What alcoholics refer to as "a moment of clarity"

On Saturday evening I arrived home from a long drive back from Sussex, having  been eating food at a BBQ all day.  Well I say food.  Mostly cake.

I was tired out.  I didn’t want to do anything other than sit on the sofa and perhaps enjoy a nice cold beer.  My wife and I had put our girls to bed, and we were all set for a night of doing as little as possible.

As I wandered into our bedroom to change into some trackies a strange thought came over me.  “Why not go for a run…….?”  As soon as it popped into my head it seemed like the obvious thing to do.  I had been eating cake all day, hadn’t done any exercise for almost 2 weeks and a run would do me good.  It appeared that I actually wanted to run.  My brain seemed to be telling me that I would rather go for a run than sit on the sofa and drink beer.

I found myself changing into my running gear in a trance-like state.  Before I knew it I had said goodbye to my wife, had strapped my trusty Luna Sandals to my feet

and was out of the front door, running my regular 7km route.  Despite having a relatively full belly and being hugely dehydrated I was running well.  I wasn’t watching my pace on my running watch, I was just running.  

Reaching the halfway point on the run I decided to take a different route home as I fancied running a bit further than I had planned.  Quietly, in the back of my mind I could hear a voice faintly saying “What the hell is wrong with you Snooky?”.  But there was nothing wrong with me.  I was just running.  Running for fun.  And I was enjoying myself.

Now obviously I have enjoyed running in the past, but Saturday seemed to be different.  I just felt good running.  Comfortable.  Like it wasn’t an effort anymore.

Continuing on (and getting a bit lost) I eventually found a road I recognised and headed home.  I had run almost 11km at an average speed of 6min/km.  That used to be close to my maximum speed.  Now it appears it is just my normal running speed.

This change in me, this love of running, I really hope it is here to stay.



16 days to go – now to get rid of my cold!

I have a cold.  I have had a cold for over a week now .  It just doesn’t seem to be going away.  I caught this cold off of my kids and we have a whole household of coughing, spluttering, snotty people.  Nobody has escaped.

All logic says that when you have a cold you shouldn’t train.  You should give your body time to recover from it’s illness and then resume training once you feel better.  Quality, after all, is better than quantity.

Ignoring my own advice, on Sunday 24th August Bushy and I went down to Weymouth to ride the Ironman bike course, all 112 miles of it.  I felt less than brilliant when he picked me up just before 6am on the Sunday.  My cold was in full effect, energy levels were very low and I had slept appallingly.  Usually Bushy and I will banter away with each other constantly when we meet up, but on this morning he commented that I seemed to have nothing to say for myself.  Clearly I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Arriving at Weymouth

The weather forecast for Sunday morning in Weymouth was bad.  Not light rain, but heavy rain and wind.  Regular blog readers will know how much I love riding in the wind.  Unperturbed, Bushy and I trundled along down the south coast towards Weymouth.  As we got closer and closer the weather closed in and by the time we arrived it was like a monsoon.  We parked in the car park that will be the transition area on the day of the race.  As you can see from the picture, the weather was not the best.

Following a brief discussion, mostly consisting of “are we really going to do this” we got out of the car and started to get ready.  The plan was to create an aid station in the boot of Bushy’s car.  We would carry enough food and water to get us round one lap of the 56 mile course, stopping halfway to resupply and then go around again.  Neither of us are particularly quick on the bike, so we were aiming for 4 hours for each lap. This is an average speed of 14mph, which is by no means fast but about right for our Ironman bike pace.  Remember that we have to run a marathon after cycling 112 miles so we need to leave something in the tank!

You can just make out our
new friend and his bike

Getting ready to ride at the same time was a very nice chap who told us he was there to ride the bike course in preparation for his first ever Ironman.  He was older than us, but whippet thin and one of those people who just looked fit.  Tall and lean with a very nice beard, he clearly knew he was a better triathlete than us and we clearly knew it too.  I remarked to Bushy that I often wonder what other triathletes think of us when we meet them.  We looked like two blokes who woke up one day and said “lets do an Ironman”.  He looked like a seasoned and well prepared campaigner.  It is funny how accurate looks can be at times.

