Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Withdrawal symptoms.....

.......have well and truly taken hold! Luckily for some of us in a little over 3 weeks time we will be at it again! Colchester is now looming large, and all of sudden a little bit of panic has begun to set in. The week after Catterick, as much as I wanted to, I resisted the temptation to get my boots on, so that I could give my body the rest it probably needed. Three runs the following week and a couple of decent gym sessions, was abruptly brought to end by my stag do and a working week from hell that doesn't look like it's going to end until the 8th October, leaving me about 2 weeks to beast myself into shape again! My stag do last weekend was as you'd expect a crazy affair, full of laughs and hi-jinx and plenty of fun at my expense. However, the activities took their toll and come Monday evening, Man flu had well and truly taken hold, the result of a little dip in the River Wye, which to be fair the Bman had made abundantly clear it was going to happen, turns out he wasn't joking, it was fricking freezing. The activity was to build a raft and then race it on the river, we were split into two teams, the banter flowed, a lot quicker than we did on the river! The rafts stood up to the rigours of the tasks we were set and slighlty triumphant about a job well done, and in my own little world, basking in the stag do glow, my bestman decides to take advantage of the situation and dumps me in the drink! Luckily the drink that followed kept the cockles warm, but come Sunday the cockles begun to cool, and the body began to flag! I'm now in the state of having stag do, training and event withdrawal symptoms, so just to make myself feel better, I've decided to take the plunge and have a go at the Fan dance in January. Maybe I'm mad, it's a young mans game after all, and most men, that are on selection are considerably younger than I, but we've started something now, and although there might not be many takers from the rest of the boys for this event, I do know that, there is a lot of talk  about the Paras'10 2013, so to coin the most poignant and inspirational of phrases "Don't stop me now".................maybe attempting the Fan dance is foolhardy, but if nothing else good comes of losing Lloydy, he's given me the focus back that I had when I was young, that desire to push myself, to test myself and whilst I know that Pen Y Fan can be a very cruel mistress especially in the depths of winter, I know I have the most precious of angels looking after my back. I know I can't be complacent, god only knows I have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all Lloydy, but I know this is something I can do, to firstly continue to pay tribute to him, secondly to focus myself in later years to keep myself in shape, which isn't easy when you're effectively and old bstd, and thirdly to continue to try and make a small difference for those causes which we begun to support when we began our Paras'10 journey. Why am I doing this? Why do I need to do this? The simple answer is I don't, but I feel I have answered those questions, my brother was a big part of my life and the one person throughout my life I could always depend on, my best friend, the one person I looked up to. Now he's gone there are promises I made to him, that everyday I have to try and fulfill, so that when we are together again, I can look him in the eye and know that the years I had, I didn't waste, that I did the best I could to ensure all that is precious to him always remained precious to me, by doing that, as I've said before we keep his legacy burning bright. A man as wonderful as my brother should never be allowed to fade, what he stood for, the achievements he earnt, are a barometer for us all. I don't mean that we have to be 'Lloydy', that's been levied at me before, what I mean is, life is too short, it's for living and creating memories, doing good things that benefit others, not just yourselves, being selfless is possibly one of the single biggest pleasures in life and hopefully by continuing to put myself through these events, I get the benefit not just physically, but emotionally, because I know in some small way, we are making a little difference, and personally I can believe that my little brother is beside me when I need him most, because as he was in life, he is proud of what I and collectively the team are trying to achieve. The Paras'10 in Catterick was just the beginning..............

