Should I be here?

I've been thinking lots when I've been running; lots of random thoughts about lots of things. Random, a word used fairly frequently, so I'll add context from a recent run: what were those little pink sweets I used to buy
I’ve been thinking lots when I’ve been running; lots of random thoughts about lots of things. Random, a word used fairly frequently, so I’ll add context from a recent run: what were those little pink sweets I used to buy “a quarter” of before school, the link between  Perry Mason’s brain and a Fell Runners brain, how to raise money for Marathon des Sable, rituals, does Lana del Rey sound a bit like Berlinda Carlisle?- that kind of random. I guess the journey to Marathon des Sable is much deeper for me than just completing the race. It is really important to me to raise money for Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. First up I wonder whether I can do the race. Everyone’s reaction is “I’ve thought about it, it’s a tough race though” or “You’re nuts thats too tough”. Maybe, but tough is all on a scale. My feeling is you have to put a basic level of fitness in, and by basic I mean the ability to get up the day after a Marathon, and do it all again. But the game is in the mental. Not quitting, having a really focussed thought process. If I visualise anything it is the last ten steps of the last stage, I can’t focus on anything else. Those ten steps, the tens of thousands before don’t matter. It’s too big, I can’t think about that, but plod, plod, plod look up see the banner, plod, plod, plod, the sense of relief coming, plod, plod nearly there, plod going to drink lots of water, and enjoy, plod I’m finished, I can comprehend that. Ten plods a wave of emotion. A really structured mental image. It’s got to be the way forward for me. Or, maybe thats the final chapter in a range of mental approaches. My good friend, Bill, came up with the idea of a “stuff channel”. It normally kicked in when things were stressful when we were sailing. So maybe there is a parallel here. “Stuffing on the Stuff Channel”, is where you mind goes through stuff. Bill and I “stuffed” our way across the North Sea, one January in F10 gusting 11. Lost to ferries on radar due to the massive swell height. It was sporty. But we jabbered on about weird stuff, relaxing our minds when the checks on the boat were complete. This is what I do when I run. I run almost exclusively on my own, in remote places. The chances of getting something wrong, I feel, are low due to skill and experience. It would have to be pretty bad for me not to be able to sort myself out of most incidents, but I do enjoy the heightened sense of self reliance. Before I run, I go through my little processes. I’ll spend a couple of days thinking about a new route, or which route I want to return to. On the day, I look at the weather, I mentally plan the route, I pick my kit. I like to travel light, usually no food or drink. Perhaps a bum bag with a hat and a thermal layer in case I did have to get uncomfortable. I pick the least amount of clothes I can get away with. I pick my shoes to be the best for the route I have in mind. Sometimes I just pick the shoes as I haven’t fully deicded where I am going but kind of know what I want to run on. Then I go out the door, warming up slowly, going through my rituals. Checking laces, checking straps on the bum bag aren’t flapping around. If I’m wearing an altimeter making sure it’s calibrated right. Waiting for my heart rate to spike, breathing to peak, before settling back down. Knowing my bodys’ messages is something I’ve learnt the longer I run. Running up hill, is all about pacing,  heart beat drowning all other sound out. Listening to breathing, pushing legs to the edge of lactic production. Picking the terrain that is secure. Sometimes listening to my shorts rustle. Trying to keep an eye on the conditions, feeling for changes in the wind, deciding if cloud is building or likely to precipitate, monitoring the air temperature. Should I be here? What is my way off the hill if something goes wrong? Most of my home hills are familiar and so Navigation isn’t necessary all the time. I know lots of the weak lines off summits – clefts and gulleys, which I would go down at a push if I had to. In reality, I know that staying put, on the trail, however uncomfortable is always going to be the best option if I have any doubt about getting off the hill-more chance of being found. As the gradient flattens and the pace picks up the sound of my heartbeat gets overtaken by the thump of footstrike. Breathing slows. Time for rituals again, a quick pat down of zips and straps on bum bags, making sure nothing has worked loose. A quick visual check of laces. Maybe a quick wipe of a wrist over a sweaty head. If I’m navigating, is my “hand rail” visible? Am I on bearing? What is my next land mark? Do I know where I am on the map? Again, that recurring ritual-should I be here? Has anything changed? Do I know where I am? Is the ground safe? The start of any descent, lengthening your stride, really feel free. Focusing on foot placement, trying to avoid turning an ankle. Field of vision smaller, not because of physcial extremis but pure need to concentrate. Leaping, enjoying the sole of a good shoe biting on the terrain. This is where the risk is for me, a heavier taller runner. The consequences of piling my weight onto an ankle that isn’t place properly, or a trip could be disastrous. I usually err on the side of caution if I’d fall onto rock, but on big grassy areas that cry out for it, running like an 8 year old without brakes down a grassy slope is awesome. Again a moment to think, the omnipresent ritual, should I be here? And here is the rub, for me, with running. Long distance rowers refer to the “moment of glide”. In a rowing cycle there is a part of the stroke where the boat isn’t being driven, the body is relaxing but the boat is making progress. It’s a bit like freewheeling on a bike. Quite thrilling as moments go. With running I used to think there wasn’t a similar moment of glide. And in a sense, there isn’t a point when the body completely relaxes. But it is the moments when you come off “should I be here”, carried out your rituals and know that your brain can relax into the stuff channel. That is the moment of glide for me when running. When you have the chance to think about something truly random and not checking lots of things to get home, it’s so relaxing it’s like gliding.  For me, those moments come during periods of heavy physcial exertion either lung busting climbs, paced contouring or quadricep punishing descents. That’s when I “stuff” that is my “moment of glide”, that is when I should absolutely be there.  

