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!
So, we’ve been having #baconsandwichfriday for a while now. Well, the best customer ever raised the bar this week….
Which was the perfect set up for a packed long weekend.
Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will know this, but for newcomers (hello newcomers!) the general gist of this blog is to share the tales of adventure of myself and my wonderful lady wife, Nicky. Aside from the many yarns spun about running (and cycling and swimming in Nicky’s case) there are accounts of the tears, frustrations, challenges, occasional comedy and heartbreak of being carers for Nicky’s dad, Frank.
There’s the occasional opinion, but we try and avoid politics, I wax lyrical about my pride and privilege of being a step dad to Nicky’s gorgeous daughters and proud grandad to the three rugrats.
But mostly, though, it is a vehicle for me to tell the world how utterly blessed I am to get to spend my life with the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring lady in the whole wide world.
The Bank Holiday weekend.
Nicky and I made our Parkrun volunteer debuts this week – I got to stand in some long wet grass and cheer close to 300 participants as they rounded the cones about 2.5 miles in to their runs. Nicky had THREE jobs, holding up the ’25 minute’ placard to help the start line organise itself, then directing the runners out into the field after their two laps on the Velopark tarmac before she rushed over to become a barcode scanner to ensure everyone gets allocated their finishing time.
A wonderful thing is that there Parkrun, and the team at Torbay Velopark Parkrun is rightly proud of the fabulous atmosphere they have created. This weeks run director, Roger (and everyone else we have met) was so courteous, informative and clear and it was a real pleasure to become part of their ‘team’.
It won’t be the last time we help out.
Said run director, Roger, was to feature a couple more times on our Saturday…… As I chose a lovely slab chocolate orange cake in a splendid nearby café a bit later, I heard his dulcet tones ordering himself a coffee too. We had another brief chat and then Nicky and I enjoyed our refreshments and sauntered home.
So that was the last we would see of Roger until……. Saturday afternoon…… we went to Pennywell Farm for the Pennywell Pursuit 10k at teatime, a THHN charity event. There was Roger, yet again donning a hi-viz ready to be tail runner for this great race.
Where WOULD local running be without Roger?
Wow what a lovely event. Nearly 6 miles of quite brutal terrain on what is normally private land. Everybody arriving back at the finish line concurred “THAT WAS REALLY HARD”
With a dead phone and dead running watch I enjoyed toeing the start line ‘naked’ of technology. Feeling strong, I lined up near the front for a change and catapulted myself into the first bend on the gravel path with the leaders.
I reckon I was with them for, oooo, 10, maybe even 11 meters before my gasping for air gave me the clue I needed to realise I was probably going too fast.
The route is relentlessly up and down, across hoof ravaged fields and gorgeous woodland trails. The beauty took my mind of the constant battle for footing and breath. I absolutely love this sort of running.
With the lead group gone I just ran as hard as I could and was only overtaken by 2 or 3 more athletic chaps before getting back to the farm for the ‘sprint’ to the finish.
It turns out I was 12th!!
Nicky charged in shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a lovely burger before firing up the mini for home.
A truly smashing event with about 150 runners. It was very well supported, in particular, by Torbay Athletic Club, it was good to catch up with Steve, a good trail running mate who was their mascot for the day….
Whilst Nicky took herself off for a million miles on the bike, I set off across my local park and through the sleeping BMAD festival to get on Paignton beach and join the coast path to Brixham. I was holding back the effort level with creaky legs from the previous night’s trials on the trails and half an eye on next week’s ‘long’ marathon (Pure Trail’s Race The Tide, check it out HERE) which meant I could simply enjoy this glorious route.
Once in Brixham I ran through the setting of their Pirate Festival as it recovered from its Saturday excesses and past a visiting Spanish galleon.
I enjoy the coast path so much I simply ran to the end of Brixham breakwater then turned around and ran home again the same way. Check out the run HERE
So I’d had my long run, showered and was busy cutting the grass when Nicky arrived back from her epic cycle declaring “I’m bricking it, are you coming?”
Well I could hardly decline and whipped off my gardening shorts, whipped on my running kicks and we whipped out for a 3 mile run. Check it out HERE
Nicky’s a month or so away from her Cotswold 113 half iron-distance triathlon you see, hence the Brick sessions.
Not satisfied with our exercise for the day we headed off to Stoke Gabriel with Charlie (the Border Terrier, another regular in the blog) and found a little hidey place by the river to sun ourselves. Charlie mostly preferred the shade though….
Amyway – on to Bank Holiday Monday.
We haven’t done an epic walk together for so long. We certainly put that right.
Roughly based on a loop I’d ran the previous week, we indulged ourselves in a 20 mile hike in the belting sunshine around the glorious South Devon countryside. The trails and quiet lanes were sparsely populated meaning we got to enjoy the wonderful landscapes on offer without the Bank Holiday masses.
