Ecosystems within Ecosystems

Or natural selection – part 2

Shook out the legs today after a few days following the half. Been out on the bike but wanted the foot to recover a bit. So off to the beach for the last day of my summer holiday – back to school tomorrow. I hope the kids are nice :p

Was a bit gloomy and grey starting off. If only I could get up at sunrise to get photos like SRG does.

Still beautiful though

As the tide was well out I came across this rock which seemed to me to contain it’s own little ecosystem and world.

A whole world on a rock

On my return journey I stopped where the cliffs get lower to have a quick hunt for fossils. Teh formations here are beautiful – They remind me of sedimentary tetris.

Layer on layer on layer etc
Thats a whole lot of layers

Then I started wondering about the greenery a bit further up – Mother don’t read this bit 😉

So off I went, I’m not entirely dull, I wouldn’t climb the cliffs in the photo above but there’s a section where you’re not underneath rock and the gradient allows you up with just a bit of scrambling.  I also don’t like heights and so it’s time to kick that fear in the bollocks – So up I went (come on natural selection poke me in the eye)

The rocks on the right are climbable and stable enough.

I figured that if vegetation can grow and thrive up here then it’s all stable right? Plus it will bind everything together. Right? I found a whole new ecosystem up there that you can’t see from the beach.

Green ivy stuff
Vegetation everywhere
Plus these things which kind of looked like a cabbage like stalk thing (as you can tell I’m no botanist)

It was great to explore up there a bit and the different view of the coast was cool.

A different persepective

After I tired of my botanical investigations (it was also cold) I clambered down carefully and rejoined my run.

I spotted this ….


I mean how? How the hell does a TV get onto the beach – in fact at least 3 miles from the nearest road over rocky terrain and not be smashed. Do TVs float?

My theory is that we have had a lot of trippers this year who come camping and miss their home comforts – But where do they plug it in? 

Anyway I watched Homes under the Hammer and ran home.

You couldn’t make it up

Narberth Nobbler Race

Haven’t posted in a while – Then again I haven’t been running in a while! Well I have but only just got round to posting about it – Bank holidays and all that jazz.

So last week I didn’t run from monday until sunday as I was signed up for the Narberth Nobbler trail half marathon – Narberth being a small town in West Wales. This meant I had to get up at 6.30 on a bank holiday sunday – I mean really?

But I did and tootled on down there. There was a half marathon and 10k going on similtaneously so there were plenty of people about. The whole thing seemed well organised – red bibs for half runners and blue for 10k. 2 courses that joined for a while.

I wont bore you with too many details, just the things I need to remember really. And sadly the problem with races is that it’s kinda hard to stop to take photos – And we all love photos.

Of course at the start everyone went out way faster than I would dream of normally – However I tried my very best to not get caught up in the first mile madness – Which was mainly downhill so I still ended up with an 8 minute mile – I was happy though letting myself drift right to the back of the pack as I had a plan. It’s not much fun mentally knowing you’re behind pretty much everyone and watching people huff and puff past you. But as the miles ticked by at around 10-11 minutes pace I was feeling fine and the foot was giving me hardly any trouble at all – My main concern.

After maybe 4 or 5 miles I started to slowly reel people in and then started passing them. From this point the course got more technical. I didn’t know West Wales had so many hills – And after rain the night before – So much mud. Slidy, sticky glorious mud.

And this is where I knew I could then make up ground. While people picked their way through the mud and took the downhills cautiously I ploughed straight through and virtually sprinted the downhills. I was running alongside a lovely lady for much of the latter part of the race who could easily pull away from me on road sections on hills but as soon as we returned to the forest I could easily catch back up much to both our amusement. Its the little things that keep you going. I also enjoyed sections where the half and 10k met – particulary because I was actually overtaking 10k runners.

In the end I ran a 2.20 ish – I forgot to stop my watch at the line again which I’m pretty happy with on a humid day on a tough course with very little flat and plenty of mud.

