Sunday, 25 November 2018

End of an Journey? Maybe For This Trip but Not the End of the Adventure

We waved goodbye to Gibraltar, our final stop of the 10 month deployment and made our way out of the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean. It's mad to think back to when we first came down this was at the beginning of February. I came down with Pneumonia, the Bay of Biscay was rougher than St Paul's in Bristol. Was that really 10 months ago? 

Our count down ship
Now as we made our way back up through the Bay of Biscay, there is a little swell enough to rock us to sleep at night but it's far from it's brutality it has often known to cause. We have some guests on board in the form of Parents and Children joining us for the trip home. Some have coped with the rocking others not so but I believe they still would've enjoyed the experience none the less being with their loved ones for so long. My son unfortunately was too young to come, but to be fair it means homecoming will be far more special. 

As this trip comes to an end, so will my training on board. I continued to treadmill although easy runs due to the rolling of the ship, it makes you feel like your running up and down small hills often and it would be too easy to come off, if care wasn't taken. 

The Thursday night before we came alongside was spent at the buoy in the Plymouth Sound. It's so close to home, the excitement is hard to maintain. You know the family are right there but still not close enough to touch. I'm not scared of showing my emotions to be fair, times have changed where man no longer should be scared of a tear or two. Homecoming is going to hit a lot of people hard I think. We've been lucky to have better technology on board to allow us to stay in touch more. When I first joined in 1997 there were few mobiles around, no emails and getting time to phone home at sea was hard due to the lack of phones on board that allowed you to do it. Now we have constant emails, wifi and phones (operationally dependent of course) which allows staying in touch so much easier and I believe this helps with maintaining the bond in the families. Ok the WiFi isn't the best we can just about send FB Messages or Whatsapp but it's more than we used to have and all currently that is needed. 

All the family and friends waiting on the Jetty
I can safely say it's been good for me. I have had my moments of struggling being away, but with my running and being able to communicate with family and friends back home it's helped.

The day of homecoming arrived, everyone is up early for various reasons and it was time to get us back alongside. Over 1500 family and friends were expected to be on the Jetty waiting for us. The city of Plymouth saluting us from the Citadel with their cannons as we sailed past. It's a big day for the ship. If you went back to last December when during Operation Sea Training we were told " by the way your now deploying early next year for 5 months to the Med" and then 1 month in the deployment you get told "by the way we're extending you til 10 months in the Far East" we have traveled a long way and for a long time with very little time before hand to be prepared both physically and mentally.  Now it's over and we were finally back! 





Reunited with my boy!
The following day at home was just about chilling out, nothing major but I was surprised in a nice way to catch up with some of my friends in the evening that came out to see me. It's amazing the little changes around the area you notice that others take for granted that have happened. Road layouts, shops closing, the list goes on. 

Sunday was a day planned out by my son. He wanted a daddy and son day, no mummy as he says "Mummy has had me to her self for 10 months" So his plan was for me to run with him at our local Junior parkrun in Plymouth, lunch then cinema then tea then bowling. 


Me and the boy at Junior parkrun
The morning started with the Junior parkrun in Devonport, Plymouth. I've never run it before as it started up during my time away. It was one that had been talked about happening over the years and finally it's happened. It's a wonderful park and the course is a nice 2 lap course with a cheeky little hill to run twice for the kids. 

We turned up and it was nice to see some of my running friends there with their children. My friends were either volunteering whilst their children ran or running with their children like I was. My boy said to me prior he wanted to beat his PB for the course, so that was our goal. Off we went when the run was started and made our way round, with my boy thanking all the Marshals as he went, giving them all high 5s along the way (this may have slowed him down) 

He's grown up around parkrun since he was 3 years old when I first started myself. He continued  to run, and often saying he felt destroyed hehe. He was working hard, and all I was doing was giving him encouragement. He led the pace not me, I've never pushed him like that. I have never been a fan of pushy parenting. I rather he enjoyed it, than being forced. 

He eventually finished and he smashed it. He took almost 2.5 mins off his previous PB. Did it help having me there? Possibly a bit of confidence for him, or he wanted to impress me with how much he's come on. Either way, he did it and he did it himself. 

After we had finished, the boy went home in the car as I ran home, I needed to get my run in before the rest of our day continued. I have always tried my best to fit my training in and around my family rather than fitting the family in and around my running. It was also a good excuse for me to test out some of my new kit that arrived in the post prior to me coming home. 


My new kit from UglowSports
On first impressions the kit did very well, the top was comfortable, light, and felt good to run in. The shorts were fantastic, and loved the pockets on them. I liked the stitches design in all the garments. The jacket was what I was most impressed with. I wore it originally as I thought it was going to rain and because it was cold. However despite it not raining, I didn't end up over heating. I also didn't end up like a sweat bowl in it. One first use in no rain, it was pretty good. Looking forward to giving it a good run out when it rains, as this jacket will be my go to jacket for the AoA in Feb. 

