It starts with a spark. Maybe a challenge from a friend.
Somebody hangs a possibility in your peripheral vision.
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.
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.
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……
“I’m retiring. Yup this is my last ever ultra. Uh huh, it feels good.” Nicky (my rather gorgeous lady wife) proclaimed to anyone who’d listen.
“Without question, this is my favourite event EVER, and I’m coming back next year to do The Plague” I equally enthusiastically declared. Again, to anyone who’d listen.
Mudcrew’s The R.A.T. trail running races. As David (one of the kit check guys) declared, this is the Christmas of trail running.
All run on the breathtaking Cornish coast line, there are 11, 20, 32 & 64 mile options.
Four years ago, unbeknown to us, we were about to become a couple. Nicky was here completing the Red Rat (20 miles) and I was burying myself in eyeballs out road training, chasing faster and faster times…..
Here we are, now 3 time veterans of The Black Rat (32 miles), absolutely basking in our unapologetically self congratulatory glory of another medal well earned.
This is pure running adventure.
“Does anybody else fancy driving this down these lanes?” enquired our chatty coach driver as we inched our way towards St Anthony’s Head.
An hour earlier, four coaches left Porthpean at 7 am after a safety presentation and welcome from one of our incredibly enthusiastic race directors.
“Keep the sea on your right!”
A small bank of portaloos welcomed us to the National Trust car park at St Anthonys, and our good friend and fellow adventurer Martin made short work of the sprint from the bus, ensuring a clean seat and fresh paper for his pre race rituals.
Some nervous chattering and shivering as we awaited the clock to strike 8.30 in the morning drizzle.
Like the security guys in the car park, during registration and at kit check, numerous smiling, happy and enthusiastic Mudcrew marshalls were overseeing the start.
Before we knew it, we were off. Straight on to the coast path, encountering a couple of Plague runners (these guys had started at 5 past midnight and were doing the course as an out and back 64 miles) who still had time to make the turn before the 9am cut off. They received much applause and encouragement, it had been a rough night of weather in the dark for those incredible chaps and chappesses.
Apparently the leading pair turned by 6am!! And finished in just over 12 hours, a mere 6 seconds apart.
Last year, with us not quite so well prepared, the field had eased away from us quite early and we didn’t much change our position throughout the race.
Cooler air this year, and Nicky stronger than ever, carrying Snowdonia’s efforts of a mere 20 days previously, but relentless.
The first checkpoint appeared in no time. As always, attentive, thoughtful, encouraging and knowledgeable crew, in numbers, to ensure we had food, drink and no ailments. Onwards. Tucked well up into the pack of runners, Nicky, watchless, pushed on towards her alleged retirement, unaware that we were putting time into our previous best on this course. Running the runnable bits and marching on the tricky bits and eating up the steps.
The Roseland Peninsula offers a new and spectacular view after every turn, picture postcard fishing villages and terrain to test even the most hardened trail runners.
Lots and lots of steps. Or ****ing steps as they increasingly became known as morning became afternoon.
The second checkpoint, at Portloe, also served as the starting point for the Red Rat (20 miles), those runners having been set on their way some 30 minutes before our arrival.
As I double checked that we truly were going as well as I’d thought, we were again fed and watered by the incredible team of volunteers. Seeing us on our way with huge cheers and encouragement.
It’s quite a while before the next checkpoint, but again, despite this, time just flew by (as it always does when we run together) and we were still catching the odd fellow Black Ratter and occasionally a Plague infected warrier.
“I enjoyed the night, lovely and cool in the rain” one responded as I tried to glean tips and tales in anticipation of me wearing the lime green vest this time next year (The Plague runners wear their official vest as their top layer at all times making them easy to identify.)
“The night? It was a ****ing nightmare!” said another.
“No!” said another, head down, determinedly trudging on after a mere 45 miles or so! I didn’t push for an elaboration!
I’d better not turn up unprepared next year either, there’s nowhere to hide and no easy way on this course!
Two ultra veterans, Jessica and Duncan Williams set up a ‘pop up’ aid station at Port Holland. This is an annual tradition and their ‘P’ themed fancy dress this year was priests……. a very welcome drink and great to see Jessica, one of the runners we had cheered on in The Arc Of Attrition back in February. That was back when this blog was a shiny new thing – read that post HERE if you fancy.
Met this guy, Andrew, a couple of times during the day, he was savouring the chips in Mevagissy
I managed to resist tempatation twice in Mevagissy, firstly the incredibly smiley and enthusiastic marshall offered us chips!! Secondly we actually passed within 100 yards of our B & B for the weekend and it’s warm shower and welcoming duvet……..
