I thought I’d travelled a long way back in May when I attempted the Dragon 100 ultra marathon. (I didn’t quite finish…..but did write about it…here)
Those that used to read the blog regularly will need no introduction to my amazing wife Nicky.
For those that are new here, let’s just say Nicky is my inspiration, my motivation, my rock, my world, my soul mate, my best friend and I am blessed that she is also my beautiful wife.
She is also an endurance athlete extraordinaire.
Back in September she cycled the length of Britain from Lands End to John O’Groats. A journey of 1000 miles with 50,000ft of hills averaging 75 miles per day.
Now THAT’s going long.
It went someway to battling the disappointment of her attempt to complete the Outlaw triathlon back in July. The Outlaw is an Ironman distance triathlon in Nottingham. Nicky had planned her training from December 2018 until the Outlaw, ticking off every session as she did it. She really is relentless once she sets her mind to it.
Unfortunately, the weather was to intervene. Rain and wind of biblical proportions arrived the night before the race and destroyed the bike course. I found out that the organisers had cancelled the bike leg whilst Nicky was halfway through the 2.4 mile swim. She found out as she exited the water. A massive blow and anti climax, but definitely the right decision.
So, Nicky turned down the invitation to wait a few hours in the foul weather to run a marathon which still wouldn’t give her that iron distance triathlon finish.
We headed home with a massive sense of anti-climax, and of unfinished business.
So we both enter 2020 with fitness goals, challenges and adventures firmly in our sights.
There will be running, there will be cycling, there most certainly will be swimming. Watch this space.
So how did our first week of 2020 go? All fired up an raring to go?
‘yes’ and ‘no’
Both full of chesty colds, we abandoned our traditional trip to the Chard Flyer 10k on 1st January. It is normally how we find out how much older, heavier and slower we have become! Instead we went for a splendid 6 mile walk around Occombe and Cockington.
For me, I’ve managed to cycle to and from work once (about 4.5 miles each way), but now have a mechanical issue with my ~*:^ing bike! I’ve also been out for a snotty 6 mile run, which was hard work, but I think I felt better for doing it.
And then today: I went on the trails. Yup, I’d written myself a sort of training program. What did it say I needed to run? Some tarmac bashing with some miles at a particular pace. Instead I donned the head torch and headed for the coast….. (more about this ‘training plan’ in a future post.
Nicky has fared better:
She has ran twice (6 & 8 miles)
Rode the indoor trainer (on Zwift, more on this in a future post).
Ridden 44 very hilly miles on the road
Swam twice – 1km & 1mile.
So, the first week of the new year draws to a close.
The best development domestically has been Charlie starting to pull his weight with the house work. Washing up is hard with his little paws, but he’s giving it his best shot.
For new readers, brace yourselves, you are about to be subjected to a barrage of me eulogising about my quite amazing lady wife. Our lives of challenges and adventures brought us, last weekend, into the gorgeous Cotswolds for the culmination of Nicky’s determined training for this, her first middle distance (half Ironman) triathlon.
Training had been stalled by a calf injury (which also scuppered her 2 Oceans ambitions – read about that HERE). Having had some excellent therapy and trained hard and around the problem, she arrived at the Cotswold 113 in as good a shape as circumstances could possibly have allowed.
So, with our great friend Martin tucked safely in the back of the mini and their trusty steeds securely on the roof, we hit the road.
Glorious sunshine greeted us as we arrived for registration and the detailed race briefing on Saturday. There are a number of lakes at the race location and lots of great facilities for water sports enthusiasts, adrenaline junkies, kids and adults alike. There was a super friendly, slightly nervous buzz about the place as we enjoyed the warmth and sauntered around the registration area.
113 Events are a fabulous organisation. It would be easy to focus on the two ‘main’ guys from the organisers, and I will in fact do that, but every single one of the marshals, volunteers, police officers, water safety crew, motorcycle outriders, aid station teams and, of course, athletes, made this quite an incredible weekend.
So, the ‘main’ men – Graeme, the dry witted, unflappable, composer of emails, organiser and administrator of an extraordinarily personal registration process. Graeme actually suggested any of the thousand or so entrants that may be passing his door in the preceding week could call in to his house and register over a cuppa! He must keep a healthy stock of PG Tips.
