Wednesday, 29 May 2013


It is not that I lack respect for the sport of triathlon or for the Ironman challenge itself that I fail to prepare properly. It is not a lack of respect for the event that I am taking it on in a Morphsuit. It is not that I take the challenge lightly. I respect the challenge and the people taking it on immensely! They truly inspire me in their effort, commitment and sacrifice in pursuing their goals. It is more a lack of respect for myself that drags me into the mess I find myself in. The same mess I was in around this time last year (see Heart & Guts post). The main difference being that last year the mess was primarily caused by injury (just another excuse in reality) but ultimately due to slackery.
So I find myself in a world of self doubt and self loathing. This is a big problem when belief and mental strength are such a huge part of being able to complete this challenge. The doubt is broken down as follows:-
The swim of 2.4 miles. I know I can swim that far but I haven’t swam for months, I haven’t got the adapted Morphsuit in open water yet and I haven’t tested an increasingly tweaky right shoulder over any kind of distance.
The cycle of 112 miles. It is fair to say I am faster by 2/3 miles per hour over my shorter rides than this time last year which must mean that I am fitter but I haven’t tested my endurance at all. I’ve not cycled over 50 miles yet. I’ve not cycled more than 3 hours in the Morphsuit. I’ve not practised/tested fuelling at all!
The run of 26.2 miles. Again I am noticeably quicker than this time last year. Almost 1 min per mile faster on runs up to 10 miles. Again this must mean that I am fitter but this year I don’t have the psychological strength of knowing the endurance is there from having done a spring marathon.
If 80% of this challenge is psychological (which it is) I am going to be in big trouble this year unless, over the course of the next 5 weeks 4 days, I get my act together. I can go into this and succeed if I am physically under prepared as long as I am mentally ready and strong. At the moment I am about 30% of where I need to be mentally. The self doubt is truly overwhelming and the self loathing is off the scale!
I sound like a broken record if I now go on to say I will do this and I will do that to sort myself out over the next few weeks. The reality however is that I just embarrass myself each time I then fail to get out and do what I was planning to do. This creates more self loathing and increases self doubt.
Some people have said the challenge is hard enough as it is without adding the Morphsuit but the Morphsuit justifies me going back to the same people again and again to ask for sponsorship. It is no longer enough to do an Ironman – the stakes have to be higher. If I complete Outlaw in a Morphsuit I hope to have raised £10,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours over the course of 2 yrs 2 months since my first marathon in Edinburgh 2011! I am currently on £9,200! It’s not a lot compared to other fundraisers that can raise tens of thousands from one event but it is all I can do in reaction to and in support of my niece Poppy and her brain tumour fight.
Motivation isn’t an issue. Inspiration isn’t an issue. Support is never an issue. Self discipline, self respect and self belief however are sadly lacking.
I know what it takes and I know where I will fail. I overcame a big wobble last year and I know I can again. Will I be at the start of Outlaw? Definitely! Will I get to break the finish tape again? Well, that remains the big question.  

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Baby Baby Baby Light My Way

I’ve said it before that Mrs B is my pride, my confidence, my heart and my happiness. In fact that was the basis of my very short Groom speech at our wedding nearly 14 years ago. On Sunday she kind of took strength and determination to a new level too! Certainly, she has given me another kick up the backside to be stored in the mind for the next time I am whinging about training, or moaning during an event, or giving in because it’s just too hard!
She has always maintained she has a high pain threshold. She had no pain relief when giving birth to either of our Rugs for example and didn’t scream (like I did) when having a sports massage last week in preparation for the Lichfield Half Marathon. She has however been ill. A couple of weeks ago she saw the doctor about a persistent cough and associated discomfort when breathing. He thought she had a chest infection and a course of antibiotics should clear it up. She took the antibiotics and eased her training and whilst it did improve it didn’t go away. The cough had got much better but she was suffering a shortness of breath. She got back in to see the doctor last week. He sent her for an x ray (results awaited) and blood tests (due this week) and gave her an inhaler ‘just in case she needed it for the run’ for which she should ‘take it easy’. At least that was how it was relayed to me!
Come race day we were up early enough to have some breakfast, get ready without having to rush, even my 3rd attempt with contact lenses went well ie got the things in the right way round and without an hour of swearing and stress! I was so looking forward to running my first race (other than a 2.5 mile Tamworth Castle grounds run during winter which didn’t really count) with Mrs B. Her training had gone well and her longer runs of 10, 11 & 12 were comfortably around 10 mins/mile pace with some left in the tank. Her previous PB was her only other half marathon being Birmingham 2009 and 2hrs 17mins. We were hoping for 2:05 – 2:10 or at least I was. Mrs B, with hindsight, was probably just hoping to finish and run relatively pain free but then I had not been privy to the conversation she had with her doctor! Everything seemed relaxed and we were ready.