This last 10k or so is probably the toughest we’ve encountered in any of our events, the climbs, descents and ****ing b****** steps go on and on and on.
This final 10k section also starts with the most atmospheric aid station and checkpoint I’ve encountered in trail running. The Ship Inn at Pentewan shares its outside space with The RAT for the day. The busiest checkpoint of the day even has ice pops, refreshing water melon and yet more attentive, caring and knowledgeable crew. Filling your water bottles, fetching your fruit and looking us square in the eye to check we were as we should be.
Or the best we could be at this stage of the race!
They know what they’re looking for too. Over 60 successful 100 mile events have been completed by the Mudcrew crew on duty.
With the pub having live music in the garden, and it now being well into the afternoon, there were some quite beery cheers too, to set us on our way.
We could not have been in safer hands, with the addition of fabulous medical cover and massage on duty at all the checkpoints, all we had to do was enjoy it!!!
“I don’t care how long it’s taken, just happy to get it done” lied Nicky as we trudged up that last hill.
“We’re on 8 hours and 9 minutes and the finish is literally just at the top of this hill” I remarked, this being the first time I’d shared our progress on the clock with Nicky.
“WOW!” she said, I sensed just a little more skip in her step, “that’s so much faster than either of our other races here!”
It sure was. Feeling like superstars as we held hands and sprinted (well, maybe not actually sprinted) for the line. Great big smiles all around.
Catching Martin’s eye as we were presented with the medals (7h30m for the Silver Fox, chapeau sir) there was an exchange of fist pumps. This moment was caught beautifully on camera by our number one supporter Gloria, another RAT ever present, cheering everyone home in the fabulous crowd at the finish.
All three race directors (this event is 18 hours long, never mind the time before and afterwards for the organisers) cheer, hug, back slap or shake the hand of every competitor across the four distances as they head for the line.
I don’t mind saying I’m proud. Firstly, my bursting pride to be able to share such wonderful adventure with the most incredible, beautiful, inspirational, HOT lady in the WHOLE world!
Proud to be part of this top, top event and amongst the best of the best in the trail running community.
Proud to share the weekend with such great friends in Gloria and Martin, who make the whole experience so much fun.
Do you know what? I’m proud of myself. I don’t apologise for having a moment of self congratulatory indulgence. These endurance tests aren’t for the faint hearted and preparation and the hours in training are essential to maintain the effort level and to have maximum ENJOYMENT on the day.
If our proclamations are accurate, next year, one of us will be having a sleepless night, the other will be having a full cooked breakfast……………
Two weeks until the Frolic now, I’ve put in lots of miles but probably not as many as I would have needed to be doing if I was to be in with a chance of hitting my secret target…..
Nor the target Nicky has set me – “if you don’t win, don’t bother coming home!”
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raberry 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……..
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!!
So, with my parents supporting, step daughter, Lou supporting too, it was a true family affair.
“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.
Lou and myself both seemed to have something in our eyes as Nicky and Alisa crosses the line.
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!
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!
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.
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…….
A quick post typed on my phone, check out the piccies at the end of the blog…..
I’m always so grateful to marshals, staff, helpers and crew at races. Whilst I often bemoan the lack of time to enjoy the things we enjoy so it always amazes me the philanthropic nature of so many kind souls.
“Which way do we ******** go here!!??” A voice from the other side of the hedge yelled. This startled me.
This startled me, mainly because it was a voice from a group of runners I had yet to see. In my rather complicated marshalling position, I met the intrepid Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k competitors twice. Well, most of them!
The Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k. A completely voluntary event. Regular readers (listen to me, “regular readers” la de da, I’ll be saying ‘friends of the blog’ next!) will know of, actualy most of you probably know him in person, Jamie, the organiser.
My annual, tiny return back to the sport I love is to turn up and help at this lovely event.
As the runners approached me after about 2 miles I informed them “right, left, around the gate, right at the end, right again and then left into the hay field.” Simples.
They then approached the same point from yet another direction after about 5 miles, “left here, careful it’s slippery, then left again, then follow the tape back across the field. Oh and watch out for runners still coming up!” Again. Simples.
Somehow, a lead group had managed to ignore the marked route, make their own route up and approached me from yet another different direction. All but one seemed to see the funny side……
The bulk of the 180 or so which completed the full course did so with big smiles on their faces. Several stopped to fuss Charlie who was helping me marshalling and all seemed to be loving the challenging but beautiful course.
“Alright boy!? Pick up the mut and jump on!” Bellowed the friendly guy (Mark?) who saved me the mile and a half or so hike back to the village by giving us a lift on his quad.
