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‘I’m just going to do one lap – see how it holds up’. These were the words I said to Rob just before the kick off of the Vegan Day Challenge when describing my approach to testing my newly knackered calf.

But let me roll back about 13 miles and a dozen nasty hills – it’s 6.25am on a chilly Tuesday morning – I had taken the day off work to go and run a final marathon before Haria Extreme. Seemed like a very good idea, the only problem is that my left calf has been struggling for a little while now and been getting progressively worse, thankfully I’d done something about it.

  1. Intensive physiotherapy
  2. Intensive TENS machining
  3. Intensive stretching
  4. Intensive strengthening
  5. No running whatsoever

Anyway I digress, race morning I pulled out the mountain bike and set off on the 13 mile route over to the start line. I knew it was quite hilly and I knew the moist fog and leaves had made the ground a little slick but I found it really hard work getting to the start line. I eventually rolled up covered in muddy spray and a gaunt tired expression that suggested I’d be lucky to make 2.6 miles never mind 26!


Regardless I listened to the instructions and the information regarding it being the first Vegan Day Challenge, with a vegan inspired checkpoint – at which point I started dreaming of meaty burritos! Then suddenly the brave souls who had come out to play were sent out to run.

I ambled to the back and gingerly moved forward at an unremarkable pace and every time my heart insisted that I put a bit of effort in my head replied ‘You’ve paid a lot of money to run some Lanzarote trails, don’t arse it up again’ and so I would slow back down. I drifted down the first incline and powered up the inclines and my calf was holding up. I decided to add a bit of welly to proceedings and still my calf held up. However, what was clear was that several weeks of absolutely no exercise and a 13 mile hilly MTB ride was really punishing me and so as I came into the checkpoint I laboured over to the checkpoint food and ate my bodyweight in Vegan Rocky Road and Starburst. I chatted a little with the lovely chaps who regularly volunteer but my mood was pretty grim and I felt like ringing the bell to say ‘finished’ but this is why I like SVN events – you have Traviss and Rachel. Traviss advised me to get back out and I did – only moaning a little bit. I strolled up the tarmac bit to reduce the impact on all my old injuries, once back on the trail I resumed what I dare to call ‘Running’.

The next few laps of up and down at the Ranscombe Farm Reserve were thankfully uneventful with only my own lack of self-belief to battle. However, I urged Traviss to not let me stop until the marathon and both he and all the other superb volunteers made it possible for me to keep going. I knew that once I hit lap 5 of 7 I would make it and so it was simply a matter of holding on.

For my 7th and final lap I was joined by Neil, a very nice young gentleman who provided some much needed guilt to get me to the end. ‘I’m not sure I can be bothered to run the last few kilometres, I might just stroll this in’ I said. His response was that I’d made him not feel like running it either and so, despite having nothing in my legs I said, ‘well I feel bad about that, let’s go…’

And so I finally put together a bit of decent running, picking my legs up, bounding along, eventually leaving Neil a few minutes behind.

Normally I would hit the afterburner for the final few hundred metres but as I saw The SVN team in the distance I was simply grateful and rather than sprint finish I bundled myself home.

Traviss passed over another neck breaker of a medal, quite a cheery one in the midst, or perhaps that should be mist, of November gloom and a delightful vegan goody bag.

Things worth noting?
As always Ranscombe was a fun filled ride, full of up, full of down and hardly any flat. There are some lovely views at Ranscombe and no two runs are ever the same.

The lovely SVN team and volunteers are some of the best people around to bring you a great event experience. I really wasn’t up to pushing myself round the course but thanks to everyone there, be they manning the checkpoint or the treat table I managed to get beyond my pitiful ability. So thank you.

As mentioned, another stonking medal to add to my haul and it has already assumed pride of place at the front of my collection.

And finally… thanks to the other competitors – you were all marvellous, whether I chatted to you or not – I really enjoyed the experience and the Vegan Challenge brought out lots of runners I’ve never met before – which was delightful.

Epilogue
It’s not often I write a ‘what happened next’ but my 13 mile cycle home hurt like hell and felt like it took forever and day – up and downhills and into an unpleasant headwind(y) moist feeling – which attacked my already cooled down body. If you want my advice think carefully before you decide not to get the train home 🙂

And absolutely finally – my calf did hold up to the running but the cycle appears to have kicked off some relatively minor pain in a new place in my calf that I’m hoping will abate in a few days – keep your fingers crossed for me.

