Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 15 January 2017

It's over!

It's over.  Don't try and persuade me otherwise.  I've had enough.  My last official "blow out" was on Friday 13th at my nieces wedding (which was amazing!) so yesterday was a recovery day on the couch and today a recovery run.  But all this socialising has to stop.  It can't go on or else I'll pile the weight on, become more sluggish, despondent, demotivated, increase my chances of serious illness and not be at my best for my family ot work.  So it's definitely over.
I have goals I want to achieve in my two 70.3 Ironman events which should get my fitness to a decent level without injury.  Once the second one is over then the running mileage will really step up as will the hill walking, hill climbing and mountain running.  So with such exciting goals lined up getting back to a healthy lifestyle should be easy.
I do have some holidays lined up but I will adapt the training while I am away.  Training when not working is such a privilege and you notice the difference, you're not so tired.
Today's run at Chatelherault was a solo effort but I did meet various friends on route.  My pace was reasonable taking account of my lack of regular running and it should just get better from here.  A lot of hard work ahead but it will be worth it.  I hope if you made a new year resolution that you are sticking to it?  If not get your running shoes on and get out there.  Life if for living not sitting on your arse!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Chipping away

The first week back at work is always tough, even if it is only 3 days!  Early rises and long days but I've managed to have everything set up for the rest of the year.
Training wise I made it to the gym.  I'm not a gym bunny but I do need to increase the strength in my legs to cope with the training mileage.  I'll have to improve my upper body strength as part of the event includes climbing using ropes but I need to get over my shoulder injury first.  Add to that altitude and heat and it's going to be a tough 6 days in the Grand Canyon.  But I've just been handed a big advantage.  Last year I was asked to deliver a talk to some university students about the training for the Marathon Des Sables (MdS), the nutrition and the race itself.  They have asked me back again and as a reward they have offered me time in a heat and altitude chamber - BOOM!  So no need to head off to the alps when I can conduct some training 7 miles from my house!
On Saturday I went for my usual lap of Chatelherault but it wasn't good.  Short of breath and high heart rate isn't a good combination so I needed to slow down.  I felt terrible by the end of the run but I know I have to go through this period.  It's not easy and I'm looking forward to getting through this painful period - the canyon seems a long way away however it is only 258 days away.
Today I decided to go out running on my own and on the road rather than the trail.  I'm not sure if when running with others I am going out too fast which causes the problem, other than too much indulgence in the last 4 months!  I also decided not to look at my Garmin during the run.  Just run at a pace I was comfortable with but also increase the distance.  The route is a hilly one so 16.33 km (more than double Saturdays run) was a challenge, more mental than physical but I did it at a reasonable pace.  According to my Garmin I need to rest tomorrow so I will, but more regular runs are required to "chip away" at the mountain of training that lies ahead.  I suppose if this was easy then everyone would do it.  That is what will make it all worthwhile!

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Happy New Year to you all.  The start of any new year is usually met with optimism, it's going to be better than last year and it certainly going to be a big year for me as I continue with Mission Ironman - raising money for Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres.  But before I lay down my plans for 2017 I think it is always worthwhile reflecting on the previous year, what was achieved and what was learned along the way.
Overall 2016 was a great success.  I had a PB in my 70.3 Ironman and a PB in my "A" race, Ironman Frankfurt.  So on the surface everything went well and I am pleased with the results.  But that is why you have to do a deeper review.  A pulled hamstring meant I couldn't run before IM for 5 weeks and this is a recurring injury so I have to get that sorted.  Strengthening and stretching are required so my training schedule will take this into account as this years "A" race will require increased strength not only in my hamstrings but my core and upper body.  Falling ill 6 weeks out from IM couldn't be prevented but it reminded me that when pushing my body to the limit in training, I need to look after myself with good food, nutrition and rest.  After Ironman I then went on to a PB in:
1- eating food
2- drinking alcohol
3- putting on weight
I've been doing a little training, mainly running, in the last 3 months but it hasn't been enjoyable. Carrying a "front rucksack" has slowed me down and increased my heart rate - "no shit Sherlock" I hear you say.  So my first goal is to shed the excess weight and get back to a proper training regime monitored and motivated by my amazing coach.
As for 2017 I have two 70.3 Ironman competitions in May and July.  These are in the calendar to ensure I cross train and avoid injury - plus I love that distance of IM.  You can push yourself without the time commitment required for the full Ironman distance.
My "A" race is the Grand to Grand Ultra - ( - 170 in 6 days unsupported up and down the Grand Canyon. It will involve rope climbing and steep descents so I will need to be strong and flexible.
It's exciting having goals (not New Year resolutions because they don't work!) for the coming year and I look forward to sharing my journey with you.  Today started with a 10km run and having not had any alcohol last night, I felt fantastic.  Reboot 2017 has started!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

