marathon

Ich bin ein Berliner

Posted on October 5, 2016. Filed under: berlin marathon, marathon, race report, race review, running |

There is a saying that just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t out to get you.

Likewise just because you are maranoid doesn’t mean that everything doesn’t hurt. As a veteran of many long distance events I have “enjoyed” the psychological battle against the phantom aches and pains that come with an event taper.

But there is something that especially sucks about approaching an event nursing real injuries and knowing that you just haven’t done enough training to justify your space on the start line. And 4 runs in 8 weeks, with the longest being 10 miles, is most certainly not enough for a marathon.

I didn’t expect to get into the Berlin marathon when I entered it. And so I planned a year of long distance swims after the early season Glen Lyon Ultra. And so I found myself with shoulder injuries, shin splints and general fatigue when I was 4 weeks out from race day.

But I was paid up and going anyway. More importantly, however, was that Berlin was a really important step on the road to Berlin.

Let me explain.

Sometime, just before noon on January 1st 2009 in Berlin, I was just out of bed and eating deep fried wurst, and drinking sekt.  Piling a hangover on top of another hangover, not quite able to take a full breath, shattered from a few hours of drunken slumber, not sure if my body could take much more abuse.

On January 5th 2009, Iron Nessie convinced me to enter a 10k. And I’ve not really stopped moving forwards since Berlin.

So, with that background, there was some irony that on my triumphant return to Berlin I would suffer the ignominy of hobbling around the capital like the most zealous of pre-paid bling monkeys. Still wheezing like a chubby-assed, binge drinker but just clad in more active wear.

And so to the race.

The week before was all about rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic. A physio appointment just to check that the pain in my shins wasn’t a stress fracture and calf raises  because. Well because it was all I could do really. Like all my marathon efforts, with the exception of Rome 2010, I arrived at the start line in somewhat imperfect nick.

I had no idea how this was going to do. I was genuinely a little concerned by the 6:30 cut-off. As ever, there were two stories going on. The shrill chimp, high on a litre of mad dog, giving it “ermahgerd, you’re gonna be so shit and probably puke and shit yourself and your shins will probably start bleeding and then they won’t even give you a medal because you’re so shit”. And then the more calming, reassuring voice that whispers in my ear “look big boy, you’ve done two ironman, marathon swims, an ultra, this is your 6th marathon and if nothing else you know how to grind out a finish despite the odds”. Needless to say I much prefer the second voice. It gets me more than my inner teenage girl, who can get a bit lary.

That psychological warfare would continue right up until I woke up on race morning.

On arrival, we jumped straight in a taxi from the airport to the expo on Friday evening to keep Saturday free. Registration was slick but the expo was overwhelming and adidas once again stocked enough merchandise to last approximately 45 minutes of the three day expo.   Incredibly, in what became a theme, people were wearing 2016 Finisher’s t-shirts as soon as they bought them (some wore them in the race and some, bizarrely, didn’t even have wrist bands on so goodness know what their finish was referring to).  I was not being especially perceptive in noting that, at that stage, they were not 2016 finishers. Mainly because the race hadn’t happened.

 

Being larger than the average marathon runner I was spoiled for choice of finisher’s kit but Pam couldn’t get anything. So despite best intentions we got back for opening on Saturday morning and were the first ones in.

Bling sorted we then just did a bit of hanging about in Berlin seeing things we’d never seen before. Shunning the standard approach to the day before a marathon it appears that I walked 25,000 steps.

Nessie and Al were also running so we arranged to meet for dinner near Alexanderplatz along with Nessie’s maw and paw. Despite the absence of alcohol, she managed to be both late and in the wrong place. Literally turning up late, 4 miles away. How is that even possible?

Hugs. Tram. Bed. Standard disturbed sleep. Porridge and coffee. Walk to the start.

The first challenge of the day was bag drop off. I may have walked 26.2 miles to get to our bag drop through the detritus of marathon preparations. The stretches. The nervous farts. The portajohn queues. The lady who dropped her shorts, bent over and was liberally lubing her arse crack. You can never unsee the athletes area from before and after long distance sporting events.

About 20 minutes before the start we made our way down to the start line and just sat on the pavement. Bizarrely, amongst 40,000 people we bumped into Al and the three of us then sat on the pavement and listened to Gazelle’s Try Everything (this may have passed you by unless you are German or own a 5 year old), apparently stuck on shuffle on the organiser’s iPod.

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And then, while we were still sitting on the floor, we saw the gun go on the big screen and everyone moved. Shiiiiiiiite. We’re being a bit casual about this.

We bound to our feet, say our goodbyes and assume the position ready for a mass start. But nothing happens. About 30 minutes later, and the day now getting warm, we can see the start line in the distance.

Another 10 minutes later I see portaloos just before the start line and decide to save some race time with a pre-start visit. We re-say our goodbyes and I bolt for the john.

Relieved, my Berlin Marathon then starts. Two remarkable things happen about 100m past the line – I see the first person have a walk break and I hear the start line announcer say “10 seconds until we close the start line”. That was definitely my most casual start. Ever.

Race strategy was simple. Drink loads. Run as slowly as possible to ensure I could run as far as possible. Walk run when I couldn’t run anymore. And drag my broken body through the gravel until I finally crossed the line. Relentless forward progress.

At 5k the whole shebang grinds to a shuddering halt as 40,000 people try to squeeze between two trestle tables separated by a minefield of discarded plastic cups.

I glug a cup of water, dunk my sponge and proceed.

I try to follow the blue line but there are so many blue line zealots. “I am walking but I shall walk on the blue line without deviation. You may run around me”. “Yes, the blue line does cross the road diagonally, but I shall follow it, for I must follow the blue line. Bend to my will. Follow the blue line”. The blue liners caused carnage. I hope they all registered exactly 42,195m at the finish as they desired, although I suspect many of them were punched in the head by tired and frustrated runners.

At 10k I establish a rhythm – run, cup of water, cup of energy drink, dunk sponge twice – once over head, once down back, run. Because of the leisurely start it was getting steamy out there. The medics were already busy with the dehydrated and delirious.

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The fire brigade were out hosing the runners and I went through their hose every time. I was soaked to the skin but each soaking gave me about 5 minutes reprieve from the heat. Amazingly it appeared to be only the Scots and the Paddys that were taking advantage of this service.

Half way came and went, absolutely bang on target to my 4:45 pace band. And then the pain slipped into my consciousness. And once I noticed it I couldn’t un-notice it. About 23k I started the walk run element of the strategy. At 25k I horsed down a large dose of ibuprofen.

25k through to 32k were just miserable. I was hot and I was hurting. And then I think the ibuprofen kicked in. And the reassuring voice in my head was back “you’ve got this – just two parkruns to go, you’ve swum further this year”.

