The Cape Town Chronicles #3 (Right Said Fred)

The Cape Town Chronicles #3 (Right Said Fred)

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I got a message as I rolled out of the extremely comfortable bed, in the rather plush hotel we managed to bag ourselves in Cape Town.

The message was from my legs.

It said “YOU RAN 35, COUNT ‘EM, 35 HOT AND HILLY MILES YESTERDAY!!””

I sat down again.

After Nicky’s enforced lay off from training and her late decision to run the equally hilly and hot half marathon, she too was fully aware of the previous days efforts.

Luckily we hadn’t planned a really early start to get to a bus tour which was undoubtedly going to involve lots of hiking……

Oh hang on…..

A lovely early breakfast (the hotel was, er, well posh I’m telling you, look forward to a ‘reverse snobbery’ blog…) and then an Uber. Oh, we became masters of the Uber on this trip after the first proper taxi we got in shook the dust out of our purse….. we didn’t really walk anywhere, apparently it’s not advisable to stroll around Cape Town’s suburbs looking like a tourist!

dsc_0560861796076.jpgOnce aboard the lovely air conditioned bus we were treated to a ride packed with astonishing views (of both oceans as the day went on) and fascinating facts delivered with eloquence and wit by our guide. We were lucky to have a proud Cape Townian, Fred, as our pack leader for the day. Witty, charming, informed and informative and he knew when to leave quiet gaps to help us absorb the enormity and astonishing beauty of this amazing place.

 

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ALLLL day long the views were incredible

Arriving at Cape Point, I’m sure I heard Nicky mumble her encouraging mantra “On Man the **** up!” as I hobbled down the stairs of the bus and gulped at the track winding up to the lighthouse…….

 

After a coffee sat literally between two oceans, we set off for the lighthouse. As I’ve regularly pointed out, we’re not massively ‘people’ people. But we sucked it up and waited our turn for the best photograph points. What a place.

From there we tracked back down to join Fred. “Right,” said Fred – “we’re going to trek down there” pointing at the amazing looking trail leading down to Cape Of Good Hope. My quads were REALLY pleased to see that it was a downhill trek.

Ouch, oooo, ow, ahhhh, as we marched on. I felt a little humbled as we struggled to keep up with our Captain Enthusiastic leader once he’d let on that he too had completed the 35 miles of the Two Oceans Marathon the previous day.

2018-04-01 13.43.59He is a mere child though. And I did beat him. (just saying). But then he did successfully photobomb our selfies (see above!)

Another popular photo opportunity at Africa’s most South Westerly point, although most had arrived there by driving, we took our shots and just breathed in the fabulous fresh Atlantic breeze and marvelled at the seals and other wild life on show.

The famous Boulders Bay was our next stop. A beautiful little cove which was packed with penguins. And people. Slightly surreal seeing such a mass of these ridiculously cute, flightless birds in the wild, whilst standing on a boardwalk, as if in a zoo, with about a million people!

But cute? Don’t even start………

Taking the mountain road back before a blast along the freeway to the city we managed to bag the front seats……….

Yet another incredible day of adventure and discovery shared. We garbled and giggled our way through another fabulous meal, like naughty street kids who’d snuck into a public school dinner!

The enormous and ridiculously comfortable mattress accepted our exhausted souls into a deep slumber, ready for the next day’s adventure……………

Hang on tight for the next instalment and don’t forget the first two episodes of The Cape Town Chronicles…

Part One Here

Part Two Here

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The Cape Town Chronicles #1 (the finish line)

The Cape Town Chronicles #1 (the finish line)

 

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Before our emotional goodbye at the start line!

With about 400 meters to go (of the 56km Two Oceans Marathon) my shuffling gait had finally brought me into the ‘stadium’. After 35 miles surviving the hills and heat of Cape Town, the finish line was nearly in sight, there was what I can only describe as a roar, a joyous releasing of congratulatory happiness tunnelled into a 10 meter wide stretch of grass with (and I don’t exaggerate) thousands of people hanging over the barriers and in the temporary grandstands willing the competitors towards the line.

 

“Kevin! KEVIN!! KEEEVVVIIIIN!!!” amongst the thousands of voices…. the one I was desperate to hear….. my incredible lady wife, Nicky…. her voice transcended the cacophony and I managed to spot her in the crowd! I rushed over to the barrier, elated, and stole a most precious kiss, which brought a great cheer from the surrounding crowd.

“go Go GO!!” yelled the relentlessly enthusiastic water station crew about 2 kilometres previously, “you’re going to get a bronze!”. As I turned from that kiss in the stadium, a renewed buoyance in my step, I noticed the clock on the finish gantry …5h57m and became part of the jubilation around me as I pieced it all together, competitors achieving under 6 hours receive a ‘bronze’ medal. Those between 6 hours and the final cut off at 7 hours apparently receive a ‘blue’ medal. For the record, should you run under 5 hours it’s the Sainsbury medal, under 4 hours (!) it’s a silver and the top ten only receive a gold medal.

