I left home this morning thinking I’d maybe run a few local loops to trudge out a bunch of miles and tick that ‘long run’ box.
Luckily, I changed my mind as I closed the gate and watched my intrepid, half iron distance training, inspirational and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky, peddle off into the sunrise.
Planning to arrive home to coincide with her ‘transition’ to runner after her ride gave me 3 hours to play with. Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will be familiar with the term ‘dog run’ – a run where the route is determined by spur of the moment decisions or sudden urges to investigate new paths (as introduced by the lovely chaps on the Running Commentary Podcast)
So, to give you guys a break from my words….. 23 pictures (one from each mile) of todays run…
Sporting a shiny new MOT certificate the trusty Micra bumped across the field to be directed into a lovely parking space by the familiar face of Jamie.
Jamie has featured in this blog on numerous occasions as he tends to be omnipresent in the local trail running community.
And here he was, at the crack of dawn marshalling the car park for Pure Trail’s Race The Tide.
Good job he was. “Take your kit for inspection at the registration tent Kev”
Ahhh. I immediately remembered NOT packing my running jacket…..
So, as I collected my race number and tucked Jamie’s jacket into my running pack after he had saved the day, the sun was already beating ahead of the 8am start. Hopefully I won’t be needing it I mused as I poured myself a coffee from my flask and humbly offered Jamie a cup as a thoroughly inedaquate thank you.
There was a healthy looking gathering of far better organised athletes than I mulling around the start line as I sauntered into the pack.
It’s not the same on the start line without Nicky, I can’t lie. I absolutely love running and enjoy many a solo hour on the trails but there’s nothing quite like lining up with my beautiful lady wife for these scenic trail events.
In the circumstances, Nicky on a powerful recovery from a calf injury and focusing on her Half Iron Distance triathlon in a months time, she was happy to be tackling the 16 mile version whilst I faced the full blown 29.
With Nicky, along with fellow Half competitors Martin & Abi, plus our ever present supporter, Gloria, arriving some time later, I wasn’t my most organised self, in fact, without Nicky guiding me, I did well to be dressed, and was still mentally checking I’d got everything I wanted to take in my running pack as we set off into the Flete Estate.
I’d been originally training for a 60 mile event this weekend, as regular blog readers will know, so the theory was I should be ‘comfortable’ with the prospect of tackling half the distance….
Having enjoyed the Half Marathon last year (check out the blog HERE), I was looking forward to once again enjoying the runnable trails through the Estate alongside the River Erme. Once over the upstream bridge, the route winds its way back towards the sea before the marathon route splits off and heads off towards the River Avon.
Running through woodland, river trails, farmland, footpaths and quiet lanes, this really is trail runners heaven. And the best was yet to come.
Regular readers will know, I am rubbish at recalling accurate mile by mile, blow by blow accounts of my runs, so forgive me if I ramble randomly…..
So heading towards the sea again, running periodically with some great company – Gus, David and Rebecca, we caught up with two more runners. Luke and Adam, both regulars on the trail running scene, who appeared to be wading into the sea!! They believed they had already reached the point at which they should be ‘racing the tide’ and had taken on the fast moving current.
They decided to backtrack and helpfully gestured us to not take the same path as them, which meant we momentarily snuck past them as they squelched across the sand. There was much hilarity and banter as we crossed the sand and headed for Burgh Island. The Island is accessible without getting your feet wet at low tide and we got bemused, even admiring glances, from day trippers as we climbed up for our loop of the island.
This is truly a breath taking area of natural beauty and it was a treat to be enjoying it all in such glorious weather. Off the beach, we came to one of the fabulous aid stations. Further adding to the lovely family atmosphere generated by Pure Trail events, this food market of a checkpoint was manned by the parents of one of the Pure Trail’s event organisers. I managed to get a picture of Steve’s Mum and Dad which, in the case of his Mum, is quite a rarity.
So, fuelled again by coke, water melon and Jaffa cakes, I set off to enjoy the coast path between Bigbury and the actual ‘Race The Tide’ crossing at Mothercombe.
