Cuba Libre – Havana Nov 2016

cuba-nationalI couldn’t write a typical vacation review, I couldn’t just type away merrily about the architecture steeped in a colorful history as little of what I write would match the vivid reality of Havana. Why such literary greats like Hemmingway and Victor Hugo resided in Cuba is apparent once your there. It moves you. Cuba is such a juxtaposition as I look down from our Havana rooftop terrace, in a refurbished apartment the mixture of new world money and the abject poverty is immense. You can smell the desire and ambition from a people who are desperate to make something of themselves. The way they go about daily life is better than any reality TV show. In the last 5 minutes I have watched men lay a Tarmac street in less than 30 minutes none them resting, I’ve watch a young girl giving salsa lessons to two young boys on a rooftop. I’ve seen 5 live goats carried out of a house and loaded on a truck. A fun run has just passed the apartment with close on 500 people taking part. The classic old cars tooting their horns and ferrying people about the city. The 8 children none of whom are over the age of 8 crammed into a little shack of a building all wearing rags. The tourist with the camera. The city is alive with change, life and although run down and possessive of the poor, there is a welcome a smile, even while walking the streets back from a restaurant last night at close to midnight gangs of people did not make us feel uneasy. You see in the UK, US or even Grand Cayman when you see a group of young people gathered speaking a different language you automatically go on the defensive. It’s unfamiliar so you don’t trust it. As a white 6ft+ gringo with a blond wife we stick out like a sore thumbs people look at you, but it is not with mal intent. It’s with a curiosity and wonderment.

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This country still has people leaving/fleeing poverty by makeshift boats searching for a better life. We are able to come and go which must be deeply upsetting for someone wanting to leave here. But instead of getting angry at those who come to visit they welcome them hoping that we will be the voice of change as the government opens up its boarders once again. Internet is not freely available this should be the first change allow freedom of expression through social media – allow closed minds to see the outside world has much to offer. But with all this said Cuba is a wonderment. The establishment of some fine eating establishments and the warm regard of it’s people mean the future is bright the future is Havana.

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Get out of your head – Plus IronMan Miami 70.3 Race report :)

It’s 4:45am – I am bent over the sink in our room at the Intercontinental hotel Bayside Miami, our window looks over the swim course for the ironman 70.3 Miami which is due to start in about 2hrs time. A little voice in my head is saying “go back to bed, You have nothing to prove, seriously this isn’t just a man cold it’s a proper flu, you have no voice, this is stupid…”. The past 24hrs had been spent on a plane traveling from Cayman to Miami then into the hotel to build the bike all while convincing myself I was not getting sick. I even took the Mrs B out for dinner in South Beach whilst attempting to get someone to make me a good hot toddy (Still to find a bar tender who can replicate an Irish mothers hot toddy, one conversation resulted in me trying to explain what a kettle was to a young waitress when I asked her how she boiled water and she replied in the coffee machine!). So I have now been awake most of the night as a) I can’t breath as my nose is all blocked and b) have the beginnings of what I assume is Ebola, or the plague or something equally evil that has decided to infect me on the one day of the year I need to feel at my best. Now any endurance sports types out there reading this will acknowledge that it is the one thing we all dread, even more than a twisted ankle or pulled muscle, getting sick is just not in the plan. I mean why should we be sick, we are healthy people, eating good food and exercising like it’s a reason to exist. We become hypochondriacs, moan about every single malady that could strike us down, we all have witches brews and secret potions that we are convinced only we know about but that they will cure anything… so we are the greatest at convincing ourselves we are not sick because we have not put in all that time, training and expense to let something like the bubonic plague stop us from competing on race day.

So now you have it 4:45am I have bubonic plague.

Ok it’s a man cold but I feel like sh!t. My training over the last few weeks hasn’t been great either. I’ve not stuck to the plan, mainly because I have been traveling on business and had to fit runs in where I can. It’s that plane travel that’s made me sick, I know it! Clean recycled air my arse.

