Friday, 29 September 2017

The idiot that turned up to Equinox 2017

I've tried to write this all week. It's important to get it down for me to look back on. It's memory capture. There's two parts to it really, My poor effort as a competitor and then my joy from other people's awesome. Blimey there was some serious awesome. One thing I can say, without hesitation, is that it was another brilliant weekend at Equinox. Big. So much bigger than before but absolutely retaining, enhancing even, it's wonderfully friendly, inclusive, humorous, kind, inspirational atmosphere. That is down to Johnny and Laura, their crew, the volunteers. Glenn and his team of photographers, Matthew Peaker of Pop Top, the caterers, physios and tape people. Obviously most important of all are you lot running it. Big team or small team, pairs or solo. Such ace people.
I'll tell you about a couple of them and they made Equinox for me and then I'll share the nitty gritty of why I got it wrong so there are bail points in the blog when you've had enough.

I am very lucky to be surrounded by great characters. Obviously I know Mich is ace. My strength is drawn from her. She smashed out 5 laps in a team all sub 75 mins, while crewing me, watching the kids, helping her team and supporting everyone else. I love it when someone tells me how lucky I am and how she kept them company on a lap, or they run past and ask after her or ask me to pass on a hug. She's the best thing about me and I'm the kind of trouble that she enjoys!

18 months ago Neil Taylor didn't run. After helping me on numerous challenges he laced up himself and he bit the solo bullet as his first competitive trip to Equinox. Despite me being an absolute arse throughout he ran ahead and told me about every trough in the field, every pot hole on the road, every puddle, every hazard. He tried so hard to keep me moving. He ruined his own solo attempt to help me and despite my protestations he wouldn't just crack on. The fact that in the morning he smashed two sub 80 mins laps being his 7th and 8th, goes to show just how capable a runner he is and, if left to his own devices, a silver pin is entirely within his reach. I can't wait to see him realise his potential. Neil, sincerely thank you.

My daughter Ellie was in a team for the first time. She doesn't run. Never runs. She did two laps. The first was on her own and she smashed it in 1hr 10 mins! The second a walking lap with others. She has big plans for next year!

Did you have your hair French plaited before the race? You gave a donation to a charity? You won't remember the details as you'll have pre race brain but that was Belinda Bryant who again gave up her time again to help raise money.
Team Poppyfields were great and supported throughout. Like so many groups and teams around the field we never run more than a few steps without a shout of encouragement.

Then there are the usual suspects and it was a privilege to give a bit back in support on the finish straight after I had given up. Too many to mention but you all know who you are. You've run round those grounds for 4 years with me now and as friends go my Equinox friends are the best around. Some of us may have failed to reach a goal, some will have achieved more than they had hoped for but all of them make Equinox what it is.
As do all the people new to Equinox. Some of whom turned up unannounced in the hope they could help me get round 24 hours, some had entered last minute without prep to run in memory of a fellow Equinoxer who passed away just a few weeks earlier. Some were running with serious injuries but were determined to at least get in a lap, some were running with a podium place in mind.
A special mention to Team Walker - running in memory of Colin Walker who many of us have shared laps with at past Equinox and who died just a few weeks ago after a battle with cancer. Throughout I think we all had Colin in our hearts. #RunByMySide

Personally, my challenge finished at around 4am. It took me a while to sort myself out but once I had I spent the last 6 hours or so cheering people up the home straight, I had to chase some with poles to keep them moving, encourage others with a shout, a pat on the back or a hug.

It sounds a bit much but the last 6 hours supporting up and down the finish straight was an awesome buzz for me. To see people push on, grind it out or simple fly past was inspirational. To share a flicker of that with a return thumb up, or nod, or a hug or a chat meant everything. I was so happy being there doing that and I apologise to anyone who found it a bit much. Because I've been there I feel I can have the banter but I'll always back off if I get the look of death or a 'you can fuck off!' in response to me suggesting #onemorelap.
Thank you, everyone, sincerely for everything.

So how did I go from competitor to supporter?
Equinox is tougher than you think. In theory running 10km laps say a lap in an hour and then rest an hour then run an hour and so on should be relatively achievable and would get you 12 laps in 24hrs. Equally, in theory, you can relatively easily (by easily I mean not die during) run/walk 10km laps in 90 mins and keep going which would get you to 100 miles. A sort of Holy Grail of mine for a 24hr run. The problem with Equinox is that theory counts for nothing. Fatigue, both mental and physical, can take you out. Good runners, and I mean seriously good proper runners, can be derailed.
The course is challenging. The first bit, The Shitty Bit, is a couple of km up and across a nobbly ankle turning muddy field and then along a muddy soggy gooey track. The next 3.5km along tarmac and up a long steep hill that is 'not that hill'. It's followed by 2.5km off road including the awful knee wrenching downhill before the energy sapping 'that hill', some more nobbly ankle turny bits. The last 2km is a tarmac 1km back to the field and then the final 1km around the field.