Gus and I had barely started saying “So, poles, do they really help……” when Luke deftly produced his and sped past us up the next grassy hill!
We reached the crossing of the Erme with plenty of time to spare before the incoming tide arrived and we ventured onto the next section of glorious coastline. The route is so beautiful, demanding for sure, but stunning, that as we turned back in land after about 23 miles, I started to feel a twinge of sadness that we’d reached the final 10km….
Every aid station we passed was stuffed with such a wonderful array of goodies, it would be easy to pile weight on DURING the run. The watermelon though, wow, how utterly refreshing was that!
Turning back along the Erme Estuary for the final trudge back up to the finish line, I had a wave of pride at my performance. Not because of the time I’d taken, or the position I’d finished, but because I seem to be getting so much better at judging my effort level to get maximum pleasure out of my time out on the course.
*NOTE FROM NICKY – He’s also under strict instructions not to end up in the medic’s tent like after his Eden Marathon ‘efforts’!
And what a course.
Due to the way the different distances of the day’s races were timed, I managed to cross the line about a minute before, our great friend, Martin, a regular feature in this blog. He hadn’t been with us last year and I just knew he was going to be waxing lyrical, in his sexy brummie twang, about how gorgeous the route is. And he was, he also loved it
Another great friend, Gloria, had enjoyed a lovely walk and paddle in the Erme before setting herself in prime position for finish line photos.
Before long Abi, another great friend, fresh from her marathon debut in London, and Nicky, were giggling their way through a mock sprint finish to the line. They had nattered and munched and selfied their way around the beautiful route and Abi declared it her new favourite race!
The School House Café literally next door to the event field, was our destination for mammoth cakes and happy musings of a wonderful day.
Asked how much I enjoyed it, I declared it to be, out of all the events I’ve ever tackled WITHOUT Nicky by my side, it is my absolute favourite. Pure Trail give their events that feeling of being involved in something quite epic, whilst keeping the atmosphere of hanging out with your mates and family. The route was well thought out and maximised this incredible location, the marshals and organisers were all smiles and supportive, with so many experienced trail and ultra runners on the ‘staff’ for the day, the participants were more than safe and catered for.
I was sooooo busy enjoying the views I forgot to take much in the way of photographs but hope I’ve captured the flavour of a wonderful day.
FOOTNOTE – After 107 blog posts, you’d think I’d start to understand WordPress a bit better. apologies for some of the picture captions!
Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.
We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.
Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.
Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.
Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.
I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.
Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.
I can only report what I find.
I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.
But not always.
I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.
Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.
Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.
Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.
She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”
She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.
I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.
My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!
These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.
Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.
A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.
As I say, I can only report what I see.
Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.
Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.
But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!
And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.
A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.
The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!
Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.
But you are a motor mechanics garage, I mean, you have ramps and spanners and overalls and things. AND you did the MOT test. AND you did the last MOT test. Interestingly, even though the car has barely moved between the two tests, it has failed on DIFFERENT ITEMS. None of which, apparently, are within your remit to repair. For money. I mean, if, for example, you asked me to fit a patio, you’d be surprised if I said “Yes, I can see you need some hard-core compacting, a blinding of sand, some paving slabs and a mix or two of mortar. That’ll be £50 please, give me a ring when you’ve laid it and if it still isn’t laid probably, I’ll have another look at it and that’ll be another £50 please. And you still won’t have a patio. Because, and let’s see if we can define our roles here, I’M A BUILDER AND YOU’RE A CAR MECHANIC!!!”
I thought giving the business to a local independent outfit, in the village where I am, amongst other things, laying a patio (that’s what I do, you see), I could avoid missing time off work and if the car had any apparently minor faults, I would give them the trade and employ them to carry out the repairs.
I’ve been told I’ve got to let it go now…….. AND burrreeeeeeve….
So that’s something I’m not loving this week.
Something I am into this week? How about the fantastic blog by speedy Welsh runner Russell Bentley. Check it out HERE. Russell is a super quick runner with a great story and a fantastic writer to boot. We’re very similar – we’re both builders, we both own SH!TE cars, we both write and keep blogs and we both love a bit of running……. Ok his best marathon time is an hour quicker than mine and he is a mere child by comparison. Finishing 2nd in The Chester Half a week after running 2.29 in The London Marathon, he is a proper old school gutsy performer.
