Arizona Road Trip Preparation

After going with my sister to New York City in 2014 we agreed that we’d have another trip to the states the following year. To start with this plan was for a short trip to Florida so we could go to Disney World, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center. With news that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and would be creating a new “Star Wars Land” there we decide we’d delay the trip and instead go to Arizona.

This plan was short-lived though when my sister went into hospital and took months to recover – causing me to instead go to California with a friend. The following year we decided we’d finally get to visit Arizona and invited my friend along with us – after all it’d be an extra person to split the driving across and would give him chance to see these places too.

From our previous plans we already had a rough idea of what we wanted to see – it was just a case of figuring out the best route and how to fit in as much of it as we could. With some of the places being big hiking places it meant we’d have to try and find the best parts of these to see on limited time. Getting things booked wasn’t straight forward though – me and my sister wanted to get the hotels booked as we knew large rooms would be in short supply, but it was insisted that we looked at car hire first. Eventually there was some compromise and we went ahead and booked all but the hotels for the first and last night – as these could be dependent upon where we hired the car from.

With just two months to go before the trip we still hadn’t booked a car or the hotels for the first and last night. It was becoming a struggle. With the car it seemed my friend didn’t want the largest of the cars that was available because he didn’t think it was big enough, however the next size up was a 4×4 (i.e. an SUV) and he didn’t want to drive anything that big which left us a little unsure what to do. My preference was that we hired a large car and we just tried to fit suitcases in the best we could – you never know what car you’re actually going to get until you’ve got it anyway.

For the hotels my original suggestion had been to find somewhere as far south as possible for the first night to reduce the length of the drive the following morning, and to stay somewhere downtown for the last night to make the trip to the airport shorter and to be around restaurants, and shops. What I hadn’t figured though was my friend would be getting in 7 hours before us and was keen to get a hotel close to the airport to make the taxi fares cheaper whilst he waited.

Eventually we had everything booked, including a flight over the Grand Canyon. Now we just had to wait for the road trip to begin…

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Ikano Robin Hood Marathon 2016

My attempt at this marathon last year did not go well, mostly due to lack of training over the summer, too many races, and my inability to train well in the warmer weather. This year I wanted it to be different, I wanted to beat last year’s time at the very least and if possible run much more of it. Things didn’t go to plan though, and as I’ve mentioned in a few previous blog posts (okay, maybe several) I got an ankle injury whilst in Moscow that resulted in a couple of weeks off running, and a slow recovery with fewer and shorter runs to start with. Just over a month before race day I’d only built back up to 8.5 miles at a slower pace than before and even with walking breaks I’d yet to run for more than 15 miles – even that was with so much walking it was over a minute slower than my marathon PB pace.

Things weren’t looking good. I know it takes time coming back from an injury and I’m always too impatient anyway, but it can take a toll on you mentally. Sometimes all you need is a good run to start clawing your way back and I was lucky to have a “good” 8.5 mile run and would then have 4 weekends to build up miles from that to something reasonable before the Great North Run meant that I needed to drop the mileage again which then led straight into this. Hopefully this marathon would be the last race to be affected by the ankle.

I was fortunate enough that by the time I did my 22 mile run the weekend before the Great North Run, I was able to run for 17 miles of it at a push, a massive improvement over the previous weeks. It felt like I was miles (excuse the pun) behind where I was this time last year. In truth though, when I looked at where my PBs stood as of September 2015 I was back to being capable of matching the 5K and 10K times and had in fact beat that 5K time by over a minute in the first 5K of the Great North Run. I wasn’t quite capable of my Half Marathon time as it stood back in September 2015. It didn’t seem quite as bad, but for all these times I was still quite some way off my current PBs.

 

Race Day

It was now three years, almost to the day, since I started couch to 5K. I knew a few people doing this one so I hoped for a good #ukrunchat meet-up before the race start. However, due to unforeseen circumstances a few of them had dropped out of the race so when I got to the race start at 07:10 I’d got quite a wait until there was anyone to talk to. Fortunately I knew @Roddis22, a good friend I’ve seen at races before was going to turn up around 08:30 and that soon passed the time. So much time in fact that by the time I was in my starting pen the warm-up was over, not that I’d have bothered with it anyway!

