What Weather Warning?

race the light

The blog returns.

We ventured deep into the South Hams on Saturday afternoon to tackle Pure Trails’ twilight adventure event, Race The Light. The forecast wild weather earlier in the day duly arrived.

We know it rained hard in the morning. We volunteered at Parkrun. The Torbay Velopark Parkrun attendees are a hardy bunch, usually numbering around 250. Well 103 braved the apocalyptic deluge and our lovely run group at Keywood Running pitched in with 10 of the volunteers for the day. We were ready for our hearty breakfast afterwards.

 

Arriving home, my beautiful wife, Nicky, and I de-robed from our soaking gear and built a roaring fire. As we steamed and warmed, the thought of venturing out again for another soaking was becoming less and less inviting.

After our good friend and blog regular, Martin (The Silver Fox, not ‘a’ silver fox, but THE Silver Fox), arrived to collect us, we duly goaded each other until we climbed into the rather clean interior of his foxmobile and headed for mudsville.

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The Silver Fox looking unconcerned about his leather seats

Nicky and I were both thinking we’d be trashing the plush leather seats after the forthcoming mud bath.

We weren’t wrong.

As one of the marshals, Iain, later commented on social media ‘It’s a great day when runners, marshalls and everyone can pull together… magic to see you all’

He was stood in the raging River Erme as we crossed it in the light on the way out. He was still stood in it some hour and a half later as we made our way back across in the dark. It did feel like such a team effort – there were race winners but the afternoon and evening were about so much more than that.

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Race Briefing – ‘look after each other’

We’d felt the same at Parkrun that morning – as we handed the finish tokens to the drenched runners there was a real sense of having survived together. Our Monday run group had pulled together to help swell the volunteer numbers. (Expect a big blog soon all about Keywood Running, ’tis a fine thing.)

Yes Saturday was about everything that’s GOOD in running…. in life in fact. Such a warm feeling when we’re all looking out for each other.

The race directors at Pure Trail, Steve and Mark, seek out something different with all of their events and this really was different. A combination of the morning’s rainfall making its way down from the hills and moors and a wild wind holding the tide up meant the water, which should have been a trickle, was quite forceful.

People stuck together and toughed it out before enjoying a beautiful woodland out and back course alongside the estuary. The speedy boys and girls made it back before serious darkness fell whilst some of us got our money’s worth……..

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The Silver Fox – a rare picture of an elite athlete in full flow

And then we toughed out the crossing back across and trudged up the hill to the finish.

I guess the crew were there for some time after we had headed home for the final of Strictly in the dark, wind and rain dismantling the course. We are truly grateful to all of them – it was a fine day in the local running community.

Do check out Pure Trail‘s events, they never disappoint.

And if you enjoy the blog, have a delve through previous posts, particularly from the sister event Race The Tide.

 

 

And if the South West Coast Path is tempting, have a read of my review of The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, an astonishing book.

 

Thank you to anyone who has made it to the end of the blog and thank you to all you for your patience in waiting these last few months for this post.

2019 begins with fresh starts, fresh challenges and a chance to recover from the grief of 2018. I know I occasionally over step the mark with how ‘personal’ I make the blog but I do wear my heart on the page……..

Looking forward to writing about my amazing, inspiring, determined and beautiful lady wife and our adventures together throughout the coming year.

Back in the game……

you CAN do it

I don’t know if at any point I consciously set out to believe in myself, to believe myself to be a writer. But with each baby step I am delving a tad deeper into the world of ‘us’ writers. That took some time, to get myself to admit that, hell Kevin, you write…. You are a writer!

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My beautiful new notebook – I’m hoping my words will do it justice

Talking of belief. I may be the trumpet blowing, flag waving, bag carrying, shouting believer in my beautiful wife’s amazing challenges and adventures (check out my blog of her amazing 70.3 triathlon HERE), but she is more circumspect in her support. A simple text message, whilst I was at work this week, said “you CAN do it” about my writing. Sometimes it’s not grand speeches that are needed, it’s simply genuine belief. Not only that but I came home to a beautiful new notebook as a surprise present too. Anybody else who writes will know what a great and inspiring surprise that is.

