A 5.30am start the day before the clocks sprung up, fell over, dropped back, or whatever it is they did, meant hitting the beaches of Paignton, Goodrington, Broadsands and Elberry Cove as the sun burned into the early morning mist.
Picking up the Musgrove Trail for a while after leaving Churston Village, some of my favourite local trails. from the top of the hill the views take in Torbay in one direction and the River Dart the other way.
Past Greenway and down to the boat yard on the creek there before climbing the field on the outskirts of Galmpton. A bit of road from there until you get into Stoke Gabriel.
Picking up Fleet Mill lane towards Totnes where I can never resist running to the end of Long Marsh, particularly early morning, for the jaw dropping view down the river.
From Totnes, picking up the Torbay/Totnes trail, through the traveller’s site which has been there for decades, passing the Mare and Foul Sanctuary and into the shadow of the spooky ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle.
The trails towards Marldon are fabulous running on soft ground, woodland and fields (with a very slow mile as I tip toed through some young cattle!) before running under the gorgeous underpass to head towards Occombe.
Passing the marathon point of the run in Scadson Woods before popping out on Preston Sea Front then running up through Victoria Park and home.
I ran a mile the day after giving up smoking (14th January 2007). It took me about 20 minutes. It wasn’t pretty but it was everything I had.
I’d been lucky enough to be a teenager in a sport mad house during the 1980s. I witnessed (on a colour telly no less) the great races between Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and everybody’s favourite posh boy, Sebastian Coe. All three still feature in the all time 25 fastest times by men over the distance.
It inspired me. But not right away…….. 20 years of fags, booze and a shocking lifestyle later, I was setting my 20 minute mile.
When I joined forces with Lewis Keywood to help him with his wonderful run group Keywood Running (see THIS blog post to read all about us), we brain stormed some ideas to inspire the group.
I’m fascinated by the mile as distance to run. We tend to talk about our runs in miles (rather than kilometers) – miles ran and minutes per mile. The process of running a single mile, particularly if you attempt it as fast as possible, is a challenge of both speed and endurance for the body. The mile requires a steely grit to convince yourself to keep going.
“It’s a long way to sprint!” quipped one of our runners the other night.
He’s not wrong.
Since 1970 it has been the only IAAF world record officially recognised over an imperial distance. Whilst it hasn’t featured in the Olympics, there many highly prestigious runs and races over the distance.
The Oslo Dream Mile, The Fifth Avenue Mile and the Westminster Mile all spring to mind.
There’s even The Christmas Day Mile – my beautiful lady wife and I head to the sea front for a flat out timed mile early on the big day before gearing up for an eating marathon.
Whether you’re chasing Mo Farah, or chasing my famous 20 minutes, it is a magical distance.
Well there’s a new magical event to add to that list.
In our New Years’ brainstorming session, we came up with this:
Time our runners over a measured mile. Once they’d recovered, ask them to predict what time they’ll run in 6 months time. Simples
We set the date. We printed some numbers. We did social media (oh yes, we are SO down with the kids). We ignored the rain. We set them on their way. We, er, ‘encouraged’ a couple of cars to “WAIT!”.
We timed all the runners.
My own inspiration comes from my amazing, determined and quite beautiful lady wife, Nicky. Having ridden a 6 hour hilly ride the previous day she was quite happy to don her bobble hat and record the results. Don’t worry though, she’s a steely girl and plans to time a mile another time.
With ‘the boss’, Lewis (Keywood – hence the group’s name) charging around encouraging the runners and several injured and ailing members turning up to shout support, there was a fun, excited atmosphere on the night.
It seemed that everyone who ran gave their all and were keen to predict faster times for the summer. A seemingly simple idea which has captured the imagination.
Lewis and I completed our miles straight afterwards. We love a challenge too. I hope the runners were encouraged by their coaches sinking to the floor at the finish line.
Whilst I’m sure the development has caused consternation in many quarters, the new houses overlooking the river in Totnes have a feature which has added more traffic free moments to one of my favourite runs. Paradise Walk in Totnes connects the green lanes from Aish to the Long Marsh and Quayside in the town. Nice.
It comes at a price though. It so many ways.
At least the developers haven’t put a huge 40ft long sign in the hillside…….. er…….
Regular blog followers will know that life has been, and continues to be, beyond challenging and relentlessly and unthinkingly sad this year. Sometimes priorities change. The blog has slipped down the pecking order in recent months, as has writing in general. As has running. We’ve missed so many events which we’d entered this year.
I shan’t be blogging about our personal life at this torrid time. BUT, determined not to drop the blog, I felt a little running update was in order. In a vote as to whether or not to leave or remain the world of blogging, I went with REMAIN 😉
So. To the commit blog followers, thank you for standing by patiently! To new readers, errr, WELCOME, please check out previous posts, there are many tales from the world of challenges and adventures I share with my truly wonderful lady wife, Nicky….. (spoiler alert, you WILL find me gushing relentlessly about how this incredible person is my COMPLETE WORLD!)
