Shameless request for sponsorship

Hello all,

As it is now getting close to the Brighton Marathon, I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you all why I am doing this Ironman in the first place.

Many of you will have read this all before; however I will make no apologies for repeating myself.  Chestnut Tree House is so close to my heart I hope you will take the time to read the below and donate if you can.



Could you, or would you even be willing to run a marathon?  26.2 miles is a long way to run.  On the 12th April this year I will be lacing up my trainers and running the Brighton Marathon.  How about running a marathon immediately after a 112 mile bike ride?  Why not swim 2.4 miles before that bike ride?  In September this year I am intending to do exactly that, an Iron Distance Triathlon.  I am raising money for Chestnut Tree House, a simply outstanding organisation that rely almost entirely on charitable donations to keep them running.  

Chestnut Tree House cared for my friends Louise and Steve’s daughter during her fight against Neuroblastoma.  Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer, rarely effecting children over the age of 10 years old.  Amber sadly lost her fight against Neurobastoma and passed away in 2013 aged just 2 years old.   I was hugely saddened to hear of Lou and Steve losing their beautiful and fun filled daughter. When you first hold your newborn child in your arms, no parent expects that their life will end so soon.  Louise and Steve told me of the fantastic support that Chestnut Tree House provided for them and provides for other families. I knew deep in my soul that I had to do something to help this great organisation.

I decided to compete at Challenge Weymouth 2015, an Iron Distance Triathlon. 2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike ride – 26.2 mile marathon run.  Iron Distance Triathlons are the ultimate endurance event with a time limit of 16.5 hours to complete.  I have never done anything like this before.  Not even close!  Perfect preparation for the Iron Distance Triathlon race is to compete in a marathon and I am extremely proud to be representing the Chestnut Tree House team in 2015.  I will also continue to raise money for Chestnut Tree House throughout the rest of 2015, culminating at Challenge Weymouth on the 13th September.

Chestnut Tree House is the only children’s hospice in Sussex and cares for over 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions. They cover East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire.  Chestnut Tree House care services extend to the whole family – not just the child, but mums, dads, grandparents, sisters and brothers.  Their aim is to make every day count. The good days, the bad days and the last days.

Chestnut Tree House rely on £3,000,000 of charitable donations per year to provide their care services. It is my aim to raise £6850, enough for a single days care.

If you would like to help me reach my fundraising target, please donate here

Your support is hugely appreciated and will keep me going through the 100’s of hours of training that I have ahead of me.

Today has been a good day – It all starts here

Today I ran for 90 minutes non stop.  For some this is not a major achievement, but for me this is really something to be celebrated.  

I have run this far before; however this time I ran for 90 minutes without stopping or slowing down and most importantly of all, with almost zero pain.  I am sitting on my sofa writing this having finished running less than 9 hours ago and am still pain free.  My legs aren’t stiff, my shins, ankles and knees are pain free and I am one happy chappy.

My run route today.

This run is part of my plan to try and get up to decent running distance ahead of the Brighton Marathon.  The marathon training has not been going to plan, so today was a real test of whether I might be able to actually run for any length of time.  Looks like I might just make it.  I’ll add 15 minutes to my Sunday long run every week up until the marathon.  This will mean I’ll be able to add 2 hours onto the 90 minutes I ran today, so 3 hours 30 minutes is a realistic time to be running in training.  This is more than enough and should mean I can finish the Brighton Marathon in around 4 hours 30 minutes.

You may have noticed that I am referring to my training as amount of time rather than distance.  This is because today is the first day of my Ironman training.  Having read an excellent book by Don Fink called Be Iron Fit , I am starting his 30 week plan this week.  Those of you who are good at maths will already have realised that there are more than 30 weeks until Challenge Weymouth (13th September); however my wife and I have a baby due very shortly so training will take a back seat for a few weeks when the bambino is brand new.  Because of this, I thought I would get started sooner rather than later.

My training plan (or should I say Don’s training plan) encourages you to think of training segments in time rather than distance.  This allows you to plan time for training into your schedule and is particularly useful when you have to balance work, home life, family life and training.  For me, this is absolutely vital as I am determined to not miss out on too much quality time with my wife and kids as my training load increases.

