Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Trail report - Rinsey to Marazion

This Sunday was the last (and the shortest) long run before the Classic Quarter and really represents the beginning of my taper, since it was a very manageable eighteen miles.  I actually ran from Rinsey to a car park in Long Rock; however, as a scenic coastal run I would suggest turning around in Marazion, since after that the route follows a road and cycle track next to a railway and this last bit was just so I could log the miles I wanted (plus I got to see a little bit more of the CQ route which is always useful).  Anyway that's the route I will describe here and it weighs in at about 7 miles each way if you turn around in town, maybe 7.5 if you decide to run over the beach for a close up view of the Mount.

Looking West from Rinsey Cove
I started out stupid-early this weekend - the forecast was, for the second bank holiday in May, a sunny one and the kids were keen to max out on their beach time. Funnily though as I left the house at 6ish, there was a frost on the ground, but not even this could distract me from the obvious fact that it was going to be a glorious day.  By the time I was rocking up at the car park above the beach at Rinsey the sun was already warm on my back, the air was still and the sea was oily calm.

The start of the route sees you running down the hill towards Praa Sands through the ubiquitous narrow gorse lined pathways common throughout Cornwall.  Before long you are treated to one of the finest stretches of sand in the West country.  I'm blessed to be equidistant from both Praa to the South and Gwithian to the North, allowing a choice of excellent sandy joy based on the prevailing conditions of the day (and time of year unfortunately - Gwithian wins hands down in the summer due to it being, in part at least, dog friendly whereas Praa can only be enjoyed sans Canine between Easter and October 1st).

Arriving at Praa you have a choice - follow a permissive path of road and a little bit of dunes or drop onto the beach and run along the shoreline. At the far end of the beach are Cafe's, The Sand Bar and Stones Reef Surf shop, not to mention 80% of the visitors who plonk themselves down within a minutes walk of the car park, toilets and refreshments.

Leaving the sands and the tourists the path climbs relatively steeply, though not so much you can really get away with walking, to a pretty headland and the start of a very pleasant undulating run along low cliffs, passing Kenneggy Sands (or rocks, if the tide is in).


Before long the imposing house at Porth-en-Alls comes into view.  This and the buildings surrounding Prussia Cove are part of a private estate and are available as rather impressive holiday homes.  The path runs between the buildings and below a small wooded area before rounding the headland where Prussia Cove itself comes into view.  Prussia Cove is named for John Carter, a smuggler who lived there in the 18th Century and called himself the King of Prussia during childhood games with his brother.  Prussia Cove, like Kenneggy, is wholly tidal and only a small pebble beach is available at low tide.  However, the rocky shelves allow access to the water at all states of the tide and are popular with fishermen.  The entire cove is a brilliant spot for snorkelling and there are lots of places to jump off the rocks into the sea.  Dogs are allowed year round and the  Cove is very sheltered, making for a great family day out on a sunny day.

Old buildings above Prussia Cove

Moving on from here the path traverses fields in places with a couple of steep drops and before long opens out onto a road leading into Perranuthnoe.  I've never spent any time on this beach though it appears to be a good size at low tide.  The village is very pretty and has a Cafe, craft shops, toilets and a pub.

Leaving Perranuthnoe, the path follows fields and is fairly flat all the way into Marazion.  There are a couple of places where the correct path is not obvious but its easy enough to work it out.  Just before you get to Marazion you drop down steep metal steps onto a rock beach, skirting some private residences before climbing back up, via more steep steps and a road to reach the main drag through the village itself.  Follow the road as long as you wish; its possible to get down to the beach in a number of places.  From here, take a trip over the causeway to St Michael's Mount, continue along the beach (or the road) or turn back and retrace your steps. There is something magical about Marazion, a beautiful sand and pebble beach leading out from between the Mount and the white-washed fisherman's cottages of the village - what's not to love?

On a personal note, despite this being the shortest and flattest long run I've done over the last month I found it extremely hard going - the last few weeks have finally caught up with me.  Luckily I get to ease off for a couple of weeks so hopefully by the 8th June I'll be ready to roll.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Trail report - the Cotswold way (no, not all of it!)

Misty morning on the Cotswold way

This weekend the family gathered in Gloucestershire for cousin Ol's marriage to Becky.  As luck would have it, we were staying adjacent to the Cotswold way; perfect for a weekend long run.

The Cotswold way is a 102 mile trail running from Chipping Camden to Bath along the Cotswold escarpment. Its known to be a bit hilly.

We were staying in the village of North Nibley. Before we left I had a look on Google and mapped out a rough idea of how far I could get.  My only window of opportunity would be to run early the morning after the wedding; however, I was under strict instructions to be back in time for a family lunch so things would be tight. The morning of the wedding I took the dogs for a walk and had a quick reccy of my first couple of miles.  This was handy as I accosted a couple of walkers heading from the direction I would be going.  They assured me the trail was very well signposted and easy to follow.  I also found an OS map in the house should my usual sense of direction impose itself and send me off course.

