to look graceful and in control but dear reader I shall admit I called the people on the train all sorts of bad things under my breath. I cannot repeat the exact words here as my folks will read it but many of the words may have started with F C and W.

SAM_0574.JPG
And up and up – You can see the path to the left – it intertwines with the railway track and you actually pass under the track twice.

I passed a building at one point – I now know this is called the halfway point – It’s actually lucky that I didn’t know this at the time as it probably would have crushed me. It felt like I’d been climbing forever now and everything was hurting and it was around here I stubbed my possibly broken toe yet again (why is it every run I’ve been on since I damaged it I’ve stubbed it) which was possibly a signal to turn back. Nahhhh run it off! Idiocy had now overtaken sense it seems.

SAM_0560.JPG
Looking back over a nice steep section I really enjoyed …..

Around this point I was passing very few coming down and just before this section a walker stopped me to tell me helpfully that it was still an hour to the summit. My reply was in the range of arghghagahghh spit really?  What about running? Hmmm maybe 45 minutes then he replied. Yeah thanks for the confidence booster – I must be running close to walking pace if I can only shave 15 minutes off.

Just after you go under the tracks for the second time you swing onto the shoulder of the final climb up which is too steep to run (unless you’re actually a good runner I guess) which was the only section I had to powerhike up. But the views from here were spectacular.

SAM_0597
Sadly my photograhic skills were not at their peak – maybe I was shaking a little!
SAM_0590.JPG
Some lake thing I still don’t know the name of.

And then I hit cloud – literally at one point I was running in sunshine then hit the cloud level and couldn’t see more than 10 yards or so – the wind picked up and I instantly went from overheating to freezing. I was bathed in sweat from the climb and if I hadn’t at the last second thrown my jacket into the pack I would probably have to have called it off there.

I now had no clue about how far it was to the summit or what was around me but the paths gradient had lessened and I could run again so I simply followed the path past sheep who were clearly adept at looming out of the cloud at passers-by – Probably the only fun they get up there. To be honest as I thought at the time sheep are the most spectaculary stupid creatures – there are loads of places to graze in the sun lower down yet they end up here in perpetual freezing fog – Idiots (Said he then pondering that they do it because they’re sheep they don’t choose to run up here for fun)

This is probably the time to also explain that I don’t like heights – or rather I suffer from vertigo or more accurately acrophobia – I had it while climbing the last section of Pen Y Fan and I had it on Snowdon. It’s a very peculiar feeling, when I get anywhere close to the edge of a cliff or even a fair distance I suffer terrible fear of falling even though I know I’m safe enough. The ground feels like it’s moving underneath me and I feeling like I’m swaying. Looking back from ground level it’s almost impossible to explain why it happens and I can only sort of reimagine the feeling but as I approached the summit in the fog it came back with a vengence. Rationality tells me that hundreds of people walk the path everyday so the chance of me falling is pretty much zero but that was out of the window. I think it’s probably lucky that I was in fog as I couldnt see the drops!

Strangely enough running helps with it – As I found on Pen Y Fan the running is fine – I’m in control then but when it turned to the actual climb at the end I was petrified and had to force myself not to turn around – It was the same here, I almost decided to say enough was enough and I had already proved I could run the mountain but deep down I knew I wanted to reach the actual summit. It was literally just eyes to the path and keep going. It actually made me forget how much pain the rest of me was in as it was overriding everything.

And then steps – out of nowhere steps! This was it the summit – I climbed the steps – using my hands – thats how unsteady I was – and was finally on the summit – Completely alone – There is a small set of steps to a raised plinth at the top which after a few minutes I climbed up slowly – I had run up Snowdon!

To many of you this may sound like a small achievement in running terms but to me it was huge. I’d doubted my ability to do it and then forced myself to continue so many times on the way up both through exhaustion and then fear so I’m very proud of the feat.

The view from the top – Unspectacular!

SAM_0569.JPG
Blurry cloud – This was as far as I could see – You run all the way up Snowdown and cant see a thing!
SAM_0571.JPG
The plate at the summit showing the directions to other peaks (I presume)

It was windy and cold and after a few minutes to gather my thoughts it was time to descend.  Oddly the vertigo doesn’t seem to affect me so much going down.  I took it easy through the cloud just jogging down and then sunlight!