I knew the route from Potsdamer Platz, it was close to the apartment and we’d walked it the day before. I took Red Bull at the Red Bull aid station – I can tell you for a fact that you can make Red Bull taste worse by watering it down.

Potsdamer Platz. 38k. Two kilometres of straight road, then a squiggle through the streets and then I’ll see the Brandenburg Gate.

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Solid running for 2k down Leipzigerstrasse. A sign with my new favourite German word. Endspurt. I was winding up towards my endspurt.

A brief walk. More water. More sponge.

I turn the corner already running.

Time is irrelevant. I am going to finish.

BRANDENBURG GATE.

The running doesn’t hurt any more. I speed up. I am loving this. I can feel the smile wrapping around my face and transforming my day.

I look up just before I go under the Brandenburg Gate. A huge wave of emotion comes over me. A kind of manly pseudo-sob. I don’t care how often you do a marathon, every single one challenges you more than you would ever believe and digs deep into your soul.

Crowds. Photographers. Europop. Finish line. Medal.

WATER. I NEED WATER.

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I have never seen human debris like it. Bodies everywhere. Cramp. Medics. Limps. Collapses. A girl contorted by cramp screams from a gurney.

I get to baggage and someone hands me a beer. Correction. A low alcohol beer. I enthusiastically glug half of it because it is cold and wet. A then a record scratch, look to camera moment as I recall why I don’t drink alcohol free beer. Portaloo water sieved through my trainer and sock would probably be more palatable.

I get off my vest and put on my finisher’s t-shirt and sit down in the sun. I retrieve my phone and amongst a flood of messages see that Pam is just about to finish and Al has just finished. So I just lie back and chill, reading and responding to those with the patience to spend Sunday morning refreshing an app.

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Pam finishes and despite raging thirst also shuns my half-drunk but still cool alcohol free beer. And we start the trek back to the apartment.

Nessie claims to have donuts but we never find her in the debris in front of the Reichstag. I can only assume she was embarrassed by horsing them all down before we were finished.

On the trudge back we see the broom wagon at about 40k and cheer the runners still on the course. Especially those overtaken by the broom wagon but determined to finish.

And then starts the long process of beer hydration. With steak and great company.

So, what did I think of Berlin? Loved it. Pam and others thought it was poorly supported compared to London, which is true. But also it doesn’t have the claustrophobia of London. You can hear yourself think and when you are suffering you can have some time to have a word with yourself without a boozed up crowd hollering at you.

And call me un-British but I thought running under the Brandenburg Gate beat running past Buckingham Palace.

And that’s that for 2016. 2017 already looks exciting. There will be more to follow for sure.

 

 

 

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London Marathon 2015

Posted on April 29, 2015. Filed under: marathon, virgin london marathon |

Leaving Big Ben behind to sink into Westminster tube station en route to the Expo I answered my own question. Would a second London Marathon be as good as the first? Hell yeah, it would. It’s not as simple as to say it is just about the landmarks, but all the sights and sounds and smells and organisation. Most of all, though, it is about the fantastically generous, loud, engaging, challenging, obnoxious, supportive crowd that you could possibly imagine. As the Weegies say “People Make Glasgow”, so too without a doubt Londoners Make The London Marathon.

The crowd is an assault on the senses. In 2012 I was offered stella in addition to jelly babies and orange segments (they must love oranges in the Isle of Dogs). This year I can add bananas, some sandwiches, a hotdog, champagne and a huge spliff to the list of provisions. As great as the crowd are the runners are even more weird and wonderful. I saw a T-Rex, three rhinos, an ostrich, a man in a nude morph suit, the stiletto lady (who had a face at mile 21 that suggested she was not loving the London Marathon experience), a jangly morris dancer, a bobsleigh team, a pink lady apple and a bollock. There is so much to take in I will have forgotten more than I list.

I was certain, like when I ran it in 2012, that I smiled every single step of the way. But the race photos show a different story – something of a crumpled grimace that can be freely translated as a tired smile.

But what sticks in my mind and was the theme of my marathon was the music. It rocked. Every. Single. Step. Of. The. Way. The thunder of drummers under a bridge, the ska band at Cutty Sark, the brass bands, the steel bands, the windows open booming reggae, the pipe band, the oompah band and the Black Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow kept me smiling through the sights that should remain unseen in Blackfriars Tunnel.

For years now (and as I think should always be the case to respect an enthusiastic crowd) I have run without headphones. When I train for Ironman I tend to have Eminem relentlessly tapping out a staccato beat in my head – “Till the roof comes off, till the lights go out, Till my legs give out, can’t shut my mouth. Till the smoke clears out and my high burns out. I’ma rip this shit till my bones collapse”. But I hadn’t done the mileage I would have wanted and my head was empty. A blank canvas. This post may now turn Hornbyesque; but as my London Marathon was characterised by 26.2 miles of ear worms it seems only fair to share.

Miles 0 to 9

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won’t you give me a smile?

The worst thing about the London marathon is the travel.  It feels like you are always on a tube heading to some far flung part of  London with a red carrier bag strung over your shoulder.  For a 10:10am start I got on the train at Charing X at 08:20.  I got a seat.  Then about 5,000 stared at me like they wanted to sit on my knee.  No way, Jose.  The train was a murmur of chatter, a faint smell of deep heat and a less faint smell of nervous farts.  No-one was even pretending.

Blackheath was cold.  It looked very different in the drizzle and low fog than it did in the sun three years ago.  I was there at 09:05 and I just wandered aimlessly.  The Lucozade people gave me their two new flavours – I never caught their names but I shall assume they were called tropical dog sick and guava seed monkey shit.  Truly awful stuff.

After three surprisingly well hydrated pee stops I was cajoled by the tannoy man to the starting pens in my makeshift warm weather gear.  Knowing I wasn’t fit for it I decided to stay out of the way and went several pens back.  Several pens further away from the urinals.  And then I decided I need another pee.  Tactically I got myself a bit ahead of the 4:45 pacer, well placed to make the traditional break for the banking, give all the locals out watching a Sunday morning golden shower in the stiff breeze, and still cross the line with the pacers.  The first call of “well done, you’re nearly there” was about 100 metres before the start line.  The first selfie sticks were on the start line.  Twats.

The first 9 miles were unremarkable.  The Clash in my head.  Spectators already well jollied up on champagne and bloody marys.  And if you need your memory jogged where you are – Oh, there goes a T-Rex!  For the first 9 miles I struggled to stay behind the pacer – it just seemed too slow but I knew I would be lucky if I could hold on.  The miles ticked by, heart rate right in the wee pocket I wanted it in.  I high 5’d a million kids.  Relentless forward progress.

