21 Days

Well, an email plopped into my inbox. “THREE WEEKS TO GO!” Blimey, it’s here already. The (in)famous lime green vest will be handed to me at some point in the evening of Friday 11th August.

What is this nonsense of which you speak? I hear you gasp. Well, those of you that are regular consumers of this world of wonky wittering may well be aware that I’m a bit of a fanboy when it comes to the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) festival of trail running on the fabulous Roseland Peninsular in Cornwall.

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Proudly showing off our Black Rat medals last year with blog regular, Martin

Check out Mudcrew’s R.A.T. event HERE

Having ran the 32 mile Black Rat for the last 3 years with Nicky (who also ran the Red Rat, 20 miles, 4 years ago), I have taken the plunge and am tackling The Plague, an out and back version of the Black Rat. Yup, starting at 5 minutes past midnight on Saturday 12th August, a couple of hundred of us will step into the Cornish darkness and attempt to get to St Anthony’s Head and then back to Porthpean before they bring the curtain down on this fabulous event.

wp-image-25068009Read all about my love for this event HERE.

The furthest I’ve ever been in one go was The Gower 50 (Read all about that HERE – be warned, may feature fooked ankle pictures!) and I’ve not ran through the night before. I may not have done all of the miles I’d hoped for in this build up and I may not be the weight I’d hoped to get down to, blah, blah, blah, sandbagging, woe is me, blah, blah…

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Nicky skipping down some of the million steps in last year’s event

Here’s the thing guys and girls, I’m going to pull that lime green vest on and set off and give it everything I’ve got. And THAT will be enough for me to be proud, proud to be on the start line and proud to be taking on a CHALLENGE. If it was guaranteed I could ‘complete’ it, it wouldn’t be a challenge.

So, the mojo socks are being readied and they’ll be pulled RIGHT UP, I’ve oiled the zip of my mansuit so that too will be TO THE TOP……….

I’m going to run the runny bits, walk the hills and steps and try and enjoy every single moment of it.

Nicky will be getting off the coach at the St Anthony’s Head Black Rat start line and setting off at 8.30am. If my night has gone well I’ll have already turned by then and be heading East again. I have until 9am to make that turn, but if I’m close to that at halfway, I could well be struggling to make the following cut offs. And if that’s the case then so be it.

Plague Runners
The Lime Green vest is mandatory kit for Plague runners.

Check out the route HERE. There are A LOT of steps. And I’ll doing the all up and down (hopefully). See last year’s blog for how Nicky told everyone who’d listen that this was her last year on these steps…….

Mudcrew also stage the epic Arc Of Attrition on a bleak winter’s weekend every year. Nicky and I witnessed some of this incredible event when we were in Cornwall on holiday when this blog was in its early days – I mentioned how I’d never considered running 100 miles on a coast path, in winter. Nor indeed tow a caravan – Check out that bizarre wordery HERE.

You’re not going to believe this, BUT anyone who successfully completes all 100 quad busting kilometers of The Plague gets presented with a scroll inviting them to take up a guaranteed place in the following year’s Arc Of Attrition………..

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Charlie, he’s ready……. 

Anyway, I ran 4 miles on the coast path with Charlie this morning, so I’d say I’m pretty much ready!

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A rare RRAAAAHHHHH, COME ON!!!!!! moment on crossing the finish line in last year’s Black Rat

……of the year

This is my 77th blog post…… Collectively they have been read over 11,000 times and I’m really quite humbled by that fact.

I imagine all of us bloggers are doing our ‘…of the year’ thingy right now, but I’m not going to let that stop me. So if you’re rather full of these lists then maybe you should look away now……….

20171229_145525-1783135438.jpg2017……………

MOST POPULAR BLOG POST OF THE YEAR

Inspired by some of the naïve errors I made back in my first ever marathon, I wrote this tongue in cheek BLOG POST about ten rookie errors guaranteed to make your marathon experience miserable.

runner in leggings

TOP TEN BLOG-VISITING COUNTRIES OF THE YEAR

Aside from the UK, my rather humble wittering has been perused in 70 different countries – most prolifically in The United States, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Germany, Finland, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland & India. There’s even been a visit from somebody in Cambodia.cambodia flag

My book reviews are the least ‘viewed’ posts, but as I’ve always maintained, I absolutely love writing them, therefore every single person that might get a moment’s pleasure from reading is an honour and a bonus.

