The Cape Town Chronicles #3 (Right Said Fred)

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I got a message as I rolled out of the extremely comfortable bed, in the rather plush hotel we managed to bag ourselves in Cape Town.

The message was from my legs.

It said “YOU RAN 35, COUNT ‘EM, 35 HOT AND HILLY MILES YESTERDAY!!””

I sat down again.

After Nicky’s enforced lay off from training and her late decision to run the equally hilly and hot half marathon, she too was fully aware of the previous days efforts.

Luckily we hadn’t planned a really early start to get to a bus tour which was undoubtedly going to involve lots of hiking……

Oh hang on…..

A lovely early breakfast (the hotel was, er, well posh I’m telling you, look forward to a ‘reverse snobbery’ blog…) and then an Uber. Oh, we became masters of the Uber on this trip after the first proper taxi we got in shook the dust out of our purse….. we didn’t really walk anywhere, apparently it’s not advisable to stroll around Cape Town’s suburbs looking like a tourist!

dsc_0560861796076.jpgOnce aboard the lovely air conditioned bus we were treated to a ride packed with astonishing views (of both oceans as the day went on) and fascinating facts delivered with eloquence and wit by our guide. We were lucky to have a proud Cape Townian, Fred, as our pack leader for the day. Witty, charming, informed and informative and he knew when to leave quiet gaps to help us absorb the enormity and astonishing beauty of this amazing place.

 

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ALLLL day long the views were incredible

Arriving at Cape Point, I’m sure I heard Nicky mumble her encouraging mantra “On Man the **** up!” as I hobbled down the stairs of the bus and gulped at the track winding up to the lighthouse…….

 

After a coffee sat literally between two oceans, we set off for the lighthouse. As I’ve regularly pointed out, we’re not massively ‘people’ people. But we sucked it up and waited our turn for the best photograph points. What a place.

From there we tracked back down to join Fred. “Right,” said Fred – “we’re going to trek down there” pointing at the amazing looking trail leading down to Cape Of Good Hope. My quads were REALLY pleased to see that it was a downhill trek.

Ouch, oooo, ow, ahhhh, as we marched on. I felt a little humbled as we struggled to keep up with our Captain Enthusiastic leader once he’d let on that he too had completed the 35 miles of the Two Oceans Marathon the previous day.

2018-04-01 13.43.59He is a mere child though. And I did beat him. (just saying). But then he did successfully photobomb our selfies (see above!)

Another popular photo opportunity at Africa’s most South Westerly point, although most had arrived there by driving, we took our shots and just breathed in the fabulous fresh Atlantic breeze and marvelled at the seals and other wild life on show.

The famous Boulders Bay was our next stop. A beautiful little cove which was packed with penguins. And people. Slightly surreal seeing such a mass of these ridiculously cute, flightless birds in the wild, whilst standing on a boardwalk, as if in a zoo, with about a million people!

But cute? Don’t even start………

Taking the mountain road back before a blast along the freeway to the city we managed to bag the front seats……….

Yet another incredible day of adventure and discovery shared. We garbled and giggled our way through another fabulous meal, like naughty street kids who’d snuck into a public school dinner!

The enormous and ridiculously comfortable mattress accepted our exhausted souls into a deep slumber, ready for the next day’s adventure……………

Hang on tight for the next instalment and don’t forget the first two episodes of The Cape Town Chronicles…

Part One Here

Part Two Here

The Cape Town Chronicles #2 (Up Top)

2018-03-30 15.49.03.jpgAs hinted at in the first of this series, Nicky and I fully immersed ourselves in the tourist lifestyle in Cape Town. We’re normally the couple who avoid eye contact and park ourselves in the quietest spot and devour books.

Not on this trip. Hell, no!

We bought ourselves a 2 day ticket for the brilliant hop-on-hop-off busses and set about seeing every corner of this boisterous city.

We were fortunate that we chose to visit the Two Oceans Expo and sort our entries out and collect our numbers on the day it opened, leaving us free to explore the city on the 2 full days we had before the race. Apparently people queued for 3+ hours to register over the next couple of days.

2018-03-30 16.10.59Anyway, we giggled like children, sat in the poring rain ‘up top’. We went on the Blue Route, the Red Route, the Yellow Route and the Purple Route. We went on the Harbour Cruise and the Sunset Tour. We didn’t see the sunset though, through the thick rain and fog!

And it was brilliant.

I think I speak for both us when I say that one of the great things about our whirlwind romance was that we both just want some peace and quiet! Coastal winter walks are about as crowded as we normally like to encounter. And I know I speak for both of us when we say we surprised ourselves by how we immersed in the hustle of this city break.