Another day this week I came home to a gingerbread man. Mmm mmmm

Yup. My wife is ace ❤️

Well, here I am, writing. And how I’ve embraced the pen and keyboard this week. My membership of Writers’ HQ is up and running, giving me access to all of their fabulous courses, their members only online groups and a world of motivation and drive.

Poor Nicky was exhausted when she asked “What are you writing?” “Well,” I enthused “Writers HQ suggested I take an every day situation and then come up with five ways of interpreting them, then find the best one and then find the character within that and and and and and……..” and, and, and on I went! Childish excitement? Damn right.

So, my novel is back on track, a poetry theme in my head has started forming on paper, I’ve got two firm short story ideas already being fleshed out and a piece of flash fiction I’m rather proud of.

So, whilst Nicky is delicately picking out some Beethoven, devouring some Ross Raisin, performing miracles with the jigsaw and plotting her next set of fantastic challenges (including the BIG one…. watch this space), I’m writing, reading, writing and reading.

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Whilst I was enjoying reading some blogs and social media posts from the more independent side of the writing and publishing world, I came across a Twitter campaign started by Salt Publishing (#justonebook) who were in need of a financial lift. It had a tremendous response and a quick glance through their titles soon had me ordering Two Sketches Of Disjointed Happiness by Simon Kinch.

What an absolute treat. It arrived within a week with a lovely hand written post card.

Two Sketches Of Disjointed Happiness is a debut novel by Kinch, a Spanish resident hailing from the UK. The book promised an experimental feel, an exploration of choices and consequences, of reflection and regret.

It doesn’t disappoint. Within a page I found myself hurriedly devouring the words, so many questions to be answered by the next page, and the next and the next. I started the (admittedly shortish) offering immediately upon opening and finished it the following lunchtime.

A young man, Granville, an American travelling in Europe, receives a message as he prepares for the final legs of his journey home. The mystery of the message’s detail is never truly revealed, but this news and Granville’s subsequent actions, combined with a piece of misfortune, leave him pondering a massive decision. To reverse his direction and choose a Spanish destination or to plough on towards his flight home.

I turned page after page, absolutely engrossed as one choice was apparently taken over the other. A study of young adult, of isolation, of timid suggestions of romance, all with the heavy weight of the relationship back home hanging over the story.

A gradual introduction of the imagined consequence of taking the other direction slowly blurs the boundaries between truth and hypothesis. This blurring left me, the reader, reeling, grasping to make to make my own choice as to which reality to believe.

The attempted romances are so delicate and nervous, I almost cringed for Granville. As with the direction he might have chosen, the reader gets to decide if he is shy, timidly coy and sensitive or maybe aloof and a little arrogant with little regard for the consequence for others of his actions.

I don’t wish to spoil the book for anybody wishing to tackle it but I do, thoroughly recommend it. With advice coming my way to read, read and read some more, to expand my reading net, to step out of my comfort zone, I feel Simon Kinch has handed me a gift. A book which dissolves into the reader’s mind is a prized possession and Two Sketches is firmly in that category for me….

I had just finished On Writing by Stephen King when Kinch’s cracking debut arrived. I have a very treasured possession, also entitled On Writing by AL Kennedy, a beautiful study of the craft of the pen. King’s book is more ‘manly’, more raaaahhhh if you like, but no less inspiring for it. It shames me to admit that I’ve never read a single novel of his, something I shall be correcting in the very near future.

All of this reading has me itching to grab the pen. Nicky, as she embarks on her piano journey, is finding that she hears music differently now, appreciating more of the subtleties, just as I now do with my reading.

