Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Paralympics a Ten mile run and a Triathlon

10/10/2012 - Well it's been a busy month - so busy I've not had time to post anything on here, sorry for that. So what's been going on? Is specifically what you're not asking because I doubt you're particularly fussed but I'll tell you anyway. Well after my last post regarding my visit to Eton Dorney for the Olympic canoe sprint the Olympics ended, the Paralympic Games started and the paralympic athletes picked up the baton and ran, (rather spectacularly), with it. I think Adam Hills put it best:

"Sydney was the first Paralympics where the competitors felt like equals, London is the first where they’ve been treated as heroes.

So I managed to get tickets for myself and the family to go to see one of the Equestrian events at Greenwich Park. Saturday morning and a train journey got us to within sight of Greenwich Park nice and early so we popped into a nice pub which was open for coffees and breakfasts. After filling up on caffeine and croissants we headed off to the queue for the event.

My two ladies about to queue

A short wait and we were allowed in and followed the crowd until we reached security and those super efficient army men and women. Once through security we made our way into the event arena.

The way into the arena - Savannah looks daunted

We made our way to our seats and got settled in when I decided I wanted a coffee and a Cornetto ice cream. So up I jumped and fought through the crowds to the stalls. Unlike everywhere else we'd been on our Olympic journey there was not much queuing involved and I quickly got the coffee and Cornetto's and returned to my seat.

The view from my seat.
We didn't have to wait long before the equestrian got going and before the competitors came out we were given a talk on being bloody quiet when the competitors compete. It was also made clear not to clap until the horses were in the hands of their helpers so we were shown this sort of hand waggle silent clap.

Britian's Lee Pearson enters the Arena
The show really got going for us when Lee Pearson entered the arena and put on a brilliant performance to get the highest score so far in this competition. Lee was I think the third competitor out so we had a nail biting time as competitor after competitor came out and did their thing. 

Lee Pearson does his thing
Lee was in the Gold medal position and no one was getting near his score. Then of the last three competitors two beat his score to push him down to the bronze medal position. And then it was all over and the three medal winners got a massive cheer as they went to collect their medals.

Medal Ceremony
So that was it for our Olympic and Paralympic journey and all too quickly it was all over on the telly as well. I was a bit lost at first as I had enjoyed everything about the Olympics and Paralympic games - the sport, the people, mood of the country, the crowds, the gossip, everything. Suitably inspired I decided to up my game. Watching the cycling I remembered the bike in the shed and realised I could supplement my running with cycling. So I dusted of the bike and started doing exactly that. Pretty soon it occurred to me that if I added in a swim I'd have all the skills needed to do a triathlon. So I booked a triathlon.

First though I had the Swineshead 10 miler to do. I've had a bit of a crap year as far as fitness goes and the run up to this run was no difference. I'd been in bed with a nasty cold a week before so I was still recovering but I'd missed this race the previous year due to an operation so I was not missing it again. The day of the race came and I was hoping this year to get under 1 hour 30 minutes. I should have realised that I was not in the best shape ever and on the day it was really really hot. I gave my wife a kiss and set off for the start line saying "I should be back in 90 minutes or so" - boy was that an optimistic guess. 

We were off and I felt pretty good and was doing a reasonable pace, I thought I might actually make a personal best. It was all going well until I got to around mile six when the heat and my lack of fitness hit me hard. I was downing cups and cups of water at the water stops and went from a decent pace to crawling along inside a mile. For the first time ever I was forced to run/walk as I was feeling so crap. Along the way the occasional ambulance shot past on their way to a runner in trouble. Eventually I made it across the finish line where I was called over to a table lined with cold water. "Water?" I said, "I need a beer!"

My wife got me a beer, a hot dog and an ice cream all of which were consumed with relish as I crashed on a grass verge. My wife told me that the St John's ambulance people had been running about calling for the relatives of fallen runners. My time was a pitiful 1 hour 50 minutes and I felt rough. Even worse I had a triathlon to do in a few weeks.

So we come to the triathlon. I'd convince my work mate, a large Slovakian dude and cool guy, to come along and compete so that I'd not be on my own. First thing I discovered was just how bloody early these things start. Four thirty in the morning I had to get up to ensure I had time to have breakfast and get over to where the triathlon was being held. My mate turned up for me and we loaded my bike in the back of his car with his bike and we were off. We arrived in plenty of time and got registered, took ownership of our free fleece, race numbers and racked the bikes. 

