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Showing posts from 2014

So this is Christmas... a runners retrospective

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Christmas is one of those times where I take a breath, look back and reflect...

and when reflecting its very easy to concentrate on the bits that are worst, or closest - the lingering cold that won't shift, the months with an injured foot and ankle, the grumbling intermittent attempts to get back into running...

Which would be doing myself, and this year, a disservice - the near perfect execution of a training plan, and then a PB marathon and my second fastest marathon and then a two-hour PB on my favourite ultra. It would be forgetting the second fastest half marathon and trekking across Hadrian's Wall in three and a half days. Oh, and the fourth highest mountain England.

And most of all it would be forgetting my friends, those who run, those I run with, and those who look on in horror. 

Looking back there's only one run that continues to frustrate me, the Fellsman - that dangerous obsession I've acquired for every April.  I've tried training specifically for …

Pushing...

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A blog inspired by a spat on Facebook, who ever would have thought it...

As some of you will know I had a 24 hour ECG tape on during this week and someone suggested that it was unlike me I wasn't planning to "push" it - I reacted with a modicum of sarcasm, mainly because the individual involved should know more than most my approach to exercise.

However, as they obviously didn't get it I spent the 5 and a half hours I spent wandering up Skiddaw either itching the re-growing hairs on my chest, looking at the awesome views, panting and working out a new model of fitness.

This may not be completely new, so apologies to whichever guru I'm ripping off... I give you the balloon model of fitness.

I have one big fitness balloon - that's me in total, all of the walking, running, climbing, gym work etc. Each of those elements is a balloon within the bigger one.

My baseline fitness, my usual get up and go stuff is what the Fitbit tends to measure - its the minimum 1…

Time for a Rocky Style Training Montage...

After the disaster of my anniversary walk (two bikes in 30 min clipping me, more a precautionary stop than critical, but anti-inflammatories were needed) the time has come to knuckle down and do what I do well...

Start following the plan

Sixteen weeks to Cambridge, a training programme based around three runs a week (with extras for fun, and some long distance walks), the static bike work will continue (apart from anything else the stress relief is great from the combination of shortish intense work & an episode of something daft off amazon prime), the diet will have to improve, as will the hydration... The climbing will help with the core, and I've a sub-plan for what I want to achieve going vertical...

Why follow a plan? Partly its reassurance that its something I've done - though normally for marathons. So this is going to be fun, a lighter training load overlaid on the endurance I've retained should be good.

I'm also, for exercise, am fairly target orientate…

Sentimentality & Endurance

Thirty-Nine years and 51 weeks ago (give or take a few days) my parents handed me over to a team of near strangers.  Those strangers, including an Operation Market Garden veteran, one who would go on to be considered a legend and one who wouldn't...

I can't imagine what went through my parents minds as they signed the paperwork, what they felt as I was gassed up and sent down... or the frantic conversation that would've happened when there was a bleed and I had to be rushed back down.

There's a couple of trace memories from my time at Great Ormond Street - an odd dislike of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - I think linked to a painting on the corridor down to the operating room.  There's my active dislike of clowns, trust me some clowns in hospitals when the kid is in pain don't make you laugh, or be happy... they scare the living shit out of you!

There's a more physical memory, a scar on the top of my left hand's middle finger - during a post-op che…

Twas the night before a run, and the next challenge...

The bowl of pasta sits steaming...

The trainers and socks sit at the end of the bed...

The shorts and top gently rotate in the washing machine (modern synthetics, and the amount I sweat are not a good combination)...

And I smile...

Tomorrow is Beat the Reaper, a 10k around a local park. The reapers wander through the woods, and silently stare at the runners, scythe in hand. It'd be easy to put too much meaning on any run where a GUCH is racing death, so I won't.  I'll go back to smiling and knowing I won't be fast tomorrow, I'll be again heading for a 70min 10k.

The last couple of weeks have been about getting back into the groove, feeling good when I run, irrespective of the time it takes.  The night jog last Sunday, the pop out dragging a mate from work out for a slow dash are slowly getting easier mentally.  Not great distances, not great speed, but the point is I'm getting back out there and I'm smiling when I do it.