I was torn between the incredible scenery, the  mountains, the beaches, the magnificent stadium, the modern architecture, the wildlife and just looking at my beautiful wife….. Pinching myself regularly to check that I was indeed having this amazing time in this amazing place with this AMAZING lady.

 

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You just HAVE to check out the sunset on Signal Hill

We ate like kings, gawped at enormous sea life in the aquarium, held our noses and chuckled at the seals on the marina, and tempted ourselves with some beautiful original art.

 

Yes those first two and a half days were absolutely PACKED and we hunkered down Friday night wonderfully exhausted, with a stupid o’clock alarm set for race day.

I know these ‘Cape Town Chronicles’ aren’t following a chronological pattern, but hopefully they give a flavour of this incredible trip.

Don’t forget to check out The Capetown Chronicles #1 HERE

 

 

The Cape Town Chronicles #1 (the finish line)

 

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Before our emotional goodbye at the start line!

With about 400 meters to go (of the 56km Two Oceans Marathon) my shuffling gait had finally brought me into the ‘stadium’. After 35 miles surviving the hills and heat of Cape Town, the finish line was nearly in sight, there was what I can only describe as a roar, a joyous releasing of congratulatory happiness tunnelled into a 10 meter wide stretch of grass with (and I don’t exaggerate) thousands of people hanging over the barriers and in the temporary grandstands willing the competitors towards the line.

 

“Kevin! KEVIN!! KEEEVVVIIIIN!!!” amongst the thousands of voices…. the one I was desperate to hear….. my incredible lady wife, Nicky…. her voice transcended the cacophony and I managed to spot her in the crowd! I rushed over to the barrier, elated, and stole a most precious kiss, which brought a great cheer from the surrounding crowd.

“go Go GO!!” yelled the relentlessly enthusiastic water station crew about 2 kilometres previously, “you’re going to get a bronze!”. As I turned from that kiss in the stadium, a renewed buoyance in my step, I noticed the clock on the finish gantry …5h57m and became part of the jubilation around me as I pieced it all together, competitors achieving under 6 hours receive a ‘bronze’ medal. Those between 6 hours and the final cut off at 7 hours apparently receive a ‘blue’ medal. For the record, should you run under 5 hours it’s the Sainsbury medal, under 4 hours (!) it’s a silver and the top ten only receive a gold medal.

So, as the chap who finished alongside me grabbed me, tears in his eyes and screamed “YES!! after 5 attempts I got my bronze!”, there must have been something in my eye….

I greedily took my medal, an ice cold can of full fat, full sugar Coke and eagerly shuffled through the packed crowds in search of Nicky.

 

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watches being checked as people confirm that they had indeed got that bronze medal

Regular readers (HELLO Regular Readers!) will already know that Nicky and I just love to share an adventure or ten. You will also know that injury curtailed her ambitions for this 56km Cape Town challenge. You will also know that the lovely people on the international desk at the Expo managed to arrange a Half Marathon place for Nicky at very late notice, in response to her plight.

 

So Nicky had experienced the finish line looooooong before me and stood on that barrier for HOURS waiting to cheer me in. Whilst she is pleased to have been a runner as well as the most vocal and enthusiastic spectator, the half course, hilly and challenging though it is, didn’t have the impact of those ocean views. She also found it absolutely rammed with runners from start to finish and witnessed a few nasty falls in the crowds.

But she did get to witness, at close quarters, the pain of the finish line closing (they literally run across and block the runners with a rope) after 3h10m for the Half Marathon competitors, I think she found it heart-breaking and surreal as runners, literally yards from the line just stop where they are.

 

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A Grandstand Finish!

After spending a while sat on the steps of the grandstand with my head between my knees trying to recover, we then shared the experience watching the same happen after 7 hours of the Ultra Marathon. Oh the noise, the pain, the emotion, the joy, the despair….

 

I couldn’t find much on the internet, but here’s a clip from a couple of years ago…

We ended up in South Africa after one of those “What’s your dream race?” type of conversations. Well, when I first took up running, aged 39 years and 11 months, some 16000 miles of running ago, I read about this iconic race, in this vibrant city and always imagined it was for ‘other’ people…… Since Nicky and I have been on this whirlwind of adventure, she has taught me that, well, why shouldn’t people like ‘US’ go on epic adventures.

So, we hit the plastic hard and headed for Cape Town….

With so much to report from this incredible trip, I think there’ll be a few blogs worth of material. As I sit here at the kitchen table, reflecting on the most exhilarating 10 days away, I still can’t quite believe we’ve been. We packed every minute, so our books came back barely touched and my notebook sparse, to say the least.

