Country Miles (Dorset Invader Marathon 2018)

stonking great medals at the end, regardless of where we finished

 

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Nearly 29 miles of this! Mmmmm Mmmmm (as grandson, Olly, would say)

If you’re looking for the finish line in a trail marathon, you won’t find it at 26.2 miles! Certainly not at the fabulous Dorset Invader. We’ve tackled many White Star Running events and you’re never short changed on distance. More muck for your buck, as it were. I whole heartily approve, we’d soon be moaning if it was short!

In a break from tradition, our wingman, Martin, was chauffer for the day, his new stead a step up in size from our mini. We settled into the Volvo luxury and headed east. Yet again, it was destination Dorset for #TeamBonfield and our sugar fetishist running chum.

As the main man at White Star pointed out in response to a couple of social media grumblings, these wonderful country routes which trail events companies map out for us depend on the good will of the people who own the land we have the pleasure of skipping through.

With farmland being at the mercy of climate and delicate crops needing to be avoided, routes will be varied and negotiated on a race by race basis. This year’s Invader route being quite different to the one we ran two years ago. A clever quirk of this year’s route was the loop which was repeated, the way it was set up, it never felt as if we were running laps.

With the forthcoming storms holding off until after we’d finished, there was only a wild wind to contend with. So much of this gorgeous route was on trails through woodland and alongside tall hedgerows that we were only intermittently exposed to the howling breeze.

“Are you two going to do ANY running?” Martin briefly turned to ask. The three of us started together, Martin speeding off as we, at best, sauntered up the first field. There’s plenty of time, we assured him, fully intending to use it.

dsc_12174040429068873134989.jpgA big centurion, and indeed a little centurion, both on horseback, ceremoniously set us on our way for this Roman themed event.

About 250 runners were soon spread out as the course picked its way through the fields and tracks of the host farm. After a couple of miles (bearing in mind, my memory is rarely chronological and certainly not detailed) we reached the one road crossing in the event. It was expertly and safely manned by a team of marshals, with clear and precise instructions as to how and when to cross.

Oh, and some 6 hours later, when we were on our way to the finish, the same crew were still there, still cheerful and still as attentive. A massive thank you to them and all of the fabulous volunteers, marshals and aid station crews on the day. Above and beyond as ever.

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Martin, on his way to 3rd in his age group, despite starting with us!!!

After the road crossing, we started to make progress as we warmed to the task. Nicky is a serial start-at-the-backer, much to Martin’s chagrin. His argument is that if you start behind somebody who is going to run at exactly the same pace as you throughout the event, you will end up behind them by the amount of head start you gave them. My argument is: SO?

Nicky’s thinking is a tad more considered. If she starts too far forward in the pack, then runners covering the ground quickly will be scuttling past. Potentially demoralising.

We always say, as runners disappear away from us early in the race, if they are that much quicker than us, then we won’t see them again and good luck to them. If they are a similar pace to us then they may be setting off too quickly and we’ll catch them later on anyway.

BUT, we won’t have had a stream of faster runners whizzing past us.

It didn’t do us any harm, despite starting with a saunter up the hill, behind everyone, there were over 100 behind us 28 miles later. Actually, it didn’t do Martin any harm either, he finished an hour in front of us and third in his age category. And we ALL got stonking great medals at the end, regardless of where we finished.

There was a quite flat and runnable 2 mile section along the old Somerset and Dorset Railway which is quite unusual for a White Star event and some of this featured twice. A cracking section to tick a few miles off and fascinating to run through what used to be stations.

If you enjoy running on corn fields, gravel tracks, wooded trails, quiet lanes, old railway lines, farmyards, bridleways and like a good few hills, then this is definitely for you.

We took the whole thing VERY seriously….

Well, we’re off to Cornwall for my favourite ever event in just over a week. The R.A.T. festival of coastal trail running (read all about last year HERE). With this in mind, completing a lovely long trail marathon has given us both a confidence boost about our fitness as we start to, er, ‘taper’……..

You can check out our Dorset Invader performance on Strava HERE.

So much to say, so little time…. stay tuned and keep on keeping on folks…..

21 Days

sandbagging, woe is me, blah, blah…

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.

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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

Over before it began

Sod dementia, let’s play swing ball

WHAT A WEEKEND!

Regular consumers of this occasionally literal (occasionally literary) ramble through our lives will have noticed I started a “Creative Writing” course….

Well, the course has gone back…… Whilst I’m sure it’s fabulous, it most certainly isn’t for me. Writing lies as fact on topics I don’t enjoy to get ‘paid’ by publications I would rather not support isn’t really where I want to pitch myself…..

And who was I kidding anyway!

Hey ho.

Anyway……

 

The Bank Holiday weekend…..

Lots of time with my beautiful step daughters, their betrothed, our wonderfully energy giving grandchildren and, of course, my breathtakingly beautiful wife. She really is the spark that lights everything that’s fabulous in my life. Even my father-in-law, Frank was up for it – “sod dementia, let’s play swing ball”!

