Training Thoughts

I decided to write down some thoughts on my training and share with you. You can place the following headings in any order. Mine are probably in this order but it varies. All these headings are combined with a goal at the end to keep the motivation levels high.

  1. Enjoyment
  2. Hills
  3. Mileage
  4. Sleep
  5. Hydration and Nutrition
  6. Strength, Cross Training and Bike

These are my 6 main headings for any weeks training. I vary my training and listen to my body and mind as best I can. Looking at my training over the past few years I would say things have gone well, I have been relatively injury free, have finished every race I have started and I train roughly 10 hours a week. This time may go up to 20 or down to 5 on certain weeks between racing but in general I use about 10-15 as my baseline. I reckon quality training rather than quantity of training works best for me. Some people prefer big mileage but in my experience you will gain most of this in races. This is not saying that you only do a long run of 10km a week when preparing for an ultramarathon but you can run a strong half marathon distance in training on the weekend meaning you can train again on Monday. Is there any point running 50 or 60km on the weekend and not being able to move until Wednesday the next week? There is little benefit in the long term in training that way.
1.Enjoyment

Yes this has to be number one. All  runners, whether pro or recreational, have days when they don’t enjoy their training. In my experience if I have a day like this I will take two days off, hop on the bike, go to the gym,do some yoga or do very little training at all. The benefits are amazing because when you go back running you realise this is what I love and you’re usually revived to go again. Sometimes the best thing in the world is a break if you are someone that trains on a regular basis. I get that feeling of why am I not training or I haven’t trained in two whole days, am I getting unfit? This is a normal feeling and usually when I head back out on a run I suddenly have that passion for it again and I have no fatigue in the legs.
On your long runs knock back the speed, run comfortably and slowly and take in the surroundings, run the trails, forests, hills and mountains. Make this sport a lifestyle where you can get fit through having fun. Then during the week do a half hour speed session and another on your local hill and break yourself in half to get fitter and faster. This may not sound like enjoyment but you will enjoy the longer slower runs and the rest of life too if you are fit and healthy.
2. Hills
Yes hills are my number two! I love hills, you go up and up and can hardly breath and then you sprint down like a goat with a jaguar on it’s ass. Can’t beat them. Some have steps, some are long and undulating, some are stony and some grassy like ice. Most people hate them but once I train on hills, I see benefits. I have raced before on mountains on untrained legs when it came to the uphill and downhill and paid the price. You have to do hills to run races in the hills. It may sound simple but people think if they can run a marathon on the flat they will be fine in the mountains. The other angle to this is that those that want to run a marathon on the flat or the road can benefit from gaining strength and speed by running the hills.
On my usual week I hope to get two hill repeat session in during the week and then a long hilly trail run on the weekend. This is all life really gives in terms of time anyhow. Aside from this I will run a speed session and a tempo run on the road or trail midweek as well.
Hill Session 1
Pick a hill nearby, maybe about 2-4km from the house as a warmup jog. A short steep hill of no more than 200 metres in length. Start by running the hill as fast as you can, even if only walking pace. Then gradually add in a rep or two a week plus more speed and before long you will see results. I tend to run my short hill repeat workout early in the week, doing 5 to 10 repeats on the hill with 90 secs off between reps. You need to run up so that at the top you cannot breath or speak and after 90 seconds you run back down the hill as fast and controlled as you can. At the bottom take about 30 seconds break and then repeat. It’s mighty !!
Hill Session 2
Find a different hill to your early week session. This may be on a Thursday giving yourself a little bit of a break before the weekend, depending on how you feel.
This should be a longer more gradual hill and you will repeat the same session as above except that you will run a more controlled, race pace up and down the hill. If you use heart rate I would say about 80% is perfect. I have recently stopped using heartrate as I feel I can listen to my body more without it. It is very beneficial but not to me in my current training.
Hill Session 3
This is your day out on race like terrain. As a mountain, fell or ultrarunner you need to spend time in the mountains. Drive their and head out on the trails or up the side of your local mountain and have the craic ( as we say in Ireland) Make it a long one, a reasonably slow one and practice hiking uphill as well as running the more technical ground.