Anyway………

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Running – feeling good and enjoyed a terrific Parkrun battle with my visiting brother last weekend, just squeezing in front of him as we both snuck under 20 minutes.

Then on Sunday I embarked on an epic (well it felt epic!) 23 mile off road trek, taking in lots of beautiful countryside and coastline (Check it out HERE). We truly are lucky to have this wonderful coastline to go and play on so close to home, and it is perfect training for the upcoming Plague (which is 64 miles long and starts at midnight), Nicky and I have completed the 32 mile Black Rat version in each of the last three years and it really is my favourite ever event.

Nicky spent all 32 miles last year telling anybody who’d listen, and everybody else in fact, that this was her last EVER ultra marathon.

What’s she doing this year, I hear you ask, yup, you’ve guessed it, the 32 mile Black Rat. It is a complete sell out again (there are 4 distances on offer), read about last year’s shenanigans HERE.

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Oh and we went OUT…..

I know! We scrubbed up alright!

Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to read my words, I can be found on Facebook, Twitter and very rarely Instagram

Parkrun: What does it mean to you?

Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.

We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.

2018-04-28 09.27.18Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.

Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.

Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which  people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.

I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.

Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.

 

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The local clubs are always well represented at our local Parkrun

I can only report what I find.

I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.

 

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“Nothing but smiles” could be these guy’s three words

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.

But not always.

I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.

Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.

Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.

Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.

She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”

She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.

I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.

My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!

These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.

Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.

A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.

As I say, I can only report what I see.

Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.

Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.

But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!

And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.

A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.

The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!

Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.

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South Devon At Its Finest

There’s nothing quite like a bit of sunshine……..

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.

Anyway.

The Bank Holiday weekend.

So, how does this work?

Nicky, a natural with the scanner….
The tail walker family – MASSIVE smiles!

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….

The Torbay Athletic Club massive! Local running ‘character’ Steve is well down with the kids!

What passed as a warm up for us!
Race director Brian, about 15 minutes into his pre-race briefing
A well earned piggy medal
Nicky striding over the line

Anyway…..

Sunday.

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

Brick layers – finding it hard to be in focus!

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

Our walk took in some of the forthcoming Stoke Gabriel 10k route too – check it out 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………

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

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’.

 

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Grandson Ollie…. definitely a future blogger

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?’!

 

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Our local Parkrun received a cash boost from Waitrose last week

 

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.

 

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Nicky in PB smashing form

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!

 

 

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Neil, already plotting his revenge!

 

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”.

Thanks for the inspiration Bob.

Freedom Of Speech

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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!!

ANYWAY…..

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….

 

  1. 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!
  2. My brother, Simon, travelling down from North Wales and taking me down in the Parkrun.
  3. 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.
  4. An old training partner, also Simon, the only person who was too hot on a Baltic day, who pitched up in a onesie.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. Snow – well it just looks so lovely (even if it’s quite possibly costing me a day’s money tomorrow!)
  8. Charlie – for wearing a bowler hat, naturally.
  9. Oh yes, today’s long run – 20 miles of biting Easterly gales, snow, ice, mud, mud, mud, hills, mud, steps – Check it out HERE
  10. And writing, and reading, and jigsaws and the piano, our down time, our precious recuperation from the barrage of life…

Time to shift the pork pie

Sibling rivalry. By the time you get to our age, we really are above such things.

I mean, neither of us hold a grudge.

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Was this man’s career cut short, crushed by my brother’s slippers?

About 45 years ago my brother smashed up my painstakingly constructed Airfix galleon with a broom handle. Some years later, he was known to casually knock my favourite Subbuteo players onto the floor and crunch them under his feet. (I think this may have ended the career of Sky Blues legend Mick Ferguson!?)

But. Seriously. Who does actually remember these things…………

I mean, I’m sure my brother has COMPLETELY forgotten the Third Reich incident. I think I had to lock myself in the bathroom whilst he raged outside with a carving knife in his hand! He was an aficionado of historical and battle re-enacting board games. The Third Reich game had a massive board and hundreds of tiny counters depicting military units.

