Training: Week Six

What a week. Almost seems to have lasted more than a week for some reason. Maybe because I was away last weekend in Wales, then straight to London for 3 days and then the rest of the week is just a blur of hardly being at home. Out and about pretty much the entire time. Not complaining but it does mean life admin goes to pot, which in turn is one of the few things that stresses me out. Gah.

I did manage to kind of stick to the training plan and did 43km running and 40km cycling which isn’t too shabby. Running in London was pretty nice as I ran with my work buddy Alex twice along the water, and we felt smugger than smug that we ran while everyone was piling into the free drinks reception on the first night (let’s ignore the effects of the free bar we both piled into on the second).

On Friday I had a a fitness assessment by Dr Garry Palmer at Sportstest up in Staffordshire. I’ll write a full blog post about it shortly, but basically it measured my body fat, VO2 max, heart rate etc. and he helped create a tailored training plan based on my lifestyle, preferences, heart rate, fitness etc. I luckily got this through work – supporting running the Wadi Rum Ultra for charity. Well worth doing and now I’ve done it I’d probably spend the cash myself if doing a big event or had a specific goal (e.g. turn me into a proper athlete/make me run as fast as Usain Bolt).

It’s changed my training plan a bit by adding more longer runs at specific heart rates (will still look at splitting these as well as running all in one go) and also has added cycling in to keep the effort on the legs but to reduce the strain on my knees and hips. And keep in swimming and yoga. Garry quite quickly worked out that I do things for fun, not competing, and so was keen to keep stuff that wasn’t running for me (he also realised that I get bored quickly so need variety).

Friday and Saturday saw me and Sam go walking on Leckhampton Hill, biking in the Cotswolds, eating lollies and having a beer. Sam’s rehabbing after his hip op so it was win-win for both of us. Although I do need to be knocking the drinking on the head with my training. But beer gardens and hot weather and friends just call for a beer or two.

Sunday was a long run day, and started with a £2 training plan run with Jenna where we accidentally got caught up in the start of the Cheltenham Challenge – at one point we were leading. OK, albeit as a result of taking a slightly different route…but still. It was bloody hot and hard work, so we stopped after 10km and had a rest with the BMF guys after their session, then I did the last 9.5km on my own pootling around town. Even hotter as it had moved into the hottest part of the day, although some could argue it was good training. I spent a lot of it drinking water (and trying to figure out how much water I should be drinking) and wishing I could get out the heat, and wondering whether peeling your own skin off would mean you’d be cooler.

I’m moving house in a couple of weeks which is taking up a fair amount of my time with packing, sorting shit out and just taking up brain space. Once I’ve moved I’m hoping to be more on it with the £2 training plans and a bit more organised. It’s so ironic that an ex-Project Manager to be so scatty. Although maybe not that much of a surprise for my old boss.

Training: Week Five

Hoop-la. Lalalalalala. La-la-la. Lololola. That’s how my brain is feeling right now. Merrily singing little tunes to block everything else out.

This is not because of the training, oh no. That bit is [kind of] the easy bit. Well, apart from it taking up time, that’s all. This week I’ve just ended up with rather too much to do in the time I have available. This then results in me getting a bit overwhelmed and float around like a headless chicken not knowing what to do first and end up doing nothing.

Top tip: Don’t try and do a million things at once. Sometimes though, it’s just how things work out but CATEGORISE and PRIORITISE Paps. <sigh>

This week should have been:

  • Rest Day x 2
  • BMF x 2
  • Run 60 mins x 1
  • Run 90 mins x 1
  • 4 x 20 min pickups

The pickups are a bit of a new thing for me. I’ve done them at BMF running club but not on my own as I’m not so good at pacing or pushing myself and if left to my own devices I tend to just pootle round on a jolly little jog. However, Sian and Pie came to join me and Pie and his special watch took charge of being the pace setter. I joked that the whole reason I was inviting people to come join in my training was to do some of the work for me.

I WASN’T JOKING. I need a bit of help organising and figuring stuff out.

