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.
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.
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…
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.
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………..
Anyway, I ran 4 miles on the coast path with Charlie this morning, so I’d say I’m pretty much ready!
“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.
Mudcrew’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.
This 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.
“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.
Some 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.
Apparently the leading pair turned by 6am!! And finished in just over 12 hours, a mere 6 seconds apart.
Last 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. 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.
Lots and lots of steps. Or ****ing steps as they increasingly became known as morning became afternoon.
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.
It’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.
“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!
I’d better not turn up unprepared next year either, there’s nowhere to hide and no easy way on this course!
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.
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……..
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.
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!!!
“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!”
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.
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.
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!
Proud to be part of this top, top event and amongst the best of the best in the trail running community.
Proud to share the weekend with such great friends in Gloria and Martin, who make the whole experience so much fun.
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!”
Nicky and I have completed four 50km events whilst running together, and she has, of course, topped all of that with her South Downs Way 50 miles.
So, with the East Farm Frolic looming and the small matter of Snowdonia Trail Marathon still heavy in my legs, I set off at the crack of dawn….
Knowing I intended to run on some very challenging terrain, and that I hoped to be out for 6 hours, I set out tentatively.
I always feel so lucky that Paignton faces East. These early morning runs are so often blessed with such dramatic lighting and colours, today was no exception.
It’s also great when the tide is out. Running along the
beach, reigning myself in, drinking in the fabulous, flickering, coloured reflections of the
sun and clouds on the wet sand.
Determined to keep to as many trails as possible, I ran the grass next to hard footpaths wherever possible
to protect my aging bones!
Again, I also feel lucky that I simply enjoy the very basic pleasure of running….
I’m not really a ‘group’ runner, but love running with Nicky & Charlie (the border terrier). I’m also quite happy, and motivated to run and train alone.
I was expecting this epic to test the meditative state running can give me to it’s limits.
Before Nicky and I were together I was less adventurous with my running, mainly sticking to roads, and entering events with ‘PB potential’.
But, I was always motivated to train hard and rack up the miles on my own. I did speed train in a group from time to time. It was focussed, eye balls out, intervals and time trials and I could always dig deep for them.
Now, I feel I have taken that rather single minded focus and have added a layer of adventure, a layer of exploration and of finding new challenges in endurance and terrain.
I’ve found, since writing this blog, that I read more and more excellent blogs from other runners. It always astonishes me how much detail people remember.
I know I enjoy waxing lyrical about this life of adventure and running with my wonderful wife, soul mate and fellow adventurer, Nicky, but I can never remember the points of a run in any sort of chronological order.
Hence this blog. I set out to take a photograph at every mile or so, then upload them in order.
The idea being, for those that are interested, the ‘journey’ of this mammoth training run can be charted by way of photograph.
By my Garmin watch I covered 50 kilometres , but the Strava app on my phone gave me 32.5 miles or so. Check out the route here.
There was definitely a ‘Snowdon Shuffle’ feel to this run, particularly in the latter stages, after that brutal coast path from Kingswear to Brixham.
On a couple of the tougher stairs sections, I actually had a word with myself to ‘Man the F*** up’! as my good lady wife would say.
‘Tis tough though, as anyone who has run or walked it will know.
I wonder how many people actually talk out loud to themselves whilst running in deserted, wind and rain swept. It feels bloody lovely.
Until you round the next corner and bump into an intrepid family hiking in the rain! I’m sure they were smiles of pity as they quickly scurried past me!
Well, this year I’ve run (at the time of writing) 1,450 miles, climbing 125,000 ft of elevation at an average of 45 miles a week. I run about 8 hours a week on average.
The event is 12 hours on a loop of about 4 or 5 miles, off road and hilly.
Not as hilly as this though!
Whilst I was battered after 6 hours and 31 miles, I did do 5900ft of climbing, only 6 days after doing 5800ft of climbing in The Snowdonia Trail Marathon, so I am pretty pleased.
Another 6 hours is a bloody long time though!
I think I shall (*stolen from Steve Skedgell) be the tortoise not the hare!
I even practised eating!
I had a mars bar, two packets of honey and oat bars and a bag of mini cheddars.
