I thought I’d travelled a long way back in May when I attempted the Dragon 100 ultra marathon. (I didn’t quite finish…..but did write about it…here)
Those that used to read the blog regularly will need no introduction to my amazing wife Nicky.
For those that are new here, let’s just say Nicky is my inspiration, my motivation, my rock, my world, my soul mate, my best friend and I am blessed that she is also my beautiful wife.
She is also an endurance athlete extraordinaire.
Back in September she cycled the length of Britain from Lands End to John O’Groats. A journey of 1000 miles with 50,000ft of hills averaging 75 miles per day.
Now THAT’s going long.
It went someway to battling the disappointment of her attempt to complete the Outlaw triathlon back in July. The Outlaw is an Ironman distance triathlon in Nottingham. Nicky had planned her training from December 2018 until the Outlaw, ticking off every session as she did it. She really is relentless once she sets her mind to it.
Unfortunately, the weather was to intervene. Rain and wind of biblical proportions arrived the night before the race and destroyed the bike course. I found out that the organisers had cancelled the bike leg whilst Nicky was halfway through the 2.4 mile swim. She found out as she exited the water. A massive blow and anti climax, but definitely the right decision.
So, Nicky turned down the invitation to wait a few hours in the foul weather to run a marathon which still wouldn’t give her that iron distance triathlon finish.
We headed home with a massive sense of anti-climax, and of unfinished business.
So we both enter 2020 with fitness goals, challenges and adventures firmly in our sights.
There will be running, there will be cycling, there most certainly will be swimming. Watch this space.
So how did our first week of 2020 go? All fired up an raring to go?
‘yes’ and ‘no’
Both full of chesty colds, we abandoned our traditional trip to the Chard Flyer 10k on 1st January. It is normally how we find out how much older, heavier and slower we have become! Instead we went for a splendid 6 mile walk around Occombe and Cockington.
For me, I’ve managed to cycle to and from work once (about 4.5 miles each way), but now have a mechanical issue with my ~*:^ing bike! I’ve also been out for a snotty 6 mile run, which was hard work, but I think I felt better for doing it.
And then today: I went on the trails. Yup, I’d written myself a sort of training program. What did it say I needed to run? Some tarmac bashing with some miles at a particular pace. Instead I donned the head torch and headed for the coast….. (more about this ‘training plan’ in a future post.
Nicky has fared better:
She has ran twice (6 & 8 miles)
Rode the indoor trainer (on Zwift, more on this in a future post).
Ridden 44 very hilly miles on the road
Swam twice – 1km & 1mile.
So, the first week of the new year draws to a close.
The best development domestically has been Charlie starting to pull his weight with the house work. Washing up is hard with his little paws, but he’s giving it his best shot.
For new readers, brace yourselves, you are about to be subjected to a barrage of me eulogising about my quite amazing lady wife. Our lives of challenges and adventures brought us, last weekend, into the gorgeous Cotswolds for the culmination of Nicky’s determined training for this, her first middle distance (half Ironman) triathlon.
Training had been stalled by a calf injury (which also scuppered her 2 Oceans ambitions – read about that HERE). Having had some excellent therapy and trained hard and around the problem, she arrived at the Cotswold 113 in as good a shape as circumstances could possibly have allowed.
So, with our great friend Martin tucked safely in the back of the mini and their trusty steeds securely on the roof, we hit the road.
Glorious sunshine greeted us as we arrived for registration and the detailed race briefing on Saturday. There are a number of lakes at the race location and lots of great facilities for water sports enthusiasts, adrenaline junkies, kids and adults alike. There was a super friendly, slightly nervous buzz about the place as we enjoyed the warmth and sauntered around the registration area.
113 Events are a fabulous organisation. It would be easy to focus on the two ‘main’ guys from the organisers, and I will in fact do that, but every single one of the marshals, volunteers, police officers, water safety crew, motorcycle outriders, aid station teams and, of course, athletes, made this quite an incredible weekend.
So, the ‘main’ men – Graeme, the dry witted, unflappable, composer of emails, organiser and administrator of an extraordinarily personal registration process. Graeme actually suggested any of the thousand or so entrants that may be passing his door in the preceding week could call in to his house and register over a cuppa! He must keep a healthy stock of PG Tips.
Then there’s ‘loud’ Dave. Chief shouter of encouragement, instructions and banter. His booming voice echoing across the lake on Sunday morning as he stood waist deep in water hauling the swimmers up the steps is definitely one of my favourite memories.
The Saturday briefing was delivered twice and was invaluable for Nicky and Martin. Informative, informed, light-hearted, yet serious when it needed to be, those that managed to get there will have had their fears allayed and doubts answered. Graeme used a mic and P.A. speaker.
