Take me instead

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Despite the cross of hope on each leg, it wasn’t to be

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my beautiful lady…..

I would definitely take Nicky’s injury off her, if I magically could, and stop running myself if it meant she could toe the start line in South Africa in 2 weeks’ time.

Regular readers may well remember my first 50 ultra back in October. They should do, I banged on about it enough! (my Gower 50 blog HERE)

Well I turned my ankle quite dramatically in that race and had a little bit of time off running.

Whilst it was massively frustrating, and it did seem the world and his wife were suddenly out pounding the pavements whilst I was unable, it was so much easier than how frustrated I am now Nicky is out of action.

I have solemnly promised that I will be on that 2 Oceans start line and be giving it my all.

On behalf of both of us.

Despite Sam the physio’s finest efforts Nicky’s troublesome calf just won’t let her play. So (probably wisely) she has turned her attention to being super fit for her half ironman debut in June.

Beware the Ides of March. Well for many years I haven’t been a March fan. 9 years ago my sister, Karen, got to her 44th birthday but 7 days later finally succcombed to the myriad of cancers that her final years were dominated by.

So yeah, odd one is March.

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

I ended up running alongside a chap last week, whilst on my own long run, who was training for a spring marathon. Initially he was going to be attempting his debut 26.2 effort alongside his wife but circumstances have taken over somewhat. His wife is extremely poorly and does not have a great prognosis. He is determined to complete the run for both of them…

He implored my to do the same with 2 Oceans. Whilst we are fortunate to be currently blessed with good health, it is true that none of us know when these opportunities might come our way again.

nickys list
The moment Nicky handed me her list of possible adventures!

There is, I have to admit, a bit of a guilt thing banging around inside my head. About 9 months ago, Nicky put me on the spot and asked, out of all the trips we’ve looked at (and we do spend a LOT of time saying “ooo look, an endurance challenge, in an unusual location…”) which would be your ‘dream’ trip. Such a difficult question, but the imagery I’ve seen from the 2 Oceans Marathon has always been a temptress for me and that we could throw our resources at it makes me feel a very lucky boy.

And, I am.

But it’s going to be a tough morning when I walk into that starting pen without Nicky………. For both of us.

I’m not really one for “I’m running for Aubrey”, or “running for Martians” but in this instance, I’m happy to be on duty for those who aren’t able to be.

On a more positive and typically determined note, Nicky’s decision has meant more accelerated and intense treatment on her calf has been possible and she is busy planning her post holiday training, along with a full A4 page of possible future adventures……..

There’s a trip of a lifetime to look forward to and some big decisions about our life too, so onwards and upwards……

Me? Well, I went for a tired but consistent 10 miles this morning and have my head well and truly focussed on building up my preparation for the T60. There’s still places, check it out HERE.

Whilst our Sunday run was curtailed rather upsettingly, I managed 24 miles on Saturday. It was hard work, but I’m hoping that, come race day(s), not having spent 8 hours on a concrete breaker the previous day will help me feel fresher!

For a nose at what passes as training, my Strava training is HERE

Keep on keeping on people…….

It’s ok, I’ll run

I’m self employed. Saying that, I’ve mostly worked for the same small firm for the last two years. I did go out on loan for a while (see THIS BLOG), but even that was for a friend of my current boss. Though I’m self employed, said boss still texted me to check I was OK with travelling to and from the customers’ house on both SNOWMAGGEDON days this week.

 

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It’s ok, I RAN home

“It’s OK,” I cheerfully responded, “I’ll run home”. Secretly hoping for a white deluge, I stuffed a load of running gear in a rucksack and drove the 6 miles to work. Rather disappointingly, on Wednesday, the threatened snow barely materialised and the trusty Micra scuttled me safely home.

 

And then scuttled me back to work Thursday morning. The difference being, the snow actually came on Thursday. And didn’t it.

Another text from my boss, basically saying have a half day, “It’s OK, I’ll run home.” I reassured. Then the call from Nicky came. She was more insistent now that the weather had deteriorated sufficiently for her office to close early. For those who are new to the blog… WELCOME!!…. Nicky is my wife, my inspiration, my heartthrob, my passion, my reason, my life. Feel free to read back through the blog for more, suitably gushy, posts about how I treasure every moment of our lives together and the incredible adventures she dreams up for us.

Anyway.

2018-03-01 12.44.37I am learning to understand when “I think you should leave now” means “You ARE leaving now.” Not to worry about the chances of the Micra getting home in one piece, I reported…. “I’ll run home!”.