Miles 10 to 16

So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

For me, the few miles before and after Tower Bridge are the ones I find most attractive.  And the streets narrow and the crowd get very close and very supportive.  I knew Pam, Rory and Sharon had planned to be near Bermondsey so once I passed the tube station my eyes were peeled.  There was no chance I could have heard a thing.  And then, right there, I saw Roar above the crowd.  I’m not sure he wanted a kiss from sweaty man but he got one.  As I wasn’t feeling 100% I knew Pam would be worried so I had made sure I got there pretty much bang on 4:45 pace but I also knew I was going to hurt myself if I kept on it.  I relayed that message and hit the road again.

There are a few stretches of the London course that really define it and the half a mile before Tower Bridge and the half a mile after that are in that category.  You don’t so much hear the noise as feel it.  It rattles your teeth and blows through your hair. And then just before the half marathon the band on the back of the truck get you to wave your hands in the air and once again you momentarily depart the marathon and enter a party where everyone is drunk and everyone is welcome.

Just before you hit the Isle of Dogs the road narrows, the crowd are two or three deep on either side of runners that can only run about three or four abreast.  People stand on every conceivable surface from the pavement, to ledges, to bus stops, to walls to balconies.  Everywhere you look are beaming faces, having the time of their lives, willing you on.

And then you are in the tunnel.  Last time I did London that is where people went to pee, to check their chafing, to vom, to shit or to pass out.  This year it was full, and I really mean FULL of video screens.  There were no hiding places except the portaloos and their ever present queues.  We were looking hot.

The Isle of Dogs was busier than I remember it.  Everyone seemed to have brought out a wheelie bin full of orange segments.  Momentarily it felt like we were doing Tough Mudder as we slipped on tired legs on discarded peel.  People saw their families in the crowd, there were tears, big ugly tears.  And then they ran on.

Miles 17 to 26.2

I’m a big bad wolf and my name is Keith,
I’ll tell you my adventures 
I huffed and I puffed ’til I blew out my teeth
And had to get new dentures

I walked up the ramp to Canary Wharf.  A girl running beside me looked at me and shouted “C’mon YOU CAN DO IT”.  “I know but I’m saving energy”, said I as I overtook her running pace with my walk.

The first hundred metres or so of Canary Wharf gives you no preparation for the experience as you enter the main area where the charities line the streets.  I remember not so many years ago the commentators would always say it was a “bit dead” in Canary Wharf.  Not now.  In fact that was the only stretch where I found the crowd noise oppressive.  The cheering was off the scale and reverberated around the towers.  It literally felt like the percussion was squeezing the breath out of me.  On the last turn around the square I veered across to high 5 the whole Make a Wish team.

280450_192927758_MediumThe whole way I had “I’m a big bad wolf and my name is Keith” in my head.  But with Rory’s mispronounciations and soft r’s.  I needed to be at the finish line.  Soon.

Once we passed the Tower on the way back into Westminster it just felt great.  I knew I would finish uninjured.  I took the opportunity to look around and enjoy the sights.  Time after time I heard “Great smile, Dougie”; although my voice was pretty much gone every single time I responded “Thank you for coming out to watch”.

Big Ben. Westminster Abbey. Birdcage Walk. Victoria Monument. Buck House. London Marathon finish line.  Best. Sight. Ever.

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Plan A was to get to the Mall without getting injured.  There was no Plan B.  Mission accomplished.

And thank you London!

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Get The Pringles In, London.

Posted on April 21, 2015. Filed under: Ironmanflu, make a wish foundation, make a wish foundation sponsorship, man flu, marathon, virgin london marathon |

They say that just because you suffer paranoia doesn’t mean that everyone is not out to get you.  And just because you have maranoia doesn’t mean that you are not really ill.  I’m not obviously; but it feels like it.

The last run of note was unremarkable except for the usual knee and achille aches, twinges and discomfort that comes with tapering. But then yesterday lethargy turned into sore throat, which turned into aching shoulders, which turned into a streaming nose.  My normal “go to” remedy is vitamin C.  Not one to over-react I have consumed 6000mg of vitamin C and 9000mg of fish oil yesterday and today – I am peeing like a particularly vibrant lightsabre.

The good news is that I appear to have headed the manflu off at the pass.  So, London, get the Stella and Pringles in – I’m on my way!

Unfortunately at this late stage, my pot belge of vitamins and fish oil, will have no noticeable impact on my running.  Therefore, Plan A remains as go with the 4:45 pacer, hang on as long as possible and not be a dick.  Success is finishing with DOMS but no injury.  There is no Plan B and no B objective.  Just. Don’t. Get. Broken.

I took the opportunity to watch the fast forwarded London route yesterday.  This may sound dumb but I was shocked how long it was.  When I ran London in 2012 the Cutty Sark appeared in no time at all – it takes ages in the video.  I remember a low point running through an industrial estate with very few supporters – that was before the half!  Marathons are a long way.  26.2 miles long.  Bugger.

IMG_20150419_222414IMG_20150419_144242Sunday past saw Roar’s third road race and medal event.  It turns out a mile is a long way when you are about to turn 4.  On a freezing cold, windy afternoon Roar and Pam took to the course and finished in under 14 minutes.  Very snotty and rosy cheeked.  That may have been the first training run of Pam’s half marathon campaign.  Or maybe not.  Any way bling for the boy, chocolate and a well earned nap.

I did warn you in the last post that I would be asking for your support.  Well, here goes.  I am raising money for the Make a Wish Foundation as I did in 2012. The Make a Wish Foundation is a charity with a single purpose – they grant magical wishes to children and young people aged 3-17 fighting life-threatening conditions. For many families the Make-A-Wish memory can be the last happy memory they have of their child having fun in a magical world, surrounded by family and friends – rather than memories of days and weeks of painful treatments and hospitalisation. The memory of the wish may be of their child laughing and enjoying being a princess or zoo keeper for the day or meeting a favourite celebrity. In years to come, the family can look back and remember that special time.

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I know you have been hounded relentlessly by London/Paris/Boston/Brighton marathon runners in the last few weeks so don’t think that this is a demand for sponsorship today.  But please come across to my just giving page and have a read; I will be doing things all year so feel free to put a note in the diary for later in the year and consider a donation then.  You can also donate by texting IRNM71 £5 to 70070 (That can be any value from one to a squillion after the £ sign).

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One last thing.  Like many ironmen and triathletes on twitter, Tom will be on my mind on Sunday like he has been on each run since last week.  Far too young.  Sleep tight, big guy.

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The Tricks My Mind Plays When I Think About Running.

Posted on April 12, 2015. Filed under: make a wish foundation, make a wish foundation sponsorship, marathon, virgin london marathon, vlm |

In exactly two weeks time tonight I will probably be asleep.  Or I will slumped over, dribbling beer out of my nostrils, as I have lost control of all my bodily functions.