On this note (and I know they’ll be reading), a big “Hi” to Pieter & Samira from The Hague. They made a point of finding us at the Reggae Marathon to let us know they loved the blog – Happy New Year to all in The Netherlands x

PROUDEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR

 

A close run thing here – finishing the (32 mile – black) R.A.T. in a fantastic time (blogged about HERE) was a truly magical ‘Team Bonfield’ moment. Successfully completing The Gower 50 Mile Ultra in a time I was chuffed with, despite the rabbit hole incident! Yes, I was so, SO proud to have completed my first ‘solo’ ultra and first 50 miler – read all about it HERE.

BUT – I reckon there hasn’t been a better moment than when Nicky and I pitched up in Snowdonia for the absolutely FABULOUS trail marathon nervous about the 19 mile cut -off. Well, we arrived at that check point, the gateway to the main climb of the day with  about 3/4 hour to spare. I waxed lyrical about that fabulous day HERE.

PROUDEST HUSBAND MOMENT OF THE YEAR

 

As ever, the year was jam packed with moments of inspiration, adventure and achievement, as my beautiful, amazing, truly inspirational lady wife, yet again amazed me over and over again. Every single day I feel more and more blessed to have this incredible lady in my life.

So, she smashed her marathon PB at the North Dorset Villages Marathon (read all about it HERE), came so, so close to breaking 2 hours at the Bideford Half Marathon (chatted about HERE), yes it’s been a year of fizzing along. As I’ve said above, she achieved some amazing results in some epic trail events and combined an increasingly absorbing work life and a challenging, at times, domestic life with training for multiple endurance disciplines.

Yes, Nicky also completed her first triathlon and you can read all about that fabulous day HERE.

Also, there were some amazing proud moments as Alisa, Nicky’s eldest daughter completed her first events, alongside her Mum, as she continued her journey to fitness and on her health drive.

20170909_115647BUT, amongst this year of hectic, wonderful, adventurous and fun weekend challenges, my proudest coat-holding moment was the River Dart 10k swim. WOW – having completed this event last year, she set about attempting to break 3 hours this time. You’ll have guessed by now that yes, indeed, she did!

So amongst a forest of proud moments – read about my most bursting day – HERE.

MY FAVOURITE TEN EVENTS OF THE YEAR

wp-image-1930420776Well, apologies to all the other event organisers but, for the best that trail running gives to me, it has to be the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) from Mudcrew. There are point to point 11 mile, 20 mile and 32 mile options. We have completed the 32 miles in each of the last three years. But – I can’t resist it any longer and the ‘out and back’ 64 miler is on my calendar for 2018! Check out the blog from this year’s event HERE.

 

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Beating the tide!

For quirkiness, brilliant concept, route design, friendliness (I could go on), the Race The Tide from Pure Trail was also a fabulous trail event. (blog, naturally, HERE). As was the already discussed Snowdonia Trail Marathon.

 

Another wonderful trail race was the Coniston Trail Marathon – another great performance by Team Bonfield – read all about this one HERE.

We did some cracking half marathons (including a couple that were supposed to be marathons!), particularly enjoying the great atmosphere at The Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service Half down in Bodmin. My first race as a Vet 50 – scribblings HERE.

 

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The Larmer Tree Marathon – Plenty of ups and downs

 

 

 

The previously discussed North Dorset Villages Marathon is probably my favourite road marathon and this was our second year there. Back on the trails, we also returned to The Larmer Tree from White Star Running for a second year. Yet another race with a superb atmosphere – varied and challenging off road route through the Dorset countryside. White Star offer something a little different to the trail running scene, and provide a lovely balance of true endurance challenges and hearty laughter. Guess what – there were words…. HERE.

 

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The gang…. ready to Frolic…

Also from White Star, was the East Farm Frolic, it barely got a mention in the Blog as we were having a particularly ‘time poor’ period at home around that time. Basically, do as many laps (about 4.5 miles) of an undulating, rural, trail route, on a farm in Dorset, as you either can or want to, for 12 hours. A great, inclusive, fun event with a family atmosphere and camping

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The weather in Wales… t’was grim!

After managing to navigate my limping body around the 50 miles of The Gower Ultra – and what a gorgeous place it is – this was always going to feature in this list. With around 200 competitors and seemingly double that working on the fabulous checkpoints, it truly was a breakthrough for me, in so many ways.

So that’s 9 of my favourite events. We’ve done about 30 this year, so picking 10 (in no particular order) was hard. No ‘of the year’ list, though could possibly be complete without Mudcrew’s The Scrooge the ever popular trail running fancy dress romp through the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. See the blog HERE, Yet again, we took it VERY seriously…….

