Friday, 22 February 2019

Beat the Train

We didn’t do too badly the night before. Just the 6 pints each for Adam and myself, Carl did the same but added a bottle of wine in there. We were up nice and early and on the road to Totnes for a race called “Beat the Train”. We didn’t bother with breakfast, plenty of carbs the night before with the alcohol, plus the race was only 6.8 miles. It was to start at 9.15 and despite getting stuck behind a Hare on the road for a while, we made it with lots of time to spare. This excess time was filled with coffee drinking and toilet stops and messing about trying to decide how cold it was and what to wear. I saw Shelley, the Landlady from my local pub the Minerva in Plymouth. She joked about my coffee cup being full of HSD ale. After we did a bit more moaning it was time to put the bags into the bag drop and look at how badly we had pinned our race numbers on. 

                                                                 (The train we raced)

The race briefing was told but I could barely hear it with people talking over the top. We then walked and waited for the train’s whistle to blow to mark the start of the race. We weren’t feeling too confident about the max capacity of the extension bridge on which we were stood. It was very flexible, but didn’t feel all that strong. We decided to shuffle forward a bit to get away from the middle section. 

                                                  (Race briefing: Shut up you dicks!)

The train’s whislte blew and we shuffled forward until we zig-zagged down a narrow walkway and onto a road. Shortly afterwards we hit some woods on a National cycle route. A nice trail run ensued. Muddy in places but not too bad. They did recommend trail shoes but mine were being of no use being back in Southampton. It got a lot muddier as we went on. From time to time you could hear the trains whistle blowing. Although you couldn’t see the train it gave you an indication wherever you were ahead or behind schedule.
As I ran into an open field, I could see the train stationary to my right on the other side of the river Dart. We were basically following the river from Totnes station to Staverton station and back. It was an out and back so we guessed that it would be roughly 3.4 miles each way. We also came to the conclusion that it would be flat as we were following a river, it wasn’t. 

                                         (So much love and happiness before the race)

In places the trails got a bit more technical with steps and tree roots but it was a lovely rural course with only a bit of road at the start and at the turn around point. After only 2 miles I was breathing heavily despite having a pretty slow pace. Even though I was nowhere near race fit, I was a bit worried about Carl beating me today. He is pretty new to running and this was his first real race. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing if he beat me! Anyway, I had no concern about Adam as his last run was over the xmas period. That’s right, he turns up at a race and hadn’t run for nearly 2 months! I thought he was really going to struggle as I was finding it tough just after a 2 miles. It had now started to rain as well but it was a very welcomed sensation as I was sweating out all the Ale and overheating. 

                                      (A Hare doing 30mph for about a quarter of a mile)

When the climb started, Carl caught me up. A bit too steep to run up so we walked and chatted for a bit but soon after he was gone until I got to the fast downhill road section where I passed him but didn’t take long to catch me up again and we were chatting again. We were at Staverton station now and we had just passed the water station. No sign of the train at the station. I wasn’t quite sure if we were still beating it or not. Anyway, something else soon took our minds off of this.. The first runner said something to us as he went by on the return journey. We couldn’t make out what he was saying but then more runners came and told us to turn around as there was no official turn around point.
I looked at my watch and it said 3.6 miles. We turned around and headed back. Some runners near me were cursing about the extra mileage and told the volunteers at the water station. It didn’t really bother me. I wasn’t race fit and I wasn’t going for a time on a trail race which isn’t even UKA licensed. It was just a challenge for me and to get some fitness back. I was still struggling though. 

                                                           (Carl getting "Chicked")

We saw Adam running down the hill the other way. He was behind us but I was surprised how well he was doing. Not long after, Carl left me for dead. I could see him race off into the distance. I could also hear the train just in front of me. Rather than focus on beating Carl now, I wanted to beat the train. I was struggling though. My hamstrings were really sore and didn’t like the short strides on the muddy fields. I was slidding around quite a bit and focused on staying upright.
I was happy to get back to the road and blast out some faster running. The 8 or so people who passed me on the muddy fields were now being overtaken by me as I upped my pace. I knew the train was near but then I got near the extension bridge and I knew both the train and Carl had beaten me. I still pushed on though with a strong finish. Carl was stood at the finish line taking a photo of me running in. Something I usually did to him at parkrun. Adam wasn’t too far behind either. All finished and survived with our lovely medals. Time for Bacon and sauasage baps as we watched the other runners come in and stare at the hot ladies. There were lots of hot ladies! Anyways, it was a wonderful day despite being beaten by the train and Carl. Good running conditions really. 