3. Mileage
I won’t dwell on this but you do need to put mileage in the legs. Whether it is for a 5km or 200km event you need to know your abilities and strengths. I am a low enough mileage runner, only running 50km or thereabouts most weeks with exceptions to that rule but in general I vary my training too much to run any further. It works for me. It is about being confident in your own training and what I write here might be a guide to someone at some stage.
4. Sleep
Possibly the most important of all in my opinion. You have to recover. If you don’t get the recovery the training is fruitless. Your muscles need this time to rebuild and it is an injury prevention method. Many people overlook sleep and in my view it is massive. I like to try sleep 8 hours a night and if you can get those few hours before midnight in all the better. I have started running more in the mornings of late but this means an early night. Otherwise I am running on tired legs and tired mind which is a recipe for disaster.
5. Hydration and Nutrition

Once again I repeat- “what works for you is best” However, I will throw in a few of my tips from experience over the last few years.
These ideas for training are pretty much the same as when racing. You need to use hydration and food in your training the same as you will on race day. It improves your systems ability to ingest what feels best.

Before Race
Ask yourself- What do you normally eat?
Pre race nutrition and hydration for me is a daily life routine of good food. It is not about what you eat the day or the week before a race. Carb loading to me is complete waffle. I don’t want to throw a pile of pasta into my belly the night before a race after not touching pasta for a month. Don’t shock the system. Maybe eat a little bit more than you usually do, but of the same foods. Stick to as much protein and fat as you can and eat vegetables forever more.
I wont go into the types of foods here but will in a post in the upcoming days.
During Race
We are all going to be racing different distances at our own paces, however I have a few ideas that have worked well for me in recent times.
An example of this can be seen in my Transvulcania race post. The key to it all has been Tailwind. This fantastic product with some sugar, electrolytes and containing 200 calories can be both your food and drink for almost any distance. I will take two to three bottles containing Tailwind, as well as maybe 3 gels and then eat some fruit and jellies at aid stations as I feel I need them. The number one is Hydration during a race, with more sugar as you get towards the pointy end of the race for that last push.
After Race
Post training or racing it is mostly about protein and rehydration. Make sure to take on as much fluids as you can and get a protein shake or a good portion of protein in you food in as soon as you can. Remember the muscles need this to recover and you will be a lot sorer the following day if you are lazy with food and water post race.
6. Strength, cross training and the bike.

As runners these are all for injury prevention. I do some multisport racing so I like to get out on the bike a few times a week, however I think it is so beneficial to everyone to throw in a strength class or two or just spend a few hours in your week exercising in a different way to running. You will get stronger and the legs are getting a welcome break.
Your running form improves with a strong core and you can run faster for longer once all the muscle, especially in the hips, glutes and back are solid and flexible.

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Scott Snowdonia Marathon

Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon is on next Sunday week, the 15th of July. I thought a quick re hash of the race would be nice both for myself and others interested in my take on last years race. a super event.

Lonan O'Farrell

I have had a week to reflect on my first race abroad. Hopefully I can get across in these few words, the magic of the Snowdonia mountain range. I might even persuade a few of my running mates to come along next year. I reckon it is time to start racing abroad. It seems even in North Wales there is more sunshine than in the West of Ireland.

We arrived in Llanberis, North Wales on Saturday evening, registered and had a nice evening with Emma’s friends who kindly made dinner and put us up for the night. I thought about my first proper mountain marathon which lay ahead in the morning, not really knowing how I would fair out. I was running on reasonably tired legs after the year behind me as well as the race last weekend and I would be running on unknown terrain as well.  The main…

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Nutty Oat Cookies Recipe

Yes the moment has arrived. I know everyone has been glued to their phones awaiting the promised recipe after my post yesterday. See below for pure and utter tastyness.