In two weeks time I will have just run my second London Marathon.

In many ways despite two Ironman finishes and five marathons this one feels like the biggest challenge.  Mainly because I will be out there loitering on the course, getting my money’s worth, for much longer than previous attempts.

To recap, after Ironman Austria last year, I spent several weeks recovering from a broken toe and then contracted a chest infection that lasted pretty much until day one of London Marathon training.  I am always a bit circumspect about run training due to my high propensity to break stuff but the statistics are telling:

Jan 2014 to Jun 2014 (pre IM): 536km

Jul 2014 to Nov 2014 (post IM): 69km

Dec 2014 to Apr 2015 (VLM training): 426km

Basically, post chest infection I started from scratch – no base, no leg strength, no lung capacity.  All I had was experience, blind optimism and bloody mindedness.  Frankly, none of which are of any use 18 miles into a marathon.  If I hadn’t deferred from last year, and it wasn’t London I would have withdrawn a couple of weeks ago.  Not because I have any doubt about finishing; just because I am under no illusions how long this endeavour could take.  But it is London.  And I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to do London again; so I am bloody well doing it.

As things stand I have one 18 mile run under my belt with one more to do this week.  Normally I would like to have a couple of 20 mile runs done by this stage but frankly my legs would disown me.  The objective of this campaign was to get to London without injury or illness and to finish the race without any fresh injuries.  Therefore it is all going to be very cautious.

Well, that is the plan.  However, the brain is a bit of a bugger when it comes to running.

When I started running I read Haruki Marukami’s wonderful “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”.  I love it for many reasons but mainly because he writes like I think – in very short, clipped sentences and he has the most brilliant ideas.  How about “when I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without”?  Or “The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school”?  Or the sublime “pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”?

However, I digress.  I do actually have a vague point.

If I were to write a book about running it would be a truly messed up book called “What I Think About When I am Running”.  Or more accurately “The Tricks My Mind Plays When I Think About Running”.  Stick with me, my point is imminent.

Every time a first time marathon runner asks my advice I tell them three things – 1 don’t worry about your time – just finish; 2 if you must target a time take the first half easy; and 3 don’t shit yourself.  So, bizarrely, I found my mind wandering on an 18 mile run where I was dragging my feet through gravel like a three year old with brand new shoes.  Dangerously wandering.  Wandering to – “what if I give it welly for the first 10 miles to get some time in the bank for when I run out of steam?”

What. A. Tit!

Suitably rehydrated and sobered up I decided that I would run with the 4:45 pacer.  I would resist the temptation to sprint the first 6 downhill miles yelling “wheeeeeee” and then crashing and burning at the Cutty Sark.  I reckon I can sit comfortably with the 4:45 pacer until Canary Wharf and then the crowd better pick me up and carry me home!  I will need picked up as my leggies will be in uncharted territory once I stagger through mile 18!

I normally stop for a pint around mile 18 anyway so this could work quite well.

19901537Anyway, with one long run to go it is time to prepare you for a favour I will ask of you sometime soon (I didn’t expect that to sound like Don Vito but I’ve decided to leave it with menace anyway).  As it is London I will be running for charity.  Also, as it is London, I won’t harass you for cash along with every other runner in the western world at the same time.  I have a few events that I will do this year and I will blog my way through the year – if you enjoy the blog and want to help the charity then please spare a couple of pounds to help out.  I will be collecting all year so don’t panic if you can’t help right now.

Once again, I will be raising money for the Make A Wish Foundation.  I have raised money for them since 2011 when I was arrested and handcuffed in my office in Fife, transported to Edinburgh in a police van and held prisoner by the Army in Edinburgh Castle until my colleagues raised a small fortune to free me.  Hopefully neither the police or army will be involved in this year’s endeavours.

I came across The Make a Wish Foundation just after I became a dad and realised how important it’s work is.  It has one objective – to grant magical wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.  So heartbreakingly simple, but so important.  I’ll tell you a bit more about it when I come to ask for some money.

Anyway, two weeks to go and all that jazz.  I’ll leave you with some sights from around Scotland in the past week or so of running.

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The One About the Day I Wrote Something Seriously

Posted on January 14, 2015. Filed under: ironman, marathon |

I am the first to admit that I am no Bob Woodward in the writing stakes.  Hell, I’m not even Piers Morgan (thank god).  But yesterday I was asked to write something for the Guardian online about the rise of endurance sports.  I didn’t write the headline so you can safely assume I don’t compare a Tough Mudder (The Toughest Event In The World That You Can Squeeze Into Your Lunch Hour) and Ironman or ultra running.

Here is the article, remember the golden rule – never read below the line!

If you like it, I’d love to hear your feedback.  If not, obviously keep it to yourself.  😉

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Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: Austria, first time ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, ironman tips, Klagenfurt, marathon, race report, race review, run |

When it comes to the Ironman, run is often a euphemism.  “A euphemism for what?”, you may ask – because it is indeed a foot race after a swim and a cycle.  Well, it is a euphemism for a never ending, shart stained, dehydrated hobble-waddle.  But that might put people off so we soften the description.

Let me share some important statistics with you:

Number of people who say “I will swim and ride conservatively and then smash the run because I am a runner” – trillions

Number of people planning to smash the run who actually succeeded  – absolutely feck all

Percentage of those that looked over the abyss but still crossed the line humbled and stripped of most of their dignity – 100%

These statistics are more directional than strictly actually factual but, more seriously, there are two types of runner in the world – those that have done the Ironman marathon and those that think they know what it is like to run 26.2miles in the sun just after cycling 112miles and swimming 2.4miles.  Without spoiling the surprise too much I can exclusively reveal that it’s just not fun except, perhaps, if you are winning at Kona.  Your legs feel like all the spring has been taken out of them; your stomach feels like a bucket filled with a heady cocktail of left over chip fat and all the fizzy drinks from MacDonalds; and your whole body feels like you have been put in a sauna wrapped in tinfoil.  It’s only really a question of whether you feel like that at mile 1 or at mile 26.

And the really tough part is that once you have done an Ironman marathon you can’t unknow what it feels like so, although I finished the bike feeling strong, I had a sense of impending trepidation (or more accurately doom) about this particular jog.  I picked up my run bag, sat in the changing tent and started the taut, laborious process of of bending down to loosen my cycling shoes.  While I could get my hands roughly to my feet I was tantalisingly short of the buckle.  Thereafter followed a process not unlike trying to touch my nose with my elbow.  Or more accurately trying to identify my arse from my elbow.  But removing my cycling shoes was quite important to me as running a marathon in cleats was likely to be uncomfortable.  After what seemed like an eternity bent double, bouncing my top half towards my feet a volunteer saw me contorting like the work experience guy at Cirque du Soleil and with two finger presses released me from my shackles.

