Thursday, 12 December 2013

Poppyfields Equator Challenge 2014

Soz kids for the lack of bloggage since Bournemouth where Team Poppyfields raised £2404!! Over the past couple of months I've been running and counting down the days left for the Poppyfields2013Challenge which was to exercise everyday in 2013. I am loving running with Mich at the moment as she builds up her distance in preparation for VLM 2014. It will be her first marathon. I cannot fault her 'get up and get out' at the moment. 3 or 4 outings a week without fail. Weekend longer runs now up to 12 miles. Well placed for the next 17 weeks of VLM training! Her mojo has certainly helped keep my fines to a minimum!



As this years challenge nears the end it would seem a shame to stop and not do something for 2014. Particularly when the Facebook group 'Outlaw Ironmorph for Popppyfields' has grown into a fitness/support/motivational group. At least it has for me. I've had a few ideas in my head and consulted with Poppyfielders and I think we should collectively try and Exercise the Equator. Its only 40,075km or 24,906 miles which is only 66 miles a day. I will add 7,000 miles to that to get from Poppy's house in Tamworth to the Equator and back again via Birmingham Children's Hospital. On the final day of the challenge we will get together and run, ride, walk or canoe the last 15 miles from BCH down the canal to Poppy's house. If anyone cant make the final leg we can still do the final leg together in a virtual world!


The idea is simple, exercise everyday and tell me your mileage. I will keep a running total and we can see if Poppyfields can go around the world! As with last years challenge there will be a one off £5 registration fee and then you pay a £1 charity fine for each day you miss. All the money will go straight to Birmingham Children's Hospital to fund their research and treatment of child brain tumours! Maximum fine per month is £10. I think we should keep going until we get there!

Exercise is defined by you. It can be a walk, a run, a trip out on the bike with the kids, a race around a BMX track, a swim, a crawl, chasing cheese down a hill, a run on the treadmill, a rowing session in the gym, a row on a lake, a session on the stepper, a Zumba session, Ballroom dancing, skiing, tobogganing, football, rugby  - basically if you burn some calories and can tell me what mileage you've covered by doing it then it counts. You could record your 'actual' miles eg running or cycling and use other exercise like dancing or Zumba to fill the other days so you don't get a fine! Its your choice, its your fitness which means its your integrity, honesty and judgement as to whether you should pay a fine.

The idea is for us to help kids at BCH and in the process get ourselves fit which benefits us all!
If you're in then follow these simple steps to greatness:-

1. Pay one off £5 registration fee with a text of POPP69 £5 to 70070 or go to www.justgiving.com/equatorchallenge
2. Tell me you are in either here, Facebook (Sid Poppyfields Sidowski) or Twitter (@Sidowski) or Instagram (SidSidowski) or in person!
3. Exercise everyday.
4. Tell me your mileage in whatever way you're most comfortable with (see 2)
5. Pay a £1 fine for each day you missed with a text of POPP69 £1 to 70070 or go to www.justgiving.com/equatorchallenge
6. Join the 'Outlaw Ironmorph for Poppyfields' group on facebook, tell us what you've been up to, post pics, spread the word on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and everywhere and absorb some awesomeness!
7. Log your miles on this link using password pec2014.  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/18vKpLmeIqIFXiqkz9Eo9b3CxVTng0vanFKd7m7oa81U/viewform
 8. View progress on this link https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0ArYRMztv_X-sdEJDbDU3M0FqOHVvUklweEc2c0hqTGc&single=true&gid=0&output=html


Register now ready to start on 1st January 2014 - hangover session so it can only improve! You can join at any time of the year we will just start adding your miles from when you join!

The maximum fine per month is £10 so even if you register and never exercise and give up after January you will only pay £15 and you will still have helped kids fighting Brain Tumours at BCH.
Here are some of the people that made a difference this year and posted their exercise pics in the Facebook group:-

Without their help in 2013 and yours in 2014 children like my niece Poppy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 14 months of age, wouldn't be with us today. Poppy is about to celebrate her 11th birthday after 4 brain operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and 99.9% of her brain tumour finally removed on St George's day in 2012! My personal heartfelt thanks to you all and a big thank you from Poppy too!

If you post your exercise on Twitter or Instagram use #PEC or #PoppyfieldsEquatorChallenge. Feel free to share this blog page and the Just Giving page and spread the word. Your support is invaluable, your generosity heart warming and your help necessary! Thank you.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Team Poppyfields BMF 13

I will try to keep this brief I promise.........oops!

Team Poppyfields are a group of people from around the world who have helped in one way or another during 2013 to raise money for kids fighting Brain Tumours by exercising or indeed failing to exercise. This lot agreed to run at Bournemouth Marathon Festival and Chester Marathon (same weekend) to help raise money.
We started with Leeky, Michelle, Melanie, Mel, Sarah, Jarvy, Jonno, Gillian, Sharon, Anthony, Mrs B, Gareth and Gaz. Mark had already done The Equinox 24hr race two weeks earlier for Poppyfields and after WINNING IT with 200km we let him off doing Bournemouth.

So Mark had neatly kicked us off with fundraising as had Sarah at GNR!

With a few weeks to go Gareth had to withdraw on medical grounds due to a knee problem so we put a shout out for a replacement. Adrian, with a weeks notice and no training and not having previously run a marathon, stepped in. Unfortunately the Friday before Gaz had to withdraw due to a family issue for which our best wishes go to him and his family.
So, the plan was that Mrs B would kick us off on the Saturday with the 10k, Sarah would keep up the momentum running the half on Sunday morning and the remaining 11 of us would run marathons. 10 of us in Bournemouth and 1 in Chester. Still with me?
Myself, Mrs B, G Man & Belle made a weekend of it and travelled down on Friday night. Premier Inn nice enough with a cracking buffet style fill your boots fry up on the Saturday morning. Mrs B kept it sensible with some fruit and toast of course. I on the other hand ate for 4!

We wondered down the front and saw the crew setting up for the afternoon 10k and early evening 5k. There was a friendly buzz to the place that ran through the whole weekend. We had a blast in the arcades, a stroll along the Promenade and Pier and then popped back for Mrs B to get ready. We were then down at the start and she was ready to go in plenty of time....and the sun came out. Mrs B has recently been dealing with some Asthma like breathing difficulties (you will know from my Lichfield Half Marathon blog) so she was wary of this. Warm weather doesn't help! As the sun came out we were enjoying an unseasonal 20 degrees!

Mrs B moved off into her starting pen and we got track side. As the start horn went off a really good size crowd got cheering the runners on their way. Mrs B passed us looking strong about 250m on the course. We knew she would be back soon as the first out and back went one way up the Promenade from the Pier. They would come back, go round the Pier and then do another out and back on the other side.
Before she got back to us Leeky joined us and the Team was beginning to assemble. Mrs B whizzed by looking good. She chuckled as I yelled that she should pick her knees up! We then legged it under the Pier and got some pics as she exited the other side. G Man was ahead of me and track side and came running back to say that the inhaler was needed! Mrs B was already a couple of hundred metres ahead by now. My quick calculation was that me in Caterpillar boots on sand was gonna have to give it some to catch her so I was quite relieved when Leeky offered to do it (the man is a machine anyway...he used the run to catch Mrs B as his last warm up before the marathon!).
We cheered a few runners by as we waited for Mrs B to come back to the finish. A man in his Pirate top seemed shocked when I shouted "come on Pirate drill it in!" at the top of my voice. It wasn't long before Mrs B flew back passed us again and she sprinted up to the finish.

On the way to meet her we met Mel and Sarah supporting some of their club doing the 10k. The Team coming together nicely. We agreed to meet at the marathon the next day and wished Sarah luck for the earlier starting half marathon.
Mrs B seemed pleased with herself. A nice medal and shirt for her troubles and despite the heat, the inhaler and a packed start meaning a slow first mile she came in at something like 52:13 which was only 20s or so outside her PB! She had run well and looked strong. It was not lost on her that this was now the first step towards her London Marathon journey 2014 (I think she has now forgiven me for putting her in the ballot!!). What she had also done was lay the foundations for the Team Poppyfields take over of BMF2013. A good crowd were introduced to Team Poppyfields and Birmingham Children's Hospital with a top 10 (7th) category finish!
We all went back to the hotel to fuel up for the Sunday. Leeky choosing the chicken and mushroom risotto healthy looking thing. I went for the big cheese/bacon burger & chips combo. Apparently it has everything in there that is needed! We had a cracking night exchanging event stories, future plans, tattoo ideas, tenting issues, VLM stories and I think along the way Mrs B was able to absorb some useful marathon tips from Leeky for the forthcoming months. Leeky sank a couple of beers, I stuck to water and a Coke and that was us done. Leeky set off back to his hotel and George insisted on a quick bout of WWE wrestling before crashing out (I am sure this is how Mo Farah prepares the night before!).
Sleep was on and off as it always is. Felt good in the morning though and chatted to a few runners over porridge and fruit and cranberry juice. Mrs B and the rugs were kitted out in red Team Poppyfields T shirts and I was in my England Morphsuit and Team Poppyfields vest. A few great looks from people as we left the hotel. We grabbed Leeky from his hotel and went to the start. The sun was already out and clouds were non existent! It was gonna be a hot one for everyone.