Ingredients 

  • 200ml peanut butter
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 200ml gluten free rolled oats
  • 50 gram chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
  2. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the baking powder, oats and salt.
  4. Add dry mixture to wet and beat until combined.
  5. Add the chocolate.
  6. Roll bits of dough into golf ball sized balls and place them on a cooking paper.
  7. Bake at 220 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until centre is cooked through.

Enjoy the results.

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They are a welcome treat after a tough training or even as a snack along the way. When a little moist they really work with a coffee or if your a tea person I’d recommend a nice cup of Barry’s tea! My favourite about 30 minutes after a session. There are plenty options to vary things of course, adding a little protein powder for the post run hit or another addition of your choice. They beat those extra sugary foods we might crave after exercise.

 

Hot Beacons

The Brecon Beacon National Park was our destination last weekend and in 28 degrees of heat it was sure to be a testing weekend for running but a perfect one for camping.

 

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Toasting in the hills.

 

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in south Wales, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park. At 886 metres above sea-level, it is a fine mountain and spans along a group of mountains all with unique long spurs reaching out for miles. I hope to get a chance to head up there next time.  To the mountain runner the area is a dream with vast expanses of running ground down off the peaks on one side and good hard climbs on the other. You can also travel along from peak to peak along cliff like edges. The trails are technical but grassy and fun to run in parts as well.

 

 

The second furthest peak in the video above, of Fan Y Llia peak was our destination on day two. After a few steep climbs and long running in between we completed a 21km out and back run. The climbs were short and steep with over 1300 metres in total. This all on tired legs from a similar long hot run on Saturday in another section of the Brecon range. Training on tired legs is important at times, being aware to be careful of injury but at the same time simulating the racing feeling.

 

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Typical Brecon view, on a good day.

 

Saturdays run was possibly hotter with the sun never hiding from us in the vast open countryside you can see above. With over 1000 metres of vertical we were nicely wrecked by the end but some good Swedish coffee (with lots of double cream) and homemade cookies we replenished quickly! Recipe to follow tomorrow…

 

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Nutty oat cookies and Swedish coffee with just a wee bit of cream!

 

The Brecon Beacons are only an hour and a half away from Bristol and with endless opportunities to train here I will be back a lot. This back to back training on similar ground to Snowdonia should stand to me on Sunday week as I take on the Scott Snowdonia Marathon for the second year in a row. Last year I finished a happy 14th overall, so lets hope I can have a similarly good and even improved performance this time around. I have trained early morning, knocked out some good hill repeats and even managed a few trips out on the bike over the last few weeks, all in the heat, so it should stand to me.

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The weekend was greatly enhanced with more camping in “The Mueller” and in finding some secluded spots with our own private waterfall for a post race cool down, you couldn’t ask for much more, except maybe a little more water in the waterfall. It has been pretty much dry since April!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maverick Inov8 X Series Exmoor

It is quite the name for a race and a mouthful at times so I will just refer to it as the Maverick as I describe last Saturday’s race to you. This mountainous or hilly coastal marathon would start from Caffyns Farm, near Lynton in the Exmoor national park and meander its way along a very hilly coastal route, veering back along some river and farmland valleys before finishing at the farm where our campsite was located. An absolutely brilliant thought on arrival to think that you would camp at the start line and finish at the camper the next afternoon.

We arrived on Friday night and camped within 100 metres of the start line and registration which would take place first thing in the morning. The numbers were small enough for the first outing of this particular race. Looking at the course I knew it was going to be a gruelling race with hills throughout. The ascent at about 1880 metres and the same in descent. Emma was taking part in a 15km route and there was a 21km route as well, all starting at the same time and place with the others heading off the marathon route to head for home earlier. This would be a little confusing for the first hour of the race with half marathon and 15km speed runners running with the front marathoners. As I mentioned in previous posts I intended to use this and Snowdonia in July as build up races towards CCC. They are a lot shorter but if I push that bit faster and not to the complete limit they should stand to me well come the end of August.

