“If you don’t know where you’re going….

…you can’t get lost”, goes the saying.

I’ve an impending sense that everything is about to go off the hook busy. Now I’m a busy person, but I feel like a lot of buses are going to come along at once. That’s ok. I just need to keep working on the balance.

So today’s run I needed to go somewhere where I didn’t think, just relaxed into it. It was supposed to be a “lunch run” but that got put back a bit, and I spend a little longer running than I wanted, but that’s ok too. 

I’ve been trying to process what Rachael (Meirionnydd’s latest member and relatively newcomer to the Ultra scene) has being saying in her recent blog. I know where she’s coming from, in that competition has to be appropriate, and as a self confessed “soul runner”, what she says, in many places, resonates with me. Except, I’m starting to get more and more competitive. Perhaps my frame of reference has changed, or maybe I just need to run my hardest at the moment. Hard to say. I’m sure I’ll process on one run, soon.

Today, I took the camera with me, I didn’t run against time or distance, I started the run as a journey and that stayed with me. And, perhaps more importantly, I didn’t really know where I was going. I knew where I was starting, and I sort of knew the topography of the area, but the rest was just a meandering run to pick up the views and bimble around some amazing places.  As usual, I was rewarded by this approach! In this part of Coed y Brenin the views are far reaching, picking up the Rhinog, the Migneint, Rhobell Fawr, the Aran and Cader Idris.

The panorama from Moel Hafodowen - so many trails to explore
The panorama from Moel Hafodowen – so many trails to explore

The point at which I contoured round Moel Hafodowen, always shows me the opportunity for outdoor sport in the area. Each river valley, hill, trail and area full of so much potential and relatively unused.

I enjoyed the run, because it was a bit wild and wooly, and also nothing occupied my mind but running through such a beautiful space. No glancing at my watch, no worry about map reading. Bliss! I’m planning on a “Cooper Test” tomorrow, so back to pain and suffering in my training. I think the test has to be one of the most horrible 12 minutes of running ever! But, with the Wye 50 miler race is looming this month I’ll be glad of the discipline.

As always, I come back from bimbling refreshed and reinvigorated. Now, time to find a place or two to park these buses.

Gold!! (in the hills)

WA Trail Championship (Long) Team Gold for Meirionnydd Running Club
WA Trail Championship (Long) Team Gold for Meirionnydd Running Club

Trying to write a story like my old English teacher taught me, when I’m this excited is difficult. A start, a middle and an end, never use the word nice!  Good rules to work on!

This week has been Melanoma Awareness week. If you have a laugh about getting burnt in the sun, or don’t know how quickly melanoma is becoming a massive problem please, please take a few minutes and educate yourself. The best presented information is here – www.melanoma-fund.co.uk

On Melanoma, one of the things I have been struggling with is how I can use my run across the big, hot beach (Marathon des Sable)  to raise awareness and money. After this week I feel like there is a campaign coming together. I met with Michelle from Caffeine Communications this week (actually on the day my Mum would have been 65 if she hadn’t died 23 years ago). Michelle has an idea or two, and I’m really excited to be working with her to promote Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. I’m certain you will be hearing more about this in the weeks to come!

Trail Marathon Wales 2013 held a few nerves for me this year. I really wanted to race it, and I felt confident of breaking 4 hours until I was knocked flat by a bacterial infection in my organs. My plan was to complete rather than compete, run my own race, at my own pace. Being a bit competitive I knew I’d get swept along, but I was keen to run it my way. 

I don’t race very often, but when I do I wear Meirionnydd Running Club colours. As a small young club, I’m very proud to be a part of the club.

Race day was due to be wet, which was good as it would keep the midges down and keep me cool. Early morning breakfast was looking out on rain. A light drizzle joined us on the drive to Coed y Brenin. But stopped almost as soon as I got out the car. 

Coed y Brenin looks great year round, but when the flags are up, the PA system is going and the excitement of a thousand people milling around for an event it really is a special place. 

I arrived later than I would normally. 20 minutes before the start. A few hello’s to familiar faces, and then 5 minutes to go, jeans and sweatshirt off, tie my shoelaces, strap on my bum bag. Lose my rucksack to an old paddling buddy who was serving up Carvetii Coffee. Stroll into the pack as the final countdown started to play. Listen to Matt Ward speak his prerace pep talk. Listen to the shotgun of Iori go bang-and it did, much better than last year. Then we all start shuffling towards the start line. The steady incline away from the start meant enough time to wave hello to the family. Settle into a good pace that I knew I could hold onto and see whether my legs would go the distance. 

