From BACK off to EFF off

but TOGETHER we push on

So, a couple of weeks ago, a very jolly chap delivered our piano. It was a particularly jolly occasion. Alan, the jolly chap, banged out a couple of “We’re forever blowing bubbles” & “My old man said follow the van” type tunes before leaving us to wonder at the magic of the thing.

My father-in-law, Frank, suffering as he does from a progressive dementia, was briefly lit up by the music, clapping along and beaming from ear to ear. If you bump into a (jolly) man called Alan, selling pianos, in the South Devon area, please thank him again for us.

“A piano??” I hear you enquire, “but I thought you had no TIME!?” BUT! I retort, this is THE TIME. Ok, neither of us can play the thing! But it has ticked ALL the boxes from our ‘hobby’ conversation of a couple of months ago. Cheap (ish). Accessible. Pick up and put downable. Fun, involves learning and gives ESCAPISM.

elton john
Elton demonstrating the fastest route from G to Bm

Yes, Nicky is absolutely loving the start of her musical journey. Rumour has it that she has been recruited as back up pianist for the recently announced 3 year long farewell tour for Sir Elton John. Better get practising Nicky……..

Frank, then. Nicky’s father, my father-in-law. We moved in with him about 18 months ago, to support and ‘enable’ him. He’s still maintains a little independence, but, to be honest, heartbreakingly he seems to increasingly need a little prod and reminder about the simple tasks of day to day living.

alzheimers society

He has been going to the Memory Café, a weekly pop-up support group provided by The Alzheimer’s Society. For a mere pound sterling, he gets two hours with his peers, in a safe, modern-life free, environment. He gets conversation, coffee and cake and activities. Quite often, these activities include a good old sing song. He absolutely loves these.

Sometimes the three of us can laugh at the situations Frank gets himself into. Sometimes, we can get frustrated, sometimes tearful, sometimes almost desperate. Sometimes, Frank is blissfully unaware that he’s in a ‘situation’ at all. The exploding microwave being one of the more dramatic examples this week!

But mostly we get through life, dealing with each day as a new set of challenges and learning ways to better support, not only Frank, but each other. Sometimes well meant comments about how life works for us can be frustrating. It is consuming, and we find ourselves feeling ridiculous as we get irritated by apparently meaningless and momentary incidents, but when these compound over a day, week, month…… a simple thing can be a tipping point.

If we weren’t here, Frank would certainly be in crisis, we feel we give him the safety to continue with as much of his life as he is able, in a slightly independent fashion.

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Grandson Callum joining his Nan for a slice of the blues

The piano sits in our dining room, and Frank is really happy to have it here. BUT, his attention span dictates that whilst Nicky is trying to learn the whole concept of the piano, music, phrasing etc etc, from scratch, he is prone to either wander off to an aural sanctuary elsewhere in the house, or sit and call out inappropriate encouragement. Whilst working out the EastEnders theme tunes, both Nicky and I were calling out the notes, prompting a much repeated call of “play the F OFF!” from the ever helpful Frank!!

With so many of us living to grander ages, the prevalence of dementia and related illnesses is only going to increase, and we could all take the time to ensure that we consider that the person next to us could be struggling.

ANYWAY.

2018-01-28 08.32.00

I managed a Sunday long(ish) run. After Saturday’s epic (and wet) adventure on the moors (featured in this BLOG) on Saturday, my little legs were aching before I’d finished tying my shoelaces for today’s run. I targeted around 20 miles and hoped those would be at around 8m30s mile pace, on a flattish road route. Whilst I did abandon at 16 miles, I am quite pleased to have ran inside that pace on tired legs. Having to get up in the middle of night to let Frank know it wasn’t time to be microwaving Choco-Hoops and custard (I know!) for a few hours yet prevented us getting anywhere near a night’s sleep. Not ideal preparation. But ’tis what ’tis……..

Check out the run HERE.