On my drive to Nottingham it had been raining, but had been fortunate that by 08:00 it had stopped so that when the race started just after 09:30 it was dry out. This year’s course was different to both the previous times I’ve done it – three different courses in three consecutive years makes you wonder the reason for the changes, but this seemed okay as I knew it’d be missing out an epic hill that had previously been there at mile 22(ish).

It was a slow start as the pen was over crowded with not just others that were supposed to be in there, but also a few blues, greens, and oranges had somehow moved forward into the pen as well which made it difficult to find any space in the first mile. Instead there was a lot of hill climbing in the first three miles as it passed Nottingham Castle. It was tiring and I really, really wanted to walk, but I wasn’t willing to walk so soon into the race. My training has excluded hills for the past 4 months due to the injury meaning I wasn’t supposed to run on uneven surfaces or inclines, and the only time I’ve run up hills recently was in Newcastle, so I was quite happy to overcome them – even if my pace was slower than I’d normally like to tackle a hill in!

At the end of the first three miles my watch seemed a little under what was expected, though it could be down to a bad GPS signal as it had taken quite some time to get one at the start (which is odd as usually the 235 gets one within seconds) and kept losing it. This was also the point for the first water station but I ran straight through deciding it was too early to bother. For the fourth mile there was a good portion down hill, a section that has been in the course for the past 2 years at least so this was at least familiar. It was sometime around here that I first saw the race leader heading in the opposite direction – there was then quite a gap until the next runner, though even then the next was a half marathon runner and not a marathoner. This means he’d taken quite an early lead in this race!

I’d say I found the first 4-5 miles challenging, but by 6 I’d briefly settled into a rhythm that kept me going for a little longer as the course entered Wollaton Park – another familiar part of Nottingham. The bit through the park didn’t feel too bad, maybe because it was in the shade, but I did feel like I needed a loo break, but I really didn’t want to have to stop until mile 19 at least! This kept me going, and to be honest I didn’t spot them at mile 6 anyway.

As we left the park, instead of going through the University grounds as it has done in previous years the course then headed back to a junction we’d passed in mile 5 and turned back towards the direction of the embankment. As I approached mile 8 I then passed Nic Roddis heading in the opposite direction so waved as I passed, and was at least glad I’d made it that far without walking. Every thought I had now was about keeping going – I really didn’t want to walk in the first half if I could help it. Over the next few miles there were two hairpin bends where I had to slow to go around them, though I took them wide enough to not need to slow too much. I figured this might at least make up for my watch being off slightly. Shortly after I even saw an athlete dressed as a Stormtrooper, and wearing a dress heading towards mile 4 as I was on my way towards mile 9.

For the remainder of the first half I think it was fairly similar to what it had been in previous years, though I think the marathon course splits away from the half marathoners slightly earlier than it had done previously, but once again mile 13 was just before an alleyway through a housing estate. This entire mile I was on my own for, with only marshals being around to indicate that I was at least going the right way. There was nobody about watching the race – just like last year, but at least this year there were a few supporters in the miles that followed (something which didn’t happen last year).

By mile 13.5 I’d caught up with more runners, but I was starting to struggle to keep running and needed water. Fortunately after walking for what was probably only 10-20 seconds a marshal let me know that there was water in the direction of the drumming. That had suddenly reminded me that unlike previous years there wasn’t really much music on the course!

This time I grabbed some water and tried to drink from it, though no matter how hard I squeezed water just wasn’t coming out! It felt like this was going to be a repeat of last year, but then I spotted another runner drinking from one and they’d held it like a cup and not tipped up. It seemed these water pouches were designed not to leak when upside down which explained why I wasn’t getting any out of, so I turned it around and squeezed – getting a face full of water. Around this time I saw the race leader pass in the opposite direction again – he was just approaching mile 18 as I was coming up to mile 14.

