The Other Side

I’ve lived alongside the Bristol Channel my whole life, it’s always been there and part of my life whether I’ve actively thought about it or not.  Where I have always lived has been bounded on one side by a wide strip of water, I’ve never really thought about it, it’s just there. Being able to go to the beach just a mile or so away has always been part of life and I’ve never considered actually how lucky I am.

And for all my life the opposite side of the Bristol Channel has been called “The Other Side” and I’ve never thought about that either.  People around here will say something like “It was such a beautiful day,  you could see the other side so clearly” or “You couldn’t see the other side because of the fog”  and everyone knows that the other side is simply the other side of the Bristol Channel.

I see the other side a lot as it’s visible from not only my home but also from the beach where I run a lot and the fields where I walk Murph.  As I say it’s just a geographical feature on the horizon but lately I’ve started thinking about it a lot more. Like what does here look like from over there?  And what does Foreland Point Lighthouse actually look like up close?  I can see this lighthouse – or rather in the early morning or late evening dark I can see it’s distinctive repeating 4 flashes followed by a pause.

And how much of over there can I actually see from over here. And can I run the length of all the other side that i can see? In a day?

So the blue dot is Monknash beach and the two red arrows mark the section of the other side I can see from “our side”  

Luckily (or not) the South West Coastal path runs along this section of coast too – in fact Minehead which will be my finishing point is actually the end of the SW path too.  So the plan is to run from Bull Point Lighthouse in the west to Minehead in the east following the coastal path.  A handy SW coastal path calculator tells me it’s around 43 miles with plenty of ascending and descending – One thing I learned about the SW coastal path while running an ultra on it a few years ago (on the south coast) is that it is rarely flat and there is a lot of steep climbing up and down into the coves.

Yeah – check out that flat profile …

17 hours is the walking estimate so I would be thinking closer to 10 or 11 but as ever it depends on so many factors. 

Timing wise looking at spring 2022 because it’s the best weather for both myself and Murph to be doing this kind of thing – He cant do the full distance but he could do sections maybe.  Well he could probably do the full distance but I would never make him try. I can make the choice to stop but he cant communicate that to me and I know he would just keep going. School holidays run from the 8th April 2022 to 25th. Easter weekend is the 17th so that’s one to avoid. Preseli is the 7th May this year and I’d like some recovery time between the two as I want to run the ultrabeast this year as it’s been a while and I know how hard that one is with the elevation too. I need to get some hills under my belt!

So it’s some consistent winter training coming u – Plan is to get after it avoid injury and stop the weather watching – Murph fetch your rain gear!

Consistency

I’ve never run with consistency, if I was to be honest it tends to be boom and bust. Periods of high milage and then injuries so I’m trying for some consistency this year – And right now i’m on a 14 day running streak. Some of those days are only 3 or 4 miles and I have this thing in my head that tells me it’s not far enough – and this time I’m going to listen to the other voice that tells me that if I am consistent then it is plenty.

Back to work tomorrow and the streak will end soon enough but let’s see how it goes as once again I have plans for this year – all to be revealed soon. But if I can stay healthy and get a decent winter training block in then all will be good.

So I hope everyone had a good xmas and all that stuff. Always remember that the days grow longer now, imperceptibly but they do and spring will be on the way soon enough so things are on the up even when they don’t seem like they are.

It’s real

I got to thinking after xmas. My nephew brought a virtual reality headset with him on boxing day and it started me thinking about reality. I can see the use of VR in education – you can fire pupil’s imaginations like nothing else with it. But what concerns me is the disconnect from the real world and actually experiencing things.

I thought about this while running this morning, it was still semi dark, the wind was howling and then it started to hammer down rain too. And as I ran through it all I thought about how although some may consider it a miserable experience to me me it wasn’t. I could feel the lash of the rain on my face, feel the water running down my face and mingling with sweat and stinging my eyes. I could feel the salt in my mouth as I sucked in air. I could smell the wet earth beneath my feet, the aroma of wet grass. I could sense the freshness of the storm, the wind blasting over and around me, pushing me this way and that, making me drive into it.

I looked down to see Murphy trotting alongside me, as usual when i transfer attention to him he looks up at me and seems to grin. I know deep down it’s just the way we percieve and anthropomorphalise animals but it seems like he grins and smiles at me, sometimes its almost as if he looks up to agree how utterly ridiculous the situation is, why are we running ankle deep through streams of water into a biting wind anyway? Not that he cares because I know at that moment he feels alive, no matter the weather he is out doing something he loves with someone he loves – and so am I. Because right now we are alive.

