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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going Running?

If you are ever planning to take up running please do me a favour. Go and see your doctor beforehand and get a thorough check up. Does this sound over the top? I don't think so and the reason I bring it up is due to the death of a man at the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday. I am not sure just yet as to the cause of the mans death but it strikes me as strange that my country of residence, France, seems to be the only one that requires a medical certificate before entering any race. Whether its a 5k race or a 100k race you must have the all clear from your doctor, and I'm not talking about a stethoscope quickly pressed against your chest and then getting the all clear. No, the first time I did mine I almost needed a warm down run after it was completed. I was doing push ups, squats and various other cardiovascular exercises in the Doc's office to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. And, no matter how fit you are you must go back the following year and renew it all over again. The Doc gave me a thorough break down of my health, computer read outs for my efforts and general advice on all things body related. Could a trip to the Doc save your life..... It just might.

Looking back to last year I remember the Detroit Marathon where 3 men died in the span in 16 minutes. This was not the first death in this race as a man had also passed away in 1994. These stories reminded me of a letter a guy wrote to the running bible Runner's World last year. The man in question, Mr David Reed, was entering the Paris Marathon and because of the requisite medical check up went to see his Doc. Here's what he wrote....

"I duly went along to my GP, only to be told that my blood pressure was high enough to put me at serious risk of a heart attack or stroke. One year on, my blood pressure is at normal levels thanks to medication, which I will now be on for life. The cause of high blood pressure was genetic. Just because you're fit doesn't mean you can't be at risk. Thanks to the French rules of participation I'm still around to enjoy running"

I echo his sentiments completely and if you are new to regular exercise then get the all clear before you start galloping up any mountain sides, it will be a load off your mind.

See you (in a Doctors office) round the bend,


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

100km de Vendee 2010

I have a mental block. I am trying to put before you on screen the highs and lows of the past few days but it's a struggle, really. My amazing wife Alicia has already blogged her view on the web site and its a bloody good read. As for me, I can only try and emulate her piece.

Firstly I must say that to sink your teeth into a 100km race you need the support of your family and I had that in spades. My tremendous mother who has supported me in everything I have done since I was a little boy, flew over with my sister to look after the kids as Alicia and I headed for the west on our mission. I cant thank them enough, along with my family who could not make it I owe them all the gratitude in the world. And so with the kiddies in the best of care we embarked.

I was very excited about this adventure but the most enjoyable part was spending some time with my wife, driving through the countryside with the windows down and some rock blaring on the speakers. It reminded me of when we first met and how lucky I am that we are still together after all we have battled through. I love you dearly Al and would never have succeeded without your belief in me. Once we had arrived it began to dawn on me that the business end of the trip was beckoning and before I knew it I was waking up at 2.30am to face down my challenge. Preparing myself and having breakfast was all a blur really as I tried to focus on the job at hand, time passed quickly and at 5.00am the 600+ lunatics took off in darkness. A few of the runners had head torches and there was also a few motor bikes strung out beside the pack. But other than that it was pretty dark and quiet, all that was to be heard was the breath of the people around you and the patter of over a thousand legs. Every person asking themselves "will I finish today?" I did not know if I would, I just hoped that I would find it in myself to not let the Autistic kids down. They struggle pretty much for life, my suffering would only be temporary.

The laps went without incident (the course was 6x16.6km's), Alicia cycled beside me for a few and an occasional pause for fuel was the only time I slowed down. However, it was on the fifth lap that my mental battle really started to boil. I had hit the wall and found it extraordinarily difficult to get any sort of rhythm going, I was reduced to this sloppy shuffle and even the sound of my dragging heels told their own story. Alicia doubled back on the course to find me mumbling and really down. I had a rumbling tummy, aching ankles and spasms that shot down my calf muscles with increasing regularity. Luckily she had her game face on and told me that if I could not continue it was OK! But, I would forever regret it if I did. She also told me that I was "Running for Pearl" and walking was not part of the equation. So with about 20km to go I closed my eyes and pictured my kids, I looked at Alicia and told her I would never quit, ever. Then I ran, I ran to the finish line, I had 16km's to go and stuffed some oranges down my throat to keep me from falling over . When it started to rain as I was going up a hill I took of my hat and screamed the sky "Is this all you f**king got, come on". I was so angry for having walked, so desperate to finish and wondering if there was any way at all I could keep up this pace for 13 more km's. Alicia had her motivational phrases down to a tee at this stage and said all the right things, jokes were cracked when needed and her intuition into my state of mind saved the day. I pushed beyond what I was capable of and I cannot tell you what its like when you pass a sign saying '98km'. I saw 2-3 guys in front and just went for it, something clicked and I raced towards the line. I could see the finish flags and the crowds in the distance as Alicia took off on her bike leaving me the last kilometre alone. Turning into the avenue and seeing people rising out of their seats, calling your name and talking about Autism amongst themselves just blew my tired ass right of the map. When I crossed that line I saw the clock, 12:21:17, then I saw Alicia and we hugged so very hard, both crying with joy and heavy emotion. We had done it, together. I will never be able to convey what it felt like for us to have shared such a deep adventure, all I know is that it strengthened our bond and our fight in a world that can sometimes be quite ignorant. I did this to bring awareness to Autism and it certainly did that, its not about me it's about the heroic kids, the patient and loving families, the single parents who may be struggling and feel like they have no one. They are the real heroes who have a never a ending love inside them and do the best they can by their kids. You are the guys who keep me going and whose actions deserve all the recognition.