 

MY FAVOURITE RUNNING ‘THINGS’

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My Karen ribbon. My sister was taken from us aged a mere 44 years and a week (9 years ago). On her last night, I ended up with an item of her clothing, which I cut into ribbons. My brother and I both tie them to our wrists for races and she’ll forever be at the side of the road  yelling “arms, Kevin, ARMS!” as she expertly analysed my terrifying running style. Will be missed forever.

 

fetch logoFetcheveryone.com still my favourite website. Brilliantly evolved under the loving gaze of founder and bloke-in-chief, Ian Williams, there still isn’t an online running community to match it. I would never have got anywhere near where I have with my own running without it.

To hear the man himself talk us through his world, check out his fabulous interview on another of my favourite running things Marathon Talk. This is a weekly podcast presented by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams, I’ve listened to every single one of the 400+ episodes and, as with Fetch, it very much has been part of my journey.

talk ultraOther podcasts I heartily recommend….. Talk Ultra normally fortnightly, presented by the thoroughly engaging Ian Corless who really humanises the sport of Ultra running and manages to gather interviewees from every country, every distance and every ability.

Running CommentaryAnother podcast I’ve not missed an episode of is Running Commentary. On a weekly basis the two comedians and avid runners, Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson don head-sets and record their quirky, irreverent, poignant, witty and downright entertaining banter as they run along. These three podcasts make my working week feel just that little bit shorter.

 

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2012 & the start of 2017 when he was challenged by 17 mates to beat 16 minutes for 5k by the end of the year (or end up with their names tattoes on his body!)

Another interviewee on Marathon Talk (he’s appeared on three separate occasions) is the infectious Colin McCourt. From an elite international 1500m runner to a rather portly, sedentary chap, he started this year with a challenge to return to his former speedy self. He charted this progress on his Instagram account and has become one of the best running stories of the year. He set out to lose a shed load of weight and attempt to break 16 minutes for 5km. Check out his Instagram and relive his incredible 2017. I won’t give any spoilers……

 

2017-06-04 15.20.11Oh, and although I’m not into plugging brands (check out my lack of sponsorship HERE) I can’t sum the year up without mentioning my Inov8 trail shoes – I bought them at the Coniston Marathon (BLOG HERE) after the shoe company lent us shoes to run the marathon in! They are, genuinely, gert lush (translation: very good indeed).

2017-11-07 15.47.37Obviously Faith’s (my energetic and LOUD grandaughter) Silver Wellies have stolen the show in any running shoe debate – she smashed her mile fun run at the Templar Ten in them – blogged about (naturally) HERE.

 

RUNNING BUDDY OF THE YEAR 

Probably no surprises here……..

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The most beautiful, amazing, inspirational, funny, charming, adventurous and DAMNED HOT person I’ve ever met – she truly is my world and as long as we’re together then “don’t worry, ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing, gonna be alright”

2017-05-11 06.43.20Obviously, Charlie, the intrepid Border Terrier, is a close second!

 

 

 

 

Now, this being a happy place, there’s no room for negativity, bitterness, moaning, backstabbing or bitching. 2017 has been a challenging year, in many ways, for Nicky and myself, we’ve had to adapt and survive changes and developments in our world and work around the challenges. We’ve been (without bigging us up!) strong and determined, and ‘made it happen’ when ‘it’ didn’t look very likely on many occasions and we have those closest to us to thank for helping us absorb the impact of life.

Riddles, I know, but it’s hard to flamboyantly describe the slow down in the world of someone we love.

So, I’m proud of, and have loved, every minute of our journey together. Yet another year becomes ‘the best yet’ in this world I’ve been blessed to live in. And, yes, I’m proud of my achievements both in running and in life.

BUT, it’s Nicky that fills my heart and soul to bursting point with pride and more love than I could ever have imagined existed in the world……..

Yes, this lady has, in 2017, defied her crazy and demanding job, her crazy and demanding domestic life and her crazy and demanding, er, husband, and constantly, over and over again, pushed her boundaries, gone (literally) higher and faster, conquered new skills and generally been awesome in all of her fabulous endurance challenges…..

For example, she was (wo)man enough to admit that a half was enough at the Portland Coastal Marathon  back in February, came back strong to complete cracking half marathons in Bodmin and Bideford, then matched our previous years time at The Larmer Tree Marathon. Another brilliant half at the Tavy 13 (blog HERE – I fell over!), the quirky and hilly Devonshire Dumpling Marathon (blog HERE)and then a blistering time at The Yeovil Easter Bunny 10k (HERE) before absolutely smashing her marathon PB at The North Dorset Villages Marathon (already talked about up there^^).