                                                    (Level with the train in the rain)

Apparently we were told that as soon as you arrived at the water station in Staverton, you turn around and head back. It was told in the race briefing and it was also stated in the email, but who reads emails? I thought there should have been a marshal from the water station directing runners around a cone like they do at some of the parkruns, that would have least made it more obvious to us! Hopefully they will rectify this for next year when I beat Carl and the train in my trail shoes. 

                                                  (Adam not getting "Chicked")

A great race all the same though. I ended up with 7.1 miles so not too bad at all. The winning time was 53.40, so not really a fast course at all. The train came in at 1hr and 6 secs. Carl came in 30th place in a time of 59.55. My time was 1hr 11 secs and I was 46th. Train beat me by 1 min and 5 secs. Carl beat me by 1 min and 16 secs and 16 places. Carl also beat the train by 11 secs! Well done Carl you tosser. Adam came in with a respectable 1hr 5 mins and 32 secs but he is a V45 Good running Grandad! See you next year for the rematch. 

(Carl getting a rare shot of an elite runner)
          (Adam finally finding his car keys which were just hanging around in his pocket) 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Brown Willy Run 2019

The end of January seems to be a long time coming but it’s finally here. I started the first day off with the Brown Willy Run. It sounds rather rude but it’s just a nice run from the Jamaica inn in Bolventor. The very same Jamaica Inn that was made famous by the Author Daphne Du Maurier. From this pub (which is an old coaching inn) you can actually see Brown Willy in the distance as it’s the highest point in Cornwall on Bodmin moor. The summit of Brown Willy is 420 feet above sea level or so I’ve read.

On our arrival in Carl’s shit heap of a work van, there were so many other vehicles scattered everywhere around the A30. The place was busy with all the grass verges filled. I wasn’t sure how many people did this free run every year but they had a record number of runners of 473 this year and £2730 was raised for the two charities.
We were very lucky to get a clear day, visibility was good and it was dry. It was referred to as “Benign” and “Tropical” for this run (not race) by the run director.
   After my mate Carl had whacked his head a few times on the low beams in the Jamaica Inn, we managed to sign in and donate some money to the local charities.
   Carl had never ran 7 miles before so was shitting himself a bit. I knew he’d be fine once we got running though. The plan was to jog round and clear our heads a bit from last night’s alcohol. Although Carl’s head was probably throbbing a lot more than mine now! We didn’t have too much by our standards anyway, so all was good and I felt like I was going to need a dump halfway around - which can sometimes be a problem with me and the booze.  

       The run director directed and then we were off with a nice downhill start. Immediately you’re thinking about the finish line being all uphill. It was lovely underfoot for a mile or so ans we did our best to smile at the photographers en route. Marshals guided us along and there were little orange flags that said Brown Willy on them. You really couldn’t get lost, just follow everyone else and head for a big mountain.
It was tough to decide what to wear but after a couple of miles I knew we’d be warm despite being on Bodmin Moor. My conclusion was that it’s only 7 miles, therefore you only have to keep warm for 7 miles and if you get cold, simply run faster.
I should have really thought about the prospect of getting injured. The ground becomes very uneven and rutted. The grass could be quite long and you couldn’t always see underfoot. You just kind of prayed that you were making good judgement. There were muddy areas, but a lady next to me pointed out that you were usually running under water by now. We were so lucky (apparently). My feet were still getting wet anyway because of the bogs that you couldn’t see. I nearly lost a shoe but thankfully did my laces up nice and tight in a double knot. No school boy errors for me!

