Monday, 31 October 2016

2016 - Part Deux!

....the writing continues!

MILTON KEYNES MARATHON


As a result of missing out on the ballot for London once again and no Charity place forthcoming, Milton Keynes became along with Manchester my focus for the Spring. It would be the first time since my younger days that I'd taken on two marathons in the course of a month. What was even more alluring about MK (not just that it's my home marathon) was that so many of the guys were determined to push their own limits and join me. For the majority of the guys that signed up with me, it would be their first marathons. That speaks volumes for the type of people supporting this Challenge.

For me it has become the norm, it's strange to think that marathons have become 'staple' training and in the months that follow and especially into the early part of 2017 they will become the basis of keeping 'easy' miles in the legs without putting the body under too much stress.

Jay and I post MK Rocket - Sunday Morning
We all met up the night before at TGI's for some pre-marathon fuelling (post the MK Rocket), everyone was in high spirits, relaxed and really looking forward to the morning. Sadly by the time morning came around Jay Prior had taken crook and was very green at the start, having already been very sick that morning. That continued throughout the race for him, he got himself to 18 miles before his body determined that he had to throw in the towel.

 

#Team100Peaks
For me the race, in pretty much the same way it had at Manchester went to plan, I resolved to myself that if I could hit around the same time posted in Manchester then that would be a decent effort. The course was great, very varied and obviously very familiar at times, as I'd spent a fair amount of time running various parts of the course during the time I'd lived there with Caz, before we moved.

It wasn't until the last mile when I got that sense of impending doom, that something was about to go wrong. Cramp just hit me out of no where, literally as I was making my way on to the approach in to the Stadium Complex. It was excruciating and meant a few minutes of massaging a few muscles back in to less painful life. It was absolutely gutting as I was on course to break Manchester's time, not by much, but beat it all the same.

On the finishing straight in to the Stadium Complex
The last mile became a 'limp' home until I got the shouts from Caz and the littleman and those supporting on the finishing straight. As I made my way in to the Stadium for the finish, I could hear four women (in a relay) behind me and the thought was, there is no way they're beating me across the line. I gritted the teeth and gave it one last effort, crossing in 3:40:21, so eventually four minutes outside Manchester. 

Thou shall not pass......
On reflection it wasn't a bad result, a few weeks after Manchester and arguably on a much tougher course, ultimately I achieved what I set out to do, which was to run two marathons in a month, beating my previous years time. I collected my bling and my my bag and joined Caz and the Littleman as they'd made their way in to stand to see me finish. Sweaty embraces and "you're honking daddy" done, we made our way back to cheer the rest of the guys in. 


The day was finished off in perfect fashion with a post-race pit stop at Pizza Express in great company and many vows to endure more marathons together including MK. 

100 PEAKS TEAM LAUNCH AND BARRIE'S 24hr ROW

Friday 13th & Saturday 14th May


No less than two weeks later we were all making our way to Colchester for Barrie's World Record attempt at the 24hr Row and the small matter of the team launch that had been in planning for the last 6 months.

With the incredible support of 16 Air Assault Brigade and Simon Ferrier at ABF The Soldiers Charity the Venue for Barrie's attempt couldn't have been anymore fitting. We assembled at the Cpl Bryan Budd VC Gym on Friday afternoon with the gym set up for us ready to go. Barrie had checked his machine and those of us that had 'dropped in' to support him waited in excitement for the clock to tick over to 1700.


Let's do this.....
The first couple of hours passed pretty quickly with plenty of banter, puff, Barrie barely breaking a sweat and without incident and then disaster struck. Barrie's machine decided to throw a spanner in the works, completely wiping his log and not recording any of the data for the first couple of hours. We looked at the time and decided that we should swap machines and have another go, but half an hour in the same thing happened, machine swapped again and off Barrie goes again, for it only to happen a third time, exactly 30 minutes later.

The dejection in the gym was palpable, every one of us in there felt for Barrie, all that planning and preparation he'd put in undone by technology. I think collectively we all looked at one another and thought, surely this can't be it, but in true trooper fashion, Barrie declared that we were cracking on and with renewed vigour and a spring in his stroke, we embarked on the mother of all gym sessions instead. As a sage or two will often document "....no plan ever survives first contact" and ultimately it's all training!

With the disappointment of the record no longer being achievable behind us and more importantly the main man, Barrie would continue recording his distance as best he could while the rest of the support team would row and bike alongside him in mutual support of his epic efforts. Working in shifts between bikes and rowing machines whilst catching valuable minutes of sleep where we could it became a chase to achieve as many km's as possible.