It's the continuity, the repetitive nature of lapping that takes its toll. It has to be taken km by km and you have to avoid looking ahead, of fearing 'not that hill' or 'that hill' or wishing the water station would arrive quicker or wishing for the end of the field. Once the negative thoughts creep in it is very difficult to get it back together.....and that's where it went wrong for me.
By 10pm I was done because I had lost the mental battle. Yes the knee was niggly, yes the legs ached and the feet hurt, yes the morphsuit was pissing me off from the start, yes it was hard to see through but all of these things, all of them can be overcome if mentally I was positive. Sadly, annoyingly, frustratingly (is that a word) I simply couldn't turn it around. I couldn't make it positive. I can deal with pain but I beat myself mentally.
I had done 5 laps I think. I hid under a coat and dozed. I rested too long and eventually went out for another lap at about 2am. It was awfully slow, fatigue was too much. Well, actually, I allowed fatigue to be too much. I was falling asleep while walking and I could not grasp positivity. I simply couldn't reach within and pull something out of the bag to get it done. By the time I got back I knew I was done. I had made the decision to give up. Yes, bits hurt but no more than usual and not enough to stop me physically but mentally I had kicked the shit out of myself. That's where I rested, recovered and switched to supporter.

So, ultimately I gave up. I've made peace with myself. I felt redeemed to give a bit back supporting. It is hard and there is disappointment. If you had spoken to me at 4.30am on Sunday I hated myself. If you spoke to me at midday I was buzzing.
It's the ultimate rollercoaster. Within a lap, light to dark, dark to light, start of straight to end you can go from sky high to desperate low.
Overall, it's the best way I can think of spending a weekend. It's made by you, all of you. Your kindness and your strength.

I'll see you next year, it will be my only focus. I'm going for gold in the Morphsuit.
Thank you for raising over £4500 for Team Poppyfields. Thank you.
It was another awesome Equinox weekend despite only 6 laps and, personally, it was something else to support the amazing efforts of everyone else.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Idiot that does Outlaw 2017

Outlaw is a bit special. This was my 4th outing and the initial idea was to train hard, race fast and raise money with a sweepstake on my finish time. I trained well through January and then lost my way. With a few days to go I had run a handful of times but no further than 6 miles since January. I had done about 4 pool swims with the longest 2000 metres and at a pace that suggested I would struggle to hit the cut off. I had done some OW training......500 metres at Cliff Lakes the Monday before Outlaw. I had been out on the Merida about 5 times but no further than 25 miles. The sensible thing to do was to defer but money had gone on the Justgiving page and at the end of the day it's about raising money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. You can help by the way. Just text MORF55 £5 to 70070.
Twice in the build up Mich had mentioned she had never seen me so nervous. She seemed sure that despite my lack of preparation I would do it. I'll be honest, I was worried. I was very worried I might not meet the swim cut off in particular. I kinda thought I could do the bike in time after all I was on the Merida with gears, big wheels and thin tyres. Surely I could do the bike quicker than the BMX effort of 7 hrs 56 mins in 2015. The run? Well the theory you often hear is that with 7 hrs you can walk it! 4 miles an hour is a tough walk pace if you're knackered but I would put money on myself that I would do the marathon if it came to it.

I was waiting for 'The Click' in the mind to happen in the week before. It didn't. I went to rack the bike and register on the Saturday. I got to meet a load of pals around HPP. Some I had tackled Outlaw with in the past. Some were battling it for the first time. At briefing I was distracted, nervous. I reassured a first timer I sat next to that he was about to have the best day. I stopped behind to thank Iain Hamilton the Race Director for his help and support with my fundraising. I didn't speak to Simon Ward the Triathlon Coach perhaps due to being a little embarrassed by my lack of preparation. It was great to catch up with Kyle Campbell. Each time I plan something daft he has usually done something even more daft. I hoped I would get to hear him announce me as an Outlaw the following night! I met Tom Jones, no not that Tom Jones, but Tom Jones the Stag and his stag party. What a brilliant idea and what a great bunch. Have a brilliant wedding pal.

I racked the bike and walked off to have a moment at the top of the red carpet. The moment of clarity I was seeking never arrived. The nerves still jangled. Doubt was all consuming. What is nice about racking and registration is that there is nothing left to do. However prepared you are is as prepared as you will be. I did a little Facebook live to try and raise a bit more sponsorship and left HPP. Sunday was going to either be a very short day or a very very long day.