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Pre-race coffees

AND…. On Sunday our old gang went on a road trip to Casterbridge Half Marathon. So that’s yours truly and Nicky (the afore mentioned HOT wife) along with blog veteran, Martin in full silver fox / cheeky monkey mode, Jan too, fresh from the Manchester Half Marathon the previous Sunday. Our support crew were Gloria, another blog regular, and Jan’s lovely Mum, Linda.

 

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Jan managed to find the silver fox loitering in a layby

We met at a fairly civilised hour and convoyed our way to Dorchester.

 

Considering we are such social wallflowers, it’s amazing how many old friends we bumped into  – like Kiernan, an old mate from Portsmouth, dropping in to do a half marathon on his way to his family holiday in Cornwall.

The Dorchester Marathon and Casterbridge Half are road events (and those roads are mostly closed) organised by those masters of the Dorset trails, White Star Running.

 

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Martin, Jan & Nicky demonstrating their thorough warm up routine

If you fancy a road marathon or half, but with the feel of a trail event, beautiful scenery, a festival like atmosphere and a few cheeky hills, then this is for you.

 

With 1600 runners across the two distances, the campsite was buzzing and the car park field was being marshalled like clockwork.

 

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No, Martin, keep your shorts up until you’re out of sight!

Plenty of portaloos, food and drink stalls and a massive marquee promising fun and frolics later in the evening for the runners and campers.

 

The marathon was sent on its way as we made our first trip to the plastic tardis shaped relief cubicles and followed that up with a traditional pre race coffee.

It was good to be back in banter mode with the gang and before we knew it the rain from earlier had given way to glorious sunshine and we were heading for the start line of our race.

 

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Lovely to bump into Kiernan

I had a race plan – run as fast as I thought I could until I couldn’t and then run slower, or if I thought I could run a bit faster then I’d run faster, or slower, depending on what I felt like doing. So, just run basically.

 

Regular readers will know I have trouble remembering details of my runs. I remember lots of bits but not necessarily in the right order.

 

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Ready for the off

So here’s how my race went: 10, 9, 8…….GO! The mayor sent us on our way. For once I ran about as hard as I intended and quickly found my stride amongst others running my pace. We spread out across the closed roads (closed roads!), soaked up the sunshine, enjoyed the wonderful Dorset countryside and ran up. And down. And up. There is barely a flat section. No monster hills particularly, one very long one and a naughty steeper one near the end, but lots of them.

 

There were marshals at every junction, fabulous aid stations and the infamous White Star Love Station. The marathon joined the half marathon route with about 6 miles to go (I think!) and I was quite pleased that only one marathoner steamed past me before the end.

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Marathon winner Steve Way was already comfortable in the winner’s deck chair by the time I crossed the line!

That was the legend that is Steve Way, always supporting road races in the South West, he skipped past us on his way to 2h28m in his last big mileage effort before having a crack at getting gold in Comrades in two weeks time. The runner next to me was moved to exclaim “that’s beautiful to watch!” as Steve sped away.

 

 

 

 

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This young man showed me a clean pair of heels in the home straight!

Apart from getting drawn into an unsuccessful attempt to outsprint someone many (10s of) years my junior, my own race was uneventful. This ultra training has really taught me to chill out, as has running with Nicky, who never, ever starts too quickly. So, whilst I felt like I’d ran it hard, I was always in control. Lovely.

 

There was a fabulous atmosphere at the finish which was helped by the races starting an hour apart, so there was a constant stream of runners getting royally cheered home. I saw Martin come steaming home, then Nicky and then Jan.

The weather was so glorious, we set up on the grass and enjoyed the atmosphere for an hour or so, Martin unable to resist unleashing his well thought out ‘balls’ jokes as he parted with some hard earned dosh for some of the cake stall’s protein balls.

The blog has fallen behind this week, so I’ll leave you with some lovely images from this great race, and some more from our fantastic family Bank Holiday Monday

 

 

(No) Jacket Required

Luke and Adam appeared to be wading into the sea

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…..

 

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Sharing a coffee with Jamie

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.

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I was sure it said ‘fast and flat’ on the flyer….

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…..

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Nobody was going hungry or thirsty!

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.

 

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Luke survived his ‘extra’ water crossing

 

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.

 

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I don’t know WHY we run here

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.

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Gus mulling over the selection of food on other!

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.

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Thank you to the organisers for this picture, I almost look like an afferlete!

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.

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Nicky & Abi – wearing the smiles of a happy run

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!

 

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FOOTNOTE 2 – my quads were loving this today!!!!

 

No Sleep ‘Til Streatley

WIN WIN WIN

Welcome to the 100th episode of this little blog of mine.

To celebrate, here is your chance to win an absolutely FREE entry into the T Series 100 mile ultra marathon. Find out all about it RIGHT HERE.

It’s on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th August, starts at the Thames Barrier in London and finishes in Streatley. The lovely people at T SERIES RACING have given the blog a FREE PLACE to give away.

HOW TO WIN…

SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN THE PLACE. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

JUST TO CONFIRM…..
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

While you’re here, you may like to see what else I ramble about…..

