Friday, 9 December 2011

Return of the Friday trip North

It's been ages since I made time to get up to the Beacons for a Friday run. Marathon training and illness swallowed up November without  an opportunity to get out on some real hills, so I was determined to fit in just one trip before Christmas.

The weather today started out perfect...crisp, still and sunny. I left Cardiff in the dark so that I had plenty of daylight. I didn't have a very long run planned, but because I've not tested myself on the mountains for a few weeks I wasn't sure what my speed would be like. So I was prepared for it to take ages.

I planned a 15 mile route, on a  mixture of forest trails and open moorland and I built in a couple of climbs just to test my legs. At mile 10ish, the weather changed instantly and dramatically, as can be the way on the Beacons, and I experienced my first snow fall of the winter. It was absolutely freezing - hat, buff and hood were all required! Given the conditions I decided to take the escape route and headed back to my van for a cuppa and some warm clothes.

Pretty pleased with how this went, the 12 miles, 1700 foot ascent took me 2.5 hours, so I'm happy that my fitness on the hills hasn't been completely lost.

Photos...the area is beautiful, but just looks lovely when the sun is shining. I'm very lucky to have this on the doorstep.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

40 - 26.2 - 4.30

It's done. At last. I ran and finished the marathon that has taken over my training for the last couple of months.

I turned 40, embraced the mid life crisis and ran 26.2 miles on a road with not a trail or hill in sight. Not only that... I surprised myself and rather enjoyed it.

The aim of my training was to finish the marathon in under 4 hours, but in the week before the race I was ill and wasn't sure whether I'd be able to run at all, so by race day, to feel well enough to take part was a bonus and my aim became simply to get around the course. All time pressure was off and my goal became one of completing and enjoying as much of the event as I could.

So we (me and Martin) did the Marathon des Alps - Maritime. Originally thought up as a great excuse for a weekend in the South of France to celebrate a significant birthday, enjoying fine food and wine, whilst fitting in a challenge along the way. 

I'm not going to try and write a race report here but just want to note a few memories to remind me of the day.

I want to record that I geniunely enjoyed running this race, I really did. In almost every one of the official photos I'm smiling! There is a definite absence of the the usual pained grimace and this has to be because the pressure was off, I had good company and the promise of conversation throughout (no music this time) and the organisation of the race was excellent. The French know how to do things properly don't they? 

From the start, I felt like we were part of something big and exciting. 

In the days before the race we explored the area around Juan Les Pins where we were staying. We saw them putting up the barriers, building small stages for the entertainment, erecting the KM signs along the route and there was a sense of community about the organisation of the event. It felt like a carnival was coming to town!

On race day, all runners had free access to trains before and after the event, so at 6am we boarded a train that would take us from Juan Les Pins to the start line in Nice. The train was packed with runners. I've never been around quite so much technical gear before. It was one of those double decker trains and we were crammed in cheek by jowl. An entire community contained in quiet pre-race contemplation.

I was impressed by the bag drop system - don't click away, it's not boring, it's clever! Because the route was linear the bag drop was a series of container lorries, kitted out with racks and hooks, each individually numbered to correspond with our race numbers. While we ran, our bags were transported to Cannes for us to collect at the other end - as I said, clever.

Pre race nerves always demand that there are portaloos aplenty at any event, but there are never ever enough, and the glamorous setting didn't make the human excrement on the beach any easier to accept!

Back at the start line, the race got underway without delay and the route wound it's way along the coastal road from Nice to Cannes taking in the seaside towns along the way, the old town of Antibes and the Cap of Antibes which were stunning set against the blue skies and twinkly mediterranean sea.

The organisers laid on a smashing buffet on route - oranges, bananas, raisins, chocolate, sugar cubes (!), gels, coke, sports drink, so there was no real need to carry your own stuff. By the half way mark, runners seemed to be milling about chatting at the stops as if at a cocktail party - very relaxed and social, but I'm sure that was just at my end of the event. I doubt the front runners had the same experience - poor them!

