Last few weeks have been a holding pattern – for much of the world I think. I was musing on the run the other day – last week was my birthday and that morning I planned to get up early and do a long run. I didn’t have much of a plan, it was more a case of throw some food and water in a pack and head out with Murph to enjoy the day before anyone else was awake. As it turned out we did 17 miles and were out for 4 hours plus – which I was happy with, much of the route was beach and much of it was rocky so progress was slow but we loved every minute. Even when with an hour to go the heavens opened and the chill cut in.
I digress – I was musing about the lockdown and how I felt about it. I have friends who are frustrated, depressed and can’t wait until its over – Which is understandable. So I was trying to work out why I feel so relaxed about it all, of course I can get out with the dog that helps but I genuinely am content to sit and wait and sit and wait and sit and wait. You can’t rush this thing, you can’t fight it, you might as well punch fog. No point in being angry it just needs riding out.
And then I figured perhaps I cope because it’s similar in a way to ultrarunning. You grind through it, you chop it down to step by step, you don’t look at the ending, you can’t look at the ending because it’s so far away and that distance is overwhelming. So perhaps ultrarunning has taught me patience and how to deal with living in the moment and taking one step at a time. The goal will come, we will get through this, you can’t rush it, the finish line comes when it comes. You might as well do what you can to enjoy the ride. In last years 50 miler there were moments I wished for the end, 10 miles out I was praying for the line to come, it couldn’t come fast enough. I look back and I see the mistake I made. I concentrated on the end not the journey. It’s inconceviable to me now I did that, I would give anything to be out there right now 40 miles into a race but out in the mountains and in pain. To try to enjoy that last 10 miles instead of wishing them to end.
No those last 10 miles weren’t pretty but they could have been if I’d chosen to embrace them not hate them. It might be a poor anology with people dying out there and losing jobs but times pass and we get one shot, embrace it all, even the shit bits.
We rocked out this morning at dawn as I was under the impression it was going to be a really hot day (it wasn’t really) and I wanted to get a good run in with murph before it got too hot for him. I don;t mind a bit of sufefring in the heat but i wouldn’t want to inflict it on him, its just not fair. So off we went on an adventure which as I am lazy i will recount in photo form. It was a great run, we were out for around 3 hours and it’s time on feet in innterested in these days not distance – plus im not wearing a watch but im guessing 11 or 12 miles over cliffs, fields, roads and forests ….
Finally a run longer than 10 miles. As I’m learning to ensure my body can take the increasing load I’m trying really hard to listen to it. Finally it seemed to be telling me go for a bit longer – So I did the 13 miles to Ogmore by Sea and back along the beach and cliffs. It was good to be out for a few hours and the better news is that it didn’t feel particulary difficult and there was little in the way of an aftermath. So all I need to do is keep listening to the body and I’ll be fine! Oh and in other news I’ve been vegetarian for a few months – I dont know why but I kept forgetting to mention it. So far so good and enjoying it. To be fair I didn’t each much meat anyway so it’s not a big change an I’m learning how to change diet and stay fuelled =)
Well sunday was long run day and with spring unleashing its full range of blue skies and sun upon us I was looking forward to getting out and making all my bits hurt…. which I certainly achieved … more of that later.
But starting out I decided to head east not west for a change, I havent actually been more than 5 miles this way along the coast and have always stopped at Llantwit beach and returned so I planned to do a few more miles to see whats out there and then return.
The tide was high so it was all going to be a cliff run which is a pleasure all to its own when the weathers so good. The only drawback being the number of people walking the path later in the day. People aren’t so bad really but I just prefer to be alone while running.
So I was out by 9 – on a sunday!
I was happily cruising along at 8-9 minute miles and felt like it was very little effort, it was getting warmer but I had my pack on with a litre and half of water so I wasn’t too worried. I also had a range of food going from my homemade energy biscuits to boiled eggs and a new weapon – Minstrels. for those of you not acquainted with there they are small chocolates with a crunchy outside shell. Their selling point way back in the day was that “they melt in your mouth not in your hand” and I figured that this was ideal for long distance running in heat – And it worked! No melty chocolate at all. Pro tip!
These things happen on long runs so I was soon off again!
So 10 miles out and feeling pretty good. I followed the same path on the return and it wasn’t until around 17 or 18 miles that the pain really started. Everything seemed to have a whinge and a moan but I guess we’re all in the pain game to some extent so despite seriously tired legs I pushed it home completing the full 20 miles.
24 miles over mountains in 5 weeks time is kinda scary but I can always walk the final uphill (it really is a beast) so right now I seem to have hit some sort of form at the right time. Now to avoid injury and keep things ticking for a while.
Sunday was time for a long run, haven’t done anything more than 10 miles for a few weeks and I’m very aware I now have less than 6 weeks to the Preseli Beast 24 mile fell race….
A lovely spring morning though so I strapped on my pack with a litre of water, homemade energy bars and headed out. It was a complete pleasure to get out and run and I felt great for the majority of it. I planned 13 miles to the rivermouth in Ogmore and back and ended up doing 15. The slow introduction of speedwork seems to be working as it feels like I can run further at the lower speeds now.
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!
So the descents … and ascents are kinda scary, exhilarating and painful at the same time
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!
The detour happily led me past some swans – One of whom clearly thought I had bread so sailed close before paddling off in disgust
I reached the stepping stones where I could finally cross the river next to Merthyr Mawr castle – Or what’s left of it
My detour now led me to Merthyr Mawr dunes which I’ve run before but only after driving to them.
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.
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
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.
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
At 21 miles I reached my destination – Not home for once, I had decided to reward myself …
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.