Some Stuff About Me ......

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I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with my wonderful wife and soul-mate Helen. I have two incredible sons - Evan and Matthew - who are occasionally show up at home, usually when they're hungry or need money. The three of them are the best thing that ever happened to me and I love them all. I spent over 24 years in the Royal Navy, but since I packed it all in and got a proper job my life has gone from strength to strength and I've never looked back. I am a die-hard soul music fan and this remains a serious passion, but in recent years my life has been dedicated to running on the fells and trails of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ...

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Traumatic End

I was very frustrated by the weather last week, by this I mean the fact that it was pretty fantastic for the time of year and I was stuck indoors, completely unable to take advantage of it. So, I ruled that we would be making an early start on Saturday morning and at 0600 routed Harrogate's most grumpy and bad-tempered female grizzly bear out of her pit, destination the Eastern Lakeland Fells.  We were on the road by 0700 (some growling and nastiness was involved, unfortunately) and by 0820 were pulling up alongside the little institute (= village hall) at Kentmere. I planned a clockwise circuit of the entire Kentmere Horseshoe, going over the tops and taking in Harter Fell. It was gorgeous weather, cold to start with but clear and well worth getting out of bed for. I was testing out a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 200s and these proved to be very good, I've not been able to do this until recently, as the X-Talon just won't accommodate my wide feet, but the 200s have a very wide forefoot and I found them an excellent fell shoe. Don't know if they're going to be as good as my beloved Mudclaws (I'm assured they're better on rock), but definitely worth a go. The weather started closing in as we got to Nan Bield - the inversion in neighbouring Mardale wanted to pour into the Kentmere basin - but we still plugged on the Harter Fell and then down to Kentmere Pike, before following the fell race route back to Kentmere. Am a bit annoyed with myself really, I should have hopped over the wall at Kentmere Pike and done Goat Crag and Shipman Knotts, but just forgot really .... will have to do it next time. And there will be next times, I don't know why we don't visit Kentmere more often, it's easily the most accessible area of the Lakes for us and on a good morning I can get there before Helen has had chance to make more than a few cursory clawmarks in the car dashboard. We dropped into Staveley afterwards so that I could slobber over the latest bike porn at Wheelbase, then it was back home for cuppas and domestic chores.

Sunday was a bit more relaxed, but I did persuade Bobs that she wanted to go for a bike ride.  This is a rare occurrence, despite her being in possession of a suitably exotic piece of bike hardware. I took her round my standard timed loop and it went surprisingly well, though she's very rusty on the thing, the clunks and grinds from the nice Shimano chainset clearly don't cause her as much distress and they do me. Back home without too much trauma, then out fairly sharpish to watch the new "Everest" movie. The film is about the much-vaunted (and disastrous) 1996 expeditions led by Rob Hall and Scott Fischer and by some coincidence I have just finished reading a book on the subject. Despite me knowing the ending (it wasn't a happy one), it was all a bit stressful and harrowing. Go and watch it, but please be prepared for a bit of heartbreak.

Anyhow, the only other news of any note is that the f*cking washing machine chose this weekend to commit hari-kiri, so we are know on the hunt for a replacement.  I suppose I shouldn't complain, it was 15 years old and has never had any maintenance whatsoever, it was the first thing I bought for myself when I got my own little flat in Knaresborough, seems like an eternity ago. It was a Bosch by the way, so that's what I will be looking for to replace it. 15 years is pretty good isn't it? Mind you, the water IS pretty soft round here. When I used to live in Portsmouth, the water was so hard that everything self-destructed very rapidly indeed.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

A Green and Pleasant Land

It's surprising how quickly you adjust. By that, I mean I'm reflecting on the rapid changes in direction that life can deliver. We got back from Chamonix in the early hours of last Monday, having spent the previous week cavorting round the French/Italian/Swiss alps, but a week back at work and all the usual pressures soon erases it from your mind and, to be honest, it already seems like a distant memory. I'd better get my blogging head on if I'm going to record any of it for posterity, otherwise my deteriorating memory might consign it to > null.
 
I did little exercise last week, a couple of early-morning swim sessions where it felt like I was ploughing through glue and one desultory 5-mile run on Thursday evening. I styled this as a recovery run, though truth be told it was more of a "hang on for grim death" kind of a thing. Literally everything hurt, including (worryingly) some patella tendon pain in my left knee. Perhaps I wasn't quite ready for it ..... and I think it's important to give some context here, the UTMB CCC may be the "little sister" of the UTMB itself, but it's still 63 miles and 22,000ft of climb, all of which was done with a hefty pack and elevated temperatures (around 35c). OK, not quite a BGR but close enough to make you hitch your Big Boy/Girl pants up.
 
