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.

A couple of inspirational videos

After the OMM last weekend, I’m really fired up by running off tarmac.

I’ve come across a couple of videos that to me, explain the joy and freedom of why trail, mountain or off road running is such a great sport.

Whether you compete at the elite level or just with yourself, it really offers the same challenge to everyone. You don’t need hundreds of pounds worth of equipment, just the motivation and dedication to get out there. If you haven’t run for a while, then try and remember that feeling as a kid where you run without thinking about it down hills and round corners.

Take a few minutes and watch these two videos-then grab that pair of trainers that you bought with all good intentions and get out there!

The first is a round up of this years OMM, some great footage and some nice words from the top competitors.

The second video is from Salomon Trail Running, and whilst some of the voice over I don’t understand there are a couple of quotes which I think are really powerful. The best for me is right at the end!

 

The OMM 2012- Howgills

In 2003, my friend Jeremy and I ran the LAMM together and really enjoyed it, since then we’ve been injured or having families so this year we were really up for a long weekend runnning around the hills.

We picked the OMM (always the weekend the clocks change); when you register you get something vague about the event location like “North of England”. Then, with a couple of months to go they narrow down the race area. Although Jeremy was a little nervous of his ankle in April/May, it all came good. We sat down and decided we’d “just have a weekend wandering around the Howgills”.

We entered the short score event, 5 hours on Day 1 and 4 hours on Day 2. There are a number of controls with different scores, and those with the highest score wins. A 2 point penalty for every minute you are overdue makes getting route planning pretty important. There are mandatory kit items and as you’re self supported, tents, sleeping bag, food and cooking gear all provide gear weenies a really good chance to save weight. As it is a two person team, some kit can be shared and there is some kit that you have to carry individually.

Both Jeremy and I had driven up and down the M6 enough to know we would enjoy the terrain, but it’s only when you start looking at a map that the contours show you that course setters are going to have a field day with it. Steep sided valleys with water running through it.

We drove up on the Friday, popped into Kendal market ot see our friends from Carvetii Coffee and have some grub. Then we headed over to Sedbergh to envent HQ, after registering, organised all our kit in the back of the van.

After getting everything sorted into a reasonable pack weight and squared away, we headed into Sedbergh to eat some food and have a beer. In the pub, it was couples night, either that or the OMM was in town! We got talking to the team next to us and after talking about what they were eating, we decided to adjust our overnight menu a bit.

Heading home from the pub, it started to snow, not loads, but given we were going high on the hills we knew it was going to be a bit chilly!

As the 3000 odd competitors come into town there is a real air of excitement, and the locals despite thinking we’re all nuts were really friendly.

The next day we had a 0904 start, so we got up, ate at Wilf’s Cafe who attend most of the mountain marathon circuit beofre heading the 2.5 km out to the start. Being a bit early, and the fact it was seriously cold, we waited around at the start, swapping between the barn, and also around the start area in the sun.

At 0901 we were called forward to the start lanes, at 0902 we’re move on about 5m from the start line, at 0903 you move to the start line where you receive your Day 1 map. 60 second later an air horn goes you’re away.

There was a mandatory control about 750m away, other than the finish the only one on day 1. We walked, talked looked at points and decided on a rough route. Through the first gate Jeremy picked up a really wet, muddy foot, before “dibbing in” at the control, then we’re free to pick up points. We quickly covered a few controls before climbing up onto the still frozen top of The Calf-a hill at 676m.

From here, we chose to shoot across and pick up high scoring AR (40) (all controls have a two letter description and a score). It was fast moving terrain and we started running to make up a bit of time we had lost in ascent. We were looking for a steep sided gulley at around 550m and between slipping around on sheet ice and trying to maintain a good pace we over shot by 150m. We gave ourselves a telling off, tried to work out whether it was worth losing the time to regain it but with the time heading to 1100 we had to move on to cover new ground- a mistake we would be annoyed at later.

The next controls went really well, covering ground quickly and accurately. We even found Jeremy a weather station (he like these alot) before we decided to pick of one last control high on Wild Boar Fell before legging it down to the finish.

A bit annoyingly we misjudged the time (or took too many photos) and came in 27 seconds late earning us a 2 minute penalty. Them’s the breaks I guess.

We set up camp in a quiet field, close to water and toilets so that when it got busy later on we wouldn’t be too far from conveniences. 1400+ tents takes up space and services so we were pleased to be in early.

The next important job is to start replacing calories. This is normally guzzling done reconstitued dehydrated meals. This is done whilst trying not to cramp either, legs, hips or toes, which left our tent sounding like that scene in “When Harry Met Sally”… although without the pleasure.

It has to be said, whilst Expedition Food is pretty palatable, our friends from the pub had inspired us to have a pudding of cheese, crackers, chocolate and Whisky. A fine shout that left us feeling pretty content in our tiny tent and plenty of space in our packs for Day 2!
As the sun went down the results came in, and we’d ended up in 50th place at the end of day 1. If only we’d picked up those 40 points we would have been in with a good shout of the top 20. Not bad for a wander round the hills!

