Seriously what makes a man or woman wake up one day and go “Yes” an ironman is for me! It doesn’t have to be an Ironman event it could be a marathon, half marathon, Sparta anything really… Also why is the biggest age group that takes part in this 30-40 years of age?
Well I think I have the answer, it basically to prove to yourself that you’ve still got it! Regardless of whether you’re doing it to loose weight or simply to tick a bucket list item the answer is the same – You are proving it to yourself.
Completion of said task is also akin to childbirth – now please forgive the analogy dear reader, I am aware I am male but I promise you will see where this is going!
Yes doing an endurance event is like childbirth.
You see you have the great idea to get started lets call that the “sex” part – its exciting, its fun, you may even try new gear! Then it gets real and the training begins in earnest let’s call that getting pregnant! You have 9 months of struggles, sickness, aches and pains in places you never knew could ache. You get up early and have to pee allot! There are numerous doctors visits, maybe event a bunch of physio appointments, you read every article you can associated with your race/birth, you tell everyone what your doing (even though its obvious). You start craving gels, bananas and protein shakes, you cut out anything that could be bad for you….
Then Race day – The Birth – Several hours of pain, sweat, tears, hugs, breathing, clothing changes, vaseline, water, towels, there are ambulances and medical staff on hand and finally the finish – Its arrived oh the elation, the emotion, again more tears, calls to loved ones, comments on the time and condition of participants. The moans of never again! – Then 2 days later lets do another one!
So you see doing an endurance race and giving birth really is the same!
I write the above as I was asking myself why I keep doing these events and simply put the elation of completing the task at hand is way better than the months of training and pain on the day. The sense of achievement helps motivate and the health benefits simply make you feel good.
The following words will normally fill a man with dread – “Honey can we try the sustainable food restaurant on Sunday evening” “Sustainable food”? I ask, “Yes” she said – it serves mainly vegetarian dishes, you eat off wheat based cutlery, oh and it does a great Lionfish curry. It must have been a weak moment for me because normally I would be clamoring for a Sunday roast or at least a meat based hearty affair washed down with a nice red wine. Alas, as good husbands do from time to time I simply said “sure, why not”. Although I could think of a million reasons why not my head was saying, but she wants to and you always eat what you want.
So with very little enthusiasm (from my part) we set off for a new sustainable eating restaurant called Vivo, it’s based on north west point road in West Bay Grand Cayman. Only a 5-10 min car ride from seven mile beach. Its located in a popular dive spot/hotel. Upon arrival I was not bowled over, metal chairs no cloths and a take out style inner room. However you sit outside looking over the ocean which surprisingly is not that common as only a few of the restaurants her come with ocean views. Our server Lori, greeted us with a warm smile and “sit wherever you like guys” which I immediately warmed to. It made me realize that look, dinner doesn’t have to be stuffy just go with it try something new and relax! Lori immediately bought over the iced water some table mats and asked had we visited Vivo before. She explained what the restaurant was all about and made some recommendations for the starters which we took her up on, plus a couple of glasses of bubbles for good measure.
The appetizers of falafels and egg plant roll arrived with a mint dip and another dip that looked like honey but actually had a nice spicy bite to it. The egg roll was like a Quesada and was delicious and the falafel was actually pretty tasty and more like a samosa. Both were filling without making you full and I was impressed! Other diners were enjoying their food also and plenty of yums and wows are being heard. For mains I had the Lionfish curry (Lionfish is an invasive predator fish to Grand Cayman and needs culling so it is sustainable) and my wife had the vegetable curry, simply put both were fab.
Plates finished wine drunk and some happy banter with our waitress Lori who made time for everybody in the restaurant. We asked her to thank Chef Marie who had whipped up our food in no time chatted some more then made our way home happy in the knowledge that we would come back here.
So the morale of this tale – Those moments you keep missing by sticking to the norm, this could have been one of them! Take a chance on something new. I am always berating myself for predicting the outcome of something based on preconceived ideas which have no foundation, just because I’m not a vegetarian in this case. But even then sometimes the food doesn’t matter but the time you spend in the company of someone you find very important.