Then she beat challenging time limitations with (relative) ease at Race The Tide, Coniston Trail Marathon, Snowdonia Trail Marathon, The RAT etc etc……

Nicky blitzed her first ever triathlon, swam four tough open water events, The Swoosh, The Dart 5k, The Great North Swim and The River Dart 10k (breaking the 3 hour barrier).

Despite the incredible heat, we matched our previous time at The Reggae Marathon (blog HERE)

This is a far from conclusive list, but I think I’ve explained just WHY, I think this lady is extraordinary in every way.

Apologies for this, but  feel I need to include the one event that DOESN’T think Nicky is good enough. Think 5h30m time limit for a hilly trail marathon (12m35s per mile) yet has a cut off of 1h30m at 8 miles (11m15s per mile). Only it’s not ACTUALLY at 8 miles… etc etc. Yup THIS BLOG POST curled a few toes!

Anyway. I truly am blessed….

 


 

 

Ebenezer (good)

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Mevagissey, in the heart of R.A.T. territory. An easy drive down, captain chatty – our Martin – for company. Nicky (for the uninitiated, Nicky is my wonderful, amazing lady wife) leading the charge to the portaloos as we ordered and devoured our pre-match coffees.

 

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Taking it all VERY seriously

The Scrooge, a firm fixture on the local running calendar, popular as ever (well over 400 finishers) – 7.5ish miles of mud, water, hills and enough fun and hilarity to last the week.

 

 

 

 

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Jamie – local running legend – loitering….

Another blog regular, Jamie, was loitering with intent at the start and was encouraged into some well fitting festive wear.

 

“Oh look, a Santa….” “Oh look, a snowman….” etc etc. But elves were, for sure, held a majority today. Plenty of “I’ve been on an elf and safety course….”, “did you have an elfy breakfast?” etc etc

A boisterously chanted “10, 9, 8….” “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and we were off.

On the steady climb up the back lanes to The Lost Gardens Of Heligan, Jamie ably bouncing off to trouble the scorers nearer the front, leaving the three of us warming up nicely…..

Into the ponds. Shut the back door! That first one was cold. Oh, and yes, DEEP (especially for Nicky!)

Then (oh and forgive my reassuringly non-chronological powers of recall) it was up a hill, through some mud, along a stream, up a hill, through some mud, jumping off a pontoon into some water…..

Oh, and then UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN…..

Then some really quite sensible, undulating trails, then through the entrance area to the gardens themselves (to the delight of the bemused visitors!).

Then back to the ponds. Still deep. Still freezing.

The last mile is a charge to the finish.

 

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What mid life crisis??

 

And at the finish, the rather splendid boys and girls had laid on mince pies and cider.

 

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YUM YUM

Oh, and some fine catering, a disco/barn dance and relentless laughter.

 

Oh, and the results and FREE photographs were pretty much ours by the time we drove home. For the record we smashed last year’s time and over half the field were still out there having a hoot by the time we finished….

What’s not to like????

NOTHING! Roll on next year.

The Places We Run, The People We Run With

 

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Organised chaos!

“I’m retiring. Yup this is my last ever ultra. Uh huh, it feels good.” Nicky (my rather gorgeous lady wife) proclaimed to anyone who’d listen.

“Without question, this is my favourite event EVER, and I’m coming back next year to do The Plague” I equally enthusiastically declared. Again, to anyone who’d listen.

wp-image-1413360077Mudcrew’s The R.A.T. trail running races. As David (one of the kit check guys) declared, this is the Christmas of trail running.

All run on the breathtaking Cornish coast line, there are 11, 20, 32 & 64 mile options.

Four years ago, unbeknown to us, we were about to become a couple. Nicky was here completing the Red Rat (20 miles) and I was burying myself in eyeballs out road training, chasing faster and faster times…..

Here we are, now 3 time veterans of The Black Rat (32 miles), absolutely basking in our unapologetically self congratulatory glory of another medal well earned.

wp-image-1676347441This is pure running adventure.

“Does anybody else fancy driving this down these lanes?” enquired our chatty coach driver as we inched our way towards St Anthony’s Head.

An hour earlier, four coaches left Porthpean at 7 am after a safety presentation and welcome from one of our incredibly enthusiastic race directors.

wp-image-540564259“Keep the sea on your right!”