Then there’s ‘loud’ Dave. Chief shouter of encouragement, instructions and banter. His booming voice echoing across the lake on Sunday morning as he stood waist deep in water hauling the swimmers up the steps is definitely one of my favourite memories.
The Saturday briefing was delivered twice and was invaluable for Nicky and Martin. Informative, informed, light-hearted, yet serious when it needed to be, those that managed to get there will have had their fears allayed and doubts answered. Graeme used a mic and P.A. speaker.
We decided to drive the bike course, a 28 mile loop (which would be ridden twice on race day), taking in the ‘hills’ which, living in Devon, didn’t present any fears for Nicky and Martin.
I’m acutely aware that I’m starting to get a bit ‘this happened, then this happened….’ soooooooo
I had Sunday morning all planned for my (spreading) stomach. All its ins and outs were to happen in a carefully planned and controlled manner. We’d met our friends Mac and Valerie who were due in the water at 6.10am, 10 minutes after the first wave which included my two eager athletes. With the swim start waves due to take an hour to get everybody in the water, I was going to use the lull in toilet queues to take care of the, er, ‘out’.
The ‘in’? A bacon and egg bap with my name on it which I would munch as I sauntered across to watch the swim exit.
It didn’t happen like that. We arrived lakeside about 4.30am to a thick mist. We couldn’t see the buoys and quite clearly there wasn’t going to be a 6am start.
By 6.30 my tummy’s ‘out’ had started to become urgent……… I simply had to join the increasingly nervous (and chilly) neoprene clad masses in the queue to poo.
The fog cleared and at 7.30 precisely the first wave took the plunge.
A lump in my throat, as pride, love, nerves and trepidation engulfed me. The woman I adore, the woman who inspires me, drives me and makes every moment precious, ploughed across the lake. Unperturbed by the mass of big strong guys crashing their twirling arms through the water, my petite heroine was getting stuck right in.
47 minutes later I watched her hold her ground as a couple of guys’ pincer movement failed to edge her out of the steps at swim exit. A big strong hoick from (loud) Dave and his fellow crew and off she padded towards her bike.
My day had started with a 3am alarm. Nicky got out of the water at 8.17 and I STILL hadn’t had my bacon and egg…….. Anyway, I was looking out for 4 people in the mass (880ish started) and Nicky, Martin and Ian (Mac) were all in transition together meaning I got a few piccies. And as they left, Val arrived. I safely watched them all out on to the bike course.
Then I had my bacon and egg…..
I figured I had about an hour and half before any of them would complete the first lap so I chose one of the many empty blue chairs around one of the food stalls and got my book out.
What am I reading? I hear you yawn. Well, I’m reading On Writing by Stephen King. Regular readers, in fact anybody that’s reading this seeing as I’m, er, writing it, might know I do enjoy scribbling a few words. I’ve had a rocky time with writing lately. I’d signed up to do a high profile brand’s ‘creative writing’ course only to find that their mission statements to be all about loving money rather than loving writing. So back it went.
I’ve since signed up for membership to Writers HQ. With their far more earthy approach and mottos such as “Stop f**cking about and start writing” and the simple “Write what you love” I reckon it was allllll meant to be.
Anyway, I’ve also been ploughing through Stephen King’s memoir of the craft.
“Excuse me is anyone sitting in this…?” (blue chair with no occupant.)
“No, I have no friends, take them all if you like”
Two cups of coffee a BACON AND EGG bap and a few chapters later I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag. Well, my book in my draw stringed bag anyway.
We had driven around the potentially difficult corner (a VERY sharp right turn) which ends lap one, quite a few times on Saturday. It is a VERY sharp corner and comes after 28 miles. Martin was struggling to understand the junction, so we went back AGAIN and walked him through it. Nope, he really didn’t see how it would work….
….. I chose this spot to watch the end of the first lap. Mac, flew through almost immediately, going really strong in his bright and easy to spot Torbay Tri racing kit.