No I don’t mean in the biblical sense, I mean you just have to believe in yourself and believe that you can!
Yeah, yeah, yeah why are you telling me this I’ve heard this all before… well you perhaps have but I bet you haven’t done this…
I would like you to seek out a marathon run near you, don’t worry you don’t have to do it, yet. I want you to go to the finish line around the 5 hours plus mark. After 5 hours or more of continuous exercise you are fighting some pretty awesome demons. Just as many as the sub 5 hour people but now they have turned even more evil!
After we finished the Miami half marathon this weekend in Miami we went back to the hotel had a hot shower and then said we would go and watch the marathon finishers. Something we had never done before even though we have taken part in several now! Hands down it was the best part of the whole weekend for both of us! We screamed and shouted for every random stranger that ran over that finish. We felt every bit of emotion with them, so many people shed tears of triumph as they crossed that line and we were right there with them.
Why? because you know their pain so their accomplishment just reminds you what yours felt like, and you know what it makes you want to do it again. Every person that finishes the dreaded 26.2 has a story to tell, they all did it for a reason, many will do one again.
But that’s not what this post is about, if you have not done one you wont be able to relate to those feelings however you can see it in others. No, what I want you to notice is the sheer diversity of people and body types that cross that finish line….. disabled athletes, Amputees, Large people , small people , young, old, athletic, not athletic, every race color and creed, the finish line lets everyone pass and that’s the take away here.
If you can honestly walk away from that finish line and think “I could never do that”, you have missed something. You don’t have to run a marathon, but if you think you can then I promise you, you can. You just have to believe in yourself!
I watched a good friend of mine cross the Ironman finish line after 15 hours of pain and fatigue. A friend who only 12 months ago tore his patella tendon requiring surgery. He never thought he would do it. To be honest a few of us who have trained with him also had doubts as to whether he was fit enough etc…
I feel ashamed to admit but my friend does not look like an ironman. He has a sturdy build and like me is not the svelte like Adonis we generally see on the triathlon circuit. I know I have had and still have nagging body shape issues but then I realized that not many people look good in tri suits!
The reason I feel ashamed is that I judged my friend on whether he could do this epic event by the way he looks. Something that people judge me on. I gave him no credit for his mental ability and that is what an ironman is all about. The race is won or lost in your mind. Not many people gave me a hope of completing the marathon but I never had a doubt I would complete it. Just like my friend he never doubted he wouldn’t finish the Ironman as long as his knee held up.
The elation on his face as he crossed the line, the hours in training the mental win that he did it. He managed himself through that event and he can call himself an ironman with all the accolades that should bring.
For me, a realization, that whilst I never wished him to fail, I judged the book by its cover and knowing how that feels vow never to do that again. I should have realized that of course he was fit enough, after all he put in the training hours, so if he can do it in training why couldn’t he finish. He is a man of great resolve who has completed everything he has put his mind to, from making a film to setting up an ironman type event here. He has proven beyond a doubt that he has the strongest will there is and only something catastrophic would stop him for achieving what he wants.
I’m sure he will come across this missive over the next few weeks, I hope he understands my mistake and that the transparency of our friendship means he is not offended as this is really an admission of guilt for assuming he was weaker than he is. After all he is now an Ironman of Iron will! Congrats Buddy
It was dark, somewhere in the darkness an owl hooted, ok it was not an owl but the alarm clock in our hotel room going off at 5am! Actually 5am is probably a lay in compared to the 4am training runs, but sh!t the day was finally here! We had survived training injury free (Well relatively Kym had fallen over taking all the skin off her knees only 4 weeks prior!) we had survived the 12 hr travel, 2 flights numerous security checks and the bags had arrived. The hotel had our reservation and all of the worries associated with the trip just melted away because now was the big one. Now was the day, cometh the moment. 26.2 miles of who knows what.
For someone who has never run a marathon before this was the day I would check that bucket list item, I had always been fascinated by endurance running and secretly always wanted to do one but had switched the marathon off to watch football after 10 minutes, because lets face it, it was very dull to watch on TV. When I had tipped the scale at 300+ lbs my dreams of doing a marathon we a distant memory, there was no way within 12 months would I be heading towards a start line.