I had the absolute pleasure of randomly bumping into a very old friend, Steve, on this morning’s run too. I changed my route slightly and accompanied Steve (Smithy) on his run to work. We studied together for our Sports Science Foundation Degrees a few years ago. It was a hard time for me personally and emotionally and it will be great to catch up with him some more.

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We’d been running so fast, we were blurred!!

He was a Torquay Athletic front row stalwart in those days, a family man who has got the running bug these days. It will be nice to share my happier times with someone who really was there for me in those rougher days.

So 2018 marches on.

Nicky and I pick up the baton and charge at another daunting week. Determined to enjoy as much training as possible, wondering if we’ll ever truly get ON IT when it comes to our eating and preparing to deal with another round of jabs from the challenges on life.

I don’t mind repeating myself…. Nicky inspires and drives me and I truly am blessed to have fallen in love with the most amazing woman in the world. It would be so easy to get knocked to the sofa and the soap operas by these jabs, but TOGETHER we push on.

This blog would never have happened if we weren’t the A TEAM. I’m sat here typing whilst Lukas Graham’s 7 Years is given the ebony and ivory treatment by my truly amazing wife.

Keep on keeping on people….

Uncle Sam

the race that eats its young

This blogging thing.

jogger readingI get such incredible pleasure from writing, I have said it before…….. if just one person were to read any of my scribblings and gain even the tiniest bit of joy from them, then I would be a proud man.

 

statisticsWell, despite me claiming not to be egotistical, the blog host, WordPress, readily throws statistics and ‘performance’ analysis at me. Inevitably, I do get a bit of self-congratulatory pleasure from a ‘like’ or ‘share’. So, a massive THANK YOU to all of you who take the time to have a peruse of, and engage with, the blog.

likeI’ve noticed this week that quite a few viewers are from the United States of America. Well hello there on the other side of the Atlantic, I humbly thank you for spending your precious leisure time reading my words.

The running scene in America is every bit as fascinating as in the UK. Listening to the  Talk Ultra podcast with Ian Corless and Karl Mezler is fascinating, the tales of those iconic US 100 milers and Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. This makes it all the more fun for us ultra fans when the quick US runners come to the big European ultras. The likes of Hayden Hawks, Jim Walmsley and Tim Toffleson lighting up the races in Europe’s mountains.

By the way, a podcast giving a UK slant on the ultra running scene is the British Ultra Running Podcast with James Elson (of Centurion Running fame) and top British ultra runner, Dan Lawson.

 

barkley marathons
Barkley Marathons – fast, flat and well marked… apparently

During the last episode, James revealed that he has a place in this years Barkley Marathons. He was able to reveal that much, but is sworn to secrecy as to the date, as this notoriously gruesome and secretive event had actual spectators turn up last year (which is frowned upon!). The race consists of 5 20 mile loops (which are always plenty more than 20 miles) has a history full of mystery and very few actual finishers. I implore anyone curious as to what this is all about to check out the extraordinary film The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.

 

ANYWAY.

2018-01-26 12.33.54Since the last blog, I’ve managed to miss a few planned runs. As readers from the real world will know, sometimes life is just TOO DARNED TIRING! Although I’ve still been getting a sweat on at work…..

 

 

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Very spring like weather up on the moors this morning…..

And today, as ever my beautiful wife inspired me to get out there as we did a proper hilly Dartmoor road run. “Road?” I hear you squeal……. Well, I guess it’s becoming less of a secret that on Easter Saturday we’re going to be having a crack at the Two Oceans Marathon. Gulp. Hopefully avoiding the gun!

 

So, today, starting in wet darkness and finishing in even wetter daylight, we pretty much did half the distance and half the climbing of Two Oceans. Apparently it won’t be hard driving freezing rain and wind on race day, blimey it was bleak up there today. A quick drive up to Princetown afterwards for our, now traditional, fry up at the Fox Tor Café.

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Mud (honey)

Do you mind if we join you?

So it all starts to seem a bit real.

We really have entered some BIG things.