It’s been so good to have people join me. This ultramarathon isn’t really about me. It will be about all the people that will have helped me along the way. I can’t do this alone.

I tried to get all my running done this week before the weekend as we had our annual BMF Weekender, this year in the Brecon Beacons. I didn’t quite manage it but I got most of it done (and boy, does it feel like it’s ramping up now) but the weekender also had a hike up Pen Y Fan (with some extra ‘adventure’ miles) and some canyoning so I still got time out and about doing stuff.

Training: Week Four

Week Four. That’s a month. A MONTH HAS GONE BY. Crappity crap crap crap. Still don’t feel like I’m doing much proper ‘training’ (still sometimes less than what I used to do) and this week I’ve not been very well so I’ve not managed to do everything in the right order that I should have done. Feeling like a month has gone by and I’m not sure I feel any further forward. Apparently this is OK though (so says Mark, who I have total blind faith in).

This week should have been:

  • Rest Day x 2
  • BMF x 3
  • Run 60 mins x 1
  • Run 45 mins AM & run 45 mins PM

I got to Wednesday without actually having done anything apart from drive home from Lincolnshire, drive to and from work and feel sorry for myself being ill. Nothing active. But, I’m also sensible and figured pushing myself to go out when I’m feeling shit actually would be counter productive.

So, I ate loads of vegetables and tried to get loads of sleep, and then on Thursday I went for a walk up the hill at lunch to get some fresh air, found it made me feel better, so went to BMF that evening and did the session (or, more accurately, ‘minced about’, according to Mark).

Still feeling no better, but not feeling worse, I hit the weekend (don’t forget, Friday is part of my weekend) all guns a-blazing, with running, running and more running. And a cheeky little bike ride. So not quite all the right types of sessions according to the plan, but the same amount. I’m coining this the ‘normal person training’ – hopefully showing that anyone can give these things a go and life sometimes gets in the way.

Fave run this week: Saturday with Rachel on the trails right on her [beautiful Costwold stone cottage] doorstep in Slad. Rach is one of my oldest friends (back from secondary school, way too many years ago now) and is the person who tempted me to come live in Cheltenham (for that I will be forever grateful, as I love it so much here). Why the fave run?

  1. We get to catch up and gossip
  2. Rachel made it into a £2 training plan run and gave me £2. She was disappointed I didn’t have my tutu on though
  3. We always mainly run on trails and hills. As much as I moan about them, I am getting used to running up hills now
  4. It’s BEAUTIFUL around there
  5. We laugh
  6. It was just FUN
  7. It reminds me of being a kid, just running around in the countryside getting muddy, stung by nettles and avoiding cows
  8. I got to try out my new Salomon running backpack which is what I’ll be running the Wadi Rum Ultra in (it’s the S-Lab Adv Skin 12 litre) – impressed so far
  9. There is no way in hell we would have gone running as teenagers – so the fact we both got into it as adults and now love it and mainly spend time together running in beaut countryside makes me very happy ❤

Saturday night I decided to tackle the foam roller again after our run. I’m a bit scared of it but my sports massage person (what ARE they actually called?!) said I should be doing it at least every other day, and given I’ve becoming a super athlete (you know, I’ve started yoga and everything) I thought I need to Man the Fuck Up and get on it. Literally.

And I mean, what better way to spend a Saturday summer night? All those people posting pictures of beer & BBQs on social media; give me my prawn stir fry, glass of water and foam roller any day. Sigh. The sacrifices.*

Sunday morning saw me wake up achy at 6.30am and unable to get back to sleep (FML). I had to do 45 mins so I forced half a Tribe bar down before 7am in the hope it would give me a bit of energy. I’ve subscribed to their endurance packs (like Graze but for sports people) to have a few ready-made go to bars and recovery shakes. I’ll mainly be using them when I’m doing the longer runs but it was handy this morning when I couldn’t really face any food that early.

