It took me a while to start another episode of my scribblies. After Colchester’s Paras’10 the next stop was going to be see my good friends from the 100peaks challenge team finish on the summit of Pen Y Fan.
Now I usually do have a dip in activity right after an event, somehow it just takes me a while to pick up the pace again of training and getting the miles in.
Friday the 16th of June we had set off from our hotelroom in Brecon to the Pont Ar Daf carpark in the Brecon Beacons to ascend Pen Y Fan awaiting the team to finish their 100th peak in 25days. The day also marked the day trooper Lloyd <Lloydy> Newell was KIA, so the focus, target and momentum of the day was perhaps even more poignant.
Some would say it had been emotional, I’d say that would be an slight understatement…it was utter emotional to see the team come over the edge of Jacobs Ladder onto the summit. To see the group pass through the all the friends and people the came to witness this moment. Including Karl’s son and his wife…. I can tell you I had to keep shades on due the large amount of dust that kept blowing in my eyes. And I wasn’t the only one.
Focus back on the challenges, what lies ahead. More events obviously, the desire to strive to be better and to win from myself. Training has resulted in a PB on the Colchester Paras’10, but more importantly it has resulted in the belief that you can get of a plateau thus raising the bar for the next one. Getting at least near that time or better will the goal in Catterick on the next Paras’10. The Winter Fan Dance is coming, with a new challenge that is the Woodhouse route. Named after Major Woodhouse, one of the architects of what SAS Selection has become. It follows as different route leaving me outside the relative comfort zone of the known track.
Which leads to the question, has the focus really changed and is it lost to be refound.
The week before an event is usually the week I hate the most, it’s the week training goes to a lower intensity. You start getting paranoid about twisting your ankle while stepping outside or straining a back muscle while lifting a patient at work. You worry about fucking up your preparation right before you have to shine. The truth is….it’s bullshit. I have been training constantly, my body is stronger than it ever was. It can take a beating, and then even so…it still is at the 40% range and one can take so much more.
Restweek, however, sucks.
By Friday, departure day, I feel confident and ready. Even though I didn’t get much sleep the night before we set off to the airport. Immediately it becomes clear that this will be the trip of delays, stays and waits. Our flight has a one hours delay, it late became clear the pilot got sick and had to be replaced before leaving the UK towards us. Anybody who has ever flown Easyjet to the UK will recognise the busterminal like corridor at Schiphol airport used mostly by EZY flights. No gate announcements until five minutes prior and boredom has to be overcome with reading, drinking, sleeping, pacing trough the corridor or a combination of the aforementioned…(yes you can pace sleeping trough a corridor while reading a book and have a drink. 😉 )
The next days are used to meet up, eat/drink with friends and do a little recce of the terrain. As always I need extra carrying weight for my backpack, last year we found the perfect spot to pick up some loose weight. And even though progress on the site was made, there’s still plenty to borrow for Sundays race. Sticking to the military nature of the Para’s 10 I plan to fill my bergen with fit for purpose gear and top it of with a small amount of dead weight (which would constitute for extra ammunition carried by a soldier in the field). Add to that a liter of drink and with 37 lbs I’m ready for the race.
Since we’re in the same town as where the race is held the alarm goes off at a very comfortable time. I start eating and prehydrating, meanwhile Laura’s prepping her 3day patrol pack for she will be running with me today. Just not with the full weighted bergen. It’s a bit strange though, officially she’s entered in what is “clean fatigue” due to an injury on her foot. But since she’s doing it in pants and boots I would still like to call this a TAB with less weight for her.
The forecast for today would be half cloudy and roughly 15 degrees, ideal running weather. But this is the Paras’10 and Stephen (main speaker for the organisation) loves headcover, sunscreen and plenty of hydration….so the sun will come out any time now and the temperature’s gonna rise to a crispy 20 degrees soon.
Starting signal comes in the form of a powder blast from one of the RHA artillery pieces (how’s that for a starter gun) and I’m off. I want to get off Abbey field asap and trough the gates onto Merville barracks. Leaving Merville barracks and turning left I know the forested area is coming soon. I love running there, it’s got shade and softer going. It also has the first little water crossing and a bog. Now I will explain what a bog is to you non UK readers. A bog is a patch of very wet and muddy ground. You’re kneedeep in very heavy black slick mud and the only way to get out of it is with sure fast steps. Slow down too much and the bog will keep you there forever. Move too fast and you might faceplant yourself. I find a nice little route along the sides skipping the grassknolls to the part I know I have to cross the mud pool to get out. But considering I managed to overtake a couple of chaps struggling for mother Earth to release their feet I’m quite happy as I start to climb as small hill in my now mud soaked boots and trousers. The next bit is relatively easy going and I decide to make up some lost time. Because it’s nearly bath time…..the Paras’10 held in Colchester may not be as hilly as the one in Catterick. But is does hold some challenges of its own. Water is the main one. As I leg it around I can see smoke cannisters being dropped on the path. Which add to the atmosphere, quite literally, running trough the smoke curtain I see the second water obstacle. Wade trough it and flush all that bogmud collected earlier. There’s a holdup so I end up standing still in the middle of the stream, see another way out and go for it. Laura’s standing still too but as she’s starting to move again does a perfect reenactment of a Royal Marines Commando recruitment advertising.
The next bits relatively nice going trough the woods onto the dustbowl, you run down into a gravel pit, climb up again and run down before continuing on your path. I’m well on my way back now and the time still looks promising, even though I will have to keep to my pace if I want to better my last years time.
Suddenly my radio crackles and there’s a familiar voice …”I seeeeee youuuuuuu…..”. It’s Laura who managed to shorten the distance and hook up with me again.
