Sunday, 24 June 2018

From the Land of the Rising Sun to the Land of the Calm


We left the beautiful Island of Okinawa to head back out on operations once more, thus putting me back into the not so exciting routines at sea.

The next port of call is Busan, South Korea towards the end of the month which I'm looking forward to. When I last visited there, it was known as Pusan but that was 18 years ago. I have no doubt the city which features in the latest Black Panther film has changed a lot since the last time I visited. It's a busy stop coming up but I'm looking forward to revisiting the place for a couple reasons as you will find out later on.



Leaving Okinawa
Whilst, we are at sea it was time for my annual fitness test. Nothing too difficult for me especially at my age of 40, although I do have sign a death waiver. This is so I can't sue the MOD if I die during a fitness test because I chose to do the bleep test over the Rockport walk. I passed as always which wasn't hard as I only have to get to level 7.8 on the bleep test for my age. I'm not going to go into the RN fitness test standards because that's a whole different level of discussion.


Sunset coming into Busan waters
The weather wasn't great, it was like a cold wet miserable day in Plymouth, more than the warmer climates of the East China Sea. I did what I had to do even though it was raining and that was all that was needed. I've nothing to prove to anyone, or myself. I did record it on my Garmin though just to record the location of where I conducted my fitness test, more than anything and it's funny to see the actual results. How much I would love to be as good as it suggested there was no way I ran 4.30 min mile nor did I do 2.7 miles in 10 mins odd. What caused this? Well the ship moving as I ran effects the GPS, I could've set it to treadmill mode but then it wouldn't have logged the area I ran it in. That's all I wanted it for, I know if I uploaded it to Strava, there be some sad person claiming I cheated as they take what Strava says as gospel. "If it's not on Strava it didn't happen" Bollocks. 


Flight deck out in the East China sea the location for my Annual Fitness Test
Further a field back home, my boy ran the 2.4km Junior race as part of the Hope24 event festival. He's ran it twice before, but  it was either with me or his mum. This year he wanted to do it by himself "because Mummy is too slow" and he did. He did brill, as we had some reservations on him doing it by himself, as sometimes he requires a little motivation to get him round from one of us. However he didn't require us and he smashed it out of the park. Very proud of my boy, we're not pushy parents at all. Far from it, if he wants to run it's great, we'd never force him. That's how I believe a lot of children lose their motivation for sports. Again I could go on with this as I have seen many pushy parents in Judo a sport I participated and taught for around 30 years prior to retiring from it, but I won't that's another discussion. 

Obviously I am sad I never got to see my boy do this in person, but that's one of the down sides to my job. I have, since he's been born, missed a lot of things with him. Especially birthdays I've been home for about 1 of them and I will be away for his 8th birthday this year, and as it stands possibly away for his 9th. During this period it was Father's Day also, sadly another I am not home to spend with him. Luckily the post arrived in time prior to sailing with my Father's Day card and gift, so I haven't totally missed out but sadly it's the downside to a job at sea. Much like my own father who was in the Merchant Navy for 36 years. He was often away for birthdays and Christmas' a like. 


Hope24 is an amazing event, it was it's 5th birthday this year and I'm sad I wasn't able to participate in any form. From what I have seen on various SM outlets, it appears it was another successful one again, with my friends enjoying themselves and some even achieving more than they expected. Well done to all of you! Hopefully I will be back next year. I've missed seeing all my friends especially those who I formed friendships through the event itself. 



My boy proud of his Hope24 achievement
That said we eventually arrived in Busan, South Korea. I wasn't hanging around as I was off on an organised to trip to Seoul first, a 2 hour train trip from Busan. This was because the following day I am visiting the De Militarised Zone aka the DMZ. The border between North and South Korea. It's one of those once in a life time opportunities really, I've never been before and the likelihood it would happen again if very unlikely. The fact I could say "I've been to the DMZ" is pretty ace to be honest. 


Tracked my wall in and out of North/South Korea




At the DMZ






















So the DMZ was so surreal but so amazing, definitely one of the best experiences I've had around the world and I've been to wonders such as the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China etc. We could only take pictures at certain times, and as the phone signals were being blocked by the North, so I could only manage to track my North/South bimble on my watch. It is definitely and experience I recommend to any one. If you get the opportunity to do so, then take it. 

The following day after I got back from the DMZ, I went to the Korean War Remembrance Service with pretty much everyone else from the ship. The Korean War is often the forgotten war and it's easily to forget that is actually has never ended yet. It's just a military cease fire, nothing more. It was a really lovely cemetery and the service was good. Sometimes it's easy to take things for granted, this war only started 5 years after the end of WW2.

So anyway back to the running. After what was a busy few days, I finally got out for a run first thing early morning the next day after the Remembrance Service. I didn't get to go out in Seoul, mainly because I had little time there and I wanted to explore and get drunk in Seoul to be honest, to which I did. So my run in Busan, came at 0530 before I was going to be stuck on board duty. 