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Tell me, who wouldn’t have found it funny to move a few of these counters here and there over the course of a summer’s gaming. Sorry bro’. I think I may have altered the course of history.

So as we emerge, fairly unscathed, from our mid-life crisis’ and settle into enjoying a fitter and healthier lifestyle into our 50s (he’s not quite there yet), there really isn’t anything to be competitive about.

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All smiles back in 2012 as we weren’t ‘racing’

Except we’ve both become hooked on running. I enjoyed a few years of bragging rights having started a couple of years earlier. But Simon has become a bit of a racing snake since joining the Abergele Harriers. Me? Well I’ve taken to the trails, the ultras and, let’s be frank, the pork pies.

All of this culminated on Christmas Day when we ran our (now traditional) Christmas Day miles. Despite being 300 miles apart, we both know it’s a RACE. There is always some careful handicapping negotiation, but last year it was an out and out scratch race.

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How will Simon fare without his North Wales team mates?

And I got it handed to me. In spades.

Not that I’m competitive, you understand.

There’s a visit planned.

Torbay Velopark Parkrun, on March 17th 2018, will be hosting a beast of a smackdown. Get there early, the Sky Sports TV trucks will be taking up much of the car park.

My younger brother came oh-so-close- to dethroning Mo in the Diamond League last year. I think I’m going to have my work cut out…

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Still Growing A Beard

 

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Charlie, not a natural hunter…..

Sometimes this blog writes itself. Not literally, of course, but you get my drift. Yup, the words are out of my brain, through my clacking fingers and on to some enormous data storage facility in the South Pacific before I can say ‘blimey’! And then, hopefully, they are recalled and perused by you people kind enough to share this bizarre, electronic story with me……

 

writers blockOther times, I sit.

And nothing happens.

But, mostly, I have  vague idea of where I’m going with a blog post and it sort of evolves around my mind as I type. I know, with my writing ambitions, more proof reading and re-writing is required, but the flavour of the blog is to just….. well, get it out there…..

I’ve had this idea of writing about anniversaries slopping around my head for a few days, but didn’t really know how to attach blogworthy significance.

 

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The best day EVER!

I know Facebook prompts me to remember the birth of my virtual friendships, reminds me of previous years frolics with pictures and posts and invites celebrations of fellow users’ birthdays, but some anniversaries need a more delicate touch….

 

Sometimes, there are dates which just fill the heart and soul with joy… for me, the best day ever was our wedding day and I get all goose-bumpy just thinking about it now. Our first date, and, of course our birthdays are truly special to remember. Our birthdays’ are on the same date….. aaaaahhhhh

For those new to the blog (and Nicky chastises me regularly for going on and on and on….) I am quite prone to publicly declaring how wonderful my incredible, beautiful and utterly inspiring my gorgeous lady wife, Nicky, is. I am so grateful and blessed to share this fabulous life with her…

Anyway.

 

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The masses preparing for a few muddy hills at Parke Parkrun

Other anniversaries, like the day we lost loved ones, are less celebrated, but still marked, if only in our hearts. I like to remind myself of the good times shared, particularly with my dear departed sister, who I know would have loved to see me, finally, having the happiness which makes me treasure every moment.

 

Enough of this, lets talk about running. I’m quite partial to donning the plimsolls and trotting along, as has been mentioned on this blog occasionally, and luckily for me, so is Nicky….

 

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Saturday’s flyover….

What a weekend of running we treated ourselves to.

 

With Nicky fancying a change, we headed over to Parke (a national trust property in Bovey Tracey) for the fabulously named Parke Parkrun. Nicky drove the 16 miles, with Charlie and let him loose amongst the squirrels (he’s keen but far, far from being a hunter!). Me? I decided to run over…….

 

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Sunday’s flyover…..

