Monthly Archives: April 2015

Crab sandwiches and fudge!

Today I hit the coastal path from Tregardoc to Port Isaac.  There and back it is a round trip of just shy of 12 miles. However, I seriously think that with the ups and downs it should really be about 13 or 14 miles – it feels like about 15 at least.  The last time I did this exact bit of the North Cornwall coastal path was roughly 10 years ago with my sister Catherine, we were camping in the farmer’s fields in exchange for a few bottles of wine!  I wasn’t running it then, but as I hit the first steep climb, which is the worst as it is steep steep steps cut into the cliff, I did have a chuckle to myself as I remembered reaching the top last time and having to hold a conversation with some walkers coming the other way – I think I succeeded in sounding lucid and not out of breath…it might not be quite possible to say the same of my wonderful sister (sorry Catherine), but she did reach the top with a very friendly smile.  

So, the weather was a tad more inclement this morning, and I waited until I had heard Paula Radcliffe interviewed on Women’s Hour regarding her upcoming swansong marathon at the London Marathon this Sunday, and then I set off. Wet weather gear packed into my rucksack, along with a bit of glug and some fudge – what more could you ask for.  It wasn’t cold, just grey, and ever so slightly spitting as I hit the cliffs.  The first bit of the route is actually quite pleasant, gently running along the tops of the cliffs, looking over Tregardoc beach and a couple of other subsequent inlets.  Basically at the bottom of the farm fields.  Some very lovely black sheep looked on rather quizzically as a sauntered past.  A few styles and kissing gates, and then the first descent.  The problem with going down is that you look ahead and see the going up on the other side.  The first climb is the toughest and best taken all at once without stopping, luckily I didn’t have to speak to anyone at the top as there was no one there and I slowly let my heart rate settle and began running along the top again and down the next desent.  This goes on for a while – at least 2 or 3 descents followed by steep exhausting climbs.  The thoughts going through my head at this point was doing the reverse going back the other way.  The annoying thing about this route, and yes even running the beautiful coastal path has its annoying moment, is the fact that every time you get to a peak, or jutting out bit of cliff you can see Port Isaac in the distance, it teases you mercilessly as although at times it seems to get closer quite quickly, you are also able to see the number of times you have to descend steeply and climb again.  Coupled with this was the fact that I completely missed a rather large stepping stone over one stream and plonked my whole foot into said stream, and with the other one trod immediately in a rather fresh cowpat!!!!! Not ideal.  At the crest of the next peak it flattened out abit and I trotted along enjoying the blossoms, (more primroses and bluebells) and was then surprised by my phone bleeping at me – I miraculously had some signal!!!!  It was my fella texting me from darkest India, where he is on the Ganges river!!  A bit of a contrast to slogging along the coastal path and I admit to a moment’s envy.  Then a quick phonecall to Mum & Dad to impress them as I ran (which I think I did), I then hit the initially gentle slopes along the top down into Port Gaverne.  The last descent into Port Gaverne is quite steep and comes out down by the fancy restaurant there, bringing you out into the middle of the port before ascending up the road to Port Isaac.

I had picked up my pace by this point and was descending quite fast in a fashion that I think would impress most fell runners. It doesn’t however impress someone directing a scene for the next series of Doc Martin, and I ran rather fast straight into the background of a scene with Martin Clunes himself – I did wander why there was someone sitting with a walkytalky at the bottom of the hill.  I heard the word “Cut” amongst a couple of expletives, which I think were more directed at someone who was holding a walkytalky but not actually doing there job!  I waved, shouted sorry and carried on running (I was into my stride quite fast at this point). I did glimpse back, and realised I was being watched as I ran UP the hill to Port Isaac, and my silly pride meant I had to keep running all the way up to the top at a reasonable pace….suffice to say, when I reached the top of the hill I could barely breathe, let alone speak.  I decided not to descend into the centre of Port Isaac, but had a much needed pitstop at a lovely cafe called From the Sea (or something like that), where I had a delicious fresh crab sandwich, followed by a few pieces of fudge – it felt wrong to get out a hunk of glug in a cafe that sold cake!

The sky was turning distinctly grey, so I decided to head straight back whilst I was well fuelled and raring to go.  The first thing I had to encounter was a mini coach load of tourists (far be it from me to add the description of ageing pink haired brigade), who were all badgering Mr Martin Clunes for selfies and autographs. I simply couldn’t bring myself to join the throng, so exchanged a wave with a couple of crew members and remembered my task in hand, to climb the steep hill which I had so energetically run down, out of Port Gaverne. 

