Jurassic Coast Challenge Apr04

Jurassic Coast Challenge

The hills were steep and often, the miles many, the terrain varied and frequently difficult, but the sun was shining and the steep hills, varied terrain and many miles were all part of the challenge as Han and I set off to try and complete a marathon a day for 3 days over the rugged Jurassic Coast down in south Devon. Travel back 6 months and it was yet another sunny day as Han came back from visiting her brother with knowledge of this formidable challenge now planted as an ever growing seed in her mind. She had seen some crazy runners plodding along the picturesque coastal path in Weymouth, around 15 miles into their 2nd day of the three 26.2 mile routes. “This could be a fun challenge?” she thought “Sounds like a whole lotta crazy!” I replied And so the seed took root, the seed grew, and the seed blossomed until we found ourselves listening to the organiser of the VoTwo Jurassic Coast Challenge explain the OS driven map route for day 1 of the 3 day event. The event in question was a 78mile route along the picturesque south coastal path starting at a non-descript hill 26 miles west of event HQ in Weymouth. Each day was a full marathon distance self-guided run (no markers or race signs), following the coastal path step for step, finishing up on Shell Bay a few miles North of Swanage 3 days later. The first day had a relatively late start of 11:30am, and as we watched the eclipse swallow the land into darkness before releasing its enveloping cloak to reveal a glorious sunlight day, Han and I took our tentative first steps on our mammoth journey. We had been casually pretending to not peak at the weather report the week before, not wanting to jinx the outcome in some form of uncertainty principle belief, and we had either played our cards just right, or more likely had lucked-out, as the sun was shining but not scorching, the wind was a confortable 4-5mph, and the first mile was a downhill saunter with wonderful vista’s of high rising cliffs and golden beaches ahead of us. We jogged on down, feeling light footed and free as the mass start of the 100 or so runners (and one dog) gradually thinned out and found their natural gaits and rhythms that would hopefully see them cross the finish line anywhere between 4 and 9 hours later. Day 1 would see two monster hills approach and test us within the first 4 miles, but at such an early stage of the challenge our legs were still fresh and still warming up, and the vistas that we were rewarded with were worth the un-guilty walking that had seen us slowly traverse the 200m peaks. We stopped and briefly ate at checkpoint 1 a quarter into the first days distance before hitting probably the hardest part of the full 3 days; around 2-3 miles of intermittent shingle beach. This stuff just sucked all energy out of you, as each step just jostled the stones beneath your feet as you sank into their opening and closing chasms of energy sapping hard work. “I think it will be easier if we just try and run across it” Han propositioned as she skipped elf like past every single other runner who was walking through the shingle pathways. Not one for being left behind I grumbled my ascent and 15 mins later we were out the other side and closing in on checkpoint 2. As we neared the half way mark of the day Han started to feel some pain in her left knee, but shrugged it off as we gorged our way through cheese and pickle sandwiches, my new running favourite of cheesy cheddars, while stuffing flapjack and some crisps for later consumption into my running bags pockets. As the...

A year later… and still running Feb24

A year later… and still running...

It seems fitting that one year on from the last post, as I was speedily traversing the southern hemisphere to see my sister in New Zealand, that I come back to revisit this blog and try and record once again life’s little adventures and twists and turns. It also seems strangely fitting that this new post, in an attempt to rekindle an online pubic diary of sorts, also starts with a running post, just like the first post exactly two years ago. Seems February is a chequered flag month for me, lets hope this one carries on for another lap at least ….. Last Sunday saw Han and I once again waking up with the pre-dawn calling of birds, as the sun was slowing rising up from its nightly slumber to bathe the countryside between Oxford and Aylesbury with its warming glows. Han and I were up and changed, ready for our first long distance race since I had competed in Guatemala over a year ago, and were trundling along to a small town called Wendover just south of Aylesbury. We had both entered into the Trailscape Wendover full marathon, a 4 part running series that operates a 10km, half and full marathon distance trail race series through the winter months in England. Han, being the organised girl she is, had entered months ago in the full marathon distance, where as I on the other hand had pondered whether to race at all; I had a korfball tournament the next day competing for Wales and wanted some form of freshness for that. When I finally made my mind up to enter the half distance, I logged on only to see that it was sold out, and when looking down the distance ladder, also saw...

