Wednesday, 23 January 2013

All set and snow where to go.......

......for months, since the wedding, the prep and training has been focused on one thing, the Winter Fan Dance, and then in one majestic white-out that prep and training had been for nothing. 

In the weeks leading up to the event I'd really stepped up my training, double sessions of cardio when possible and getting 10+ miles runs done in kit and with overweighted bergen, only to be woken by the news the Thursday before the event, of impending armageddon. The constant flurry of flake spotting from the facebook weather channel meant, that there was no way of escaping the fact that all of a sudden the Fan Dance event would become the event everyone that was participating in it, feared it could be! However, it truly meant the Fan Dance would live up to it's billing and be as authentic as it could be in replicating the Winter Selection, and that the DS would get their wish and be able to have the event they had hoped for.

The Facebook Weather Channel - FO!
By the middle of Thursday the news had hit that there was a 'Red Weather Warning' in place for Friday and in, of all places, South-Wales and predominantly Brecon - awesome! Not to mention that the majority of the UK had also been issued with an 'Amber Warning'. The event had gone from being the perfect test of endurance, grit and heart to a potential nightmare and almost in threat of being cancelled, well, as so many felt, expect the race organisers, who said it would only be cancelled under one condition - when hell froze over.

'Red Weather Warning' - kindly, do one, and when you get there, do one some more!
I left work Thursday thinking and feeling that I should maybe drive down that evening, before the weather hit. Kramar, I knew was making the journey and intending to bed down in his doss bag in his car. I had after all, a hotel booked for Friday night, so roughing it for one night wouldn't be to hard. By the time I got home I figured that I'd leave it until Friday, I mean after all, how bad could the weather be, especially where we were, and according to reports, the worst of the snow in the Brecon area would be done by early evening at the latest. And I could then make the journey, because by the time I arrived, the snow would have been cleared and the roads gritted. Well to be fair that's how it panned out, what we didn't expect was the 'Amber Warning' issued for the rest of the country was a load of bollocks! It snowed heavily all day where we live in MK, and by the time it stopped snowing it was gone 1800. During the course of the day, we had been getting regular updates from Ken as to the status of the event, and by now, selfishly I was beginning to hope and pray that it would be postponed, because as the day wore on, the conditions for travelling had got more difficult and more treacherous. I'd even received a message that day from a friend in Hereford to tell me that SF had even postponed Selection, which hadn't happened since the year Lloydy was born! However, despite how bad the weather was, and despite the warnings, I was still determined to get there. Hell hadn't frozen over, although it was pretty damn close! I'd even set my alarm for 0315 Saturday morning with the intention of getting in the car, and getting myself to the phone box. I was that focused and determined, and to be fair I'd had many difficult conversations with Caz about my determination to travel, despite the numerous protestations and warnings not to.

No shit Sherlock!
Well as it turned out, common sense, on the face of it, won the day, at just after 2300 on Friday night I wrote a message to Ken to inform him, that it was unlikely that I would be at the start line in the morning.........I've never been so gutted in my life, well I have, but you know what I mean. For months I'd been preparing myself for this event, so that I could pay, what would be in my mind, the biggest tribute I could pay to Lloydy. So come Saturday morning, at 1000 hours when I knew that airhorn was going to sound, I think I slipped into a grumpy and melancholic state. I knew that in 4 to 5 hours time I would be getting messages from my friends that had managed to travel, telling me they'd smashed it and had earnt the patch that I guess on some level I will always yearn for. This event and my participation in it was extremely important to me, I've said this to Caz and close friends that doing these events on some level helps me keep the demons in check, and for Mother Nature to kick my arse, in such a way and rob me of that, was almost soul destroying. If I'd have got there, I know I would have been standing there saying to her "do your worst, for I will do mine". I know I have nothing to prove to anyone, but I know the Fan is a special place for Lloydy, not because he loved it, he hated the place if truth be told, but he spent an awful lot of time up there throughout his career, atop Pen y Fan we would have been together once more, because I've no doubt his energy would have been all around. That's how important it was to me. He did his selection in the winter, and it's been said that generally those that have a bit more coverage prefer the Winter cadre, being the same build, and being as alike as we are, it felt right that the Winter one would be the one I should do.As it stands I now have 6 months to get myself bounding around like a mountain goat, because if I get the invitation to do the Summer Event, I will walk there if I have to. I will then stay on the Fan, like a hermit for 6 months, to ensure I can do the Winter edition, that way I can get to pay him the tribute I wanted to be able to pay him, this Saturday gone. I will conquer the Fan and I will do it for him.

