Went away to Newport in West Wales for a few days to stay with friends who had a cottage there. of course it pissed it down for the two days – apart from early Sunday morning whereupon Murph grabbed the chance to go run up Carningli which forms part of the Preseli beast route. It was great to run up there without having already covered 13 or so miles but even on fresh legs its a killer.
It was also good to appreciate the area, when you’re racing you miss so much and so being able to take the time to stop and look was great. We bounced off along the beast route and then cut back to follow the track back to Newport. It’s odd how although I’ve only run this stretch twice in races it feels comfortable and familiar. I cant wait to get back out there in May to give the ultra another go. I’ve been toying with the idea of running the 24 mile version with Murph who would cope fine with the physical side but I don’t think would cope so well with other runners and bystanders. We shall see May is still a fair way off.
Last weekend I planned to camp near St Davids in West Wales with Murph, we packed the van and headed off. Things didnt go quite according to plan … First off I went to set the tent up and no tent poles – god knows where they are but they weren’t in the tent bag. It was also clear that Murph wasnt very happy with the campsite, he’s very nervous anyway and new situations plus people meant I could tell he wasnt going to enjoy the whole thing as I had hoped. So what do you do when life gives you lemons – go for a run!
We did around 9 or 10 miles (I’m not wearing a watch at the moment as the plan following the ultra is to just enjoy it again) along the coastal path and it was Murphs first “proper” run and he did fantastically. I kept him on lead all the way as I dont know the area well enough but it wasnt a problem. He’s pretty good at judging pace (though he clearly doesnt notice hills like I do and doesnt slacken off) so I would imagine we knock along at 8 to 9 min/mile pace which he seems to enjoy best. I even had his lead tied around my waist (its one of the fancy ones with a clip on the handle to accomodate this) and that works too. The only problems we had were on technical sections where he tends to choose the best line (Ie the one I’ve also picked) a split second before me.
Yesterday was Preseli Ultrabeast day. 2 years ago I ran the Beast Bach 11 mile race linky and last year I ran the Preseli Beast 24 miler linky and yesterday I completed the hat trick with the Ultrabeast. I was to be honest a little concerned about it as although training has gone well and I feel in good form, breaking a toe on a baby gate 2 weeks ago was going to make it a different proposition plus I know what the course is like – as Carwyn the organiser puts it “As if the original wasn’t hard enough for you! And if the 32mile route doesn’t grab you enough, then what about the 6,000ft of ascent it now has! Be warned this is no easy walk in the park. This is proper hardcore fell running terrain. This route really does take it to the extreme and those thinking of running this one really must be physically and mentally prepared.”
32 miles, 6000 feet of ascent (and the quad shredding descents which by the end are worse) through fell country, not much of this is run on any sort of trail and most is barely a sheep track. It had pissed down constantly during the day before and there was a lot of mud, the evil black sucky mud you only seem to get on the beacons (Preseli is the westernmost end of the Brecon beacons). There were moments when you went up to your knees in it, at one point up to the groin. You just could tell until you hit it. All part of the fun but it just sucks and sucks at your legs.
For the sake of the marshalls (who were superb as ever here – especially the one dressed as a lobster) the ultra started the same time as the 24 miler. This made pacing tricky as everyone set off around the same lick and it was hard to judge what the extra 8 miles would be like.
The option was also there around 20 miles to skip the 8 mile extra loop out into the wilds and still get a qualifying finish in the 24 miler. You make this decision at the top of the longest steepest hillside there is and apparently quite a few took it and I cant blame them. By then things were really hurting and the thought crossed my mind but not for long. Those extra 8 miles were beautiful singletrack and took us out to parts i’d not seen before including a monolithic hillfort. There were more climbs, more descents and more pain than I care to think about now but by then I had grouped with 3 other lads who were in a similar boat and were happy for me to tag along and for once I was happy for the company. Sometimes its ok to suffer in silence and sometimes misery loves company. When its not just you stepping into knee deep freezing mud for the hundredth time it makes it easier to bear.