Something unexpected slipped from my sock – my right foot had a bluish tinge and was quite swollen.  An elephant foot.  It was unexpected as it felt fine and I had no indication on the bike anything was wrong but, hey, a bit of colour on my celtic white feet just added some glamour.

As I started on my preparations I looked up and noticed a lady had strayed into the male changing tent – she had either got lost or had some really odd fetishes.  As she loosened her cycling shoes this particularly hairy, Spanish Ron Jeremy lookalike next to her dropped his tri suit and began the thorough process of applying vaseline to his entire body finishing with some particularly noisy slopping around his wee fella.  Whether either of them noticed the other will remain in the sanctity of the changing tent.  The Somme of the Ironman.

I popped in a gel, changed my socks and shoes, lubed, put a bottle of water over my head, handed my bag to a volunteer who gave me a sweaty hug and I set off to SMASH the marathon.  Except I didn’t.  I squealed like a puppy that had been stood on.  My right foot had a blinding pain that shot right up my leg.  Another step.  Same pain.  Bugger – this wasn’t in the SMASH IT plan.  I’m not sure I can describe the pain but basically mid foot, on the out side of my foot the last three toes and the sole of my foot felt like they were somewhere between an inferno and a bruise.  I assumed I had swimming goggles or something in my shoe so I took it off but there was nothing there.  Something was wrong with my foot.  This was going to feel like a long 26,2 miles.

Leaving T2 I reset my ailing Garmin and changed the display so at least I could see time and distance in the 4mm of screen that was visible.  This meant that I could stick with my tried and tested 4min run, 1 min walk strategy.  I did a kind of awkward walk/limp for the first 4 minutes which took me out of transition, over the bridge at swim exit and into the park.  At the end of 4 minutes there was no chance I would walk as the well beered crowd was three deep – pretty much the first group of people we had seen since the swim exit.  Every time you contemplated a walk the crowd went wild so I pushed on.  With a kind of one legged, limp, walk, hop I was already developing the fear that my Ironman shuffle was going to develop into the sideways run so often seen in the latter stages of an Ironman.  I suspect that I looked like someone who has tripped and then pretends to run as they look over their shoulder.  I was that awkward.  About this time I also discovered that it was unadulterated agony to turn right.  Which left me in a bit of a pickle as the course was a double figure of eight WITH EVERY TURN BEING A RIGHT HANDER.

In 2011 I rattled like a pharmacy as I ran, stocked up with all manner of helpful narcotics (immodium, ibuprofen and salt tablets) but for 2014 I had made the conscious decision to run “clean”.  That seemed a twat of a decision in that particular moment.  I am pretty sure some pain relief would have made the ungainly gait more bearable but, hey ho, no-one ever died of a sore foot (googles sore foot fatalities).

The 4:1 strategy worked a treat for the first 10k.  Just before 3k, I ran across Michael  (@smoker2ironman) walking. I knew he had started 15 minutes before so he must have been suffering.  I walked with him for a minute – his knee was bothering him and he was weighing up the DNF with the intake of voltarol.  I could have mugged him for his voltarol at that point but he needed it more than me.  I gave some painfully gibbered words of encouragement and then jogged on.

The first part of the figure of eight was hard work.  It was a really exposed flat section out to Krumpendorf and, when I started, some of the speedies were on their last lap.  This meant that it was harder than it needed to be with lots of jostling and maneuvering on a really narrow path.  As we arrived in Krumpendorf there was a short grass section that went down to a lakeside lido.  It was short and semi-circular and, you’ve guessed it, continual right hand turns.  I died a thousand deaths as this was at the start of a 4 minute run interval.  The thought of gnawing my foot off with my teeth crossed my mind.  I swore inside my head like a sailor at the folly of not packing a couple of ibuprofen.

Somewhere around the top of the Krumpendorf loop I started to run out of steam.  I am Scottish.  Despite the factor 50 I had run an hour without any shelter in a temperature somewhere above 25c.  I had actually dessicated.  I was sweating salt crystals.  I was literally at the point where my own tongue was uncomfortable in my mouth and my head felt like it had been microwaved while wrapped in a damp towel.  At the aid station exiting Krumpendorf I started Operation Desperate Measures.  4 sponges over my head, two tucked in my try top, 4 cups of water, a slice of watermelon and two handfuls of ice.  I walked until I could feel my core temperature start to come down.  As the ice cubes started to slip through my fingers I shoved them in my shorts.  From that point on I just survived between aid stations.

Back into the park area the crowd were getting really unruly as beer and sun took it’s toll.  My walks were now always coinciding with a group of English lads who now knew my name and shouted increasingly “motivational” encouragement every time I passed.  The shout of “come on Pirate” were receiving less and less enthusiastic “arrrrgggghs” as more and more moisture leaked out of me.

0745_057597The run out to Klagenfurt old town was again completely exposed and I found a line just along a high wall that provided some shelter as I watched my shoulders turn from blue to white to magnolia to scarlet.  In the old town everytime we rang a bell in an arch money was given to charity.  Three times in one pass I jumped to get that fecking bell.  At the turn there was another sharp right hander through a square that was set up with a huge screen for the evening world cup games.  The crowd were fun but still on the right side “Magaluf bar crawl”.  I got the bell again on the return and noticed a photographer. I mentally checked my face and was happy to realise that I was still smiling.

By now the strategy was run 90 seconds, walk 60 seconds and always walk the aid station.  Thankfully my stomach was fine (compare that with the Ironman Regensburg run) but my feet continued to get sorer and hotter.  I managed to stay one step ahead of the dehydration as the day finally started to cool.

I knew mentally that hitting the half marathon would be significant and, from the first lap through the park area, I knew exactly where the half marathon point was.  As I returned to the Iron Dome area alongside the Lend canal in the relative shelter of the trees I became aware of the casualties.  There were a number of sideways runners, a man that ran like he had developed piles the size of watermelons and the chap nonchalantly face down in a grass verge.  Like he was dead.  But he wasn’t.  Yet.

Just before half way I saw Pam and Roar in the park and gave them the thumbs up.  Feedback afterwards was that I looked WAAAAAAY better than Regensburg.  I went through the half marathon just under 2 hours 40 minutes which was considerably better than I thought it might be as the liquid leeched out of my body earlier in the lap.  But now it was just one more lap to go.  5 hours was gone, the finish was in the bag even if I crawled it, the last 21km would just be about moving forwards while smiling.

About three kilometres into the second lap I saw shady goings on up ahead.  A tall hairy yeti skulked out of the woods.  Not spectacular in itself but that particular yeti had come past me very fast on the bike about three hours before.

Me: “What’s up Nick?”