I want to finish by saying that with all the division in the ASD camp over treatments and therapies etc its time to calm down and see other peoples opinions. If you don't agree then fine, but just listen. We all need to air our grievances and a problem shared can really be a problem halved, whatever therapy works for your son or daughter may not work for someone else. But if we turn on each other we may as well give up altogether. Thanks to all of you who wished me well and continue to do so. You are a part of all I attempt. Now back on the road for the 50km in 3 weeks time ;-)

See you round the bend.


(my new buddy Jean-Louis and I having a drink)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Scott Jurek, Versailles

I woke up on a mission. My goal for the day was to get two tickets to see one of my favourite bands, Deftones, play an intimate gig in Paris next Monday. Simple it was not. I spent the guts of an hour refreshing pages and battling the thousands of others trying to pry their way into this one-off show. All the time I sat there I was thinking "this is not good, I should be out running". But no, here I was, a slave to the laptop, getting rejected every 10 seconds but still coming back for more. Officially 1hr 15mins after commencing I decided that defeat was something I just had to accept, the Deftones show would indeed go on regardless of whether I was there or not. Oh how I remember fondly 10-12 years ago when you had to stand outside the record store at 5 in the morning, braving the Irish climate, to get tickets. These days its all cyber queueing. What can you do? you just gotta go with the flow.

So, after my virtual fisticuffs with the ticket site I decided to check out Scott Jureks web page to see what the great man has been up to as of late. And there it was in all its glory, a Tweet saying he was leading a run through the grounds of Versailles Castle that very evening. Right on my doorstep you could say, well you could have knocked me over with a USB key. For the unacquainted allow me to shed some light on Scott's truly astounding achievements in the running world. Deep breath..... he has won, the Spartathlon 3 times and currently holds the second fastest time, the Badwater Ultramarathon twice and set the course record on his first attempt, the Wetsern States 100 seven consecutive times and the course record in 2004, the Hard Rock 100 in 2007 (a course with a total 0f 33,000 feet in elevation gain and the race he later told me was the hardest one he has ever done). Add these to the numerous other races and awards he has amassed and you can see why, after 17 years of competing, no one comes close to his crown. Yes there may be more well known or famous athletes out there but for sheer guts and determination he is hard to beat.

So all of a sudden the gig didn't seem so important as I was going running with Scott Jurek. I climbed onto my faithful steed at about six o clock and cycled the 4 km's to The Endurance Shop where the soiree was kicking off. On arrival I was greeted by the charismatic owner of Brooks France, Christophe Vatinel who had organised the event. Scott is a Brooks ambassador and is currently in France for the World 24Hr Championships in Brive next Thursday. The first thing Christophe did was give me a pair of Brooks shoes and ask me to wear them for the evening run. I was looking at him funny as it takes a lot for me to put my 1063's to one side in favour of something else but if you never try something new then whats the point! So with my new footwear on I must have been deemed fit to meet the great man himself as Scott popped his head round the corner and came over to introduce himself. I was impressed from the get-go, he radiated humility and and was such a great guy to make conversation with. As I was one of the first people to arrive I got spoiled in having him all to myself for a while and wasted no time bending the poor guys ear. Seriously, the guy was probably wondering where my off-switch was..... I explained my relatively new found passion for running and Pearl's situation. He was incredibly sympathetic too as he knows through friends the struggle Autism can present. I also had to pleasure to meet his girl friend Jenny who kindly took some pictures for me. After 45 minutes or so we had a nice little group and were ready to hit the road. The plan was to take in a scenic 10k around the grounds of the castle where I can usually be found during the week plodding along. Scott and Jenny had never been before so I was really excited for them given the opulence of the place.