I’ll take this opportunity to big-up 113 Events AGAIN! This potential pinch point on the course had had all the hedges and verges trimmed to increase visibility, there were massive signs specific to this junction, marshals on both sides of the approach yelling “sharp right turn”. A further marshal stood in the middle of the road, blocking the straight on option and another on the inside. All the gravel had been swept off the road.
I have, over the last 10 years entered dozens and dozens of running events, most of them incredibly well organised, but I honestly do not think I have attended such a ‘no stone unturned’, athlete centred event as this and its ‘SOLD OUT’ sign will appear even earlier next year as athletes’ word of mouth advertising spirals. I’ve heard that a high profile triathlon of similar distance taking place on the same weekend still had the ‘VACANCIES’ sign up.
I eagerly awaited Martin’s arrival…….
He waved enthusiastically and took the corner with ease.
Unlike about 20 or so guys who, heads down and focused, had to over run the corner and then turn back, most of whom took the cheers of the massed spectators in good humour.
As did the guy who tumbled over his bike as he entered transition at the end of his ride.
Mac and Martin safely negotiated themselves onto the run and then my excitement levels and bursting pride started reaching fever pitch as Nicky came steaming back into transition.
She calmly handed me her cycling top as she headed out for the first of her 3 run laps.
For the next 2 and a bit hours I charged around various points around the lakes and surrounding lanes to give as many cheers as I possibly could.
I was humbled by the sheer determination on show from everyone and with the competitors names printed on their numbers I was able to personalise my relentless encouragement.
Mac was fading the final lap, hardly surprising as he’d absolutely smashed the thing out of the park. Martin seemed knackered but in control and Valerie judged her efforts all the way to the finish.
As for Nicky……… As I’ve said many many times (and will say many many more times) she is a wonderful lady, a fabulous role model to all of us. Takes what she’s got, works as hard as she possibly can to turn that into the best version of herself through grit, determination, relentlessness and a refusal to accept that she “can’t”.
Three years ago Nicky was unable to swim 33 meters without pausing. On Sunday she completed 1.2 miles in the water and the total of 70.3 miles in under 7 hours and did so with a bounce and a sparkle and a smile.
The announcer yelled “… and from Paignton in Devon it’s NICKY BONFIELD…” as Nicky eschewed her normal self consciousness and threw her exhausted arms in the air.
All You Have To Do Is Dream sang Bob Dylan. Well, who’s to say he’s wrong. He sang quite a lot of words, and still does. Were you to compile every single lyric, poem or prose by the great folk poet, you’d have quite a tome.
I’ve been busy making some decisions to help me focus on those dreams which, ultimately, are the dreams which matter. Trying to avoid completely ‘outcome focussed’ goals.
I guess we all crave more leisure time, and maybe we can all be guilty of measuring the success of how we spend our time by the ‘outcomes’.
A bit of self-critical analysis has me thinking I’ve been a bit guilty of this in my writing. I mean, it’s absolutely lovely when readers engage with my wittering, and I really enjoy the process of creating content which might just give someone else pleasure.
BUT, I’ve found I’ve been putting myself under pressure to write a couple of regular articles for online publications, to deadlines. I fully appreciate that all budding writers start out as ‘amateurs’ and have to find the time to write around the real world of their ccommitments. BUT (again, starting a sentence with ‘BUT’! Lazy writing…) when we’re all so time poor, let’s focus on the things which give us most pleasure.
As regular blog readers will know I’m in the embryonic stages of writing a book (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of researching my characters’ backgrounds and letting them reveal themselves to me. The plot thickness each day, I let the story meander around my head when I’m digging a hole at work, or plodding along the coast path.
The beauty of the book writing is that I am under no pressure to produce an ‘outcome’ in a specific time frame and so if I can write a bit, I will, if not then I won’t. And nobody will be any the wiser. Except a couple of people have said ‘So when are we going to see this book?’!