The alarms went off early at 3.30am on Sunday morning. I had slept in my timing chip to make sure I wouldn't forget it. Michelle drove us up to HPP. It's a 45 mins drive so i get to listen to The Joshua Tree in full and sneak in Ultraviolet to leave that as my ear worm for the day. Ellie and Mich took turns to mock my uncontrollable emotions that sneaked out during the drive up. Mich nailed the drive and dropped me at the entrance to HPP at the bottom of the lake at 5.00 am. Usually at this point I am overcome with calm. Nerves replaced with a steely determination. The sunrise over the lake bringing a confidence for the day ahead. Not this time. Not yet.
I spoke with loads of ace mates new and old as I checked the bike and went into the change tent. I found a spot and levered myself into my all too snug wetsuit. I often use the Holgate line of 'see you on the run'. On this occasion it was more for my benefit than theirs. Trying to blag myself some confidence. As I came out of the change tent Mich and Ellie were frantically waving from the bank. Entirely with me in spirit and about to put a right big support shift in.The last hour before the start is the fastest hour imaginable. Before I knew it I was in the lake in the 3rd bay bobbing about with 1200 other competitors with 5 minutes until the off.
That was the moment of clarity I had been waiting for. A brief moment where the nerves subside and are replaced with a line drawn under the failings of the previous months. A calm and in this case a deal. A deal with myself to smash my arms for 2 hours to make sure my day doesn't finish at 8 am. I filtered through the bobbing white caps to improve my start position as the countdown reached 1 and then we were off.

I seemed to steer clear of any real contact for the first 500m. A bit of a bump or two but nothing major. My stroke was rhythmical with a 4 stroke and breathe pattern only using the two stroke breathe pattern if I needed extra air such as after swallowing some lake or after a bosh to the face around 600 metres. No breaststroke either. It was going too well. I knew I wasn't last, I knew I was going to get out in time and I hadn't yet made the turn. I reached the turn and avoided traffic. As I turned onto the 1 mile back straight I pushed it a bit harder, confident in my stroke. I used a couple of swimmers to help me sight and stuck by them and pushed for the finish. I even overtook a couple as I swam the last 200 metres or so. I had loved the swim, every stroke. I knew i was in time. I took the hand of the volunteer that pulled me out of the water and gratefully accepted the strippers offer to whip my suit off. I grabbed my wetsuit and ran into transition asking the volunteer on the door what time of day it was? 7.31am was his reply. I could have kissed him.

T1 seemd like 5 mins. It was 14 mins but still a PB for me. I went out to get on the bike with a plan to steadily spin for 112 miles. I couldn't sight Michelle and Ellie but I knew they would be watching me from somewhere. It was only afterwards they told me they missed me exit the swim as I was too quick. Instead they and Kyle had waited for the last person to come out of the water thinking it was me. Mich Facebook live recorded him as he came out and it was only when the cap came off they realised I was already out on the bike.
Now, I am used to being overtaken on the bike. My bikes go backwards compared to everyone else. I thought I was spinning relatively well and the first Southern Loop was reasonably good. A slight worry was how tired I felt and how much my arse hurt. A lack of hours in the saddle was going to haunt me. As I came off the Southern Loop Kit Walker came back onto it for his second time. This put him about 60 miles ahead of me and my podium chances had all but evaporated. Car Colson was a welcome relief as i spotted Michelle and Ellie and a few other familiar faces. This boosted me up to the Islands and then headed to the Northern Loop.

This is where I realised this was going to be a lot harder and closer than I had intended. The distance between the loops seemed much longer than ever before and the tiredness, the lack of response from my legs, was overwhelming. I struggled up Oxton despite reminding myself I had done it on a BMX just two months earlier. Other sections of the loop seemed harder than before and the ride back to the Southern took forever. I was now coasting where I could to alleviate the pressure on my arse and at each feed station I was off the bike to stretch and ease the pain. This probably added 25 mins to my day!

Mich and Ellie were giving it loads through Car Colson again but by this time I knew I was again last. At the Pirates a time check indicated I had time to do this but it would be close. I pushed it as hard as i could but at the last feed station it was clear I had 75 mins to do 16 miles. Ordinarily no problem at all. This time it would be a battle. The relief of coming off the Southern Loop for the last time is immense. The support from the volunteers just brilliant.
As I started the last few undulating miles with the loneliness of last taking it's toll, the heavens opened and reminded me of 2015. It only took a couple of minutes to soak me and only lasted a couple more. I was spinning the easiest gear on the big ring so knew i would be a slow 12 mph or so. Through the lanes and past the hall and a final push down the road alongside HPP. I didn't know if I would make it. I don't wear a watch so I just pushed it as much as I could shouting at myself to dig in.
I passed a few volunteers and pedestrians and they must have thought I was mad. A last shout and right turn up the path into HPP and there waiting was Mich indicating I was in time. I blasted down the path and bunny hopped the speed bump before skidding into the corner. As the adrenaline subsided I dismounted the bike to see 3:56pm as the time. I had made it with a barmy 4 mins to spare.

