Blogging From The Bench

Blogging From The Bench

2017-10-14 10.01.44I stood and watched a hundred or so runners, including my rather wonderful lady wife, Nicky, head off towards the moors.

Jealous? Moi??

 

 

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Nicky ready to follow those ORANGE flags

“Follow the ORANGE flags!!” yelled myself, the race crew and other spectators. A race of 3 halves, as it were. Pure Trail’s Dartmoor 3-in-1. Those who had elected to try and run all three race on the day were to follow the “ORANGE FLAGS” on the first loop. At 9.75miles this was the longest of the day.

 

Not only the longest (and even longer for those who drifted off course in the mist) race but also the hilliest and the foggiest as it turned out.

In another guise, I did home delivery for Sainsbury’s (You KNEW you recognised me from somewhere!) and for a while we used to cover these west moorland villages. And what a lovely village to base a race, the quirkily named Peter Tavy. Quite a magical air to the village as we optimistically parked  the mini on the wet field. (“it’ll be drier by the time we leave!”)

 

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I wonder just WHAT they keep in the shed

The village hall, acting as HQ for this cracking event, is classic fare – the modern era only nodded towards with the addition of a defibulator, not that heart failure is particularly a modern phenomenon.

 

Anyway, off they all went. Jealous? Moi?

I’d probably have preferred to have been gallivanting across the moors chasing sheep rather than perched amongst the kit bags in the village hall, notepad in hand, trying for all the world to look like “a writer”!

Well, if I DO want to be a writer, then write I must…..

2017-10-14 11.11.28But, my self-diagnosed fooked ankle (did I mention I did The Gower 50 ultra last week?? – read all about it HERE), isn’t in a hurry to get running again, so coat holder and cake eater I was. I also had a wander in the lane and found a Cornish pasty recipe on the village notice board!

 

 

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Steve Skedgell, you know he’s in charge with that hi-viz & air horn

I’m a bit of a Pure Trail fan, trail running events, usually with a twist, created by runners, for runners. We had a great time at their Race The Tide earlier in the year (blogged about, naturally, HERE). They have a regular group runs across the moors and are genuinely good guys to be around.

 

With a 9.75 mile race, followed by a 7 miler and finally 5 miles (with different coloured flags to follow), some were charging around, then using varied techniques to keep warm before the next race’s start time, the day was definitely one for clever pacing.

2017-10-14 12.24.16Rather dangerously for me, I ended up chatting to Steve, half of the duo who are responsible for Pure Trail’s success, whilst the runners were out on race 1. Dangerous? Well, inevitably talk of ultra challenges, “ooooo 150 miles on a canal…” “oooooo MOUNTAINS!” etc etc……..

 

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Jamie after race 1, write your own caption……

So after some quaffing, and scribbling, and chatting, I limped outside to watch the runners arrive back to base. A regular fixture in this blog, Jamie Bullock (see blog about his Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k HERE) came cruising back, well inside the top 10. In fact he finished 8th overall after all three races.

 

Nicky meanwhile came back with plenty of time to spare. Despite this, the week’s chaos, tight calves and poor night’s sleep had caught up with her. She opted to partake of the three C’s instead of lining up for race 2 – Coffee, Cake and a Cuddle.

Anyway, a great event and lovely day out on the moors, we took a scenic route home, the mist having cleared, and headed for a chilled evening.

BUT – the real action of the weekend was the pebble skimming at Elberry Cove on Sunday, as four generations of this wonderful and kooky family I’m so proud to belong to took a stroll (or limp in my case) in the warm autumnal breeze.

 

 

 

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Perfume River

Perfume River

Autumn is about 3/4 of the way through the year. Whilst the brightest and longest days of the year may be behind us, we’re right in the middle of the BEST days.

 

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Autumn – good, init?

The best colours, the best shadows, sunrises, sunsets. Fast changing weather and the challenges of wintry conditions start showing their faces.

 

(Appallingly cliched analagy alert) A bit like my life. Whilst being young was great, the first couple of decades of adulthood were full of, you know, STUFF. So, my bright, silky skinned, jet black barnet days are long behind me.

Phew!

Because THIS, this is the life I’ve been waiting for……

Utopia. Pure and simple.

I guess one man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia.

Clean. Healthy. Loving. Truthful.

What on earth has this all got to do with a book review?

 

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Busy here on the injury bench, although, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with Charlie!

Well, here I am on the injury bench, Charlie for company, feeling all, er, all wordy……

 

THE LAST DOG ON EARTH by Adrian J Walker.