The rain had clearly set in whilst I had been eating crab sandwiches, but luckily, seemed to do little more than spit for me – but it had left the going somewhat wet.  I might as well have run through every stream I passed – my feet certainly felt like I had.  The return journey (as all return journeys tend to) felt faster and quicker, although I’m sure there was more uphill.  I startled a few pheasants, and one in particular caused much mirth, as it clearly forgot that it had wings to fly away with and set of running down in the track in front of me in order to escape me – which seeing as I was going the same way meant that for a good 500metres I was hilariously chasing a pheasant who was clearly panicking about what to do and where to go.  He finally remembered what his wings were for and took off, but not without a lot of clucking and fuss. Trust me, you had to be there, but I was laughing out loud.  With sodden feet and a bit knackered – the only way back from Tregardoc to my hobbit hut is uphill, and through a drenched field, I eventually got back and had a greatly appreciated hot shower.  And then it started to rain.

I’m now eating a delicious hot Yellow Thai Curry, in the ever wonderful Cornish Arms in Pendoggett, drinking a Doom Bar beer and listening to some local banter….perfect!

I wonder – do you think they sell crab sandwiches in the Atacama Desert?!

 The view from my hobbit hut…. 

more pics will be posted soon!

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Bluebells, primroses, lambs and a little bit of sand…

So here I am, down in Cornwall, although by the time I find some wifi service I’ll probably be back in the old smoke!

I’ve upped sticks and come down to Cornwall for a few days to really knuckly down on my training, for the Atacama.  Although as someone rather ironically pointed out, running along by the coast is hardly going to acclimatise me for the altitude of the desert! This is a very true fact…but beggars cannot be choosers, and I feel that the constant up and down of the North Cornish coastal path is just as useful….and dare I say just as beautiful.

I’m staying in a delightful hobbit like pod in North Cornwall, just up from my favourite Cornish beach – Tregardoc. The pods are part of Caradoc of Tregardoc Farm.  There are 3 in a field looking out across the sea.  In fact, right now I don’t think I could be in a more beautiful place. This evening (Thursday 23rd April), I am sitting on the decking of my pod, watching the hazy sun drift slowly down towards the horizon. There is a very gentle breeze but barely.  There is the sound of lambs bleating, playing with one another and calling to their mothers, who reply occasionally with rather deeper and sometimes rather dubious old man like cough bleats back.  The birds are singing, there are some cows lowing who I only realised rather belatedly were watching me over the hedge whilst I used the toilet hut, but left the door open!  

So, I arrived yesterday, in a haze of glorious sunshine. Threw everything into the hut, donned my running gear (christening my funky new trail shoes) and headed straight for the cliffs.  Yesterday I ran a round 6 miles heading towards Trebarwith.  Not another person in sight.  I did run down to Tregardoc Beach, where a couple of surfers where catching some suprisingly large waves in what looked like quite a lazy sea…but the swell was good, and had I had my wetsuit I’d have joined them.  I was tempted to go in for a quick dip, and paddled up to my thighs, but it is still April and the water was FREEZING, and to be fair they were wearing full length suits, boots etc. (wooses – my wetsuit is only a thigh length one, and had I had it I’d have gone in!) Still, I was quite happy with my 6 miles, was a good leg stretcher, and mind freer.  

Today, getting up with the best view in the world to inspire action, to invigorate me, I set off, parking my car at what is called Lundy Bay – another very beautiful beach, and headed off along the cliffs towards Pentire, Polzeath, Greenaway and Rock.  It is very up and down, and the one drawback is slowing to stop at every gate (I say drawback, but it does allow for the opportunity to pause and breathe).  The going though was so beautiful, primroses, bluebells like a violet carpet, bright yellow gorse, and white May blossom, a panicked little lamb who I rather took by surprise, a couple of artists (I don’t think I featured in their paintings!), and handful of walkers.  The tide was on its way out so I had a clear run across Polzeath beach which was smooth clean sand, then across the beach from Daymer Bay to rock, where I took the opportunity to head to the soft sand and pretend I was in the desert itself.  A pitstop in Rock, for a cold drink, then I turned back and headed back along the beach, dodging a few over excited spaniels and labradors chasing balls, (and me!), I paused on Greenaway Beach which I delightfully had to myself.  I had a proper fuel stop here, munching on a big wedge of Glug – if you don’t know what glug is, well it is my mum’s all year round deliciously scrumptios raisin & sultana cake – it really is the best cake in the world.  Whatever condition you are in, whatever activity you have been doing it hits the spot! I hung out on this  beach for about an hour or so, because this beach is special.  If you have ever read John Betjemen poetry, or even head down here yourself you will know why.  Not only is it one of the wildest beaches, with rugged rocks creating rockpools in abundance, it has a shingle for its sand which reveals a secret treasure to those that know and that have the patience to seek it. Cowrie shells. My hoard today grew by about 120 – which ain’t half bad in just an hour.  I could have stayed all afternoon, but then the thought of running back later wouldn’t have been quite so appealing, so at about 15.30 I brushed of the stones from my feet, loaded up my pack onto my back and headed back.  I ran on to Ephaven and then double backed up to Lundy Bay where I paused to wave to the spirits of past Halfhead dogs – Lundy, Hannah & Bramble…..Stroma is further back at Pentire, The Rumps – that was allegedly her favourite place, but I have my suspiciouns that her breath was too stinky, so the others had their ashes scattered at Lundy Beach.  Still, I did attract slightly odd looks as I waved at the deserted beach, before panting my way back up to Lundy car park.  A lovely couple commented “goodness, we saw you run to the top (meaning Ephaven),!”  I didn’t really have a reply, I was breathless, near the end of my run so a bit cream crackered, so smiled, and said “yes, it was a bit steep!”  I reached my car after 15.50 miles, promptly poured a bottle of water over me, to the wry amusement of the lovely couple as they reached the car park.  I must admit to being quite pleased with myself.  It’s the longest run I’ve done for a while, and as long as I can walk tomorrow I feel ready to go again tomorrow….ish!