I am intending on training early in the morning as much as possible.  This is going to be a massive struggle for me as I simply hate getting out of bed in the morning.  I am not and never will be a morning person.  Apparently once you have gotten up early for 21 consecutive days then you get used to it and it doesn’t become a problem any more.  Luckily for me I have a newborn baby arriving very soon so there will be no need for an alarm!

Will keep you all posted on how I get on.  With only 216 days to go till Weymouth it’s time to get training.


New Year – here we go!

So it’s the 1st January 2015, the first day of the year that I will become an Ironman.  In fact, it is a mere 254 days until the race, so it is time to get organised.

It is fairly self evident that to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then run a marathon you need to do a fair bit of training.  Pretty much everything I have read recommends trying to do about 10 hours training per week as a minimum.  This may sound fairly easy; however when you think about it 10 hours is more than an entire working day for most people.  It is a fair chunk of time to find and with a new baby Snook due in February it may prove tricky to fit the training in.

To combat against this as soon as I find a new job (I was made redundant on the 31st December 2014) I am going to hire myself a proper coach to help me along the way.  The man for the job is already lined up, all I need now is somebody to employ me.  I am open to any reasonable offers 🙂

So that takes care of the training part.  Next onto nutrition.  

There is no doubt in my mind that all the training in the world cannot fight against a poor diet.  I have never been one for dieting, in fact you could say that I have always been rather against the idea.  Food is delicious.  I eat almost everything (not keen on rice pudding or things like spotted dick, though I imagine I could eat them if forced).  Other than that I love it all.  

My wife and I are also partial to a take-a-way or 12 and I have always prided my self on being a good cook.  Nice tasting food is often not the most healthy (even when you cook it yourself) and for those reasons I have always pretty much eaten whatever I liked.

This has seen my weight rise from a svelt 13 stone (182 lbs – 83kg) when I was a teenager, to a much more portly 16 stone (224 lbs – 102kg) at the start of 2014.  Currently I weigh somewhere just over 14 stone (196lbs – 90kg), although I haven’t weighed myself post Christmas.

There is a lot of debate about what “race weight” people should compete at; however I have decided that whilst putting on my wetsuit in 254 days time I would like to weigh around 75kg (165lbs or just under 12 stone).  If I am being brutally honest I haven’t weighed this much since I was about 12.  That being said weight plays such a huge role in long distance triathlon that it is well worth my while to get the weight down and keep it down.

To do this, I am intending to follow a fairly simple mantra. 

Eat clean and make the right decisions 90% of the time.

“Eating clean” is a phrase that has been around in training for some time and simply refers to making sure that your diet does not have processed foods or an abundance of unhealthy fats or sugars in it.

I am also cutting out some things from my diet entirely.  This is going to be very tough for me, as the things I am cutting out are many of the things I simply love to eat/drink.  The list of these is below.

  • Alcohol
  • Take-a-way food
  • Crisps
  • Desserts
Some people might say that life without the above wouldn’t be worth living and in all honesty they may well be right.  As such I am not going to entirely deny myself the good things in life.  I still intend to eat an occasional bit of chocolate (especially when I have trained hard that day) and cake is a staple diet of most triathletes so will still have an odd bit of that when offered.  As my mantra says, I need to eat clean and make the right decisions on food 90% of the time.  If I have an occasional sausage roll or roast potato this is not going to kill me as long as I eat clean for the majority.

Other than that I will be cooking my own meals a lot more, utilising my slow cooker to make some delicious healthy stews and currys and eating a lot of porridge for breakfast.

The porridge worked well for me todayas I recorded a PB at the Queen Elizabeth Parkrun this morning.  Proof I actually attended is below (in the form of some muddy trainers)

So I think that is about it for my first blog update of the year.  I will be better at keeping this blog up to date during 2015 and will try to post on a weekly basis.

Fingers crossed I will find something interesting to talk about. I am feeling very confident about 2015 and cannot wait to get stuck into plenty of training and a few events.

Happy New Year to you and your family.  James

Everything is in place………I might just pull this off

For the first time since I undertook the challenge to complete an Ironman I am starting to feel that it might just be possible.

When I first told my loved ones of my intention to compete in an Ironman Triathlon I received the following comments:

My Mum         – “Are you sure James.  It sounds like a lot to take on”
My Friends     – A mixture of utter astonishment and general sniggering
My Nan          – “Well my dentist does Triathlons dear and he is much fitter than you”
Cat (my wife) – “You’re going to die”

Now of course all of these comments were completely fair.  I was out of shape.  Very out of shape.  I weighed over 16 stone, couldn’t run to the end of the road without stopping, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 10 and the last time I swam anywhere was when I swam from the side of the pool to the pool bar on honeymoon.