I wanted to keep running until mile 15 after having walked briefly at mile 13.5, but I did succumb to the need to walk just before I reached the mile marker. I then started running again and was fairly determined to run until mile 16, and once I could see the mile marker in the distance, across Colwick Lake I was even more determined. It was a constant struggle to try and get to mile 16, and with probably 0.3 miles to go some cheerleaders started cheering me on and then started shouting “Give me a D, give me an A, give me a V…” though I’d passed them completely before they finished and I knew the mile marker was just coming up. Their cheers and this knowledge made me push harder and I managed to reach it… though I started walking more or less as soon as I crossed it! Though even then the last mile had not been particularly fast at 08:19 minutes.

Miles 17 and 18 passed by with frequent walking breaks but also the hope that I could keep my mile splits to sub-10 if not better. Literally seconds after passing the mile 18 marker though I slipped over on a lucozade bottle I hadn’t spotted until I’d already trodden on it. After the initial discomfort I carried on running up over the bridge that crosses the River Trent. Just as I reached Lady Bay I started to walk yet again, but this point I’d lost track of how much walking I’d done as there’d been so much of it. Another runner insisted I kept on running though I didn’t really want to, I kept going at a slower pace from there, passed the mile 19 marker and into the grounds of Holme Pierrepont water sports centre.

After running alongside the Regatta Lake for a while the route then veered off up a winding hill and onto a gravel path that ran alongside the River Trent. I’m not a fan on gravel paths as I seem to always get some in at least one shoe. Sure enough I did, and I found myself stopping completely at the mile 21 marker to take my shoes off, empty them, and put them back on before continuing off again. The complete stop hadn’t done me any favours though, even if it did mean my feet weren’t in pain anymore I was struggling to get running again. At this point the 3:30 pacer finally overtook me, but I could still see him not too far ahead – enough to catch up with if I could keep going. I’d wanted water at mile 21, but even though I could see they had some water in boxes they were only handing out gels.

By mile 22 I’d lost the pacer completely after having to walk a couple more times, but I saw the Nottingham Forest football ground and with it was a stream of people who had finished the half marathon and were cheering on the marathon runners as they passed. I was really lucky at this point though as walking briefly I was passed by one of the officials on a motorbike who passed me some more water. I didn’t bother trying to get into this and just sunk my teeth into it and guzzled the water like some sort of vampire with a blood bag.

This kept me going for a while, but I started to wonder if I’d taken a wrong turn as there was a split in the path, and I couldn’t see a marshal to know which way to go so took the longer of the two paths – I did then pass what I think was a marshal (though wasn’t in the bright yellow jackets the others had – this was a blue one). When it started to go down an alleyway behind some houses I was sure I’d gone wrong, it just didn’t feel right – I kept slowing down and looking behind me to see if I could see anyone else come this way, but I couldn’t see anyone!

Fortunately after rounding another corner I could then see mile 23 ahead of me – a relief! This was then followed by a few more runners overtaking me as I started to walk again, and I walked quite a bit of this mile alongside the tramline as by this point I was just too tired. I’d not had any jelly babies for the past few miles as I’d started to feel sick after having drunk too much water in one go. A bad mistake and one which caused me to walk the majority of the last two miles – one of which I’m not entirely sure I ran any of.

I think by this point it’d be useful to paraphrase REM’s “Everybody Hurts”:

When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this race, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

It had been a tough race, and seeing the bridge to cross the River Trent for the last time was a relief – and around the time I crossed it I finally started to run once more.

The final part of the route took me along the Victoria Embankment one last time, and this bit was an incredible struggle, but I didn’t want to walk when the finish line was so close. I did walk a couple of steps, but pushed on with running, unwilling to succumb to it. I then crossed over onto the grass and felt my pace start to pick up as people were cheering us on. I then heard my name called out on the speakers as I got near to the commentary box and I switched to a faster paced run to finish. Not the usual sprint finish, but it was enough.

At last this difficult race was over. My sixth marathon, and the 9th time I’ve reached or passed 26.2 miles when running.

Looking at my watch I saw 3:43 – 4 minutes slower than last year. I’d completely failed not only in my original goal (which was to be expected), but even with the adjusted goal I’d set post-injury. I was slower than this time last year, so at this point it wasn’t looking good that I’d be able to meet my Half Marathon and 10K target times in October and November.