 

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Coastal section near Lynmouth

 

A little extra motivation at the start was knowing that I would build up another 2 UTMB points if I finished this one, maybe not significant now, but you never know when they might be handy. I hoped it would attract a few good runners to the race as well. Race briefing was nice and brief, of all things, and at 9.05am we were off. The run took off fast as always with one dude, there is bound to be one, taking off at 90mph. We took a left out of the farm aiming towards the coast and the next few kilometres was fast and downhill. Grassy fields and downhill are fun but these quickly led to trickier trails of hard mud through some forestry. A nasty little climb early on started to spread the field a bit and I sat a bit behind the leaders to get myself warmed up. It didn’t take long before I passed that speedy front runner from the start-line. There were a few ahead of me as we came over the first hill and descended to Lynmouth, a lovely town by the sea, at about 7km. The 15km route went straight on while the rest took a left along the coast and up a steep trail with some nice little switchbacks. There were about 6 or 7 runners ahead of me but I knew a few of these would be shorter course runners. The next few kilometres were fabulous as we climbed a little and then ran along the edge of the rolling hills, massive views of the sea below but concentration was key on some narrow trails, running at a decent speed for the marathon distance.

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Another 4km in and the half marathoner’s took a right towards home and the rest of us took a left continuing to hug the coast. The trail turned tricky with some fast downhill and bumpy ground underfoot. Basically holes all over the place in the grass. A little bit like a field that the cows were let into while wet and then it dries up leaving holes everywhere. So after holding my breadth running these downhills, we were led along the coast and into a really technical rocky section along the cliff edge, certain death on the left and hopeful falling ground on the right. The trail meandered along before heading inland a bit and into a big long uphill on a side road. I started to catch the guy on front of me on the uphill and as I fast hiked he was trying to run. We reached the top of the road section and returned onto the trail once more. The guy ahead was running most of the hills and I knew there was a chance this would catch him. I continued to hike the majority of the hills and within 15 minutes I passed him on a downhill. Long distance experience and patience starting to pay off maybe. What I didn’t yet realise was that the two guys I could see rounding a headland about 1km ahead were 1st and 2nd and I had just popped into 3rd place.

At about 15km after a quick water stop the trail joined a section of the Coastal path we had trained on a few weeks ago. Knowing the route is massive and locals always have an advantage. This short section was the only place in the race where I was comfortable to speed up and slow down knowing what was around the next bend. A few short up hills, a few speedy short down hills and ducking my way along the trail under some low lying branches followed until the blue race markers told me to take a right. The next 15 minutes was a constant steep climb up the side of a grassy hill. I knew if I stuck to my solid hiking pace up this hill it would leave a good few behind me with work to do and hoped maybe one of the two ahead might tire as the race went into it’s second half. I was happy with my hike up that hill but when I started running on the flat at the top I could feel it’s effects.

 

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A nice gradual descent.

 

The terrain turned into farmland and long flat fields for a short period before descending along a fence on a narrow trail towards the next checkpoint, as the rain started to come down. A lovely sight for a melting Irish lad. The light mist cooled me down and as I thought how lovely it was I forgot all about the fact that rain wets the ground and ended up on my ass in the ditch laughing at myself. The checkpoint at 26km came along soon. I didn’t stop at all as I had a good stash of water and a few gels if needed. I had filled my bottle with Tailwind at the last water station so knew I was good for grub for the time being. I confidently ran past the guy with the water and of up the trail only to realise I probably should of taken the left trail. I quickly shouted to the guy who said , “yes left, left, and wipe that sweat from you brow”. Well said I thought, can’t beat something amusing on a day where you end up racing some quiet countryside alone. The gaps turned out so big between runners that I never saw another runner between 12km and the finish.

 

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Watching my steps a bit closer now!