Ashton Court “Nova” Mountain Bike Trail Bristol #mountainbiking

Staying away from home with work can alsways be a drag. Either sat in a hotel room watching rubbish telly or working into the night. On a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the South of England, yesterday I ended up in Bristol. A quick call earlier to Matt Willams of The Physio Clinic in Bristol discoverd that I could catch up with Matt. Matt was instrumental in getting my calf injury fixed, is a professional Physio and is really easy to talk with about a range of things. The fact that he can help me out by Skype is really great for me. Matt is currently helping triathlete Jon Wood out. Jon has just acheived 5th in his age group at the European Championships. Matt promised me an evening of mountain biking, and to be honest I was a little sceptical about the riding around Clifton Downs. We parked high above the Avon, as we set off a few spots of rain started and became heavier and as we pedalled across Clifton suspension bridge, I tried to convince myself that I could see the sun behind the squall. Matt stopped to talk to people he knew out on running sessions, a testament to how much sport he is involved with before arriving at Ashton Court. The
Staying away from home with work can alsways be a drag. Either sat in a hotel room watching rubbish telly or working into the night. On a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the South of England, yesterday I ended up in Bristol. A quick call earlier to Matt Willams of The Physio Clinic in Bristol discoverd that I could catch up with Matt. Matt was instrumental in getting my calf injury fixed, is a professional Physio and is really easy to talk with about a range of things. The fact that he can help me out by Skype is really great for me. Matt is currently helping triathlete Jon Wood out. Jon has just acheived 5th in his age group at the European Championships. Matt promised me an evening of mountain biking, and to be honest I was a little sceptical about the riding around Clifton Downs. We parked high above the Avon, as we set off a few spots of rain started and became heavier and as we pedalled across Clifton suspension bridge, I tried to convince myself that I could see the sun behind the squall. Matt stopped to talk to people he knew out on running sessions, a testament to how much sport he is involved with before arriving at Ashton Court. The “Nova” Trail  has no where near the height gain I am used to, but is well laid out with some nice swoopy turns, and jumps. There is a lot crammed in, with the final descent being really enjoyable. Looking back, this last descent is the only bit which doesn’t feel a little bit too contrived. It journeys down through the woodland, jumping and turning with the contours, rather than being forced around a track that is synthetic. Don’t get me wrong, for urban riding it is all really good, but the last descent would be the bit I would “loop” if I did it again. I was riding my XC hardtail with Maxi Hi Rollers, for a more enjoyable ride I’d want a more relaxed hardtail or a full suspension bike with somehing like Larsen TT’s-the surface is hard pack and the rain wasn’t affecting the surface. Some of the smaller whoops wouild flatten out nicely on a bouncer, but a jump bike would be fun doubling up on some of the table tops. The sun broke out the other side of the squall as we arrived back at the car. You couldn’t have writtem it, but we only got a little ‘moist’. Nice to know the trail is there, great to ride in company for the banter. All in all, far better than sitting in a travel lodge. Nice cross training and some more thoughts from Matt about getting more from my training. Just wish I had my foam roller with me as my calf is feeling a bit tight. A bit of post ride research showed me something I completely missed… Nova, backwards is Avon. There was me thinking it was all about the ‘new’!

My Chicken Soup on Cader

Well, I feel like I haven’t updated recently enough here. After today I’ve got heaps to say, but I’m going to break it up into a number of posts.

