Sunday, 23 August 2015

Holiday, birthday race, touch of retro

Touching Tarmac
England, where the traffic is sometimes vintage, 
and the animals are sometimes traffic. 
It was good to get away to the UK, especially for a race on Dad's 70th birthday.
First to Marlow, and cross training. Down the hill, sample beer and cider at the local brewery, back uphill again. 

First run took me along Dad's regular sunday short route. Much of it is along single track road which cars, cyclists and runners all share. Having been out of country for a while made me tentative around most of the corners.
For the end of the run, there was a Strava segment, the "Marlow Bottom Mile", which went past my old school. 10k race pace past the 10k mark was good preparation. I posted 3rd on the segment too. 

Torquay Time
200+ miles away is Torquay, where Dad lived until he was 10. 
All 7 of us including my brother Colin, wife Julie and son Ethan shared a Victorian house for a week. All the weirdness you could hope for in a 150 year old structure, including horse stable style bathroom doors. 
It's all hills. 
Also, mood lighting in the house to contemplate the 10k race to come 2 days later at 6pm. 

Planes & Caves
Meanwhile, there were planes to watch at Dawlish beach. 
This included the quite incredible Vulcan, 
a Cold War era bomber on one of its final ever flights, maybe with Doctor Strangelove at the controls.
A Spitfire added more Rule Britannia. 
Got stalactites? Kent Cavern caves was a 2 minute walk from the house, a good way to keep out of the rain on race morning. 
A long history of discovery and archeology, sure to give Indiana Jones the willies if the lights went out. 

Family Race Day
Brother Colin, Dad and me did the Torbay 10k. It was Dad's 70th birthday, and for the race at 6pm, the sun came out. 
It rained for most of the week, so it was perfect timing. 

Less than perfect was the race organization, not exactly describing the start location, package pick-up on race day only, lack of road closures for most of the course and bottleneck startline. 
Still, it was race day, and always at my happiest. 
The race went along the beach, up and downhill, 2 laps of Paignton Green, then back halfway to the start and finish on top of a hill. 
In hindsight I should've started further forward. The inside lane had cars and vans parked in it, and other runners joining from the sides. 
It was 2 lanes each way, and runners only got their 2 lanes to themselves for the first k. 
I was still making my way through the crowd when I passed Mum and A-Chang. 
Colin followed. 
Then Dad, nearly missing the photographers, though this is a great air shot. 
The hilly section was a series of short and sharp undulations. I almost missed Ethan and Julie as I passed them just before the first one at 2k. 
No longer having use of the road, I followed the lead of the guy in front squeezing between a wall and signpost for a 90 degree corner. 
Wow, a museum condition Cortina! The most surprising thing I saw in the race. (Brits-only joke) 
The course then joined Paignton Green for 2 laps. Beach huts, mini-golf and a pier. Trumping all that for quintessential Englishness, however, was the waft of fish & chips with vinegar drifting over the beach. God Save The Queen.
I looked for Dad and Colin on the second lap, though didn't spot them. 
Also on the lookout for rogue pedestrians, a lady/ lemming with pushchair tried to cross right in front of me. Somehow I kept my language clean, merely announcing "Bad decision!" 

The return leg brought a long uphill grind for the second last kilometre. The slowest part of my race, I wouldn't be getting a second sub-40. A little annoying, as without gradient and traffic, 4 minutes and under per k had not been too difficult.
I was still passing people at the end, at near 5k race pace. The last guy I passed said, "What? Oh, alright."
In my GB top and the day after Mo Farah got the first of his 2 golds at the World Athletics Championships, a Mobot was in order. 
My finishing time was 40:31, 48th out of 606, and 10th out of 50 in my age group. 
Looking back, I had been in PB shape, but gradient and crowding from rather wanting race organization had prevented it. I managed a 10k stretch in 40:06, according to Strava. The middle 5k took just 19:36. I covered 10.09k by my watch, which in the case of this race I find quite believable.  

Still, all that is a very distant 2nd place to enjoying a shared family race. I wandered back down from the finish line to wait for the others. 
Colin came in at 56:30, I waved him through as I was waiting for Dad.
I heard Ethan joined him for the finish, contributing to a few traffic flow problems. 
Just 2 minutes later Dad appeared, and I joined him for the finish. 