I take a look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “well I will start and if I can’t finish at least I know I did all I could. Mrs B was equally doubtful. The morning was cool and calm, a little breeze and the water temp for the swim was 83 degrees. I met up with Jon, Chris and Stuart as we headed into transition to set up our bikes and prepare for the hours ahead. All of us were quiet going through our own routines; me trying not to cough was the main thing! Once we had set up our stations I went back up to the hotel room for another check of myself, more ablutions and vaseline application to parts you shouldn’t apply to in public…Stuart and I were in the same swim wave, which was nice to have a familiar face to talk to pre race and ease the nerves which were plentiful. Stu was in pique form and looking forward to an amazing time, which I hoped he would get. My goals were simple. Try and finish! If I can finish, beat time from last year of 6hrs 8 mins, if I feel great do sub 6 hours. We jumped into the water and it was soooo much better than last year, for starters not a jellyfish in sight just me and some pretty clear water. We had 30 seconds before the starter fired the horn for our wave start and I took the time to look back upon the spectators some 5000 people lining she seafront cheering on their nearest and dearest. It always makes me smile because its one of the best sides of humanity to see. Encouragement, support, love.

With the sound of the horn I flicked the button on my watch and my race had started. I moved into some open water to the right of the swim channel found a nice rhythmical pace with few interruptions from other swimmers. The swim gives you a chance to think, reflect and talk yourself into the bike portion of the race, it also cleared out my sinuses brilliantly which I hadn’t expected and so my breathing became easy and lungs felt strong. This gave me a real lift and the hope that I might do this today after all! But this is mile 1 of 70 so lets not get too carried away. Once you hit the final buoy on the swim course and you can see in the distance those magical stairs that will take you out of the water and on to the bike its like being caught in a black hole it just sucks you in, you stay on course and for me there was no congestion as I exited the water. I took a look at my watch. 40 mins – sh!t – I had swam the same course in 32 mins last year that’s 8 minutes off the pace – immediately my head went into negative mode – “you must be sick, don’t worry just take it easy now…” but my rational side kicked in, “no way” I said to myself “ that felt good” & “my watch must be out” just keep going.

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I ran up to transition putting the swim behind me and focusing on my favorite part of the race, a 90 kilometer bike ride. The Miami bike course is pretty much out and back so you get to see the pros on the other side of the course and it always gives me a boost to see how far I am behind them etc. Especially as they started first! I flicked my watch to the second setting for bike and off I went spending only 3 minutes precious time in transition.

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Once out on the bike course I got my first shock, what felt like a hurricane of a headwind was severely hindering my forward momentum, I was looking at my speed and only maintaining around 30kph(19mph) considering I would normally average around 34-36Kph this was not amusing. You see the longer you spend on the bike the more energy you consume and I had only planned to spend 2hrs 35mins on the bike and had fueled for such. This pace would set me back 30 or so minutes which would mean I would have to grab another drink from an aid station which I didn’t want to do. So again plenty of time to think, watch your heart rate don’t over do it and remember that this headwind will become a tail wind for the return journey. So that’s what I banked on, a hurricane force tailwind on the way back, but with wind and weather you just don’t know till you turn! I don’t get passed by many other athletes on the bike section as its probably my strongest discipline, it doesn’t mean I’m the fastest but it does mean that people have to be going some and be able to maintain it to go past. I took solace in the fact that this was still holding true, other athletes were not over taking me which meant they were finding this headwind tough as well. When the turn around finally came it was with a euphoric roar that I immediately felt the release of the wind and a metaphorical shove in the back.

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It was pure joy and another much needed lift, as I was sure I could not have carried on or finished if that wind had persisted. I looked down at my speed now 45kph (27mph) wow if I could just maintain this all the way back it will be awesome. Alas the wind didn’t give as much gusto as I had hoped but it still allowed for a solid 38kph average on the way back. I sailed into the bike transition full of hope that I might get through this. Just 13.1 miles of running torture, just 4 times over that bitch of a bridge that separates downtown Miami from South Beach. You got this.

