For those of you who find a list of numbers and data, tedious, geeky and nerdy you need to look away now.
I have been recording GPS data of my runs and rides since about mid 2008. I lost 3 years of that data when my external hard drive which had all the gpx files on it died. So now the data only goes as far back as 2011. I don’t actually put it to any use. I know some people that correlate this data with food input, sleep patterns and all sorts of other parameters. I simply like collecting the numbers. Every couple of years or so I will have a browse and see if I can remember a random run and it’s surprising how much I do remember. I think the main reason I keep it though is motivation. I find myself reluctant to run if I forget to bring my GPS or phone. So I’m going to keep doing it for that reason alone.
I also have a written copy of my runs with a note or two on how it went. This I never read. I simply record it and turn another page. While I don’t have reams of text it does go as far back as 2006. This will, in all honesty be the most tedious thing anyone in the history of reading will ever read.
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 was supposed to do this route the day I smashed my ribs in. However a mate of mine persuaded me to go to a different place where I bit off more than I could chew. So it was great to finally get out to these 2 beautiful bodies of water tucked away nicely behind the Denbigh Moors in North Wales.
I got up early and the temperature was reading minus 2 centigrade. The last time I went up to these hills in the winter I got my van stuck on an icy track. I had nothing to fear it was a dry cold with no wind. Perfect conditions. I parked up near the Alwen Dam and set off in an anti clockwise direction around the reservoir. I was the only bod about at this time of the morning and I soon had a massive grin on my face enjoying the riding and the spectacular views. The route takes me north and when I start a descent we head east towards Brenig. Passing a track between the 2 lakes are some really muddy icy puddles that extend for half a mile or so. I was giggling like a little school boy as my bike slipped from left to right with every peddle but at the same time I was making steady progress.
I arrived at Llyn Brenig and followed a new man made path around the northern part of the lake. As you rise up to this tedious stretch you are rewarded with the most spectacular view of the water and the hills. I paused to get a banana down my neck and some fluids but more importantly I was savouring this moment. The route then meanders along the shore of the lake and sometimes through little wooded areas. I then crossed the actual dam and hit the main road that then loops me back to Alwen.
This is a fairly easy route I would say blue all the way round. Some parts, if it’s wet are muddy but easily passable. Some slight ascents that had me puffing but I’m out of shape at the moment but above all it was a pleasure.
Going to be doing this again in the spring.
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.
Those days between Christmas and the New Year are usually lost on me and I sometimes end up doing nothing and regretting it. A couple of days ago I got back from a great couple of days spent in the southern parts of Scotland and exploring parts of Hadrians Wall in the far north of England.
We found ourselves on a dark Friday night walking to Tunskeen Bothy to spend the night. We were here just a few weeks ago and promised ourselves a quick return to do some more exploring of the area. There really is something quite special about opening the door to one of these cosey shelters and finding like minded people have left food, cut wood and other supplies for the next people who come across the place. We made ourselves a hot meal and had a good nights sleep.
Many northern parts of the UK have been hit by some serious flooding and as such we found ourselves cut off from the approach to a mountain we wanted to get up that day. So we made other plans to go and explore the nearby west coast. We went to 3 castles that day with one of them being Turnberry Castle which has links to Robert The Bruce and is thought to be his birthplace.
We decided to go to another bothy that night. It was some mileage away and again we found ourselves in the dark walking uphill in the driving rain among unfamiliar hills. When we found the building with our headtorches struggling to spread light in the foul weather we were rewarded with a wonderfully well kept mountain bothy. Another really great place that gave us another great nights sleep.
The next morning we awoke to a cold windy day and set off down the hills back to our transport.
On our way back we took in a walk along parts of Hadrians Wall with a visit to Birdoswald Fort. An incredible place that has opened the door for us to explore this border area in the future.
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.