Thursday, 13 September 2012


..........and whilst I'm talking about tips, if your Bergen is well packed but over the 35lb, leave it be! It turns out I had 46lb at the weigh in and thought it would be a good idea to remove some, can't argue with the logic, it is a good idea - if you repack it properly! At 5 miles I was feeling sore, by the finish, the skin on my lower back had gone. I can live with that, if that's the rub for coming through 10 gruelling miles relatively unscathed, however, Coley, my mate, pointed me in the direction of Germolene New Skin, it works wonders he says, stings a little he says! After Caz had finished applying it, after 5 mins of me laying on my hands so I didn't bust stuff up, biting down into a screwed up towel, I'm surprised I didn't tear him a new arse! Stings he says, what he means is it feels like someone's taking a blow torch to you. I've had nearly 50 hours of ink work on my back this year, and I can honestly say I would have sat there for 50 hours straight and been in relative comfort in comparison, hell I'd have done another 10 miles starting with the friction burn and been infinitely more comfortable! So the moral of the story is, well two morals are: if a friend smiles and says it stings a little and you know he's a bit of a mentalist anyway, steer clear, knowing that crazy bugger he probably would use it for eye drops, and secondly if you have a perfectly packed Bergen and its overweight, leave well alone, take it on the chin and dig in, otherwise you'll end up feeling like your being dug out!

More of a BSTD, than those hills....

Catterick done..........'s almost sad or to paraphrase Jono "all along I thought I would feel relieved once this was done, and that would be it. I don't know about you lot, but I've had a massive come down today.....although my knees are in bits, I want to do it again! Very odd....." It's difficult to explain to those that haven't experienced the event, the buzz you get, believe me it is by far the most hideous thing that some of us have ever done, including Coley and he's a complete mentalist, but without a doubt the most rewarding, the sense of achievement was palpable even moreso considering the reason we were all doing it. I've said it before but the way the boys had gone about preparing for this event, had for me, already paid a huge tribute to Lloydy, Sunday come 1330 that tribute had been paid in full.

We arrived in Catterick on Saturday afternoon, slowly dribbling into the Travelodge A1 Skeeby car by car. The excitement and the buzz around the boys was amazing and to be honest I think we would have all been quite content to get the bergens on and crack on there and then. We had been invited by the Para Charity to attend a pre-event curry at the Officers Mess at the Garrison, WAGS et al. Which was a huge honour, and again I would like to go on record and thank Stephen Cooper for the invitation, it was a truly special touch to a truly amazing weekend. We all arrived back and were probably resting up by 2300, although the consensus seems to be there wasn't an awful lot of sleep had, between, nerves, excitement and beds that were spongier than my belly when we first emabarked on this challenge! A decent breakfast done and we made our way to the event, the buzz still radiating, whether that be for some as Jono so eleoquently stated that there was a sense of relief that we were almost done or just the excitement of facing a challenge for others, but for all of us the main reason we were there, paying our tribute to Lloydy.

The whole experience of building up to this event has been amazing and the support we have received along the way has been phenomenal, we've also made some new friends along the way and one of them Tim Donati-Ford came and said hello on Saturday before we met up again on the Sunday.Tim had flown over from Jersey for the event, an epic effort before he'd even started. From the first moment meeting him it felt like he was one of us, and I've said this to him, that meeting people like him, makes occasions like this even more incredible. We got chatting on twitter about training etc, and the rest is as they say history #friendforlife #topman he smashed it too, getting in well inside the 1:50 by 4 mins, doing wonderful things for 'Holidays for Heroes Jersey' and therefore worthy of another hashtag #legend.

Going back to the support, all along this journey the support of our nearest and dearest has been unwavering, and once again they were with us for the event, almost thirty strong, an amazing entourage. From paping us, to ensuring our numbers were pinned on, to giving us the biggest cheers when we were approaching the finish, to that sweaty hug to say well done and let us know how proud they were of us - we couldn't have done it without them, so to our wonderful WAGS and family, thank you all from the bottom of our hearts, you have been truly amazing.