Luckily I enjoy a bit of road running, not as much as the trails perhaps, but, sometimes, I like to run with a steady repetitive stride and zone out. Apart from the first 5 or so miles, this is a traffic free route, much of it on the Templer Way.

 

So those lovely slick bottomed road running shoes were brilliant alllllll the way to Parke…….

Parke Parkrun (love that!) was an absolute mudfest. I basically slipped and slid my way along behind Nicky as she did her usual…….. Start at the back and just get stronger….. slicing through the field from start to finish….. (see the whole run HERE)

Bacon bap and a coffee to follow, what’s not to like…….

“I thought you said it was FLAT!?”

Nicky said this a few times on Sunday’s run. Our next marathon is coming, we’ll be running together, it’ll be on the road, and, it’ll be lovely and hot (so hot in fact, the start time is 5.30am to get some of it done before the sun comes up), we’re fortunate to be heading off for some winter sun and squeezing a marathon in whilst we’re there.

So we, as I had the previous day, headed for hard trails and quiet roads, doing an ‘out-and-back’ from Totnes following National Cycle Route 2. Heading out early meant we encountered pretty much nobody for the bulk of the run. Hillier, for sure, than it appeared on the map……. (see the route HERE)

Hence Nicky’s oft-repeated refrain during the lovely run.

Nicky is getting really fit and strong, swimming, spinning and running in equal measures as she gears up for the challenges of 2018…… Me? well, I seem to be getting back to fitness (if not pace) after ‘the injury’ (did I mention I’d done a 50 mile ultra……. read alllll about it HERE)

As ever, time is our enemy…….. please check out the other posts on this blog (there’s about 70 now!) and some of my other scribblings OVER HERE and keep in touch via FACEBOOK etc and look out for RUNDEEP MAGAZINE which features a column by yours truly.

Until next time……….

 

 

 

Pride (in the name of love)

Nicky (my wife, have I mentioned how wonderfully amazing, inspiring and quite beautiful she is?) and I ran the Bideford Half Marathon today. We are both rather proud of how we performed, more of which later……

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Alisa and Callum finishing their first Parkrun

Talking of pride, I seem to be absolutely bursting with it today. My lovely step daughter, Alisa, and grandson, Callum, did their debut Torbay Parkrun yesterday. I had the absolute privilege to go around with them. It truly was a pleasure and an honour to be there. Alisa is working so hard at getting herself fit, into shape, and healthier whilst juggling her full and hectic family life. Hopefully her knee pain will be nothing sinister and this will be the first of many family Parkrun outings.

So, as you can imagine, we were already full of pride and family love before today’s adventure. We collected our friend, Naomi at 7.30am after our pre match porridge and headed north in the wild wind and rain. Arriving nice and early meant we had prime parking position right near the start.

And with a top view of the queue for the toilets! 2017-03-05 09.59.53.jpg

It really was very windy (and not just in the portaloos), but the rain had thankfully blown away and we were lucky enough to dodge the heavy showers throughout the run too.

As we ambled to the race HQ for our normal warm up routine (coffee), 2017-03-05 09.11.39.jpg Naomi informed us that she had brought a flask of tea. A flask of tea I tell you. Outrageous and quite frankly mind bogglingly organised. Nicky and I are terrible with this – we even took a flask to one race, and bagels and other picnic style items. Yet we still ended up purchasing from the race catering facilities before and after the event. So, unsurprisingly we, unlike Naomi, DIDN’T have a flask. We have accepted our failings in this area and quite deliberately set off for races without sustenance.

Saying that, since we’ve been ‘training’ (no, really) we were equipped with a post race protein shake, just like them there proper runners. AND, and, and a banana.

So, in the HQ (having tried the roomy portaloos) we treated ourselves to a lovely hot and cheap (50p, again, I kid you not) coffee and eyed up goodies for later. Pasties only a quid. Cakes to die, well run at least, for and a friendly smile with the service.