The sights were wonderful out here. Such a vast open space that made you feel so small and insignificant in this world. Lots of greenery all around. It was a brisk walk when we approached a face of Brown Willy. It seems more of a hike now as we clambered upon granite rocks and hosited ourselves up to the summit. I took a moment to stop and look back. The view was incredible. Probably one of the best I had ever seen. You could see for many miles and the runners below me looked like a colony of ants crawling towards me. Sadly I had no phone with me to take that photo but the picture is still very vivid in my mind.
Meanwhile I was slipping on some of the mossy boulders. Trail shoes would have been a better idea. Carl was running in his walking boots and not long after we got to the top and slapped the trig point with our hands, he took some Haribo from a stranger and left me for dead on the descent. The problem for me was that it was too rugged. It’s roughly 3.5 miles to the top and 3.5 back to the pub and boy did I want to get back to the pub. This was a tough 7 miles. That’s if it was Seven miles. It was a rough estimate. I always like to add on a bit in my head so as to not disappoint myself after having reached 7 miles only to find I was not at the finish line or even worse.. lost.
I was very cautious as I knew my ankles were weak and often rolled on themselves easily. Now I couldn’t even see Carl, what a deserter! We were running together remember? This thought soon left me as I saw a man in front of me make one of those bad judgements with the foot placing that I was talking about. One of the bogs ate up to his knee and the weight just pulled him over. He was covered in dark, thick mud now. I did my best to help him by not putting my foot in the same place and laughing as I ran past.

   Many folk have told me that the Cornish for Brown Willy doesn’t actually translate to Brown Willy anyway. A bit like Popty ping not meaning Microwave in Welsh. I can’t remember what the translation is for Brown Willy as I have a memory like a… I don’t know what. Let’s just say it’s not too clever.
A campaign was launched in 2012 to try and change the name back to Bronn Wennili to try and gather more interest from tourists and appear more attractive to the residents. Surely the name “Brown Willy” would attract more people because of its name or is it just me that likes to seek out these funny place names. Anyway, the majority of residents declined the idea and told the campaigners to keep their hands off their Brown Willy and so the name remains. After a bit of research though, it appears that it has been named many things over the years:

Brunwenely c.1200, 1239;
Brown Wenely 1239;
Brenwenelyn 1276;
Bronwenely, Brunwely 1280;
Brounwenely 1350, 1362;
Broun Welyn 1386;
Brounwenyly 1401;
Brownwenelegh 1450, 1470;
Brounwellye, Bronwelly 1576;
Brown-wellye 1584;
Brounwellie 1639;
Menar Brownuello 1754

     The ground continued to be lumpier than my Nan’s gravy but now we were on the return route which I knew as it was an out and back course apart from the loop around the top of the Willy. We weren’t racing right? Yet the competitive side was getting the better of me. Oh my god, Carl is going to beat me in his first ever race! (It’s not a race). As soon as I got to more agreeable terrain I picked up the pace quite a bit. I was sweating and panting at this point. I still thanked all the marshals though and followed the orange flags which now said “Jamaica Inn” on them. Well it took me two miles to even spot Carl who was still wearing his big coat and woollen hat like it was minus 5 degrees.
We were now on road and less than a mile from the finish. A nice big downhill where I passed Carl and told him how hard it was to catch him. Carl was with this guy (his new running buddy) and he had asked how many Weetabix I’d had for breakfast as I passed them running at about a six minute mile pace. I do love my downhill.
Under the A30 bridge and up a long, slow climb to the pub and finish where all the supporters cheered us in with great gusto and spirit.

   I waited for Carl who wasn’t far behind and we decided that we needed to change our clothes and drink a few pints of Rattler. The pub was open and serving food to the masses but it was very busy now. Food would have to wait. Such a great way to start the new year though. I was on such a high afterwards and so proud of Carl for finishing in an impressive time despite being in such a fearful state at the start. It’s just the unknown isn’t it? I still get it at the start of every race. I once heard Mo Farah on T.V saying that if you lose that fear/anxiety at the start of a race then you’re not passionate enough and won’t do well or something like that. Anyway, it always kind of stuck with me and pops up and calms me when I’m nervous at the start line of a race.

       I couldn’t really tell you if I’d ever run it again. The views were incredible on Bodmin moor but I found the uneven lumpy terrain very frustrating at times. What else are you going to do on a New Years Day in Cornwall? Well, some crazy people did the Eden Project parkrun at 9am and then came to Brown Willy to race again! And those pints of Rattler were very refreshing and rewarding at the end. We’ll see… 

Photographs were taken by all the photographers out on the course apart from the crap one I took on my phone at the start and finish.

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018: A year in the West Country

                                        (My first race of 2018)

At the end of 2017 I left a job I quite liked and the people were nice too. I was quite fond of the place but I was sick of the daily commute. 13 miles a day on my bike through busy traffic, pollution and other angry, selfish city commuters. I needed a change! Let’s save some money and get away from it all Dean. I spent a lot of time thinking on those daily commutes. The cold weather was grinding me down. I even had a head on collision with another cyclist who wasn’t paying attention, despite a 300 lumen bike light shining towards him. I landed in the road winded, not being able to catch my breath with oncoming traffic, but managed to roll myself back onto the cycle path. I had twisted his handlebars with my ribs. I was later taken to hospital from work where they said I had cracked some ribs. This was the day after I had run the Bovington half marathon.

