Monday 30 April 2018

I see your Java Sea and I raise you the South China Sea

We said our goodbyes to Jakarta and made our merry way up the Java Sea with over 1000 miles to steam to get us to our next destination. We had to make best speed to arrive on time in Brunei, as we had a lot of official functions and Defence Engagements to carry out.

We were heading to the Northern part of Brunei called the Muara District. I had carried out some prior research as I always do, to find out more about the running in various ports I will be visiting. Like the majority of the time, the timings don't match when official events are on, so often my running is just that.

There are Hashers out here but sadly the night of Hashing is on the day we sail, so I won't be able to participate in that event. So instead like normal I tried to plan my own route, taking into account of where we are berthed alongside.

My first run in Brunei
I was duty the first day in, so I wasn't able to stretch my legs that evening, but the following morning I arose early. One of my oppo's took over early from me and I was down the gangway and off the ship. With out knowing where to go as such as the planned route made no sense, I decided to go with instinct. I knew roughly the direction to take and thankfully I made it to the beach. It was 1.5 miles to the beach from the ship. Once I got there I took in the views and then ran a further 3 miles up and down the beach before heading back to the ship.

Powered by Berry
To get through the beach you have to pass through a recreational park, where at 7 am in the morning there was a BBQ already on the go (as you would). It wasn't what I expected to see at that time. The traffic was completely the opposite to Jakarta as in there was less of it. I actually felt safe running on the road to and from the beach to be honest.

Although the weather is pretty much the same as Singapore and Jakarta, it didn't rain on me this morning and the sun is still shining, however it is due to have a tropical storm again. Luckily out here they currently don't last for long. A good 20 or so minutes and then it stops and dries up.

I've visited the Far East a long time ago but I was never in to running. Luckily I am now and it's great to be able to explore some fantastic areas and probably going to places those who don't travel by two feet ever go. I've run a lot in the Middle East, the Med and Europe, since I took up running, so it's nice to go elsewhere now. Training on board hasn't changed it still sucks but once my legs are on dry land they are very happy.

I've got some very exciting places to run over the next few months in and around working. I'm very much looking forward to the adventure ahead.

Muara Beach
Whilst in Brunei, I did some touristy stuff which included going into the Jungle to see the native monkey's and hopefully some Crocs (I'm not talking about the shoes). For 10 BND (£5 ish ) it was brilliant! Our local dude, took us deep into places to help find what we were after and told us a lot about the water village. It was definitely worth more than a fiver so we ended up giving him some more. If you come out here it's worth doing.

In the Jungle, the mighty Jungle
I saw other things like the Sultan's Mosque which was pretty impressive, the malls which aren't the best malls I've visited in my travels but they're alright. However they do have some freaky manakins!
I will admit despite this place being a dry state, I have had a good time here, and I've tried to make the most out of it.

The happiest manakin in the world!
Also I've entered the London Marathon ballot once more, since 2010 when I got in first time, I have re-entered a further 9 times now. Who knows 2019 could be 9 times lucky! It would be nice to race it one more time, yes it's not the best in the world, it's road etc etc but it's very special to me and now my wife also finished it, it would be good to do it again.

And to end on a sadder note, during my stay here I heard the sad news that a friend of mine Sharon sadly passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest during the swimming section of the Malaga Half Ironman event. It was an event she's been dreaming of doing for a while and she was so happy leading up to it. She was one of the happiest, smiliest of people you could imagine. She was always kind to me, and I've no bad words to say about her. She was a lovely person. She will be missed at our local parkrun and at our running club the Plymouth Musketeers.

I dedicate this blog to her! She was wonderful and far too young to be taken away from us. I will miss you Sharon.
Sharon and myself at a muddy Plymvalley parkrun. 
Well that brings me to an end of another blog, sorry it finished on a sad note, but these things make us realise how short life can be, and as I always try to do, I try and make the most of it!

Until next time.
#GoTailwind #Tailwindtrailblazer

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Across the Java and Beyond

So we left Singapore and started our journey to our next port of call as we have some Defence Engagements to conduct over the next couple of  weeks. After a 6 hour period of special sea duty men to get out of Sembewang port and then through the Malacca Strait traffic separation scheme, we were on our way to Jakarta in Indonesia.