We decided to drive the bike course, a 28 mile loop (which would be ridden twice on race day), taking in the ‘hills’ which, living in Devon, didn’t present any fears for Nicky and Martin.
I’m acutely aware that I’m starting to get a bit ‘this happened, then this happened….’ soooooooo
I had Sunday morning all planned for my (spreading) stomach. All its ins and outs were to happen in a carefully planned and controlled manner. We’d met our friends Mac and Valerie who were due in the water at 6.10am, 10 minutes after the first wave which included my two eager athletes. With the swim start waves due to take an hour to get everybody in the water, I was going to use the lull in toilet queues to take care of the, er, ‘out’.
The ‘in’? A bacon and egg bap with my name on it which I would munch as I sauntered across to watch the swim exit.
It didn’t happen like that. We arrived lakeside about 4.30am to a thick mist. We couldn’t see the buoys and quite clearly there wasn’t going to be a 6am start.
By 6.30 my tummy’s ‘out’ had started to become urgent……… I simply had to join the increasingly nervous (and chilly) neoprene clad masses in the queue to poo.
The fog cleared and at 7.30 precisely the first wave took the plunge.
A lump in my throat, as pride, love, nerves and trepidation engulfed me. The woman I adore, the woman who inspires me, drives me and makes every moment precious, ploughed across the lake. Unperturbed by the mass of big strong guys crashing their twirling arms through the water, my petite heroine was getting stuck right in.
47 minutes later I watched her hold her ground as a couple of guys’ pincer movement failed to edge her out of the steps at swim exit. A big strong hoick from (loud) Dave and his fellow crew and off she padded towards her bike.
My day had started with a 3am alarm. Nicky got out of the water at 8.17 and I STILL hadn’t had my bacon and egg…….. Anyway, I was looking out for 4 people in the mass (880ish started) and Nicky, Martin and Ian (Mac) were all in transition together meaning I got a few piccies. And as they left, Val arrived. I safely watched them all out on to the bike course.
Then I had my bacon and egg…..
I figured I had about an hour and half before any of them would complete the first lap so I chose one of the many empty blue chairs around one of the food stalls and got my book out.
What am I reading? I hear you yawn. Well, I’m reading On Writing by Stephen King. Regular readers, in fact anybody that’s reading this seeing as I’m, er, writing it, might know I do enjoy scribbling a few words. I’ve had a rocky time with writing lately. I’d signed up to do a high profile brand’s ‘creative writing’ course only to find that their mission statements to be all about loving money rather than loving writing. So back it went.
I’ve since signed up for membership to Writers HQ. With their far more earthy approach and mottos such as “Stop f**cking about and start writing” and the simple “Write what you love” I reckon it was allllll meant to be.
Anyway, I’ve also been ploughing through Stephen King’s memoir of the craft.
“Excuse me is anyone sitting in this…?” (blue chair with no occupant.)
“No, I have no friends, take them all if you like”
Two cups of coffee a BACON AND EGG bap and a few chapters later I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag. Well, my book in my draw stringed bag anyway.
We had driven around the potentially difficult corner (a VERY sharp right turn) which ends lap one, quite a few times on Saturday. It is a VERY sharp corner and comes after 28 miles. Martin was struggling to understand the junction, so we went back AGAIN and walked him through it. Nope, he really didn’t see how it would work….
….. I chose this spot to watch the end of the first lap. Mac, flew through almost immediately, going really strong in his bright and easy to spot Torbay Tri racing kit.
I’ll take this opportunity to big-up 113 Events AGAIN! This potential pinch point on the course had had all the hedges and verges trimmed to increase visibility, there were massive signs specific to this junction, marshals on both sides of the approach yelling “sharp right turn”. A further marshal stood in the middle of the road, blocking the straight on option and another on the inside. All the gravel had been swept off the road.
I have, over the last 10 years entered dozens and dozens of running events, most of them incredibly well organised, but I honestly do not think I have attended such a ‘no stone unturned’, athlete centred event as this and its ‘SOLD OUT’ sign will appear even earlier next year as athletes’ word of mouth advertising spirals. I’ve heard that a high profile triathlon of similar distance taking place on the same weekend still had the ‘VACANCIES’ sign up.
I eagerly awaited Martin’s arrival…….
He waved enthusiastically and took the corner with ease.
Unlike about 20 or so guys who, heads down and focused, had to over run the corner and then turn back, most of whom took the cheers of the massed spectators in good humour.
As did the guy who tumbled over his bike as he entered transition at the end of his ride.
Mac and Martin safely negotiated themselves onto the run and then my excitement levels and bursting pride started reaching fever pitch as Nicky came steaming back into transition.
She calmly handed me her cycling top as she headed out for the first of her 3 run laps.
For the next 2 and a bit hours I charged around various points around the lakes and surrounding lanes to give as many cheers as I possibly could.
