There are times when running is just plain grim. Usually when you first start out or after an illness and post Christmas. I find running hard most of the time but every now and then you get gems like the run I had on Sunday.
We went for a 7 miler on the trails in the hills of Llangollen near a place called Llandegla where I sometimes take my mountain bike for a spin. Late afternoon on a Sunday evening after an already great weekend this was by far the best way to put and end to the…..well……weekend.
I still found it physically hard but the environment puts all that to the back of the mind and I can honestly say this is the first time in ages where I have run with a massive grin on my face. The post run buzz was great and enhanced even further when I got home after a nice hot shower to find a really good glass of red Italian waiting for me to saviour.
Sometimes running can be heaven.
I didn’t exactly prepare well for this race so when I got up at 05:30 in the morning on a wet and cold Sunday January morning my enthusiasm was not at it’s best. After a 2 hour drive up to the Lake District we arrived in time to see off the full marathon runners.
Everyone around me looked fit, skinny and healthy and I was feeling the opposite to all those adjectives. We had a compulsory kit list which I had all the items in my running pack but it seemed most people ignored this and just took the usual fluids and a few gels. If I do it next year I will certainly hold back on all that stuff.
We set off and the first 3 miles are just up and up. This is all on a forestry track. It’s runable but when it flattened out slightly I was already feeling “it”. After a mile or so it opened up and my spirits were lifted immeasurably. You can see Conistan water from up high and I forgot about the running. Soon we were on a single track picking our way through a muddy path then It was back into the woods. At mile 10 I could feel all those days I hadn’t trained properly and I had to dig deep to run. At this stage you are rewarded with a nice decent all the way back to the finish line.
A well organised and interesting run. I’m loving the trails.
In a few weeks I’m doing a Half Marathon Trail Race in the Lake District. I work in an ideal environment to train for this sort of thing so after work I’m out and about on the hills plodding around. The ground is saturated at the moment and very muddy in places. The other week I was doing my usual run in my normal running trainers. I was slipping and sliding all over the place and basically skiing down the slope bits.
I have these Inov8 trainers that a mate had got me and they have a blocky tread. I did the same run in equally bad conditions if not worse and the confidence in grip was fantastic. No slips at all and I was able to just run instead of worrying about the ground.
I now take 2 pairs of trainers with me to work and decide what to use just before the run.
No more skiing for me.
An old friend of mine who is a really good runner used to stop at various churches on his long runs so he could get water from the hose pipes and taps that the graveyards have installed to water the flowers on the graves. If he went anywhere new with work he would get a map and plot the routes. He hated carrying bottles and belts etc. He used to say it was a great way to get to know an area and it was always new and interesting. An adventure.
The last 2 runs I have done were a bit of an adventure. There is off course the night run in the Lake District (see the below post) and today I am away from home because of work. I’ve been put in a hotel and I have hours to kill. I always take my running kit with me so soon after getting in my room I set off for a plod around the local area. At the first mile point I found a Vulcan Bomber! A bloody iconic Cold War era plane that was designed to drop bombs on the Russians. In my book that immediately excalted this run into an adventure. Sometimes you don’t plan it but I think and I honestly believe this is a great philosophy to take with you during your days of running.
Another good friend of mine always wants to tackle trails and get off road,preferably with some hills and great views because as he puts it ” I need the stimulus ” I know exactly what he means.
Salomon have integrated this into there latest promotions and Intersport have embraced it as part of there marketing campaign for there latest trainers which I have done a brief review about in another post. It’s a great idea.
So with that in mind I’m thinking about all the new routes I can take wherever I am. Sometimes try and get lost a bit, take that turn that you have never been down, you never know what you might find. If you find any Cold War bombers please let me know.
Fellrunning, as most of you know, is tough. You’re combining the sport of marathon running with the added terrain and challenge of the mountainous outdoors. As well as a great level of fitness, you need the right kit to keep you going and most importantly, safe. Every year, unprepared runners are turned back by lack of preparation when they’re training and competing. Here are a few of the must-have items for a budding trail runner.
Headtorch: Probably number one on the list, a head torch comes in handy both day and night for when conditions worsen. Losing your way on the hill can be deadly – so make sure you get one that has a decent lumen rating. Silva torches are a good low-cost option. If the battery life is suspect, pack a spare.
Clothing: Aside from a pair of shorts and a top – you’ll need a windproof and waterproof jacket to handle changeable British weather. Select a model with a high hydrostatic head so it can withstand a proper soaking and also keep on top of caring for it or you’ll wear it out.
Since you’ll be running in it, you’ll need one that has great breathability or you’ll end up caked in sweat and overheating. Something lightweight is also key, so choose a performance brand like Montane or Arc’teryx. You should also try to get a jacket that has high visibility in the dark – in case you end up lost on the hill and need rescued. Every little helps.
Your footwear will depend on preference. Some beginners wear normal trainers but fell shoes are superior as they are far more grippy on dangerous surfaces.
Backpack: A small backpack on a long run is essential. You can tuck your jacket away in the webbing or you can store a hydration pack in it to stay quenched on the go. Again, go for something small and light.
First aid kit: After reviewing life systems recently, I’d be remiss to not include a first aid kit. A small kit in your bag can be super useful – but again you’ll need to save weight so it can be worth discarding the larger kit and just packing a few plasters and a bandage kit in your backpack.