The run was actually pretty good, and I followed it with a big bike ride with the BMF crew. But, I just couldn’t eat enough food after my run to replace the calories lost on a run and fuel a bike ride. My legs just didn’t want to go, and I struggled with the few miles just before we stopped for lunch. Much better for the last bit after I’d eaten. I’ve cancelled my last run of the week that I was going to do tonight, I just feel a bit too shattered and am going to be sensible about it. The training plan didn’t account for a 58km bike ride in between runs so I don’t feel too guilty. Lesson learnt about food though. Must eat more.

Week four roundup video:

*Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but I’m actually quite enjoying the sacrifices and feeling healthy at the moment. 

Training: Week Three

I’m getting into the groove of this now. The groove of trying to fit training around other commitments, or commitments around the training. The running is not so bad as that’s pretty easy to fit around most things as I can always get up really early, fit a quick one in at lunchtime or run later in the evening. It’s the BMF sessions. This week I was away for the weekend in visiting the family and so far, far away from any BMF type activity.

You should know that I am crap at trying any kind of high intensity exercise by myself. I wimp out really quickly as soon as it starts to hurt or when I can’t breathe. So the weekend BMF session didn’t materialise. I actually was going to try and do a HIIT session in the garden from but I ran out of time (and favoured sleep instead) but apart from that I actually smashed all the training sessions this week. I gave myself a little high-five.

Here’s what week three should have consisted of:

  • BMF x 2
  • Running 30 mins x 1
  • Running 60 minutes x 1
  • Running 75 minutes x 1
  • Rest Day x 2

The 60 minute run was before work at 6am, another £2 training plan run. Apart from feeling like I was getting up WAY before I should be (any pre-6am alarm is insane in my book) it’s actually a brilliant way to start a day. Used to do it all the time in Lincoln but not so much here, I usually try to go swimming before work nowadays if I’m going to do anything in the morning.

The 30 minute run turned into a 40 minute run with a hill and a great catch up chat with Lou. Running is great with other people because you can talk and forget what’s going on with your body. Legs hurt? Who cares, because you’re too busy listening to gossip. Running up a hill? You don’t even notice because you’re trying to recount the story of the last few weeks.

This weekend I had many chances to have a few bevvies. And yet I didn’t have a single one. Much to the dismay of my friends on Thursday who I’m sure now think I am pregnant. Friday was an epic party with all the free champers and booze you could drink, yet I spent the evening not having anything stronger than a J20. The picture below just sums it up: drinking tea with the other sober people (well, person, I’m pretty sure Will and I were the only two not drinking) at midnight in the kitchen while everyone else was carrying on partying.

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The Sober Life. Look how smug we are about Not Drinking.

There are benefits to this though:

  1. No hangover.
  2. You remember all the conversations of the evening.
  3. You have that massive smug feeling the next day when you discover that everyone feels as rough as a badgers arse and you just feel a little bit tired.
  4. No hangover. This is important as the older you get the worse they are, and so not having one is a Big Deal.
  5. No craving shitty food due to Hangover.
  6. Training is better and easier with No Hangover.

All in all, a pretty great week.

Training: Week Two

Woah! Week two down already. A week of trying to fit everything in, trying to make sure I have been food shopping, get decent sleep, have visitors, do stuff for fun and not drink too much.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t manage all of it.

Here’s what week two should have consisted of:

  • BMF x 3
  • Running 40 mins x 2
  • Running 75 minutes x 1
  • Rest Day x 2

Plus points: I did all of it apart from one BMF session, but I did an extra run (a guide run), I ran longer than 40 mins and also did another yoga session so I don’t feel too bad.

Minus points: I also didn’t eat that great/enough food and drank waaaayyyy too much last weekend.

This was also the week where I started the £2 Training Plan. Basically, the premise is that I’d like to try and raise more awareness and money for charity again, however I don’t want to just ask people to donate cash as they did that last last year when I biked the Carretera Austral in Chile. So, I figured I am only going to make people part with their cash if they get something out of it – which will also help me a) get out and train and b) make/keep it fun. So, trying to turn some of the sessions into something that other people would like to join in with (because let’s face it, no one really wants to join in a 15 mile training plod around town, do they? That doesn’t exactly scream fun). If people do want to join me, all I ask is that they pay £2 (less than a fancy coffee) which will go straight to charity.