My foot didn’t play up at all while running but was swollen and painful yesterday as were my hamstrings – Unusual

Things I learned

Hydration pack is a must for me – People were really suffering with lack of water. I think the first aid station was around 7 miles in. I sweat a lot and need the fluids even if carrying a pack is a pain.

Don’t be afraid to be at the back. People will come back to you and for me this is endurance not speed. I have to remember a year ago I could run nowhere near 13 miles.

Altras worked really well – the cushioning helped and they did remarkably well in mud. Quick tip for road runners – If you’re running a race advertised as a trail race then wear trail shoes or you’re gonna have issues.

I probably won’t do another half for a while unless the course really takes my fancy – Preferably one with no road whatsoever.  I think I’ll prefer training at my own pace for a longer distance now. We shall see.

Mooove along, nothing to see here

Am taking it easier this week with only shorter runs as I have a half marathon on sunday and would rather my foot not niggle me all the way through, just the second half would be good.

But I still saw some things….

Inquisitive calf

I was wary here as these cows have already hospitalised one local man and attacked another – Protecting their calfs is natural but this lot do seem to have a mean streak.

Look at the glare I’m getting off the one in front – Thats one mean cow
First blackberry of the season – Which I promptly ate (I also collected some sloes) Time to start taking bags with me for fruit booty!

Hurdle hay while the sun shines

A trot around the cliffs today as the tide was in. The wind is still strong which made it hard to almost stationary going on the clifftop (apologies fro the quality of the photos I only had my ipod to take them with today)


Clifftop view – Shame you can’t see the gale!

So did around 5 miles or so and with the olympics ending today I invented my own sport of 400 metre hay hurdling – I need to work on my trailing leg I think


Low Tide – High Spirits

After taking four days off running with just some biking to keep fresh in order to let my body recover from the efforts of last week (Yes Sergei I showed common sense!) I waited today until a very low tide to get back out for a 9 mile run. Was out for around two hours but managed to do some rock scrambling at Witches Point and took a look around at the different features which can only be seen at the lowest tides.

Low tide between Monknash and Wick Beach
Thee rocks are covered much of the time – The erosion makes for interesting formations and a fun scramble
More rocks!
These slabs were fun to cross
Low tide exposes …… sea stuff (TM)
Im not saying the snails here are slow but they even have mini limpets growing on them!
Coral type sea stuff (TM) – Not actually sure what it is – some sort of organisms building homes I think
The usual gratuitous shot of my playground

You’re going for a what now?


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.

Skomer Island
It feels easy when you get views like this
Destination – Sand!
The sea is properly blue here!
Skomer from a different angle
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.

Evolution & Natural Selection

I went for a recovery run yesterday – Legs still feeling the efforts in Snowdonia but after a few miles they sorted themselves out again. Toes healing …. again.

What was interesting to me wasn’t so much the run but an example of both evolution and natural selection and how nature gets it right an humans get it wrong.

Evolution – I found these little dudes everywhere

Jellyfish with sail on back allowing them to drift with the wind – Amazing when you think how creatures evolve to fit their ecological niche.

Natural Selection – I took a photo of this dude

As I ran the length of the beach he spent at least 30 mins or so right under the cliffs – Amongst all the angular rocks which have clearly just fallen and not been eroded. He was with his family so at least they could see him get squished from a great height. He wouldn’t be the first to get killed around here. I was going to warn him but then thought nahh I’ve been told to mind my own business enough times by idiots I’d rather see natural selection take its course and weed out the gene pool.

So I concentrated on the view

Where did the mountains go?

Snowdonia day 2

Sadly for you lot day 2 wasn’t as exciting as day 1 – mainly because I’d already run up Snowdon itself – see post here

However I got up bright and early (I was also touched to get an email from Sergei checking I was still alive as I hadn’t posted in a while – We have a great community going here and this nice touch brought that home to me – thanks SRG) and the legs needed a quick run to get moving so I did a bit of local exploring before going back for some food. Then drove up the Llanberis pass looking for likely spots to run.  The best thing about this area is that there are so many trails you can follow – spoilt for choice! I pulled up at a junction of three valleys and decided to just run a path and see where it led.

