Archive for the ‘Mobile phone photos’ Category
Apologies that the mobile phone photo above is a bit wonky…when I took it, I had been running for about 30 miles and I was half asleep. In fact, I was so tired that I had to repeatedly fight the urge to curl up in a ball beneath a hedge and doze. Anyway, the photo shows St Catherine’s Point Lighthouse on the southern tip of the Isle of Wight. I was taking part in a two-day ultramarathon around the Island, following the hilly 70 mile length of the coast path. Why did I want to sleep so much? Probably because I’d only had three hours of sleep during the night before…
At dawn on the day before the event, I was actually out kayaking at the Western Rocks of the Isles of Scilly…pretty much the nearest point of England to America, out in the Atlantic. The bottom pic shows Bishop Rock Lighthouse, of which more in a future blog post. Anyway, to get from the Isles of Scilly to the Isle of Wight involved a ferry which brought us (wife, daughter and myself) back to mainland Cornwall late in the evening, followed by a four hour drive home to drop them off, followed by a quick gear re-shuffle, followed by an hour drive to catch a 4 am ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. I snatched a few zeds in the back of the car on the ferry and after arriving at the event base, but fair to say, I wasn’t exactly in optimum physical condition by this point. That’s before we factor in the serious lack of training beforehand…
Day #1 was a 38 mile run from Cowes to Brighouse, heading clockwise around the Island. The start involved a ride on the chain ferry across the Medina River…at the moment the ferry touched ground, we all burst out running. It was all very Saving Private Ryan, and indeed through the short crossing I had to close my eyes and compose myself to prevent myself from vomiting with nerves and exhaustion. The early miles were surprisingly grim, with few views of the coast and lots of my least favourite running surfaces, concrete and tarmac. Things improved when we ran along various holiday resort seafronts, but it was still all hard surfaces, and it was hot. We all had numerous unintended detours (you’d think it would be easy to follow a coast path), which was also sapping on morale. I also realised I was seriously out of my league…for a while I was running with a guy who’d just rowed the Atlantic, I’m fairly sure that some of the muscle-bound guys I ran with for a while did Special Forces-type stuff for their day jobs, and at one point it emerged that I was the only person in the group around me who hadn’t done the Marathon Du Sables! All very intimidating. Several thousand yachts competing in the annual Round The Island Race passed us by, but I was too tired to remember to take a photo. Oh well, take my word for it; it was an impressive spectacle.
Thankfully, as day #1 wore on the running improved vastly, with natural trails winding along cliff tops following the southern shores of the Island. This is what I’d come for, and it was worth the wait. To be honest, I was staggering rather than running now, but the scenery helped me to resist the urge to pull over and sleep. I reached the finish of day #1 after about 7 hours 45 mins (surprisingly, this placed me 20th…I’d assumed I was one of the stragglers), put my tent up and slept for an hour. My alarm woke me for dinner, which I ate with relish, then I returned to my tent and slept for another ten hours, non-stop.
The 32 miles of day #2 were relatively easy by comparison, and hence make for less interesting reading! A good nights’ sleep made all the difference to my energy levels and motivation. My legs improbably still functioned well enough to allow me to enjoy what I’d come to do; namely, to run off-road trails along scenic coast…and there was an endless supply of this, with tarmac stretches few and far between. The cliffs of Tennyson Down and the Needles were a highlight, but frankly it was all good. The run took me about 6 hours 20 mins I think, but I haven’t seen my final time or position…as soon as I’d crossed the finish line I drove to the ferry (blistered feet are sore when applied to accelerator pedals) to get a head start on the journey home…
That’s the longest I’ve ever run (to put it mildly) and XNRG made this challenge possible and accessible. My thanks to them for organising a fantastic event!
*Edit* I’ve just seen the final results…as far as I can make out, I placed about 16th on day #2 and 19th overall. I can’t complain…
Approaching Swanage Bay at the end of a seventeen mile dawn run along the coast path, yesterday. The cloud and haze were quickly dispersing, promising a gorgeous sunny breakfast on the seafront with Mrs R and Baby R. All good.
No blog posts as of late, because things have been somewhat busy on the work and life front. I missed the bank holiday weekend due to work (I took a group of students to Belgium and France, hence the pseudo-arty mobile phone pic of Bruges below) and the following weekend was my daughter’s first birthday…it turns out that these things are on a par with the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in terms of organisation and logistics involved. All good, though, and I might just have squeezed a quick paddle and also a splendid MTB ride in when Mrs R had her back turned.