I also drank my full bladder, 2 litres of zero sports drink.
I’m ignoring the question….
12 hours running round and round a farm in Dorset. How hard can it be.
I’m off again Saturday, maybe a slightly less brutal route and maybe slightly further than last week. hopefully a bit quicker. Although it’s the time on my feet I need, rather than any particular pace.
Anyway, enough of this rambling, time has beaten me this week, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures from this run.
Please keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, Strava, by commenting on here, or by email, email@example.com
One of the many witty, observational points made was how, in their case, athletes might be defeated by the glossy exterior image portrayed by peers and competitors.
I guess we can all relate to that, that certain someone that gets under your skin, with their perfect life, perfect job, perfect tan and natural athleticism.
Well, Marshall & Patterson suggest that maybe when you delve a little deeper, that person probably also has fears, and money stresses and screaming kids and niggly injuries and is suffering event nerves or, just like us, feeling in some way inadequate.
The suggestion is that in the modern world particularly, a persons internet presence could well portray an idyllic world which is, in fact, hiding a ‘real’ life just like ours.
As a child, particularly as a teenager, I was desperate to ‘belong’, to feel part of something. I went to a grammar school and felt inadequate in nearly every aspect of my adolescent world.
Academically, I was below average at best, in the competitive, striving environment that grammar school nurtured and I always felt I was bring looked down upon.
I had relatively recently moved from a big city to a small sea side town so I had no network of friends which was compounded by the fact that I went to the grammar school where most children came from another town anyway. The few primary school friends I had made all went to the Comprehensive school not a mile from where we lived. I suppose my parents wanted ‘better’ for me.
The school may have been ‘better’ but I certainly wasn’t.
In those teenage years I looked at my siblings, my sister so cool, hanging around with older lads with their cars and motorbikes, what I would have given to get part of that world. My younger brother too, seemingly focussed and sure, intelligent and popular.
I once crawled under the piano, in the hall at school, and pierced my ear with a safety pin, I just wanted to be somebody people noticed.
Anyway, enough rambling and wallowing. Suffice to say, as we got older, we siblings became aware of each others’ failings and anxieties and gradually started to understand each other.
This stumble through bits of my past was prompted by the need for some fully waterproof running trousers.
Mandatory kit you see, for the Snowdonia Trail Marathon, and for future events I have planned.
Ahhhh, the world of trouser buying when you’re gangly and scrawny. They either fall down, or look like I’m flying them at half mast as a mark of respect….
Nicky could hardly hide her mirth as I fumbled between ‘medium’ and ‘large’….. my mother used to insist on ‘taking them up a bit’ whenever I had new school trousers. This was a gift to the mocking cool kids!!
She still does it to my dad!
So, battling the little voice in my head telling me that people like me simply DON’T do the cool stuff, I trawl the internet…..
All those big name brands all the cool kids are wearing. Yup, they DON’T FIT ME!
Last weekend? You want to know about last weekend??
I’ll tell you about last weekend.
Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Trying to quietly put the kayak on the car at 4.30am, every movement echoing down the street in the still air, I headed off to Stoke Gabriel for the 4 plus mile trip up the river.
Logistics working well, the silhouette of a beautiful, wetsuit clad woman enticing me through the, now turning tide, for our rendezvous in Totnes.
She had travelled by taxi, dressed as Jacque Custeau, the driver unfazed, presumably thinking she’d been at a fancy dress party.
So in she plopped and set off for Stoke Gabriel. Quickly popping up again to proclaim “I’M HAVING A WEE! OOOO THAT’S BETTER” before heading off again.
You don’t meet many people at 6.30am on the Dart but we did share the lovely atmosphere with a guy gently strumming an acoustic guitar sat on the bank.
He looked calm. And what a calming sound he made as it drifted across the water. His mellow vibes, the gently ripples of Nicky’s hands breaking the surface and the almost inaudible bubble of the kayak drifting on the calm waters.
I’m rather proud of my beautiful amazing inspirational (and quite frankly HOT) lady wife. She really ate the miles up in this 4.25 mile swim, belying the fact that 18 months ago she couldn’t swim 33 meters of front crawl!
