(No) Jacket Required

Sporting a shiny new MOT certificate the trusty Micra bumped across the field to be directed into a lovely parking space by the familiar face of Jamie.

Jamie has featured in this blog on numerous occasions as he tends to be omnipresent in the local trail running community.

And here he was, at the crack of dawn marshalling the car park for Pure Trail’s Race The Tide.

Good job he was. “Take your kit for inspection at the registration tent Kev”

Ahhh. I immediately remembered NOT packing my running jacket…..

 

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Sharing a coffee with Jamie

So, as I collected my race number and tucked Jamie’s jacket into my running pack after he had saved the day, the sun was already beating ahead of the 8am start. Hopefully I won’t be needing it I mused as I poured myself a coffee from my flask and humbly offered Jamie a cup as a thoroughly inedaquate thank you.

There was a healthy looking gathering of far better organised athletes than I mulling around the start line as I sauntered into the pack.

It’s not the same on the start line without Nicky, I can’t lie. I absolutely love running and enjoy many a solo hour on the trails but there’s nothing quite like lining up with my beautiful lady wife for these scenic trail events.

In the circumstances, Nicky on a powerful recovery from a calf injury and focusing on her Half Iron Distance triathlon in a months time, she was happy to be tackling the 16 mile version whilst I faced the full blown 29.

With Nicky, along with fellow Half competitors Martin & Abi, plus our ever present supporter, Gloria, arriving some time later, I wasn’t my most organised self, in fact, without Nicky guiding me, I did well to be dressed, and was still mentally checking I’d got everything I wanted to take in my running pack as we set off into the Flete Estate.

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I was sure it said ‘fast and flat’ on the flyer….

I’d been originally training for a 60 mile event this weekend, as regular blog readers will know, so the theory was I should be ‘comfortable’ with the prospect of tackling half the distance….

Having enjoyed the Half Marathon last year (check out the blog HERE), I was looking forward to once again enjoying the runnable trails through the Estate alongside the River Erme. Once over the upstream bridge, the route winds its way back towards the sea before the marathon route splits off and heads off towards the River Avon.

Running through woodland, river trails, farmland, footpaths and quiet lanes, this really is trail runners heaven. And the best was yet to come.

Regular readers will know, I am rubbish at recalling accurate mile by mile, blow by blow accounts of my runs, so forgive me if I ramble randomly…..

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Nobody was going hungry or thirsty!

So heading towards the sea again, running periodically with some great company – Gus, David and Rebecca, we caught up with two more runners. Luke and Adam, both regulars on the trail running scene, who appeared to be wading into the sea!! They believed they had already reached the point at which they should be ‘racing the tide’ and had taken on the fast moving current.

 

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Luke survived his ‘extra’ water crossing

 

They decided to backtrack and helpfully gestured us to not take the same path as them, which meant we momentarily snuck past them as they squelched across the sand. There was much hilarity and banter as we crossed the sand and headed for Burgh Island. The Island is accessible without getting your feet wet at low tide and we got bemused, even admiring glances, from day trippers as we climbed up for our loop of the island.

 

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I don’t know WHY we run here

This is truly a breath taking area of natural beauty and it was a treat to be enjoying it all in such glorious weather. Off the beach, we came to one of the fabulous aid stations. Further adding to the lovely family atmosphere generated by Pure Trail events, this food market of a checkpoint was manned by the parents of one of the Pure Trail’s event organisers. I managed to get a picture of Steve’s Mum and Dad which, in the case of his Mum, is quite a rarity.

So, fuelled again by coke, water melon and Jaffa cakes, I set off to enjoy the coast path between Bigbury and the actual ‘Race The Tide’ crossing at Mothercombe.

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Gus mulling over the selection of food on other!

Gus and I had barely started saying “So, poles, do they really help……” when Luke deftly produced his and sped past us up the next grassy hill!

We reached the crossing of the Erme with plenty of time to spare before the incoming tide arrived and we ventured onto the next section of glorious coastline. The route is so beautiful, demanding for sure, but stunning, that as we turned back in land after about 23 miles, I started to feel a twinge of sadness that we’d reached the final 10km….