No matter how hard I work between now and then I know the next two weeks will be almost throwaway between marathon recovery and being in Arizona (35-45C temperatures). I’m not going to give in though – I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’ll put in as much work as I can to at least try and meet my times from last year for these upcoming races.

Once the official results were out I found I’d finished with a time of 03:43:42 in position 242 out of 1192 marathon finishers (first 20% approximately). To be honest I’m quite surprised I wasn’t further behind than that, but at least I did it. I guess now I’ll be back next year to have one last attempt at doing a better job of this.

Great North Run 2016

I’ve seen the Great North Run a few times on the television, and a friend has raved about the atmosphere but others have also been cautionary about how crowded it can be and how unlikely I’d be to get a PB there. For me this race wasn’t about trying to PB, it was one I just wanted to enjoy. I’ve known about the Great North Run for a very long time, seeing it for the first time when at school (at the end of the 80s) we were made to watch a TV series called Geordie Racer where one of the story threads through the series was about people running it.

Last year I tried to get in on the ballot and was unsuccessful – this year however I was fortunate enough to get a place.

Since the Brighton Marathon back in April I hadn’t run beyond 10 miles without walking for quite some time, and this was compounded by an injury I sustained whilst walking around in Russia. Just a few weeks before the Great North Run my ankle had finally recovered enough to no longer need the ankle support but I was behind on training for both this and my upcoming marathon. All I could do was hope that in my efforts to recover I’d done enough to get me around the course on the day.

 

Pre-race Day

It’s a long way from Leicester to Newcastle so I didn’t really want to be travelling up on the day, and I thought with a mass participation event like this I might find parking awkward. So, I begrudgingly paid the £103 (return) train ticket fee to get me to Newcastle the day before. It was a sleepness night, but I caught the train at 10:30 and was on my way to the start line of the Great North Run.

I arrived in Newcastle at 13:45 and started the 5k walk to where I’d be staying. It was mostly up hill but as my legs felt a little tight I hoped it’d ease them off. By the time I got there though my feet and calves were aching and I was ready to sit down!

Eventually I found the place – an old, nice looking building to the west of Newcastle. As if happened though it wasn’t as nice inside. The door to my room had a stiff lock and I cut my finger open on the key getting it open. Not too badly though so I got my race kit ready for the next day, and sat down for 20 minutes.

The room had dirty walls, anorexic pillows, a power socket that was hanging off the wall and not easy to safely plug the kettle into. As I later found, the kettle was also falling apart and wouldn’t switch off, which is why it wasn’t plugged in. The cups were dirty too and I had to wash one out before I could use it, but also had to get some milk and teabags from the shops first too. I also later found out that the bathroom didn’t have any towels, and the light didn’t work. Not really worth the £68 for the room.

I took the bus back into Newcastle and spent the next few hours wandering around the quayside and surrounding area, taking the odd photo, and not really doing much. There were a few places, such as the Old Castle which I’d wished I’d got my DSLR on me for, but as I hadn’t I didn’t go inside – it’s be something to do in future if I’m ever in the area again with a camera. I’d covered quite a few miles walking around so I also sat down for a while outside Saint Nicholas’ Cathedral where there was a statue of Queen Victoria. I also saw Gemma Steel presenting trophies to the Junior Great Run winners at the end of the Great City Games, and Laura Muir walked passed me as well.

The afternoon passed quickly and it finished with some spaghetti bolognese at a place near the Tyne Bridge. On the way back to the hotel it got dark, started to spit with rain and I couldn’t find the right bus stop. By the time I found where I should be I’d walked 9 miles and only had 1.5 miles left to get back to the hotel. My feet were dead.

Back at the hotel I tried to find a course elevation map for the race to see what it was like, a bit late I know, and all I could find was a post where the person described the course as “mostly down hill from Newcastle with a bit of a hill at mile 10”. Didn’t sound too bad to me!

I quickly had a cup of tea and after watching some TV I attempted to sleep, though that was interrupted when a neighbour was banging around just after midnight and I never did settle back into sleep.

