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

The Welcome Centre

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:

Facebook page: search “jack’s iron challenge”

The Welcome centre:

 start of walkend of walk

 zombie armourzombie teamzombie run