Tuesday 7 December 2021

The Virtual Mount Everest Challenge

Regular readers will know that I've been raising funds for St. Benedict's Hospice (Charity No. 1019410) for the last 28 years. My Mam was a day patient at the hospice for 12 months and subsequently received palliative care during the final two weeks of her life as she lost the fight against lung cancer. That's us pictured below at my graduation the year before she died. That my Mam had cancer, was something she kept from me until I finished my final exams. That is incredible when I think back. I'm indebted to her and my Dad who sadly died in 1988 for so much. I feel equally indebted to St. Benedict's Hospice. 

The debt of gratitude that I feel towards the Hospice and the amazing staff who work there continues to be repaid with a series of events that have grown in size, complexity and difficulty over the years. The general public have been sp supportive over the years and my personal dream of raising at least half a million pounds for St. Benedict's Hospice and other good causes is alive and kicking.

The main event so far has been the 20,000 mile run around the world which is being done in 9 different stages. Until the pandemic, a total of 5 stages and 10,000 miles had been ran across the UK (John O'Groats to Lands End), USA (California to New York), Australia (Perth to Shellharbour) and Europe (Lisbon to Belgrade to Kiev) with £144,877.60 raised for St. Benedict's Hospice and £194,539..98 raised for other causes such as The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, The Children's Foundation and Useful Vision.

The grand total of £339,417.58 raised to date represents an incredible amount of generosity from so many kind people. When it's safe to do so, t
he around the world run will resume from Kiev, Ukraine to Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan with subsequent stages to Shanghai then across Japan and finally New Zealand. 

In the meantime, the fundraising continues with various endurance events. The next one will take place on Saturday December 18th 2021. There's a twist the time, where I will be doing a lot (and I mean a lot) of climbing instead of running. 

I'll be using what I find to be one of the most challenging machines you'll find in a gym, the VersaClimber, to climb the equivalent of sea level up to the summit of Mount Everest. That's a distance of 29,029 ft (8848m). In running terms, I anticipate this to be as difficult as, if not more so than, a marathon (26.2 miles). I'm calling this one the Virtual Mount Everest Challenge.

I expect climbing that massive height to take me anywhere between 4 and 5 hours. It could even be longer as this really is unknown territory. It's the equivalent of 8 to 10 VersaClimber classes at David Fairlamb Fitness back to back. Speaking of which, I had originally intended to do this challenge on my own machine at home. I have disco lights and everything!! When I sought advice on how to approach this challenge from personal trainer David Fairlamb he was only to quick to offer his specially designed VersaHub. I was secretly hoping he would! 

For those readers who don't know, the VersaHub at David Fairlamb Fitness is truly a unique facility that you won't find anywhere else. It's situated in an enclosed space that has specially optimised sound and lighting. David describes each 30 minute class as "unique and hugely motivational". I simply know it as the hardest cardio workout I've ever done. Dave explains on his website "If you have knee, hip or back issues the non weight baring joint friendly VersaClimbers are perfect for you. Andy Murray's road to recovery after his career threatening hip injury was hugely accelerated by his VersaClimber fitness programme. As you are upright the movement also strengthens your back, bum, legs, shoulders, calves and core. In other words its a full body workout.".

The clip below is a promotional video I shot earlier this year which really does give you a good idea of what the equipment and the classes are all about.

I'm sure you can now appreciate it when I said that this is unknown territory for me. It's like going from a Park Run to a Marathon but still trying to maintain the Park Run pace. The Virtual Mount Everest challenge is not going to be easy by any means and I do hope you think it's one that is worthy of sponsorship for such an amazing cause. 

St. Benedict's Hospice are a charity that have seen numerous events cancelled or scaled down over the last 20 months due to the pandemic. To help the hospice to continue to care for terminally ill people in our region means that now, more than ever, they need our support. 

Please donate whatever you are able using the link below as every penny counts. It really does. Did you know that of the £106,000 raised during the run across the USA, an incredible £50,000 was made up of donations of £10 or less. So putting all of our collective efforts together means that we can make a huge difference to such an important charity. 

Don't forget to check back daily on this site for the all the build up to what promises to be a very tough challenge.  

Monday 29 November 2021

Hard work at David Fairlamb Fitness (again)

Tonight’s double session "under the lights" at David Fairlamb Fitness was extremely tough and enjoyable in equal measure. That's nothing new these days but it's at level I haven't seen at for a very long time. 

My own motivation to work hard, underpinned by Dave driving the session along at pace, makes for a superb platform. I've said many a time that you just don't know what you're going to get in each session. While the underlying principles are generally the same, the structure and content of these HIIT sessions are never the same.

