Looking at the long game

Short midweek run this week of 5 miles up the cliffs as the tide was in.  Only the one run in the week – unheard of!  The ankle is still niggling me so I figured more rest would help it plus I’m doing a little more work on flexibility and recovery including taking first steps at yoga! Yes indeed yoga. My suppleness could be best described as like an old oak tree, the trunk and major branches dont flex at all but I can move my twigs.

Where the hell do you start with yoga?  I started by asking the best in the business – Ceejay! Who very very kindly sent me huuuuuuge emails with instructions, videos, advice and encouragement for which I’m extremely grateful. Also brought it home how much support and help I get from the readers of this blog. Something I certainly didnt anticipate when I started it. So huge thanks to Ceejay and to all of you, the smallest messgae always means a lot and raises motivation =)

So if you are interested in yoga hop over to her blog and take a read.

So I’ve done it twice now and its harder than I thought, the 20 minute starting video I followed was manageable as long as I paused it long enough to work out how the hell to bend over there while keeping this bit straight over here.  So I did what I could and one day I will flex more and will be able to follow properly and better.

As for the long game – Well UTMB released their qualifying rules this week and as per usual I kinda jumped the gun, OCC now requires 6 points in 2 races this year onwards and not 4 – So the races I have planned this year get me 4 and to get the 6 I will need to do a 4 pointer or higher.  Thats out of the question this year – its planned, 3 ultras I really want to do, Preseli, Scafell and Sweden plus various other plans. And 4 pointers are basically 50 miler minimum. So I guess thats for next year. It’s a long game and I’m more than happy to be patient and wait a further year. I’m not pushing and breaking myself to rush a 50 or qualifying, it happens when it happens.

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Theres the motivation – hey look how round my face used to be!

Preseli Beast 2017

So having completed the Beast Bach last year which is the Beasts offspring at 11 miles yesterday it was the full Presesi Beast over 24 miles and 4500 feet of climbing.  Was to be a new challenge for me as I’ve only ever done 20 miles in training and the climbs on the beast are excruciatingly long and in parts steep. I’d trained for this for many months so determination was high but how the body would cope was the question.

I won’t do a blow by blow account here or go into depth, when I’ve had time to work out what happened I shall probably write a bit more.  I finished in a few minutes over 5 hours (as is tradition here I forgot to stop my watch on the line so I await official timings)  I think I probably would have gone under 5 easily had I not made some mistakes which I can now learn from.  Oh and the marshalls at this race who are utterly brilliant all seem to have the most beautiful dogs which meant stopping to stroke and chat with every one (dog not the marshall) including one staffie which reminded me of Soaky so much I could have cried. At that point I was in pain and a low point and seeing that particular dog reminded me how far I’ve come and the promise that brought me here – Perfect timing Soak!

I didn’t win – LOL like that was never a thought – The race was part of the Welsh Fell Running Championships this year so there were some seriously fast fell runners – Winner took 3h 5m apparently! Thats inconceviable considering the terrain. I dont think I came in the top half – No matter not why i was there.

I obviously didn’t come to win – I came to finish, learn and enjoy. I did all three.

As I say I’ll flesh out the thoughts below a little later

I learned a huge amount about longer races.
I learned that there is a huge step up from trail half to a long fell race.
I learned what works kitwise.
I learned more about pacing myself (though I’m very happy with my plan and how I pretty much stuck to it)
I learned how to fuel and hydrate sufficiently
I learned that in fell racing there is so much time to be made on quick descending, what you lose climbing you can easily haul back with quick feet and a lack of common sense
I learned that its true that climbing decides winners and descending decides DNF after I managed to blow out a quad after 9 miles
I learned that you do have to learn to cope and adapt physically and mentally as the race progresses.
I learned that with a determined and positive outlook physical issues can be overcome.

After all that you’ll also be glad to hear that I paused quickly to take a few photos this year – I couldn’t resist treating you guys who have been so supportive. Many came out a bit blurred as I wasn’t really stopping for long but I got some good ones. Enjoy.

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5 or so miles in – An easy one
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Probably the first of the steep ones but short
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The town is down in the bay at around the halfway point. I started to struggle on this downhill with my quad. No paths on some sections is fun but punishing on the legs.
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Its a long long drag out of town back to the peaks – This was the first killer – The Beast has a horrific second half.  The top section is pure scrambling up the rocks – Yep you climb to the very peak and over
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Looking back to the town
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The views are stunning once youre up there. As I noted to another runner though with no paths you spend the entire race looking at your feet.
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The Beast itself – just a case of running to the bottom left of the photo and then up to the lefthand peak then along the ridgeline to the second peak – By now it was 20 miles in …..
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Ponies!
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Homeward bound – Theres a half mile or so of forest – half boarded and half not – Issue here is picking your feet up over the roots
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Spot the flat bit – No? There isn’t one!