Arriving in Stoke Gabriel we had a debrief, a brief snack, and I packed up the kayak and readied myself for the next installment of adventure.
Cue Jamie (you remember, trail running guru and all round top bloke), fresh (!) From his 48 mile Snowdonia ultra marathon the previous week, trotting down the lane to meet me. We then set off on a course recce for the upcoming Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k .
A stunning, challenging and invigorating course, best told in pictures…..
Really looking forward to helping out at this lovely event again this year.
After leaving Jamie I set off for a few more miles in the hot lunchtime sun, bringing this run to 18 miles in total. Sweaty and tired but DEFINITELY being a cool kid today.
Another early start on Sunday, getting to be the coolest boy with the HOTTEST girl – off to Slapton for an another 18 miler. Hot and tough again but what fantastic fun running with Nicky. Our last long run together before, gulp, Snowdonia…..
We ran from Slapton to Beesands then followed the CTS South Devon Half Marathon route before returning to Slapton. Fabulous coast and country running with plenty of lumpy bits to get the legs burning…
Bring on Snowdonia……..
Ending at the ice cream van was very welcome indeed on a hot hot day.
I know I’m overly gushy about just how happy I am and how in love I am with my truly astonishing wife, but we SHARE so much. Until we met, I thought all those love stories, romantic films, the things people said, terms like soul mate and forever, I thought those things were either fiction, or simply didn’t apply to people like me!
As we gazed out to sea, guzzling our frozen treats, reflecting on another weekend of fun and adventure, of love and of sharing our world, of being just the most amazing TEAM, it seemed to me that maybe, after all, I AM one of the cool kids, and I get to be with coolest kid of all…….
So another week is flying by, it’s now only 10 days to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon and we’re as ready as we’re going to be. In the meantime another weekend is coming our way.
Looks like there may be swimming, there may be running, and maybe, just maybe, these cool kids WILL get to do the cool stuff, whether their trousers fit properly or not!
My father-in-law, Frank, informed us over dinner tonight what a fabulous day today had been. Nicky and I support Frank with some of the detail of life and we all live together. With us both working full time, as well as cramming in our adventures and all the training we enjoy. Timetabling everything for everyone can be a juggling act, but today we think we got everything just right. For all of us.
I woke in the early hours from a very real dream where I was running along the coast path carrying grandson, Ollie, under one arm. He’s a big unit, our Ollie, and I was struggling! I got back to sleep but was soon responding to the 5am alarm and crawling, bleary eyed, to the kettle.
Whilst I was enjoying the lush run from home to Teignmouth, Nicky was organising Frank and Charlie (the Border Terrier), collecting grandson Callum, and taking the rather less taxing transport method to Teignmouth, the mini…..
The coast path from Torquay to Shaldon is BRUTAL. And STUNNING. I set off determined to ‘run’ it all. There are so many steps on this section I soon abandoned this plan and 20 miles and 3 and a half hours later, I was rather glad I had.
Arriving in Teignmouth, I encountered Pete Wilby and his troupe of ‘advanced’ sea swimmers, including the previously, frequently, mention (chatty) Martin readying themselves for their dip.
With Nicky partaking in the ‘merely accomplished but not quite ready to be called advanced’ group afterwards, this meant I had about 20 minutes before our rendezvous. A lovely, FLAT, out and back along the sea wall brought my mileage to 20. Perfect.
Callum is 8. He loves trains. Whilst Nicky was being chaperoned around some big green buoys, the boys took a walk along the sea wall next to tracks. Several trains, with enthusiastic waves from drivers and passengers and plenty of trains’ horns later, we returned to the beach to witness the end of Nicky’s lesson.
With the Teignmouth rowing gig regatta playing out in front of us, we enjoyed coffee and chat in the sunshine before heading back home for the arrival of Callum’s siblings and mother for a belting afternoon in the sun.
We even snuck off for a cheeky ice cream and to collect Nicky’s bike from the rather lovely man at Dialled-In-Bikes (a think there may be multi-sport training coming…..) whilst Alisa disappeared to top her tan up 😉
I smoked my very last cigarette on January 13th 2007. I went for my first run on January 14th 2007. I think the cigarette lasted longer than the run……….