So Wednesday saw Dave and Sian join me for a little jog around Leckhampton Hill. One of my favourite places to run (and one of the first places I ran in Cheltenham). I wore my tutu, Dave wore fairy wings, Sian had new nails and off we trotted. And what a glorious run it was!

This is still the foundation stage so I’m not doing any mega big runs, or too many sessions of BMF a week. If anything, I’m doing a little bit less than what I usually do so this is probably a good thing to get a bit of rest and not over train too early. I did some yoga again this week (still not easy in the slightest) and at some point will try to face the foam roller.

 

Training: Week One

And so it begins. Yes. Training has officially STARTED.

Eek. I’m still not quite taking it as seriously as I should be perhaps. Mark ‘the mountain goat’ from BMF is helping me with a training plan, and these first few weeks are all about building a good foundation of a bit of running and some strength and conditioning work. It’s actually less than I normally do, so I’m taking some confidence in that perhaps I am already a super athlete.

Here’s what week one should have consisted of:

  • BMF x 3
  • Running 40 mins x 2
  • Running 60 minutes x 1
  • Rest Day

I didn’t do all the above, and I didn’t do all of them in the right order but I already had stuff planned in so found it hard to fit it all in, especially the BMF which is only on certain days and times. This weekend was a dragon pedalo (dragalo) adventure commitment, beers and helping friends out which didn’t fit quite so well. I’m making sure my diary is a bit clearer from now on.

I’m also realising I’m going to have to get my nutrition into gear and make sure I’m eating the right stuff at the right times. At the minute I don’t feel I’m doing enough for food to be that important but probably should start sooner rather than later. Apparently I need to stock up on jelly babies. I can do that.

I’m also going to add some things in that aren’t on Mark’s plan, like yoga and swimming which will help with all round flexibility and recovery. Hopefully.

And of course cycling for fun. FUN. Still need to have a bit of that.

Next on the list of things to do/research/get scared by is to get a kit list together of things needed so I can go and spunk a huge amount of money on shiny new running stuff and book some flights.

Operation Desert Fun: start prep

So I’ve signed up for this desert ultramarathon thing. I’ve stopped feeling physically sick (yes, I actually did for about two days). I’ve got over an initial wobble after a few people told me I probably couldn’t do it (I’ve chosen to ignore that).

Now what?

Probably should do some prep. And training. Yes, that’s not a bad idea.

How do you train for this?

Honestly, I have no idea. In simple terms from the brief research I’ve done so far the advice mainly seems to be to: run lots. And walk. Mainly anything that gets the miles in my legs and time on my feet.

There are a couple of important points to remember:

  1. I won’t be running all 260km. No, a large percentage will be walked. The main thing will be to maintain a consistent, steady pace.
  2. I will never have to run 260km in training, far from it in fact. It’s likely the most I will do in any one go is around 45km.

Makes it sound a bit more achieveable doesn’t it?

It’s not just all about the training. The way I see it there are four main things to think about:

Training | Nutrition | Kit/equipment | Self care

Training

I’ve yet to put a proper training plan together – but I’m getting some help with this to have something I can start when I get back from New Zealand. Mainly though it will just have some goals of distance and timed runs each week (progressing steadily). Now, to someone who doesn’t like planning and prefers to be spontaneous this is probably going to be quite difficult. But, this is all part of the challenge.

To keep it more interesting though, I have come up with a cunning plan! I’m going to call it the £2 Training Plan. Basically, the premise is that I’d like to try and raise more awareness and money for charity again, however I don’t want to just ask people to donate cash as they did that last last year when I biked the Carretera Austral in Chile. So, I figured I am only going to make people part with their cash if they get something out of it – which will also help me a) get out and train and b) make/keep it fun. So, when I sort my training plan out I am going to try and turn some of the sessions into something that other people would like to join in with (because let’s face it, no one really wants to join in a 15 mile training plod around town, do they? That doesn’t exactly scream fun). If people do want to join me, all I ask is that they pay £2 (less than a fancy coffee) which will go straight to charity. Hopefully that seems fair.

