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