 

I was having a think the other day about televised sport and in particular – free to air televised sport. I have a very limited interest in football any more and sports like rugby, cricket and even track based athletics have never held my attention for long periods. However, my boss introduced me to the crown in Scotland’s TV sporting output – The Adventure Show.

The Adventure Show looks at the best eventing north of the border that’s just a little more obscure, a little on the wild side and a genuine contender for ‘crowd pleaser of the year’.

Why do I mention this? Well, I want to see the same thing down here on the BBC (or other terrestrial option) proper. I’ve got nothing against cookery programmes, DIY shows and pricey period romps but think about a show dedicated to mountain biking, ultra running, sky running, orienteering, kayaking, triathlon, coasteering, OCR and all the other things we, as adventurers, want to see more of.
The BBC Trust found in their own research that …members told us that audiences across the UK think the BBC’s services are performing well. However, Councils suggested that more television programmes made by BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be broadcast on the national networks 

However, according to an analysis published in the Radio Times, ‘£35 million will be cut from the BBC Sport rights fund, and with several deals set to end soon, that means much-loved terrestrial sports could go.’

We’ve already seen a steady decline in sporting coverage over the years on terrestrial TV as sport has become bigger and bigger financially and Murdoch has moved almost everything to a pay for view model. Therefore BBC and other terrestrial options have focused on the gala events such as the Olympics and then exploited them with over-analysis and spread ideas thinly – glossing them over as bonus content. But maybe there could be a shake-up in strategic thinking and this could in part be by looking at what our country is actually doing and bringing them some of that. 

I was looking at the list of what the BBC currently holds and what they’ve given up/lost (Wikipedia not necessarily the font of all knowledge I grant you), which you can see here but it provides an interesting insight to the focus of BBC Sport. There’s a lot of sport, especially in the radio coverage, but very little that crosses those boundaries between sport, entertainment and real adventuring people, not parodies of real people like ‘Total Wipeout’.

My idea would be to bring real sporting people to the fore, much like the Adventure Show does. I can imagine a piece of programming which follows the adventures of people like @abradypus or @borleyrose – dedicated hours of television where adventure was the key, not just running, but everyday people being brilliant. Think of it as an outdoor double bill being paired with Countryfile.

The UK is currently in a golden era of adventuring – you only need to look through social media to see the kind of insane stuff that people are getting up to – shouldn’t we be promoting this? Let’s also remember that BBC Trust research found that, ‘77% of audiences thought that fresh ideas were important but that only 61% thought the BBC had fresh ideas’. Time for a fresh look at what you’ve already got and how that could be further improved?

It’s a simple idea that might give BBC sport a return to credibility with real people at a fraction of the  cost of your sporting crown jewels. I’m not saying we get rid of the Olympics, football, athletics or our once a year fascination with tennis but these things are all riddled with scandal, financial irregularities and cheating – why not look at sports that are a little more niche on the outside but infinitely more inclusive on the inside. 

Trust me BBC (ITV, C4 and Five) watching Susie Chan at the MdS or Cat Simpson crossing the Atacama or James Elson winning Country to Capital will make for compelling viewing. It harks back to a time when the BBC had programmes like Kickstart, minority sports that today would be considered cool – believe me, bikes crossing wet and slippy logs inspired me to a life more extreme!

It’s not just that though, I’ve written previously about struggling to connect with sporting ‘celebrities’ and I don’t believe this is just me. As a nation we aren’t as fit as we should be and I wonder if a programme such as this would help in the promotion of wellbeing – not focusing on the elite and instead focusing on ‘those that do’. Inspiring equally real people to engage in sport.

I’d like an adventuring show that looked at costs, promoted the best of low-cost adventuring to ensure this didn’t become the equivalent of a Top Gear, that while entertaining, was well beyond the reach of mortal men. I’d like to see kit explored, nutrition, attitudes to the psychology of sport and other nuggets that could provide a gateway to exploration for everyone. Of course at the heart of it I’d want to see entertaining, breathtaking adventuring with gob-smacking scenery. 

For those of us who’ve watched The Adventure Show (I do it via iplayer as we don’t get it in London – do we Beeb??!!) I think we can see it’s not made for a million pounds an episode! This stuff is happening regardless of whether you televise it or not so maybe you should get more involved. To the BBC especially, you’re a public service broadcaster and while I think you do a brilliant job with the resources you have I believe sport needs a rethink.

