Needs Must – The Devils Driving!

Well not driving – riding!

After a visit to the doctors yesterday who reckons its a ligament strain not a fracture I decided bugger complete rest it’s impact that hurts so let’s try non impact – cycling! (For non impact I mean on the hfoot, impact may well occur into the front of a bus or over a hedge). So off I went this morning for a rummage and to dig out the old mountain bike I own.

It’s not the prettiest, in fact it’s built like some sort of bike-tank hybrid judging by the weight of it, if I do crash into any buses they may well be the ones to come off worse. I spent an hour or so fixing up the minor faults, ignoring others and smashing a few bits off it with a hammer (I reasoned it was making it lighter at least).  The gears dont work very well, if at all if I’m honest, it likes to stay between gear 7 and 12 and pretty much likes 10 best, any other and it clicks madly in protest and then slips back to 10 anyway. The brakes rub a bit as the wheels are slightly buckled – This is of course great resistance training! Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz.

Here she is in all her half working glory! I’d like to get rid of the lock but don’t have the key or a hacksaw

The sun was shining, I put my new ankle supporty thing on and off I went. I found that the best way of dealing with unhappy gears is to give in, stay in 10th and when hills approach hammer up them in the same gear and pray my legs don’t buckle before the hill ends. I’m alive to write this post so my technique clearly works (I will studiously be avoiding any long hills)

First stop Marcross. It was weird cycling places where I run to normally. Almost felt like cheating.

Marcross beach on a spring day – Opposite is the hill I train on – I’ll be back you bastard!

On my way to Llantwit I passed lots of other cyclists, they usually gave a friendly nod or greeting but I could see what they were thinking – What is that idiot riding and why doesn’t that idiot have a helmet on? Well guys you answered your own question – Idiot but an idiot with the wind blowing through his locks! Yes I may die but it will be stylish (For stylish read painful and splattered over the front of a bus)

Llantwit beach at high tide
LLantwit beach looking toward Atlantic College
View of the Bristol Channel on the way home
Awwwwwww fluffy lamb thinking “wear a helmet you dick”

Things I noticed –

Cycling uses some different muscles to running.
My foot and ankle felt fine so it seems cycling can be a substitute while I recover.
As nice as it was to exercise cycling is no substitute for running trails.
Pheasants crack me up when they run.


Be like a palm tree – bend don’t break

I’m posting before 7 in the morning on a day off – why do I always wake up early when I’m off work! No matter, was lying there pondering my ankle (some good news, visited doctors yesterday and she thinks it’s more likely a ligament strain rather than fracture) and remembered something I must have read once upon a time which has always stayed with me.

When the storm hits be like a palm tree, you bend with the wind but never break then snap back hard in the lulls when the storms abate. I’ve used this before as a mental aid.  We all get periods in life when it seems that everything bad including the kitchen sink plus washing machine and cooker are thrown at us. It seems that woes don’t come alone so when they do recognise this and learn to bend not break. Accept bad things happen in life and that they will pass just don’t let them snap you. Bend for as long as it takes, hunker down, take stock of all the good things that are also going on and when you feel that the storm is passing -WHAM! Snap back hard. Enjoy standing up tall again and really enjoy giving the world a kicking back on your terms.

I’m currently doing this on a smaller level with my injury. I have to bend and accept I can’t run. If I ignore the pain and run I’ll do more harm and snap. I’m being a palm tree! (Can you tell I work in primary schools? Look I’m waving my fronds) I know the injury will pass and when it does I’ll be in a great place to really improve my running.

I did the same when my dog soaks died last year. I knew it was coming and when it did I didn’t put on the stiff upper lip and pretend it wasn’t happening. I recognised an emotional shitstorm was going to hit me and so I went with it, I bent, hunkered down, let my emotions have their way for a while, knew it would abate (it still is) but as time healed I snapped back a stronger person.

I’m not a great one for articulating the random thoughts in my head so I hope this makes sense, I just figured I’d share something that’s helped me. Apologies to any arborealologists (possibly a made up word) for any palm tree inconsistencies in this post.

Injury and energy bar update!

Figured I hadn’t posted in a while so here is progress of lack of.  Still getting a small amount of pain in the ankle. Feels like 2 steps forward literally and 1 back. I’m still resting it and showing a degree of patience which I didn’t think I had.  I’m deperate to go out running but something is telling me it’s not right yet and I stand a chance of doing further damage so rest it is.  There are days with no pain and then I walk on it for a while and the niggle begins.  I suspect it has something to do with my work trainers though.

Yesterday I had to make an emergency appointment at the dentists in Cardiff. As they say it never rains but pours, I had extreme pain in a tooth at the back of my mouth and normally I would have waited until my dentists was open after Easter but it was so bad I just had to do something.  So off I went and realised that my route to the hospital wasn’t easy due to the world half marathon running right past the hospital – So I had to park a mile away and walk, I was likely to be late so I tried a little jog – In my work trainers and instantly the pain was there in the sole of my foot. No jogging for me even slowly. However I tried a little shuffle run in my road Nikes earlier today and no pain – Is this a cushioning issue?

