And ANOTHER thing…..

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 ÂŁ665 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……….

 

 

 

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with the roof right over our heads

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

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 CafĂ©, 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

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.

 

barkley marathons
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 CafĂ©.

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Mud (honey)

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 cafĂ© 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!