You would think as a triathlete in training I would “hale the Kale” but not so, at present I cannot function past 9am without the distinctive aroma of coffee giving me that boost. I’ve tried to quit but I don’t have the will power to both get up at 4:30am to train and not have coffee in my life. I am also the worst kind of coffee snob. No instant coffee for me, no “lets go into the office kitchen where they have a perfectly good machine”. Nope. I have to go to my barista and get the all-important skinny caramel late from them. I only have one cup a day and its got to be good. No ifs, no buts, there is a huge difference in good coffee. This morning was especially good as the tropical downpour affecting my island home for the last three days has not abated and has therefore made my training rides/runs a daily risk of life and limb. Speaking of risk to life this Ironman training absolutely sucks. I can’t even sugar coat it and say its remotely enjoyable. Last night (in the rain) I swam 160 lengths of a 25m pool to save you the calculation that’s 4km. It was dull as dishwater; there is no enjoyment until you finish. The rides have started to go beyond the 5 hour mark at the weekend followed by a run, last Sunday I did a 70.3 distance triathlon in training! I honest respect anyone who has even attempted to do one of these things. I have been on the verge of quitting for weeks now. I’m tired, grumpy and everything aches. I have an amazing coach (Kim Schwabaumber http://www.fuelyourpassion.net), brilliant training partners Danny Cummings and Andrew Kirby a squad of support “Breakaway Squad” a company that’s sponsoring us big shout out to Generali insurance and most of all the most supportive wife anyone could ask for. It takes a village to get me through this and I would encourage anyone else who does one to get a good support crew around you. The rides are long, the runs are lonely but coming back to supportive whatsapps, likes on strava and plenty of positive encouragement make you get up one more day.
I believe that the training is the hardest part of doing a full distance Ironman, I really want to enjoy race day. A good friend was doing Ironman Italy last weekend and had to withdraw after 13 miles into the run following a fall and a nasty bout of runners trots. I was really upset for him. He had done the 2.4 mile swim in a great time he had got through the 112 mile bike and had run more than half of the marathon. I called him in Italy and was amazed at how upbeat he was, I know the hours he has put in as I have seen him out on the road as the sun is rising. We are part of the same squad. He inspirers us young 40 year olds as he is a young 50 and doing his first full Ironman, I honestly got chocked up speaking with him he was so close just 13 miles from the finish. When you watch these event on TV every single person out their could be called professional as it becomes a job, around 10-20+ hours a week training just to get to the start! Aldo – To us you are an Ironman.
So its Friday, Trump will likely offend someone, this rain might never stop, North Korea might push the button, I have a ton of work to do, Ironman is in 6 weeks, Hurricanes season is not over, and if all I am moaning about is a dam ironman then I should shut up and drink my coffee as I have it better than most.
It’s so easy to say “I’m not a morning person” I know because I said it, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly! I had myself believing it. I read a lot of autobiographies – I like to read about interesting people. They are not always about successful billionaires although many of the rags to riches stories do hold my attention, many are about those who face challenges or simply do things I think are cool. Or people who have created something, a movement, project, invention. All are driven by a unique sense of purpose which you may think is uncommon yet all these people I define as successful do the same thing. They are successful because they move themselves, they do what makes them passionate and also 99% of them get up early in the morning.
However they do it in balance – they are not burning the candle at both ends and if they do its only for short periods of time. No they simply have a wellness routine that allows them to take advantage of time that us mere mortals spend in bed. Trust me I love my bed, I love sleep, I love that feeling when you wake and can drift back off to sleep knowing nothing is making you get up, I could stay there till midday. Sometimes I do. But that’s my balance. You will hear of athletes having rest days, they are as important as the training days, your bodies chance to recover and I covert them. This is because my weekday routine usually starts around 5:30am its just about getting light and I can get 2 hours worth of exercise in before my day, normally a bike ride followed by run or a swim (still training for Ironman…).
Now sometimes its not vigorous exercise that I do, I would actually class it as positive reflection, now don’t think I’m getting all hippy here but often I will just put on some music and walk or jog for an hour thinking about the day ahead, some good things that are coming up and I often visualize what I want to achieve. It’s amazing how refreshed you feel afterwards. You arrive home around 6:45am and I guarantee you do not feel one bit tired. Have a shower eat some breakfast then begin the day. You get more done in those hours than 90% of the population.