A Patch well earnt (although not by me :-(, just yet)

It's incredible how a small circular patch is able to evoke such emotion, at the moment in me that would be a pang of jealousy. But unless you have endured the Fan Dance you can't begin to understand, just how hard you have to work your body and mind to earn it. Obviously I haven't done it, but I know plenty who have, and now after Saturday I know of three more friends that have stared down the Fan and won. Kate Bent (who was the fastest woman on the Dance or Queen of the Mountain, adding to her title she won at The Paras'10 in Colly this year), Kramar Donachie and John Falconer, respect is earnt, and no one can say that after pitting your body and wits against the Fan you don't deserve it. Truly amazing and inspiring efforts, all, and truly honoured to have been part of this journey with you, even if come the day I wasn't able to be there (this time)! It's very difficult to explain the connection you feel with like-minded people, who take on challenges like this, and the relationships you forge. Over the months since losing Lloydy, whilst creating focus and goals for myself, and taking part in these events, I've met and got round with some truly incredible people. People that inspire me to even greater levels by their collective efforts, I'm just gutted in this instance (and I guess I always will be on some level) I couldn't be there to share in the glory and pride. It will be 6 long months until July!

Redundant kit - although not for long!
Luckily though the next event is only a little over 6 weeks away, hopefully ensuring that the last throes of disappointment and frustration ebb away, I may have even stopped moping about by then! On March 9th the 'redundant' kit will be freed from the wardrobe, and I will once again get the opportunity to try and break that 1hr50. Doing the event at Aldershot means I would have taken on all three courses in the last year, so I guess the disappointment of missing out on the the inaugural Winter Fan Dance might be numbed a little, especially if I come in under the 1hr50, well third time lucky and all that!

Heaven in a bottle!
Another prize for completing the arduous course in addition to the patch would have been the Fan Dance Ale, commissioned especially for the event. I can only guess that come the end of the event, the carbs would have been welcome, and very well earnt. However, one friend bought 6 bottles and didn't drink them, craziness, but his intentions it would appear were, at the next available opportunity, to share them with me. That's the most positive thing that I can take out of the journey I've been on in the last year, that in being able to pay tribute to my brother, as I've said previously, I've become friends with some truly incredible people. So here's to another year of creating friends, doing something positive, and going always a little further! 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

9 measly days......

.......until I (slash - we, as in the other 399 crazies, that are taking on the Fan) am/are confronted with the Phone Box by the Storey Arms, but this time, it's for real, no mucking about, no more excuses, it's head down, crack on time (well head up really, you need to be looking where you're putting your feet - but you get what I mean)! 

More than just a Phone Box! This is the very symbol of Batshit Craziness, unless of course this is a familiar stomping ground!
Training has once again been hit and miss, last weekend. early Saturday morning I smashed out 7.5 miles in 90 mins with 47lb on my back plus water, which was followed by an hour in the pool Sunday morning, before a dust off of the old legs in trainers for an hour in the evening. I went to bed Sunday night feeling pretty chuffed with myself, and woke up Monday morning feeling like shit! Legs, check. Heart, check. Lungs and chest full of some dirty virus, check! Great, as if Mondays can't get any more bloody miserable! It's now Thursday and all week I haven't been able to train in anger, which is frustrating, even the morning and evening climbs up the escalators between Euston and London Bridge are enough to do me in, but hey the good news is, there's still 9 days (well 8 training days, well 7 as Friday before should be a rest day), every cloud has a silver lining and all that - although to be fair looks more like snow to me! Just another little obstacle to throw into the mix, if the met office report is to be believed, but hey it wouldn't be the Fan Dance in Winter without snow, surely? 