It was great to finally meet all of the Team. Many I had been cyber pals with for a while but you can't beat a real life team hug can you? Sharon, Jarvy, Anthony, Jonno, Adrian and Michelle had driven down that morning. Mel and Melanie also met up. Sarah was midway through the half. For some it was a first marathon, for others it was nothing new. The nervous excitement however is the same for us all. Team Poppyfields were ready to smash this!

We were all in different start pens which is great because it spreads the exposure for the Team and the cause. Leeky, Jarvy and Michelle in Pink (fast) me in Green medium ish and everyone else were starting from Black regardless of their number. I felt good. Ready in fact. I had strained my greens, nothing ached, ankle felt fine, Morphsuit ok and without much further thought we were off.
Within 500 metres of the start I saw Mrs B and the rugs to my left shouting like loons! It was so nice to have them supporting as they had not been able to make it to a marathon before. It made quite a difference to my mood and was a huge boost. I couldn't really see anything because the sun was ahead of me. That means it just lights up the mesh inside the suit. As I concentrated on avoiding runners I heard the announcer comment on how many Birmingham Children's Hospital runners there were - that's us and that made me smile.
The start was good and flat and residential and there was a good show of support. I soon settled into my running although I felt at the time I was going too quick. It took about 3 mins to ignore my own advise to NOT run the long way round bends hi fiving the crowd and to NOT keep shouting to the crowd to 'give it some'. It sounds daft but shouting while running is tiring. Still, I couldn't resist as despite my shy, quiet and reserved exterior I really just want all the attention and crowd support. Thankfully throughout the race there was loads of it! I spotted Adrian (no training first time last minute stand in Adrian) in his home made Poppyfields top and asked if he was OK. He said he was but had gone off too fast. His aim was regular 12 mins miles.

We were at mile 3-4 ish and we were at sub 8:30 pace! It was too fast for me and certainly way over what he wanted so he was dropping his pace to ensure he made it. I wished him well and would see him later.
Before long I needed the loo - now I have never had to stop for a wee during a race but on this occasion the urge became desperate. I had just had cheers and shouts and hi 5's from Jarvy Leeky and Michelle going the other way (and Bruce who I had met at EMF 2011) when I reached a turn and water station at mile 5. I didn't want to stop but had to, after all running with a wee stained white morphsuit wouldn't be attractive. Into the gents loos and I asked 'sorry to trouble you but would one of you mind unzipping me' - ordinarily one of the worst things you could say in a gents public toilet but today it seemed almost normal. Someone kindly did. I peeled off the already sweat soaked suit, managed to hold the hood out of danger and did the necessary. Worst case scenario would be hood splashback - thankfully it went well. Back out to a drink of water and turning the buff I had on under the hood from a headband to a bandanna - even beneath the suit I could feel the heat pressing down on my bald head. The buff was soaked already. I re-hooded, poured a bottle over my head, took a bottle with me and rejoined. As I ran on I was so pleased to see the rest of Team Poppyfields coming up the other way and we all cheered each other on.
I always chat to runners - it would seem rude not too and they were giving me loads of encouragement from 'Sid you're a nutter' to 'bring out the gimp' to 'go on condom man!' (thank you Macmillan lads). I was loving the friendly atmosphere. I got chatting to a lady and I didn't need much encouragement to waffle on and on and on and on about Poppyfields, BCH, Mrs B and the Rugs, Outlaw and all things Morph. The good thing is that when chatting it helps regulate my breathing and is a great distraction. We were running at a similar pace and we spurred each other on. I couldn't see her properly due to the Morphsuit and us both running along but as I was getting loads of shouts and she got none I assumed she didn't have her name on her top. That was confirmed with a shout of 'go on Sid..........and Sid's friend'. She said she didn't have her name on her top but she was Esther.
We ran to half way without incident and I felt pretty good. At every turn and back I got to see the rest of the team and we were all going well both those ahead of me and behind. Hi 5's all round - one of which from Adrian nearly took my arm off! I chatted to Wolf man, Superman 287th marathon, I saw Cow man and St George. A runner from Aldridge running club thanked me for running for BCH as her daughter is treated there. All in all the atmosphere was superb.
All had been flat to about 11 or 12 miles. It seemed flat but very very hot. We turned off the Promenade and hit a hill. I don't mind steady hills but this was a steep little bastard. I kept running up the hill passing the walkers. Esther ran on too - the theory being to run without stopping as far as we could. Don't get me wrong I really felt that hill but hitting the top felt great to have run it and we were then on the flat heading towards mile 14 at the main Pier, the finish and Mrs B.
As we went down toward the Pier the route hair pinned left. I took the wide berth hi fiving the crowd and milking the cheering when Lou Cross leaned almost unnaturally far over the barrier and shouted something about me having to beat her 4:42 Berlin Marathon Morph time! Brilliant to think she popped down to support us. As I came off the bend and absorbed the wall of noise I spotted Mrs B and the Rugs on my left. What a sight for blurred Morphsuit affected eyes. They were giving it loads. I think I had a quick hug at this point before moving on. Such a relief to see them and to know I would be back passing this point again in a few miles time.
Another out and back to the other pier now. It was about 12.30pm and it was baking hot. Outlaw was hot but I had eye and mouth holes in the suit. Here with no shelter at all the heat was pressing down. At each station I tipped water over me soaking the bandanna and I was drinking enough too but the force of the heat was getting stronger. This was all to apparent when a Paramedic car cut through the coned area to treat someone lying flat on the floor by the furthest pier. I hope he or she whether runner or spectator was OK.We then passed another runner receiving attention propped up against a wall with spectators running over with water.
We passed a group of sea cadets shouting 'Sid Sid Sid Sid Sid' as we approached the main crowds again. I could feel my pace was struggling but it has to pick up for the crowds. I ran down through and around the Pier. Got a huge shout again from Mrs B and the Rugs and expected to see them again on the other side as I mistakenly thought we were off up the other side of the Promenade. I was wrong. Instead we turned, went through the finish and up onto the main road.

We then dropped back in by the Pier but turned up onto probably the biggest hill on the run. It was steep, it was hard, it was hot and it was draining. Everyone was walking it and three quarters of the way up Esther said she may have to walk. I suggested we get to the top before any rash decisions were made. We got to the top but I could feel I had probably been broken by the Bournemouth course with that climb.
I was still running as the course snaked through some trees and much needed shade but that was followed by a sneaky steady climb for about a mile. Nothing severe but a bit too constant. Everything now was beginning to tweak, left ankle, right shoulder, kidneys (outlaw kidneys again) and knees. I knew it was just the effort and nothing major but as the climb peaked I thanked Esther for her company and wished her well but I would have to walk. Before I could I passed a runner I had met at breakfast who was struggling and I suggest he crack on as we had done the hard bit. Then a runner past me saying she would buy me a beer back at the hotel as she was staying there too. While chatting I seemed to have continued rather than stop. The run down was steep and brutal on the knees. I usually lift more to take advantage of gravity but it was too uncomfortable. As we got to the bottom and back on the Promenade I was finally done.
Reluctantly I walked. We were at mile 21 ish. Esther walked too and we were joined by Melanie C who stopped briefly to chat and then cracked on.