My last day of employment in 2017 was on the 29th of December. I did one parkrun in Southampton on the 6th of January, 2018. It was very painful with my lungs pushing against the broken ribs. I got around though and a week later my Dad drove me to Camborne in Cornwall with some belongings and my mountain bike, but mostly running shoes.
I had always waited to compete in the Cornish grand prix race series. I was now a second claim member for Newquay road runners with Lordshill still being my first.

My great and inspiring friend Chris Odgers had said I could stay with him in Camborne until I found somewhere to live. It was great. I was nervous and a bit panicky but I applied for everything and and anything job wise. He, like me is a skateboarder from when time began. I was hoping that we could skate a lot more. 

                               (Kennall Vale Nature reserve is a must visit)

In the meantime, I was out there exploring Cornwall via Bike and foot. There was only one week until my first grand prix race, the Stormforce 10 which coincidently is in Camborne.
I tried a slow 10 mile run on the mining trails that I discovered as the ribs had just recovered. But, a new problem had arisen… My leg wasn’t bending fully for some reason. It seemed to be tightening up. To cut a long story shorter, I had a complex cartilage tear in my right knee. Although it took me a very long time to find this out and much later on in the year, I finally worked out that the same bike accident where I broke my ribs was responsible for the tear in my knee. I didn’t even notice any pain until a month later. I was probably more focused on the pain of breathing, sneezing and laughing.
It took many doctor’s appointments, physio appointments and an MRI scan plus meeting with orthopaedic surgeons to find out what I now know. Which isn’t a lot to be honest!

Anyway, the Stormforce 10 didn’t happen for me but I didn’t stop trying to run a few miles or go for 5k walks. Sadly, I got a job in only 2 weeks of moving to Cornwall. It was working for a courier company lifting “Ugly parcels”. Anything from coffins to 60kg tramlines. Canoes to bikes or tractor tyres. The strain of all the heavy lifting seemed to be taking its toll on my knee. It was also very cold with a few days of snow.

                            (The Royals: Henry, Harry and George)

I had moved to a Farm in a place called Wheal Plenty, Little Sinns. It was pretty isolated living with an old lady, 3 cats and 3 alpacas. I was about 2 miles from Portreath and 3 miles from Porthtowan. Two lovely sandy beaches but very hilly as well. I was about 3 miles from Redruth as well and work was only a couple of miles away now too. Ideal! Although, I did get snowed in on the farm for a couple of days in March. Is was when the Falmouth half was supposed to happen. Luckily for an injured me, I got a refund as the race was cancelled. I tried to skate a bit with Chris and a few others but it was painful on the leg. I wasn’t keen on skating in this condition but I tried. Afterall, I’ve been filming since 2013 for my next skate film. It will get there! 

                                     (A very snowy day at work)

Problem with the farm and me not driving is that it was a 5 mile round trip walking or cycling for bread, milk or even a pint at the local?
I loved it though. I really felt connected with nature and the air felt so pure. Some days I would struggle to walk a couple of miles as the pain in my knee was so bad. I remember having a constant ache for about 3 weeks once. I would ice and be on painkillers but they did nothing. I couldn’t even sleep through the pain at night. Naproxen had no effect on me. Apparently there was swelling in the joint of the knee, although not visible. It certainly was inflamed.

                                      (My MRI report from Treliske)

Anyway, I was feeling a bit down and drinking quite a bit. Without my running I felt empty. I was feeling sorry for myself and thought I’d never run again. The doctors made it sound so, but the physios were more encouraging. I didn’t believe the physios though. I guess I was in a negative frame of mind at the time. I just cycled a lot and saw lots of places which was amazing but it’s just not running.