The event itself as I said, is hard to explain to people that haven't experienced it, people have asked me, was it as difficult as you thought it would be, and the truthful answer to that is yes. I'm not sure how much conviction that carries when you're not sure what to expect in the first place, other than some bstd hills! And boy were they bstd hills! You're briefed before you start that the last three miles are the toughest three miles you will ever face, so being the first time of trying, my plan was to take it steady, and try and leave some in the tank for the second half of the event. In truth moving out of the pack was difficult, and for the first couple of miles it was difficult to get into a decent rhythm. From 2 to 3 miles I really felt like I was settling into my stride and then bang at 3.25 miles the first bstd hill, which in comparison to the hills to come, is not that much of a bstd! It's weird because we all did hill training in the build up to this event, but you just don't come up against those sort of hills on your everyday training routes, lesson learnt! Find the nastiest hills you can, and as boring as it may be, beast yourself up them. The only way to get your times to where you want them is proper prep, and for me, getting your recovery time down after the hill climbs, has the potential to make huge differences to your times. It took a while to recover from that first hill, people talk about the terrain, and again, it's not something that any of us would be familiar with, loose material underfoot really is sapping, so again, when you're in your boots get yourself off road. I also spent a lot of time looking at my HRM, and was determined to keep myself ticking over at 155, but I was averaging 160, so it really does show how much harder you are having to work, even on training tabs I'd found at 155, I was comfortable or as comfortable as you can be, and was pretty much on the money time wise. On the day the 1:50 alluded me, but now again, I know I need to work at about 10% over in training to get the same results. 5 to 7 miles was pretty much the same as 1 to 3, up and down, and then you're hit with the first of two monster hills before you even get to 'Nod' or 'Lick out' or 'Pussy' or 'Tank' hill or whatever it's called. The last hill means once you've got to the top, you have 1 mile to go, and it really is digging in time, that last hill ascent will tell you everything you need to know about your character, I went up it with Jono, and his knees were in rag, and believe me when I tell you, that boy dug in deeper than anyone else I saw at that time going up that hill. I remember saying to Jono, after we got to the top lets run to the telegraph pole and then march it for a quarter mile, once we got to the telegraph pole we saw the descent and continued to run, until our legs gave out, and just as we are coming up that final incline we notice two of team members Craig and Ollie (who'd already finished), and for that last quarter mile they egged us on all the way up the finish line, not that I can forget to mention putting on my war face for my sister-in-law as I'm turning into the finishing straight. As we came up the finishing straight the support was mind blowing, everyone, no matter whether they knew who you were or not, cheered and clapped as if their lives depended on it, and if that can't make you put a little spurt on, nothing will. Just before the finish we notice our WAGS and entourage and at that point, you see their faces, and hear the cheers they're making and you see the pride on their faces, and I do think at that point, you do realise you've achieved something. Don't get me wrong, we all know that to don a maroon beret, takes a special kind of man, Christ, I'm lucky enough to be able to call a lot of them friend, brother, but for us mere mortals, stepping into that world if but for a couple of hours, only heightens our respect further still. For me, this was always Lloydys world, I know he was an amazing man, he was an amazing man, without everything he achieved in his 12 years in the army, but somehow, taking that small step into his world for those couple of exhausting sunny hours, only strengthened further still that pride I have in him. I did it little brother, we all did it, and we did it for you. Before we set out, I was playing 'Don't stop me now', those who know Lloydy, will know the significance of that song, and when I crossed that finish line, that was the first thing that come into my head, him and 'Don't stop me now', and I guess that's about as fitting as it gets. I put that medal round my neck, kissed it, and uttered the words 'love you little brother' hoping he was standing with me, giving me his grin and a beasting for not finishing as quick as him, but I'll take that, if but for a moment, I could believe he was there with me, with us. I went and got the hugs that were flying around and stood in front of Caroline and just saw the pride beaming from her face, and at the point I don't think I could have loved her more, she has seen me at my worst over the last 15 months and maybe that afternoon, I was back to my best, and to have her waiting for me, proud and full of love was something so incredibly special. It's been a long road dealing with the loss of Lloydy, don't get me wrong I don't think I'll ever come to terms with it, but every step of the way Caroline has been with me, and it's her that has helped me smile again. Taking my dripping shirt off I proudly don my Para'10 finishers t-shirt and with my medal around my neck, make my way down to where Craig and Ollie had met me, to encourage on, the rest of the team as they began to come in, and every time one of them came into view, a wave of pride would burst over me, and I found myself bellowing encouragement. All boys safely home, and as we're all standing there, the buzz is electric, collectively we felt like we achieved something special, but more so as I said, the tribute to my brother, to our friend, to Lloydy had been paid in full...........An amazing weekend, with amazing people, for an amazing man. Blue skies little brother xxx