I do a double session on a Monday and Thursday. This can work one of two ways. The first session can give you confidence that you'll be able to produce some quality and "survive" the second session. The feeling last night, however, was one of nervousness at the end of the first session. I knew that I'd worked hard and it was going to be difficult to dig deep and match the effort during the final session.

Last night saw a mixture of "change of pace" cardio then it was into a tough little dumbell routine. Multiply that by 8 and you have the session. There was very little rest in there and finding any active recovery was difficult. 

There were some big watts generated during the explosive cardio parts of the session. 900+ on the Wattbike (surely 1000 isn’t too far away), 600+ on the rower and the ski erg. 

Maintaining good form while recovering from the cardio sections was a huge challenge. I think I just about nailed it. The motivation and words of wisdom from Dave during the 2 hours helped to keep focus. 

As I drifted into the red zone during the second session it was a case of taking my mind to “that dark place” once again. Various images filled my thoughts and all I could really see in the real world was the number of watts being generated on the various machines.

Convincing my mind that I can get find another level and get through a session with as much effort as I can possibly give, has always been one of my strengths. Sessions like tonight, particularly in the latter stages, take me back to the run across the USA. I remember the days in the mid west in particular, battling temperatures in the 40s while having to run 35-45 miles some days. You battle, you survive, you battle again, you survive again. Then, when the time is right, when the sun hovers just above the horizon you drop the hammer and attack. You finish with as much quality as possible. You empty the tanks. Those flat out finishes on Route 66 don’t feel that different to a session like tonight’s. 

Of course, these sessions have improved my fitness beyond expectations this year. It’s the mental health benefit too that can’t be underestimated. I’ve said many times when leaving Dave’s gym that "I feel I could take on the world" or that "I feel like a million dollars". Tonight was no exception. 

I haven't had a new pair of shoes for the gym in 6 years. My custom made Nike Metcons played a huge part tonight. This is the first time I’ve worn them and they were so comfortable. The most noticeable benefit was the support they gave my toes. 

There are a few basic exercises which I find painful. This is thanks to the run across Australia. You can see the terrain from this day in 2013 pictured below. I was just over 1500 miles in to the run and nearing Port Augusta. 1000 of those miles had been spent on the Eyre Highway. It still ranks as one of the most challenging sections of any of the run around the world so far. Anyway, I digress! 

Tonight, was the first time I’ve managed a simple lunge pain free for example. It's one of the most straightforward things to do and requires no equipment. For the last 8 years I've felt every stone I ran on in Australia in my toes. But tonight, these shoes enabled me to focus on my form instead of battling the pain.  

Thanks to Dave yet again for another top session. The 0715 Versaclass this morning wasn’t too shabby either. It’s yet another great start to the fitness week.

As ever, I'll close by saying that there is still a very long way to go on this journey. The foundation that has been built this year is truly beyond my own expectations. I've just got to keep this consistency and effort going. That's as challenging as the sessions themselves. 

Wednesday 10 November 2021

A very successful summer

All of the hard work put in at David Fairlamb Fitness in the first part of 2021 was taken into a tough four week "training camp" in La Gomera. Having rediscovered my love for exercise in 2020/21, the primary objective on this small island in the Canaries was to bring running back into that fold.

My primary location was the town of San Sebastian which is only an hour's ferry ride away from Tenerife to the east. There were plenty of options to run here with some tasty climbs in all directions. There was also a flatter section on the prom which is where I usually ended up after running into the mountains.

The hardest run that I managed was a half marathon from Hermigua back to San Sebastian. Just to keep things interesting, I ran that distance on a scorching hot day. There were no options for water on the route so I carried 2 litres of water on my back.

The first 6 miles were all uphill on a road that was full of twists and turns. It was like being back on the Stelvio Pass again. Just like that famous Italian pass, the scenery was absolutely stunning.

The first major obstacle to overcome was a tunnel at the summit of the run. It was 1/3 mile in length, very dark and had no hard shoulder. I had just got into the tunnel when a lorry entered on the other side. I switched to the opposite side of the road with my torch on and then back again when it and the four cars behind it passed safely by.

The next 6 miles were all downhill. Thankfully, the other 4 tunnels that I passed through had a small elevated hard shoulder which made things a lot safer. 

Unfortunately, I ran out of water with 2.5 miles to go. My thirst became immense during that last stretch and I was glad to complete the distance near a Spar where I guzzled a large bottle of water in no time at all.

