The albatros returns

Posted on: 04 Jun 2017

What I love about @Realbuzz is that so many different people pass through its doors. Some linger for one spring marathon training season and then, like a baby bird, emerge from the egg and fly off into the summer of possibilities. Others return to the nest every few years (as and when the need arises or the ballot blesses them). A few tend the nest all year round and in doing so take pride in their home and welcome all of the others as they come and go.

When I started on Realbuzz I was posting after every training run, "look at me, look what I did", "did I do it right?, like a chirpy little chick in a warm, safe environment.

After that I learnt to fly, but wanted to see how far I dared fly from the nest, and got to a point that I almost had to have done something new in order to blog.

For me it feels that I'm now in the albatross phase, roving far and wide and occasionally coming back to roost. To write up a tale of my voyage, but also listen to the other tales being told.

I love the fact that we support and applaud everyone, hoping in some ways to make a difference for the better. In this safe environment it's no surprise that we expose more than just our runs and from this everyone gets an insight into our lives.

A work colleague of mine died 5 weeks ago, he drowned in Bristol harbor around 4am, following a company social in the center of town. I had been on it too, having decided to splash out on a hotel room overnight. I found out that he was missing during a run, cursing the fact I couldn't get a signal to make contact with our HR team to let them know and our Comms Manager to help spread the word. 

It was at work when we learnt his body had been found and as a close knit team there were many tears, but many shoulders to cry on as well. For me solace was found in a run up to my favourite bench on the Cotswold Way.

Jason was a member of our warehouse team for 4 years and was well loved. He'd just been promoted and had a young family, everything to live for, it was just a horribly tragic accident. His funeral was held on Friday and the numbers in the congregation showed how much he was loved. Life goes on of course, but there is a big hole left in the lives of his family and close friends and a smaller one for all of us who knew him.

Running has kept the mind busy. Having had a quite intense amount of running in April to get the fitness back, May has been about races. The 7.2 mile Stroud beer run was at the start of May (no guesses as to what the appeal of the race is :-)

It was then up to Stratford upon Avon on the 7th May, with Jim, to meet up with Hollywood. I'd wanted to run with HD on one of his challenges but none of the other dates worked out, so I whilst he was quite rightly annoyed at Southend for cancelling, I was very thankful. The look of bewilderment on HDs face when he recognised us and then clocked that we were running the race as well was priceless. The run was brilliant, the three of us chatting away between us and with others. It got tougher and warmer and the sun beating off the Greenway (which is poorly named as it is actually white) reduced the conversation, but also allowed me to experience HDs amazing walking pace. Finishing together was excellent and then had a lovely catch up with Bev & Tony in the pub afterwards.

On 15th May myself, Dave H and Jim ran a self supported Green Man. I'd missed out with injury this year and Jim wanted to get sub 10hr. Having been dry for the previous 4 weeks, the course was in a good state underfoot and the little drizzle / rain we got at the start and towards the end didn't cause us any bother. In the first mile in the deer park I saw a young roe and then a white stag which was impressive (but a youngster as it had very small antlers. The chat was good and the miles were "easy" as we got down to our 1st checkpoint, a post office. Dave H didn't feel great for the next 15 miles, passing on the opportunity for a ham and cheese toastie at mile 20 CP. We were there in 4 hours so were on track, but lost time as we hadn't been able to pre-order as planned. CP 3 was Dave's car and we had a change of clothes which always gives a boost, but them Jim had a bad patch (I wish they could have coordinated them better!) It looked like the 10 hr target was slipping away, but then everyone's legs moved up a notch and the last 7 miles saw us get home in 9:48. A bit odd to take a days holiday to go running and it not be a race, but it was very much worth it. Oh and of course it ended with beers and food at the Beaufort so it helped continue the theme.

A few small runs at home and one lovely run down at Croyde in North Devon when we had 3 nights away in a self catered unit. My daughter and I also did lots of body boarding especially early in the morning (on our last day we were the first on the beach at 7am). The holiday also involved a couple of long walks and lots of boardgames, just what we needed to chill out with as Jack is in the middle of his GCSEs (and so is Kim from a teachers perspective).

So to Friday and after the funeral I headed home and went through my checklists, getting everything together for Meriden, escape attempt #2. The route was different to the last one as we wanted to do less distance ("just" 100k) and because we were self supported so had to find shops that we could stop at. I had therefore worked a plan to take us to Stratford upon Avon (following the same route as we had done in Nov, which kept the night navigation easier), then onto Evesham, Tewkesbury & then to Gloucester. There were major Abbey's or Cathedrals in those towns (ok Jim, City for Gloucester) so I thought of it as a pilgrimage.