End of season blog

2016 has been a challenging year but I achieved the objectives I set. In 2015 I had a couple of injuries which meant the race I wanted to do in 2016 would need to be postponed till 2017.  But to keep my training going I entered Ironman Frankfurt and started the training in October.  I chose this race because 7 other club members had entered it and it would be good to have some company for a change while training for the same target.
The Swashbuckler half ironman was in May and would give me a good indication of how my training was going.  I smashed my previous PB for a 70.3 and it was looking good for Frankfurt.  But an infection and a tweaked hamstring meant my training in the last 5 weeks was severely compromised (no running!).  But with my coach we worked out a plan which led to an 11 hour 50 min PB although had I been properly fit a much quicker time would have been possible as I had a very poor 4hr 33 min marathon (followed by the medical tent!) - I was aiming for 3hr 59 min.  I had announced my retirement from IM well before the race so now my focus is on the goal I had to postpone - Grand 2 Grand.  170 mile in the Grand Canyon carrying your own gear in 6 days.
Following IM Frankfurt, the post IM blues set in and the challenge of continuing to eat what I was while training led to the weight going back on which was good because I looked very under weight.  But not training wasn't a problem.  I regained a social life, caught up family and friends and my chosen hydration was wine rather than a protein drink!
Now I'm dipping my toe back into training.  I have no set plan, that starts in January, but am running 3 to 4 times a week albeit slow.  However yesterday I tripped at Chatelherault and my hamstring didn't appreciate it. Today I was running on icy roads and a slip could set me back weeks so I need to be careful.  Fortunately my wife has just taken up running and we had delivered a treadmill which I will use on the cold dark nights.
So 2017 is approaching and I have my goals firmly set.  I'm repeating the Swashbuckler half ironman and this will keep up my cross training.  But that is there as part of my plan for the Grand 2 Grand.  Before that we have the festive period to look forward to.  So on that note I am signing off for the remainder of the year.  I'll be back in January and hope to have good news to report which will be that my weight is lower than it is today as running with a "front rucksack" is not my idea of fun!  All the best to my fellow triathletes who are all getting ready for smashing their goals in 2017. Merry Xmas everybody and thank you for following my blog.

Sunday, 13 November 2016


My training plan starts in January but between now and then I am slowly getting back to exercise if nothing else than to halt the expanding waste line!  16 pounds gained in 4 months.  Some say I look healthier but carrying the surplus weight around is not my idea of fun.  Yesterday I looked out a picture I'd taken the night before ironman as I was putting on my number tattoo.  I looked in top condition but I know I'll get back to this shape when the real training kicks in and my diet gets back to normal.
Yesterday 3 of my team mates joined me for the usual Chatelherault run.  What a difference it makes to have company when you are training.  It motivates you to perform at a higher level which leads to better results.  As long as you agree on the objective before you start I.e. No racing and a level pace then everyone benefits.  We kept the pace steady but in the last kilometre began to increase it slightly - no something I'd find easy to do if on my own.  In the end a very satisfactory training run and in the months to come the 10k will extend to 20 & 30k and I'll be wearing a weighted rucksack.  Before that I will have to work on my core strength but I'm limited just now because of my shoulder injury.
Today I went out with my coach for a longer pacier road run.  It's a tough undulating route which is 13k.  Doing back to back runs helps because you get used to running on tired legs which is something I need to train for.  In the canyon I'll be running 6 days in a row so it's something I need to get my mind prepared for.  That's right, my mind and not my body.  The mind always gives up before the body because it has an inbuilt safety switch which is set way to easy and you need to learn to ignore it.  But even today on a couple of the long inclines my mind was saying it would be nice walk for a short while which obviously I will do in the canyon.  But not on a 13k run.  Having company also stops you from taking it easy and in the last km she put in a couple of short bursts to make sure I didn't relax.
I believe training with the right partners who have similar objectives for the session will bring out the best in everyone hence 1+1=3.  If your training partners are going to fast as they are training for a 10k when you are training for a marathon, then find someone who's goals are more aligned.  Happy training folks.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Learning from Andy Murray