 

Race Day

The day had at last come, and I was awake long before I needed to be. For a while I spoke to a friend on Twitter, and I predicted my pace for this race would be 07:20 min/mile – almost 25 seconds a mile slower than my PB pace from Leicester. It was nice to be able to chat before the big race, and I think it helped me to forget about how bad the hotel was a little.

It got to 06:45 and I decided to have breakfast – crunchy nut cornflakes and a cup of tea as usual. I was fed up of this hotel, yet I sat around until 08:00 before checking out and coming across a few more runners who had stayed there. The bus to Haymarket Station was only £1.95, so better than walking to the start and it didn’t take too long either. The crowds of runners all heading in the same direction reminded me a lot of Brighton earlier in the year.

After dropping off my bag I made my way to the orange starting zone – just behind zone A and the elites. I’d hoped to see Mo Farrah, but sadly I didn’t. I sat for the next hour in this starting zone, gradually being cooked by the morning sun and listening to the presenters talk to different people taking part – including the impressionist Jon Culshaw. Eventually the warm-up started, which again I didn’t bother with, but I saw it as the right time to turn my running watch on ready for it to get a signal. I was amazed that as with training, it got it’s signal pretty much instantly! The Garmin Forerunner 235 never ceases to amaze me, especially when the 220 frequently took an age to get a signal. Then we were off – running the Great North Run.

To start with the route was down hill with a few slight inclines, and then crosses the Tyne Bridge. The first 5K I covered in 19:37 – one of my faster 5K times and I was instantly concerned I’d started off too fast. It was hot though and by this point I was already wiping sweat from my eyes and forehead. Thankfully though this point also had the first water station!

After a few swigs of water I carried on running but found I was getting too warm and by 4 miles I’d decided not only was I too warm, I’d set off too quickly and I started to walk briefly. I quickly recovered though and after another mile I then managed to miles 6 and 7 without too much walking – it was still there though and was a frequent thing over the coming miles. I’d reached the 10K mark in 42:50 – slightly slower than I would reach that point on a 10 mile training run.

The support on the route was great and I often heard my name being shouted – though it’s possible (and indeed likely) there’d be another David running near me… I had actually noticed one standing immediately behind me in the pens back at the start! It was around this time that I could hear the Red Arrows, but I didn’t see them – they were behind be somewhere, but shortly after I saw them in front – flying in formation, but quite a way in the distance!

Flying free, flying high,

Flashing wings across the sky,

Geordie racer, Geordie racer.

The heat was really getting to me, and a the second water station I actually poured some of the water over my head after drinking some. Around this time was also the first(?) of the run-through showers as well though I decided against these as I figured if my feet got wet then I’d get blisters and that’d be even worse. I walked quite a few times in mile 9 getting my slowest split of 8:47, and another runner slowed down to make sure I was okay and was running backwards until I insisted that he carry on. I was only walking to cool off anyway! I did also wish I’d put my ankle support on, but that was short lived.

After I passed the mile 10 marker I noticed that the long hill I’d read about had started, and it was here that I was passed by the 1:35 pacer, and then shortly after by @1SteveMac who I quickly chatted to. I really tried to run up this hill, but I couldn’t keep it going and ended up walking most of this mile. It was however an incredibly supported part of the route and as we reached mile 12 the sea in South Shields was finally in sight. It was also the start of a very sudden fast descent, one which I found myself accelerating down very quickly and struggled to slow at the bottom – I could understand why the hay bales were there!

This part of the race was familiar to me as it’s always the bit I remember on TV, and I so clearly remembered Mo running this bit last year. I was determined not to walk again, and sure enough from just before starting that descent I didn’t walk again until I’d finished.

Don’t wait, don’t stop,

You’re heading home.

Don’t rest, don’t drop,

You’re heading home.

The last straight was brilliant, lined with screaming crowds and enough space around me to start building up some speed for the finish. I did my 13th mile in 06:50, but 200 metres from the finish, as I’d started to sprint, I had to quickly stop as another runner cut across in front of me. For the second race in a row there was also a runner stopping completely on the finish line as they crossed as well which meant as I sprinted to the finish line I crashed through them. Not very polite of me, but I couldn’t move out of the way or stop quick enough to avoid it.