Anyway one tooth extraction later and I’m feeling a little sorry for myself and looking rather like the hamster that stole all the nuts. But speaking of nuts I have had my first attempt at making my own energy bars!


My base ingredients – 1/3 cup of flax. 1/3 cup of chia. Half cup of raisins and half cup of dates. Plus some coconut oil to add some binding.  Slammed all these in a mixer and mixed away to my hearts content ending up with ….


Gritty Dough ™ – How appetising!

Next up I used my inspiring culinary skills to make them into little bars.


No-one said they had to be pretty fortunately.  Had the idea of using a rubber mould to make thinner versions too.


After all a test run is test run, time to find out what works!

Into the fridge they went!

I’ve doen a taste test and they do indeed taste coconutty and seem to hold together well. However whether they hold together well on a run is another issue, need to find a way of wrapping them now. Was thinking of cling film but is that going to be a pain to open while running?

I want to test them of course while on the run but patience is holding up well.  I have another week at least in which I can take it easy – 2 weeks off for schools Easter holidays – I feel I have the best job ever sometimes.

Next saturday I’ve been invited along to the Afan Forest to test a new trail half course that the organisers of the Margam Hoka Winter Half I ran last month are devising. Sounds like a lot of fun and will be interesting to see how these things work. So hopefully another week and I’ll be raring to go!




Gels – Fuel or Fool?

As I’ve not been able to run I’ve at least been able to read about running and do a little research.  I’ve been eatily pretty healthily lately, plant based and non processed but it occurred to me that the energy gels and bars I use while on long runs are maybe not all they seem.  Why do I use them? Cheap, convenient and so does everyone else would appear to be my reasons. I know I need to fuel during longer runs so it makes sense right? These products are designed for athletes by sports scientists right?  So who do these sports scientists work for?  I’ve never paid one directly so they work for the companies selling the gels right?  So I would say they have a vested interest perhaps not in lying but embellishing the truth to increase sales?

I’m very wary when it comes to corporations, experience and just having open eyes is enough to tell me that the bottom line is profit for the shareholders. When it comes to running they couldn’t care about what actually happens to you but rather how much of their product they can get you to consume. Of coure its not just running products it’s endemic in virtually everything we buy. Never forget the bottom line is profit in the vast majority of cases (there are ethically run businesses of course)

Sooo energy gels – top ingedient is maltodextrin – Take a look at the ingedient list on Gu’s page  – What is it?

From wikipedia (Yes I know it’s not fact therefore but come on it’s close)

“Maltodextrin is used as an inexpensive additive to thicken food products such as infant formula. It is also used as a filler in sugar substitutes and other products”

So it’s essentially a sugar substitute and here’s the interesting bit – It’s not included as a sugar in the ingredient breakdown – sports nutrition companies label it as a carbohydrate

“Maltodextrin is a corn-derived oligosaccharide source of carbohydrates, and it is commonly added to commercial ready-made protein shakes and other products. Oligosaccharides contain between three and 20 linked sugars, but they qualify as complex carbohydrates. Some products include maltodextrin as a sweetener because it is not technically a sugar, allowing companies to call their products “sugar-free.”

Nice work guys!

So as I see it in order to drive profits we have a cheap as chips sugar subsitute being the main ingredient in energy gels and being labelled as carbs. No wonder gels give me a boost and then I fall off again quickly – Quick take another gel to keep running – Finish running spend more money on gels!

Am I being cynical here?

I came across this site 33shake  who have exactly the same thoughts but are selling their own healthier version. I haven’t tried their products I’ll admit but I was intrigued. Then I saw the gels were £2 a pop. Ok so even if I didn’t consume them at the same rate as other gels I’d still be coughing up probably over £6 per run and more!

My next step – I’m going to make my own using chia. I was intrigued by chia from reading books such as Born to Run and Eat & Run. Seems ideal and from the reading I’ve done it seems I stand a good chance (even with my culinary skills) of making somethnig edible, natural and likely to fuel me on long runs.

I’ve ordered a load of chia and will pick up the other ingedients this week and let you know how it goes!

If this post has bored you beyond belief it’s not my fault it’s my ankles – I want to be posting photos of beaches! But at least think about what you’re fuelling with on runs and have a think if you follow a high — crash — high — crash cycle due to instant sugar hits?




Head 2 – Heart 1 (own goal)

I hadn’t run this week until today. I woke up on monday morning with a sore and painful ankle. I don’t remember damaging it on sunday and it didn’t hurt on sunday night at all. Weird, the ankle fairies must have been during the night and battered it with their anti-running hammers. I did vault a five bar gate to avoid a queue of walkers at a stile so that might have been it but there was no pain at the time. Then again I was running quickly and the adrenaline was flowing.