I was humbled by the sheer determination on show from everyone and with the competitors names printed on their numbers I was able to personalise my relentless encouragement.
Mac was fading the final lap, hardly surprising as he’d absolutely smashed the thing out of the park. Martin seemed knackered but in control and Valerie judged her efforts all the way to the finish.
As for Nicky……… As I’ve said many many times (and will say many many more times) she is a wonderful lady, a fabulous role model to all of us. Takes what she’s got, works as hard as she possibly can to turn that into the best version of herself through grit, determination, relentlessness and a refusal to accept that she “can’t”.
Three years ago Nicky was unable to swim 33 meters without pausing. On Sunday she completed 1.2 miles in the water and the total of 70.3 miles in under 7 hours and did so with a bounce and a sparkle and a smile.
The announcer yelled “… and from Paignton in Devon it’s NICKY BONFIELD…” as Nicky eschewed her normal self consciousness and threw her exhausted arms in the air.
So, some of you will know that I signed up for a ‘Creative Writing’ course recently. Well, I took a let less than the 15 days available in the ‘trial period’ to return it. I felt with the limited time I could commit to my writing I would be breaking my soul following their guidance. I don’t want to construct false ‘real life’ letters for trash magazines in the hope of getting paid sixty quid!
When I explained why the course wasn’t for me, the company told me that ALL writing courses are about trying to get paid. I knew then that I’d made the right decision.
For me, writing is like running, it’s something I just love doing. So they’ve done me a massive favour. I feel free to write what I love. I’ve 100% realised that, whilst I’d be thrilled to be paid for writing, it would need to be because people are thrilled with what I write.
So, highly motivated, I dived head first into a weekend of lovely running, patrolling the beach whilst Nicky swam in the sea and having a jog with my beautiful step daughter Alisa as she starts back on her road to fitness. Not to mention a glorious walk with my amazing wife, Nicky and a good friend. Oh and taking ourselves off for a few hours r & (w)r tucked away with our faithful Border Terrier, Charlie, a picnic and our books.
The aspects of life which are harder to deal with are, well, easier to deal with my soul mate soothing my soul. To be able to just enjoy some peaceful outdoor time together this weekend was perfect. One of the BILLION reasons I am so madly in love with my incredible wife is that we don’t place demands on each other. We have long since dispensed with television and we are so, so comfortable sat reading, soft tunes in the background. Or Nicky practicing the piano whilst I scribble away or clatter the keyboard. And don’t we just love the trails and being outdoors.
Saturday’s run was all trails and photography followed by an hour on the beach with my notebook whilst Nicky swam. Check the run out HERE.
Sunday’s started with a crack at a 7 mile time trial using an old route from when I used to really chase times and ended up with another mooch on the coast path. Check that run out HERE
Then, my step daughter, Alisa joined me for her first run for a while. A very proud step dad, having run 27 miles in 2 days, certainly didn’t mind another 2. All the while we were keeping our eyes on Nicky in the sea.
With our home town being absolutely rammed with people thoroughly enjoying the Torbay Air Show in the glorious sunshine, Sunday afternoon was all about hiding away for us. Being less than gregarious, we squirreled ourselves away in a far corner of the Coleton Fishacre grounds and enjoyed a lovely picnic and a few hours reading (Nicky) & writing (me).
Progress with my novel has been positively bursting since realising that it’s ok to love what I write and just see where it goes. There are courses and mentoring and support groups a plenty out there and when one is right for me then maybe I’ll sign up. In the mean time the main characters in my book, **** ****** and *** ********* have actually encountered each other in chapter three as the views and sea air have fed my muse.
#dogsthatdontlookliketheirowners is still the working title of the book and when our eldest grandson, 9 year old Callum, came to stay last week he was fascinated to learn that I am writing a book and has already started work on the cover artwork for it. I have, of course promised him a heathy commission in return!
A massive compliment came my way from our good friend (and Saturday’s walking partner) Gloria. She declined hearing any specific news on how the book is going as she is going to wait until she can pick it off the shelf and read it!
I know of people who might run around the block if their running device of choice indicated a distance of 4.9 miles as they approach home………
……I take that to new levels. If I think there might be a chance of bumping into Nicky whilst out on my runs I will alter course, speed up, slow down, run around in circles…
She may be running herself, cycling , or walking the dog, but I’ll try and have a ‘chance encounter’ wherever possible.
I guess it’s one of the millions of lovely symptoms of being in love! As I’ve documented on many occasions in this blog, my life with Nicky truly is amazing, Like living my whole life riding a wave of love and adventure and challenges, I truly treasure every single moment.
So, last Saturday we both planned to do the Torbay Velopark Parkrun. I was also hoping to run somewhere between 15 and 20 miles, including the Parkrun and then the 1.5 miles or so home. Nicky, with her ‘Familiarisation Day’ looming, was aiming to run to and from the Parkrun.