I recorded that run on Fetch as one mile. Clearly it wasn’t that far.
We’re all different. We all run at different paces. We, even those who have ran since childhood, all started our running journey somewhere. Somebody quipped recently that “you don’t need to train it all comes naturally to you” or words to that effect. HHHmmm, I reject that.
I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every single run in the 10 and a half years since that last fag. BUT, don’t be fooled, it was a loooong time before anybody would look at me and say “it comes naturally to him“!
In fact, when I first tried out a club, I was described as “running like a drunk man herding cats“, which I’m guessing wasn’t a compliment!
So, if any of you lovely blog readers are at the start of your running journey, be assured that I’ve been ticking of milestones too. I clearly remember running non-stop (for the first time) for 15 minutes, 3 miles, an hour… etc etc and being utterly delighted each time and having many a gasping on my knees moment…….
ANYWAY…. what a weekend just gone. I know, I know we’re rapidly approaching the next one, and the blog has only just wormed its way into the web…
Saturday. The Swoosh. Nicky and (chatty) Martin and I headed off at 4am. FOUR. A. M. to arrive in Bantham for the sunrise. Unfortunately the heavy cloud and rain meant this was particularly anti-climatic. Day didn’t so much ‘break’, more reluctantly snuck in.
Since rejecting debauchery as a life style, friendships have become considerably less numerous and incredibly more treasured. You will not meet a more genuine, caring, supportive, hilarious and loyal chap than Martin, and both Nicky and I are honoured to be able to share these adventures with him.
Enough man love…… Having waved them onto the bus for their journey to the start, I donned my running attire and set off running the 4.5 mile trail along the Avon Estuary to watch the 350 or so dawn swimmers submerge themselves in the murky river.
I obviously didn’t quite understand the map as my Garmin showed 6.5 miles by the time I arrived at the start. “I don’t think I read the email properly” I told the marshal manning the gate as hundreds of black rubber and orange cap clad swimmers filtered passed him. He did a double take at my attire……
The Swoosh is yet another great event in our glorious countryside, impeccable organisation, iconic location, wonderful atmosphere, belting sausage and egg sandwiches.
I ended up doing 12.5 glorious miles and got to support my beautiful, amazing wife and our great friend at a truly lovely event. Ain’t life grand? (As I may have mentioned?)
I don’t consider myself a Step-Dad or Step-Grandad, I just consider myself lucky to have become part of such a wonderful family. With the early morning nature of The Swoosh, we had plenty of time to get home for an afternoon of mirth, merriment and mocking with the hugely energetic grandchildren. Alisa is still smashing her health and fitness drive and has combined a fantastic drop in dress size with a real drive for fitness and a more healthy lifestyle.
So, the weekend rolled back down to the South Hams on Sunday. We were entered as a relay team, with Nicky doing a 1km sea swim followed by me tackling a rugged 10 mile trail run. The forecast brisk south westerlies were that, and more. Nicky was quite nervous of wading into the lively seas, but she needed have worried. The conditions had snookered the organisers, The Trail Events Company and they were unable to get a safety boat near the beach to put safety and medical personnel onboard, so the swim was, unfortunately, cancelled. A very fair policy was hastily communicated, whereby a deferment to any of their future events, for one or both of us, was offered. Alternatively, one or both of us could do the run as a stand alone event. I felt for the organisers and thought they dealt with a difficult situation very well.
Nicky opted for reading her book in the car (and may have had a snooze) whilst I lined up with the small field of runners to tackle the coast and country 10 mile route.
I set off amongst the rather athletic looking guys and girls in their tri-suits from around the country, holding back a little to start with as I knew there the terrain to come and wanted to hold my effort levels for the tough sections.
After passing through the gorgeous Hope Cove, the coast path is particularly testing, right up to the scramble in land at Bolberry and I gradually started overtaking a few people and was feeling strong and alive in the fabulous terrain.
Stopping briefly for an orange squash and to dip my timing chip at the check point, I pushed on. I could see the leaders in the distance for a while and wondered just how far up the field I was.