What’s that I hear you shout? “Great idea? Sounds good? What KIND of fun things Pappity-pap?” WELL. Take your pick. (Disclaimer: you may not deem all of the below to be fun)

  • Fancy dress run
  • Treasure hunt run
  • Litter pick run
  • Sightseeing runs (new places)
  • Yorkshire 3 Peaks (twice – run and/or hike)
  • Cheltenham circular
  • Pen Y Fan / Fan Dance
  • Cotswold Way (all of it)
  • Intervals & hill repeats
  • Run long (around 5% increase each week)
  • Strength (BMF, weights class at gym)
  • Races – half & full marathons
  • Rat Race Dirty Weekend (20 miles, 200 obstacles)
  • Cotswold 24 hour relay run – possible solo entry
  • Hiking anywhere and everywhere
  • Cycling (FUN and good cross training)

Basically, anything that keeps me on my feet and legs moving and distances or times to fit in with the plan. In any weather. The more fun the better. Any ideas welcome!

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I also intend to always wear a tutu and fairy wings when I train. Then if anyone spots me they can be reminded of how mental I am what I am doing and shove a £1 in the pot or tell someone about NMO-UK Research and what they do.  Today I went out as a ninja but I’ve decided it’s not quite the same.

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I’ll post more details once I’ve got my plan sorted and get some dates in for some events – so if you fancy joining me on anything let me know! I’ll be creating events in the PapsLife facebook group so become a member if you’re not already.

I’m also going to be looking into trying to train a bit in a heat chamber nearer the time (apparently you only need to heat aclimatise a month or so before you go, so no point in doing it yet). In absence of sorting that out, I will just run in the middle of the day in the English summer. That should do it.

Nutrition

I’ll admit, this is an area I really don’t know much about. I do know more than I did a few years ago through some of the long distance bike rides I’ve done but I suspect that’s very different fuelling to running. I learnt the hard way with that by doing all my bike training with not much food and wondering why I felt like shit after about 4 hours of cycling, and then overdosing on protein bars while doing London to Paris 24 hr and having to disappear into the woods a number of times and cycling the last 50 miles with agonising stomach cramps.

So for this, I’m going to try to do a bit more research to avoid collapsing or any desert-toilet mishaps, and work out how I can still EAT ALL THE FOOD.

Kit/equipment

Apparently this is super important. I need the right kit. Lightweight and stuff that does the job, and does the job well. I need to research this a hell of a lot, and soon, because it’s important to train in the same kit as you will race in. I am scared as hell of the one thing that all sports people are also scared of: CHAFING. Urgh, Saying the word just makes me feel sore. Helen told me about a particularly bad chafing incident in one of her jungle races. Scared. There is a possibility I will just be running head to toe in Vaseline. Not sure how wise that is.

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Any tips/products/kit to use (or ones to avoid), send them my way!

Self care

So, kit food and training sorted, I’ll be hopping and skipping my way through the summer, following the training plan and basically DOING A SHIT LOAD OF STUFF.

It’ll be a pretty punishing schedule, so I’ve also added the category of Self care (you know, nice stuff to make sure I’m being kind to myself and helping my body not to get injured or pissed off at me). Consisting of:

  • Regular sports massages
  • Foam roller every other day (I’m still a bit scared of this but I WILL make myself do it. Alternatively if anyone wants to come over and do it to me I will pay with cake)
  • Yoga (I have a mat. And a book. But not so bendy body. Still, I’ll try.)
  • Healthy food
  • No Less booze
  • Good quality sleep (aka no minimal late nights)
  • Learn how to strap feet and treat blisters (this is mega important with the sand and mileage apparently)
  • Fun with friends (I’m not going to become a hermit. Have you SEEN Cheltenham in the summer? Picnics in the park, lush beer gardens and weekend BBQs. <happy sigh>)

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So, there we go. Sounds pretty simple really. I’ve kind of started already in that I’ve made sure I’m running more than I have been, and most of my time in New Zealand will be spent walking so it’s not all lost, but I’ll get my arse into gear properly in May when I get back.