By coincidence, Nicky and I both came to similar conclusions about our training on Sunday morning. I set off for a long run as Nicky set off for her bike ride and we arrived home within a few minutes of each other three and a half hours later. We’d both made our routes up as we went along, concluding that, despite us both having ‘goal’ events we should definitely be making sure we enjoy every minute of our exercising. Check out my run HERE and Nicky’s ride HERE
Some views from my run…
The previous day, after a sleep deprived and extremely tiring and challenging week, we forfeited our endurance plans in exchange for coffee and a lie-in and jogged to our local Parkrun at the Torbay Velopark. It turns out, with a bit of rest and recovery, we’re both fitter and faster than we give ourselves credit for.
Nicky ran a Parkrun PB whilst I set off in pursuit of some fellow 50something chaps who are always around to share a run and a joke (and they normally whop me!). I astounded myself by running faster than for a year or more and snuck in front of all of them for a 1st Vet 50 finish. Rather chuffed I don’t mind admitting. Neil, (a very old friend) in particular, and I have shared plenty of bragging rights over the years and I have no doubt he’ll be claiming them back at the first opportunity!
So, like my running, my writing will be more about enjoying what I can do, when I can do it. Maybe, just maybe, like with my running, there’ll be the occasional ‘success’ in writing too. Whatever that looks like. But the true measure of success will be….. well, like this blog post, something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Bob Dylan loves his writing, amongst a thousand prophetic and poetic quotes he says….
“Take care of all of your memories, you can’t relive them”
At every junction I selected a direction on Sunday’s run and hummed “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”.
I know of people who might run around the block if their running device of choice indicated a distance of 4.9 miles as they approach home………
……I take that to new levels. If I think there might be a chance of bumping into Nicky whilst out on my runs I will alter course, speed up, slow down, run around in circles…
She may be running herself, cycling , or walking the dog, but I’ll try and have a ‘chance encounter’ wherever possible.
I guess it’s one of the millions of lovely symptoms of being in love! As I’ve documented on many occasions in this blog, my life with Nicky truly is amazing, Like living my whole life riding a wave of love and adventure and challenges, I truly treasure every single moment.
So, last Saturday we both planned to do the Torbay Velopark Parkrun. I was also hoping to run somewhere between 15 and 20 miles, including the Parkrun and then the 1.5 miles or so home. Nicky, with her ‘Familiarisation Day’ looming, was aiming to run to and from the Parkrun.
After about 12 miles I found myself looping around our house in the hope of casually bumping into Nicky and then running together. Success! Ahhhh, the course of true love!
So we jogged to the Parkrun, Nicky ran much quicker than she ever gives herself credit for whilst I puffed and panted my way around about 5 minutes slower than my best!
My mission to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP) is going well!
A 3.30AM alarm the following day. That’s 3.30 AM!! Yes, a really early start to attach Nicky’s and Martin’s bikes to the roof of the trusty Mini, and we headed off for The Cotswolds. Our splendid friend, Martin, notorious on the blog, didn’t disappoint with his chatter, nor his infamous sugar intake, as the day went on.
They’re doing a middle distance triathlon in June you see (like a Half Ironman, but not of that brand!), so they jumped at the opportunity to go to a familiarisation day at the actual venue to be used on the day.
We arrived at Lake 32, Cotswold Water Park, a little early to be confronted by a locked gate, a few cars waiting to pass through it and some people wandering around on mobile phones. It soon became clear, as the gate was opened, that we were clogging up the entrance for members waiting to have their early morning swim in this excellent facility.
So we span the mini wheels up a grass banked and claimed our spot for the day. There were already several people in the lake enjoying the variety of well marked out routes.
How come I’m not joining them I hear you cry??? Well, firstly, I am really focussing on trying to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP), secondly I have appointed myself chief supporter, bag carrier, driver, coffee drinking cameraman for Nicky’s challenge and THIRDLY, I simply can’t multi-task like my beautiful wife!
My pride in Nicky just grows and grows, she waded into the (admittedly rather inviting looking) lake and my heart swelled with love as her and the Silver Fox started to plough across the lake.
We’d bought Taste The Difference cookies, the chocolate shortbread ones AND the flapjacky ones. A sneaky chomp on a couple of them kept me munching away as I tried to pick out the Devon crew amongst the mass of swimmers.
“MARTIN, MARTIN, MAAAARTIN” I yelled at the guy in the Orca wetsuit wearing the River Dart 10k Swim cap stood in the shallows…….. he eventually turned around and revealed himself to be…… a complete stranger!