Esther then took up running again and was soon gone. I would like to thank Esther (a now honorary Poppyfielder for helping me run to mile 21 (the furthest I had run for a long long time). I de-hooded to take on water - walked to about mile 22 and then re-hooded and started to plod. The familiar Morph plod, the just make it to the finish plod, the walkers are walking faster than my plod plod.
The support was immense. People on apartment balcony's, in their beach huts, on the beach. They were all cheering, willing me on. If I had known them I could understand but their will for me to finish was just outstanding. Michelle the first Poppyfielder went passed the other way (I guessed an hour ahead of me), Jarvy ran over to me and gave me a Jelly Baby as he carried on. It was the best thing I had ever eaten up to that point in my life. My pace picked up a little (snails were now left in my trail) and I shouted Leeky as he went passed. It took a moment for him to register me. I know why. He was in that place where everything was shutting down and sheer willpower had taken over to make sure he would finish. He looked gone. The night before we had talked about 'that look'.
At the end of the Promenade I passed a pub. It was rammed and to a man they all stood and cheered me by. Sometimes you have to be thankful you have the suit on because the tears were streaming down my face by now. I spoke to a Whizz Kid runner that was struggling and then passed two 10 year old girls who shouted 'go on Mr red white faced man'. I ran on, desperate to get to the turn for home. Esther past the other way and gave me a shout closely followed by Melanie C (who was running really strong). I reached the turn and could feel the wobbles coming on. There was a bit of side drift and it seemed a long way to the next water. I past a paramedic who asked if I was OK? He got the Morph thumb up that was given to everyone and I mean everyone that cheered me on in any way. I slowed to a stop near to where the girls were moments earlier. One came over and said she had two flumps left and I could have them both if I wanted. Well it doesn't take much to set me off but that hit me with both barrels. I took them gladly. Thanked her profusely. Thanked her some more and then again. I de-hooded and walked while eating the flumps. Definitely the actual best thing I have ever eaten ever. I re-hooded and walked to 23 and a half ish back passed the pub which set me off again. Once on the Promenade again I ran.
I took some water from a member of the public who had put a line of plastic cups out, I took some jelly babies from someone else, I applauded the drum band and the pub crowds who were as close to pushing/pulling me down the promenade as they could be without actually pushing/pulling me. A lady Pirate who I had shouted to earlier asked if I was Outlaw Sid and wished me luck. I like that title! My pace picked up and I passed Sharon, Anthony, Jonno, Adrian and Mel going the other way. I think I hugged all of them and urged them on. 24 went and then the magical 25. My pace picked up more as the outline of the pier became visible even through the suit. Bournemouth was about to get morphed!
As I approached the finish I am not sure what happens or where the strength comes from but it gets found from somewhere. Lou Cross was at the start of the run in. Her encouragement included 'you haven't beaten my 4:42' - that made me smile. Into the run in I milked it. No wimping in. I came down the finish posing, applauding and milking it. I stopped and dropped to one knee and proposed to Mrs B. She looked horrified. Then I left her to applaud the crowd and crew as I crossed the finish line. Victorious, Bournemorph!
It was wonderful to come down the steps to be greeted by my family. We then met up with Sarah who was supporting after the half and we saw Melanie C before she had to go. Leeky and his much better half Nicky, Michelle and Jarvy found us.

Lovely to meet Lou Cross too. Great to see a fellow (faster) morph! Adrian, Sharon, Anthony and Jonno joined us as they finished and together we waited to see home Melanie and the Team was complete.

Gillian had finished her first marathon in Chester too proudly sharing Team Poppyfields with the northern masses!

I am chuffed to bits, honoured and privileged to have shared this marathon weekend with very good mates that make up Team Poppyfields. Marathon Cherries popped, PB's set, friendships formed, war stories shared and a shed load of cash raised.
What started as a tweet or post suggesting we get a Poppyfields Team together for a marathon had somehow grabbed the attention of a lovely bunch of strangers that became friends through the months of training and the small matter of 26.2 hot miles!
We will be back bigger, faster and equally determined to help kids fight brain tumours. You can still do your bit of course. You can spread the word and maybe sponsor us a little at www.justgiving.com/top-poppyfielding or send a text of POPP51 £5 to 70070.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to BMF13 particularly the crew and marshals, every member of Team Poppyfields at Bournemouth and Chester & every Poppyfielder supporting us throughout the year, a big thank you to everyone who has so generously sponsored us and a particularly big thank you to Mrs B for tolerance, patience, understanding and love!

Friday, 13 September 2013

BMF13

Its good to have something to focus on post Outlaw and that's why I signed up for Bournemouth Marathon. My last non tri marathon was VLM 12 with a poor 5hr 30 odd min finish although I was morphed up. Prior to that I had prepared badly and suffered a 5hr 12 mins Liverpool Marathon 2011. My other marathon was Edinburgh 2011 which was my first with a still personal best time of 4 hrs 42 mins. My thinking for Bournemouth was to stay fit and aim for a definite PB, a minimum 4hr 20 mins and a hopeful sub 4 hours.

Whilst I have maintained 3 or 4 sessions of training per week since Outlaw and it's almost exclusively running, I have only gone over 6 miles once (16 miles in about 2hr 30 mins) about 5 weeks ago. My speed is still there with a 22:30 5k Parkrun recently but is the stamina? I will find out the hard way in 3 wks and 2 days time when I anticipate that my legs will really hate me as I think I will still be chasing something near 4 hrs no matter what.

Better than any time I might do is the amazing team that has cropped up to support Poppyfields. As you know Poppyfields was set up by the parents of my niece Poppy to raise money for Birmingham Childrens Hospital. BCH have looked after Poppy since she was 14 months old and diagnosed with a brain tumour. 4 operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy over 9 years and Poppy is looking forward to her 11th birthday in January!

The team is 14 strong, includes 11 doing the marathon, 1 doing the half, 1 doing the 10k, 1 doing the Equinox 24hr run & The Brutal DOUBLE Ironman and 1 doing GNR too. Many of us have yet to meet so Bournemouth will be brilliant on all fronts and we will hopefully smash our modest £2000 target.
Its easy to sponsor us. Just text POPP51 £5 to 70070 or visit www.justgiving.com/top-poppyfielding
Other than Bournemouth nothing has been arranged for the future. Nothing concrete for 2014. The urge is still there to kick on, to try something else, to push myself further, to try and raise a few more quid. I am definitely leaving Iron distance triathlon alone for 2014 (an agreement reached under duress during the last mile of Outlaw) despite the massive urge to sign up for Outlaw and IM Wales in the past few weeks. I am thinking of running.......a lot. I definitely want a pop at a solo TR24 effort and I would love to Morph VLM again. The now common 201? miles in 201? (insert mileage/year of choice) is tempting but so many people do it that it may fail to spark peoples attention. Having said that it is a massive accomplishment to run 2014 miles in a year especially for a not too good runner like myself. Its a high daily rate of miles however you look at it and so in that respect it's a great challenge. A marathon a month could be included in that although they may have to be self mapped marathons as 12 x £50 + TR24 + Trainers + Kit soon gets unaffordable!
What of the Morph? I think it will make an appearance at TR24 and VLM but it is definitely triathlon retired. Anyways I think it has had it's moment in the sun (quite literally!) at Outlaw.
If anyone is keeping up with the cash then sit back in glory that YOU have helped raise over £11k for BCH and the figure keeps rising. If you have read this, sponsored, tweeted, encouraged, supported or shared then YOU have helped tremendously. Thank you for that.
I think 2014 can be mapped out after Bournemouth. I will keep you posted.

PS I was on the TV so thank you to Outlaw for letting me Ironmorph and including the footage!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Post Outlaw Blues!

Was always gonna happen. Quite surprised it took 3 weeks to kick in and kick it in has. I have stuff lined up which should keep me focused. I have Bournemouth Marathon in October which is gonna be brilliant as there is a team of about 13 of us running it for Poppyfields. There are some running the 10k on the Saturday then the rest of us running the marathon on the Sunday. A good get together as well the weekend will be brilliant.....so why can't I focus?
I have a marathon target to one day go sub 4hrs (PB currently 4:42) so I have work to do. Training therefore should be keeping me on the up but its not. I have run 4 times since Outlaw (max 7 miles) and I have ridden twice (max 20 miles). Cycling feels OK but legs are very lead like when running. I seem to be getting slower! If it wasn't for Mrs Brightside this morning I wouldn't have got up and run 6 miles. I love running with her, even when I don't want to run. This morning she blitzed me. She left me for dead on the Hedging Lane climb and then again on the canal run in! I only went ahead of her once and that was because I ran out in front of a car whereas she sensibly took the decision to stop and let the car pass!
Post run and with a Monday morning at work on the horizon I made the mistake of weighing myself and taking a pic of my gut. Neither a pleasant experience!