Nicky quite insisted that if I finished in a good time I should head straight here and bag us some of this top nosh as she, quite ridiculously, believed there may be supply issues due to the number of participants. There weren’t as it turned out, but I did end up with TWO scrummy pasties for myself, so it all worked in my favour…

Naomi went off for her warm up whilst Nicky and I had a jog around the riverside in Bideford and made our way to the start line.

2017-03-05 09.56.09.jpgThere’s normally a footwear debate at the events we do, but this being all roads and footpaths, the choice was simple. We decided to wear some.

Previous episodes of this blog have pointed out that Nicky is not a fan of starting near the front of races, preferring to start at the back of the field and have the confidence boosting sensation of moving through the field rather than the demoralising feeling that people streaming past you. And today, this again was a very effective strategy for Nicky, as she overtook 350 of the 1100 runners and her final 3 miles faster than any of the previous 10. She looked so strong and powerful as she surged to the line to finish well inside her pre race target in the fantastic time of 2h03m55s.

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Proud husband alert!

I took the more potentially catastrophic approach of getting fairly near the front of the field near the start to see whether I could mix it with the young (and not so young) speedy boys and girls.

On discovering I had forgotten my running watch I was initially horrified. How can I POSSIBLY pace my run without a device on my wrist, receiving signals from a ball of metal far, far out of sight up there in the sky, making thousands of calculations in real time to produce essential and urgent information, without which I simply couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.

Hang on though, I KNOW I will go off too fast, I KNOW the distance to go will seem impossible if I carry on at whatever pace, I KNOW I will slow down as this prophecy plays out for real. And, Kevin, just bloody run, see what happens.

And we were off. The first mile is a loop around the football club and back past the rowing club to take us to the road heading out of Bideford. Felt good at whatever pace it was so why worry. Lovely. “What time did we do that mile in, mate?” I couldn’t help but question. “6.22”!

As predicted.

The out section is on a (closed) road and mildly undulating and I stuck with the group of runners containing the time keeper (although I didn’t trouble him for further updates) and felt I was running hard but not pushing my heartbeats into a debt that I couldn’t repay later in the race. We did reel a few runners in during the first few miles and, very gradually, I could see I was catching Naomi.

Before the course turned off for the gloriously flat, or even gently downhill Tarka Trail, Naomi became part of the group we were running in. I was absolutely loving this great course, pockets of enthusiastic support and numerous friendly and encouraging marshals, combined with enjoying the rhythm of my own running meant the miles seemed to be flying by.

As the miles approached double figures I passed Naomi again who told me she was experiencing a bit of stitch and I offered sympathy (with the small amount of available breath at this effort level) and pushed on. The group had splintered by this point and I knew I hadn’t held on to the early pace. Miles 11 and 12 came quickly though and soon I was turning to head back over the bridge towards the finish on the riverside. At this turn I saw Naomi was still close behind.

Now, I’m not competitive…….

So, I emptied the tank as we passed the markers telling us there were 800m, 700m, 600m etc to go and summoned what passes for a sprint finish from my 50 year old pins.

1 hour, 27 minutes, 30 seconds the great big digital clock on the finish line showed.

I really am rather proud of that and chuffed to have ran so freely without the watch. I’m also pleased with that as progress towards my target of running a ‘good for age’ time at the North Dorset Village Marathon at the end of April.

2017-03-05-15-51-56.jpgWe had our medals and tee shirts (although we nearly forgot to collect Nicky’s) and we availed ourselves of some ‘recovery’ food and coffee before heading to the car for a chatty and tired drive home.

The heavens opened driving home and we all agreed we had been blessed by the weather gods for the race.

A weekend to be self-indulgently proud of.

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The recovery fuel of champions

See my running on Fetch Strava

Previous blog posts include such topics as The Arc Of Attrition, Streaking, How tired Mo is, The Bodmin Half Marathon and a conversation starter about whether there is elitism in running at our level.