Nick: “Everytime I run I shit myself”

Me: “Hey, it could be worse.  Come on run with me for a bit”

Nick: “I’ll give it a go”

Nick’s innards: *gurgle, splutter, backfire*

Nick: “maybe I’ll just walk”.

0745_077027Gastro trouble is never far away in the Ironman and that afternoon I learnt something I didn’t know about the Ironman run.  In Regensburg we did 10km laps  so you only saw the few people you were running with but in Klagenfurt there was often two and sometime three way traffic.  And what became apparent with all that traffic was the noise.  The noise of The Farts.  I remember seeing a sign at Kona last year “Never trust a fart in an Ironman”; well I can testify that the whole of Klagenfurt were putting their trust in the sphincter.  It was like everyone had squeaky shoes, like McCartney had given up on Hey Jude and was conducting a perpetual dulcet Frog Chorus.  Whatever the Ironman run is, I can confirm that it IS NOT pretty.  Or fragrant.

Pushing on for 30km I saw a scarlet heided paddy coming towards me.  Nessie was out on the run.  Cue an exceptionally sweaty, coke and gel stained hug.  We stood and caught up for the first time in 10 hours.  In the middle of a tight path, attracting grumpiness from the shuffling men on the death march, farting their way home.

At the top end of the Krumpendorf loop I needed a pee.  I could have gone into a bush.  I could have held onto it.  I could have peed my tri-shorts while I ran.  But no, I went into a portaloo.  I can truly say I have never seen anything quite like it.  As I nod at the trough I often like to rest my head on the wall.  I am just shy of 6 foot and THIS WAS NOT AN OPTION.  What hell had occurred in here?  How did someone’s bowels get sprayed quite so high up a wall?  As I stared at the small urinal feature in the portaloo I tried to pretend there weren’t two GIANT jobbies on the toilet seat but I couldn’t. I wretched constantly for my whole visit and even if there was a huge family sized packet of ibuprofen, hell even morphine, in there I wouldn’t have touched it.  If I ever pee myself in public I will trace the public john phobia back to Trap 2 in Krumpendorf.

0745_089822Back in the park I saw Pam and Roar again and heard that Ness was on her way back in from Klagenfurt.  I pushed on and about a kilometre later saw her in the other direction – “Nearly there paddy, you’ve got this now”.  Just before the old town some young chap on roughly the same walk/run plan as me.  Eventually we agreed to go it together.  From this point on, about 7km to go, we mainly walked.  We both probably could have run more but some social connection was important to us.  We chatted about anything and everything – he was from Ottawa, the airline had lost all his kit and his wife was also doing the race – we saw her during our march.

In the old town square the football was in full swing.  But plenty of the crowds backs were turned to the screen.  They had rearranged the beer hall bench to create a channel for the runners.  A drunken guard of honour.  The Gauntlet.  But by now the crowd were calling us Ironman, there was no doubt any more.  The thoughts of a smash and grab on the pharmacy were passing.  The grin got wider.

With 2km to go I suggested we run it in.  The final kilometre sign was a lying bastard. I estimate that is was about 8 miles long with  40 right hand turns, an underpass and the only uphill on the course.  Pirate Happy Chap cheered me from her balcony.  The lights shone, I passed under a gantry, I high 5’d a million people, I turned into the finishing chute, I ran until I wanted to vom.

“Dougie, from Great Britain, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.  2 years and 11 months later it was as sweet as the first time.

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And just when you thought it was all over there is one more episode to make the Ironman Austria Odyssey complete.  And that will answer the age old question – what happens when you finish an Ironman.

Until then, have a beer and embrace the fact that you can fart without fear.

THE ENTIRE IRONMAN AUSTRIA ARCHIVE

 Auf Wiedersehen Pet

Ich Liebe Dich, Österreich

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Swim

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Bike

Ironman Austria 2014 – The Run

Ironman Austria 2014 – Beyond the Finish Line

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Picking Up The Pieces

Posted on May 2, 2014. Filed under: Austria, bike, brain training, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, marathon, motivation, triathlon |

I haven’t written much recently for two reasons. Firstly, I had nothing very interesting to say and, secondly, I couldn’t really be arsed saying it. And from that pyre of positivity comes a blog. I warn you now, there is self pity. Feel free to hit the back arrow immediately.

This Sunday coming marks 8 weeks to Ironman Austria; and consequently there are only six weeks left of heavy training. Let me shout that a little louder in case you missed it THERE ARE ONLY SIX WEEKS LEFT OF HEAVY TRAINING.

If something you were REALLY looking forward to was 8 weeks away you would think it was a glacially paced eternity away. But, when you have been working towards one event that relies on you being at your peak so as not to suffer, 8 weeks feel like they are trickling through your fingers.

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So, why the self pity? Well, I’ve had a chest infection. It floored me. And then just as I was getting back on my feet wee Roar picked up a virus which meant, other than I HAD to receive a face full of projectile vomit, that I was home alone with him when there was planned training. I was unreasonably frustrated, at being grounded on the back of two weeks missed training, brought on by the oppressive sound of the ticking clock inside my head.

I can just about admit it to myself now, but the chest infection took a greater toll on me physically and mentally than I expected. Physically I am still struggling to find pre-Christmas run pace and mentally my confidence has taken a massive knock. I hadn’t realised how fragile my confidence was; I have very painful memories of a 6:10 ironman marathon which I put down to easing off training in the last months and the memories of suffering came flooding back.

Roll-forward to Thursday morning when I was sitting outside the pool in the pissing rain with my own personal black cloud above my head. For once, I wasn’t procrastinating about getting into the pool but rather starting a 5 mile run which I knew was going to be cold, miserable and involve mucky lung clearance. Two twitter buddies urged me in the most polite way possible to HTFU (thanks Bean and Lozz) and Rach reminded me about the message that I had written for my brain and then tactically forgotten in my foul mood.

To cut a long, tedious and particularly tortuous story short I ran and I had a word with myself on the run. Sure, 9 weeks out from an event is not the best time to feel like shit, but equally there are some good things going in my favour. While my brain likes to dwell on the morose, there are FACTS that just make reality more palatable……

– since I signed up for IMA I have swum 183km, cycled 4,400km and run 486km
in my 30 week training plan I have swum 87km, cycled 2,263km and run 386km
– since my broken toe mended in September I have no injuries. The longest run since EVER.
– I have been doing weights since last year and have the strongest core and legs since EVER
– in a year I have only had 4 weeks with no training whatsoever
– swimming is a dream – I am clearing 10k a week and pace per 100m is dropping by about a second a week. (Proving that tackling procrastination is worthwhile)
– I am climbing hills in on the bike faster than I ever have. (This is not really a proud boast, just a fact, I am still as slow as a mountain gorilla on a penny farthing)
– I have only missed one long road ride.

