Over before it began

WHAT A WEEKEND!

Regular consumers of this occasionally literal (occasionally literary) ramble through our lives will have noticed I started a “Creative Writing” course….

Well, the course has gone back…… Whilst I’m sure it’s fabulous, it most certainly isn’t for me. Writing lies as fact on topics I don’t enjoy to get ‘paid’ by publications I would rather not support isn’t really where I want to pitch myself…..

And who was I kidding anyway!

Hey ho.

Anyway……

 

The Bank Holiday weekend…..

Lots of time with my beautiful step daughters, their betrothed, our wonderfully energy giving grandchildren and, of course, my breathtakingly beautiful wife. She really is the spark that lights everything that’s fabulous in my life. Even my father-in-law, Frank was up for it – “sod dementia, let’s play swing ball”!

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Pre-race coffees

AND…. On Sunday our old gang went on a road trip to Casterbridge Half Marathon. So that’s yours truly and Nicky (the afore mentioned HOT wife) along with blog veteran, Martin in full silver fox / cheeky monkey mode, Jan too, fresh from the Manchester Half Marathon the previous Sunday. Our support crew were Gloria, another blog regular, and Jan’s lovely Mum, Linda.

 

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Jan managed to find the silver fox loitering in a layby

We met at a fairly civilised hour and convoyed our way to Dorchester.

 

Considering we are such social wallflowers, it’s amazing how many old friends we bumped into  – like Kiernan, an old mate from Portsmouth, dropping in to do a half marathon on his way to his family holiday in Cornwall.

The Dorchester Marathon and Casterbridge Half are road events (and those roads are mostly closed) organised by those masters of the Dorset trails, White Star Running.

 

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Martin, Jan & Nicky demonstrating their thorough warm up routine

If you fancy a road marathon or half, but with the feel of a trail event, beautiful scenery, a festival like atmosphere and a few cheeky hills, then this is for you.

 

With 1600 runners across the two distances, the campsite was buzzing and the car park field was being marshalled like clockwork.

 

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No, Martin, keep your shorts up until you’re out of sight!

Plenty of portaloos, food and drink stalls and a massive marquee promising fun and frolics later in the evening for the runners and campers.

 

The marathon was sent on its way as we made our first trip to the plastic tardis shaped relief cubicles and followed that up with a traditional pre race coffee.

It was good to be back in banter mode with the gang and before we knew it the rain from earlier had given way to glorious sunshine and we were heading for the start line of our race.

 

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Lovely to bump into Kiernan

I had a race plan – run as fast as I thought I could until I couldn’t and then run slower, or if I thought I could run a bit faster then I’d run faster, or slower, depending on what I felt like doing. So, just run basically.

 

Regular readers will know I have trouble remembering details of my runs. I remember lots of bits but not necessarily in the right order.

 

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Ready for the off

So here’s how my race went: 10, 9, 8…….GO! The mayor sent us on our way. For once I ran about as hard as I intended and quickly found my stride amongst others running my pace. We spread out across the closed roads (closed roads!), soaked up the sunshine, enjoyed the wonderful Dorset countryside and ran up. And down. And up. There is barely a flat section. No monster hills particularly, one very long one and a naughty steeper one near the end, but lots of them.

 

There were marshals at every junction, fabulous aid stations and the infamous White Star Love Station. The marathon joined the half marathon route with about 6 miles to go (I think!) and I was quite pleased that only one marathoner steamed past me before the end.

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Marathon winner Steve Way was already comfortable in the winner’s deck chair by the time I crossed the line!

That was the legend that is Steve Way, always supporting road races in the South West, he skipped past us on his way to 2h28m in his last big mileage effort before having a crack at getting gold in Comrades in two weeks time. The runner next to me was moved to exclaim “that’s beautiful to watch!” as Steve sped away.

 

 

 

 

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This young man showed me a clean pair of heels in the home straight!

Apart from getting drawn into an unsuccessful attempt to outsprint someone many (10s of) years my junior, my own race was uneventful. This ultra training has really taught me to chill out, as has running with Nicky, who never, ever starts too quickly. So, whilst I felt like I’d ran it hard, I was always in control. Lovely.