We picked Chicago simply because people who had done it before said it was EPIC. They said the crowd will push you along, the city loves the marathon! I have to say they were not wrong.
So having woken with the realization that it was go time I jumped out of bed and immediately ordered coffee and oatmeal from room service. We needed to be at the corals for 7am so that gave us about an hour and a half to brew for a … lets call it a solid constitutional. Bowel movements and marathons are the thing of nightmares, if you haven’t gone before the race you are most certainly going to need to go during it, you do not want to have to visit a marathon day portaloo! So stretching and coffee were my remedies of choice and thank the lord we had lift of. A few pounds lighter Kym and I headed toward the start line along with the 40,000+ other people giving this running thing a go.
I had been honest about my time, as mentioned in previous blog posts I have what I call a steady plod its not going to break any records but it will get me to the finish. I had said I would do it in under 5.30mins so into Corral G I was put. Kym on the other hand wanted to do a qualifying time for Boston which is something like 3:45 for her age group. An ambitious target for her first marathon. So with emotional hugs and lots of good lucks we parted at gate 3, her to run her race, me to conquer mine.
Of course being in a coral near the back meant I had a bit of waiting to do but I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere chatting with their runners and just being thankful that I was there.
I heard the announcer send off corral C where Kym was and sent up a silent prayer to whoever listens wishing her an amazing race. At 8:15 I crossed that anticipated start line, I was off. Wooooshhhhhh a release of adrenaline, I had planned my playlist so that I had one of my favorite running tracks playing as I crossed the start – AC/DC Thundersturck if you have not heard the opening guitar riff of this song I dare you to listen to it and not be moved…
As we passed under the first overpass I think half of the runners stopped for a pee! Simply hilarious! As we headed out into the city Chicago came alive, the noise of the crowd reaches you first and it never leaves. I had my name on my running shirt and therefore complete strangers would shout go Chris! Your looking great! You can do this! If you ever want to see the amazing side of human nature in action go and stand along the route of a marathon. Not only is the support from these people amazing but every single runner is running for a reason whether its for themselves or for a cause there is a reason and the inner battles that take place along the 26.2 mile route are the things of legend and movie sets.
As I “hi-fived” the crowd I read motivational posters there are a few which stuck out in my mind:
“This is the worst parade ever” made me laugh
“The Kenyans are drinking all the beer hurry!”
“Never trust a fart”
“If a marathon was easy it would be called your mother!”
There were so many of these and just brilliant support from all the crowd which was some 1.5million people! Chicago you represented!!
Running through the 13.1 mile sign letting us know we had officially done halfway also marked the furthest race I had done thus far which again lifted the spirits knowing that each step now meant a step closer to the finish! It also meant a step closer to the furthest I had run in training, about 16 miles.
I had followed a training plan but it had to also include swimming and cycling in preparation for the upcoming 70.3 Ironman only 10 days after the marathon, plus a trip to vegas had also got in the way! To top it all I simply got bored of running on my own in the dark in 100 degree heat. So I had assured myself that I had the mental ability to push myself an extra 10+ miles on the day… I hope.
I think I hit my wall about mile 18 – the legs had started to seize up and my quads felt like lead weights – I fuelled with a gel took a couple of Tylenol washed down with Gatorade and had a conversation with myself. “You only have 8 miles left, that’s not far, your not really in any pain just enjoy the day look someone’s giving out bananas got get one….. That’s how I got over my wall, simply talking to myself and picking out something of interest up ahead and saying “go on lets go see what that is. Then I would laugh at myself as I arrived a sign saying wine only 6 miles away.
20 Miles – I got a text from Kym – “Done!!! –no idea on time think 3:40!! Hope you are ok thought of you all the way.. let me know how your doing!! Love you xx” – I fired off a quick congratulatory text saying I was at mile 20. I shed a tear out of pure joy for her achieving her goal that she had worked so hard to accomplish. An amazing time sooo pleased for her. It motivated me I wanted to see her at the finish and share that hug of relief that we had done it, the training had paid off and wow!!