Anyhow, recognising that another long and hard run just wasn't an option, Helen and I headed up to the Dales yesterday for a very easy jaunt round one of our favourite training routes. We parked at Buckden and then (of course), made an easy ascent of Buckden Pike, past the Polish War Memorial and then followed the Fellsman route to Top Mere. An easy descent down to Starbotton followed, and then a short, sharp slog back up the side of the mountain to the Buckden Lead Mines. Of course, these are long-abandoned and nature is slowly reclaiming every trace of man's efforts to scratch a living from this harsh environment. As always, I found myself wondering about the men who worked here all those years ago and how terribly hard it must have been; the walk to work must have been a killer in the first place. Anyhow, it seemed like we had the whole of Wharfedale to ourselves, the sun was shining and the whole place had that impossibly green, lush look about it that you only get in England. The views were absolutely gorgeous and the whole aura was one of total serenity. Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that I get to do this kind of thing, I truly wouldn't have it any other way. Tell you what: The Alps might be staggering, the Lake District impossibly beautiful - but on a good day, the Yorkshire Dales gives them both a run for their money.
 
Back at the car, we headed over to DT & Stef's place to return the ladies' Yorkshireman trophy (Bobs and Emma won it last year and they're not doing this year's race), a few companianable beers then back home for some late-night chips and curry. A day well spent methinks.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Right Back Down to Earth

It's all a bit hectic and knackered here at Chez Exile, we got back from Geneva at about 0300 this morning, having spent all last week at the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) in Chamonix. It was a terrific week, Helen and myself along with our friend Carol did the CCC race (Courmayeur - Champex - Chamonix) while our other mate Emma did the TDS (it translates to something like "In the Footsteps of The Dukes of Savoie"). I may blog about it all later, it's a story worth telling.

Anyhow, we're all a bit tired and fractious. Can I just say, for the record, that Geneva airport is indescribably crap? I find it hugely ironic that it's possible to buy a Rolex or Omega watch in Duty Free but you can't get a bottle of water or bag of sweets to save your life. You wouldn't think the mega-efficient Swiss would have such a poor setup, but that's how it is. Probably one of the worst airports I've known and that includes some proper sh*tholes. More work required, Mr Johnny Swiss-Bloke.

Anyhow, the thrust of this little story is that I was forcibly brought back to down to earth this morning: We were starving and so I was despatched to our local Co-Op to get the makings for bacon butties. Now, I don't often visit this establishment, but needs must and it's the closest shop to our house. I grabbed the stuff and in front of me in the queue to pay was a very large and indescribably ugly woman (sorry, it's how it was) buying cheap booze (vodka), fags and National Lottery scratchcards and this was just at 11.30. She looked like she had never smiled in her life, most probably she hadn't. I saw her in the car park afterwards, she was rubbing away at the scratchards with an eagerness that belied her previous demeanour and for a second, just a second, I could see that New Horizons beckoned .... but no, Dame Fortune hadn't smiled and her features sagged along with her shoulders, I guess everyone tries to change their stars one way or another.

She shuffled off, doubtless to start work on her other shopping items. I felt as guilty as hell, my life is so different than hers that it's faintly unbelievable. I'd just returned from one of the most beautiful places on Earth, having spend the week in a luxury apartment with my friends, all of whom are mega-fit and dripping with the latest exotic sports gear. I'd seen and done things that this poor woman could never in her wildest dreams imagine and I feel terrible about it and very humbled.

Sometimes we don't realise how lucky we are.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Grinding It Out

Right, I resolve to kick this blog into action - enough of this procrastination:

Things have been a bit busy of late. It was the Lakeland 50/100 the weekend before last and we stood on the 50 startline for what was our third (and probably final) outing. It went OK, slightly cooler than last year so I was able to keep (de)hydration at sensible levels and the cramp that has plagued me on this event was mostly kept at bay. All in all, it was a successful outing and I trimmed over 30 mins off last year's time to finish in 11:27:06, but the real stars of the show were Helen and our friend Carol.  Helen had a terrific outing last year, finishing in 10:45 and 8th lady, but this year she just surpassed herself to do it in 10:00:47 and 5th lady overall. Of course, she's moaning a bucketload about those 47 seconds, but I am ignoring her. A fine run. Carol just outdid herself to finish the 100 in an astounding 25:47 and 1st lady by some margin, a fantastic result and one that's richly deserved. Slightly amazing that both these (daft) gals went out this weekend and did a trail marathon, finishing 2nd and 4th. Personally, I could barely walk just a week after my one and only 100-mile outing, never mind run!!

This weekend I have been mostly drinking and eating.  Helen was away with Carol at a girls' weekend (which took in the race above), so I faffed around and fixed things on Friday night/Sat morning, then on Saturday afternoon went out with some mates on a circular off-road route around Otley and the outskirts of Harrogate. 20 miles later we came back very wet, covered in mud and having met some considerable nettle patches en-route.  Oh yes, I also head-butted a tree in the process (the tree won). We then drank a load of beer, then went out in the evening to a terrific Indian restaurant where we drank more beer. I retired home, hurt.

Sunday I returned to the scene of the crime for a mutual hangover-bonding session and bacon butties up the Ying Yang (ie. lots of). Feeling shite, I got Sophia out and donned lycra for a hilly ride out in the hills with a pal, the aim being to shake off the hangover. Colossal fail.

Woke up this morning still feeling rough, but I'd promised Em that I would go swimming with her .... thus it was I was shivering in an under-heated pool at 6.30a.m. and wishing I was still firmly held in a wrestling grip by my duvet. 60 brisk(ish) lengths later, I was beginning to perk up a bit. Am knackered now though. Need food.