21 February 2010

The Man (and his dog) in the Dunes

We have been slacking a bit on the blog recently because things have been pretty mellow around these parts. Right before our last post, we were back in the US for Colin and Penelope’s amazing wedding in Vermont. It was about as perfect as one can imagine and pretty much made Kathleen and I salivate at the prospects of moving back some day (blue bird days at Stowe and drinking beer with your best friends can do that). Since coming back to the UK, we were hit with Kathleen’s ridiculous news about her car insurance (see last post). This also resulted in me being removed from the policy altogether until I get my UK license… awesome. Anyhow, we have not really taken many trips the past few weekends partly to save money in anticipation of Indonesia. However we have also been pretty low-key because I have reached the peak of my training for the Pembrokeshire Trail Marathon.

So yeah, some people have issues drunk-dialling whereas others have problems imbibing and logging into Facebook or sending errant emails. Apparently I am cursed (or blessed?) with signing up for long distance races when I am particularly drunk or hungover. My last half-marathon was a result of a pretty rowdy night out with Colin when he was visiting here in Liverpool. And while I was home before our wedding, I had had a few drinks and crept upstairs to google ‘Wales Trail Marathon.’ When I woke up the next day I found myself registered for my first ever trail marathon where I was required to carry my own water supply, windproof gear, and emergency blanket. I was pretty excited about the whole thing, however when I got back to the UK and mentioned a trail marathon in Pembrokeshire, people at work had varying looks of concern on their faces…

So trail running is not something I have ever really done. I mean I did a few races in Catamount, VT and have run through Beebe Woods in Falmouth, but nothing of any distance. However the more I read about it, the more excited I got. It seems to have less of an impact on the body, is more diverse, and uses slightly different muscles than straight road running. My biggest issue in planning out my training was where to find large tracks of trails that I could log anywhere between 10-20 miles non-stop. Simply ‘aiming for the muddy parts’ in Sefton Park was not really going to do it. Scouting maps of the surrounding areas, it seemed that the dunes up in Formby, north of the city would be my best bet.

Back in January, I did my first 10 miles in the dunes and it was pretty amazing. For those of you who have been out to Provincetown, think of the dunes between Herring Cove and Race Point and that will give you a good idea of what the terrain is like. However there is more. In addition to the sand and beach grass, there are areas of thicker beach pine, mossy fells, small ponds inhabited by Natterjack Toads, decrepit holiday parks, asparagus farms, and since we are in the UK there are sheep of course. I brought the dog, and we both had such an amazing time running up and down on all the interweaving trails (oh and they don’t have the huge erosion issues the Cape has so these trails are open to the public) Since that first run, Miller and I have gone back up bi-weekly for my longer runs. Since I lost my wheels, we have been taking the train up (Miller hates them more than road grates and awnings and rocking horses put together) and Kathleen has been so good in coming to meet us. We are now doing 20-mile runs in these dunes and as intimidating as they are on Friday nights, they really are a shit load of fun.

Here are some pictures of the dunes. They are not mine, but I am carrying enough these days on the runs so I don’t bring a camera.

Anyhow, needless to say the runs take a lot out of me (not so much the dog), but are getting me psyched for Pembrokeshire at the end of March. I will try to bring a camera on that as I hear the views are absolutely amazing, and the trail route is all along the Welsh coast. I think the race will be kinda heavy for me, but will be well worth it. Plus we have booked a 2 night stay at a ridiculous spa for that weekend. Oh and five days after the race, we will be sitting on the beach and surfing here.