With about 2 miles to go, I caught a friendly chap who informed me that I had demoted him to 5th.
I was in 4th place! In a running race! Blimey.
I didn’t see the podium owning guys until the finish, but even my rather embarrassing failed attempt at a heel click as I approached the line couldn’t take the grin off my face.
So, our much anticipated husband and wife relay team’s debut is on hold, we’ll find another event, or maybe be back for a crack at this again, it is a stunning location and the run route is tremendous.
So, as the blog is VERY late this week, there’s been nearly a full week of working, running, swimming and domesticity since then. A family run in the woods on Monday morning was a peaceful way to prepare ourselves for the week.
I did some actual training on Tuesday morning, doing 3 x 2km at eye balls out pace, definitely still feeling the race on Sunday. Then in the evening we went over to Brixham for an extremely chatty bimble with the Harriers. The jury is still out on whether we a: can,
or b: want to, commit to this being a regular fixture. We shall see.
I ran with Charlie on the coast path on Wednesday morning and through Cockington on Thursday morning. In a departure from the norm, Nicky and I met after work tonight and did the 3 x 2km session, this being Nicky’s pace work for the week. For the last rep, we handicapped it and I attempted (for once successfully) to chase her down, both of us threatening to relive our lunch! All of the runs can be seen on Strava if you’d like to see how a heel-clicking, cat herding middle aged man skips around.
Ahhh, the longest days of the year. Heatwaves. Festivals. It’s summer now alright.
A few tetchy people around, obviously not including yours truly, as most of us are struggling to acclimatise to sleeping in the warm nights ……. Me? I lurrve the heat…
Obviously I’d choose a chilled afternoon at Seacombe Sands with my beautiful wife over screeding floors in a sweatbox with my workmate Jamie. Nothing against Jamie of course!
It’s Giant’s Head Marathon this coming weekend, a fabulous, award
winning, brutally hilly, trail marathon in Dorset. Upon completion participants are rewarded with monstrous ice creams and a monstrous medal featuring the Giant’s, er, spinning willy…
Nicky and I have done the Giant’s Head Marathon two years running so we’ve opted for a change of scenery (more of which later) this year as we build up to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July. It was warm last year, but in 2015 it was HOT! Fabulous event though, I mean FABULOUS. So good luck to everyone in Dorset this weekend, hope it cools off a tad.
It’s also the Glastonbury Festival this weekend. Back in the day I did a few of these too, struggling to sleep then too….. I wasn’t quite as fit back then…. Another fabulous event which, unlike the Giant’s Head Marathon,
doesn’t feature high in my list of experiences to repeat. Too old for camping, noise, crowds, late nights, debauchery…..
So, a relay this weekend. But before that, we are off to Bantham on Saturday as Nicky is participating in The Swoosh, a 6km swim from Aveton Gifford to Bantham. It’s a dawn start and we’re aiming to arrive for sunrise before Nicky is bussed to the start. Our regular accomplice at events, Martin, is also involved. Obviously it hasn’t been suggested that his breathing whilst swimming is hindered by incessant chatting….
I’m chief supporter and intend running the trails to watch the start before returning to see the finish. More and more and more, events are just that, EVENTS. The whole experience, the adventure of getting up at silly o’clock, meeting Martin, the drive on empty roads, the sunrise, the bubbling nervous excitement and sharing all of this with the most amazing person I’ve ever known. (That’s Nicky, not Martin, although, in that wetsuit mate………)
Soul mates? The two words never went together in my life, until I met Nicky and we set out on this life of outdoor pursuit and sharing everything. Everything? Well, apart from the time Nicky ran over to another path whilst we were walking one day, to ensure she didn’t have to reciprocate and give me a bite of HER crème egg!
There have been scuffles on the sofa over the last liquorice allsort on occasions….
So, to recover from Saturdays exploits, on Sunday, we’re doing a relay. A relay, I kid you not. Nicky is going to bravely swim a kilometre off South Milton Sands before handing over the, er, dibber to me as I head off for a 15km coastal and trail run. It sounds fantastic and the weather is looking good but not crazily hot luckily.