“BEEN ON A QUAD!” Charlie couldn’t wait to tell the grandchildren. I think they’re starting to suspect Charlie can’t ACTUALLY talk, but, honestly it’s all he’s been saying all week.
Do check out the Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k (ish) and sign up early next year, it sold out very early this year. Jamie had secured so many great gestures from local businesses and the village really embraces the event.
Hoping to see ALL the runners twice next time.
I’m off for some kayaking and running tomorrow and the Totnes 10k Sunday. The weekend will be over all to quickly….
All my running is on Strava and Fetch. Please keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, comment here or email email@example.com
Thank you for the interest in my little blog, please check out previous posts too, nearly 50 of them now.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The idea being, for those that are interested, the ‘journey’ of this mammoth training run can be charted by way of photograph.
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!
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!
I think I shall (*stolen from Steve Skedgell) be the tortoise not the hare!
I even practised eating!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
If we 100% KNEW we would succeed, well, it wouldn’t be a challenge…..
Prior to this weekend just gone, my proudest ‘Team Bonfield’ moment had been when we crossed the finish line of the Dartmoor Discovery 50k Ultra just inside the time limit.
The Snowdonia Trail Marathon topped that, in so many ways. WOW. Too many breathtaking views to take in. WOWs by the sack full.
AND 3, count ’em, THREE ‘YEEESSSSSS!’ moments.
Ahhh, the dreaded cut-offs. Only one here, after the climb up to Pen Y Pass. About 19 miles in. From there it’s up the mountain proper on the Pyg Track.
As we left the starting pen in Llanberris, nothing was certain. Nearly 700 runners, some strutting, some staring, some nervously pacing or muttering (‘madness’ whispered one guy as he fidgeted and fussed), listened to the race briefing.
Yes we can hear you at the back. Yes we can clearly hear that it is VERY important not to veer from the route and DEFINITELY not climb any gates or fences. More on that later…..
We had dined with my brother and his wife, who live in Kimnel Bay, a feast on the eve of this epic adventure. Regular Snowdonia hikers, they were eager to share their local knowledge and we pored over the route to get ‘beat the cut off’ tactics in place.
9am. A brief road section through the crowds of spectators and Half and 10k runners awaiting their turn. Then up.
Nicky pushed hard here, brisk hiking the steepest bits, easy paced running where possible. When we reached the top of this climb, the 3.5 miles had taken us about 15 minutes less than my loose plan. Result.
Some moor like terrain, downhill and flat and we were feerrrlying…… oh hang on….
A queue. When I say a queue, probably about 200 people waiting to negotiate a stile. Hhhmmmm.
Some, whose race was obviously more important than ours, decided climbing a padlocked gate followed by a wire fence would mean they didn’t have to wait like everyone else.
Mildly annoying after 5 minutes.
Annoying after 10 minutes.
Absolutely infuriating when, after 15 minutes, the marshall charged with the unfortunate task of policing this area shouted to the approaching runners at the back of the field to take this alternative route…….
Nicky had worked so hard to get this far in this time, yet, now I was contemplating the cut off again whilst participants who had taken considerably longer on the climb didn’t even pause as they disappeared off ahead of us.
Potentially, a scenario where some of those runners who hadn’t had to wait at all, but took 15+ minutes longer than us over the first 4 miles, narrowly made the cut off whilst we narrowly missed it, was starting to play out in my head.
We were cross.
Once we were over the stile, and then through the next couple of miles and occasional further stiles, we made great progress on the rough terrain. Unfortunately the field of runners was out of sync now and we were constantly trying to weave through those who had been behind us until the stile incident. Or stilegate, as it shall be known.
Once we’d reached mile 6 we had found some space to run in and easier terrain for a while. A familiar face, Kevin (a regular face at events we have enjoyed in Dorset), greeted us at this point which was a real boost as well. We settled in to rattling off some miles as we ran through forests, around lakes, alongside miniature railways. All to the spectacular backdrop of the mountains around us.
Progress was good. I started to fear the cut off less and less and more and more enjoy absolute joy of running in this incredible place with this incredible woman.
I made a pact with myself to take no pictures until we reached that cut off. After negotiating a runner-jam in a single track section through the woods at the bottom of Pen Y Pass, we freed ourselves from the pack and marched the 2 mile climb to reach the cut off with about 40 minutes to spare.
Now the hard climbing started. Please forgive us a smug moment here! We are rather proud to be running grandparents knowing our grandchildren can point at a map of Snowdon and say ‘Nanny and Grandad’ did that!
It’s a great leveller, a mountain and we were amongst runners of all ages as an unspoken comradery developed.