It wouldn’t be until my first physio meeting that I decided to venture out to Trelissick parkrun and try and get around the course. It was now spring and this was my first parkrun/race/event since leaving southampton. It was a 10 mile cycle to Trelissick from mine but it was so worth it. Most of it was flat on the coast to coast trail and then you turned off at 7 and a half miles and cycled up two of the biggest hills ever! Up into Carnon downs and then through Come-to-good.
It was 17th of March and I got around on a very cold and muddy course. I was sliding all over the place on the big hill. It was great, I loved it. I was so excited despite finishing in a time of 28.07. It was a bit painful but I did it. Right then I knew that this was my favourite parkrun in Cornwall. All the locals were so friendly and I got to know quite a few Truro road runners despite running for Newquay. I also took photos and volunteered a couple of times too. Sadly I could barely walk for a few days after that run. It felt like was back to square one. So many times I had run, felt like I was improving and then not be able to walk without pain. Later I would come to realise that it was a random thing. Somedays it hurt, other days it didn’t. One thing I did learn was that the faster I ran, the less pain suffered in the knee. This was the complete opposite of what the doctors and physios told me to do, but it worked. 

                                  (Volunteering at Trelissick) 

In April, a new parkrun had started up in Heartlands, Redruth. It was only about 4 miles from where I lived. I managed to make it along to the second one on April 28th, finishing in a time of 21.51. Despite putting on a bit of weight through the drinking, I was getting faster.

Back to Trelissick on May the 5th for an impressive time of 22.00 minutes for me on a course with a tough vertical field in it. Although, I had made trelissick my home parkrun I was still keen on the tourism. I have done all the Cornish parkruns and none of them capture the love and sense of community of Trelissick. The people certainly make the parkrun. I love that fact that you barely get 200 people at these Cornish parkruns.

               (Me and Helen before the Eden Project parkrun, hanging)

Later in May, my friends Helen and Barry came down. It was a great opportunity for us to visit Eden project parkrun on the 12th of May. It was hilly but a fast course because of the downhills. You also save yourself £25 entry fee as parkrunners get in for free!
Me and Helen had a little race and even after all the alcohol we had consumed, Helen was first lady home, which also means that I didn’t get chicked when I beat here with my athletic time of 21.00. Lordshill 1, Spitfires 0. Even so, I couldn’t walk probably for well over a week after that. Was it really worth all the pain and suffering for 21 minutes? Let’s see… 21 minutes running = 8 days of pain. It was maybe time to think about new hobbies right?

Well on the 26th of May when I could walk again, I decided to do the hardest parkrun ever. Lanhydrock. I saw fellow Lordshiller there Peter Boustred as his wife Julia was running it. He was a great support and helped me to pick up the pace near the finish. Even now I’m still impressed with my sub 23. Finishing in a time of 22.57. Weird thing was that there was hardly any knee pain after that one. This is injury/damage was just fucking with me so much mentally. Can I run or not? 

                                  (Retiring another pair of Mizunos)

I can! On the 2nd of june I ran my first sub 20 of the year at the only fast and flat parkrun in Cornwall. A 19.50 at Penrose depsite the 13 mile cycle each way. I even got to chat to Julia at the start as she and Peter were still on holiday in Cornwall. 
This was the confidence I needed as my friend Kev Willsher was down on the 16th of June. I wasn’t even really doing training runs as they would just cause aching in the knee. I must have been averaging 10 miles a week inclusive of the parkruns.
Well, Kev is a big inspiration of mine and the friendliest guy ever with a great sense of humour and a great taste in music. After we’d been on the Spingo in Helston I still felt like I had to run hard at my favourite parkrun. Of course I took Kev to Trelissick. He was 2nd in a time of 18.33! That is a crazy time of that course!!!! He wasn’t impressed with his 2nd place though. Anyway, enough of kev I got a course PB which still stands at 21.05! Ok, maybe I wrote this the wrong way around. But next time I’m visiting Cornwall I will be back for that sub 21! 

        (I was really pleased when Falmouth Marine conservation messaged me to ask                                                                  permission to use this photo I took at Swanpool)

Not long after this on the 20th of May, I did my first race of the year. A multi-terrain grand prix race (not to be confused with the road grand prix series) Meet your max. This was on a Wednesday evening. My first race in my Newquay road runners vest which I cycled about 35 miles to retrieve. I had been looking to moving to Newquay still but had trouble finding a job. The rooms were cheap enough though. In the end, I decided against the idea of moving there due to its isolation and difficulty with public transport. Even though I previously lived in Newquay in 2009 and loved it.
Meet your max and the MT series are a big like our CC6’s in Hampshire, except that you pay a race fee and it’s set up like a race with times and prizes. I think this is a much better idea as you get less people turning up and no overcrowding and you can actually pass people on the course! There were still 224 runners though. It was brutally hilly but also stunning. I went out pretty fast and suffered after 5k due to me only racing parkruns. However, I held on to get a 3rd place V40 trophy and 2nd place for my new running club. I was over the moon and walked back to Truro beaming with a giant smile. My time was 55.15. 