I think it's fair to say everyone that was part of Barrie's 24 hours had the best fun you could possibly have, whilst being sleep deprived and sweating their a**es off. Well all of us except Barrie that is, who somehow appeared to not break a sweat at all during the whole 24 hours. To watch him crack out 24 hours solid on that machine was to witness greatness and it's fair to say that all of us felt privileged to be part of what he achieved.

And at the end? By 1700 on the Saturday evening, Barrie stepped off the rowing machine for the final time. He had amassed an incredible 242km, the equivalent distance from Colchester to Rotterdam!

Done, albeit, done by technology!
And the 24 members of the supporting team? An enormous 2,109km - made up of 542km on the rowing machine and 1,567km on the bike, the equivalent distance travelled from Colchester to the gates of Athens in Greece!

OK so the world record might not have been broken on that warm night in a gym in Colchester, what was achieved though was quite remarkable.

A huge thank you to all members of the 100 Peaks Team who came to support, those that cycled and rowed alongside a legend, the man himself Barrie Williams - who maintained his composure and good humour throughout some of the worst music playlists ever heard in a gym!

Proud to be in the presence of Greatness!
A special MiD for Alan & Tom Wilkins, Richard Grisdale and Ying Ying, Stu Bigg, Jay Prior, Simon Ferrier, Venessa Moffat, Charlotte Glass, Martin Ledgeway, Mrs J, Barry  Jones, Kim Treece, Paul Southernwood & Lesley Kemp, James Nicholson, James Allen, Steve & Rachel Long, Dale Mason, Stuart Twigg, Gadge & Laura, Charlie Rushen & the Ghost!

Charlie helping Daddy out!
On 18th/19th November 'Big Bad Barrie' will be back for 'Sore Ar*e 2 - the re-Row' or 'Rovember' as he's branded it, this time at David Lloyd Colchester, the Challenge to once again attempt to break the World Record will begin at 1700, please come and support if you're in the area!

SATURDAY 14th MAY - TEAM LAUNCH EVENING


With thanks again in no small part to Simon Ferrier and 16 Air Assault, post Barrie's Challenge we began to gather at The Pegasus Club on Abbey Field for the Team Challenge Launch Evening.

The intention of the evening was to get all of those incredible people that have made this Challenge what it is, together, to draw a line in the sand. To celebrate how far we've come and to emphasise what we have to do in the year to come.

As well as so many of the Team we were joined for the evening by family, friends and Lt Col Griffin OBE and Adventure Queen and Mischief Maker Anna McNuff.

True 'Adventure Queen' 
The evening was opened by our Project Manager Barry Jones, who gave everyone an insight in to the project, where we're at and what's to come. It set the tone for the rest of the evening.......

We had the 'ABF The Soldiers Charity' and 'Support our Paras' represented by Simon Ferrier and Simon Cooper respectively, who both gave very stirring presentations of what the Charities do and why the support they receive is so important.

Then it was my turn, I agonised over my words for weeks, the one thing I dread more than anything is addressing a crowd, I've only ever done it twice before, on Lloydys wedding day and reading his eulogy the day he was laid to rest. Talking about Lloydy is both therapy and emotionally difficult, nearly five years on, as therapeutic as I find it talking about him to family and friends, I underestimated how difficult it would be to address a crowd for a third time to talk about him.

I think at this point it's better to let (some of) my words do the talking (or writing in this case).

".....it's now that the hard work starts, I recently used the quote "think BIG, dream BIG, but start small, start where you are, with what you have, because what you have is plenty." When I look at the faces in this room and consider the offers of support from others and the desire to be involved and the enthusiasm that's been generated for the Challenge, we have plenty. We have a collective desire to create and share in that epic vision I had and a belief in what we are doing and why we are doing it.

That for me is amazing, because ultimately as I said not many of you knew Lloydy, but somehow my pride and love for him and what he achieved has touched and inspired so many. Lloydy if truth be told would be wondering what all the fuss is about, he'd never classify himself as a hero, he was doing his job as far as he was concerned. However, I promised that from that moment I said goodbye to him that for as long as I can still utter his name, he will never be forgotten and that I will celebrate him and the life he led. You have all helped me do that along with so many others and together we will create a legacy in his name that means, I hope, many others will know of him and celebrate him and all those that gave and will continue to give selflessly.

To all of you who have embraced the notion of "going always a little further" and wanting to be part of this, pushing yourselves beyond your perceived limits to become the most inspiring part of this project. Your collective achievements have been astounding and to date those of you that have already begun your fundraising efforts means we're close to the best part of £7,000.00, with so much more to come.

