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Whisky, watered with tears… A review of 2013

I don’t count the friends that have died in any single year, those whose health has had a down spell, or those who’ve had ops.If I did I think I’d go slightly mad (and probably not in a good way).Some view this as me not really caring, well those “some” don’t know me.

I’m not a surgeon, nor a doctor or a nurse… I can’t help other than being me, doing what I can to raise awareness and try and work behind the scenes to improve things.
Those who have died haven’t just been from my dickey-ticker world, friends and colleagues from work, others I know through my varied and mixed interests.Each year I buy a decent bottle of Scotch, single malt (I have standards) and I hope that I can leave it on its shelf unopened. The Jura: Superstition is far, far too far down the bottle for it to have been a good year.
But it has been a year where I have done things I wasn’t sure that I would be able to…
I set myself the target of walking or running 25 miles a week on top of normal activity – normal/minim…

Thank you...

This is a blog for all the little people, the middle sized people and the big people who end up being the little and middle sized people’s parents – Thank you.

I spent the last four days running around, in a non-running sense, around Butlins at Bognor.Over twenty kids (and a few adults) with heart conditions and their families came and joined CHF for our magical Winter Wonderland.I wish I had a magic wand and we could bring all who wanted to come along, but through the generosity of one sponsor we were able to bring more families than ever before, and member groups and individuals supported others to come.
So why a thank you from me? And this isn’t just for our Winter Wonderlanders, it’s for everyone who comes along to be part of our family. (Yes we have the odd hiccup, yup some of us don’t always get on – but that’s family.We roll along with the rough and smooth and get on with things.)
From Science Museum trips, through farm trips, madness in dragon boats, winter wonderlands, and…

I'm back...

And so it ends...

The three weeks of rest, recovery and finding my focus I promised myself. Don the Trail26 at Rivington, wait for 3 weeks and then start again...

By my math its eighteen weeks to my date with destiny, the start line at Greenwich. As I've ranted and moaned about before this a run six years in the making, six years of marathons, ultramarathons, worn out trainers, worn through shorts, not too many blisters and far too much chafing!!!

So this is the year where I'm hoping it all comes together, I'm fit - but not race fit; I'm lighter than I was - but not as light as I can be; I'm focused - just about the right level. I've got the endurance in spades, I can walk all day (and have done many times...)

The early spring races are booked, a fun fast 10k in Southport, my Mad Dog three times its been organised, three times I've loved it. The Cambridge half, flat fast and fun... and last year nice and chilly.

The cardiologist is content with my antics, t…

Challenge complete... Next!!!

I'm done...

The math is simple 4000km in a year equals 77km a week for the year. The challenge was to equal 25 miles a week for the year to celebrate the Children's Heart Federation's 25 years of supporting families and children born with heart conditions.

Seventy Seven? Yes, that's rather more than the 40km that 25 miles would require... but as normal its the extra steps that I count, my baseline distance a day walking to work, popping to the shops ect is 5k, so taking 35km a week hurts, but is right for me... 42km, just a bit extra to make sure, and make it a Marathon a week (just cos it feels right😁).

So, I could vegetate do nothing but sit on my rump, but that's not really in my nature... and I have one bugbear that I want to itch the scratch of.  The night hike, the pushing brain and legs through the night, pushing my control of tiredness to the limit.

So my final hurrah is a night-ultra distance hike... 35miles around the Wirral Circular Trail, starting at s…

I left my legs on Winter Hill...

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So that was it, the last medal for 2013, the last t-shirt, the last finish line...

It was hard, partly because of the rubbish taper I'd had, partly because it wasn't the best of weather and partly because it was never, ever going to be easy.

The first half was the hilly half, up and along and up passed Rivington Pike and then up towards Winter Hill, the TV tower looming surrounded by radio towers.  Already the terrain had been a mix of cobbles, leaf strewn cobbles, bog and tarmac... And then the first three of the 10k runners went past me, hell and high water these guys were fast - 40min 10ks on this terrain well, well beyond anything I'm ever going to consider but a joy to see. At this point a "motivational" text from a mate turned up - You're going to die in this weather. The gods hate you.  Nice, and it worked, I wasn't feeling at my best and the little prod of defiance the text provoked was all I needed. Apart from anything else I'm a stubborn S…

How did you use your extra hour...

The clocks went back in the UK this weekend... And a "meme" started hitting Facebook, asking people to think about how they used their extra hour and think about doing something good with it.

I slept through my extra hour... But I had a good excuse, I was awake until about 10 minutes before it happened.  This weekend was a meeting of the European Congenital Heart Groups' Working Group (that is a mouthful - we're the ECHG!).  This is the merry band of people, all born with heart conditions, who are trying to work through a long list of things before the next big meeting in Switzerland next year.