I plodded on like this until around mile 22 – this is where it got really tough. Allot of people were walking and struggling, I didn’t want to struggle I can do this, I don’t want to walk but yet I’m walking – Your mind starts going a little crazy you think you are running when actually your are at a slow crawl! I crawled until mile 24 – then a sign said 2 miles to go, that was it, I was running home I was going to beat this bad boy – I was going to run a marathon. 50 meters later I was walking again! The legs had gone and it was all I could do to keep moving one foot in front of the other. Which is how the weight loss had started. Put one foot in front of the other and move. Just move. 1 mile. The crowds were thick here screaming at everyone telling us how great we are, telling us we were nearly home. 800 meters said the sign, I’m not walking now, I have a slow jog on and I’m picking up speed, I see the finish, I know Kym is waiting ready to celebrate both our achievement.
I crossed the line. 5 hrs 19 mins
Wow its done – where is kym…. My father text me my time, he had been following on-line along with my mum and kyms parents plus friends here in Cayman. A flood of texts came in all very humbling and amazing to receive. Again people can be so thoughtful, this meant so much to Kym and I plus the charity and these people supported us. Amazing.
Kym and I met up and had our hug and photos – we talked of our individual races our own struggles and high points and where we hit our lows. Each of us inspiring the other. We began the 1.5 mile walk back to the hotel. It hurt, but I didn’t care.
We had done it.
The 640 Challenge continues in earnest as I get back on the bike and in the water this weekend in preparation for the Ironman 70.3 in Miami next weekend.
I spoke with the legend Derek Haines this week who completed 6 Marathons in 6 Months at the young age of 66 and he did Paris and London within a week of each other. He actually went quicker in his second marathon, which is simply stunning and quite inspirational.
So there is hope that my legs will recover from the Chicago marathon in time! Thus far only 3 toenails have turned black, I will spare you the pictures as some things should not be shared! A great line from Mr Deeds “The hideousness of that foot will haunt my dreams…”
For someone who has only just scratched the surface of endurance events The last triathlon being the sprint triathlon I have certainly jumped in with both feet going straight for the 70.3 distance Ironman.
The euphoria of finishing my fist marathon has definitely given way to the dread of this upcoming challenge. However the sense of achievement in finishing the marathon can only be heightened by the possible completion of an ironman event. I doubt it will lead its way into the full ironman but for this year with 2 more challenges ahead it will have to do!
I’m doing these events and challenges in support of two wonderful causes – the Life foundation here in Grand Cayman which provides literacy and learning for those that require support. The other cause is the Guatemala literacy Project a simply epic sustainable program that helps beat the cycle of poverty through education in Gutemala. I currently support two children through this project by paying for their schooling. The letters they now write and hope for their future is heart warming. Until you have seen 3rd World poverty up close and personal its hard to imagine what these families go through. Everyone can make a difference.
So I know we are all asked to give a plenty to various great causes. I can’t tell you this one is greater than any other. But I can tell you your money makes a difference, plus it truly helps me get across these finish lines!
I have heard the saying from small acorns come large oak tress and understood its meaning but never did I think I could plant those acorns or that one I planted would grow into something far reaching.
A short while ago I embarked on a life style change that would reduce my weight. Its not that I was massively unhealthy I just enjoyed my food and wine a little too much. Because of that my exercise revolved around walking to restaurants!
I found myself in Macys in downtown Miami circa end of 2013, I needed some new work trousers and as I went through the rack I picked off the trusted pair of 42 Long. For a good time I had always fluctuated between a 40-42 inch waist. At 6ft 4 I didn’t think there was anything wrong with this. It didn’t hold me back, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I entered the changing room and realized that these 42 inch waist trousers were at least 2 inches to small! OMG how had this happened…. Now most men will not admit they are unhappy about there weight, it a girls thing, but it was at that exact moment when I realized that “Macys” no longer did trousers in my size, that my true feelings about myself came to fruition. I hated being “big” I had been deluding myself about being tall and healthy, all my family are big, I just don’t have time to exercise etc etc etc… My own sense of self confidence was getting lower and lower because I wasn’t happy about the way I was starting to look. You would see it in photos and simply say, right I will start the gym on Monday. You never did.