I compiled a ‘best of the blog’ for 2017, check it out HERE

By way of a quick introduction, I am a 50something runner, sharing an amazing life of endurance adventure with my beautiful, precious, inspirational, wife and soul mate, Nicky. We care for her father, Frank, who is sadly suffering with Dementia. We also have Charlie, the Border Terrier, who features regularly on the blog.

I’m also a proud Step Dad and Grandad and this also features regularly in my wittering.

I’m also an aspiring writer……. I keep another (very) occasional blog which charts my all too intermittent efforts at moving my novel along. With its working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners, it trundles along…… slowly!

The fact that I’m a builder by day also features regularly in the blog as my daily efforts quite often impact my planned running.

The blog is a hobby and I absolutely love writing it. If each post brought a moment’s pleasure to just one reader it would make me a happy, and proud, writer.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the blog, and do check out the T Series event in August, I am so very grateful to them for donating this place, giving one reader an opportunity to test themselves along this iconic trail.

SO, THE COMPETITION AGAIN:
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.
THE DRAW FOR THE PLACE WILL TAKE PLACE LIVE ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE AT 7PM ON SATURDAY 28TH APRIL 2018.

ME ON FACEBOOK HERE

ME ON TWITTER HERE

ME ON INSTAGRAM HERE

GOOD LUCK!

99 problems….

WIN WIN WIN

But the blog ain’t one….

Peter Rabbit with the grandchildren. Charming.

Yes this is the 99th instalment of the blog…..

…….. So the burning question is…. Just how will we celebrate getting to 100?

By giving away a place in a 100 mile ultra marathon, that’s how.

There’s been some lovely early morning trail runs this week

Oh yes, we’re going BIG TIME here in Blog Towers.

Anyway, after the excitement and amazingness of our Cape Town trip and the Two Oceans Marathon, we’re back to earth with a few bumps but raring to go onto the next round of challenges.

Work has been in some lovely remote locations too

Unfortunately my next personal challenge, the T60, has, for reasons outside of anyone’s control, had to be cancelled. I was starting to believe I was going to be good and ready for this and was gearing up to give it a real good go.

C’est la vie, as they say.

T-Series racing, the hosts of the afore mentioned T60, also stage 100 and 185 mile Thames races in August. The lovely people of T-Series Racing have very kindly donated a place in the T-100 for us to give away through the blog.

This coincides rather neatly with the next blog post being the 100th. I know. slick eh?

So, the blog started all those months ago with a bit of an observational rant (HERE) about perceived elitism and has been through the highs and lows and hills and mud of mine and Nicky’s journey through life over the last 15 or so months.

I find it wonderful to be able to express, through these pages, how blessed I feel to share this wonderful life with my beautiful and inspirational lady wife.

If the sun forgets to come up I just give it a prod

Anyway, if anyone seriously fancies a crack at the T-100 then I’d recommend checking for the 100th episode of this here blog on Saturday…….

The Cape Town Chronicles #2 (Up Top)

in this amazing place with this AMAZING lady

2018-03-30 15.49.03.jpgAs hinted at in the first of this series, Nicky and I fully immersed ourselves in the tourist lifestyle in Cape Town. We’re normally the couple who avoid eye contact and park ourselves in the quietest spot and devour books.

Not on this trip. Hell, no!

We bought ourselves a 2 day ticket for the brilliant hop-on-hop-off busses and set about seeing every corner of this boisterous city.

We were fortunate that we chose to visit the Two Oceans Expo and sort our entries out and collect our numbers on the day it opened, leaving us free to explore the city on the 2 full days we had before the race. Apparently people queued for 3+ hours to register over the next couple of days.

2018-03-30 16.10.59Anyway, we giggled like children, sat in the poring rain ‘up top’. We went on the Blue Route, the Red Route, the Yellow Route and the Purple Route. We went on the Harbour Cruise and the Sunset Tour. We didn’t see the sunset though, through the thick rain and fog!

And it was brilliant.

I think I speak for both us when I say that one of the great things about our whirlwind romance was that we both just want some peace and quiet! Coastal winter walks are about as crowded as we normally like to encounter. And I know I speak for both of us when we say we surprised ourselves by how we immersed in the hustle of this city break.

I was torn between the incredible scenery, the  mountains, the beaches, the magnificent stadium, the modern architecture, the wildlife and just looking at my beautiful wife….. Pinching myself regularly to check that I was indeed having this amazing time in this amazing place with this AMAZING lady.

 

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You just HAVE to check out the sunset on Signal Hill

We ate like kings, gawped at enormous sea life in the aquarium, held our noses and chuckled at the seals on the marina, and tempted ourselves with some beautiful original art.

 

Yes those first two and a half days were absolutely PACKED and we hunkered down Friday night wonderfully exhausted, with a stupid o’clock alarm set for race day.

I know these ‘Cape Town Chronicles’ aren’t following a chronological pattern, but hopefully they give a flavour of this incredible trip.

Don’t forget to check out The Capetown Chronicles #1 HERE