I 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.
Well, 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.
I’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.
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.
Since 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…..
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.
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……
Thurs – rest
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!
So two years ago we completed the Reggae Marathon in 5h12m47s…. Competition time…… How long will we take on Saturday when hopefully it’s not quite as warm as today!!! A lovely 5k beach run this morning whilst Nicky swam. Were an active bunch here in the Athletes’ Village! So post in the comments a guess at how quickly we’ll go on Saturday – first (and only) prize us, er, er….. A MENTION IN THE BLOG!!! Guesses on here on on my Facebook page. Three Little Birds courtesy of these cool guysJogging in the early morning sunArt?“Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??”Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!
Oh, and the new glasses. Strutting around thinking I’m cool. Like Elvis Costello.
Secretly knowing I’m gorky. Like Mr Bean.
One of us has lost a toe nail!
Team GB arrived here in Negril after 20 hours of travel, happy to have landed in paradise but rather fatigued.
And never mind Elvis Costello and Mr Bean. The locals seem to think I’m Mr Spliffy…….
As the coach driver pulled my cases from the under belly of his vehicle, he leaned in to me and whispered “You smoke weed? It’s good!?”. Couldn’t he see I’m an elite athlete in town to represent my country?
We awoke this morning, on this lush and majestic island, to pouring rain. I mean tropically heaving down…..
Nicky using the hydrotherapy pool.
A hearty breakfast. Does EVERY international athlete give the all inclusive breakfast a 3 course kicking? Never mind carb loading, we’ve taken the science out of it…..
It’s now simply called LOADING!!
We left breakfast as the emptied heavens took a breather to reload and massaged our athletes’ feet in the warm Caribbean Sea.
“Smoke?” enquired a suitably languid beach trader. We politely declined.
We sauntered towards our chosen berth on the glorious sand, passing another trader, casually dragging his feet along the water’s edge.
“Ya man…..?” As his hands mimicked the action of partaking of the leaf on offer and his eyes demonstrated the effects …….
No thank you, old chap, but please accept our thanks for considering us in your plans.
Beach traders here – just a gentle “no thanks” and you get a Marley salute and a “respect” and left in peace.
Any way 5 days until we pull on the Team GB vests and tackle the Reggae Marathon.Reggae Marathon.
I guess sometimes our heroes really ARE ghosts. We’ve all lost people too early, before they had chance to realise their own dreams and potentials. Equally, I imagine we’ve all drawn inspiration from those lost to us and, maybe, felt the urge to push a little bit harder to realise OUR dreams and find OUR capabilities whilst we are still blessed with the good fortune of health to do so.
Grief top-trumps is a game I find objectionable, the idea that there is a scale of tragedy worthy of different levels of sympathy is, quite frankly, unsavoury at best. And whilst I’m airing my gggrrrrs, what is this social media phenomenon of being asked to ‘prove’ you care by ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ somebody else’s story? I don’t need to prove I’ve read all of your post in order to care. And yes I DO know how tragic cancer can be. Believe me. I know. tragic, cruel, relentless, indiscriminate, debilitating, destructive, painful and despicable. Yup.
So, where was I? Ah yes, ghosts as heroes.
It’s a breath of fresh air to read some books. The Road To Sparta by Dean Karnazes…. Now, I don’t know how many losses or tragedies have befallen the Karnazes family but I do know that he tragically lost his sister just as she turned 18 (the details of which are covered in his first book). This latest tome is a journey into his family history (him being of Greek parentage) and deep into the history of the Greek nation and the people therein.
Told with a wit and eloquence often lacking in ‘sports’ biographies and combining, cleverly, his strength of character and his confidence with his self depreciating humour and his self doubts.
Embarking on a mission to truly follow in the footsteps of the original ultra marathon man Pheidippides, it charts his frustrations as he struggled to make this happen alone. Ultimately tracing the route by competing in the uber long Spartathon, he compares his progress, diet, emotions and fatigue to how he imagines Pheidippides was coping way way back when.