A Sweaty 'Orrible Mess!
To be honest, the way I see it is, that despite the hit and miss with training over the last few weeks, the base fitness is there. I've worked my ass off this year to get myself through two Paras'10 events, and you don't lose that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anywhere near as fit as I would like to be yet, and there's still a fair bit of spare timber around that I want shot of, that will at this point hold me back. Therefore, I'm under no illusions as to the difficulties I/we face and the far greater challenge The Fan Dance presents, but again that's why we're doing it, isn't it? I took a lot of time to decide to do this event and before I decided to say 'yes' I sought the advice of some of my closet friends and of course my wife, as to whether they felt I was fit enough to give it a go, the answers came back as a unanimous 'yes', lets hope they're right! Actually, no hope required, I'm fit enough, but you need much more than fitness, and I've gone over this in the past. I have the heart, I have the desire, and I have the incentive, my personal tribute to my brother, to "go always a little further." 

If like me, you are not superhuman fit (and I dare say of the 400 that will make their way from the Phone Box and back again next Saturday, there will be a few, that a fair few of us we'll be in complete awe of) having an incentive is a powerful thing to possess, especially in the pursuit of that very fine finishers patch.If unlike me and a few others that I know who are doing the event for very similar reasons, then you'd do far worse, than to familiarise yourself with 'Pathfinder'. 'Pathfinder' is an account of a PF mission in Irag led by Captain David Blakeley in March 2003, I've just finished it. Now I'm familiar with some of the PF traditions as Lloydy was PF until 2010, and there are a few quotes and passages worth reciting, that will no doubt puff that chest out to begin with, and give you more strength when you need it. Me, I just think of my brother, but hey, I know I'll be using the following passages and quotes too, not too mention, playing 'Thunderstruck' over and over in my head. So with a little under 9 days to go, prep in the way that works best for you, find those incentives that give you that extra strength you need to push on, and lastly hold your head up high (not just because it's best to, so you know where you're placing your feet), but because, your doing and being part of something quite special and very unique..........

"Happiness shall always be found by those who dare and persevere; wanderer - do not turn around, march on and have no fear." - PF

"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus - William Ernest Henley

See you on the Fan!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Batshit Crazy.....

.....I said to Kramar a few weeks ago that 'Batshit Crazy' would make a great title for a challenge blog post - well far be it for me to disappoint, but now more than ever, the title seems wholly appropriate!

The Winter Fan Dance is fast approaching, a little over two weeks away or on a slightly more positive tact, a little under three weeks away! Before the break for Xmas I had got myself into a decent routine of double dipping my cardio sessions - a run first thing in the morning, before leaving for work, and an hour on the bike in the evening upon getting back from work. Then Xmas strikes and with as much tradition as the mince pies and Xmas turkey, the virus hits, this isn't just Man-Flu, whatever hits me, makes Man-Flu, feel like a sniffle. Even tying my shoe laces was enough to do me in for the whole day, so contemplating training was a no-no, and I guess if I'd even tried, the wife would have hit me harder than the virus, that had taken over every muscle in my body. I can't remember ever feeling that bad, whether it be a combination of the end of year wind down and the body telling me it had had enough for the year or some lovely person had managed to pass on their lurgy remains to be seen, but whatever it was, meant I didn't even attempt to lace my running shoes until 30th December, which meant almost 10 days without training. 

We were staying with friends in Essex for the weekend and into New Year, so used the opportunity to run on familiar turf (or tarmac as the case may be). I got 5 miles out of the legs on Sunday evening just to loosen off and then first thing New Years Eve morning, I laced up the boots and strapped on the bergen, and did an old familiar hill circuit, that is still used by the running club I used to be a member of, more years ago, than I care to remember. I managed to get three circuits done which included four hill climbs, and to be fair considering how shocking I had felt previously I was quite happy with that, and although with just under three weeks to go, there still feels like a lot of work to be done, and that I will not be ready, I will approach my training and the event in the same manner I did the Paras'10, with guts and determination. I know I have the heart, and sheer grit to give a good account of myself, and have just enough 'batshit craziness' to ensure come 19th January, no matter how tough it may be, I will endure and I will achieve my latest tribute to my little brother.