So why was I up so late, I'd love to say it was because I'd convinced them all to go to a pub and we'd had a lock in.  However, it was simply because I had probably the easiest journey, and thus had the least tiredness to face down.  So meeting notes of the first 3 hours were written, drafts were made ready for the next morning and in the side window of the laptop…

Time to go a bit mental...

One year, hopefully 2014, I'm going to sit and write how all of my training for a marathon has gone swimmingly, how the miles have gone flying and how my body has held up brilliantly...

However, not right now...

I had a cracking week in the Lakes back at the start of the month, 70 miles of walking and running to get me back in the groove... Then a weird cold thing took a week out, then a rogue biker almost took me out - I was jogging on the pavement, they were cycling... Apparently they had right of way, and that way went through my right hip...

So 10 days of gingerly bending and flexing it, building up the walking as a compensation and it seems to be working. A couple of gym sessions to test the joints out and it all seems to be fine... Which leaves me two weeks from a trail marathon with bugger all in my legs apart from a reasonable 10km... As people can see I ended up doing a modified Galloway of 900m run, 100m walk - until I warmed up and blasted the last 2km in something t…

Time to be a benevolent dictator...

Some people might not like this blog, I'm going to threaten one of the most sacred cows in my community - the primacy of the medical profession.  I'm often considered disrespectful to the doctors and nurses, as according to two people in the last year (neither of them in the medical professions) I owe them my life.

I owe them my respect, and they get that, but its not, not ever unconditional.  Why? I can almost hear some of the gnashing of teeth;-)  Now when I do presentations on communicating with doctors and nurses I use transactional analysis, and other techniques, to try and give people a framework that they can use to get the best out of their appointments. However, this is my blog and I can be slightly freer with my explanations, and indeed colourful language...

Where to start...

I'm constantly told that I'm part of the team of people looking after my health, my medical needs, the management of my various health term conditions...

Some go as far as saying I&…

Not the strangest place I've ever talked about congenital heart disease...

But damn close...

Last week was "Training Week: Coniston" - a week in the Lake District with friends, and the hills... A group walk up the Old Man, and the pretty much whatever I needed to make myself feel ready for my end of year special - the Rivington Montane Trail 26...

The plan was to do a couple of long walks, one flatish and one with hills in... and a short run and a long run... Which gave me a day to do Coniston (after the short run) and a day off to pester one of my mates for a lift somewhere...

A walk to Ambleside and back took care of the flat long walk - just under 20 miles, with good food and excellent shops in the middle. 

A 10k up and over Tarn Hows, just to get my eye into off roading around the Lakes - and boy do I not like tree routes!  Not fast, but fun:-)



The weather then became more conducive to running, e.g. dank, with a hint of rain... A run around Consiton Water beckoned, the only problems being slight navigational hiccups - resulting in a barbed …

Back on the road & information... We want information

If anyone ever says there's no difference between running on the hills and on the road then they probably haven't tried it and almost definitely deserve a slap...

Based on trying to switch back to road running I know I have stamina in spades, shovels and buckets... I know that I have some speed, even though I've been going long and not doing much at pace...

So why have I found the GNR & the Aintree Grand 10k so hard mentally, and sort of physically... By sort of I mean my niggles are back after much shorter distances than off road, and mentally well it's staying focused in a way I used to be able to do much, much easier.

Part of it is the surface, both were on tarmac or concrete which does jar a bit more than bog... More importantly they were flat.  My stride pattern and cadence was fairly constant, and repetition and repetition isn't what I'm used to.

Off road my cadence is changing all the time, my stride pattern shortens and lengthens on the angle of t…

The no pressure run

I've done everything I hoped to on two feet this year already, 2012 was the year of the pb - 10% off every one,  apart from the marathon where it was 'only' 5%...2013 has been about going long, as long as I thought I could go and then the next day, and the day after that... I've only got one pb... 5 miles,  painfully close to my dream time of under 50min, but still a shade to go. Top 5 5ks,  second fastest 10k and way back in the snow of Cambridge my second fastest half Marathon... So,  it's back to Newcastle.  Where all of this running stuff began,  a course that I used to consider hilly (!) and the friendliest people on a course you could want.  This is the run I suggest for non-runners, for those who want to say I've done a half and no more, and those who've never done a big run.  It's not perfect, sometimes it's a long way from that but by hell is fun! So,  no pressure. My 'speed' work has consisted of 3 fairly speedy for me 5ks, and 2 8…

Say it quietly... Autumn is coming...

The calendar has flipped over another month, another run has been done... Another one I've wanted to do for a while.