It looks like after 7 months Outlaw training my gut has got bigger! No wonder it takes me nearly 17 hours to do Outlaw! That gets me to wondering did I do the best I could? It's easy to say I did, particularly considering the heat and the Morphsuit, but then did I? I could have run more, I could have fuelled better, I could have transitioned quicker. Did I run myself into the ground? You know - I don't think I did. This has really pissed me off!
I won't be able to put this right until 2015 due to having 2014 off Iron distance so I have been thinking of challenges for 2014. Maybe a marathon a month (is that hard enough?), coupled with 2014 running miles in 2014 (I pinched these off Lena who is doing this for 2013), maybe add in an Ultra or two to see if I will ever have the ability and sheer bloody mindedness to tackle WHW one day? It would be a big challenge for me because I'm not a very good runner, I have too many slack days and I don't like running that much! Would it capture peoples attention enough to part with their cash again and/or follow the story. Have I peaked at a potentially poor Morphing of Outlaw (albeit still a Morphing of Outlaw)? I had a conversation at the weekend when someone asked me what I had planned. I mentioned running Bournemouth in civvies and going for a good PB. The look of disappointment on their face was a surprise - it seems it isn't enough of a challenge. The mention of potential running exploits for 2014 produced feedback along the lines that I wasn't thinking outside the box!
One event possibility for 2014 is the 24hr Thunder Run. Poppyfields will almost certainly enter a team. I popped down Saturday afternoon to support Team Crazy aka Martin Hookway, Mike Wells, Tracey, Natalie, Catherine, Susie and then rode down in the Outlaw Morph to cheer them on at 6am on Sunday!

I figured after a night of thunderous downpours a supporting Morph on course might raise a smile from the runners. It seemed to. They were trudging through ankle deep mud that had been a solid grass pathway just 12 hrs before. Team Crazy were outstanding. Spirits high despite an awful night of rain, leaking tents, mud, sludge and lots of running. Nice to meet them all some of whom I had 'known' in the cybersphere for some time. I got to say hello to Runner Ryan the running machine son of the marathon man John Ogden and to a couple of Outlaws sporting their finisher t shirts. I gave a shout to Pirate Rob Bateman tackling it Solo who didn't seem to be enjoying himself at all. Unfortunately I missed on course Ultrasillyrunner and Liz Tunna (both solo) and Louise Clements who had been withdrawn on medical grounds suffering both dehydration and hypothermia!! I know how good it feels to get a shout from supporters so I did my best to encourage all of them. I would be lying if I said I didn't give a bit extra for the Solo's. Attempting to run for 24hrs is a huge challenge. The vacant expression in their eyes unable to hide the pain they were enduring and the battle they were having. It is this expression that Mrs Brightside has seen in Outlaws when supporting me in 2012 & 2013. It is this expression she has seen etched in my eyes. It was quite humbling to witness!

I should have come away from TR24 buzzing with anticipation, a new drive to crack on. Martin and the team had done incredibly well and it was great to witness but it didn't provide the kick start I needed. That is my fault. I could do TR24 solo next year alongside Team Poppyfields but is that pushing it too far? Can it be pushed too far?
I am definitely on an Outlaw come down. I am glad I have stayed away from event registrations online and have yet to formulate a plan for 2014 as I would sign up to almost anything right now to try and pick myself up.
I need to give myself a good kicking! Get focused and stop being such a whinging scrote. It should be easy for me to put things into perspective - that is what I will do!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Don't Try This At Home - Ironmorph!

Some of you won't make it through this as its a great cure for insomnia so take your phone and text MORF72 £1 to 70070 now! Or online at www.justgiving.com/sidruns
I am not a proper athlete....yet - I did Outlaw 2013 in a Morphsuit to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital & Children with Cancer UK!
Brutal! Utterly brutal war of attrition is the only way to describe Outlaw 2013.
The weekend started reasonably well with only a minor panic brought on by the need to make some emergency adjustments to my Morphsuit the night before. This came about following registration on the Saturday. I registered as normal. Bumped into Ian Dickens and received a few words of encouragement. He looked in the mood to clock some serious speed on Sunday having recently smashed Lanzarote! I left Ian so I could make the final briefing of the day. I was a bit apprehensive as I had already had the heads up on social media that at the two earlier briefings of the day the organisers were asking for The Morphman. I was just hoping they didn't want to go back on the agreement for me to race in the Morphsuit.
At the briefing Ian Hamilton, the race organiser, asked if The Morphman was there. I gingerly put my hand up and gave him a shout and he said he would need a word with me at the end of the briefing. What shocked me was a spontaneous round of applause that broke out in the room - let the humbling begin! At the end of the briefing I got to say hello to Chris & Zoe McBeth. It was great to see them. Chris had smashed Outlaw last year and Zoe was about to smash her first Ironman. I have followed her training and knew she would do well. I then sat down with Ian. He looked at me with an expression that suggested he thought I was mad and he was not going to get any sense out of me but also with a look that sort of suggested he wanted to help as much as he could. His concerns (entirely valid ones) were for my safety and other competitors safety. The swim Morphsuit was fine and Ian had no problem with me running in my suit intended for the bike and run but he didn't want me riding in it. Vision being the primary concern but also fueling and breathing - oh and the minor issue of heat. He suggested I ride in the swim Morhsuit and then change into the run suit. I understood his concerns but the ride and run suit was the main suit with all the Outlaw & Pirate symbols and charity information. I didn't want to wear it just for the run and the other issue is that the Morphsuit holds water so I didn't really want to go out on the bike any more weighed down than I needed to be. We agreed I would either wear the swim Morphsuit for the ride as well as the swim or I would adapt the ride/run suit to have eye and mouth holes.
I respected Ian's decision, after all this is not a fancy dress event and I understood that which is why I had approached them 8 months ago to seek permission before embarking on this Ironmorph attempt. After racking my bike I raced home with my kit considering my options. I decided to adapt the ride/run suit, go back to wearing glasses (so I could have my prescription shades over the eye holes) and it would mean a shorter T2 which may be necessary considering how close I cut it the year before! I raced round to the Prestwoods to grab my gels and then to the Buckleys to grab a top bar storage box. This was now necessary as with a mouth hole I could eat while riding instead of having to stop to eat as I had trained for. I got home and Ellie helped mark out my eyes and mouth and after some faffing about the run/ride suit was ready. I wasn't able to test it in the ride position but I was relatively confident we had done a good job.
I packed all my stuff away into the three bags and I was ready. I was in bed by 9pm (3 hrs later than planned) for a 3.24am alarm call.
I didn't really sleep so just tried to stay as relaxed and restful as possible. I drifted on and off but it was uncomfortably hot. My alarm went off and I was feeling quite relaxed. Had some porridge, a banana and some toast and prepared my nutrition for the day. After last years bad stomach on the bike I was going with a post swim Coca Cola (it worked when I was a kid!) and jam sandwich and water. I would then have another jam sandwich on the bike as I got settled and then eat 4 wholemeal marmalade cobs and bananas on the way round the bike course.

I read my good luck card Mrs Brightside left out for me, packed the car and then blasted up the M42 to Nottingham. U2 - The Joshua Tree being the weapon of choice for the journey - emotions beginning to build as I tried to maintain control and focus. The last song on was Exit - seemed to set me up perfectly.