At first it led up again! Oh my legs were loving me this morning – They protested for the first few miles – Hadn’t they been beaten eenough yesterday? As with yesterday the views made it all worthwhile.
Then near the peak a path led back off downwards in another direction – It looked narrow, technical and fun – Of course I took it =)
There were some fantastic drystone walls – Not sure why they are in this shape – Wall builders on the local mushrooms maybe?
Crossed a babbling brook
The valley bottomed out and eventually i reached this beautiful lake – Note the seagulls – Everywhere I go it’s seagulls – These weren’t attack seagulls like the ones at home though
As we all know in this game what goes down must go back up and I crossed to the other side of the valley for a good few miles of constant ascent – Now my legs were really really loving me. What was great was that I wasn’t breathing hard or really putting out much effort – Just grinding happily along
I did of course see “wildlife” #spotted the sheep
Its sunny! Then cloudy …. then sunny!

I would thoroughly recommend coming to Snowdonia to run. There are just so many places you can go.  I hardly saw another soul for the whole of the second day and the views like the ones above were fantastic. There are a lot of walkers on the more popular routes so if you feel more comfortable in numbers around it’s ideal.  If you just want to get out on your own and challenge yourself – it’s ideal – win/win!  I did pack a whistle, foil blanket, phone, food and water too – I wouldn’t recommend running light up here on your own. There were a few rescues made by helicopter while I was up here and this happened on the other side of the mountain I was on

I saw the smoke but wasn’t aware of the situation, I see random smoke all the time in the countryside and assumed there was controlled burning going on. At least they all got out ok =)

I had a great few days, I could have happily spent another day running but I knew I couldn’t really do much more hard milage without risking injury. The foot was hurting and my toe wasn’t happy at being rebroke on Snowdon. My quads were trashed from the descents and my calves extremely tight from the climbs. At least I’ve learned to listen to my body and it was saying enough for now. I’ll be back!

The day I accidentally ran up Snowdon

But let’s start at the beginning. I decided more or less on a whim to drive up to North Wales for a few days to do some running in Snowdonia. A change of scenery and some nice tough terrain to get lost in. So I packed up my camping and running gear and loaded up the Trailmobile. When you need both sets of gear it’s amazing how much you need for a few days – And I still managed to forget stuff!

So I set off early monday morning, the odd thing about Wales is that although it’s a small counry it takes ages to get from the south to the north. You’re pretty much on A roads for the entire distance and most of those are windy and when you get stuck behind trucks or tractors or tourists gawping at the views it takes ages – 5 hours to get up there! However the views through the Brecon Beacons, Mid Wales and then Snowdonia keep it interesting.

So I arrived at the campsite just outside LLanberis which was perfect, just rough grazing land around a farm and pitched the tent.

View from the tent in the morning – clouds mainly

So I figured I needed to stretch the legs a bit and got changed into my running gear – couldn’t find my flipbelt which I wanted for my phone and camera as I wasn’t intending going far. So instead I chucked on my hydration pack and threw a jacket in with some of my energy biscuits. Just a run around to find the start of the route up Snowdon which should apparently be joinable from near the campsite …. which I couldn’t find so I trotted into Llanberis itself – walkers everywhere! No chance of feeling a bit odd running around in gear with a pack here. Everyone or every shape and size was kitted out for hiking.

After a mile or so I found the Llanberis railway which actually goes up to the Snowdon summit and right next to it a street leads straight to the start of the Llanberis route up which I knew was the longer ascent favoured by walkers. I hadn’t planned on using this route originally as I didn’t want to run while having to deal with multitudes of hikers. At this point it was well gone four o clock so I decided I’d run a small part of it to see what it was like and to see if I could get a good view of the path up to the summit to get an idea of what to expect as I’d now decided to get up early the next morning and go for it before the masses were out of bed.

