One of the beauties of ultrarunning and I guess life is that you live and learn. And they say you learn as much of not more from failure than success. And I think I agree.
Yesterday was the run “over the other side” for a 40 odd mile run along the south west coastal path in Devon. It was all planned, I had my friend Claire as my support crew, the two dogs were going to spend the day traveling with her to various support points. All that could go wrong would be my legs giving up, or I could fall off a cliff or something.
The landscape was beautiful and so much fun to run through. As I had never been there before it was like exploring as I went. The photos below really don’t capture the scene.
I set off around seven and was in a groove much sooner than I expected. I was expecting hilly and I certainly got hilly, with a mix of long drawn out drags and really steep stuff. It was all technical and I was loving all of it. I was alternating between shirtless down in the wooded valleys and a waterproof jacket up on the highest hills as it was drizzling up there.
Then the derail began. Not with the legs, not the heart or the head but upon reaching combe martin to meet Claire and pick up more food and water it was clear murph was an unhappy dog. He’s been on crew before and was fine but yesterday he wanted none of it. He was crying and whining all morning while I was gone. He was barking at people when parked up. He is a nervous dog because of his rescue past and it displays in ferocious displays of false bravado which to the outside world can be quite intimidating and frightening.
I continued on and at the next stop they met me on the path so he was happy to be away from people but as I stocked up and then moved on his crying broke my heart. Suddenly the joy of running where I was became joyless. I turned it all over through the next section which as it turned out got me near halfway. This was because Claire couldn’t get the van near enough the path which stressed her further. I was oblivious as there is no mobile signal. It seemed like a long leg but as I pulled into the next stop I could hear murph barking before I saw him and the decision was made. It was over there and then
The time to think on the last leg brought me to the only possible conclusion. I could continue in my own world and selfishly push for the 40 mile achievement I wanted so badly but only at the cost of the happiness of the others.
It was a no brainer. I checked how they all were and climbed in the back with the dogs and called it a day. I’m not going to lie it was disappointing. I was having the day of my life as far as running goes. It was all clicking along. I had a few back issues with the downhills but not enough to stop things. I was driving the uphills hard, too hard perhaps and who knows if the wheels would have fallen off eventually. It doesn’t matter because in the end it turned out not to be a day about running. Ultrarunning is about making decisions, hundreds of tiny decisions throughout the day all leading to success or failure.
In the end I only had to make one decision yesterday. And even if today I feel like a failure I know deep down making the right decision was the only way to really win.
I’ve never run with consistency, if I was to be honest it tends to be boom and bust. Periods of high milage and then injuries so I’m trying for some consistency this year – And right now i’m on a 14 day running streak. Some of those days are only 3 or 4 miles and I have this thing in my head that tells me it’s not far enough – and this time I’m going to listen to the other voice that tells me that if I am consistent then it is plenty.
Back to work tomorrow and the streak will end soon enough but let’s see how it goes as once again I have plans for this year – all to be revealed soon. But if I can stay healthy and get a decent winter training block in then all will be good.
So I hope everyone had a good xmas and all that stuff. Always remember that the days grow longer now, imperceptibly but they do and spring will be on the way soon enough so things are on the up even when they don’t seem like they are.
Our weekend runs always include a visit to see Murphs friends now. Today we saw them first and then headed for the fields and the beach.
As the sun rose the day just got better and better. It was one of those runs where you never want to go home. 9 miles later we eventually finished – mainly so we could eat, drink and go out again later.
Not the golf club three wood but rather our small three woods challenge. On our regular runs there are three seperate woods that we visit just not on the same run. Murph loves woods as there are furries to hunt and things to sniff. So I figured why not do a run that links up all three so he gets to visit them all in the same day. I had a vague idea it would be around half marathon length and would mean we could take in the fields, woods, cliffs, beach and the lanes.
Plus it was an excuse to take sandwiches and extra dog treats. Of course everything is easier in phot form so here goes the story of the day (spoiler its not that exciting)
My posting that is, I have plenty of time to write but seemingly it’s more fun doing something than writing about it. So as per usual we’ve been out and about, running here, running there but no longer logging the miles like last year. Which took a litle while to get used to but after having to record every single walk and run I think I do prefer just getting out there and doing it and sod the numbers.
We also have a few projects on the go. First up is Run all the Footpaths which does basically what it says on the tin. There’s a vast network of footpaths and bridleways around here and I want to run them all with murph, which takes us maybe to places we haven’t been before. Hopefully it will turn out to be an ever expanding circle of footpaths on a google map that I’m recording them on. Christ I’ve ended up recording things after all.
We also now have a Go Pro camera and as of yesterday a camera harness for Murph. So we’re been doing some filming and I’ve been playing around with video editing – which I’m not very good at. And Murph now has his own youtube channel where I can store all the finished videos. The lastest is being uploaded as I type and is his first test run with his hardness for a Murphs eye view of a run.
Should be more to come, especially as the weather starts to improve, I don’t really want a harness on him when it’s wet and to be honest I don’t like him wearing one at the best of times but the odd bit of filming won’t hurt I reckon.
We have some more things in the pipeline and for now I leave you with his latest photos!