Over a year later and things are rather different.  For the first time in forever (to quote from Frozen) I am starting to feel fit.  Weight is slowly dropping off, despite my tendencies to eat entire bags of Doritos and quite a bit of chocolate.  Also I have recently had a great success………..

I CAN RUN !!!!!!!!

All be it not very far (haven’t done more than 6k for a while) but I have no shin pain, the post run calf pain is starting to disappear and I am really starting to feel very positive about this whole endeavour.

Good thing too, as I have a charity place for the Brighton Marathon.  Bushy and I are running for Chestnut Tree House, which is the hospice that cared for Amber and her family, towards the end of her fight with Neuroblastoma.  The marathon is in April and is a great target to aim for.  I can’t wait to strap on my Luna Sandals on the start line, raising some money for this incredible charity and ticking off an important milestone on my way to the Ironman in September.

Some of my regular readers may wonder how I have suddenly managed to start running injury free and why I am starting to feel a lot more fit all of a sudden.  I can put this down to a few factors.  The first one is my discovery of barefoot/minimalist running.  To do this topic justice would require an entirely separate blog post and it is my intention to post this soon.  The second reason is down to one man, Mr Trevor “Tufty” Payne.

Trevor runs two Triathlon training sessions at a gym here in Portsmouth.  The first one is a mobility class, perfect for improving my flexibility and mobility (which is something I sorely need).  The second session is a Bike/Mobility/Swim or a Bike/Run/Swim session.  Lasting 2.5 hours, this is an intense workout and is absolutely superb.

Bushy and I have been attending these sessions for over a month, with Curry joining us recently.  Trevor is an ex professional Triathlete, specialising in Iron distance races during his career.  He is a superb coach (even if he does take the piss out of Bushy and I rather a lot) and I find his sessions hugely inspirational.  He has given me exercises to do at home which I do every day, agreed to write me a training plan specific to Challenge Weymouth and is generally a huge asset to my training.  

So to wrap up this post I would like to say a thank you to Trevor for his help so far and for his excellent training sessions that I love attending.  I was never really a believer in having a “coach”; however I am very glad I met Trevor and can’t wait to see just how fit he can get me ahead of Challenge Weymouth.  I must also mention a special thanks to Josh Smith, who is one of the readers of my blog and was the person who put me onto Trevor in the first place.  Look forward to doing some training with you when you are back in the UK Josh.

Finally to all of the readers of this blog and to those of you who have sent me nice comments about it, a huge thank you to you all.  I’m really starting to love all this training and am pleased that as the winter progresses I will be able to share with you my increasing fitness and join as many of you as I can for a run/swim/bike, or perhaps just a pint!



PS – If any of you are looking for a Triathlon or Fitness coach please check out Trevor’s website.  You won’t regret getting in touch with him.

A test of man against nature – The Swanage Triathlon

It’s 5am on Sunday 10th August and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Swanage Triathlon.

The Swanage Triathlon has been considered by my family and friends to be my “A” race for this year.  My mother and father both grew up and met in Swanage.  My grandmother, auntie and uncle and both cousins (along with their families) all live in Swanage.  In fact, my grandmother has lived in Swanage her entire life, and has been living in her house for 70 years, so you could say that it has very close links to my family.

Swanage is a beautiful place, has a lovely natural bay surrounded by hills on both sides with calm waters for swimming and paddling.  It is an idillic spot for a good old British seaside holiday, and I have spent many weeks as both man and boy enjoying the beach, the lovely weather and in my older years the lively pub scene.  Of course I was hugely looking forward to this Triathlon.  I know the local roads well, have swam in the sea countless times, and knew my family would all be there to cheer me on.  

Swanage in August is usually lovely weather.  Like the rest of the UK it can be a bit rainy on occasion, but usually you will get better weather in Swanage than you will have in the surrounding areas.  It is like God himself smiles upon the town, and those who chose to spend their time in it.  Bearing all that in mind, the weather forecast for the Sunday of the triathlon was far from good.  Strong winds, with up to 50mph gusts, and rain.  A lot of rain.