Lots of people heading off fast, really fast. But this was my pace. a kilometer later, I’m still doing my pace. Instead of being passed, I’m now passing. I know if I’m going to come in under 4 hours I need to average 5:42/km. My watch says on this steady climb, I’m about right. I pass Dafydd Roberts (to my mind the founder of CyB) heading along Sarn Helen. I’m starting to forget the “complete” plan for this race. I’m starting to compete. There is a lot of cat and mouse, I climb passed people, they over take me on the downhills, I level with them on the flat and climb passed again. After about 15km not many people are coming back passed me on the downhill and I’m still climbing passed a few. I pass one guy who has had a pretty minging tumble on steep downhill rock, another guy who has hurts his ankle, another whose knee has seen better days.

I’m feeding well, making sure I say thank you to every marshall who is there. Standing in a cloud of midges is not a great way to spend a day, but the race needs these kind volunteers. 

Climbing away from the upper Mawddach I’m constantly on the edge of cramping, it’s a long climb and I decide to back off a bit, get electrolyte at the next feed station and keep going as hard as I can. At the next feed station there are some familiar running club faces, and I get a pat on the back from the winner of this years Cader Race. “It’s all hurting Ifs” I say. He smiles.

Crossing the Wen, I know the next climb is a bugger. It’s lonely here, I’ve had no one around me for a few kilometres.  This is the first walk I’ve had, it’s steep though and my legs are cramping in my calves and my abductors. I take moving slower as an opportunity to bang in some TORQ gel, some water and mentally commit to running everything but 500m to the finish.

I reach the forest track the heads down to Glasdir. I have 30 seconds of self talk out loud. I’m going to do this. My watch is showing an average pace of 5:42/km.  I know I’m going to have to use all the downhill to get that average pace down.

I do what I can and arrive at the bridge back over the Mawddach with 5:40/km as an average pace. This next climb is the sting in the tail. It’s steep, and late in the course. I settle on walking as fast as I can. There is a struggling runner who is running the half marathon. She’s very emotional, and close on giving up. I try and encourage her between breaths, but she is sat not moving and I was hurting (she did finish later). I get to the top of the steep bit, try and run but my legs are now cramping hard. I can only just manage a shuffle over walking pace on any ascent. As it flattens out I build the pace, but my average pace has slipped too far on the climb. I know I’ve missed 4 hours.

The run in to the finish is really flattering. It’s downhill, not steep, but a nice gradient to actually run quite hard. 

Trail Marathon Wales finish
Trail Marathon Wales finish

I cross the line, 43rd overall in 4 hours 5 minutes and 35 seconds. I’ll be back to take those 5 minutes and 36 seconds next year! 

I did the Native American War dance getting some trousers back on. Cramping legs were very funny for my daughters to watch me struggle with. My lower leg not bending when I need it to, hopping on one leg trying to balance without putting my foot in the mud.

Apart from a pair of skinned nipples, a sore toenail and some shattered legs the event went really well for me.

I was getting over the disappointment of being over 4 hours. Consoling myself that 43rd overall was ok with the illness I’d had, and my complete lack of experience in racing when I got a message.

Meirionnydd Running Club had won gold in the Welsh Trail Championships (Long). I was part of the team that won. Now, I’m under no illusion that Glyn Griffin and Dave Parker (who placed 5th and 8th) did the lions share of the work. But I won a medal as part of the team. I’ve never won a medal before, let alone a gold one in a Welsh Championships. A massive thanks to Glyn and Dave! It’s also really inspiring that our “little” running club, with two of it’s strongest runners not present at Trail Marathon Wales could see off clubs who have a big reputation. Very proud to be part of the team! It’s an exciting future for the club with the depth of talent we have.

What a week! Great news for the MdS, and personally the lift of winning a medal is nothing less that astounding. I know I can train more, run harder. I’m not at my limit yet. I’m really inspired to try and find it over the next little while. 

My next solo event is the Brecon Ultra in November.  I might have to have another look through the race calendar though for something sooner.

This week has left me fired up and that is, well, nice (Sorry Teach).

Where did the time go?

My last blog was April 28th. Time seemed to do a Stephen Hawking stretchy, shrinky disappearing thing.

So, I meant to do a quick update on two things:

  1. Snowdonia Half, I finished 34th. I’m really pleased with that. Nice to know that I can run shorter distances at a reasonable pace. Also the sense of achievement has been a really good motivator for me.
  2. 2013 miles in 2013 April mileage got me another 382km, so switching into miles, at the end of April I’ve logged 930 miles. This puts me 259 miles ahead of schedule.