So on saturday it was raining, windy, cold and generally meh. However it’s never a waste if you’re out on the run. I try to learn new things, the general advice with effort and running is that you should be able to hold a conversation while running, if you cant then the effort level is too high. Bollocks I say, I have amended it to if you can run uphill into a gale while singing songs to your dog the effort level is not too high. I have an entire catalog of songs I sing to him, I make them up and then forget them and then make them up again, it makes the miles fly by trust me. What he thinks of it i’m not sure but he does tend to ignore me a lot so I think thats’s probably a clue.
Then on sunday we set out at dawn and what a difference, calm, still and so warm by the end of the run I was shirtless. It was one of those I could run forever mornings so I just kept tagging bits on so we didn’t have to go home so soon. And then we had been back an hour and it was just too nice to be indoors so we ran a few more miles up to see mum and dad (where I had to eat biscuits as I was bonking from not eating – I fed the dog but not me at home)
Over the years I think I’ve read about, listened to and absorbed a vast amount of information about running. How to do this, how to get better at that, 2500 simple tips to improve your stride length etc etc and if I’m honest the vast majority of it has been meaningless waffle. Running clickbait in the main. Of course there have been many useful articles and books but how many can be applied to my very amateur level of running?
I think I’ve belaboured this point before but training plans don’t work for me – I’m sure they do for others who like the structure and like to see the metrics of progress. Having to do this or that on a certain day may well increase performance but to my mind it decreases enjoyment. I’m only revisiting this because I thought about it while running earlier.
The thought process went something like this. I was reading a book regarding the central governor theory and how the brain judges percieved effort based on how far you still have to go and regulates effort so you get to the end with something in reserve. Whether it’s scientific fact or not isn’t the point here but it got me thinking as we tootled along the beach that three times this week I have set out for a run with Murph and had no idea how far we would go and how long we would be out. The only determining factor being the weather as I don’t run murph when it get’s too hot.
I was musing that therefore my brain has no idea whether I have another mile, 3, 5, 7 or 10 miles to go and also has no clue how much longer I will have to maintain the effort for. So does that mean my central governor is off or muted. Who knows? It’s certainly a way of thinking that appeals to the way I train. I simply go out to have fun with Murph and before we know it we are a dozen miles into another adventure, tired and happy.
In the name of unstructured training we have expanded our lack of planning to include direction … thus
The pebble of chance – Get to the beach, flip a pebble and it determines whether we go left or right – either way is fine by us.
Not sure what a sprong is but I like the sound of it. Well spring is here, been waiting for it for ages and now it feels a little anticlimatic due to viruses and lockdowns and the suchlike but nature stops for no-one. Today I saw the first bee buzzing around and teh evidence is everywhere. Just take a look …
I guess when the world goes a bit mad you just gotta hop on for the ride. So I figured what with my parents (hi mum and dad) self isolating I should get posting if nothing else to keep them up to date and entertain …yeah ok so maybe not entertain so much. But photos are always nice right!
So still running – cos its something I can do out here and see and have no contact with anyone (not gonna lie isolation is something I like) plus the dog needs to be out anyway. And with everything thats going on its good to be outside away from it all for a while. The good news – good news – whats that? Is that the body is actually holding up ok, things hurt but it all pales into insignificance right now anyway. Preseli obviously got cancelled so no ultra and fell races and thats the right decison.
So I shall continue to work away at my latest project which I shall unveil here – you are indeed the first to know – i wasnt going to ever mention it as it was just for me but it’ll give mum and dad something to follow. This year’s project is “2020 2000” which is in a nutshell my attempt to both run and walk Murph 2000 miles in the calender year. It’s a bit of fun and provides me a goal and doesn’t allow me to ever get lazy. I include both runs and walks because my body cant cope with a 2000 mile running year plus we also love the walks too. So far I’d say the milage is about 2/3 running to a 1/3 walking and im more than happy with that.
My sketchy records tell me to date We’ve done 424 miles which is good going considering the winter start, dark mornings and evenings and the awful weather. I shall keep you all updated periodically – I bet you’re on the edge of your seats eh? The only “rules” are that we have to do the walk or run together – no dog no count and it has to be at least half a mile to count.
I was out on the beach last week. It was cold, windy and raining. I had taken a fall and banged up my knee and elbow. The way back was into the headwind and I was feeling like I hadn’t had enough calories for the run (which i admittedly hadn’t). I was feeling kinda miserable and had the internal monologue of self pity going on at my suffering.
Then I thought this isntsuffering at all. What people are going through all over the world is suffering, losing, lives, loved ones, jobs, freedom. Thats suffering. My choice to run along a fucking beach in shit weather is hardly suffering on any scale and the only one who makes me do it anyway is me. And in that moment I realised I was being a complete self absorbed dickhead. I had the beauty of the beach, I had the company of my dog, I had health enough to run this and the freedom to do so. I am truly blessed and fortunate and its something I need to remember.
It’s made me realign a few things, go out and help people during this crisis, do what I can even in small ways, look after my parents, neighbours and community as much as I possibly can. Give something back for once, I can take what I need from nature on the run.
Time to step up and help others suffering because I’m fortunate enough to not be. Take care out there people and if you can do something good then do it. Little things, little gestures might just go further than you think.