10 mins in T2 another PB after the disappointment of 8:11 bike split! I nipped to the loo and then started running. Got a huge hug of Mich at the bottom of the lake and set off. Everyone was ace on the run and the support was brilliant but by 5 miles the running stopped. Run/walk soon became walk and the path down the river back to the lake just became miserable. I had realised my pace was too slow, I couldnt walk quick enough and I didnt have the energy to go faster or the strength to run. Every point I had picked to start to run from had failed and as I rounded the top of the lake I realised I was not going to finish within 17 hours. Emotionally Outlaw had broken me.
As the noise of the announcers the music and the crowds at the finish line/13 mile marker became louder I went to pieces. It's now the regrets kick in, the failings become all consuming and the reality of failing on the day becomes too much. I started to run as I approached the crowds and I was desperately trying to sight Mich. I did spot Dutchy and shouted where was Mich. He pointed further down, near to the line and I ran along trying to spot her.

Thankfully I did and I fell into her arms and sobbed uncontrollably. I told her I couldn't do it, I had tried to dig deep and I had nothing. Nothing extra to give. I was ready to walk off the course. She said she was proud of me and loved me no matter what. That was it. That was all I needed. Flatfooted walked by and patted me on the back as i hugged Mich. I held on for a second and then ran on. Still sobbing I collected my band and rounded the lake. As I came up the path off the lake and grabbed some crisps Mich appeared, a little out of breath having legged it around the lake to make sure I was ok. She asked and I said yeah of course I was, apparently with a beaming smile. Whatever it was, whatever she had done was all I needed for the click in my mind. It is an actual swith that goes from negative and I mean entirely negative to utterly positive. The pain is still there but it's more bearable. Head is held higher. A spring returns to my step after 13 miles of scuffing feet that just won't lift. I know the body can always, always do more but while I was negative it was never going to happen. Once I switched to positive the body responded. From then on I had a run/walk strategy with a good run and a marching walk and this continued all the way past the war memorial and back to the suspension bridge.

I must mention the volunteers and support. It is no exaggeration to say that without it I wouldn't get round. Whilst confused by shouts of " go on Steven" (my real name was on the race bib) it's still the case that every shout drives me on. Every kind comment from volunteers, security, marshals, every hi five from a fellow competitor, every pat on the back, every sweaty hug. When I see a mate cheering me on, going out of their way to encourage me and the beaming smiles of family. Of Mich and Ellie. The boost is palpable. Do not underestimate the team nature of this challenge. I am happy to create the focus but it is everyone around me that makes it happen.

As I gained on the person ahead of me the bike marshal was with me. As I chatted he asked what my intentions were? I was confused. Apparently Iain Hamilton was asking if my intentions were to come last. I clarified that I will get finished, and by this time I knew, absolutely knew, that I would and I would finish in the best time I could manage.

The athlete ahead was Heather Clarke. It took a while for my brain to catch up but Heather and I had shared some of the run in 2013 (the morph year). She had waited for me to run the last 9 miles or so with me. We maintained a good run/walk strategy, Mich joined us on the run down the river and James Franco joined us on the bike to marshal us in. We overtook Steve Summers whose story of overcoming adversity, extreme adversity, is entirely inspirational. As we got back to the lake Mich peeled off to go the the finish and left me with a kiss and a squeeze of the hand that just transfers belief!
We lapped the lake to collect our last band. Hi fives all along the finish straight. Steve had retaken us. Heather and I were last. Heather was strong and picked all the points to run from and too. We talked Rugby and funerals to pass the time and came down the home straight in complete darkness. Heather wanted to run down the carpet with her 3 year old. I wanted to crack on and finish so we did a deal to finish in that order so everyone was happy. I was still finishing at the best time as i possibly could. A hug from Heather and James and I set off with 300 metres to left and ran it it. Ran it in strong as I hit the carpet. I couldn't see a thing as the human carpet parted to let me through but I sprinted it in to be announced by Kyle, for the 4th time, an Outlaw.

Mich was there instantly and I'll admit I broke down again. I've never been so relieved or had to dig as deep as I had that day. Heather finished seconds later and the fireworks went off to battle the rain as it came down. Lee and Kyle and the team looked after me and the bike and my kit and made sure the massage team hadn't left and there was a bowl of food for me Mich and Ellie.
As ever the day was amazing with the facilities, volunteers, marshals and supporters truly outstanding. I tried to thank all of them as i went round. I would not have finished without the support throughout the day. I would have cut it even closer had it not been for Heather. I would, however, have walked off the course at 13 miles had it not been for Michelle. That's the closest I have come to quitting any of my challenges.
I am an idiot for not training. I accept that but I had committed to doing it to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital so it was never going to be that I wouldn't start. It's not a disrespect for the sport or the event either. It is a disrespect for myself. I have said before that we only truly compete against ourselves. I nearly undid myself this time. Very nearly, but I can look myself in the mirror and know that I gave it my all for 16 hours and 41 minutes!
You've helped raise £1600 so far. Next up it's Equinox24 in 8 weeks. Bear with me because this time I am going long! Morphlong!

