West Wales – Wet, Windy and Wonderful

Spent the weekend down in West Wales with a couple of friends and their dog which of course meant I got to do some running at last. The idea was to do a few miles of the coastal path in glorious sunshine and take in the views. This being Wales of course it was blowing a gale and raining on me from the outset. I was not to be deterred though!

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The beach at Newgale. Not accurately represented here is the howling gale

I was actually really enjoying myself despite the wind, cold and rain and was happily putting out enough effort to prevent hypothermia. The only times I got cold was when I stopped to take photos for you my dear readers. The sacrifices I make!

 

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Newgale is tiny, thats about it – The river cuts between the pebbles to make its own channel which is pretty cool. Well it would be if the sheer amount of pebbles wasn’t forcing the closure of the road

I had forgotten to bring my energy foods with me and so my friend had given me some marshmallows and chocolate but as I didn’t want them to melt in my pocket we shoved them in the only bag we had available – an (unused) dog poo bag.  A bags a bag but I decided to eat while crossing the bridge in the photo – So there I am in front of the cafe shovelling marshmallows straight from a dog poo bag into my mouth. Always make a good first impression when visiting a new place.

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The views were great despite the weather
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And the path was fun, technical and steep
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I returned via the beach and missed the point where I could rejoin the path home so I kept going to see how far the beach went
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Found some really pretty rocks while scrambling along

Then I came to a dead end, the only way was to go back the way I came or so some scrambling up a scree slope. I am not one to be deterred by a challenge so off I went

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Up here – This was actually loads of fun until I got to the top of the scree and realised there was a 20 foot vertical bank up to the path covered in gorse and brambles. Having already cut and scratched myself to bits I decided to let sense rear its ugly head and retreated back down. Only added about 4 miles to my run …..
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View from halfway up a scree slope

I eventually got back after about 3 hours, tired, cold and wet but happy. The quad is still not entirely happy but then i cant really blame it after a dozen miles and a climb up and down a bloody scree slope.

In the afternoon we popped into St Davids – The Smallest city in Britain.

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St Davids Cathedral

More importantly than sightseeing we took Iolo the dog to the pub

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Stare into my eyes and give me your Guinness

Just the one for easter

I only ran once over easter … I’m no fan of crowds and a bit of sunshine meant I would have to share my beach so sod that … plus ok I wanted to spend some time with friends in various pubs….

Which actually started during my friday run.  I ran the beach over to Southerdown to meet friends at the pub there.  So only four and a half miles then a few pints and a walk back. Except I’m not much use at just walking anymore. I was itching to just run everywhere as usual. So I just ran off after a while with my friends two dogs.

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This is them fighting over the same stick.

Also as it was a bank holiday the coastguards were busy dealing with cretins

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Not sure how much it costs to send a helicopter to get idiots off cliffs but I’m guessing it aint cheap.

The day I outran my watch

So I need a new watch. Not because it’d not working (an update fixed that problem) but it seems like the battery life is limited to around 4 hours …. And yesterdays long run went over that. Yes indeed, probably closer to 5, sit back and I’ll tell you all about it.

I knew it would be a long run so I took my energy bars and hydration pack (Pro tip from a non-pro:  If you’re also taking a lightweight jacket then wrap the bladder in the jacket which helps stop the water warming from your body heat)

The tide was right in so no choice but to run the cliffs which meant more climbs, in for a penny!

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Above Traeth Mawr there are some Bronze Age burial mounds.
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From the mounds you get an elevated view of the beach with the tide in.

Onwards!

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Sensible warning – Keep dogs on leads around livestock. Simple enough but so many people think their darling dog couldn’t hurt a fly, perhaps they won’t but chased animals also miscarry or fall off cliffs so don’t let Fido get blown away by an angry farmer and keep it on a lead around livestock people!

So the descents … and ascents are kinda scary, exhilarating and painful at the same time

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What goes down must sadly go back up

Shot through Southerndown and Ogmore like a raisin fuelled rocket and normally I would turn here to return home making it 13 miles. Today I had bigger fish to fry, I was off to Porthcawl! Thing is when you get to Ogmore there’s a wide rivermouth and the only place to cross is a few miles up the road meaning I would be on a big detour. Ah well It was a nice day, detour me up baby!

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In case you were wondering why I didn’t try and cross the river – Its a bit wide 😉

The detour happily led me past some swans – One of whom clearly thought I had bread so sailed close before paddling off in disgust

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No bread no interest

I reached the stepping stones where I could finally cross the river next to Merthyr Mawr castle – Or what’s left of it

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Merthyr Mawr Castle in all its stony glory
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Stepping stones – Note woman freaking out on far side as she simply couldnt make a 12 inch hop to the next stone. Had to wait a good five minutes here til she finally cleared the stones. Of course I showed off by running them in around 20 seconds – Should wear trail shoes my dear!