So that concludes my blog in my series of blogs from my travels around the world. I've still yet to have a look at my footage from the rock race yet, that will be something I will do over the next week during my time off and hopefully will be able to put a film together of some sort. 

Thank you everyone who supported me and kept up with my travels whilst I was away. Thank you to Tailwind Nutrition UK for their continued support. I hope to continue being a trailblazer next year. Next year is going to be a good year I reckon. 

So until the next blog! 


My run home!


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Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Rock - No Monkeying Around Here

Ladies and Gentleman welcome to ....................... The Rock! 

After almost 10 months we have arrived in Gibraltar, the gateway for many UK Naval ships to the Med or like us the gateway back home. We finally left Duqm and after some more of the exercise we finally made our way down the Gulf of Aden, heading towards the Bam el Mandeb, the choke point into the Red Sea where the chances of being attacked is always a possibility. Even whilst we have been away deployed, Saudi Naval ships have been attacked and sunk here. 

I've kept my training mainly to the gym, and although the temperatures have started to drop, the gym is still at the time I've been training anywhere between 30-34 degrees. To be honest, it's going alright on the treadmill so far. I've not had any niggles recently in my calves which only really seem to be caused when running on the ship's treadmills. 


Bam el Mandeb choke point (pic taken off google)
I have started to bring in reps of steps in my sessions, and I'm hopefully going to be able to build up on this until I can get back to the coastal paths back home, where there is no shortage of steps. 

Treadmill running a needs to a must
I'm starting to build on my plan for the Arc of Attrition, making sure I keep my goals smart. My main goal and always has been is to make it to the start, I missed out this year, due to short notice deploying on this trip. Once I'm on that start line, with some of the best runners in the world and also my friends you will see me with a nervous but very big small on my face! 

Nothing really else matters after that, it really doesn't. 

Our trip after the Bam took us up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal before taking a left wheel and heading to our final port of call prior to home and after 4 weeks at sea it was Gibraltar. Now apart from Monkeys, Gib is also renown for the Rock. In good Naval tradition, the ship organised its usual Rock Race. 

Getting some step reps in!
The Rock Race is a 2.7ish mile race from pretty much sea level to 1300ft to the top via a road. Now most entrants are usually still in their clothes from a night of drinking in the town, and mostly in fancy dress. There are some serious racers who like to put in a fast time with the record being around 17 ish minutes and has stood since 1986. I've run this race many times in the past, some worse for wear and some not so. The last time I did it, I ran it 3 times in a row for fun. 

The Rock during the day was still covered by the mist
This time, I just decided to run up and back down and enjoy it. Whilst doing so I filmed it and took in the sights and atmosphere as I go. However it was an early start once more so were clear of the first road section in good time for the traffic. It was dark, the wind was strong and it was miserably wet. There were two ships in, ourselves and another but surprisingly not many ran from both ships. Maybe the weather put them off, usually even if they were hanging from the night before most would still give it a go. 

There was unlikely to be much of a film made from it, but I was going to see what I could do. After a safety brief we were off, although it was meant to be after three honks of the vehicle horn, that didn't happen so we just went when someone then said go. 

A view on the way, if it wasn't for the lights you'd see nothing
As soon as you head out of the dockyard, you turn left and follow the road then right through the tunnel. You hit the first round about the Trafalgar Pub and turn right before hitting the next round about turning left and that's when it's all up hill. 

The incline isn't steady it's a calf burner for sure, my achilles were starting to hurt more than my calves though as the climb went on. I went off at a steady pace, as I wasn't in any rush and I was soon over taking people as they slowed to a walk as the climb went on. Eventually we hangered left and came off the main road and made our way up the tarmac path in the Rock grounds. Just as you get to the top of a climb, you sharp turn the other way and carry on zig zagging up. 

Even as I made my way up, it was still dark. In the past usually the sun has come up and the temperature rose, but not today. It remained dark all the way, at some points you could over see the dockyard looking into Spain and the lights shinning but that was it. 

At the top with great views in the background......Not!
I made it to the top eventually, and was sad there were no views to be had at the top. It was foggy, and you couldn't even see the finish line until you actually got there. I saw a silhouette of a monkey near the finish but they too were hiding from the weather. The skies opened at the top and it hammered it down. I didn't hang around at the top for very long, I made my way down giving my legs a good stretch as I ran down back to the ship. 

So that was my last foreign run on this adventure, the next time I step on dry land will be back in Blighty as I continue my training towards the AoA and London Marathon. I will do a final blog once home to round the trip up but for now, I'm looking forward to coming home and seeing my family and running in the rubbish weather. 

On the way down I eventually was able to see my ship

It's been a very long 10 months and I can only thank my readers for your support these last 10 months. Also again a big thanks to Tailwind Nutrition UK and my fellow trailblazers for their continued support. 

Until next time my friends







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