Upon awakening at my uncle’s house it was clear that the weathermen had gotten this one right.  It was raining, and very windy.  My wife and I woke up our daughter Niamh, Cat got her ready to go and then we walked down to Sandpits field where I had pre-registered the day before.  I had a fairly good idea that the triathlon would be cancelled, and when I arrived at the transition area and caught a look at the sea I was even more sure it would be.  The waves were as big as I have seen them in Swanage, and the hills on both sides of the bay were shrouded in fog.  

Wetsuits are tight!

Never the less I proceeded to rack my bike, and put on my wetsuit.  I have been lent a wetsuit from my Grazing Saddles teammate Mike, and in all honesty it is a little bit on the small side.  As you can see from the picture, it requires my wife to help me hike it up, and Bushy to supervise from afar.  

There was a delay to the start as we were waiting for the lifeguards to arrive, so we proceeded to stand around in the cold getting wet.  Not ideal preparation for a triathlon, but at this point it was still unclear if the event would be going ahead or not.

Sprint athletes ready to go

After a 45 minute delay, the first group of competitors was off.  These were the sprint distance athletes, with Bushy and I starting in the second wave as we were competing at the standard distance.  Watching these guys swim off into the swell I must admit there was a lump in my throat.  I am a competent swimmer, but these waves were big and my open water swim experience had never put me up against waves like this before.

Bushy and I made our way down to the beach and got our briefing.  The swim would be shortened to 750m (should have been 1500m) due to safety concerns, and the bike leg was re-routed to avoid a steep climb and then downhill (although it remained at just under 40k).  The run was also shortened to 5k as we could not run on top of the hills (which was the original plan) as the hills were covered in fog.

Now before I describe the swim, my open water swimming has one major downfall.  I am not very good at “sighting”.  I have described this before, but as a reminder sighting is when you lift your head up during your swim stroke to make sure you are going the right way.  There is a knack to it, and it is definitely something I need to improve on.  Good sighting will make sure that you swim the shortest route possible around the buoys that mark the course.  Poor sighting can mean you swim an extra 100m, 200m or more as you zigzag around the course.  As you can see, getting this right is crucial to a good swim time.

Anyhow it was time for us to go.  I double checked my hat and goggles, got a position close to the back and the side of the pack (to avoid getting too many elbows in the face at the start) and then waited for the whistle.  Ready, steady, we were off.  Below is a picture taken by Curry soon after the start.  If you can make out a swimmer on the right of the bunch not going the right way, this is me.  I instantly swam pretty much, in totally the wrong direction, and found myself out of position.  Remember the sighting?  Prime example of how bad I am at it.

The swim was tough.  I was getting battered by large waves when I tried to breath, and twice got a very big lungful of sea water.  I was coughing and spluttering, kept having to swim breaststroke just to check I was going the right way, and I was struggling.  Still I pushed through, rounded the first buoy and headed towards the second.  I was dismayed to see many of my competitors missing the final buoy and heading straight towards the finish point. Thinking this was probably a mistake on their behalf I carried on round the final orange buoy, and pointed towards shore. 50 metres from shore my left calf cramped.  It has cramped during pretty much every sea swim I have ever done, and was far from ideal.  Knowing I could get to shore easily without kicking my legs, I dragged my feet behind me and eventually felt sand under my hands.  Standing up, I quickly realised that my calf was not good at all.  I limped up the beach, then up the set of steps that took us to transition.  It was hurting, a lot.  I saw my wife and parents on the way into transition and said a brief hello, followed by “my leg has cramped”.  I saw the look of worry on Cat’s face, and knew exactly what she was thinking.  Cramp this early in a triathlon was very bad news indeed.

Limping into Transition

I hobbled into transition, whipped off my wetsuit fairly easily, helmet on and I was off.  My bike shoes were already clipped onto my pedals, so I jumped on the bike, wrestled to get my very wet feet into my very wet shoes, and then started on my way.  25m into the bike, my calf cramped again and I fell off sideways.  It was blowing a gale, raining heavily, and I was lying at the side of the road rubbing my calf.  Bushy caught me up at this point and asked me if I was OK.  How he was behind me I had no idea, he must have been out of the water ahead of me in the swim as I was definitely one of the last out.  Anyhow seeing him spurred me on, I jumped on the bike and off we went.  Bushy had to stop to re-attach his race number properly, meaning I went ahead of him on the way out of Swanage.  

