First steps

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.

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Limbering up at the beach
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Its a beautiful path
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Even better when the sun comes out
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Some rocks and stuff
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tongue out = water stop
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Might even be the same rocks … who knows?
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Looking handsome

Triple Crown at Preseli

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.

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First up, spot the start of the bogs
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Climb to Carn Ingli – around 12 miles in, yep right up to those peaks
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View from Carn ingli
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Looking back towards Newport bay whence we came
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Marshalls on Carn Ingli
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Next point – yeah just run to that cairn on the horizon and go left
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See that peak – yeah we’ll probably cross that one too
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They all look the same after a while
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Somewhere in a field with mercifully no bogs to fall in
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The extra loop took us out into bluestone country – Apparently this is where the stones came from for Stonehenge. I cheerfully apprasied my fellow runners with this information – I was glad the correct retort was “Its a pile of fucking rocks”  Thank god we’re all in the same mental boat then i’d hate it to be just me
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Leading the way along the ridge – my newfound friends following
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Unmanned checkpoint (on a pile of fucking rocks) – here we had to draw a smiley face on our bibs to prove we came, saw and gasped for breath
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Checkpoint view
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Hey guess what – we get to go up there – its steeper and longer than it looks and after 20 odd miles its an utter bitch
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Mud. Bastard mud – Socks kept my feet clean tho!

Laying off

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.

We saw some great sights though!

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The heather was the most amazing colours!
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Islandy things
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Hey look a coastal path ….
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Seals!
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More heather
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The bay where I waited for them – Was so hot I even swam
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More bays
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Friends with alcohol are the best friends

West Wales – Wet, Windy and Wonderful

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!

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The beach at Newgale. Not accurately represented here is the howling gale

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!

 

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Newgale is tiny, thats about it – The river cuts between the pebbles to make its own channel which is pretty cool. Well it would be if the sheer amount of pebbles wasn’t forcing the closure of the road

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.

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The views were great despite the weather
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And the path was fun, technical and steep
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I returned via the beach and missed the point where I could rejoin the path home so I kept going to see how far the beach went
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Found some really pretty rocks while scrambling along

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

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Up here – This was actually loads of fun until I got to the top of the scree and realised there was a 20 foot vertical bank up to the path covered in gorse and brambles. Having already cut and scratched myself to bits I decided to let sense rear its ugly head and retreated back down. Only added about 4 miles to my run …..
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View from halfway up a scree slope

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.

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St Davids Cathedral

More importantly than sightseeing we took Iolo the dog to the pub

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Stare into my eyes and give me your Guinness

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.

More West Wales

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)

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You can see why I was enjoying it
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I found a washed up buoy – Bigger than I thought they’d be!
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The views were simply stunning
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And it all went a bit deliverance at one point. Is #spottedtheskull trending?
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I ran along the beach at Broadhaven
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Went past Littlehaven nad kept going (Everywhere around there appears to be called somethinghaven)
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Went through some lovely woods (also full of bloody nettles)
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#spottedtheship
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Destination – This headland
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Destination reached!
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On the way back the tide was right out so I could run and scramble between the two Havens and was glad I did as I #spottedthecave and what a cave it is!
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Found but didnt eat the mushroom!
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This part of the trail is know for its man-chasing giant acorns – I was wary but didn’t see one

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.

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You’re going for a what now?

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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”

I digress.

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.

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Skomer Island
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It feels easy when you get views like this
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Destination – Sand!
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The sea is properly blue here!
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Skomer from a different angle
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#spottedtheship
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Pre run meeting with Ramsey the dog (at around four in the morning)

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.

Did I tell you that running makes you feel great?

I feel great.