And can VR give this? Of course not. But corporations will tell you it can. Because they want to sell it to you. And all the attendant “experiences” they can sell you too. They want you at home, sat in your lounge where you are comfortable, malleable and ready to part with cash. How can they sell things to someone stood ankle deep in mud in a field? So they will tell you be comfortable. There is no need to leave your home. Be safe. We can bring the world to you.

I say no thanks, I’d rather be cold, wet, tired … and alive.

Frisbee n Friends

Our weekend runs always include a visit to see Murphs friends now. Today we saw them first and then headed for the fields and the beach.

As the sun rose the day just got better and better. It was one of those runs where you never want to go home. 9 miles later we eventually finished – mainly so we could eat, drink and go out again later.

A short break

Another day another injury – not me this time but the Murph who had a cut on his paw. No idea how he does it, theres just a lot of sharp stuff out there and when you have an active dog in nature it’s gonna happen.

So the decision then becomes do I run without him? And I can’t bring myself to leave him at home and go out and enjoy myself without him so therefore how do we make the best of the situation? So I dialled up the mobility and strength part of the training. Ok so it’s not running in nature but it’s going to help in the long run. So stretching and weights it was.

And yesterday and today we are back to running – keeping it short and sweet while I keep an eye on his paw – to be honest it wasn’t even making him limp and I only noticed it because he was playing on the floor next to me while I stretched so I am probably being over cautious but hey look at me being all responsible!

So thats been the last week or so – but now we are back! It’s not like we haven’t been out.

You’ve come a long way baby

On Sunday we trotted out for a few miles of running, I wasn’t intending too much as it was midday and on fine weekends the coast gets busy and we don’t like busy. But as we sped down the lane after a quick parents visit it just felt too soon to head for home. It was just too nice out and the legs were feeling like they had many more miles in them so we set off towards the clifftops. In the distance I could already see people walking the coastal path but hey ho in for a penny and so we turned right instead of left which led us along the cliffs away from home so we could drop down at Witches Point to do the full stretch of the beach where hopefully there would be less people.

Along the cliffs we passed a number of walkers and you know what? Murph coped. He wasn’t happy about them but he coped. He didn’t growl, bark or pull too hard to get past them.He just put his thousand yard stare on and bravely (for him) just got past them without a fuss. On the beach I let him off the lead and he stayed right with me, we ran within 50 metres of people and he plain ignored them and stuck to my heels.  I didn’t even need to put him on the lead until we hit the singletrack path off the beach and even then he behaved impeccably. Pulling slightly as if under tension but controlling his fear.

For those that don’t know Murph was a mess when i got him. Scared of his own shadow, he had obviously been mistreated and no way could he have got past all these people like this back then. He used to panic and run in the opposite direction to people. Eventually he found his voice and learned to bark at them to stay away but he has always been so scared it’s been heartbreaking sometimes.  

But on Sunday I was so proud of him, I could tell at times he wasn’t happy about being close to strangers (once he knows you he is fine) but he soldiered on, gritted his dog teeth and kept going.  I told him so in the last field on the way home, he got a 10/10 mark from me on Sunday – never happened before. 

It’s taken over three years and maybe we have reached peak Murph rehabilitation but even if it is then it warms my heart to know I’ve made a difference to his life, replacing fear with love.  

Onto the photos. This week we have ..

Three Woods

Not the golf club three wood but rather our small three woods challenge. On our regular runs there are three seperate woods that we visit just not on the same run. Murph loves woods as there are furries to hunt and things to sniff. So I figured why not do a run that links up all three so he gets to visit them all in the same day. I had a vague idea it would be around half marathon length and would mean we could take in the fields, woods, cliffs, beach and the lanes.

Plus it was an excuse to take sandwiches and extra dog treats. Of course everything is easier in phot form so here goes the story of the day (spoiler its not that exciting)

Making It Up

Last saturday we marked the spring equinox with a run. An ultra in fact. Due to pandemics etc I hadn’t run one since the 50 miler back in 2019 so I figured it was time to get back on the horse and why not do it by marking the beginning of my favourite season. I’ve learned that a bit of preperation goes a long way in running ultras even in your own local area so although I didn’t plan a route I left a drop bag at my parents and left gear and food at home so I had two “aid stations” to visit when I needed.

Now I was pretty sure Murph could do the whole 32 miles but I didn’t want him to. After all I get the choice to stop if I have to, I can call it quits but he can’t or won’t. I know he will just go as long as he can and that may be too far, he has no real way of communicating that. So the plan was to drop him off for a few hours rest and then I could pick him up for the end.

We set off at 6.30 on our adventure!

Enjoying himself playing “come on catch up”

As usual the first miles fly by. Murph did his usual run about like a lunatic thing, probably covering twice the distance I do. We raced the tide along the beach and were having a whale of a time.