Now, in the meantime, where’s that beer?

It all starts with a click

It’s oh-so-easy to do stuff on the internet. A couple of clicks and before you know it you’ve bought a 100 pack of tennis balls, £40 of shampoo or entry to a desert ultramarathon.

The latter is me this week. I’ve signed up for the Wadi Rum Ultra in Jordan. This October I will be running 260km through the desert.

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No, that’s not a typo, it is 260km through a desert. You know, those hot places. I do feel a bit sick if I think about it properly. In fact, I’m shitting myself. The thought of it scares the hell out of me, genuinely. Right now I’m not quite sure how I’m actually going to be able to do it.

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I just know I can’t blag this one. There’s no just turning up and hoping it will all be OK. So as long as I do some research, some preparation and lots of training, I reckon I can give it a go. I remember back in the day when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run 5km. This is kind of the same thing, just scaled slightly higher, right?

It’s supposed to be a challenge, and yes, to those people who have questioned it, I know it’s extreme, but please don’t tell me I can’t do it. I do know what I’m doing and will be training for this one. It scares the crap out of me but a wise person once told me that you should do things that scare you. It will certainly be a life experience.

Check back here for updates on training progress over the next few months.

 

 

How to bike from London to Paris in two easy steps.

1. Buy a bike.

2. Pedal.

Yep, it’s as easy as that.

Kind of.

When I signed up to cycle London to Paris in 24 hours, I didn’t really read all the details. So I didn’t really appreciate how far it was or how much training I’d have to put in. Or how many times I’d fall off before getting the hang of clippy pedals. Or how much nutrition plays a part. And how hard training can be if you want to try and have some kind of social life. Especially when you’ve just moved to a new place and are making new friends. Or how much kit I’d need. And how much it would cost in all. Or how much of a headache the logistics would be.

But, I’d signed up. I’d paid the cash and committed. No going back. I wanted to do it.

So I did what I needed to do. I tried to get out on Bob the Bike as much as I could. Which, when you work away most of the week, is not that much. I got bored with the training. The weather hasn’t been that great and I hate to admit that I’m a bit of a fair-weather biker. Not a fair-weather runner, but biking in the rain isn’t that appealing.

I tried to eat well but that didn’t always work out. I tried not to drink too much. I tried to get enough sleep.

D-day came around pretty quickly. I’d managed to get everything sorted for it, like all the practicalities of getting to London, staying in Paris and getting back again, but did I feel prepared? Did I fuck. I’d felt positive a couple of weeks before after a pretty intensive training weekend back in Lincs. I’d cycled a decent amount, in all weather too and my legs felt good. I’d been going to BMF and still running a bit so felt my overall fitness was alright. But the weekend before the event I didn’t get out on the bike at all. In fact I spent it out socialising, drinking and eating shit food. Not the best way and when the Saturday came around the positivity I’d felt the week before had definitely slipped down the scale somewhat. But, being the eternal optimist I am, it was still there. Because it never really crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I knew I would, somehow. Even if it took me ages and I limped towards the Eiffel Tower, I always pictured myself doing it. Not doing it just wasn’t an option, because I’m stubborn and it was in my power. No one else was going to do it for me so I sure as hell would give it my best shot.

So off I trotted with Bob, my gear for a couple of days in Paris, a comforting sense of mild apprehension and some lovely messages of support. Also walking like I was wearing a nappy, courtesy of some beautiful new padded GORE cycling shorts I’d been given (later to be worth their weight in gold, frankincense AND myrrh).