Anyway what’s done is done and I was so sensible and proud of myself on monday and tuesday for not running on it even though I could feel it improving. Then today the weather was just so perfect! I got home earlier than usual ….. and the heart won. In fairness I only did 4 miles! I could have done many more feeling the way I did. But it really started to pain me on way home and now its hurting much more … So I am officially stupid and learning another lesson the hard way =( Whats odd is that the pain is moving around the foot, it’s now more on the base and shin. There’s probably some sensible medical explanation for it but I think the main cause is me being a tool.

On the bright side the rest of me felt awesome today, I didn’t feel out of breath or even slightly tired, I know it’s only 4 miles but that used to kill me. I guess thats an indication of how far I’ve come. Mentally I’ve come to consider 4 miles as a short distance and I’m actually disappointed when I can’t go further. That I think is a good sign.

Plus more photos – The sun was shining on a lovely spring day =)

Sea at Monknash beach
Reflective rockpools
Traeth Mawr cliffs in spring sunshine
More cliffs
Running on thse rocks could be the culprit too
Same cliffs different angle
Crossing the stream on the way home

When it clicks it clicks

Despite a minor hangover I got out running this afternoon, for the first time ever I scared the world by wearing running shorts as in the lycra type ones. Along with a new Inov8 top I bought with a zip neck I was all proud of my new look :p  And the placebo effect was in full swing as I ran 7 miles at 9.37 pace which is quite frankly unheard of for me! I’m not sure why this happened but as soon as I started the legs felt awesome so I just let it all go. Weirdly my kneee did not play up once – I’m wondering why – I wish I knew but if it stays quiet I’m happy!

It was such a beautiful day at the beach and they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I won’t keep on ….

Traeth Mawr
Looking back to Monknash from Witches Point
Like a millpond
We’re in rock hopping territory here


Voyages of Discovery

I like discovering things. Hence my beachcombing sorties. This mornings run turned out to be one of discovery although it never gets planned that way.  I was up early – well half seven is early for me on a weekend – and decided today was the day to crack out my “new” running shoes. Why the “? Because technically they aren’t new. I’ve had them months but have never worn them as I’ve been waiting for better weather as they’re minimal – Inov8 Flite 240 – Which arent really trail shoes but I wanted to have a go with less cushioning.

Inov8 Flite 240’s

Also they technically aren’t new because – And serious runner types look away now in horror – I do buy shoes on ebay. Yes I have a scheme. People often sell nearly new trail shoes on ebay which have been worn only once or a few times as they didnt fit. Now I’m not fussy, I’ll wear other barely used shoes once they’re disinfected and washed. And in this way I’ve picked up good bargains – These inov8s had been used once and the guy didnt like them- I picked them up for £12 – A quick google tells me they’re around £60 new.

Ok I hear you cry, but the fit – the fit is crucial!  Well yes I agree and as they say you have to kiss a lot of frogs.  The shoes I buy (And I set low limits to what I’ll spend – I’m looking for bargains and a way of testing as many brands and styles as I can cheaply) if they dont fit or they aren’t right I simply resell them – The most I lose is a few quid on shipping and I’ve turned over a profit on some. I’m honest in my ebaying, I say I bought them and they don’t fit and I say what the previous owner told me – as in they’ve done 10 miles or been worn twice.

It might be unusual and not to some peoples taste but in this way I’m learning what’s good for me and getting to try out different styles. Just like today. I had no idea what to expect from a more minimal shoe but I really enjoyed it.  The first thing I noticed was that you can really feel the trail underfoot – Not ideal on rocky patches or trails with pokey up stones (technical term there) but on grass and dirt track it was truly lovely to really feel the trail. Every small undulation was apparent, every foothold felt good. I came to hills – I was a little worried about this as the soles didn’t look grippy – Bugger how they look – These things grip like a gorilla holding the last banana! I was like a mountain goat – no a bloody ibex!

The grip down and up these valley sides was fantastic

I did 10 miles in them this morning and felt comfortable all the way. I can’t wait to see how they perform on the beach and on rocks.  I can’t say I’ll definitely switch to more minimalist for good until I’ve done more testing but they aren’t being sold that’s for sure.

Back to the discoveries though.  At the top of this valley something caught my eye – rubbish. Who would drop litter here? My anger turned to curiousity though, the litter looked like a book in a bag and it turned out to be a geocache!

Sadly water had got into the book so it was unreadable but I packed it all back as well as I could and left it for the next person

Next up was the top of the waterfall I go past on the beach, it’s a bit tricky to get to the top of it and there’s an easier route that I always take but today something made me scramble down to the cliff edge and I was delighted to find a pond

I get the feeling the bright green vegetation is going to look great when spring really kicks in – at the moment they appear to be small rushes
I also discovered I could dangle over the edge of the cliffs here to take photos – Mainly because I’m stupid
But you get some nice photos of the tide fully in at Cwm Mawr. Strange to think I run here at low tide.