The 100 Peaks Challenge is not just an event, it's a journey, a life defining journey for all of us that are part of it. It's something that we can share for the rest of our lives and use to inspire others. That is the simple premise and the driver for us all, to be inspired and be inspiring. It's a celebration of true heroes, it aims to give hope to those that need it through the Charities we are supporting. This is Lloydy’s legacy, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping make it a reality."


In truth my speech was a blur, tough to read and at times even more difficult to get my words out, without breaking down. I'm just grateful I could hand the baton over to the awesome and inspiring Anna McNuff to bring everyone back up again.

In true McNuff fashion the group were immediately uplifted and captivated by her tales and not least her pants of perspective. On a personal level it topped the night off having someone like Anna address the group, she's inspiring with her 'can do' attitude, the right kind of person to put the puff in the collective chest of the Team. Gracious and engaging and unflappable under pressure, despite the best attempts of my 2 year old Son Charlie, enjoying the audience and playing entertainer for the crowd, as he heckles the Adventure Queen with a "Cock-a-doodle-doo"! That's my boy, not one to be upstaged and certainly loves to be the centre of attention.

Looking around the room as Anna did her stuff, there wasn't a face in the room that was not lit up by what she recounted in her tales and experiences. It couldn't have been a more perfect conclusion to what we hoped would be a very inspiring evening for everyone.

In true James Allen fashion the evening wouldn't have been right without his flared nostrils demanding a selfie, which actually oozes a fair bit of awesomeness! Thank you Anna! You're a superstar, you now have my superstars believing the impossible is indeed possible!

Getting some 'perspective'.
The evening couldn't have been such a success without the incredible efforts of a very notable few, not too mention everyone that turned up to support the Event itself.

Furthermore it wouldn't have been possible without the energy of Simon Ferrier, the efforts of Lt Col (Retd) Steve Absolon and Steve Woods and the Sodexo Team at the Pegasus Club and Bryan Budd VC Gym. I also wish to thank Lt Col Griffin OBE for taking the time to attend, an appearance that in no small part put "the icing on the cake".

SUNDAY 15th MAY - PARAS'10 COLCHESTER


Now there is AWESOME and then there is 100 PEAKS AWESOME, after the weekends exploits many could have been forgiven for sacking the idea of doing the Paras'10, after putting in the efforts that were evident over the course of Barrie's Challenge. But not only did everyone 'get a grip and crack on', there were many sub 1:50's and PB's all over the show!

#Team100Peaks grows ever more magnificent!

See you in a little while!
For me personally it was a 1:40, 5 minutes quicker than my last effort in November, I've said on many occasions previously, that the Paras'10 and Fan Dance are probably the best marker in terms of how far I've come personally. I'm proud of 1:40, the next real milestone would be sub 4 on the Fan in July!

Making a dash for the line!
In true Colly fashion, despite the script provided by the Met Office, once again, The Paras'10 doesn't adhere to the weather broadcast and generated it's own sticky balmy weather solely for the event. A predicated 11 deg and cloudy became 24 deg and sunny all the way round!

It's very difficult to express fully the pride I feel when I see an area completely bubbling with excitement and that excitement is adorned in 100 Peaks T's and that swells even further as you watch each and every one of you guys making your way to the finish line in true 100 Peaks fashion - giving it your all!

The Paras'10 is really, as I've said before where this all began, where the 100 Peaks seed was sown, and to see it continue to grow (at the event) in the way it does is very humbling. To witness what we're trying to achieve as well become fully entwined with the Paras'10 again just as humbling, this is an event that when the Challenge is done I'm sure will remain something that the majority of us will still earmark in the Calendar as an opportunity to get together, and I for one fully endorse that. The Paras'10 is a family and it helped shape and create the 100 Peaks family and for that I'll be forever grateful!


...big love everyone, see you back on the Fan for Part 3!


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Finally back to writing......

......well where has this year gone!? 


It would appear I have a lot to catch up on!

OS COBBLER CLASSIC - April 2016
GTR MANCHESTER MARATHON - April 2016
MILTON KEYNES MARATHON - May 2016
100 PEAKS TEAM LAUNCH & BARRIE'S 24hr ROW - May 2016
PARAS'10 - May 2016
CATERAN YOMP - June 2016
SUMMER FAN - July 2016
SNOWDON - PROJECT TWO - July 2016
COUNTRYFILE - August 2016
BERLIN MARATHON - September 2016

My apologies firstly, between family life, work, planning The 100 Peaks Challenge and training, finding time to write has become difficult, so I'm forcing myself to sit down and get this done and try and put this year in to perspective a bit. 

