Preseli Beast – Debrief (no badgers)

A couple of days later I’ve had time to think about what went well and what didn’t at the Beast Mawr on saturday. So warning this is meant as something I can read an consider before my next race and hopefully before the same race next year too. Might give some thoughts to those just starting to enter events as I am.

What went well …. I’m here to type this so I didn’t croak on a hillside somewhere?

Seriously though, getting to the venue early was good, perhaps not the few hours I did but it did give me chance to chill out and relax rather than rushing off to the start line.

Half zip running tops work for me. I tend to get very hot as I run and the ability to open up the zip to allow more airflow was great to cool down.

Recognising I was struggling and forcing myself to slow down and accept I’d be passed a lot. I’m a competitive wee beastie by nature, no-one likes being passed in a race, I think that’s natural. Realising that I was going to have to slow down because of the foot injury meaning half the field was going to pass me was hard at first to swallow. I sucked it up and told myself I was doing well to still be running at all let alone trying to hold places. As it dawned on me I was doing all I could I realised how meaningless these places were, no-one but me cared where I finished, my friends and family cared that I DID finish, once I worked that out I felt fine. (For the record I was 120 out of 179)

My attitude to others out there was good, I didn’t feel much like being cheery, it’s hard to smile through gritted teeth but I’m so happy now that I thanked and smiled at every marshall and tried to acknowledge all the people supporting from their gardens and in the streets. None of them had to be there for hours to watch me limp past but they did and I’m glad I tried to repay their support at least with a gesture. Also as I mentioned earlier in the latter stages I got passed a lot – I took the time to gauge runners coming up behind me and then stepping aside and waving them through. It felt like courtesy and the vast majority said thanks, I think it took a few by surprise and for the one or two who didn’t acknowledge me – I hope you run up a hill on a screwed up foot one day … I don’t mean that but guys if there’s someone obviously struggling and in pain a word of encouragement or thanks for stepping aside means a lot.

Nutrition – My homemade energy bars seemed to do the trick now I think about it more clearly. I struggled early on but recovered well and I had no issues with energy later on, the lack of training was the issue so i’ll keep making them and hopefully I can judge their effectiveness on a course I know well soon.

Determination – I’m proud that I finished in some shape, I have that going for me, when I read this back before my next race I need to remember I can live with the pain, my head was strong on Saturday and it will be next time.

Things that didn’t go so well

Injury – I’m an idiot and I shouldn’t have run on that foot .. There I said it. I so so wanted to do this particular race that I risked further injury, have probably set back my recovery by a way and put myself through a world of pain just to complete it.  Would I do it again   – probably as sometimes I’m not very bright. But in retrospect there was a chance I would come through unscathed and I took it, a gamble that both succeeded and failed.

Hydration – It got pretty hot what with starting off at 12.30 in the afternoon, I took a Salomon squishy bottle with me so I could drink from it and then stash it in my flip belt. The problem being the water in the bottle got very warm as it was in my hand and carrying the bottle itself was a pain. I need to rethink how i’m going to hydrate in hotter weather as I tend to chuck a Nile full of sweat out.

Out too fast – It’s pretty hard in a race not to just stay in step with those around you even if they’re hitting a pace you can’t sustain. In retrospect with little recent training and an injury I should have skulked near the back but oh no I happened to be near the front of the pen and so that’s who I ran with …. Idiot (see an idiot shaped theme here?)

You know what – I’ll leave it at those three – To be fair to myself I’m not going to beat myself up, I did what I could and If I can address these three next time I’ll be improving and that’s really all I want to do.

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I forgot I took this one – That there in the background is the Beast! I’ll be back!

 

Ahhh so thats why they call it a beast

So yesterday was my second ever race. The Preseli Beast Mawr (little beast) – How hard can 11 miles be?

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I was up with the lark as I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there, those west Walian roads can be small and twisty. As it turns out it was a simple enough 2 hour drive in the trailmobile.

Yes thats right yesterday was also the unveiling of the trailmobile. no not a new car but a ad hoc conversion. The back of my battered old mondeo is now converted to a pre race nervecentre and also post race sleeping accomodation. This could be a fun summer!

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Note the carpet underlay with multiple sleeping bags. Also the stylish homemade curtains to block out sunlight. Also note the kit strewn everywhere and bottle of cider front right

So I was an hour or so early and just chilled out in the Trailmobile (now capitalised) and got ready while chatting with some friendly guys from Swansea who were next to me.