Also spoiler alert, I ain’t no WordPress pro, guv, so please excuse any layout amateurishness….
Determined to arrive at next year’s BIG CHALLENGE in the best possible shape, I have kept up getting out for a few hours each week for a challenging longish run.
Early last Saturday, with daylight a fair way off and the rains falling, I set out to tackle the afore mentioned route. After a wonderful summer of sunshine and running in vests and 4am daylight, I’ve actually found it comforting to start laying out some kit the night before a big run. Well, these days this IS a big run. With over 20 miles and plenty of off roady, hilly stuff I knew I’d be out a while….. beany, cap, 2 buffs, running back pack, drinks bottles, oat bars, shot blocks, headtorch, base layer, t shirt, jacket……….
Straight down to the beach, passing a guy doing the walk of shame in the pouring rain, dressed in a teddy bear onesie. Past the people who’ve been camping under the pier for weeks, around the harbour and over the headland before heading inland. I really am enjoying getting back to running into the headtorch beam.
Through the lanes towards Stoke Gabriel, trying not to be spooked by sudden rustling of wildlife almost certainly being spooked by me. The rain had intensified by then but daylight was coming. There are so many little lanes and tracks to chose and I took a minor detour as some young cattle were less than impressed that the footpath goes straight across their early morning graze!
Through the hamlet of Aish and onto the green lanes towards Totnes. Despite the daylight I think the weather may have put off any early morning dog walkers meaning I had some lovely extended solitude until I arrived in Totnes.
The new path through the housing development is a welcome addition to this route and I added a further little loop to enjoy the river.
The route back towards Torbay takes in further green lanes, trails, paths, lots of lovely woodland and plenty of little ups and downs. After reaching Marldon, there are trails through Shorton Valley bringing me out withing a mile of home. This really is a fine route. In light of the state of the world around us, both our little world and the great big world, it is quite literally a breath (several in fact) of fresh air.
Anyone who is local or finds themselves in the area looking for some trail running – check out the route HERE.
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…..
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So, we’ve been having #baconsandwichfriday for a while now. Well, the best customer ever raised the bar this week….
Which was the perfect set up for a packed long weekend.
Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will know this, but for newcomers (hello newcomers!) the general gist of this blog is to share the tales of adventure of myself and my wonderful lady wife, Nicky. Aside from the many yarns spun about running (and cycling and swimming in Nicky’s case) there are accounts of the tears, frustrations, challenges, occasional comedy and heartbreak of being carers for Nicky’s dad, Frank.
There’s the occasional opinion, but we try and avoid politics, I wax lyrical about my pride and privilege of being a step dad to Nicky’s gorgeous daughters and proud grandad to the three rugrats.
But mostly, though, it is a vehicle for me to tell the world how utterly blessed I am to get to spend my life with the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring lady in the whole wide world.
The Bank Holiday weekend.
Nicky and I made our Parkrun volunteer debuts this week – I got to stand in some long wet grass and cheer close to 300 participants as they rounded the cones about 2.5 miles in to their runs. Nicky had THREE jobs, holding up the ’25 minute’ placard to help the start line organise itself, then directing the runners out into the field after their two laps on the Velopark tarmac before she rushed over to become a barcode scanner to ensure everyone gets allocated their finishing time.
A wonderful thing is that there Parkrun, and the team at Torbay Velopark Parkrun is rightly proud of the fabulous atmosphere they have created. This weeks run director, Roger (and everyone else we have met) was so courteous, informative and clear and it was a real pleasure to become part of their ‘team’.
It won’t be the last time we help out.
Said run director, Roger, was to feature a couple more times on our Saturday…… As I chose a lovely slab chocolate orange cake in a splendid nearby café a bit later, I heard his dulcet tones ordering himself a coffee too. We had another brief chat and then Nicky and I enjoyed our refreshments and sauntered home.
So that was the last we would see of Roger until……. Saturday afternoon…… we went to Pennywell Farm for the Pennywell Pursuit 10k at teatime, a THHN charity event. There was Roger, yet again donning a hi-viz ready to be tail runner for this great race.
Where WOULD local running be without Roger?
Wow what a lovely event. Nearly 6 miles of quite brutal terrain on what is normally private land. Everybody arriving back at the finish line concurred “THAT WAS REALLY HARD”
With a dead phone and dead running watch I enjoyed toeing the start line ‘naked’ of technology. Feeling strong, I lined up near the front for a change and catapulted myself into the first bend on the gravel path with the leaders.
I reckon I was with them for, oooo, 10, maybe even 11 meters before my gasping for air gave me the clue I needed to realise I was probably going too fast.
The route is relentlessly up and down, across hoof ravaged fields and gorgeous woodland trails. The beauty took my mind of the constant battle for footing and breath. I absolutely love this sort of running.
With the lead group gone I just ran as hard as I could and was only overtaken by 2 or 3 more athletic chaps before getting back to the farm for the ‘sprint’ to the finish.
It turns out I was 12th!!
Nicky charged in shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a lovely burger before firing up the mini for home.