Every aid station we passed was stuffed with such a wonderful array of goodies, it would be easy to pile weight on DURING the run. The watermelon though, wow, how utterly refreshing was that!

Turning back along the Erme Estuary for the final trudge back up to the finish line, I had a wave of pride at my performance. Not because of the time I’d taken, or the position I’d finished, but because I seem to be getting so much better at judging my effort level to get maximum pleasure out of my time out on the course.

*NOTE FROM NICKY – He’s also under strict instructions not to end up in the medic’s tent like after his Eden Marathon ‘efforts’!

And what a course.

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Thank you to the organisers for this picture, I almost look like an afferlete!

Due to the way the different distances of the day’s races were timed, I managed to cross the line about a minute before, our great friend, Martin, a regular feature in this blog. He hadn’t been with us last year and I just knew he was going to be waxing lyrical, in his sexy brummie twang, about how gorgeous the route is. And he was, he also loved it

Another great friend, Gloria, had enjoyed a lovely walk and paddle in the Erme before setting herself in prime position for finish line photos.

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Nicky & Abi – wearing the smiles of a happy run

Before long Abi, another great friend, fresh from her marathon debut in London, and Nicky, were giggling their way through a mock sprint finish to the line. They had nattered and munched and selfied their way around the beautiful route and Abi declared it her new favourite race!

The School House Café literally next door to the event field, was our destination for mammoth cakes and happy musings of a wonderful day.

Asked how much I enjoyed it, I declared it to be, out of all the events I’ve ever tackled WITHOUT Nicky by my side, it is my absolute favourite. Pure Trail give their events that feeling of being involved in something quite epic, whilst keeping the atmosphere of hanging out with your mates and family. The route was well thought out and maximised this incredible location, the marshals and organisers were all smiles and supportive, with so many experienced trail and ultra runners on the ‘staff’ for the day, the participants were more than safe and catered for.

I was sooooo busy enjoying the views I forgot to take much in the way of photographs but hope I’ve captured the flavour of a wonderful day.

FOOTNOTE – After 107 blog posts, you’d think I’d start to understand WordPress a bit better. apologies for some of the picture captions!

 

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FOOTNOTE 2 – my quads were loving this today!!!!

 

a VERY good place to start

I smoked my very last cigarette on January 13th 2007. I went for my first run on January 14th 2007. I think the cigarette lasted longer than the run……….

I recorded that run on Fetch as one mile. Clearly it wasn’t that far.

We’re all different. We all run at different paces. We, even those who have ran since childhood, all started our running journey somewhere. Somebody quipped recently that “you don’t need to train it all comes naturally to you” or words to that effect. HHHmmm, I reject that.

I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every single run in the 10 and a half years since that last fag. BUT, don’t be fooled, it was a loooong time before anybody would look at me and say “it comes naturally to him“!

In fact, when I first tried out a club, I was described as “running like a drunk man herding cats“, which I’m guessing wasn’t a compliment!

 

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Water station on training runs!

So, if any of you lovely blog readers are at the start of your running journey, be assured that I’ve been ticking of milestones too. I clearly remember running non-stop (for the first time) for 15 minutes, 3 miles, an hour… etc etc and being utterly delighted each time and having many a gasping on my knees moment…….

 

ANYWAY…. what a weekend just gone. I know, I know we’re rapidly approaching the next one, and the blog has only just wormed its way into the web…

 

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Even in the rain, Bantham was magical at first light

Saturday. The Swoosh. Nicky and (chatty) Martin and I headed off at 4am. FOUR. A. M. to arrive in Bantham for the sunrise. Unfortunately the heavy cloud and rain meant this was particularly anti-climatic. Day didn’t so much ‘break’, more reluctantly snuck in.

 

Since rejecting debauchery as a life style, friendships have become considerably less numerous and incredibly more treasured. You will not meet a more genuine, caring, supportive, hilarious and loyal chap than Martin, and both Nicky and I are honoured to be able to share these adventures with him.

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He’s still a child though

 

Enough man love…… Having waved them onto the bus for their journey to the start, I donned my running attire and set off running the 4.5 mile trail along the Avon Estuary to watch the 350 or so dawn swimmers submerge themselves in the murky river.