I had 3 main worries, the race started at 12.30 and it was getting hot and I don’t particularly like the heat, I was woefully undertrained having hardly run for two months due to my major concern my foot injury. Still nothing I could do now but give it a go!

The race started from the centre of Maenclochog with a quick prerace briefing from the organiser Caz the Hat and we all had to hug people around us in a pre race show of solidarity. When you run alone these things can be awkward but luckily I was stood next to some pretty ladies.

And we were off! I take my hat off to the locals from the village who cheered and clapped us and even banged drums and rattled tambourines. After a few hundred metres of road we hit a gravelled farm track which led us to a wonderful marshy forest with single track wooden bridges throughout it. I spent most of the time just enjoying being out and praying the foot would be ok which it seemed to be, there was a slight ache but I could cope with that despite forgetting to take painkillers before setting off.

Out of the forest and the first hill, all good feeling fine. Nothing to it! Then down through a farm and through an old slate quarry. This was a lovely technical section with lots of twists and turns, ups and downs. I’d love to run this alone at my own pace when fit but was content just to be sensible and hold pace with those around me. A nice touch around here was Caz the Hat who had obviously taken a sneaky shortcut waiting to greet, encourage and fist pump every single runner going over a stile. This man has class!

Then another hill and this is where things started getting tricky as I suddenly felt awful, this was only a few miles in but I think the lack of training was starting to show itself. The gradient wasnt really enough to force a walk but it felt like there was nothing in the legs and the heat was getting to me.

I slowed and unleashed my secret weapon – My homemade chia, flax, date and raisin energy bars! (see this post for details)  I admit I found it hard to swallow the first one – mainly because like an idiot I crammed it all in my gob at once and then found I had to chew it for about 300 yards – Well it took my mind off things!

After a while I started to feel better in myself and spied another serendipitous opportunity – a fresh mountain stream. Much to the surprise of the runners around me I leaped from the track straight into it up to my calves in lovely cool water. It was worth a few seconds to drench myself.

Invigorated I reached the top of the climb and then we sailed across a beautiful mountainside towards the aid station at mile 5.

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The views at this point were simply breathtaking (If I’d had breath to take) – As I didn’t have a camera I’m borrowing this photo from the Preseli Beast website so photo credit goes to them – I’m sure Caz won’t mind)

Aaaaaand this is where the foot went …. running down and sideways on this path meant I was unbalanced with my bad foot on the uphill side and running at an angle hurt it. By the time I reached mile 5 the pain was getting bad and I was now favouring the other foot and the limp had begun.  Well I guess this is trail running, it’s going to hurt and no turning back now.

The next stage was across the moorland in the photo above in a steady climb until we hit the Beasts Back.

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Again no camera so photo taken from the Preseli Beast website – to give an idea of the climb

This hill/mountain/evil incline of ultimate pain seemed neverending. Much of it we walked, some of it I could run by staying on my toes to reduce the pain but climb it we did and what views from the top!

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Last stolen photo I promise – credit to Preseli beast website

Annoyingly my legs had come back to life and my breathing felt as good as it could be considering but the pain in my foot was now crippling me. It was time to simply dog it out for the last four or five miles or so. There’s a saying that kept running through my head at this point – It’s not the size of the dog in the fight its the size of the fight in the dog. Does anyone else get random mantras stuck in their head while running? I was telling myself that despite the fact that physically I was undertrained, injured and in a lot of pain I still had my head going for me. Time for fight in the dog to show up. I’d rather forget the downhills from that mountain. Normally I’d fly them, savour them and enjoy them but I couldnt impact the foot at all and so had to brake all the way down meaning my toes were being slammed into the toebox of my trainers causing more grief – It never rains but it pours!

Once back on level ground it was back through the forest again and into the village. And what a greeting, I was dead on my feet by this phase and just wanted to walk to alleviate the foot pain but I couldn’t give up with these people watching. It was like the whole village were in their gardens and on the road clapping and cheering. At that point it meant a lot – the whole run the marshalls and supporters had been fantastic and I tried to thank every one in passing. I limped over the line and what a relief to collapse on the grass! Now I know why they call it The Beast -even fit and uninjured that would have been a challenge.

Afterwards I waited around chatting and relaxing until the presentations. There was tea, cake, cawl all dished up by some fantastic volunteers.  In fact I have to say the whole village should be proud of the day they put on for the runners. It really felt like a close community showing their warmth to a load of strangers who pitch up to run around in their beautiful countryside.