A small bank of portaloos welcomed us to the National Trust car park at St Anthonys, and our good friend and fellow adventurer Martin made short work of the sprint from the bus, ensuring a clean seat and fresh paper for his pre race rituals.

wp-image-1677273735Some nervous chattering and shivering as we awaited the clock to strike 8.30 in the morning drizzle.

Like the security guys in the car park, during registration and at kit check, numerous smiling, happy and enthusiastic Mudcrew marshalls were overseeing the start.

Before we knew it, we were off. Straight on to the coast path, encountering a couple of Plague runners (these guys had started at 5 past midnight and were doing the course as an out and back 64 miles) who still had time to make the turn before the 9am cut off. They received much applause and encouragement, it had been a rough night of weather in the dark for those incredible chaps and chappesses.

 

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It goes up….. and down…. A LOT!

Apparently the leading pair turned by 6am!! And finished in just over 12 hours, a mere 6 seconds apart.

 

wp-image-1785018289Last year, with us not quite so well prepared, the field had eased away from us quite early and we didn’t much change our position throughout the race.

Cooler air this year, and Nicky stronger than ever, carrying Snowdonia’s efforts of a mere 20 days previously, but relentless.
The first checkpoint appeared in no time. As always, attentive, thoughtful, encouraging and knowledgeable crew, in numbers, to ensure we had food, drink and no ailments. Onwards.wp-image-765942649 Tucked well up into the pack of runners, Nicky, watchless, pushed on towards her alleged retirement, unaware that we were putting time into our previous best on this course. Running the runnable bits and marching on the tricky bits and eating up the steps.

The Roseland Peninsula offers a new and spectacular view after every turn, picture postcard fishing villages and terrain to test even the most hardened trail runners.

And steps.

Lots and lots of steps. Or ****ing steps as they increasingly became known as morning became afternoon.

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Portloe Checkpoint

The second checkpoint, at Portloe, also served as the starting point for the Red Rat (20 miles), those runners having been set on their way some 30 minutes before our arrival.

As I double checked that we truly were going as well as I’d thought, we were again fed and watered by the incredible team of volunteers. Seeing us on our way with huge cheers and encouragement.

wp-image-2066299383wp-image-450684104It’s quite a while before the next checkpoint, but again, despite this, time just flew by (as it always does when we run together) and we were still catching the odd fellow Black Ratter and occasionally a Plague infected warrier.

wp-image-1205760288“I enjoyed the night, lovely and cool in the rain” one responded as I tried to glean tips and tales in anticipation of me wearing the lime green vest this time next year (The Plague runners wear their official vest as their top layer at all times making them easy to identify.)

“The night? It was a ****ing nightmare!” said another.

“No!” said another, head down, determinedly trudging on after a mere 45 miles or so! I didn’t push for an elaboration!

wp-image-1674708693I’d better not turn up unprepared next year either, there’s nowhere to hide and no easy way on this course!

 

No, Kevin, Monk doesn’t begin with ‘P’

Two ultra veterans, Jessica and Duncan Williams set up a ‘pop up’ aid station at Port Holland. This is an annual tradition and their ‘P’ themed fancy dress this year was priests……. a very welcome drink and great to see Jessica, one of the runners we had cheered on in The Arc Of Attrition back in February. That was back when this blog was a shiny new thing – read that post HERE if you fancy.

 

The Arc Of Attrition….. hhhhhmmmm

wp-image-1867096456 Met this guy, Andrew, a couple of times during the day, he was savouring the chips in Mevagissy

I managed to resist tempatation twice in Mevagissy, firstly the incredibly smiley and enthusiastic marshall offered us chips!! Secondly we actually passed within 100 yards of our B & B for the weekend and it’s warm shower and welcoming duvet……..

 

That’s our lovely snuggly bed just up there!

This last 10k or so is probably the toughest we’ve encountered in any of our events, the climbs, descents and ****ing b****** steps go on and on and on.

And on.

Ice Pops from heaven!

This final 10k section also starts with the most atmospheric aid station and checkpoint I’ve encountered in trail running. The Ship Inn at Pentewan shares its outside space with The RAT for the day. The busiest checkpoint of the day even has ice pops, refreshing water melon and yet more attentive, caring and knowledgeable crew. Filling your water bottles, fetching your fruit and looking us square in the eye to check we were as we should be.

Or the best we could be at this stage of the race!

They know what they’re looking for too. Over 60 successful 100 mile events have been completed by the Mudcrew crew on duty.
With the pub having live music in the garden, and it now being well into the afternoon, there were some quite beery cheers too, to set us on our way.

