Much delayed wall report, beware it’s a long one!

Looks like I’m getting a pattern of posting up every fortnight so here we go again.

So the big news for this post is the Hadrian’s wall walk. The plan was to do this in 48 hours from start to finish and complete the 84 mile route. So did we manage it? Well I’ll not keep you in suspense, yes we did but only just!

With planning things we decided that to try and do it in two 42 mile stretches was going to be too much so instead we broke it down into 3 walks that should have been 12 miles on the Friday evening, 30 on the Saturday and the big 42 on the Sunday with an Ibis hotel and a B&B thrown in there for rests. This is broadly how it worked but there we are few variations.

My mate Martin Forrester was going to be doing the walk with me as he has accompanied me on many other daft exploits like rough camping in Polish woods in -15oC temperatures or running the three Yorkshire Peaks. As he works in Salford the plan was to go from his place on the Friday after work and head north to the start of the wall and then walk east to the other end where my wife would pick us up and take us back home. Well the morning came and to start the day I had to cycle the 16 miles to work and leave my bike there to get the train over to meet Forrest’s wife Laura after work. With a quick stop to grab his rucksack we were on our way north and without incident were at the starting point by about 7.30pm

So inadvertently dressed exactly the same in our Huddersfield marathon shirts (except Forrest had written “half” on his!) and small black shorts we got a quick photo by the water, hitched on our packs and started walking.

We had both done a 40 mile walk before back in March along the Calderdale way so knew it was going to be tough but to begin with at least, even with 13kg on my back we felt good and were knocking along at a good rate, about 3.5 mph. About half an hour in however we had our first surprise when we walked past a sign declaring itself as the start of the wall! So it seems that we parked up a bit far and clocked up an extra mile and a half on our route already. Not the best of starts but at least we were fresh and the walking was easy.

On we went with the water on our left and the path stretching out in front of us, some sections kinked a little but for a while we were on a dead straight road that just went on to the horizon, you could tell it was a Roman one just from that even without what would become a common sight of the white acorns marking the route.

So as the miles and hours went by we found our planned arrival time in Carlisle slipping, what was going to be 10.30pm was pushed back by our false start and then by a section of the path being closed and then by another diversion. As it was we ended up walking in what I think would have been some nice wooded river walk ways, but for us they were a bit too dark to appreciate as we went along them in the dark at 11.30pm to eventually get to the hotel at about midnight. Still we were there and not too foot sore for it even if we did put in 16 miles instead of the planned 12. After a quick shower to wash the evenings grime off there was a good 6 hours of sleep to be had before we were up and away for 7am the next day.

Saturday started well as we wandered out of Carlisle and left the town behind, we were very quickly in green spaces and alongside fields as we left by the river and even with the damp dew on the grass it was good walking and a nice easy route. Stopping occasionally to snap a quick photo and put it on Facebook Forrest found a great way to get food and snacks from our bags without having to stop as well. Just unhitching it and wearing it on your front as you open it up and rummage meant we didn’t have to waste time stopping every few miles and the fact we both had camel packs in our bags meant water wasn’t an issue either.

Watching the miles fall away I felt my spirits rise and fall as we went through dew wet fields and my feet became soaked to then walk by honesty cafés and tuck boxes which I always love seeing on walks as it restores a bit of my faith in the honesty of people. We also found that by using our little rucksack trick we didn’t actually have to stop walking at all, we could eat and drink on the go and so save a bit of time which is what we did. We were going along well for most of the morning and were due to meet up with my Father-in-law, John a little later on the route as he wanted to walk a bit of it with us. However unfortunately the wet weather and the miles seemed to be adding up and hitting Forrest’s feet hard, even with a really good pair of walking shoes he was getting a lot of rubbing and pain which was causing him to limp a bit, but that said he didn’t let it slow the pace just took on the discomfort and kept going as that’s the sort of chap he is.