PARAS'10 P COY Challenge - DONE!
At this point, and I know I've done this before, but hey, with the support we have received, my brothers legacy is now shining brighter than ever. We have now broken through the £15k barrier, for the causes we are supporting the Parachute Regiment Charity, Help for Heroes and My Nieces Trust. We couldn't have even contemplated that when this first became a small seed planted. So I thank you all, your support is precious and drives us forward, because by the sounds of it, when the PARAS'10 comes around next year I won't be doing it on my own........even those who were adamant they would never contemplate doing this again, are erring.......and maybe you have something to do with that, they may not thank you for instilling that buzz in them, but I will! 

As we were reminded on our way round 'Pain is just weakness leaving the body', and I think 16 of us found that out for definite Sunday..........see you in Colchester!

For you little brother xxx

Thursday, 6 September 2012

T Minus 3 days.....

.....and the first leg of this journey will be all but done! I can't use the word 'over' because this Paras'10 is just the beginning. The training efforts seem to be coming together, I did 9miles Sunday with 40lb in kit, it wasn't fast and by that I mean, hitting 1hr50 wasn't on the agenda, it was just a case of getting more miles under the belt and getting used to carrying the heavier pack. I must admit by the time I got back (dripping) I was feeling like I'd been beaten, it was very much a run of three thirds. The first three miles were decent time wise, but my achilles felt (forgive me) shit, the second three slowed a little but were comfortable and the final three were just plain torture. Mix that with people that want to show support, but don't know how really, uttering such phrases as "ooo that looks tough" or "rather you than me", well obviously cos I'm the one with pack on my back doing it! It really is a surprise knowing my short fuse for the nonsensical and generally moronic that there weren't bodies fished out of the Grand Union Canal Monday morning! Still I guess we should put it down to some form of recognition to the task being undertaken. I went out again Tuesday but limited myself to 5 miles, again in full pack and kit, and to be honest felt pretty good, well as good as you can piggybacking what feels like a fat child on your back. But the pace was decent, and I felt pretty comfortable all the way round and for the first time, possibly began to think, I've got this, because come the end of that run, ok only half distance, I know I was feeling ok, and there was plenty in the tank. I'm in confident mood going into it now, feeling bloated all the time because I'm loading up on carbs, but I guess come Sunday it'll all be worth it. The training has now tailed off, I guess for all of us really, I'm just limiting myself to one more run, just in trainers to get any stiffness there may be out of the legs and some gym conditioning work. To be honest I'm not going to get any fitter now than I am, but I'm definitely a thousand times fitter than I was, when we first embarked on this. 

We've all got to the point where 1hr50 was the goal, and now we feel if we achieve that, it will be incredible, but, it's not the driving factor any more. When I look back at how far we've all come and that come Sunday we can stand at the start line, knowing we've done all we can to give ourselves a fighting chance, of even contemplating finishing close to 1hr50, then we've got to be proud of our efforts, as individuals and collectively. I think the 1hr50 and ensuring we hit that became the be all and end all, and to a degree it is, but we know there is no disgrace in not hitting it, finishing this event considering the conditions you're running under is an achievement in itself. However that doesn't mean we wont be going for it.........