Leaving Singapore behind
This will be the most Southerly stop as it stands on our deployment (things may still change) but as it's our first crossing across the Equator, we must pay homage to the ruler of the seas "King Neptune". It's an age old Naval tradition that we carry out. I've done it twice before so this would be my third, however I was to be one of the "Bears" in the ceremony. Our role would be to carry out the punishment set by the Judge under the watchful eye of King Neptune and his wife the Queen. It would be a long ceremony, as 320 odd personnel would be getting punished for their first crossing.

Dressed as a Dodgy Bear (2nd on left) for the ceremony
In a timely procession, one after the other, the punishments were carried out with some having their crimes read prior. Some were punished more than others, some even tried running away but the King Neptune's Police Force soon chased them and and dragged them back. If they hid, they were found and punished more. By doing this we appease Kind Neptune and now we should have good favour for the rest of our journey.
Another one gets a good punishment
2 days later 20th April arrived and I got to celebrate it once again at sea. I spent my 21st birthday at sea out here in the Far East and now I get to spend my 40th birthday out here as well. Luckily some birthday post had arrived just in time in Singapore so I had some lovely birthday mail, including the latest Garmin Fenix 5 from my wife to open. I will be giving that a good test drive over the next few months whilst away.

My new Fenix 5 birthday present arrived :)
Some people feel down about getting older, but to be fair I'm looking forward it. I had some good times in my 30's, with many achievements. I ran my first marathon, I ran my first ultra, I ran from the New Forest to Land's End, I finished my last year in the 30's running from North Wales to South Wales. I also got married, had a son and bought a house. If I am to have a midlife crisis, it best involve some running! So now I am 40 years old, it does come with some perks, I'm in new age categories for races and also at work I have to do fewer bleep test levels for the Navy Fitness test hehe!

Finally we arrived in Jakarta in Indonesia, I've been reading up on running there. Now the trails are a bit of a trip outside of the city, so I'm not sure if I will get the time around work to get there Especially as it take a couple of hours in the traffic just to go 7 miles to the centre of the city. Obviously I can run around the city area, however the level of pollution doesn't sound great, but I've run in worse. I am hoping because I'll be in the port, the coastline will be more accessible. This is what I thought about as I crossed the Java Sea.

What better flavour for training in the Tropical areas?
It was a long day day after getting alongside with various Defence events and ships open to visitors, so I didn't really get a chance to take my legs for a stretch until the following morning. The trails are just a little too far away really to fit them in especially as I don't have long here and want to make the most of getting out and about. So I took my self and my GoPro out for a jaunt through the busy streets. Even at 7.30am it was stupidly busy, it was raining In good tropical fashion but in the stupid heat it was refreshing.The streets traffic starts building up from around 5am ish.

The traffic was constant
Although I didn't get into much stride it was a nice run, yes I almost got killed by the traffic just turning into you as you tried to safely cross at junctions, yes it rained, but I love running in new places and I had many locals saying hello as I ran passed. I was either going to get wet from the rain or drenched by sweat. Rain the much preferred option on that one.

Mid run selfie
I didn't have much of a route planned so it was a simple out and back type route knowing there would then little chance of getting lost on the way back. Looking forward now to doing more exploring of the city later on. Defo recommend this place if you fancy something a little different!  Sadly the coastline wasn't as accessible as I thought it could be.

Anyway back home in the UK whilst I was working (loosely put) in Jakarta, my wife Cathy ran her first ever marathon. According to the media it was the hottest London Marathon on record. I'm not going to lie, I had my doubts how my wife will cope with me being away, the weather, the training didn't go to plan as she hoped, her anxiety and panic attacks, that she would finish. She did finish, ok not in a world record time but she still finished where many may have given up. She found someone to keep her company from about 1 mile in. Which was nice to hear when I spoke to her after she finished. She really does struggle with her panic attacks whilst running due to the issues she has with running, so usually that's where I come in. The fact she found company pretty much all the way around is amazing and I can't thank her new friend enough. Seeing those tears at the end as she showed me her medal was amazing, it even got smokey in the room I was in using the wifi to track her progress from hehe!

Definitely proud of her! Will so do another one? She'll say no for now I know that, but who knows, when I'm not away so much and able to help her train and look after our boy whilst she trains, maybe she will try another to improve on her time. Maybe she will do an Ultra? Follow in my footsteps? We will see.

My wife (in Yellow) and her new friend with their well deserved medals
So it won't be long until I am in our next port of call. Will I get some trail running in? Fingers crossed!

Thank you to the continued support from Tailwind Nutrition UK, even my wife was using it during VMLM.

