And ANOTHER thing…..

 

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Spring could well be springing……

It’s been too long. (“NOT LONG ENOUGH!” some might yell)

 

Anyway, I’m back. Assuming I get to the end of this post…… AND POST IT!

We all have challenging weeks. Sometimes they are challenging in, you know, FUN and challenging way. Sometimes they are seemingly never ending and challenging. Sometimes they are AARRRGGGHHH!!! challenging.

 

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Playing trains with 2 year old grandson Ollie makes everything ok ūüôā

 

Well, last weekend I had the pleasure of dot watching. Tracking the competitors in The Arc Of Attrition. They were having a FUN challenging weekend. I’m sure on the North Cornwall Atlantic coast, in a barrage of the South West’s finest weather, after 24+ hours of perpetual motion, the word ‘fun’ wasn’t on many of their lips!

Well, this blog first started around the time of The Arc Of Attrition a year ago. I wrote THIS PIECE musing on the possibilities of the apparently impossible.

 

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One of us harbours Ironman ambitions (spoiler: it isn’t me!)

 

So.

A couple of challenging weeks for us. Aside from the usual challenges of exhausting days at work, caring for Nicky’s dad and trying to squeeze the quart that is our life into the pint pot that is our leisure time, we have had some ‘issues’ around our trip to South Africa.

We both had a day off work last week for our (shared – ahhhh) birthdays and decided to set out for our planned long training run. To cut a long story (and a long run) short….. 12.5 miles in and PING, ouch, ooo…. a hopping, cursing Nicky. One of her infamously tight and quite frankly STRONG calf muscles decided to stop play…….

A taxi home (oo, taxi driving? A career change may be looming, might this be for me?) and a solemn reflection of where this leaves our 2 Oceans ambitions.

And there in lies a story……

Tuesday before last we finally got our vouchers to enter the 2 Oceans Marathon. Tum te tum. Quick log in and enter all the usual personal information, email addresses, and, er, hang on, details of the QUALIFYING RACE!!!

To cut (another) long story short, the company through which we booked the trip clearly pointed out that we needed to have completed a qualifying race between September 2016 and February 2018. Lovely – although we have been off doing trails and ultras and triathlons and swims, we both met the qualifying criteria at North Dorset Villages Marathon last May (Nicky smashed her PB – read about that HERE). Tick.

But, now we can log on to the 2 Oceans website, they want a qualifying time achieved between July last year and February this. OH!!

After numerous panicked phone calls and emails – we STILL aren’t confirmed as entrants. It really is panic time. The UK based company has admitted its error, but that doesn’t really help right now…… hhhhmmmm

Back to Nicky’s calf trouble – well the nice man at the sports injury place hasn’t written off her chances just yet…….hhhhhhmmmmmm

Me? What about me, you say? I’ve got this horrible nagging niggly cough and a horrible nagging niggly doubt in my head that we’ll be seeing the 2 oceans from the top of Table Mountain rather than the road!!! I’ve managed just the one tiny run in the last 7 days……

In the big scheme of things….. A big, horrible health scare in our family this week shadowed any of the other problems and reinforced just how fragile our precious lives are anyway…. fortunately, whilst the person is still poorly, nothing sinister or long term has been found. Just makes you think though…..

We were still having ‘perspective’ when the car repair came in at ¬£665 pounds. GULP!!

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BUT at least I managed an ickle tromp through the mud with Charlie today – not sure how 4.5 miles in a week will pass as preparation for my supposed ambitions, but onwards……….

 

 

 

Going long (er)

talk ultraI’ve started listening to Talk Ultra. So now, that’s 3 podcasts I heartily recommend. The other two being Running Commentary and Marathon Talk.

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.

running couple cartoonBUT, 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.

 

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Does this man look like he could ‘go long’?

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.

five go madWith 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.

 

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WANT ONE!!

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.

 

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Quite a mandatory kit list for The Scrooge!

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.

 

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Ultra ready? Ahh, no beard!

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.

 

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The R.A.T. route is truly spectacular

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.

 

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A tad wiffy, but bring on Snowdon!

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 blowing hardfit 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.

chipsIt 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.

 

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We didn’t see any horses at 5.30am

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……..