 

There was a fabulous atmosphere at the finish which was helped by the races starting an hour apart, so there was a constant stream of runners getting royally cheered home. I saw Martin come steaming home, then Nicky and then Jan.

The weather was so glorious, we set up on the grass and enjoyed the atmosphere for an hour or so, Martin unable to resist unleashing his well thought out ‘balls’ jokes as he parted with some hard earned dosh for some of the cake stall’s protein balls.

The blog has fallen behind this week, so I’ll leave you with some lovely images from this great race, and some more from our fantastic family Bank Holiday Monday

 

 

Kris Akabusi and the two most important women.

Well now, brace yourselves for me waxing lyrical about my beautiful lady wife. She does get awfully embarrassed but she is my absolute world and I see no reason not to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!

Nicky gained her Social Work degree and additional postgraduate qualifications relatively late in life, whilst working and bringing up her two lovely daughters. The reward for one of her incredible achievements was a graduation celebration where the  enigmatic Mr Akabusi was the guest of honour.

So, a former international athlete, with a fabulous fun attitude to his sport, who has gone on to a lifetime of celebrity and motivational appearances, he is a very active and popular individual and his latest shenanigans can be discovered HERE.

It was a lovely moment when Nicky revealed her Akabusi experience, as he has a special place in my heart. Firstly, as we were growing up in a house of sports fanatics, his athletic prowess and raucous laugh brought many a joyous moment to our world.

Akabusi bookHis book, On Track, was being devoured by my sister as her illnesses were intensifying towards the end of her life. Unfortunately, she became too ill to finish the book herself. On the night she died, which is 9 years ago on Monday, aged a mere 44, I sat with the book at her bedside as she gently slept a heavy final sleep. I read aloud to her for an hour or two in the hope she was, somewhere inside, enjoying the words of one of her favourite athletes as her breathing slowed.

Reading a little more about Kris in preparation for this blog post he says he is often asked why he openly talks about death and loss so regularly, despite him being an upbeat motivational character. He replied, simply, that it constantly reminds him that every day of our lives is precious and to be lived to the absolute maximum. Also that we should surround ourselves with the people we love and care about, that we trust and with whom we share beliefs and goals. And that we should avoid spending time in situations that suck the life, the emotional energy, the FUN, out of us. I couldn’t agree more….

That he openly talks about oft avoided subjects is so refreshing. When Karen was so very ill (and she lived for over 6 years with her various cancers), people started to avoid those of us who were close to her, the word ‘cancer’ becoming a cancer itself, as if simply using the word would curse us. It wasn’t a secret, Karen had cancer. And it was shit. really shit.

As regular readers know, we live and care for Frank, my father-in-law. He has dementia, his diagnosis is a ‘non-specific Alzheimer’s’ I believe. It is also shit. It also has a depressing prognosis and can completely consume us on occasions. We are starting to find that there’s a little bit of a wide berth being given to us (and not just because of all the hot cross buns we’re eating!) as we try and check ourselves into not having every conversation ending up being about Frank and his bizarre diet, lack of understanding of time or that milk has now become ‘that white stuff’.

Anyway, on the 9th anniversary of Karen’s death, I just wanted to pay tribute to her and the life she had, I owe a lot to her memory and my biggest regret of losing her is that she never got to see me with Nicky. She never saw me REALLY happy and she would be chuffed to know that I truly have found my wonderful soul mate, someone with whom to share the lifetime of love I’ve been saving up.

That a lovely link between these amazing women has been made through Kris Akabusi still makes me smile every time I think about it

I still miss my sister, Karen, she was the life and soul and has left us with so many wonderful, energetic memories. And so, every moment with Nicky, we try and enjoy and treasure the time we have, and intend to keep planning those adventures and challenges and celebrate this life we’ve been given.

So I’d better get my arse out of the door tomorrow morning for that long run and, in the motivational words of my amazing lady wife… “MAN THE **** UP”

 

 

 

 

 

Unchained Melody

There was quite an ironic, rewarding, bizarre, unlikely event the other evening.