Marathon, and Ultra, running is…

Not time for a chest shave yet…

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The annual check-up, an event to get even the roughest and toughest GUCH to have a few collywobbles…
As I said last week I was 99% sure that everything is ok, hell it’s a year where I’ve run my two fastest marathons, my second fastest half marathon and done other mad stuff as well.But paranoia is a great friend, and yet again my cardiologists are being sensibly paranoid about my pulmonary valve.
It’s a known weakness in those of us with Fallots, and various doctors have been paranoid about mine since I was 16… So whatever the outcome of the next six-months I’ve had a damn good run.
So there is some evidence that my pulmonary is weakening, and that my right ventricle is expanding a bit. Is it a problem – not right now.The exercise test (boo hiss on a bike), is form rather than function – when the cardiologist sits there and almost goads you with “you’ll probably beat everyone in the hospital, including the staff” you know it’s going to be fun.It’s the MRI that’ll give the main chunk of d…

Two Blogs for the Price of One

Two of the sides of my existence are coming into close alignment...

So, the walking and running...

After the madness of a half marathon followed by a long distance path, it's been a week of gentle recovery and then off to the Isle of Man for a week of fun, visiting historic and prehistoric sites and as there was a long distance path... well it'd be rude not to!


It's a walk of two halves - the first half was near perfect walking; rolling hills, short sharp ascents in places and finished at a pub with a cracking burger! It's the Crosby in Crosby.   Then its road and trail walking all the way to Castletown... where I met up with some of the extended dickey ticker family (who treated me to tea!).

Home from the Island it was a rapid tour of Liverpool with the Icelandic branch of the dickey ticker extended family, and a quick hug with one of the Norwegian branches... Yes, my life is as mad as it sounds.

Then to a 10k, my plan was to just try and get round with minimal wa…

That was the walk that was...

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I enjoyed that, I've a few blisters and the dull tiredness of someone whose done a lot. 

I said I'd need to gain a few extra miles to make it up to the hundred... I managed that walking to the starting pen of the GNR - we're now doing 15 miles... That's without the hike to the bus stop and back... The extras on the GPS come from route detours, of which there were two, and the walk to the hotel - which as its in Stanwick is on the site of one of the biggest Roman wall forts.

My poor little Fitbit ran out of juice for the last day - fortunately my lovely phone has a pedometer built into the chip so the numbers could be lifted...

On the GPS its 163.9 km - which comes out at 101.8 miles

On the Fitbit its 201.1 km - which comes out at 125 miles

Both mean I did what I aimed to - be in the run with a million finishers, and I was about 200 m away from the millionth person so saw the ensuing madness and also do a hundred miles in 4 days.
In pictures:



A warm GNR
One of very fe…

Day 5: Job done

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Well, according to my guidebook the citizens of Bowness on Solway worry that they're being forgotten as a terminus of Hadrian's Wall... And to be fair if you don't have walker's OCD there's not a great deal to recommend this section - for me its 17 miles of unremitting tarmac and farm tracks is important but not essential.

But the day starts with end of Carlisle, and follows the Eden out, and out...  There's little evidence of the wall, the odd section of the vallum and reused stonework in buildings. But it isn't unpleasant, just not the same as the soaring challenges as the days before.



The main challenge was keeping focused to make sure I made the bus back - inconveniently early afternoon or late afternoon... My feet, and their few blisters, felt tired and started cramping - the toes of the right foot being pulled back in sharp contractions isn't conducive for good walking.

The honesty shacks were again welcome oasis' - though I do despair that …

Day 4 - brutality & honesty

That was tough... The rollercoaster of ups & downs at the start wasn't a gentle easing into a long days walking, The day had already started oddly. The French backpacker in my room at the hostel seemed unaccustomed to communal living... Including sleeping on the floor & lying on my socks... And being most put out when I asked for them back! Personally, my socks should be banned under the Geneva Convention. Oh well, a little late and annoyed...The wall is a frequent companion, and you really begin to wonder what the Latin for "But Sarge... " is as there are many point where the rules were followed, and the line kept straight when an easier line could've been followed...As the hills flatten out, the walking becomes more of a leg stretch, steps become paces and something similar to a march begins. The tea shops are again lumpy in their distribution... But the café at Birdswold was perfectly placed for lunch, on through Banks feeling slightly odd that for the fir…

Day 3 - thinking, t-shirts & singing...