The year began as it always does with the Fan Dance, this year taking it on 'Back to Back'. The Saturday saw me record a 4:01 in pretty atrocious conditions, which I was obviously pleased with but a minute outside 4 hours meant there was a niggle. However on that basis, it was a sign of the massive step forwards I had made in my training, fitness and general race/challenge management. I'd knocked 23 minutes off my Summer time, so I had to record that as a massive positive.

With the disappointment of once again (for the seventh year in a row) missing out on the London Ballot, at the end of 2015 I booked in a couple of Spring marathons. My two fingers up to the process, first up would be Greater Manchester & followed by Milton Keynes (in essence my home city marathon). 

Before that though as part of my Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion duties I signed up for the OS Cobbler Classic, my first ever sportive. At the back end of the 2015 I'd bought my new bike, the steed I plan to use for my 100 Peaks Training, so signing up for my first big ride seemed logical.

I had to go from 'novice' cyclist to accomplished rider pretty quickly (and by that I mean, not fall over whilst clipped in), I also learnt pretty quickly a head wind batters you constantly on a bike no matter which way you turn and it's far easier to deal with in a pair of running shoes. Let's not get started on the 'bonk'! Most bonks I've had in the past have been much more pleasant affairs, a bonk on the bike is no picnic! 

I've been used to running lots of miles and being out on the ground for hours and have my running nutrition down to relative fine art, but on the bike, that bites you on the arse! I've run out of energy on a run, I'm sure we all have, but you plod on, on a bike, you just fall over, literally! Which is quite embarrassing.

I've never known the feeling of peddling before, hitting 30 miles and looking behind me to see if my legs had fallen off, because all of sudden it feels like I had nothing there! It was a quick learning curve, quicker than learning how to fuel whilst riding, but at least I understood quite quickly what I needed to do, even if I did have to master the art of eating and drinking whilst on the move! 

Simple things like wiping your face of sweat, as you would whilst running, become quite a traumatic experience to an inexperienced 'clipped in' rider. You quickly learn, where you go the bike goes and that every movement when hands are off the drops becomes exaggerated. Bruised pride and scuffed pedals and a few roadside repairs to bike and person soon have you mastering that art too.

OS COBBLER CLASSIC


By the time the Cobbler Classic came around in early April I felt pretty comfortable on the bike, albeit still slightly nervous about fueling whilst riding. This would be my longest ride to date and really was to be used as the basis for developing my handling and riding techniques, not to forget big miles management.

I met one of my fellow OS Champions at the start Dan Grant and he gave me a quick brief on how things operate. Before I knew it I was saddled up and away, the target, the epic challenge, 74 miles in 4:45 to qualify for Gold.

I didn't know what to expect from a sportive and had no real expectations other than just having a nice ride out, but soon, as most of us find I'm sure, we have to try and ride as fast as we possibly can for as long as we can and I have to admit by the time I hit the feed station at 35 miles I was struggling. I'd got there in around 2 hours (which for me at the time was pretty good going, but by the same token almost at the limit of my levels).


I stopped for a good while and had a proper feed before setting off again and took the second half a bit easier trying to ensure I conserved some energy for the later miles. It was the second half where I concentrated on fueling whilst riding and by the end of the event I felt pretty comfortable with eating and riding. The ride passed by with no real incident on pretty decent roads through some lovely countryside through Northants, Oxon and Bucks. By the time I made the turn into the airfield and the finish I was pretty spent and had categorically lost my Sportive Cherry!

As is always the case with me though, I get on my own case far too early and break down the event and determine where I could have pushed harder, worked harder and generally managed my race better, especially as I missed out on 'Gold Standard' by a minute! However, again putting things in to perspective, I'd only just got out of the 'feeding myself like a weaning baby' stage with fueling on the bike and had also only just stopped scratching up my peddles and pride falling over whilst still attached to my black beauty!

The Sportive itself helped me in essence become a 'cyclist', in those four hours or so, I learnt an awful lot about me and an awful lot about riding and ride management, that in itself is better than any medal, we learn and we grow, that's the best prize of all.


Growing is very much on the agenda, because ultimately I need to become an 'all round' athlete, and with my training over the Winter months, largely in part due to injury I had to adapt my training to enable me to work hard without causing further injury. That would be put to the test a week after the Sportive as I had my first Spring marathon to contend with – Greater Manchester.

GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON


I rocked up to Manchester with about 8 weeks solid (marathon) training behind me, which seemed to be pretty standard based on the two previous London efforts, but I felt I was in a pretty decent place with my fitness, despite the injuries, I'd worked hard on the bike and with the Strength and Conditioning. For me it would be a pretty good test of where I was at, and that's exactly what I would use it for. 

I am very methodical with my marathon prep, even if my training isn't quite as regimented as it should be at times (especially with trying to juggle so many disciplines). I have my kit list and pre and during race nutrition written out along with my 24hr plan leading up to marathon Sunday and of course expected split times and finish. I've learnt that for me, this is a pretty solid way of keeping me focused during the build up and in the race itself. I know (if I'm feeling fairly decent) exactly where I should be based around the splits I'm aiming for, it has served me well previously.



Breakfast is always the same, two tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice and two croissants with ham & cheese, cramming in about a 1000 calories, and the rest of the routine follows on from there.

I arrived at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in loads of time, leaving Mrs R in bed, dumped my bag and milled around like everyone else, not really appreciating how far away the start line was! A beautiful morning though and nothing but blue skies (thank you Lloydy), which obviously meant it would be a hot one (and as it turned out, the hottest day of the year)! 



At the start line I had a great surprise bumping into one of Lloydy's friends Tom, he'd served with Lloydy, someone I knew which gave me a real boost, we had a brief chat, wished each other well, and made our way to our respective Zones, Tom's being much closer to the front than mine!

Once I settled in to the race it went by relatively quickly (well as much as 26.2 miles does), the course was great, especially the first 19 miles which had fantastic support all round and some loops which meant you were always in the thick of it and could see a lot of the front runners, and also you got the opportunity to see friends that were out on the course too. From 19 to 22 through Carrington, it was still lovely but almost turned in to a 'Long Sunday Run'. It was so serene in comparison and quite probably those miles for most, meant digging in a bit harder, you were alone with your thoughts for a while without many distractions, well apart from cattle waft!

I think those three miles through Carrington had me digging deep because the last 6 km's I was beginning to suffer pretty badly with cramp, I slowed my pace down to 'manage' the onset progressing and just coasted home. Well that was until I saw Caz at the finish line and made my little dart for the line and everything pinged all over the place - but it was worth it, just to see her face and hear her shouting my name as I came down that finishing stretch.  


I stopped my watch and collected my medal and didn't really take much notice of my time until I had that very cold and welcome (despite it being non-alcoholic) beer in my hand. I'd gone 3:36:11 which almost bang on target and nearly 5 and half minutes quicker than London. 

As a marker for determining where I was at, that was pretty telling and on the whole I was very happy with that. The prep had been far from ideal, as any marathon runner or coach will tell you, the best prep for marathon running is running! I'd done little of that in the build up, however I'd still managed to crack it out almost just off the back of rehab work! It felt like a big tick in the box. The only negative about the whole day was (well two negatives really), how far the start was from the bag drop off and then the chaos trying to get your bag back at the finish. But would it deter me from doing it again? Not really, I'll be back in 2017.

Through the finish area I was greeted as always by my rock and no matter how many finish lines I cross now, there is nothing better than seeing Caz smiling back at me, if truth be told, getting back to her (and our boy) along with having Lloydy in my ear all the way round, gives me all I need to get it done. I couldn't do this without her and trying to do Lloydy proud is what drives me on.....

Finish Area Selfie x
With the first two events of the year (post Winter Fan) done and dusted, the rest of the years events begin to come thick and fast, first up a little more than three weeks later the Milton Keynes Marathon, but we'll get to that (and the launch event for The 100 Peaks Challenge) in Part Two!

Big love as always to those that continue to support me xx (especially my wonderful wife and littleman xxxxx), blue skies little brother, my heart walks with you always xxx






Sunday, 21 February 2016

Back on the Fan!

THE WINTER FAN DANCE, BACK to BACK - 09/10.01.16


Three years ago I was meant to line up at the Red Phone Box in pursuit of my first Fan Dance, I didn't get there because of the weather, and that has bitten hard ever since, it's the only Fan I've missed, and in all honesty I don't think I've ever really got over it!

Much like the Paras'10 it's an event I look forward to, more so because of the friends I've made. The Fan has always been about tracing Lloydys footsteps a little and trying to endure I tiny element of what he put himself through to achieve what he did. It's my way of keeping his light burning bright, it's always been a battle for me, especially the early ones, a battle against mother nature and my own short comings, not in heart, but fitness. That has changed somewhat in the last 18 months and now I almost revel in the competition of it and trying to achieve that sub 4.

