Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Accelerated Evolution.

April is beckoning with a tender, extended hand and I am reaching for her with excitement, waiting to be pulled up to the next level. Spring has arrived in spectacular fashion and started to seriously kick some winter butt, clocks have also changed and evenings now recede slowly and softly taking with them the blinkers of the shortened days gone by.

The beginning of next month sees the arrival of World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday April 2nd. This is not just another day for families that are touched by Autism, it is day where our friends and relatives show they care with a simple but moving gesture: wearing blue for the day. I remember last year receiving photos and messages from friends on all continents who made the effort. From professional marathoners in the Kenyan hills to Aussie friends down under and many, many more destinations all went 'blue' because of my Pearl. That is something I find hard to describe my appreciation for, and even though people say "hey, its no big deal....." I think it is. Solidarity and support is what motivates me in times of despair or uncertainty, not being alone in a storm is a true blessing.

I will chose to run for Pearl, as usual ;) It is only fitting too that it is the day after Autism Awareness Day and happens to be one of my favourite races, the scenic and challenging Trail du Josas. I had the great pleasure to really test my mettle last year on this 35km course that is a succession of steep climbs and perfect single track. I will embrace the suffering that lies ahead of me this Sunday because it is a reaffirmation of my sobriety and of living life to the fullest. I have had a solid month of training throughout March and can confidently say I have not been in better shape ever. Race day may have other plans for me but that is the joy of the unknown, the nerves I feel being an indicator that I am still passionate.

Recovery will be limited for April though as the other great change in life will be moving apartment's. Finally, after weekly camp-outs on the Mayor's doorstep over the past year and the endless red tape our new place will be signed over on the 18th, what follows will be a weight training regime of box lifting and unpacking. I am so thrilled, especially for my kids to have their own rooms. We are not even changing post codes so no school changes, trails are still on the doorstep and we are still close to friends. Win, win really.

Race report to follow next week, until then.....

See you round the bend.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Semi Marathon Rambouillet 2011

The 25th edition of the Semi Marathon de Rambouillet took place last Sunday and it was a day of mixed emotions for me, it has taken a few days in getting round to reporting it so I will try to gloss over it as succinctly as possible.

The experience for me was essentially divided between the race itself and what I perceived as below par organisation. I am no race director, nor do I claim to be, but to back up my opinion I feel its only fair to elaborate further. The participant limit for the trail half marathon was topped at 2,200 runners which is a nice sized bunch. Not too big to cause a back up on a trail road or through the town itself. The very first thing that struck me on arriving was that there was a queue and barriers set up for pretty much everything, most of it needless. In order to enter the indoor changing rooms/bib collection areas etc everyone had to wait in an enormously long line that took forever to move. I was surprised at this as I had already been here the previous day and knew the size of the area to be that of a couple of basketball courts. After shuffling along and eventually getting out of the cold it was time to get ready. I was with a bunch of guys in a corner and in between pulling on t-shirt, socks etc this lady arrives and says to move it on. Apparently they were under strict regulations for health and safety and could only have so many people in this area at any one time, lord knows these running folk are known for their dangerous behaviour. So, half naked, with one sock on and one sock off, carrying heart rate monitor, water bottles and shoes I plodded reluctantly to the next room which was the area for leaving bags. This was a shoe box in comparison to where we had just been and no sooner had I settled in to finish dressing myself when someone else turns up and points to a changing room across the way and tells me to move it. I felt like a drunk who was been turfed out of a bar that was just closing. So eventually I made it to a patch in a changing room that was even smaller and twice as packed as anything I had seen before, in the middle of it all I had dropped my head band and could not find it. Great, sweat in the eyes for an hour and a half. Time was now very much ticking and the all important bathroom call was awaiting, and no, the bushes wouldn't do for this one. Turns out there are two toilets. TWO. No cubicles anywhere, just two toilets in the dressing room. Half an hour of queueing and I eventually get in. By the time I vacated the loo it's five minutes to the start. So with very little warm up and no stretching, having spent the best part of fifty minutes on my feet already I make it to the 1:30 pace-group area. The street is narrow and the podium/start area is about three hundred metres away. There is a guy on it with a microphone which is pointless as none of us can hear him, there is also no timing mat below our feet for the chip timing. Is this mat up ahead where the guy is, do we slowly run up to it and start from there? No one has a clue. It passes 9.30 and we are still standing around like cattle in a pen, shrugging our shoulders and glancing at each other in way that indicates the guy next to you is as confused as you are. So at 9.37/40 or whatever time it ended up being, a shot sounded in the distance and I guessed we were off. Now to the race itself......