Mrs B & BCH Morph pre race!
The race starts from my old school King Edwards VI Lichfield. Parked up in plenty of time to strain the greens one last time before going Morph! Had a chat to a few people during the warm up on the field, spotted a few mates and old school friends and even MS Morph that I had run with at Birmingham last October.

United Morphs
We hadn’t known each other before Birmingham but ran together as united Morphs. It was great to see him again even if I was totally jealous of his VLM2013 Morphing exploits. He was grateful for a few pointers I gave him following my Morphing of VLM2012 that I had bored him with around Birmingham! I mentioned that I had gone to school at King Eds and he said he did too. Turns out he was in the year above me – bloody small world this running community! Pete Yates if anyone remembers him? His wife Sophie was running too and I wished them luck as we moved towards the start. The plan was for me, Mrs B and Nick to run it together and we all seemed very relaxed as the starter set us off.
Now, I had kind of said the route was flat. Unfortunately it seems my memory isn’t as good as it once was. There were flat bits and a nice downhill around 2-3 miles but the rest did seem to be a steady climb. Soz! We were all running comfortably. Me and Nick chatting away and Mrs B running strong. I couldn’t really see much because of the Morphsuit.

Morph Vision
Thats my garden shed and washing line through the Morphsuit! I certainly can't see peoples expressions but Mrs B was reassuring me, when asked, that she was fine. I could hear her have the odd inhaler blast but no more than once a mile. Certainly there was no moaning (but then she wouldn’t would she) or wheezing.
Half way came really quick and I was enjoying it. The support at Lichfield is sporadic but good with the main support spots away from the start and finish being Whittington (at about 4 miles) and Fradley (at about 8 miles). We ran strong to Fradley and got a good boost from our chief support team of Veronica and Jason (or Sweden and J). I arsed about a bit in the suit to get some laughs despite my natural inclination to shy away from attention and it was going well.

Extra loop - arsing about!
At 9 we passed a squaddie being treated roadside by an Ambulance and I was again surprised when 10 seemed to suddenly appear.
Mrs B had asked me and Nick to run on a couple of times early on in the race but then it had been out of politeness with her not wanting to ‘hold us up’. I was always going to run with her because I love it and Nick was just happy to get a half under his belt and bury his Birmingham 2012 demons (although at 1:51 finish time I still cant work out what demons he could have!). When she asked us to again around 10 the tone of her voice suggested it was more of a personal need more than one of politeness. I recognised the tone of the request as I had done the same to Si Buckden at Liverpool when I was really struggling around 17 miles! We stayed with her but I began to listen closely to her breathing. She was now using the inhaler several times a mile and I could hear her wheezing more and more. The run up Netherstowe lane is quite hard at the best of times but Mrs B really began to struggle. I tried gentle encouragement, made sure I matched her pace when she slowed and tried to make sure she took it steady up the hill. I reminded her she can stop or walk at any time and it wouldn’t be a problem. Getting her breath was the priority. Whilst she was not for stopping she did candidly confirm that she had a lot of pain in her chest, she couldn’t get a decent breath and that the inhaler was now pretty much useless.
We were agonisingly close to the end and with a mile to go Nick whizzed on for the finish. Mrs B then decided to tell me the doctor had advised her not to run! What could I say? Hardly a good advert for taking advice myself all I could do was stay by her side to the finish. Whilst it was tempting now was not the time to issue a bollocking! (not that she would listen anyway!) Mrs B somehow managed to get her emotions under control. We walked for about 1 minute as she tried to get enough of a breath to take on the last mile and then she was off. Just wanting to get it done!
As we turned off the road onto the finish straight she put her game face on and even applauded the supporters at the finish before we crossed the line (2:16) hand in hand (which I thought was a nice touch) to the sound of the announcer mentioning my number and misreading the runners list to tell the crowd that ‘its Owen Phillips under there’!

The Finish straight!
She still kept it together as I whizzed her straight through to the medical tent optimistically thinking they may have oxygen there to help her. They didn’t! Instead after 15 minutes of the recommended ‘sit down’ (they had nothing more helpful than her own inhaler) Mrs B was posing for finisher photographs with me and Nick.

Nick, BCH Morph & Mrs B - done!
She never ceases to amaze me, she has a capacity to deal with life’s shit like you would not believe and displayed a strength and determination on Sunday that brings a very proud tear to my eye! We do these things because there is not a lot else we can do to help the children that will follow our niece Poppy through the doors of Birmingham Children’s Hospital. We do them when sometimes we shouldn’t because the money pledged does make a difference and does, absolutely does, help save lives. I make no apologies for asking you to text LICH78 £5 to 70070 if you think Mrs B’s effort is a worthy one because by sending it you will have made a difference. Thank you all for the support and sponsorship and a big thank you to Mrs B for lighting my way!
The Bling!