Nicky, strong as an ox. The climb is about 5km long from that point and is pretty relentless. It scrambles and winds and teases then punishes and it does go on and on. All to the incredible backdrop of the peaks and ridges all around.
My sister, Karen, who regular readers will know, was taken from us just so tragically early, would have loved to see us doing this. She would have revelled in the happiness I have found with Nicky and would have been championing us in all our adventures. I wore my ‘Karen Ribbon’ for this run, and definitely felt a gentle extra push as we reached for the top of the climb.
Talking of which, it turned out my brother, mother and uncle were all glued to the tracker and shared in our ‘YEEESSS!’ moments ‘live’!
Suddenly, through the descending mist (which was quite welcome as the heat was starting to build), a high-viz vest in the distance, still way up above us, but a welcome sight.
Exiting the other worldly atmosphere of the Pyg Track as the tourist trail becomes the Miner’s Track, with the train passing too, was completely bizarre and quite magical.
Knowing it was quite literally all down hill from here, we high-fived and then set about the descent…….
Unfortunately, almost immediately, Nicky had a sharp and immobilising pain in the back of her knee. This stopped us in our steep and gravelly tracks, on this, er, steep gravelly track.
A fistful of vitamin I (Ibruprofen), gently and gingerly building up speed, we soon got up to ‘Ahhhweeeeeee’ velocity as we tumbled down and down and down.
Llanberris was soon coming into view, as we went further down and down and down. The very bottom of the descent was sooooo steep as it turned to tarmac before a naughty loop through a park and we could clearly hear the announcer calling the runners in.
“….. and coming in now, holding hands, in a cracking time of 7 hours and 24 minutes, it’s KEVIN BONFIELD and AMY SOMETHING…………..
…….. oh No it’s not it’s Kevin and NICKY BONFIELD!!!”
We truly felt (still feel) we had achieved something extraordinary.
A fabulous, brutal, beautiful event. It’s big, probably 2000 runners across the 3 distances, yet it was so welcoming, brilliantly marked and marshalled (I think stilegate is a glitch, it needs addressing, but certainly the only real blip) and the event base in Lanberris has the cosy feel of a much smaller event.
It wasn’t necessarily on our bucket list, but it has given us a wonderful glow……..
Next up, the Cornish coast beckons in the R.A.T. ……..
I couldn’t do that now. I’m tucked up in bed hours before pubs close!
Anyway, a member of staff systematically stole off me for a while back then. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was quite clever what he did and it took me a while and a couple of observant and loyal customers to catch him.
Obviously, his welcome in the pub ended at that moment.
It was quite a surprise when, a few months later, I had a telephone call from a pub chain in London asking me to provide a reference for this chap. Apparently it was for a key holder position.
After holding back a whole Ramsey of expletives, I apologised and said that I was unable to provide a reference. Rather than wade into the reasons why, I decided to simply confirm his employment dates and then say nothing more.
I try to focus on the positives in this blog, it is only my thoughts and my opinions, yet I tend to avoid long descriptions of things which I don’t particularly recommend.
My wonderful and relentlessly inspiring (and HOT) wife, Nicky completed another swim today, a 5km river swim. It’s an out and back course with the ‘out’ being against the incoming tide. She truly is amazing……
So, a review you say?? Of this event you say??
I’d rather tell you about the latest book I’ve read………….
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer, a quite sparkling read.
Tackling one of modern history’s most tragic and startling episodes, the story is told to the backdrop of the terrorists attacks on The World Trade Centre’s twin towers, 9/11.
Whilst a work of fiction, amongst the, quite literally, thousands of tragic tales resulting from the attacks. It is a tale of loss, of identity and of searching told through the eyes and mind of a 9 year old boy. Oskar, the 9 year old, lost his father to the attacks.
In searching for reasons and understanding, Oskar comes across a key. He believes this key will open something, a door, a box, a security lock and the story is his trail through New York attempting to piece together a mystery, to find a connection to his father again.
Voices from family members past are used to link the characters and bonds of love, friendship and kinship are quite beautifully knitted together. The fact that this process is narrated by a (admittedly unique and advanced) 9 year old, makes the story even more beautiful.
If you don’t shed tears, chuckle, and need a hug or two from reading this book I’d be most surprised. It takes some ‘reading into’ to get the feel of the prose and time structure, but once you’re in it, you’re staying!
I won’t give too much away, as the journey with the key, the history as told by his grandmother and the snippets of clues as to what ACTUALLY happened to his father are mesmerising.
Certainly one of my favourite reads of the year so far.