By the time we actually caught up with John we were a bit further along than we thought and instead of him parking up and walking west along the path to meet us then back to his car, we caught up with him at the car park just as he pulled up. So after a quick top up on our water and Forrest giving his feet some attention we started on the last 5 miles for the day to Burnhead, the B&B we were staying at that night. It was from here on that we started experiencing the rugged north properly with steep climbs up and the wall snaking away in the distance over the hills. With our legs pumping away we kept going up and down often right by the side of the wall till we closed in on the B&B. When we arrived there was a little confusion as the owners had been taking part in a local agricultural show where there was a fell running race and it seemed a lot of the other runners and organisers had come back for a BBQ as the weather had really brightened up. As we were originally expected sometime late in the evening as we booked the place when we thought we would try the walk in two sections our arrival was a little unexpected for them and Forrest hopping over their garden wall I think gave them a bit of a shock for a moment!

But after explanations were made and hands shaken we were able to dump our bags and while Forrest got some well-earned sleep (waking only for some food) and John started back to his car I was offered some burgers and a beer which were very gratefully accepted!

Shoes off and sitting in the sun I was glad we had stopped early in the day as with the sun out and things heating up it would have been hot work to have kept walking so after an hour or so snoozing I filled up on some pasta and divided out the food we had ordered for delivery before setting an alarm for 2.45am and having an early night.

The 2.45am alarm was planned as sunrise was around 3.30-4am so we thought that at 3am there would be enough light to get by and start walking so we could be up and going but unfortunately this was not to be, as I looked out of the window after the alarm went off the sky was still dark and it was raining. Perhaps if the sky had been clear it would have been light enough to get going but as it was neither of us wanted to risk a twisted ankle on a dark wet rock especially given the footing we were expecting based on the day before. So back to sleep for another half hour and unfortunately it was the same story at 3.30am but by 4 it was light enough even with the rain to get going and we really couldn’t put things off any further. So with Forrest in his water proof and me lamenting giving mine to John the day before to cut down on weight we hitched our bags in place and started off on the path.

Frustratingly the first mile or two from the house was flat easy footpaths and probably something we could have done in the dark had we started earlier but there was nothing we could do about that so cursing the loss of an hour we just got going as the hills started to rise.

I won’t bore you too much with all the sights we saw along the way, the wind beaten remains of the agricultural show or the ever snaking wall rising up and over the dramatic crags that vanished into the morning mist but I will say you really got a feel, walking at that time of the morning of how remote you were and how harsh the environment would have been for the soldiers on the wall 2000 years ago. Walking through soaking grass and climbing muddy slippery slopes it must have been something of a shock to these soldiers that even in the middle of summer they would have been cold during their night watch and wet as often as they were dry!

But the wall, wet as it was had some amazing views along it, going over the highest points for miles around we saw the country spread out before us as the mist cleared and although we were both now starting to suffer with wet rubbing feet I was enjoying the route. After around 5 hours walking we reached Chesters fort and decided on a short stop to use their loos which we were very kindly allowed access to even though we were there an hour before opening time, the chap that let us in even remembered Forrest from a medieval photo shoot he did for English Heritage there a couple of years before. So after a change of socks and the cruel temptation of a bus stopping opposite us, that went all the way to Newcastle I think, we were up and going again.

By this time Forrest was really suffering with his feet and in a fair bit of pain, mine were starting to throb and I was pretty sure I had multiple blisters from having done a good portion of the route so far with wet feet. But the route was clear and the weather had stopped raining at least so we kept our heads down and marched on trying to keep to a 3mph pace. By 1pm we had done a fair bit of road walking and had left the wild hills behind and were going alongside the wall as it pulled straight and headed for Newcastle, it was along here that John paid us another visit, pulling over by the side of the road to help out with fresh water to top up our bottles and as we were now carrying so little each we decided to put it all in one bag and leave the other with John to try and make things go a little easier.