So for a quick reminder, and a brief introduction to new readers, Nicky (my AMAZING lady wife) and I live with, and care for, Frank, my father-in-law. Frank is suffering with dementia and, as this blog has regularly documented, life for all three of us can be quite exhausting. It can be incredibly challenging and, again for all three of us, unimaginably frustrating.

BUT, there are moments of self depreciatory humour and, like the other night, occasional moments of pure magic.

Nicky and I are both learning to tinkle the ivories (piano!). I’ve had a head start in that I play a bit of guitar, but we’re both thoroughly enjoying the process and sometimes Frank will join us and chill out to the delicately (slowly!) picked out tunes.

Well, Frank, a man who struggles to remember what milk is, regularly mixes up night and day and hides his remote control for the television, suddenly started singing “…hunger for your…” whilst I was chipping away at Unchained Melody.

Astonishing. Astonishing that something I was playing was recognisable. Astonishing that the person to recognise it was Frank. Astonishing that, from somewhere deep within the recesses of his memory, a few of the words to the Righteous Brothers’ classic made their way to his lips.

After a week of bad news, tragic news, desperate stories and more illness in our little world, a truly bright moment enjoyed by the three of us.

We soon got back to losing the remote control and spectacles whilst finding a collection of hidden spoons but that is the world of dementia.

Just thought I’d share it with you…

From BACK off to EFF off

So, a couple of weeks ago, a very jolly chap delivered our piano. It was a particularly jolly occasion. Alan, the jolly chap, banged out a couple of “We’re forever blowing bubbles” & “My old man said follow the van” type tunes before leaving us to wonder at the magic of the thing.

My father-in-law, Frank, suffering as he does from a progressive dementia, was briefly lit up by the music, clapping along and beaming from ear to ear. If you bump into a (jolly) man called Alan, selling pianos, in the South Devon area, please thank him again for us.

“A piano??” I hear you enquire, “but I thought you had no TIME!?” BUT! I retort, this is THE TIME. Ok, neither of us can play the thing! But it has ticked ALL the boxes from our ‘hobby’ conversation of a couple of months ago. Cheap (ish). Accessible. Pick up and put downable. Fun, involves learning and gives ESCAPISM.

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Elton demonstrating the fastest route from G to Bm

Yes, Nicky is absolutely loving the start of her musical journey. Rumour has it that she has been recruited as back up pianist for the recently announced 3 year long farewell tour for Sir Elton John. Better get practising Nicky……..

Frank, then. Nicky’s father, my father-in-law. We moved in with him about 18 months ago, to support and ‘enable’ him. He’s still maintains a little independence, but, to be honest, heartbreakingly he seems to increasingly need a little prod and reminder about the simple tasks of day to day living.

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He has been going to the Memory Café, a weekly pop-up support group provided by The Alzheimer’s Society. For a mere pound sterling, he gets two hours with his peers, in a safe, modern-life free, environment. He gets conversation, coffee and cake and activities. Quite often, these activities include a good old sing song. He absolutely loves these.

Sometimes the three of us can laugh at the situations Frank gets himself into. Sometimes, we can get frustrated, sometimes tearful, sometimes almost desperate. Sometimes, Frank is blissfully unaware that he’s in a ‘situation’ at all. The exploding microwave being one of the more dramatic examples this week!

But mostly we get through life, dealing with each day as a new set of challenges and learning ways to better support, not only Frank, but each other. Sometimes well meant comments about how life works for us can be frustrating. It is consuming, and we find ourselves feeling ridiculous as we get irritated by apparently meaningless and momentary incidents, but when these compound over a day, week, month…… a simple thing can be a tipping point.

If we weren’t here, Frank would certainly be in crisis, we feel we give him the safety to continue with as much of his life as he is able, in a slightly independent fashion.

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Grandson Callum joining his Nan for a slice of the blues

The piano sits in our dining room, and Frank is really happy to have it here. BUT, his attention span dictates that whilst Nicky is trying to learn the whole concept of the piano, music, phrasing etc etc, from scratch, he is prone to either wander off to an aural sanctuary elsewhere in the house, or sit and call out inappropriate encouragement. Whilst working out the EastEnders theme tunes, both Nicky and I were calling out the notes, prompting a much repeated call of “play the F OFF!” from the ever helpful Frank!!