Acknowledging the new modern fandangle of aid stations, crews and fuelling products, Karnazes made his attempt by sticking to traditional Greek foodstuffs instead of tubes of sickly gunk and power bars. These are the foods that would have been available in 490bc, although Dean concludes that the stomachs of ancient times must have been made of strong stuff.
His constitution wasn’t playing ball and he graphically describes his stomach churning attempts to eat or digest this food in the second half of the race. Don’t read these passages too close to your Greek supper, as I did on holiday!!
The second half of the 153 mile race was survived on water, an iron will and muscle memory. Hallucinations (or reality?), despair, negotiations with his maker, negotiations with his mind, body and soul are all charted and delivered in Karnazes’ trademark boisterous, page turning rhetoric.
Yes, it’s ‘in yer face’ stuff, the way life should be lived, honouring those ghosts. This book should be read at full tilt. you don’t need to be an ultra marathon runner (or a runner at all) to enjoy this book, nor a Karnazes aficionado, although you may well become both before long as a direct result of reading it.
I’m not claiming to produce a literary chronicle, but we do like a good read……… and this is DEFINITELY that.
I think, tomorrow, I shall run with my ghosts!
Anyway, find me on Facebook – here, Twitter – here, Instagram – here
AND, please check out the new online magazine RUN DEEP where you might just find some more words by yours truly!
I feel like a bit if a fraud. It certainly is a reality check listening to all those interviews with participants, including both elite athletes and mere mortals like us, about mammoth endurance events such as the Dragons Back and The Sky Running events.
BUT, Nicky and I are veterans (in both age and events) of 10 years of running events. Both of us having completed 30something marathons, including a few 50km races and, in Nicky’s case, a 50 miler.
AND, I’m having my post prolific year yet of mileage, averaging over 200 miles a month.
SO, maybe I am ready to step up to call myself an ‘ultra’ runner…. I mean, I’ve got some Inov8 shoes and a rucksack and everything!
As regular readers will know, I’m leading up to The East Farm Frolic (EFF) in August where I’m looking to keep going for all 12 hours and hopefully take myself into the 50 mile club, if not further.
AND, listening to this new (to me) podcast is only fuelling my desire to ‘go long’. Specifically to ‘go long in Cornwall’…….
Which got me to thinking….. my beautiful lady wife, chatty Martin and good friends Jan & Gloria had formed a relay team to compete for the 12 hours at The EFF. All change now as they have moved to being solo entrants, like yours truly.
With 5 of us now entered….. surely 5 go long in Dorset…..
Anyway, by going long in Cornwall, I mean specifically go long from Coverack to Porthtowan, by way of 100 miles of the coast path, in February 2019.
I fell for the charms, the challenges, the tales of successful and unsuccessful attempts, the beauty, the uniqueness of The Arc Of Attrition (AOA) as we spectated back in February, see my blog post from back then.
In fact one of the reasons I was so inspired to start blogging get so enthusiastically was the wonderful experience of following this year’s edition.
The AOA is organised by Mudcrew, responsible for my absolute favourite event, the (black) RAT and many otherwise including the festive hilarity of The Scrooge.
Mudcrew’s head honcho, Andrew Ferguson, is a pretty serious ultra runner himself, recently competing in the fabulous looking Laverado Ultra in Italy , and his name pops up all over the trail running scene.
All who crew at these Mudcrew events are runners and understand the needs of those on the trails. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I think about the AOA, and how I will prepare, on most of my runs.
By that I mean I try relate the run I’m on to how I would be feeling after 24 hours of coast path. I think about eating proper food whilst running, about kit, navigation, isolation, weather, etc etc.
I’ve also developed a new mantra, “NO LAZY STEPS’ meaning I should never assume the next foot plant is flat and predictable. Small protruding roots under dark tree canopies could end the race. I need to make sure to learn to remaim alert under extreme fatigue.
The enormity of the AOA’s challenge has dictated the time scale. I need to qualify, I’m hoping to have a few events which serve as qualifiers, maybe doing something like Hope 24 amongst them.