I’ve spent the week watching a high pressure building and really wanted to get out for a run in the hills. Before my calf strain I’d been doing lots of training sessions but not really enjoying my running. I’ve decided it was more important to enjoy the run.

So this morning I woke early and headed out. From the house I look at a sky line of the Cader Idris range, and this morning I’m heading for that skyline. The ascent profile looks like thisIt’s an old friend, this route, views opening, paths unwinding without the need to think too hard. Technically challenging running, my favourite romp across a moorland plateau and enough climb and distance to really clear my lungs and legs.

The sun is low and warm giving beautiful relief on the hills.

Climbing out of a shaded Dolgellau is lovely, racing up the contours as the sun comes rushing down the hillsides quickly letting me chase my own long shadow.

I love that this end of Cader is hardly ever visited, it means that I often see mountain wildlife that is harder to spot on the Western end. This morning is no different. Just on the final pull onto Gau Craig I spotted a couple of Black Grouse scuttling into the heater and minutes later a Hare bounds across my path, zig zagging to confuse me. No chance I am going to catch it though.

Then onto the long plateau towards the base of Mynydd Moel, a stunning place, the Tarrens close, Plymlimon in the distance to the South. The Arrans behind, The Rhinogs just to the North, Rhobell Fawr alone. A great place.

Into the hardest climb of the route, the steep path onto Mynydd Moel. Lungs definitely working hard, my heart thumping in my ears and my legs running along the pleasure/pain barrier of lactic production. The gradient eases as 820m passes, a quick glance over your shoulder as you cross the summit shows you Llyn Cynwch (Precipice Walk) at an unusual angle. Behind this is the square blocks of Trawsfynnydd power station reflecting sun off its flat sides. Then moving west, suddenly Pencoed Pillar appears, then Penygadair, the main peak of Cader Idris appears. Frost and icy puddles still sit in the shadows behind rocks and ridges. This morning whisps of cloud are being blown South over the lowest part of this ridge and in my shorts and light shirt I’m keen to keep moving.

This crossing from Mynydd Moel to Penygadair is quick, I pass the summit hut just before 0700, quickly recalibrate my watch for altitude, and then off the other side. This bit is a bridleway and I unusually spot a mountain bike tyre print. I think about work momentarily, the white paper on the change in definition of Rights of Way. My mind wanders to memories of Pete Burnsall for a few seconds before edging over to Cyfwry and the beautiful lollop down to join the Pony Path at Rhiw Gwerdydd. I have mixed feelings about the path improvements here, but I follow them to try and do my bit to prevent any further degradation of the hill side through heavy use.

The terrain gets easier, the pace increases and quickly you arrive at Ty Nant. From here I head through the car park that most people access the hill from and follow a footpath that goes round the back of Llyn Gwernan, through some woodland and then rejoin the Cader Road for a nicely sloped run into Dolgellau.

Dolgellau, now bathed in sun, is slowly waking up, I run through the small back lanes down to the main bridge. Now feeling hungry and a bit tired but still quite springy. Time to go home, have breakfast and spend time with the kids.

My soul truly fed.

If you go down to the woods today #trailrunning video

I haven’t enjoyed the last month when its come to training. All my stuff has been looking at the hills and missing getting out.

I’ve spent a bunch of time using the foam roller and doing bits of strength training, but nothing that has got my heart racing. A great family trip to Ireland, relaxed, caught up with family, drank Guiness, visited new places, and met some new people- well done to Aisling Schmidt for winning the Sligo Rose last weekend and good luck on the road to Tralee (in a Toyota Prius!).

Not knowing whether I’d healed made me nervous about putting stress on my calf, I really didn’t want to go backwards.

I tentatively went for a short run in the middle of last week and felt no pain. I’ve been wanting to put a little video together of trail running. Firstly to promote the opportunities and also as a bit of a show reel to use when getting sponsorship for Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. So, Saturday morning I went to walk the trail I wanted to capture. The dog had a great walk, and I looked at the trail in a way I hadn’t before. Sunday morning came and I laced my trail shoes on for the first time in a while and set off with a small video camera and a tripod. Then for the next two and a half hours I ran, stopped set up the camera, ran back or ran on, ran back to the camera, packed up and ran on. I’ve not done much film making, but I am really happy with the results.

I’ve had a few comments about my Benny Hill moments and trying to push the van over, it’s good feedback. I actually really enjoyed making the clips and so will try and take on the comments and do some more. There are so many varied trail/hill runs around Dolgellau, all with a different feel, I’m going to try and catch some more of why I run.