We could not have been in safer hands, with the addition of fabulous medical cover and massage on duty at all the checkpoints, all we had to do was enjoy it!!!

One or two of these……

“I don’t care how long it’s taken, just happy to get it done” lied Nicky as we trudged up that last hill.

“We’re on 8 hours and 9 minutes and the finish is literally just at the top of this hill” I remarked, this being the first time I’d shared our progress on the clock with Nicky.

“WOW!” she said, I sensed just a little more skip in her step, “that’s so much faster than either of our other races here!”

YES!!!

It sure was. Feeling like superstars as we held hands and sprinted (well, maybe not actually sprinted) for the line. Great big smiles all around.

Catching Martin’s eye as we were presented with the medals (7h30m for the Silver Fox, chapeau sir) there was an exchange of fist pumps. This moment was caught beautifully on camera by our number one supporter Gloria, another RAT ever present, cheering everyone home in the fabulous crowd at the finish.

 

Happy RATs

 

All three race directors (this event is 18 hours long, never mind the time before and afterwards for the organisers) cheer, hug, back slap or shake the hand of every competitor across the four distances as they head for the line.

Martin made short work of a couple of Rattlers!

I don’t mind saying I’m proud. Firstly, my bursting pride to be able to share such wonderful adventure with the most incredible, beautiful, inspirational, HOT lady in the WHOLE world!

Never touched the sides!!

Proud to be part of this top, top event and amongst the best of the best in the trail running community.

Celebratory dinner in beautiful Mevagissy

Proud to share the weekend with such great friends in Gloria and Martin, who make the whole experience so much fun.

Sunday morning, not quite so mobile!

Do you know what? I’m proud of myself. I don’t apologise for having a moment of self congratulatory indulgence. These endurance tests aren’t for the faint hearted and preparation and the hours in training are essential to maintain the effort level and to have maximum ENJOYMENT on the day.

If our proclamations are accurate, next year, one of us will be having a sleepless night, the other will be having a full cooked breakfast……………

Two weeks until the Frolic now, I’ve put in lots of miles but probably not as many as I would have needed to be doing if I was to be in with a chance of hitting my secret target…..

Nor the target Nicky has set me – “if you don’t win, don’t bother coming home!”

She’s joking of course….

She is joking isnt she????

Going long (er)

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

I feel like a bit if a fraud. It certainly is a reality check listening to all those interviews with participants, including both elite athletes and mere mortals like us, about mammoth endurance events such as the Dragons Back and The Sky Running events.

running couple cartoonBUT, Nicky and I are veterans (in both age and events) of 10 years of running events. Both of us having completed 30something marathons, including a few 50km races and, in Nicky’s case, a 50 miler.

AND, I’m having my post prolific year yet of mileage, averaging over 200 miles a month.

 

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

SO, maybe I am ready to step up to call myself an ‘ultra’ runner….  I mean, I’ve got some Inov8 shoes and a rucksack and everything!

 

As regular readers will know, I’m leading up to The East Farm Frolic  (EFF) in August where I’m looking to keep going for all 12 hours and hopefully take myself into the 50 mile club, if not further.

AND, listening to this new (to me) podcast is only fuelling my desire to ‘go long’. Specifically to ‘go long in Cornwall’…….

Which got me to thinking….. my beautiful lady wife, chatty Martin and good friends Jan &  Gloria had formed a relay team to compete for the 12 hours at The EFF. All change now as they have moved to being solo entrants, like yours truly.

five go madWith 5 of us now entered….. surely 5 go long in Dorset…..

 

Anyway, by going long in Cornwall, I mean specifically go long from Coverack to Porthtowan, by way of 100 miles of the coast path, in February 2019.

 

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WANT ONE!!

I fell for the charms, the challenges, the tales of successful and unsuccessful attempts, the beauty, the uniqueness of The Arc Of Attrition (AOA) as we spectated back in February, see my blog post from back then.

 

In fact one of the reasons I was so inspired to start blogging get so enthusiastically was the wonderful experience of following this year’s edition.

 

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Quite a mandatory kit list for The Scrooge!

The AOA is organised by Mudcrew, responsible for my absolute favourite event, the (black) RAT and many otherwise including the festive hilarity of The Scrooge.

 

Mudcrew’s head honcho, Andrew Ferguson, is a pretty serious ultra runner himself, recently competing in the fabulous looking Laverado Ultra in Italy , and his name pops up all over the trail running scene.