You can be in the top 10% of readiness for your day. I know its not always practical when you have families, but I seriously urge you to make this time at least a couple of time a week. It one of the best remedies for anxiety, stress, low energy and its free and easy. Plus you get the planet virtually to yourself as there isn’t many other people up and about, but here is something else I’ve noticed, anyone you meet at that time of the morning that is doing something similar to you will always give you a nod, or a hi or some acknowledgement. Because they know it’s not easy to set an alarm, get up, get out. They know it takes practice and self discipline. There is an immediate mutual respect. After a time getting up isn’t hard. You actually look forward to it! Crazy right!
I wrote the above a couple of months ago but never published it, not sure why as I still believe in the merits of early morning exercise. But since the throws of the Ironman event a week ago I had what I term as a “recovery week”. This meant that I did nothing, (apart from work) absolutely no exercise at all, no early morning walks even, just stayed in bed till it was time to get up. The interesting thing is I woke up at 6.30am on the dot every day. It was hard to go back to sleep for an hour or so… my body was willing me up. Towards the end of the week I caved and ended up playing squash one night and then on the Sunday I got up early (4:30am!) to support my better half who was running a 30km endurance race. I actually ran a 5k then rode on to support her during her last miles. The reason I say I caved was I sooo wanted to do something in the mornings that my body and mind were alert at 6:30am. This might seem ludicrous to most and believe me, it does to me! But it was almost like a drug withdrawal, the mind wants what it wants and I was telling it nope – turn off back to sleep. Do I feel refreshed from a week of nothing? Not really – I feel a little lethargic and my eating habits have succumb to a bit more candy and cakes…. So this week I am back into the routine, Monday night swim, Tuesday morning bike ride, Wednesday night run, Thursday am bike ride, Friday am ramp runs Fri evening long swim, Sat sleep, Sunday am long ride … Need to add in a few more runs.
I suppose what I am saying is when you first start out doing anything its always hard, then it becomes habit, breaking a habit is hard but when the habit you have formed is good for you its even harder to break! I didn’t realize I had become a morning person. My teenage self hates me right now, it doesn’t get it at all, but then he didn’t fear middle age and all the wonderful delights that come with it. I emailed a group of guys I have been friends with since school. Birmingham (our home city in the UK) is hosting its first international marathon so I sent them a challenge – we have one year to get into shape and run this bad boy… all before any of us turn 40. Now of the group of 4 friends only one gave it a maybe! The resultant list of maladies ranging from shin splits to arthritic hips just made me wince. These guys who I always envision being the same guys who rode bikes, played sports and were generally active have now become a range of inactive bystanders hell bent on believing that they cant do something. When did the majority of society think this way? So you have put on a few pounds, not done much in a few years, get pain in your joins with a little over exertion, well guess what its going to hurt when you get going. It’s not pretty but the end result will be life changing. None of the physicality’s reflected in my friends responses will in anyway hinder them while running, sure they will ache the whole time but that will lessen as they become fitter, lighter and generally healthier. I’ve seen people with reconstructed knees, no knees, no legs and many other life changing issues run a marathon. The only limiting factor in someone who is physically able is themselves.
So whether its getting up in the morning, or starting to exercise you, your brain and your own desire are all that stand in the way. So get up! Get out! Learn to love early starts…..
It was dark, somewhere in the distance an owl hooted. The warm breeze associated with the Cayman climate at this hour was none existent. My eyes were still heavy with sleep having gone through an all day bike mending marathon session the day before. Something that is becoming all too familiar when traveling with Danny Cummings. Our mission to arrive in the nether regions of Wisconsin were somewhat thwarted by a 14 hour travel day missing connecting flights, but thank all the gods our bikes and equipment had made it to the race start with us.
Our hotel in Racine was palatial and not what we were expecting. Its situation on the shores of Lake Michigan made it very idyllic and the sunshine and clear skies of the Saturday before the race left us no clue as to what was in store the next morning.