As regular blog readers will know, I enjoy the bike element of triathlons.  I feel comfortable on the bike, know I am strong enough to ride fairly quickly, and due to the fact that cycling is not load bearing I do not suffer from the cramps that can plague me during the run.  All that being said, on this occasion I felt terrible.  I could barely pedal, my calf had calmed down a bit but was still aching.  Bushy quickly caught me and overtook. I seemed to be pedalling through treacle.  Very soon after this I was sick.  It was pure sea water.  Clearly I had swallowed more than I thought.  As soon as this lovely experience was over I felt instantly better, had a quick energy gel and some water, then I was off.  Perversely I quite enjoy cycling in the bad weather as it forces you to focus and get on with things.  Arriving in the picturesque village of Corfe I caught Bushy up and overtook him.  I was desperate to make up for lost time on the swim and pushed hard through the awful weather.  Approaching a roundabout after a downhill section the competitor in front of me slid across the road and crashed into the roundabout.  There must have been a patch of oil on the road, as I almost lost control but managed to keep upright and push on.  Reaching the turning point at Wareham, where we started back the way we came, I felt very good indeed.  There was a nagging pain in both hamstrings, but this was due to pushing hard rather than anything else. As I sped back up the bypass road I went past Bushy going the other way.  We exchanged fist pumps and loud shouts, then head down, I pushed even harder.  I was over halfway and riding well.

The second half of the ride took us up onto the hills around Swanage and past the stunning Isle of Purbeck Golf Course, although there was not much of a view on the day.  Usually from this vantage point you can see the entire of Poole harbour, but today all you could see was grey clouds and rain.  Finally I finished on the hills and started the descent into Swanage.  I overtook quite a few people on the downhill section which I was pleased about.  Whether this is just down to me being a bit more fearless than most, or brilliant bike handling skills I do not know.  Let’s opt for the latter though hey 🙂

Heading out of T2

Into the second transition, I jumped off the bike and racked it, shoes on, helmet off and into the run.  Surprisingly I felt good and set off at a very respectable 5min/km pace.  This is quick for me; however I knew that the first 2k of the run was uphill after about 200m on the flat, so I wanted to get my legs loose before the climb.  Unlike most I do not seem to suffer from the “jelly legs” that people get swapping from the bike to the run and I really was feeling OK.  We then got to the climb, and almost instantly both of my quads locked.  This was yet more cramp, and it was crippling.  I had to stop and stretch and after a quick chat with some marshalls (mostly me assuring them I was OK), I carried on up the climb.  Sadly I was walking, but I was making progress.  After about 1km of walking the legs started to loosen and I managed a very slow jog.  Getting to the turning point I headed downhill.  Unfortunately running downhill is a killer on the quads, so I was slow.  Bushy caught me up and very kindly ran with me whilst giving me a bit of a pep talk.  I was obviously in pain and his kind words helped me to ignore this for a while.  Eventually he kicked on and left me to slowly jog the final 1.5km on my own.  I felt awful, but knew I could make the finish.

The look on my face says it all

After what seemed like an age I got back to Sandpits and crossed the line.  It had taken me almost 30 minutes to run 4.6km,this was not a good time at all.  Never the less I had done it.  Immediately my legs cramped.  Quads and Hamstrings killing me I was reduced to lying on the ground, moaning in pain.  

It was hardly the most gracious finish to a race; however my family around me offering support was a great comfort indeed. An especially lovely moment was when my beautiful daughter Niamh came over, in her all-in-one rain suit, to give me a well deserved cuddle. 

You gotta admit, my Dad has got some style

I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who came to support Bushy and I at this triathlon.  You stuck it out in appalling conditions and I am very grateful for the support.  Extra thanks to Curry for being official photographer on the day.

Finally an extra special thank you to my wife Cat.  She remains ever patient with all these triathlon antics and waking up a 16 month old at 5am, then entertaining her whilst her Dad messes about in a Triathlon is nothing short of a Herculean effort.  Cat, thank you for your ongoing support.  I really couldn’t do all this without you.

Chichester Olympic Distance Triathlon is next, with Curry and I competing together.  It’s also the debut of our Grazing Saddles teammate Andy Matthews in the Sprint distance.  Rumours are that perhaps Neil Perry could be persuaded into this event too, so it should be a great day.

Fingers crossed for dry weather, and a lot less cramp.