So, as Nicky left her office a couple of miles from home, I washed up my decorating gear (by the way, once this project is finished I’ll be striking out on my own, so if you’re local and have property repairs or renovations needed…. get in touch) and donned several layers of running attire.

“When you said ‘it’s ok, I’ll run home’, we thought you were joking!” exclaimed the customer as a thick veil of snow started to hide the rather tatty Micra from the beaky eyes of their neighbours.

An hour and a half later, I met Nicky sat in stranded traffic at the bottom of our road! Torbay ground to a halt as the heaviest snow I can remember combined with a ferocious easterly storm to close roads and challenge the authorities and emergency services.

2018-03-01 13.21.12For me, though, what a treat, running 6 miles on crisp fresh snow on the country lanes. T’was quite beautiful.

I’m always jealous of those people with their ideal jobs, showers at work, gym on site. So many magazine articles suggest ‘squeezing a run in at lunch time’ for those of us with time-poor lives. Not much use for us hairy-arsed builders. Unless we want to stink all afternoon. The same goes for running to work – I’d have to carry so much (I have an ENORMOUS lunch box – come on now, no sniggering at the back!) and would be rather sweaty and smelly.

That leaves running home as the only possibility. The challenge here being, again, carrying my work clothes and paraphernalia and, of course, then not having my car to get to work in the morning. For a long time I cycled to work trying desperately not to be a sweaty mess on arrival and weighed down by so much STUFF.

So, with work related runs not really an option for me, yesterday was a real treat. Emerging from the silent, bright white lanes into the ring road on the outskirts of Paignton, I saw the full extent of the travel chaos. I helped a couple of motorists battling the challenging conditions up the first hill before zigzagging my way home via more unused tracks and lanes.

Since the advent of cameras on mobile phones and the instant world of information we now live in, we are all ‘on the spot’ journalists to our little world.

Nicky, Charlie (the intrepid Border Terrier) and I ventured out into the snow last night for a great fun walk, and to record Paignton in the snow – not something we see very often. We avoided the beach area, Storm Emma was throwing crazy waves up and over the prom.

We should all consider those less able to cope than us, the frail, the elderly and keep an eye out for our neighbours. I have to say, it’s been heart warming to see the army of 4X4 vehicle owners and those with spare rooms near hospitals, some pubs, shops and cafes, all start to offer their generous and selfless support once the extent of the extreme weather became apparent. Getting people safe and warm and where they need to be was the mission and so many joined the cause.

In a world where nobody has any time for anyone, there has been a real sense of community around here, and I for one think that is a fine thing.

Saying that, Nicky and I are grandparents ourselves, but nobody had traipsed across the snow currently covering our garden to ask us if we need any bread or milk….

So, this morning a lovely run of nearly 7 miles with Nicky and Charlie (see HERE) was slightly hampered by a lot of the snow being too deep for Charlie’s little pins! He’s collapsed on the sofa now and avoiding eye contact! But how beautifully the forces of nature had prepared the countryside for us today us today.

So another week of limited running has bizarrely been rescued by the very weather which has hindered people getting out at all.

Nicky’s troublesome calf seems to be giving cause for very tentative optimism and our entries into the 2 Oceans Marathon have finally been confirmed. Little by little……..

Hoping for two long outings over the weekend, watch this space……

And ANOTHER thing…..

 

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Spring could well be springing……

It’s been too long. (“NOT LONG ENOUGH!” some might yell)

 

Anyway, I’m back. Assuming I get to the end of this post…… AND POST IT!

We all have challenging weeks. Sometimes they are challenging in, you know, FUN and challenging way. Sometimes they are seemingly never ending and challenging. Sometimes they are AARRRGGGHHH!!! challenging.

 

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Playing trains with 2 year old grandson Ollie makes everything ok ūüôā

 

Well, last weekend I had the pleasure of dot watching. Tracking the competitors in The Arc Of Attrition. They were having a FUN challenging weekend. I’m sure on the North Cornwall Atlantic coast, in a barrage of the South West’s finest weather, after 24+ hours of perpetual motion, the word ‘fun’ wasn’t on many of their lips!

Well, this blog first started around the time of The Arc Of Attrition a year ago. I wrote THIS PIECE musing on the possibilities of the apparently impossible.

 

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One of us harbours Ironman ambitions (spoiler: it isn’t me!)

 

So.

A couple of challenging weeks for us. Aside from the usual challenges of exhausting days at work, caring for Nicky’s dad and trying to squeeze the quart that is our life into the pint pot that is our leisure time, we have had some ‘issues’ around our trip to South Africa.