After parking up I strolled down to the bikes feeling pretty relaxed. An awesome sunrise was in place at the lake again. It looked so calm. My bike was still there. Tyres were fine so I just checked the pressure and that's about as far as my technical ability goes. I hoped as always it would see me through 112 miles without a mechanical problem as I know I couldn't deal with one! I saw Leekey who had come from Kent and camped over to see the race. He was oozing confidence as always - you could see he was itching to join us having smashed this race last year. He wished me good luck along with Adrian O'brien. I had followed some of Adrian's training. The man is a machine and he looked in the mood for 140.6 miles. I also met Lena and Billy Conlin. I wished them luck having raced Outlaw with Lena last year and this being Billy's first. His training was pointing towards a fast finish. I think Lena and myself were looking closer to the get round in one piece target. Great to see them. Their day ended with a very cool renewal of their wedding vows at the finish line for their 25th anniversary (Mrs Brightside take note).
I left for the change tent. As I went in I passed John Phillips who has helped me with my running since I started exercising in 2010. He had trained his nuts off for this his first Iron distance tri. Great to see him and wish him luck. It was now time to Morph up. Now I have to make an apology here for my unintentional ignorance for what is to follow. I will mention a load of people but I will almost certainly get names wrong or out of order and for that I apologise.
I got my wetsuit out the bag and the Morphswimsuit. As I put it on I could feel the odd look and imagined the thoughts of 'what the bloody hell is he wearing?' from the other people getting changed. I got speaking to one chap who was putting his wetsuit on for the first time in a year and hoped it still fit. Morphswimsuit on over my tri shorts having greased up all appropriate chaffe zones. I then put my wetsuit on. Goggles before cap and then the Morphswimsuit hood was zipped on. I walked down towards the start with people wishing me good luck - many knowing who I was by recognising the Morphswimsuit but hard for me to know who they were. I know I got a good luck from Bigdaveackers, Neil Wilkinson and a quick chat with Michael Barnett amongst others. It was not lost on me that the music system was playing Streets and I felt weirdly calm.
Out onto the jetty I was tapped on the shoulder by a woman with a camera crew and briefly interviewed. I hope I mentioned Birmingham Children's Hospital to explain the outfit and people don't think its for some weird kinky pleasure. They filmed me getting into the water - I tried to look cool but when I put my feet down against a wall that wasn't there I kind of flopped in and must have looked a million miles from cool.
So there I am in the water, acclimatising nicely as the countdown starts from 4 mins. I become acutely aware that I may have pulled the Morphsuit and wetsuit up a bit too tight. They need to be to avoid the mouth hole becoming a chin hole but it means my nuts have gone! I think they'd popped back up from whence they came and it was now too late to do anything about it. I hoped to see them later! I chose the jetty between bays 2 & 3 not because I can swim at that speed but because getting in the thick of it takes away any nerves instantly as we are all pitched into battle.
The hooter sounded and we were off - approx 1090 of us. There wasn't too much argy bargy. I let faster swimmers by and then swam in their wake. I tried to stay in as straight a line as possible as 2.4 miles is far enough without adding extra. Sighting is difficult as it upsets my swimming rhythm but after maybe 250-500m I was going well. Breathing every 1 or 2 strokes depending how i felt and how well I was breathing in.

The Morphsuit is fine apart from it collects water and then pours it across your mouth as your head comes out of the water to breathe hence some breaths are good and clean leading to a 2 stroke system whereas some are shorter intakes leading to a 1 stroke system. I was fine with both. I did feel a bit sorry for anyone on my right as I operate a whale like blow out system to breathe and no one wants a mouthful of my spit! From about half way up the lake, so about 900m, i am comfortable and loving it. From that point on a guy alongside me sort of stuck with me but would drop back every now and then. I spoke to him later and he was having panic attacks. Tim i think it was it really wasn't his day!
I had a juicy collision with Mr Chin Beard at the first turn but i only took a moment to gather myself and then kicked on again. There is something special about the second turn being the turn for home. Belief I'd not had earlier consumed me and I felt like I'd had a strength injection. Now is the time to trash the arms for home and nail the cut off. It's a huge comfort to look across and see people still coming up to marker one as it means I am going to make it.
I powered down and I was actually overtaking a couple of people. Careful not to swim behind any 'standers' as they're usually having a wee! The Geese crowded near the left bank and in my way. About 20 of them. I kept on course and they finally moved over to let me through. With about 1200m to go my left hamstring cramped. Now, on a run or ride I know how to stretch it out, on a swim not so sure. I stretched my leg straight and curled my foot up and stopped kicking altogether. This seemed to work, the pain subsided and i was left with the post cramp ache. I carried on with just the odd beat from the feet and in no time at all the finish approached. I hate swimming but I utterly love the Outlaw swim. I swam with a big grin and just hoped I'd not swallowed quite as much duck dredge as I did last year. I was dragged out by the Marshals and this time I was prepared for the Bambi legs and, as last year, I drunkenly staggered past the waiting photographers and on to the strippers.
The strippers whipped off my wetsuit to reveal the Morpswimhsuit. "he looks like a condom" - priceless comment and the first of a thousand or so great comments to keep me going throughout the day.
I was into T1 around 1:38 ish. Happy with that. Dried off. Checked my nuts and thankfully they were beginning to reappear. I drank 375ml of Coca Cola, a bottle of water and a jam sandwich. i got the run/ride Morphsuit, my Garmin, gloves, glasses, bandana, helmet and cycle jacket on only to realise I'd forgotten my skin. Whipped it all off again, got skin on, everything back on and ready to go. 20 mins transition so overall I think I was getting on the bike at exactly the same time as last year.
I got a huge cheer as I walked to my bike and a mention from the commentator and there I was on my Merida, composed, in a good gear and zooming down the lake. I was Hi fived by a few spectators and I was now ready to face my nemesis.

Last year the bike section broke me. 8 hrs 30 mins of hell. This year was going to be different. I was riding better and faster from the off. More focused more determined and more controlled. My Morphsuit adjustment fears came to nothing with the eye and mouth holes being spot on. The only problem, other than the clautraphobia, irritation, heat and general discomfort I am used to in a suit was my nose being covered. I just had to work a bit harder on my breathing and eating. As i approached the first double island point to go right to the Southern loop for the first time i caught a Pirate called Razor (and I think, with hindsight, Razor is Dave Wilkinson Snr but I didn't know this at the time). He was just getting going again after sorting his bike out. I asked if he was alright and he said he was. We wished each other luck and I continued. Shortly after he caught up and past me. He was very fast on the flat but I seemed to make ground on him on any hills. We swapped places a few times and it was so nice to be riding with other cyclists in sight whereas last year I was on my own for most of the ride. First feed station was welcome and excellent (as they all were). 750ml of water gone already so i took a bottle and on i went. I was sticking with water and cobs to avoid the shits at each feed station i endured last year. I did have a bottle with me of water with gels in it for the last 90 mins of bike.

The Southern loop was clockwise as opposed to anti clockwise last year. There was, thankfully, no wind. Last time I saw Razor he was in the distance on a long straight stretch of slight uphill and I was going steady when the motorbike camera crew pulled alongside. I gave them a thumbs up and gave it a bit more than I wanted to. I was glad when they finally moved on so i could take it steady again. I stayed strong around the Southern loop and drank as much as possible. I swapped encouragement with other riders as they past me and visa versa. I saw Tim who was still having a bad day and had gone from a time target for the event of 12 hours to 'just finishing'. I chased a Pirate down a few times who had a nifty right leg tattoo and before long hit station 2. Christina Sandberg gave me a hug and it was great to see a Poppyfielder out on the course. I picked up Hi 5 drink instead of water though and my paranoia after last years stomach problems meant I couldn't drink it. The next feed station is the start of the Northern loop and it was just too hot to chance going that far without a drink. As I passed a few houses there was an Outlaw 12 finisher and his family supporting outside a house. I asked if they would mind filling my bottle with water and they kindly obliged. I know its 'outside asistance' but......
I whizzed back through the village with the cricket pitch and the crowds were immense and then down to the double island onto the long straight to the Northern loop. The leaders flew by going the other way and whilst most were on tri bars focusing on nothing but their front wheel a few took a second to shout such encouragement as "what the f......" or "you must be m....." and a huge " Go on Si......." from Ian Dickens. I never caught the end of their comments as they were flying by so fast. I caught up for the last time with Pirate Leg Tattoo lady as we turned onto the Northern loop. We turned left towards Oxton Hill (the only real hill on the course) and I was a bit gutted the feed station wasn't on the bend where it was last year. Then remembered they said it was at the top as a reward!
My first real sign of weakness kicked in here as my right knee began to feel bruised and painful. I ignored it but couldn't do Oxton on the bike. As i dropped the gears I could hear the spokes clipping the chain (or something) so going back up a gear to avoid that was just too much. As I walked up so did a couple of others. I got going again as soon as I could and then stopped at the next feed station. I ate a cob and a banana, took on more water while two other Outlaws sorted mechanical problems. One was stuck in one gear and couldn't change it and the other fixing a puncture. Gear man said he had never not finished an event. I hope he got going again.
I don't really remember much about the Northern loop from then on other than how shockingly brutally hot it was. I was always in sight of cyclists - loved chatting to Marshals at feed stations and explaining why i am in a Morphsuit. One Marshal pointing out that I hadn't really followed my own advice written on my arm to not be a c u next tuesday! I told one of them about my BMX Ironman idea and he and his Marshal mate then suggested they would have a go dressed as the Honey Monster (I don't think he will). I also started suffering cramps in my left calf and right hamstring. I can stretch them out on the bike but the nagging feeling that's left afterwards was worrying me for the run!
I do remember being relieved when finishing on the downhill of the Northern loop and heading back across to the Islands. I was still cracking on. The pain in my knee was getting worse and I now had a nagging post cramp ache in my ribs from cramping up when trying to reach back to get food out of the back of my top. Also my kidneys were starting to ache. I was still wellying water down and still reluctant to go to gel/water. I was pushing hard though and generally feeling good. I had feared the final hill approach to the two islands but I flew up it so well I didn't realise I'd done it until at the islands.
Just the Southern loop to do then plus 12 miles home stretch. I had plenty of time. there was big support from the Pirate feed station at the start of the loop. I passed a few riders who I feared wouldn't make it. I think one was Bigdaveackers who was fiddling with his seat and another was possibly Tony Wilson being collected from the side of the road so close to making it back. It was heart breaking to see. I passed Steve who I would see lots of later and he said he was 'destroyed'. The heat was phenominal. When water was poured on me I think it just evaporated. I got to the last feed station. Got another hug from Christina and set off with 12 miles to go.I whizzed through the cricket village and my humerous shout of 'Howzat' was met with the same stunned silence as last year! I was so much happier than last year. No motorbike rider guiding me in. Still on the big cog - still pumping and safe in the knowledge the cut off was not an issue. My only concern was whether I was going to be able to get round the run.
As I got to HPP I had still not touched the gel/water I just couldn't risk it. I had not been to the loo once but had drunk at least 8/9 litres of water. My kidneys ached and this worried me. True to form there was Mrs Brightside and the Rugs, my brother and his family and my official events photographer and long suffering father in law Dave all giving it loads on the wall. Last year I was rooted to the bike unable to move. This year I coasted in no handed giving a bicep curl salute.The last 40 miles had seen me lose control of my emotions on and off - nothing as bad as last year. Most of the time I had control. One thing I cant do is control them when I speak to Mrs Brightside. She asked if I was OK. I think I said yes but may have looked like I wasn't. Either way i couldn't say anymore and I walked into T2. I sat down and broke down. Its weird why it happens and I cant really explain it but the emotions just pour out and I have no control. I gathered myself just as Stu and Michael came into the tent to gee me on. They had just run their first loop. This picked me up and I got my trainers on - grabbed a pack of jelly babies - changed bandanas and headed out on the run. I did consider trying to have a slash but changed my mind after opening the door of the 3 loos at the bottom of the lake. Mrs Brightside had moved round to the side of the lake and i got a welcome hug and kiss. You could see the belief in her face - I wasn't so sure but she was convinced I had this! I saw the kids up the side of the lake and my bro. Lots of Hi fives and cheers and I ran up to get my first wristband.
The pictures you will see do look like I have wet myself. I can assure you I hadn't it is just the case that I produce a lot of groinal area sweat when on a bike for 7 hrs 38 mins and 2 secs (nearly an hour faster than last year!!) in temps up to 34 degrees!

