The Bus To Ourselves

There’s history here. You can feel it. There’s also rain here. You can feel that too!

The worst draught Cape Town has had in living memory means the city is trying everything to save water. The stuff has been falling out of the sky in abundance since we arrived…..

At least that meant we’ve had the pick of the seats on our open top bus tours.

Regular blog spotters will be pleased to know that the amazing lady on the international desk was able to arrange a place in The Two Oceans Half Marathon for Nicky. This despite there being about a million people to deal with at the expo!!

For those who don’t know – Nicky’s training was abruptly halted 6 weeks ago when her calf muscle gave out. Intensive physio, rest and rehab has got her running again but she’d missed the major training runs.

We were both gutted. We’re still a bit sad not to be toeing the same start line but at least we will (hopefully) both experience the iconic finish at the end of our respective races.

And Cape Town is AMAZING.

I’m a lucky boy to be here in this wonderful place with the most amazing woman on earth…..

Kris Akabusi and the two most important women.

Well now, brace yourselves for me waxing lyrical about my beautiful lady wife. She does get awfully embarrassed but she is my absolute world and I see no reason not to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!

Nicky gained her Social Work degree and additional postgraduate qualifications relatively late in life, whilst working and bringing up her two lovely daughters. The reward for one of her incredible achievements was a graduation celebration where the  enigmatic Mr Akabusi was the guest of honour.

So, a former international athlete, with a fabulous fun attitude to his sport, who has gone on to a lifetime of celebrity and motivational appearances, he is a very active and popular individual and his latest shenanigans can be discovered HERE.

It was a lovely moment when Nicky revealed her Akabusi experience, as he has a special place in my heart. Firstly, as we were growing up in a house of sports fanatics, his athletic prowess and raucous laugh brought many a joyous moment to our world.

Akabusi bookHis book, On Track, was being devoured by my sister as her illnesses were intensifying towards the end of her life. Unfortunately, she became too ill to finish the book herself. On the night she died, which is 9 years ago on Monday, aged a mere 44, I sat with the book at her bedside as she gently slept a heavy final sleep. I read aloud to her for an hour or two in the hope she was, somewhere inside, enjoying the words of one of her favourite athletes as her breathing slowed.

Reading a little more about Kris in preparation for this blog post he says he is often asked why he openly talks about death and loss so regularly, despite him being an upbeat motivational character. He replied, simply, that it constantly reminds him that every day of our lives is precious and to be lived to the absolute maximum. Also that we should surround ourselves with the people we love and care about, that we trust and with whom we share beliefs and goals. And that we should avoid spending time in situations that suck the life, the emotional energy, the FUN, out of us. I couldn’t agree more….

That he openly talks about oft avoided subjects is so refreshing. When Karen was so very ill (and she lived for over 6 years with her various cancers), people started to avoid those of us who were close to her, the word ‘cancer’ becoming a cancer itself, as if simply using the word would curse us. It wasn’t a secret, Karen had cancer. And it was shit. really shit.

As regular readers know, we live and care for Frank, my father-in-law. He has dementia, his diagnosis is a ‘non-specific Alzheimer’s’ I believe. It is also shit. It also has a depressing prognosis and can completely consume us on occasions. We are starting to find that there’s a little bit of a wide berth being given to us (and not just because of all the hot cross buns we’re eating!) as we try and check ourselves into not having every conversation ending up being about Frank and his bizarre diet, lack of understanding of time or that milk has now become ‘that white stuff’.

Anyway, on the 9th anniversary of Karen’s death, I just wanted to pay tribute to her and the life she had, I owe a lot to her memory and my biggest regret of losing her is that she never got to see me with Nicky. She never saw me REALLY happy and she would be chuffed to know that I truly have found my wonderful soul mate, someone with whom to share the lifetime of love I’ve been saving up.

That a lovely link between these amazing women has been made through Kris Akabusi still makes me smile every time I think about it

I still miss my sister, Karen, she was the life and soul and has left us with so many wonderful, energetic memories. And so, every moment with Nicky, we try and enjoy and treasure the time we have, and intend to keep planning those adventures and challenges and celebrate this life we’ve been given.