For as long as I've jogged along in the hills I've looked at the sweep down from Mam Tor and thought - that'll be fun to run... I've then walked along and up Back Nic and Losehill and thought, that may hurt on the way up... and I'm not sure I can run down the Losehill steps.

Well I did run down, dodging the walkers, and it did hurt on the way up... And there was no bloody way I was running down those steps.  My feet are far too big for them, and its as steep as hell!

Complete success, no.  I ballsed up my feeding and my hydration, and paid for it on the flat road section. Lesson learned, eat more and drink more than I think I need - I can't do the best part of a half-marathon on 1 gel and a packet of Cliff Blocks when there's 1500ft of climb in there. 


So, I did what I set out to do... Loved every minute of it, and learnt something... S…

My feet may be permanently stained...

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It was a spur of the moment thing... Bank Holiday weekend, any beds left at the Youth Hostel near Castleton - Yup... Good, then what to do...

Getting there is easy, train ride into Edale and then hike up and over Mam Tor, the ridge and then drop off the back of Lose Hill to get to the sneaky back gate into the Hostel. Eight glorious KM, possibly my favourite

Saturday's forecast was wet... and it drizzled most of the morning... Up over Losehill, Back Nick, Hollin's Cross, the long drag up Mam Tor, then that dispiriting drop to the road and then dragging yourself back up to Lord's Seat. 

I'd love to say that there were fantastic views over the Edale valley...

But...


This was the drop from Lord's Seat before the turn north across the hideously featureless Brown Knoll; luck, half a path, a compass bearing and I was very, very happy to see this...



Love them or loathe them, after 2km of knee high sludge I was moved to almost kiss this lump of white concrete!

Across …

Competition time! (Honest!)

Ok,

I'm not sure what the prize will be - think amusing trinket rather than an item of great worth...

I was pondering on the way back from the Edinburgh Fringe, what do I do in the hills...

Fell Running implies a skimpiness of shorts that others wouldn't feel comfortable with, and a speed I may never muster

Fell Walking implies a cloth cap and a ferret, and an excess of ale...

Rambling? Hmmm, my companions thought that was not active enough...

So we chewed the cud...

Fell Jogging - do gaiters count as ankle warmers?

Mad Bugger (Extreme) - I like the link to my gong, but extreme for some reason it suggests that I'm doing assault courses...

So, the competition is open until I get an name that is moderately amusing;-)

Anyway, the Fringe...

None of my shows were truly bad... Which sounds like an odd place to start, but the Fringe can be a bit hit and miss... Newsrevue was it's usual caustic self - no one is safe...  Bonk, the show of the science of sex, based on the…

I have a sore shoulder...

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And I love you all for it..

100 miles... 161km... 800 furlongs...

The medal says 4 days - it was 3 and a half...

Some of us met in a car park outside Bath, some nervous (me), some terrified (that's more like it) and others seemingly strangely calm (if I gave that impression to anyone, I'm a good actor).

Faces from previous races were recognised, acknowledgements made and mutterings about Win Hill, 30 degree heat - nothing can be that bad again.

Then up to Chipping Cambden, drop off our bags, collect the emergency numbers for the control and medical staff and then line up...



Walkers, inc me, off first for a warm day's hiking over good paths and moderate terrain - highlights for me, being accosted by a man (very drunk) with two shire horses... Who thought I was quite mad... I have to agree with him!

The Cotswolds are a stunningly beautiful part of the world, littered with follies and monuments, including towers only built so that it could be seen by all around...

 The …

Feeling bloated, irritable, then what you need is...

An 100 mile adventure...

Yup, the taper is here and annoying... the carboloading has reached the point where I quite frankly just want to have a simple chicken salad... I feel fat, and unfit...

Which is cobblers...

Yes, I'm maxed on the weight, but a lot of that is bloat and will come off as I use it.  The fitness thing is that bizarre confidence thing I have - I feel more confident when I'm doing things, which can mean I undertaper and don't go into events completely injury free.

So shake the head, dust off the confidence generator and run through the adventures to come...

Last day in the office tomorrow, light food (to avoid the bloat still being here on Friday), gentle 3-dimensional yoga (climb) and then finish the packing.

The guys organising this madness are transporting my heavy gear between runners villages - so my tent, mat, sleeping bag and normal crap is in my duffle sack.  All I'll be carrying during the day is my clothes (you'll be pleased to know)…

A Week:-(

Where to start?

It's been a crap week - Two of the GUCHs I've met through the various conferences died within 3 days of each other. Neither was expected.