Vegas and the Grand Canyon

Although I love Vegas, and Han hadn’t been there before, leaving me both intrigued and worried about her reaction to such obvious shows of financial freedom and over-the-top adventures, we also had a secondary aim; a trip to the Grand Canyon to run the Rim-to-Rim (South to North). We had booked ourselves into the aptly named Circus Circus hotel for a few nights, before picking up our hire car and heading to tackle the canyon. The hotel lies at the Northern end of the strip which meant longer walks to and from our hotel, but also no questions on which way to turn out of the doors when we did wake up. Like all first timers to the strip, we wandered up and down the boulevard, through all the major hotels, watched the magical water show at the Bellagio, took the circular escalators at Caesars, and ate monster portions of cheesecake and drinks. We even placed a few bets to some fast losses and slower wins. Han actually pulled out a straight flush on one hand, netting her the fortune of $13 back from her initial 25 cents on the video poker. We danced at the themed bar of Coyote Ugly, drank margaritas at a time of night when sleeping would usually be in order, placed a bet on red for it to come up black, saw an NBA game at the Mandalay Bay, taste tested at the largest candy wall in the world, and generally drank, ate and had a blast as much as we could on our limited backpacker budget. Vegas was all that it promised to be and more, and juxtaposedly sometimes less, and a little surprisingly Han actually enjoyed some of the aspects I was worried she would hate, and hated some of the aspects I thought she would love; who would have thought she would love a $3.50 slushed Margarita at 11pm on our way back to the hotel, or half naked Coyote girls at the Coyote Ugly themed bar? Vegas therefore confused me as much as it always does, and once again had me wanting to come back for more, more and more, yet also had me wondering if I ever need to come back. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery And with such ambiguous paragraphs and thoughts such as the above, I found myself contemplating the city as we chewed up the miles in our hire car heading along the mind numbingly straight Route 15 North and East out of the city on our way to the Grand Canyon. Wanting to run the canyon in a day bought with it some logistical problems; obviously you end up 20 plus miles away from where you started. Not fancying running the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (ie repeat it backwards), we had organised a plan to a) Get picked up by a shuttle bus company from the North rim around 2pm the first day b) With only our running gear, a toothbrush, some money and the energy bars and trail mix we’d need the next day, arrive at the South Rim around dusk c) Stay at a lodge on the South Rim and grab some dinner there d) Wake up around 5:30am, and head out to run back to our car on the North Rim Even with a small issue of a late car pickup we made our shuttle bus in time and found ourselves gorging on ‘chilli in a bread bowl’ in a somewhat error prone meal-before-a-big-run food intake, but which was to prove surprisingly tasty and filling, energy inducing and error-free the next day. Early starts are never easy, but when you wake, put on your running shoes, don your hydration packs and look out over one of the most colossal natural wonders of the world I’ve ever seen, it certainly helps. We had decided to take the slightly longer option of descending down...

Lake Tahoe

With a tent, roll-mat and sleeping bag still crying out to be used again before we were to relieve ourselves of the camping equipment on our journey south to enter the world of Mexico and beyond, and with a spacious boot to carry the load instead of our backs, we planned to head North to camp at Lake Tahoe for a few nights. Situated on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is America’s second deepest lake covering 191 square miles, and lies 200 miles inland from Cali’s coast, being part of both California and Nevada. We jumped in the car from the Big Sur and made the 6 hour adventure to camp on the Southern shoreline near the imaginatively named town of South Lake Tahoe. We had been told by other adventurous souls that Lake Tahoe has a ‘serious’ temperature difference between night and day. As we rumbled over the passes and down the twisting turning roads to our final destination, with the first glimpses of the largest alpine lake in North America in view whilst the sun was still glittering of its never ending surface, with a car air conditioning conditioning the air, we were not seriously worried or trepiditious about the cold. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery We had booked ourselves into the mildly historic Camp Richardson. With a history that spanned back about as far as it could for the area (circa 150 years) the camp spanned a fairly large area, sitting a mere 100m from the shoreline of the lake and situated within a rustic untouched protected forest that we were warned we were to share with coyotes and bears. We had had our share of dangerous wild North American animals over the past couple of months, but the warming spacious lodge and sprinkling of RV’s close by stemmed any real fears from surfacing as we welcomed the warming showers and bathrooms that our more rustic campsite at Mount Tam, and previously our camping expedition in the Yukon, previously didn’t house. The main attraction of Lake Tahoe, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, was the Lake itself and we made plans to explore some of its more well known coves, shorelines and beaches, once again enjoying the freedom and mobility that our own car gave us. We spent a luxuriously lazy day sitting on the shores of Emerald Cove and wandering around it’s shoreline; reading, juggling, throwing juggling clubs into freezing waters, paddling, snoozing and having to swim after the said club in just boxers (to the delight of the nearby women) …. the usual antics. With the mountainous backdrop, aquamarine shimmering waters, and sun dappled shores, the next day we headed out on a great trail run along a shoreline path, circumnavigating and exploring a couple of beaches and some vertigo inducing drops, before visiting a trickling waterfall and catching some beers and food back at camp. However, the warning and precursors were soon to be realised; when the sun sets the heat sets as well, and as our camp slowly became engulfed in a cold bitter evening, our freezing digits wondering why chopping vegetables numbed and froze them, and washing up involved them scrubbing pans in ice cold running tap water, my mind was confused whether to enjoy the beautiful moon dappled forest with another tea, or climb into the warming, welcoming, sleeping bag lined tent. A little of both was thrown in as we warmed water up into our drinking containers, hugging them like water bottles in the tent, and drifted off to sleep still in trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, hat and scarf. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With a couple more days in the area however, a little cold at night didn’t stop us from enjoying the area and planning some more trail runs and relaxing days. As the rays of the sun slowly warmed our tent...