#GoTailwind #Tailwindtrailblazer

Monday 16 April 2018

The adventure takes me to the heart of Asia...

Where the last blog left off, I was waiting at Port Said at the northern point of the Suez Canal waiting to go through. We did indeed go through the Suez and made our way South towards the Red Sea, soon enough we went from the warm Mediterranean temperatures to the hot and sweat temperatures of Egypt and the Red Sea.

Going through the Suez has changed a lot over the years compared to when I first went through back in 1999. Back then we were on the Forecastle of the ship in shorts and deck shoes working, now we have guys fully manning the guns in body armour etc and no one else is allowed on the upper deck. We were at an enhanced posture all the way down the canal.

After a fair trek, we eventually popped out. The canal is approximately 120 miles long, and all the way down I was thinking, I'd love to run it and try to beat the ship through (Well just get there and the ship pick me up at the end will do). Not do it on a treadmill and do the distance but actually run the length of the canal. Alas I don't think that will ever happen whilst I work within the RN.

So we are in the Red Sea, and my training continues either on the treadmill or around the upper deck. We were slowly sailing down as we were waiting for an American task group and French ship to come through with us. There has recently been attacks in the area on vessels so were were all going though the Bam el Mandeb known as the BAM the choke point of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden.

This time our posture would be further enhanced and we'd be closing up into Defence Watches firstly (a 1 in 2 routine) prior to the 12 hour BAM transit where we would then go to Action Stations which is our highest state of readiness, should we be unlucky and be attacked. Luckily we weren't and all was well. It was a long ass day though because some were unlucky to have to say on watch for another 6 hours or more after falling back into Defence Watches.

Bam el Mandeb choke point (pic taken off google)
As we go out of the other side and so forth rumours of where we were heading starting to creep around the ship. Eventually we got told the Far East, but still unsure of whether after Singapore we would be turning right to Australia or left northwards to Japan etc.

With thousands of mile to go across the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, it was going to be a long transit. Training sessions in the gym in the early hours when it was cooler although still very warm or on the upper deck when it was a little cooler either first thing or last thing before sunset. Sessions are now on running, cross trainer, bike and stepper. The stepper is in mind of the Arc of Attrition I have early on in the year next year.

It was also confirmed to us when we were looking at getting back and yes it is now pretty much 10 months away from home. I'm sad that I won't be seeing my family for pretty the whole of the year, but I have to find silver linings and going to the Far East, where I have been luckily with work a few times in the past, I get to go again to. Then the thought of running in some of these places makes me smile. We are just awaiting confirmation of the ship's programme so we can plan things, and for me to be able to see if there is any races I could enter.

Training in the gym
As time went on, we made our way across the Indian Ocean, seeing various things like Flying Fish leaping out of the water, lightening storms of great proportions and beautiful sunsets. We had flight sports and BBQ's in the lovely weather. Occasionally it would rain which was well need to 1. freshen the air and 2. wash down the upper deck of all the sand that built up from the sand storms.

Then we got told where we were going and finally we had a programme, the Government want us to left. So after Singapore left is where we were heading.

I can't tell you off all the places we are going yet, but as I visit them I will continue to update you on my adventure runs.

We made it down the Malacca Strait and finally have about 3 and half weeks we came alongside in Sembewang, Singapore. I've visited here 6 times in total, the first time in 1999 and the last time in 2000 pretty much 18 years ago. The wife had booked me into a hotel for a couple of nights so I could get some time off the ship, abuse their wifi to update my phone etc and so I could be close to one of the parkruns here in Singapore. They have two, 1 in West Coast Park and the other in East Coast Park. The hotel is near the East Coast one. It's an earlier start out here compared to back home, most likely due to the temperatures, they have.
Sunset somewhere along our transit in the Indian Ocean
I'm not going to lie, I'm a little excited to do it. I never thought I'd ever return here to be able to do one here so I'm pretty happy. I woke up early in the hotel my lovely wife booked for me for a couple of nights, and I got my self ready. I made my to the start of the East Coast Park parkrun, as the sun just started to rise. The start was at 7.30am here due to the humidity and the temperatures in the country. Even at that time it was still very hot and humid. Knowing this, I was happy to just go and enjoy the sights as I bumbled along as an easy pace. Soon enough plenty of other runners turned up and and we given the standard pre run briefing, and the tourists like myself had a really nice welcome. I wasn't the only person from the UK, there were about 6 or 7 of us in total. Some on holiday and others like myself there on work reasons.
At the start of the parkrun in Singapore
We walked down to the start and we were off, down the path along the coast. It's a very flat course much like Southsea in Portsmouth but much nicer scenery. Looking out sea you could see the 100's of ships at anchor. I also passed groups doing yoga, Thai Che, etc. It was a very busy park especially at that time in morning.