Nicky and are both avid readers and, whilst we have our favourite styles and authors, nothing is off limits for having a read. We’ve agreed, too, that it’s ok to give in and put a book down half read if we’re really not engrossed by it.
Nicky is certainly more prolific than I, perhaps because she doesn’t rattle away on the keyboard like this, instead happily snuggled up with Charlie and I on the little sofa, ploughing through the chapters whilst I click-clack away.
In fact, only this evening, she proclaimed “I still haven’t found her head!” whilst buzzing with the intrigue and page turning suspense of another Peter James novel….
Anyway, I had a lovely trail run whilst Nicky was swimming today, followed by a well earned sausage sarnie. Our Saturday date with the family is becoming more regular, and the grandchildren didn’t disappoint with their comedy gold moments…
One of the many witty, observational points made was how, in their case, athletes might be defeated by the glossy exterior image portrayed by peers and competitors.
I guess we can all relate to that, that certain someone that gets under your skin, with their perfect life, perfect job, perfect tan and natural athleticism.
Well, Marshall & Patterson suggest that maybe when you delve a little deeper, that person probably also has fears, and money stresses and screaming kids and niggly injuries and is suffering event nerves or, just like us, feeling in some way inadequate.
The suggestion is that in the modern world particularly, a persons internet presence could well portray an idyllic world which is, in fact, hiding a ‘real’ life just like ours.
As a child, particularly as a teenager, I was desperate to ‘belong’, to feel part of something. I went to a grammar school and felt inadequate in nearly every aspect of my adolescent world.
Academically, I was below average at best, in the competitive, striving environment that grammar school nurtured and I always felt I was bring looked down upon.
I had relatively recently moved from a big city to a small sea side town so I had no network of friends which was compounded by the fact that I went to the grammar school where most children came from another town anyway. The few primary school friends I had made all went to the Comprehensive school not a mile from where we lived. I suppose my parents wanted ‘better’ for me.
The school may have been ‘better’ but I certainly wasn’t.
In those teenage years I looked at my siblings, my sister so cool, hanging around with older lads with their cars and motorbikes, what I would have given to get part of that world. My younger brother too, seemingly focussed and sure, intelligent and popular.
I once crawled under the piano, in the hall at school, and pierced my ear with a safety pin, I just wanted to be somebody people noticed.
Anyway, enough rambling and wallowing. Suffice to say, as we got older, we siblings became aware of each others’ failings and anxieties and gradually started to understand each other.
This stumble through bits of my past was prompted by the need for some fully waterproof running trousers.
Mandatory kit you see, for the Snowdonia Trail Marathon, and for future events I have planned.
Ahhhh, the world of trouser buying when you’re gangly and scrawny. They either fall down, or look like I’m flying them at half mast as a mark of respect….
Nicky could hardly hide her mirth as I fumbled between ‘medium’ and ‘large’….. my mother used to insist on ‘taking them up a bit’ whenever I had new school trousers. This was a gift to the mocking cool kids!!
She still does it to my dad!
So, battling the little voice in my head telling me that people like me simply DON’T do the cool stuff, I trawl the internet…..
All those big name brands all the cool kids are wearing. Yup, they DON’T FIT ME!
Last weekend? You want to know about last weekend??
I’ll tell you about last weekend.
Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Trying to quietly put the kayak on the car at 4.30am, every movement echoing down the street in the still air, I headed off to Stoke Gabriel for the 4 plus mile trip up the river.
Logistics working well, the silhouette of a beautiful, wetsuit clad woman enticing me through the, now turning tide, for our rendezvous in Totnes.
She had travelled by taxi, dressed as Jacque Custeau, the driver unfazed, presumably thinking she’d been at a fancy dress party.
So in she plopped and set off for Stoke Gabriel. Quickly popping up again to proclaim “I’M HAVING A WEE! OOOO THAT’S BETTER” before heading off again.
You don’t meet many people at 6.30am on the Dart but we did share the lovely atmosphere with a guy gently strumming an acoustic guitar sat on the bank.
He looked calm. And what a calming sound he made as it drifted across the water. His mellow vibes, the gently ripples of Nicky’s hands breaking the surface and the almost inaudible bubble of the kayak drifting on the calm waters.
I’m rather proud of my beautiful amazing inspirational (and quite frankly HOT) lady wife. She really ate the miles up in this 4.25 mile swim, belying the fact that 18 months ago she couldn’t swim 33 meters of front crawl!
Arriving in Stoke Gabriel we had a debrief, a brief snack, and I packed up the kayak and readied myself for the next installment of adventure.