Mount Tamalpais

After 5 days in San Fran we were ready for a change. Originally we had planned to visit Yosemite, but after it was closed down we altered our very loose plans and took the buses an hour North to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Although relatively close to the hustle and bustle, as soon we headed over Golden Gate bridge we were transported to a place where life was slower, people knew everyone in the village, and bus drivers discussed world events such as if the wooden bridge should be repaired over some non-descript marshland. I liked it. As Jerry our bus driver dropped us off on the early sunny Sunday morning at our campground up in the state park of Mount Tam, we quickly found a spot to call home, got a cup of brew on the go, and set out the map the ranger had given us to plan the next few days events. With no car and being situated around 5km from the nearest civilization, hiking, fresh air, star gazing, some trail running and lazing around were the order of the trip. Luckily for us the trails and paths were not only amazingly well marked and well trod, they went through a diverse range of fauna and geology, with either breath-taking views overlooking hilly golden autumnal slopes, or vista of the Pacific Ocean hazily lazily splashing its waves. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The first day we headed down to the beach, mindlessly ignoring that it was an hour downhill that had to be traversed later on the day uphill; we were camping at around 7000ft, so everything apart from the mountain tops were downhill, and as Han fell asleep on the warming soft sands, I read and...

Halves, full’s, knees and straits

The month of June pulled me through on a manic adventure ridden tour, that before I knew it July was settling in to its mid term lazy sun driven days, and August was getting excited for it annual month long tour. And so as I write this on the first trip back for a year to the heat-wave sun-burnt England, I take a deep sigh, relax, and reflect on what has been an amazing variety of fun and frolics in Vancouver and beyond over the past 40 days and 40 nights since the last update. Early on in June, as the remnants of spring were finally subsiding and summer was shining brightly on the horizon Han had her inaugural Half Ironman race across in the wine region of the Okanagan. Lying between the Coast Mountain Range and the Rocky Mountains, we’ve visited this area twice before to taste and gargle our way through 6 or 7 vineyards a day, but this time as we headed East along the scenic mountain road of the I5 mine and David’s minds were firmly set on crewing Han and ensuring her race went as smoothly as possible, rather than on Elephant Island, Borrowing Owl and the Hidden Chapel vineyards. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The original Ironman started in 1978 (where the 1st place athlete on the final running leg ran out of water and was given beer instead, only to finish in 2nd), has long been coined the toughest of tests of human endurance, and the Half Ironman is no mean feat clocking in at a 2km swim, followed by a 90km cycle and then finishing with a 21.2km (half marathon) run. Han set off on a beautiful wind swept morning as highs, lows, grit, determination, helium filled aerial camera failures, and the usual dose of food, beer, and good times with good friends were had, but the small film that David and I made can explain Han’s race more succinctly and emotionally than I could here. A week later, and in a concerted effort for Han to rebuild the lost muscle and used up calories, fun fuelled Friday found four of us drinking and dancing our way through Vancouver Craft Beer Festival, sampling a host of weird, delightful, crazy, surprising, obnoxious and mind flowingly tasty beers. Although the event finished at the rather subdued 10pm, meaning the next morning was headache free and breakfast ready, we found it pleasantly surprising to be drinking outside in a city that usually outlaws such crazy behaviour, especially as the sun was shining throughout the event. The next weekend arrived and Han and I took a well earned rest over on Sechelt as we shut down at my aunt and uncles house for 3 days, enjoying the 180 degree panoramas of the Strait of Georgia. A week passed, Saturday arrived, I looked up from my GPS watch and I took in the heads of 7,000 runners as I stood near the front of the Vancouver Scotia Bank Half Marathon, hoping to improve on my personal best that I had set in February of the year in a time of 1:21 and 20 seconds. I knew that over the 21.1km course, a 3:45 min/km pace would find me stepping across the line in just under 1:20, so as I ran down the gradual decline before traversing back up the said hill and shooting by the 5km mark, I was happy to see my pace just hitting under the target at around 3:40. With a 6km downhill section to follow, I knew that I had to stay around that pace, if not slightly quicker, to give myself some leeway on the elevation neutral zone, before the slight uphill, round the coast on Marine Drive, over Burrard Street Bridge, and around to Stanley Park and the finish if I was to stand a chance at...