The wedding went well and Saturday came all too quickly - five hours sleep and a mild hangover weren't exactly the preparations I had intended for my long run but needs must so off I went.

After a massive hill up to the village I gained the Cotswold way, following a path, a short stretch of road and then climbing through fields until eventually breaking out onto high ground adjacent to a golf course.  The next few miles wound around the edge of a plateau, dropping into woods occasionally and repeatedly re-joining the golf course.  Eventually a long steep hill took me into the pretty market town of Dursley. Thankfully the route through town was well marked and soon I was back on track and heading up hill again.  This time a steep climb took me onto a ridge line with some fantastic views in both directions and an undulating path that was a joy to run along.

Looking back along the ridge towards Dursley

An obvious valley lay ahead and one of the steepest descents on the route through farmland and a short stretch on the road before climbing - this time long and steady - up to Coaley Peak and more stunning vistas.

From here the route contoured along the edge of the escarpment, through rolling farmland and cool, peaceful woodland covered in bluebells and wild garlic, for several miles.

Eventually, with a few more ups and downs, I arrived in Kings Stanley.  Garmin told me I had travelled a little over 13 miles so now was the time to turn around.

All in all a great day out.  In contrast to the usual coast path runs the hills were higher and longer but mostly more of a steady gradient and the paths were wide flat and excellent quality so I made reasonable time.  There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the beauty of this part of the UK; if you have the chance to run, walk or just visit a little part of the Cotswold way then grab it - you won't be disappointed.

One of the many well positioned signposts 

On the food front I had no wraps available so made a hummus sandwich - big mistake as I couldn't stomach it.  Other than my usual breakfast (muesli, toast with peanut butter and jam, banana, lots of tea) I had just three gels and a litre of Clif energy drink.  Oh, and an ice cream on the way back through Dursley!  This was more than adequate; I'm starting to get a feel for what kind of energy requirements I have for these sort of adventures and it seems I can get by on a fairly limited diet.

There's an ultra that runs the entire distance from Chipping Camden to Bath - The Cotswold Way Centuries. That seems impossible but on the other hand, who knows...

Here's my GPS data for the run:

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Clif shots and other stuff

I've been using High-5 energy gels for the last few months.  They are palatable - far better than some other brands - but a little sickly.  At the last Endurance Life event I took part in though I was handed a complimentary Razz-flavour (that would be Raspberry then?) Clif gel and blimey it tasted good.  Remember Hubba Bubba?  Its a bit like that.  I could actually eat this stuff out of choice, like without actually going running (but I don't, honest).

I've eaten Clif bars when climbing for a while now.  Having previously been a disciple of Ma Baker and her un-feasibly large flapjacks I made the jump after finding out just how hard these are to eat in hot weather.  Clif bars go down a treat when I'm climbing, whatever the weather.  Clif as a company seem to be right up there on a Patagonia-style tip as far as ethical business practices go and a lot of what they put into their food is natural and organic which is a plus.

So I bought a box of gels from Amazon and this week took a few on a long run to make sure they sit OK after a few hours. They do a variety of flavours and differing levels of Caffeine.  I don't like to have any Caffeine before or during any run over about 6 miles as I found out, eventually, that it was a contributing factor in my developing heart burn while running.  With that in mind I went with the Caffeine free ones.

I also bought a tub of the Clif Shot Electrolyte powder. I normally run with just water but for an Ultra I'm thinking this might not cut it.  Again, I've had digestive issues with energy drinks so this weekend was a test run for this as well.  Another advantage is that Endurance Life tend to have this stuff on hand at the aid stations so if I could stomach it then I get to use the freebie drinks instead of my own during the Classic Quarter!

I followed the instructions for the drinks mix (I went with Lemonade flavour) and was a bit worried after a few sips it was too strong.  Over the course of the run though I found it was fine, quite tangy really and it settled well on my stomach so that was good.

The gels were as tasty as I remember so pleased with these.  I ate three over the course of the day and, again, felt no ill effects.  The consistency is a little thicker than I am used to and I found I was dragging the goo out of the packet with my teeth rather than squirting it into my mouth but this was not a problem, in fact it might be an advantage since I could take little bits at a time without worrying about the rest squirting everywhere as I ran. Also worth mentioning is the clever little handle which stops you inadvertently dropping the top once you rip it off. Clever stuff.

For the rest of my food intake I went with Hummus wraps again which I am very pleased with. I was intending to try making Onigiri again this weekend but to be honest its a bit of a fiddle and since I was trialling two other products I didn't want to vary too much.