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That phrase you got this lasted until mile 4 when it turned into – You stop this now! My joints ached, my lungs burnt I was hot and quite miserable. I knew that I couldn’t stop there as I still had to get back over the bridge so I just said to myself Kym (Mrs B) is waiting at the halfway point just get to her she will make it all better. I don’t quite know how Kym was going to make it all better, but I knew that seeing Kym had to be the point of my decision. So I plodded on for 2 more miles. I saw Stu he was looking strong and on his final loop which gave me a lift. I don’t mean to sound cheesy but I do get joy out of seeing other people achieve what they want to, I know how much effort they put in. Each have their own demons, each has their own level of skill. Stu’s level is Jedi master compared to mine but either way he trains hard to achieve what he does and therefore deserves the success he achieves. I also wanted to see my other friends out on the course Jon who did this race with me last year and Chris S who has done 3 full Ironmen one of them with Jon and has certainly been another inspiration on my road to fitness as Chris battled some serious illness of his own and came through it stronger and more determined. Jon then came past in the opposite direction as he headed out on his first loop (They started about an hour after us as they are old men so were put in the geriatric wave at the back 😉 I’ll be in there age group next year, Jon didn’t notice me till I called his name, he was focused and looked really strong, I shouted he smiled and we both had said all that was needed.

As I neared where I knew kym would be I started frantically looking for her but I needn’t have worried she saw me way before I saw her and I saw the relief on her face and excitement that I was nearly done along with that look only your wife can give you. That look that says, your mad, but I get it and I love you keep going! That’s all I needed to turn round and do the 6 mile loop over that sodding bridge again. I got emotional as she ran by me for a few seconds wishing me well and asking how I was, it was difficult to talk, I think I said I’m done, I’ve nothing left. I told her I was going to the turnaround point and would be back in a sec, she crossed the road so she would be on the right side for my run back out.. During the 400 meter run to the turnaround point through the thickest of the spectators and well wishers I took stock. OK legs do you hurt? A little but we are not done yet, OK Hips, do you hurt? Yes but we are not done yet? Lungs how you doing – we are still working – It was at that point I remembered the 40% rule – when you think your done your really only 40% done, I was prepared to argue that I was about 80% done at this point but it would have wasted energy. I saw kym again then and received the lift I needed to get the last bit of this thing done. I set out on the final loop. It goes a bit blurry here lots of walking/running lots of self pep talks a bit of coughing and then as I was coming back over the long uphill part of the bridge I received a hug. It was Chris S, he must have seen me walking up the bridge and caught me up. His day wasn’t faring much better than mine plus he was still on his first loop. We walked briefly and I suggested we run back down the bridge we did but I didn’t want my slow pace to affect his if anything he had given me a boost and a distraction from my own internal monologue that got me going again. I have 15 minutes to break the 6 hour mark! Well reality kicked in I was prob moving at about the 12 min mile pace so I wasn’t going to make that, but I could beat my time from last year if I just keep moving! So following Chris’ lift I did, I urged him on at his pace and carried on at my renewed pace. It carried me into the final mile at around 5 hours 56 minutes crossing the line in 6 hours 6 minutes! A new PB Miami time for me.

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So I started this with “get out of your head”. I was in and out of my own head so many times during that race, I was ill, I know I was but it didn’t stop me. We spend so much time deliberating in our head whether we should do something or not that very often we choose not through procrastination. I said I would do 3 Ironman 70.3 events this year. I said I would get enough points to qualify as an all world athlete. I said I would get down to 250lbs by the end of the year. Well 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and the year is not over!

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Don’t let your head get in the way of a good idea. As Nike says – Just Do It!

 

 

NB: The swim course was slow as the tidal current was against us so everyone was slow! Phew! And my bike 2hrs 36 mins – we don’t talk about the run 😉

Things you can learn at a finish Line

You just have to believe!

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!

 

Enid Blyton are today’s kids missing out?

A small missive today – I found one of Enid Blyton’s books, the faraway tree. I re read it in an afternoon. I was immediately transported back to my childhood when I read all her books from the Famous Five to the Secret Seven and then the tales of the enchanted wood series. I haven’t heard any young children that I know talking about these books. Sure there are great modern alternatives, but these books come from an age of innocence, they play on the fantasies of young children and for me gave me that escape that I would one day find an enchanted forest or solve a misery and be back in time for tea!

So to all the parents out there, introduce your kids to the far away tree and I assure you they will not need an iPad to get them into bed to hear the next chapter.

I am now off to solve a mystery 🙂

Getting out of bed!

Tough few weeks on the workout front and the whilst the weight is not being put back on the motivation to keep training is waning… however it is amazing how much better you feel once you have dragged your arse out of bed at 6am and done a 20K cycle…. It is not amazing how full you feel once you have eaten a whole box of malteasers buy 11am because you need the sugar mannnn!