So. I am going to declare that a reasonable Iron CV to go into the last two months with. With laser focus I can nail the last six weeks of training.

I WILL nail the last 6 weeks of training.

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The Confidence to Trust

Posted on February 27, 2014. Filed under: Austria, computrainer, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman nutrition, ironman regensburg, marathon, regensburg, strava |

Ironman is a long, long journey.  And it hurts.  Both physically and socially.  There really isn’t any more sugar coated way to put it.

The biggest challenge, though, is overcoming The Doubt.  How do I know I am going in the right direction?  How do I know that this run in the pishing, sideways rain is taking me one step closer to the finish line?

It’s been interesting to pause and reflect.  With Ironman 1, forward momentum was fuelled by blind optimism; I knew I could do it.  Ironman 2, however, is a very different beast – I have absolute trust that The Plan will get me there in the best shape.  And the trust is not blind trust, it is informed and it is conscious.  As I waddled around the Regensburg marathon course talking to myself like a gibbering loon I had time to contemplate the cut corners, the missed sessions and the bad eating decisions made under the intoxicating spell of blind optimism.  Sure I made it but if only I had just stuck with The Plan………

Although I was hard coded as a numbers guy, I’m pretty relaxed to nonchalant about numbers these days.  Hell, I am even a guest speaker on the behavioural impact of numbers in performance management.  But I do like to have a few numbers to give me the confidence to trust The Plan.

In the past I relied on the trend in my average pace on the bike or running but, now, I train more “in the moment” so averages make little sense.  For example, if I am doing hill repeats there are intense efforts with rest periods – the averages are nonsense. And also I warm up and cool down properly these days (forceably on account of the oldness) so averages paces are genuinely all over the place depending on how I do it.  So, if I am not relying or stressing about my average minutes per mile, what on earth do I use? Well, there are three things that give me confidence that I am on track.

20140216_111439STRAVA

I don’t really like Strava but it serves a purpose.  Let me explain for the uninitiated.  Strava is a website that stores routes and times that people complete and can share.  Ultimately it is a useful training log, but it has evolved into an internet based platform for digital willy waving.  Middle aged chaps (mainly) find an obscure part of their local neighbourhood, welly round it in a balls to the wall effort, and declare that they are the King of that little piece of road.  They then defend it to the death as if it were the Alamo.  And like Lance Armstrong on Mont Ventoux, Eric from Accounts can also dope digitally in a desperate attempt to remain the King of his Mountain (although it may even be flat).  It is a pure silverback, alpha male pastime for book-keepers and chaps that work in personnel.

So why do I use it?  Well, it’s simple – I use one run climb and one bike climb that I have done for years now as a measure for where my fitness is.  Whenever, I upload my activity to Strava it tells me how I have done on those climbs compared to previous efforts.  And the great news is that in the last month I am now doing those climbs at the same pace I did straight after Ironman 1 and I have 17 weeks still to go.  So far, so woo hoo.

COMPUTRAINER

I am lucky enough to have an indoor trainer that measures effort.  So every 6 weeks I do a test known as a critical power test, to assess progress and to re-base my training efforts.  The braw news, as they say in these parts, is that my last test was an improvement on the previous one.  It wasn’t a dramatic improvement, but neither would I expect it to be.  After a 6 week training block I increased my critical power wattage by 5%, albeit off a really weak ass base.

This is important to me for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, I want to survive the bike intact and be able to RUN an Ironman marathon and secondly, it is confirmation that the bike work and the power work that I have been doing in the gym are paying off.   Put simply, I did the bike wrong in Ironman 1, but now it is my focus.  I NEED to do it right this time around.

WEIGHT

As a big laddy I will never be a very fast runner or cyclist over long distances.  Being a former swimmer and rugby player means that I have a lot of muscleage above the waist so, in effect, I carry weight that is of little use in Ironman apart from the first hour in the water.  Therefore, being as lean as possible when I race will just make everything easier on my legs.  More good news!  Since the middle of January I have dropped 8% of my bodyweight.

The biggest concern when losing weight is that you lose power and I have had to adapt my diet specifically to retain muscle (and therefore power) while obliterating hard-earned lard.  As my critical power test went up the science stuff is working.  The most commonly used number in cycling is power per kg of bodyweight because that really is the crunch point.  In 6 weeks I have improved mine by 14% and I still have a lot of ass to lose.

So, with 17 weeks to go I have absolutely no idea what my average pace is.  A couple of years ago that would have had me in a fluster.  But deep down my confidence to trust The Plan is stronger and my resolve to see The Plan right through to the beach in Klagenfurt at 7am on the 29th June is galvanised.

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The Click

Posted on January 28, 2014. Filed under: brain training, cycle, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, Klagenfurt, marathon, motivation, nutrition, run, swim |

Sometimes the iron life is like trying to push water uphill.  Despite your strength and agility it is an unrelenting, and unrewarding pastime.  I often have conversations with people who think that I find it easy to go out for a run – some days I do, and other days I would rather boil my own feet in  hot oil.  And going to the swimming pool can be another circle of hell all of it’s own.

But, other times it just clicks.

I genuinely have no idea what makes the difference. I have thought about it a lot recently as I struggle to find my way.  Sometimes motivation comes like a rampant wild fire and consumes me but other times, mainly January, it is like a damp match in a snow storm.  The difference, I think, comes when I can truly join the dots from here and now, straight through to my objective – Ironman Austria.

I am not renowned for quoting latin but a line by the Roman poet Ovid resonates.  In fact, had I been confident it doesn’t say “chicken donner with chips and don’t spare the chilli sauce” it would probably have been tattooed for posterity on my leg after Ironman Regensburg.

“Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim.”

It could be the ironman maxim “Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you”.  And that is where I find myself now – I have clear line of sight from here to 7am on 29th June, I have joined the dots.  I know exactly when the pain will be useful to me.  It has clicked.

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Through illness and recovery, December and January were unsatisfying.  It is difficult to describe – the body was functioning and I was doing the training hours; the brain was engaged and I was training with purpose.  But my heart wasn’t in it.  For the last ten days though, all body parts have locked onto the target like a heat seeking missile.

So, what’s changed?

BODY

Well, basically it’s working which is a genuine novelty.  However, more than that it is getting strong.  At the tail end of 2013 I was getting frustrated as sport specific strength work was not yielding power gains.  I was doing the right stuff with the right effort levels, so what was wrong?  After a lot of soul searching I put it down to 20 years of office work – my core was as strong as overcooked spaghetti and my glutes were refusing to chuck their contribution into the legwork kitty.  So I hit the gym – deep squats, heavy deadlifts, some pilates and so on and now, finally, I am noticing immediate changes in how I pedal and how I run.  It may be psychological but hell, at this stage, I’ll take it.