Yet another holiday read. The main protagonist, Reg (and his dog Linekar) have ended up living in a post-apocolyptic dystopia. Only that’s not how it feels to them.

One man’s…… oh I’ve said that.

I see, going off subject a bit here, that White Star’s Andy Palmer wrote another piece for The Guardian. Nice. Run Deep Magazine got a plug too. I’ve got a column in Run Deep. Tenuous link to fame there…..

Interesting that people I follow in the media and sporting world tend NOT to be columnists for The Daily Mail (no link inserted there, naturally).

By way of example, Kate Carter, Adharanand Finnish, Rob Deering…… and, er, Andy Palmer!

Anyway, one man’s dystopia…..

the last dog on earthSo, THE LAST DOG ON EARTH

On a the face of it, a quirky, light hearted romp, told through the voice of a foul-mouthed mutt, around a make believe world where barely anyone has survived a civil war led apocalypse.

Linekar (the dog) and Reg (his owner) have remained in London, creating their own power and scavenging for food. Living a simple, simple existence in isolation. Dependent on each other for company and the routine they both enjoy.

The sparse pattern of lights that remain on view are the only suggestion that a hint of life in the city goes on. There are barely enough (of these lights) for a football team (which is sort of the point), and we learn that gruesome deaths and a hurried exodus has accounted for nearly all of the city’s population.

Gradually, we encounter those that rule the deserted streets and others who have remained. Belief doesn’t have to be suspended too much.

The rhetoric and undercurrent of hatred which we seem to have cultivated in Britain is enough for me to join the dots from today’s realities to Walker’s imagined future. Scary.

It’s a fabulous, moody yet pacey, look at relationships, at how we interact and, yes, how our dogs become part of our personality (as well as suggesting what THEY might be thinking).

Reg and Linekar have their crude but effective existence blown apart after a mission to find fuel for their generator.

Inadvertently, and unwillingly, they become guardians to a lost child.

Their journey, their bonds, their fights and fears as they venture further out into the world now run by extremists, are all grippingly delivered.

With echoes of one of my favourite ever books, Station 11, this band of misfits grows, makes allies, encounters relics from the past (everyday life items which we don’t even notice).

The battle to avoid the ultimate test to determine whether they still have a use in the world (I’m avoiding too many spoilers) is terrifying, absorbing and quite humbling.

 

charlie angry
Charlie’s best ‘DID SOMEONE SAY SQUIRRELS!?’ face

A book which tackles extremists controlling the future, mass murder, the destruction of what we call ‘civilization’ and yet can open a chapter with the line “Squirrels are c***s” is a rare trick I reckon.

 

From this book, I look closer at the things that frighten me in the world more and more, perhaps ask myself questions, and definitely look at Charlie and wonder what HE’S thinking!

Keep on keeping people……..

70 pence for 2 hours

70 pence for 2 hours

Not only has Sherborne in Dorset (NOT Sherbourne in KENT!) got a White Stuff, lovely coffee shops, stunning period architecture and a well posh independent school, it’s also a mere 70 pence to park for 2 hours.

 

Full-Carbon-Fiber-Aero-Road-Bicycle-Frame-Super-Light-Bike-Frame-Road
Nicky opted to buy a cap rather than a full carbon fibre TT bike

We do love a bargain.

 

Sherborne was pit stop 2 on our journey. Our first port of call was Tri Uk in Yeovil. I had previously had my bargain wetsuit from these guys, online, but had never visited this sweet shop for endurance fans.

We saw bikes for hundreds, but mostly thousands, of pounds and a bike in front of a television screen which you could sit on and ride with people in Japan. We obviously looked a little bit out of place as it took a while for us to be acknowledge as genuine potential customers. But, yes, even us oldies are interested in shiny things and bright moving pictures.

We managed, between us, to only buy a cap. Oh, and coffee, toasties and cake, naturally.

So what was our destination on this trip east?

Ferndown. Yup, the Premier Inn in Ferndown. A mere mile from the start (and finish) of the Ferndown Try a Tri. A triathlon, not a marathon, ultra marathon or trail run. Nope, it’s DEFINITELY a triathlon.

 

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Ahh, the classic kit laid out piccy

Me? Doing a triathlon? Really? Absolutely not!! I’m sure regular readers will guess…. yes my astonishing, adventurous, inspirational (and HOT) lady wife Nicky made her triathlon debut on Sunday. And what a marvellous day it turned out to be.

 

Having blitzed the money we saved on parking on a meal out, although Nicky’s steak was rather disappointingly grizzly (it was heavily discounted as a result), we tucked up for a little bit of Strictly before trying to shake off the pre-race nerves and get some quality shut eye.