Thank you to Ron, Craig, Zoe, Dave, David, Dutchy, Catherine, Elly Mae, Wayne, Charlotte, Leeky, Ian, Gaz, Stuart, Mark, Keith, Lena, Billy, Gary, Ed, Andy, The Pirates, Flat Footed, Q & Jordy, Andrea, Kim, Helen, Zoe W, The Stag Party and all the others I have forgotten.
To Kyle, Simon, Lee and Iain.
To all the Tri clubs manning the feed stations and as ever I am sorry I keep you out so very late.
To everyone that sponsored me. As ever it is you guys that make the difference.
To Heather for kicking my ass for the last 9 miles and James for being her able assistant.
Finally, to Mich and Ellie and George (who didn't fancy the 3.30am start so went out with his mates instead) for putting up with a wannabe triathlete in the build up and for making it possible for me to start and giving me the strength to finish.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Thoughts of an Outlaw Idiot

Running out of ideas
To raise a few quid
No Morph or BMX
" I'll do it proper " said Sid

January running well
But no swim or bike
10 milers each week
What's not to like?

After that though
Started to slack
Plan after plan
Pushed to the back

In the wink of an eye
In no time at all
A few days to go
To rise or to fall

In the car on the way
Tears sneak out
Cannot be helped
Layered in doubt

Nervous chatter
Support on the bank
Into the lake
What's in the tank

At this point
And the hooter sound
No more bravado
Strength to be found

Get stuck straight in
It's the only way
Make sure you breathe
Get into the fray

500 gone
Doing ok
This could get done
This could be Sid's day

600 gone
A smack in the eye
Stutter and swallow
No time to cry

700 gone
And back in the groove
A smile creeps in
Swimming smooth

Looking around
1000 in
Approaching the bouy
Loving the swim

After the bouys
Turn at the top
Head for the exit
Not gonna stop

Out of the lake
Stripped of the suit
PB in the bag
Feeling a brute

Take a moment
Don't think of the medal
Long way to go
112 to pedal

Only just started
My ass is in tatters
Fuck me this hurts
Already shattered

Up to the Southern
Try and stay steady
Gearing too low
Just not ready

Awesome Pirates
First pit stop
Grab a banana
Try not to drop

How long's this loop?
It's fuckin' miles
Need the last feed station
My aching piles

Finally off the Southern
Kit the other way
60 behind him
Mind starting to fray

That's where it starts
To slowly unravel
Hating the bike
Staring at gravel

Every section so long
Between the loops extended?
Darkness creeping in
Mind getting bended

Approaching the Bank
It's not even a hill
BMX did it easy
Need to find the will

To get the job done
The will to complete
Somehow do the bike
Get onto the feet

But Oxton's a struggle
Confidence shot
Over the top
Fuckin hell it's hot

Now it's a struggle
This is a fight
If it get's done
It will take all night

Back to the islands
Still no pace
Could turn right?
Retire with grace

A momentary joy
A wave from Mich
Supporters a plenty
Forget plan to ditch

Back on the Southern
Christ it's even longer
Now out of the saddle
Wish I was stronger

Finally out
But the gears are low
Back to Holme Pierrpont
Chronically slow

Past the big house
Cutting it fine
Turn for the entrance
Race to the line

4 minutes to spare
Didn't mean that to be
Into T2
Determination the key

Lucky to be here
Out on the run
Not sure how
Let's get it done

5 miles running
Energy low
Starting to walk
Moving slow

Run and a walk
Doesn't last long
Into the dark
Mind isn't strong

Back on the lake
Approaching halfway
And so it begins
Start to unravel
Digging in deep
Calling it in
No response
Nothing to give
Totally empty
Utterly fucked
Starting to panic
Search for Michelle
Pointed by Dutchy
Emotions released
Collapse in her arms
Tell her I'm out
Nothing to give
It's just too much

Sometimes it's a moment
A second in time
A show of belief
Return to the rhyme

The slightest thing
Can turn it around
Hug from Michelle
Blind belief abound

Starting to run
But doing it right
Lifting the feet
It will be done tonight

No longer doubt
Utter belief
Definite finish
Massive relief

Never a solo
Always a team
Mich and Heather
Run/walk dream

Approaching the finish
Kyle on the mic
Carpet is crowded
Run into the light

It's weird when it happens
Crossing the line
All the emotion
Out at one time

1200 before me
All of them ace
Best way to spend a Sunday
The Outlaw race

Monday, 10 July 2017

To blog or not to blog?

You know those text message clips doing the rounds of conversations where a sentence is started and then replaced? Welcome to my blog process. I simply can't clear my head with a blog but I really need to. I've no idea where this one is going. I need some clarity to get mentally right for Outlaw knowing that physically I am entirely under prepared. 13 days to go and this is me panic prepping.

That aside I am still committed to raising money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. This time I am not just asking you to sponsor me but to have a go on a sweep stake on my finish time. It's all explained in the following link but you could win free entry to Outlaw '18, free entry to the Birmingham marathon '17, a years membership at Lifestyle Fitness Tamworth, half a day sitting with Lee Bartlett at Underground Tattoo, a pair of Predator Flex Reactor Titanium Zoggs goggles, a jewellery voucher for The Little Silver Company and free entry into The Longhorn Ultra from SBR Events.