Without doubt, what I called "the inaugural La Gomera Half Marathon" is the hardest run I’ve ever done at this distance. The searing heat, tunnels, and huge climbs made for a tremendous challenge. 

Away from running, Donna decided it would be a good idea to climb up an almost sheer cliff face for a mile to the spectacular Mirador de Abrante overlooking Agulo and beyond! Thankfully, the views were worth it.

I was very pleased with the amount of work I managed to get through in La Gomera. There were no easy choices in terms of route difficulty and the consistent mid to high 20 Celsius made every run an even greater challenge. 

Of course it wasn't all work and no play. Thanks to Geordie exile, Michael and his wife Yuliana for some great company as well as little Daniel (known as El Rubio to the locals). Donna and I have had a great time. 

I got a nice surprise when I returned home. I stood on the scales and they read 16 stone 11 pounds. While that's still a high number, it's a far cry from 17 stone 10 pounds back in August. It's even further from the 18 stone 2 pounds at the start of the year. Just like my progress in the gym, everything is heading in the right direction. I remain aware that there is still a very long way to go and I will be working even harder than before to continue my improvement. For now, though, it's time to get stuck into a challenging autumn/winter schedule. Will I see 15 stone on the scales before the end of the year? 

Sunday 12 September 2021

Team Run Geordie Run 2022

Are you sat there watching the Great North Run coverage this year thinking "I wish I could do that" or "I would love to do that but I'll never get a place"? I'm pleased to report that there are now places available on Team Run Geordie Run for the 2022 Great North Run in aid of St. Benedict's Hospice (Charity No. 1019410). 

The cost of signing up to Team Run Geordie Run is £58 for those who have never been on the team before or £29 for those that have. There is a commitment to raise £300 for St. Benedict's Hospice

Team Run Geordie Run members will receive: 
  • Entry to the 2022 Great North Run.
  • Exclusive Team Run Geordie Run t-shirt (or vest if you prefer). Additional t-shirts/vests are available to purchase.
  • Access to the St. Benedict's Hospice hospitality marquee in the charity village near the finish line. This is where you can enjoy refreshments and meet up with family and friends.
  • Exclusive Team Run Geordie Run goodie bag* at St. Benedict's Hospice hospitality marquee.           * Alcohol content only available to those entrants 18 or over.
  • Half price entry to the 2023 Great North Run as part of Team Run Geordie Run.

If you'd like to do the Great North Run in 2022 in aid of St. Benedict's Hospice then please complete the form below to register your interest.

Friday 10 September 2021

Bloody enjoying myself

Things have definitely changed for me over the last few months. By that, I specifically mean my effort levels in training. I’m writing this today, still with the buzz from last nights session at David Fairlamb Fitness. 

I must admit that I’d been looking forward to it since I left the gym on Tuesday. By the time I got there yesterday, I was totally up for giving absolutely everything and having absolutely nothing left to give. The thing with Dave’s sessions are they are all varied. You never know what you are going to get. There is always a mixture of cardio, strength, plyometrics and so on. A whole manner of equipment is used including ropes, hammer and tyres (my personal favourite pictured below), Watt Bikes, ski machines, Versaclimbers (2nd favourite also pictured below), traditional weights, slam balls and much more. There is very little rest across the 45 minute session. You always feel like you’re constantly on the go. As a result, I always feel very focussed and the session tends to fly over. 

I do two back to back sessions on a Monday and Thursday. If the first session sees an above average amount of effort given (and it has the last few weeks) then I know I’m in for a torrid time during that second session. Last night was a perfect example. 

As I have seen many times during the run around the world and particularly across the USA, when I’m very fatigued I can dig in and start to perform at an unexpected higher level. I’ve not often seen this in any training I’ve ever done until this year at Dave’s gym. The image below shows heart rate (a good sign of the effort I’m putting in across the 2 circled sessions). 

The yellow lines are where my heart rate is 80% - 90% of max and red is above 90%. The next image below is something I use from the Athlytic app which shows effort levels compared to the average for this type of session. Last night was a pleasing 18.6% higher than average. This figure should come down over time when I put in consistently higher than average levels of effort. 

These kinds of stats have really helped to give me focus over recent months. While Dave provides a perfect platform to train, it’s up to me to grasp that opportunity, give my all and continue to improve. 

Aside from the obvious physical benefits of getting fitter and stronger there is another side to this. It’s something that I’ve mentioned many times over the last 14 months. The mental health benefit that I’ve seen has been massive. You will have seen me say things like “I come away from the gym feeling like a world beater” or “I feel like I could take on the world” or "I feel like a million dollars". 