Come on Beeb, come adventuring with us and bring the nation with you! Get in touch with Triple Echo Productions and see if they fancy extending the Adventure Show nationwide! Or talk to the ever growing adventuring community and see for yourself the potential of joining us outside.

As an aside, if you aren’t going with thought number one can you at least dump the London Marathon and Great North Run from the schedule and replace it with some less charity focused races! I’m a bit sick of the celebrity and fancy dress focus of the coverage. 

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‘Morning your madge…’ I thought as I cycled gently past Buckingham Palace.
‘Morning armed police officers, pigeons and fellow traffic users…’ It’d just a series of simple thoughts I use to keep me tranquil as I cycle. Occasionally I’ll notice the lycra clad arse of an attractive lady and might put a bit of effort into keeping up with her but generally I’m just bimbling along.

Having gone through my usual ritual I dropped down through the gears as I approached the Hyde Park Corner roundabout and particularly the crossing from Green Park towards the war memorials. This is one of those places that even if the road is clear you don’t risk trying to get across – it’s dangerous and full of unknowns.

It was about 7.43am and the lights had turned red for the traffic and the green man was blazing at the cyclists and pedestrians – beckoning us across the road. It was a surprisingly thin smattering of traffic and the 10 or so cyclists and the 5 runners headed over the road – as we were about halfway a courier van came thundering towards us, in particular 3 runners were in his line of sight. Each of them stepped back despite being more than halfway across the road and rather than hit his breaks the van driver sped up, missing commuters of all shapes and sizes by inches.

Several of the only just missed cyclists and runners looked shocked by the drivers actions – it wasn’t just that the van raced through the red light, it wasn’t just that the van raced between people and cyclists it was the fact that he sped up that shocked most people who witnessed it.

In true British form we all did the sensible thing and simply carried on with our journey but several of us spoke as we prepared to cross the second set of lights and we were all a little shaken.

‘Inches.. that’s all it was’ said one
‘He ACTUALLY sped up’ said another
‘Cunt’ was the response of the third

I asked if they were okay and then went about my business but I was nervous that day and since it happened about a fortnight ago I’ve been much more conscious of the traffic lights, the flow of traffic and annoyingly I’ve even been cycling more slowly.

I suppose the lesson is that commuting in London is a dangerous game whatever your mode of transport and that you must be constantly vigilant as not everyone follows the laws of the land.

Safe commuting everyone.

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Description: UltraBoy. 5’9, mid to late thirties, dark hair, grey eyes, size 31 waist, weight 72kg with waterproof bag, Mac laptop and a 13kg BFold 7 folding bike.

Description: Twatty McDangle. 6’2, shaven haired, bit smelly, noticeably well shined shoes, at least a size 44 inch waist, beer gut, double chin (maybe multiple), shifty with shoulder bag.

TMc: that your bike?
UB: yes it is
TMc: going to continue to fucking take up all that space?

Let me explain the state of the train – half empty, lots of seats remained and there was nobody else by the doors.

I usually park my folded bike by the doors on the opposite side to the platform therefore not causing a problem for my fellow commuters getting on and off the train. I tuck the bike as tightly to the door as possible, usually making it as compact as possible. I then stand opposite so that if it comes loose or is in someone’s way I can move it and minimise the offence. Moreover I tuck myself in as tightly as possible with my bag wedged between my legs.

Twatty glared at me as I put my phone away. On the off chance this was going to end in a punch up I didn’t want my phone smashed.

UB: perhaps you’d like to stand here fella?
TMc: Yeah

I took position by my bike and gave the space to the stupid fucker but so angered by him I then positioned myself in what would be clearly considered his personal space and glared directly at him and continued to get ever closer. He was a big bloke and had my passive aggressive behaviour aggravated him enough and fisticuffs ensued I might have had a difficult time but I figure the enclosed space might make for a bit of a leveller but he did nothing other than stare at his feet and despite being significantly taller than me I loomed over him menacingly. He slinked off at London Bridge never once meeting my gaze, I got the feeling he was a coward who didn’t know how to respond to the fact I’d been polite to him or the fact that I was clearly pissed off enough to see if I could get under his skin.

The bit that irked was that he had been rude, that there had been tonnes of space just inches away on the train and I wonder if tomorrow I might have to tell him to go fuck himself – should I see him.

