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!
When is blogger not a blogger? A runner not a runner? A writer not a writer?
I’ve been soul searching about questions of my ‘identity’ for the last few weeks. With the positivity I’ve been encouraged to nurture I’ve concluded that, as long as I’m returning to any of these, that’s enough to still ‘be’.
I’m still a blogger (phew, I hear you all gasp). There’s always something in my head which will end up in the blog sooner or later.
If I’m blogger, I’m writing, no? That makes me still a writer then. BUT there is sooooo much more to me as a writer now. Since becoming a member of Writers’ HQ I feel I have started to belong.
Whilst, as yet, I haven’t bitten off huge chunks of their plethora of course material, I have been breaking crumbs off the corners and nibbling on them.
I’ve particularly enjoyed the short fiction exercises, blogs and course content. Many an idea has become the start of something tangible – a challenge, a character, a scene, a quandary – I’m in the habit of scribbling all these thoughts and ideas into either my trusty notebook or a clever app thingy whenever they materialise.
So, at some point in the future, you can look forward to tense friendships lived in a dream state through old postcards, eyes with tiny but endlessly deep black pupils, lucky Blu Tak, an unlikely apocalypse and much much more.
The novel is still flickering too (one of the short stories is rapidly becoming ‘long’ too) and I’m still tinkering, reassured by professionals of this craft the first draft is ‘supposed to be shite’.
So, yup, whilst I’m not doing much in the way of ACTUAL WRITING, I am very much still a feckin’ writer.
Well, 4 weeks today we’re planning a boat trip from Mevagissey to Fowey. I’ll either be celebrating having completed The Plague the previous day, nursing battered legs and eating ALL the food…. Or I’ll be recounting heroic tales of how and why I didn’t complete the whole 100km. One. Hundred. Kilometres.
Nicky, and blog regular Martin are both doing the 50km again and another friend, Jan, doing the 11 mile version. This will be my 3rd visit, and Nicky’s 4th, to this, my favourite EVER event. Read about how much I enjoyed it last year HERE (and also about how Nicky was ‘retiring’ from ultra marathons!)
I’ve managed some running lately, hitting the trails for a few 3,4 even 5 hour runs these last few weeks, squeezing in other runs where I can.
I promise you (and myself) this: with everything I’ve got I’ll be on that start line at 5 minutes past midnight as Friday becomes Saturday (12th August), hopefully skipping through the finish line sometime later on Saturday afternoon.
Right now, as I sit in the garden writing this, the reason I might just make it (to the start AND finish lines) is lying on the rug next to me ploughing through a Charlie Resnick thriller, commenting on how novels written of their era can become dated – 2018 thrillers don’t tend to feature cassette tapes or searches for telephone boxes.
My beautiful wife, Nicky, and I embarked on 20 mile training jaunts around the tracks, lanes and trails of South Devon this morning. This afternoon we are treating ourselves to rummaging through The Observer, racing through the afore mentioned Resnick thriller (by John Harvey), dipping in and out of The People (a Seline Todd political history) and DOING SOME ACTUAL WRITING!
Nicky (how, just HOW did I get to be this lucky, every single day I wake up to find out my heart has won the lottery!), my soul mate, my team mate, my lover, my best friend and my constant inspiration, has quietly, determinedly, carefully and lovingly nursed my tired body and soul through this last month to get us to right here. Right now.
Identity? Well, the most wonderful role I’ve ever had in my life is being one half of the magic that is ‘US’. Everything else only works BECAUSE of that.
In an attempt to be relentlessly positive, this blog post comes to you without any ‘there’s no time’ or ‘I’m too tired’
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Mevagissey, in the heart of R.A.T. territory. An easy drive down, captain chatty – our Martin – for company. Nicky (for the uninitiated, Nicky is my wonderful, amazing lady wife) leading the charge to the portaloos as we ordered and devoured our pre-match coffees.
The Scrooge, a firm fixture on the local running calendar, popular as ever (well over 400 finishers) – 7.5ish miles of mud, water, hills and enough fun and hilarity to last the week.
Another blog regular, Jamie, was loitering with intent at the start and was encouraged into some well fitting festive wear.
“Oh look, a Santa….” “Oh look, a snowman….” etc etc. But elves were, for sure, held a majority today. Plenty of “I’ve been on an elf and safety course….”, “did you have an elfy breakfast?” etc etc
A boisterously chanted “10, 9, 8….” “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and we were off.
On the steady climb up the back lanes to The Lost Gardens Of Heligan, Jamie ably bouncing off to trouble the scorers nearer the front, leaving the three of us warming up nicely…..
Into the ponds. Shut the back door! That first one was cold. Oh, and yes, DEEP (especially for Nicky!)
Then (oh and forgive my reassuringly non-chronological powers of recall) it was up a hill, through some mud, along a stream, up a hill, through some mud, jumping off a pontoon into some water…..
Oh, and then UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN UP UP UP DOWN DOWN DOWN…..
Then some really quite sensible, undulating trails, then through the entrance area to the gardens themselves (to the delight of the bemused visitors!).
Then back to the ponds. Still deep. Still freezing.
The last mile is a charge to the finish.
And at the finish, the rather splendid boys and girls had laid on mince pies and cider.
Oh, and some fine catering, a disco/barn dance and relentless laughter.
Oh, and the results and FREE photographs were pretty much ours by the time we drove home. For the record we smashed last year’s time and over half the field were still out there having a hoot by the time we finished….
“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!”