It’s been 2 weeks since our last confession. We’ve missed you!
Nina: Returning to London from the mountain is like how I would imagine living in a 5 star, all inclusive, hotel. Amazing. I recommend it. A mere ‘Thanks’ just doesn’t cut it. Our families were simply incredible, making Christmas so warm and luxurious.
On our way back to Gelli, we stopped off (read: drove up and down the country like petrol was being given away) at a couple of races. The Ribble Valley 10km on December 30th and Nos Galan 5km on Dec 31st.
Russell: The Ribble Valley race is in the middle of bloody nowhere (also called Clitheroe) and is hilly and cold. But for some reason lots of the best road runners in the country turn up every year to face off and run fast. Last year it gave me a pb but this time the race was a disaster from start to finish. There were two toilets for 600 men, so I had to find some secluded bushes, noticing a fair few other embarrassed runners doing the same. Then we had to queue up single file to get to the starting line, which took a long time for 1,200 people, all standing in vest and shorts in the pissing rain.
I had caught a virus from my week back in London so when the race started my legs just weren’t there, they felt like lead and frozen lead at that. It was only at about 6km that I started to feel the blood come back into my limbs. I noticed a guy up infront who I don’t like (two years ago I beat him in a race and he refused to shake my hand), so the idea of scalping him got me warmed up abit. I began passing runners and he was coming back to me with 2km to go. Then suddenly I got a stitch and had to stop, my hands on my knees, as I could hardly breathe. It was so annoying watching helplessly as 30 odd runners streamed past and there was nothing I could do. I had to jog the last few km and finished in 33 minutes something, over 3 minutes down on what I expected. We got straight in the car and out of that place!
Nina: and then Nos Galan 5km, the following day on New Year’s Eve, held in the town of Mountain Ash (love that name so much – going to call my first child after it). There was a beautiful firework display during the warm up for our 7pm race. Now I just have to take a few lines to tell you that I was considered an Elite athlete for this race (pause while I let that sink in). Yes ‘Elite’. This sort of accolade doesn’t come along…ever…for someone like me. I had entered the ‘fun run’ but got a return e-mail saying that my PB qualified me for the elite race – was that ok? Was it? Oh yes. I’ve kept my race number – and here is a good photograph of me, pointing out my ‘Elite’ status in case you missed it.
So you’ll be interested to hear if I came last or not. Well I can give you the good news that out of around 65 runners, there were about 7 behind me. And I was only just lapped by the winner as I completed the 2nd lap of the 3 lap course. Thank goodness the winner wasn’t Russell in this case, as I think I would have got a big smack as he passed me. Still – on a hilly course that took in a hairpin bend 3 times, and after a disastrous 10km the day before, I was happy to get 22:30 – my second fastest time ever. Also, there was a very popular girl called ‘Nia’ running just behind me – so I just imagined that all her supporters shouting ‘Come on Nia’ were really shouting for me.
Russell: so we drove down to Cardiff after Ribble Valley and slept in the car. The atmosphere in the little village of Mountain Ash was completely different to up north the day before. Warm with no wind, music, fun fair, fireworks, thousands of spectators, and Dai Green (world 400m hurdle champ) to start us off. I hardly warmed up as I was too tired and feeling too crappy. I hoped the adrenalin of the race would get me going and it did, better than I expected. I was so relieved to feel good on the first lap that I had to hold myself back from taking the lead. My legs remembered the trials of the 10km and I began to fade over the next 2 laps. I crossed the line in 9th place and an unremarkable time of 15.22. However I was really happy just to finish a race without any incident after the stitch the day before, and the fall the time before that (see post Corndon 3 Peaks Classic). Nina and I warmed down together while watching all the fun runners and fancy dress costumes go round. It was a great new years eve. Until I crashed into a tree.
Nina: Well Russell was driving us around Mountain Ash to the frustration of a road closure and an unmarked dead end. Half way through an irritated 3 point turn, he backed into a bank and a tree branch smashed our back window to smithereens. I have to admit that my first thought was <here is a get out of jail free card for the next time I do something really stupid>. We cleared most of the glass pieces out of our bed in the back, got a Thai take-away, and slept the night parked in a residential street with ‘refreshing’ gusts of winter air blowing through the vast hollow left for a back screen, and to the sound of fireworks in the distance. Almost as memorable as last New Year’s Eve (see my movie Annapurna 100).
Russell: On New Years Day I took Nina to Merthyr Mawr and the Big Dipper, the highest sand dune in Europe, stomping ground of athletes such as Steve Ovett and Linford Christie. We ran up and down the thing 4 times, once to warm up and three times as a race, I gave nina a 1 minute head start and then chased her to the top. She beat me 2-1.
Then, whilst driving to the stunning Dunraven Bay to sit and have lunch, I managed to crash the car. We were lost and I had to turn around. Whilst using a farm driveway to turn, the low sun completely blinded me and I couldn’t see an enormous stone that had no reason being there and it tore our fog light out and sent cracks all through the bumper. I got out of the car and sputtered and gesticulated without saying anything. I couldn’t for the life of me think of a way to blame this on someone else. It was terrifying!
Nina: I won’t labour the point, but whilst Russell was driving into a rock half way through an irritated 3 point turn (yes you did read that twice), I have to admit that my first thought was <here is another ‘get out of jail free card’ for the next time I do something really stupid> . How lucky can a girl get in two days I ask you?
Russell: We were due back in London for an important engagement and were lucky to find a rear boot door in exactly our make and colour for £40, and even luckier to have my dad fit it much better than a pro, saving us at least £180. The new door is so much cleaner than the old one too so it was probably a good thing I smashed into that stupid tree anyway.
Nina: Russell’s dad Philip knows everything there is to know about cars. Philip can build and dismantle an engine blindfold. It is seriously something impressive to behold. It is thanks to Philip that we have the car in the first place. And he couldn’t have done us prouder than to give up his Saturday to fastidiously replace the entire tailgate and associated electrics.
Roll on getting back to normal, with a mended car.
Are we nearly there yet? Nearly.
Russell: So there was one more race to complete the trio. A 3000m indoor BMC race in Sheffield, just me racing this time. I very nearly pulled out because I was feeling so tired in the morning from all the driving over the past week. Nina was an absolute star and drove the whole way there while I slept in the back. IT WENT REALLY WELL. Definitely the best of the three, and when I was feeling the worst. Goes to show you never know if you never go. The weather was brilliant (it generally is when you’re running indoors) and it is about as different a race as you can get from fell running. I finished strong in 3rd, and have a nice new 8:32 PB to build on now.
Nina: A massive added bonus (apart from intently watching Russell’s race of course) was meeting up with my gorgeous friend Helen who kept me company in the stalls.
We had delicious hazlenut milkshakes to celebrate our week of 2 crashes, 3 races, and 1,595 miles. We’re back in Gelli now – YES – and no more crashes, or races, or driving, for at least two weeks.