So I’d better get my arse out of the door tomorrow morning for that long run and, in the motivational words of my amazing lady wife… “MAN THE **** UP”

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Of Speech

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The internet eh? Full of people. People you might like. People you might not. People you agree with. People you don’t.

Somehow, by applauding the decision to bring a great sporting event to Torbay, where I live, I was accused of being a Torbay Council stooge and anti free speech. That’s the price of engaging I guess.

The event? It’s the opening round of the 2018 season of The British Cycling Youth Circuit Series. Where young people come together to show their athletic prowess and bike handling skills. Read more HERE. I foolishly responded to the “but the bus route will be diverted” type whining on Facebook!!

ANYWAY…..

Still reeling from Nicky’s injury and its unfortunate timing. I’ll be flying solo in the 2 Oceans and am determined to get that medal for both us.

It’s been a tiring week (I know, change the record!) what with Nicky taken down by the lurgy, my job being rather physical at the end of the week and poor Frank having a bit of trouble understanding day and night, or his television, or the mail…….. There’s no dressing it up, living with dementia is bloody exhausting for EVERYBODY.

So with Nicky battling injury and illness, Frank, poor Frank, and strangers accusing ME of being anti free speech, I thought I’d share my top 10 good things of the week….

 

  1. Nicky, ever determined, inhibited by her cold, unable to run, the weather stopping cycling, popped into the pool and smashed out the required distance for a half ironman. Twice. Bosh!
  2. My brother, Simon, travelling down from North Wales and taking me down in the Parkrun.
  3. My Saturday long run – a total of 18 miles finishing with the said Parkrun – the 15 mile warm up might have finished off any chance I had of keeping up with him. Check it out HERE.
  4. An old training partner, also Simon, the only person who was too hot on a Baltic day, who pitched up in a onesie.
  5. Another Simon – Simon Ridley from Brixham Harriers, our good mate Jan, and all the amazing volunteers helping us around on such a cold day – what a great thing Parkrun is.
  6. Nicky’s physio, Sam, getting to work in Paignton this morning, despite the very real risk that the snow will inhibit him getting home! He’s worked his hot-cross magic again, complimenting Nicky on her high pain threshold as he physically assaults her!
  7. Snow – well it just looks so lovely (even if it’s quite possibly costing me a day’s money tomorrow!)
  8. Charlie – for wearing a bowler hat, naturally.
  9. Oh yes, today’s long run – 20 miles of biting Easterly gales, snow, ice, mud, mud, mud, hills, mud, steps – Check it out HERE
  10. And writing, and reading, and jigsaws and the piano, our down time, our precious recuperation from the barrage of life…

Take me instead

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Despite the cross of hope on each leg, it wasn’t to be

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my beautiful lady…..

I would definitely take Nicky’s injury off her, if I magically could, and stop running myself if it meant she could toe the start line in South Africa in 2 weeks’ time.

Regular readers may well remember my first 50 ultra back in October. They should do, I banged on about it enough! (my Gower 50 blog HERE)

Well I turned my ankle quite dramatically in that race and had a little bit of time off running.

Whilst it was massively frustrating, and it did seem the world and his wife were suddenly out pounding the pavements whilst I was unable, it was so much easier than how frustrated I am now Nicky is out of action.

I have solemnly promised that I will be on that 2 Oceans start line and be giving it my all.

On behalf of both of us.

Despite Sam the physio’s finest efforts Nicky’s troublesome calf just won’t let her play. So (probably wisely) she has turned her attention to being super fit for her half ironman debut in June.

Beware the Ides of March. Well for many years I haven’t been a March fan. 9 years ago my sister, Karen, got to her 44th birthday but 7 days later finally succcombed to the myriad of cancers that her final years were dominated by.

So yeah, odd one is March.