Cue Jamie (you remember, trail running guru and all round top bloke), fresh (!) From his 48 mile Snowdonia ultra marathon the previous week, trotting down the lane to meet me. We then set off on a course recce for the upcoming Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k .
A stunning, challenging and invigorating course, best told in pictures…..
Really looking forward to helping out at this lovely event again this year.
After leaving Jamie I set off for a few more miles in the hot lunchtime sun, bringing this run to 18 miles in total. Sweaty and tired but DEFINITELY being a cool kid today.
Another early start on Sunday, getting to be the coolest boy with the HOTTEST girl – off to Slapton for an another 18 miler. Hot and tough again but what fantastic fun running with Nicky. Our last long run together before, gulp, Snowdonia…..
We ran from Slapton to Beesands then followed the CTS South Devon Half Marathon route before returning to Slapton. Fabulous coast and country running with plenty of lumpy bits to get the legs burning…
Bring on Snowdonia……..
Ending at the ice cream van was very welcome indeed on a hot hot day.
I know I’m overly gushy about just how happy I am and how in love I am with my truly astonishing wife, but we SHARE so much. Until we met, I thought all those love stories, romantic films, the things people said, terms like soul mate and forever, I thought those things were either fiction, or simply didn’t apply to people like me!
As we gazed out to sea, guzzling our frozen treats, reflecting on another weekend of fun and adventure, of love and of sharing our world, of being just the most amazing TEAM, it seemed to me that maybe, after all, I AM one of the cool kids, and I get to be with coolest kid of all…….
So another week is flying by, it’s now only 10 days to the Snowdonia Trail Marathon and we’re as ready as we’re going to be. In the meantime another weekend is coming our way.
Looks like there may be swimming, there may be running, and maybe, just maybe, these cool kids WILL get to do the cool stuff, whether their trousers fit properly or not!
I feel like a bit if a fraud. It certainly is a reality check listening to all those interviews with participants, including both elite athletes and mere mortals like us, about mammoth endurance events such as the Dragons Back and The Sky Running events.
BUT, Nicky and I are veterans (in both age and events) of 10 years of running events. Both of us having completed 30something marathons, including a few 50km races and, in Nicky’s case, a 50 miler.
AND, I’m having my post prolific year yet of mileage, averaging over 200 miles a month.
SO, maybe I am ready to step up to call myself an ‘ultra’ runner…. I mean, I’ve got some Inov8 shoes and a rucksack and everything!
As regular readers will know, I’m leading up to The East Farm Frolic (EFF) in August where I’m looking to keep going for all 12 hours and hopefully take myself into the 50 mile club, if not further.
AND, listening to this new (to me) podcast is only fuelling my desire to ‘go long’. Specifically to ‘go long in Cornwall’…….
Which got me to thinking….. my beautiful lady wife, chatty Martin and good friends Jan & Gloria had formed a relay team to compete for the 12 hours at The EFF. All change now as they have moved to being solo entrants, like yours truly.
With 5 of us now entered….. surely 5 go long in Dorset…..
Anyway, by going long in Cornwall, I mean specifically go long from Coverack to Porthtowan, by way of 100 miles of the coast path, in February 2019.
I fell for the charms, the challenges, the tales of successful and unsuccessful attempts, the beauty, the uniqueness of The Arc Of Attrition (AOA) as we spectated back in February, see my blog post from back then.
In fact one of the reasons I was so inspired to start blogging get so enthusiastically was the wonderful experience of following this year’s edition.
The AOA is organised by Mudcrew, responsible for my absolute favourite event, the (black) RAT and many otherwise including the festive hilarity of The Scrooge.
Mudcrew’s head honcho, Andrew Ferguson, is a pretty serious ultra runner himself, recently competing in the fabulous looking Laverado Ultra in Italy , and his name pops up all over the trail running scene.
All who crew at these Mudcrew events are runners and understand the needs of those on the trails. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I think about the AOA, and how I will prepare, on most of my runs.
By that I mean I try relate the run I’m on to how I would be feeling after 24 hours of coast path. I think about eating proper food whilst running, about kit, navigation, isolation, weather, etc etc.
I’ve also developed a new mantra, “NO LAZY STEPS’ meaning I should never assume the next foot plant is flat and predictable. Small protruding roots under dark tree canopies could end the race. I need to make sure to learn to remaim alert under extreme fatigue.
The enormity of the AOA’s challenge has dictated the time scale. I need to qualify, I’m hoping to have a few events which serve as qualifiers, maybe doing something like Hope 24 amongst them.
The traditional Mudcrew stepping stone is to do the 100k version of the RAT (Nicky and I are doing the 50k for the 3rd time this year) in 2018.