Chatting further with our new friend, it turned out he was going for one lap round the course as he was in his “taper”.  A taper is when you reduce your training load to allow your body to maximise its strength and endurance ahead of your race. Made popular by top flight endurance athletes who train really hard and then back down to allow their body to reach peak fitness, it has slipped into the amateur ranks and many triathletes spend as much time talking about tapering as they do talking about how light their bikes are.  Anyway, he was tapering 3 weeks out from the event, which is a fairly long taper.  Each to their own I suppose, plus only an Ironman triathlete would consider a 56 mile bike ride to be “reducing their training”.  Soon we finished chatting and he was off into the gloom and rain on his very nice looking bike.  

Not long after this, after a considerable bit of messing about (I am the master of messing about), we headed off into the gloom ourselves.  It was raining…….hard.  The first part of the bike course is a climb up onto the “Ridgeway” and then you have about 35 miles of rolling Dorset countryside before another long gentle climb and then a drop back down into Weymouth.

One lap of the bike course

We made sure to stick to our nutrition plan (something to eat every 30 minutes) and cycled along, sticking fairly closely to our target average speed.  It was very very wet and we rode through numerous puddles and areas of standing water.  Within about 20 minutes we were both soaked…….and we stayed that way.

In nice weather I imagine the bike course would be absolutely beautiful, but in the rain and gloom it was hard to see where you were going, let alone any sort of view.

Cool map showing the topography of the course

Towards the end of the ride I started to feel bad.  Just lacking in energy.  Slow and lethargic. It was obvious that my cold had caught up to me.  I was pleased to have gotten as far as I had before feeling poor. Bushy whizzed off into the distance and I was playing catch up.  I had very little in the tank, was freezing cold and my wet clothing had rubbed my skin in a few places that you don’t want rubbed. Approaching the end of the first lap there was no way I was going out for a second. Competing in weather like this is fair enough. Riding for “fun” in awful conditions is something quite different.  

When we got back to the car for the end of lap one I told Bushy that I was done.  When it came to calling it a day, he didn’t take much convincing and soon we were into our dry clothes and on the way home to Pompey.

Despite not making the full 112 miles, 56 miles had been ridden in awful conditions.  The best part about it is that we had completed one lap of the course in just over 3hrs 35mins, which was 25 minutes faster than planned.  We had also averaged 15mph, 1mph faster than planned and allowing for the awful weather this was a great result.

On the day, in decent weather and when I do not have a cold (hopefully) then I think the bike course will be great.  112 miles is a very different beast than 56; however as soon as I start lap 2 of my bike ride on the 13th September I will know that all I have left is 56 miles of cycling and a marathon.

Whilst to most this sounds like a lot, to me I am half way done and only have half way to go. I will be half way to being an Ironman!

Before I go, a very quick update on my fundraising. I am absolutely delighted to say that I am 60% of my way towards my fundraising target of paying for a day’s care at Chestnut Tree House.  The generosity that people have shown towards my endeavour is astounding, with well over £4000 raised so far.  A brilliant total, so to those of you reading this who have donated thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You have been with me every step of the way during my training.  Every time I go for a swim, ride or run I think about those kids at Chestnut and all of the kind people who have donated to my cause.

It sounds like a cliche, but at some of my lowest points during training the kind words and donations that my supporters have given me have picked me back up again.  I cannot lie about it, training for this Ironman has been tough, but it has also been the greatest journey of my life so far.  In 16 days time that journey comes to its end.  I will have covered 10’s of 1000’s of miles in training.  I will have only 140.6 miles to go.  Nothing to it……………….right?



Sometimes you have to look backwards to go forwards

As a triathlete, or any sort of endurance sport enthusiast you are almost constantly looking forwards.  You strive to beat previous times, run quicker, swim faster, cycle better.  This is fueled by websites such as Strava or Garmin Connect, which allow you to record your workouts and then compare them to previous efforts or to other athletes.

It is very easy to become obsessed with this.  “Last time I rode up Portsdown hill in 5min 11 seconds and today it has taken me 6 minutes……..I must be getting slower” or “I am the 112th fastest person who has run along that section of road, but only 116 have ever run it.  I am shockingly bad at running”.

Click on the link to the right of this post
to follow me on Strava

Thoughts like these will often pass through my mind as I am reviewing my workouts.  Of course I tell myself that this sort of analysis is essentially pointless.  The only way you can really compare two workouts is if the conditions during those workouts are exactly identical.  Same weather, same time of day, same amount of sleep the night before, same nutrition, same gear worn, same everything.  Naturally some days you feel faster and some slower, depending on training load, nutrition and sleep.  I know all of this, but never the less I still pour over the data and run myself down for not being quicker.

