Tuesday, 28 August 2012

OK - so THIS is "trail running"...

Correction: last Tuesday I did NOT go trail running. I ventured into fields, ran on grass, climbed over gates rather than opening and closing them… but that was not trail running.

I discovered this three days later, when I set off for a sub-30’, road-based 5k. Two thirds of the way through my spleen was hurting, so I slowed down and started humbly walking the short distance home. As I looked up my time on RunKeeper someone from a house I was passing suggested I did less texting and more running, but was duly reassured once I’d told him I was actually looking at my run, adding “Today just wasn’t my day”. He seemed reassured by that and on we carried with our respective tasks.

I am familiar with spleen pain, for that’s what it did for most of my football training within half a lap of jogging back in 1980s Italy. So, much as I was frustrated that I may have paced myself just a little too ambitiously (though I’m still not sure I had…), even after all this time I knew exactly what the problem was and that it wouldn’t last long. As I approached the junction to our estate, the pain had all but gone. It was then that I was passed by a couple who live nearby and whom I know, the wife mainly through tennis and the husband partly through tennis but mainly because of cricket and his son. They’re the sort of people who don’t necessarily make our Christmas list (very few do, to be honest) but whom I’ll always acknowledge and sometimes have a chat when our paths cross. They have beautiful seaviews from their house and I can but apologise for instances when a glowing yellow dot has detracted from them in recent months.

As Bob (for that is Sally’s husband’s name) passed me, he joked about the fact that I should stop walking and start running with them, for that was indeed what they were out doing. I gave the suggestion a second’s thought and proceeded to do just that, safe in the knowledge that, if the pain resurfaced, it would do so fairly quickly and I would still only be a few minutes from home. As it happens it did not: whether things would have been different had I tried running on my own again, I honestly have no idea. Maybe the social aspect of this particular run helped: it didn’t feel a particularly fast run either, though the average pace of 6:20, when you take into account some of the sections, is by no means sluggish. We headed downhill on the pavement to start with, as I thought I’d enquire how long a run this was likely to be. “Oh, we don’t run far… about three miles”. OK, that sounds doable, spleen willing…

…and what a lovely three miles (well, 6.24km, in the end) it was! 2.4km into it we left the road for the Portishead Coast Path. I’ve lived here almost a dozen years, I’ve heard of this here path and the beaches along it, but I’m guilty of this being the first time I ventured down there. OK, so for the first few hundred yards we were fighting overgrown weeds and brambles, some of the literally shoulder high: but these things aren’t so bad when you’re with someone who genuinely knows where you are. Eventually we found ourselves running alongside the rocky coast, making it a challenge to keep an eye on the terrain. There were a few pit stops along the route and on one occasion Bob suggested taking a photo of me, something I would never think of in the intensity of sport. I’m not good, but boy do I focus. Always been like that. Fortunately I felt that a photo would be allowed and let him take one: here you go, have a look (sunglasses recommended).

I should maybe confirm that the ship did not crash into
the lighthouse
as a result of my allegedly distracting attire
Once we’d got to the end of the path there was a lot of altitude to make up and there were a few instances of steep steps to shorten that process. After those and around half a mile of track I’ve beaten only too well in recent months I was home, delighted with the run. Delighted with the trail, the scenery and indeed the social aspect, with having someone to whom talk. Which doesn’t mean I took a dislike to asphalt: ours is a necessary relationship. Nor did I regret not having found it or tried it earlier: there are reasons beyond training which meant my early days were, or are being, spent on “the lap”. Even when I run 18k, I’m never more than one kilometre or so from my front door. A front door I first stepped out of wearing my Asics 149 days after intrusive brain surgery. I felt good then and I’ve only felt better since: but even now I cannot walk out of that front door totally dismissing the possibility of an epileptic seizure. I try to balance optimism and caution in my choice of routes and I was concerned that the rocky coast path would be on the wrong side of that divide. But I now feel comfortable about running it on my own and hopefully will do so soon. As I said, the risk hasn’t gone forever: but, on that basis, I’d never step out of my front door, just like you’d never venture beyond yours. What I have done is reached a stage where I don’t hear Captain Mainwaring shouting “You stupid boy!” in my ears.
Ollie and I by the Bristol Channel.
(See, I don't make this stuff up!)
Cousin Ollie (as in, one of my Mum’s younger sister’s sons) came down for the Bank Holiday Weekend, arriving late Saturday and leaving Monday evening. He’s had previous mentions on here, for he (and Cousin Nats) followed in my footsteps and signed up for the SheffieldTenTenTen! As soon as he’d booked his trains we agreed to go for a Sunday evening run, which meant that last week’s Long Run was on Saturday. This meant Mrs S could watch “The X Factor” (shouldn’t that be “The WHY Factor”?) live rather than waiting twenty-four hours. It also meant I’d have 18k in my legs when heading out with Ollie the following day, but I wasn’t overly concerned. I decided to venture down the Coast Path and expose Ollie to nicer sights than those offered by my tarmac routes. Not sure I share his enthusiastic view that put Portishead on a par with California, if only because I’ve never gone Cali: feel free to make up your own mind by looking at these pictures. There were times when I wasn’t sure we were heading the right way but as it happens we did alright, with the exception of the end where I should have stuck to Friday’s shortcuts rather than leading us to walk through someone’s garden to get back onto the main road. I was in now characteristic glo-yellow and had lent Ollie a glo-green top: hopefully that meant that, whilst nobody could miss us, nobody would think that a couple of intruders would have chosen such inappropriate attire.

Would you spot these two?
Ollie and I before setting off
Even my good friend Richard spotted us earlier on our route and texted me: “If my eyes weren’t dazzled by the fluorescence I could have sworn I just saw you running up Nore Road…” Funny how all these people are spotting me jogging yet I never see them, eh?!

This newfound trail-enhanced route is 7km. I’ll soon duly add a lap or two to get it around the 10k or 12km mark and venture down it. Almost did so this morning, but for the heavy rain from last night, so I opted for “the usual run” instead: it will still be the default option, but it too will benefit (as will I) from it not having exclusivity. That Marriott fella’d be proud!


As long as I don’t get lost in the scenery, I’ll be fine on the coast path. 
If you could care less, this is my new
Portishead Coast Path Route
Those steep bits at the end will be good for me, too: hills are my friends, hills are my friends… And don’t worry about my clean shoes. Having already sent Ollie to Decathlon for some more (smaller!) running shirts, a pair of shorts (same size) and some sweatbands (longer ones), on Friday I asked him to pay another visit for a pair of trail shoes. I’d bought a pair on June 23 but then returned them (courtesy of a lift from Ollie) on June 24, once I’d convinced myself I could tackle the trail element of the SheffieldTenTenTen with my Asics. A belief I still hold on to: but, in the meantime, I’ve equipped myself with £30-worth of trail shoes. Decathlon’s “Kapteren 100” don’t feature in any of the running magazines I’ve read, but if all they do is ensure I don’t ruin my Asics, I’ll be happy!

And you know what? This isn’t Cali, by any means. But nor is it a bad place to live, in case you ever thought I felt that way from previous posts. When you see the sun shine on the Bristol Channel as the sun sets over West Wales, it’s quite beautiful. The truth is, this place is ‘guilty’ of the same thing that Santa Margherita Ligure (GE), Italy was guilty for my first eighteen years: it’s not Sheffield. Other than that, it’s alreight.

p.s.: Ollie had missed that pile of televisual manure because he’d been travelling down here when it was spread. So guess who had to sit between him and Mrs S to watch it off the Sky+ box last night…

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