Tuesday 29 September 2020

Mont Ventoux attempt

I’ve just finished arguably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in training. I had another go at climbing Mont Ventoux on Zwift! My first attempt last Sunday saw me reach half way before being interrupted. I was keen to have another go before the map left Zwift for a few weeks.  

I went from wanting to quit, to wanting to get to the top so many times over the course of the 3 hours and 36 minutes I spent on my Watt Bike. Sadly it wasn’t to be and I called it a day with just less than 2 miles to go. Body temperature, hunger and general discomfort played its part in my decision. Ultimately, it was the burn in my quads that defeated me. 

To be sat on a static bike and totally focussed is testament to how brilliant Zwift is. It’s much better on a big screen than an iPad and totally engrossing. The first time I almost quit was just before I got a view of the tower at the finish line. As soon as it appeared on screen however, I pushed on. I even managed a decent chunk of time out of the saddle with a decent amount of power (way above my threshold) generated. 

The “attacks” (I use that term lightly in this case) got fewer and fewer and my mind went to a very dark place. Some good music selections got me through another couple of miles but the quad pain took me into an even darker place. When I stopped pedalling with the finish line in view, I felt no way disappointed. It’s been years since I put that much effort into exercise on my own. 

I think 3 things cost me tonight. Firstly, Zwift seems to take into account my real world weight. I get on the scales everyday so that figure is bang up to date. My scales update Apple Health which in turn updates Zwift. Secondly, this was my longest session of exercise since I did the stay at home duathlon back in April. My fitness is a long way off where it needs to be. Finally, I’m just not conditioned for this type of effort for that duration. I’m sure there’s science behind it. All I can do is try and interpret how I feel and put it into layperson’s terms. That approach has worked out well for me over the years. 

What I do like about Zwift and my Watt Bike is seeing the power I’m generating on screen. I also take into account my heart rate. I tend not to look at RPM but do also not KMh. With all of those real time stats to hand during the workout, I find it very easy to judge if I can be working harder, be in a higher gear and knowing how close I am to breaking. I wonder if there is a lesson to be learned there that could be applied to running. 

For Stage X, a high level of performance will be required if it to stand any chance of succeeding. There’s so much food for thought at the minute and I’m really loving that. If you read my latest post on this blog you’ll be aware that training for Stage X gets underway this coming Monday. That first session will be so tough that I’m taking a full day off work to get it done. Tonight’s ride was 90 minutes late getting started due to a late work meeting. I will have no such distractions on Monday. As I type this, I’m feeling extremely hungry. It’s far to late to eat. I’d be surprised if I’m not having my weekly visit to Greggs for breakfast in the morning. “One brown sauce and one red please” will be my usual line. You should know the drill by now.

Monday 28 September 2020

Stage X Training soon to start

The special stage of the run around the world (nicknamed Stage X for now) that I talked about recently will be held next Summer. I intend to announce exact details about what Stage X entails on the 4th November which will be 32 years to the day since my Dad sadly lost his fight against cancer. With it being 25 years since my Mam also lost her fight, it remains hugely important, relevant and appropriate to continue to raise as many funds as possible for St. Benedict's Hospice. 

Having given Stage X a lot of thought since the idea popped in my head 2 weeks ago, I’m convinced that this could be one of the toughest physical challenges that I’ve ever faced. Success is far from guaranteed and everything I do between next Monday (when formal training starts) and Summer 2021 will be hugely important. Quality, effort, tenacity, determination and consistency are just a few words that spring to mind that will needed if Stage X is to be successful. 

I’ve spent the last week trying to work out what a training plan will look like. It reminds me of when I sat down in 2008 to plan the build up to the run across the USA. I think with all of the experience gained running 10,000 miles around the world so far, the logistics surrounding Stage X should be quite straightforward. What won’t be though, is the type and volume of training which I believe I need to get though. I’m no expert in any of this but I feel that I need to reach the heights in training that I consistently found from 2008 - 2010 (just before I broke my ankle!!). What a training campaign that was up until that point. What a relief that I recovered in time to run across the USA as planned in 2011 (The image below was taken on one of the early days of that run on Route 66 in California).

Back to Stage X and one of the most important aspects of my training must be to continue to have fun while I’m doing any form of exercise. This recently rediscovered love of keeping fit is not something I planned. It just happened. I’ve really managed to find a good balance lately with plenty of variety and many opportunities to work as hard as I possibly can. From David Fairlamb Fitness Beach Bootcamp (pictured below) or Versa Climber class to a circuit in my home gym or a good old fashioned run around the block, I’ve enjoyed every minute. 