My impotent rage at not being able to do anything, even being separated by many miles from those who I could at least hug, always drives me batty.  I can't wave a magic wand, I just hope those who need some love know there are waves of it coming from the UK. I said most of what I can at these times before This Game of Ghosts

Anything, and everything, else pales to insignificance against that backdrop. However, life goes on and that, for me, means another taper and more carboloading.

It's one of those bizarre things about the level of activity that I do I need to eat a lot, and may put weight on the week and a bit before an event.  It's not like a half marathon, I can't fudge it on a bowl of porridge and sneaky gel every 45 min.  I'm going to be pushing myself for the best part of 4 days, I should be burn…

30 miles in 30 degrees... The OMM Intro Ultra

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Hottest day of the year - check

30 miles planned - check

Hard climbs at the hottest parts of the day - check...

That was possibly the toughest event I have ever done, physically and mentally.

Physically, it was about balance - knowing that by going slow I would keep going and that if I went at anything like a pace I'd burn out long before the end.  Balance against that was my desire to do a good time for me (GTFM), GTFM is different than a PB - its just that feel runner get about what should be do-able and you'll be happy with.

Mentally, it was best part of 13 hours on my own. Occasionally, chatting with the other back of the pack people as we leapfrogged each other for much of the day and talking to the marshals at the manned checkpoints.  Other than those moments and the arse-hole of a mountain biker... I'll explain in a bit... very little conversation apart from that in my head.  13h in my head - not recommended!

The first 21km were good, enjoyable, a known entity - be…

Fear itself...

I'm worried...

I shouldn't be  It's 30 miles... And, I've done it before It's going to be hot... Remember Edinburgh - I was a stone heavier, less fit and less experienced I've not trained consistently...  Last year you were a freak, this year you're normal I've not run well all year... Now I'm being an idiot - 5 mile pb, 2nd fastest half marathon, 2nd fastest 10km  I've not done much endurance work... Now I'm being annoying - 75 miles in 3 and a half days, single walks of 22 miles in 8:31 I'm carrying post-injury twinges Yep, I need to get used to it I'm over 40... Welcome to the inside of my head - don't worry its nice in here! TTFN Paul   

Halfway through challenge 25 - Approximations of a challenge...

It's almost half way through 2013, therefore it's time for an update on Challenge 25...

There's some assumptions to be made - pretty robust ones, and ones that'll tend to an underestimate, so I'm happy with that.

In a normal sedentary day I do 5 km.  I've taken this from my Fitbit, and on the 5 or 6 sedentary days I've day this seem consistent whether its a day welded to my desk or just pottering around the shops.

My Fitbit underestimates the distance I walk by about 5% and overestimates runs by 5% - so we'll call that evens (even though it'll count against my total distance as I walk more than I run).

I've worn my Fitbit almost everyday since I got it - except the weeks it was lost - again an tendency to underestimate as I lost it on a 10 mile trail run, on weekend which also had a hill walk and a shorter hill run...

If you look at My Fitbit profile you should be able to find my lifetime distance - today (at the moment, I've a stroll to g…

Sometimes its a head thing...

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I've had a fortnight out with a thigh injury.  Worst possible timing - I was just back from walking across Scotland, and then ran my second fastest 10km ever... And then for 2 weeks, bugger all...

Well not quite I walked a bit, and climbed less - when you try and push through on a bouldering route and your thigh says "no go" it's time to become the dead weight at the end of a rope.

However, two weeks isn't really enough time to affect my fitness, but it does get into your head a bit...

Throw in not having run a lot - bit difficult when you're walking the Great Glen Way with a backpack on and its beginning to nag at me - how am I going manage the 30 mile / 50 km ultra in July and the 100 miler in August.

Which is what this weekend was about - go out, push myself with some hills and then burn some miles on good surfaces to see how my thigh holds up...

Three thousand and a bit feet of up and down, 22 miles along - with the rule being - no running, bring it i…

Great Glen Way - The Walking Review

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The kit has been done (scroll down if you missed it)...

Start at the start...

I'd been helping at the Children's Heart Federation Family weekend - Families taken around a farm zoo and then let loose on a driving range before a slap up Chinese buffet... Then on Sunday I was somehow on two Dragonboat teams - the NW's own group and a team led by a fellow CHF runner John.  Five dragonboat races later my arms were aching and the Avengers cam a creditable 4th behind some teams with suspiciously fit people in them...

From there it was the sleeper train, a life long ambition - fuelled by too many watchings of the 39 Steps... Alas I didn't end up handcuffed to a damsel in distress, but then again I didn't end up hanging off the hands of Big Ben...

I slept well, so a quick coffee and charge of the gadgets in Inverness and I was on my way.  From Flora MacDonald at Inverness Castle it was a gentle start - remembering how to hitch my backpack just so as I strode along the C…