The Plague, as this 100k is known, serves as a qualifying event and also comes with an AOA invite to accompany it’s finisher’s medal.
The best part of all of this process is spending time outdoors, with my wonderful amazing beautiful lady wife, Nicky. After the great adventures of last Saturday (see last post) we took to the coast path for 3 gloriously hot and sweaty hours.
These joint jaunts are serving as training towards Snowdonia for the two of us (which is rapidly approaching!), as well as building my mileage towards The EFF. They are also wonderful shared adventures, precious and treasured times.
Oh the witty banter on these sweaty long runs, “blimey you stink” “not as much as YOU stink”…..
The Talk Ultra podcast is presented by Ian Corless, a fine ultra and trail runners in his own right and now an event photographer too. The show is mainly made up of interviews with big names from the world of ultra-distance running, as well as those from further down the field.
It’s all an education to me, probably only being aware of the headline events and maybe our local long distance challenges. I’m learning the names of the stars of this mystical world and getting to grips with the lingo. Don’t expect me to be attempting a FKT on a course with loads of VERT anytime soon…..
Oh it turns out my 20 miles running, to Teignmouth, on the coast path, isn’t even a warm up to most of these boys and girls.
‘Blowing out of my arse!’ I’ve no idea where that expression came from but it seemed to fit my rather cumbersome effort as I did a time trial after work last night. Blowing out of my ears and nose too. Open mouthed and squinting from the sweat stinking my eyes, I gasped for every breath. Desperately weaving through the many dawdling pedestrians, enjoying their evening stroll in the sunshine, I just about managed to maintain 30 seconds per mile slower than I’d hoped for the 1.8 miles
We’d elected for this instead of waiting another hour and going to the club night. Whilst I was cracking paving slabs either my clomping strides, Nicky and Charlie joined the rest of Paignton, walking along the sea front.
It was with some relief that I finished my effort near a toilet. Then, whilst not getting any cooler during my cool down, I bumped into my beautiful wife and raggerty hound and needed no further prompting to end my rather unfortunate effort RIGHT THERE. A stroll back along the beach followed by eating chips on the sea wall and all was well again.
A few years ago I’d have been disappointed with that run but these days I enjoy laughing at myself and moving on. 3.75 of jogging with Charlie in the woods at 5.30am this morning soon put that right too.
Something similar tomorrow then a weekend of long endurance adventure beckons, including some kayaking to accompany the intrepid Mrs Bonfield on an early morning river dip.
Enough of this rambling, keep on keeping people……..
Well, today we celebrate 2 years of marriage. I am a lucky, lucky, LUCKY man. I get discouraged from gushing about how in love I am…… but Nicky truly is my miniature hero!! (and, yes, she does approve of the pet name!)
A silly pet name, really, what with, you know, us being ON IT and everything…….
SO, I shan’t go on and on and on about just how wonderful my life is with Nicky…. well, only a bit…….
Anyway, we did the Imerys Trail (half) Marathon on Sunday. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make the cut-off at 8.2 miles and were diverted on to half course. Clearly we aren’t fast enough runners for this event:-
The apparent race time limit of 5h30m (this would be 12m36s per mile) wouldn’t have been a problem, Nicky has recently ran a 4h24m marathon and whilst this is definitely a more challenging route, with her relentless and consistent pacing we would always get there. Lovely, settle in and enjoy the run……
Hang on, the cut off at 20 miles is 4 hours (12 mm). Oh, really, well, we’ll get to that relatively safely and even if we are tiring, that would mean we had 1.5 hours to do the last 10k (and as we now know, the last 3 miles are pretty quick). Smashing, we could average high 11’s and see how we felt at 20…..
Oh, HANG ON, the cut off at 8 miles is 1.5 hours, that’s 11m15s per mile!!! Er, why?? Anyway, I tried not to let this concern me as I set about pacing Nicky as best I could to this first cut off point. I can’t tell you too much about the course, as I was trying to get the right effort out of Nicky without burning up valuable energy for later in the race.
We ALWAYS start at the back. This serves two purposes – firstly, it avoids being dragged along by runners going faster than we should be and secondly it stops the demoralising process of quicker runners coming by as they find their place in the field. This was a mistake today!
It took us exactly a minute to cross the start line.
After a lap of the Cornwall College site we hit a rather bad bottle neck. Stationary. 90 seconds.
Then, an uphill very narrow grass path, at a gentle walk as there were plenty of half marathon runners enjoying the greenery as they were, of course, under no time pressure. How much quicker might we have done this section, maybe 30 seconds, maybe a minute?
The final nail in the coffin of our marathon was when we passed the 8 mile marker with 1h29m50s showing on my watch but with no sign of the split.