Map and compass: Can be replaced with a GPS if you have a small and dependable one, but a real map and compass and the ability to navigate with them is a practical necessity for runners.
Nutrition and hydration: At the very least, you’ll need a bottle of water with you. You can get a simple handle bottle for an easy-carry method. For longer runs, you’ll need more water so a hydration pack comes into its own.
As for food on the go, you need something that won’t upset your stomach or slow you down and can be enjoyed on the run. Making your own trail mix from nuts and dried fruit is a light and simple way to keep the carbohydrates flowing. If you want to take it up a notch, you can consume carbohydrate energy gels like MaxiNutrition Fuelmax.
Post-run, you need to consume the right mixture of proteins and good carbohydrates to help your body recover. Food such as chicken, steak, fish and pulses all have lots of protein in them. Whey protein shakes are not just for bodybuilders, and can be great for helping those aching legs get back into shape.
Some parts of the Lake District have been hit by some serious floods in the last few days so checking and rechecking to see if this event was still on was the order of Saturday morning. This is a 10km night run in the stunning setting of Grizedale. There was a break in the weather and we were lucky enough to run this with about 250 other runners under a clear sky albeit a freezing cold night. This has to be one of the best organised events I have ever been on. We had the luxury of sitting down in a really nice visitors center in the warmth before the race.
The first 3 miles were done in a state of shock because it was just up and up but when we got to the top we were rewarded with a really nice decent through a woodland track in the heart of Grizedle Forest. It was great seeing lots of head torches bobbing up and down in the pitch black of night. Some people were dressing in festive gear (we had Santa hats on).
We got a really nice t-shirt and a fine medal. Running in events like this with such a great atmosphere is so rewarding. I will be doing this again.
We do this run 3 or 4 times a year. The kids are at school and we book the time off to spend the morning running around this massive Limestone rock on the North Wales coast and then rewarding ourselves with something hugely calorific but delicious. It’s 3 miles up and 3 miles down with the last mile running down the prom. In February the Nick Beer 10km race is held here which we have done a few times over the years.
This Sunday in a howling gale we plodded around but despite a cloudy start were rewarded with some great views of Snowdonia. We couldn’t hang around to long at the top as it was getting a bit nippy. Great run and a lot of fun.
Last weekend I went to the Dumfries and Galloway Forest In the south west of Scotland to do some mountain biking, running and to explore and stay a couple of nights in a bothy. We had warnings of a storm called Abigail so it was going to be an interesting couple of days to spend outdoors.
A bothy is a basic building usually quite remote. They are places to escape the elements. You always find pots and pans sometimes food, wood and fuel to get a fire going if it has a fire place etc. The ethos of the whole thing is summed up nicely in this statement “To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places” These places are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association follow that link for more information on this great organisation.
On the first day we had planned a long mountain bike trail route. After driving many miles and arriving at the start point, getting all the kit ready we set off. About 200 meters into the ride my bloody chain broke. I couldn’t believe it. After all the perpetration it was stopped by a small link. My good friend Gaz laughed and picked my drooping lip up with some dark humor and his usual positive attitude. We went to a mountain bike trail center where we found a great shop called The BrakePad Bike Shop not far from Newton Stewart. This was a 14 mile drive. After the bike got fixed we headed north to Glentrool. We set of in an easterly direction from the visitors center. The weather was great and I was feeling a lot better. It was a stunning place to ride. We stopped at the Bruce’s Stone where the battle of Trool took place. A few miles on we found the first bothy, White Laggan. It was set in a stunning landscape and we found it in good order. We were running out of time so we set off to find the next bothy where we were going to spend that night.
We parked up in woodland and set off in the dark to find Tunskeen Bothy. The wind had picked up and we were starting to get a bit of the storm Abigail. This bothy was only 3 miles away from our start point but due to the landscape and elevation it seemed more like 5. We had to negotiate some fallen trees and some rough terrain on the final mile or so. In the pitch black with head torches on we found Tunskeen Bothy. When we opened the door the place looked like heaven. It was clean, cosy and very welcoming. The previous occupants had kindly left some kindling in the fire place so it was easy to get the fire started which we did as soon as we had picked our beds in the form of large wooden planks. Fire on the go beer in hand (we brought our own) and a huge pot of food to shove down our necks I couldn’t have been happier. In the morning the wind was howling. After a coffee and some breakfast we packed up and set off back to the van. Got changed and went for a great 6 mile run from one Loch Riecawr to Loch Doon. We spent the rest of the day exploring Ayr and Alloway the birth place of Robert Burns.
Another pitch black approach to the bothy but this time in a downpour accompanied by a strong gusting wind. About 300 meters from the bothy we had to negotiate a couple of streams. When we crossed them we jokingly said to each other lets hope they don’t flood or words to that effect. We had a fantastic evening back in the bothy out of the elements. It really is a pleasure to be inside on of those places when the weather is as bad as it can be. I had a great nights sleep. We did the usual routine in the morning and set off in storm Abigail. When we got to the stream it was no longer a stream but now a torrent of gushing water. We couldn’t cross here so we had to go up stream and find a point to get over. We chucked our rucksacks over and jumped from a large rock to get across. It seems nothing is easy here in this stunning place. Which makes it great.
We have only scratched the surface and there is so much more to explore in this fantastic part of Scotland. Will be back very soon. We have another weekend planned in early December of this year, Cant wait!!