According to South Eastern Railways I’m allowed to transport my folded bike with me – hell, the mayor wants me to cycle, my heart wants me to cycle, but this man took offence to the fact that I commute on his train with my bike. However, if you happen to see me on a train with my bike and this offends you please don’t hesitate to let me know, I really enjoy it, can’t you tell?

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Each leg of my new work commute is about 10.6km long, it starts on the Embankment and it finishes just beyond Hammersmith – it’s a ride filled with some pretty cool London stuff. I ride past Nelson, the Big Blue Cock, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, St James Park and lots of other really cool stuff. It’s not very hilly – I haven’t measured the gradients but despite it going up and down its alright, my little folding bike copes admirably. Today though I’m going to focus on an element of my journey I find terrifying and that’s the roundabout at Hyde Park Corner – this is where this post becomes a little London centric so my apologies if you don’t live here or have no idea what I’m on about.

We shall be focusing here on my return leg, because that’s where this shit gets problematic.

There are two ways to get across the roundabout – the first is the pedestrian and cycle route, let’s talk about that. So you zoom up to crossing 1 but they’re on red, fine, you stop and wait but in the meantime crossing 2 is crossing, you get the go signal on crossing 1 but as you approach crossing 2 it’s all STOP! Red light means danger, thanks Billy Ocean, we know! You’re now sat at crossing 2, minutes tick away and I mean minutes, as soon as you get the good to go you hit the afterburner but then you’re greeted by about a hundred other pedestrians and cyclists all desperate not to have to wait at crossing 1. This ‘Dance of a Thousand Bikes’ means you’ve all but ruined your chances of making crossing 3 – no matter how quickly you sprint to the line you’ll always be beaten by the computer – you can’t really outthink it on this. You finally make crossing 3, you travel slowly, creeping towards the edge of the pavement and then just when you see that tiny break in the traffic you race forwards and onwards to Buckingham Palace. By this point I’m usually grim faced and rather annoyed as I know this travelling has caused me to miss the 6pm train.

But what about option 2?

This is what I call ‘The Shitbucket Just Got Real’. So you’ve just got to crossing 1 but rather than head to the second one you join the road – ahead of both the pedestrians and the cars (you need a head start). If memory serves there’s a series of about 4 or 5 lanes, splitting off in differing directions (Park Lane, Piccadilly, The Mall, Victoria and Knightsbridge the main options). I’m aiming for the tangent that is The Mall. So, as Crossing 2 turns to red for the traffic I join the roundabout and peg it.

Let’s not forget that the folding bike isn’t really built for speed but I throw every last ounce of energy I have into it and I grab a lane hoping that I’m not holding up traffic.

All around you there are vehicles of all shapes and sizes, most moving at pace as the traffic lights are ‘with them’ – my aim is to hit my tangent before the traffic catches me or before the traffic flowing in from Piccadilly catches me. It’s terrifying, hence why I need a ‘Shitbucket’ strategically placed at the bottom of my shorts. The benefit of this is that I do make the earlier train, the downfall is that at some point I’m going to get clipped or worse. As I’ve stated before I’m not a great cyclist and this isn’t helping my nervousness!

Any tips on how to avoid this? Well I suppose the tube… but that defeats the purpose of cycling!

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My comeback from injury had been curtailed in the most part by my ongoing hamstring problems, I’ve brought back my training to a minimum and built my focus on strengthening and stretching the various affected areas. In practical terms this has meant much more cycling (about 120km per week) and about 30 minutes of stretching and physio ordered exercise with the occasionally doff of the cap to running (such as last weekends Les Witton 10 mile or running with UltraBaby- see picture above).

But the problem today isn’t injury the problem is that I just can’t quite shake this illness I’ve discovered I’m suffering with and its called The Running Bug.

Are you a sufferer?

Here are a few of my symptoms

1. You are grumpy when you don’t run
2. You buy new kit when you can’t run
3. You get green eyes when you see runners go past and you aren’t running
4. You enter races in the hope that you’ll be fit and well, despite all evidence saying you won’t
5. You turn up on race day and tell yourself you’ll run it off
6. You suffer with magpie-itis when you see other runners medals and wonder whether it’d be easier to steal their medal or just the race next year
7. Your sense of style eludes you as you go to work often missing key items of clothes such as thundercrackers or consider it acceptable to be sat there in neon all day.
8. ‘Normal’ people think you might have the kind of mental illness that requires therapy to cure you of spending hours and hours on a road or trail
9. You’ve stopped giving a flying fuck what anyone else thinks about anything (particularly running)
10. You often suffer with a rash round your gonads (that might just be me)

You may not suffer with all of these, infact you may not suffer with any of them but while I’ve been injured and on the comeback trail I’ve had almost all of the above – so much so that I’ve already signed up for two more ultra distances this week. If you suffer like I do then consider yourself lucky because running is just plain awesome – which makes you awesome and I’ll see you out there this weekend awesome runners.