Every once in a while somebody reminds me of where I have come from and why I should feel hugely proud of myself.  Usually this is one of my mates who I regularly exercise with.  I will moan and groan about how I am still slow or unfit, and the guys retort by reminding me of just how far I have come. 

In the constant pursuit of becoming fitter, leaner, more muscly or whatever else you might be training for it is only too easy to lose sight of where you came from. In August 2013 I couldn’t run to the end of my road.  I would get out of breath walking up the stairs. In August 2015 I can cycle over 100 miles with relative ease, have completed a marathon and can swim for pretty much as long as I like.  To be honest I am barely recognisable from the man I was two years ago.  Broadly speaking I look the same on the outside (other than being bit thinner) but inside beats the heart of a proper endurance athlete.  OK I’m not the fastest.  Agreed, I may consistently finish in the bottom 3rd of my races, but who cares.  

It is an interesting feeling being only 29 days away from the Ironman, what will be without a doubt the biggest challenge of my life so far.  I am hugely excited to be racing and massively proud to be representing and raising money for Chestnut Tree House.  Coupled with that is the fear of what I have signed myself up for (as mentioned in the previous blog post).  Fear of the unknown.  

One thing that I know for certain is the man I was in 2013 would have had absolutely no chance at all of finishing an Ironman.  As for the man I am today, well I guess in 29 days we will find out.



Ironman Training and young families…….can the two coexist harmoniously?

My newborn is 3 weeks old.  To say I am a bit tired is fair comment.  Newborn babies are nocturnal, or at least our one appears to be.

The Kraken / a 2 year old

We also have a two year old.  Two year old kids can be difficult customers at the best of times.  Throw having to compete for Mummies attention with a newborn baby into the mix and you unleash the Kraken slumbering inside any two year old.

I am also trying to fit my Ironman training around helping my wife with the kids as much as I can.  How she is coping with the demands of feeding the nocturnal newborn all night long and looking after both her and the two year old terrorist all day is beyond me.  I am constantly in awe of how she manages to hold it all together.

So far I have managed to stick fairly closely to my training plan.  I missed out on a bike ride over the weekend cause of family commitments but otherwise I have made all my other training sessions.  I can only put this down to the fact that my wife understands my motivation for wanting to go out training and is willing to stand by me whilst I do so.

Either it’s that, or she is so knackered that she doesn’t have the energy to object.  The more I think about it the more I think it is probably this; however I will make hay whilst the sun is shining and continue to train as often as possible.

So I guess the answer to the question “can Ironman training and raising a young family coexist harmoniously?” is yes, provided you have a supportive partner, or one that is so tired she will go along with anything.

Sunday 15th March is my first Multi-Sport event of the year, the Portsmouth Duathlon.  Curry and I competed in this last year and I am keen to see if I am faster one year on.  Fingers crossed for a good finishing time; however I do want to hold something in reserve as I am desperate not to do anything that may harm my Ironman training.

Competing at close to 100% capacity can result in injury as you push yourself.  A safer option would be to coast round at 85-90%.  I am hopeful that my 85% effort will be faster than my 100% effort from last year.

Looking back on my write up of last years event (click here to read it) I was suffering with shin splints at the time.  These devils are thankfully well in my past, so my running should be quicker purely because it is pain free.  I also have a nice shiny new bike to debut in it’s first ever race, which should be substantially quicker than the previous one.  I weigh less, should be more fit and am generally in better condition than I was a year ago.

“Surely he can’t go wrong” I hear you all thinking to yourselves.  Perhaps you are right.  Competing is a funny thing and as long as I prepare properly and keep my head there is no reason I won’t be able to improve on last years finishing time.

All I have to do before Sunday is a brick session tonight (bike then run), a swim and bike ride on Thursday, a long run on Friday (which will be at least 2.5 hours) and a long bike ride on Saturday.  Total amount of training ahead of me before Sunday’s race day is around 7.5 hours.

Nothing to it, or as Aleksandr would say…………………….Simples.  



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.


Stubbington Green 10K – The Acid Test

It’s 7am on Sunday 18th January and my alarm has just gone off, must be time for the Stubbington Green 10K.

Now as this is my first event of 2015 I was understandably excited and keen to get going.  My reaction to the alarm going off was to set it to go off again at 8am and get back to sleep.  God knows why I was getting up so early for a 10am race start.  What was I thinking?