My first Fan in the Summer of 2013 took 6 painful hours and 47 minutes, last Winter (2015) I broke in to the 4 hrs for the first time with 4hrs 37mins and improved upon that again in the Summer with 4hr 24mins. A marker had been put down and a gauntlet thrown by a few friends to get that 4hrs. It's a target at one stage that seemed unattainable but now felt like it was in reach, although knocking over 24 mins off the Summer time would be a big ask. 

This would also be my first crack at doing the Fan Dance Back to Back (on Saturday and again on the Sunday). I wasn't sure what to expect with it, I'd had a go at 'back to back' over at Ivinghoe just to get myself used the slog of 2 days at it. You can always rely on the notion that no 2 days on the Fan are ever the same, and so it would prove.

I arrived though full of hope and heart and that was only swollen further when parking up at the Storey Arms on the Friday and meeting up with so many great friends and soaking up the normal Fan Dance atmosphere. The air filled with anticipation, excitement a fair amount of dread and a good sprinkling of banter. Checked in and registered with Back to Back race numbers in hand, Jay chaperoned me back to the Youth Hostel where we were hauled up for the weekend, we claimed our bunks and began the obligatory faff with kit. We were soon joined by Big Dave, Mick H and Nikki and so the fun begins.

With my weekend Partners in Grime - Paul and Jay

SATURDAY 9th JANUARY


At 0600 5 alarms go off along with a crescendo of grunts, and other bodily noises that would have made the deaf wince. Getting kitted up and breakfast stuffed down the neck is a laboured process at that time of the morning, it's a familiar routine that doesn't get any easier despite how often we inflict it upon ourselves. The only saving grace is that the last time we were all together breakfast would have been at just after 0400! Thankfully Jay had brought a kettle so at least we could begin the day in proper fashion. It was evident from the noise outside that it was going to be a 'normal for Brecon' kinda day. It was p*ssing down and blowing a hoolie, to be fair we'd been subjected to that on the previous two Winter Fans, it wasn't anything new.

We loaded up and headed out just after 0700, a journey of no more than 10 mins was followed by taking about 20 mins to park. I'd never seen the event so backlogged with cars along the A470, it was like the final scene from 'Field of Dreams' "if you build it, they will come". Again I'd never seen the start area swollen with so many bergens. Standing waiting for the safety brief I was tapped on the back by a guy that had noticed my tribute to Lloydy (placed as normal on the top of my pack), turns out that he served with Lloydy (albeit in a different Squadron), I think that gave me a little extra, knowing that someone that knew Lloydy was on the hill with us. The chat was brief and no more than a confirmation of who I was to Lloydy, and that James knew him, but nonetheless it was a welcome distraction from the hill!

By now the weather was full on, torrential rain and gusting winds, but huddled in the pack waiting for gun to go off we were pretty sheltered, it wouldn't be until we hit the path up to Corn Du we'd feel the full force of it. The gun sounded a little after 0805 and the climb began. I've become accustomed now to how I'm gonna feel, and know how long it take me to hit each 'marker', the first is the gate, the second the turn under Corn Du, third Fan Summit. By Fan Summit I was 50 mins in, not as quick as I'd hoped but in decent shape. The next target is Windy Gap then the turnaround (Windy Gap doesn't feel right without Fordy manning it). 

I reached the turnaround an hour after getting of the Fan. I grabbed a bag of jelly babies, gave in my number and turned straight around. I passed quite a few of the guys as I headed back up the Roman Road, taking the opportunity for a little chat as it presented itself. Guttingly I passed Mick who was in a bad way being ably supported by Strokey, Mick insisting he was jacking at half way.

The Roman Road can be a pretty lonely and dull drag back to Windy Gap and luckily the boredom was punctured by Christine, who like Mick was struggling with injury, she still cracks out a smile though, again it's gutting to see her struggling. I'm still setting myself targets, going back up the Roman Road, must be at Windy Gap inside 3 hrs on Fan Summit in 3hrs 30. Bang on 3hrs 30 I'm checking in with Staff Big, who gives me a well done, swiftly followed by a "get a f****** move on", well that's what it sounded like as I skipped off the summit.

Now It was a question of how quick I could get back, I was on for 4 hours, I knew it was tight, but I left nothing out there on that last slog back. As I slapped out my last few steps I shouted out my number and got 4:01 back! 

Done, eye of the Tiger!