I’m very conscious of keeping this enjoyment going over the next 9 or so months until Stage X begins. With fun and enjoyment in mind, as well as an appreciation of the size and scale of Stage X, I think I’ve got a really good training plan established. It will undoubtedly get fine tuned over time but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. I don’t recall being able to say that for many years. 

Each training week will be laid out on my whiteboard on a Sunday night for the week ahead. There’ll be fun elements to this too and also an opportunity for followers to get involved. I’ll explain more about that this coming weekend. 

Training proper for Stage X starts next Monday. The first session to get through will be tough. So much so, that I’ll be taking my first day off work this year to do it. 

Sunday 20 September 2020

Stage X

I wrote the following on my blog last month - "While my foot has been taken off the 'around the world run' pedal for now, rest assured that it will continue when it's safe to do so. In the meantime, I'm going to just do some exercise and I'm going to do it with a huge smile on my face.". I'm so pleased to report that continues to be the case. Every time I have put on a my kit and shoes I feel so motivated to give maximum effort in whatever I do. Confidence is high and the feeling I've had this summer after any session has been one of euphoria. I really find it difficult to explain why exercise is having such a positive effect this year. Perhaps I shouldn't bother and just enjoy it for as long as it lasts. (It's worth reading the 2 previous posts for a build up to this post if you haven't done so already.).

It feels prudent to use this new found motivation and enthusiasm to continue to raise funds for St Benedict's Hospice. It's also a perfect opportunity to plug the gap left by the paused Run Around The World. Of course, stage 6 should have been done next year. Sadly, given the state of the world currently and the pandemic we find ourselves living with, it's just not possible to carry out the 2100 mile run from Kiev, Ukraine through Russia to Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. That will happen one day when it's safe to do so. The picture below is where I finished stage five back in 2018 and where the virtual around the world progress flag is currently planted.

So where does that leave me in terms of a replacement event next year? Well, I've decided to do what I'm calling a "special stage of the run around the world". It will be held during the summer of 2021. It will be massively difficult. I don't believe it has been done before. I have a route planned. I'm certain that it won't fall foul of any pandemic related restrictions. Ultimately, like all of my events, it will be very worthy of public and commercial sponsorship. 

For now and until I announce full details of the event in November, I'm calling this section of the run around the world, "Stage X". It's a working title to be used while I work out the finer details and while the event remains under wraps.

For the first time since the run across the USA, Stage X will be a stage that is self-funded. That means that ALL proceeds from commercial sponsorship will go to St Benedict's Hospice. For the avoidance of any doubt, it's worth restating that EVERY penny of public money will also go to the Hospice. This has always been the case and always will be.

Stage X will not require the services of Chappie who is safely stored away and ready to return to assist me onwards from Kiev in the future. Chappie spends most days in the sun keeping his battery charged. It's a hard life!

Stage X will require a support team and I've already got a pretty good idea of who might be first on the team sheet when asked. There's a clue in the image below.

As with all previous stages around the world, I rate the chances of success as slim at best. I see that as being realistic more than pessimistic. It's safe to say that Stage X has me concerned! It has an element of fear about it that I intend to use as motivation and for focus over the 10 months that I have to train for it. You might think, "why bother if you don't feel it's possible?". It is that kind of philosophy that I've always followed. This, for me, doesn't feel too different to the build up to stage 2, the run across the USA. 

Stage X promises to be quite an extreme spectacle of running endurance. I've no doubt in my mind that it will be horrible to run. At the time of writing, I have no idea how I will prepare for it. I'll be spending the remaining days of September putting a plan into place. I'll then need to start and execute that plan in October and build it to an unprecedented level (by my standards) throughout the winter, spring and early summer.  

I am setting a fundraising target of £17,108.87 for St Benedict's Hospice. The significance of this seemingly random number will be clearer when details are announced in November. 

So far, only 2 people have been made aware of what Stage X is all about. Their jaws dropped. Their heads shook. Hands covered foreheads in disbelief. When I saw the reactions I knew I was doing the right thing. I'm pleased to report that, despite a rolling of eyes, Donna is fully on board with my plans. "Here we go again" I said!

Next steps are to formulate a training plan, carry out some initial canvassing of commercial sponsors and support team members, finalise the route and to continue having fun exercising.

That's all for now on Stage X of The Run Around The World. Fancy words, ambitious schemes and impossible dreams must become a set of actions that give me the best chance possible of succeeding in 2021. Watch this space and my social media channels over the coming weeks and months for news on Stage X progress.