 

Packed up again and with spare socks thanks to John we were again away and letting the pavement and beaten foot path fly under our feet.  By around 3 or 4pm we were looking at our position on the map and the realisation was dawning that we were not going to make it for our 7.30pm dead line at the rate we were going so desperate times and all that meant we broke out Forrest’s military marching powder, a mix of dextrose and other sugars that is like Haribo sweets on steroids we chugged it down and started jogging.  The pack bouncing on my back we ran for a good couple of miles and must have looked a sight to the other walkers and cyclist we were passing, bedraggled and chests heaving as we went along swapping the pack between us to get the most out of the boost the sugars had given us.  Eventually we had to bring our pace back down to a walk and ease our tired legs.

Looking then at our place on the map it seemed like somewhere along the way we had picked up a few extra miles, the full route is supposed to be 84 miles but by our calculations we were going to end up doing more like 87 or more so again our time table was under threat!  We decided that we would crack on as best as we could with short planned rests every couple of miles to try and last out our feet.  Then for the last part we would try another burst of effort to run the final couple of miles to make it on time, so finishing off what was nearly the last of our water and planning in the short stops we were away again.  Aching and clock watching we were getting closer and closer to our end point but not fast enough for our deadline and so with 2 miles to go we made the decision to push on and run.  85 miles behind us and around 30 hours of effort we got our legs moving as fast as we were able and with me trying to answer “yes” every stride to the internal question of “can I run one more pace?” we saw signs for Segedunum and then the place itself.  Just by the closed gates to the site was my wife parked up waiting for us as we staggered in literally to the second of 48 hours!  The final count was 87.45 miles and we felt every one of them as we cooled off and stretched our legs.  The both of us had multiple blisters on both feet and stank like wet dogs as we slumped into the car after a few photos by the end point.

Exhausted and aching I did however feel elated that we had done it and managed to crack our 48 hour target and could now wear my Hadrian’s wall T-shirt with pride and not guilt!

Brian Blessed and the Romans

So a couple of weeks since my last post on here and the weeks have had their ups and downs.

 

The downs first, well my Bursitis hasn’t sorted itself out yet, I gave it a month to calm down after the marathon and during that time didn’t really do any exercise but to no avail as it still aches, so if to the doctors I went and got myself some strong anti-inflammatory drugs to try and help it along, sounds good right? Well yeah but the effect wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, a day or so after starting them I developed some pretty terrible symptoms, crippling stomach cramps, fever and other such fun, conveniently this was a day or so before I was meant to be going on a late honeymoon to Rome so not the best of timing to say the least. I can’t be sure it was a reaction to the tablets or if it was something else that kicked it off but I thought stopping the medication was a good first step to try and sort things out and with a bit of bed rest and not a lot of food for 36 hours I was just about ok to get on the plane to Rome and by the end of the 5 days everything seemed just about normal enough to give the meds a second go, so I’m now back on them with the promise of a steroid injection in a month if they don’t do the job, so hopefully one way or another I should be fighting fit again soon

 

So that’s the bad news, what about the good, well I got to meet Brian Blessed in his Gordon’s Alive! Tour and he signed a copy of his autobiography, Dynamite Kid which I plan to auction off for the charity . I also discovered he is just as mad, amazing and full of life in person as he seems to be in films and T.V.  After a hour or so of him regaling the audience with stories of his life you got the feeling that although he is in his 70’s he has no plans to slow down or relax, he is even going to the international space station next year!  So something of an inspiration as far as pushing on and doing all you can with your life!

 

So following May’s “challenge” what’s next then? Well it’s now Wednesday June 4th and I have done my first circuits class in a month on Monday gone and my first run since the marathon and I can testify how much fitness you can lose in a month!  My legs are aching and there is of course the throbbing ache of my shoulder to contend with but it was good to get out and do something so, with a bit of a gentle re-introduction I hope I’ll be back on form soon, the cycling and swimming may be a bother as they seem to strain my shoulder the most but hopefully it will be ok soon.

 

In the meantime I have June’s Challenge coming up and this one is a big one and strangely appropriate having just got back from Rome.  The plan is to walk the 84 miles of foot paths across what the Romans thought was the end of the civilised world.  A friend and myself will be attempting to walk the full Hadrian’s wall path in just 48 hours.  We are travelling light and only carrying food and water for the day to resupply in the evening so we can hopefully keep our speed up but it’s still going to be hard, especially if we get a hot weekend and have that to contend with as well.