We tab the last bit and upon reaching Abbey field it’s Laura spurring me on for the last yards. We give it our everything and finish in a nice 02:19 time…. a solid 13 minutes fast than last year. Mission goal, a new personal best…achieved. Training is paying off
The remainder of the day is spent on Abbey field, talking to people. Enjoying the event. We always stay until the very end and then walk back to the hotel. Stopped on the way for a cold pint.
Diner plans made and since it’s “you can eat anything” day we walk to our favourite Italian restaurant…all’s flushed away with a finishing pint at the Fox and Fiddler pub.
The only easy day was yesterday -May 8th
Waking up to my alarm, bit earlier than I would like after working nights but got some stuff to take care off. It’s the world upside down as I start eating breakfast at 1430 and planning stuff like car maintenance and a meeting with a financial advisor for a possible mortgage we might need soon.
Still a bit sore from my 10k run yesterday I start my “groundwork” 50 sits and 120 press ups. There’s something crazy about doing press ups and sit ups every day in this quantity and take a run afterwards. But it’s definitely my kind of crazy and for some reason it’s helping me plan my day more efficiently too.
Outside the sun’s shining, lovely spring weather and I feel happy when I start running, legs pick up a pace that’s new to me. Looking at my garmin I see I’m running a 5:50 min pace and it feels great. With a feeling of indestructibility I finish this short 5k.
Nice way to start the week. Shower, eat and spent some time with the mrs before heading of the the hospital again for my shift.
Buried in the nightshift, sleep the entire day. Get up….eat, get dressed and head out to work. Not much else. Did get two sessions of sit ups and press ups done, so the days are not wasted completely. Moral of the story, you can have a social life with three nights. Doing five….just keep breathing.
– Press ups 240
– Sit ups 100
Wake up Lazarus….you’re resurrected -May11th
Nightshift is over, roll on the midweek weekend. With little over a week to go until the Paras’10 I’ll substitute a couple of my runs for load bearing TAB’s. Just to get used to the feeling again of running with weight. In the meanwhile I’m raising the bar with regards to press ups a bit.
Got some stuff to do outside the house, als finally spent some time with the mrs who I’d only seen coming in and going out to work last week. So besides ground work no TAB today, I’ll make amends tomorrow morning.
– Pressups 130
– Sit ups 50
Happy Birthday Florence -May 12th
As a nurse Florence Nightingale as a concept is spoon fed to you in school, as a defining piece of nursing history. Even negative connotation came with her name, especially when it comes down to the image some still have of nursing. Nightingale was not someone who I spent a lot of thought on, until last year when I saw a handwritten letter from her to the family of a fallen soldier during the Crimean war. Offering her sympathies and
condoleances writing down the conditions on how the soldier had fallen. The letter came from one of the aid stations very common in that era of warfare.
In many respects she was an Emergency Department Nurse avant garde….. So here’s to you, happy international Nurses day.
Normally nurses in the Netherlands are being given small cakes on Nurses day, I used to call them “zoethoudertjes” (not sure there’s a proper English translation for this, but it comes down to give them sweet cakes to muffle complaints). The gesture however is to give some attention to May 12th and it generally comes from a good heart. You just have to trust nurses to be cynical about these things.
But, since I’m not working and all that sweet stuff is just 100 extra press ups to do I’m going out for a TAB today. With a 35lbs bergen, today is proper training weather (raining of course). Next week will be just a few short runs in the days before the Paras’10 so gonna have to get the TABs in this weekend, starting today.
To sum it up, the bergen is loaded with 35lbs. The weather is total shite with 18 degrees and raining… Bring on the suffering. #DoSomethingThatSucksEveryday
And it did indeed proper suck. Started in a nice downpour which is always good training weather, out comes the goretex. Only to start boiling after 4 km because the rain stopped and the sun decided to show itself. Not really a problem, except with 16 degrees in our little swamp the humidity feels like a steambath.
Didn’t get much of anything done…but my press and situps 260 and 100 total… No run or TAB as I was either working or being one of the range officers for a shooting match on Saturday… Next blog….Paras’10 day
– Situps 100
– Press ups 260
Totals this week – Press ups 880 – Sit ups 560 – Running 13 km
Vaguely, far away, I hear my alarm clock, way too early on a day off. I get out of bed getting the espresso machine warmed up and a brew going. Promised to bring Laura to work today as I’ll be picking up my mother in law from the airport this afternoon. How’s that working for me? Getting up early on my day off? Well that’s it…that’s the key, how else am I goint to cram two runs, a workout and being a social creature in a day. Shit’s about to get real.
Getting started with a press up exercise, time to put it up a notch tomorrow as again I finish my 100 in about 09:15 minutes. Heading out the door I feel slightly nervous, what if this 10k also is going to suck, I decide that this is exactly what I signed on for. #IfItDoesntSuckWeDontDoIt
Surprisingly I finish my run within reasonable timings and get an instant gratification as I see that my VO2max had increased a point and my average heart rate went down. And with the feeling I just improved myself a little bit I walk home to get some breakfast in.
The afternoon is mostly with chores around the house, picking my mum in law up from the airport and having a welcome home Thai curry.
Lights out at 00:00
– Press ups 100
– Running 10k
Rest day -May 3rd
Okay, goodiee it’s rest day. Now where is my rest located and how do I train it.
I think I found where it is, they’re also called triceps and not to be confused with the oblique muscle group. Which, by the way, by now feels like I have acute appendicitis. Did manage to do my press ups and sit ups, on the minute every minute. 5 minutes sit ups and 10 minutes press ups.
As far as rest is concerned…no run today (except for the average 8km I walk in the emergency department).
Back at it tomorrow..
– Situps 50
– Press ups 120
Easy like Thursday morning -May 4th
Despite the fact that I’m having muscle aches constantly, the rhythm is starting to grow on me. Even though I got home late last night after work I woke up before my alarm went off and got a run in.