We both had a day off work last week for our (shared – ahhhh) birthdays and decided to set out for our planned long training run. To cut a long story (and a long run) short….. 12.5 miles in and PING, ouch, ooo…. a hopping, cursing Nicky. One of her infamously tight and quite frankly STRONG calf muscles decided to stop play…….

A taxi home (oo, taxi driving? A career change may be looming, might this be for me?) and a solemn reflection of where this leaves our 2 Oceans ambitions.

And there in lies a story……

Tuesday before last we finally got our vouchers to enter the 2 Oceans Marathon. Tum te tum. Quick log in and enter all the usual personal information, email addresses, and, er, hang on, details of the QUALIFYING RACE!!!

To cut (another) long story short, the company through which we booked the trip clearly pointed out that we needed to have completed a qualifying race between September 2016 and February 2018. Lovely – although we have been off doing trails and ultras and triathlons and swims, we both met the qualifying criteria at North Dorset Villages Marathon last May (Nicky smashed her PB – read about that HERE). Tick.

But, now we can log on to the 2 Oceans website, they want a qualifying time achieved between July last year and February this. OH!!

After numerous panicked phone calls and emails – we STILL aren’t confirmed as entrants. It really is panic time. The UK based company has admitted its error, but that doesn’t really help right now…… hhhhmmmm

Back to Nicky’s calf trouble – well the nice man at the sports injury place hasn’t written off her chances just yet…….hhhhhhmmmmmm

Me? What about me, you say? I’ve got this horrible nagging niggly cough and a horrible nagging niggly doubt in my head that we’ll be seeing the 2 oceans from the top of Table Mountain rather than the road!!! I’ve managed just the one tiny run in the last 7 days……

In the big scheme of things….. A big, horrible health scare in our family this week shadowed any of the other problems and reinforced just how fragile our precious lives are anyway…. fortunately, whilst the person is still poorly, nothing sinister or long term has been found. Just makes you think though…..

We were still having ‘perspective’ when the car repair came in at ¬£665 pounds. GULP!!

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BUT at least I managed an ickle tromp through the mud with Charlie today – not sure how 4.5 miles in a week will pass as preparation for my supposed ambitions, but onwards……….

 

 

 

with the roof right over our heads

When somebody says “I used to play a bit.”, when asked about, say, the guitar, or table tennis, it normally leads to a thrashing with the little white ball followed by a Hendrix-esque whirlwind solo…. A bit like when our friend, Martin (regular blog visitors will know all about Martin and his sugar fetish – see various posts from the past, including THIS ONE), pitches up and cheerfully announces, in his cute Brummie twang, “I haven’t done any training”, before promptly skipping around a marathon in 4 hours!

By the way, my Dad played a high standard of table tennis and was still comfortably kicking my sweaty arse right up until he was stopped by my Mother…. what with his hip replacement and everything.

Sandbagging, I believe it’s known as.

Well, believe me, I DEFINITELY play “a bit” of guitar.

 

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Callum and myself enjoying some pre-breakfast colouring to a Dylan soundtrack!

We had the grandson, Callum, to stay Friday, which is a rare treat, so we forfeited a run this weekend and headed off to Exeter for some lovely book buying, including visiting the lovely people at The Piano Room and The Music Room upstairs. Returning with bellies full of pasties and cake and coffee and coke and with bags full of novels and biographies and music books and guitar tabs and plectrums, we start trying to squeeze our passions into our spare time.

 

 

Bob Dylan with Cigarette in Harmonica Holder, Philadelphia, 1964Actually, I managed ALL of my planned runs for over a week right up until I happily substituted Saturday’s charge up The Templer Way for some colouring and teaching Callum the wonders of Lord Robert of The Dylan, before mounting our chariot for the trek up to the big smoke.

“What do we want?” “Details of Kevin’s training!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” I hear the crowds chant in¬† unison……

So, the last 7 days…..

Monday, I managed a muddy head torch run with Charlie, on the coast path, I’m not sure who’s more lardy! Check it out HERE

Then Tuesday was a double day, some hill sprints with Nicky in the morning followed by 3 x 1 mile after work. Always a struggle to get motivated after work – the driving wind and rain wasn’t particularly inviting, so although my times weren’t comparable to those of nippier times, and it felt like trawling through thigh high treacle, I DID IT!!

 

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Charlie, escaping the bogey man!!

More dog jogging, by head torch, around the woods and trails of Occombe and Cockington on Wednesday. I had a spooky moment when my head torch picked out a figure just standing amongst the trees, in complete darkness (about 5.45am!) – check out the run HERE, I reckon the fastest mile was that one!!