 

But having said that it’s something I have had on my mind to do for a while and though it may sound daft it’s all because of a t-shirt. A few years ago my Mother-in-Law got me a national trust T-shirt with Hadrain’s wall on it and the route on the back and ever since then I feel a slight pang of guilt every time I put it on as I have never walked the route that’s on the back of it, so hopefully this walk will allow me to don it in future with smug pride and know I have earned the right to wear it!

 

And before I sign off I just wanted to add a link to an article I read online and to remind everyone why I’m doing all this. The main article is from the Guardian but then links to the actual report made on behalf of Scotland.gov  it’s a big document but the summary pages only takes a little while to read through and is well worth doing so.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2014/jan/16/scottish-govt-links-welfare-cuts-to-rise-in-food-banks

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00440458.pdf

 

Put simply it links the great increase in the use of food banks to the recent government changes in benefits and welfare.

 

What I think is really important to remember with this is that food banks are not government supported, they are run entirely on the good will and charity of the public and so there is no obligation for them to be there. So without getting too political what that means to me and the way I read this is that the welfare reforms that are being made have left people without food and the essentials to live while at the same time there is no provision to help people in these situations.  I think this is a terrible and makes me ask the question “what would happen if we didn’t have food banks?” would the government just allow more and more people to become destitute and hungry while they continue implementing these “reforms”

 

I feel the evidence is becoming so great and so hard to contest that those in power are now simply putting their fingers in their ears and saying “not listening, not listening” instead of engaging with a real problem that is effecting an ever increasing number of people.

 

Not a very positive way to end a post I’m afraid but hopefully it may get folk thinking and donating!

 

Donation page

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jackironchallenge

The Welcome Centre

http://thewelcomecentre.org/

Facebook page

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Injury and frustration

Well its been a while since my last update an unfortunatly I have to say i haven’t been able to do a lot due to an injury. A couple of years ago a physiotherapist friend of mind diagnosed my shoulder with something called Subacromial bursitis which is basicially an inflamation of the tissue around the shoulder. After a fair amount of anti-inflamatories and some technical strapping it went down and hasn’t bothered me since. Well that was until the run up to the marathon. I remember on the day feeling a painful twinge in my shoulder but joking with a friend who was running the half marathon that i’d be fine as i run with my legs and not my shoulder. Well i guess that 26 miles of juddering and jiggling didn’t help and by the end of the run it was pretty painful. i had hoped that it would calm down fairly quickly after that and even tried going swimming on the Thursday after the run in the hope that it might loosen the joint and help it ease. Well that didn’t exactly go as planned as I only managed to swim for 30 mins before the pain was too much and I had to get out of the pool.

Since then I have been trying to rest it and keep it strapped up while I pop ibuprofen like smarties to help the inflamation. Not to sound like a drama queen but its now got to the point of fairly extreme discomfort and hasn’t seemed to have gone down at all in the last two weeks so bar that brief swim and a couple of short bike rides I have done nothing for the last two weeks which has really curbed my training and got me down. So its off to the GP next week to see if I can get something a bit stronger to attack the inflamation and hopefully get me back on track with things.

 

But not to make this post all doom and gloom i have got good news on other fronts, this weekend i will be meeting Brian Blessed in lincoln for the Gordans Alive event and getting some pics with him as well as hopefully getting his autobiography signed. So as this is counting as this months challenge I am going to auction it off for the charity on ebay, so if anyone is interested in owning it i will be posting up details here as soon as the auction is live.

Last but not least if you’d like to read a bit more about the marathon and my part in it there are a couple of articles in the local paper, one about the marathon in general and one just about yours truly!

 

So heres hoping my shoulder settles quickly and I can get back to training and in the mean time as ever please have a look at the links below and think about helping if you can!

 

Donation page

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jackironchallenge

The Welcome Centre

http://thewelcomecentre.org/

Facebook page

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Summming up the April challenge and training so far

So it’s the 28th of April and that means just 5 months to go to the big day now!