I collected my first wristband and ran up to the first toilet. I think that this was where I had my only wee of the day! It took an age to get the suit half off so I could pee and just as long to find my my necessaries which had shrunk from their 'not entirely blessed' normal state to a 'strap us in a Morphsuit and sit on us for half a day' disappeared state. After sorting myself out I got running again and tried to run feed station to feed station and walk while I ate crisps and drank water. I came down passed the finish and the support was outstanding. I got a shout from the commentator and the crowd gave it loads.There was a group of Pirates towards the end being particularly noisy. They had seen me down the finish chute last year hence the nod to them on my arms. I ran back round and saw my family again and got wristband number two but that was effectively the end of any real running that for the day. The heat was brutal - the cups of water weren't enough and i needed a bottle, I couldn't get enough oxygen in because i could only breathe through my mouth. If I lifted the suit off my nose it made a huge difference but it was awkward to plod/walk with one hand in the air. I did run a bit more up the lake which proved to be well timed as the camera motorbike came past and we did a quick interview. As soon as he moved off I walked!
Runners were passing me constantly either to finish or to begin their final out and back. Many were walking. Each time I tried to run I knew that if I pushed it I would  not finish. This meant more walking than running which in turn meant it would come down to the wire.
One lady past me and she, like so many others, said something like 'fair play for trying to do it in that'. I asked if she was on her last lap and she was so i wished her good luck. A she went past I saw a huge deep blood oozing graze on her left shoulder. I asked her about it and she laughed it off by explaining she fancied a lie down while out on the bike! Phenominal determination.
Steve had caught me up having got to T2 just after me. He was going to walk the 26.2 miles at 15 mins per mile which would beat the cut off easily. As we rounded the top of the lake another lady was on her hands and knees being sick. We asked if she was OK and she said she was as she rejoined the path and set off slow jogging again. I let Steve walk on at the top feed station as I thought I best try and go to the loo again. Nothing was doing unfortunately. I think my body was beginning to shut down. I grabbed some crisps and water and walked on just as the Marshals there dealt with man that had collapsed from heat exhaustion having refused assistance just the other side of the lake. The paramedic passed me as i walked on.
I had nearly done 5 miles of the run and I was exhausted. Most of me hurt both internally and externally and the Morphsuit was pissing me right off. The temptation to stop and the temptation to take the hood off were overwhelming. The sensible thing to do would have been to seek assistance and withdraw. There would be no shame in that as I had properly given it my all. To get through the bike in that heat (and in that bastard suit) was no mean feat alone! However if I could still walk and still breathe and not be out of control to have withdrawn would not have been 'giving it my all'. It would have been 'giving it slightly less than my all'. That would be unacceptable when you think of the generosity of people who had backed me with sponsorship for BCH!
I passed my little bro here (about a mile from the finish line) as he had to get his kids home. We don't need to say what we're thinking at certain times and this was one of those times. He grabbed my hand and willed me on and his lads Hi fived me. Then Mrs Brightside came springing over all confident and tried to talk to me. Each time I tried to speak the tears welled up and my voice started to crack - I was so close to withdrawing - it was so hard - but to have done that would have let her down. Elle Belle and G Man walked a bit with me and then said their goodbyes as they were off too. I could see in them that they had no concept of me not finishing this either. Then I got a big hug off Leekey and Doddi who walked a bit with me and Mrs Brightside. They too were telling me I was looking strong. When I tried to protest they pointed out I could walk it and still be in for 16:30. I couldn't argue with them. I couldn't give up.
I got another kiss off Mrs B who again told me how proud she was and the three of them left me to carry on towards the finish point. I actually ran, very very slowly past the crowd, I got a huge cheer again. The Pirate contingent was growing as Pirates finished and joined the supporters so i gave the crowd some return applause and ran on. I resolved to finish this even if I missed 17 hours!
I ran to the feed station at the out and back start boosted by Mrs Marcus Smith (Marcus was the year below me at King Eds but we don't know each other) as she shouted a good luck message from Michael Hurd, a mutual friend. Then Louise Clements (a double Ironman in 40 hrs girl) ran alongside me wishing me luck and then Mrs Neil Wilkinson shouted good luck and explained how she knew me. As I got to the feed station it was very very apparent that word of my effort was no longer confined to the people I force to read my blog or down whose throat I ram the charity message on FB or Twitter. I discovered after the event that a very old friend of mine that I haven't seen for 20+ years also did Outlaw. Pez finished a little over 15 hours. Sadly we haven't spoken for a long time and I wish I had recognised him on the course to wish him well.
I had found an Outlaw Hi5 bottle on the floor so i filled that with water and kept it with me as I started my first out and back. John flew by the other way and was on for sub 12 hrs. He looked strong and it was great to see him on the course, to wish him well and see that his training was going to pay off massively! @OutlawWidow gave me a hug as I tried to walk well. Steve soon caught me up and I resolved to walk with him at least on this out and back. I walked with him and bored him to death with Morph stories and charity stories only pausing to thank every person that said something to me whether a supporter or runner. One runner knelt down ad did a 'we're not worthy' for me. Most just said 'fair play' or 'hats off for the effort'. The attention was welcome and necessary. Steve was doing the maths as my Garmin battery finally gave up. We were still on for sub 16.30 even if we walked it all! We went out and back and saw one Pirate with an ice cream! The bottle plan was working better. Little and often but my throat felt sore and I was finding it harder to breathe fully. I chatted to quite a few others and definitely saw Keith and Julian and Mark and and loads more (please see earlier apology). I also got to see Lena with a much needed hug and she was looking strong. Billy had already or just about finished!
I then collected my third wristband meaning I had to go around the lake then out and back and then around the lake to the finish. I don't really remember this lap of the lake other than Mrs Brightside again seeing me down the back straight of it. She had just been speaking to Mrs Marcus Smith which was nice. I don't remember what was said but I remember I didn't want to let go of her hand!
She sent me on my way. Panic was beginning to set in as I tried, without my Garmin, to calculate how far was left and how much time I had! I managed a brief, slower than walk, run as I passed the stands and gave a footballesque point to the Pirates point to Pirate badge point to Pirates point to Pirate badge and then Hi fived a few Marshals as I set off on the last out and back.
I caught Steve somewhere here again and there was a Colt triathlete, a triathlete in team greenish colours and a poor fella who looked wiped out carrying a coke and a water. Sadly I couldn't match Steve's pace and dropped back. Green triathlete got another wind and ran on, Colt I think kept with Steve and Coke carrier was in between us. Now I thought I was last again!