With so many of us living to grander ages, the prevalence of dementia and related illnesses is only going to increase, and we could all take the time to ensure that we consider that the person next to us could be struggling.

ANYWAY.

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I managed a Sunday long(ish) run. After Saturday’s epic (and wet) adventure on the moors (featured in this BLOG) on Saturday, my little legs were aching before I’d finished tying my shoelaces for today’s run. I targeted around 20 miles and hoped those would be at around 8m30s mile pace, on a flattish road route. Whilst I did abandon at 16 miles, I am quite pleased to have ran inside that pace on tired legs. Having to get up in the middle of night to let Frank know it wasn’t time to be microwaving Choco-Hoops and custard (I know!) for a few hours yet prevented us getting anywhere near a night’s sleep. Not ideal preparation. But ’tis what ’tis……..

Check out the run HERE.

I had the absolute pleasure of randomly bumping into a very old friend, Steve, on this morning’s run too. I changed my route slightly and accompanied Steve (Smithy) on his run to work. We studied together for our Sports Science Foundation Degrees a few years ago. It was a hard time for me personally and emotionally and it will be great to catch up with him some more.

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We’d been running so fast, we were blurred!!

He was a Torquay Athletic front row stalwart in those days, a family man who has got the running bug these days. It will be nice to share my happier times with someone who really was there for me in those rougher days.

So 2018 marches on.

Nicky and I pick up the baton and charge at another daunting week. Determined to enjoy as much training as possible, wondering if we’ll ever truly get ON IT when it comes to our eating and preparing to deal with another round of jabs from the challenges on life.

I don’t mind repeating myself…. Nicky inspires and drives me and I truly am blessed to have fallen in love with the most amazing woman in the world. It would be so easy to get knocked to the sofa and the soap operas by these jabs, but TOGETHER we push on.

This blog would never have happened if we weren’t the A TEAM. I’m sat here typing whilst Lukas Graham’s 7 Years is given the ebony and ivory treatment by my truly amazing wife.

Keep on keeping on people….

Gilbert? That’s not my name!!

cyril regis16th May 1987.

I was brought up a Coventry City fan. My parents were both brought up as Coventry City fans. My Grandad used to never miss a home game, and that included the reserves too. He was the commentator for hospital radio, so he sat in his little booth at the back of the stand and described the games for those Sky Blues fans who were stuck in one of the city’s hospitals.

Rumour has it Grandad didn’t miss a football match at Highfield Road from the end of the second world war until he fell ill in 1986. His dream was to see his beloved Sky Blues play at Wembley…….. You’ve guessed it, Wilfred Brown departed this earth in late 1986. Missing Coventry City Football Club’s first trip to the iconic stadium a mere six months later.

This has been on my mind rather today, after hearing the sad news that one of the victorious 1987 FA Cup team, Cyrille Regis (‘Big Cyrille’) had died at the crazily young age of 59. There was a lump in my throat for sure.

Whilst searching around the internet for something to learn about Cyrille I discovered that Cyrille’s father, in his birth place, French Guiana, was supposed to register his child as GILBERT Cyrille Regis…. Whether he’d paused for a celebratory shandy or two on his way is lost to history, but he certainly forgot! And so Big Cyrille was born.

Rest In Peace Cyrille Regis MBE 1958 – 2018

How Hard Can It Be?

 

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Callum in Lego heaven

Quite often our mantra whilst we’re casually googling potential new challenges.

 

Swim 10km? How hard can it be? 50km over Dartmoor? How hard can it be?

how hard can it beYou get the picture.

Also my work chum and myself……. plumbing? roofing, underfloor heating etc? Just how hard can they be?

 

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This please is, to steal from the young man’s vernacular, “WELL COOL!”

So, a couple of days with the eldest grandson, Callum, taking him away for his birthday treat. Not a problem?