So how is it all going, well at the moment I’m getting more confident in what I’m doing but at the same time the fear of the day is looming larger!

Since my last post I haven’t found time to get back out into open water to try my new swimming cap and socks but I have been in the pool a couple of times and the new shorts and goggles are great so along with those and feeling like I have my rhythm in the water now I am getting happier with the swimming. In the pool I can do the 1.2 miles in about an hour, not as fast as I’d like but a good place to work from.  I think the next thing to try is to do the full 1.2 miles in open water without stopping just to see what it’s like and how long it takes me compared to the pool, but when I’ll get the time for that I’m not sure.

Looking at the second stage of things, the bike ride, again I am feeling happier about that after cycling to work and back last Thursday (no crashing this time!) as each way is about 16 miles and I can do it in about 1hour 15mins. Of course this is less than a third of the distance I’ll have to do but with it rising and falling nearly 2000 feet and the Iron Man route covering 7217 feet in 56 miles it’s a pretty good indication of what I’ll be up against. So with that in mind I’m going to push to try and get more bike rides in and work the hills, starting with cycling in two days next week.

Last of all there is the run. Well obviously this month’s challenge was the Huddersfield marathon, twice the distance I’ll have to do on the Iron Man but without the two stages to sap my energy first.  So how did it go?  Well pretty good actually, the route was far harder than I expected and that’s probably my fault for not looking at it as closely as I should have before the run but wow there were some hills! Big ones, long ones, steep ones and the descents after them as well.  Suffice it to say I didn’t manage it all at a run and there were sections where I was walking, but I felt ok about that as it seemed everyone I chatted to along the way said the same, a really demanding route.

You’d think as well the downhill bits would be easier, just trot along and let gravity do the hard work but don’t be fooled, gravity is not your friend when your thighs feel like jelly and your knees are begging you to stop pounding them. But all that drama aside the run as an experience was great, the public and marshals on the way were fab and kept your spirits up and even when I finished the first lap and had a big low at having to effectively start again.  I managed to keep going by a combination of techniques, and little goals.  Seeing a lamp post in the distance and promising myself to keep jogging to that point or if I had to walk then making sure it was only to the top of the hill and then I’d get jogging again.  Overall the method I use the most is to ask myself “can you take one more step?” It’s such a small effort to just move your leg one more pace that I haven’t yet had to answer “No” so as long as I can keep saying yes to that question then it’s just a matter of time before I finish.

As it was my finishing time was actually better than I expected, I was hoping initially to do it in less than 5 hours but with the hills and walking I thought that was out of the window really. But by the end of it I clocked up 4 hours 38 mins which I was absolutely chuffed with as it was half an hour better than the time I managed before doing the Alnwick to Bamburgh coast marathon last year.

So with all this fairly positive training why am I feeling this looming fear for the big day? Well it’s mostly because each section feels like it’s the best I can do in isolation, and I have to do them all together, one after the other.  Getting out of the pool I’m jelly legged and tired but I have to do it in open water and get straight on a bike.  For the ride I’m happy with 16 miles of hills but 56?!  And as for the run, I know I can do a marathon but can I manage half the distance but with nearly 3 times the height?!

So I guess this month’s main message to myself is to keep hammering out the training miles and when I ask myself the question “can you take one more step?” to always answer YES!Image

2 week gap and plans for July

Sorry folks for the long gap between posts, It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything I just haven’t had the chance to put it on here I’m afraid.

 

So then what’s has been going on? Well after the long walk and the short run I was back into normal training, which I’m glad to say, is going well but sorry to say I have not been able to ramp up as much as I would like.  The main reason for that is time, trying to find time to do a long ride or an hours swim is tough when fitting it around a normal working life so I have had to miss things I would have like to have done but I’m still out most lunchtimes and evenings when I can getting in the miles so I hope this will help.