0030 hours(zero dark thirty)
What surprised me the most this morning was how different the run felt, not sure yet how. But it was a good feeling. Went to work shortly after that and picked up Laura from a wedding party afterwards. Nightshifts are coming up this weekend, now it’s not too difficult getting all exercise in on day 1 of a four night stint, it’s getting up in the afternoon and start your “day” that’s going to be interesting.
– Running 5k
Liberation day -May 5th
Today the Netherlands celebrates the end of the German occupation in WW2, not the end of WW2 for the Netherlands as the colonies in what is now Indonesia was still under Japanese oppression. Be that as it may, the fact that I can go out and run without limitations and curfews. No checkpoints or looking over my shoulder. That stuff means a lot to me.
The inner DS voice enters…”nice way with words lad…..mind dropping to the floor and start pressing them out?” Liberation day starts with press ups and sit ups and later on a run…..Freedom was won by hard work and grit…work doesn’t start until 2200 hours so it would be rude not to do the same.
– Press ups 120
– Situps 100
End of week 1 -May 7th 1500 hours
Nightshift sucks as far as exercise goes. I usually find it hard to get out there and do at least a basic 5k run. So instead I got out and did 8. Do something that sucks every day and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Less than two weeks to go before the Colchester Paras’10. Need to get at least two TABs in next week to get used to running with weight again. It’s too early to see any progress, but I do feel that my body is getting used to the abuse. Basicly that means I still have 60% to go before stuff starts to really hurt…
– Press ups 120
– Situps 50
Totals this week – Pressups 560 – Situps 300 – Running 20 km
You can have results or you can have excuses…but you can’t have both
Up till now most of my writings centered around a specific event or working up to that event. I guess every event was special enough to blog about and in their own right they are.
This journey started back in 2014, me still being very much overweight at 212 lbs. Just stopped smoking in August 2013 and still wheezing, huffing and puffing with just 5 lbs of empty Bergen of a 5k sympathetic bimble around the block.
At the time of this writing I’m looking at four Paras’10 medals and two sets of AEE the Fan Dance Back to Back challenge patches. As well as a set of miniature clogs as a little memento of a local 10k road race where I was the only one to TAB with a 40lbs Bergen. And of course loads of good memories and new friends made the last years.
One of the reasons I started this blog again was I found myself stuck in a rut…. I’m training yes, running and occasionally entering a gym but somewhere I forgot it was the journey that made this fun…not necessarily the goal. So I decided to step things up a bit…intensify the journey. So no more training for just events…start training for life and step into the arena with just one goal…do better than the last time with maximum effort. No holding back and no second guessing.
Started the day together with Laura and do some stuff together before she heads off to work…basically have the next 24 hours to myself after that. Tomorrow I’ll combine my fitness insurgency with common chores and honey do’s but today is me-day.
Laura by the way deserves all the credit in this…. A)she got me into this in the first place (see on of the first stories on this page) and B)managed to deal with my madness.
It’s funny that I say madness, recently I finished Jesse Itzler’s “Living with a SEAL”… I can really recommend this book, you’ll finish it in a day as it is easy to read. Hysterical at times but has some hard truths in it too. But whereas Jesse flies in David “SEAL” Goggins and gets the workout from hell to change his life forever in 31 days, the challenge of training solo is maintaining discipline and selfmotivation. What struck me the most about the story that it’s not so much about physical fitness, it’s the mental robustness that needs to be harnessed. You’re not going to get that in a comfort zone, that’s why I adopted this one too… “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it”
So today we go, it will mean more runs per week. More exercise…….and hopefully better results and a great journey to boot.
1400hours Pushup and situp test
Do or do not…..there is no try – Yoda, Jedi master
10 pressups on the minute, every minute for 10 minutes and 10 situps on the minute every minute for 10 minutes
I did 100 pressups before, but even so as I give myself this test thoughts of selfdoubt creep in. What if I fail. Did I, before I started this, define what would count as a failure? When will I feel I have failed. Stop thinking…..just don’t be shit I keep telling myself
After 80 Situps I feel like I can’t go on, my lunch is at war with me….a quote from David Goggins passes my eyes…. “You’re not leaving here until you reach one hundred situps MotherF^&er”. I finish 100 situps in little over 10 minutes and 100 pressups well within 10 minutes. But time wasn’t important here….finishing up what you started was.
My inner DS (directing staff), who somehow sounds very much like Staff Bigg, tells me off for a short water break. After that I’m out for a 5k run, just to build my confidence again after last weeks fiasco on a 10k. This fiasco was purely my own fault, I slacked off training for two weeks and that came with a price tag.
So I got my 5 km run done averaging 6.44 min/km pace, not light speed but better than last weeks 10k.
Closing the day off with a nice turkey curry with a piece of naan bread, back at it tomorrow.
After I said goodnight to the lads and we all went back to our hostels/lodges and having had some great Chinese scoff at the Red Dragon in Brecon I came back in the room feeling good. Apart from the muscle cramps that very much hindered the return leg of Saturday I ran no blisters. And apart from a couple of dents in my pride no injury from the slidings I made. (If you fall and no one saw you do it, did you in fact fall?)
I started doing a check if everything was charged, dry and ready for tomorrow. I would do a kit change for tomorrow as snow was expected and I didn’t want a repeat of day 1. So out came the Triple Aught Design softshell pants and the Alpha jacket. If I would be running hot the first miles I could open the armpit zippers to ventilate. This kit choice would be very much appreciated later on Sunday.
05:00…..far far away I hear a sound disturbing my otherwise perfect sleep. I find myself getting out of bed in a half concious state and start things up. I eat my breakfast because I must get the calories down my neck….not enjoying it. Flushing it down with a brew. I pop some Ibuprofen to help me get trough the worst of the stiffness of my legmuscles. The rest will be fine once I start moving up the hill and get warm. I open the window and feel the winter air, you can smell it…snow’s in the air.