My detour now led me to Merthyr Mawr dunes which I’ve run before but only after driving to them.

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Yay I’m 10 miles into a run and I get 1:3 gradients of soft sand. Thank you Lord for your kindness to all trail runners :p
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Soft soft soft sand

Running through the sand was a leg killer, I could feel how much work my calves and hanstrings were doing to get me up these hills. Felt like running in glue. There were a class of youngsters there with some endurance school logo on the back being trained to sprint through sand – That should put them off endurance sports for life nicely

The dunes lasted around 3 miles and put a few dents into my previously unquenchable confidence. Should I turn back, I knew I was now going to be in previously uncharted distance territory by the time I got near to home so I obviously plugged on, I was determined to reach Porthcawl.

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Top of a dune and looking back towards Ogmore

I got to Porthcawl – Where back in march I met up with my family for a day and we wondered how far it would be to run back along the coast to home – 12 miles (including detour)

Porthcawl had joy of joys an ice-cream van! I had a can of coke and huge icecream as I figured I needed all the help I could get on the return journey. I followed the beach back before turning back into the dunes for some more punishment

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Oh look the beach has soft sand too – Glorious!

I found a sandy track back in case I wasn’t fed up of sand. This is now around 15 miles in and the legs were really starting to suffer. Nutritionally I was fine the muscles in my legs were just getting wasted by the sand.  I knew from here on in it was just going to be a painful grit your teeth and guts it out effort to get home.

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I did see some purty flowers though.

At this point the photos appear to have stopped being taken with any regularity. I think this was as much because I had to keep going as stopping and starting just hurt more.  I followed the detour and then changed course to trevel up over St Brides common before dropping into St Brides itself. I was bringing myself back on the roads but knew that it was pretty much all uphill from here as I was headed to Wick which sadly for me is the highest point in the Vale of Glamorgan (Ok its not Everest but it felt like it yesterday)

By the 18th mile my legs were pretty much gone and I was walking most hills – It’s trail running we get to do this right! (Another pro tip form a non-pro to new trail runners – Walk the hills if they are going to leave you blown up. Everyone does it and its nothing to be ashamed of. Wish I’d known this at the start)

The rest of me was fine just the calves, hammies and glutes had very little bounce and just felt dead. Strangely I was still enjoying it, the foot was playing up but then again I had been out for over 4 hours and nearly 20 miles.

Then I had the watch battery warning which surprised me but at least I had the sense to note the time and distance it finally died – Which as it turned out wasn’t too far from the finish.

This rather boring photo though will always mean a lot to me – its where I was when I hit the 20 mile mark for the first time ever

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Those verges actually saved my foot from tarmac, in fact the last few miles I didnt have to go on the road – Thankyou verge cutters everywhere from teh bottom of my heart.

At 21 miles I reached my destination – Not home for once, I had decided to reward myself …

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My hydration pack ran dry just at the end so I had to refuel at the Star in Wick. And why the hell not! 

I had a couple with some friends here who didn’t seem to mind the sweat and then finished off by running home – Amazing how the legs start to recover immediatley after cider 😉

So all in all a tough run. Proud of it though, my previous best was 15 miles and I did 21 miles (not including the jog home after pub) and over 4 and a half hours on my feet. Ran through a lot of oh crap moments and pulled it together.

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Gotta love those hills right at the end! The figures are slightly off due to watch dying but not by much, just tipped me over 21 =)

A tale of two dogs

On sunday it was a year since little Soaky died. I knew that as my main inspiration to run I wanted to mark it with a run to the beach but I didn’t want it to be a sad day or run, more just remembering how much fun she had there for so many years.

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Soaky – The best friend and companion I could ever have asked for.

So I figured what better way to remember Soak than to give another dog an awesome afternoon out. Soak would have loved the day and at the end of it all making another dogs day was as close as I could get to making Soak happy. I know she’d have been looking down on us with love.

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So I borrowed Ramsay from my friends – Quite the handsome little devil.

We ran for around 6 miles and then went for a pint or two.

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He loved the run, the nutter adores water
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Luckily not my job to clean him though 😉

So what could have been a sad day wasn’t and although I miss Soaky awfully even now after a year it does my heart good to spread a little happiness where I can. She taught me that lesson well =)

Love you Soaks

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