After about 12 miles I found myself looping around our house in the hope of casually bumping into Nicky and then running together. Success! Ahhhh, the course of true love!
So we jogged to the Parkrun, Nicky ran much quicker than she ever gives herself credit for whilst I puffed and panted my way around about 5 minutes slower than my best!
My mission to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP) is going well!
A 3.30AM alarm the following day. That’s 3.30 AM!! Yes, a really early start to attach Nicky’s and Martin’s bikes to the roof of the trusty Mini, and we headed off for The Cotswolds. Our splendid friend, Martin, notorious on the blog, didn’t disappoint with his chatter, nor his infamous sugar intake, as the day went on.
They’re doing a middle distance triathlon in June you see (like a Half Ironman, but not of that brand!), so they jumped at the opportunity to go to a familiarisation day at the actual venue to be used on the day.
We arrived at Lake 32, Cotswold Water Park, a little early to be confronted by a locked gate, a few cars waiting to pass through it and some people wandering around on mobile phones. It soon became clear, as the gate was opened, that we were clogging up the entrance for members waiting to have their early morning swim in this excellent facility.
So we span the mini wheels up a grass banked and claimed our spot for the day. There were already several people in the lake enjoying the variety of well marked out routes.
How come I’m not joining them I hear you cry??? Well, firstly, I am really focussing on trying to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP), secondly I have appointed myself chief supporter, bag carrier, driver, coffee drinking cameraman for Nicky’s challenge and THIRDLY, I simply can’t multi-task like my beautiful wife!
My pride in Nicky just grows and grows, she waded into the (admittedly rather inviting looking) lake and my heart swelled with love as her and the Silver Fox started to plough across the lake.
We’d bought Taste The Difference cookies, the chocolate shortbread ones AND the flapjacky ones. A sneaky chomp on a couple of them kept me munching away as I tried to pick out the Devon crew amongst the mass of swimmers.
“MARTIN, MARTIN, MAAAARTIN” I yelled at the guy in the Orca wetsuit wearing the River Dart 10k Swim cap stood in the shallows…….. he eventually turned around and revealed himself to be…… a complete stranger!
Once they’d emerged safe and sound and changed we had some coffee from the little café onsite and Martin gave their sugar supplies a healthy kicking, the crew on duty from Cotswold 113 events started to take charge of the day.
The bike carrier had made a successful debut meaning the trusty Penny Farthings were ready to join the mass ride. Apologies to anyone trying to drive around Cirencester on Sunday.
After a few wardrobe decisions in the growing heat, Martin went for a duffle coat and Nicky was nigh-on naked, they became part of the mass clicking of cleats.
The nice lad on the gate informed me that the trails around the lakes were about 2 miles long, so I took the opportunity to do a few laps. After 4 of these laps the lovely location was starting to lose its novelty value, so I added some variety by running a final one anti-clockwise to get a different viewpoint of the scenery.
And then Nicky and Martin whizzed back into ‘transition’ and changed into their running gear whilst I racked the bikes back on the roof. Slick. Well, not quite slick, but certainly more efficient than I’d imagined it would be.
And so I snuck into the pack of budding triathletes and joined them for the 4.5 mile recce of the run route. A lovely stop-start trot with a very informative run guide pointing out the main points of the route.
By complete coincidence, we ran on some of the Thames Path, at the point where I would have been in the last few miles of the T60 had it not, unfortunately, been cancelled. And on that note, don’t forget, the lovely people at T Series Racing have given the blog a place in their T100 later in the year to give away. FOR FREE.
If you fancy winning a place in that 100 mile ultra marathon in August then check out my previous blog post HERE.
Anyway, another week is soon to become another weekend……
So two years ago we completed the Reggae Marathon in 5h12m47s…. Competition time…… How long will we take on Saturday when hopefully it’s not quite as warm as today!!! A lovely 5k beach run this morning whilst Nicky swam. Were an active bunch here in the Athletes’ Village! So post in the comments a guess at how quickly we’ll go on Saturday – first (and only) prize us, er, er….. A MENTION IN THE BLOG!!! Guesses on here on on my Facebook page. Three Little Birds courtesy of these cool guysJogging in the early morning sunArt?“Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??”Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!
Nicky and I watched this fabulous film recently. By coincidence, I needed to carry out a film review, using strict format and word count, as part of a trial for a copywriting brokerage.
If you’re inspired by extraordinary people overcoming extraordinary barriers to attempt extraordinary endurance feats, then you’ll love this film. Or, indeed, if you simply enjoy a full-on tear jerking love story, or a rollicking adventure, I’m sure you’ll be lost in the emotion and action of 100 Metros.