So, it’s 8am on Sunday 18th January and my alarm has just gone off (for the second time), must be time for the Stubbington Green 10K.

Up out of bed, shower, running gear on, bowl of porridge and I am out the door on the way to Stubbington.  The weather forecast was for it to be cold but the rain to stay away.  The look of the sky as I got closer to Stubbington said otherwise and as I parked my car I was hoping that the weather would hold and it would not rain.

Really, running in the rain doesn’t bother me; however I run either barefoot or in my Luna Sandals (picture on the right) most of the time and barefoot running in the rain is no fun.  Your feet get cold and the wet ground has a much more abrasive effect on your feet than when it is dry.  Deciding to stick with the sandals I put my rain jacket in my bag (just in case) and headed towards the main race area at the community centre.

Having already collected my race number, I only had to drop off my bag and then I was ready to go.  Now when I say it was cold it was cold.  Too cold for standing around in running gear, so after a quick trip to the loo I slowly jogged towards the start.

The start was set in waves, with me going in the green wave (second to last group) as my projected run time was around 60 minutes and the organisers would not want a plodder like me holding up the swifter runners.

It was my plan to meet up with Curry before the race; however he had given me the cryptic directions to meet him “where the closed Budgens used to be”.  Now I had now idea where this might be in the village of Stubbington so just decided to keep an eye out for him at the start.  Sure enough I spotted him whilst I was jogging on the spot and doing a bit of stretching to keep warm.  

Curry in his “short shorts”

Curry clearly does not feel the cold like I do, as he had on a pair of shorts that really did not leave very much to the imagination.  Have you ever heard that song “Who Wears Short Shorts” by The Royal Teens?  If you haven’t, allow me to explain.  In the song they sing “Who wears short shorts?”.  Well the answer to that question is that Curry wears short shorts.  I have enclosed a picture on the left to give you an idea just how short his shorts were.  

Anyway, after I got over the initial shock of just how short Curry’s shorts were, we had a brief chat before it was time for the off.  Curry jogged ahead to join his wave (as he is a quicker runner than I am) and I headed back down the queue of starters to join in with the fellow green wave competitiors.

Before the race I had two ideas in my head.  Firstly I wanted to try to get under 60 minutes, with a stretch target of under 55 minutes if I felt good on the day.  Secondly I wanted to run a negative split.

A negative split is when you run the second half of the race faster than the first half.  This is standard practice for most professional athletes.  Also it works brilliantly for each leg of a triathlon as you get time to adjust to the new discipline as you swap between swimming/cycling/running.  Practicing running a negative split is always a good idea.

Crossing the start line I start my Garmin running and set out at a comfortable pace.  Glancing down at my watch after a few minutes I noticed I was running at 5:15min/km pace.  This is a bit quick for me; however I felt good and my heart rate was around threshold so I decided to stick with it.

Quick note on threshold heart rate.  This is between 82% and 87% of your maximum heart rate and is an intensity that you should be able to maintain for an hour.  My maximum heart rate is 191, meaning that threshold occurs somewhere around 156-166 beats per minute. 

Running downhill, then up, I was quickly past the 2km mark and then the 3km mark.  I still felt good and was holding steady at around 5:30min/km with a steady heart rate between 155 and 160bpm.  Things were going well and I felt great.  It was superb to be running with such a large group of fellow athletes (2000 registered for the event) and I was even overtaking a few people.

Grabbing a bottle of water just before the 5km mark I had a couple of swigs, dropped the bottle in the bin then had a think about what I should do.  I was through 5km in around 27 minutes and felt OK.  It was always my plan to run the second half of the race faster than the first, but how much faster?  Kicking on I made a concerted effort to keep my pace as close to 5:10min/km as I could.  This was all going well until we got to the only major hill on the course.  Determined to get up this hill quickly and not let it slow my pace I pushed hard and remarkably my body responded well.  I flew past a good few runners and getting to the top of the hill felt fine.  My heart rate was up but recovered quickly and I was back to pace again.

It was at this point that a huge smile came across my face.  I realised that I can actually do this running business.  My race plan was working.  All of the hours I have spent in the pool, on the bike and running the dark cold streets of Pompey were paying off.  I couldn’t help thinking about Trevor (Triathlon coach) and the gang who I train with on Monday’s and Wednesday nights.  All of those evenings spent with Trevor putting us through punishing intervals were for exactly this.  There is danger of me becoming a proper Triathlete yet!