I was greeted by TEC, Lesley and the 'Hunter' and Nick's family and waited for a few of the guys to come in before heading back to the Youth Hostel with Jay to sort ourselves out. One of those I waited for was my good friend Nick Hore, Nick and I had a running wager over a 'Victory Cigar', the first one back to the Red Phone Box got it, the bugger tried to give it to me as we passed each other from the turnaround point. I wasn't having any of it, on paper I won the Cigar, but he's true gentlemen and deserved to keep the Cuban in my opinion (enjoy it buddy whilst you recuperate, we'll share one next June if not before).

The 'Victory' Cigar

4hrs 1min, it was a massive mix of pride and disappointment, so close to breaking 4, I know there were a few moments out there where I could have 'pushed' a bit harder, but I gave it a fair crack and now I know that there is a sub 4 in there, however it was not going to be the following morning!

Always a humbling moment getting my patch from KJ!
Kit squared away and prep and admin done ready for the morning, we are greeted to Mick arriving back with patch in hand, the dogged bugger had only got it done after going over on his ankle, much banter was had but that made my day to see him back at the bunk with that precious bit of cloth! It went without saying though he wouldn't be taking on back to back as planned though!

That evening was spent in great company at the Red Dragon in Brecon and was the perfect way to end the day before the mornings revelry! You know who you are, and I hope we get to do it again!


SUNDAY 10th JANUARY


Welcome to a winter wonderland, white stuff greeted Jay and I as we made our way to his car with our kit on Sunday morning. The routine had been exactly the same as Saturday morning, albeit some kit wetter than the day before but there couldn't have been a greater contrast in the conditions.


The moment we saw how much snow there was up on the hills, we had a game plan, it was never going to be anything more than, get it done safely and get home fully intact. There was going to be no gung ho attitude from me, Jay and I pretty much determined that we'd get through the second day together. In comparison the effort was a bimble to the previous day. That was reinforced when we reached the top of Jacobs to descend, everywhere you looked along the edge it was just ice, I must have muttered f**k to myself a hundred times. The next 15/20 mins weren't dignified as I spent most of it on my arse bumping down Jacobs, for me a bruised arse was easier to contemplate than a broken leg or worse. The rest of the time down Jacobs was spent picking my arse out of the snow as the combination of fresh snow and long wet grass made the lower slope pretty treacherous. 



It's weird looking back at Sunday, because it was nothing more than (as I've already said) a 'nice bimble' in the white stuff with great friends. By the time we'd reached the turnaround we were pretty much a three again, as we'd begun the weekend, Paul, Jay and I. 

I must admit after the effort of getting down Jacobs safely, the idea of ascending Jacobs in the same conditions filled me with dread, moreover because I just wondered how the f**k we'd get up there! Again looking back I don't know what I was worried about, ascending was far easier than getting down and I got up on the shelf in pretty decent time. At the top I was greeted by Staff Bigg, he offered me his last piece of Millionaires Shortbread which I gratefully took, and waited for Jay and Paul to rear their heads above the ridge. 

We took some pics on the summit of the Fan and I laid my cross for Lloydy among the stones, we pretty much skated back, the drop off Fan Summit was mental until it levelled out under Corn Du.


And that was that, a perfect bimble in the White stuff in great company. It wasn't quick, it was never going to be, we weren't going to break any records and conversely any bones and we were fine with that, home and hosed in 5hrs 30.

For me the effort was there to see on Saturday and I hope on some level I did Lloydy proud, and ultimately a 'Back to Back' Fan Dance weekend isn't to be sniffed at, no matter the time it's done in, and again although breaking the 4hrs will always be the holy grail, being in the hills with friends will always be (after being there for Lloydy) my primary reason for turning up each Summer and Winter.

The Weekend Done!

I'm still completely staggered by the impact this event has on a group of people and how it's capable of creating the bonds it does, and for that I'll be forever grateful. My thanks as always to KJ, DS Bigg, Linda, Dave Humm and all those that make this event possible, and enable us to walk in the footsteps of giants, no matter your reasons. 

Lloydy may have had the same size feet as me, but they are boots I could never fill, nor would I want to, I'm just thankful I get to be on that hill and celebrate the life he lead. 

And as is customary I must mention my gorgeous wife and littleman, without who, I'd be lost, they are always there to light up my life, love you both to the depths of forever xxxx

And Lloydy for always being there when I need him the most, blue skies little brother and big love. You may be beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow, but my heart walks with you always xxx

See you in the Summer, if not before...........

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The 100 Peaks Challenge - A Year On!

100 PEAKS CHALLENGE UPDATE



This time last year the embryonic scribblings for what the 100 Peaks Challenge has already become, began. Most will know that the Challenge began life as "Beyond the Last Blue Mountain – the Ally SkyGod Challenge". A mouthful and one that didn't roll off the tongue easily. It became a battle then of capturing the ethos of why it was called that in the first place (the tribute I wanted it to be for my little brother), and finding something succinct that would leave no confusion as to what we are trying to achieve.