                          (Me with the Newquay crew at "Meet your Max")

A few days later I was back at Heartlands parkrun but I couldn’t get that sub 20 on such a bendy, intricate course. Too many twists and turns in that garden area. 20.36

In July I headed back to Southampton for a week. The first plan was Winchester parkrun. I met Paddy Connors and Kev Willsher who raced around while I dug deep for another sub 20 and failed. 20.28. I had beaten my previous course PB by a few seconds though, so that was some consolation.
The day before though, I did cycle 70 miles around the Isle of Wight with Patrick, Di and Mike. It was bloody hard on my hybrid bike with solid tyres (no inner tubes). It was bloody hard anyway. I had done it before but it probably took me a lot longer. Patrick’s athleticism had shocked me a bit. I was expecting us to be waiting for him. It was me that everyone waited for!

            (Around the Island on a very hot day with Patrick, Di and Mike)

I got to hang out with Patrick again when we managed to fit in a Fritham 8 mile loop with the LOGS (Lordshill Old Gits) These guys are my heroes and a great inspiration to me. I was so happy to see those who were around and got a nice local history lesson from Mike Letheren as we ran around. Always so fascinated by the LOGS stories and escapades. I’ll be back for the Fritham loop with the LOGS in February 2019. Looking forward to it.

At the End of July, I actually did my first Grand Prix road race. The Magnificent 7 or Mag 7. Another very hilly 7 miler. It wasn’t completely road but much faster underfoot despite the big climbs and descents. A time of 49,48 for me, which is still my 7 mile PB. I would love to do a flat 7 mile race if there ever was one. I would smash this time!

                   (Thanks to Michelle Baker for this pic at Tywardreath)

Now I had decided to quit my job. All the heavy lifting was affecting my body. I was on painkillers all the time and so was everyone else who worked there. The money was rubbish and so were the hours. Some weeks I would only work 20 hours and others I would work 45 etc..
My back was hurting, my knee was playing up from time to time and I had tennis elbow since February, which I still have but no-one near as painful as it was then. I was off with Sciatica and decided to quit just before August. I was pretty much living beyond my means anyway. My savings were severely reduced now and I had no job. I needed a plan.

I did another run at Heartlands parkrun and then ran in the Tywardreath trotters 7 with the sciatic pain. A pretty good time in Par of 51.35 on another hilly 7 mile one!

              ( I bought a new bike over the summer for my cycling adventures)

In August I had attended interviews but didn’t get the jobs. I messaged my friend Nick Marker in Plymouth to see if he had a spare room to rent in his massive house. I wasn’t expecting him to reply or even say Yes, but he did. I know Nick through years of skateboarding. He is such a nice easy-going and happy go lucky dude. 

In the meantime, my sciatica was a nightmare and I had trouble walking. It’s those hilly 7 milers and my weight combined I reckon! Anyway, Di and Mikey Mattingly had planned to come and see me. I was so excited but not sure I could run. I took them to my favourite parkrun of course at Trelissick. I tried to run around but quit after 1k. The pain was too much. Was just glad that Di and Mikey had a nice time. I wasn’t too put out by me not getting around. I knew this Sciatic pain wouldn’t last forever. I was still happy just to be running again after I never thought I would. What is sciatic pain when you’ve been suffering with a cartilage tear in your knee?
I also took Di to my favourite route in Cornwall. The coast to coast from Porthreath to Devoran. It was just behind the farm I lived on.
We started at a drizzly Portreath. Mike was driving to Devoran and I was lead bike for Di’s adventure. It’s 13ish wonderful miles and pretty flat too. So much to see and take in. You must do it if you ever visit Cornwall and stop off at Bon Appetite in Twelveheads where they do the best breakfast baps as well as healthy salads etc.. I have fellow skateboarder and coast to coast cyclist Lee Evans (not the comedian, but he’s pretty funny too!) to thank for this info. Cheers Lee.
Anyway, I had never got to run the coast to coast in one go but Di did and the sun came out. They are now doing a half marathon in 2019 on this route. We had a wonderful weekend and to be honest.. the best bit about living in the West country for a year has been my visitors. My friend Damon also met me in Plymouth for a fun, but very drunken night on the Barbican. 