(test driving the Brooks Cascadia, not bad at all)

(Scott and Jenny overlooking the lake and gardens)

The atmosphere was fantastic and a nice cool temperature of 15 degrees made the conditions just right. I met some new locals too and everyone talked amongst themselves trading war stories from past races or asking Scott questions. The awesome guys from Running Cafe were shooting videos and taking photos all the way and looking at the end result on their site I tip my had to a job well done. Bravo guys. I managed to chat to Scott quite a bit as we ran and was asking his advice on my 100k race. He is a big advocate of keeping a steady pace with no walking but also knows that everyone is different, so I should just try and find a steady rhythm and stick to it. I was also intrigued by the fact that he is vegan as there has always been a great debate in the running community as to whether a vegan diet get provides the essentials needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle whilst also running ultra endurance events. Speaking to Scott about this he told me that its never been an issue for him and with the range of foods available these days its never been a better time to be vegan. I'm not so sure it's for me though, I may have reluctantly traded in my trainers for the evening but taking away my meat??? Nah....

(the crew)

After our 1hr 20 min run it was all back to The Endurance Shop for some food (vegan) and drinks. The food was delicious and welcomed by all, it was an ideal way to wind down and replenish ourselves after a truly memorable evening. All good things must come to an end though and I took away a lifetime memory and some inspiration in a bottle. Scott is gracious and humble champion and just like any other runner I have ever met, easy going, relaxed and happy to be able to head out on a Thursday evening with some new friends to try to make sense of this sometimes crazy world. I for one am a much better person after our little run around Louis 14ths crib. I'll leave you with Scott's words to me yesterday evening.

"Run Long and Run Strong"


Monday, May 3, 2010

Team Pearl.

Citizens, how goes it? Not bad here and I will feel much better once I have dusted off a few blogger cobwebs. I must say that my trip back to Ireland the weekend before last was quite enjoyable. The Friday of my departure was pretty smooth even though Charles de Gaulle Airport was rammed with the volcanic ash back-log. I spent the night in Dublin with my close friend Neil who is my original co-conspirator for the Mizen to Malin run next year. Hours were spent listening to music and catching up, we got a lot of work done too in developing a sponsorship package to fund this epic adventure. And even though its a year+ away it still needs a tremendous amount of timing and coordination to pull this off. To quote Alicia "Lets just get this 100km race over first eh...", quite right my dear, ahem, moving on.

I made it down to the stix early on Saturday morning to see all my family and it felt awesome to see them all again. They live in a little village in Offaly called Ballycumber and it is definitely a one horse town, lots of bogs and back roads, a runners paradise really. After getting settled I wasted no time in lacing up my New Balance shoes and hitting the countryside. It was my first run on home soil and it did not disappoint. The temperature was quite a few degrees below what I had left in Paris but that didn't phase me too much, what did surprise me was the wind. It was a real struggle during some parts of my run as it always seemed to be coming from the side or straight on. My brother came out with a video camera for a section of it and put together some footage for me. He did a great job and I have posted it below as well as on facebook. I also ran a marathon on the Monday as my last major long run before starting the taper for the 100k.

I spent a lot of my weekend discussing the effect the recession has had on the country and let me tell you its startling the way the government is treating it's people. Compared to Ireland at the moment, the UK and France are positively soaring. In Ireland there is a sadness and negativity that I could actually feel in the air, I also was blown away by the tales of hardship I heard. People I went to school with being diagnosed with terminal illness, children being born with severe handicaps and healthy people in the prime of their lives being struck down with all sorts of terrible ailments. Now I am not making this up nor exaggerating the numbers in these cases, it seriously seems like the marrow of the people has been drained away by the terrible economical climate there. I think a major change is needed as no-one deserves that kind of stress and uncertainty.

Being back in Paris is much different as you can imagine, for starters seeing someone running down the road draws less attention than in a country village. Pearl is progressing well and seems to understand the world around her a bit more, vocally she seems to be experimenting and trying to find her voice. Tomorrow she will go under anaesthetic for her MRI, this is the third attempt so cross your fingers for a positive outcome. We are also delving into Makaton signing with her which is an abbreviated version of sign language and she responds well to the bit we do know, further study is definitely needed. However, my Everest is to toilet train her and with a lot of accidents and patience I think we can conquer it.

I had a one and a half hour run this morning and will probably fit in 2-3 more sessions before I finish up on Sunday for a week. After that its rest and some cycling for a few days. Myself and Alicia depart for Vendee on Fri 14th, my wonderful sister Alison (who ran her first 4 mile race yesterday in 36.24, so proud of her) and Mum are coming over to stay at home with the kids. I am really excited at this stage and just need luck that no last minute injuries will hamper this undertaking, I have trained hard and confident that Autism will be in the minds of a few more people by the time I cross the line and maybe even for a while after it. Wishing you all the very best.

See you round the bend,


Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.