Take a look and perhaps have a go and perhaps share the details. Thank you.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Idiot that.....

I am often introduced as the idiot that. "Hey Paul. Remember Outlaw? This is the idiot that did it on a bmx" or "you know those morphsuit things? This is the idiot that ran 7 marathons in a morphsuit"

The reality is far less exciting. The idiot that:
isn't training
lacks self discipline
doesn't eat properly
fails to prepare
lacks mental strength
lacks focus
is full of shit

The idiot that has Outlaw Half bike leg of a relay in 2 weeks, the Outlaw full in 10 weeks and Equinox in 19 weeks!

The idiot that is continually restarting training*. Indeed every moment of 'click' leads to another brief, yet ultimately failed, restart attempt.
*eating well/stretching/sleeping properly etc etc

It's hard to understand the idiot that lacks focus. This years focus is twofold. Cancer Research UK and Birmingham Children's Hospital.

I've had a minor dabble with Skin Cancer in the past and we may be going again shortly. Our family, like so many others, have been devastated by Cancer a few times. Myself, Sally and Mich are going to relay the Outlaw Half to raise money for CRUK. If you want to help we would love a quid off each of you. Text 'SSMO99 £1' to 70070.

I have come to know many children battling brain tumours since Poppy was diagnosed at 14 months old. Poppy is now 14 years old thanks to Birmingham Children's Hospital. Full details for sponsorship will follow nearer the time of Outlaw and Equinox.

A big thank you to Iain Hamilton at Outlaw who has donated an Outlaw '18 place for a sweepstake on my Outlaw finish time. Also for Johnny and Laura Nichol who have donated an Equinox '18 solo place for a sweepstake on my Equinox steps at this years event. I am after any business owners, event managers or just lovely charitable folk that might donate a prize to the sweepstakes. I can't offer much in return other than as much publicity and exposure as i can muster. I am after at least 5 but ideally 10 brilliant prizes for each sweepstake.

With CRUK and BCH in mind I will be the idiot that tackles the Outlaws and Equinox regardless of my failings. I will be the idiot that.......

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Click

If only it was that easy eh? Just click the switch and it, whatever it may be, is sorted. Of course it isn't that easy, nor should it be. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The man with no face!

I was wrapped in a double sleeping bag and just inches from the fire pit. I'd removed the top layer of the soaked and sweaty Morphsuit and kit and replaced it with a dry t shirt and my Team Bear fleece. I had my woolly hat on and hood up and I was completely wrapped in the the sleeping bag. I was sweating profusely but it was a cold dithery sweat. I could feel the heat from the fire pit but I couldn't get warm. I could hear voices around me. I thought I was talking but apparently I was just muttering in a half sleep state. Mich was concerned. She was making sure I was OK. She had seen in me at the end of 7 that things weren't right. I'd asked Ken to sign me off the course as he went out on a lap at 12:30am. My body had given up and whilst in my mind I knew that my race was over I instinctively had my feet raised. It relieved the pain in my ankles and it helped a little with the stomach cramps which were thick and fast. Realistically the #AllOrNothing challenge had failed by lap 5 bringing on a miserable mental state. I had done 5 and 6 but a bout of the shits on lap 7 and subsequent illness and failure to control my temperature (somewhere I had been in 2014) meant that my race was done. Drifting in and out of a half sleep, hearing conversations around me, dithering uncontrollably, I wrestled with my conscience. I hated myself and was overcome with the disappointment of letting everybody down. On the road to redemption, to becoming a better man this was a massive low. I curled up, hoped for sleep and a quick end to the remainder of the event.

It had started quite brightly some 12 hours earlier. The rain stopped just before kick off and after 12hrs sleep in The Dann's caravan I felt weirdly rested after so little sleep in the build up. I had dreaded putting the Morphsuit back on. First time since the Marathon Morph Tour 7 in 7. It was on, foot felt OK and everyone was being lovely at the briefing and as we waited for the start. Under the circumstances I had as good a chance as I was gonna have of running 100 miles. I knew I couldn't but I was prepared to give it everything over 24 hrs to try.

Mich was buzzing for the first lap in her team. She gave me a hug and a kiss before she moved into a faster start position. A squeeze of my hand as she went confirmed the belief, often blind belief, that she has in me. A belief I will probably never understand but always appreciate. Nick was gonna run with me, his first solo attempt, as I was to be his Morph Bitch according to his 'I'm with Sid' T shirt. A brief message from my mate Adrian O'Brien delivered by fellow soloist Iain Hindes brought a smile to my face, Jason grabbed a pic and wished me all the best and a hug off my old school pal Liz Roberts and we entered the start. Liz was in a team and as we agreed to run the first lap together the hooter went and the three of us set off at soloist 100 mile pace......slow!