So I reckon I'm ready in terms of food.  I'll be making some homemade flapjacks as per the recipe in my previous post (here), taking a couple of hummus wraps, half a dozen Clif gels and Clif Electrolyte drink.  And of course, there will always be ice cream!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Trail report - Sennen to Lamorna

Yesterday we ran from Sennen to Lamorna and back. Lamorna is the final check point on the Classic Quarter and the final eleven miles along to Land's End are some of the hardest on the course. I ran this leg last year in our relay and got lost in a couple of places so it seemed a good idea to get on it before the big day. Logistically it was easier to park at Sennen and this added a mile each way, the total run was just over 23 miles.

 The first mile over to Lands End is a nice easy introduction and is only spoilt a little by the presence of the Lands End eyesore looming ahead. Once past Lands End there follows about three miles of undulating, open ground until the Coast guard look out at Porthgwarra is reached. There are a lot of rocky sections along this way but its pretty good fun really and the views are incredible, even on a foggy, drizzly day like yesterday.  The highlight of this stretch is the beach at Nanjizal which is only accessible by walking either from Lands End or Porthgwarra.

Porthgwarra is a tiny fishing village and the starting point for many a climbing adventure, with the cliffs of Chair Ladder close at hand. Once past here similar terrain continues for a mile or so, passing another beautiful beach at Porth Chapel (with a notorious descent to reach the beach) before dropping down to Porthcurno

Looking back at Porth Chapel beach
The best way to navigate Porthcurno is to run straight down the Minack Theatre car park, where steps lead down towards the beach. Rather than follow these all the way down to the golden sands below, follow the path back inland as it traverses the cliff before finally depositing you at ground level just behind the lifeguard hut.  The coast path leaves the village directly opposite, climbing steeply and eventually cutting sharply right at the cliff top.  Take a good look at this junction as it is easy to miss on the way back.  Doing so takes you into the village much higher up and was a scene of much confusion last year.

Porthcurno beach
Its a fairly open romp across the cliffs from here to Logan Rock.  Here is an exception to the rule I usually follow, when in doubt taking the path closest to the Ocean.  Here doing so will take you onto the promontory of Logan rock itself - and a dead end. 

The next village is Penberth.  Its just a handful of houses really.  A very steep set of steps takes you down into the cove.The coast path crosses the slipway and continues around the front of the house on the far side.

The next few miles feature some overgrown sections and the biggest set of steps on the whole route at St Loy which are guaranteed to wipe the smile off your face.  

 Shortly after this you drop down to sea level and pop out briefly onto a boulder beach.  Its ok, you're not lost, a hundred yards or so of boulder hopping and the path re-appears and enters a small wooded area.  Not long later you will pass a few very nice houses and a little later, the Tater-du lighthouse.

Follow the slightly lighter rocks

Tater-du Lighthouse
The last couple of miles to Lamorna are increasingly rocky and difficult and some scrambling experience won't go amiss, especially if its wet.  There's not a lot at Lamorna to be honest.  A pretty little harbour and a cafe; make sure if you leave a car here though you pay sufficiently for your stay whatever the time of year as you will get a ticket if not.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Race day nutrition

We ran 20 miles along the coast from Porthtowan to the far end of Penhale Sands and back this weekend and I took the opportunity to try out some ideas food-wise ready for Classic Quarter.

I have a few problems with eating on the run; I have a tendency to get heart burn from certain foods during my longer runs. I've found that I have to avoid caffeine before and during runs and anything spicy or acidic also causes me issues.

For the marathon I ran with 6 gels and water and this gave me all the fuel I needed but I really find half a dozen tubes of goo is about my limit as it starts to make me a bit nauseous.

So this weekend I made some flapjacks and some hummus wraps.

For the flapjacks I used the recipe off the Scots Porridge Oats packet with a few additions, namely chopped apricots & some dates plus pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  The recipe is here.  I over cooked them a little (5 minutes less than the recipe was still a few minutes too much it seems) - anything that takes too much effort to chew is a problem on a long run - but they tasted good and went down ok.

the hummus wraps were mentioned in Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness and they were perfect - easy to eat, not too messy, and easy to digest.  Best of all they were savoury which is a welcome alternative.

Next week, I want to try some Nori (sushi rice wrapped in seaweed).  I tried this before but cooked the rice wrong and tried to wrap them up while the rice was still warm and they all fell apart so I'm yet to be convinced but this is another Scott Jurek tip so I will persevere.

Another idea I have is to make the most of the ice cream facilities on route.  I reckon ice cream plus a cone has to be a pretty good energy source and its readily available along the coast in Cornwall, plus the psychological benefits of a massive ice cream cannot be ignored!  For purely scientific purposes I tested out a Moo-Maid Passion fruit sorbet on arrival back at Porthtowan and the results were very promising!