So, as the chap who finished alongside me grabbed me, tears in his eyes and screamed “YES!! after 5 attempts I got my bronze!”, there must have been something in my eye….

I greedily took my medal, an ice cold can of full fat, full sugar Coke and eagerly shuffled through the packed crowds in search of Nicky.

 

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watches being checked as people confirm that they had indeed got that bronze medal

Regular readers (HELLO Regular Readers!) will already know that Nicky and I just love to share an adventure or ten. You will also know that injury curtailed her ambitions for this 56km Cape Town challenge. You will also know that the lovely people on the international desk at the Expo managed to arrange a Half Marathon place for Nicky at very late notice, in response to her plight.

 

So Nicky had experienced the finish line looooooong before me and stood on that barrier for HOURS waiting to cheer me in. Whilst she is pleased to have been a runner as well as the most vocal and enthusiastic spectator, the half course, hilly and challenging though it is, didn’t have the impact of those ocean views. She also found it absolutely rammed with runners from start to finish and witnessed a few nasty falls in the crowds.

But she did get to witness, at close quarters, the pain of the finish line closing (they literally run across and block the runners with a rope) after 3h10m for the Half Marathon competitors, I think she found it heart-breaking and surreal as runners, literally yards from the line just stop where they are.

 

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A Grandstand Finish!

After spending a while sat on the steps of the grandstand with my head between my knees trying to recover, we then shared the experience watching the same happen after 7 hours of the Ultra Marathon. Oh the noise, the pain, the emotion, the joy, the despair….

 

I couldn’t find much on the internet, but here’s a clip from a couple of years ago…

We ended up in South Africa after one of those “What’s your dream race?” type of conversations. Well, when I first took up running, aged 39 years and 11 months, some 16000 miles of running ago, I read about this iconic race, in this vibrant city and always imagined it was for ‘other’ people…… Since Nicky and I have been on this whirlwind of adventure, she has taught me that, well, why shouldn’t people like ‘US’ go on epic adventures.

So, we hit the plastic hard and headed for Cape Town….

With so much to report from this incredible trip, I think there’ll be a few blogs worth of material. As I sit here at the kitchen table, reflecting on the most exhilarating 10 days away, I still can’t quite believe we’ve been. We packed every minute, so our books came back barely touched and my notebook sparse, to say the least.

So look forward to more tales of mountains, beaches, sharks, buses, Ubers, reverse snobbery, penguins, buskers, rainy sunsets, townships and not a lot of reading or writing…

A few teaser piccies……

The Bus To Ourselves

The Bus To Ourselves

There’s history here. You can feel it. There’s also rain here. You can feel that too!

The worst draught Cape Town has had in living memory means the city is trying everything to save water. The stuff has been falling out of the sky in abundance since we arrived…..

At least that meant we’ve had the pick of the seats on our open top bus tours.

Regular blog spotters will be pleased to know that the amazing lady on the international desk was able to arrange a place in The Two Oceans Half Marathon for Nicky. This despite there being about a million people to deal with at the expo!!

For those who don’t know – Nicky’s training was abruptly halted 6 weeks ago when her calf muscle gave out. Intensive physio, rest and rehab has got her running again but she’d missed the major training runs.

We were both gutted. We’re still a bit sad not to be toeing the same start line but at least we will (hopefully) both experience the iconic finish at the end of our respective races.

And Cape Town is AMAZING.

I’m a lucky boy to be here in this wonderful place with the most amazing woman on earth…..

Never be the same again….

Never be the same again….

Sat not three feet from the gently rippling Caribbean sea, I turned the last of the 415 pages of Preparation For The Next Life by Atticus Lish. As a few beads of sweat from the wonderful, sweltering heat dripped onto the cover as I gazed at it in awe, I’m sure there was a tear or two amongst it. I would never quite be the same again. Heart-warming, heart-wrenching, heart-breaking, this brutal modern romance consumed me, amazed me, horrified me and illuminated me.

Desperate for more, yet exhausted from having my emotion squeezed to the end.

Set in post Iraq war New York, an unlikely couple emerge from the wreckage of their lives. Zou Lei is a Muslim illegal immigrant from the east, sucked into, spat out from, hidden from, persecuted by and constantly in fear of the authorities. Brad Skinner is a veteran of three active tours of Iraq and has been physically, emotionally and psychologically butchered in his few adult years to date.

A chance encounter in the maze of New York’s mess of an underground world, where a hidden (mostly illegal) immigrant community lives in a desperate economy all of its own, leads to comparing of muscles and rare laughter.