The gap was getting bigger and walking straight was becoming harder. My concentration and focus were all over the place. My maths was all wrong and despite checking times and distances at every feed station I was convinced I was going to miss 17 hours. I crossed the suspension bridge and got a hug off Zoe. She was easily going to do it and i was so pleased for her. She had worked so hard and is only half way through her Ultra Crazy Year! I did the zig zaggy soul sapping opposite embankment and realised there were two people behind me. A woman and a man. The woman was running and I knew she would pass me. The man seemed way behind and i was sure he wouldn't make it as I was sure I wouldn't by this point. i crossed the suspension bridge for the last time and shortly after the woman ran past me looking quite strong. Coke carrier was now out of sight as was Steve. At the feed station on the bank a young girl probably about 10 offered me a coke and a water and looked so pleased to see me. She said she loved my outfit. I took the coke and hoped it would give me something, anything to pick it up. The Marshals were confident I would make it. After a pic i was on my way. Probably 4 miles to go with an hour to do it ( I was guessing). I knew I wasn't walking that fast so i ditched the bottle of water and started to run. It was incredibly difficult because the extra effort made everywhere hurt more and it particularly screwed up my breathing. As it fell dark a Pirate came running up the path, I was plodding and very ready to walk again. "Right Sid I am going to run you in. Stay on my shoulder don't push it too hard but don't slow down either and when we get to the boathouse you can walk 100 metres. I'll get you back on time. We dont leave a pirate on the course! I'm Matt by the way, MattandKerryLaffan" (FB name). He is also @Flatfooted591 who I follow on Twitter and who last year in the build up to Outlaw '12 calmed my lack of brick training nerves by pointing out that Ironman is just 3 different disciplines that happen to follow each other and training them separately was fine. i think he had also gone straight to Ironman distance as I had! He allowed me my walk as promised and then we started running again. In the distance I could see the lights of HPP and the finish and you could hear the shouts of 'you are an Outlaw' as the final few runners were finishing.
We caught Steve who wasn't for running and so i ran on with Matt staying with Steve. I collected my last wristband and set off round the lake. I ran nearly to the top and then started to walk. Another Pirate came over to see me home. His name was Slag! As Mrs Brightside appeared out of the dark I introduced her to Slag and between them I ran/walked the last mile during which time the man i thought wouldn't make it ran past me. Another Pirate appeared to go and find Cake and Claire I think who were behind Steve. They wanted everyone back on time for sure.
As we neared the finish I thanked Slag who ran ahead and asked Mrs Brightside to run the finish chute with me. It started hand in hand but the crowd on the finish made it single file only. As I Hi fived my way through, Mrs B did well to dodge the oncoming Hi five bombs. As I got to the tape I turned and applauded the supporters and walked through the tape backwards. I turned back to the photographers having clocked another, but very different, 16hours 45mins finish. I was the Outlaw Ironmorph!

Mrs Brightside held me up and got me out of the Morphsuit. She gave me a hug, which couldn't have been pleasant for her and took me to the massage tables and food hall. Whilst being massaged she helped an Outlaw who was being sick and she later told me that she had given first aid to a lady injured in the carpark and eventually got her treated by paramedics! Her day started on arrival with the system showing me as withdrawn! Bless her I put her through it! Anyway, after the massage we met Leekey and Louise in the bar for hugs and thank yous before heading home.
My aim was always to raise as much money and awareness as possible for kids battling Brain Tumours at BCH. On Sunday i did that with interest and sponsorship going crazy. I returned to 132 tweets, 98 FB notifications and having read the Live commentary on Onestepbeyond it is clear how much the interest built up during the day. 
A bye product of this endeavour is the selfish lifestyle necessary to achieve it. A very selfless Mrs Brightside has had to put up with that for nearly 2 years. Her support has been immense, unwavering, unconditional and her confidence and pride has been without boundary. For that I am entirely grateful and more than happy to retire the Ironmorph for good and keep things sensible for 2014! I have a couple of years to make up for.

I must say a huge thank you to Ian Hamilton for firstly letting me do this challenge but more importantly making me adjust the suit.I wouldn't have got off the bike otherwise. Thanks to Outlaw, the Marshals, Feed Stations, medics for looking after us so so well. To everyone that was in the lake at 6am Sunday morning you have my utmost respect however your day went and thanks for each and every shout out, good luck and 'you're fucking mad' that I received throughout the day. To everyone that sponsored me, read my blog, shared a tweet, shared a FB message, followed the race online or was there supporting I am sorry I kept you up so late but I am humbly grateful for your support and generosity. To my official photographer and proud father in law Dave for the pics and looking after Mrs B and looking after the Rugs!
Mrs Brightside you are entirely my pride my confidence my heart and my happiness - thank you.






Friday, 5 July 2013

See you on the run!


I’ll be in HPP lake at 5.50am on Sunday morning with nothing left to do to prepare. My focus won’t be on 140.6. It will be on the first 200m being target 1 get some space, get into a rhythm. Target 2 will be half way up the lake when I will be flowing. Target 3 will be the first marker. Target 4 the second and the turn for home. Target 5 the bottom of the lake. Nothing else will have my attention – in order tick them off! I will thrash the fuck out of my arms ‘cause I won’t need them again for that day and I would rather sacrifice my arms than have my day end at 8.15am still in the water!

T1 is going to be fun - the marshals will whip my wetsuit off but the Morphsuit will require some jiggery pokery to get out of (think Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon getting out of the straight jacket). I will not spend 22 mins there. I will have to dry off to get the ride/run Morphsuit on, wellie some bread and marmalade and a drink or two (Coke to avoid last years every 15 miles shits and water). Have a slash ‘cause once it’s all on its staying on! Zip the hood up, pop on the cap (to shield the sun so I can see through Morphsuit) and helmet to create the ideal 3 layer blazing sunshine head decoration! Then it’s just a case of taking a deep breath of ‘MTFU inside Morphsuit Sauna’ air and get out on the bike. The next target will be feedstation 1 then feedstation 2 etc etc. The helmet, cap and hood have to come off at each feed station to wellie food and drink then back on and on my way. Ill be sipping water constantly as the inside temp is gonna be off the scale and changing bottles for fresh water at each station.

I will doubt, I will wobble but I will get back to HPP to start my run! T2 being a simple ditching of helmet and shoes and popping on trainers. Maybe a Jelly Baby or two if time allows then I will hit the run. I will say now that if I start the run in time I will Ironmorph on Sunday. I can’t guarantee that it will be pretty, or without incident but I will finish! I will look no further than the next water station on the run and try to absorb as much strength from everyone there doing it, supporting it or organising it.

I know I am stronger than last year, I know I can swim faster, I know I can ride faster and I know I can run faster.
I know I am mentally stronger but then I will need to be as a Morphsuit creates isolation and self examination (not in an are my nuts OK type of way you understand) not too mention that it will make everything a lot hotter! I will have to overcome the natural urge to doubt, to fear, to highlight inadequacies and failings and ignore the temptation to fall back on perceived weaknesses.
I have been overwhelmed by support and sponsorship over the last few days. Emotions are nuclear and far from stable. It is impossible to list the Team behind me that get me through this but if you are reading this, or you’ve sponsored me or you’ve trained with me, or you’ve followed this journey or you’ve told me to MTFU or stop whining and get on with it or you’ve been there for me when I’ve doubted, wobbled or fallen then you are that Team that makes this possible.
None of this however, absolutely none of this is possible either as an idea or in practice without the unwavering, unquestioning, ridiculously blind belief and confidence that Mrs Brightside has in me. My Ironwidow will go through it all on Sunday as she did last year. She will be awake from 3am, she will wonder if I am safely out of the water, she will be scanning the tracking and chasing the Marshals to find out where the fuck is 605 on the bike and she will mentally run every step around the lake and up and down the river with me. For this gift I am utterly grateful.
I would love to say something inspiring here – to give a boost to anyone else doing it, some for the first time – but whatever I am likely to say will have been pinched from a better man.
I will see you on the run!

Monday, 1 July 2013

What lies within?