The last peak was finally done and all that was left was a 3 or 4 mile descent on busted up everything – Sometimes its that last drop that kills. But finish I did in 7 hours which I’m well pleased with considering the toe and the terrain.
Dunno where to go next …. who cares
Anyway if you read all that you get the photos – Beauty of ultras with fuckoff big mountains is you feel better about stopping occassionally for a photo op.
Last weekend I headed for St Davids in West Wales to camp with some friends for one of their birthdays. Of course I also intended to run. We were going to spend saturday walking the coastal path so I headed out ahead to run for a while and then wait til they caught up.
It became apparent to me after a mile or so the ankle is pretty much screwed at the moment. I waited for them. I walked the seven or so remaining miles with them. I decided this is no good and it’s actually time to really rest it now. Enough is enough. Plus with some family stuff coming up its time to focus on important stuff, running is just running. Probably a good chance to recharge mentally too.
Spent the weekend down in West Wales with a couple of friends and their dog which of course meant I got to do some running at last. The idea was to do a few miles of the coastal path in glorious sunshine and take in the views. This being Wales of course it was blowing a gale and raining on me from the outset. I was not to be deterred though!
I was actually really enjoying myself despite the wind, cold and rain and was happily putting out enough effort to prevent hypothermia. The only times I got cold was when I stopped to take photos for you my dear readers. The sacrifices I make!
I had forgotten to bring my energy foods with me and so my friend had given me some marshmallows and chocolate but as I didn’t want them to melt in my pocket we shoved them in the only bag we had available – an (unused) dog poo bag. A bags a bag but I decided to eat while crossing the bridge in the photo – So there I am in front of the cafe shovelling marshmallows straight from a dog poo bag into my mouth. Always make a good first impression when visiting a new place.
Then I came to a dead end, the only way was to go back the way I came or so some scrambling up a scree slope. I am not one to be deterred by a challenge so off I went
I eventually got back after about 3 hours, tired, cold and wet but happy. The quad is still not entirely happy but then i cant really blame it after a dozen miles and a climb up and down a bloody scree slope.
In the afternoon we popped into St Davids – The Smallest city in Britain.
More importantly than sightseeing we took Iolo the dog to the pub
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.
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.
On friday I headed down to West Wales to stay with friends again and of course I managed to fit in a run.
In fact I fitted in a 15 mile run along the Welsh coastal path. I intended to do around 10 but I felt great and it was a beautiful day so I just grabbed the chance to go further. The thing about coastal paths is that they are very rarely level – My watch reckons I did 2500 feet of elevation gain! I have to admit that some of the climbs were steep but I had the common sense to walk the worst and managed to keep my heart rate down for the whole thing (Im a good boy)
So 15 miles, lots of hills, controlled breathing and heartrate, good nutrition and hydration. Things are going well right now! (touch wood, don’t jinx myself etc)
And all this followed by a few hours in the kayak and some beers with Iolo the dog.
Is it just a Welsh thing? Adding superflous words to sentances. You’re going for a what now? Is exactly the same as You’re going for a what? Yet we feel the need to add the now. We also have a habit of saying nonsensical things such as “I’ll be there now in a minute”
Was off camping in Pembrokeshire in West Wales with some friends over the weekend. Haven’t been in a tent for years and now twice in a week!
Woke up saturday morning feeling a little tired and clearly so did everyone else – I had the cure though – “I’m going for a run, anyone coming?” to which the incredulous reply came “You’re going for a what now?”
Clearly no-one was coming so I did around 8 miles of the coastal path and was so glad I did – Stunning views and although the first few miles were hard I hit my usual mile 3 groove and all was good in the world.
When I got back a few hours later there had been very little movement at the campsite. I however felt great and proceeded to tell everyone how great I felt. I had to stop telling everyone how great I felt as I was in danger of being nailed to the nearest tree.