We are sort of keeping the *** ****** under our hats at the moment. 35 miles of epicness at Easter. In another country. So we’ve started dialling in the road miles for the Saturday long runs. Except I didn’t quite master the mapping tool app……. Nicky was ever so pleased as we squelched our way along a few very wet (non) roads.

“Do you mind if we join you on this massive table designed for 6 people, in front of the fire, as there’s only 2 of you?” I enquired whilst hanging our dripping running jackets on the back of 2 of the chairs.

“Er…… I suppose so…”

So our 20 mile road (and non-road) Dartmoor run ended with a hearty breakfast in the Fox Tor café in Princetown. I’m sure it wasn’t the faint aroma of the drying sweaty running kit adorning our bedraggled bodies which put our reluctant neighbour off his SECOND fruit scone….

So with my other eye on the T60 (which I don’t think is a secret now) I set off early on Sunday for a few hours of mud squelching around the glorious Devon countryside. Foul weather, atrocious conditions, bloody loved it……..

I’m writing this on Wednesday. I thought I’d start including my training log in the blog. You lovely people can see how a 50 something year old, time poor, pork pie eating, physical worker with caring commitments is trying to prepare for an overnight 60 mile race.

Erratically but enthusiastically.

So the last week or so has looked like this……

Weds –

Thurs – rest

Fri –

Sat –

Sun –

Mon – rest

Tue – 3 x 1 mile

This morning, running for Nicky for here 3 x 1 mile, really string wind & rain

Oh and a piano update….. we haven’t quite mastered all of All Of Me…… Nicky’s daughter Lou joined us for a plonk too!

Time to shift the pork pie

Sibling rivalry. By the time you get to our age, we really are above such things.

I mean, neither of us hold a grudge.

mick ferguson
Was this man’s career cut short, crushed by my brother’s slippers?

About 45 years ago my brother smashed up my painstakingly constructed Airfix galleon with a broom handle. Some years later, he was known to casually knock my favourite Subbuteo players onto the floor and crunch them under his feet. (I think this may have ended the career of Sky Blues legend Mick Ferguson!?)

But. Seriously. Who does actually remember these things…………

I mean, I’m sure my brother has COMPLETELY forgotten the Third Reich incident. I think I had to lock myself in the bathroom whilst he raged outside with a carving knife in his hand! He was an aficionado of historical and battle re-enacting board games. The Third Reich game had a massive board and hundreds of tiny counters depicting military units.

third reich

Tell me, who wouldn’t have found it funny to move a few of these counters here and there over the course of a summer’s gaming. Sorry bro’. I think I may have altered the course of history.

So as we emerge, fairly unscathed, from our mid-life crisis’ and settle into enjoying a fitter and healthier lifestyle into our 50s (he’s not quite there yet), there really isn’t anything to be competitive about.

torbay half 2012
All smiles back in 2012 as we weren’t ‘racing’

Except we’ve both become hooked on running. I enjoyed a few years of bragging rights having started a couple of years earlier. But Simon has become a bit of a racing snake since joining the Abergele Harriers. Me? Well I’ve taken to the trails, the ultras and, let’s be frank, the pork pies.

All of this culminated on Christmas Day when we ran our (now traditional) Christmas Day miles. Despite being 300 miles apart, we both know it’s a RACE. There is always some careful handicapping negotiation, but last year it was an out and out scratch race.

abegele harriers
How will Simon fare without his North Wales team mates?

And I got it handed to me. In spades.

Not that I’m competitive, you understand.

There’s a visit planned.

Torbay Velopark Parkrun, on March 17th 2018, will be hosting a beast of a smackdown. Get there early, the Sky Sports TV trucks will be taking up much of the car park.

My younger brother came oh-so-close- to dethroning Mo in the Diamond League last year. I think I’m going to have my work cut out…

simon and mo

Gilbert? That’s not my name!!

And so BIG CYRILLE was born

cyril regis16th May 1987.