£7 a day = £1000 on race day, please donate

Smoking causes cancer. So does sun damage to your skin, but in the UK we can be pretty apathetic about it. You probably know what you should do, but do you do it? Do you know what the tell tale signs you're looking for? Melanoma takes lives, great lives and yet there is so little money focussed soley on research and education. When I run the Trail Marathon in Coed y Brenin on 23rd June I'd like to have raised a minimum of £1000 for the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. Please, please take the time to donate today, I need £7 donated each day between now and race day. So whatever you can donate will make a massive difference in the UK. As of today most of the money donated to me is from ex-pats now living abroad who understand the need for this. Don't Melanoma stay a secret in the UK, or when it is diagnosed lets have more resources to beat it. https://www.justgiving.com/Ashley-Charlwood
Smoking causes cancer. So does sun damage to your skin, but in the UK we can be pretty apathetic about it. You probably know what you should do, but do you do it? Do you know what the tell tale signs you’re looking for? Melanoma takes lives, great lives and yet there is so little money focussed soley on research and education. When I run the Trail Marathon in Coed y Brenin on 23rd June I’d like to have raised a minimum of £1000 for the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. Please, please take the time to donate today, I need £7 donated each day between now and race day. So whatever you can donate will make a massive difference in the UK. As of today most of the money donated to me is from ex-pats now living abroad who understand the need for this. Don’t Melanoma stay a secret in the UK, or when it is diagnosed lets have more resources to beat it. https://www.justgiving.com/Ashley-Charlwood

Sweat, no tears

A week of rest and rehab has paid off. After following advice from Matt I’m back on the low impact cardio.

After 10 very frustrating days before talking to a physio, perhaps there is some science I should get to know.

The foam roller is definitely still breaking down some weird muscle damage in my right calf, but stretches are definitely looser than 3 weeks ago.

The rowing machine is absolutely not my favourite way if getting a sweat on. The sound the fan makes reminds me of the 3 hour sessions I did prior to rowing a little boat from Lands End up to Wales. But, it feels so nice to extend my lungs. I know I’m supposed to ease into it but that little voice on my shoulder doesn’t like slacking -8017m in 30 mins. The yoof would say “boom”, I think.

I’m sure the family are chuffed to have reeking kit back in the wash bin!

I still want to be running the hills above the inversions we’ve been having in Meirionydd since Saturday, but I can beat that little voice, at least for now.

A big fat Zero for the last fortnight on 2012 miles in 2012! I’m back!

My wife says I go at everything like I can do it, without even considering I might not. Marathon training-I can do that, I used to be able to run a fairly respectable 3hr15 marathon... 12 years ago. So 2012 has seen me getting back in the groove for Trail Marathon Wales in June and asr a milestone on the way to Marathon des Salble. It seemed easy.
My wife says I go at everything like I can do it, without even considering I might not. Marathon training-I can do that, I used to be able to run a fairly respectable 3hr15 marathon… 12 years ago. So 2012 has seen me getting back in the groove for Trail Marathon Wales in June and asr a milestone on the way to Marathon des Salble. It seemed easy. “Just start banging the miles in on a programme” I thought. A quick 44 mile round trip cycle to work on a rest day, got to be good for you! A jarring pain 3 weeks ago in my calf stopped a run, go on the rest, ice, compression, elevate. Some gentle walks and tthen last Saturday headed out for a gentle, 20 minutes later, my right calf twanged again. My wife and the two girls came to pick me up in the car, with Katie (2) saying “pwore diddy, sore leeg” on the way home. Living in rural Wales is great but access to things like physio’s isn’t so easy. Monday night, Matt from The Physio Clinic Bristol came to the rescue with a SKYPE consultation. Matt explained about Myofacial release using a foam roller, talked me through calf guards-I think they’ll make me look like a drag act pulling off Britney in her bald phase, but if it stops the pain then great! Then he talked me through poor biomechanical allignment- how to identify it and eradicate it. Add some dynamic warm ups and reassuring me that the rest of my proprioception and stretching is probably ok was a great comfort. Now, I’ve always been a a fan of putting my shoes on and going running. Nothing fancy. Turns out I need to be a bit more sophisticated to get this body back to where it was. So Matt gave me a plan to get my body sorted- it’s definitely working. The foam roller, though sore in some places is defitnitely working, started on gentle explosive drives this evening and there is no pain. I’m going to get on the rowing maching soon and give that an easy try. I’m missing my cardio. I’m sure it’ll come  But my brain turned downhill massively. I don’t quit. But, my head just lost motivation, doubt, loss of belief. All really crappy. I think mixed with a lack of exercise it was just the right recipe. But on Wednesday morning when I work up my email said someone had donated £150. One hundred and fifty pounds! Initially I thought it was a scam, but checking into JustGiving revealed that an old uni friend, Jon Bauer, had made a donation. Now knowing, Jon he probably planned it, but it really helped. This guy, marketeer turned author, now living in Oz showed me a spark of belief. That was enough. Negativity went and I decided, training could be rehab too, it doesn’t have to be pounding the pavement. Matt said 1 week in 6 should be a rest week at high intensity, well rehab is my training until I’m fixed. I’m really going to try and get a copy of Jon’s book “Rocks in the Belly” for one of my weeks of- the Guardian thought it was quite good! A massive thank you to those two guys for keeping me going early days; I’m sure there are tough times ahead, but getting me back on track is a good foundation for the dark days to come. So my 2012 miles in 2012 is on pause, no pressure to get the miles back. I’m going to do it. Thats just it. In North Wales today, it was warm, time to get the little boat out and get some flatwater work in. Katie had her first trip up to one of my local spots with deepwater and a slight flow. At two she is showing some adventurous streaks, and takes after me wanting to strip off whenever possible. Not a bad fortnight really.