 

One thing I have noticed will all of this though is that I have become a lot more hungry a lot more often and as well as that my energy levels seem to peak and trough a lot more. Of course my first thought was diet, my normal method of just grab what I can when I can may now need to be modified a bit and I may have to look at what I am using a fuel a bit more closely, perhaps more fish and rice and less pasties and beans on toast J

 

But other than time and diet things are going well, I managed to raise and beat my March target and as well as that the Welcome Centre have a new member of staff who I hope can help me with promoting the whole idea and getting a bit more coverage for it. I did try myself by sending out 50 letters to local businesses and even contacting the Mayor about supporting me but I didn’t get a single reply from all my letters and the Mayor is already committed to a number of other charities which was a bit disheartening all round really.  So maybe more luck will be had if the publicity is led by a more recognised organisation rather than an individual.

 

Still onwards and upwards I guess and in consolation I bought myself a few more items for my swimming training.

A swimming cap to try and retain a bit more body heat and allow me to keep my head in the cold water longer, something I have trouble with at the moment.

Goggles that fit a lot better and don’t let the water in which hopefully means I won’t have to keep adjusting them all the time.

Swimming socks to replace the wetsuit boots I have which are good for keeping your feet warm but as they are not designed for actual swimming they are quite ridged and don’t allow the freedom of movement to actually swim in so the new socks should help with this.

Last of all some swimming shorts so I can train in the pool without my beach shorts causing so much drag and I’ll also probably be wearing them under my tri-wetsuit for a quick change into cycling gear come the main event.

 

So what’s next then? Well this month’s mini challenge is coming up and that means a full marathon on the 27th of the month.  Held in Huddersfield for the first time in 20+ years this will be only the second marathon I have ever done and I expect it will be quite a challenge for me and perhaps a bit more traditional than my last few.

 

Still not one to conform too much I have been thinking about July’s challenge, the only month I don’t yet have covered and if I can work the logistics and timing I may have a solution. A blacksmith friend of mine also dabbles in strongman competitions (the two would seem to go together well!) and is hoping to host one of his own in July which he has invited me along to so that could be something to mark on the calendar, but it’s not something that directly applies to any of the disciplines of a triathlon so as well as this the Welcome Centre suggest a cycling based challenge as well, which as it happens (due to tight timetables) may have to run over the same weekend.  So nothing confirmed yet but there is a chance that July’s challenge will be a strongman competition on the 5th and a static cycle (on props) challenge in a supermarket or shopping centre on the 6th.  How I’m going to persuade you lovely people to donate for these things I’m not quite sure yet, perhaps £1 per mile on the bike, the more you donate the more miles I have to do before I can get off the bike, or perhaps £1 per yard and the more you donate the further I will go on the farmers walk weight challenge, 180kg on your shoulders as you walk up and down a path.

 

Well time at least to think about that and see how it pans out, for now it’s back to the regular training (with a short 4 day medieval break) and as it caused such a stir on Facebook I’ll sign off with a pic of all my new swimming gearImage

As ever links to everything below

Donation page

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jackironchallenge

The Welcome Centre

http://thewelcomecentre.org/

Facebook page

Search “Jack’s iron challenge

Long walks and short runs

Ok so more than a week since my last post and plenty has been happening on the training front, the mini challenges and the whole concept of supporting the food bank and the reasons why. So this is going to be a bit of a longer post than normal?

 

So last blog entry I said I was having trouble with my swimming in the pool and that I was gasping like a fish out of water instead of gliding like one in its natural habitat. So last Thursday I had my second lane swimming session, this time without my friend along as she was ill. So ready to spend another hour trying to get my breathing rhythm sorted I had the plan to try and do 8 lengths at a time with a 60 second rest between each set of 8 and repeat that 8 times over to get to 64. That should equate to 1600 meters or one mile. Before getting into the water I wondered if I would be able to manage this or if I’d have to drop the number of lengths or possibly swap the front crawl to a breast stroke as I became more tired. But after the first set of 8, something clicked. Either I learned to relax my way into the stroke or my timing came back or possibly my muscle memory kicked in from when I used to swim a lot back in school, but whatever it was it let me not only do the 64 lengths but to push that out to 78 lengths or the 1.2 miles needed for the triathlon and it was all done in just under an hour. So it seems like there is hope in the water for me yet.

