I guess life can sometimes be defined by confidence.
Well after absolutely loving the AONB North Devon Half Marathon both Nicky and Myself are a little bit happier with our fitness and prospects at the RAT trail running festival where Nicky is running the Black Rat (32 miles) for the 4th year running. She’s a veteran of the event having completed the Red Rat (20 miles) the year before that. Me? I’ve gone for THE PLAGUE, a 64 mile night epic challenge.
Anyway, back to North Devon where several hundred intrepid trail runners assembled in the gathering heat and set out for either the 13.1 miles that we did or, leaving 15 minutes before us, the full 26.2.
Neither of us had ever been to Woolacombe. In the glorious sunshine, this town was radiant, the colours of 800 or so runners adding to the kaleidoscope.
As we made our way along the spectacular coastline, both of us lapping up the scenery, it felt like running through an oil painting.
The event is the showpiece of North Devon Hospice and truly is up there with some of the best trail races we’ve done.
We saw dozens of marshals and water station volunteers, every single one friendly and bright as they directed us on our way.
They must have been wilting in the heat but this didn’t curb their enthusiasm. They had some belting views to enjoy and at least 2 of the numerous water stops were in quite incredible locations. One on the beach at Croyde and one quite literally in the middle of a herd of cows.
The finish area is fabulous too, so many marshals and volunteers, a PA system calling every single name as they cross the line and a cream tea for every single runner in both distances.
Anyway, I was thinking about the concept of banking training miles, trying to deposit enough in the bank so that when you ask your body to write a cheque on race day, it doesn’t bounce!
Well, with the Roseland August Trail fast approaching, this great day out on the North Devon Coast has definitely put some pennies in the ratty bank!
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!
I feel like a bit if a fraud. It certainly is a reality check listening to all those interviews with participants, including both elite athletes and mere mortals like us, about mammoth endurance events such as the Dragons Back and The Sky Running events.
BUT, Nicky and I are veterans (in both age and events) of 10 years of running events. Both of us having completed 30something marathons, including a few 50km races and, in Nicky’s case, a 50 miler.
AND, I’m having my post prolific year yet of mileage, averaging over 200 miles a month.
SO, maybe I am ready to step up to call myself an ‘ultra’ runner…. I mean, I’ve got some Inov8 shoes and a rucksack and everything!
As regular readers will know, I’m leading up to The East Farm Frolic (EFF) in August where I’m looking to keep going for all 12 hours and hopefully take myself into the 50 mile club, if not further.
AND, listening to this new (to me) podcast is only fuelling my desire to ‘go long’. Specifically to ‘go long in Cornwall’…….
Which got me to thinking….. my beautiful lady wife, chatty Martin and good friends Jan & Gloria had formed a relay team to compete for the 12 hours at The EFF. All change now as they have moved to being solo entrants, like yours truly.
With 5 of us now entered….. surely 5 go long in Dorset…..
Anyway, by going long in Cornwall, I mean specifically go long from Coverack to Porthtowan, by way of 100 miles of the coast path, in February 2019.
I fell for the charms, the challenges, the tales of successful and unsuccessful attempts, the beauty, the uniqueness of The Arc Of Attrition (AOA) as we spectated back in February, see my blog post from back then.
In fact one of the reasons I was so inspired to start blogging get so enthusiastically was the wonderful experience of following this year’s edition.
The AOA is organised by Mudcrew, responsible for my absolute favourite event, the (black) RAT and many otherwise including the festive hilarity of The Scrooge.
Mudcrew’s head honcho, Andrew Ferguson, is a pretty serious ultra runner himself, recently competing in the fabulous looking Laverado Ultra in Italy , and his name pops up all over the trail running scene.
All who crew at these Mudcrew events are runners and understand the needs of those on the trails. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I think about the AOA, and how I will prepare, on most of my runs.
By that I mean I try relate the run I’m on to how I would be feeling after 24 hours of coast path. I think about eating proper food whilst running, about kit, navigation, isolation, weather, etc etc.
I’ve also developed a new mantra, “NO LAZY STEPS’ meaning I should never assume the next foot plant is flat and predictable. Small protruding roots under dark tree canopies could end the race. I need to make sure to learn to remaim alert under extreme fatigue.
The enormity of the AOA’s challenge has dictated the time scale. I need to qualify, I’m hoping to have a few events which serve as qualifiers, maybe doing something like Hope 24 amongst them.
The traditional Mudcrew stepping stone is to do the 100k version of the RAT (Nicky and I are doing the 50k for the 3rd time this year) in 2018.
The Plague, as this 100k is known, serves as a qualifying event and also comes with an AOA invite to accompany it’s finisher’s medal.
The best part of all of this process is spending time outdoors, with my wonderful amazing beautiful lady wife, Nicky. After the great adventures of last Saturday (see last post) we took to the coast path for 3 gloriously hot and sweaty hours.
These joint jaunts are serving as training towards Snowdonia for the two of us (which is rapidly approaching!), as well as building my mileage towards The EFF. They are also wonderful shared adventures, precious and treasured times.
Oh the witty banter on these sweaty long runs, “blimey you stink” “not as much as YOU stink”…..
The Talk Ultra podcast is presented by Ian Corless, a fine ultra and trail runners in his own right and now an event photographer too. The show is mainly made up of interviews with big names from the world of ultra-distance running, as well as those from further down the field.
It’s all an education to me, probably only being aware of the headline events and maybe our local long distance challenges. I’m learning the names of the stars of this mystical world and getting to grips with the lingo. Don’t expect me to be attempting a FKT on a course with loads of VERT anytime soon…..
Oh it turns out my 20 miles running, to Teignmouth, on the coast path, isn’t even a warm up to most of these boys and girls.
‘Blowing out of my arse!’ I’ve no idea where that expression came from but it seemed to fit my rather cumbersome effort as I did a time trial after work last night. Blowing out of my ears and nose too. Open mouthed and squinting from the sweat stinking my eyes, I gasped for every breath. Desperately weaving through the many dawdling pedestrians, enjoying their evening stroll in the sunshine, I just about managed to maintain 30 seconds per mile slower than I’d hoped for the 1.8 miles
We’d elected for this instead of waiting another hour and going to the club night. Whilst I was cracking paving slabs either my clomping strides, Nicky and Charlie joined the rest of Paignton, walking along the sea front.
It was with some relief that I finished my effort near a toilet. Then, whilst not getting any cooler during my cool down, I bumped into my beautiful wife and raggerty hound and needed no further prompting to end my rather unfortunate effort RIGHT THERE. A stroll back along the beach followed by eating chips on the sea wall and all was well again.
A few years ago I’d have been disappointed with that run but these days I enjoy laughing at myself and moving on. 3.75 of jogging with Charlie in the woods at 5.30am this morning soon put that right too.
Something similar tomorrow then a weekend of long endurance adventure beckons, including some kayaking to accompany the intrepid Mrs Bonfield on an early morning river dip.
Enough of this rambling, keep on keeping people……..