I’d taken Charlie for a 3 mile jog before we went as the forecast temperatures and length of the walk wouldn’t have been much fun for the little fella. Check out Charlie’s run HERE
We were out for 9 hours. One of the billion reasons I love and cherish every second of my blessed life with Nicky is that time simply becomes irrelevant when we are together. We never tire of each others’ company and Nicky never fails to amuse me, entertain me, inspire me and challenge me and I am humbly devoted to being everything I possibly an be for her too.
We didn’t even fight over the Jelly Babies. Saying that, I have to prove I’ve only taken 3 after I’ve double checked how many she has in her hand! We’ve been known to chase each other across fields for a bite of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg if we feel we’re owed it!
Check out the walk HERE
Anyway. There’s my Big Blog for the Big Weekend
Something lovely from the internet you say?
How about the YouTube channel of a very old friend, Clint, still making lovely acoustic covers of lovely songs………
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’m self employed. Saying that, I’ve mostly worked for the same small firm for the last two years. I did go out on loan for a while (see THIS BLOG), but even that was for a friend of my current boss. Though I’m self employed, said boss still texted me to check I was OK with travelling to and from the customers’ house on both SNOWMAGGEDON days this week.
“It’s OK,” I cheerfully responded, “I’ll run home”. Secretly hoping for a white deluge, I stuffed a load of running gear in a rucksack and drove the 6 miles to work. Rather disappointingly, on Wednesday, the threatened snow barely materialised and the trusty Micra scuttled me safely home.
And then scuttled me back to work Thursday morning. The difference being, the snow actually came on Thursday. And didn’t it.
Another text from my boss, basically saying have a half day, “It’s OK, I’ll run home.” I reassured. Then the call from Nicky came. She was more insistent now that the weather had deteriorated sufficiently for her office to close early. For those who are new to the blog… WELCOME!!…. Nicky is my wife, my inspiration, my heartthrob, my passion, my reason, my life. Feel free to read back through the blog for more, suitably gushy, posts about how I treasure every moment of our lives together and the incredible adventures she dreams up for us.
I am learning to understand when “I think you should leave now” means “You ARE leaving now.” Not to worry about the chances of the Micra getting home in one piece, I reported…. “I’ll run home!”.
So, as Nicky left her office a couple of miles from home, I washed up my decorating gear (by the way, once this project is finished I’ll be striking out on my own, so if you’re local and have property repairs or renovations needed…. get in touch) and donned several layers of running attire.
“When you said ‘it’s ok, I’ll run home’, we thought you were joking!” exclaimed the customer as a thick veil of snow started to hide the rather tatty Micra from the beaky eyes of their neighbours.
An hour and a half later, I met Nicky sat in stranded traffic at the bottom of our road! Torbay ground to a halt as the heaviest snow I can remember combined with a ferocious easterly storm to close roads and challenge the authorities and emergency services.
For me, though, what a treat, running 6 miles on crisp fresh snow on the country lanes. T’was quite beautiful.
I’m always jealous of those people with their ideal jobs, showers at work, gym on site. So many magazine articles suggest ‘squeezing a run in at lunch time’ for those of us with time-poor lives. Not much use for us hairy-arsed builders. Unless we want to stink all afternoon. The same goes for running to work – I’d have to carry so much (I have an ENORMOUS lunch box – come on now, no sniggering at the back!) and would be rather sweaty and smelly.
That leaves running home as the only possibility. The challenge here being, again, carrying my work clothes and paraphernalia and, of course, then not having my car to get to work in the morning. For a long time I cycled to work trying desperately not to be a sweaty mess on arrival and weighed down by so much STUFF.
So, with work related runs not really an option for me, yesterday was a real treat. Emerging from the silent, bright white lanes into the ring road on the outskirts of Paignton, I saw the full extent of the travel chaos. I helped a couple of motorists battling the challenging conditions up the first hill before zigzagging my way home via more unused tracks and lanes.
Since the advent of cameras on mobile phones and the instant world of information we now live in, we are all ‘on the spot’ journalists to our little world.
Nicky, Charlie (the intrepid Border Terrier) and I ventured out into the snow last night for a great fun walk, and to record Paignton in the snow – not something we see very often. We avoided the beach area, Storm Emma was throwing crazy waves up and over the prom.
We should all consider those less able to cope than us, the frail, the elderly and keep an eye out for our neighbours. I have to say, it’s been heart warming to see the army of 4X4 vehicle owners and those with spare rooms near hospitals, some pubs, shops and cafes, all start to offer their generous and selfless support once the extent of the extreme weather became apparent. Getting people safe and warm and where they need to be was the mission and so many joined the cause.
In a world where nobody has any time for anyone, there has been a real sense of community around here, and I for one think that is a fine thing.
Saying that, Nicky and I are grandparents ourselves, but nobody had traipsed across the snow currently covering our garden to ask us if we need any bread or milk….
So, this morning a lovely run of nearly 7 miles with Nicky and Charlie (see HERE) was slightly hampered by a lot of the snow being too deep for Charlie’s little pins! He’s collapsed on the sofa now and avoiding eye contact! But how beautifully the forces of nature had prepared the countryside for us today us today.