Starting from the back is cool because you have time to get Pirate hugs, Outlaw hugs, Poppyfields hugs, Bear hugs, Equinox hugs, Ironman hugs and many more besides. Loads of people wished me well as we moved off. I can't see who it was but I will always give a thumbs up or say thank you as the support is hugely appreciated. Liz was running well as was Nick. Both commented on the level of support I was receiving and it was immense and humbling.

So lap one went well. A great catch up with Liz for the first half and then me and Nick settled into a rhythm for the second half. I don't remember too much about it but with an end of lap snack break we did 1hr 22mins. In the great scheme of things this was a perfect pace. Lap two went the same way also at 1hr 22mins with lap 3 & 4 slightly slower at 1hr 31mins and 1hr 38mins respectively. Every lap had been fun. Catching up with mates who stopped to say hello, encouraging other runners, getting hi 5's from supporters and runners, milking the fantastic support and encouragement both on course and round the field. Wilko was at his sledging best although this year I was up for the verbal joust with a smile. His much better half has been running long and passed me a couple of times with her crew and was making it look easy. Kirsty, last years winner, was metronome like in her constant progress and she always seemed cheerful. She was based opposite the Team Poppyfields camp and her other half was providing Harmonica support. Stewart Sale and Dutchy were smashing my arms with hi 5's and both seemed to be going really well. Colin Walker looked strong and Gary House was his usual rapid self. Solo Steve, Jason Clarke, Mel Glover, Chris Eyre, Billy and Lena, The Pirates, The Poppyfielders, the running clubs all whizzed by at various times and all found the time to encourage me or acknowledge my encouragement of them. I've said it every year that this event is special. Its special for many reasons but particularly because of the generosity of spirit of the fellow runners.

Things then began to get a bit shitty. During lap 5 I slowed. I felt weak and tired. Nick was still bouncing and by this stage, after nagging everyone every lap, he was now getting cheers of 'Go on Nick', rather than hearing 'Go on Sid.......oh and Sid's mate'. As my spirit weakened I felt I was holding Nick back, slowing him down. I don't like that feeling and it weighed on me. It was the first lap I walked sections other than 'That Hill', 'Not That Hill' and the slope at the start of 'The Shitty Bit'. The lap time was reflective of my mood at 2hrs 1min! The biggest hit on this lap was the realisation that 100 was out of reach. It may never have been a realistic possibility but I have seen people achieve awesome things, I've often surprised myself, so up until this point I thought I could.

I don't really remember 6. It was the first night lap so I was in the night Morphsuit and had the head torch on. We had picked up the pace a little with 1hr 52mins but I think my mood had only worsened. I suggested to Nick a couple of times that he crack on and I would catch him up later but he was having none of that.

Lap 7 was where the wheels came off. As we reached the peak of the ridge on 'The Shitty Bit' I suddenly suffered stabbing stomach cramps. The type that if they hit you at home you jump straight on the bog and grit your teeth. Problem was I was in a white Morphsuit in a muddy field with runners whizzing by. I fought off the first bout but the second were too much. Team Poppyfields very own Neal Thacker took off his t shirt and ripped a few 'sheets' off. Nick and Jarvey stood guard as i went to join the Bears in the woods. Yes they do and yes I did. All I will say is that it was the most painful, thigh shredding squat I have ever endured. I shuffled the remaining 8km of the lap but my stomach was in bits and my temperature had dropped leaving me dithering and with chattery teeth!

It was a massive relief to get back to base at the bottom of the start/finish straight. Mich, Ellie and George were waiting for me. I gave Mich the look that says 'I'm done'. She looked concerned and after a few minutes the dithering had become uncontrollable and the urge to curl up was overwhelming. I don't even remember talking to Nick who had stuck with me throughout. I was selfishly looking after myself as us solo's have to but I was also losing the ability to think straight and keep things together. The failure of the #AllOrNothing challenge was all consuming. I think, at this point, I knew it was over, that I had failed, but I told everyone I was going to warm up and crack on later. My last shot of bravado.

Definition of fail: verb (used without object) 1. to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved:

That's where this blog began. Mentally and physically I was beaten. As I drifted off, Ellie and her mates voices and the crackle of the fire pit peppering the silence around camp, I'd accepted that this Equinox was not to be.

I was off course for 3 hours. It took that long for the cramps to stop and the body to warm up. I became aware of the world around me about 2:45am. Ellie and her mates still there. John Young waiting to go out on a lap. Mich had gone out on hers leaving Ellie to keep an eye on me. It took a little while to gather myself but the draw of #onemorelap was too great to not get one more done. I didn't know how it would go, whether I could complete it but I didn't feel at the point where i couldn't try. My legs felt surprisingly OK as I stood up. I got some layers on, Ellie made sure I was OK, I went back into the Morphsuit and set off for #onemorelap. As I passed the start/finish line I nipped into HQ to sign back on the course. Johnny stopped to check i was OK. I confirmed I was, explained what had happened but that I had warmed up sufficiently. I told him I was doing #onemorelap and off I went......running.