Saving the best to last is normally a good strategy... And the last 5km of the walking was some of the best walking around. It also, at times, was more staircases than strolling.  Up a crag, down the other side. Pause, slurp from my water bottle. See if there's a photo opportunity, then stroll up again...But that's getting ahead of myself... The first 20 miles went well, long stretches of gentle walking. The tea shop distribution was very uneven, so morning tea & nibbles was rapidly followed by lunch... And then nothing until arriving at the hostel.I was asked by a fellow hosteler what I thought about when walking such a long way... Everything, and nothing... I think back on other walks, especially those with friends no longer around, I prepare discussion notes for essays & talks (the details never stock, but the gist does & that helps) and I revel in the sheer joy of having my existence reduced to putting one foot in front of the other...After explaining my backgr…

Day 2 - there will be wall...

Well, the legs still work... I started later than I like, I much prefer being up and out and walking by about 8, but getting to Wallsend & the queue in the post office to post my GNR stuff back to myself saw to that...Hey Ho...Day 1 is a stroll along the Tyne - the classic views of the bridges and then near silence... After Newcastle it gets quiet, miles go by with only the of cyclist or jogger passing by. When I left the Tyne, and climbed to Heddon on the wall I'm afraid my bladder dictated a direct route to the pub rather than a detour to the wall remains there... Then it's undulations for what seems like every, the flights going into Newcastle airport my slightly noisy companions... The archeology is mostly lumps & bumps, with the occasional shaped stone appearing. Good enough to look at, not enough to take a photo of...The pub can't be praised enough - I've never been confronted with two courses I couldn't finish... The nachos were larger than a sharing…

GNR done, so time to start walking

The GNR is not the nicest half marathon course, it's crowded & packed... And yet, it's still up there as one of my favourite runs, because of the people... There's the locals, who must clear the shelves of the local shops of oranges and sweets to hand out to us, the bairns who stick their hands out to be taped as you go passed. There's the runners, the parts of the back and heartfelt 'keep going' when you slow. The shared experience forming a fleeting but deep bond.And then there's my friends, the charity runners for CHF, MaxAppeal and related charities who know each other from meetings, events or Facebook. We run for a cause, and although we run for different aspects of it we are mostly family...A 2:50 half is slow, but that's the first long run in 10 weeks, my feet held up, it was hot, and I enjoyed it. So the warm up is done, time to stay walking:-)TTFNPaul

I am (not) Iron Man

I was called Iron Man by someone this weekend, mainly for the heart thing... To repeat something I've said before I've no intention of trying to do an Iron Man Tri - I may be mad, but... just but...

However, despite not being a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr, not bring the correct personality type (as mentioned in an ACHA blog)  nor having a multi-billion budget, let alone a Pepper Potts to organise my life I would occasionally like a systems check from a Jarvis...

So, Jarvis - systems check

Yes Sir, top to bottom or bottom to top?

Let's start at the bottom...

Feet, within acceptable tolerances.

Ankles, left strong.  Right, residual weakness, may I suggest that you maintain the strapping


Recommendation noted - and accepted.

Calves - less strong than earlier in the year, Sir

That'll be two months off Jarvis...

Yes Sir, just ensuring you are factoring this into your calculations Sir.

Thank you Jarvis

Knees, surprisingly good for a man of your age and recreational activ…

Back to where it began... and a bit of a forward look

In less than a month I'll be going back to where it all started... Both the running and the long distance walking.

The Great North Run is one of those starting points that I would recommend to anyone, and yes one year they tried to suggest I shouldn't do it because of my heart condition, but they backed down when I reminded them I'd done it seven times...

Hadrian's Wall was first walked before it was a national trail, back in the days when the only stamps you were likely to get were from angry farmers as you cut through their fields.

Both, conveniently, are located in Newcastle (at least the start of the walk).

So, 13.1 miles to run

Followed by 84 miles of National Trail... in 4 days...

That'll be 21 miles, 22 miles, 27 miles and then with a nice almost symmetry 14 miles.

I'm sure I'll find the extra 3 miles to make it to the 100 miles. A ton in 5 days...