 

The next 11km of the course were spectacular as the hard mud trail wound it’s way along the side of the hills, throwing in a few lumps to slow me down as well as a good strong wind. The wind, however, was mostly a tailwind and I felt lucky once or twice as it pushed me up and over the hills. The trail descended at around 28km towards a river and I followed the river for what seemed a good distance. The ground here was flat and runnable at a good pace. I wasn’t beating speed records but I was running at around 4.40 minutes per kilometre most of the time. The river was crystal clear and I almost stopped to chat to a fisherman, keen to know what he might be after in a nice fishing spot below a waterfall. I thought, for once I better keep moving, I had second place to catch.

 

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At the end of the River section, around 34km.

 

It is always a huge motivator if you’re in a good position in a race. You have something to fight for as well as an even better prize up ahead. I realised I hadn’t seen my competitors up ahead on the long open sections and most likely wouldn’t catch them. My friend at the last checkpoint had told me I was in third, as did a cameraman soon after, so I had something strong to hold on to for the last 16km. This would prove so important as the final 10km of the race turned into a real uphill struggle. I don’t mean that I was completely out on my feet but I mean, literally it was all hills. There were three biggish climbs and in between lots of small ones. This was all perfect for my style of race, but as you know, a marathon is a marathon and when you throw in 1800 metres of up into it you are going to tire towards the end, especially if a good portion of the climbs are in the final quarter of the race. This is how it feels when the legs are tired of course. I managed to hike (at a slower pace than previously) up the rest of these hills and continued to run downhill quite fast, Transvulcania paying off here I reckon. The final long uphill was on a paved road, not something a trail runner enjoys at the end of a race, but in fairness it did make the course a real cracker in terms of variation. With 3km to go the kilometre markers started saying only 3km until you are a Maverick. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but sure it was something to take my mind off the pain. I never laid eyes on 2nd place but finished the race pretty strongly in 4 hours and 1 minute to be met by Emma at the line. She had completed the 15km and looks forward to giving the Snowdonia half a go once again next month.

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Just across the line
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Moments later with a finish line beer (I thought was lemonade!)

The rain started again so we quickly returned to ‘The Mueller’ and set up camp for the night.

You can’t beat some downtime after a long run. I was thrilled to get a podium place of course and hope to push on from here and try to improve on last years place in Snowdonia, enjoying what is a classic race at the same time. Thanks to the Maverick Race crew for a brilliantly laid out course with good water stops. The event was a bit dampened by the wind and rain at the finish line but with such a good location I hope to be back again some day.

https://www.resultsbase.net/event/4340/results

 

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Now I’m a Maverick!!

 

 

Sunny Bristol

 

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The Sun shines on another trail run.

 

The sun continues to shine with only a few grey days since the 1st of May. It really seems like an eternity ago that we ran the Transvulcania Ultra and I can safely say that I am only fully recovering in the last few days. I have been able to run and train, apart from a bit of a quad niggle that was annoying my knee and my usual big toe pain. I was never at full tilt since the event and still feel I need to hold off just a little before a big training load. In saying that I’m heading to Exmoor again on Saturday for a trail marathon. Ah sure why not, it’s really just a long run on the weekend, right? It will give me an idea where I am at in the lead up to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July.

 

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Crazy runner!

The last two weeks have been busy with a trip to Donegal for the annual Arranmore football tournament thrown in. Yesterday was a great day out on a local trail here in Bristol for a 15km jaunt. Myself and Emma are enjoying exploring these national trails and it was great to find a gorgeous and hilly trail loop only 30 minutes drive from the house. The trail was hilly in parts with nice long fast sections as you can see in the photos above. The trail can be found in Somerset in a place called Rowberrow. A tiny little village with a nice pub, parking and easy trail access. what more does anyone need! We met hikers, bikers and a huge number of horses en-route. It is real horse and rabbit countryside with woodlands mixed in. Some really nice old forests were welcome shade after sweltering out in the open for long periods of the trot!

 

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Horses on the hillside.