We were just chatting about how it really is the event we’re looking forward too, it takes as long as it takes. The process, the journey, the moments and memories rather than any measured ‘outcome’. Saying that, I wonder if there’s a Vet 50 Married Couple trophy!!
Nicky is having a great year of open water swimming, getting in the sea wherever possible and feeling stronger and invigorated for the experience. We are shoe horning our Snowdonia training into the available time and had a VERY hot 14 mile trail run on Tuesday evening, straight from work, which was hard but a beautiful route.
We also ran a very challenging few hours out of Kingswear together on Sunday. This too, was a stunning route.
It’s about the journey, and WOW what a journey it is.
I’m trying to mix my runs up a bit but keep mileage high, it’s ten weeks until the East Farm Frolic, where I shall endeavour to keep moving for the full 12 hours, so I need to know I’ve built an endurance base to support this. I do think that my work helps with this, some days it can be relentless. Up and down ladders or like this week mixing and carrying, it’s great work but can be very tiring, sometimes after a 10 mile run in the morning.
I firmly believe that ‘keeping going’ will be the key to ultra running and so I’m just going to keep on running. Wherever, whenever, for however long or however far, and enjoy every single step……..
The world feels like it’s under siege at the moment and so many are suffering unimaginable and unbearable sorrow and grief. We are so fortunate that we can’t even begin to imagine how life must be right now for those suffering and those who have lost. I truly hope the apparent groundswell of love, rather than hate, as a reaction to appalling events of late is the way forward for us all as a community, as a nation, as the human race and EVERYONE echoes the mantra “I refuse to neglect you”
Check out my latest running efforts on Strava if you fancy a nose.
Yeah, I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you I refuse to be silenced I refuse to neglect you That’s for every last soul up in Grenfell even though I’ve never even met you That could have been my mum’s house, or that could have been my nephew Now that could have been me up there Waving my white plain T up there All my friends on the ground trying a see up there I just hope that you rest and you’re free up there I can’t feel your pain but it’s still what it is Went to the block just to chill with the kids Troubled waters come running past I’mma be right there just to build you a bridge yo
Some people have REALLY black cats. It wouldn’t matter how black yours is, there’s WILL be blacker……….
Anyway, we haven’t got a cat. We’ve got a Border Terrier. Charlie. And he’s, well, beige to be honest. Not especially beige. Just your average, run of the mill sort of beige. I don’t doubt there are people out there with beiger Charlies. But, he’s quite beige enough for us.
He looks darker when he’s wet. Which he was quite often on our jolly sunny holidays in the glorious lake district last week. We didn’t let the
weather hold us back, with a marathon, lots of other runs and walks and Nicky swimming a mile in the Great North Swim.
Talking of which, despite some serious open water swimming already this year, Nicky was a little bit, er, green after this, having not quite had the lake experience she was hoping for. She still banged out a mile in Lake Windemere. And not for the last time, I
Not as green as she looked on Sunday though. Well, green, pink, blue…
Her wonderful daughter, my step daughter, Alisa (regular readers will know how proud we are of her achievements this year) and Nicky did the Colour Rush 5k in Teignmouth. Basically three laps of the prom and beach whilst periodically having coloured powder paint thrown at them.
Alisa’s first medal. And I managed to have a full compliment of grandchildren still under my control by the time they finished. All over this grand parenting malarkey, I am…..
So, and please no giggling at the back….. We. Are. On. It.
I know, you’ve heard it before, but THIS TIME……
There’s a cut off at 20 miles in the Snowdonia Trail Marathon which is our next target. It’s probably not a shock to discover that it’s a little bit hilly, but we could probably do with sharpening our mountain goat physiques to help with that…..
Project Mountain Goat is go!
So, since we got back from our holiday Nicky has been back in the sea (twice) and quickly regained her confidence and we’ve both been enjoying the trails on our early morning jaunts.
We also went back to Brixham Harriers last night and enjoyed a loop including a beautiful section of the coast path before our (now traditional) Tuesday evening chips. A glorious summer’s evening in lovely company.