Sooner than I'd have liked I was in my trunks, chip attached to my ankle and queuing for the 400 meters swim. Then I was in the water and like a fly in soup I flapped along at an ever decreasing pace. Within a few laps my mate swam past - I already knew he was going to beat me on the swim. Thing is he may be a large guy but he's a good swimmer and better than me on the bike so the plan was to not let him get too far away in the swim and cycle part so that I had a chance to catch him on the run. I exited the pool and ran outside to the transition area and the 25k cycle ride and feck me it was cold. At the bikes I found my mate standing by his bike, naked - bollock naked - and getting changed. I think I said "Well fuck me!" before asking if I could borrow the towel. A quick dry of the hair and I flung on some shorts, my trainers and a light jacket and I was off followed closely by my mate who was being told off by a laughing lady over his nudity. 

Not at all looking knackered
We left the transition area and within a few corners my mate flew past with a wave and that was the last I saw of him. About a mile in the gears on my bike started to cause me problems. They were dropping, the slightest bump was knocking the chain off the larger front cogs and sometimes none of my pedaling was going through to the back wheel. This left me losing speed and struggling to find a gear that would stick. I must have looked funny wobbling around shouting "Work you fucking piece of shit" at the bike as other riders shot past. It was also bloody cold on the bike as a chilly damp fog lay across the route which was littered with the discarded sun glasses of other competitors.. 

Getting into the T2 transition I could see my mate had already racked his bike and was nowhere to be seen. I had no idea how far ahead of me he was so no idea if I had enough time to catch him up. I racked the bike and set off on the run. First thing I noticed was that I was struggling to breath, my chest felt tight and I was wheezing. Oh dear, I thought, would I have to stop? Then ahead of me I saw my mate and that gave me a spur on. I jogged past and said hi but forgot to ask what lap he was on and, as this was a two and a half lap 5k, I had no idea if I'd just taken the lead or was still a lap behind. Luckily my breathing cleared and I could run more smoothly and enjoy the rest of the run.

It's Mo Farah all over again !
I ran to the finish line and looked over to the transition area to see if my mate had got in before me. He was not there and as he was not waiting I guessed he was still running. As it goes he finished around ten minutes behind me - yay for me (he was one of 10 people who I beat that day lol). Summing it up I have to say that I love triathlons. I think I've found my sport - I may be crap at them but they're bloody good fun. Even my mate enjoyed it and we're planing to do one together next year.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A Day at Eton Dorney

20/08/2012 - OK the Olympics are over, except the Para-Olympics which I'm getting excited about, but I've been inspired to try my hand at triathlons. I've dug out the bike and have been adding bike rides to my training and I'm looking at doing a sprint triathlon in October. If that goes OK then I'll do a full Olympic one next year :-). Not been swimming yet - something I will have to do prior to booking the race as I've not swam "properly" in more years than I can remember. I don't want to dive into the pool and find I can only manage a single length.

Before then end of the Olympics our last tickets took us to Eton Dorney for the finals of the Canoe Sprint. Fortunately it was a lovely day and we set off in the car to the previously booked Park & Ride a few miles outside of the event. There was little in the way of traffic and the journey to the parking site was without issue - lovely. All parked up we walked over to the buses and were ferried over to the park, a long but pretty walk to the security gates and into the park - no real queues no hassle.

We had had no breakfast so decided to grab something before taking out seats - this proved to be a big mistake. The first race was to start at 09:30 and we felt that as it was 08:45 we had plenty of time so got in the queue for the stall advertising "Salmon - Brie - Beef"   baguettes. We queued and we queued and as after about 30 minutes we neared the counter where I heard "We only have Salmon or Prawn" - neither of which were going to be any good for myself or my daughter. My wife stayed and my daughter and I ran to the next door vendor to get something from them. My wife got to the counter of the baguette and asked why they were not telling people they were out of everything but fish only to be told "We're not allowed to." Anyway the prawn baguette she bought was rank and ended up, after a couple of bites, in the bin.

Day 15 - only one day to go :-(

Anyway by the time we'd got food we were rushing to the seats as the race was about to start and the first race had our best medal hope, Ed McKeever, starting. They were waiting on the start line as we pushed through to our seats - apologizing as we went. We literally reached our seats as the gun went off and they were off.

Made it to the seats!!

Hands full we cheered and roared and got to see Ed McKeever win Olympic gold!!!

First race finished we got to settle down and breath a sigh of relief that we had made it, just in time. We watched a couple more races until Ed got his medal ceremony. We cheered, we shouted, we waved the union flag - it was all very patriotic and the noise was tremendous. 

Ed sees me in the crowd and waves.
By now I had eaten my food and drank my drink so was starting to feel pretty good about things. Lovely weather, lovely venue and I'd just watched a gold medal being won - already a top day.

All Team GB'ed up.
So we got to watch a few more races, all of which were pretty exciting though only a couple had British interest and sadly none resulted in medals for Team GB.