 

When I used to train in a group a few years ago, we had several measured routes which we used as time trials. I did one of these on Thursday’s run (HERE), running the 1.8 briskly, taking a jog recovery then running it briskly back, just about keeping the pace under 7min/mile so happy with that on tired legs.

As mentioned, yesterday’s runs were sacrificed, so Charlie and I joined Nicky for a super speedy blitzed up the Templar Way this morning instead. Nicky demonstrating pacing perfection as every mile got gradually quicker. A week of digging, carrying and shimmying up and down a scaffold had taken its toll on my aging limbs so I quickly, and politely, dismissed the suggestion to continue after these lovely 10 miles – I’ll call this a ‘back off’ mileage week!!

 

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Nicky – an absolute blur speeding down The Templar Way

 

So, I did indeed use to (in fact still do) play a ‘bit of guitar’, but inspired by Nicky’s enthusiasm, drive and determination for, well, everything, I have picked it up again this week, hoping to be more than an average rhythm guitarist……..

Don’t forget, for those of you interested in my other writings, check out my latest post about trying to become a novelist (!) HERE.

I’ve got Facebook things HERE, Twitter things HERE, Instagram HERE.

 

 

 

From BACK off to EFF off

So, a couple of weeks ago, a very jolly chap delivered our piano. It was a particularly jolly occasion. Alan, the jolly chap, banged out a couple of “We’re forever blowing bubbles” & “My old man said follow the van” type tunes before leaving us to wonder at the magic of the thing.

My father-in-law, Frank, suffering as he does from a progressive dementia, was briefly lit up by the music, clapping along and beaming from ear to ear. If you bump into a (jolly) man called Alan, selling pianos, in the South Devon area, please thank him again for us.

“A piano??” I hear you enquire, “but I thought you had no TIME!?” BUT! I retort, this is THE TIME. Ok, neither of us can play the thing! But it has ticked ALL the boxes from our ‘hobby’ conversation of a couple of months ago. Cheap (ish). Accessible. Pick up and put downable. Fun, involves learning and gives ESCAPISM.

elton john
Elton demonstrating the fastest route from G to Bm

Yes, Nicky is absolutely loving the start of her musical journey. Rumour has it that she has been recruited as back up pianist for the recently announced 3 year long farewell tour for Sir Elton John. Better get practising Nicky……..

Frank, then. Nicky’s father, my father-in-law. We moved in with him about 18 months ago, to support and ‘enable’ him. He’s still maintains a little independence, but, to be honest, heartbreakingly he seems to increasingly need a little prod and reminder about the simple tasks of day to day living.

alzheimers society

He has been going to the Memory Caf√©, a weekly pop-up support group provided by The Alzheimer’s Society. For a mere pound sterling, he gets two hours with his peers, in a safe, modern-life free, environment. He gets conversation, coffee and cake and activities. Quite often, these activities include a good old sing song. He absolutely loves these.

Sometimes the three of us can laugh at the situations Frank gets himself into. Sometimes, we can get frustrated, sometimes tearful, sometimes almost desperate. Sometimes, Frank is blissfully unaware that he’s in a ‘situation’ at all. The exploding microwave being one of the more dramatic examples this week!

But mostly we get through life, dealing with each day as a new set of challenges and learning ways to better support, not only Frank, but each other. Sometimes well meant comments about how life works for us can be frustrating. It is consuming, and we find ourselves feeling ridiculous as we get irritated by apparently meaningless and momentary incidents, but when these compound over a day, week, month…… a simple thing can be a tipping point.

If we weren’t here, Frank would certainly be in crisis, we feel we give him the safety to continue with as much of his life as he is able, in a slightly independent fashion.

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Grandson Callum joining his Nan for a slice of the blues

The piano sits in our dining room, and Frank is really happy to have it here. BUT, his attention span dictates that whilst Nicky is trying to learn the whole concept of the piano, music, phrasing etc etc, from scratch, he is prone to either wander off to an aural sanctuary elsewhere in the house, or sit and call out inappropriate encouragement. Whilst working out the EastEnders theme tunes, both Nicky and I were calling out the notes, prompting a much repeated call of “play the F OFF!” from the ever helpful Frank!!

With so many of us living to grander ages, the prevalence of dementia and related illnesses is only going to increase, and we could all take the time to ensure that we consider that the person next to us could be struggling.

ANYWAY.