The chirpy chappy working reception in the hotel had furnished us with athlete worthy quantities of coffee sashes and we set about these after the alarm broke our fitful sleep at stupid o’clock.

 

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Nicky’s ‘how hard can it be’ pre-match gritted teeth grin!

Nicky braved a porridge pot as best she could and before we knew it we were making the short drive to the leisure centre. Sporting her tri-suit which, was as yet to see active service, and a couple of extra layers to combat the chilly, drizzly air, she registered and set about orientating herself with the event layout.

 

Any new activity, engaged for the first time, is daunting. Some of that apprehension dissipated as we realised that she was far from the only debutant. There appeared to be a full range of ages and levels of experience. We made our way to the swimming pool to watch the first waves complete their lengths using a variety of strokes and techniques.

A really friendly, supportive and inclusive atmosphere cloaked the whole event in a comforting glow despite the grey skies. Before I knew it, Nicky was poolside for her briefing and without any drama she was in. Etiquette in the pool was being observed on the whole and Nicky looked strong as she rattled off the lengths in front of her two lane companions.

 

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So fast through transition the pictures are just a blur

I rushed outside to see her jog along towards the tennis courts where the bike racking and transitions took place. I was so excited, and just bursting with pride, maybe a tad jealous, but mostly just motivated to replicate my incredible lady’s fabulous enthusiasm and drive to keep pushing the boundaries.

 

Before long she was jogging back out ready to mount her trusty stead and head to the streets of Ferndown. We had driven the 11 mile bike route the previous evening and found it to be prolifically marked (and marshalled on the day) and without any alarming hills or dangers.

Disappointingly, the vending machine back inside the leisure centre delivered me a black flat white (actually I quite enjoyed it) to warm the bones whilst I enjoyed watching the transition action. With start times spread out over an hour and a half and a selection of speeds on show, there was always someone passing to wish bon chance.

 

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Blimey, Nicky’s back!

Before I could say ‘blimey, here comes Nicky!’ I was saying ‘BLIMEY, here comes Nicky’!!

 

She gracefully dismounted (there had been quite a selection of dismounting styles) and trotted off to transition. Us spectators were welcome to enter the different areas as long as we didn’t impede the intrepid athletes. But, I’m pleased to report, the anticipated confusion and calamitous comedy was absent from transition.

Smoother than a particularly smooth smoothie, Nicky racked her bike and removed cycling related paraphernalia. Slightly shaking from the cycling effort, she calmly donned her running shoes and set off for the field.

 

The run was four laps (about 3 miles) of the sports fields alongside the centre and, again, it was great for spectators. Being able to see the whole course and your athletes several times, as well as little battles taking place, throughout the field, made for compelling viewing.

And then it was over.

And Nicky was absolutely buzzing.

She has the bug.

And, yet again, I’m just the proudest husband.

And I’m INSPIRED and motivated.

Which is handy.

As I’m doing THIS on Saturday.

 

 

 

Panda Eyes

Panda Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

holiday writng
Not a bad spot for a bit of scribbling

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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We took our training VERY seriously on holiday…

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

 

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

 

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Nicky still putting the lengths in after the sun had disappeared

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

 

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

Find out next week!

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Air For A Cool Breeze

Hot Air For A Cool Breeze

Pink FloydI guess sometimes our heroes really ARE ghosts. We’ve all lost people too early, before they had chance to realise their own dreams and potentials. Equally, I imagine we’ve all drawn inspiration from those lost to us and, maybe, felt the urge to push a little bit harder to realise OUR dreams and find OUR capabilities whilst we are still blessed with the good fortune of health to do so.

2017-09-27 16.51.35Grief top-trumps is a game I find objectionable, the idea that there is a scale of tragedy worthy of different levels of sympathy is, quite frankly, unsavoury at best. And whilst I’m airing my gggrrrrs, what is this social media phenomenon of being asked to ‘prove’ you care by ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ somebody else’s story? I don’t need to prove I’ve read all of your post in order to care. And yes I DO know how tragic cancer can be. Believe me. I know. tragic, cruel, relentless, indiscriminate, debilitating, destructive, painful and despicable. Yup.

So, where was I? Ah yes, ghosts as heroes.

road to spartaIt’s a breath of fresh air to read some books. The Road To Sparta by Dean Karnazes…. Now, I don’t know how many losses or tragedies have befallen the Karnazes family but I do know that he tragically lost his sister just as she turned 18 (the details of which are covered in his first book). This latest tome is a journey into his family history (him being of Greek parentage) and deep into the history of the Greek nation and the people therein.