With 6 days to go I am in the wrong frame of mind. It is due to a combination of poor prep (no shock there), Morphsuit difficulties, poor organisation, a blurred right eye, not enough hours in the day, not enough sleep and those are just the training related issues. There are added stresses such as work, life, work & life!
Since my last post I picked up nicely last week with a half marathon PB and some comfortable pool swims. A gentle tootle on the MTB and I was fast approaching mental readiness. Jollied on by posts and encouragement from other Outlaws and Outlaws to be, the sense of community building nicely and the general huge level of support I get anyway, I was nearly there….over the weekend though I slipped back into doubt and shit! This was despite witnessing 3000 women do the race for life including Mrs B who rocked the 10k distance! This was followed by watching the Paralympic international meet in Birmingham including Gold medallists such as Jonnie Peacock (he can shift), Hannah Cockroft (she can really shift) and Richard Whitehead (he didn’t really shift much as DQ’d with a false start). Watching these international athletes and earlier the non athletes just wanting to make a difference at Race For Life should have set me straight! It didn’t!
Silly little things pissed me off such as the bill for servicing my bike pre Outlaw (including a new rear wheel, bike pump) £138!! What pisses me off most is that I should learn how to do it myself! Not getting out and running Saturday morning! Leaving my helmet at work over the weekend and using that as the excuse to not get out on the bike Sunday morning!! Not being organised yesterday leading to a rushed OW swim. Rushed and poor. I had tested the adapted Morphsuit on Thursday night and it needed further adjustment as the wetsuit over the Morphsuit pulls the Morphsuit down so the mouth hole became a chin hole meaning I couldn’t breathe. So I adapted it and went yesterday pretty much expecting to be able to breathe normally and fly round. Sadly there was no flying in sight. My wetsuit didn’t feel ‘right’, my nuts were uncomfortable, my goggles felt like they were leaking and despite having a big enough mouth hole, even to accommodate my gob, I found breathing difficult. I adapted it again so the mouth hole became a mouth and nose hole which seemed a bit better. Unfortunately it seems that the water the hood of the Morphsuit holds onto is then leaked out as I turn my head to breathe. It’s a bit like breathing through running water from a tap! Then my eye started to blur. I cut the 400m lap to about 300 and probably did about 750m all told. None of it good or fluent. I didn’t seem to be able to sustain front crawl for long. Worrying with 6 days to go!
I am going to sneak 750m in on Thu night with Morphswimsuit MK I and Morphswimsuit MK II (to be adapted slightly differently tonight) and then choose which I am going with for Sunday. This will also provide final T1 practise. Essential because it’s hard enough to get out of a Morphsuit on your own anyway (although I am now quite good at it) but it’s twice as hard when it’s wet! Unfortunately these issues will clutter my mind until Thursday but I can’t get to OW before then!
I did think of not Morphing the swim but then that’s just not cricket is it. It’s the challenge that creates the interest, interest creates awareness, awareness promotes sponsorship and sponsorship helps save kids lives at BCH! Not Morphing the swim is therefore not an option.
So, I wasn’t too happy and when I got out my right eye was blurred – significantly. I washed it, tried some eye drops, washed it some more and after about 4 hours the vision improved. This is either a hay fever reaction coincidental to the swim or it’s the goggle spray I use getting in my eye, or something in the water? Its about 95% improved now so I might just hope it’s gone away!
I started a 7 days countdown yesterday requesting people share my FB status and sponsor me. By this morning I had about 4 shares and to the best of my knowledge no sponsorship (lesson for learning – always check your Justgiving page before moaning and also keep in mind people have lives that are not dictated by my Outlaw efforts!). I did my 6 day countdown this morning and loads of people have shared already. I also arrived at work to a load of Justgiving notifications and nearly £150 has gone on in about 36 hrs (red faced smiley required!).
So to turn this around my plan is to tweak the suit as above, stop being a self centred miserable arse, and gain strength from those closest to me and the wider Poppyfields community. I am going to draw strength from Mrs B and the Rugs. Mrs B’s determination (lich half mara against doc’s orders), Elle-Belle’s strength of character in face of adversity and G Man’s unweilding enthusiasm. I will absorb the encouragement from all of you willing me on (you know I can’t list you because once I start there are just too many and I risk missing someone) and drag out, from somewhere, the strength, determination, the will, the Ironmorph within and the finish on Sunday!

Monday, 24 June 2013

13

13 days until Outlaw and I am having my first full on proper actual panic! It’s irrational as, at this stage, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. My brain needs to switch into ‘you’re as ready as you can be mode’ and I just need to relax into the day. It’s strange really because on Friday I had my best ride probably ever with a 74 miler in 4hrs 40 mins including 3 food breaks. I stopped to eat to replicate the fact that unlike last year where I ate constantly during the ride, this year I will have to stop, de hood and eat and then get going again. I felt really strong throughout and busted the final 2 mile stretch of my ride without dipping below 22mph (on a stretch I’ve struggled in the past to get above 20mph!). My fuel was marmalade sarnies and bananas, water, gel/water combo and a sneaky Coke!
I was confident after Friday that I was bike ready and would not suffer the same problems I faced on the ride last year. All I had to do was get a 15-18 mile run in on Saturday and a good swim on Sunday and I would have no worries to juggle in the final 2 weeks. Of course I let myself down again! I didn’t run on Saturday but levelled it with myself that I would do it Sunday. I didn’t! For that I am a Twat! (as my training plan is littered with Twat reminders!)
Weird how such a high has become such a low! Weird too because I was buzzing having received my printed Morphsuit. The feedback from everyone has been brilliant.



The Outlaw symbol on the face and the Pirate arms are spot on, all the bits and bobs I wanted on it are there. I wanted a nod to the Pirates for last years finish support. I also wanted to mention @Ironholgs & @Bungleduck both of whom have recently announced their retirement on medical grounds from Ironman!

I added a bit of Blackadder Goes Forth humour with a General Melchett quote which I find particularly apt with my poor preparation. It's something for the masses to read as they lap me!

The doer of deeds speech is on my right thigh deliberately upside down so I can read it while riding (even though I probably can't see that clearly to read it of course but it is still a comfort to have it there!)

I have some personal stuff on my left. 26 refers to the 26th anniversary of the death of my mom being 27th June 1987. It is not lost on me the close proximity of Outlaw to this date. The Latin phrase means Pride Confidence Heart and Happiness in reference to Mrs B and she and the rugrats are of course my main source of strength! 13 is just my lucky number (although I couldn’t convince Outlaw to assign that number to me - I am 605 btw). No Morphsuit is complete of course without a quote from Bono!

I tried the suit on and in my humble opinion I reckon it looks pretty good if a little scary (some have said!). I did have a brief panic re visability but that was resolved with a Poppyfields Zumbathon Morphsuit warm up on Saturday. Vision OK just might need a cap under my cycle helmet to shade the sun.

Another positive was receiving loads of encouragement from everyone about tackling the event in the Morphsuit until a message from Outlaw themselves on FB suggested that despite me having cleared it with Outlaw before entering the event I may be stopped by a course referee. I specifically got permission from Outlaw and the BTF before entering and then training for the purpose of tackling Outlaw in the suit. That means my training is tailored to completion through determination rather than balls out speed to complete as fast as I can. I have asked Outlaw to let me know if there are any problems but I think this potential spanner in the works at this late stage has thrown me. I hope it comes to nothing!
Another problem is I didn’t swim last week! I know I know I’ve only myself to blame. I’ve not got Suit 1 (Morphswimsuit) into OW yet! This week was supposed to focus on OW swim having sorted the bike and run demons but with me having failed on the run front I now find myself concentrating on both swim and run with issues I should have resolved weeks ago at a time when I should be just ticking over. It’s fair to say I haven’t learnt from last year at all and I have nothing but admiration (tinged with jealousy) for all of you preparing properly, sticking to plans and making the necessary sacrifices to get to Outlaw and be the best you can possibly be!
It’s been pointed out to me recently that I have become a bore in general since giving up booze! Looking at my blog I am beginning to bore myself with the ups and downs, the repetition, the insecurity, the self loathing, the momentary highs, the self inflicted lows! The only saving grace will be if I can walk away from this years Outlaw as proud and humbled as I was last year and that will ultimately rely on whether I achieve my goal of raising £10,000 for Birmingham Childrens Hospital.
I should probably keep most of these thoughts to myself but sometimes the only way to face and overcome my deficiencies is to write them down and have them stare back at me! It then becomes a challenge to overcome them. I am now waiting patiently for the next up which will probably come when the run and swim butterflies are dispelled and the switch in my brain has switched!