Still busy this weekend too, indeed I was stuck in work all day today. But the good news is that I spent part of yesterday patching up my sea kayak, with next weekend in mind…we are heading off to the Isles of Scilly! A break is much deserved I feel, and if all goes to plan I will end the holiday week by heading straight from Cornwall to the Isle of Wight and attempting something silly. Nothing can go wrong.
Crossing the finish line of my first ‘duathlon’ yesterday, held in nearby Wareham Forest…a four mile trail run followed by four laps of a mountain bike course (c12 miles), followed by a couple more miles of running.
Dubious fitness aside, my performance was marred by considerable incompetence; a few hundred metres into the run my gels all ejected from of my back pocket forcing me to run back up the trail stooping and dodging other runners, my bike gears wouldn’t shift on demand (should probably clean it occasionally), I broke every single rule on the ‘changeovers’ (e.g. apparently when you take your helmet off is a big deal, but at least they didn’t disqualify me) and I’m even not 100% sure I went the correct route on the final run.
Loved every single moment.
Thanks to TriPurbeck for organising this awesome event.
This weekend we attempted to ride the Ridgeway, and totally failed.
I’d passed by this 90-mile long National Trail the weekend before, and noted that the ground was tinder dry: ideal for mountain biking. Unfortunately a lot can change in a week, and indeed there was rain on most days since. Even so, a few of us set out on Saturday to knock off c60 miles, with the remainder planned for Sunday.
The going was slow as there was plenty of mud, and after three hours, one of the two ‘Andy’s I was riding with dropped out. The remaining Andy (above) and myself resolved to put this thing behind us, so we put our heads down and upped the pace. Well, that was the plan, anyway. The rain began to come down in sheets, and a blasting crosswind sucked any warmth out of us. The already muddy trail turned into a swamp. After two more hours and in near-hypothermia, we looked at the map and realised we were actually going slower than before! Shortly after, at the exact same time I sank up to my axles in mud and Andy got a puncture; we made the unanimous decision to quit this nonsense. Twenty minutes later we were off the hill and drying off and warming up in a pub. We then spent several hours retrieving and shuttling the cars through flooding Oxfordshire roads. I guess we should have checked the weather forecast…
Today…we didn’t ride, we did tea shops.
Not getting much paddling done lately; all plans made get scrapped due to duff weather. I did however go for a run on Sunday, though. ‘A Coventry Way’ is a 40 mile route around the Midland industrial city where I grew up. Well, it used to be industrial … the route passes by a number of disused former colleries and car plants, I wonder whatever happened to them?
Most of the route passes through pleasant countryside and along canals and disused railways, although there are some slightly grim bits through housing estates, suburbs and along dual carriageways and the like…you never forget that you’re in the Midlands for long! My performance was distinctly sub-par. Given recent activity, I should have been able to run the first 30 at least, and this was my plan. However my knees gave out after 20, and I simply could not run another step…so I ‘power-walked’ the final 20 and missed my target time of 8 hours by 15 minutes. No idea whether the joint soreness was due to the high incidence of tarmac on this route, or whether I strained something two weeks ago, or whether I was just being wimpy.
My thanks to the organisers of this event; the route was excellently way-marked, the directions supplied were also excellent, and the welcome and food at checkpoints was much appreciated.
I’m in North Wales right now, and was planning to head up to Anglesey tonight, with the specific aim of paddling around. With the forecast only showing strong cold winds for the rest of the week, I’m wussing out and going walking instead.
The pics show Cadair Berwyn, a not very high Welsh mountain, yesterday…on the day that British Summer Time began.
I had no idea how my legs would respond to a second trail marathon in two days, having never done anything of the sort before and having done no special training or preparation (in fact, almost no training or preparation). Somewhat surprisingly, they were just fine and I found that I was able to run pretty comfortably. That said, opportunities to ‘run’ were in limited supply, due to numerous insanely steep hills and deep mud everywhere. A couple of hours in, I was amused to hear another entrant wail, “I came here to run! I just want to run!”.
The route was from Lulworth Cove to Shell Bay, along the South West Coast Path; a direct continuation of yesterday’s 27.7 mile route from Weymouth to Lulworth, via Portland Bill. As if the hills on the coast weren’t enough today, landslips on the SWCP forced a major diversion a long way inland and up 682 feet Swyre Head…I didn’t mind much though, this being pretty much my favourite place. This pushed the final distance up to about 30 miles and 5000 feet-ish of climb, stretching my definition of a ‘marathon’ somewhat. I managed to add another half mile or so by taking a wrong turn…so much for my local advantage!