The traditional Mudcrew stepping stone is to do the 100k version of the RAT (Nicky and I are doing the 50k for the 3rd time this year) in 2018.
The Plague, as this 100k is known, serves as a qualifying event and also comes with an AOA invite to accompany it’s finisher’s medal.
The best part of all of this process is spending time outdoors, with my wonderful amazing beautiful lady wife, Nicky. After the great adventures of last Saturday (see last post) we took to the coast path for 3 gloriously hot and sweaty hours.
These joint jaunts are serving as training towards Snowdonia for the two of us (which is rapidly approaching!), as well as building my mileage towards The EFF. They are also wonderful shared adventures, precious and treasured times.
Oh the witty banter on these sweaty long runs, “blimey you stink” “not as much as YOU stink”…..
The Talk Ultra podcast is presented by Ian Corless, a fine ultra and trail runners in his own right and now an event photographer too. The show is mainly made up of interviews with big names from the world of ultra-distance running, as well as those from further down the field.
It’s all an education to me, probably only being aware of the headline events and maybe our local long distance challenges. I’m learning the names of the stars of this mystical world and getting to grips with the lingo. Don’t expect me to be attempting a FKT on a course with loads of VERT anytime soon…..
Oh it turns out my 20 miles running, to Teignmouth, on the coast path, isn’t even a warm up to most of these boys and girls.
‘Blowing out of my arse!’ I’ve no idea where that expression came from but it seemed to fit my rather cumbersome effort as I did a time trial after work last night. Blowing out of my ears and nose too. Open mouthed and squinting from the sweat stinking my eyes, I gasped for every breath. Desperately weaving through the many dawdling pedestrians, enjoying their evening stroll in the sunshine, I just about managed to maintain 30 seconds per mile slower than I’d hoped for the 1.8 miles
We’d elected for this instead of waiting another hour and going to the club night. Whilst I was cracking paving slabs either my clomping strides, Nicky and Charlie joined the rest of Paignton, walking along the sea front.
It was with some relief that I finished my effort near a toilet. Then, whilst not getting any cooler during my cool down, I bumped into my beautiful wife and raggerty hound and needed no further prompting to end my rather unfortunate effort RIGHT THERE. A stroll back along the beach followed by eating chips on the sea wall and all was well again.
A few years ago I’d have been disappointed with that run but these days I enjoy laughing at myself and moving on. 3.75 of jogging with Charlie in the woods at 5.30am this morning soon put that right too.
Something similar tomorrow then a weekend of long endurance adventure beckons, including some kayaking to accompany the intrepid Mrs Bonfield on an early morning river dip.
Enough of this rambling, keep on keeping people……..
Some people have REALLY black cats. It wouldn’t matter how black yours is, there’s WILL be blacker……….
Anyway, we haven’t got a cat. We’ve got a Border Terrier. Charlie. And he’s, well, beige to be honest. Not especially beige. Just your average, run of the mill sort of beige. I don’t doubt there are people out there with beiger Charlies. But, he’s quite beige enough for us.
He looks darker when he’s wet. Which he was quite often on our jolly sunny holidays in the glorious lake district last week. We didn’t let the
weather hold us back, with a marathon, lots of other runs and walks and Nicky swimming a mile in the Great North Swim.
Talking of which, despite some serious open water swimming already this year, Nicky was a little bit, er, green after this, having not quite had the lake experience she was hoping for. She still banged out a mile in Lake Windemere. And not for the last time, I
Not as green as she looked on Sunday though. Well, green, pink, blue…
Her wonderful daughter, my step daughter, Alisa (regular readers will know how proud we are of her achievements this year) and Nicky did the Colour Rush 5k in Teignmouth. Basically three laps of the prom and beach whilst periodically having coloured powder paint thrown at them.
Alisa’s first medal. And I managed to have a full compliment of grandchildren still under my control by the time they finished. All over this grand parenting malarkey, I am…..