The organisation was top notch. I take my metaphorical hat off to Caz the Hat who clearly loves the area, running and his event. He’s created something special there and I would heartily recommend it for anyone with an interest in trail running. There were of course the full beast (24 miles I think) and a 32 mile ultrabeast too. If i’m fit I’d love to try the full beast next year.

The gory details

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Slow and painful – But on the bright side I forgot to stop my watch at the finish so I can knock a few minutes off that!

Oh and the goodies – I nearly forgot the goodies – an awesome tshirt and a fantastic slate coaster! So appropriate, I’ll never forget that quarry – I’m coming back one day at speed!

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Despite the personal pain I really had a day to remember. You don’t get to say that very often. Beasted but not bested!

I ….. Am ….. Back!

Last night in bed I had an idea (yeah I know sad isn’t it, saturday night and the only thing I’m getting in bed is ideas about running) about where I could test out my foot – Merthyr Mawr!  A few miles drive away is a big nature reserve type area chock full of trails and most importantly on dunes!

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Lovely, dry and most importantly soft sand!

Off I set, a little tentative and just waiting for the foot pain to start up. I was especially nervous as I knew that too much pain and I was definitely out of next weekends half marathon (which I’m well aware I still might be depending on how today and tomorrow go)

It was great to be out running again and the niggley pain ceased as I took the pace slow and kept to the sand as much as possible.

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Most of the paths were like this
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I can see the sea!

After a while the terrain changed a little and became a little more scrublike and the sand wasn’t so deep but the foot kept of feeling fine and I was really starting to get back into the swing of things – as in my breathing was hurting more than the foot! Ah it’s good to be back :p

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At the beach between Ogmore and Porthcawl – Thats Porthcawl in the distance. 

I was also glad to be out in this area as I could treat it as a recce as Merthy Mawr is the key to crossing the river at Ogmore so when I’m fully fit again I can turn my 15’s into 20’s

And then it happened! No not a foot injury – Only one creature leaves prints like this….

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Badger! And juding by the size of the paw it was a big bugger – I was scared, out here alone. As everyone knows a badger swarm can take a lone runner down in seconds and strip them to the bone in minutes and here I was in badger country and unarmed (badgers hate spatulas – always carry one in badger country)  All I could do was push on and hope they weren’t tracking me …and then …

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Badger shit! (foot for scale) definitely a big badger! Run! Run like the wind!

I was on the homeward stretch now and as I neared my car realised I’d been running for an hour! I reckon it was around 4 miles (I forgot my watch) which is slow going but I was happy keeping a low intensity and the sand was tough going on the legs. This is definitely progress =)

By chance I also bumped into an old friend out walking his dog so all fears of badger attack forgotten we spent a while chucking sticks into the river for her (the dog not the friend)

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Dog!

And I got to go on the worlds bounciest bridge – seriously if you run on this it bounces so much you simply can’t keep step

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My friend Al helping me make the bridge bounce.

So all in all a great morning, I’m writing this while rolling and stretching my foot and I’ll admit theres a little discomfort but not as much as I feared.

I hope all your sundays rock too =)

(PS Disclaimer I may have made some parts of this post up, everyone knows badgers are attracted to spatulas, always carry an eggwhisk to deter them (and thats horse not badger shit))

 

 

I have an idea…..

I never actually think to myself “I have an idea” instead they just pop into my head and I do them. Today was a bit like that. I felt like some exercise after a day spent indoors at work and so headed out on my new steed for a quick jaunt to Marcross and then back along the cliffs ala saturday.

The wind was blowing pretty hard up top and it was quite hard going combined with the subtle hill along the clifftops. When I reached Monknash I took the secenic route down …

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For scenic route read suicidal route

Arriving at the bottom the adrenaline was flowing a little and with time on my hands and more energy to burn I figured that as the tide was out I could always take my bike on the beach couldn’t I?  I mean it’s an off road bike – a beach is offroad right?

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Not as easy to ride as they look – especially into the wind

The rocks were a pain and the steeper parts I had to carry the bike but eventually ….

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We made it to the sand!

And how much fun is riding a bike on soft wet sand?  Not a lot into the wind but on thew way back it was epic fun! Zig zagging and zag zigging all over the place, everyone should give it a go.

So although the ankle isn’t fixed and although I’d rather be running life is what you make it. I’m making it a bit o’fun!

Oh and it was also despite the wind a beautiful afternoon.