Zou Lei’s strength is her work ethic and single minded determination to make the most of her, apparently destitute, existence. Brad hitch-hikes into town, with the remainder of his forces pay out withering in his bank.

They, with their ragged clothes and lives, somehow find their souls alive.

His desperation, her devotion, their private battles, their joint journey and the unlikely chaotic romance which ensues are dealt with in a style who’s prose is honest, clipped and, like the characters, on the verge of breaking. It’s like having a window into this couple’s world through filthy and cracked glass.

Wonderful.

Commentators, far more informed than I, have suggested that this tale of how the hopes of the hopeless are crushed by the inequality and heartlessness of a fast and selfish world is important in its belief that these tales need to be told. Fiction it may be, shockingly real it definitely is.

You’ll get no plot spoilers from me, but if you’re looking for a twee love story I’d perhaps recommend you avert you eyes.

It is a rare thing for a book to bring tears to my eyes, yet on this wonderful holiday we have just enjoyed, two books have managed to achieve just that. (Expect a review of the other soon)

A heartily recommended read.

No Problem

No Problem

I try, in these ramblings, to avoid politics, religion, in fact controversy of any kind. Sometimes I may say something which makes the occasional reader bristle. In general though, this blog is a designated place of safety….

asleep on airplaneSo, it is with some trepidation that I commence typing a little piece I scribbled on the overnight flight home. During which I repeatedly thought to myself, how DO people sleep on airplanes?!?

A (ficticious) character, who has moved into my head whilst I’m creating my ‘novel’ (yes, it IS happening…..slowly), is know to chant “god loves a trier, but does he trust the non-believers?”. My atheism forms part of my own belief system but certainly doesn’t intend to influence, nor comment on, anybody else’s. It just seemed something that this character would say.

 

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Christmas, Negril style

Whilst in the land of the birth of Rastafarianism, I saw a plaque with a fabulous saying carved into it. Think of those motivational or loving slogans found on pieces of home-art in The Range or Dunelm, but found in a beach market stall in Jamaica.

 

It simply read “God made Marijuana, man made alcohol……”

I don’t partake of any of the three nouns in that sentence, yet I found myself nodding.

After 14 days of these beach traders and their, let’s face it, stoned, dry humour and “no problem, reeespect” attitude to seemingly everything, it was quite emotional to be wheeling our suitcases alongside the beach ready to begin our epic journey back to (freezing cold) reality.

This disappointment was exaggerated by the particularly drunk pair making public fools of themselves (and potentially jeopardising the flight) on the way home to a Gatwick seemingly populated by the stressed, angry, jostling, selfish majority.

So, there you go, maybe, just maybe, those guys and girls on the Negril beach are on to something……

 

Anyway, approaching the end of the year, I found myself writing a festive, reflective piece for my regular column in the excellent online magazine Run Deep. Mulling over the years pictures, it struck me what an absolutely extraordinary year it has been.

 

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We’re home!

 

Ahhh, regular readers (if you’re still out there after our little hiatus?) will be only too aware of Nicky and I regularly proclaiming to be ‘on it’. Well, we’ve really pushed the boat out this time.

In fact, and I do digress rather, always trust the advice of a local……

Having managed to get Nicky out on a little catamaran dinghy (we literally ‘pushed the boat out’) whilst in the Caribbean, we attempted to get a boat again on the penultimate day of our amazing stay. The wind was up. Consequently, unseen by us, so was the red flag. I thought it meant Jeremy Corbyn was in town…

We went to the desk…

“Yeah mon?”

“We’d like to go sailing, please”

“Not today…..” (pointing at the red flag)

“Tomorrow, then, our last day?”

“Nobody sailing tomorrow…..” with a knowing smile.

 

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Like a mill pond…. until it wasn’t!

We awoke the following day to find all the resort’s and beach traders’ boats absent from the beach. In hiding apparently. The waves were seriously crashing. It’s almost like the locals knew….

Anyway, back to… er… where was I? Oh yes. ON IT!! We did run the hot Hot HOT Reggae Marathon (read all about it HERE) and a couple of beach jogs and a little bit of swimming. But mostly it was all about the four ‘R’s…

READING, RECLINING, (W)RITING and RAIDING the fabulous all inclusive food and tempting restaurants on offer.

Yes indeed, I came home 8lbs heavier than I went!

Not only this, but we’ve started to push the boat out with endurance targets and ambitions for the year ahead….. there’s talk of over night running adventures, long distance triathlons. There’s also talk of my rather beautiful, inspiring lady wife coming out of her Ultra Marathon retirement, watch this space.

So, yes, we’re ON IT!!

Oh and hopefully we’ll be stuffing an envelope with some of those shiny new folding notes in the hope of saving up for a return to the streets of Negril (and why would you go all that way and NOT run a marathon?)…….