We soon hit the turnaround point, I high 5'd the marshal thanked her and made my way back to the finish. I crossed the line and scanned my barcodes. Thanking the team I soon left, I had a busy day sort of planned ahead so I didn't hang around to grab a coffee and cake at the nearby Starbucks with the other park runners. Shocking I know, but I had to make my way back to the hotel and get myself sorted. I'm so glad I go out of my air conditioned hotel room and ran it. It was nice to have a little organised event to go to as well. If you're ever out here you can't go wrong with a parkrun.
The view along the way of route of the parkrun
I nailed about a litre of tailwind not for the fuel but for the electrolytes, due to excess sweating thanks to the humidity and the exercise I wanted to make sure I replaced them. Lemon was my choice and it was quite refreshing.

So my adventures went on into the evening in the various bars and clubs into the early hours with a friend off ship. I had a pretty epic time to be honest, I love it out here and my whole stay reminded me why it's one of my fav places in the world to visit. Highly recommended to be honest!

So we leave soon from here and continue our journey, so until next time when I update you all on my adventures away with work.

Out on the streets of Singapore

Thanks for reading

#gotailwind #tailwindtrailblazer

Thursday 12 April 2018

As the adventure continues we move on finally.....

Sorry for the delay in publishing my latest blog, due to many reasons mainly to do with Operational Security I couldn’t just blab about where I was and what we were doing. 
Eventually we left the fine shores of Crete, we had one final weekend after a brief period at sea to get us back in date for flying, and I spent some of it driving around the beautiful but scarey mountains as me and some of my work friends went looking for a beach. It was worth the road trip! An adventure in it’s own right. 
Off Cyprus doing some flying with the RAF Chinooks

My running took me back to training on the ship, the many laps of the upper deck isn’t with out it’s monotomy, but with the good weather it makes it much more bareable than running on the ship’s treadmills which are just about useable. 
As I plod around the upper deck, it does allow me clear my thoughts of work. As it currently is so unpredictable right now it doesn’t do morale much good. I think that is something I’ve learnt to do during my still short running career. To use it as a way of focusing, clearing my head of the negativity that I may be surrounded by. Even at sea, at work I am lucky to be able to continue my running in some form. 
Laps of the upper deck as the sun went down
We made our way to Cyprus and we sat off at Anchor in the bay just off Akatori. From here the place looks promising, and I await hopefully to spread my running legs along parts of it when I eventually get ashore. We eventually made our way alongside in Limasol. Sadly due to the political issues with another nation, we had very strict resitrictions on going ashore. We weren’t allowed to go ashore by ourselves and were only allowed in certain areas. The restrictions weren’t just due to political issues but also as the area was out of season the locals have a tendency of getting pissed off with tourists and they have been known to frog march people to cash points with guns to get money out for them as well as beatings and muggings. 
So I kept my training to on board, and only went ashore for a  bimble with people from the mess. 
Our programme has gone from a 5 month med deployment supporting NATO to a pretty much 10 month programme, as we were given the kind words of your going through the Suez and now heading east. How Far East, we still didn’t know but what we did know was we were heading to far warmer climates. Were we heading to the Arabian Gulf or Further East? At the time of writing this blog we still do not know the plans the UK Gov have for us. All I know is we won’t be back until the end of Nov and it’s going to get much hotter! Not the most idea training for the next year's Arc of Attrition. Training in the hottest places in the world for the UK’s pretty much nails Winter 100 mile foot race.

Our position at the time of writing this blog waiting in Port Said
In the meantime long time supporter of mine Tailwind Nutrition UK have made me on their official Trailblazers. I’m pretty chuffed with that to be honest, a lot of what I have achieved has because of their support and it will be good to give more back to them by being a trailblazer. 

Some of the goodies sent to me by my sponsor Tailwind Nutrition UK
So where will be my next leg stretch? Dusty deserts of the Arabian Gulf or further East in the humid Asian lands? 

Well by the time I publish this you will now the answer to this.Until the next blog.


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