That was until the duo of Jon Schofield and Liam Heath lined up in their two man canoe for the 200m sprint. There was an air of anticipation before the gun went off followed by the roar from the crowd - emulating what the crowds have been doing at every venue of this Olympic games. Watching from the seats it was too close to call it but after a few seconds the result was displayed on the big screen - they had won the bronze!

Brilliant bronze from Jon Schofield and Liam Heath
All races completed we watched the last of the medal ceremonies and cheered loud and proud as Jon Schofield and Liam Heath's received their bronze medals. All in all a brilliant day. And so once we were allowed out of the stand we took a slow walk back to the bus that would deposit us back to the car. Along the way the Games Makers high fived everyone, made jokes, basically did a fantastic job of making the day great. We could have stayed at the park as there was quite a bit going on but we needed to get going.

Lovely day
So we boarded the bus and after a short ride to the Park & Ride we jumped in the car and set off. Again no traffic to speak of and we arrived home fresh and happy. So our Olympics were over apart from the last day's TV and closing ceremony so a bit sad but hey there's still the Para-Olynpics to come. We managed to get tickets to the Equestrian so pretty damn excited about that :-).

Monday, 30 July 2012

Where have I been - the Mauritius, Olympic and TR24 post

30/07/2012 - God I ache, but more of the later. I have loads to tell so I should do this it correct date order so as not to confuse. I've been a bit lacking posting here because I got a bit depressed having had to call off the Milton Keynes marathon and being just too busy with life. So to catch us up to the present I'll say a little about my holiday to Mauritius, then I'll tell you all about my attendance of the Olympic Opening Ceremony and then I'll fill you in on my race at the TR24 (Adidas Thunder Run).

Firstly my holiday. My family and I love Mauritius so took the chance of two weeks sitting on a Mauritian beach after my daughter had finished her GCSE's and before I was unable to take holiday because of the Olympics. So off we went and it was as good as always, hot sun, beautiful blue seas, lovely food and friendly hotel staff.

Getting ready for some snorkling
Apart from the usual things we also spent a day at the races in a box overlooking the race course in St Louis. It was a fab day out and I won on one of the races; sadly I also lost on the other seven (came 2nd in 4 of them though - lot of good it did me lol). Also took the family on a quad bike adventure through the sugar cane fields and up a mountain which proved to be one of the highlights of the holiday. 

I'll smack anyone that says "Poncherello"
Back home and we had one week to get excited about the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. We'd managed to purchase tickets for the canoe sprint and the equestrian (para-olympics) but had failed to get the opening ceremony when a damn good friend call round to surprise me and my family with tickets.

The golden tickets
Friday the 27th of July 2012 and we jumped on the train into London, four suitably excited people clutching our tickets like they were lottery winning ones. We got into London nice and early so headed over to Covent Garden for a bite to eat and a look round. Found a lovely restaurant in the middle of the market in the center of Covent Garden called the Crusting Pipe. It was an inspired choice as we ate some lovely grub, drank a few glasses of Prosecco and were entertained first by an opera singer then by a five piece string orchestra. Could the day have started any better - short of winning the lottery no.

The Crusting Pipe - lovely
After lunch we headed back to St Pancras and boarded the Javelin Train to Stratford and the Olympic park. No problems with queues etc and when we got seated we shared the cabin with the Tunisian basketball team - damn those guys are tall. The we arrived at Stratford station and made our way past security and into the very smart new shopping centre Westfield. It was busy and so rather than try to eat there we elected to go into the Olympic park instead. A short wait at the entrance and we were allowed in, through bag checks done very efficiently by our army lads and lasses (please contribute to Help for Heroes via my just giving page). Once in we go on the hunt for a place to sit and a bite to eat and drink. Quick reactions on my part secure us a table and, my wife and daughter fighting off anyone seeking to take the table from us, myself and Alison (brilliant mate who got the tickets - love you x) went seeking beer. After about an hour of faffing between us all we managed to secure both the beer and suitably nice grub to tuck into.

Suitably filled we made our way into the Olympic stadium as the show would start at 19:30 before going live on the BBC at 21:00. First thing you notice when you get in is just how big it is, it's frigging huge, second thing you notice is the noise - it rattles the bones. We found our seats and got settled in for the duration.

Atmosphere building nicely
Even before the 21:00 official start they kept us entertained with a three song set from Frank Turner and getting us to do various things in preparation of the main event. The crowd was buzzing, the noise was tremendous as we counted down the seconds till it all kicked off.

You can see it all on the BBC but what I will say is WOW, being there was simply incredible. Visually amazing, aurally stunning, the scale monumental, moments where your jaw hit the floor, moments that made you laugh, times when your heart filled with pride and tears formed in your eyes.

The music section had me singing like mad and dancing about in my seat - I've made sure to pre-order the music CD. At the end I sung myself hoarse to Hey Jude and marveled at the fireworks. I don't think I'll be there to see anything like it again. Bravo Danny Boyle.