On my day I’m okay at running, I can cycle and I’m pretty shit at swimming, so I thought I’d enter the Virtual Triathlon and see if I could stumble my way to a medal. On Monday of this week I got out the old iron horse, prepared my swim kit and then went to work. The idea was that I’d do the run first then jump on my bike and then off to the pool to finish off before it closed. It started well I did a very hilly 5km in 24minutes, changed swiftly into my cycling shorts and hit full pelt uphill into the wilds of Kent. I was moving swiftly and well and the first 10km couldn’t have been more fun. I charged up the final hill and into a local country park where I allowed myself a lap or three of the car park to ensure I got to swim having done more than 20km. With my distance about right and Movescount keeping track I thundered out of the park for my favourite bit – the fast downhill.

As I did I could feel the first heavy splashes of rain and I knew I was going to have to ‘give it riz’ if I was to avoid the oncoming storm. I pushed on through the now heavy headwind and felt the rain bashing against my face. I could feel that my control wasn’t all it should be and yet despite my lack of skill in cycling I pushed on. I hurled myself into the big downhill, now thundering along and it was here that I was caught with an intense combination of head and cross winds. The bike (otherwise known as Ultrette) dipped into the space between the road and the grass and what control I had disappeared.

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I was in a bit of a heap and bleeding but thankfully not too seriously – as far as I could tell in the darkness! I picked myself up, photographed the scene, called the GingaNinja, switched off Movescount and then ran 3km pushing my bike so I can meet up with transport home. I was cold, soaked and I didn’t know how to reattach my chain (not that my bloodied hands were working!).

I got home and tweeted my experience – and thank you for all the very kind support – but I was deflated. I’d damaged my bike, failed to get to the swim and just plain old fashioned failed. What to do?

The following day I did the swim, I fixed Ultrette and then yesterday I got my arse back out running and cycling.

The sad thing was that the fall dented both my confidence and my body and so it was a slow swim (525metres), a slow cycle (21.8km) and a slow run 5km). When I went out first time I felt really alive – but the second time I felt like I just wanted to get it done. However, this shouldn’t detract from what a bloody awesome idea for an event the VirtualTriathlon is and I would highly recommend getting involved in either the sprint or super sprint distance.

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I’ve been racing quite a lot since the turn of the year and this has been helped by my participation in the VirtualRunnerUK events. I was incredibly pleased to see that they had decided to run a Sport Relief event as it made sense that we might all fancy a bit of a go at something different and so a few days before the Sport Relief weekend the entries opened for an any distance and time event in cycling, swimming and of course running.

Sat in the comfort of my armchair I mused to myself about the fun I could have doing all three and in no time at all I was signing up to the swim, then I was signing up to the cycle and finally the run. It was then that it occurred to me that I could turn this into a personal triathlon and so I set about planning a route where I could minimise the transitions – because the swim section would realistically have to be in a pool. I planned it to be a cycle followed by a run and finished with a swim.

What actually happened was this

On the Friday – the first day of Sport Relief, and the night of the televised event , I went out and did a light 10km, this was unintentional but it served the purpose of completing the run section if I didn’t manage to do anything else. The reason I was worried was that my OHs mother was visiting and this meant that there would be non sporting activities that I might have to engage in – meh.

However, I revised my plan so that everything could be completed on the Sunday morning – nice and early and with a shunt in the running order. My VirtualTriathlon would be a 5km cycle, 500metre swim and finished with a 5km run (although there was a second 5km bike ride to allow me to get home from the pool). The first part was the 5km cycle, I span out of the house and hit the road – pushing my bike as hard as I can manage, which to be perfectly honest isn’t that hard and I did the hilly ride in about 16 minutes. It wasn’t anything spectacular but I was saving myself for the swim section which I knew would be the hardest part for me. The transition from cycle to pool was just under 8 minutes, which I didn’t think was that bad considering I needed to lock the bike up, get entry to the pool and change.