 

 

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Mueller on the Beach, and a slightly cheesy grin!!

I’m pretty sure it was “The Mueller’s” first time on a beach yesterday. After our run we were both mad for a swim so off to the coast to Brean where the beach can be seen for miles. Apparently the longest set of Sand dunes in this part of the world. The beach allows cars, which I’m not totally sure I agree with, but luckily it is so long they get gobbled up pretty quick. We went for a nice swim, after a strong coffee, and chilled out in the sunshine for a while before hitting back to the big smoke. A nice training day in the lead up to a longer day out next Saturday. We hope to camp pretty much at the start line of the race and spend a few nights there over the weekend.

 

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Mr. Sandy Back!

I hope to chat soon about plans for possible UTMB 2019 draw options, the thoughts of maybe taking on ‘The Race’ in 2019 and any other ideas people might have. It is the number one goal to remain motivated and hopefully seek to improve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coastal Path Exmoor

The Coastal path took us to a gorgeous fishing village called Porlock, 1.5 hours South of Bristol and just inside Exmoor national park. We based ourselves here for Sunday night and went for a few warm and hilly trail runs. Considering the coastal trail takes in 630 miles of the South Western coast of the UK it still remains somewhat a hidden gem to many. Anyone interested in running the lot some day!!?

As you can see above the trail varies from fabulous, quite mysterious deciduous forests, to open rolling hills and coastal views which you will see in the video below. I have to say, not only the fact that the weather has been top class during my time here so far, but the trails are well marked and endless. I’m feeling a bit spoilt with the vast areas to explore. I even had the excitement of a deer crossing the path only a few feet away from me on Sunday. She bolted across my course and straight up an almost vertical hill, disappearing into the vast wilderness. These are the reasons I am addicted to the trails. You become part of their world as well as being completely split from your own. As I’m sure you have already guessed, the camera was in my pocket and I was too slow to grab it as she ran up the hill. Sorry folks but this one is for my memory bank only!

The excitement of Transvulcania soon passed and almost seems a distant event by now. To be honest my legs are still a little heavy, really feeling the effects of the long runs in the hills over the last few days. In saying that we stuck to around 20km on Sunday and 14km yesterday. No major distance but it is very much up and down running. Perfect training for a little event I am throwing in the bag for mid June, as a lead up to Scott Snowdonia trail marathon in mid July. The Maverick x series trail marathon in Exmoor on the 16th of June will be my race of the month. I hope to be back to full racing mode by then and actually give it a good bash. The hills are everywhere here in Bristol so I have no excuses any more. As you can check out in the link the Exmoor trail marathon takes in about 1800 metres of vertical gain, meaning I will need to stick to the hills in training and try improve at them all the time. It’s all about the goals!

Recovery has been good since La Palma and I feel as if the distance is in the legs. Some good training in the next few weeks, along with maybe getting on the Coastal Path again before race day would be great. The Exmoor marathon takes in a good piece of the Coastal Path so the more time spent out there the better.

I just wanted to take this chance to thank the crew at Tailwind for the support pre races of late and also the great Tailwinds products. They even sent me their buff for free which they do with all good customers! For those of you that think it looks like wearing colourful underwear on you head, I suggest you try out a buff on your next run. I wear it to keep wind out, to keep head warm and even in the heat to keep sweat off my face. Handiest thing a trail runner can ever have in my opinion!

 

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Rocking my Tailwind Buff

 

For those of you that run you understand the great feeling post run, both of success of what you have achieved that day but the immense feeling you get when you begin to relax. Here I am below in the sun by the seaside, having left all my energy on the trail, while having fun, and now I can relax and enjoy the evening. I’m not saying you need to run to enjoy a relaxing evening, but for me I always relax that bit more having spent my energy on the run. Everything tastes better and no doubt we feel a little less guilty about that treat of a beer or a big icecream, or if your me, probably both!

 

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Resting post run in the sun.

 

 

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Massive Beer in “The Mueller”