2018-01-28 08.32.00

I managed a Sunday long(ish) run. After Saturday’s epic (and wet) adventure on the moors (featured in this BLOG) on Saturday, my little legs were aching before I’d finished tying my shoelaces for today’s run. I targeted around 20 miles and hoped those would be at around 8m30s mile pace, on a flattish road route. Whilst I did abandon at 16 miles, I am quite pleased to have ran inside that pace on tired legs. Having to get up in the middle of night to let Frank know it wasn’t time to be microwaving Choco-Hoops and custard (I know!) for a few hours yet prevented us getting anywhere near a night’s sleep. Not ideal preparation. But ’tis what ’tis……..

Check out the run HERE.

I had the absolute pleasure of randomly bumping into a very old friend, Steve, on this morning’s run too. I changed my route slightly and accompanied Steve (Smithy) on his run to work. We studied together for our Sports Science Foundation Degrees a few years ago. It was a hard time for me personally and emotionally and it will be great to catch up with him some more.

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We’d been running so fast, we were blurred!!

He was a Torquay Athletic front row stalwart in those days, a family man who has got the running bug these days. It will be nice to share my happier times with someone who really was there for me in those rougher days.

So 2018 marches on.

Nicky and I pick up the baton and charge at another daunting week. Determined to enjoy as much training as possible, wondering if we’ll ever truly get ON IT when it comes to our eating and preparing to deal with another round of jabs from the challenges on life.

I don’t mind repeating myself…. Nicky inspires and drives me and I truly am blessed to have fallen in love with the most amazing woman in the world. It would be so easy to get knocked to the sofa and the soap operas by these jabs, but TOGETHER we push on.

This blog would never have happened if we weren’t the A TEAM. I’m sat here typing whilst Lukas Graham’s 7 Years is given the ebony and ivory treatment by my truly amazing wife.

Keep on keeping on people….

Panda Eyes

Feel free to blame John Bew and Clement Attlee for holding up my book writing progress.

One of the books I devoured on holiday was Citizen Clem. Nicky and I are both avid readers, so a week in the sun with our books was a very welcome rest.

Holiday BooksNicky claims (without any foundation, I hasten to add) that I am prone to being more ‘high brow’ in my book choice. We actually both enjoy being entertained and challenged and are as happy to be lightly titillated by a read as we are to have our beliefs, or realities suspended.

It’s probably true that I’m more likely to pick up a 700 page political biography, but then I suppose I’m the whiny, leftie dreamer amongst us!

I imagine this weighty volume, which kept me in sunglasses for many hours, leaving gorgeous white rings on my weathered face, has become prominent again in recent months after the apparent resurgence in Socialism, and of the Labour movement, as Jeremy Corbyn led his party to savage the hideous majority previously enjoyed by Theresa May.

Truthfully, I’m no great political historian and cannot claim to have been a frustrated Attleeite awaiting a chance to be part of a larger crusade. Aware of his tenure through regular references and opinion columns in the type of newspaper I lean towards, his name was also our dinner table topic a few months ago.

“Who was Prime Minister when the NHS was founded?” Why this question? Nicky and I share a home with Frank, Nicky’s father. As regular readers will know, Frank suffers from dementia and quite often struggles to join in topical conversations over dinner.

 

holiday writng
Not a bad spot for a bit of scribbling

Whilst he may struggle, on occasions, to remember the days events, either domestic or from the news, he can quite often hold more detailed conversations when delving into his longer term memory.

 

With this in mind, we sometimes pick something in the news (like the NHS) and try and relate it to occurrences in the past. We try and have our social time over a meal each evening and this ‘tool’ we’ve developed can often lead to a more inclusive conversation.

Anyway, between us we, I’m ashamed to say, failed to answer with any certainty, until we delved into the magic little google machine. To be fair to Frank, he was only 9 at the time!

I picked the book up at Bristol Airport on the way out, and was initially daunted by it’s weight, page count and small print (and luggage allowance!).¬† BUT, as Nicky will testify, I became quite antisocial as I feasted on the glorious cradle to grave chronicle of one of the truly ‘great’ Britons.

A man who was born in the 19th century, fought in one world war, was deputy leader of the country through another, won an absolute landslide general election victory for Labour and steered the country through the carnage of the post war years, his is a tale to behold.

It is a chronicle told with poise and elegance, an insight into the man as much through what he himself read as much as what he did. Bew’s ability to make such a potentially academic subject so ALIVE is wonderful.

 

holiday running
We took our training VERY seriously on holiday…

After a few days of slowly cooking myself in the sun, with my head buried deep in the book, I felt I truly knew this gentleman of a statesman. Despite Attlee dying the year I was born, I find him to be the type of political figure who feels me relevant to me.