And this is where things went wrong – or right. The start of the mountain path is actally tarmac and it is steep – I mean really steep. I figured it didn’t really matter as I wasn’t going far so I blew my legs up a bit just getting up this part, the road leads to the actual path a bit further up and I noticed that everyone was coming down not going up.  I still couldn’t see much of the path up so kept going, determined to get a view of the path and summit.

And kept going … and going. The legs felt great and I wasn’t really labouring at all, there weren’t too many people and they were all going downhill so I didn’t have to wait behind anyone, they could see me coming and the vast majority were kind enough to step aside. It was one of those days – probably as I’d been sat in the car all day that I felt good and at that point I decided I’d give a full run up Snowdon a go right there and then. I think I’ve been running long enough now to know my body and how it’s feeling – You lot know what I mean – some days it’s all a bit of an effort and struggle but today it all felt good and clicking.

The path in most places is a mixture of dirt, rock and gravel. Ok to walk on I guess but for running it meant I couldn’t run with a consistent stride pattern or even out my effort, I was continually having to change stride lengths to make sure of my footing. Plus there were many bigger steps which required effort to leap up.

The views though were stunning – I didn’t take many photos on the way up as I soon discovered that when I did it took considerable effort to get back into the flow.

View back towards Llanberis after the first mile or so – sun is shining and I’m sweating!

The gradient wasn’t too severe here but it just seemed to go on forever. I’m not used to long long ascents and was basically pacing it as best I could. My calfs were hurting and I was aware that I was no longer nose breathing (forgive me!).

And on and on.

Thats Snowdon in the distance – When I looked at  it from here I was wondering again whether to turn back – looked like a loooong way.

I was a little concerned by the time and the fact that everyone was going down. I hadn’t passed anyone going up.  Nahhhh keep going and see how it pans out.

Views were good – bottom left you can see the train tracks running parallel to the path. I think this was the last photo I took going up – The rest were actually taken on the descent.

Did I mention it just went on and on and on?  And on … And then a little train chugged past me with a cheery toot of its whistle, people sat comfortably inside waving cheerfully at the idiot running up the mountain. I did actually wave back in the spirit of the thing and tried to look graceful and in control but dear reader I shall admit I called the people on the train all sorts of bad things under my breath. I cannot repeat the exact words here as my folks will read it but many of the words may have started with F C and W.

And up and up – You can see the path to the left – it intertwines with the railway track and you actually pass under the track twice.

I passed a building at one point – I now know this is called the halfway point – It’s actually lucky that I didn’t know this at the time as it probably would have crushed me. It felt like I’d been climbing forever now and everything was hurting and it was around here I stubbed my possibly broken toe yet again (why is it every run I’ve been on since I damaged it I’ve stubbed it) which was possibly a signal to turn back. Nahhhh run it off! Idiocy had now overtaken sense it seems.

Looking back over a nice steep section I really enjoyed …..

Around this point I was passing very few coming down and just before this section a walker stopped me to tell me helpfully that it was still an hour to the summit. My reply was in the range of arghghagahghh spit really?  What about running? Hmmm maybe 45 minutes then he replied. Yeah thanks for the confidence booster – I must be running close to walking pace if I can only shave 15 minutes off.

Just after you go under the tracks for the second time you swing onto the shoulder of the final climb up which is too steep to run (unless you’re actually a good runner I guess) which was the only section I had to powerhike up. But the views from here were spectacular.

Sadly my photograhic skills were not at their peak – maybe I was shaking a little!
Some lake thing I still don’t know the name of.

And then I hit cloud – literally at one point I was running in sunshine then hit the cloud level and couldn’t see more than 10 yards or so – the wind picked up and I instantly went from overheating to freezing. I was bathed in sweat from the climb and if I hadn’t at the last second thrown my jacket into the pack I would probably have to have called it off there.