A bit later than planned I arrive at the Storey Arms at around 06:15-06:30 to find I’m parked next to Paul Southernwood and Lesley Kemp who arrived even earlier than me to, like me, find a good parking spot. We wait in our cars…not being rude to eachother but we can’t keep the entire Brecon Beacons warm now can we…
By now Karl, Mick, Emmet, Nikki, Jason and Andy have arrived and a new group pic is made. This time with snow falling…you wanted a proper Winter Fan Dance…I was about to get one.
Safety briefing, you pay attention. You don’t want to miss new info that applies to todays run. It’s been said that you never climb the same mountain twice. So switch on and listen in.
The thunderflash marks the start…the smell of cordite fills the air as we start climbing again. Again the steepness of that first climb shocks the legs as they remind me of yesterdays stint. They ease into it though and sooner than expected I’m finding a good pace. The view towards Corn Du is amazing, all’s white and it’s a complete different enviroment as 24 hours before. The snow however does come with it’s own unique little challenges. A fast descent can end in a faster than desired one because the stones have become quite icey.
The turn left around Corn Du towards Pen Y Fan gives way to the kodak moment missed yesterday. I’m in awe of the sheer raw beauty the Beacons offer today.
There’s hardly any wind on the way up and the climb to the summit goes without problems. Straight the RV1 I call in my number “Green15 Staff” and turn to show my number. Receiving a small compliment on wearing proper kit today and taunted immediately because with all that Gucci kit I must be minted I get sent on my way to Jacobs Ladder.
Where as Jacobs was easily recognizable yesterday today it’s a white slope. I see several
people getting of the steps and crossing trough fresh snow and boggy grass. Keeping in mind that there still is a ravine to the left and getting dead is not a goal to pursue I find a good path and get down Jacobs with a smile on my face.
Passing Windy Gap towards the Roman road I’m by myself for a while when suddenly I hear my name being called.
“Bas” wasn’t it…recognize me Nikki? It’s Micks mate Nikki who apparantly like me fell behind the pack. I’m suprised he was walking behind me. Both in need of some company we team up and tab together. The snow has slowed us down a bit and looking on my watch we need to pick up the pace if we are to make the 3 hour cutoff time to RV2. I’m telling Nikkie that I’m gonna be at that RV in time and suggest I take point for a while. He agrees to that and I’m setting a bit higher pace breaking into a jog where we can.
No more kodak moments we promise ourselves…yeah right. But how can you not take a picture of two horses coming down the slope to check these strange figures out.
The end of the Roman Road comes in sight and after crossing the stream again I try to maintain a good pace to RV2. With less than 1.5 mile to go we encounter Karl en Jason on their return leg. I’m swinging my arms like a madman to keep up the desired speed as greetings are exchanged in typical bawbag manner. We arrive at RV2 a bit under 3 hours and get warned by the DS not to stick around too long. Bad weather’s expected, don’t waste too much time. Both Nikki and me agree that we’re on top of our hydration and food and decide to get going right after we’re cleared on the RV.
As we slog trough the muddy trail back to the streamcrossing I notice something different…. no muscle cramps. Okay….move on, you might just have put a jinx on it. On our way back the weather changes like Staff had promised (I use the word promised delibirately instead of predicted as it is a known fact that comms with the Boss upstairs and DS is loud and clear). The wind is picking up and the snow is driven over the hill side. Right now I’m running on Mountain Fuel and Jelly Babies and it’s working for me like a toddler on a double espresso. With our hoods on we can start seeing the base of Jacobs ladder. The summit is hidden in the clouds. Had some hairy moments with slipping and sliding and trying to maintain some grip on the steps. The final bits of the ladder was nearly using claws and teeth. Nikki, a couple of meters in front of me, stands on the edge of Jacobs and waits. We both check in at RV3 and start our last leg to FRV.
It’s occuring to me that I still haven’t had any cramp whatsoever..something is going right today. And I really start appreciating the Mountain Fuel products I used the last days and it occured to me that cold and wetness apart I might have started 24 hours too late for it to be of full use on Saturday..lessons learned.
On top of the hill right after the kissing gate I ask Nikki how he sees the finish.. We agree on a gentlemen’s finish. We’re not setting records today so lets end this bimble together then. Nikki’s suprised to my answer to his question if I would have been able to break into a running finish as I would have been.
We cross the finish together, have our numbers taken at FRV and receive our coveted Back to Back patches from the Royal Marines Commandos there. Staff Ken asks about the MST we passed at the base of Corn Du and shakes our hands. We make way for the last runners to come in. Much later I saw in the timings that half an hour after we arrived at FRV people were still coming in.
After eating something I say my goodbyes to Nikki. Glad to have met him and even more glad to have tabbed with him. I run into James Nicholson who finished just before us. I say my goodbyes and drive back to Nant Ddu…. Back to Back challenge completed.
Back at the lodge I’m having my little victory dance and enjoying my Fan Dance Ale out of my messtin. Message home that it’s done and I’m okay. Tonight I’m treating myself to a nice hot meal in the hotel with a couple of pints.
I only spent 5 days in the Brecon Beacons, two of which in an event that I for sure will repeat again. But this one in particular will stay with me as a lifechanging experience. Again I hear myself saying those exact words to Staff Ken. Sitting behind the desk of my office my thoughts dwell on my short time on the hills. I am going to return.
I was aching on the hills….back home I find myself aching to return to the hills
First thing I noticed when I opened the WordPress app was that I didn’t feed the blog since the Paras’10 in Catterick last year. Enough has happened, training mostly and somehow I didn’t feel loading every single run and trainingweek onto the the internet.
