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 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
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!