 

I’m often found to be idly flicking through the well-thumbed pages of Ultra Marathon websites, ooohhh, ahhhh, mmmmm, ha ha ha, how hard can they be?

But multi-day events. Ow! Not sure that’d be up my street, not my bag, unlike my cup of tea (which is actually coffee, anyway). Nope, as regular readers will know, I DO have ambitions for long single stage events, but multi stage events, nahh.

Until now.

Legoland. Two days. Two CONSECUTIVE days! I know!! Is there a test of endurance to match it?

I’ve been blessed. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and my rather wonderful, beautiful and, quite frankly, HOT, lady wife, Nicky keeps telling me to stop being so soppy. I’ll be making the avid readership feel nauseaous, she reckons. BUT, I truly am blessed.

20171028_142338-1.jpgFrom the moment Nicky bundled her way into my soulless life and filled it with all this phenomenal love, adventure and laughter, I have felt, well, blessed!! AND I became Grandad to her two bundles of fun filled granchildren, which has now become three. And I absolutely love it.

Late on day 2 in this world of a billion coloured bricks, we found a perch and had a selfie with a lego batman soft toy. We looked drained!! In the most wonderful way. Callum has been full to the brim with excitement, with wonder, with awe and has, for two whole days been nothing but a joy to share the time with.

A 6am start (sounds like an identikit race report coming up….) followed by 4 hours in the car and we arrived at the park. It’s big! Luckily, we had booked, as the place was sold out, mostly because it was open late for fireworks.

 

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Callum looking REALLY impressed with his Lego name I lovingly made for him!

Yes, we’ve had our moneys worth, getting to the Holiday Inn Express in Slough about 8.30pm that night (we know how to live!!) where we promptly ordered a Dominoes gorge fest. The three of us propped ourselves up on the (less than) double bed and feasted our tired, hungry faces. Bliss.

 

 

 

 

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Tired? Nah?

Callum slept well on his put-me-up, whilst we enjoyed the aural delights of Heathrow, and before we knew it, day two was upon us.

 

By the time we climbed into the car at tea time, we were all suitably sated of our lego desires and the trusty Mini devoured the miles home.

An extra hours sleep?

 

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Spooky light on this morning’s run

Nah, an extra hours RUNNING!!!

 

(Did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile Ultra? – read alllll about it HERE) I reckon the three weeks since my Gower exploits haven’t yet flushed the fatigue from my legs. Combined with the previous two days adventures, I was never going to break any records on THIS run.

BUT, I loved the three hours around the bay, much of it by headtorch, and, after the ‘injury’ at Gower, I seem to have also been blessed with amazing powers of recovery too.

20171028_140857-1.jpgI know, we will, and I’m sure Callum will too, treasure these moments forever!

Keep on keeping on people, don’t let the b******s grind us down….

 

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They even had a life size Lego model of my Brother…..

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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…

 

 

Torbay Tornado
Proud Step Dad alert….

 

 

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….

Where……

I shall be writing for my book….

 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

 

That’s 3 YEEESSSSSSS’s

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.

 

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Nicky eating up the early climbs

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…..

 

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Everybody listening??

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.

And up.

 

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Top of the first climb. WOW the views!

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.

2017-07-23 09.32.08Once 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.

 

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Cut off smashed??? We’ll drink to that….

YEEESSSS!!!

 

 

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Up

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.

 

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Top of the Pyg Track – glad we didn’t go DOWN that way!

YEEESSSS!!

 

2017-07-23 15.18.32Exiting 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…….

 

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DOWN!

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.

2017-07-23 15.29.52Llanberris 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!!!”

YEEEESSSSS!!!

 

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Sooooo proud…. I think there may be something in my eye…..

We truly felt (still feel) we had achieved something extraordinary.

 

 

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Down in one, down in one….

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.

 

 

2017-07-23 17.59.01-1It wasn’t necessarily on our bucket list, but it has given us a wonderful glow……..

 

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Howard and Hilda enjoyed Pen y Pass so much, they went back the following day!

 

Next up, the Cornish coast beckons in the R.A.T. ……..