How did this all came to be, me being at the Story Arms near the A470 in Brecon Wales. Some of you may remember a tweet that was published after some small talk about difference between summer and winter Fan Dance… the tweet was directed to @AvalancheEvents. No backing off anymore, it was set in stone. I was doing the Winter Fan Dance 2016 and back to back….the #bawbag way.
Fast forward to January 8, after arriving in Wales the day before I had set up HQ at the Nant Ddu lodge and had sorted my kit out. A bit of a shocker as one of the fastex buckles on my bergen had broken off on the flight in. Luckily I had seen plenty of outdoors shops in Brecon, so no worries. Alas…the solution came from Jay Jays ltd on the Ffrwdgrech Industrial Estate, one quid lighter and a fitting buckle richer I was able to repair my bergen and prepare for registration and weigh in on Friday evening.
Registration was easy enough and went absolutely smooth, big compliments to the organization that went into this. My bergen was bang on 35lbs confirmed by staff Ken. Went on to find Dave the SO (Signals Officer) to get my radio sorted, didn’t find him that evening. No worries, just have that sorted tomorrow morning.
After a restless night (what me nervous?) the alarm went of at 05:00. Wide awake I started to administrate myself and get hot water on for breakfast and the flask with hot water that lives in my bergen. Breakfast facilities weren’t open yet so I had a field breakfast in my little Gucci hotelroom. Decided to be out the door no later than 05:45 – 06:00 as I wanted to get a decent parking spot near the Storey Arms.
Not a soul in sight and 10 minutes later I arrive at the parking where there’s already quite a lot of people there. Some still sleeping in their cars.
It wasn’t before too long the usual suspects started arriving and handshakes were exchanged. Some I met for the first time in person, others I’ve met at last years Paras’10 in Catterick. The planned @the100peaks team photo kind of fell in ruins due to it was still pitch black and everyone was still scattered around the terrain. Some quality shots still got made though. I went inside to find the SO and have my radio checked out. Not wanting to disturb the DS in breakfast I waited my turn and within 10 minutes my radio was returned to me…sorted for the weekend.
As we started to gather around the old telephonebox it started to get a bit lighter, not to long now…. We found time to made a group piccie and then proceeded to walk up the path where Staff Ken was about to start the safety briefing for today.
As I am writing this I just discovered no word yet was written on the TAB itself. We haven’t even started yet. How funny’s that. This event is is so massive mindset wise, you spend months in preparation on collecting kit (dodging the wife as yet another parcel comes in, usually as she still was sleeping after the late shift), running and training..weighing in and getting the final stuff sorted… It’s immense and I am loving every second of it.
STANDBY…STANDBY…. It’s happening…I’m off. Steady mate, pace yourself…
As the track starts into a steady climb towards the first kissing gate I’m thinking to myself….this might have been a mistake. I’m starting to block those thoughts out of my system but finding myself struggling the first 10 minutes before my body is accepting that this is the way it’s going to be this morning. Queuing at the kissing gate I look at the view of the valley I’m about to enter…a wonderful view. Cold and wet as the rain starts falling. I’m making my first descend, remembering what I’ve been training. Watching my footing and keeping my bergen a bit backwards I’m gaining a bit of confidence on these slippery stones.
My radio starts crackling as Zero (the SO) starts radiocheck on all callsigns, glad to find out my new bought never been used shiney thing is actually working, I respond to the radio check and move on. Passing the first MST (mountain safety team) station I’m about to get a taste of the terrain, 6 to 10 inches of slick black mud divided in separate tracks. Mother Earth is determined to keep me in one place. I decide to cheat and take the higher grassy bits about it, only to slide back into the mud and nearly doing a mud angel. No cheating your way out of this…head down and crack on. Turning left around the base of Corn Du the ascend to Pen Y Fen starts. Wind starts picking up and I get a good look at what beauty the Brecon Beacons have to offer….NOT!!
Visibility has dropped to 15-20 meters with clag coming over the edges of the hill. So far for a nice kodak moment, push on to the summit.
Right before I make the ascend to Pen Y Fan I’m caught by heavy gusts of wind coming over the edge. Marching up the path up I can see RV1 (Rendez Vous) and the marker.
Tourist that I am I can’t resist the temptation of getting a Pen Y Fan marker photo. And in return I am making one for another runner. I start closing pockets and buttoning up as I approach RV1 on the summit which is the temporary house of Staff Stu. There are no other runners at the RV so I approach it. I shout “Red132” and get my reply.. “SHOW ME”. I turn my bergen towards the DS and being sent on my way..
Now I saw the youtube videos, I saw the photographs, I read the stories….but the first time I looked over the edge to Jacobs Ladder I must admit feeling nothing but intimidated by it. Push on…over the edge and I start my descend. Keeping to the right as advised…on the left there’s a ravine and if you get blown off you get dead…. a condition not very favorable as you will be withdrawn from the race on medical grounds.
Smartarse that I am I’m trying to find a faster and easier way down getting bogged down in the grass and mud, making a sliding like it’s the game of the year. And decide to bow down to my newbie status on the hills and get back on the track.
Moving on the Roman Road….well let’s just dwell on the Roman Road a bit. It’s long enough…we’ve got time for this. I don’t know which drunken Roman legion was garrisoned in this region. But when they declared this a road they must have been out of their skulls. The Roman road is a collection of stones stacked and stuck in every thinkable position add to that the driving rain turning it basicly into a stream. I’m fully joy and working my way to Taf Forest and the halfway point.