I was brought up a Coventry City fan. My parents were both brought up as Coventry City fans. My Grandad used to never miss a home game, and that included the reserves too. He was the commentator for hospital radio, so he sat in his little booth at the back of the stand and described the games for those Sky Blues fans who were stuck in one of the city’s hospitals.

Rumour has it Grandad didn’t miss a football match at Highfield Road from the end of the second world war until he fell ill in 1986. His dream was to see his beloved Sky Blues play at Wembley…….. You’ve guessed it, Wilfred Brown departed this earth in late 1986. Missing Coventry City Football Club’s first trip to the iconic stadium a mere six months later.

This has been on my mind rather today, after hearing the sad news that one of the victorious 1987 FA Cup team, Cyrille Regis (‘Big Cyrille’) had died at the crazily young age of 59. There was a lump in my throat for sure.

Whilst searching around the internet for something to learn about Cyrille I discovered that Cyrille’s father, in his birth place, French Guiana, was supposed to register his child as GILBERT Cyrille Regis…. Whether he’d paused for a celebratory shandy or two on his way is lost to history, but he certainly forgot! And so Big Cyrille was born.

Rest In Peace Cyrille Regis MBE 1958 – 2018

About ******* Time

Whatever you views. About anything. You’ve got to enjoy a bit of Jonathon Pie.

But this will never be a political platform.

First post of the year……. TA DAAAAAAAAAA.

And whatever your views, these ones from last weekend’s running are pretty good.

Actually, it’s taken me so long to write this post, those images are from the PREVIOUS weekend’s running!

Regular readers may well remember me writing about how challenging living with and supporting someone suffering with a progressive dementia can be. It impacts upon everything and, quite frankly, breaks your heart. I wrote THIS BLOG POST where I referred to the challenges of modern life for those suffering with this cruel and debilitating condition.

2018-01-12 18.17.52Well, the remote control headf*** was back this week. After an evening of head scratching and head banging, I came up with the prototype for my dementia friendly remote control.

For a man who spent part of his career repairing aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm, the frustration of knowing that he is struggling to resolve even the simplest of challenges, is horrendous to watch.

He keeps (amazingly) a sharp gallows humour and was absolutely delighted when our new toy was wheeled in and the nice man delivering it gave a quick rendition of “We’re forever blowing bubbles”.

 

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Father & Daughter share a middle C moments

 

Yes, not content with having conquered marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons, and surviving her crazy job whilst training for MORE ultra marathons and a half iron distance triathlon, Nicky is having a go at learning the piano.

I love this woman and her utterly inspiring determination…….

Actually, if you can find the means to have a few lessons and have a wall to wheel it against, pianos are pretty much being given away. This one came tuned, serviced and delivered for less than the price of a tyre for a Range Rover Sport.

To be fair, so did my ‘beep beep’ Nissan Micra.

 

 

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“I don’t much fancy a run either, Daddy!”

A stuttering start for the running year for me. I can’t lie, work has felt physically hard, sleep has felt insufficient, time has felt like as soon as it’s in our hands it’s sliding away again. And my MOJO, slice me in two and call be Bernard, it was last seen shuffling along a remote South Devon beach…..

 

Actually, I’ve still been out on a couple of fantastic long runs with Nicky and done a speed session or two, so I’m still getting out there.

Just not very often.

It’s creeping back though, the BUG, last week I planned 6 runs and managed 3. Nicky planned 9 sessions (running, swimming, spinning, cycling) and did…. ALL NINE.

Come on Kevin, pull up your mojo pants, big boys socks and zip that man suit right to the top. Time to get back to the thing I love doing…..

man-up-or-shut-up

Whilst I’m enjoying watching the ‘dots’ battling through the night in the Spine Race, I am humbled and mildly embarrassed by my paltry efforts so far this year…..

Check out the sorry tale on my Strava

And don’t forget I am to be found on all sorts of social media platforms. Sometimes.

TWITTER FACEBOOK INSTAGRAM

 

I’ve got books to review, runs to narrate, anecdotes to scribble, so stand by, FINALLY the blog joins 2018…..