So, and please no giggling at the back….. We. Are. On. It.
I know, you’ve heard it before, but THIS TIME……
There’s a cut off at 20 miles in the Snowdonia Trail Marathon which is our next target. It’s probably not a shock to discover that it’s a little bit hilly, but we could probably do with sharpening our mountain goat physiques to help with that…..
Project Mountain Goat is go!
So, since we got back from our holiday Nicky has been back in the sea (twice) and quickly regained her confidence and we’ve both been enjoying the trails on our early morning jaunts.
We also went back to Brixham Harriers last night and enjoyed a loop including a beautiful section of the coast path before our (now traditional) Tuesday evening chips. A glorious summer’s evening in lovely company.
We’re still struggling with the running in the evening, mostly because of how, simply, our days are arranged, it leaves a sort of blank hour before we set off for the club. This sounds like a ‘first world problem’ I realise, but we, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, seem to be constantly battling time…… That said, it’s great to run in a friendly and welcoming group and , well, we do enjoy the chips…
We shared a portion…
My big, BIG target for the year (*I reserve the right to change this, having not quite made my last BIG target!) is the East Farm Frolic. With that in mind, I am trying to add a few miles here and there and get more endurance fit than ever before. I’m really not sure how I’m going to respond to such a long time on my feet, but I have even BIGGER ambitions for the following two years so I really need to find out how my body (and mind) respond to a heavier training load.
Luckily, I absolutely love running, and, wherever I can, I’ll try and do my runs AND Nicky’s runs with her over a weekend and really start getting the miles in.
On that note, I read, in a running social media group, of somebody bemoaning not being allowed to wear headphones during a 10k race because “running is boring enough…”
I feel blessed that I get nothing but joy from every single run…
So, today was the day. We’d trained and trained for this target race. Maybe both secretly hiding nerves caused by the pressure we had rather publically placed upon ourselves……
Could we deliver…
WELL, one big bold shiny Personal Best, with bells and whistles and tassels goes to my rather incredible lady, Nicky…….
She believed in herself, reigned herself back from running TOO much faster than target pace, took a couple of slightly less rapid miles on the chin, refocused, took a gel and dug deep to get back on pace for the run in.
As she belted up the finishing straight, I was just bursting with pride and emotion, She had worked so hard to be capable of such a performance. Marathon #30 nailed!
Our early night in preparation for the early start was fairly pointless as we were treated to the sounds of the BMAD festival down on the seafront until (what for most people is a perfectly acceptable) 11pm.
Now, ordinarily, I love a bit of All Along The Watchtower……
So, after about 5 hours sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed and porridged ourselves up and got plenty of caffeine down us. Martin, running too, was collected from the bus stop (where some say he sleeps) at crazy o’clock by our devoted and ever-present supporter, Gloria.
I even remembered the way to Sturminster Newton (although I think the journey home involved a little detour…)!
The NDVM bases itself in Sturminster Newton High School, where a small army of volunteers were providing drinks and cakes as well as bacon sarnies. As regular readers will know…. TICK.
The start is on the road outside the school and car parking is plentiful, ably directed by another small army, this time of boy scouts.
It truly is a lovely event.
Martin, as usual, had a few short issues, but was threatening to have a smash at a time today too. He’s come very close to 4 hours a few times, and despite his proclamation that he hasn’t really done high miles, we suspected he’d go close.
He was also offering a curly-wurly to anyone who deserved it by the end of the day. This is a bit of a tradition brought to our group via some good running friends of old.
We were right about Martin’s running. On a blustery day, he ran hard and strong to come tearing towards the finish line for a time of 4.04.
Great running again Martin.
“What about your race, Kevin?” I hear you all cry in unison…
Cards on the table, I genuinely thought I was in shape to run close to my personal best. Sure, I knew I was over tired, but I always train tired and believe myself to be strong mentally to tough it out, so I lined up fairly near the front of the field and set off with purpose.
