Separation. It works in many ways. This was my first holiday to Butlins in two years. It doesn’t seem a long time, but consider that in 2015 my family could afford to go twice in one year, but on both occasions I had to miss out. I was going through a career progression. Twice. A secondment, in which the week they went, the role I would end up landing was advertised. Good thing I stayed behind. The second time, it was mid December, and I was in my final week of training. That one sticks with me. I was absolutely full of cold, should’ve been in bed, but instead I helped my family get their bags over to Leeds for the train to Skegness before starting work. It was the first time I watched the kids leaving for another destination. I waved them bye for a few days. I began walking up the steps from the platform, and felt a huge sadness tearing at my heart, my body, already weighed down by illness, suddenly felt heavier. Absence, indeed, makes the heart grow fonder, as many of you may relate to this experience.
Needless to say, it was awesome to be able to take six days of paid holiday in order to be with my family for a full week at Butlins, the last one before inevitable term time blockades and school holiday price hikes kick in. The kids were mega excited, and amidst the backdrop of having a new kitchen installed, we all set off, my wife, kids, brother-in-law and mother-in-law, to the land of sand, sea and sun…
Oh well, a bit of rain wasn’t going to ruin our holiday, and nor was the insipid 0-0 between England and Slovakia or even the fact we were all coming down with a cold.
An important personal aspect of this holiday was to go running on the beach, but not only that – to try and get back into some sort of routine. Groin injury aside, any attempt even to muster lower mileage runs has been thwarted by preparing for the holiday, the new kitchen, and I daresay, a lack of motivation. I feel almost ashamed of those last few words, knowing full well the Snowdonia Marathon was only a little over 4 months away. Even with my busier concerns over the last few weeks, I never found the time to put on my kit, let alone go out the door. At least now I was in an environment where, free of the daily grind, I could hope to reset.
Still suffering a little from the cold I had picked up, I managed to rouse myself to go for a run and headed straight for the familiar dunes of Ingoldmells beach. Heavy, sloped, the feeling of my footsteps slipping to the side, the proverbial game of chicken with the North Sea tide. It all came back. The early morning sun was shining bright, beating down on the side of my face. Just like a lot of beautiful aspects of nature, it had a brutal side, and even this out and back halfway to the Fantasy Island theme park, it was fairly hard work. I got back to base, satisfied with the morning’s effort, though I ended up applying a heat pack to my groin as there were still murmurs of the injury persisting. But unlike the previous run, when I commuted on foot for a train to Leeds World Triathlon event, I felt fine throughout the run and it seemed as though I might be putting this injury behind me.
The date of Thursday 23rd June was looming. It was EU Referendum day. And even somewhat distant from it being over 150 miles from home, you were still never too far from a conversation about it, even in the family friendly atmosphere of the Skyline Pavilion, and even when you’re having to sit through the infernal dance routines of the Skyline Gang. I still can’t get the Twist song out of my head. Curse you!
Friday 24 June. 6:00am. My alarm went off. I went straight onto my phone to check the result. Its one thing to try and prepare for such an eventuality, but then its the one you least expect, or the one you didn’t hope for. The nation had voted. Leave. I actually couldn’t believe it. A referendum fuelled by what appeared to be little more than lies, propaganda, fear, hysteria, and very little underneath, the country had voted to leave the EU. I was shaken. Almost paralysed. I asked myself how could we vote for this? People fears preyed upon, little in the way of hard fact, seismic implications that could not be predicted. I anticipated the result, but equally went to bed the previous night not expecting it.
I got out of the door of the apartment, still in a spin, realising the need to just get out and try and forget about it. Life, they say, goes on. As I stood atop the stairs, waiting for my watch to load, I looked to my right. There, gathered around a puddle, three ducks, without an apparent care in the world. They slowly ambled towards my position, encountering another puddle, and seemed absolutely nonchalant, blissfully unaware of the momentous decision the country had just taken. My watch beeped. I realised now, somewhat amused by what I’d just seen, that I had to get away and try and put the negativity to one side.
For this run, I stuck, at first, to the promenade, staying a good distance away from the sea, and off the sand, aiming to get as far as Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells’ premier theme park. I was still grumbling away. I couldn’t help it. It led me to take what I guarantee is the most badass selfie I’ve ever taken of myself!
Just over 4 miles and 30 minutes later, I was on my way back to the apartment, to prepare for the day ahead, and to discuss Brexit over another ludicrously large breakfast. There was one good thing to come out of the run, I wasn’t feeling the groin strain any more. And this time, it stuck. No recurrence.
I had one final run, a seemingly ambitious six miles. Ambitious, because I haven’t reached that distance since running past the Cutty Sark two months prior. I ran down the beach towards Skegness, and this time I seemed keen to surpass Skegness Pier. Well, I left the beach at this point and tried to run back from the town back towards Roman Bank. However, I forgot that the road was a bit windy. And so I ended up back on the beach, for that was the straightest course. It was a toil, I’ll say that, and I was glad to get back on firm concrete by the end. The six miles took me 49 minutes flat – it was really tough running on mostly sand over such a distance, particularly with my race fitness down. But most importantly again, I came through it, and with no issues.
There was other positive news sport wise the rest of my holiday. I went swimming multiple times with my family and found time to put my swim skills to the test in the Splash Waterworld. Sculling around the Rapids, dolphin, front and back crawl drills, and I daresay, mildly efficient breaststroke! And my kids are quickly becoming like little fish in the water too. And, what’s more, my wife and I had a grand time down in Bullseye Bay where we tried out archery. It was my second time trying it, my wife’s first. We won a team competition, and I shared joint honours in an individual category. For our efforts, we both got a wristband, and I got a Butlins’ archery medal!
It was back home the following Monday, after a full week enjoying some quality family time, now returning home to the grind (and a new kitchen). It had certainly made up for the two trips I missed before and it was incredible to see my kids having so much fun, and become ever more confident in the water. Its a cliché to talk about how these experiences create great memories, but it does indeed reflect in how positively I can talk and look back on that week.
Its been two weeks since the holiday now, and I’ve managed to establish my routine again, something that will come to fruition as I’m effectively now on my training plan for Snowdonia. I did another 8 miles this morning, and while its tough as ever running uphill, its anendeavour I have to and will pursue. I just hope I can get through the block without any injuries, without shedding sleep, and generally coming out the other end fitter.
I’ve also entered another race, the fantastically titled (Wo)Man vs Barge, a trail race in which you have to run from Marsden, West Yorkshire, to Diggle in Lancashire, while trying to beat a barge travelling through the Standedge Tunnel. I’ve really wanted to do this race for a couple of years, and finally its fit in around my other races. Saturday 13th August is the date, and I’m certainly looking forward to it!
All in all, a brilliant holiday had, despite the cold, Brexit, and getting disoriented in Skegness, it was a hugely fun week and made up for missing out on the other family holidays. The focus is now towards October, and a date with hills, scenery, and hills. And if nothing else, things are all coming together now.