And my own running, well, really happy and enjoying lacing up the pumps. I cajoled my aching, aging limbs (the sand barrowing has taken its toll this week, along with the usual erratic sleep patterns!) from the warm snuggly duvet den and headed off to try and squeeze in our ‘go to’ 10 mile route in before work.
I decided to try and average about 8 minutes per mile and set my watch to just show me average pace and time. I do find that when I set off intending to run at a ‘tempo’ I need to put a bit more effort in to start with to get my heart and lungs working and then they are less likely to object to the effort level as the run goes on.
A bit like in last week’s Parkrun (Blog HERE), I was surprised as I admired the reflection my gangly, random running gait in the shiny windows of the newly converted Tesco Express and then glanced at my watch, to discover I was averaging 7m15s per mile, and I know this is about a mile into the run.
“I wonder how long I can keep this up?” my sleepy brain asked, sending a challenge to my creaking joints. About 9 miles was the rather surprising reply. And I did. Easing off for the last mile but still returning home in time to steal a kiss from my beautiful lady wife before she headed out for her day of adventure. Yup. Winning this morning.
So our weekend is looking lovely and full, we’ve both put our names down to volunteer at Parkrun on Saturday morning. Then at tea time on Saturday we’re off to have a crack at the Pennywell Pursuit 10k. Hoping for a longish trail run on Sunday and I also need to try and mend the NEW faults for my jalopy’s latest attempt at getting an M. O. feckin’ T.
Oh, and I’ll tell you what else Nicky and I did this week. We went to a running group. I know!! With other people and everything! We’re becoming quite the gregarious social animals…..
There’s a new 24 hour gym opening soon, literally down the road from us. Whilst we’re not really ‘gym’ people, they have started a running group. So we jogged down there on Monday after work and enjoyed a really good session incorporating a warm up, some drills and core work, some short fast efforts, some easy running and longer efforts. A bit of stretching too. Trainer, Lewis, has gathered a lovely friendly and varied group together and made the hour work for everyone and it felt lovely and inclusive. If anyone is local to us and wants to try it out it’s free – check out their Facebook stuff HERE.
We’re planning an epic Bank Holiday walk on Monday so will probably miss next week’s running group and will try and hobble there the following week. We’re doing the RACE THE TIDE the previous day (Nicky doing the 16 mile ‘half’ whilst I attempt the 29 mile ‘marathon’). We did the half last year and had a fabulous time – read all about it HERE.
All You Have To Do Is Dream sang Bob Dylan. Well, who’s to say he’s wrong. He sang quite a lot of words, and still does. Were you to compile every single lyric, poem or prose by the great folk poet, you’d have quite a tome.
I’ve been busy making some decisions to help me focus on those dreams which, ultimately, are the dreams which matter. Trying to avoid completely ‘outcome focussed’ goals.
I guess we all crave more leisure time, and maybe we can all be guilty of measuring the success of how we spend our time by the ‘outcomes’.
A bit of self-critical analysis has me thinking I’ve been a bit guilty of this in my writing. I mean, it’s absolutely lovely when readers engage with my wittering, and I really enjoy the process of creating content which might just give someone else pleasure.
BUT, I’ve found I’ve been putting myself under pressure to write a couple of regular articles for online publications, to deadlines. I fully appreciate that all budding writers start out as ‘amateurs’ and have to find the time to write around the real world of their ccommitments. BUT (again, starting a sentence with ‘BUT’! Lazy writing…) when we’re all so time poor, let’s focus on the things which give us most pleasure.
As regular blog readers will know I’m in the embryonic stages of writing a book (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of researching my characters’ backgrounds and letting them reveal themselves to me. The plot thickness each day, I let the story meander around my head when I’m digging a hole at work, or plodding along the coast path.
The beauty of the book writing is that I am under no pressure to produce an ‘outcome’ in a specific time frame and so if I can write a bit, I will, if not then I won’t. And nobody will be any the wiser. Except a couple of people have said ‘So when are we going to see this book?’!