I enjoyed it! My legs held up remarkably well throughout, although I had a mental and physical hissy fit practically within sight of the finish. The final few miles were along the sand of Studland Beach. I told myself that – having made it this far with a degree of dignity – I was going to run the whole beach non-stop, no walking. However a biting cold Force 5-6 headwind made it pretty slow, gruelling and painful, and eventually I started hallucinating that the beach was sloping uphill…weird I know, but that is what I kept seeing. I knew this was nonsense, and tried to ignore it. I eventually simply could not run another step and was forced to walk (numerous other runners were overtaking me already) and I realised that I’d let myself get into a bad way. I forced a couple of disgusting gels into my mouth, and was soon able to run again, for the last mile as far as the finish at least.
Well, the total for me was about 58 miles and c8000 feet of ascent over two days, taking about 12 and a quarter hours. Pleased as I am to have survived, I mustn’t forget for a moment that most of my fellow runners had knocked off a particularly brutal extra trail marathon the day before I arrived…incredible, puts my efforts into perspective.
Thanks to Votwo for a great event…I don’t know who was making the chocolate cake, but that’s what kept me going for two days.
The Jurassic Coast Challenge is an epic three day event along (you guessed it) the Jurassic Coast, running a marathon(ish) length each day along the South West Coast Path. I had to go to work yesterday, so wasn’t able to attempt Day #1 from Charmouth to Weymouth. I ran most of this stretch a few weeks back but my run pales next to what the entrants faced yesterday; torrential rain and gale force headwinds, making for outrageously tough conditions. Hence, when I had a crack at Day #2 today (Weymouth to Lulworth via Portland Bill), I had to keep my whingeing to a minimum as the vast majority of folk I was running alongside had had it much much worse yesterday…and yet were somehow still fresh and fit today.
At the end of 27.7 miles, 4000 feet of climbing and 5 and a half muddy hours of slithering and staggering, I was not feeling fresh and fit. I honestly have no idea if I’ll be able to get down the stairs tomorrow morning, let alone run from Lulworth to Sandbanks. I am however morbidly curious to see how it pans out…
Walking the local cliffs with my little girl for company, yesterday.
This weekend, I’ll be trying to run two trail marathons in two days along this coast.
Trudging along the shingle of Chesil Beach during last weekend’s run, I had a flash of recognition when I saw this pillbox, sinking into the pebbles. In 1997, when my wife and I first paddled the length of the Dorset coast, we slept a night in this pillbox. It was one of the few times in my life where I had no idea where I was; we’d paddled in pea soup fog all day (Chesil Beach is a dull paddle at the best of times…) and when we landed, couldn’t find any landmarks or buildings to fix our position on the map. One bit of Chesil Beach looks pretty much like any other…
A few folk have asked me about biking the Wessex Ridgeway, which I rode last August.
All the details of this c60 mile route are in a great free booklet here, but to be honest, the photo above tells you all that you need to know about the quality of the riding. If you’re familiar with rides like the amazing South Downs Way or the Ridgeway National Trails, well…this is not that, not even remotely. Unlike with those rides, you simply cannot hop onto one end of the trail and ride freeflowing bridleways to the other. It took me many hours longer to cover the 60 mile Wessex Ridgeway than any of my rides on the 100 mile long South Downs Way have done. The route only intermittently follows the landscape atop ridges, sometimes seeming quite illogical for a ‘ridgeway’. It is often overgrown or marginal, crossing rough fields with no distinct rideable path. Wear arm protection; mine were shredded by the undergrowth. There is lots of pushing or even carrying. You will come to dread the approach of large farms; at several of these the signage mysteriously vanishes, as does the trail itself…in the worst instance, you are forced to cross several fields of crops which have been ploughed hedge to hedge.
All that said, the chalk downland is a wonderful backdrop, and there are certainly worse places to be. There are indeed plenty of great rideable sections and fast clear bridleways…but no sooner than you’ve got going, another dire section interjects to spoil the riding. Treat the Wessex Ridgeway as an adventurous exploratory challenge, and you’ll get the best from it…I originally set off loaded up for an overnight trip, but the first day was so heavy-going that at the end, I happily rode twenty miles of road after dark to a railway station to get away from it, vowing never to return. Two days later, having a short memory span, I’d forgotten how grim it was and returned to complete the western half. This was a similar experience, but if I had to choose…I’d go for the west.
It would make a wonderful walk.
The view above is the one which confronted me at 9 am yesterday, early in a long coastal run. The big hill is Golden Cap. Golden Cap happens to be the highest point on the south coast of England, at 627 feet. Due to the recent rain, it was a slippy scramble up it, and a somewhat hair-raising slippy descent down it. It was a fine run though, taking in some breathtaking scenery which I’ve mostly only seen from a kayak before.