Now having said all this we have today put in our submission to run the Chicago Marathon in October – which if we get in means many more torturous weeks of training for what will be my first full marathon. It’s been on the bucket list for years so I am hoping I get to tick this one! I just have to keep remembering how great it feels to accomplish a goal you set that you never though you would achieve. It keeps me getting up in the morning along with not wanting to go back to 300lbs!

So tomorrow morning I run – its just one step in front of the other and it does me the world of good

An Individual Can Make A Difference!

If your sat there thinking well that’s not something I can affect change in, I would bet you serious money that you would be wrong.

I have just returned from a trip to Guatemala to see how the Guatemala Literacy project actually works. I am a member of a local Rotary club here and as a club we support this project as part of our international assistance program. A number of friends in the club have also supported this project personally by sponsoring a child to go to school.

I have never really been involved with these sorts of project as I was of the opinion that its not something I can see so is it really having an effect? However I did sign up to support a child through school and was very keen to go and experience where my money goes and does it make a difference!

All I can say is wow! The Co-operative for education and the Guatemala literacy program really is breaking the cycle of poverty through education. We visited the homes of children in the schools, I say homes they were mud huts sleeping 7 to a room. The generosity of the people and schools was overwhelming and the thanks we got for the small assistance we provide made me certain that this is a project I will absolute continue to support.

Until you have seen 3rd world poverty up close and personal your definition of poor will not be enough, when you see how these children and adults endure pure hardship and still smile you will realize that the human spirit is stronger than anything you have imagined before.

Seeing a child go to school because of your support and be able to get a job just because they have finished school when a large percentage don’t in Guatemala totally demonstrates that you the individual made a difference plus gain a friend for life in the child you support and the thanks from the family is so rewarding.

So I urge any organization or individual that want to make a difference with there CSR budget, check out the Guatemala Literacy Project. Its freakin awesome! Check Out http://www.coeduc.org

It’s the most wonderful time of the year……

Ok so for my first blog its going to be industry related but hopefully useful – simplicity personified but useful….

It’s the most wonderful time of the year……

Or is it? Most recruiters would say that January is a nightmare, the first week back in January is typically the time when recruiters receive the most CV’s per hour compared to any other time in the year. So if you want to be taken seriously answer the following questions before sending your resume in to any job in January:

  • Are you still hung-over?
    1. Yep – and feel sick can’t do this anymore
    2. Mildly – really fancy a bacon sandwich
    3. Not at all I want to push my limits
  • Do you really want a new job or just a lay in for another week?
    1. Go away (pulls duvet over head)
    2. If I use holiday this early in the year it doesn’t matter no one will notice and ill probably leave by August
    3. Not at all I have energy and passion that’s just not utilized
  • How long have you been in your current position?
    1. Christmas temp (4 weeks)
    2. 3-6 months
    3. less than one year
    4. Been here more than 2 years done everything I can hit a glass celling and its time for me to do something about it
  • Where are you in your career
    1. Not a clue first job out of collage
    2. 2nd Job thought this was going to be the big time role
    3. Have some good experience with solid tenure and need to step it up
  • What do you want next
    1. Just need cash have loans to pay
    2. Not sure something cool with googley bookface type company thing…
    3. I want to further my current experience in a bigger market with an opportunity for upward progression… (Or something similar to that)

I know the above is a little tongue in cheek but sometimes you have to spell out the obvious….

So if you answered mostly A’s – seriously don’t bother we will see right through your good festive season, settle down evaluate what your good at and what you want to do by all means talk to us about the market but be patient and come back when your are truly serious and willing to listen to guidance.

Mostly B’s – Your still not sure, poss a little naïve in the ways of the work place. Ask for more responsibility, take on new project, put yourself in a position to be noticed, remember only growth or someone leaving will create an opportunity for you. What do you have to do to be considered for that option? Reassess in 3-6 months.

Mostly C’s – OK you are ready – You know what you want – you know what you have done, you know your market you will listen to advice and you will be prepared at interview. You my friend are a true job seeking Jedi. Apply for those jobs speak to good recruiters, success you will find (End Yoda voice).

Happy New Year and good luck!