There are no ‘cheats’

Nope.

My two favourite hobbies. The one I tend to do alone and the one I sometimes do alone but MUCH prefer it if my beautiful wife is doing it with me.

“Of what do you witter now?” I hear you cry…..

Writing, of course, and running, naturally. Although keen observers have rarely described me as running ‘naturally’!

Anyway, it turns out you can’t just pitch up with your pen or your trainers and instantly be a published author or complete a marathon.

Nope.

You’ve got to write.

You’ve got to run.

Luckily for me I REALLY enjoy running and I REALLY enjoy writing.

Phew!

It all depends what I want my hobbies to give me back.

I could run like Forrest Gump (and there’s plenty who’d suggest I already do!) and still never become an ‘elite’ athlete but I will always get so much pleasure from each and every step.

Writing, on the other hand, well, there might just be a chance of writing becoming a double edged sword, slicing backwards and forwards through the fatigue of life. Yes, with some focus and commitment, writing might just open a few doors.

So what does a man who is regularly barely able to drag his aching feet high enough to stand on the bulging demands and pressures on his time trying to squeeze them into the available hours do?

Signs up for a Creative Writing course. Naturally…….

Wish me luck…….

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 🙂

 

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……….

 

 

 

with the roof right over our heads

When somebody says “I used to play a bit.”, when asked about, say, the guitar, or table tennis, it normally leads to a thrashing with the little white ball followed by a Hendrix-esque whirlwind solo…. A bit like when our friend, Martin (regular blog visitors will know all about Martin and his sugar fetish – see various posts from the past, including THIS ONE), pitches up and cheerfully announces, in his cute Brummie twang, “I haven’t done any training”, before promptly skipping around a marathon in 4 hours!

By the way, my Dad played a high standard of table tennis and was still comfortably kicking my sweaty arse right up until he was stopped by my Mother…. what with his hip replacement and everything.

Sandbagging, I believe it’s known as.

Well, believe me, I DEFINITELY play “a bit” of guitar.

 

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Callum and myself enjoying some pre-breakfast colouring to a Dylan soundtrack!

We had the grandson, Callum, to stay Friday, which is a rare treat, so we forfeited a run this weekend and headed off to Exeter for some lovely book buying, including visiting the lovely people at The Piano Room and The Music Room upstairs. Returning with bellies full of pasties and cake and coffee and coke and with bags full of novels and biographies and music books and guitar tabs and plectrums, we start trying to squeeze our passions into our spare time.

 

 

Bob Dylan with Cigarette in Harmonica Holder, Philadelphia, 1964Actually, I managed ALL of my planned runs for over a week right up until I happily substituted Saturday’s charge up The Templer Way for some colouring and teaching Callum the wonders of Lord Robert of The Dylan, before mounting our chariot for the trek up to the big smoke.

“What do we want?” “Details of Kevin’s training!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” I hear the crowds chant in  unison……

So, the last 7 days…..

Monday, I managed a muddy head torch run with Charlie, on the coast path, I’m not sure who’s more lardy! Check it out HERE

Then Tuesday was a double day, some hill sprints with Nicky in the morning followed by 3 x 1 mile after work. Always a struggle to get motivated after work – the driving wind and rain wasn’t particularly inviting, so although my times weren’t comparable to those of nippier times, and it felt like trawling through thigh high treacle, I DID IT!!

 

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Charlie, escaping the bogey man!!

More dog jogging, by head torch, around the woods and trails of Occombe and Cockington on Wednesday. I had a spooky moment when my head torch picked out a figure just standing amongst the trees, in complete darkness (about 5.45am!) – check out the run HERE, I reckon the fastest mile was that one!!

 

When I used to train in a group a few years ago, we had several measured routes which we used as time trials. I did one of these on Thursday’s run (HERE), running the 1.8 briskly, taking a jog recovery then running it briskly back, just about keeping the pace under 7min/mile so happy with that on tired legs.

As mentioned, yesterday’s runs were sacrificed, so Charlie and I joined Nicky for a super speedy blitzed up the Templar Way this morning instead. Nicky demonstrating pacing perfection as every mile got gradually quicker. A week of digging, carrying and shimmying up and down a scaffold had taken its toll on my aging limbs so I quickly, and politely, dismissed the suggestion to continue after these lovely 10 miles – I’ll call this a ‘back off’ mileage week!!

 

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Nicky – an absolute blur speeding down The Templar Way

 

So, I did indeed use to (in fact still do) play a ‘bit of guitar’, but inspired by Nicky’s enthusiasm, drive and determination for, well, everything, I have picked it up again this week, hoping to be more than an average rhythm guitarist……..

Don’t forget, for those of you interested in my other writings, check out my latest post about trying to become a novelist (!) HERE.

I’ve got Facebook things HERE, Twitter things HERE, Instagram HERE.

 

 

 

From BACK off to EFF off

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.

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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….

The Reggae Marathon (paradise found)

“Brexit! Yeah Mon, Brexit. HA HA ”

We had a lot of shouts from spectators and fellow runners. Wearing Union Flag vests, it seems, attracts a lot of cheers and banter….