The effect a session like last night has on me stays with me for days. Or at least until the next session which is Beach Bootcamp at Tynemouth tomorrow! 

There is still a very long way to go on this journey. The foundations that have been built over the last 14 months are beyond pleasing. It’s now down to me to take this to the next level. I tell you what though, I’m bloody enjoying myself right now.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Meeting at St. Benedict's Hospice

I met with the fundraising staff at St. Benedict's Hospice today. On the agenda was a look back at the last Stage X campaign and also what the plans are for the immediate future. 

The total amount raised, thanks to an incredible amount of generosity, for this campaign currently stands at £12,750.43. That is a fantastic amount but, had it not been for the pandemic, I’m convinced that it would have been a lot more. 

Of course, this was the year where I should have ran from Kiev to Nur Sultan as part of the run around the world. As with previous stages, that would have seen a fundraising target of £50,000. We were also due to have a fundraising ball this year. Sadly, all of those plans went by the wayside during the first lockdown. To have raised this sum for the Hospice, while very pleasing in one sense is, however, also personally disappointing in another. 

The next major world stage isn’t going away and will be done when it’s safe to do so. I know that I won’t be the only fundraiser or charity whose plans have been disrupted. But to raise just shy of £13,000 under these circumstances is testament to the generosity of so many kind people including a very generous set of commercial sponsors. I’m perhaps being very harsh on myself to even consider using the word “disappointing” but that’s where standards are now after 28 years of fundraising. 

I know from the reaction that I received at the Hospice today, that there is absolutely no disappointment from them. Every penny is desperately needed to help care for terminally ill people in the region and put to very good use. If you’ve donated then rest assured that your money is helping to make a positive difference. 

As ever, I felt very appreciated at the Hospice today. The truth is that my own love and appreciation for St. Benedict’s Hospice and what the staff there did for my Mam (pictured with me below) has kept me going since she died in 1995. 

Yes, I’m continuing to repay the debt of gratitude, but being a fundraiser has without doubt had a huge positive impact on my life. Fundraising is essentially an unpaid job that attracts a lot of love, generosity, positivity and the chance to meet all manner of kind and interesting people. It has been and continues to be the biggest asset that I have when dealing with grief. Long may that continue. 

Back to today and I was happy to see the excited look when I discussed my future fundraising plans. I’ll talk more about those in greater detail next month. Although watch out for one exciting announcement as early as this Sunday. 

I left St. Benedict’s Hospice today feeling very positive as I always do. There was a peaceful quiet about the place and the sun was shining brightly. I’ll close tonight by again thanking everyone who has donated this year. Your support is massively appreciated. Thanks also to main sponsor Chapman Ventilation and also Taylored-fit Physio, D-Line, Steven Bell Properties, Active Edge, Northumberland Tea, NUFC.com and David Fairlamb Fitness.

Thursday 26 August 2021

Fully committed

I wrote two weeks ago that “I’m fully committed to each and every session ….. I never leave anything in the gym. The tanks are always emptied.” after yet another tough session at David Fairlamb Fitness. They aren’t just words. Those sentiments are being seen in action time and time again in Dave’s gym. Tonight’s double session was no exception. 

I gave as much as I could during the first session. Yet again though the effort levels were slightly below average. Only slightly mind. I use heart rate to measure this by the way. Of course, some weeks aren’t as cardio intensive as others so it’s just a rough guide. The second session is always a carbon copy of the first so that’s when a good comparison can be made. And surprise, the exertion in the second session was way above average. And boy did it feel like it. I had to take myself to places I don’t often have to go in my mind. I was on my limit on many occasions during that second session tonight. 

As tough as it was, I was absolutely loving every second of it. I simply had to use every syllable of Dave’s cues and words of encouragement to my advantage. Dave was the proverbial 12th man! I really wish I’d had the chance to get a photo but, yeah, that’s not happening in a session like that. This isn’t Instagram! Instead, I’ll leave you with a picture of a puppy stolen from Google. 

The image below is the comparison between tonight’s two identical sessions. 

So, once again, I left Dave’s gym feeling like an absolute world beater. I always say that there is a long way to go in this journey. I’ll be speaking more about the next steps soon. I have an exciting plan for 2022. For now, there continues to be an upward trajectory of strength, conditioning, fitness but, most importantly of all, enjoyment.