Getting to the halfway point was easy enough, just before entering the last path towards it there’s a stream crossing where one of the Royal Marines Commandos Det Bristol is assisting. I get to the other side without faceplanting myself in the water and set off again. Trying to pick up the pace a bit I reach the halfway point and RV2 well under three hours. Decide to hydrate and eat and ask if someone could please hand me the banana that is in the centre pouch of my bergen. Due to my aforementioned sliding the banana has unpeeled itself and I manage to to make a mess of someones bergen…sorry about that. I eat and drink up, catch my breath and set off.
Unfortunately I’m starting to feel something all to familiar….cramp. Cramp in the calf and hamstrings. Trying to walk it off I find my self stopping to stretch. On comes Mick Henderson offering a lift on the limpy squad. Mick’s good company to be in…great sense of humor. I’m walking with them and find the first attack of cramp thrown off.. I manage to pick up a bit of a faster pace and thank Mick and set off towards the Roman Road again.
At base of Jacobs Ladder I drink up, I’ve been sipping on Mountain fuel regularly but right before this ascend I’m topping up my game..especially with that cramp looming. Ascending Jacobs is something you don’t want to think about too much. You get from segment to segment, pause…carry on and do it all over again. Pen Y Fan is hidden in the clouds and the rain is pouring down, driven by the wind smashing bodies like angry bees. I’m soaked, this does not help my cramping leg muscles. Keep moving, get your head down and crack on. Segment to segment, pause…drink…carry on. Climbing the last bit onto the summit is a real slog. I go straight to RV3 where Staff Stu gets my number, informs if I still have food left and advises to eat up for the last bit down. Nearly there, but don’t get complacent. I leave Pen Y Fan summit and see four loadbearers tab up to Corn Du..fortunately they see me and some other contestants and reverse back down. The wind is now definitely an enemy as I’m getting colder. I need to get of this hill ASAP. Working my way past the MST at the base of Corn Du I’m working my way down.
At the base of the climb to the kissing gate I get hit by the Mother of all Cramps. I’m nailed to the floor, unable to move. I hear someone scream in agony…thinking one second later..shit that was me. Trying to stretch and walk, but it keeps cramping up. I drink some mountain fuel I have left and start moving again…the pain shoots trough me. Up comes Red49, to this date I still don’t know your name mate. But you get special mention here.
Red49 asks if I’m allright, I respond that I’ve cramped up totally. He starts urging me to move and says he’s sticking with me. After urging me to move seems insufficient he resorts to plain ordering. We move…the cramps resides. I’m moving again with a new found friend Red49. Big lesson here…help will come from a total stranger. You will have to trust him of her and rely on his/her good will. Comradery at it’s very best and it’s not found in too many other places.
Massive thanks for your help on that last hill mate….
Finally I can see the A470 again. I decide to do at least a running finish and check in at FRV (final rendez vous). Staff Ken is still standing there waiting for every runner to come in. He ask how it was..I find my self uttering something like Life changing which he acknowledges. A cloth patch is stuck in my hand and it’s EndEx for me today…off for a hogroast and a brew and then back to the Lodge for a bath and change of kit.
It wasn’t until I came back to my room that the magnitude of the experience hit me. It’s been emotional. After collecting myself again and informing my homefront that day 1 had been done and had gone well I’m off to Brecon to have something to eat the the lads…
Don’t get stupid though…tomorrow is a brand new day.
So…yes, I have not been feeding this blog properly. Been over a month since I last put anything down. Serious case of writers blog, for which I apologize.
Obviously the trip to York and doing this years edition of the Paras’10 is going to the subject of choice.
Contrary to last year I did put some serious effort into training, as can be read throughout the other parts of this blog (Paras’ 10 preparations week bla bla). Still a lot of time and energy went into doing loaded tabs working up to a weight beyond necessary for the Paras’10. Even so, training that way made life a bit easier in Catterick. However too little emphasis was put on cardio, something I am changing in my routine working up to @AvalancheEvents #FanDance come January.
So on with it… this year I decided I wouldn’t run the course in a group but alone. Wanted to find out if I could reach within myself on my own. Team Dutch Cloggies consisted of my wife Laura and good friends Tim and Richard and of course yours truly. Richard also decided to run alone just to see if he could rub against the desired 1:50 hour mark. Myself I was gunning for a 02:15-02:30 time. Now that doesn’t sound too ambitious you might say, but taking into account that I didn’t spent a lot of time actually running but more on carrying the weight it wasn’t realistic to expect sub 2 hours times.
Meanwhile in York, we’d picked up the rental one day prior and were all getting down some breakfast. Mostly consisting of some energybars, nuts and dried fruit flushed down with a couple of mugs of nescafe.. Arriving in Catterick we were actually early, but the great meet and greet with friends and #bawbags had already started. As I heard my name being called I saw John Hunter, being even earlier than us we had all the parking space in the world. Greetings exchanged and introductions made to Laura and our friends. John is the kind of man you instantly like, very sympathetic and a nails athlete to boot. Some might have seen his exploits on BBC2’s Hellweek program. Should have asked for his autograph 😉
Onto the gymnasium was which still closed as the organization hadn’t arrived yet. Now I don’t frequent the UK that often let alone Scotland. But I was sure my name was called in Jockinese… Billy McKie started shouting “you crazy cloggie bawbag!” I was going to be a good day.Soon more of the @the100peaks congregation started appearing on the field as we waited for registration to open.
Meanwhile the cold started making way for the sun and again I was amazed about the speed the weather can turn in the UK. Forecasts where halfcloudy 14-15 degrees and already all the clouds were gone within the hours and the sun started to warm up the soil…
On the field Billy was rounding up as much 100 Peaks shirts he could find for a group photo. A couple of great shots where made. Making the 100 Peaks Challenge presence noted on this years Catterick edition of the Paras’10. If you wonder what all those blue shirts were about, check out the webpage http://www.100peaks.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/The100PeaksChallenge. It’s a great cause worth your attention, done by a even so great guy, Karl Rushen and his support team.