The course is relentlessly undulating, but barely contains anything we would describe as a hill, so I aimed to keep just inside my target pace for each and every mile.
I soon got in to a little group ticking off the miles at about 7.15 pace, and, whilst I knew I was working for it, I didn’t feel massively uncomfortable, so pushed on. The breeze was brisk in places but we seemed to all be willing to take our turns in front.
I know the course winds through some lovely countryside and picture postcard thatched villages, but I was only half aware of it as I tried to keep my pace focussed. There’s a line across the road at halfway and I clocked that in 1h36m, so inside my 3h14m target pace. I knew from last year that the worst of the undulations were around the 20 miles mark so I felt I’d banked a bit of time.
Miles in 7.09 7.02 7.15 7.23 & 7.25 preceded……
THE WHEELS COMING OFF!!
Oh and how!
By then I was in a group of three, “Oh they’ve sped up” I thought, glancing at my watch. WRONG! I had slowed down. Quite Dramatically.
This hadn’t happened quite so eye-wateringly since my very first marathon, in Paris. I took a gel from my pocket before putting it back, I was starting to struggle to lift my feet and quite frankly, I was exhausted. Nothing a gel could do for that.
I took my demise in good heart and let myself naturally get slower and slower and slower as runners started to pass me by. I took a minute at an aid station to enjoy some melon, coke and Jaffa cakes before setting about my last few miles.
My salvation came in the form of Luke. Luke was stopped at a marshalling point looking in a world of pain. Which, it turned out he was, with his back in spasm around a herniated disc injury. Ouch.
Come on mate, lets shuffle in together. Which we did. Great to meet you Luke.
The biggest dilemma I have with my ‘disappointment’ is that I genuinely believe that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter, and I know that there are many for whom a sub 3.30 marathon would be a dream.
I guess I’m asking for permission to be a little disappointed, whilst still chuffed to have clocked up marathon number 32, ran another quick time and had a wonderful day out.
I did train very, very hard for this and believed I had it in me. Hey ho.
My 1st half 1.36, my 2nd half 1.52. Detonated!
They may be many reasons for this:
Maybe spending a full day up and down a ladder carrying bags of rubble on Friday didn’t help. Maybe those troublesome sinuses and snottyness were drawing on my reserves. Maybe lack of sleep. Maybe being so much heavier than I intended to be for this day. Maybe eating too much simple sugars rather than good fats and protein. Maybe not having the strong core needed to maintain running form when tired.
Maybe, today, that was how it was meant to be.
I was smiling at the end, because I bloomin’ love running and I feel blessed to be able to do this wonderful sport at all.
Another of our little gang, Jan, fresh from smashing her own Parkrun yesterday, turned up at the finish to cheer us all in, along with Gloria, and quite frankly, it really was a lovely, lovely day and I also feel blessed to have such great friends.
As for Nicky?? Sometimes words just simply don’t do justice to how she makes me feel!
Nicky encouraged me to share this today, I rattle on about being ‘focussed’ and ‘on it’, apparently cutting out sugar and getting my core strong ready for my target marathon.
Had a bit of a weigh in this morning and I am 11lb heavier than I stated I was aiming to be by marathon day.
Apparently each footstrike is like pushing 2.5 – 5 times your body weight, so with an estimated 50000 strides in tomorrow’s marathon, that’s about a quarter of million lb worth of EXTRA energy I need to get around North Dorset tomorrow.
Next time……. we will be ON IT!!!
Or maybe just go a bit slower and keep scoffing the cake.
Another plumbing crisis today……. rather exaggerated by me drilling through a pipe…..
I must mention the organisation of tomorrow’s marathon. The North Dorset Villages Marathon features 12 water stations, 2 of which you can send your personalised drinks to and the later ones also feature coke, squash and snacks.
Included in the entry fee is a tee, medal and hog roast too, with live music afterwards.
We’ll definitely be making use of the changing facilities, going to be a tad wet me thinks!
Anyway I think I need to respect the early start and follow Charlie’s lead and head for zzzz’s