Although most men will not talk about their own demons in regards weight I believe we are truly just as susceptible to conformity of body image as women, we read the male version of the magazines and social media influence of the “beach bod, men’s health cover” so we always think we are fat too! Notice that’s the first time I have used the word fat. It’s a horrid word as its connotations are so negative and the stereotypical perception of a fat person is that they are lazy or stupid. This is a huge error in judgment; I work long hours and don’t think I’m stupid I had just lost a sense of “healthy” balance in my life. You just don’t notice until you notice (If that makes sense!). My snoring problem was out of hand, my energy levels were low and my metabolism had slowed right down. All precursors to depression and further weight gain. Only an individual can stop the unhealthy living and they do need support when they really mean to take control.
My Macy’s moment was my point of self realization that I had to take control, I had avoided the scales for months but I needed to see what I had become. Nearly 320lbs.
Wow 320lbs heart attack central aged 35.
Now there are thousands of inspiring stories out there of amazing people who have taken control and dropped weight and many of them have kept it off. Those that have I guarantee made a life style change. That’s what I did.
However, I had to admit what I had become, not just to me but to my wife and friend’s. I had to tell them what I wanted to achieve over the next few years. I wanted some quick wins for motivation but I needed long term goals. I wanted to enjoy life, diet exercise had to be enjoyable it had to become part of my daily routines without thought. It couldn’t be a battle. As food or the easy option would win!
We did a few things straight away:
Cleared out the cupboards at home of junk food – if its not there I cant eat it
Lots of fresh fruit prepared in bowls in the fridge to snack on when the cravings came.
Enter an 800m swimming race (Swimming is great all over exercise with little impact on joins)
Whilst I hate running enter a 5k race as the feeling of completing a goal would be worth it
Stop drinking alcohol during the week!
The first 800m swim was only 2 weeks after we did this but along with a few friends I did it, was slow, but it was great to take part and start a little training. The first 5k was a few months away and I needed to get off the couch!
I couldn’t run more than about 400 meters without starting to struggle which really made me realize how unfit I was. I can’t say how demotivating it is when you really struggle to do something when everyone around you looks like its no effort at all. That’s why I give massive credit to anyone out there putting one foot in front of the other regardless of their shape or size because you know what, they motivated themselves to do it mainly to benefit them, not for anyone else just for them. Anyways I get off track….
These swims and 5ks were the stat of things and I needed to enter myself into events to help me stay motivated and have a small goal to achieve. It also helped that a few friends did these events with me (obviously they were quicker but that didn’t matter). You will learn that the people who take part in running clubs or tri-athlon training or any endurance sport that they do it to compete with themselves, to better their own times so they are genuinely happy for you to achieve any of your own goals! You don’t have to beat anyone else, but you do have to beat yourself! There is always a reason not to get some exercise, so give yourself a reason make it enjoyable!
Fast forward to January 2015 – I have lost over 50lbs and embarked on the Guatemala trip as previously written about. Once I returned I kept thinking about how I could continue to support this project. I am not super wealthy with unlimited resources (far from it) so what could I do that would raise awareness and possibly raise funds for this project. I started tinkering with the idea that I could run a marathon, its been done a hundred times before but it would also give me a reason to run and continue training plus tick something I thought impossible off the bucket list. Then I thought I could do a half ironman, after all I like the swimming and the biking part of it! I organized a charity bike ride in 2014 which raised $10k for the local hospice care charity so I thought I could do that again. Then someone suggested cycling the blue ridge parkway. I had no idea what the was but it sounded fun – it turned out to be 470 miles from North Carolina to Virginia with the Appalachian mountains in between! Throw in the Cayman marathon for good measure. Each of these things were happening at great time intervals, literally once a month from august until December. So an idea started formulating…. It turns out the distance of all the events combined is 640 miles the exact distance from Grand Cayman (Home) to Guatemala…. Quite some coincidence…. So there you have it the small goals this year have turned into the 640 Challenge (www.facebook.com/640challenge).