Friday 13 August 2021

A "complete week"

It’s been, what I would call a “complete week” of training all carried out at David Fairlamb Fitness. This morning’s session was a Versa Climber class and capped off yet another enjoyable week in the gym. The 30 minute climbing session at 0715 was all about the intervals. Dave stressed the need for consistency across each set. As a result, my focus was set firmly on maintaining a climbing rate of 140ft per minute. Bearing in mind that when I do a similar session at home my comfortable pace is around 120ft per minute. A session I did last week at home saw me only just get to 100ft per minute. This, for me, just shows what I’ve become aware of over the last 12 months. If you have a commanding inspirational leader of a session then good things can happen in terms of performance. Possibly more important than that is the enjoyment I continue to find at the gym (or Saturday on the beach). 

The enjoyment of sessions got me through the early days last year and gave me a good platform. I’m now able to push myself that bit more with confidence and with the support and encouragement of Dave and the other trainers who take the particular sessions. 

As far back as August 2008, just days before I met Dave, I wrote the following on www.rungeordierun.com - “…a certain Theodore Schumann once said "Surrounding yourself in your practice with the right people who have great attitudes is truly one of the keys to both success and happiness.". So with that in mind, I've been thinking about trying to get a proper coach and mentor to keep me on the straight and narrow and ultimately increase my chances of success. Mr Schumann explains further - "In order to grow in your field, you need a voice that understands where you're coming from and what your goals are. A mentor provides the wisdom you haven't yet achieved, or the motivation you need to take bold action. While you won't always agree with your mentor, you will learn to appreciate all he or she teaches you.".” 

I wrote those paragraphs as a 37 year old. Today, I’m 50 and I could not agree more with what my younger self had to say. The blog went on to say “So, after having read this, I'm sure you'll agree that the chances of success are set to increase now that David and Mark are on board. Mark, I know fairly well. David, I only met for the first time last Thursday. It is easy to see why personal training is his field. He has an infectious motivational attitude about himself. I felt like I could be a world beater after the chat I had with him. That, together with Mark's drive and support means I may actually stand a chance of completing the required amount of training and ultimately the next big run across the USA in 2011.”. 

Now that paragraph is uncanny as I often leave the gym feeling, as I put it, “like a world beater”. I often also use the phrase “I now feel like a million dollars”. The physical, mental and charitable benefits from working with Dave and Mark have been and continue to be absolutely priceless. Regular readers will remember when they both returned to the USA for a second unplanned surprise week of support. "Who would even do that?" is a phrase I've also used many times.

There is still much further to travel on this journey. I’m fully committed to each and every session and, as you can tell from the picture below, I never leave anything in the gym. The tanks are always emptied. 

If I could go back and tell my younger self anything it would be “This will turn out to be a great decision. You’re going to enjoy training with Dave and Mark. It will change your life. Stick at it mate”. Dave and Mark - thanks for everything you do. See you on the beach tomorrow for another tough Beach Bootcamp.

Friday 16 July 2021

All done

Full report to follow. In the meantime, if you’d like to sponsor me in aid of St Benedict’s Hospice then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun

Day 5 update

Made it from the border lowlands to the Castle.  Thanks to Carlton for setting a quick pace over the last 5 miles. Oh and carrying my water. That was too quick but gets me to Lindisfarne Castle slightly ahead of schedule. 

To summarise, my right foot is swollen probably because it spent all night in the passenger side footwell last night. It’s ok to run on but getting my sock and shoe on this morning took ages. Blisters are nasty and would probably start to cause major issues if I was to run for a few more days. Energy levels very good. Next food stop is porridge back at the car on the mainland. 

I seriously doubt I would have made it this far (In fact I wouldn’t) without the support team I have. Carlton has put in a tough few days in this heat. It really is like having a butler!! 

Stobbsy and Donna join the team for the final section. That will free up Stobbsy to get a few miles in and see me home. 

I’m sat at the foot of the castle typing this. I’m getting the evils off Carlton which means it’s time to push on back to the mainland. The breeze on the causeway will bring brief respite. 

Finally, thanks to those kind people who have sponsored me in aid of St Benedict’s Hospice. I’ll get a proper total later but I think the amount for this current campaign stands at around £11,900. Without the kind sponsors on my shirt and those of you donating via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun it would not be possible. 

Right Carlton is starting to pace up and down. It’s time to get moving. I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to get to Bamburgh for 7pm (ish).

Day 5

About 1 hour of sleep, badly damaged feet (no surprise) and scorching temperatures here in the borders. After an early start, Holy Island is a few miles away. I’m looking good to beat the tide times and get back to the mainland before the final 20 mile push to Bamburgh. 

Donations are much needed for St Benedict’s Hospice and if you’d like to sponsor me then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun. Every penny is hugely appreciated. 

ETA at Bamburgh is currently between 7 and 8 pm.

Thursday 15 July 2021