I love arriving at race destinations the buzz and atmosphere around an endurance event is like no other. There is respect from all competitors, respect that comes from the knowledge that you have put in time and made sacrifices to be here, the cost itself is a major part of that. To give non-triathletes a sense of what that cost is I’ll break it down quite simply:
“It would be cheaper to run a formula 1 racing team than do an ironman”
Ok I may be over egging it slightly but having winced at the $375 charge to get my bike on a plane with me (on top of our flight charges, hotel, car/truck hire, food, mechanical and various miscellaneous costs) its no wonder people only do these things once! For me however this was my 3rd such event and probably the one I was least prepared for. Having had travel interrupt my training schedule followed by a nasty chest inflection that I only just managed to control the week prior to the race, my prep and fitness were really an unknown. This was not going to be a PB for me but more like a battle to the finish.
Traveling with highly temperamental bikes (i.e the parts get broken in transit) meant that on the Saturday we spent a good portion of it readying the equipment and driving to a few bike shop to get spares or repairs, no bother its part of the fun and making sure that your racing buddies (in my case 4 of us from Cayman) are all set for the next days adventure. The non-fun part is handing over yet more cash for said spares or repairs!
4am – Alarm goes off – I think I got to sleep around 1am – bad times, but I just find it incredibly hard to sleep the night before a race, my brain is just wired with excitement and anticipation – Will I have a good swim, can I run with my bad chest…. On it goes….
4:15 – Second Alarm goes off just in case, but I am up first of all stretching then trying to force some toast and oatmeal down, its difficult, mainly I’m just trying to wake the gastro-intestinal tract to make sure I can “loose a few extra pounds” because no one wants to use a porta potty on race day… its seriously not fun….
We set off for Bike check in around 5am the sun just raising over the harbor it looked glorious – we took a few pics – it was the calm before the storm. Once we had checked in and got our stations ready the sun had given way to a dark sky filled with ominous clouds the wind had picked up and although we couldn’t see the beach from where we were we could see the flags, lets just say the poles were not standing to attention. Hummmm this isn’t looking good. Then over the speaker the announcer informs us that overnight the water temperature has dropped to 54 degrees….. my god that’s cold. Considering our training takes place in the warm waters of the Caribbean I know this is going to hurt. Danny and I had braved the waters the day before when they were at 64 degrees and it had taken your breath away you could not swim sustained in that without a wetsuit for more than 5 mins tops. People were looking anxious, I was feeling anxious and to top it off I had now caught site of the beach where large waves were waiting to great us into the water. The announcer informed us that the start was going to be delayed while they watched a particular weather front come in.
Groans were heard all around, you see our fueling plan starts when you wake up, it’s a science, if you know your going to be exercising vigorously for 5+ hours then eating becomes a science. I had taken on slow burning carbs my drinks on my bike were all prepared with various gels and supplement’s. But we are on a time line, I know my wave is/was due to start at 7:43 therefore I know roughly what time I would finish the swim and thus start on the energy drinks fueling towards the half marathon. If you burn your breakfast off before you start your fueling plan has to change. You’re going to need more on your bike. It may not make a huge difference but its stuff like this that can get in your head during a 2-3hr bike ride and leave you wondering whether that stitch on the run is due to needing more fuel etc… Anyways… The heavens darkened the weather worsened and all participants were told to take cover and seek shelter as severe thunderstorms headed our way. The Swim start was cancelled. A tough call by any race organizer but the right one, it was simply too dangerous.
Once the weather had cleared the race started with the bike and was followed by the half marathon run. It was not what we wanted but we were here and we were going to do this. We had all gone back to the hotel where a good breakfast had been eaten you know bacon, sausage egg…. Just what you want prior to doing 4 hours of exercise! The race didn’t start for us till around 11am so fueling plans were out the window it was a case of make do and get it done.
For me that was no problem – I went off with a bang with the pent up energy of a cheetah being released back into the wild I had a great bike ride and felt pretty good, that was until around 2 miles into the run when I revisited that big breakfast with very little warning! At the same time that I was regurgitating said bacon and sausage did I not get cramp in both quads causing me to fall over just as the medical cart went passed me, triggering what can only be described as a very panicked code “a” someone collapsed response. After several reassurances that I was ok I hobbled back off down the course much to their surprise. There is a bit more to this story but will leave that for the beer debrief.