I was lucky enough to be invited down to West Wales by a couple of friends who were renting a cottage for a week ( I say cottage, it was huge and could sleep 8) so off I went on friday straight after work , only a couple of hours drive but you forget the beauty of your own country sometimes.
The cottage was in a tiny village called Nolton Haven and it had the most perfect bay for learning to kayak, not much swell and some interesting coves and coastline to explore.
But first things first I woke on saturday and my foot felt fine so I figured I’d go for a gentle run on the beach as the sand was super soft, of course I couldn’t actually stick to my plan and was soon off up the coastal path that runs either side of the bay. The views were fantastic and the foot felt fine. I’ve spent some time considering things while off injured and have come to realise I can’t hammer my body at this age (which does makes me sound old) when it’s not really used to it. If I want to run at all I need to run smarter, lower impact and run slower.
I’ve been serruptitiously reading about slow ruinning and heart rate training and I managed to keep my heartrate easily below 140 despite some extremely vertical terrain – not that I was really monitoring it to be fair as I didnt have my watch as I didnt expect to be running and anyway the watch doesn’t even do heart monitoring. So I simply took my pulse and timed it. Works for me!
I ran around 4 or 5 miles perhaps and as I say took it slowly, expecting my foot to start hurting but apart from near the end where it started to nag a little on the downhill to the beach it was fine and afterwards I felt no pain. I have an appointment at the doctors tomorrow to discuss the xray results ….. so I probably wont mention the run :p
I also had my Altras on and in my admittedly limited experience these are the most comfortable trainers I’ve ever worn. It’s like running in slippers and the grip is utterly fantastic. Some of the descents were on shale and they provided perfect footing with no slippage at all. To say I’m happy with them right now is an understatement.
Some photos from the run
So after the run it was time to test the kayak!
Absolutely loved it, spent a good few hours in the water self teaching various techniques – I think the hardest part was launching it! I also learned how not to panic when you ground yourself on a rock and nearly tip out and how to fend off a dead seagull with my paddle. I finished off with a lesson in how to get back on if I ever do actually fall off by mistake.
After kayaking it was chill out, bbq, beers and watching Wales win their opening game in the Euros! Oh and playing with Iolo the labrador puppy – Who had this face on after trying to eat my Altras
Ummm we may have drunk one or two
All in all a fantastic few days. So glad the foot held up and to get a few miles done was the best news plus the kayak is great and gives one hell of a workout to arms, legs and arse!
So yesterday was my second ever race. The Preseli Beast Mawr (little beast) – How hard can 11 miles be?
I was up with the lark as I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there, those west Walian roads can be small and twisty. As it turns out it was a simple enough 2 hour drive in the trailmobile.
Yes thats right yesterday was also the unveiling of the trailmobile. no not a new car but a ad hoc conversion. The back of my battered old mondeo is now converted to a pre race nervecentre and also post race sleeping accomodation. This could be a fun summer!
So I was an hour or so early and just chilled out in the Trailmobile (now capitalised) and got ready while chatting with some friendly guys from Swansea who were next to me.
I had 3 main worries, the race started at 12.30 and it was getting hot and I don’t particularly like the heat, I was woefully undertrained having hardly run for two months due to my major concern my foot injury. Still nothing I could do now but give it a go!
The race started from the centre of Maenclochog with a quick prerace briefing from the organiser Caz the Hat and we all had to hug people around us in a pre race show of solidarity. When you run alone these things can be awkward but luckily I was stood next to some pretty ladies.
And we were off! I take my hat off to the locals from the village who cheered and clapped us and even banged drums and rattled tambourines. After a few hundred metres of road we hit a gravelled farm track which led us to a wonderful marshy forest with single track wooden bridges throughout it. I spent most of the time just enjoying being out and praying the foot would be ok which it seemed to be, there was a slight ache but I could cope with that despite forgetting to take painkillers before setting off.