I now had no clue about how far it was to the summit or what was around me but the paths gradient had lessened and I could run again so I simply followed the path past sheep who were clearly adept at looming out of the cloud at passers-by – Probably the only fun they get up there. To be honest as I thought at the time sheep are the most spectaculary stupid creatures – there are loads of places to graze in the sun lower down yet they end up here in perpetual freezing fog – Idiots (Said he then pondering that they do it because they’re sheep they don’t choose to run up here for fun)

This is probably the time to also explain that I don’t like heights – or rather I suffer from vertigo or more accurately acrophobia – I had it while climbing the last section of Pen Y Fan and I had it on Snowdon. It’s a very peculiar feeling, when I get anywhere close to the edge of a cliff or even a fair distance I suffer terrible fear of falling even though I know I’m safe enough. The ground feels like it’s moving underneath me and I feeling like I’m swaying. Looking back from ground level it’s almost impossible to explain why it happens and I can only sort of reimagine the feeling but as I approached the summit in the fog it came back with a vengence. Rationality tells me that hundreds of people walk the path everyday so the chance of me falling is pretty much zero but that was out of the window. I think it’s probably lucky that I was in fog as I couldnt see the drops!

Strangely enough running helps with it – As I found on Pen Y Fan the running is fine – I’m in control then but when it turned to the actual climb at the end I was petrified and had to force myself not to turn around – It was the same here, I almost decided to say enough was enough and I had already proved I could run the mountain but deep down I knew I wanted to reach the actual summit. It was literally just eyes to the path and keep going. It actually made me forget how much pain the rest of me was in as it was overriding everything.

And then steps – out of nowhere steps! This was it the summit – I climbed the steps – using my hands – thats how unsteady I was – and was finally on the summit – Completely alone – There is a small set of steps to a raised plinth at the top which after a few minutes I climbed up slowly – I had run up Snowdon!

To many of you this may sound like a small achievement in running terms but to me it was huge. I’d doubted my ability to do it and then forced myself to continue so many times on the way up both through exhaustion and then fear so I’m very proud of the feat.

The view from the top – Unspectacular!

Blurry cloud – This was as far as I could see – You run all the way up Snowdown and cant see a thing!
The plate at the summit showing the directions to other peaks (I presume)

It was windy and cold and after a few minutes to gather my thoughts it was time to descend.  Oddly the vertigo doesn’t seem to affect me so much going down.  I took it easy through the cloud just jogging down and then sunlight!

The run down was fun – I mean serious trailrunning fun.  The path which was a pain on the way up became a technical playground on the way down. It was incredible to be able to leap from rock to rock, picking lines at speed. I’m grateful for the countless hours running the technical sections of rocks on the beach.  It still amazes me how the body and mind work together when descending, the mind just keeps picking the lines and foot placement spots and the body follows. When the mind says “Woah ok now I can’t process this quick enough” you automatically take the foot off the gas and slow down until its all back under control.

Descending at speed over this is so much fun – and I didn’t fall once!

I did stop a number of times for photos on the way down. I’m not used to such long descents either but after the climb up there the run down was effortless and exhilarating.

Mountains, mountains everywhere!

Google photos kindly autocreated some panoramas for me




I finally reached Llanberis without much of a clue about time as I hadn’t bothered checking my watch much as the data was meaningless without context.  In fact I wouldn’t know the stats until I plugged it into my PC.

As it turned out the actual ascent (Ignoring the mile or so I’d run to the base of the mountain) took me 1 hour and 23 minutes! Far faster than I thought so I’m incredibly pleased with that. Apparently its regarded as a 3 hour walk minimum.

Apologies for the wordy post – This one is also for me to look back on – It will always give me confidence that I can achieve if I believe in myself and tough it out when the hurt starts.

Will post about day 2 later!

Homemade energy bar + recipe

I forgot to mention yesterday – I tried out a new creation and it seemed to work well.  Certainly kept the energy levels up. I don’t tend to eat for the first hour or so of a run and then take bites as needed to trickle the energy in.



Get a bowl of some description

Chuck in the following

Chia seeds, flax seeds and dates. Freshly squeezed lemon and a dash of salt.

Mix together well with some organic honey until you have a gooey mass.

Spread out on a baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes at 190 – until the eges go a bit burny.

Leave to cool and cut into chunks

Wrap in clingfilm and take on run!