                                      (The start of Teignmouth parkrun)

On the 14th of August. I decided to move to Nick’s in Plymouth. My good friend and life saver Chris Odgers drove me down in his van as I said farewell to the beloved cats Burmese Bobby, Freddy the rabbit eater and Tinks. I was going to miss these cats so much. The alpacas were cute to look at from my bedroom window but not too cuddly in real life. I said I’d stay in touch with my landlady, which I haven’t and feel bad about it. I will email her tomorrow!

I repeated my arrival in Plymouth the same as Camborne. I had a job at a glue factory within a week or two of getting here. It was only an agency job and I had to get up at 4.30am to get the bus to Chaddlewood to start at 6am. I would often fall asleep on the bus home but was in need of the money. I got offered to serve drinks at Plymouth Argyle a few times but turned it down. I was still applying for other jobs and then I got an interview for a Marine electronics company in Derriford. I got the job and was soon to be a 9-5.30-er. My running and cycling adventures had now taken a back seat while I got in in the working world. Some people would often say that I was related to the Everly brothers, Don and Phil… Drinks everly. I got told that joke in a pub in Bovey Tracey just before I threw up all over my hotel room and did Parke parkrun the next day.

Despite all the alcohol intake I was still running as much as the back pain would allow. Aug 18 Plymvalley, Aug 25 Tamar Trails. On my birthday in September I phoned the hospital after a long time of pondering and cancelled my knee operation. I could do this. Even when not running I would still do all my knee strengthening exercises. I was very stubborn and focused I guess.

              (My mate and Landlord Nick with my Dad out for my birthday)

A surprising 20.21 at Torbay Velopark parkrun on September the 15th.
I wasn’t going to race it as I had a 5 mile race the following day. The Coasters 5. Would it affect me much? Fuck yeah! A very slow 34.25 on a fast course. My legs were dead halfway round and within 200 yards of starting a gull did a big shit from a lamp post which splatted loudly on my knee. It sure wasn’t my day but the thrill of racing was back all the same.

October got much better for me. I did teignmouth parkrun which was hushed up for the first few weeks so that they could sort any teething problems out with the course. This time I did take it easy as I had the Plymouth 10k the next day. 22.10 on the very wet and windy seafront run.
The next day I was so nervous. This felt like my only proper race of 2018. It was a big event with road closures and big crowds through the city. It was a fast course but it certainly wasn’t flat but I couldn’t call it hilly either after those races in Cornwall. I still feel that this was my best race of the year. I was happy with a time of 41.19 even though I passed 10k on my watch in under 41 minutes. I knew I had run very well. I had obviously not taken the racing line and was weaving in and out of people. I was back! But then again, I never knew with the unpredictability of my knee. I was still only running 20 miles a week and often needed rest days to get the swelling and inflammation down.

                                             ( A very happy 10k finisher)

October the 10th saw me show up at the Life centre for my first ever Armada 3k winter race series. They happen on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 7pm. You register, pay £2.50 and pick up a race number which you have to give back afterwards. I was expecting a fast time but with the West country, they don’t know what flat ground looks like. So it’s a downhill start from the Argyle stadium and then a right into Central park and another right up a big long hill. Anyway, I did 12.40

Exmouth parkrun on the 20th of October saw we dig deep and get that elusive sub 20 again with a time of 19.48.
I tried again a week later at Longrun meadows in Taunton but failed with a time of 20.06. I was obviously no longer happy with the getting round in one piece and now had set new goals. How easily I had forgotten that I wasn’t even able to walk 2 miles in February!
I was getting carried away with the parkrun tourism but loving it. Going to new places at the weekend and running different courses gave me something to look forward. This was now my 45th different location in the U.K. I would like to do my 50th location at Bushy park. The start and home of the parkrun.
The day after Longmeadows I had the Tavy 7. The directions weren’t too clear to the start but the race didn’t start until 11am. So, I just jumped on the bus to Tavistock. Little did I know that I would be walking 4 miles through Dartmoor and then have to run a mile to the start barely amking it in time.
It was a great course but the headwind was so tough. Hills of course! I got a time of 49.57 and had a cold walk back to Tavistock afterwards. 