So what else has been going on then? Well of course there was March’s mini challenge, 40 miles of the Calderdale Way and the 5k of the zombie run, so how did they go? Well pretty good actually, better at least than Februarys challenge (x-rays have now been taken and results on the break should be coming soon!) The 40 mile walk, well I won’t say it was easy but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I first imagined. We started at 5am on the Saturday and set out well, clocking up the miles on the rougher ground that took us out of West Vale and as the sun came up we were all in good spirits. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow, mile by mile account of things but I think the biggest thing to report is that the Calderdale Way, for a national trial, is actually really hard to follow! With access to 3 sat navs and two OS maps we still managed to lose the path again and again and all this meant lost time as we tried to find it or backtracked on ourselves. So in the end we took the decision to abandon the route and just get on an easier path to navigate so we could get the miles done in time. So leaving the path somewhere behind us on we went down the canals of Yorkshire for another 20 miles till we ended up tired but happy back at my house with just over 40 miles under our belts and amazingly not too many aches or blisters (at least on my part)

So the big walk done, what about the other half of the challenge, the zombie run? The astute among you will remember that I said I would do the run in armour if I managed to raise two pounds for every mile of my mini challenges so far (£196). So as I sat at home on the Saturday night with slightly sore feet and the worry of how much my legs may stiffen up and ache in the morning I had the moral dilemma of asking people to help me reach my total or keeping quiet and seeing if I could get away with doing it just in shorts and t-shirt. Well good or bad my morals got the better of me and I posted up on facebook asking for just a few more pounds and thanks to some well meaning friends (at least I like to think they were well meaning and supporting the welcome centre and not just paying to see me suffer) my total was reached. So as the zombie dawn rose on Sunday I was over in the park in plenty of heavy metal. A brigandine, bevour, helmet, armored legs and gauntlets along with a sword and bill to finish the look was what I had on as I walked towards the start line. Plenty of people gave me a lot of funny looks and plenty more thought I was mad for trying it. I even had a reporter from our local paper the Huddersfield Examiner interview me about what I was doing. So after a few more photos and funny looks I was off round the 5k course and trying to keep pace with the other runners as they jogged along. I was actually pretty happy with my performance as I managed a light jog for the first kilometer or so, but then my first problem struck as my left leg strap broke away from the buckle holding it up. Left with a flapping bit of metal against my thigh I had to drop down to a walk, only to have another strap pop at something like 2 kilometers. So pausing for a moment to take it off I now had one piece of leg armour in one hand while my other was on my sword hilt at the ready. Of course the rules were such that there was no physical interaction with the zombies so the sword was just for show and because of that and the weight and exhaustion I was feeling by this point I’m sorry to say that the first set of zombies I met managed to strip me of my three lives and so I was ‘dead’ for the purposes of the run. Demoralised but not defeated I went on to run, jog and mostly walk the rest of the route to come to the finish line exhausted but chuffed at the cheers I was getting for having done it!

 

So that’s my training and my challenges covered but there was something else I wanted to add on a more personal note. Of course this whole thing as much as it is fun for me (at times) is about something more serious, raising some money for a charity that I feel very strongly about. A charity that picks up where the welfare state seems to fall down, helping people who in many cases are working a job and are just falling short of making ends meet because of our increasingly unbalanced society where the rich/poor gap seems to be wider than any time in living memory and where there seems to be less and less provision made for those who need this extra assistance. Well after this month’s challenges I had a message posted on my facebook wall from my Dad.