Pushing on past the 7km mark for the final 3km I felt brilliant.  My pace remained at around 5min/km and I was overtaking even more people.  With 2km to go I picked up my run rate determined to put in a quick end to the race.  With 1km to go I matched the very lithe and extremely quick fella next to me stride for stride right up to 50 metres from the line (where he finally put the burners on and lost me).

Over the line I stopped my watch and was gobsmacked as it read 52:36.  52 minutes and 36 seconds!  I, James “Iron” Snook, had run 10K in 52 minutes and 36 seconds.  This is a whopping 11 minutes faster than I had ever run 10K before.  To say I was pleased was an understatement.

My race plan had worked perfectly.  I ran a negative split, never ran out of energy and felt great for the entire run.  I attacked the uphills, relaxed on the downhills and really really enjoyed my race.  

As I sit on my sofa writing this I simply cannot wait for the rest of the 2015 season.  I will keep training hard, keep trying to eat right and hopefully go onto another personal best at the Arundel Lido Triathlon in May (my next event).

I hope that you and your family have had a great weekend.  Keep your eyes peeled for another blog update soon.



PS – If you are wondering about how Curry got on in his short shorts, he did rather well.  He also recorded a 10K PB of 51:33.  Perhaps there is something in these short shorts?  They really were so short!

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. http://www.zone6coaching.com/

A reminder of why I am doing all this

Let’s be honest.  Training for anything is hard.  You have to get up early to train most of the time (so it doesn’t take over your day).  Your muscles hurt.  You are tired.  You get injured.  Sometimes you just want to give up, especially when your spare time is so limited that you are making the difficult decision between spending time with your family, and going out for a run/ride/swim.

I am on a fairly low ebb at the moment.  Work is tough, I am travelling a lot which means spending far too much time away from Cat and Niamh (which I hate having to do), money is a bit tight and I just feel like going into hiding.  Shutting out the world and doing nothing. 

Of course this achieves very little, so I decided to remind myself of why I am even doing all  this training in the first place.  My thoughts drifted to Steve, Louise and Amber.  If you are not familiar with their story, please read the “Motivation” section of my blog – just click on the link above this post.  Amber is the reason I started this blog.  She is the reason that I started training in the first place.  Searching through my email so I could send Steve a message, I found the poem that Louise wrote and read out at Amber’s funeral.  It has really touched me, so I thought I would share it with you.

Louise’s Poem for Amber

The day I realised I was pregnant,
my depression lifted
As you grew inside you kicked your Daddy in the head
with the strong legs you had been gifted

Your Daddy and I brought you into this world,
you were perfect in every way
We learnt what sheer adoration felt like
On Thursday 19th May

We brought you home and the adventure started,
you were a textbook baby
I paraded you around in your bright green pram
and folk marveled at my beautiful lady

We had some activities like swimming and play dates
but mostly we took it easy
You loved your food especially if
it was biscuits, yoghurt, marmite or cheesy

I would walk into your room every morning,
you would greet me with a huge smile
Your favourite toy was your jumperoo
You would bounce for quite a while

We were all so proud to celebrate your first birthday,
cake smeared across your face
We took you out in your new trike
Wonderful memories that can never be replaced

You looked really unwell so we took you to the hospital,
a few days later you went blind
We started fighting Neuroblastoma
Our old lives left behind

Once you’re on the cancer bus you cannot get off,
a new sort of normal beckoned
Good fortune gave us our first year with you
The Royal Marsden gave us our second

We were looked after by such wonderful people
Whom we otherwise wouldn’t have met
Without them we couldn’t have got so far
We can never repay the debt

You felt so much pain and sickness
But even through the woe and sorrow
you showed us how to be strong and kind
And face another tomorrow

The treatment had taken its toll,
your poor little body could not keep up the fight
Neuroblastoma was taking your life,
extinguishing your light

You fought on longer than you needed to,
we were ready to see your pain end
You passed away on Monday 24th June,
our broken hearts will never mend

Time will march on whether I like it or not,
whether my mood is foul or sunny
You are not here with me but you will always be my Amber
… and I will always be your Mummy

An amazing and beautiful poem written by an equally amazing woman who is 100 times stronger than I can ever be. 

For Louise and Steve I will train harder, I will dig deeper, and in just over 1 years time I will become an Ironman, raising as much money as I can to support their charities, and honouring the  memory of their beautiful and brave daughter Amber.