I went out of the main gate and took myself up the stonking hill. The temperature was warm and it was humid at that time. Haze over the sea was yet to be burnt off, but the views nevertheless were still stunning once I go to the top. I took in the views and eventually carried on a bit down the other side before turning back round to run back to the ship. 

Running across the top of the big hill
It couldn't be a long one as I had to get back to take over from the guy who was duty the day before. Knowing how hot and humid it was going to be I knew I had to stay hyrdated, so I went with Green Tea Tailwind once more, making sure I had ample of fluids.The climb up the hill was tough and the descent was pleasant it was long but not knee busting steep. All in all a good run.

It was nice to get out on my own again, allowing me to ponder things. The area was pretty quiet at that time, birds were singing and it was nice. Busan is a good place to visit, with lots to do. Whilst there I found out that there is a trail from Busan to Seoul that measure 330 miles ish. Thus has given me an idea for maybe a future adventure, however not sure how the wife may feel about it yet. We shall see, I've plenty of ideas for my next big adventure but it depends on where I go after I leave this ship. 

Green Tea is yummy!
Running in Pusan is now the 8th different place I've ran in this trip so far, although it may not be as great as some of the others, it was by not disappointing at all. I recommend visiting this part of world, it certainly different, the South Koreans love their drink so be prepared to party hard. 

So by time this gets published I will be seeing my little family in 4 days time when they fly out to join me at my next stop for 2 weeks. It's going to be fantastic and I'm really excited. I know my son is going to have an amazing time. I'm glad I chose not to fly home, as there was so much hassle flying home thanks to the RAF, it almost doesn't seem worth it plus I'd have less time at home. 

#LiveitLoveitRunit taking in the views of Busan during a break in my run.
Well that concludes another blog for the time being and brings you all up to date, feel free if you haven't already to read the other blogs. 

Thank you to the continue support from everyone, and especially my sponsor Tailwind Nutrition UK. It's great to be a Trailblazer out here on my adventures. Until next time.



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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

一期一会 One life, one encounter

I think the title really sums everything up for me to be honest, I've been all about "You Only Live Once" now for a few years since first finding out one of my best mates had terminal cancer. The Japanese idiom "One life, one encounter" which means "Every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter" really sums it up to be honest. Despite being away from everyone for 10 months I plan to make the most of it.


Finally left Sasebo, Japan
Sailing from Sasebo eventually, although a good thing as it meant we were finally heading on to our next stop via our operational tasking, it was also a sad thing. I sort of fell in love with the place, it's beauty, it's people,  it's way of life. There was still more of the area that surrounded it that I wanted to explore. 

As we left though we didn't know exactly where our next stop would be, our original port of call of Okinawa was cancelled, and all we knew was it would more than likely be another Japanese port and it could be Sasebo again. It was not so, eventually after much deliberation, Okinawa was back on. There local elections going on in Okinawa, and the whole political situation of the Americans being there is a bit sensitive, the last thing they really want is a ship full of Matelots and Bootnecks going ashore getting drunk and possibly causing issues with the Americans which upsets the apple cart during the election period.  Anyway were going there but how things were going to go was still up in the air. My main concern was being able to go out side the base and run in what looks like a stunning Japanese Island.
Beautiful white beaches stretch around, stunning views, one side East China Sea the other the Pacific Ocean. The thought of running along the coastline with the potential views was starting to excite me. I'm hoping, all going well, I would be able to go stretch my legs along those coast paths. I have no doubt it would make my friends of the Plymouth Coastal Runners very jealous. 



Sunset, in Okinawa 
Since sailing, it's been back to the upper deck running and treadmill running in the gym. I'm not going to lie, I'm quite bored of it. The needs must, and it's some thing I need to do and even do more of. Arc of Attrition in February will soon be on my door step! I need to start thinking more positively about the AoA, as at the moment being away is not helping at all with my mental preparation for the event. If I was a runner who was as good as the likes of Dan Lawson, Robbie Britton or Damian Hall, I would be far more confident in how I would perform. Yet I am not, so I know I will be fighting all the way, every damn mile as far and as fast as I can go. 

I digress though, I still have another 6 months to go before I am home now 4 months have been completed. Strewth if the original plans were still going from our short notice deployment, we'd be heading back home now to complete a 5 month deployment by time we got back alongside in Plymouth. Alas it's not and we're out here for another 6 months carrying out our role enforcing UNSCRs and representing the flag in the area. 

On the 6th June, we had a remembrance service for two occasions, 1 was for D-Day 74 years ago, a day my Grampy Scott would never forget. The other was for Landing Craft Utility F4 now known as FJ which was sunk during the Falklands Campaign where her Coxswain and crew were all killed after saving over 100 Matelots from the burning HMS Antelope. It was renamed FJ after the Coxswain CSgt Johnston. The F stands for Fearless the ship it belonged to during the conflict. All the rest on board us start with an A except FJ herself. 