Fireworks !!!
Getting out of the Olympic Park wasn't too bad and we got the last train home and we in the house by 03:00 am. After sorting out a few bits I got about an hour and a half of sleep before heading off to Catton Park in Derbyshire for the Adidas Thunder run - the TR24.

I arrived at the camp site at Catton Park in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside about 08:30ish and set about putting up my tent in the Thunder Re-Runners VIP area the guys had set up in my absence and prepared for the race. Pete had arranged team t-shirts for the race and I was presented mine which I must say is very nice indeed - well done Pete.

The Thunder Re-Runners 2012
The other team members kindly arranged to go out and do laps before me giving me at least some chance to grab a couple of hours kip; which after a lovely bacon sarnie cooked by Pete I did, though I was not going to miss the start. For the second year running Pete had agreed to start us off in the race. About 15 minutes to 12 we all walked over to the start/finish line.  Pete made his way onto the track and took position in the gathered herd. Five seconds to go and counted down 5,4,3,2,1 and the race began, runners streaming past at a fair lick.

Race started the rest of the team headed back to camp to chill until called upon to run.

Pete in the crowd
Rakesh is next up next and a short while after he heads of to the transition area Pete returns having completed the opening lap in 55:51 and declared the course "Fecking hard!". They had changed to course from the previous year and it would appear that it has been made a lot harder. Throughout the day other runners I met with all agreed that this was the toughest course so far.

Rakesh on a flyer
Finley, our team coordinator and Pete and Lisa's son, entered the time into the computer and confidently predicted that we'd get 26 to 27 laps - the optimism of youth.

Lisa's reaction to our predicted laps
Chris was next and set out to the transition area to take the baton from Rekesh. Returning Rakesh backed up Pete's claim on the toughness of the new course; it may not be quite as hot as last year but it was harder going and Rakesh came in with a very respectable 57:02.

Chris - AKA The Machine
After Chris it was my turn so I got to the transition area ahead of time and waited for his arrival. Chris had banged in a damn good 53:29. I set of in the heat, the sun was by now blazing away, and soon came to the first of many many up hill climbs. Up through the woods, an almost never ending climb. The first 5k seemed to be all up hill with the very few downs being so short and steep that you got no benefit from them and in fact struggled not to lose your footing.

The second 5k was a little, and I mean a little, easier on he legs but was full of very technical areas (in this sense technical means "likely to have you falling flat on your face or into a tree").  Last 2 kilometers were actually rather nice, well except that new evil climb a couple of hundred meters before the finish. I ran across the finish line in a sprint hoping that the spectators would think that that was how I'd completed the entire 10k. My time was 59:05, a fully 3 minutes down on last year which considering it was cooler this year I think shows how much harder the course was.

You put your left leg in ...
Waiting at the transition area ready to be handed the baton was Lisa, Pete's wife and emergency stand in for Stephen who was unable to compete this year (don't feel sorry for him he's an Olympic helper dude instead and having a great time at the Olympic Park). We sort of shanghaied Lisa into running in Stephens place with the promise that she only need do one lap and even insisted that she bring cake. I handed over the baton and tried not to let on the sheer horror of the lap I'd just run.

Lisa smiling, we did tell her about the hills didn't we??
After Lisa it was back to Pete so of he went to the transition area and took the baton off the returning Lisa who had put in a brilliant 1:22:24 for her first ever TR24 lap. From then on and over night it was a case of cycling the laps between Pete, Rakesh, Chris and myself. Pete's second lap was a 55:45 - Mr Consistent. Rakesh banged in a 1:01:23. Chris did as expected another excellent lap of 55:12.

As I set off on my second lap instantly I felt a lot of discomfort at the back of my right knee. Luckily I'd asked Chris if he could have a change of t-shirt ready for me at the 3k mark which was right near our tents so when I got there, hobbling and having lost a lot of time, I asked if someone could get me one of my knee straps. Knee strapped up tightly I set off and within a few minutes the extra stability afforded to the knee by the support strap, the massaging effect it was having on the back of the knee and the warmth it created were all combining to make running on it bearable. I did the first 5k in 41 minutes but, apart for the hills, the knee was holding out and certainly not getting any worse and I was able to largely ignore it. The second 5k progressed much better and I managed it in 29 minutes, finishing in a total time for the 10k of 1:10:53. I was not too upset with the time and thought I'd be able to carry on but I was a bit pissed that I would be running in pain from now on which would lessen my enjoyment of the race.

Another round of laps saw Pete do a 59:05. Rekesh did 1:20:27 - the toughness of the course and the dark night having an impact. Chris, the machine, had to be packed and away by 08:00 to collect his wife so decided to do a double lap. Now he did not need to but he decided that by doing so my knee would get an extra hour or so's extra rest.  For that I was very grateful. His first of the back to back laps and his third lap overall came in at 1:05.04, the second 1:29:09 and boy did he look knackered after this forth lap.