So this was lap 8 after a 5hr 29mins lap 7! This lap was mainly on my own. The course seemed quiet apart from every fresh relay runner whizzing by. I felt good physically. I ran more and better than I had for a while. Mentally I was trying to get it together. Trying to work out if I had time to beat last years 12? I realised that by doing this I was accepting that this wasn't the #onemorelap that would see me finish. This was #onemorelap along the way of however many it may be in 24 hours. The moon was full and bright, company was fleeting but a boost. The mind was getting together with tricks becoming less and less although on this lap, twice, my mind tricked me into believing I had company only for it to be that I was completely alone with no one around me. Twice someone was with me.

It was a surprisingly good 1hr 47mins lap. I don't remember getting back to base but I think the next lap was with Jarvey and Neal. I know this because i have seen the pic. Sun came up during this lap which meant for half the lap I could actually see the course and damn its pretty. I cant see it in the day because of the Morphsuit and i can't see it at night because its dark but as the sun rises and I finish the last lap in the night Morphsuit I get to see the course. It was a 2hr 22mins lap primarily due to changing out of the night Morphsuit and into the final Morphsuit to finish. I had seen Nick on Lap 8 I think. He was still charging along with his better half, Georgina. He had finished after 3 laps from when we split. He had nailed 10 and called it a day. I tip toed into their caravan to change suits. Wet one off, dry one on after a fresh smearing of Bepanthen. Georgina wished me luck....Nick was dead to the world.

Lap 10 with time running out. Bumped into Duane Roberts who ran the lap with me and Neil. Duane is a proper runner. By that I mean a T184 55hr third place finisher type runner. He learns every time he runs and his recount of T184 was a great distraction. He knew everybody running at Equinox having done the event last year and being all over the ultra running scene. Managed a 1hr 42mins lap, my fastest since lap 4! Where the strength was coming from I have no idea. The only real niggle was pain at the bottom of my shins just above the foot. I can only describe it as similar to when, as a kid, we had jagged metal pedals on a BMX and as your foot slipped off the pedal span round and smacked the shin. Remember that? Like being hit with a metal pole on the shin.

The time of day meant that the best i could hope for was 12 laps. Unless I ran a couple of laps at sub 1hr 20mins pace I wouldn't finish lap 12 before midday to start lap 13. I weirdly enjoyed the last two laps. I Hi 5'd anyone who would accept it. Veering left and right on the course to get to competitors and spectators. Adult Hi 5's give free power. A kiddie Hi 5 gives double. Kids on the right and left of the start/finish straight were there throughout the morning. Tumble Dryer mans nipper fist pumped me as i past. Hi 5's from the saucepan of sweets kids at the top of the straight, Poppyfields kids including my two were always encouraging me on. If there is any knock on effect to what we do I would like to think that the kids at Equinox come away inspired to do whatever it is they want to do. They inspire me throughout.

The veering added a few miles and slowed me down as Neil pointed out who kept with me for the last couple of laps. He blames me for inspiring him to start running in May and to be tackling his first half next month. I'll happily plead guilty to that. The last two laps both being 2hrs 8mins but they included time with Jordan Keeling with his full Bergan and kit, Phillip Box and his tumble dryer, Billy and Lena both smashing 100 miles and several Pirates including soloists Emma and Matt. Kirsty whizzed by on the way to the win with 18 laps, Emma to second and Lena to third. Billy finished 4th with Gary House winning. Solo Steve and I spoke at the water station on his 16th lap. He had time to do 17 but he was happy with his 16 for this year and was calling it a day.

I'd not seen Stewart and Dutchy for ages. Mich told me that they'd succumbed to injury. Both are massive inspirations to me and both will be back I'm sure to right this wrong.

My day finished not at 12am when my body and mind had given up. Heart kept me going until 1pm and 12 completed laps. #onemorelap turned into 5 more laps. Johnny and his crew have a habit of being key to us pushing our boundaries and reaching deep when it seems all is lost.

The event is special. It gets bigger every year but it remains personal, friendly, supportive and inspirational. That's due to all of you, everyone there, supporters shouting 'Sid' from the middle of nowhere, people coming along to run, Belinda and her pig tails for Poppyfields, support crews, organisers, marshals, food stalls, the guys in the buggy telling me to get a wriggle on, Glenn and his team of photographers, Johnny and Laura and their team, fellow runners - all of you, and the kids cheering on the Man with No Face. I'm lucky to be surrounded by inspiration and support daily. Mich shows me love and strength beyond my dreams. Equinox is horrifically, brutally brilliant. It will cause you to dredge your soul and weirdly you'll love it. It is as awesome a 24 hrs as you can imagine.

I may have failed the #AllOrNothing challenge but I didn't fail Equinox! The Morph will be back next year. There are 100 miles with Sid written on them!

Thank you. Sincerely thank you.