By coincidence, Nicky and I both came to similar conclusions about our training on Sunday morning. I set off for a long run as Nicky set off for her bike ride and we arrived home within a few minutes of each other three and a half hours later. We’d both made our routes up as we went along, concluding that, despite us both having ‘goal’ events we should definitely be making sure we enjoy every minute of our exercising. Check out my run HERE and Nicky’s ride HERE
Some views from my run…
The previous day, after a sleep deprived and extremely tiring and challenging week, we forfeited our endurance plans in exchange for coffee and a lie-in and jogged to our local Parkrun at the Torbay Velopark. It turns out, with a bit of rest and recovery, we’re both fitter and faster than we give ourselves credit for.
Nicky ran a Parkrun PB whilst I set off in pursuit of some fellow 50something chaps who are always around to share a run and a joke (and they normally whop me!). I astounded myself by running faster than for a year or more and snuck in front of all of them for a 1st Vet 50 finish. Rather chuffed I don’t mind admitting. Neil, (a very old friend) in particular, and I have shared plenty of bragging rights over the years and I have no doubt he’ll be claiming them back at the first opportunity!
So, like my running, my writing will be more about enjoying what I can do, when I can do it. Maybe, just maybe, like with my running, there’ll be the occasional ‘success’ in writing too. Whatever that looks like. But the true measure of success will be….. well, like this blog post, something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Bob Dylan loves his writing, amongst a thousand prophetic and poetic quotes he says….
“Take care of all of your memories, you can’t relive them”
At every junction I selected a direction on Sunday’s run and hummed “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”.
I know of people who might run around the block if their running device of choice indicated a distance of 4.9 miles as they approach home………
……I take that to new levels. If I think there might be a chance of bumping into Nicky whilst out on my runs I will alter course, speed up, slow down, run around in circles…
She may be running herself, cycling , or walking the dog, but I’ll try and have a ‘chance encounter’ wherever possible.
I guess it’s one of the millions of lovely symptoms of being in love! As I’ve documented on many occasions in this blog, my life with Nicky truly is amazing, Like living my whole life riding a wave of love and adventure and challenges, I truly treasure every single moment.
So, last Saturday we both planned to do the Torbay Velopark Parkrun. I was also hoping to run somewhere between 15 and 20 miles, including the Parkrun and then the 1.5 miles or so home. Nicky, with her ‘Familiarisation Day’ looming, was aiming to run to and from the Parkrun.
After about 12 miles I found myself looping around our house in the hope of casually bumping into Nicky and then running together. Success! Ahhhh, the course of true love!
So we jogged to the Parkrun, Nicky ran much quicker than she ever gives herself credit for whilst I puffed and panted my way around about 5 minutes slower than my best!
My mission to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP) is going well!
A 3.30AM alarm the following day. That’s 3.30 AM!! Yes, a really early start to attach Nicky’s and Martin’s bikes to the roof of the trusty Mini, and we headed off for The Cotswolds. Our splendid friend, Martin, notorious on the blog, didn’t disappoint with his chatter, nor his infamous sugar intake, as the day went on.
They’re doing a middle distance triathlon in June you see (like a Half Ironman, but not of that brand!), so they jumped at the opportunity to go to a familiarisation day at the actual venue to be used on the day.
We arrived at Lake 32, Cotswold Water Park, a little early to be confronted by a locked gate, a few cars waiting to pass through it and some people wandering around on mobile phones. It soon became clear, as the gate was opened, that we were clogging up the entrance for members waiting to have their early morning swim in this excellent facility.
So we span the mini wheels up a grass banked and claimed our spot for the day. There were already several people in the lake enjoying the variety of well marked out routes.
How come I’m not joining them I hear you cry??? Well, firstly, I am really focussing on trying to become Beardy Ultra Man Plodding (#ProjectBUMP), secondly I have appointed myself chief supporter, bag carrier, driver, coffee drinking cameraman for Nicky’s challenge and THIRDLY, I simply can’t multi-task like my beautiful wife!