Told with a wit and eloquence often lacking in ‘sports’ biographies and combining, cleverly, his strength of character and his confidence with his self depreciating humour and his self doubts.

Embarking on a mission to truly follow in the footsteps of the original ultra marathon man Pheidippides, it charts his frustrations as he struggled to make this happen alone. Ultimately tracing the route by competing in the uber long Spartathon, he compares his progress, diet, emotions and fatigue to how he imagines Pheidippides was coping way way back when.

 

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Spartathlon – a very VERY long race

Acknowledging the new modern fandangle of aid stations, crews and fuelling products, Karnazes made his attempt by sticking to traditional Greek foodstuffs instead of tubes of sickly gunk and power bars. These are the foods that would have been available in 490bc, although Dean concludes that the stomachs of ancient times must have been made of strong stuff.

 

His constitution wasn’t playing ball and he graphically describes his stomach churning attempts to eat or digest this food in the second half of the race. Don’t read these passages too close to your Greek supper, as I did on holiday!!

The second half of the 153 mile race was survived on water, an iron will and muscle memory. Hallucinations (or reality?), despair, negotiations with his maker, negotiations with his mind, body and soul are all charted and delivered in Karnazes’ trademark boisterous, page turning rhetoric.

Yes, it’s ‘in yer face’ stuff, the way life should be lived, honouring those ghosts. This book should be read at full tilt. you don’t need to be an ultra marathon runner (or a runner at all) to enjoy this book, nor a Karnazes aficionado, although you may well become both before long as a direct result of reading it.

I’m not claiming to produce a literary chronicle, but we do like a good read……… and this is DEFINITELY that.

I think, tomorrow, I shall run with my ghosts!

 

Anyway, find me on Facebook – here, Twitter – here, Instagram – here

AND, please check out the new online magazine RUN DEEP where you might just find some more words by yours truly!

The Places We Run, The People We Run With

The Places We Run, The People We Run With

 

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Organised chaos!

“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.

wp-image-1413360077Mudcrew’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.

wp-image-1676347441This 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.

wp-image-540564259“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.

wp-image-1677273735Some 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.

 

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It goes up….. and down…. A LOT!

Apparently the leading pair turned by 6am!! And finished in just over 12 hours, a mere 6 seconds apart.

 

wp-image-1785018289Last 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.wp-image-765942649 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.

And steps.

Lots and lots of steps. Or ****ing steps as they increasingly became known as morning became afternoon.

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Portloe Checkpoint

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.

wp-image-2066299383wp-image-450684104It’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.

wp-image-1205760288“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!

wp-image-1674708693I’d better not turn up unprepared next year either, there’s nowhere to hide and no easy way on this course!

 

No, Kevin, Monk doesn’t begin with ‘P’

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.

 

The Arc Of Attrition….. hhhhhmmmm

wp-image-1867096456 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……..

 

That’s our lovely snuggly bed just up there!

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.

And on.

Ice Pops from heaven!

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!!!

One or two of these……

“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!”

YES!!!

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.

 

Happy RATs

 

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.

Martin made short work of a couple of Rattlers!

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!

Never touched the sides!!

Proud to be part of this top, top event and amongst the best of the best in the trail running community.

Celebratory dinner in beautiful Mevagissy

Proud to share the weekend with such great friends in Gloria and Martin, who make the whole experience so much fun.

Sunday morning, not quite so mobile!

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!”

She’s joking of course….

She is joking isnt she????

 Show, don’t tell 

 Show, don’t tell 

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

 

Chilly? Looks it from the warmth of the kayak!

 

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

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

 

And they’re off

 

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

I love it when a plan comes together!

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

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

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

 

Martin & Nicky, as majestic as the river itself

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ice creamRaberry pavlova. Mmm mmmmm.

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

Phew! So rest day Sunday…… naahhh…..

It’s a family affair….

Totnes 10k.

Love this race.

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

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

 

Nicky and her beautiful girls

 

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

 

Sprint finish!

 

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

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

Proud.

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

 

The boy is a STAR!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Martin finishing strong

 

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

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

 

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STORM – setting up camp at a race near you!

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

 

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

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

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

Meanwhile some more piccies from the weekend….

 

Sprint finish from friend Jan too

 

 

Event photgraphers giving their time (and their photos)

 

 

Another sprint finish – Callum smiling as he hurtles in

 

 

Nicky & Alisa and some of the many Storm runners

 

 

All smiles on the start line

 

 

Something resembling a sprint from this lanky fella too

 

 

And all called home and congratulated by this relentless chap