All who crew at these Mudcrew events are runners and understand the needs of those on the trails. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I think about the AOA, and how I will prepare, on most of my runs.

 

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Ultra ready? Ahh, no beard!

By that I mean I try relate the run I’m on to how I would be feeling after 24 hours of coast path. I think about eating proper food whilst running, about kit, navigation, isolation, weather, etc etc.

 

I’ve also developed a new mantra, “NO LAZY STEPS’ meaning  I should never assume the next foot plant is flat and predictable. Small protruding roots under dark tree canopies could end the race. I need to make sure to learn to remaim alert under extreme fatigue.

The enormity of the AOA’s challenge has dictated the time scale. I need to qualify, I’m hoping to have a few events which serve as qualifiers, maybe doing something like Hope 24 amongst them.

 

2016-08-13 16.16.18
The R.A.T. route is truly spectacular

The traditional Mudcrew stepping stone is to do the 100k version of the RAT (Nicky and I are doing the 50k for the 3rd time this year) in 2018.

 

The Plague, as this 100k is known, serves as a qualifying event and also comes with an AOA invite to accompany it’s finisher’s medal.

The best part of all of this process is spending time outdoors, with my wonderful amazing beautiful lady wife, Nicky. After the great adventures of last Saturday (see last post) we took to the coast path for 3 gloriously hot and sweaty hours.

 

2017-07-02 14.15.04
A tad wiffy, but bring on Snowdon!

These joint jaunts are serving as training towards Snowdonia for the two of us (which is rapidly approaching!), as well as building my mileage towards The EFF. They are also wonderful shared adventures, precious and treasured times.

 

Oh the witty banter on these sweaty long runs, “blimey you stink” “not as much as YOU stink”…..

The Talk Ultra podcast is presented by Ian Corless, a fine ultra and trail runners in his own right and now an event photographer too. The show is mainly made up of interviews with big names from the world of ultra-distance running, as well as those from further down the field.

It’s all an education to me, probably only being aware of the headline events and maybe our local long distance challenges. I’m learning the names of the stars of this mystical world and getting to grips with the lingo. Don’t expect me to be attempting a FKT on a course with loads of VERT anytime soon…..

Oh it turns out my 20 miles running, to Teignmouth, on the coast path, isn’t even a warm up to most of these boys and girls.

‘Blowing out of my arse!’ I’ve no idea where that expression came from but it seemed to blowing hardfit my rather cumbersome effort as I did a time trial after work last night. Blowing out of my ears and nose too. Open mouthed and squinting from the sweat stinking my eyes, I gasped for every breath. Desperately weaving through the many dawdling pedestrians, enjoying their evening stroll in the sunshine, I just about managed to maintain 30 seconds per mile slower than I’d hoped for the 1.8 miles

We’d elected for this instead of waiting another hour and going to the club night. Whilst I was cracking paving slabs either my clomping strides, Nicky and Charlie joined the rest of Paignton, walking along the sea front.

chipsIt was with some relief that I finished my effort near a toilet. Then, whilst not getting any cooler during my cool down, I bumped into my beautiful wife and raggerty hound and needed no further prompting to end my rather unfortunate effort RIGHT THERE. A stroll back along the beach followed by eating chips on the sea wall and all was well again.

 

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We didn’t see any horses at 5.30am

A few years ago I’d have been disappointed with that run but these days I enjoy laughing at myself and moving on. 3.75 of jogging with Charlie in the woods at 5.30am this morning soon put that right too.

 

Something similar tomorrow then a weekend of long endurance adventure beckons, including some kayaking to accompany the intrepid Mrs Bonfield on an early morning river dip.

Enough of this rambling, keep on keeping people……..

2017-07-05 06.13.25

Why Stevenage?

I’ve never been to Stevenage.

On our first date, whilst I was nervously supping a sparkling water, Nicky asked what races I had planned.

“The Stevenage Marathon…”

Nicky nearly choked on her scallops.

You see, prior to falling head over heels in love with Nicky, I’d always thought racing was all about finding races to go as fast as possible. “What about you?” I asked.

The Eden Project Marathon. Doh! Time to re-evaluate…eden project

Later that evening, sat listening to some Barry White in my bedsit, I used my smart phone for two things…… Firstly to compose a message thanking Nicky for a splendid evening, hoping beyond all hope that she’d want to see me again. Secondly, The Eden Project Marathon was entered and a Travelodge for one, in Stevenage, was cancelled!