Remembrance Service for F4 and D-Day

So after 11 days of making sure the North Koreans weren't doing anything they shouldn't be, we got ourselves alongside in Okinawa, home of Mr Miyagi or so I thought! If you watched Karate Kid part 2, you would know he went home after hearing his dad was ill, alas the film wasn't actually filmed in Okinawa though it was filmed somewhere in Hawaii. Pretty gutting if you asked me, we've been watching the film a few times to get ourselves prepared to go there. There was not going to be any wax on wax off here. 


Naughty Chinese following us everywhere we went.
Okinawa is a pleasant place, although very politically sensitive. The islands has had an American presence and a lot of it (31 bases of various forms currently) since the second world war, and now using it as their gateway to Arabian Gulf as well as the Asian/Pacific region. I can understand why the Okinawan people feel a little bit intruded on. To this end we had to be careful of our presence as well as we don't want upset the apple cart while it's the local election period going on. 

With the Pacific Ocean on one side of the Island and the East China Sea the other side, it's easy to sea why this tropical island is popular now a days for tourists to visit. It has it's long history going back prior to WW2, and recently highlighted with the film Hacksaw Ridge. I battlefield tour I put myself down to visit. 



View from the top of Hacksaw Ridge
So the running, what about the running?? Well to be honest, running was as enjoyable as expected. Although we had limitations to where we could go i.e remain within the wire of the bases, we could still go for a run or a cycle outside of the wire. This was because they believe there was less chance of upsetting the locals during the election period if we were running or cycling. 


Powering up a little incline on a tiny trail section
For my first run I wanted to explore the wire of the White Beach Naval Base, and a little bit outside. To which I did, I went around the base, when I got to the main gate, I went out for a little bit and then came back in and continued my way around. The outskirts of the base wasn't flat it had some inclines, but the whole are was beautiful to be honest. I could think of a lot worse places to be stuck inside of a wire. The wire took me from one side of the base by the East China Sea to the other which was by the Pacific. The views were beautiful, and although it was very warm and humid, it didn't take away the enjoyment of the experience. 
Admiring the Pacific Ocean
Within the first few minutes of running, I was soaked in sweat. It was pouring from my brow down my face like a waterfall. It took me a few moments to get into my stride, but I was taking in so much of the sounds and views it didn't matter anyway. The base is surrounded by forest really, there is plenty of wildlife about including plenty of bats at night.

Outside of the base was slightly different, minimal traffic on the roads, pavements were in pretty good condition, so nothing to really grumble about. The place was full of ups and downs, and the buildings all look like they always take a battering from the weather when the tropical storms come around. There are even signs in the base for Tsunami evacuation routes!

I made my way back into the base and followed the wire around to the other side of the base, on the Pacific Side. Again the views were amazing, and as the sun started to set, it started to cool down. I found a drinking fountain to top up my water bottle, I had gone through one bottle of Great Tea tailwind and I need more liquid.


Green Tea was my flavour of choice during this stop

Over the next few days, as well as the odd run, I also went snorkeling. Just floating around in the beautiful sea was just what was needed. I bought one of those fancy full face snorkel masks and I won't lie, it was strange at first but once I got use to it, it was brilliant. So much better than the standard snorkel and mask set up.

I also took one of the lads from my department out for a run, to help him get more into it. He struggles with the fitness test, so I said I would take him out and show him how to enjoy running, which will help him in the end to pass his fitness test. We all have to start somewhere and treadmill running on board isn't the best way of getting into running in my opinion. It is of course a way of filling a need, but when you have places like Okinawa to enjoy, why stay on a treadmill?


My new snorkeling mask.
In other news, I've recently found out I have put 4th in the top 10 UK Ultra Running Blogs. When I found out I was a little taken back to be honest. I've been nominated before in various other Blog awards for running, but alas nothing has ever come from it. Also just being in the Top 75 Running Blogs in the UK was an achievement for me. To have a in the Top 5 of the UK Ultra Running Blogs is something totally unexpected. I know I'm not the best writer out there, I don't currently do it for finance etc, just for the fact I like writing about some of my experiences. I can only hope some of what I write was of any interest for others and maybe of some use. 

As it stands I will take that as a result, and to which I can thank all my readers for their support. I've started to put together my next short film for the first run in Okinawa, hopefully be done ready to up load when I next have good enough wifi in our next port of call. So keep any eye out for part 3 of my Far Eastern Adventure


Whilst I have this opportunity, I'd also like to congratulate all my friends who have been recently racing around the globe. From those who were racing in the Jungle in Peru to those racing more locally at Dartmoor Discovery, Classic Quarter, Jurassic 100 and many many more. Although I am away running in some beautiful spots, I'd rather be among friends racing and having fun. When I finally get signal and scroll through the various feeds seeing every one racing, it does make me homesick and very jealous. However you guys were amazing and there were some fantastic recent performances! Well done you all :) 


Until next time





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