So another week of limited running has bizarrely been rescued by the very weather which has hindered people getting out at all.
Nicky’s troublesome calf seems to be giving cause for very tentative optimism and our entries into the 2 Oceans Marathon have finally been confirmed. Little by little……..
Hoping for two long outings over the weekend, watch this space……
It’s been too long. (“NOT LONG ENOUGH!” some might yell)
Anyway, I’m back. Assuming I get to the end of this post…… AND POST IT!
We all have challenging weeks. Sometimes they are challenging in, you know, FUN and challenging way. Sometimes they are seemingly never ending and challenging. Sometimes they are AARRRGGGHHH!!! challenging.
Well, last weekend I had the pleasure of dot watching. Tracking the competitors in The Arc Of Attrition. They were having a FUN challenging weekend. I’m sure on the North Cornwall Atlantic coast, in a barrage of the South West’s finest weather, after 24+ hours of perpetual motion, the word ‘fun’ wasn’t on many of their lips!
Well, this blog first started around the time of The Arc Of Attrition a year ago. I wrote THIS PIECE musing on the possibilities of the apparently impossible.
A couple of challenging weeks for us. Aside from the usual challenges of exhausting days at work, caring for Nicky’s dad and trying to squeeze the quart that is our life into the pint pot that is our leisure time, we have had some ‘issues’ around our trip to South Africa.
We both had a day off work last week for our (shared – ahhhh) birthdays and decided to set out for our planned long training run. To cut a long story (and a long run) short….. 12.5 miles in and PING, ouch, ooo…. a hopping, cursing Nicky. One of her infamously tight and quite frankly STRONG calf muscles decided to stop play…….
A taxi home (oo, taxi driving? A career change may be looming, might this be for me?) and a solemn reflection of where this leaves our 2 Oceans ambitions.
And there in lies a story……
Tuesday before last we finally got our vouchers to enter the 2 Oceans Marathon. Tum te tum. Quick log in and enter all the usual personal information, email addresses, and, er, hang on, details of the QUALIFYING RACE!!!
To cut (another) long story short, the company through which we booked the trip clearly pointed out that we needed to have completed a qualifying race between September 2016 and February 2018. Lovely – although we have been off doing trails and ultras and triathlons and swims, we both met the qualifying criteria at North Dorset Villages Marathon last May (Nicky smashed her PB – read about that HERE). Tick.
But, now we can log on to the 2 Oceans website, they want a qualifying time achieved between July last year and February this. OH!!
After numerous panicked phone calls and emails – we STILL aren’t confirmed as entrants. It really is panic time. The UK based company has admitted its error, but that doesn’t really help right now…… hhhhmmmm
Back to Nicky’s calf trouble – well the nice man at the sports injury place hasn’t written off her chances just yet…….hhhhhhmmmmmm
Me? What about me, you say? I’ve got this horrible nagging niggly cough and a horrible nagging niggly doubt in my head that we’ll be seeing the 2 oceans from the top of Table Mountain rather than the road!!! I’ve managed just the one tiny run in the last 7 days……
In the big scheme of things….. A big, horrible health scare in our family this week shadowed any of the other problems and reinforced just how fragile our precious lives are anyway…. fortunately, whilst the person is still poorly, nothing sinister or long term has been found. Just makes you think though…..
We were still having ‘perspective’ when the car repair came in at £665 pounds. GULP!!
BUT at least I managed an ickle tromp through the mud with Charlie today – not sure how 4.5 miles in a week will pass as preparation for my supposed ambitions, but onwards……….
We are sort of keeping the *** ****** under our hats at the moment. 35 miles of epicness at Easter. In another country. So we’ve started dialling in the road miles for the Saturday long runs. Except I didn’t quite master the mapping tool app……. Nicky was ever so pleased as we squelched our way along a few very wet (non) roads.
“Do you mind if we join you on this massive table designed for 6 people, in front of the fire, as there’s only 2 of you?” I enquired whilst hanging our dripping running jackets on the back of 2 of the chairs.
“Er…… I suppose so…”
So our 20 mile road (and non-road) Dartmoor run ended with a hearty breakfast in the Fox Tor café in Princetown. I’m sure it wasn’t the faint aroma of the drying sweaty running kit adorning our bedraggled bodies which put our reluctant neighbour off his SECOND fruit scone….
So with my other eye on the T60 (which I don’t think is a secret now) I set off early on Sunday for a few hours of mud squelching around the glorious Devon countryside. Foul weather, atrocious conditions, bloody loved it……..
I’m writing this on Wednesday. I thought I’d start including my training log in the blog. You lovely people can see how a 50 something year old, time poor, pork pie eating, physical worker with caring commitments is trying to prepare for an overnight 60 mile race.
Erratically but enthusiastically.
So the last week or so has looked like this……
Thurs – rest
Mon – rest
Tue – 3 x 1 mile
This morning, running for Nicky for here 3 x 1 mile, really string wind & rain
Oh and a piano update….. we haven’t quite mastered all of All Of Me…… Nicky’s daughter Lou joined us for a plonk too!