And, a hot shower later, beer in hand, sea view, it ain’t half bad.  I could so get used to this Cornish living…. 🙂

Found the very lovely Cornish Arms pub in Pendoggett for a deliciously cool pint of Doom Bar and wifi – hurrah!

 My hobbit hut…. 

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss (1904 – 1991)

So, very exciting… with the help of one of the brilliant running assistants I now have two new pairs of trainers.  Now I know to non-runners this might not seem exciting, but as a runner there is always something exciting about having a new pair of trainers.  It always makes me feel a little like Tigger, and I almost bounce out of the shop raring to go on a run there and then.  I buy my trainers at the one an only place any runner should by their trainers in London, Run and Become in Victoria, and to date I have never had a duff pair of trainers.  I am a little dubious about all the colours trainers come in today, mine are a sort of lurid green/turquoise colour which I am somewhat disconcerted about.  But more sedate and practical are my very lovely new trail trainers all set for the desert – a beautiful pair of Inov 8s.  This time I’m determined not to end up with hobbit like feet and have a good vibe about these trainers.

Two hours yesterday in the high altitude (hypoxic) chamber at The Third Space gym was tough, and a little boring if I’m honest…treadmill running really is rather laborious and when I train in the hypoxic chamber I do wonder at people who only ever run on the treadmill rather than head out and about.  I know pedestrians, cyclists and traffic can be annoying, dangerous, frustrating, but you do see funny sites from time to time – literally on Tuesday as I ran down towards the river I ran past a man walking a miniature Shetland pony!!!!!!!!! Not a common sight in London I assure, and not one you see on a treadmill.

I’ve also now signed up for the Purbeck Marathon down in Dorset along the Swannage cliffs, Corfe Castle in September as a final warm up a few days before I begin the ridiculously long journey out to Chile and the Atacama Desert….It’s all suddenly seeming a bit more real!

With the UK doing this wonderfully passable imitation of summer, all I can say is get your trainers on, get outside and go for a run!

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Will I need a swiss ball in the desert….?

I don’t think so, but my trainer Luke Worthington seems convinced that I’m going to need a Swiss Ball in the desert. I just don’t think I’m going to fit one in my rucksack.

Yes, back on track now after a ropey couple of months where training in terms of running has been a bit thin on the ground.  Full on proper flu really knocks you for six, and it’s taken me ages to feel back to full energy and motivation.  Add to the de-energisingness of flu is I’m older and juggling time to train with long nursing shifts is definitely tougher than it was in 2012 – what a difference 3 years makes.

So, back to that Swiss Ball – I’m just not sure that finishing a strength training session by being in plank position (press up position for those not in the know), leaning on the Swiss Ball on my elbows and having to do rotations x6 in each direction is really something I’m going to be doing a lot as I stride out across the desert.  Luke always smiles somewhat wryly at my feeble protestations, no glimmer of sympathy in his face.  The fact is in all the years I have been training and running I have never liked press ups in any shape or form, I never have and I never will. But apparently it is nothing to do with whether or not I like particular exercises as to why I do them – who knew!

There is definitely a difference though to running through London these days – when I first started running, there didn’t seem to be so many people around, getting in the way and not looking where they are going.  I’m not sure that cycling the streets of London is a whole lot safer than running, even along the Thames path.  Maybe it’s my lack of patience as I get older but as you see a group of tourists walking towards you, and you are clearly running, focused, with a pack, looking to go in a straight line as much as possible – it is somewhat frustrating when they just gawp at you like a tourist attraction rather than getting out of the way.  And I won’t comment on the people walking without sense of direction or awareness of their enviornment as they gab away on their mobile phones.  Do I sound cantankerous….maybe a little 🙂

Still onwards and upwards – high altitude training today, sadly not outside high up a mountain, but in a contained chamber in my gym at an altitude of 2500 metres….such fun!

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