I've been stocking up on carb loaded energy gels and beans, not to mention trying to find 'Anti-Monkey Butt' and Germolene 'New Skin' to work alongside, my old man knee pills. Some of the boys have resorted to anti-inflammatory's and pain killers already, which on the face of it seems sensible. It would also appear that come Sunday, a further supplement will have to be in the bag, that I don't think any of us saw coming - sunscreen! Apparently it's going to be 23 and sunny! Just what you want on a tough endurance course in full kit and a Bergen weighing upwards of 35lb. I think it's my little brothers way of ensuring we really do earn those medals.

It's weird to think how quickly the time has gone and how quickly this event has come around, and you do question especially when you're starting from '0' if you've done enough, however it's now time to puff the chest out, crack on, and smash it! 

Smashing it, is something we can aspire to do because of the inspiration we have, the inspiration we all share. Lloydy was, is an incredible man, in his 12 years he achieved everything he set out to do, collecting cap badges like foreign coins, he was an Airborne God, and he lived his life to the fullest, he gave his career everything he had. He did and completed the toughest courses the army had to offer, and he became one of a small band of brothers who 'go, always a little further'. It's probably easiest for me to take an extract from my eulogy that I wrote and read at his service, and probably a lot less painful, than trying to rehash the words.

"My little brother was a born soldier, it's all he ever wanted to be, from such an early age, his determination, drive and focus was unwavering. Even upon initially not making selection, due to injury, he was determined, that he was to be a soldier. He relished the challenge and I admired him for having the courage to stand up for his ideals and follow his own path and go his own way.

Turns out my little brother wasn't so little after all, I always knew he was special, but from what I've read and been told over these recent days, he was a giant among men. I'm immensely proud of the man he had become, and he got there, because he was prepared to do whatever was necessary, to make something of himself. I looked up to him, as much as he looked up to me. I was lucky enough to watch him grow, see him become a man, stand proudly next to him as he became a husband and prouder still as he became a father. He was the best of men and certainly the best I've ever known."

Obviously he made the ultimate sacrifice for his job, for his Queen and his Country, but for him, as for all who give their lives for the Sovereign, it's a reality they face a lot more readily than those they leave behind. He words it a lot more eloquently than I, so again I will rely on my eulogy for the words.

Lloydy says "please do not mourn me, celebrate me and the life that I led. I'm sorry that I've had to leave you all, but unfortunately this is the dangers that the job brings. Please do not have any remorse or find someone to blame, I knew what I was doing and I served my Queen and Country to the best of my ability and enjoyed every moment of it and certainly wouldn't change this for the world."

So in three days time, we will celebrate him and the life that he led, and take a little step into the world he knew and loved. I know that when it starts getting tougher out there, that he'll be with us, pushing us on when we need it the most, and that his example is the push we'll need to see us over the finish line. We'll also be driven forward by the incredible support we have received, we can't thank you enough for all that you've done, whether that be a word of encouragement or supporting the causes we wanted to support, every bit is precious and means so very much, and come Sunday, as well as toasting Lloydy and celebrating him, we will also raise a toast to you all, for all that you've given us. So please, when your clocks hit 1300 on Sunday afternoon, if you read this, and remember, raise a toast to my brother, to the life he led and the legacy he's left behind, celebrate him as we shall and know that in some way you have made his light shine even brighter.

To finish I would like to extend our thanks to The Parachute Regiment Charity who have been completely and utterly behind us all the way, plugging and supporting us and what we are trying to achieve. I hope that this will be the first of many events where the Ally Airborne Bomb Disposal SkyGod Sniper team are able to lend our support, it really is a special thing they do, and I'm very proud that we have been able to do our bit in some small way. 

It's almost 'Standby..........Go' time, so until next week, when there will be undoubtedly some stories to tell and pics to share, I offer, again my heart felt thanks to you all for the support and to those closest to us, our partners, and our families, because without them, this would have been a whole lot harder.....Much love everyone and remember if you see 18 grown men, dripping in sweat, spooning for comfort after 10 ardous miles, that's pretty normal behaviour! xx