The May Massive on Strava started well, but I lost 4 days round the Tryweryn Festival so have slipped out of the top runners for mileage. I hope I’ll get that back a little way at least.

I heard that I didn’t make it into the TORQ Trail Team. Yes, I’m disappointed, but at least it means I’m in the UK for Trail Marathon Wales. So properly bittersweet. Running in Chamonix would have been brilliant, but I really like running in Coed y Brenin too.

GoPro on Go Pole for trail running
GoPro on Go Pole for trail running

I’d been hoping to get out and shoot some more footage in Coed y Brenin, play with some new angles and generally have another go of making a shorter, snappier video of trail running in the forest. 

I’d been playing around with a pole for the GoPro for a while and thought I might be able to get some interesting angles with it. It seems weird to set the camera up, upside down, but the results are pretty reasonable. I don’t think I can do away with a tripod completely, it’s a quick substitute  but there is some camera movement I don’t like. The best set up I can get is like this.

I was lucky enough to be joined by Arfon Hughes and Alex Lanz from Meirionnydd Running Club. This was great as it meant that I could slog round behind the guys, and get the footage rather than running twice as far, setting, filming, and then collecting the gear.

Arfon running in Coed y Brenin
Arfon running in Coed y Brenin

Both Alex and Arfon had been racing the day before. Alex had collected two medals, one Silver and one Gold and when we were filming he wasn’t quite sure what they were for. Turns out that one of them was where he had just won the title of Welsh Junior Trail Running Champion (U20). Alex has a really inspirational personality and his running style is effortless. It was a real pleasure to spend some time running with these guys, and a real honour to spend some time with an athlete who will no doubt collect more and more metalware as his running progresses.

Arfon is clearly passionate about the environment and his running. There is a lot of work that he puts into the running club, and as he also Wardens a big area of the Berwyn for Natural Resources Wales, he knows his onions (amongst other things) about the flora and fauna in the area.

So the video is beneath, it is shorter than the one I made before, I definitely want to get out onto some open trails in sunshine as I think the footage would be spectacular. I won’t leave the next update so long next time!

Trail Running in Coed y Brenin from Ashley Charlwood on Vimeo.

What a run!

Coming down from Mynydd Penrhos
Coming down from Mynydd Penrhos

I’ve waited patiently for my leg to heal before going for a run. 6 weeks has felt like a long time.

Couldn’t help but enjoy the descent off Mynydd Penrhos, above Tyn y Groes in Coed y Brenin.

It felt so good!

A bit of an update on human powered miles… February was going to be lower than I expected after an injury and a bit of a virus in the middle of the month.

I managed to cycle 187km and row 88.7km so that gives 275.7km for February.

Year to date- 579.7km which is still slightly ahead of schedule. Looking forward to running some more this month

Running along the ridge of Mynydd Penrhos
Running along the ridge of Mynydd Penrhos

Another silly injury!

I can't help but get excited by the snow-a couple of photo's from Coed y Brenin to start.

Not sure what's caused it, but I've got shin splints.

Well that's a lie, I know what caused it-too much running on tarmac! I'd been getting lazy in exploring new places off road. That'll learn me!

I'd felt really good about my training, getting some good miles in, and then the weekend before last I had a dull ache on my shin, just above my ankle. So, I eased back on pounding the pavement and rested for five days. No aches at all. Then over this weekend I couldn't resist a run in the hills with all the snow. It's not a pain I feel, but an ache and after 15km it was there niggling away at me. The scenery is beautiful, even before the sun was up-so much ambient light. Apart from picking out the big icy patches no head torch was needed.

Up on Bwlch y Goriwared (400m)the dirfts were over head high, so I stopped as the sun was rising to take a photo. Not a great picture from a moile phone but not too bad!

Anyway back to this silly injury. Nothing to do but rest it from the impact. I'll get it better. Just annoying when everything was going so well!

Worse still is the “other option” for long cardio work is really hill sessions on a bike. When it's icy it really is hard yards to get the miles in. I'm sure I'll get on it though.

Just to toughen up a bit I thought I'd get on the rowing machine, which is great cardio and resistance training. I always target 8000m in 30 minutes if I'm not doing Tabata or Fartlek.

I followed that with a bit of Pavel Tsatsouline style, comrade toughness, take your MTFU juice and get some snatches done. I do love kettlebells!

Who said it was cold out?

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.