21 Days

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.

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Proudly showing off our Black Rat medals last year with blog regular, Martin

Check out Mudcrew’s R.A.T. event HERE

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.

wp-image-25068009Read all about my love for this event HERE.

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…

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Nicky skipping down some of the million steps in last year’s event

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.

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The Lime Green vest is mandatory kit for Plague runners.

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………..

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Charlie, he’s ready……. 

Anyway, I ran 4 miles on the coast path with Charlie this morning, so I’d say I’m pretty much ready!

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A rare RRAAAAHHHHH, COME ON!!!!!! moment on crossing the finish line in last year’s Black Rat

No Sleep ‘Til Streatley

Welcome to the 100th episode of this little blog of mine.

To celebrate, here is your chance to win an absolutely FREE entry into the T Series 100 mile ultra marathon. Find out all about it RIGHT HERE.

It’s on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th August, starts at the Thames Barrier in London and finishes in Streatley. The lovely people at T SERIES RACING have given the blog a FREE PLACE to give away.

HOW TO WIN…

SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN THE PLACE. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

JUST TO CONFIRM…..
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.

While you’re here, you may like to see what else I ramble about…..

I compiled a ‘best of the blog’ for 2017, check it out HERE

By way of a quick introduction, I am a 50something runner, sharing an amazing life of endurance adventure with my beautiful, precious, inspirational, wife and soul mate, Nicky. We care for her father, Frank, who is sadly suffering with Dementia. We also have Charlie, the Border Terrier, who features regularly on the blog.

I’m also a proud Step Dad and Grandad and this also features regularly in my wittering.

I’m also an aspiring writer……. I keep another (very) occasional blog which charts my all too intermittent efforts at moving my novel along. With its working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners, it trundles along…… slowly!

The fact that I’m a builder by day also features regularly in the blog as my daily efforts quite often impact my planned running.

The blog is a hobby and I absolutely love writing it. If each post brought a moment’s pleasure to just one reader it would make me a happy, and proud, writer.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the blog, and do check out the T Series event in August, I am so very grateful to them for donating this place, giving one reader an opportunity to test themselves along this iconic trail.

SO, THE COMPETITION AGAIN:
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.
THE DRAW FOR THE PLACE WILL TAKE PLACE LIVE ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE AT 7PM ON SATURDAY 28TH APRIL 2018.

ME ON FACEBOOK HERE

ME ON TWITTER HERE

ME ON INSTAGRAM HERE

GOOD LUCK!

99 problems….

But the blog ain’t one….

Peter Rabbit with the grandchildren. Charming.

Yes this is the 99th instalment of the blog…..

…….. So the burning question is…. Just how will we celebrate getting to 100?

By giving away a place in a 100 mile ultra marathon, that’s how.

There’s been some lovely early morning trail runs this week

Oh yes, we’re going BIG TIME here in Blog Towers.

Anyway, after the excitement and amazingness of our Cape Town trip and the Two Oceans Marathon, we’re back to earth with a few bumps but raring to go onto the next round of challenges.

Work has been in some lovely remote locations too

Unfortunately my next personal challenge, the T60, has, for reasons outside of anyone’s control, had to be cancelled. I was starting to believe I was going to be good and ready for this and was gearing up to give it a real good go.

C’est la vie, as they say.

T-Series racing, the hosts of the afore mentioned T60, also stage 100 and 185 mile Thames races in August. The lovely people of T-Series Racing have very kindly donated a place in the T-100 for us to give away through the blog.

This coincides rather neatly with the next blog post being the 100th. I know. slick eh?

So, the blog started all those months ago with a bit of an observational rant (HERE) about perceived elitism and has been through the highs and lows and hills and mud of mine and Nicky’s journey through life over the last 15 or so months.

I find it wonderful to be able to express, through these pages, how blessed I feel to share this wonderful life with my beautiful and inspirational lady wife.

If the sun forgets to come up I just give it a prod

Anyway, if anyone seriously fancies a crack at the T-100 then I’d recommend checking for the 100th episode of this here blog on Saturday…….

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……

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.

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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…….

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.

alzheimers society

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….

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!