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THE ARC OF ATTRITION ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Things I’m glad I’ve never learned to do. (yet!)

Towing a caravan. That looks terrifically complicated. Particularly when going backwards. And there’s no log burner.

See – VERY complicated!

Being a day fisherman, making a living putting to sea in a small day boat out of some beautiful yet rugged and exposed Cornish Village. I’ve never harboured ambitions to join them. Yet, having had a delightful medley of locally caught mackerel, bass, cod and lemon sole as my delightful 50th birthday lunch, I am deeply grateful that there are plenty of braver souls than I who HAVE made that career choice. We had this lunch in the most southerly cafe in mainland Britain, on The Lizard, Polpeor Cafe.

I don’t know WHY we come here….

Nicky and I were both born on February 10th (ahhhh ‚̧) and we had stayed in the same cottage as we did two years ago, on the coast path just outside Cadgwith, when we celebrated her 50th.
We felt honoured and blessed that this was also the (first) day of The Arc Of Attrition. The 100 mile ultra marathon started at midday in Coverack and finished for those that made the whole distance in Porthtowan before the midnight cut off the following day. The route follows the stunning yet torturous South West Coast Path along the south, through Lands End and up the North coast. 

We timed our birthday lunch so that our walk back to the cottage gave us the chance to cheer each and every one of the runners as they were approaching about 8 miles into their epic journey. 

It was humbling to see.

Arc of Attrition approaching The Lizard

Other things I’m glad to say I’ve never been tempted by? Parachuting, trapeze  (or any other circus related skill), far too much bravery and natural balance required, for I am a clumsy soul. I may or may not have had a muddy tumble or two on the trails last week!

Skiing, too, aside from a (very) brief dalliance in the early 90’s on a dry ski slope (a hazy period to be honest), is to be left alone by the gangly one.

Not me!

The AoA runners need to be well equipped for all of these skills, needing bravery, balance, commitment, determination and grit. They have to roll with the bumps and bruises and expect them I imagine. The wind was pretty wild on the exposed sections, challenging even in the relatively short distances we covered. 

On Saturday, we drove to the north coast and parked at Carbis Bay and walked to, and through, St Ives where the (I believe) 75 or so mile checkpoint was situated. The runners were well spread out, in fact the winners were already having a warming cup of tea or better along the coast at Porthtowan. We gave as much encouragement as we could as the runners came through all the Saturday pedestrians, there were some thousand yard stares going on but, such courage. I think I’m right in saying that all but one of the runners who made the cut off in St Ives, also made the finish.

I am humbled by anybody making the start line, never mind the finish line and I have to say Nicky and I had a quiet moment or two contemplating the tracker; there were competitors out there on the extremely remote and exposed 13 mile section approaching St Ives who will have known that once they arrived there, their battle was over, no finishers buckle for them, but hopefully a heart full of pride for their monumental effort.

The Mud Crew Arc Of Attrition tracking site

Each competitor carries a tracking device, primarily a safety device which has a SOS function should the runner become isolated and stranded. This linked to a tracking website which means the organisers and crew, friends and family, and us nosey parkers, could see the position of every competitor throughout the race. Addictive stuff I can tell you.

It was approaching 2pm in St Ives, the cut off time as the weather started to become wetter and windier and colder. Those that had made it that far had another 10 hours to make the finish, heading straight into these conditions. Their exhausted, battered bodies and weathered and stretched spirits must have been begging them to stop. 

A gentle walk in bleak conditions near St Ives

We chatted to one the many incredible Mudcrew marshalls, a veteran of the event who provided us with even more insight into the event and the fabulously devoted people associated with it.
Just for giving us the absolute pleasure of the feeling of having been so close to something epic, I nod my head wildly to all the runners, crew and support teams.

A mention for Paul Maskell and Steve Wyatt who finished together in a course record of 21 hours 26 minutes. Blimey!

Paul Maskell and Steve Wyatt

I’m pretty confident I will NEVER learn the didgeridoo  (doesn’t that echo in the underpass in Truro), nor for that matter the bagpipes…..

As for the Arc Of Attrition, I mean who would want to travel 10o miles, on foot, on the Cornish Atlantic coast, in February, with maybe 20 hours of darkness in the 36 hours allowed……….

I mean, who would want one of these…….