I finished in position 1,608 out of approximately 57,000 runners (first 3%), with a chip time of 1:36:39 – not my best half marathon, but I was also a little surprised by the time considering how much I’d walked. It was also an average pace that was precisely the same as what I’d said to @miss_gen in the morning as a prediction.

I was however disappointed that I’d walked so often – although I’d been told this wasn’t a PB course and it’d be crowded I think with more training (particularly in the heat) I could have done it. For almost the entire race I had plenty of space to move as well – everyone had spread out before we’d even reached the first tunnel and the inevitable shouts of “oggy oggy oggy” (I still have no idea what that’s all about). All I can do is learn from this and hopefully my next half marathon will be one that will work out much better!

The finish area in South Shields is quite a nice one as it has a constant view of the sea. There’s a large village of stands there selling food, etc. and a decent selection, but it’s quite a walk from there to the baggage busses so by the time I’d got my bag I didn’t really feel like walking back. Instead I headed to the Metro and stopped by a Subway on the way – by the time I got to the metro it was still quiet and for £3.30 I got straight on and headed back to Newcastle for the start of a very long journey home.

At the finish they give you a bottle of water, a finishers medal, and a goodie bag dependent on your t-shirt size containing:

  • A bottle of lucozade,
  • 2 packets of Haribo starmix sweets,
  • Super seeds Rasberry 9 bar,
  • Jointace gel,
  • Sanex for men soap,
  • Nikwax wash-in waterproofing sample,
  • and the usual slew of leaflets.

It’s a race I’m likely to do again, given the chance, and hopefully next time it can be in weather that is a little cooler. It’s a shame though that from the moment I boarded the metro it then took me 6 hours to get home due to delays with the trains, and long waits in between them. It didn’t help either that the one from Newcastle to Derby stopped for 20 minutes to check out a signal which made me miss the train I was supposed to get.

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Cosby Victory Show

Every year at the start of September I see classic aircraft flying over at home, and one year have even seen a simulated bombing run from the Vulcan as well. I’ve been told frequently it’s worth visiting the Cosby Victory Show, and have even been told that they have tanks there as well. Up until now though I’d never been able to make it there. This year however I went there with my Dad as it coincided with his 60th birthday.

The event spans three days – Friday to Sunday though on the Friday it’s apparently mostly school children that visit for classes. On the Saturday and Sunday the schedule various aerial displays and battle re-enactments.

We went on the Sunday afternoon with only four hours of the victory show left (in the morning I’d been out on a 22 mile training run). As we drove through Cosby to get to the show we saw the Trig aerobatic team flying overhead. This team of talented pilots flew their Pitts Special S-1D biplanes in some impressive maneuvers that would have pulled quite a few Gs! Once at the farm where this event takes place it’s then a bit of a drive down a dirt track to the field they use as a car park. Entry for this event was £18 per person.

The first thing we saw when we got into the event was rows of stalls selling World War 2 memorabilia and suchlike. We weren’t particularly interested in this so headed to the far side of the field where they had some WW2-era vehicles parked up that we thought would be worth photographing. They weren’t all military vehicles though, there were also the odd staff vehicle (so the same as what the public would have used), old farm machinery, and traction engines. They weren’t particularly interesting to me, but I figured as they were there it was something to photograph.

Whilst photographing these the next aerial display started and a Buchon buzzed the field alongside us giving us a great opportunity to photograph it close up. This is what I was there for – to photograph action shots of aircraft in flight having simulated dogfights as they would have during the war. This particular aircraft was from the German Luftwaffe and was a Rolls-Royce powered Messerschmitt Bf109. Behind this as part of the same display was a Grace Spitfire ML407 – one of the most iconic aircraft from the war.

Following the old vehicles around at the head of the field we then started to come across reenacters that were either standing around their vehicles, or were part of a diorama-like scene wearing not just British uniforms but also Nazi and US infantry uniforms as well. There were soldiers laying down in dug out trenches with gun placements, others sitting around on trucks and light tanks and it started to feel like we walking around an Allied camp during the war.