“God bless the Queen” “Ingerland” “Go Great Britain” “Do you guys speak English?” even “Go Canada”!

But “Brexit”!!! It appears our country’s decisions are the subject of much mirth even this far from home.

Anyway.

Here I am feeling like my heart has won the lottery, lying on the beach in paradise with the most beautiful astonishing lady in the whole wide world.

I’ve said it before, but every single day I feel truly blessed.

The Reggae Marathon. The pressure of representing Team GB lessened as we realised the number of British competitors milling around at the start was swelling.

Team GB discuss tactics

Gravitating towards each other, we exchanged greetings and soaked up the bubbling atmosphere. The sweet smell of weed drifting across the runners with the deep reggae bass.

With the 10k, Half Marathon & Marathon there were 2000 runners ready at 5am for the best running party.

All three races go off at 5.15, the torch lit road guiding the runners into Negril town where the bemused but encouraging locals lined the streets despite the early hour.

Apologies here….. We bumped into so many lovely people and even had shout outs for the blog at the pasta party. This was not just the UK runners either. The Dutch and French contingent it turned out are blog readers!

Some of Team GB

We cheered and high fived runners from Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, The USA, Canada and, of course, the beautiful island of Jamaica.

So, “hi” to (and this is a far from exhaustive list) Darragh, Rachel, Sue, Gary, Elise, Cédric, Adele, Samira, Pieter, Don, Tracey and the boys from the resort shouting “GO BOSS” from the window of their bus to work.

HOT!!

Grandson Ollie could have commentated here – one of his first words was “HOT” as he was warned clear of mugs of tea etc.

After turning in Negril and heading back past the start & finish area, the route headed out past our hotel. Which we did four times!

Our goals were simple: have fun and try to finish. The build up to this holiday has been rather demanding and family illnesses and caring issues, for a while, looked like jeopardising the trip.

So lining up at the start line felt like an achievement and a massive relief. Not as much of a relief as the timely positioning of a (already well used!) portaloo at about 5 miles…….

After the 1300 or so 10k runners had peeled off to turn for home, that left us running with the Half Marathoners heading back towards home.

You don’t like reggae?? Probably not the marathon for you, these guys were everywhere

The Half was won in 1h15 and a lovely chap staying at our hotel, Steve, came 5th in 1h25. Of course they were too quick to enjoy what we were going to be treated to……….. It was going to get really HOT!!!

We got to the half way point, where the field was packed with partying finishers from the shorter races, in just under 2h 30m. With the temperature rapidly rising and the sun getting higher in the sky……..

HOT!!!

As the 2nd half started the frequency of seeing other runners diminished but that only made those of us still out there even more determined to high five and cajole each other, shouting determinedly our encouragement.

HOT!! the roads were lonely and exposed making the last hour quite brutal. Nicky was starting to wilt as I tried to help by running with my shadow cast over her.

We repeatedly crossed the road in search of shade and were more than ‘quite’ relieved to see the mile 26 sign and run in our traditional hand holding style!

I truly AM blessed.

“Made it!!!”

2 years ago when we were here the finish area was pretty much packed up by the time we arrived. It was no different this year, the stage and p.a. had already been dismantled as had the bar etc. Luckily we had preempted this and frozen a couple of bottles of coke and put them in our drop bag.

Nectar!

This event gets listed by many in those ‘must do’ lists. It’s easy to see why….

Like Seaton on Grizzly day, the whole town chips in. The main road is closed all morning (apart from a free shuttle bus service which crawls up and down all day). The early morning, torch lit start is quite magical. The sounds, sights and colours (especially in the first half) are quite magnificent and the atmosphere amongst the runners is special and really heart warming.

The route is repetitive and tedious, especially noticeable as it gets hotter. BUT we just focussed on the amazing place we’re in and had (and are having) an absolute BALL!

Will we be back?

To Jamaica? Undoubtedly

To Negril? Almost certainly

To do the marathon???…….

Maybe the 10k………

5h12m47s

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 guys Jogging in the early morning sun Art? “Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??” Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!

THIS JUST IN….

Shock news coming in from Team GB in the Athletes’ Village…..

The runners have been seen….. EXERCISING!

In Negril preparing for Saturday’s Reggae Marathon, the British contingent started the day by not bothering with their planned early morning beach jog.

What a beautiful Jamaican morning

And they weren’t quite as sharp as yesterday claiming their beach spot. Concerns and rumours were abound as one of them only had TWO courses at breakfast.

Then the pair were seen to take to the water and swim. I mean really swim, several times up and down parallel to the beach in the lush warm waters.

This happened during despite yesterday’s HORRENDOUS (well, it did hurt at the time) jellyfish sting.

Tean GB. Teak tough and taking it all very, very seriously.

In other news, Negril is still, indeed, paradise.

Number collecting tomorrow and a blog competition to look out for……

3 days and counting………

Not a bad spot for a bit of scribbling