 

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And they’re off…..

I obviously didn’t quite understand the map as my Garmin showed 6.5 miles by the time I arrived at the start. “I don’t think I read the email properly” I told the marshal manning the gate as hundreds of black rubber and orange cap clad swimmers filtered passed him. He did a double take at my attire……

 

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And they’re back!

The Swoosh is yet another great event in our glorious countryside, impeccable organisation, iconic location, wonderful atmosphere, belting sausage and egg sandwiches.

 

I ended up doing 12.5 glorious miles and got to support my beautiful, amazing wife and our great friend at a truly lovely event. Ain’t life grand? (As I may have mentioned?)

I don’t consider myself a Step-Dad or Step-Grandad, I just consider myself lucky to have become part of such a wonderful family. With the early morning nature of The Swoosh, we had plenty of time to get home for an afternoon of mirth, merriment and mocking with the hugely energetic grandchildren. Alisa is still smashing her health and fitness drive and has combined a fantastic drop in dress size with a real drive for fitness and a more healthy lifestyle.

 

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There wasn’t a queue of people to get in and swim!

So, the weekend rolled back down to the South Hams on Sunday. We were entered as a relay team, with Nicky doing a 1km sea swim followed by me tackling a rugged 10 mile trail run. The forecast brisk south westerlies were that, and more. Nicky was quite nervous of wading into the lively seas, but she needed have worried. The conditions had snookered the organisers, The Trail Events Company and they were unable to get a safety boat near the beach to put safety and medical personnel onboard, so the swim was, unfortunately, cancelled. A very fair policy was hastily communicated, whereby a deferment to any of their future events, for one or both of us, was offered. Alternatively, one or both of us could do the run as a stand alone event. I felt for the organisers and thought they dealt with a difficult situation very well.

 

 

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Elite afferlete ready for the off…..

Nicky opted for reading her book in the car (and may have had a snooze) whilst I lined up with the small field of runners to tackle the coast and country 10 mile route.

 

I set off amongst the rather athletic looking guys and girls in their tri-suits from around the country, holding back a little to start with as I knew there the terrain to come and wanted to hold my effort levels for the tough sections.

After passing through the gorgeous Hope Cove, the coast path is particularly testing, right up to the scramble in land at Bolberry and I gradually started overtaking a few people and was feeling strong and alive in the fabulous terrain.

Stopping briefly for an orange squash and to dip my timing chip at the check point, I pushed on. I could see the leaders in the distance for a while and wondered just how far up the field I was.

 

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The Milton Sands masses wave their goodbyes

With about 2 miles to go, I caught a friendly chap who informed me that I had demoted him to 5th.

 

I was in 4th place! In a running race! Blimey.

I didn’t see the podium owning guys until the finish, but even my rather embarrassing failed attempt at a heel click as I approached the line couldn’t take the grin off my face.

 

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Don’t try this at home kids!

So, our much anticipated husband and wife relay team’s debut is on hold, we’ll find another event, or maybe be back for a crack at this again, it is a stunning location and the run route is tremendous.

 

So, as the blog is VERY late this week, there’s been nearly a full week of working, running, swimming and domesticity since then. A family run in the woods on Monday morning was a peaceful way to prepare ourselves for the week.

I did some actual training on Tuesday morning, doing 3 x 2km at eye balls out pace, definitely still feeling the race on Sunday.  Then in the evening we went over to Brixham for an extremely chatty bimble with the Harriers. The jury is still out on whether we a: can,

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Harriers in their natural habitat

or b: want to, commit to this being a regular fixture. We shall see.

 

I ran with Charlie on the coast path on Wednesday morning and through Cockington on Thursday morning. In a departure from the norm, Nicky and I met after work tonight and did the 3 x 2km session, this being Nicky’s pace work for the week. For the last rep, we handicapped it and I attempted (for once successfully) to chase her down, both of us threatening to relive our lunch! All of the runs can be seen on Strava if you’d like to see how a heel-clicking, cat herding middle aged man skips around.

2017-06-30 16.45.47So here we are, the weekend.

Bring on some adventure I say…….

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