Once we were moving it was blatantly obvious that was a kill or be killed race. The width of the road was not sufficient and elbows flew and ankles were stomped on. The first three km took us on a meandering, quad searing, descent into the town. I knew immediately that this pace, 3:20 per km, was out of my league and wanted to ease back a bit to regain some composure. Dropping into the cobble stone covered streets turned into a lesson in dodging pedestrians. People were stepping out of butcher shops and boulangeries and walking against the tide of over two thousand people going as fast as their feet could carry them. It was a relief to get out of dodge, turn left and start the climbing into the forest. The first ascent was not so severe in gradient but it was its length that zapped energy, the pack began to string out and I was glad to get settled into a less frenetic rhythm. The climb took us steadily up through the forest to the ten km mark and it had taken more out of me than I had bargained for (dam that early dash), I paused briefly enough to take my first sip of water I decided I needed some tunes. It's rare that I'll run a trail race with music on but my friend Rene planted a seed in my head the day before when asking about my play list. So when Devin Townsend's Addicted kicked in it was time to hammer on some more.

The following five km up to the next aid station were a mixture of narrow, winding trails. Constant twists and turns providing a stark contrast to the mundane climb of earlier. I was feeling pretty good with having gone just under forty minutes for ten km and hoped to maybe have an even split for the remainder. The pace was pretty steady and at the aid station I took a lot of water and a wedge of orange to get me to the line, six km away. I bolted out of there and turned a corner both figuratively and physically. A small lane gave way into a sort of housing estate that then led to a horse racing course, it was a wide open space and this howling headwind was waiting to greet me. It took me aback given how strong it felt and and at the very same moment I could feeling a roaring stitch stabbing my left side just below my ribs. A stitch may have never killed anyone but this showed no signs of abating, external noise started to pollute my thoughts,'did I eat the right breakfast, should I have drank so much back down the road' and on and on. Once that devil on your shoulder starts messing with your mojo it's hard to leave him by the roadside. I slowed my pace down and tried some deep breathing to quell the stitch but not much joy.

I was now well below my projected pace and steadied myself to make it to the last aid station at km nineteen. I took a brief pause and had a sip of water and came close to pulling the plug and walking to the line. Fortunately that thought was fleeting and I resolved to push on to complete the course. The discomfort seemed to ease and I crossed the line in 1:31:37. (This is my Garmin time as the official time for me is not accurate enough due to no timing mat at the start). It was a mixed day really and I wondered if my time would have been better spent on home trails enjoying the surroundings as opposed to the trains and queues that took up the majority of my morning just to run twenty one kilometres. I guess I race to keep an edge and plan goals to strive towards and will hopefully always do so. It's just one of the facets of racing and of life that the chips don't always fall where you would like them to. I hope my rantings about the organisation are seen as constructive criticism as opposed to sour musings. They did provide a really decent goodie bag to their credit and I think with a little few tweaks could have one of the best semi marathons in the area.

For the moment it's back to the familiar forests for me and an impending flat move which should provide some much needed weight training ;)
See you round the bend.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tapering/There Will Be Blood.

This morning was my first time back on the trails after a two day break. My planning ahead of this weekends trail half marathon in Rambouillet was simple, put in a solid penultimate week, then take a little weekend break and follow up with 3-4 days of relaxed jogging. All sounds relatively simple right, not so much.

I sauntered out into arguably the finest day this year has produced so far and fought the urge to put in a more challenging effort. The trails at the moment are in the driest and most solid condition I have seen them since early winter last year and as I type it's a nice fifteen degrees out there. I decided to take a relatively flat route and came to a section I am very familiar with, a double track path on a slight gradient that could be classed as technical due to the protruding rocks and tree roots. I am pretty sure it was due the fact that because my body was not being challenged my mind was not engaged either and I tripped on a root and came crashing down hard. It took me completely by surprise as one expects to fall on a descent or a meandering single track, not a relatively open and easy stretch like this one. Instantly I started to replay the scenario in my head as I hobbled to a nearby tree stump to sit down and asses the damage. From what I could recall I had tripped with my left foot and the first thing to hit the ground was my left knee, in trying to over correct with the right leg I was at full stretch and could feel a muscle strain in my upper right quadriceps, near the groin. The last part of the puzzle to fall into place was my entire weight landing on my right hand, then my right elbow until I was sprawled on my back spread eagled.