 

Having enjoyed (enjoyed!) a 40 mile outing the day before our holiday, I felt I was ready for, firstly, a REST and secondly the Gower 50 which is rapidly approaching…

 

nicky in greece
Nicky still putting the lengths in after the sun had disappeared

I managed a few little runs on holiday and a couple of lovely sea swims just to tick over the fitness but with only now a week to go until the big one, I don’t feel I need, nor would I benefit from, any more epic runs.

 

So, this weekend we’re off to a secret location where I’ll be supporting Nicky as she, yet again, pushes herself to find new skills, new limits, new potential, and most wonderfully, new adventure. Yes, she’s making her debut in………..

Find out next week!

 

 

 

PS I’m a bit shy about this – but I occasionally post poems and scribblings here too –

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WILL write a book…

Sounds more authoritative than ‘I would like to…’ or ‘I want to…’

Ok, so it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to writing a new blog post. Citing work commitments, fatigue, time, time, time and all that STUFF that fills our lives. But, if something is truly a goal, then just make it happen.

Actually, since the last blog there’s been a few events…..

THE EAST FARM FROLIC I know, I know, this was going to be my ‘target’ event for the year…… in the end a fabulous day out at a wonderful event. Fine fun in fine company….

The next day we went and did the LUSTLEIGH SHOW 10k another lovely day. Both of Nicky’s lovely girls came along, Alisa running her second 10k and Lou looking after the youngest two grandchildren whilst Nanny and Grandad ran too……

Oh, and I marshalled at City To Sea, a marathon and ultra marathon, in appalling conditions.

Then came the weekend just gone. Nicky, once again moving the bar, taking 20 minutes off her time for the River Dart 10k Swim. She finished alongside our great mate, Martin. Whilst they would earn a gold hat if they were to come back for a third year, it looks like chief goader (Nicky) has (once again) hooked chief goadee (Martin) and next years goals look slightly different……. But first, some pictures from the swim……

Soooo, whilst I’m threatening to go long (er) next year (and write a book of course), Nicky and Martin have quite publically announced their intentions to ………… drum roll……. do a Half Iron Man!!! There, it’s out there………

Martin has been walking like John Wayne this week, and he’s only sat on the bikes in Halfords so far…..

Then, on Sunday just gone, I ran the inaugural Torbay Tornado Half Marathon, Alisa running her first ever ‘solo’ race, did the 5k. A quirky series of races organised by relative newcomers, Riviera Racers. We both had great fun battling the tough point to point routes and more than earned our medals…

 

 

Torbay Tornado
Proud Step Dad alert….

 

 

So, as for my targets…. well I (under the prompting of my wonder woman!) have entered the Gower 50 which is only 3 weeks away!

With this in mind, I ran to the start of the half marathon and then ran home afterwards (making 27 miles in total).

I’m planning a big run on Saturday to confirm to me that I’m fit enough for the challenge, then my wonderful lady wife and I are off for a weeks r’n’r in the sunshine….

Where……

I shall be writing for my book….

People like us….

It starts with a spark. Maybe a challenge from a friend.

Somebody hangs a possibility in your peripheral vision.

 

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Nicky, fresh from smashing 10k in The River Dart last year, she’s gunning for a faster time this year

That’s how Nicky (my incredible lady wife) started this epic journey into open water swimming. Our good friend Martin dropping the River Dart 10k swim into conversation……..

 

Nicky’s 50 miles for 50 years……. Martin took the bait

Now Nicky goading Martin into long distance triathlon……..

Well, back late last year, Nicky hinted to me that maybe, just maybe, I’d get my running mojo back if I was to man the **** up and set some goals……

Well, I don’t have a shiny new marathon PB (unlike her!) to show for my efforts (read about that here), but I have gone back under 40 minutes for 10k (a few words here) and 1h30m for a half marathon (a big of bloggery here). Oh and I’ve annihilated my Parkrun best time and absolutely loved another incredible year of running adventure with my amazing wife.

 

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Crewing for Nicky, and Martin, doing ’50 miles for 50 years’ was a fabulous day and is a special, precious memory

What I haven’t done, unfortunately, is the mileage to set me up for a real crack at The East Farm Frolic. My challenge. My goal for the year.

 

And I’m tired.

Really tired.

Unfortunate timing, in that I’ve been preparing, digging, lugging, barrowing on very steep rough ground this week and today I’ve got 5 tonnes of chipping coming so no respite…..