A few hundred yards later we were 2 minutes too late for the poor chap charged with the task of informing us! You were bravely firm and apologetic sir and I hope we weren’t rude!
We completed the ‘half’ in 2h28m feeling bright and fresh, a bit cross(!) but could merrily have gone around again.
Such a shame that my beautiful wife, a seasoned veteran of 30 marathons, including a 50 miler, 4 50ks and numerous tough off road events is now saying that she feels that she simply isn’t good, or indeed, fast enough.
I guess we’ll just have to be more careful to ensure races we enter are aimed at runners like us.
A cracking venue and course, numerous and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers and an inclusive half marathon with no time pressure.
Not all doom and gloom though, a pasty and an ice cream as we chilled on the beach at Charlestown was just splendid, followed by a lovely evening and night in our favourite bolt hole in Mevagissey.
And now we look forward to some lovely weekends of running and Nicky is getting right back into her open water swimming again.
Hopefully I haven’t come across as bitter and twisted. As I said to a nice chap in a Mudcrew vest as we stomped our way through the last few miles, I need to shut the wotsit up and stop moaning. “Oh no, he said, if you’ve developed a life skill you should definitely use it!”!!
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…
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….
So. This is my 50th, yup, FIFTIETH post on this blog.
Back in February, I celebrated my 50th birthday (I know, I don’t look a day over 49!), and in the same week, I started this blog.
Inspired by having the belief to be a ‘writer’. That belief coming from the ‘me’ that is the ‘me’ that I never knew I could be. As regular readers will know, I attribute this ‘me’ to the wonderful world I am humbled and so fortunate to share with my incredible wife, Nicky.
The first blog post was inspired by, what I believed to be, a bit of elitism, a bit of snobbery, as we struggled to our epic DNF at Portland way back then. Check out that post here.
I went straight in to writing another post inspired by our fantastic holiday in Cornwall, and witnessing the incredible boys and girls taking on the Arc Of Attrition. Maybe have a read of that too, here, if you fancy.
The Arc Of Attrition. I don’t think it’s any longer a secret……. 2019…….
Having been told to ‘Man The **** UP!” by the afore mentioned Nicky, she gave the me gift of a journal to record my journey to attempting a 12 hour race, The East Farm Frolic.
Every day is like Christmas, the gifts of love, laughter, of adventure and of sharing life…. I truly feel like my heart has won the lottery. Every single day.
The gift of this journal is so symbolic, I’ve been to some dark places, literally and metaphorically, in the past. And here I am in the light. In the quiet. Inspired.
People from 61 different countries have read this blog (over 8000 times!). Hello South Korea, thank you for tuning in. It’s rather humbling to think of somebody in Brazil, Bulgaria or Bahrain taking the time to read my words.
So, as I suspected, I really, REALLY enjoy writing. I really, REALLY enjoy running and the running community. That’d be a marriage made in heaven then. What a coincidence…..
So, here we are, 6 months later, after plenty of adventures and events. One of us has smashed their marathon PB and achieved even more open water swimming goals (neither of them were me!).
We’ve done marathons, 10ks, ran in heat, in mud, in Cumbria and Snowdonia.
There’s been incredible tales of achievement in our family, young and old. There’s been chips, and pasties and cakes and ice creams (apart from when we’ve been ON IT!).
There’s been mild controversy, particularly after THIS POST. And I still stand by the ‘not good enough’ statement. We’ve been good enough for marathons over Mount Snowdon, the fells of Coniston and the 50km of brutal Cornish Coastline (to name but 3), but not good enough for……… (the race which isn’t mentioned!)
There’s been an almost political post, and I’ve touched on the pressures domestic life can stretch us, and how we support Nicky’s Dad.
But mostly, it’s been about running.
Oh, and me gushing about Nicky, much to her embarrassment.
She’s been at it again this week, inspiring and relentless. Last weeks RAT (see blog here) came in the middle of her preparing for a job interview and presentation….. Which were both successful. I don’t mind embarrassing her, I think we’re a great team and my pride in everything we achieve in life, and in being half of that team, swells by the day.
I have ideas for the blog and, as and when time allows, hopefully some of these will appear on this hallowed page. Maybe some interviews, maybe some more feature type posts. Any suggestions welcome….
In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away sharing thoughts and ramblings on this amazing journey that is life. The blog isn’t thrown together but there is improvisation. Last weeks post was pretty much composed whilst sat on a bag of cement during my breaks at work.
I’ll leave you with a montage of images from the last 50 posts and a massive THANKYOU for reading and engaging with these humble tales…