Checking over the damage it was my knee that needed attention first, it was bleeding a bit and although it was more of a trickle I still couldn't get it to stop. I had no tissues or a buff to tie around it so I got up and kept moving for home. After a few kilometres it was worse and my right leg was still aching, so stopping at a little stream I washed the blood off, took off one of my exo-calves (never leave home without them) and tied it around my knee as a bandage. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention and it did the trick perfectly until I got home and got some antiseptic spay to it. It is mostly grazes and bruises which will heal quickly and my only concern is the strain on my right leg, if it recurs on Sunday it could mean a change of race plan but hey, these things happen and by taking my mind off the job just for a second I paid for it.

(Salomon exo-calves, more than just compression sleeves)

(makeshift bandage that got me home)

(after the bloodshed ;)

So all in all not the morning I had in mind but if you want to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs and all that.

See you round the bend (preferably standing)


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Semi Marathon de Paris 2011

This morning I took the kids to see the finish of the semi marathon de Paris. It was a clear, crisp day and a huge crowd turned out to run and to lend support. In the men's division Stephen Kibet was the winner in a close finish that resulted in a one, two, three for Kenya. In the women's it was right down to the line with Peninah Aruesi of Kenya edging out fellow compatriot Philes Ongoria. All results and info can be found HERE. Below is some shaky footage, one eye was on the kids and the other on the race :)

The highlight of the day for me was the possibility of meeting some friends and I managed to catch up with my American friend Tim who smoked it in 1:21:07. Fast dude for sure. Unfortunately I did not get to met my other friend Rene due to the huge crowds. Next time for sure.

(catching up with Tim after the race, Dylan is just chillin')

Well done to all who finished.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Living For The Weekend.

Spontaneity is a bit of a rare occurrence when you have two kids, or maybe its just me and the fact that I plan EVERYTHING in advance. If you were to ask my close friends they would probably concur with the latter. Yesterday however, after a confluence of episodes that are too mundane to be delved into, I decided that once Dylan finished school we were skipping town to the countryside to see their "Nana". Nana lives in a place called Pontgouin which is about an hour and a half south-west from Paris by train. Now its not exactly the Trans-Siberian Express but when one of your kids hates trains as much as my little Pearl does then it becomes a bit more wearisome. The fact that it incorporated three train changes had me thinking it was going to be quite the challenge.

(Pearl having a few drinks to steady the nerves)

(bad-boy gangsta Dylan, westward bound)

However, like getting over the sound of hairdryers and vacuum cleaners she has to start get used to such annoyances and where better to start than the deep end. It turned out to be a beautiful trip as she sat with her brother playing computer games and looking at her book, the sun shining in the window I couldn't keep the smile off my face. It went so much better than expected and before I knew it we had landed in the place where time had not so much stood still, but more like reversed it's ass out of this place altogether. And this was just the town where the station was, we still faced a ten kilometre drive into the heart of never land (and I ain't talking Michael Jackson here) I was glad I had packed my running shoes for the next morning. Don't get me wrong the scenery and tranquility is a tonic for the soul and from a trail running point of view it's top drawer, its just....... I don't know, it has this weird undercurrent vibe about it, the way people look at the new folk in town. It feels like Deliverance minus the banjo's. I couldn't help but think of all the Libyans currently shouting for revolution whilst the inhabitants here were shouting for evolution. No shops, no Internet, no phone reception just a few cows and and a church every five kilometres, kind of pointless when there is barely any people to go into them :) maybe they're holy cows? who knows. Any who, after a splendid feast to rival the last supper (bit of a religious theme has crept into this post, eh?) it was beds all round and boy did we sleep.

