You Can’t Have Your Bread Buttered Both Sides.

Posted on: 02 Jun 2019

That thought was a thought that passed through my mind yesterday as I walked the long climb back up Penycloddau. 

She’s quite a lump is Penycloddiau. Why do I keep referring to hills and mountains as “she”? Another question that entered my head on that same, tough, climb. Moel Famau I understand, it loosely translates as “mother hill”, and as she stands watching proudly over her Clwydian brood, her name makes perfect sense.

I’ve just made sense of all the others. Maybe I’d already absorbed this information but forgotten that I knew?

Penycloddiau is a Marilyn. A classification of hills and mountains deliberately named to fit together with the Scottish Munros. Where a Munro simply has to be 3,000ft high, a Marilyn needs to rise at least 150 metres from the land around it. 

You’re guaranteed a good climb.

I like the idea of Ben Nevis being the biggest Marilyn Munro on our Isles 😊.

Then again...

I am definitely not equal to this Marilyn today.

My body seems to have forgotten how to run long distances on hills. That’s why I find myself thinking about bread being buttered both sides, though I quickly find what feels like a better analogy than that.

You can’t grill a crumpet on both sides. You’re either cooking on gas on the upside, or you flip it and it’s the downside that’s really getting hot. This is exactly how my hill runs seem to go, and have always gone. I either do well on the upside, or I do well on the downside. Can't remember ever having a run where I've been cooking on gas on both.

Today I’ve been running lovely and relaxed on the downhills, not fast, just relaxed, and it felt good. There’s no power in the legs though for running up the steeper stuff. 3 weeks back I ran up Snowdon without a hitch. Today I couldn’t even make it up Moel Famau.

There’s been less running from me in the month of May, I had a cough and cold, soreness in my left achilles, a charity walk with work that I wanted to make sure I was fit for, and just a general tiredness and lethargy that doesn’t really feel like me.

I have also noticed an inversely proportionate relationship between how frequently I exercise and how frequently I drink. Consumption levels aren’t a problem, I hover pretty closely to the recommended 14 units max. per week, It’s just the days off from the grog that seem to vanish when exercise isn’t getting done. Maybe that causes the lethargy? I don’t know the answer yet. I just know that a wise man would be keeping an eye on that.

A few nights of not sleeping very well. Didn't eat a lot for my tea the night before. Changes coming in work. Arguments with the ex-wife. Late start and maybe too long since my breakfast. A warmer day than I've been used to. Stressing about needing tyres on the car. Alone when originally I would have had company on this run.... 

I guess it all feeds in. I guess each element contributes something towards making a run feel harder than I thought it might have been.

Perhaps most significant though, whilst using my work commute as training feels great, and I arrive much happier at work than I am on the days when I have to use the car, training volume feels like a lot, but the distances are short, and I've clearly not been doing enough of the longer stuff at weekends.

This is going to have to change. My main targets for this year were to give a good showing of myself at the Snowdon Race in July...

... and in the Snowdonia Marathon in October. (Completely random picture off t'internet and there's my mate Charles there at the front )

It's time to start working on those longer runs.

So today's run then:

Top car park at Moel Famau, must have known I wasn't feeling it 'cause I prefer to start from lower down. Ran up what I could. Along the Offa's Dyke Path. Had to walk up Moel Arthur when usually I can run. Did run up through the forest though on Penycloddiau, and at the summit point in the middle of the hill fort, was actually feeling good and strong. On towards the mast on Moel-y-Parc, and I had to walk up there. Took a breather on the summit cairn and ate a bit of food. Loop downwards and back round to rejoin the Offa's Dyke Path, climb back up onto the shoulder of Penycloddiau and a pleasant trot along the Clifford Byway, which has been re-surfaced and is now much improved for the motorbikes which are what wrecked it in the first place. It's not as nice for running now that it's stony all the way.

2 gates, 2 choices; the one I've been through before, or the one I haven't? The one I haven't. A steady climb through forest all the way back up to the little car park. I didn't want to be this high, but now I was, back across Moel Arthur made most sense as a route. No strength in the legs to climb it, I burned it all up in the forest. So after 12.5 miles, at the top of Moel Arthur, I was spent. Done.

Just the matter of a pretty hard 3.5 miles back to Moel Famau now before I could descend back down towards the car. A path over the shoulder of Moel Llys-y-Coed on the Llangynhafal side looked like it might lead in a more direct line towards the car park at Bwlch Penbarra, but it didn't, it popped me back up onto the ridge. 

I was tired enough at one point to contemplate whether it would be an ok place to die as I lay down on the grass after de-stoning my shoe. Listening to the larks and other birds I can't identify, and the gentle buzz of insects doing their thing in amongst the heathers, taking in the view, I'd die happy there. Not today though. There is much still to be lived for...

... so live for it I will.

It was a long walk back, but lessons learned, and it wasn't unpleasant. It was a beautiful day to be out there. At no point was it too cold to be in just shorts and a T-shirt. I just hope we get weather like this for the 20 mile test we've got ourselves into on the Long Mynd in 3 weeks time.  

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