So why do we chose to do events at all, and when we do, how do we decide which ones? A quick search on Fetch offered a choice of 245 different events listed for tomorrow (2nd April 2017). We had long since settled on the Devonshire Dumpling, I wonder what the other 244 couldn’t offer us?

DOES IT COUNT?

100 MC Vest
We’re on a quest for the vest!

Well, we were looking for a marathon around this weekend, so other distances were eliminated. Also, we have our goal of joining the 100 Marathon Club so we check to see if it is listed on their website.

DOES IT COST?

We try to keep the cost down of our days out, trying to preserve funds for our ‘big’ trips, so the Devonshire Dumpling being only 40 or so miles from home it was an immediate contender.

IS IT BEAUTIFUL?

The route, terrain and, I’m sure, the panoramic views will make it a wonderful day out, enjoying the East Devon coast and countryside.

budleigh_salterton_beach
Setting for the Devonshire Dumpling

WILL IT BE PACKED?

Organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association, featuring walks and runs of 18 or 26.2 miles, with staggered starts, we’re pretty confident the queues for the stiles won’t be too bad.

WILL WE FEEL ADEQUATE?

I know the Elitism In Running blog provoked plenty of debate, but, trust me on this, it is there. We’ve had so many people say “me too!” in response to how demoralising some race situations can be for those further down the field. So, we tend to lean towards events which look a bit more quirky and which might not offer sufficient kudos for the more self-confident runners to attend, or where we know the race organisers actively encourage participation as a priority, over pace.

Such companies, White Star Running and Mudcrew particularly spring to mind, seem to manage to pull of the trick of having some seriously quick guys and girls at the sharp end, whilst being all embracing for the rest of us mortals. There are plenty more, but these two are South West based and host some of my favourite ever events.

Morrisons Great North Run 2015
Crowds – great for some, not really our thing

We do take all sorts of other factors in to consideration, whether we are taking other people, maybe the dog to be walked by one of our friends, so is the venue dog friendly. Sometimes we end up just fancying a race and we don’t know why.

A running friend started a debate on social media recently around whether events are over priced, and whether, particularly if you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful running area, we need to do events at all. For Nicky and myself, the event is our adventure. We don’t drink or smoke or snort white powder, we don’t particularly go out to pubs and very rarely have meals out, so our time and money ‘budget’ is put aside for these days. So, as for price, we don’t really notice, if we’ve decided it fits our budget for the weekend then it’s the right price for us.

Just occasionally we’ll come home and say NEVER AGAIN, if we’ve felt the price didn’t reflect the quality of the event, or the venue was dull, or repetitive, or the company was dull, or repetitive, and then we’ll cross that one off our list. AND if they run out of cake!!!!

cake-crumbs
Don’t you DARE run out of cake!

BUT, that’s just our opinion, those 245 events taking place tomorrow will ALL be attended and enjoyed, so there is definitely something out there for everyone.

Even in Stevenage, I’m sure! (although I couldn’t find a link to a 2017 marathon to share – maybe a reader could correct this?)

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The first marathon we went to together…. Ain’t life grand

SO I never did get to Stevenage for my attempt at running ‘Good For Age’, I joined Nicky and her merry gang in a trip to The Eden Project and I ran what I still believe was my finest race to date.

2014-10-20 21.26.32
Finishing The Eden Project Marathon 2014

On a hilly course, yes in beautiful surroundings, I ran 3h18m50s (Good For Age would have been 3h15) for 5th place and had a monster pasty straight afterwards. Another enticer for us – post race grub! We did the marathon again in 2015 and the half in 2016. Great event.

I went on to run my Good For Age time twice the following year without resorting to a train to Stevenage.

2016-05-01 16.22.13
Nicky’s 2nd fastest marathon NDVM last year

As for this year’s marathons, next up is the North Dorset Villages where I’m hoping to chase another Good For Age. I’m older now so they give me another 5 minutes, 3h20m is the target this time. Nicky, too is chasing a time at this one. And no, I’m not telling you what it is, I do like my marriage…….

After that we’re having a week in the Lake District, incorporating the Coniston Marathon into the holiday – I reckon we’ll be ‘Good For Age’ whatever time we run!

Anyway, much eating and resting to do ahead of tomorrow’s sojourn up the coast there…

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

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

See – VERY complicated!

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

I don’t know WHY we come here….

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

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

It was humbling to see.

Arc of Attrition approaching The Lizard

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

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

Not me!

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

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

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

The Mud Crew Arc Of Attrition tracking site

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

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

A gentle walk in bleak conditions near St Ives

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

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

Paul Maskell and Steve Wyatt

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

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

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