As the gang who walked it with me a few years back will know Hadrian's Wall isn't exactl…

Toughhearts 2014: A fixed point in space and time

That moves every two years…
The Eurohearts conferences exist in the hearts and souls of those who have been there, they occupy that special place between family and lovers and resonate with the hopes and fears of all of us.
Toughhearts 2014 in Baar, Switzerland was the latest of these fixed points, a week long opportunity to be amongst people who share something that normally makes us different, our heart conditions and the rest of the issues that these things bring.We go from being unusual to being common, and that is a good thing every once in a while.
Toughheart 2014 was as innovative a conference as I can remember – a constantly updated website, a conference cocktail (one of many alcohol free ones designed especially for the hearty bar), a conference song and opportunities to discuss the tough things in our lives with some of those who have to tell us the tough things – the cardiologists themselves.
We got to tour Edwards’ Life Science’s heart valve plant, seeing the intricate care th…

A thank you letter....

To my Delightful Dane,
I’ll be writing another blog about the big stuff, the important stuff and the impressive stuff but this is a blog to thank you for giving me a little thing back… My desire to run, and run well.
I’ve never had anyone say they were starstruck to meet me, or that that they weren’t sure what to say. I hope that I lived up to your expectations because at the end of the day I’m just a middle aged man who runs around a bit.
You reminded me that to run is both fun, and for us GUCHs, a privilege. Your courage in accepting that bet from your dad to run a 10km made me smile and warmed my soul and I remembered the “running bets” I’ve had with myself and others; can I do a marathon, can I run a 10k then a half marathon without walking, can I complete an Ultra-marathon.
Thank you for inspiring me, again, to deal with my busted ankle and get back out there.You will let me know when your 10k is and that day I will be running as close to the time as possible a 10k.You more than lik…

Niggles and Motivation...

I have a niggle, shouldn't be a surprise, and its a return of an old friend - the puffy foot. 

In the words of my GP, "you've got chronic soft tissue damage - what do you expect, how many times have you twisted it?"

So when I've hammered it, it puffs up... Not a lot I can do about it, if it gets too bad then I'll pop to the doctors and get tablets that are banned in horse racing and normally induce a whole cascade of rumours - water tablets are well known to my dicky ticker community, and normally for heart failure.  So the rumours do circulate.  Trust me, everything is working as it should...

So, a week of recovery (that was in the plan from the start), just walking and pottering about to keep things active. 

I don't often blog about work, because quite frankly one bloke sitting at a desk drafting stuff isn't that exciting.  However, this week Civil Service Live came to town and I ended speaking at it twice.  It is very easy to be very cynical abo…

Friendliest Runner, Kestrals, Frilly Knickers and Mitch Benn

I tried a new memory technique for recalling my runs for this my one and only Ultra I've gone back and done more than once...

The list in my head trots out as:

Friendliest Runner
Kestrel
Frilly Knickers
They're Lost - I'm not last
Mitch Benn
Wrong way up Win Hill
Jane's Mate
Magnum
Cement
Cup of Tea
Success I - not lost
Wedding - man in chef's hat
Stepping Stones party
Success II - not jumping a wall
Friendly faces
Success III - The right path
Success IV - The right bridge
Frilly Knickers
Cows - potentially viscous
Success V - not lost II
Victory - 2h faster than last year...

Well, that's exhausted me and I've not added the detail...

I was determined to go out slow and stay steady, the weather was a lot gentler than last year (16C instead of nudging 30) and I've done a hell of a lot of running between then and now (by the Garmin 1400km / 870 miles) so all was looking good.  Mentally I was in the right place for a PB, and physically I was ready...

 S…

Six month report... Not doing too bad...

The marathon part of my year is almost up, my two fastest marathons in the bag, a second fastest half marathon, some sexy running bling and the usual collections of aches and pains.

I know myself moderately well, which means I know my tolerance of "doing the same thing threshold" is beginning to reach its limits with running.  I know, shocking, I can get bored of running. It's also been a long slog, from the 31st December I've pushed myself fairly hard - my Garmin (which only gets worn when I'm doing something "proper") reports over 700 km since then - not bad for someone whose first "challenge year" was to do 1000km...

My Fitbit, picking up the days I go off stomping along the canal to get to town as well as the running is floating at over 2500km.