Out of the forest and the first hill, all good feeling fine. Nothing to it! Then down through a farm and through an old slate quarry. This was a lovely technical section with lots of twists and turns, ups and downs. I’d love to run this alone at my own pace when fit but was content just to be sensible and hold pace with those around me. A nice touch around here was Caz the Hat who had obviously taken a sneaky shortcut waiting to greet, encourage and fist pump every single runner going over a stile. This man has class!
Then another hill and this is where things started getting tricky as I suddenly felt awful, this was only a few miles in but I think the lack of training was starting to show itself. The gradient wasnt really enough to force a walk but it felt like there was nothing in the legs and the heat was getting to me.
I slowed and unleashed my secret weapon – My homemade chia, flax, date and raisin energy bars! (see this post for details) I admit I found it hard to swallow the first one – mainly because like an idiot I crammed it all in my gob at once and then found I had to chew it for about 300 yards – Well it took my mind off things!
After a while I started to feel better in myself and spied another serendipitous opportunity – a fresh mountain stream. Much to the surprise of the runners around me I leaped from the track straight into it up to my calves in lovely cool water. It was worth a few seconds to drench myself.
Invigorated I reached the top of the climb and then we sailed across a beautiful mountainside towards the aid station at mile 5.
Aaaaaand this is where the foot went …. running down and sideways on this path meant I was unbalanced with my bad foot on the uphill side and running at an angle hurt it. By the time I reached mile 5 the pain was getting bad and I was now favouring the other foot and the limp had begun. Well I guess this is trail running, it’s going to hurt and no turning back now.
The next stage was across the moorland in the photo above in a steady climb until we hit the Beasts Back.
This hill/mountain/evil incline of ultimate pain seemed neverending. Much of it we walked, some of it I could run by staying on my toes to reduce the pain but climb it we did and what views from the top!
Annoyingly my legs had come back to life and my breathing felt as good as it could be considering but the pain in my foot was now crippling me. It was time to simply dog it out for the last four or five miles or so. There’s a saying that kept running through my head at this point – It’s not the size of the dog in the fight its the size of the fight in the dog. Does anyone else get random mantras stuck in their head while running? I was telling myself that despite the fact that physically I was undertrained, injured and in a lot of pain I still had my head going for me. Time for fight in the dog to show up. I’d rather forget the downhills from that mountain. Normally I’d fly them, savour them and enjoy them but I couldnt impact the foot at all and so had to brake all the way down meaning my toes were being slammed into the toebox of my trainers causing more grief – It never rains but it pours!
Once back on level ground it was back through the forest again and into the village. And what a greeting, I was dead on my feet by this phase and just wanted to walk to alleviate the foot pain but I couldn’t give up with these people watching. It was like the whole village were in their gardens and on the road clapping and cheering. At that point it meant a lot – the whole run the marshalls and supporters had been fantastic and I tried to thank every one in passing. I limped over the line and what a relief to collapse on the grass! Now I know why they call it The Beast -even fit and uninjured that would have been a challenge.
Afterwards I waited around chatting and relaxing until the presentations. There was tea, cake, cawl all dished up by some fantastic volunteers. In fact I have to say the whole village should be proud of the day they put on for the runners. It really felt like a close community showing their warmth to a load of strangers who pitch up to run around in their beautiful countryside.
The organisation was top notch. I take my metaphorical hat off to Caz the Hat who clearly loves the area, running and his event. He’s created something special there and I would heartily recommend it for anyone with an interest in trail running. There were of course the full beast (24 miles I think) and a 32 mile ultrabeast too. If i’m fit I’d love to try the full beast next year.
The gory details
Oh and the goodies – I nearly forgot the goodies – an awesome tshirt and a fantastic slate coaster! So appropriate, I’ll never forget that quarry – I’m coming back one day at speed!
Despite the personal pain I really had a day to remember. You don’t get to say that very often. Beasted but not bested!