To quote him he said “As you know three days before you do your Ironman I will be 65. To celebrate this and the fact that you will complete the course, I intend to donate my first week’s State Old Age Pension to your charity. At the moment I don’t know how much it will be but it’s supposed to keep a silly old fool like me alive for a week so hopefully it will help those who have not been as lucky in life as me”

I should explain that although I am clearly biased, I admire my Dad greatly, he was born Enfield in London where his mother (my nan) worked as a cleaner and his dad was a brick layer so about as working class as you can get. From there he apprenticed at 16 as a joiner and then worked his way up in the council for the next 30-40 years until he retired as a chief buildings inspector. I have seen all my life how hard he has worked and so I found it really touching and very fitting in a way that he would choose to donate some of what he has earned over his working life to those who don’t seem to be getting that help from the state themselves.

As if that wasn’t enough in reply to by Dad’s posting my Father-in-law, who just last week also began collecting his state pension, said he would like to match that gesture and do the same, donating a week of his state pension as well. I found it really amazing that they would each support the charity with such a large donation and I find it very fitting that they have chosen to do it in such a symbolic way.

Well before I sign off on this post I’ll just end with a few pics of me at the start of the walk and facing off ready to run the zombie gauntlet. As ever links are below for all the important stuff and hopefully another update will appear soon covering more stuff like talking with the mayor and running a marathon.

Donation page: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jackironchallenge

Facebook page: search “jack’s iron challenge”

The Welcome centre: http://thewelcomecentre.org/

 start of walkend of walk

 zombie armourzombie teamzombie run

 

Tight wetsuits and 40 mile walks

So another week and some more news.

 

Well following last week’s swim I have now managed to get in the wet stuff twice more, once in Brighouse pool and again in Sparth reservoir again.

The pool dip was for the weekly lane swimming sessions and took me right back to being at school and getting changed in a cubicle and showering before getting in as I think that was the last time I went swimming on a regular basis in a pool. With the very much appreciated help of a friend who used to swim at club level and beyond I did a few lengths while she watched my technique and picked up anything I was doing wrong. Overall it seems I have a fairly decent front crawl stroke which just needed a bit of tweaking and a reasonably decent line in the water, but where I fall down is breathing. Unfortunately that seems to be a fairly important part of swimming and most other things you may want to do in life. As I did a few more lengths I found myself absolutely gasping for breath and unable to keep the stroke going, my friend tells me this is all down to rhythm, blowing out while under the water and breathing in as you turn your head, sounds simple right? Yeah and all you have to do to win a race is run fast, simple huh?

 

So from now on my aim is both to build my swimming fitness but not only that but to slow my stroke down (I have a tendency to use crawl exclusively as a sprint stroke) and work on my breathing rhythm. Hopefully by slowing it down and getting that bit right I can then build up again to a quicker pace over time.

As for the second dip in open water, well this time I was wearing the almost indecently figure hugging wetsuit I had just bought along with all the other bits and splashed about for around an hour. I managed three circuits in that time so about 1000 meters or roughly half of the distance I’ll need to do. Mostly doing it as a breast stroke as I seem to have my breathing sorted for that the experience was good. I didn’t get too cold or too badly tired and I think my plan for the open water is to try and build up to 6 laps over time with a steady pace and then try to increase it, with the end goal to take the pool lessons into the open water and do the six laps as a front crawl, but that’s going to take a while!

 

So what else? Well I have now picked Augusts’ mini challenge which will be a triathlon race, a bit shorter than the wasdale one but sounding like it will be just as hilly it’s in Hawes and I thought it would be a good experience and work as a dry run for the main event.

Other than all of that I am going to try and implement a new training time table so that I should get about 2 hours of each discipline done a week as well as 2 hours of circuits, for which our ever full of beans instructor seems to have decided I need to work harder at as last session I did most of it with a weighted pack on!

Last of all is this month’s challenge: the Calderdale way and zombie run. I’m going to try and get lots of photos of both and track my progress with a GPS app so hopefully there will be lots to see and comment on after them. But first of all I need all of you lot out there to DONATE! Please even if it’s only a quid follow the link and pop some cash in. It will all go to a really really good cause and if there is enough you will even get to see me hobble and limp away from zombies while in medieval armour!!!

 

As ever links to everything below

Donation page

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jackironchallenge

The Welcome Centre

http://thewelcomecentre.org/

Facebook page

Search “Jack’s iron challenge

 

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