                                                      (Part of the Tavy 5k route)

Novemeber saw me returning to Southampton for the 2nd time. This time me and Di decided to do Lee-on-the-solent parkrun with parkrun and mystery guest Ian Bower. Me and Mr.Competitive had a great race and gave it our all. It was pretty close but he did a real nice sprint finish. Without him though I wouldn’t have got my fastest 5k time of 2018 19.43. Cheers Ian! Good race.

A week later November arrives and I was back to Plymvalley for a course PB of 21.55. There’s a hill in there that you run twice and it zaps you a bit.
A few days later I returned to the 3k series to get a 3k PB of 12.20. Which still doesn’t sound fast. I am hoping to do a flat 3k in Exeter in January for a fast time.

Novemeber the 17th I did the Tavy 5k. This race happens on a Saturday morning like parkrun but you pay £1 and get a nice track start and finish. Everyone is very friendly and you get to keep a permanent race number which you use everytime you come back on the 3rd Saturday of the month. I just about snuck in a 19.59 for another sub 20.

I tried and failed to beat my course PB at Mount Edgcumbe parkrun which is now the third toughest course with a new one in the lake district taking second place. I got 23.14 and my best time is 22.43. It was very slippery at the top and on the descent though. So I need to go back in drier conditions.

                                  (Cycling to Burrator via the Plymvalley trail with Carl)

As we head into December. I talk my mate Carl Green into his first parkrun at Plymvalley. I am very hungover that day and Carl takes the mickey out of my “Barbican Belly”. I sure have put on some weight this year with all the injuries, food and drink intake. Anyway, Carl did a lot better than I had anticipated on a semi-tough course. Sub 25 for his first 5k run! I’ll have to watch this one.
I did a disappointing 3k series run for December and then ran Mount Edgcumbe again but with Di, Mikey and Carl. I took it easy in the torrential conditions and still fell over in my road shoes. Carl and Mikey forgot their barcodes! Mikey was in great form though and first Lordshiller home. You got to love a parkrun that involves a ferry crossing from Devon to Cornwall and there’s rarely more than 40 runners.

Decemeber 22nd back to Plymvalley where I felt ready to race. I got a course PB of 21.14 taking 41 seconds off my previous time. It was painful though! Xmas day parkie a few days later back at Plymvalley and I decided to run around with carl and let him beat me for his xmas present. Another great performance from him though.

One last parkrun of the year at Tamar Trails where I met Di and Mikey again. Started slow but got another course PB with a time of 21.50 beating my previous time of 22.03. I still had to walk up that final hill 3 times. 

                             (Di finishing the Saltram trust 10: A free 10k put on by the                                                        National trust on the 3rd Sunday of every month)

I then decide to quit my miserable job in Derriford as I find the working environment too negative. There are a few really unhappy people there. Life is too short to be putting up with that. Move on. I did get on really well with Daryl and Chris and they asked how many jobs I’d had. I said about 100 and I meant it but when I wrote them all down I only remembered 35. My first job being at Tomy toys in Calmore on a whopping £2.45 an hour. Anyways, here we are.

I have had a rollercoaster ride in the West country for a year and not regretted any of it. I have seen so many places and met so many people. Although, I am now pretty much in the same place as last year, not geographically but situation wise. I have less money now though and no job. I am currently hunting for job number 36 in Plymouth. I am going to take a couple of weeks out to explore Devon a bit more which is something I feel I have neglected. I have also joined a health club for January with a nice swimming pool, gym etc.. I hope to quit the alcohol, eat healthy and lose some weight. Get rid of my Barbican belly.
If I fail to get a job by the mid February I will probably move back to Southampton, I would ideally love to move to Wales in the Spring but I don’t think I will be able to raise enough money to start paying rent immediately and plus finding a job but we’ll see what happens. 

                         (Hanging out with my awesome friend Anishka in Newquay)

I have no real plans and it can be scary but also exciting. I was terrified of moving to Camborne but I did it and glad I did. Who knows where I will be in 2019 and what I’ll be doing. I’m just not letting life get stale or monotonous. I am hoping to increase my weekly mileage up to 30 miles a week next year and think about running a half marathon. It all depends on my knee. If I run the half and the knee is really bad for weeks afterwards, I may consider the operation again. To be continued… Thanks for reading. If you got this far. Well done.x

This year I did:

25x  parkruns
4x  7 mile races
3x  3k races
2x  5k races
1x  5 miler
2x  10 races