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 =)

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.

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

Testing Route Mapping

Playing with maps

I did this route in google maps a while ago (and I think posted it agggges ago) and wanted to play around with it and see if it could be embedded in WP – which I think it can be it seems!

Might start doing a few more of there to geographically locate runs and things I come across … until I get bored of it :p

Badgers, bees and beheadings

Now before you get too excited I actually only saw one of these on my run today.  However I did get four and a half miles done in the dunes at Merthyr Mawr. We also had mizzle – which wasn’t as bad as it sounds as it was kind of cooling. I was taking the pace slow and today that felt a bit more natural. However this may be because running through soft and damp sand is much harder than i’d anticipated right now. I’m not sure how long it takes to recover from injury and get the fitness back but while the rest of my body was going wheeeeeeeeee! the legs were going fuuuuuuuuuck!

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Soft sand uphill is the leg killer

So badgers ……. If you’ve followed this post a little while you may remember my last visit to Merthy Mawr and the killer badgers

Which admittedly don’t exist but …. tracks!

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Badger or dog …. you decide!

Bees! Ok lose the plural

Bee!

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Big, buzzing bugger

Beheadings ….. Ok so you need a little imagination on this one. While running I came across this …

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Chopping block

Which reminded me of those blocks you see in medeavil films for chopping heads off etc and then I noticed the arrangement of logs creating a small semi circle facing the block.

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Log seating for the executions!

Ok so I admit I have a vivid imagination but it’s still kinda intriguing. They must have been placed here for a reason and the ground is worn in the area.

I moved on (as I was now scared of both badgers and axe murderers)

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View of the Bristol Channel from the top of the dunes – The chopping block is down there somewhere.
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Looking across to Ogmore by Sea

I was delighted to find the tide was out and so I managed a circuit of the very sandy beach here. And when i say sandy I mean soft and sandy!

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Altras make great footprints!
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Note the wide toebox :p

All in all a great run to ease back into it all. there was a small bit of niggle from the foot which is why I kept it short, slow and sensible (Not like me I know)

Finally Happy Birthday and Fathers Day to my dad who I think will read this at some point! In fact I’d like to say a huge thanks to both of my parents who have always backed me 100% in whatever I’ve done … even when they haven’t been sure its the right thing.

Cheers all! Happy sunday

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))

 

 

When Trail Running goes a bit Blair Witch

Thought I’d have a change of scenery today so I ran the trails around St Brides common (St Brides being the next village to us). I used to walk Soak up here a bit so I knew a little of the area but not that much, today was as much about getting out into different conditions, finding a few hills and just going where the trail took me.  It turned into an 8 mile jaunt which I didn’t really intend to do but I felt fresh and the way i’m feeling at the moment i’m not too worried about the legs for the half on sunday so while the weathers good why not do a little more?

So my journey in photos

 

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Nice easy trail to kick off with some sand to get the muscles working
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Looking down on the River Ogmore
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I ran floodplains
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And saw some geese (Possibly Canadian Geese I don’t know, I’m no avian expert)
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However I know a swan when I see one
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My phone kindly made a panorama for me without being asked
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Climbed a hill – ended up on a golf course. Variation is the spice of life and all that
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First lamb of the year spotted!
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Ok so when is a left turn not the right turn?  When the trail stops and you end up in the woods running along a 45 degree slant with no path.
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Still lost in the woods and it’s all going Blair Witch (Ok I’m using some poetic licence here, I sort of knew where I was I just couldn’t be sure. We used to play around here as kids but it looks different now)
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Success! This is where I was trying to find. the old quarry at Castle Upon Alun.  Scarily we used to happily climb these cliffs as kids with no safety gear whatsoever. Ahhh the feeling of being an indestrucible young un.
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It actually gave me chills realising how steep these things actually are
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Took the scenic route back – All uphill it seemed
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I pass this tree everyday on the way home from work. I call it the “fuck you tree” For some reason it was felled years ago but in defiance it is determined to sprout again and keeps growing year on year.  Can you draw inspiration from a tree?  I do, it reminds me that whenever life beats you down you don’t give up. You get up, dust yourself off, say “fuck you” and grow again.

So all in all a great run which put a smile on my face, especially the ending with my inspiring tree which i’ve wanted to take a photo of for a while and today serendipity happened.

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Mapping a half marathon trail route

I’ve spent a lot of time running along the beaches and cliffs of the Heritage Coast in South Wales – At least the part I live near which has given me the idea to map a half marathon route from Marcross beach to the river mouth at Ogmore by Sea and back.  Mainly as I wanted to see if I could – I find this a pretty good reason for doing anything.

The map


About the route

This is a half marathon trail course I have run myself in sections plenty of times. As it is a trail the exact distance run may me over or under 13 miles by a significant amount so bear this in mind.

The route takes in both beach and field/grassland running and the beauty of it is that you can run these in different combinations according to taste.

The overall route runs from the carpark at Marcross beach (next to the lighthouse) and along the Heritage Coast to the rivermouth at Ogmore by Sea and back.

If the route on the google map is followed then you will first traverse the rocks and sand of coast as far as Witches Point in Southerndown before climbing up to the top of the point before following the trail to along the cliffs and then the pathway to Ogmore Beach. You will then return along Ogmore Beach and along the same path back to Witches Point where you will, instead of running the beach path run along the top of the cliffs all the way back to Marcross.

Of course if you wish to run the beach on the return journey or indeed the cliffs on the outward journey you can mix and match according to taste.  You can reverse the whole thing starting at Ogmore by Sea, running to Marcross and then returning.

Much of the beach part of this run is dependent on tide times. It cannot be run at high tide and I would recommend running it an hour or so before low tide if you wish to maximise time on the beach. You can run the whole route along the cliffs never touching the beach at high tide.

Warnings – The tides here are the second highest in the world and can catch the unwary out. Always know the tide times before you set off and give yourself plenty of time to get off the beach before the tide comes in.

The route takes you over rocky beaches and care must be taken, slow down on the rocks, although loose rocks and pebbles look solid they often shift underfoot. Some of the smoother paved looking rocks are great to run on when dry but when wet or covered in weed they are treacherous, no matter the grip on your trainers you will slide and fall so slow down. My general rule of thumb is that the darker the colour of the rock the more slippery it is.  Stay clear of the cliffs as rockfalls are common.

Part of the route has you running along cliff tops – show common sense and stay away from the edge. The cliffs are unstable at the best of times and rockfalls happen frequently. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for changes in the path direction as it does come within a few feet of the edge in places.

There is often livestock in the fields, give it a wide berth, especially when new born and young animals are present.

You will be a fair distance from help if you suffer an injury so carry a mobile phone. The weather changes quickly at times and extra clothing is recommended for the cliffs section as the wind is much stronger up top.