Once they’d emerged safe and sound and changed we had some coffee from the little café onsite and Martin gave their sugar supplies a healthy kicking, the crew on duty from Cotswold 113 events started to take charge of the day.
The bike carrier had made a successful debut meaning the trusty Penny Farthings were ready to join the mass ride. Apologies to anyone trying to drive around Cirencester on Sunday.
After a few wardrobe decisions in the growing heat, Martin went for a duffle coat and Nicky was nigh-on naked, they became part of the mass clicking of cleats.
The nice lad on the gate informed me that the trails around the lakes were about 2 miles long, so I took the opportunity to do a few laps. After 4 of these laps the lovely location was starting to lose its novelty value, so I added some variety by running a final one anti-clockwise to get a different viewpoint of the scenery.
And then Nicky and Martin whizzed back into ‘transition’ and changed into their running gear whilst I racked the bikes back on the roof. Slick. Well, not quite slick, but certainly more efficient than I’d imagined it would be.
And so I snuck into the pack of budding triathletes and joined them for the 4.5 mile recce of the run route. A lovely stop-start trot with a very informative run guide pointing out the main points of the route.
By complete coincidence, we ran on some of the Thames Path, at the point where I would have been in the last few miles of the T60 had it not, unfortunately, been cancelled. And on that note, don’t forget, the lovely people at T Series Racing have given the blog a place in their T100 later in the year to give away. FOR FREE.
If you fancy winning a place in that 100 mile ultra marathon in August then check out my previous blog post HERE.
Anyway, another week is soon to become another weekend……
Nicky and I watched this fabulous film recently. By coincidence, I needed to carry out a film review, using strict format and word count, as part of a trial for a copywriting brokerage.
If you’re inspired by extraordinary people overcoming extraordinary barriers to attempt extraordinary endurance feats, then you’ll love this film. Or, indeed, if you simply enjoy a full-on tear jerking love story, or a rollicking adventure, I’m sure you’ll be lost in the emotion and action of 100 Metros.
Not only has Sherborne in Dorset (NOT Sherbourne in KENT!) got a White Stuff, lovely coffee shops, stunning period architecture and a well posh independent school, it’s also a mere 70 pence to park for 2 hours.
We do love a bargain.
Sherborne was pit stop 2 on our journey. Our first port of call was Tri Uk in Yeovil. I had previously had my bargain wetsuit from these guys, online, but had never visited this sweet shop for endurance fans.
We saw bikes for hundreds, but mostly thousands, of pounds and a bike in front of a television screen which you could sit on and ride with people in Japan. We obviously looked a little bit out of place as it took a while for us to be acknowledge as genuine potential customers. But, yes, even us oldies are interested in shiny things and bright moving pictures.
We managed, between us, to only buy a cap. Oh, and coffee, toasties and cake, naturally.
So what was our destination on this trip east?
Ferndown. Yup, the Premier Inn in Ferndown. A mere mile from the start (and finish) of the Ferndown Try a Tri. A triathlon, not a marathon, ultra marathon or trail run. Nope, it’s DEFINITELY a triathlon.
Me? Doing a triathlon? Really? Absolutely not!! I’m sure regular readers will guess…. yes my astonishing, adventurous, inspirational (and HOT) lady wife Nicky made her triathlon debut on Sunday. And what a marvellous day it turned out to be.
Having blitzed the money we saved on parking on a meal out, although Nicky’s steak was rather disappointingly grizzly (it was heavily discounted as a result), we tucked up for a little bit of Strictly before trying to shake off the pre-race nerves and get some quality shut eye.
The chirpy chappy working reception in the hotel had furnished us with athlete worthy quantities of coffee sashes and we set about these after the alarm broke our fitful sleep at stupid o’clock.
Nicky braved a porridge pot as best she could and before we knew it we were making the short drive to the leisure centre. Sporting her tri-suit which, was as yet to see active service, and a couple of extra layers to combat the chilly, drizzly air, she registered and set about orientating herself with the event layout.