By the way, I’m not whining, but I don’t think breaking myself unsuccesfully trying to reach an arbitrary distance in 12 hours will do anything but leave me unable to run afterwards.

So we’ll be enjoying the day, doing a few laps and chilling out.

Luckily I have the best team mate……. my wonderful, INSPIRING, delightful lady wife, Nicky is rightly telling me to get looking for the next challenge…..

It wouldn’t be a ‘challenge’ if I knew I was going to succeed……

Let us see know……

¬†Show, don’t tell¬†

Tell you what, those mandatory kit lists for trail and ultra events….. have a listen to the interview with Adam Campbell on Talk Ultra….. I’ll be carrying the essential items EVERY time I go off the beaten track.

Both interviews with Adam are on the podcast including the latest, after completing the Hardrock 100 .

Anyway.

To the soundtrack of my own paddles breaking the smooth surface of the dark, becalmed water, I, almost blindly, forged into the darkness.

That sensation when you’ve set a ridiculously early alarm. Suddenly sitting bolt upright “I’VE OVERSLEPT!!!! Oh no, it’s only 11.30…” Repeated at regular intervals until the alarm actually chimes at….. THREE THIRTY A.M.!!! Yup 3.30A.M.

Hence the dark on the river. I know the river fairly well and the banks and massed trees loomed with sinister shadows to either side, even in the almost complete darkness. I stuck to the very middle and daylight gradually improved my navigation as I approached our rendezvous.

 

Chilly? Looks it from the warmth of the kayak!

 

Another weekend of adventure was well and truly under way….

I humbled am blessed to be sharing these precious weekends with my incredible, inspiring and, I don’t mind saying, HOT lady wife.

 

And they’re off

 

Our friend in adventure, Martin, was driving himself and Nicky to Totnes. From there they would swim back to Stoke Gabriel from where I had just paddled (having left the car there).

I love it when a plan comes together!

“I say old chap, the water really is rather nippy” (or words to that effect) Nicky exclaimed as they entered the river at 5.45AM. Martin concurred.

Just a couple of false starts as they acclimatised then off. Approaching the first set of bends, the sun introduced itself through the trees. To describe the scene as idyllic would be under selling it rather.

Over the next 2 hours we all agreed we had shared a magical and quite priveledged experience.

 

Martin & Nicky, as majestic as the river itself

 

Being Martin’s first river swim this year, he wasn’t quite as confident as Nicky who was really powering on. At one point I had to signal her to slow down as I was uncomfortable with the gap between them.

It might seem overly risk averse but, perhaps especially because of the early hour, any other river traffic we might be unlucky enough to encounter would be unlikely to be expecting to see two swimmers. Keeping both of them close to the kayak gives others more chance to spot us.

As they climbed from the water, with most of the world yet to start their weekend, we were all smiles and back slaps.

Leaving them to retrieve vehicles, I set out on the next instalment of the weekend. With The East Farm Frolic looming, I felt my fatigue from the weeks work and a rather short sleep, plus this morning’s hard kayak to Totnes would help me replicate running tired in the later stages of the 12 hour event.

I was right. I felt very tired. Having waxed lyrical about last week’s long run, I won’t dribble on…..

Suffice to say I stuck mainly to trails, some of them completely new to me and managed a satisfactory 30 miles. Loads of great routes to check out here.

I arrived back home, into the garden, to the wonderfully chaotic scene of grandchildren, step daughter, father-in-law and a refreshed and beautiful Nicky. All seem pleased to see me and enjoyed a “MAN DOWN!” moment as I slumped onto the garden bench!

My recovery was accelerated by the invitation to join the imminent mob march to the beach for ice cream.

ice creamRaberry pavlova. Mmm mmmmm.

Too tired to join our neighbours barbeque gathering, an early night beckoned. They are a musical crowd and it was quite mellow drifting off to the distant strum of a ukulele…….. I’m sure I dreamed of cleaning windows……..

Phew! So rest day Sunday…… naahhh…..

It’s a family affair….

Totnes 10k.

Love this race.

The year Nicky and I got together, we were both at this event. We didn’t spot each other but less than a month later we were embarking in this incredible adventure that is our life together.

So it’s always a special day. But this year topped them all. After 30 miles the previous day I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be troubling my PB list!!

 

Nicky and her beautiful girls

 

So, with my parents supporting, step daughter, Lou supporting too, it was a true family affair.

 

Sprint finish!