My third lap was 1:10:41, Pete's forth 1:03:43 and he declared it his last, Rakesh's fourth and final lap was 01:31:12 - it was a sensible decision as he would be needing his legs in the following days as he's a professional martial arts instructor. My forth followed, 1:24:13, then Lisa stepped up to do a second lap and came home in 1:22:11 - 13 second faster than her first lap.

Pete changed his mind and decided to do a 5th lap and got round in 1:27:08. The last lap was to be mine so off I set taking it easy and enjoying the final lap of the weekend. I crossed the line in 1:25:00 dead - over the moon to have completed 50k in 24 hours; I can now officially claim to be an Ultra Runner!!!

Popping the champagne cork after another great TR24
Medals collected and hung about the neck, champagne de-corked and hands shaken we all took a moment to congratulate each other and make promises to be there in 2013. It was a great race, we'd each given what we could over the 24 hours and achieved our revised goal of 20 laps. In the end we came 54th out of 70 teams in the mixed team of five category but it was much more about each of our own personal achievements and enjoyment of the event than team position.
The winning team - in our hearts anyway
So all in all what with the Olympic Opening Ceremony and a fabulous weekend running probably one of my best weekends ever and after a long and difficult journey home (only ProPlus and coffee kept me awake) I treated myself to a nice hot bath. Today, Monday, I'm a little sore but not too bad and I even managed a short ride out on my bike to loosen the legs a bit.

Last thing I want to do is thank the team, Pete, Lisa, Chris and Rakesh for running hard but never forgetting to have fun. Special thanks to Pete for the brilliant t-shirts, and the bacon sarnie just when I needed it and to Lisa for stepping into the team when we needed her.

Until next year.

p.s. If you can please donate a little something towards Help for Heroes via my justgiving page and show your support for our troups and the job they do.

Here's a video I took of Team GB entering the Olympic statium in exchange for your donation ;-) (Sorry if it shakes a bit, I was filming and watching at the same time - it gets better from the middle onwards :-).)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Damn it to Hell

14/05/2012 - Well it's been 15 days since the Milton Keynes marathon and I've only just been able to bring myself to post about it. The reason is simple - I did not do it.

I'd been getting sick of the training and just wanted to get the marathon over with. The big training runs had begun to grate big time and I'd had enough of being out running for in excess of three hours at a time. For the first time since I started running I was beginning to not enjoy it. Anyway I'd stopped running a week before, just doing a couple of gentle jogs, and was as ready as I was going to be. Then I went for a combat training session on the Saturday morning before the Sundays race and afterwards felt a bit "off". Went home and after a cup of tea sat down the couch - this was about 11:30am - watching the telly, closed my eyes. I awoke and discovered I'd slept for four hours. Feeling a bit crap for the rest of the day and evening I had an early night. The alarm woke me nice and early on Sunday for the marathon but I felt awful. My wife took one look and said that there was no way I was going to be doing a marathon anytime soon.

So rather depressed I spent the day feeling shite and sorry for myself as friends braved to appalling weather of the day to complete the marathon. The only consolation was that the weather was indeed horrendous and I got to watch the British Touring Car Championship for a good chunk of the day. Below is a picture of how I might have looked finishing the Milton Keynes Marathon had I of run it.

It took about a week for me to stop feeling sorry for myself; it was not so much missing the marathon but having done all that training I had nothing to show for it and the thought that I would have to do it all again if I was ever to do a full marathon. So I took the family to see the new Avengers Assemble film at the local cinema and I must say it went a big way to cheering me up. Very good it is too.

So I had a bit of a break and wondered if I'd get my running mojo back. Good news is that I have and I'm really enjoying doing 6 miles of fun and fast (for me) running instead of the 18 miles of torture I had been doing.this is good because I have the Adidas Thunder Run at the end of July - something I'm really looking forward to doing. This year it'll be a real challenge as there is only 5 of us this year so I'm looking at something between 36 to 48 miles in the 24 hours. I've also decided to run for Help for Heroes, a charity that needs no introduction. If you feel you like to help push me towards my collection target and in turn do a bit of good supporting our Armed Forces wounded please do so via my just giving page - link below:

Look at the picture above - you can see I'm smiling. A bit down after missing the marathon I took the opportunity to do a bit of extra training organised by one of my TR24 team members Rakesh Patel at his purpose built studio in Letchworth. It was, as usual, brilliant. An hour and 15 minutes of Combat Conditioning Pad work drills for non-stop 2 min rounds with small breaks between each set - just enough time to swap pads for gloves. Very physically demanding but very rewarding.