This time last year I was facing an Ultra marathon injured and with a lousy training record, this year I'm facing the same Ultra with a shedload more training, and a specific recce day and som…

And the band(s) played on...

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It was a bad start... My Garmin was still in walk mode, rather than run mode...

It was a bad (for me) weather day... The scheduled rain didn't turn up until after I'd finished, and it was warm and sunny... Though unlike London there was a breeze, a nice gentle one blowing us along the promenade...

I had no expectations of a time, I had no desire to break myself and in many ways had put this is in the "long training run" box for the Ultra next month.  I'd said to a mate that given the hills I'd treat it like a fell run on tarmac and that approach worked.  If it was hill and I was going slowly I walked up it.  Around that I tried to keep my 900m run / 100m walk approach going.

The course... ahh the course...

Through a World Heritage site, around the Cavern Quarter, past the cultural quarter as we worked our way up towards the Football Stadiums, around Goodison through the park and then up to Anfield - the locals were out in force, I was offered a smoke at on…

The determination returns...

I've said before that I'm crap at being ill...

But I'm recovering...

And that solid core of who and what I am is still there.  Reinforced by what I helped happen at the weekend.  The CHF team worked hard over the last 8 months to get the programme set up and ready to roll, sweet talking & strong arming companies to get the maximum bang for every penny that is raised for us.  The volunteers, that small army of people who cheerfully and freely give their time, are heroes one and all - the nurses who were there all weekend, both in case of problems (they've never been needed for anything cardiac) and also just to chat to parents & kids, the people who manned the stands, the bouncy castle and face painted for hours on the Quayside. 

The parents and kids were there to enjoy themselves, and from what I saw and heard they did - these weekends are about creating a bit of space so families can be families, and chat to families who get the issues they all face.

Me? I …

This is not a missed run, this is a prolonged rest period...

I'm not good when I'm ill... I hate having a cold, I detest taking more lotions and potions than I have to do to keep the systems working.

However, the cold I predicted before the run in to London has finally landed with avengeance, at the same time as I've been dealing with hayfever.  One masked the other and the 10k on Thursday was probably more of a warning sign than I picked up on.

So, sudefed & lemsip capsules and more calories than you can imagine have been thrown down my neck - yesterday was awful, today just bad.  Tomorrow is back to work, so of course I'll be better by 10am...

It was meant to be a 13 miler this weekend, so I'm switching to positive mental imaging... and hoping that'll get me around Liverpool.

I did a 26.2 mile training run with a few (36,000) of my friends and took a stunning 12 min off my PB in London.  Since then I've run well within myself, walked a few miles with a few thousand feet of ascent, been injured, recovered got…

Inspiration AKA I'm a lucky sod :-)

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I'm a lucky sod...

In the space of four days I've been with some of the most inspirational people I know from the two parts of my life that people have the most problem reconciling...

Starting up the BT Tower, I was part of a stunningly brilliant group of people.  A select group of disabled network leaders and organisations that get disability in the work place were at the launch of a very important book - for the first time someone has done some research into why people do, or more likely don't, tell their employer they have a long-term health condition or disability.

That someone is Kate Nash, one of the few delightfully mad people I would cheerfully walk on fire for, she has a quiet determination born of fighting the good fight and knowing that sometimes that annoying as it is the quiet, long game wins... Leadership comes in many forms, hers is one I wish I could emulate more as I charge at the next windmill...

So, if you have a minute have a look - this is important…

The Start of an Obsession...

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We've learnt from last year, hell we even did a simulated kit check before we set off to Threshfield... Yes, we counted each others safety pins and plasters... We looked at last years marzipan with some sceptism, but its over the 300g and comes in a bag that moulds to the bottom of your rucksack.

We started off in the rain, and headed quickly into the cloud... and more cloud, and horizontal rain.  My top gear, as it sometimes does, didn't want to play - but we were still at the top in good time for us - 1h 45 min.

From the Trig we couldn't see the shelter, so we paused, caught a break in a swirl... Spotting a red blinker we moved to the checkpoint and got our tallies stamped.

Last year, in similar visibility, we screwed up big time... and this time we checked the bearing from the shelter to the edge, got the GPS out at the top of the path, checked the bearing, kept going, checked the GPS and then... we saw the flags skirting out towards Hill Inn...

So, dropping down that …