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Changing Up, Changing Down, Not falling off

Saturday mornings – How I miss running around in the sunshine with you. How I miss the views, the fresh air, the freedom, the sun, the sand, the rocks, the pain and exhaustion.

But no wallowing in ankle pity for me – I have a new toy to play with. Cheering myself up I ordered one of these through a work scheme.

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New toys make Gareth happy

I could have gone for a road bike or hybrid thingy but went for the full off road type as I figured if thats what I like running then thats what I will like cycling.

Off I went on a test run …. ride

Found myself at Marcross admiring the view…

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Marcross beach and oooh look a hill!
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And a new friend!
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And I thought …. hill sprints!  Half a dozen up here nearly killed me

So after my hill exercise I was going to turn and ride home on the road and the thought strck me … I have an offroad bike with like suspension and everything, why not ride the cliff path to Monknash and home that way. There are a few stiles to cross but how hard can it be to lift the bike over.

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No match for my powerlifting skills!
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Riding towards blue skies!
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The ride along the cliffs was beautiful and easy enough to do – I discovered why the gear ratios are so low on these bikes once I was off road
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At the Monknash end there was a tricky descent which I managed with superb braking control and a lot of luck.
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Looking back at the cliffs I rode

The route is all rocky and uphill from the beach to the road. I was about to ride the path I have run a hundred times but realised I could well do damage to the path on a bike, it might have only been slight if any at all but being a responsible adult (haha) and wanting to protect the environment I love and have the privilege to enjoy I walked the bike back up the path until I got to the road.

All in all a good mornings work-out. I came, I saw, I conquered and protected my ankle!

 

It’s the ups that hurt

Spring sun and a recovering foot = hill reps!  Yes indeed my new found way of screwing myself over without too much pain on the ankle. half a dozen or so fast sprints up and a slow descent was enough. Now it’s my calves and thighs hurting so thats ok right?  Still perhaps isn’t the most sensible to do too much on it as it’s still painful when I strike hard on flat ground so will lay off it now until at least the weekend. But today I just couldn’t resist.

Can you blame me?

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Tides in!
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How blue is that sky?
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Bring it on hill! – Oh yeah you’re a hill – you just sit there and hurt me then
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Spring flowers V2

Foolish, stubbornish, happyish

Woke up, the suns shining, the tides out – and i’m injured…. Sod it, the ankles been improving and recovery has hit a flat spot. I’m on my feet every day and there’s been no pain, more of an ache when I get home.

So off I went on an exploratory run to see where I’m at.  I didn’t run the quarter mile of road to get to the fields and started on grass – There was no pain just slight discomfort although I was running at a very low intensity with a very low stride height to minimise impact.  The fields felt fine and I was enjoying just being back out on the trail.

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Loving the morning sun

I sensibly didnt run the rocky path to the beach – go me for resisting!

And this is what I was looking for – low tide and wet sand – destination soft!

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Traeth Mawr – Let’s get on that sand!

Picked up the stride height and pace on the sand and it felt comfortable, I was experiencing what I believe they call in sporting circles – a niggle. Niggle away I thought, I’m enjoying this!  I got to the far end of the sand but went no further – I didn’t want to push too hard on my test run – Have I really learned patience?

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Worth it for views like this!

On the way back I had a thought – If the pain is in the ankle when the rear of my foot impacts – I could do hill repeats on my toes couldn’t I? Well it makes sense to me.

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So I did hill repeats up this little monkey! Full on hill sprints in fact and I was right being done completely on my toes meant no pain whatsoever If the worst comes to the worst I can at least do these!

After my hill test I ambled back up the path and across the fields. Admittedly I was limping slightly at this point and if not in pain then discomfort.  I may have pushed too far for today but I felt I needed to see where I was at with a few races approaching. I think next sunday is too soon to do an offroad half so sadly I’m letting the Offas Dyke half go but still hope to get down to West Wales in three weeks for the Preseli Beast (though the name is scaring the ankle already)

I’m writing this with my feet in a foot spa thingy I discovered in my spare room which I vaguely remember borrowing from someone years ago and never returned – I may be suffering karmic rebounds!

So far so good but the real test is now how it feels for the rest of the day and tomorrow morning (Which is my birthday! Best present I could have is an improving ankle)

And finally – Spring is here!

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Never forget to stop to breathe and enjoy the world

Sunday Update – No pain at all this morning – ankle feels good, resisting temptation to run today though, sense prevails!