So I get to continue a training plan, keep healthy, loose a bit more weight and raise money for a good cause. I also linked a local literacy cause “LiFE” literacy is for everyone, to be a joint benefactor of funds raised along with the Guatemala Literacy Project which links both ends of the challenge. To date we are near the $10,000 raised mark and with the prospect of “Pedal to the Point” race raising and additional $10k we are going strong. You can follow the fundraising here: https://www.razoo.com/story/640challenge
So the first challenge was the 470 mile bike ride and I have written a little write up of the experience below. In short is was brutal!
However I hope this missive gives food for thought that the small goals we set ourselves can and have led into something much bigger than I could have imagined – I have been on TV and radio locally promoting the cause, I have had people for all over the world offer support and donate. Two of the best things of all – these great causes get some needed funds and I get to feel great about my fitness and the journey this is taking me on Cayman, Miami, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina, Charlotte, Guatemala – (editors note I self fund all the events so all monies donated go directly to the causes).
640 Challenge Part 1 – Blue Ridge Parkway 470 miles in 4.5 days!!!!
“Well it was a ride of two halves the first 236 miles while tough were enjoyable as my bike was working fine. Then the gods of destruction decided it was going way to well and that the challenge needed to be harder. Nevermind the fact that we were already spending 10 hours a day in the saddle, forget that some of the climbs went on for 15 miles! Really it didnt matter that we were covering over 10,000 feet of elevation in every ride… so just to make it interesting the rear hub in my wheel (Which is a new ceramic hub) failed, the bearings went… no matter we have a spare wheel. Unfortunately the cassette on the spare wheel was only a 26 compared to the 30 I did have. (the cassettes were not compatible to change over…) so now hills were slightly harder…. then the cycling gods decided that it was still too easy so around mile marker 236 the chain decided to twist itself around and rip off my rear deraliure. Never seen that happen, but without changing the whole groupset which is not a roadside repair, my bike was done. Enter, top gear style, the spare bike. whilst a nice “specialized” bike it was unfortunately a 54. A tad small for me. So with the seat post extended and the front stem at its max we managed to get some sort of fit. as you can imagine by the time we had set that bike up put my pedals on it etc.. we had spent nearly an hour at the side of the road. that day I still had 80+ mile to complete. I was cycling alone, uphill, slowly and now had saddle sore, neck issues and hurty knees! That day took nearly 13 hours to complete. I then got a chest infection from being so hot and cold all the time. the next morning was agony to get up and I had 115 miles and 4 pretty epic climbs to get through! somehow and I really don’t know how I managed it in around 10 hours which everyone one surprised about. If it hadn’t have been for the charity it would have been game over! Feeling like death warmed up I retreated straight for a hot bath and cream application to places we cant mention. Im not kidding when I say everything hurt, the bike fit was so bad it put pressure in all the wrong places! Knees especially bad. The final day was 75 miles and the 3 highest peak of the blue ridge. I was crying at breakfast as i felt so bad with my cold/chest couldn’t bare to put my bum on the saddle or even think of cycling uphill! Then one of the guys changed my saddle for a brooks saddle, it would put pressure in different places so I thought it was worth a try. Well I can only say that saddle was the comfiest thing I have ever sat on, pure joy! it lifted the spirits and the same chap (Piers Dryden of Ogier) rode the first 30 miles with me at my snails pace and got me over the first two peaks. I started to feel allot better knowing I only had one more climb then 20 miles of downhill so I told him to go on and that I would be fine now. He was a legend, I pulled myself up the last 10 mile climb with an average gradient of 10%. Then settled in for 20 miles of downhill!! I hit 54mph! past the finish and collapsed. Feeling quite euphoric at the end of it I really didn’t relish the actual accomplishment until i was wrapped up in blankets in the back of the bus. Your brain will give up 10000 times before your body will. There were times I was very close. If my bike had held up it would have been easier but still gruelling. When your not used to hills they become demons!”
Part 2 640challenge – Chicago Marathon 11th October….eeeeekkkkk