Crossing in 58:37 to the sounds of Happy Birthday, he made it look like he was going to do a celebratory swan dive off the nearby cliff. 
I was almost given a second medal. Dad was 3rd in his AG, a fine debut for his 70s. 
Pub dinner: I had fish & chips, because..
Dad blew out his candles to top off a fine day. Both of us took up running after (indirect) advice from doctors. When I suggested this race to celebrate his 70th, he took all of 5 seconds to agree.

So English 

Next day we went full English. 
A steam train ride to Dartmouth featured in the Agatha Christie Poirot mystery "ABC Murders" to start. 
A castle my brother couldn't find, 

across the bay, 

and great Cornish Pasties. 

Train back, 
then Devon Cream Tea. 

Recovery & Discovery 
First run since the race. 
Colin's primarily a cyclist, and was heading out for a serious pedal. 
Lesson learned: pathways and trails can vary more than roads from how they look on a map. Still, a nice dead end to a red clay beach which had seen a landslide. 
Mystery statue at the top of a cliff, no idea who she is, though clearly means something to someone. 
Nice views, though blustery weather. 
How did mud smears get that high? 

In heavy rain, we got to see Dad's first home.
Agatha Christie was born and grew up in Torquay, many of her stories based in and inspired by the area. 
Selfie supreme. 


Paignton zoo in the afternoon, animal magic. 
The fabulous Tucan.
Gorilla snoozing in a pose I might give a try. 
Surreal English scene. 
Baboons: blow dried. 
Genteel goat that was happy to meet A-Chang. 
My favourite, the Red Panda, just before disappearing up a tree. 
Visitors can get close to Lemurs. 
Metal beasts later on, the Red Arrows. A-Chang wondered why Brits like to stand around watching them while getting a face full of rain. 
It was also Ethan's 10th: zoo, planes and pizza. 
Finished the day passing through the world's creepiest car park entrance. 

Hills, Hills, Hills
Torquay is all about gradient. 
First hill on my thursday tempo saw Colin pedal past, shortly before Dad ran past. 
Down to Babbacombe beach. 

Motivational poster shot: Persistence? Curiosity? Map accuracy? 
From the beach was a hill so steep that even if you're able to run rather than walk, gravity pulls you backwards you when both feet come off the ground.  
A big loop along the coast after the beach, then childish laugh at sign. 

So English, Again
When thinking of England, how many have the following in mind: 

This is all in the village of Cockington. Wipe that smirk off. 
A-Chang was delighted with fresh seafood at Rockfish. I had Red Gurnard which I'd never even heard of. I think it's so named because it looks like it's pulling a face. 

Cormorants and jet skis.
A-Chang's first whelks, official approval.  
An old classic on the drive back to Marlow, I managed to find the one angle of Stonehenge that's not full of tourists. 

Mooo River
22km at 4:25 pace for my weekend long run, back in Marlow. I had a route planned with parts I both did and didn't know. 

It took me down to the Thames, and a series of fields divided by pedestrian gates. 
Getting through my 2nd or 3rd gate, the next field was full of cows. 
Uh... run through the middle, or around them? I picked a path and they seemed to catch on. 

Over Marlow Bridge, thanks van. 

A wrong turn into Bisham Abbey, above, then 2k later I managed to miss the bridge I'd been looking for. A bio-break later, I turned around and crossed it, followed the path back to Marlow, completing the half marathon distance in 1:42. 

Other home bases
Other encounters included being marked by one of my brother's cats, 
and picking blackberries for Mum to make a crumble. 
For the first time since 1985, I watched a Southampton home match (an EPL game, for those over the pond). 
Saint Mary's Stadium opened in 2002, but I was seeing it for the first time. Not really A-Chang's thing, so she played cribbage on her phone (she won). 
A 3-0 win!
We dropped in on more family on the way home, great to catch up. 

Marlow Bottom Mile
For my last trick, I decided to attack the Strava course record for the Marlow Bottom Mile. 
It can clearly be seen above. 
Keeping it at 5k finishing speed, I was lucky there were no cars at the side junctions I had to cross. 
Yay, by 18 seconds. With the segment slightly longer than an exact mile, Strava said I did that distance in 5:47, just one second slower than my PB set at a track. 
Good to end on a golden finale.