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

I ended up running alongside a chap last week, whilst on my own long run, who was training for a spring marathon. Initially he was going to be attempting his debut 26.2 effort alongside his wife but circumstances have taken over somewhat. His wife is extremely poorly and does not have a great prognosis. He is determined to complete the run for both of them…

He implored my to do the same with 2 Oceans. Whilst we are fortunate to be currently blessed with good health, it is true that none of us know when these opportunities might come our way again.

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The moment Nicky handed me her list of possible adventures!

There is, I have to admit, a bit of a guilt thing banging around inside my head. About 9 months ago, Nicky put me on the spot and asked, out of all the trips we’ve looked at (and we do spend a LOT of time saying “ooo look, an endurance challenge, in an unusual location…”) which would be your ‘dream’ trip. Such a difficult question, but the imagery I’ve seen from the 2 Oceans Marathon has always been a temptress for me and that we could throw our resources at it makes me feel a very lucky boy.

And, I am.

But it’s going to be a tough morning when I walk into that starting pen without Nicky………. For both of us.

I’m not really one for “I’m running for Aubrey”, or “running for Martians” but in this instance, I’m happy to be on duty for those who aren’t able to be.

On a more positive and typically determined note, Nicky’s decision has meant more accelerated and intense treatment on her calf has been possible and she is busy planning her post holiday training, along with a full A4 page of possible future adventures……..

There’s a trip of a lifetime to look forward to and some big decisions about our life too, so onwards and upwards……

Me? Well, I went for a tired but consistent 10 miles this morning and have my head well and truly focussed on building up my preparation for the T60. There’s still places, check it out HERE.

Whilst our Sunday run was curtailed rather upsettingly, I managed 24 miles on Saturday. It was hard work, but I’m hoping that, come race day(s), not having spent 8 hours on a concrete breaker the previous day will help me feel fresher!

For a nose at what passes as training, my Strava training is HERE

Keep on keeping on people…….

Unchained Melody

There was quite an ironic, rewarding, bizarre, unlikely event the other evening.

So for a quick reminder, and a brief introduction to new readers, Nicky (my AMAZING lady wife) and I live with, and care for, Frank, my father-in-law. Frank is suffering with dementia and, as this blog has regularly documented, life for all three of us can be quite exhausting. It can be incredibly challenging and, again for all three of us, unimaginably frustrating.

BUT, there are moments of self depreciatory humour and, like the other night, occasional moments of pure magic.

Nicky and I are both learning to tinkle the ivories (piano!). I’ve had a head start in that I play a bit of guitar, but we’re both thoroughly enjoying the process and sometimes Frank will join us and chill out to the delicately (slowly!) picked out tunes.

Well, Frank, a man who struggles to remember what milk is, regularly mixes up night and day and hides his remote control for the television, suddenly started singing “…hunger for your…” whilst I was chipping away at Unchained Melody.

Astonishing. Astonishing that something I was playing was recognisable. Astonishing that the person to recognise it was Frank. Astonishing that, from somewhere deep within the recesses of his memory, a few of the words to the Righteous Brothers’ classic made their way to his lips.

After a week of bad news, tragic news, desperate stories and more illness in our little world, a truly bright moment enjoyed by the three of us.

We soon got back to losing the remote control and spectacles whilst finding a collection of hidden spoons but that is the world of dementia.

Just thought I’d share it with you…

The Gaslight Anthem

So, I’m just a bloke in fifties, having bumbled and bodged my way through life, until, in 2014 I went on a date with Nicky. Nicky, my beautiful wife, my life, my world, my everything. There had been adventure and people on the edges of my rather aimless existence up until then. BUT – nothing had prepared me for the whirlwind of life about to envelop me when I went on that nervous first date.

The clich√© is ‘a whirlwind romance’ and WOW – for the first time in my life I understood what people had meant when they’d used phrases like that, and ‘soul mate’ and ‘forever’. I truly have been blessed. We try and cram as much into our lives as possible and Nicky has taught me that, despite the nagging defeatist crammed in a dark corner of my brain saying otherwise, people like us CAN……….