From there we headed through a hedgerow to a parked aircraft – a Douglas C.47 Dakota. Unlike everything else we’d seen this far this one they were allowing people onboard (at a price). I didn’t actually bother to board it though as I’d been on similar aircraft whilst overseas. We could also see a few other parked aircraft but didn’t immediately go over to them as we heard the battle re-enactment had started and thought we should make sure we got to see it.

Along the way we stopped for the odd photograph as we passed more reenacters, but eventually we got there. It was crowded and blatantly obvious that to get a good view we should have arrived there earlier. It was difficult initially to see what was going on – between the crowds of people in front of us, and smoke rising from the battlefield we could only see the Axis forces, but even they were obscured.

As the battle raged on we were able to move forward a bit and I could finally start to take some closer photographs of the battle. We could see Allied forces were advancing on the German position and had some armour moving with them. The Germans had their strongpoint on their side though, and some heavy weaponry.

There was a lot going on at the same time, in one area you could watch infantry trading shots, and the occasional casualty, whereas on the other side you could see tanks growing ever closer as German infantry attempted to use machine guns against them. You could almost consider this to be like a real battle, filled with confusion, though in this case they had spectators.

The noise was incredible – the sounds of bullets being fired, and shouts from the infantry on both sides. The smell of cordite lingered in the air, as smoke from the bullets spread and hid some of the soldiers from view. An onlooker could be fooled into thinking this was a real battle, but looking closely you could see some of them were smiling, they were having fun. Although they were demonstrating what a battle could be like, this was not one – there was no danger, no life or death choices for them to make in a heartbeat – just the need to put on a good show.

Eventually the Allied forces broken the German strongpoint and either captured or “killed” each of them. There was even one moment where a captured officer tried to escape and was shot in the back. It was quite a sight to watch this battle unfold before our eyes.

Watching the battle reminded me of HBO’s “Band of Brothers” – a miniseries that started with their training for Operation Overlord (the 101st Airborne drop behind enemy lines the night before the D-Day landings), and progressed passed this to Eindhoven, The Battle of the Bulge, and beyond. This battle specifically reminded me of the depiction of Easy Company’s march on Carentan.

With the battle over we left the field and headed back to where we’d left off before this detour. Along this part of the field there were more “scenes” of war such as a group of German officers sitting in the ruins of a café. It reminded me of something I’d seen before, possibly a photograph – so I took my own photograph of them sitting there. There was also a half track we passed, a field hospital where they were dressing “wounds”, and the tanks leaving the battlefield also passed us here.

We didn’t stick around though, we headed into the forest…

As we entered the forest the loud speakers in the field started to play the main title theme from Band of Brothers – perfect timing in my opinion. This area had been sprayed white to make it look like winter, and I think was supposed to represent the Battle of the Bulge. Here there were scattered fox holes, and soldiers in white ponchos. There was also an area made to look like it was where soldiers had fallen in battle.

We left the forest in time to see the more aircraft flying over as we also tried to photograph the tanks now that they were approachable on the field. The remainder of this field we covered quite quickly and soon moved on to the aircraft walk (back near the parked Dakota) where we could get close to where some of the aircraft from earlier displays were parked.

I think most of my attention was on the aircraft flying over which eventually became a reenactment of the Battle of Britain feature a Hawker Hurricane and a Spitfire. It was getting quite late in the day by this point and we knew there wasn’t much time left. I made sure I’d photographed each of the planes that was on the land and tried periodically to photograph those that were flying over head. We even saw a couple take off whilst we were there as they’d use a relatively flat piece of the field as a makeshift runway.

In the distance though we could see them preparing the B-17 Flying Fortress “Sally B” for take-off. This is the big finale for the airshow but we didn’t have time to stick around waiting for it so instead headed back to the car. The road out of the show takes you past the end of the runway, and we unexpectedly had to stop and wait just before the end of this so that the B-17 could take off.

By pure chance we were in the perfect place to see it as it hurtled down the runway towards us and eventually took off as I was frantically taking photographs of it. It flew overhead and disappeared briefly, but we were done and left – even though we could still see the B-17 flying around.

It was a fun afternoon and one I would recommend to anyone.