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Thank you, First Great Western for making it so easy to travel to London with my bike. Not so easy on the underground, although I can’t blame TFL for that. It’s just not easy taking a full size bike onto a crammed circle line train at lunchtime on a Saturday (although before you say anything, it’s allowed, it’s off peak and one of the few lines you CAN take a bike onto. I checked. Obvs.). As I would have loved to have pointed out to a chap on the tube. I would have actually acknowledged that I know I was a fucking pain in that car if he been man enough to say something to me about it rather than ranting under his breath to his girlfriend thinking I couldn’t hear.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a blow-by-blow account of the whole 200 miles. You wouldn’t want to read that just as much as I wouldn’t want to write it. But, just while we’re on the subject, 200 miles is quite a long way I think. I still can’t really picture it in my head. But it’s a fairly long way to drive in the car, so even longer to bike. I just never really thought of it as 200 miles. Think that’s the key. Just think of the stints between rest stops. Between 20-30 miles each one. Pedal, stop, EAT, pedal, stop, EAT, pedal, stop EAT.

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Yes, yes, you have to EAT. And eat LOTS. This is good for me. I like EATING. The rest stops on this challenge were immense. So much food to choose from. It’s actually amazing how much of a difference this makes. If you don’t eat enough there’s just no energy. Keep fuelling and you can keep going. The human body is an amazing thing. Food is fuel really, that’s all.

So the English leg was a bit time pressured. We had to make the ferry or that was it, adventure over before it began. So, pedal to the metal. Or, foot to the pedal. Or pedal to the floor. Whichever, the legs had to spin round fairly fast. And there were a lot of hills. Good job I’d done most of my training in the Cotswolds. A mixture of riding with new friend Roger, who kept me entertained up and down the hills of the South Downs, and riding alone day dreaming and admiring the view and thanking my nappy shorts for meaning my arse wasn’t hurting yet. About 10 miles to go and the rain started. We’d actually been really lucky up to then and it was only cold and windy. It was supposed to rain all afternoon so an hour in the rain wasn’t too bad. So, it got wet. And dark. Luckily I’d caught up with some riders and there were some behind me too, so we rode into Newhaven in a small peloton of flashing red lights, dripping helmets, big smiles of relief and confusion over the entrance to the Premier Inn. Note: riding a bike in the dark in rain with glasses means you can’t actually see much apart from huge flashing fuzzy red circles. Solution: Stick to the wheel of the guy in front of you and hope he doesn’t brake suddenly. 

Getting to the Newhaven Premier Inn in really good time was a huge boom. I was well chuffed with myself and my legs. It was the most I’d cycled in one go (60 miles) and my legs felt strong and my arse was absolutely fine. Things were looking sweeeeet. Being soaked wet and going inside, eating and then having to layer back up in wet stuff to get back on a wet bike to cycle the 5 mins to the ferry port wasn’t so sweet though, but it was one milestone down and I knew I had a few hours in a [hopefully] warm ferry to dry out. Oh, and of course it wouldn’t be raining in France because that’s abroad and every knows it’s warm abroad, right?

11059718_10153271100251341_9194213874000144991_nI didn’t really think about what was to come. Whether it would be raining or not. What’s the point? It would be what it would be. What I tried to do was go to sleep. Didn’t quite manage it. Think I got about an hour. Dried out though. By the time we’d got through all the passport shizzle and eaten a banana or two, we were all off at 5am french time, riding in the dark on the wrong side of the road, flashing red lights as far as the eye could see.

I’ve only been to France once before, to Nice, so riding through little quaint countryside villages at dawn with silence apart from cockerels crowing (reminded me of Laos, seemingly the SE Asian land of cocks) and no one around was pretty special, but having to keep up the speed, concentrate on where you’re going and try to hug someone’s back wheel as close as possible to get in their slipstream meant that I didn’t really get a lot of time to look around and take it in. I do remember being pleased it was flat though. And smooth tarmac. Lovely.