A truly smashing event with about 150 runners. It was very well supported, in particular, by Torbay Athletic Club, it was good to catch up with Steve, a good trail running mate who was their mascot for the day….
Whilst Nicky took herself off for a million miles on the bike, I set off across my local park and through the sleeping BMAD festival to get on Paignton beach and join the coast path to Brixham. I was holding back the effort level with creaky legs from the previous night’s trials on the trails and half an eye on next week’s ‘long’ marathon (Pure Trail’s Race The Tide, check it out HERE) which meant I could simply enjoy this glorious route.
Once in Brixham I ran through the setting of their Pirate Festival as it recovered from its Saturday excesses and past a visiting Spanish galleon.
I enjoy the coast path so much I simply ran to the end of Brixham breakwater then turned around and ran home again the same way. Check out the run HERE
So I’d had my long run, showered and was busy cutting the grass when Nicky arrived back from her epic cycle declaring “I’m bricking it, are you coming?”
Well I could hardly decline and whipped off my gardening shorts, whipped on my running kicks and we whipped out for a 3 mile run. Check it out HERE
Nicky’s a month or so away from her Cotswold 113 half iron-distance triathlon you see, hence the Brick sessions.
Not satisfied with our exercise for the day we headed off to Stoke Gabriel with Charlie (the Border Terrier, another regular in the blog) and found a little hidey place by the river to sun ourselves. Charlie mostly preferred the shade though….
Amyway – on to Bank Holiday Monday.
We haven’t done an epic walk together for so long. We certainly put that right.
Roughly based on a loop I’d ran the previous week, we indulged ourselves in a 20 mile hike in the belting sunshine around the glorious South Devon countryside. The trails and quiet lanes were sparsely populated meaning we got to enjoy the wonderful landscapes on offer without the Bank Holiday masses.
I’d taken Charlie for a 3 mile jog before we went as the forecast temperatures and length of the walk wouldn’t have been much fun for the little fella. Check out Charlie’s run HERE
We were out for 9 hours. One of the billion reasons I love and cherish every second of my blessed life with Nicky is that time simply becomes irrelevant when we are together. We never tire of each others’ company and Nicky never fails to amuse me, entertain me, inspire me and challenge me and I am humbly devoted to being everything I possibly an be for her too.
We didn’t even fight over the Jelly Babies. Saying that, I have to prove I’ve only taken 3 after I’ve double checked how many she has in her hand! We’ve been known to chase each other across fields for a bite of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg if we feel we’re owed it!
Check out the walk HERE
Anyway. There’s my Big Blog for the Big Weekend
Something lovely from the internet you say?
How about the YouTube channel of a very old friend, Clint, still making lovely acoustic covers of lovely songs………
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”.
The internet eh? Full of people. People you might like. People you might not. People you agree with. People you don’t.
Somehow, by applauding the decision to bring a great sporting event to Torbay, where I live, I was accused of being a Torbay Council stooge and anti free speech. That’s the price of engaging I guess.
The event? It’s the opening round of the 2018 season of The British Cycling Youth Circuit Series. Where young people come together to show their athletic prowess and bike handling skills. Read more HERE. I foolishly responded to the “but the bus route will be diverted” type whining on Facebook!!
Still reeling from Nicky’s injury and its unfortunate timing. I’ll be flying solo in the 2 Oceans and am determined to get that medal for both us.
It’s been a tiring week (I know, change the record!) what with Nicky taken down by the lurgy, my job being rather physical at the end of the week and poor Frank having a bit of trouble understanding day and night, or his television, or the mail…….. There’s no dressing it up, living with dementia is bloody exhausting for EVERYBODY.
So with Nicky battling injury and illness, Frank, poor Frank, and strangers accusing ME of being anti free speech, I thought I’d share my top 10 good things of the week….
Nicky, ever determined, inhibited by her cold, unable to run, the weather stopping cycling, popped into the pool and smashed out the required distance for a half ironman. Twice. Bosh!
My brother, Simon, travelling down from North Wales and taking me down in the Parkrun.
My Saturday long run – a total of 18 miles finishing with the said Parkrun – the 15 mile warm up might have finished off any chance I had of keeping up with him. Check it out HERE.
An old training partner, also Simon, the only person who was too hot on a Baltic day, who pitched up in a onesie.
Another Simon – Simon Ridley from Brixham Harriers, our good mate Jan, and all the amazing volunteers helping us around on such a cold day – what a great thing Parkrun is.
Nicky’s physio, Sam, getting to work in Paignton this morning, despite the very real risk that the snow will inhibit him getting home! He’s worked his hot-cross magic again, complimenting Nicky on her high pain threshold as he physically assaults her!
Snow – well it just looks so lovely (even if it’s quite possibly costing me a day’s money tomorrow!)
Charlie – for wearing a bowler hat, naturally.
Oh yes, today’s long run – 20 miles of biting Easterly gales, snow, ice, mud, mud, mud, hills, mud, steps – Check it out HERE
And writing, and reading, and jigsaws and the piano, our down time, our precious recuperation from the barrage of life…