I hurled myself into the pool and began swimming the 25metre lengths, struggling as always when I’m in the water. I was alternating between freestyle and breast stroke as I’m not strong enough as a freestyler to do the 500 metres. So with all the energy I could muster I powered up and down, over and over again – so much so that I lost count of my lengths and therefore ended up doing about 625metres, although the Suunto can’t be considered definitive in its accuracy in the pool and it was probably more like 500metres. However I powered though the distance in just over 13 minutes and even with the time consuming transition I was still in good form. As I was swimming I made the decision to dry as little as possible out of the pool and throw on my running gear and thunder out of the leisure centre – leaving behind my bike kit which I would pick up later. This method meant I was held up for less than 10 minutes between getting out of the pool and starting the run.

Straight out of the door from the centre I knew a slowish route up a hill and back again. It was at this point that I could feel the hunger I normally associate with about mile 18 of a marathon and I had neither food nor water on me. Hmmm, this was difficult but I wasn’t likely to stop now and in reality I was flying.

Bang, kilometre 1 gone, bang kilometre 2 gone – I was expecting my feet or my back or my hips to suddenly implode and I’d need to use my Friday night 10km as my run distance. Thankfully kilometre 3 and 4 ebbed away into the ether and I was on the return to my bike and other kit. Sadly I came up a little short at 4.89km but in an excellent 16.32 – probably looking at a 17.30 5km which is the fastest I’ve gone in a long time.

For a while I sat at the wheel of my bike, feeling like I was going to puke – but I didn’t and when I finally stood up I knew I’d done something brilliant and I have VirtualRunnerUK to thank for the opportunity.

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So I’ve been a bit quieter than normal on the blogging and tweeting front as I’ve been busy doing, as my partner puts it, real life. But now it’s back to more fun things and by fun I mean sport.

As regular readers will know there are a number of things I want to achieve this year but this has had a huge bomb thrown into the middle of it called UltraBaby. Advice seems to be suggesting that having a baby will have a negative impact on training, running and racing and I can see how that might be but I’m going to do my best to race as much as is humanly possible this year and then see what the future holds.

And so to my 2014 aims – the triathlon.

I haven’t yet been able to find a suitably timed, local triathlon that I can get involved in, that is suitable for beginners and available at the sprint distance as my swimming isn’t very strong and my biking is nervous. However, to the rescue has come my new favourite event – the Virtual Run, from VirtualRunnerUK (I’ve blogged about these guys before).

To coincide with the Sport Relief weekend they are offering the opportunity to go cycle, swim or run a sport relief distance, get a medal and also donate to a charity that I feel very positively about.

So how does this link up to my aims for 2014? Well, I’ve signed up for all three elements and I’m thinking that if I were really clever I could turn this into a type of personal triathlon. Sounds ridiculous I know but I’ve found that the virtual events have made me feel competitive during training and I’ll be transitioning as quickly as I can. Obviously for the sake of logistics it won’t have the same kind of feeling as a real triathlon but it will make for a bit of mid March fun before I head into the Tough 15, SDW50 and the hugely important (to me anyway) We Never Walked Alone 96mile Challenge. I’ll also be doing it in a slightly different order than a triathlon (as far as I’m aware), for the logistics side I’ll need to do my cycle first (only 3 miles) followed by a 5 mile run and then a 1500metre swim.

I’m fully aware that this won’t count as completing of one of my 2014 aims but it will take me one step closer and that’s very much what running and training is all about – making progress. So time to crack out the old iron horse, hope the Hoka dry and pray my swimming shorts don’t become any more translucent…

I know that a lot of the people I follow or are friends with via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram read my general witterings and then very sensibly ignore them but I would urge you all to support this outstanding event, if you aren’t doing anything this weekend, hell even if you are doing something this weekend then get involved. If you don’t want to sign up to the VirtualRunner version of things or even a Sport Relief event near you then can I urge you to open the door, smell the fresh air of the day and just doing something active. Take the kids, take your significant other, take an opportunity to challenge yourself.

My pregnant partner, the lady carrying UltraBaby, is looking at doing at least one of these events – possibly all of them, only at the shorter distances and she will speed walk the run section but if she can do it then so can you.

What’s holding you back?

Look forward to reading about your adventures on what could be a very active weekend.

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It’s been a little over 30 days since I started my 400km in 30day challenge and it was a horribly hectic period filled with running, cycling, swimming, illness, injury and an unfortunate visit up north. Needless to say I failed in the task but I did manage to turn my disappointment into a number of positives… and here’s the numbers

I walked over 95km. I cycled nearly 130km. I ran over 225km (including the Valentines Challenge 10mile and 10km Virtual run). 7km of breast stroking (I mean swimming!)