Any new activity, engaged for the first time, is daunting. Some of that apprehension dissipated as we realised that she was far from the only debutant. There appeared to be a full range of ages and levels of experience. We made our way to the swimming pool to watch the first waves complete their lengths using a variety of strokes and techniques.
A really friendly, supportive and inclusive atmosphere cloaked the whole event in a comforting glow despite the grey skies. Before I knew it, Nicky was poolside for her briefing and without any drama she was in. Etiquette in the pool was being observed on the whole and Nicky looked strong as she rattled off the lengths in front of her two lane companions.
I rushed outside to see her jog along towards the tennis courts where the bike racking and transitions took place. I was so excited, and just bursting with pride, maybe a tad jealous, but mostly just motivated to replicate my incredible lady’s fabulous enthusiasm and drive to keep pushing the boundaries.
Before long she was jogging back out ready to mount her trusty stead and head to the streets of Ferndown. We had driven the 11 mile bike route the previous evening and found it to be prolifically marked (and marshalled on the day) and without any alarming hills or dangers.
Disappointingly, the vending machine back inside the leisure centre delivered me a black flat white (actually I quite enjoyed it) to warm the bones whilst I enjoyed watching the transition action. With start times spread out over an hour and a half and a selection of speeds on show, there was always someone passing to wish bon chance.
Before I could say ‘blimey, here comes Nicky!’ I was saying ‘BLIMEY, here comes Nicky’!!
She gracefully dismounted (there had been quite a selection of dismounting styles) and trotted off to transition. Us spectators were welcome to enter the different areas as long as we didn’t impede the intrepid athletes. But, I’m pleased to report, the anticipated confusion and calamitous comedy was absent from transition.
Smoother than a particularly smooth smoothie, Nicky racked her bike and removed cycling related paraphernalia. Slightly shaking from the cycling effort, she calmly donned her running shoes and set off for the field.
The transition master
Some reassuring mud
The run was four laps (about 3 miles) of the sports fields alongside the centre and, again, it was great for spectators. Being able to see the whole course and your athletes several times, as well as little battles taking place, throughout the field, made for compelling viewing.
Sounds more authoritative than ‘I would like to…’ or ‘I want to…’
Ok, so it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to writing a new blog post. Citing work commitments, fatigue, time, time, time and all that STUFF that fills our lives. But, if something is truly a goal, then just make it happen.
Actually, since the last blog there’s been a few events…..
THE EAST FARM FROLIC I know, I know, this was going to be my ‘target’ event for the year…… in the end a fabulous day out at a wonderful event. Fine fun in fine company….
The next day we went and did the LUSTLEIGH SHOW 10k another lovely day. Both of Nicky’s lovely girls came along, Alisa running her second 10k and Lou looking after the youngest two grandchildren whilst Nanny and Grandad ran too……
Oh, and I marshalled at City To Sea, a marathon and ultra marathon, in appalling conditions.
Then came the weekend just gone. Nicky, once again moving the bar, taking 20 minutes off her time for the River Dart 10k Swim. She finished alongside our great mate, Martin. Whilst they would earn a gold hat if they were to come back for a third year, it looks like chief goader (Nicky) has (once again) hooked chief goadee (Martin) and next years goals look slightly different……. But first, some pictures from the swim……
Soooo, whilst I’m threatening to go long (er) next year (and write a book of course), Nicky and Martin have quite publically announced their intentions to ………… drum roll……. do a Half Iron Man!!! There, it’s out there………
Martin has been walking like John Wayne this week, and he’s only sat on the bikes in Halfords so far…..
Then, on Sunday just gone, I ran the inaugural Torbay Tornado Half Marathon, Alisa running her first ever ‘solo’ race, did the 5k. A quirky series of races organised by relative newcomers, Riviera Racers. We both had great fun battling the tough point to point routes and more than earned our medals…
So, as for my targets…. well I (under the prompting of my wonder woman!) have entered the Gower 50 which is only 3 weeks away!
With this in mind, I ran to the start of the half marathon and then ran home afterwards (making 27 miles in total).
I’m planning a big run on Saturday to confirm to me that I’m fit enough for the challenge, then my wonderful lady wife and I are off for a weeks r’n’r in the sunshine….