Tomorrow Andy Murray will become the World number 1 tennis player.  What an unbelievable achievement in an era dominated by Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.  He's only the 4th man in the last 13 years to climb to the no 1 position.  So what lessons can we take from this incredible achievement?
I had the privilege of working with Andy Murray creating 3 promotional DVDs for David Lloyd Leisure to extend the 3 x 3 hour sessions they had of his time into a years worth of material.  It's not the type of work I'm normally involved in but they wanted my tennis (I used to be a pro tennis coach) and marketing experience.  He was an absolute joy to work with and the way he gave his time to kids, while keeping Sky Sports waiting, showed his class.  But back then in 2007/8 he was number 11 in the world when I first met him.  5 months later he was 4 in the world and nobody (including John McEnroe and Peter Fleming) thought he'd get to number 1 never mind win Wimbledon.  But Andy believed he would and has worked tirelessly to achieve that seemingly impossible goal.  It took him another 8 years with some big set backs along the way but he did it.
I was thinking about Andy's achievement as I was out running today.  Building it up slowly with a 10km trail run and improving on my time by 2 minutes from the day before - incremental gains!  However if I was to think about my main goal next year which is a 6 day staged race in the Grand Canyon (Day 1 30 miles, Day 2 30 miles, Day 3 53 miles, Day 4 26 miles, Day 5 26 miles, Day 6 7 miles) with the heat, the altitude and the physical climbing, it seems nearly impossible / improbable.  But understanding what Andy Murray has done to achieve his number 1 world ranking is inspirational as he's beating all the odds.  In a small way I intend doing the same!
So while I'm running short distances around Chatelherault, I will be thinking how these are the building blacks to my main goal.  I'm working on my breathing and controlling my heart rate so that when the distance starts getting longer, and I'm running with a weighted rucksack, I won't be wasting energy breathing inefficiently which reduces my chance of success.  I'll be getting my head into "Andy's mindset" which is you can achieve whatever you want if you have the desire. 
I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes; "a goal without a plan is just a wish".  Get planning!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A life in pictures

Yesterday I had the privilege of celebrating the life of an elderly gentleman who had a very good innings.  I'd known him for 10 years however for the last two, he wasn't as sharp as he had been.  Fortunately he didn't suffer for a long time with dementia and he had a wonderful family who brought him so much joy.  As you'll have heard me say it before, we all know the end of this movie and no one gets out alive so we should make the most of it.  This isn't a sad message, this is one we should grasp with both hands.
At the funeral they had a plasma screen showing pictures of his life.  I was mesmerised to see this young dapper young man who had a love of cycling and sports cars.  As the pictures went through the stages of his life, student, single, married, children and grand children it got me thinking.  What would the pictures of my life be like?  Which pictures would my kids choose?  What would they say?
I'm sure they would be a lot of laughter at the shorts (very short and tight) that I wore in early 80s (and the perm!) but if this was taking place in 20/30 years time what would any grandchildren be thinking about the "lycra phase"!  How would the kids explain it.
I've been involved in this magnificent madness for 8 years now, 7 of it covered by this blog, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.  I've treated it as a scientific experiment to see what my body and mind was capable of and it's beyond anything I thought possible.  Yesterday I was reading through emails that were sent to me when I was running in the MdS 3 years ago.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as the memories of sitting at night in the tent, knackered and eating boil in the bag food while nursing blisters came back to me.  Having family and friends that support you get you through the toughest of challenges and make you realise that if you understand the "WHY" then you will achieve your goals.
Today I was at a "breathing workshop" run by the wonderful Mark Russell.  I need to breathe better otherwise I'll be dropping out of this movie earlier than the script intends.  I'm going to work with this new learning so I can be more efficient in my swimming, cycling, running and cope better with the stresses of life.  Think about the pictures that would sum up your life to date and the pictures you'd like to create in the future.  Breathe easy and live life to the full my friends.