Buoyed by the training session I went off on Saturday the 12th of May to the Martial Arts Show at the NEC in Birmingham with my daughter and a bunch of people from my karate club. It was quite a bit smaller than the show I used to go to, SENI, but I must say they did very well with what they had. Plenty of stalls to buy things from and an impressive array of martial artists demonstrating their martial arts. I particularly enjoyed the Shaolin monks and the Muay Thai.  I came back with a lovely new set of focus pads and a new mouth guard.

RDX Focus Pads - lovely.

Then last Sunday we had a visitor. A very good friend of my wife and I popped round for and chat and to pop a bunch of flowers in for my wife - a thank you for a birthday treat. Turned out that was just a ruse and the real reason she had come round was to surprise us with the news that she had managed to purchase four tickets to the London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony and three of them were for my wife, my daughter and me. Cue lots and lots of jumping around and excited shouting etc. Only issue is that it's going to mean a lot more organising as the ceremony is on the Friday of the TR24, the Friday I was intending to travel there. Instead I'll have to travel up on the Saturday morning after very little sleep. Nevermind - it's a once in a lifetime event that I have no intention of letting anything get in the way of.

So right now I'm on a bit of a high which is nice after the low of the week post missed marathon. Oh and in a fit of madness I put my name into the hat for the London Marathon - you never know ;-).

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Busy Month - pre- marathon

26/04/2012 - It's been a busy month (a wedding, buying a new car, selling my old car and a unintentional bank robbery, and it's really impacted on my training so I'm even more unprepared for the marathon than I had wished to be. Coupled with an injury to the right foot done in Karate I'm in agony by the time I'm into double figure running. Still I intend to give it a shot even if I have to bail out half way through.

OK so what's gone on then. Well first was the wedding. My nephew was getting married in Scotland at the start of the month so I took a couple of days off work and my family and I flew up there. We were booked into a lovely hotel and our room, a split level affair overlooking the bay, was very comfortable.

The room balcony - Crack open the Champagne

Tired from the journey we chilled, did a little exploring, and chatted to some of our extended family who had arrived on the same day. So a nice meal in the restaurant that evening and it was an early night for us all. After a very comfy nights sleep we had breakfast and explored the local area - lovely and quiet. I then popped of to the gym and did a quick 30 minutes on the tread mill and had a go on the machines my wife and daughter went for a swim. Then in a repeat of the previous day it was a meal and an early night as the next day was wedding day.

So the next day all dressed up we head off to the wedding. Not much to say other than it was lovely and we enjoyed ourselves, me snapping away with the camera while my wife looked on embarrassed. We drank and had fun well into the night until we staggered off to bed knackered.

So the wedding was nice and having flew home my thoughts turned back to the MK marathon. So I went out and did an 18 mile run - not good. By mile 15 the foot was agony every time I landed on it and for the last 3 mile I was running in a sort of hobbled gait. Also I was getting seriously fed up with long runs and being out for hours on end. I was starting to not enjoy my running which is an issue.

Anyway to cheer myself up a bit I'd been discussing buying a new car and the time had come to start putting things into effect. I was in no rush so I organised the finance and set about searching for my perfect car. OK my perfect car would be an Aston Martin DB9 but you know what I mean. Anyway I had decided on a Ford Mondeo. Then after a day in London having fun with the cars at Car Giant I changed my mind and decided I preferred the Vauxhall Insignia. I had hired one while up in Scotland for the wedding so I knew what they were like to drive. I did not buy there though so came home and went on the Internet and lo and behold there's the perfect car only 2 miles down the road. So a quick call, a visit, the negotiation, the gathering of funds and the car is now mine.

Half leather seat - lovely
Then on the same day I manage to sell my old car - a double whammy.

So what's this about a bank robbery? I hear you ask. Well I popped into a small local bank to arrange a large withdrawal of cash for the car purchase. Only gave them a last name with she used over the phone to arrange with a large branch. Popped into the larger branch and went up to the young lady at the desk. "I've arranged to collect a cash withdrawal." I said and she asked for my debit card and wondered off. She came back with an envelop of cash with my name on it - only it wasn't because they'd got it wrong. We had a laugh about that and she got me to pop my pin into one of those little pin checker things and said yes that's fine and gave me the money. I left and it was some time later I realised that I had not seen her - or anyone - put anything into a computer. No I was not paying that much attention but something just felt wrong. It felt like I'd walked in and asked for money and they'd just gave me it.

I checked my transaction online and sure enough there was no record of the transaction being done - hmmm. I spoke to my wife who said give it 24 hours to see if it comes through. I decided to do that and if it didn't to call the bank - no way I wanted to appear on Crimewatch. The afternoon of following day before I have a chance to call the bank my phone rings and it's the manager of the bank "doing a survey" lol. It was so obvious what she needed to know and indeed we got onto what sort of transaction I'd done, what time and how much etc. Once completed I had a laugh and funnily enough a little later the money exited from my account.