However, I was 175km short of my running target but I’ll go again in June and aim for the full 400km.

Next up is the St Peters Way Ultra and I’ve stupidly been running this evening in my Merrell Barefoots without socks and skinned the tops of my feet! Silly bloody me – still it’s Monday they should hopefully be healed by Sunday. As Eric Idle said ‘always look on the bright side of life’, after all it is only running

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Two days off to rest my hip and knee and I’m feeling a bit better – the hip is a long term injury but I decided that a bike ride was the way forward. I loaded a route onto my Suunto that would take me to the start line of my next race – the Valentines Run in Gravesend – and off I set.

Now the Suunto is only as good as it’s user and human error kicked in about 10km when I turned down a bit of a blind alley and my road bike met the worst of Kent’s boggy fields. Holy shit, I had to push my bike through 5km of wet mud and when I finally reached the road again I got back on the bike and looked down to see I’d brought half of the mud with me. Thankfully, the roads of Kent are also flooded and so I was able to clean my bike and feet. I had a lovely time, just over 45km cycled, a shitload of mud, hills that could break you and a maximum speed of nearly 50km per hour. I might not have run this weekend but I feel much better for having gone and gotten the wind in my hair!

Hope everyone had a good weekend of exercise and a huge congratulations to @mia79gbr who completed the Thames Trot in a stunning time.

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20140126-121925 pm.jpgThis morning was a simple three stage affair – 5km bike ride, 5km run, 5km bike ride, half of effort was very uphill and the other half was nicely downhill. The weather added in an unpleasant challenge and as the rain lashed my face I did wish I was still tucked up in bed but hey ho, all fun. Hope everyone else has had glorious Sunday running.

Additionally I’d like to say I wasn’t advertising either the colour blue or OMM today, I just chose a very OMM and blue kit!

I’m also adding a dog picture to this post because dogs make me happy, especially my dogs who were waiting for me when I got home. Cute 🙂

On a final note for this posting I’d really like to say thank you for all the support and responses to my posting about my ‘running argument’. There has been a huge amount of messages and conversation about the value of tweeting and blogging about running and the need for community. Needless to say I won’t be leaving the blogging and twitter community, not because I think I’m something special, but because you guys are amazing and being part of this wonderful community is helping drive me on to a successful. 2014.

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So I’d cycled the ten miles to my run, I’d locked the bike up, I’d strapped my bag on nice and tight and set the Suunto to go. 100metres, all fine on the track, 350metres, up the trail steps into the undergrowth and the mud, 750metres, tight cornering – use the tree to help balance me out, 800metres, fuck I’ve fallen and I’ce ripped my old favourite tights and I’m in a boatload of pain. My first thought was I’m in the middle of a forest and nobody around me, the second thought was I’m ten miles from home with no way back other than under my own steam, my third thought was, ‘shit if I’ve broken my leg then that’s the C2C out the window.

Thankfully I got up – ran back the way I came, took a quick look at the various cuts on my leg and saw the bleeding and made it back to the bike, lay there a little while and then raced like lightening all the way home. A lesson for us all, but mainly me, careful where you go running in these rather difficult conditions – if I were the kind of person who blames his shoes I’d say ‘naughty Merrell barefoots’ but I think that would be unfair they had been pretty good the rest of the adventure

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There is nothing like an old friend and the Shorne Woods in north west Kent between Gravesend and Rochester are a bit of a love of mine. I tend to visit more when it’s winter as the ground is cut up, usually flooded and full of crap to give yourself a good going over with. But now with my new found love of cycling I decided that I’d grab my road bike (my beloved Decathlon Triban 3) and cycle up to the  wood. It was a delightfully hilly ride and with the wind whipping in my hair and around my knuckles I hadn’t felt so good in ages. I drifted down to excellent cycle rack, locked up the iron horse, tweeted a few pictures and strapped my pack onto my back – I was going trail running.

I always forget how much I love trail running until I’m doing it. Hills, mud, wet,  slipping and sliding – there is nothing like it, well not unless you’re a pig I guess. I raced up Cardiac Hill, I raced down it and then around it, I kept getting lost and following signs taking me round in circles, what fun I cried. I growled provocatively at passing walkers and dogs and threw myself with gay abandon into every inch of water I could find.