The run down was fun – I mean serious trailrunning fun.  The path which was a pain on the way up became a technical playground on the way down. It was incredible to be able to leap from rock to rock, picking lines at speed. I’m grateful for the countless hours running the technical sections of rocks on the beach.  It still amazes me how the body and mind work together when descending, the mind just keeps picking the lines and foot placement spots and the body follows. When the mind says “Woah ok now I can’t process this quick enough” you automatically take the foot off the gas and slow down until its all back under control.

SAM_0608.JPG
Descending at speed over this is so much fun – and I didn’t fall once!

I did stop a number of times for photos on the way down. I’m not used to such long descents either but after the climb up there the run down was effortless and exhilarating.

SAM_0605
Mountains, mountains everywhere!

Google photos kindly autocreated some panoramas for me

SAM_0592-PANO

SAM_0599-PANO.jpg

SAM_0551-PANO.jpg

I finally reached Llanberis without much of a clue about time as I hadn’t bothered checking my watch much as the data was meaningless without context.  In fact I wouldn’t know the stats until I plugged it into my PC.

As it turned out the actual ascent (Ignoring the mile or so I’d run to the base of the mountain) took me 1 hour and 23 minutes! Far faster than I thought so I’m incredibly pleased with that. Apparently its regarded as a 3 hour walk minimum.

Apologies for the wordy post – This one is also for me to look back on – It will always give me confidence that I can achieve if I believe in myself and tough it out when the hurt starts.

Will post about day 2 later!

Homemade energy bar + recipe

I forgot to mention yesterday – I tried out a new creation and it seemed to work well.  Certainly kept the energy levels up. I don’t tend to eat for the first hour or so of a run and then take bites as needed to trickle the energy in.

DSC_0159.JPG

Recipe:

Get a bowl of some description

Chuck in the following

Chia seeds, flax seeds and dates. Freshly squeezed lemon and a dash of salt.

Mix together well with some organic honey until you have a gooey mass.

Spread out on a baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes at 190 – until the eges go a bit burny.

Leave to cool and cut into chunks

Wrap in clingfilm and take on run!

 

And this is why ….

I love trail running ….

grass, rocky path, grass, gravel, tarmac, grass, forest trail, tramac, grass, pebbles, rocks, sand, rocks, rock steps, grass, gravel, grass, earth track, grass, cornfield, grass, tarmac, grass tarmac

Were the different conditions underfoot on a 12 and a half mile run today to St Donats, Marcross, Monknash beach, Witches Point, Wick beach, parents house and home.

Or put it this way.

fields, paths, fields, road, fields, forest, roads, fields, paths, beach, fields, roads

Either way you look at it I had a great time just chilling for nearly 3 hours and doing my own thing. Legs still felt good at the end and heart can’t have gone much above 140 at a guess.  On days like this it almost (almost!) feels effortless.

Onto the photos!

SAM_0502.JPG
Way out – tide is in so clifftop time
SAM_0505.JPG
Haybale season – I love these, always reminds me that Soaky used to love jumping up on these when she was young.
SAM_0507
Early morning giant horn
SAM_0515.JPG
Look carefully for a surprise castle
SAM_0521
This is what we’re doing to our oceans – countless pieces of plastic have come ashore again. If this is a small microcosm of the oceans imagine the dreadful pollution worldwide killing sealife and destroying the marine environment. If we don’t do something soon there will be nothing left here for future generations.
SAM_0523
A view worth saving
SAM_0527.JPG
#spottedthebird – A kestrel (I think) just hovering effortlessly looking for prey
SAM_0530.JPG
This sheep is confused. This sheep thinks it is a dog and instead of running away like all its friends it allowed me to pat it – note stylish blade of grass  in mouth (which is how I knew it was a sheep)
SAM_0532.JPG
“There’s an idiot in our cornfield taking photos”  “Don’t worry it will just be Gareth from down the road being an idiot”  “Ok ok that explains it”
SAM_0538.JPG
#spottedthebird2 (at the back the front one looks more like a deformed squirrel