This morning meant one thing, trail discovery, the great joy of not knowing where the road will take you is a pep to the step. So with camera in hand I headed off hoping to end my training week with an easy 15-16km through pastures new. The sun was breaking through a thin veil of mist and the quietness was utterly blissful. Zero sounds apart from crackling twigs and birds a chirping. I meandered my way through some single track paths that led me to a series of lakes and river crossings, stopping occasionally to snap away with my camera and keep alert as to my bearings. I manged to meet some farmers out in the fields and was greeted warmly with a hint of mild bemusement. One if the things I found really different on this trail run was the excellent conditions underfoot, my usual trails have been hacked up and dug into by more and more mountain bikers. Whilst last spring in Viroflay it was a throng of trail runners taking to the forest it now seems to be bikers galore, this is awesome to see so much activity but it has left some of the trails in a state of sludge. This morning in my new playground however it was like I was the first man on the moon, untouched canvas all around with no one to paint on it but me. Below are just a few of the photos I took.

So after a glorious afternoon it was all back on the train to return home. As I write I have two satisfied but exhausted kids, I am not far behind them. Tomorrow we are Vincennes bound for the finish of the semi marathon de Paris. Very excited about this as it will be my first time to see the finish of an elite race and Paris draws some pretty fast guys and gals, my friends Tim and Rene are also going to be there so can't wait to catch up with them. Huge thanks to Nana for looking after us, maybe when they get online in ten years time or so she can read all about it ;)

See you round the bend.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Distance To Here.

Four months from tomorrow, July 3rd, I should be standing at Mizen head (Irelands most southern point) with 580km staring me in the face and just under six days in which to traverse my home country tip to tip. When I see that on the screen, 580km, I am a bag of excitement and nerves all in one palpable bundle. There are moments of doubt and moments of immense positivity and certainly more than enough questions that pester me whilst I train. "Will I do it? can my body hold out? will I have the fortitude to pull myself out of the slumps that threaten to derail me....?" I have learned over the past month that these questions serve no function and will only drive me to distraction in the grander scheme of things. My focus right now is where it should be: on the roads and trails. I am working hard right now on solidifying my growing weekly mileage but not burning out at the same time, I also have a few races interspersed over the next few months that also see the mileage increase with each one. The distances ranging from half marathons to 12hr competitions. I will do what needs to be done to get my legs to the start of this great adventure and after that the battle will boil down to my will power and guts.

(July 3rd, we roll)

I will look on this adventure in two ways. Firstly as an opportunity to show whoever is watching how much I love my daughter (and my boy too of course) and that Autism needs more light shone on it. Secondly, to show myself how far I have come from the person who ran for fifteen min's (just under three years ago) and was throwing up and swearing I would never put my body through that again. Sometimes I can scarcely believe the change that running has had on my life. Not just from a physical perspective but from a mental outlook too. I attest that sobering up after many, many years of alcohol abuse would never have been possible without running. Call me dramatic or tell me that I am swapping addictions all you want but its a fact. Addicts are compulsive by nature (I certainly am) so for me its absolutely all or none in anything I approach. I heard Charlie Sheen saying the other day "I have one speed, one gear, GO...." he may not be the greatest spokesperson in the world right now but if he put the same effort into ultra marathons as he did into ultra-cocaine binges he would be a contender for Western Sates 100 ;) I found something out on those trails one day that was symbiotic and made every part of me just align in a way I hadn't experienced before. And now here I am thinking back to last Sunday when I went out with my friend JC, who incidentally was the one that killed me out on that first fifteen minute trot in May 2008. We hit Versailles Castle grounds and here he was trying to catch his breath and to me it was just effortless. I say this not to be self appraising, I still have a long way to go and am no great athlete, but as a milestone measuring stick that motivates me to want to continue to push it further. I have great respect for JC and will always be grateful for his patience with me in the beginning, we still get out together the odd Sunday just to wax about life. The great joy of running is that it's the same for us all, no matter how good you are it's all relative. The people I have encountered are just awesome and some Paris based friends I have met through dailymile are running the half marathon this Sunday so hopefully I can meet up with them after their race. Through training and being inspired and motivated by others it has created a great bond in an already welcoming community.

The most important race of them all of course is life and doing the best one can over the course of it, running just happens to enhance it to the fullest.

See ya round the bend.


~I am in no way affiliated with dailymile, I just happen to like the site.

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.