Now all of sudden time lost(because registration opened later than planned) was made up at the start line as all participants were hoarded towards the start area for a briefing and warming up.
Safety briefing was, same as last year, given by OC Pegasus coy Maj. Collier. Warming up by one of the PTI’s who had to do the warming up this year without some music pumping. To complete this a drop by the Parachute regiments Red Devils was expected. Which signaled the start for the runners and canine-cross participants. Tabbers followed quickly so I had to stop video’ing the Red Devils, put my bergen back on and stand to..
I found a good position in the frontend of the group that amassed near the line. Once that horn goes off I wanted to be off that field as fast as I could. After that settle into my pace and start my tab. Making way for the faster participants I choose a path on the rightside of the trail, still running I generally felt good. Bergen weight was distributed nicely and I felt strong. Managed to tab a short bit with both Billy McKie and John Nicholson who was still recovering from the 24hour walk for charity (meaning he did a Fan Dance times four, 56 miles up and over Pen Y Fan). But had to let them go, just could not keep up that pace yet. Wasn’t for Billy’s and John’s cheers though….
One mile marker was reached faster than I thought, boosting my confidence that training was paying off now..
As we moved to left towards a treeline (Can’t remember that one from last year) a bit of shade was welcomed as I drank some water and worked an energy gel down. I was really bent on not getting dehydrated and cramping up, little was I to know that I was already developing a clinical workshop in electrolyte management. But more on that later.
By now I was exchanging fast walking with running with the intention to run as much as I could. Three mile point was coming up, which always a pleasure to run by because A)tanks…and B)you’re on top of the hill and get the pleasure of some descending runs making up a little for time lost going up.
Working towards the tank wash and fish pond (for those that never were in Catterick before, closing on the 5 mile point). I took use of the waterpoint both drinking it and cooling myself. And this is a part and forgive my French. What are some fucking people thinking tossing threequarters and half full bottles of water. Talk about wasting.. Tip for the paras’10 organisation. Have cups of water as well as some bottles. This unbelievable waste repeated itself on the second waterpoint in the course. I could literally keep cooling myself down with binned bottles that still contained 250 – 400 cc’s of water.
I was now well on my way towards the infamous Land of Nod. This incline had proven to be very difficult last year, but that was because it just tapped the lifejuice out of me. This year it was a little masterclass in electrolyte management. Please allow me to explain, by now I drank about 1.5 liters of water and 4-5 sachets of SiS electrolyte/energy gels and I was sweating like a pig. With this years’ training I found out I’m a salty sweater, meaning I loose great amounts of salts. And this was what got me in a cramp I’ve never felt before. I learned that most likely I’ve loosing too much salt. Replaced too few electrolytes and drank too much water.
You can actually drink too much water and I had diluted whatever salts left in my bloodstream causing increasingly painfull cramps in my legs. This was going to play parts in the final miles of the race. Up till then a 2:15 time was within reach, after being bogged down with musclecramps not so much anymore. And I was now aiming at a 2:30 time
The waterobstacles didn’t prove much of a delay this year if it wasn’t for the second one that literally gripped my calves. Had to work out a cramp in the water. Well, can’t be helped. Suck it up princess and crack on.
“One more hill” it states. Truth is that final incline is worse than Land of Nod. The final hill nearly knackered me, this last bit of incline sapped the energy from my legs and made me reach deep. Suck it up, nearly there. Your mind is tricking your body into thinking it’s exhausted. Crack on…
Once one top I stretched the legs a bit getting the cramp out of the hamstrings and started to move. Tried to run as much as possible and enjoyed the downward bits.
Just as I entered the finish field I saw a boy cheering his little lungs out to every tabber passing. You cannot pass by and not be touched by that, with renewed energy I entered the field for my finish. And managed to do a cramped up, walking dead version of a sprint.
2:30:23 being the time, 9-10 minutes of last years’ time and hungry for more next year. The Paras’10 is gonna be a mainstay event for me. It’s where it all started and I absolutely love the atmosphere on the event.
I checked in my radio with teammate Richard and asked if there had been chatter or not. He replied not too much and reported to Tim and Laura that I had finished. Now the wait was for the other two Cloggies. First in was Laura, now here’s a little side story all together.
Laura did her first Paras’10 in 2013, at that time psysically recovering from illness. She persevered in training and managed to pull it off. In 2014 she got all competative about it and wanted to smash 2013’s time. Which she did. This year however bad luck struck her…twisting her ankle on the 2.5 mile point, there was every chance of her withdrawing from the race on a medical. However she pressed on, sucked it up and finished the course. Not in the time she wanted but a nails effort nonetheless. When word of that little stint came out it gained her some headnods and handshakes.. And rightfully so.
Then the wait was on for firsttimer Tim. Tabbing with weight is not new for Tim as he is a veteran and former infantry medic in the Royal Netherlands Army. However his soldiering days lay long behind him and training for the Paras’10 was hindered by everyday stuff such as work and taking care of the family. So, in his own words, he didn’t train as much as he wanted or should have. Flying the Dutch Military Veterans flag his first goal was to finish the course and let time be of lesser importance.
I spotted Tim coming onto the field 100% knackered, the last miles had really taking it out on him. It was my moral duty to peer pressure …ehm encourage him into a running finish, what are mates for right. So once he heard me yell “SPRINT FECKING FINISH!!!” he picked up the pace for the final yards and felt good doing it too….
Now Laura was off to the Red Cross tent for a support bandage and we lay down on the field relaxing and buying the last essentials from the stands still there. Most of the people had left by then. Truthfully, missing a couple of very emotional finish moments. One by a veteran of Market Garden who came in under applause of Para Regiment recruits and the second one, perhaps a little closer to home, another veteran of the Para Regiment but from more recent operations. Stu Pearson, who lost a leg in a mine strike in Afghanistan came in. Beautiful moments, very emotional and absolutely worth waiting for. Top effort gentlemen….
