Monday, 31 October 2016

2016 - Part Deux!

....the writing continues!


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.


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. 


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 " 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!


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).

"'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".


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!

100 PEAKS TEAM LAUNCH & BARRIE'S 24hr ROW - May 2016
PARAS'10 - May 2016
CATERAN YOMP - June 2016
SUMMER FAN - 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.


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.


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