A year on it's hard to believe how far the Project has come. The 100 Peaks Challenge is instantly recognisable and has seemingly captured the imagination of many. There is a complete Management and Support Team in place handling operations as well as a Training and Medical Team managing those that have registered for the Challenge.



Registration for the Full Challenge has already closed and the Information Packs and Training Trackers issued to those who have registered in time. It's now though that the serious work begins for those that have aspirations of making the team. The reality is we have to trim the current numbers to a manageable number for when the Challenge begins in May 2017.



The 'Selection' process ends on 23rd August this year and everyone will be monitored constantly between now and that date. However, the process will continue up to the Challenge start, even if you make the team, you can't rest on your laurels, getting selected for the team only means you're half way there and it's up to individuals to maintain that level. The commitment and desire that is being shown is exemplary and just watching the way others continually inspire the group as a whole is humbling.

There is so much energy and focus that it encourages all to step up and be better, be more. The training volumes are immense as are the numbers beasting themselves, the enthusiasm isn't just being shown by those aiming to take on the Full Challenge but those aiming to take part in Partial elements and by the support team too, it's truly awesome to witness. This is one amazing group of people, which extends to our families too. I know from a personal point of view what we all as individuals will have to sacrifice and that's precious time with those we love. You can't get that time back, so we have to be smart with our time and make the best of the time we have. This Challenge our families too, not exclusive to those who will march the hard yards, cycle the never ending miles and paddle hopeful with each stroke that land will begin to appear.

I would encourage you to ensure that on this journey, you bring your families along too, without them we are only half as strong as we could be. We will need them more than it is possible to quantify, the next nine months are going to be brutal, the period beyond that more brutal still. The training recces alone will be 3/4/5 days of constant battering, up at dawn, done at sunrise, eat, sleep and go again all the while administering ourselves, and going hard for a long time. It's at that point after those slogs when we will need them most to help us remember why we're doing this. Use the love it's our most powerful weapon and the one that will ultimately see us win.



Talking of wining and the reason we're taking this on, our Goal is to raise a minimum of £100,000.00 for ABF The Soldiers Charity and Support our Paras. Shortly we will release the new Fundraising Packs and during the course of this year we will be staging various Fundraising events, the first of which will be the Official Challenge Launch on 21st May. Most of you will be aware that we have a Jump Day with the Red Devils organised in August, 30 people will jump that day and if everyone hits their minimum Target we'll raise £13,500.00 from that one event.

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the National Charity of the British Army. Formerly known as the Army Benevolent Fund, it was established in 1944 and exists to offer a lifetime of support to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families in times of need. They provide financial assistance to individuals and their dependants, and make grants to charities and other organisations which deliver specialist support on their collective behalf.

Support our Paras provide welfare assistance to serving soldiers and families to complement or fill the gaps in State provision, as well as supporting vital aspects of the Regiment’s daily life and history. That support includes Mobility equipment and disability conversion of vehicles, Funding remedial courses and help to assist those recovering from wounds, Funding vocational courses and help to assist soldiers in transitioning into civilian life, Funding sporting equipment for the wounded and for Regimental teams, Funding Adventurous Training expeditions for serving troops, Assistance with travel and other costs on compassionate grounds.

The Challenge has already received serious recognition from Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dan Jarvis MP who have both given their backing to what we are trying to achieve. On top of that we have been extremely fortunate to gain the endorsements of Andy Torbet and Phil Campion who are both acting as Challenge Ambassadors. Ken Jones will act as a Patron and we've been incredibly fortunate to add Richard Villar to the team as Medical Officer. Add to that, I have been selected by Ordnance Survey to be one of their #GetOutside Champions for 2016.

We will on 14th May officially launch the Challenge, that launch will be an opportunity to have everyone together and to focus attentions that a year from that date we'll be pretty ready to go. The event will be held at Cpl Bryan Budd VC Gym at Merville and will also see Barrie Williams have a crack at the Guinness World Record for distance covered on a rower in 24hrs, there will some fundraising activities and an army curry filling our bellies ready for The Paras'10 the following morning! So save the date, this is your Challenge and we'd love to see as many of you there as possible.



2015 has been an amazing year, 2016 promises to be even more incredible, if you're reading this and thinking that you'd like to get involved in this Challenge and Support us, and help us deliver this exciting project then please contact us, be part of something special, "nothing is as strong as team spirit" #BeInspired #BeInspiring.....