So interesting few days and now it's the marathon this weekend - I'll report back on how it went.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Longest run so far

04/04/2012 - It's been a little over three weeks since my my completion of the Silverstone Half marathon and the running's been going as well I could expect. I've been gradually upping the mileage with my last run being a 15 mile jaunt. My plan is to do a couple of shorter runs and an 18 mile run this week; next week same thing but up the long run to 20 miles. Then I think I can fit in one more long run before I have to start tapering so if I'm very lucky I may get to 22 miles - maybe. I'm a bit worried as the 15 miler seemed damn hard to me. Thing now is to remain healthy - no injuries or picking up coughs and colds.

Taking no chances.
So it's all sort of going OK, I'm still well behind where I wanted to be by now but what can you do? I have been trying out a new run/walk strategy for the marathon as I can't see me running the whole thing with my current level of fitness. It seems to be working OK so far - fingers crossed. I've also been doing some additional fight training on a Tuesday evening, this time with my daughter coming along and giving it a go. Pretty good, hard training sessions.

Fight Club

Anyway having completed my longest run ever, the 15 miles, I decided to do the thing I've seen other runners like Eddie Izzard and John Bishop do on the telly - take an ice bath. Now here's the thing, I watched Eddie and his 43 marathons in 51 days and John Bishop do his 5 days of hell but I've decided next year for sporting relief someone needs to do something like 50 ice baths in 50 days - that would be a real challenge. Sod me I'd have rather gone out and done another 15 miles.

Not my feet.

There I am watching my feet turn blue as the agonizingly cold water performs the same trick David Copperfield did with that Jumbo jet and makes my genitals disappear. Except of course this time it's not an optical illusion, it's all actually gone; in 5 agonizing minutes I've reversed 35 years of adulthood and several years of puberty and have returned, at least physically, to a pre-pubescent state. By now I'm shaking uncontrollably as the cold eeks it's way into my body. Sipping a coffee does not help. How long am I supposed to stay in this hell? 20 minutes, 30, more? Damned if I can remember but after 5 minutes I've had enough. Thankfully everything seems to have returned to it's normal state, though my manhood (little Stu) is now treating me with some suspicion. I'm pretty sure I'll not be repeating that experiment again.

I decided I needed to get some tights for those times when it's too hot for my bagging leggings and too cold for shorts. I tried to decide which ones I wanted. I could get a cheap pair for about £12 or a nice set of compression ones for around £21. I asked my wife who responded with, "Get the good ones but don't wear them in daylight." Well they arrived promptly and as an unexpected bonus came paired with a free very large Sporting Direct mug. Perfect as I'd smashed my "big" mug at work a little while ago. So it was time to try them on.

Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive.
Well my wife insisted on taking a photo, though she wanted top off but since she's always told me no I chose to do the same. Next I must admit that my wife an I can be a little evil at times and I want you to picture the scene. I've popped on the tights and my wife calls my teenage daughter out of her bedroom. She walks out to find me standing in the hall way wiggling my arse in her direction and saying repeatedly "It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all." Cue a scream and her rapid retreat back into her bedroom and that's the last we see of her for a while. OK so it's going to cost us in councilors in the future but we do it for her own good; by that I mean it makes us laugh.

EDIT: Just been out for a run in them and I must say I love them. So very comfortable. Even though I wore a pair of shorts over the top it still felt, apart from the lack of genital flappage, like I was running commando. For the first mile I kept checking that I was not on display to the world. Excellent. nike-pro-combat-core-tights

To show I can be a good parent here's a picture she painted of out cat Cleo who died not so long ago. She presented it to our neighbour who also loved Cleo and misses her.


Monday, 12 March 2012

Silvertone Half Marathon - 2012

12/03/2012 - My Silverstone Experience.

This was a race I had not been looking forward to as much as I'd hoped. An ear operation last year had taken me out of action for three months and just when I was getting back into my fitness I developed a chest infection in January that stopped me doing anything for six weeks.

So I was not as prepared as I would have liked to be but I knew I should be able to get round but thoughts of beating last years time were right out of the question. Mind you at least I could just relax and enjoy the run without trying to better last year.

The weather the previous Sunday had been horrendous so I was watching with interest the weather forecast and it looked like it was going to be OK. My wife, who never comes with me to these races, decided to come along. This still worries me. The decent forecast obviously played a part but still .... Does she have an alterior motive? Am I about to be asked to accompany her to, heaven forbid, something like an ABBA night??