This setback obviously affected my run and it was a disappointing 2 hour 40 half marathon. But at least I knew what went wrong!
I finished the 2016 Racine Ironman 70.3 cheered on by the other members of our team who also did outstandingly. I never tire of the good sportsmanship and friends I have made whilst doing these endeavors and am now in full training mode to complete the Miami 70.3 Ironman in 12 weeks time. Thanks for following thanks for the support and please do give what you can to the Mountains and Marathons challenge in support of the Cayman Islands “Have a Heart” Foundation. http://www.mm4hh.com
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.
I read an article today about an interesting chap called Jesse Itzler who owns one of the world’s largest private Jet companies. A self made man and an obvious grafter with his own cool story. However he talks about a navy seal that he met that taught him the 40% rule. In its simplicity when your brain tells you your done your actually only 40% done, which is why 99% of people who start a marathon finish the race.
However the bit that grabbed my attention in the story was how he came across this navy seal that taught him the rule. He was taking part in a 100 mile race and he was doing it as part of a relay team, the seal was doing the whole thing unsupported. The seal also weighed in excess of 260lb which is unheard of for ultra marathon distance runners.
I currently weigh in around the 260lb mark so it sparked that flare of annoyance that people immediately judge you for how you look. I recently completed a 640 mile challenge and have signed up for 3, 70.3 ironman events this year before having a crack at a full ironman next year. But I frequently get looks of “how can you do all that exercise and be as big as you are”… the honest answer is I don’t know. I have had all the blood tests and doctor visits to rule out any thyroid or metabolic issues, I’m just a big guy (6ft4). This means I’m probably not going to set any speed records but I am physically very fit. My weekly routine consists of around 150km on the bike, 30k running and 2-4km swimming all broken down into daily bouts of each discipline.
However going back to the 40% rule I absolutely believe it. When I started out I was over 300lbs and could not run more than a few hundred meters, I hated every minute of it, trying to get motivated to just leave the house and do it was debilitating in itself. But eventually you learn to almost turn your brain off, distract it and as the navy seal said in the story “if it doesn’t suck then we don’t do it”… but if you forget it sucks you can keep going even when you think your done. That’s the trick – I use the quote your brain will give up 1000 times before your body will… its written on the handlebars of my bike….
So today’s missive is a shout out to the big athletes out there, surprising people is the bit I love the most. When I crossed the Ironman70.3 Miami finish line the announcer said “and here comes a big guy, wow he can move” I was annoyed at being called a “big guy” but immediately elated by the “wow” especially as I was probably the first 260lb+ chap to cross the line that day…
This is a link to the 40% rule article, it worth 6 minutes out of your day today J
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!
T-Minus 5 days until the start of my first marathon – Chicago – There are a million questions going round in my head and for anyone who has ever trained for a marathon or any endurance race they are they following:
Have I trained enough
Have I trained right
What if I get cramp
What if I need the toilet
What if I don’t finish!
What if I’m tired before I start as my coral is near the back!
What if What if What if…..
I seriously have run out of running Mojo, its supposed to be a glorious taper time…. but I cant even be bothered to run the 3 mile taper runs this week! Its a real force to put the trainers on a get out the door! I just want it to be over! But I also want to enjoy it and its way too late to worry about the training. I’ve got up to 16 mile runs, I know its 10 miles short of the distance but I was soooo bored running in 90 degree heat and I didn’t feel it was lack of fitness it was more lack of motivation. I live on a small island so the scenery whilst beautiful is the same and when you have to run in the dark (as its too hot for distance running in the day) there is not much to see. I have listened to all of my music so many times that Im sure i’m not even listening to it anymore. Therefore I have run out of running mojo. Yet I am excited for this coming weekend! I am now committed to the fact that my time wont be quick, in fact it would rival that of a slug wading through glue, a determined slug at that and thats where I think Chicago will come into its own. The crowds the scenery, the other runners, the atmosphere will hopefully allow me to forget that at 17 miles this is further than I have ever run before. That at 18 miles my legs will be hurting, That at 19 miles there are still 7 more to go! So please Chicago if you see a man wearing a 640 challenge running top on with the name Chris on cheer loud for me I will be a hurting but determined slug.
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