Winter Fan Dance is up next with the double of Pain after that in 2016….so I will definitely be back for more…
It’s been quite some time since I last wrote anything to this blog. Which really doesn’t matter since only me and my Mom are reading this haaaaa. This blog serves more as a public journal and to keep memories on this incredible journey.
So while it maybe started with my initial scribble on the Paras’10 and training for that it grew more and more into a journal. Difference being I decided to publicize on the internet sharing these sentences with ….well at least Mom.
We all do it… we all look to other people for inspiration or motivation. A group in itself can be very powerful in energizing individuals to push themselves further a little more. As children we wanted to be astronauts, jet pilots, firefighters, ambulance, policemen, commando’s or athletes. At least…I did, didn’t you? And I was one of the lucky few boys that got to earn a living in a boy’s dream job…. becoming a Paramedic. These roles worked as examples I replayed and strived to be. As an adult I discovered I’m not that far from my childhood. Big difference I’m not acting my age now.. haha.
We can be heroes…just for one day
When I started training again I took enormous amounts of ideas, motivation and inspiration from fellow runners and tabbers. Via social media we witnessed overcoming obstacles both in sports and daily life together. Pushing each other on to always take it one step further.
Being truly inspired I found for me is finding more strength in myself, this can be kickstarted by another person. But it can’t remain that way. Inspiration is perhaps like a cable jumpstart… Use it too long and you’ll run the other battery out. Recently I nearly saw this happen with a good man I’m proud to call a mate and he made me think about what I really meant when I said I was looking up to him. I think I understand this now…
Being inspired is not about absorbing all power from the other battery as much as it is looking into the mirror and looking at your reflection. Seeing the other person standing behind you and finding that little spark you need to kickstart yourself. Perhaps to places you’ve never held possible before. And, at least I do, have feelings of gratitude towards a person that inspired me.
Hopefully I can be that person for someone else I have never met before. It’s giving back that is one of the biggest privileges I received when I started this journey. Whether it be supporting a charity cause or provoking a smile from a complete stranger because he or she picked up the good energy that comes with taking good care of yourself. #BeInspired #BeInspiring
As I am finishing this blog news of the cancelled Paras’10 in Colchester is just sinking in with those who had plans to run or tab Friday Woods this weekend. Reasons: expected extreme weather conditions. Now I will not go in to an opinion piece on whether or not this decision was made right or wrong. But it gives some food for thought. And in it’s underlying reasons lay a responsibility to the participants of this type of endurance events.
While I’m editing I find that I am replacing the question “did I train enough last year for Catterick” with “Did I take enough of my own responsibility to meet at least minimum requirements and better to do the paras’10 tab”
Most of us are familiar with the 7 P’s and it’s meaning. To those that are raising Chinese question marks over their heads allow me to explain.
With just two months to Catterick all kinds of creepy thoughts start crawling in my head. Have I properly prepared myself for this race?
And most important, will that preparation prevent piss poor performance on the race day.
Looking back on what I’ve been doing to train for this years Paras’10 in Catterick I think I did. First and foremost I went looking for advice from experienced endurance runners/tabbers and started to put a big focus on cardio training, leg-muscles as well as abs and core and not so much on weighted tabs. In the absence of any hills close by I took extra emphasis on muscle strengthening. That’s not to mean I didn’t run around with a bergen from time to time. I did and a did it a lot. I also took the time to make my body get used again to the weight and worked it up from 24lb to 50lb in a couple of months without it affecting my times too much. For the Paras’10 a bergen weighing 35lb (plus drink) is required.
Big difference with 2014 is that I took a more allround approach to training, combining clean fatigue runs with weighted tabs building both cardio and endurance. As a result I’m fitter than ever. (losing 43 pounds in 16 months helps too). Also I took lessons from the 2014 tab into this years training. Working out hydration levels.
I intend to continu this route for the winter FanDance in January. Making use of the heathlands which get very wet in autumn and hills of the centre part of the country. As well as the dunes along the coastline.
So what could possibly go wrong…. A WHOLE FF’ING LOT. Factors as weather on raceday and bone accidents have to be accepted. If very warm, carry more water and protect against the sun. If very wet and cold, dress accordingly and in both cases….grab your sack..make sure a pair of testicles is in there and press on.
Let’s just focus and worry about the things I have influence on. For starters, I found out my Salomon boots I broke in earlier this year are actually too small when worn with Superfeet insoles and thicker socks. Destroying my toes. (already lost my toenail on my big toe… that hurts people, I’m here to tell you). So bought new ones and upsized them after I more accurately measured my feet. Pants, I’m using Crye Precision G3 pants. These are perfect in warm weather environments but to tend to get very warm, no…to put it more precisely bloody fucking proper meltin’ hot, in summer time. So in came a pair of British army MTP tropicals as well as a pair of desert DPM shorts for training in Italy this summer. More dramatically I decided to not tab with the Eberlestock scout/sniperpack and bought an PLCE infantry bergen. The latter being far more basic but this main advantage being the following.
The sniperpack has a builtin scabbard for a rifle, without a weapon in place the pack has room for a lot of wobble which doesn’t help if one is running with the pack. The PLCE bergen sits close to the back and feels more stabile. Downside, more weight is on the upperbody and it has a bigger risk of wrubbing against the back causing chafing (bergen burn).
However… abandoning some of the more Gucci kit to basic stuff does appear to help. At least to take a more basic approach to the race.
In a couple of months we’ll see if training this way produces result and whether or not my Planning & Preparation was Proper and Prevented my Performance to be Piss Poor.