Through Southerndown and looping back towards home

Our plan went perfectly, as we looped back into Wick at around 9 miles we met our friends who go walking their dogs every morning. Murph loves a blast with his friends so it works out perfectly if we hit the field at the right time. It was also a chance to grab some food and water from my parents

Happy?

After a while spent playing with his pals we set off again in the opposite direction making up the route as we went along. We found ourselves in the woods around Atlantic College and followed the new footpath through the college and back around toward home.

Woods being Murphs favourite place to find furries

By the time we hit home for the first time it was 17 miles in and after a quick break for sustenance it was time to distract Murph with some treats and set up on my own for a few hours. He was probably doing better than me at this point as the legs were finally showing signs of tireness but he seemed raring to go still. The next 11 miles were …. ok I guess. I was at that point where things were starting to hurt so it was a case of grinding out miles plus I was missing Murphs company. Although its easier and faster to run without him as you dont have to constantly monitor him it was kinda sad to not have him there for part of the journey. But part of ultrarunning is just the mentality of “getting it done” and I certainly was going to get it done no matter what.

This is the face of a dog who has had a good day!

It was odd to run an ultra without the normal race setting, no people, no other runners, no defined course, no finishing line and I admit there were “why am I doing this to myself moments?” but I knew there would be those moments and I had prepared myself for them. You get them in every ultra but it’s just easier to drop out when there’s no-one else around. So if I thought about dropping I thought about something else instead. Like picking up Murph at 28 miles!

Although things were certainly starting to fall apart in the legs (and oddly back spasms) releasing the hound certainly gave me a boost for the final miles. As did stopping briefly at my parents house a few times where I could have a chat and get some food and water down me. Where would we be witout aid stations!

As we trotted home I checked my watch (I actually wore one for once) and realised I could still break 8 hours which considering the terrain, dog minding and various stops. But to break 8 we would have to put a final charge on. So after 31.5 miles it was time for a sprint – Sprint being a relative term but we gave it all we had down the road and hit our original starting point and 32 miles later in 7′ 59′ 30

What a tangled web we run

All in all the whole day was a success. As with all ultras I’ve run there are parts I hate while im out there and then I look back and say I loved every minute. It was certainly different to run one with just Murph for company and I was so happy that I could motivate myself to stick at it. I wonder if there will be more …

Seems like its monthly now

My posting that is, I have plenty of time to write but seemingly it’s more fun doing something than writing about it. So as per usual we’ve been out and about, running here, running there but no longer logging the miles like last year. Which took a litle while to get used to but after having to record every single walk and run I think I do prefer just getting out there and doing it and sod the numbers.

We also have a few projects on the go. First up is Run all the Footpaths which does basically what it says on the tin. There’s a vast network of footpaths and bridleways around here and I want to run them all with murph, which takes us maybe to places we haven’t been before. Hopefully it will turn out to be an ever expanding circle of footpaths on a google map that I’m recording them on. Christ I’ve ended up recording things after all.

So far it looks like this with the yellwo lines as completed footpaths

We also now have a Go Pro camera and as of yesterday a camera harness for Murph. So we’re been doing some filming and I’ve been playing around with video editing – which I’m not very good at. And Murph now has his own youtube channel where I can store all the finished videos. The lastest is being uploaded as I type and is his first test run with his hardness for a Murphs eye view of a run.

If you want to see his vids go to

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwjERA57Av8_6_iwHv7hKtA

Should be more to come, especially as the weather starts to improve, I don’t really want a harness on him when it’s wet and to be honest I don’t like him wearing one at the best of times but the odd bit of filming won’t hurt I reckon.

We have some more things in the pipeline and for now I leave you with his latest photos!

2434

No 2434 isn’t a date in the future when life on earth ceases to be – though I might as well make it a bold prediction as I won’t be around.

2434 is the final number of miles Murph and I walked and ran this year. 2000 was the target so we beat that by quite some way. I’m actually impressed I managed to keep a log every single day for a year. When I think about how much I enjoy being out with him, even when its cold or raining thats a lot of distance and time to be happy.

We averaged 6.65 miles a day, I can take a wile stab in the dark and say our average speed was 3 and a half miles and hour (averaged out between walking, running and idle ambling) which makes around 700 hours outside with my dog – no wonder I enjoyed 2020 more than most. That’s 30 whole days of pleasure. A month – We spent a whole month of our year wandering through the fields and beaches. Happy dog, happy owner.

I’ve thought about it and I wont be logging the miles this year, my curiousity is sated and despite everything above numbers are pretty meaningless when you can’t measure happiness. We have other projects to be getting on with anyway.

When I think of all the sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen it does make me feel truly blessed