The public support was relentless and really kept us going. Steel bands, break dancing children, traditionally dressed musical ensembles...there was something around every corner to perk you up and spur you on and because they print your name on your race number I lost count of the number of 'Allez Sarah!' 's that came from the crowd. 

It was a great day, and although I really didn't enjoy the endless boring miles of road running that I put in to train for this event, I am already looking for another marathon in May to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary!

40 -             26.2 -                4.30
my age        the distance       my time

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A post to fill a gap...

I haven't posted for a while because marathon training has had a negative effect on both the enjoyment and interest levels of my runs. There's just been nothing to write about.

So I thought I'd post the quick jaunt around the hills I did yesterday as part of my taper. We had beautiful autumn weather and the autumn colours are being displayed in their full glory on the hillsides around my home.

Some photos....tried to capture the 360 view from Craig Yr Allt (I'm sure there'll be an app for that! out there somewhere)...

There's a handy stream at the end of my run that I can wash my shoes off in - it was good and muddy yesterday!

New playlist yesterday to match a more introspective mood.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I know there are a lot of purists out there who would perish the thought of listening to music whilst running out on a mountain side, or anywhere else for that matter, but each to their own. I like having the company of the radio or some uplifting tunes to sing along to when I'm out and about.

For me music can make a good run an excellent run. Today is one of those days. I'm buzzing from my run today. My husband despairs because when it comes to running, I share the same musical taste as my 9 year old daughter. It's a guilty pleasure. I love a bit of really rubbish pop music to uplift me sometimes, and I can play the same track over and over and over again on repeat :0).

I was going to head up to the Lake District this week to recce some of the L100 course, but I changed my plans and decided to stay home.

I'm glad I did. The sun was shining today and I've been out for a run along the ridgeway this morning - my local trail. Lovely views up the Beacons in the north and over Cardiff Bay and over to the Devon coast, and all the way along I was singing on top of my voice, belting out Moves like Jagger (blush! I did warn that it was really rubbish pop music I sometimes favoured)!

Here's my run....(dances around the kitchen)...

 And some pictures....

Friday, 21 October 2011

Marathon Training Continues: 4 weeks to go

I managed to squeeze my long run in yesterday evening to allow me time on Friday to run along the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Trail near my house. 

So, on a beautiful autumn evening I donned my snuggly winter beany and ran a 20 mile out and back urban route. Don't worry, I wore other clothes too, but the beany really marks the change in season. 

Having run the Cardiff Half marathon last weekend (time = slower than last year), the pressure was off, so I decided to use my heart rate monitor to keep to a pace that would not take my heart rate above 75%. 

This made for a very relaxing pace and an opportunity to really enjoy the seasonal changes along the Taff Trail. It's a great route starting in the hills to the North of Cardiff, through the city, through parks, past castles, the millennium stadium, our beautiful millennium centre and onto the barrage until you reach the sea.

There was no energy dip or psychological struggles on this run, but I suffered with bad leg cramps in the last 3 miles which forced me to take walk breaks...enter another challenge to master and overcome! Other than that a great run.

Not sure what happened at the start of my run! I must have been excited to be out of work!

Friday, 14 October 2011

New Shoes!

I went shopping for an early birthday present today intending to buy some Merrell barefoot gloves, but the guy in Moti Cardiff persuaded me to try on a pair of Newton Gravitas. I had a little jog on the treadmill in the shop and my head was turned!

I opted for the Newton's!

The idea is that they encourage a forefoot strike.

Just been round the block in them for a try out and I love 'em! Very comfortable, the fore foot strike feels very natural and I feel like I have a new spring in my step. A good option for an everyday road shoe - just in time for the Cardiff Half Marathon!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Talybont Trial 2011

It was a busy weekend this weekend. With the Cardiff Half Marathon being the focus of next weekend, I wanted to make sure I fitted in a long run as part of my marathon training. So on Friday I did an 18 mile loop of the Taff Trail taking in all the sights between Tongwynlais and Cardiff Bay. It was a good run and I felt comfortable until mile 15 or 16 when my speed dropped and I had a mile or so of struggle.