 

“Go get ’em Mum” yelled my other step daughter, Alisa as the two of them tore across the field towards the finish line. Three ladies from the incredible Plymouth based club, Storm, vied with them to cross the line first.

This was Alisa’s first ever race as she continues smashing down the barriers on her incredible journey of weight loss, healthy living and fitness drive.

Proud.

Lou and myself both seemed to have something in our eyes as Nicky and Alisa crosses the line.

 

The boy is a STAR!

 

Proud too as I lined up with grandson, Callum for the fun run prior to the main race. He blitzed around his mile in under 9 minutes and it definitely loosened my creaking legs!

 

The scene at the front prior to the race, old training partners Rob & Jerry raring to go

 

One of the best family says on the local race calender, the 10k itself winds it’s way to Dartington via the trails alongside the river. There’s a lumpy section with one proper climb about 2/3 of the way and the going is sapping, but after the Snowdonia Trail Marathon the other week, it’s pretty much flat!

 

Martin finishing strong

 

Setting off with the afore mentioned Martin, we ran toe to toe for about 4 miles until he goaded me in to running harder. I was really pleased to clock a couple of swift miles towards the end and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

A fabulous event, thoroughly recommended, great to meet up with so many familiar faces from the running community.

 

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STORM – setting up camp at a race near you!

Two clubs in attendance on mass were Teignbridge Trotters and the afore mentioned Storm. Storm are quite a success story, in only their second year and have well over 1000 members. Over 100 of them toed the line in Totnes today, a fine blaze of purple.

 

The Teignbridge Trotters, meanwhile, our hosts for the day, provide (as with all of their events) a fabulous atmosphere, family friendly environment and set up barbeques, hot drinks, a bar, a constant running commentary which is quite legendary, photographers (piccies are free!) and a fantastic, well marked, brilliantly marshalled course.

Sign up early next year, it was massively over subscribed this year.

Next up for us….. the RAT 32, miles on ¬†the Cornish coast…….

Meanwhile some more piccies from the weekend….

 

Sprint finish from friend Jan too

 

 

Event photgraphers giving their time (and their photos)

 

 

Another sprint finish – Callum smiling as he hurtles in

 

 

Nicky & Alisa and some of the many Storm runners

 

 

All smiles on the start line

 

 

Something resembling a sprint from this lanky fella too

 

 

And all called home and congratulated by this relentless chap

 

It’s not the same without you….

 

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And off I go….

I’ve never ran this far before on my own.

 

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

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Mile 1 – a deserted Paignton beach

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

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Mile 2, the tide has left plenty of seaweed on Goodrington sands

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.

 

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Mile 3 – not the most inspiring section!

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.

 

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Mile 4, the sun appearing over the fields above Clennon Valley
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Mile, er, 5

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.

 

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Mile 6, Stoke Gabriel, I wasn’t going that badly….yet!

The idea being, for¬†those that are interested,¬†the ‘journey’ of this mammoth training run can be charted by way of photograph.

 

 

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Mile 7, the dramatic skies above Galmpton
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Mile 8, The last time I climbed this stile, a herd of frisky bullocks increased my pace and heart rate rather!

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!

 

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mile 9, Galmpton creek (and a sweaty thumb)
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Mile 10, the fabulous view towards Dartmouth from above Greenway
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Mile 11, still smiling was trying to digest a Mars Bar

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!

 

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Mile 12

I think I shall (*stolen from Steve Skedgell) be the tortoise not the hare!

 

I even practised eating!

Actual food.

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, kbonfield@live.com

Keep on keeping on……

 

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Mile 13, as you do….

 

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Mile 14, down to Kingswear

 

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Mile 15, if you go down to the wood today….

 

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Mile 16, I chose the longer option….

 

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Mile 17, even in the lashing rain the coast path is stunning

 

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Mile 18, I don’t remember…..

 

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Mile 19, LOOK! eating AND running….

 

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Mile 20, I do believe that’s Mansands ahead

 

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Mile 21, does this look like a man who shouts at himself?!

 

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Mile 22, Berry Head appears in the gloom

 

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Mile 23, amazing how challenging these start to look!

 

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Mile 24, leaving the solitude of the coast path for the bustle of Brixham

 

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Mile 25, Shoalstone Pool, tempting…

 

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Mile 26, Battery Gardens

 

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Mile 26.2, pretty pleased with that!

 

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Mile 28, Kayakers enjoying the empty seas in the foul weather

 

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Mile 29, surely the last set of these!

 

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I’d hoped to do 30 miles in 6 hours, so extremely happy with this

 

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Mile 31, this man needs an ice cold coke (and a shower!)