Injury, opportunity and 4/26

A bit of a disappointing week, my training has been going really well, until Tuesday. I’d been suffering with tight calves for a while, but thought that massaging and stretching was keeping on top of it. On Tuesday night run, I thought it was warm enough for shorts, don’t know whether it made a difference or not. I’d been out for about an hour when I finish with a little 100m height gain climb to finish before warming down. About two thirds of the way up this, I ended up with a real tightness in my calf which ended up being pain by the time I got home.

After a good massage, icing and compression the following day the pain was still enough to knock training on the head for the week. My 4th fortnight on 2012 miles in 2012 ended up being only 9 days training. I still managed to log 85.3 miles but I’m pretty dispirited with my training for Trail Marathon Wales. I know it’ll come back, quickly, but I hate being injured. Little bruises of honour under toe nails I don’t mind, but good reasons not to train I do.

Katie turned 2 on the 23rd, we had a party the Saturday before, and her Birthday was a pretty low key affair. Just presents and cards on the day. Michaela is sewing hard to make a rag quilt for her, turns out to be quite a few more seams than you’d first think.

Without training it has meant more time to do slow things, playing with apertures with Ciara so she can spell her name with a torch, leisurely family trips to Whittington Castle (a bit of an anti-climax apart from the doves!) and some hill trips that my dog, Casey (now nearly 12) can enjoy. I miss Casey on my long hill runs, as a younger dog she’d be bounding along all day, now 5-6 hill miles makes her sleep all day. I guess we’re all the same.

One of the most exciting messages I got this week was from a potential equipment sponsor who are fairly positive about supporting me through to the Marathon des Sable. I can’t say any more at the moment, but their support would make an enormous difference!

3/26 2012 in 2012 and One Great George Street

Been a bit of a battle getting 63.9 miles in the last fortnight. Work has been keeping long hours, and my cousins weding-which was brilliant meant swapping a few dates around for long runs. I really don’t want to pick up an injury at the moment so I dropped my daily miles as I hadn’t the chance of getting a rest day in for 8 days.

Pretty happy to be 288.1 miles year to date 56 miles ahead of target. Hoping the weather will warm up a bit and that I can start banging in lots of bike miles too.

I feel pretty confident that the volume of training going in is having descent results and I think my head game is getting stronger all the time too.

My cousin got married this weekend. The wedding was beautiful, and I’m sure Mr and Mrs Cole will be very happy. The venue  was stunning – One Great George Street which is the HQ for the Institue of Chartered Engineers.  It was cool to have a look around at some of the displays, and to learn that Isambard Kngdom Brunel was the son of an Engineer who was fairly talented in his own right. I’m guessing he had pretty high hopes of his Son, having Kingdom in your name must pile the pressure on.

The ceilings all had massively different styles, vaulted, painted, fresco and panneled. I particularly liked the one with great British designs on it with a (I think) Sopwith Camel in it.

A contrast of Engineering design to all the traditional was staying in the shadow of the Wembley Stadium and the arch which is the longest single span roof staructure in the world.

A skyline of dreams for me

Two fronts came through within 36 hours, a little snow then a warm up and rain. I love watching the light changes as it crosses Cader. This view is mainly Mynydd Moel, but the Cader massive is stunning!    
Two fronts came through within 36 hours, a little snow then a warm up and rain. I love watching the light changes as it crosses Cader. This view is mainly Mynydd Moel, but the Cader massive is stunning!