That’s not to say I haven’t met good people before in my life, people I’ve admired, people who’ve impressed, people who appeared genuine, and through all of the **** there have been characters who have stuck.

This is a long winded way of saying I’m writing, not an obituary as such, but a quick tribute, to one of the good guys from the past who tragically lost his life last week.

I was landlord of The Bay Horse Inn (Totnes) in an earlier incarnation. Whilst I was guardian of that 16th century coaching inn, a group of cracking youngsters, most of whom were at 6th form college, started using the pub. A quick can of coke and a game of pool, some welcome banter on those desolate winter mid week lunchtimes.

Anyway (cut to the chase Kevin!), they became firm friends, party people for sure, but with a quick wit and sharp intelligence to them. Amongst this number, for example, was a guy I went on to play in a band with, another chap who went on to be an employee, a colleague, a true friend and even a housemate.

Unbelievably sadly, last week, another of this crowd, Trev, suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Trev (short for Trevelyan) was a lively burst of energy. He was everything from the weekend fun leader to am accomplished amateur boxer, extremely flighty runner (a 1.20 half marathon!), keen fisherman and loyal friend to this great group of chaps and chappesses.

I always said that (if and) when the pub failed, most customers who claimed to be a friend when they wanted a lock-in, would soon forget my name. Trev was one of those who didn’t. For a long time we stayed regularly in touch and when I gave up the fags and took up running he was incredibly supportive and encouraging. Despite a 15 year or so difference in age, we found some great common ground and he was willing to reign in his inner gazelle and plod alongside me.

Before that, he was quite a cheerleader for the band I played in – happily throwing his wild shapes on a lonely dance floor as we churned our way through some of our self-penned tunes in some damn and empty ex-servicemen’s club

Yeah, a good guy.

I haven’t seen him for years. He too had met his forever lady and became a father, before getting engaged rather romantically on Valentines Day this year. He leaves behind a baby daughter, adoring finacee and his lovely, now elderly, parents.

I had a quiet moment for Trev, and for those who’s lives will be savaged by his tragic loss, this week. It truly is a further reminder that life is for squeezing every precious moment out of RIGHT NOW!

I watched Trev box twice. A student of the sport, he saw his ring-craft as his signature.

The first time, despite his fast movement, artful jabbing and focus, he was floored by a strong opponent, bouncing off the canvas at the very start of the final round. He took his fall like the man he was – back on his feet quickly, determined to show the referee he could complete the bout. Hugging his opponent and enthusiastically congratulating him before taking the applause of the ringside table occupied by us, his rowdy cheerleaders.

The second time I had the pleasure of watching him in action, he was even fitter, even leaner and with even more hours of sparring in the locker. A fairly even contest, but Trev continually edged away from his opponent on the judges score cards as he danced and teased and prodded his opponent. A clear victor, I felt Trev was never looking to flatten his opposite number, but to share the full ring time with him. Showing his opponent and the sport the greatest respect, it was lovely to watch. Classy.

Yeah, one of the good guys.

Forgive me the indulgence of publically sharing my memories of Trev, but, quite selfishly, the process of writing this has eased the shock.

I’ve always thought of Trev whenever I listen to The Gaslight Anthem.

Taking work home….

All too often Nicky brings work home, either physically or psychologically. It goes with the territory unfortunately.

dsc_0007314363898.jpgI occasionally bring work home too. We tend to burn mine though. Free heat. Nice. I think Nicky would be happy if we burned hers too!

My trainers have spent a bit of time in front of the burner lately as they’ve been sucking up the melting snow.

Double daying. Thats what I’m attempting in preparation for the T60. ‘T60?’ I hear you chime in unison. It’s a 60 mile, overnight run along the River Thames, finishing at the stone marking its source. There’s still places and you can read alllllll about it HERE.

So I did a lovely long challenging 25 miles on the compacted snow on Saturday (on STRAVA) and then a nervous 22 with Nicky (also on STRAVA) as she attempts to nurse her troublesome calf to the 2 Oceans Marathon……

Images from last weekends running…..