But.... every day is a school day, and I think I managed this better than I have done in the past. I know for sure that when I am out on the road running that this slump is going to hit me at around mile 15 to 17. Knowing it's coming and then knowing that it will pass helped me to refocus and get back on track. I'm really working on building and maintaining a positive mental attitude to deal with the tough patches.

 On Saturday, I took part in the Talybont Trial. My Garmin tells me I ran 21.6 miles and that there was 4487 ft of ascent. It was a good day with great support and encouragement from the Brecon Moutain Rescue team. The weather was kind and the field was small and I love the freedom of these events that allow you to plot your own course between checkpoints. It was nice to see familiar faces, although I really must start finding out people's names!

I chatted with A chap called Andrew (I think) who DNF'd the L100 in July this year. He told me a cautionary tale about the importance of pacing and avoiding being timed out in the 100, and then disappeared into the distance like a whippet! Oh dear! What am I thinking??!

Anyway, map and photos of a great morning follow....

Talybont Trial 2011

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Gt Langdale-Blea Tarn-Little Langdale-Elterwater-Gt Langdale Photo's

I managed to fit in a quick 10 miler before I set off from Great Langland to home on Friday.

In reality, it wasn't that quick because I stopped at every turn to take shed loads of photos. I use the camera on my iphone, but collecting the pictures along the trail is a big part of being out there for me, so i think I'm going to invest in a goodish, hard wearing camera that can take some knocks while I'm out and about.

Any suggestions on a camera that might fit the bill would be welcomed.

Anyway, I ended up with another load of not great photos, but I'm going to upload them here so that my record is complete:

The Langdale Valley at 7:30


Blea Tarn


Little Langdale





Elterwater and back up the Langdale Valley

I know that I've got my shadow in the last shot. I thought it might be arty - but it's just rubbish :0)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

2 Nights in Great Langdale

I decided to take advantage of the unseasonal warm weather being forecast for the weekend and took an extra day of annual leave to supplement my usual Friday off. This gave me enough time to shoot off to the lakes for a couple of days and pack in as much time on the fells as possible.

I left work at 4pm sharp, jumped in the VW and sped off to Great Langdale NT campsite.
I'd planned a long walk for Thursday and intended to take my time and enjoy the views, running where ever possible. My route:

Stickle Tarn via Stickle Ghyll
High Raise
Rossett Pike
Esk Hause
Great End
Broad Crag
Scafell Pike
Esk Pike
Home via The Band 

I felt really alone and isolated heading up towards High Raise. It was like a sudden shock to the system, having rushed up from Cardiff after a busy day in work, to standing above Stickle Tarn with not a soul in sight - the contrast was stark.

Of course, I wasn't alone. There was a group of wild campers going about their morning ablutions just above Stickle Tarn and there was a steady stream of walkers heading up past Angle Tarn, but for a short time I had the open moorland between High Raise and Rossett Pike all to myself in the sunshine.

After Esk Hause the walk turned into more of a scramble so I took my time, enjoying the beautiful views across to Borrowdale and in the other direction, down the Langdale Valley. I never get used to the drama of the landscape in the Lakes. The beauty of the place makes me a bit emotional. Thankfully, I came across a bloke from Llanelli who distracted me from my self indulgent, introspective musings. He was spending his annual leave walking the three peaks, yesterday Snowdon, tomorrow Ben Nevis, just for the heck of it.

By the time I reached Bowfell the cloud had lifted and I could just about see the pub and a pint of cider with my name on it. I'd covered 16 miles and 5,300ft of ascent. A decent day's walking.

I took loads of photo's on route so have just posted them all - some are rubbish.