NUTRITION

Christmas proves to be very disruptive, I had a great nutritional plan pre December and then a combination of ironmanflu and ready access  to trifle and bacon forced me off the rails.  I now have laser focus on the hills in Ironman Austria and the final miles of the run and the toll that any additional timber will take.  It literally is like a light switch has flicked in my head.

SWIMMING

After last week’s swimming lesson, I have a new lease of life in the pool.  A sub 1 hour ironman swim is not only within my grasp but beatable.  Each length that was a turgid purgatory in November is now an opportunity to hone my stroke, to test race skills, to develop a relentless cruising pace.  I am a born again swimmer.

There are still 5 months to go according to the countdown on the blog.  That changes to 4 tomorrow.  It really was time for my mojo to join the equation and pull me ever closer to the beach at Klagenfurt.  Finally, everything is pointing in the right direction.

Now, if Wincey Willis would just sort the weather out…….

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The Superhumans

Posted on September 3, 2012. Filed under: big swim, big swim nottingham, big swim nottingham 5000m, bike, david weir, ellie simmonds, london 2012, MAF, make a wish, make a wish foundation, make a wish foundation sponsorship, marathon, olympics, outlaw ironman, outlaw triathlon, outlaw triathlon relay, paralympics, richard whitehead, sarah storey, swim, Uncategorized |

It has certainly been a while since I updated the blog.  And there is good reason for that……. firstly, the last events that I did were horrible and secondly they traumatised me mentally but, more significantly I now realise, physically as well.
Before the week is out I promise I will go through some catharsis by writing about it but as a sneak preview to get you (literally) gagging for it here are a few key excerpts……”sausage sandwich”……”threw up in my own mouth”……”eating swan shit”…….”naked in shower with a mentalist”…….”kicked in head”.  OK, now do you understand my reluctance to write about it??  This year I have run a marathon with gastroenteritis, escaped from the unescapable Alcatraz through choppy, icy, shark infested waters and peeled my own skin off after 8 wind, salt and sun swept miles running around San Francisco Bay.  But really the Outlaw weekend tipped me right over the edge.
So what has dragged me out of my cave to face this cruel world.  Shame.  Shame has damned well made me show my face again.  Shame grumbling about a few aches and pains while I am glued to the Olympics and then the Paralympics.  Especially the Paralympics.  Just, purely and especially the Paralympics.
 The legacy and the emblem of London 2012 has been “inspire a generation”.  Without a shadow of a doubt 29 gold, 17 silver, 19 bronze medals and countless wow performances will have inspired some people to switch off the x-factor, bin the xbox and dust down a bike or a pair of trainers.  For anyone that is over 15 years old now – that is our legacy – to inspire the next generation not to aspire to vacuous, instant, disposable C-list celebrity but to want go ride the velodrome, or throw a javelin or learn to box.  It’s a pity that the main event was closed by a poor celebrity led ceremony that seemed as relevant to a new proud, inclusive, confident, successful modern Great Britain as dull, old, crack fiend Russell Brand.  Oh dear, the closing ceremony was so irrelevant that he, unforgivably, was part of it alongside Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.  Thank god the doping authorities had packed up their sample bottles.
But the most phenomenal legacy that I have heard from London 2012 was the able bodied kid that wanted to be a paralympian (I really hope they don’t do anything too impulsive)! I didn’t plan to write this today but I have been so inspired by a “super human” group of athletes who refuse to focus on what they can’t do but what they can do.
I was sceptical and slightly nervous about the Paralympics at first.  Was I watching just to be politically correct? Hell no, 5 minutes in front of the telly and I was confronted with something that rarely happens.  All of my preconceptions smashed by reality.  Any doubt that I had that this is elite sport like the Olympics was instantly dispelled when seeing the reaction of those that missed their dreams.  Tom Aggar, the burly ex rugby player who has dominated rowing since Beijing who came 4th and was clearly devastated as he was interviewed while still strapped in his boat on Dorney Lake.  Sam Ingram a blind judoist won a silver medal but could only contemplate that he had lost gold as he shook his head repeating “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”.  Or Will Bayley, a ping ponger, who collapsed to the floor sobbing at winning his silver, inconsolable even when his German opponent lay on the floor to hug him.
Every 5 minutes I have a new favourite sport – partially sighted tandem racing in the velodrome, the T34 freestyle relay in the pool – proper ass clenching edge of the seat stuff.  But we also had the most fantastic winners.  We should be proud to have some of the best of the best in the world…..
Sarah Storey was born without a functioning left hand and became a Paralympic swimmer.  After 5 golds she hurt her shoulder and became a Paralympic cyclist.  She then won 2 golds in Beijing.  She trained for the able bodied Olympics and and just missed out on a place in London.  To make up for that disappointment she now has 2 more Paralympic cycling golds with another two events to come.  Legend.
Ellie Simmonds, the poster girl of London 2012, was born with dwarfism and at aged 13 in Beijing won 2 golds.  Her 400m freestyle on Saturday was possibly the single most exciting event I have ever seen.  It had everything – a pantomime villain (but only in the Paralympics could a 17 year old who lost the use of her legs after being in a vegetative state for 2 years and is now recovering be the bad guy).  The shoulder to shoulder battle of Ellie’s short scrappy stroke against Victoria’s long, elegant inch perfect pull was the ultimate exhibition of pure, scrapping, will to win.  When she was interviewed there could not have been a dry eye in front of Channel 4.  Legend
Richard Whitehead is a double leg amputee marathon runner.  The International Paralympic Committee decided not to let Richard run the marathon because they said he couldn’t race against arm amputees – so he changed to the 200m and promptly became world champion.  Just watch. That’s all.  Legend.

 

 

David Weir, legendary wheelchair athlete and 6 times London Marathon winner, provided possibly the second most exciting race I have ever seen after Ellie’s.  He controlled the race from start to finish and showed the other paralympians that they were rolling round HIS track.  Another legend.
And so it goes on – in the pool, on the track, in the velodrome, at the ping pong
Channel 4’s coverage of what is clearly a poor TV budget relation of the Olympics, has been exceptional.  In fact, although the BBC creates some wonderful packages of content it found itself stretched far too thin on commentator capability, poor choices of presenters and some of the technical aspects of sports I love were just inept.  However, C4 has the most fantastic presenters,  brilliant commentators and pundits and in Adam Hill’s The Last Leg probably one of the best sports humour programmes of the year.  Paralympic sport is complicated and confusing – Channel 4 made it accessible without patronising.  And they used Public Enemy’s Harder than you Think as the theme tune.  It’s in the video link above – just watch and listen.
And that was what shamed me out of my cave.
Now I need to write about my traumatic swims.  Booo.
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