We had an amble round the campsite, by moonlight, and I had a quick play with long shutter times to capture the now humming campsite.
We had a reasonable nights sleep, with the normal snoring, grunts, coughs and bodily sounds that come from a campsite full of people shattered with exertion. The clocks went back and at 0600 everyone was woken. at 0655 the chasing start horn sounded and then every minute there after teams got away.
The day was grey and rainy so today was going to need accurate compass work. It was pretty tough terrain and Jeremy was quiet with a painful blister on his heal. The first part of the day was on featureless, boggy terrain, but this made for great downhill running and some fun Navigation.

We decided to miss a precarious control in a steep escarpment, instead choosing to climb a hillside that gained 300m in slightly less horizontal distance. This would give us access to the high ground and we hoped to pick off some controls at speed on the way down to the finish. Pictures can’t do this climb justice but we were dealing with this quietly, and methodically. Jeremy mentioned he wasn’t singing happy songs at this point.

Onto, the tops which were now very windy with stinging rain on bare skin we moved quickly across to pick up two high controls before losing height across to another pair of controls about a kilometre apart. From here we needed to go collect a mandatory control to get back to the finish. This terrain was great, Il managed to lengthen my stride, get the Navigation spot on and we both ran together to the finish. Hugs, soup and a 2km walk back to event HQ passed quickly. The “dibber” I had worn for the last 48 hours was downloaded and showed we had finished Day 2 in a very respectable 14th place. This put us 33rd overall. Jeremy and I were really happy with this. We really did just go out to have fun. I’m annoyed to have missed “that” control on Day 1 as that would have placed us in the top 20. But we’ll be back for next years event in Wales.

Apart from having a terrific weekend running in new hills with a really great friend, we both were really impressed with the standard of organisation. Super slick. As with many hill events, volunteers give up their time in really difficult conditions to allow other to have a great time.

The last words go to the organisers and volunteers of the event-Thank You!

 

 

Dyfi 8 mile trail race

I don't race that often-I usually find an excuse to run on my own, but today I went to the Dyfi 8 mile trail race. It's run by Cerist Triathlon Club on the back of the Tarrens, and the entry list is mainly Cersit members. The Tan y Coed car park is the meeting place, not far from the CliMachX mountain bike trail on the side of the Dulas valley. This time of year the leaves are all changing colour after the first frosts, this makes for a pretty back drop for the race. A starting field of about 25 made for a really informal race, the briefing was comprehensive but light hearted with a bit of informal banter from the runners. All of the race is on Forestry Trails so the going is easy, well drained and relatively even. The start winds it's way up, not too steeply but its definitely up without too much respite. At about 3.5 miles the trail descends, giving a chance to get the heart rate down, a bit of lactic out of the system and pick the pace up. There is one, short climb again around the 5.5 mile mark before the long descent back to the finish. Water stops, if needed, are frequent and overall a really friendly race. Todays weather was misty and chilly to start, but coming over the high point the mist burnt off giving great view south and west. Running in a vest was definitely the right call. It'd be great to see the race grow and be better supported by runners next year... I hear Cerist are setting a date soon. A maasive thanks to the marshalls who made it happen. Next race for me is next weekend at the OMM in the Howgills; here's hoping the weather is as good. My Strava for the race:
I don’t race that often-I usually find an excuse to run on my own, but today I went to the Dyfi 8 mile trail race. It’s run by Cerist Triathlon Club on the back of the Tarrens, and the entry list is mainly Cersit members. The Tan y Coed car park is the meeting place, not far from the CliMachX mountain bike trail on the side of the Dulas valley. This time of year the leaves are all changing colour after the first frosts, this makes for a pretty back drop for the race. A starting field of about 25 made for a really informal race, the briefing was comprehensive but light hearted with a bit of informal banter from the runners. All of the race is on Forestry Trails so the going is easy, well drained and relatively even. The start winds it’s way up, not too steeply but its definitely up without too much respite. At about 3.5 miles the trail descends, giving a chance to get the heart rate down, a bit of lactic out of the system and pick the pace up. There is one, short climb again around the 5.5 mile mark before the long descent back to the finish. Water stops, if needed, are frequent and overall a really friendly race. Todays weather was misty and chilly to start, but coming over the high point the mist burnt off giving great view south and west. Running in a vest was definitely the right call. It’d be great to see the race grow and be better supported by runners next year… I hear Cerist are setting a date soon. A maasive thanks to the marshalls who made it happen. Next race for me is next weekend at the OMM in the Howgills; here’s hoping the weather is as good. My Strava for the race:

Prizes and Events

Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my
Its been a funny month, frantically busy at work, lots of miles in a van, but not as much training as I would like. Really pleased to receive my prize from Trail Running Magazine for the video I posted on YouTube. See my blog post for the video. The rucksack I got sent is the TNF Enduro rucsac. My immediate thought was that technology and design has come along way since I bought my last running rucsac. Even unladen the sac is stable, close fitting and super light. I decided to load it up and give it a long run whilst I was out searching for my “wall” more about that in a bit! I headed out, up through Coed y Brenin and out on to the moors by Trawsfynydd, I mixed the route up with a bit of road and a bit of trail and the sac was easily adjustable. I struggle a bit with the mesh pockets on the side of the sac, but this is my range of motion issues from kayaking, throwing and crashing bikes and not a big criticism of the sac. I’m keen to see if I can get a front pack to fit onto this as that will sort my carrying issues out for Marathon des Sable. Like my blog about the Salomon XR Crossmax trainers, the biggest compliment I can give the bag is that I didn’t notice it. I’ve been trying out various bits of nutritional stuff to try and help me out. Since Trail Marathon Wales in June, and the cramps I got after about 20 miles, I realised I’ve got to get my feeding strategy right. I’ve been trying electrolytes from Shotz – http://shotz1.com/ that I find pretty tasty and easy to glug down. They definitely get into the system quickly and I think keep me going longer. I’m trying to sort some energy gels that I find easy to get down. I’ve tried a few over the years and I don’t enjoy them but they definitely work. First of all I wanted to know where my “wall”is now I’m a bit older. The wall is effectively where all the stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles runs out and the body struggles for an energy pathway. Knowing where this point is helps inform you what your feeding strategy needs to be in longer races. I do things the simple way, to find my wall I skipped brekkie, only took a bit of water and went out running. My track is here. From 35km on I knew I was coming close to feeling the effects, and then at 37km it came at me like a steam train. My vision distorted, I started struggling with co-ordination and in my “Mary had a little lamb” voice check my speech was definitely not clear. I got home, blithered around the kitchen making some self made isotonic 50:50 Orange Juice and Water with a few tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Glugged this down with some crystalised Pineapple and felt normality return. I now know that when I’m relatively well prepared I can deal with 30km without extra fuelling. Hope I can stretch that out a bit! That run was the third day of the Strava Speedgoat 50km challenge. The aim was to run 50km in three days in “celebration” of the trail race in the states. I was pretty chuffed to rack up 79km and finish the challenge in 15th (out of 1282). Just heard that we’ve definitely got a place at the Original Mountain Marathon, and before then I’ve got the Helly Hansen “Beauty and the Beast” trail marathon in late September. For someone who isn’t mad keen on races its looking good. I’m also hoping this year to finish all of the Meirionydd winter series fell races for the first time. I often managed one or two but never the whole series. Finally, a quick update on 2012 miles in 2012, logged 1327 Miles so far. Starting to feel like it should be possible to get back on track. I’ve caught up from my month and a bit off so pretty chuffed. Head back down and on with life.  

Race Report Trail Marathon Wales-an excellent run!

Today was Trail Marathon Wales, held in Coed y Brenin. I was a little apprehensive about the race, my injury has meant I haven’t put in the miles I really wanted to.

The last few days have been really wet in South Snowdonia. The rivers have been up and kayaking has been really appealing.

Coed y Brenin is great for events, loads of parking, good facilities and a great setting. The guys and girls have obviously worked hard to get loads into the event and done lots of planning. It shows. Foresty Commission Wales did a great job of parking people, and despite registration and the safety briefing being a bit delayed, the gamekeeper loosed off a shell from his 12 bore to start the race almost exactly on time.

There had been a late route change, mainly due to the exposed slopes outside of CyB being soggy (under water). It meant a small repetition of the route for the full Marathon, but the course was so good that it made no difference. I was expecting the second lap to be pretty cut up where it had been shared with the half marathon course but, all in all, it was in good shape.

All the race numbers had first names on them; this meant that South Snowdonia Mountain Rescue and the marshalls would give a welcoming shout to people. Can’t fault the volunteers involved in providing support. The feed stations were well spaced, stocked with a variety of Electrolyte, Carbo gel, Banana’s, Jelly babies (my favourite) and water.

If there is any doubt that this isn’t a road race check out my elevation profile from today, just over 1200m of ascent meant pacing was important.

Whilst I can’t fault the feed stations, I can fault my use of them. Lack of conditioning meant that I didn’t take on enough electrolyte early on and that, with the up and down meant a brutal onset of leg cramp around mile 20. I never got my rhythm back from that but did have a nice chat with a few runners from Eryri, Cerist Tri and other clubs all struggling with the same problem.

Crossing the line was a great experience, the technology meant that nearly every runner was encouraged over the line by full name over the radio mike- iPad and data tags on the back of the numbers, great stuff.

I picked up my bottle, wooden medal and flapjack-lots of goodies at registration (T shirt, socks, energy gel, etc..) Had a natter with a few friends and then made a move to get home.

Admittedly, my drive home isn’t too far, but getting a text as soon as there was reception with my placing and time was great and I’m sure those with a longer journey would have really appreciated it.

Impressions of this as a first time running the event? Brilliant.

A massive thank you to Matt Ward and all the people involved from Forestry Commission Wales and Meirionnydd Running Club. The volunteers, the sponsors the SSMR team all did a great job and it was great to run in the inaugral event. I hope it will build and build. It should get a reputation as a very special, if tough, trail race.

Well done all, organisers, supporters and runners.

Given what could have gone wrong for me today, I’m pretty pleased with my finish. It was supposed to be a training run, and to be fair, it probably was. In amongst a field of racing whippets, as a 90kg recently injured runner, I was pretty pleased with the result.

Bring on next year!

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.