Oh the glory!

After an hour of fooling round in the mud I descended on the cafe, stood at the door not wanting to make the floor dirty and requested one of their delicious bacon sandwiches and a cup of steamingly delightful coffees.

My feet, legs, arms, back and head were wet with sweat, mud and tears but with a bacon sandwich in my tummy and a ABBA in my head I grabbed my bike and hurtled home – downhill almost all the way to the cries of WEEEEHEEEEEWOOHOOOOOOO.

Oh what fun!

It has been my pleasure for much of the last few years to be running on a very regular basis but the addition of cycling just adds a great new dynamic and I highly recommend it to anybody. Additionally I will also recommend the Shorne Wood to any trail runner who fancies a few hills and guaranteed mouthful of crap (you will  fall over 🙂 ).

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Govember is going okay, I’ve run at leat 10 miles on each of the #RunCommute days and I’ve done swimming, cycling or both on the non work days. It’s 100% true that my hip feels a bit like it’s been sat on by a baby elephant and that I can barely move around my office all day. It’s true that the weather has been challenging and there simply aren’t enough showering facilities in my workplace but it’s good to be being out there and actually running on a daily basis. The questions are though, can my body cope with going from no training to a minimum of 50 miles per week? Does my bum look big in this very heavy heavy OMM rucksack? and can I afford not to be doing the training given that the Country to Capital is just around the corner?

I’m a big comic book fan and if I were a superhero then I’d be Batman obviously (you never see us in the same room do you?). The great thing about Batman is that he’s timeless and you can tailor his origins to best fit the needs of the audience. UltraBoy is a bit like that, he is the alter ego I’m aiming to be, he’s the one who runs on race days, the rest of the time I’m just boring old me, grinding out the miles. UltraBoy is the one who can run big distances in a single bound and occasionally leap oversized gates in the fields of Kent.

UltraBoys origin comes from when he was refused entry into the London Marathon for the third time and he immediately signed up for his first ultra, he then saw something called the UTMB and thought that sounds fun and so signed up for two more qualifying races. Race 1, UltraBoy was learning about his powers and when he was severely injured he managed to pull through and save the day and claim 2 precious UTMB points. Race 2, UltraBoy was in his stride and threw himself into the race, finishing more than 8hrs before the cut off time, therefore claiming a further 2 UTMB points and a decent performance. Race 3 and UltraBoy met his kryptonite, his Joker, his Darth Vadar and after running more than 50 miles on heavily blistered feet, dreadful conditions and without having done enough training he pulled out of his first 100 mile race. But UltraBoy is made of sterner stuff, he used the Twitter community and some rest to recover and re-energise himself and now he’s slowly but surely returning.

2013 was year 2 of running races and although it’s not over I’ve not got any real challenges facing me, well unless you count the Snowdonia Marathon in a few weeks, so perhaps I have one last challenge this year. The rest of the year though will be a collection of rag tag races, found probably at the last minute, and only up to marathon distance, this primarily because I didn’t sign up for the Brecon Beacons in time and I don’t think I can really be bothered with the waiting list. Therefore 2014 is going to be my biggest year of racing a I prepare properly for an assault on the all getting entry to the all singing, all dancing UTMB. I’ve pinpointed a couple of 4pointers (just signed up for the NDW100) and a couple of 3pointers as well as several other practice ultra marathons – I’m going to super power myself to this one and I will not fail.

There are things I’m doing differently now too – I’m not a gym bunny and can’t bring myself to do it really as I find it boring but having invested in a mountain bike earlier in the year I’ve now added a road racer for shits and giggles and I’m perhaps adding a folding bike into the mix to give me options for getting into work and therefore increase my overall activity. I’ve also added swimming and completed my first two open water races earlier this year but I’ve been a little inconsistent in the pool and need to ramp this up a little bit to ensure that I’m maintaining my body and performance. Even superhero types need to keep in trim.

Perhaps that’s been one of the big realisations I’ve had this year is that I’m in my mid30s and stuff doesn’t bounce back the way it used too and my injuries have at times been quite severe and stupidly I’ve just kept going. My key hope is with the addition of extensive cycling and swimming atop my running I will be able to maintain better performance and stay injury free.

And now …

I’m looking forward to blogging and discussing my running/superhero-ing experiences with my fellow tweeters and more importantly fellow runners, hoping to be inspired and perhaps even inspire a little as I grind out long runs, short runs and stupid runs.

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