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






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