I managed to almost leave my phone at home so the initial logistics of getting to Meriden were a bit fraught, but calmed down once Jim and I were on the train to Birmingham. We just had our race vests and a carrier bag, which acted like the Cauldren of Cerridwen, overflowing in crisps, malt loaf, biscuits, sandwiches and pasta. Despite running for 13 hours, there is no way I will have lost weight. A free bus (technical failure on the buses touchless card reader) to Meriden and we were there at 10pm. Smooth registration, trackers issued, free tea and coffee and more biscuits, relax, chat, final prep and a change of T shirt to the escape top and we were ready to roll.

Just before midnight we gathered in the light rain sporting our waterproofs, admiring the flashing lights of our fellow prisoners, one had even disguised himself as the prison dog (aka Scooby Doo) to fool the guards. Then we all set off, as ever we separated into smaller and smaller numbers as we went past more and more road junctions. Within 2 miles we had ditched the waterproofs as we were getting too hot. The chat was flowing but we both sensed quite early on that there were niggles that might not iron themselves out.

The rain intensified around 2am and was pretty miserable, but we knew it would pass. What also passed us was another escapee and her support vehicle, which was driving behind her at 5 miles an hour. I thought it must be a nightmare job, but as Jim pointed out, it was the best way to ensure the safety of a solo runner.

At 3.45am we made it to CP1, 20 miles, (Shell garage in Stratford) and Jim managed to negotiate with the server to make us 2 coffees. The sandwich selection was poor, we ended up with the most potent of cheese and spring onion and an egg and bacon. Although the downside of self supporting was you had to take what you could get, the upside was that we didn't stop in chairs like we had in Nov and instead walked on, munching away.

The Greenway was our route out, although the sky had lightened and head torches were no longer needed, it was a grey start to the day and this reflected in our mood as we started to run again. Even the cute bunnies didn't lift the mood. Jim's back was giving him gyp so we stopped (eventually) at the end of the Greenway for ibuprofen gel application. As I faffed Jim sat down and looked to almost be asleep in seconds.

We were still steadily run walking although pace had dropped from 11 min average to 13 min. We were now on minor roads through lots of very lovely (and expensive) looking villages as we headed to Evesham. In general although we knew it was going to be tough, mentally we were content, then we got a real kicker as we noted that the roadsigns were showing 2.5 more miles to Evesham than I had thought. That was a blow, but we assumed it just meant that Tewkesbury would be closer to Evesham than I thought.

We got to Evesham Costa, CP2 at 7.20am with 35 (rather than the planned 32.5) miles completed. A fill up of the water, toastie and decent cuppa and for me a change of socks and application of blister plasters (learning from Nov escape when I'd walked the last 10 miles on huge blisters).

The sun was now warming us nicely as we passed the abbey at Evesham, then after following the pavement on the A46, we headed on the back roads again to Tewkesbury. The first half of these 12 miles was pretty good, chatting away and pace still around 13. Then our road sign nemesis struck again and we had another 2 miles extra to get to Tewkesbury.

In hindsight the reason for this is clear, the OS Map app is great for plotting & following routes, but it is inaccurate. In Nov I'd taken the distances from plotting the route in Garmin and this was accurate. We'd not got lost or made any mistakes, we just had more miles to do. However at the time our heads dropped, it mentally fried us whilst the sun toasted us. This coupled with the horrible route into Tewkesbury (through endless industrial and housing estates) saw us at a very low point as we stocked up on food and water at Morrisons, CP3, 50 miles.

We ate ice cream and got on our way, past the magnificent Abbey before we got onto the Severn Way and headed towards Gloucester. It was I'm sure a lovely view, but I didn't give a sh1t, I was in pain, physically in the left hip and mentally in the heat. After another 6 miles down the river, with stiles seriously aggravating the mood, I had to stop. Jim could have carried on as we were solo runners so had our own trackers, but he was as damaged as me. I was gutted to have to pull up, not so much about missing the full distance, but it meant we didn't get to do the detour Jim had planned for personal reasons.

In hindsight, the 45 miles of the Green Man 19 days earlier was probably the main cause, tired bodies. The distance error was a mental blow, but would have been manageable on a different day (although I'll use Garmin for distance measures from now on). The plus points were 57 miles covered, running with Jim and a fully self supported route.

After 2 pints of Lime & Soda the evac in the form of his Mum got to Gloucester station (where as the running gods conspired) we met another escapee. Then from Yate a lift from DCW who came equipped with ice cold cans of beer, I could have used to to roll on my hip and shin, but it was a beer.....








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