So look forward to more tales of mountains, beaches, sharks, buses, Ubers, reverse snobbery, penguins, buskers, rainy sunsets, townships and not a lot of reading or writing…

A few teaser piccies……

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 🙂

 

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……….

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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He has been going to the Memory Café, 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.

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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….

Uncle Sam

This blogging thing.

jogger readingI get such incredible pleasure from writing, I have said it before…….. if just one person were to read any of my scribblings and gain even the tiniest bit of joy from them, then I would be a proud man.

 

statisticsWell, despite me claiming not to be egotistical, the blog host, WordPress, readily throws statistics and ‘performance’ analysis at me. Inevitably, I do get a bit of self-congratulatory pleasure from a ‘like’ or ‘share’. So, a massive THANK YOU to all of you who take the time to have a peruse of, and engage with, the blog.

likeI’ve noticed this week that quite a few viewers are from the United States of America. Well hello there on the other side of the Atlantic, I humbly thank you for spending your precious leisure time reading my words.

The running scene in America is every bit as fascinating as in the UK. Listening to the  Talk Ultra podcast with Ian Corless and Karl Mezler is fascinating, the tales of those iconic US 100 milers and Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. This makes it all the more fun for us ultra fans when the quick US runners come to the big European ultras. The likes of Hayden Hawks, Jim Walmsley and Tim Toffleson lighting up the races in Europe’s mountains.

By the way, a podcast giving a UK slant on the ultra running scene is the British Ultra Running Podcast with James Elson (of Centurion Running fame) and top British ultra runner, Dan Lawson.

 

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Barkley Marathons – fast, flat and well marked… apparently

During the last episode, James revealed that he has a place in this years Barkley Marathons. He was able to reveal that much, but is sworn to secrecy as to the date, as this notoriously gruesome and secretive event had actual spectators turn up last year (which is frowned upon!). The race consists of 5 20 mile loops (which are always plenty more than 20 miles) has a history full of mystery and very few actual finishers. I implore anyone curious as to what this is all about to check out the extraordinary film The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young.

 

ANYWAY.

2018-01-26 12.33.54Since the last blog, I’ve managed to miss a few planned runs. As readers from the real world will know, sometimes life is just TOO DARNED TIRING! Although I’ve still been getting a sweat on at work…..

 

 

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Very spring like weather up on the moors this morning…..

And today, as ever my beautiful wife inspired me to get out there as we did a proper hilly Dartmoor road run. “Road?” I hear you squeal……. Well, I guess it’s becoming less of a secret that on Easter Saturday we’re going to be having a crack at the Two Oceans Marathon. Gulp. Hopefully avoiding the gun!

 

So, today, starting in wet darkness and finishing in even wetter daylight, we pretty much did half the distance and half the climbing of Two Oceans. Apparently it won’t be hard driving freezing rain and wind on race day, blimey it was bleak up there today. A quick drive up to Princetown afterwards for our, now traditional, fry up at the Fox Tor Café.

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Mud (honey)

So it all starts to seem a bit real.

We really have entered some BIG things.

We are sort of keeping the *** ****** under our hats at the moment. 35 miles of epicness at Easter. In another country. So we’ve started dialling in the road miles for the Saturday long runs. Except I didn’t quite master the mapping tool app……. Nicky was ever so pleased as we squelched our way along a few very wet (non) roads.

“Do you mind if we join you on this massive table designed for 6 people, in front of the fire, as there’s only 2 of you?” I enquired whilst hanging our dripping running jackets on the back of 2 of the chairs.

“Er…… I suppose so…”

So our 20 mile road (and non-road) Dartmoor run ended with a hearty breakfast in the Fox Tor café in Princetown. I’m sure it wasn’t the faint aroma of the drying sweaty running kit adorning our bedraggled bodies which put our reluctant neighbour off his SECOND fruit scone….

So with my other eye on the T60 (which I don’t think is a secret now) I set off early on Sunday for a few hours of mud squelching around the glorious Devon countryside. Foul weather, atrocious conditions, bloody loved it……..

I’m writing this on Wednesday. I thought I’d start including my training log in the blog. You lovely people can see how a 50 something year old, time poor, pork pie eating, physical worker with caring commitments is trying to prepare for an overnight 60 mile race.

Erratically but enthusiastically.

So the last week or so has looked like this……

Weds –

Thurs – rest

Fri –

Sat –

Sun –

Mon – rest

Tue – 3 x 1 mile

This morning, running for Nicky for here 3 x 1 mile, really string wind & rain

Oh and a piano update….. we haven’t quite mastered all of All Of Me…… Nicky’s daughter Lou joined us for a plonk too!