I kept going, enjoying the feel of the shoes, past Southerndown and turned at 5 miles to begin the journey back detouring slightly to take in Dunraven castle – I have run past this loads but never through it. I don’t know why as it’s so pretty and peaceful – I had the place to myself as I was so early.

Dunraven Castle grounds
Yeah you can kind of tell solicitors wrote it :p
Dunraven Castle remains

I also discovered that my knee still hurts no matter what shoes I’m in. However I then discovered after 8 miles it hurts no more than the rest of me at that point so I don’t care!

Final discovery wasn’t really mine – It was these two discovering the world for the first time. I’m kinda glad I’ve moved to a plant based diet these days. Enjoy your weekends everyone!





Bouncy Dancy Happy

Today was a lovely day to run …. and without any other distractions such as kayaks I did! In fact I didn’t just run I bounced. In fact I didn’t just run and bounce I danced too. I was in such a good mood – It’s friday after all with a weekend of fine weather, running, old friends and rugby ahead of me – that I found myself perfecting my running dance moves. Come on you must do this? Or is it just me? Uptempo songs (in this case the most excellent Dub Pistols album Woshipping the Dollar)  make me want to groove when its sunny, so I waggle my fists over … and shake my ass a bit  over there ….. and bounce to the beat in step with the trail and nod my head …. just so and point over …. there and point over ….. there and yeaahhhhhh it’s good.

Ok perhaps it’s just me – but if you haven’t tried this then have a go.  Slow down a bit if it’s your first time and it’s best on an even trail although rockier trails are more fun and challenging to get the steps right without decking it into a tree. Then keep running but let the music take your stride and pacing over, instead of running straight it’s more of a hop from side to side while keeping the momentum going (downhill is a good place to start) once you got the legs moving right forget the uniform arm pumping of a normal run and bring those arms into action, point, conduct, do whatever you feel fits the music!

Luckily I run alone so people don’t feel embarrassed by me and there’s never anyone around to witness this but it doesn’t matter anyway, having fun is perfectly acceptable even if the worlds thought police would rather you toe the misery line.

Next time you’re flagging on a run and you have some music with you try it, it breaks it up, it makes you smile plus next time you’re on a real dancefloor it’s going to be shock and awe when people see your moves!

Yep i’m in a good mood today people- Hope you are too!

With sunsets like this no wonder I’m in a good mood


Sunset at Monknash beach

Rocks and rockpools





What a day to run ….

Only I didn’t …. Wait! What? I hear you cry, on such a glorious spring(ish) day? Are you crazy?

No I didn’t because I had to go and pick this up …..


Yes indeed I now own a kayak (plus paddle and wetsuit) which I won on ebay and was only 30 minutes down the road. Thankfully it fitted in my car (not my car in background as a. This wouldnt have fitted in it and b. This car is clean unlike mine)

I can’t wait to try it out and hopefully spend the warmer months running and now paddling the coastline. All I have to do is work out how I get it back and forth to the beach. Of course I should have considered this in advance but I’m learning to enjoy challenges.



Hope I never catch normal

To be honest I know I’ll never catch normal but just throwing it out there as a thought. Why do I say this? I don’t seem to do normal things, or think normal things … But I guess normal is different for everyone. In this case I mean the vast majority of people I know or meet in work who do the same things day in day out, they bitch and moan about work, their kids, other peoples kids, their other halves, how expensive things are, what happened in some TV programme ad neauseum and it leaves me cold.

I’ve never been married, never had kids, never done this “normal” life thing, I tend to do things on a whim – Like leaving my super secure council desk job to run a pub.  This summer I have the six weeks off as I work in schools now but I’m not planning a 2 week holiday on a beach somewhere or planning to grout my bathroom, I’m planning where I can go to do some scenic running on my own.  Is that normal?

Anyway all that came from my run home today. I was knackered and thinking “Why am I doing this again?” Of course it didn’t help that I was carrying a huge driftwood branch back from the beach (yes more beachcombing). It didn’t help that a leisurely trot to the beach had turned into me beasting myself up steep steep hills six times in close succession for no good reason other than “I wanted to see if I could”

Then again I would imagine the vast majority of the population would think anyone reading this blog and thinking “Hey that could be me” is not normal.

See? you’re not normal either.

I’ve confused myself now so i’ll stop

To the photos!

Beautiful sky tonight – I was promised a sunny end to the day and it delivered
Hill one – repeat 3 times
Hill 2 – Repeat 3 times
More scenery
Out of focus and out of my mind for carrying these back – The one on the floor was todays prize!