My pride in Nicky just grows and grows, she waded into the (admittedly rather inviting looking) lake and my heart swelled with love as her and the Silver Fox started to plough across the lake.
We’d bought Taste The Difference cookies, the chocolate shortbread ones AND the flapjacky ones. A sneaky chomp on a couple of them kept me munching away as I tried to pick out the Devon crew amongst the mass of swimmers.
“MARTIN, MARTIN, MAAAARTIN” I yelled at the guy in the Orca wetsuit wearing the River Dart 10k Swim cap stood in the shallows…….. he eventually turned around and revealed himself to be…… a complete stranger!
Once they’d emerged safe and sound and changed we had some coffee from the little café onsite and Martin gave their sugar supplies a healthy kicking, the crew on duty from Cotswold 113 events started to take charge of the day.
The bike carrier had made a successful debut meaning the trusty Penny Farthings were ready to join the mass ride. Apologies to anyone trying to drive around Cirencester on Sunday.
After a few wardrobe decisions in the growing heat, Martin went for a duffle coat and Nicky was nigh-on naked, they became part of the mass clicking of cleats.
The nice lad on the gate informed me that the trails around the lakes were about 2 miles long, so I took the opportunity to do a few laps. After 4 of these laps the lovely location was starting to lose its novelty value, so I added some variety by running a final one anti-clockwise to get a different viewpoint of the scenery.
And then Nicky and Martin whizzed back into ‘transition’ and changed into their running gear whilst I racked the bikes back on the roof. Slick. Well, not quite slick, but certainly more efficient than I’d imagined it would be.
And so I snuck into the pack of budding triathletes and joined them for the 4.5 mile recce of the run route. A lovely stop-start trot with a very informative run guide pointing out the main points of the route.
By complete coincidence, we ran on some of the Thames Path, at the point where I would have been in the last few miles of the T60 had it not, unfortunately, been cancelled. And on that note, don’t forget, the lovely people at T Series Racing have given the blog a place in their T100 later in the year to give away. FOR FREE.
If you fancy winning a place in that 100 mile ultra marathon in August then check out my previous blog post HERE.
Anyway, another week is soon to become another weekend……
Welcome to the 100th episode of this little blog of mine.
To celebrate, here is your chance to win an absolutely FREE entry into the T Series 100 mile ultra marathon. Find out all about it RIGHT HERE.
It’s on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th August, starts at the Thames Barrier in London and finishes in Streatley. The lovely people at T SERIES RACING have given the blog a FREE PLACE to give away.
HOW TO WIN…
SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN THE PLACE. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.
JUST TO CONFIRM….. SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN.
While you’re here, you may like to see what else I ramble about…..
I compiled a ‘best of the blog’ for 2017, check it out HERE
By way of a quick introduction, I am a 50something runner, sharing an amazing life of endurance adventure with my beautiful, precious, inspirational, wife and soul mate, Nicky. We care for her father, Frank, who is sadly suffering with Dementia. We also have Charlie, the Border Terrier, who features regularly on the blog.
I’m also a proud Step Dad and Grandad and this also features regularly in my wittering.
I’m also an aspiring writer……. I keep another (very) occasional blog which charts my all too intermittent efforts at moving my novel along. With its working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners, it trundles along…… slowly!
The fact that I’m a builder by day also features regularly in the blog as my daily efforts quite often impact my planned running.
The blog is a hobby and I absolutely love writing it. If each post brought a moment’s pleasure to just one reader it would make me a happy, and proud, writer.
Thank you for taking the time to check out the blog, and do check out the T Series event in August, I am so very grateful to them for donating this place, giving one reader an opportunity to test themselves along this iconic trail.
SO, THE COMPETITION AGAIN: SIMPLY POST A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG AND YOU WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE DRAW TO WIN A PLACE IN THE T-SERIES 100 MILE ULTRA MARATHON ON 24TH/25TH AUGUST 2018. YOU HAVE UNTIL MIDNIGHT ON FRIDAY 27TH APRIL TO GET YOUR ENTRY IN. THE DRAW FOR THE PLACE WILL TAKE PLACE LIVE ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE AT 7PM ON SATURDAY 28TH APRIL 2018.