The only photo my wife took on the day

Anyway putting aside my foreboding about my wife's motives I was pleased to see it was a lovely morning; excellent, I thought, sunshine on a chilly day - perfect. I had no idea as I stood outside that morning, about to get into my car, that the day would turn out to be such a warm day and lovely day.

We set off and got to the track in good time, got parked and started the long trek to the starting pavilion. Once we got in the place was buzzing already, I'm not sure but it did seem busier than last year. I started with a nice coffee while my wife teased me with a full breakfast bun, bacon, egg, mushrooms, while I could only dream and hope that they would not run out of bacon before the end of my race. I did pop into the Adidas shop and got myself an Adidas climaproof cap which proved to be one of my best ever spur of the moment purchases. Apart from it actually being a great cap the job it did protecting me from the sun was priceless - and it only cost a tenner.

Time was getting on and my wife said that I should be making my way to the start but I waited a while longer, knowing that Silverstone never starts on time, but I was eventually standing on the track by around 11:50. As expected the start was delayed but only by 5 minutes so not as bad as it could have been. I noticed a little in front of me a chap holding a 2:11 sign, cool a pacemaker and with all my hopes of a better time than last year I though this was the chap I should stick with.

We're off !
The race starts, no wait... wait, yes..... no .... yes, and we're running..... walking, no we're running again and I can see the start line in the distance. As I cross the start line a very pretty young lady starts to run at my side and after a while it feels like she's going to be staying at my side because whenever I move and pass someone two seconds later she's at my side again. Just as I think to myself "You've still got it Stu" she drops back, no doubt having finally got a proper look at me - oh well. All was not lost as up ahead there's a very tall chap that looks very much like RF's own Gruff Eddie. I follow for a while but can't decide for certain if it's him, stupid really as I'm not sure who else it could be, and so decide to pass along side. As I did I hear "Hello Stuart". It was indeed Mr Gruff.

So I had a very pleasant 5 miles, 5 miles'ish, chatting away to Gareth and keeping the pacemaker in sight. I knew Gareth lived in the same village as myself but was surprised to learn that if we, OK I, stood on a ladder we could probably see each others houses. Nice bloke and really helped me pass the time and looking back was, with the finish, the highlight of the run for me.

Chase me !!

After about five miles I started to feel I might actually be OK on this run and, in chatting, Gareth and I had dropped a little off the pacemaker so I overtook a few people until I was just behind the guy. Looking round I could see that Gareth had not followed so I waited for a minute to see if he would come along side. He didn't and so I wondered if I should drop back a bit and find him or carry on. By now though I was interested to see how I could run the rest of the race and set myself the target of staying in front of the 2:11 pacemaker so I allowed myself to run a little less restrained.

I crept up on the miles and surprised them with a "boo" as a ran past laughing manically all the while admiring the Lycra clad derrieres of the many ladies running ahead of me. This was something I had enjoyed doing last year and it's been a fulfilling and enlightening hobby ever since, if a little creepy - my wife's words not mine. It still amazes me the range of shapes and wobbles the female bottom can achieve. At this point I'd like to thank the inventor of sunglasses. Mind you the woman in the Baywatch swim suit had a horrible bum, almost manly, and she could have shaved her legs.

So the run was going well, I was really enjoying it, though the sun had got rather hot - not what you expect on a Sunday in March. At least the organisers kept my fluids topped up with fluids with regular water and Lucozade sport drink stations. At one point I came to a water station and as I still had half a bottle of the Lucozade drink left I grabbed a bottle of water and poured it over my head. Oh it felt good but I was later to regret the decision as my watered t-shirt gave me a sore nipple. A nipple that despite the soreness and my quite obvious discomfort my wife shockingly refused, actually refused, to kiss better after the race.

The end was in sight so head down I pushed to the finish and managed to spriog home - spriog is a cross between a sprint and a jog. The finish clock I think displayed about 2 hours 13 so I went to have my chip cut off and get my goodie bag surprised that I'd finished somewhere in spitting distance of last years time. I found my wife settled in a little sun trap near one of the places that sold beer and fancying a beer myself was saddened to find they had run out, something my wife swears she had nothing to do with. So I had to go with a cider, which was OK, and a bacon roll, which was damn lovely.

And I'm done.

Last year I finished the day with a lovely big hug from Barnaby Bear but she could not make this years race so I held out my arms to my lovely wife, who grimaced and pointed out that I'd dropped my bacon roll into my lap - crap.

While sitting in the car waiting over an hour to get out of the car park I got a text to tell me I'd finished in 2 hours and 9 minutes - exactly the same as last year. 13.1 miles and I'd finished within 10 seconds of my previous time - consistent at least.

2012 Placings/Results:  Overall: 3597     Gender: 2763     Age: 250      Finish Time: 02:09:48
2011 Placings/Results:  Overall: 3938     Gender: 3045     Age: 229      Finish Time: 02:09:39