Its a fantastic race. I cant praise the organisation and marshalling highly enough.  The whole village is there to see you off and cheer you home with horns and drums. Every marshall is cheerful and supportive as were everyone we met on the course. A favourite part was the water station around 14 miles in which was 3 old farmers in a farmyard with water and jelly babies. They were obviously loving the day as much as we were.

Im very proud of achieving something I put my mind to. There were doubts in training, there were doubts in the race but 24 miles is just 24 miles, more important is how far I’ve come in the last 2 years. From being unable to run a single field to running in the Welsh Championship fell race over long course just shows what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Goals and intellectual scavenging

Warning! This post is about internal musings not a run! No photos (Well I might sneak one or two in)

Last week I read this post on the excellent ultrarunning blog by James Stewart which got me thinking about not just how I run but why.  As the winner of the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas last month I think its definitely worth a read from someone who’s “done it” and a great jumping off point if you want to get started but have doubts.

I checked with James and he was happy for me to basically scavenge his post in order to present my thoughts – well I said reference but i’m using it as a template. Theft is the highest form of flattery or something.

James uses 4 tips to set his goals.  When reading these it made me wonder why I’m running. I kinda know but its not something thats straight in my head. My eventual goal is one that i hope to complete this year – an ultra. The one I have planned is a 32 miler along the Cornish coastal path in August

Which means I will have gone from unfit non-runner who literally couldnt run a tenth of a mile without dying to running an ultra in two years. Thats my goal.

OK I have a goal after all – I just didnt really realise I had arranegd this part without knowing.

  1. James says “Firstly, I determine why it is important enough to be a personal goal.”  Well I have this cracked too. I’m not doing it for bragging rights or as an end it really kind of boils down to a promise I made to a small dying dog two years ago ….
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Soakys favourite thing ever – Destroying wood – Sticks, branches, logs, firewood – anything would get chewed to destruction.

After 16 years I knew losing her would be a huge wrench so I promised her I wouldnt mope about and would do something to get outside and keep my head clear. I still dont know why I picked running but it seemed a good way of continuing to visit the beach where we spent so many happy hours chewing wood.

As I improved fitness-wise the goal of an ultra just slowly worked its way into my head as the miles ticked by – You gotta have something to think about!

2. So next up James says ““Soon” and “One day” and “I’ll need to do that” and allthatshittypassivelanguage needs to be eradicated from your vocabulary.”

You gotta pick a date – Well I have that! I actually signed up when injured in a moment of cabin fever induced madness last year but this years date is perfect!

3. James says “Then, I tell people about it”  Ok so this one is a little trickier.  Most of my friends feign an interest in what I’m doing but don’t really comprehend it. I’m fine with that, it’s my journey not thers anyway and I like having it.  My parents are incredibly cool about it, they read the blog and enjoy my progress and I know they are rooting for me in whatever I do.  So the other peeople who get the sharing are you guys – I find writing the blog does two things – It helps me log my training records and photos so there are always reference points. It also gets me communicating with other like minded people. I have 128 followers now – who knew!  And some of you I feel I know really well just through the blog.  Your support is incredible, I get advice and a sense of community which is important as I am most definitely an anti-social runner out on the trails!

4. James – “In the words of MC Hammer (and many much better rappers) I then break it down.”  break things down into smaller manageable chunks.   This I’ve already done naturally without even knowing it.  I’ve seen myself go from nothing, 1 mile, 2, 3 etc  I remember when 8 was a huge deal, 13, 15 and now 20.  I know I can keep adding and pushing a little bit til I get there.  I have one big race in a few weeks – The Preseli Beast which is 24 miles of fell running which is going to be a huge test as its going to be a lot of steeeeeeeep climbing over a distance Ive not covered yet. I’ll give it my best and remember its just a bitesize step – Just a huge chewy painful bite.

Just as they say pick your fights carefully then pick your goals carefully – but pick them. Get off yo ass and pick them!

As I said at the start of this post (and well done if you waded this far) many thanks to James for his motivational post which got me putting all this into words. And again congrats on the Rocky Racoon win – I guess youre an elite now!

Oh and one more photo!

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Doggles!

 

 

Needs Must – The Devils Driving!

Well not driving – riding!

After a visit to the doctors yesterday who reckons its a ligament strain not a fracture I decided bugger complete rest it’s impact that hurts so let’s try non impact – cycling! (For non impact I mean on the hfoot, impact may well occur into the front of a bus or over a hedge). So off I went this morning for a rummage and to dig out the old mountain bike I own.

It’s not the prettiest, in fact it’s built like some sort of bike-tank hybrid judging by the weight of it, if I do crash into any buses they may well be the ones to come off worse. I spent an hour or so fixing up the minor faults, ignoring others and smashing a few bits off it with a hammer (I reasoned it was making it lighter at least).  The gears dont work very well, if at all if I’m honest, it likes to stay between gear 7 and 12 and pretty much likes 10 best, any other and it clicks madly in protest and then slips back to 10 anyway. The brakes rub a bit as the wheels are slightly buckled – This is of course great resistance training! Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz.