We’re still struggling with the running in the evening, mostly because of how, simply, our days are arranged, it leaves a sort of blank hour before we set off for the club. This sounds like a ‘first world problem’ I realise, but we, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, seem to be constantly battling time…… That said, it’s great to run in a friendly and welcoming group and , well, we do enjoy the chips…
We shared a portion…
My big, BIG target for the year (*I reserve the right to change this, having not quite made my last BIG target!) is the East Farm Frolic. With that in mind, I am trying to add a few miles here and there and get more endurance fit than ever before. I’m really not sure how I’m going to respond to such a long time on my feet, but I have even BIGGER ambitions for the following two years so I really need to find out how my body (and mind) respond to a heavier training load.
Luckily, I absolutely love running, and, wherever I can, I’ll try and do my runs AND Nicky’s runs with her over a weekend and really start getting the miles in.
On that note, I read, in a running social media group, of somebody bemoaning not being allowed to wear headphones during a 10k race because “running is boring enough…”
I feel blessed that I get nothing but joy from every single run…
Inspired by those funny chaps on the Running Commentary podcast, Paul Tonkinson and Rob Deering, I went on a ‘dog run’ last night. Now, regular stalkers sorry, readers will know I am regularly to be seen on a ‘jog the dog’. We musn’t, no we REALLY musn’t, confuse a ‘jog the dog’ with a ‘dog run’. A dog run, you see, is carried out without the help of a dog. See, very different beasts.
By the way, aside from the podcast, Paul & Rob are proper hardworking comedians and I was rather chuffed to discover that Rob is coming to Dartmouth in August. Nicky was keen to pick seats in where her chances of being singled out were slim….. I should think sitting next to me should be sufficient, I do, er, stand out when we’re in close proximity!!
Anyway, the ‘dog run’. Simple, really, the route, pace and distance are only determined in the moment…. “er, I’ll go left here, hang on, no right”, “up the hill, ah no, back down it, oh go on then, up I go”, “oooo, what’s that smell…. hang on SQUIRREL OVER THERE” etc etc. So this dog run was 11 or so miles and started out heading for Torquay before diverting to the coast path, over some beaches, a golf course, some hilly bits, some flat bits and a bit of a blast in the last few miles on the roads again. Lovely. Hot, sure, sweaty, hell yeah, but lovely!
Running on a Thursday evening? I hear nobody say! Well, you see, my amazing and, quite frankly awesome (not to mention sexy, inspiring, funny, clever and beautiful) wife, Nicky went out. OUT I tell you. I know, on a school night. In fact, on ANY day…. we don’t do ‘out’ much. To be fair, she was back by 8.30pm so we were still snuggled up reading well before it got dark!
So that’s twice this week I’ve laced up in the evening. Nicky and I went to the Brixham Harriers again on Tuesday and had a lovely sunny evening run up and around Berry Head. Check it out on Strava if you’re interested in such things.
I’m really quite enjoying the club nights, it’s challenging to fit it into our chosen lifestyle, as the hour after we get in from work, before we set off for the cub is sort of ‘dead’ time, but we’re determined to make this work. They’re a cracking, friendly, welcoming bunch and we enjoy having a bit of a night ‘out’. Sort of! We did sit by the harbour and shared (SHARED!) fish’n’chips in the gorgeous twilight, which was lovely.
Lots of events this weekend, we’re not there, but White Star Running are making a foray into the road running scene with the Dorchester Marathon and we wish them, and all the runners, well with that. Maybe next year for us.
Meanwhile, it’ll be an emotional run for our good friend (and Brixham Harrier) Jan at the half marathon in Manchester this weekend. Again, we wish her and all the runners and spectators and safe, sunny, enjoyable and peaceful weekend there.
We’re off to the South Hams to RACE THE TIDE (the 16 mile version) and are really looking forward to some beautiful trails and the stunning coast path.
After our recent experience of running under pressure, it’ll be lovely to know that, in the words of the organisers, Pure Trail, “It is not an elitist race and we hope to cater for all speeds of runner, however, if you do miss the cutoff you can turn around and run the same route back to start but you will still have run 12.8 miles. Aid stations stocked with a combination of peanuts, biscuits, jellied sweets, fruit, water and coke will be at approximate 6.4, 9.4 and 12.8 miles.”