 

 

The Reggae Marathon (paradise found)

The Reggae Marathon (paradise found)

“Brexit! Yeah Mon, Brexit. HA HA ”

We had a lot of shouts from spectators and fellow runners. Wearing Union Flag vests, it seems, attracts a lot of cheers and banter….

“God bless the Queen” “Ingerland” “Go Great Britain” “Do you guys speak English?” even “Go Canada”!

But “Brexit”!!! It appears our country’s decisions are the subject of much mirth even this far from home.

Anyway.

Here I am feeling like my heart has won the lottery, lying on the beach in paradise with the most beautiful astonishing lady in the whole wide world.

I’ve said it before, but every single day I feel truly blessed.

The Reggae Marathon. The pressure of representing Team GB lessened as we realised the number of British competitors milling around at the start was swelling.

Team GB discuss tactics

Gravitating towards each other, we exchanged greetings and soaked up the bubbling atmosphere. The sweet smell of weed drifting across the runners with the deep reggae bass.

With the 10k, Half Marathon & Marathon there were 2000 runners ready at 5am for the best running party.

All three races go off at 5.15, the torch lit road guiding the runners into Negril town where the bemused but encouraging locals lined the streets despite the early hour.

Apologies here….. We bumped into so many lovely people and even had shout outs for the blog at the pasta party. This was not just the UK runners either. The Dutch and French contingent it turned out are blog readers!

Some of Team GB

We cheered and high fived runners from Poland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, The USA, Canada and, of course, the beautiful island of Jamaica.

So, “hi” to (and this is a far from exhaustive list) Darragh, Rachel, Sue, Gary, Elise, C├ędric, Adele, Samira, Pieter, Don, Tracey and the boys from the resort shouting “GO BOSS” from the window of their bus to work.

HOT!!

Grandson Ollie could have commentated here – one of his first words was “HOT” as he was warned clear of mugs of tea etc.

After turning in Negril and heading back past the start & finish area, the route headed out past our hotel. Which we did four times!

Our goals were simple: have fun and try to finish. The build up to this holiday has been rather demanding and family illnesses and caring issues, for a while, looked like jeopardising the trip.

So lining up at the start line felt like an achievement and a massive relief. Not as much of a relief as the timely positioning of a (already well used!) portaloo at about 5 miles…….

After the 1300 or so 10k runners had peeled off to turn for home, that left us running with the Half Marathoners heading back towards home.

You don’t like reggae?? Probably not the marathon for you, these guys were everywhere

The Half was won in 1h15 and a lovely chap staying at our hotel, Steve, came 5th in 1h25. Of course they were too quick to enjoy what we were going to be treated to……….. It was going to get really HOT!!!

We got to the half way point, where the field was packed with partying finishers from the shorter races, in just under 2h 30m. With the temperature rapidly rising and the sun getting higher in the sky……..

HOT!!!

As the 2nd half started the frequency of seeing other runners diminished but that only made those of us still out there even more determined to high five and cajole each other, shouting determinedly our encouragement.

HOT!! the roads were lonely and exposed making the last hour quite brutal. Nicky was starting to wilt as I tried to help by running with my shadow cast over her.

We repeatedly crossed the road in search of shade and were more than ‘quite’ relieved to see the mile 26 sign and run in our traditional hand holding style!

I truly AM blessed.

“Made it!!!”

2 years ago when we were here the finish area was pretty much packed up by the time we arrived. It was no different this year, the stage and p.a. had already been dismantled as had the bar etc. Luckily we had preempted this and frozen a couple of bottles of coke and put them in our drop bag.

Nectar!

This event gets listed by many in those ‘must do’ lists. It’s easy to see why….

Like Seaton on Grizzly day, the whole town chips in. The main road is closed all morning (apart from a free shuttle bus service which crawls up and down all day). The early morning, torch lit start is quite magical. The sounds, sights and colours (especially in the first half) are quite magnificent and the atmosphere amongst the runners is special and really heart warming.

The route is repetitive and tedious, especially noticeable as it gets hotter. BUT we just focussed on the amazing place we’re in and had (and are having) an absolute BALL!

Will we be back?

To Jamaica? Undoubtedly

To Negril? Almost certainly

To do the marathon???…….

Maybe the 10k………

5h12m47s

5h12m47s

So two years ago we completed the Reggae Marathon in 5h12m47s…. Competition time…… How long will we take on Saturday when hopefully it’s not quite as warm as today!!! A lovely 5k beach run this morning whilst Nicky swam. Were an active bunch here in the Athletes’ Village! So post in the comments a guess at how quickly we’ll go on Saturday – first (and only) prize us, er, er….. A MENTION IN THE BLOG!!! Guesses on here on on my Facebook page. Three Little Birds courtesy of these cool guys Jogging in the early morning sun Art? “Ya Mon…. Boat trip today??” Nicky will be looking to gate crash international group photos this year too!