And the route was fairly flat. Only a couple of hills (one only about 20 miles from Paris when most people had tired legs, but that earnt me the title Hill Monster. YES.). This is a fact to rejoice, although I do like the other side of a hill. You know, the coming down bit. That’s fun. Unless there are potholes. Then it’s not. My top speed on the english bit was 63km/hr. That’s over 40 mph I think (can’t be arsed to look for the conversion). You don’t want to be hitting a pothole at that speed, trust me.

It rained though. Pretty much all the way. Mostly drizzle that you kind of forgot about, but sometimes really heavy. We were all soaked for the whole 12 hours or so we were biking in France. Didn’t notice it after a while. And my kit served me well. Very well.

I rode with a small peloton all the way. We swapped stories, laughs, interesting facts and Bon Jovi songs. There were wild boar, bike pile ups and accidents involving sunglasses and commando rolls. We got stopped by the Police, who couldn’t really speak English and so ended up just telling us to ‘bike faster’. Pretty sure we were ALL GOING AS FAST AS WE COULD RIGHT THEN. I learnt more weird cycling hand signals used when biking in a group. It’s like another language.

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I learnt about nutrition, or mainly what not to eat. I’d not had chance to practice any kind of strategy (in fact most of my training rides were done without any nutrition – not recommended), In my case on this ride it was protein bar type things. Easy to put in a jersey pocket but my stomach did not like them. Not one bit. I spent the last 50 miles (believe me, this is a Long Way) with stomach ache trying not to think about needing a shit. I had to stop twice to be a bear in the woods. I’m sorry to all the people in the bar who got this story first hand that night. But, in the interests of education to all you people who may want to know what it’s like to do something like this, it’s important you know the actual Truth. It is not glamorous. I don’t normally have protein bars or any kind of of protein shakes etc. And I definitely wouldn’t again. Natural stuff all the way. Next time I’d make sure I had time beforehand to prepare some stuff to take with me.

Next time?

Yes, I said next time. As much as I am pleased it’s over and feel like I’ve got my weekends back, it was an incredible experience that I am one million percent pleased that I did. That I signed up on a whim and gave it a go. Because this used to be the kind of thing that other people did. That I read about but never thought I’d be able to do. But now, now it’s the kind of stuff do. I achieved it. ME. I DID IT. I tell you, that feeling of seeing and riding up to the Eiffel Tower for the first time was pretty damn special. And I got there without feeling completely broken! I actually did a little jog once I was off my bike to show my legs still worked. Probably completely high on endorphins and adrenaline at that point but hey, I could still walk. And surprisingly, my arse was not in bits. The ibuprofen I’d been popping religiously probably helped, but also my new shorts. Super nappy strength padding. I could sit down perfectly well. OK, so the whole area was a bit, shall we say, delicate, but this is hardly surprising after riding a bike for 18 hours in wet gear. A bit of savlon and a nights sleep sorted that out.

That smile, that’s for fucking real, that is.

11128625_10153271100871341_3010373041973151811_nThat and for my grandad, who died a week before I did this and so never got to know that I made it. And for all the people that want to but can’t do something like this, for whatever reason. I didn’t do this for charity, although I know a lot of people did. Do feel free to donate to your favourite charity though if you’ve been inspired. Or stick a few pence in the charity tin at the next shop checkout you go to.

I met so many awesome people; all doing the same thing but for so many different reasons. Everyone has their own story, struggles and motivations. All brought together by a common interest and a beer afterwards. The sweetest beer.

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So yes, there will probably be a next time. There will be something else. Right now the only things I have signed up for are a few running things over the summer. A half marathon, a 24 hour team relay endurance run and an obstacle course. There will be some summer cycling though, trust me. Me and Bob are not ready to part company just yet.

I’ve realised that the human body is an amazing thing. My body amazes me. I think I’m maybe fitter than I thought. I know I can do stuff, and I’m still figuring out what that is. If I don’t give things a go then I’ll never find out.

Life is for living, and for me, this is how I choose to live.

If anyone is thinking of doing anything similar, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. You CAN do it, it WILL be amazing and you should totally do it. Give it a go. If you don’t try you’ll never know. What have you got to lose?

You can do anything you bloody want to, you just have to believe.

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