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Here she is in all her half working glory! I’d like to get rid of the lock but don’t have the key or a hacksaw

The sun was shining, I put my new ankle supporty thing on and off I went. I found that the best way of dealing with unhappy gears is to give in, stay in 10th and when hills approach hammer up them in the same gear and pray my legs don’t buckle before the hill ends. I’m alive to write this post so my technique clearly works (I will studiously be avoiding any long hills)

First stop Marcross. It was weird cycling places where I run to normally. Almost felt like cheating.

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Marcross beach on a spring day – Opposite is the hill I train on – I’ll be back you bastard!

On my way to Llantwit I passed lots of other cyclists, they usually gave a friendly nod or greeting but I could see what they were thinking – What is that idiot riding and why doesn’t that idiot have a helmet on? Well guys you answered your own question – Idiot but an idiot with the wind blowing through his locks! Yes I may die but it will be stylish (For stylish read painful and splattered over the front of a bus)

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Llantwit beach at high tide
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LLantwit beach looking toward Atlantic College
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View of the Bristol Channel on the way home
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Awwwwwww fluffy lamb thinking “wear a helmet you dick”

Things I noticed –

Cycling uses some different muscles to running.
My foot and ankle felt fine so it seems cycling can be a substitute while I recover.
As nice as it was to exercise cycling is no substitute for running trails.
Pheasants crack me up when they run.

 

Be like a palm tree – bend don’t break

I’m posting before 7 in the morning on a day off – why do I always wake up early when I’m off work! No matter, was lying there pondering my ankle (some good news, visited doctors yesterday and she thinks it’s more likely a ligament strain rather than fracture) and remembered something I must have read once upon a time which has always stayed with me.

When the storm hits be like a palm tree, you bend with the wind but never break then snap back hard in the lulls when the storms abate. I’ve used this before as a mental aid.  We all get periods in life when it seems that everything bad including the kitchen sink plus washing machine and cooker are thrown at us. It seems that woes don’t come alone so when they do recognise this and learn to bend not break. Accept bad things happen in life and that they will pass just don’t let them snap you. Bend for as long as it takes, hunker down, take stock of all the good things that are also going on and when you feel that the storm is passing -WHAM! Snap back hard. Enjoy standing up tall again and really enjoy giving the world a kicking back on your terms.

I’m currently doing this on a smaller level with my injury. I have to bend and accept I can’t run. If I ignore the pain and run I’ll do more harm and snap. I’m being a palm tree! (Can you tell I work in primary schools? Look I’m waving my fronds) I know the injury will pass and when it does I’ll be in a great place to really improve my running.

I did the same when my dog soaks died last year. I knew it was coming and when it did I didn’t put on the stiff upper lip and pretend it wasn’t happening. I recognised an emotional shitstorm was going to hit me and so I went with it, I bent, hunkered down, let my emotions have their way for a while, knew it would abate (it still is) but as time healed I snapped back a stronger person.

I’m not a great one for articulating the random thoughts in my head so I hope this makes sense, I just figured I’d share something that’s helped me. Apologies to any arborealologists (possibly a made up word) for any palm tree inconsistencies in this post.

Hope I never catch normal

To be honest I know I’ll never catch normal but just throwing it out there as a thought. Why do I say this? I don’t seem to do normal things, or think normal things … But I guess normal is different for everyone. In this case I mean the vast majority of people I know or meet in work who do the same things day in day out, they bitch and moan about work, their kids, other peoples kids, their other halves, how expensive things are, what happened in some TV programme ad neauseum and it leaves me cold.

I’ve never been married, never had kids, never done this “normal” life thing, I tend to do things on a whim – Like leaving my super secure council desk job to run a pub.  This summer I have the six weeks off as I work in schools now but I’m not planning a 2 week holiday on a beach somewhere or planning to grout my bathroom, I’m planning where I can go to do some scenic running on my own.  Is that normal?

Anyway all that came from my run home today. I was knackered and thinking “Why am I doing this again?” Of course it didn’t help that I was carrying a huge driftwood branch back from the beach (yes more beachcombing). It didn’t help that a leisurely trot to the beach had turned into me beasting myself up steep steep hills six times in close succession for no good reason other than “I wanted to see if I could”

Then again I would imagine the vast majority of the population would think anyone reading this blog and thinking “Hey that could be me” is not normal.

See? you’re not normal either.

I’ve confused myself now so i’ll stop

To the photos!

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Beautiful sky tonight – I was promised a sunny end to the day and it delivered
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Hill one – repeat 3 times
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Hill 2 – Repeat 3 times
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More scenery
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Out of focus and out of my mind for carrying these back – The one on the floor was todays prize!