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.

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.

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)

Bit o running, bit o cleaning

Friday after work it was time to head to the beach for a quick 5 miles or so with my friend Claire and her dog Tilly aka ratdog. Its good to see her improving slowly despite not being able to get out much lately. It does help shes about 7 stone soaking wet and many years younger than me – she wants to run a fellrace this summer and to be honest she’s a natural and gonna cruise it – well assuming I can actually get her to run uphill at some point.

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So Tilly can keep up …..

Brought a couple of bin bags to clear some plastics too. This is why I need friends, Im not that bright it took her to point out the easiest way of hauling at all back. I never thought of this …

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Monsoon

Decided to get out for a run last Sunday despite the torrential rain. I wanted a long run but wasn’t going to happen in these conditions.  To be fair the seven miles I did were made harder by slogging through fields turned into streams. More resistance training. I look back and laugh now but at the time up to my calves in freezing cold water I certainly wasn’t laughing then

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The first inkling I might get wetter than usual

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Definitely been raining

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Errr ok so this is one Ive never seen before here

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Starfish are like buses – You don’t see one forever and then 2 come along in a week 

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Of course the regular waterfall was showing off 

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Fields of joy!

 

It aint always pleasant….

But I always love it nonetheless.  After a day of fairly nice weatehr by the time I got home from work it was getting dark and raining, sometimes hard rain sometimes just mizzle. The temptation was to stay in and pretend to stretch or something but sometimes you just got to get out of the door.

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Was worth it to capture the only sunlight left in Wales (he exaggerated madly)

Up on the cliffs it was cold and wet and I still loved it. I said hi to all the sheep of course.

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Witches Point in the mizzle

I did the 4 or 5 mile trip around to the barrows at Wick beach and headed back. Once again negotiating the haunted woods ™ by headtorch

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Path to haunted woods at dusk – Fortunately I know pretty much every inch of ground here

So yeah its always worth getting out even if the weather says no the lesg say yeh!

And finally a big hello and hug for my mum who’s not been so well lately but hopefully on the road to recovery!

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 =)

Went looking for my mojo

Found it down the back of the sofa, made it fix my Garmin which it kindly did then took them both to the beach. Seven and a half miles in around an hour and a half with plenty of rock hopping and general zooming around. Mojo and I are friends again and the sun came out to celebrate.

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Hello sunshine

If ever you need a happy song try a dose of this. Plus they’re Welsh!

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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